Happy Otter Photography

Wedding photographer in York covering Yorkshire and the Northern England


Before you dive in to planning your wedding by booking a venue or asking people to be bridesmaids, slow down and take some time to get everything in check.


There are 9 stages to planning a wedding in this article, and I’d suggest allocating a day (or evening) to fully discussing and planning each one listed below.


  1. Inspiration

  2. What kind of wedding do we want?

  3. Do we even want a wedding?

  4. Dream up the perfect day

  5. Get the framework

  6. Plan the timings

  7. Fill in the gaps

  8. Find vendors

  9. Delegate and do




You’ve told everyone you’re engaged. After reliving the story of the proposal, you’re probably going to be asked when the big day is. Suddenly it dawns on you that being engaged actually means engaged to be married.


So now you remember all the weddings you’ve been to, flick through wedding magazines, and live on pintrest to get an idea of what kind of weddings are possible.


There are so many different themes and feels. This stage of the planning is all about opening your eyes to the possibilities.


What kind of a wedding do we want?


Now you’re saturated with images from every wedding that ever was, it’s time to step back and actually talk about what kind of wedding you want.




Do we even want a wedding?


If you find yourself asking this question - don’t worry, you’re not alone, and it will probably not be the last time you ask it.


Think about why you wanted to get married in the first place.

  • To celebrate your love

  • To officially introduce each other to your family and friends

  • To cement your relationship so everyone knows you are for real

  • For legal and financial reasons

  • So your kids have the same surname

  • You want an excuse for a big party

  • You don’t really even know

  • It just seemed like the next step in the journey


If it’s all about love, celebration, and parties - then you need to keep this in mind. Do something that is important to you both, that you will enjoy - not necessarily just the standard hotel package.


Those of you on the practicality, financial and legal page - maybe a smaller, more intimate event might be the way to go.


You don’t even know and it just seems like the next step - I think you guys are going to go over budget. You are a wedding vendor’s dream couple and they will upsell you everything! So be prepared. If you don’t want to - plan from the day and go back - I’ll explain this later.


By the end of this stage you should be able to picture the feel and purpose of your day.


Dream up the perfect day


Start with the timeline of the day. No one else will tell you to do this, they will probably give you a generic list of tasks such as finding a venue, a photographer, a blah blah blah - but I think those lists are the number one way of ending up with a generic wedding which is over budget.


Picture the day:


How do you want to wake up? Together? Apart? With family and friends? Early?


What time of the year do you like the most? Do you love the coziness of winter, the promise of spring, the warmth of summer, the colours of autumn?

Do you enjoy suspense? If not, maybe get married early in the day. Enjoy a lie in? Get married later on.


The time of day you get married can make a big difference to so many things. The temperature, the cost, guests attitudes. Get this bit right and the rest of the day will mostly fit around.


If budget is limited, maybe only invite guests for one meal. What is your favourite meal? Do you love breakfast? Street food? Pizza? Formal fancy food? Forget what everyone else does - think about what you both like.


Will you be inside or outside? Will you be in a city, the countryside, on the beach? Forget about practicalities at this stage, go wild and just think about a day which perfectly describes your relationship.


How do you want your guests to feel? Do you want them to have a great time, or is your enjoyment more of a priority. Why are your guests there? Do you enjoy their company?


How don’t you want your guests to feel? Do you want to make sure no one has to think about accomodation or transport? Do you want to provide a wedding babysitter so guests with kids can relax.


How do you feel about evening dancing and drinking? Not much of a party animal? Don’t have an evening reception. End the wedding at whatever time you want.


Like to dance, but don’t want a first dance - don’t have one!


People do pretty much anything they want now when they get married. You don’t even need the legal vows to be on the same day as the celebration.


Get the framework


This is a really big one! I’ve written a whole separate article about getting the wedding day framework right.

You're both on the same page with regards to purpose, and you know some of the possibilities, it's time to start making some decisions. These 6 questions will set the framework for the wedding plan.

  1. When shall we get married?

  2. What do we want to do on the day?

  3. Where do we want to get married?

  4. How do we want the wedding to feel?

  5. Who shall we invite?

  6. How much shall we spend?


Imagine the day


Most people would not suggest doing this yet - they may advise you do look for vendors and inspiration - but I think doing it my way will keep you on track with the event you actually want.

This stage is a bit like the dream up the perfect day step, but now you have more information, and you know what is realistic.

Start from the moment you wake until the next morning - note down any ideas or issues you have about each point, write down what you will need help with or things you’ll need to source.


Work on timings, how long will things take.

By the end of this stage you should have a pretty good timeline of events and a list of items/services to source.


Fill in the gaps

So you have all the glaringly obvious things listed, but what about all the things you’ve missed. Things you wont have thought of by picturing the day itself…

How will you let people know?

Who will do the tidy up?



This is the time to have a look at a list - by now you’ll be pretty solid on what you want, so you shouldn’t be susceptible to being swayed into ordering balloons just because you see it on a list!

Link to a good list including a to do list


By the end of this stage you will have a comprehensive list of all the jobs that need to be done, and when, all the vendors that need to be engaged and how much you want to spend, and all the people you need to ask for help from. If anyone asks you a question about your wedding - you know the answer inside out…. Now, you are ready for a wedding fair (if you want to go)!


Finding experienced vendors

If you want to go to a wedding fair - now is a good time. You know what you want and how much you are prepared to pay. You have each other to back you up - and if you feel like you’re starting to crumble, run to the toilets and read through your framework again!


Wedding fairs are one way to find vendors, but there are plenty of other places to look.


You may be planning to do a lot of things yourself - that’s great - I think there is no better way to personalise and feel involved in your own wedding - but remember, you will be busy as it is - do you have time to do everything you want? Do you want to be up until 2am the night before the wedding icing a cake, or decorating the reception room - think about eye bags in your wedding photos!


Delegate and do


This is the part where you live and breath the wedding and you figure out all the jobs you need to do… and get them done! This will take more than the day I suggested at the start, but maybe you’ll need a day to get your calendars in sync!