Wedding planning – where to start (An alternative guide)

Wedding planners will probably give you a 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.
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Before you dive into wedding planning 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 of wedding planning in this article, and I’d suggest allocating a day (or evening) to fully discussing and planning each one listed below.

And remember – there’s more to planning a wedding than wedding planning! Make sure you have some fun – so many couples get lost in the stress of becoming event planners and forget why they are doing it in the first place!


star wars wedding planning
Not everyone has Darth Vader at their wedding… but if you don’t spend time thinking about the possibilites, they won’t even be possible.

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

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

There are so many different themes and feels, so the focus of this stage of planning is to open 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 before you start “proper” wedding planning.

planning a church wedding
This was the moment the vicar admitted he had lost the rings. Not everything about a wedding can be planned!

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.

Why do you want to get married in the first place?

  • To celebrate your love
  • 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.

Wedding planing the perfect day
Every couple has a different idea of perfect – proper wedding planning will help you find yours!

Dream up the perfect day

Start with the timeline of the day. This is often done but not mentioned, so for some couples it can easily be missed. Wedding planners will probably give you a 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 cosiness 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 the 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 accommodation 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 the 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.

woodland wedding
This couple opted for a woodland wedding including a handfasting ceremony. It even featured a radish from their allotment!

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.

  • ​When shall we get married?
  • What do we want to do on the day?
  • Where do we want to get married?
  • How do we want the wedding to feel?
  • Who shall we invite?
  • 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.

Wedding day rain
Rain on a wedding day can be fantastic – it adds such drama and everyone seems to get all giggly!

Fill in the wedding planning 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?
  • Honeymoon?

This is the time to have a look at a list – by now you’ll be pretty solid on what you want, so you won’t end up ordering balloons just because you see it on a list!

Here is a link to a wedding do list.

By the end of this stage you will have a comprehensive list of all the jobs to do, and when, all the vendors you need to engage 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 start 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 plan to do a lot of things yourself – that’s great – there is no better way to personalise and get 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!

diy favours
Making your own wedding favours in advance is a great way to personalie your wedding without having to stay up late the night before!

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 do them! 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!

Do you have any wedding planning tips? Share them in the comments!

What about a wedding photographer?
Not everyone needs a wedding photographer – that’s why I didn’t mention it sooner – I don’t want to sway you into spending thousands of your hard-earned pounds on a photographer if it would ruin your day. But, if capturing the memories of your wedding in photos is important to you… maybe I’m your perfect photographer! I photograph weddings throughout Yorkshire and beyond – have a look about my website to learn more!

Don't go! I spent so long putting all this together for you, hang about and have a look!

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