by Megan Ball
Alcohol: Let’s start with a talking point of most weddings. Who was drunk and what did they do? Alcohol is an important addition to most weddings, but it’s up to you how much is consumed. Try to get the right balance – enough so everyone is relaxed but not so much they start acting stupidly. Look out for venues which don’t charge corkage (a cost for each bottle of alcohol you supply) and purchase your own alcohol. This will usually work out much cheaper. Supply water with ice and a slice during the sit down meal alongside the alcohol and your guests will be able to pace themselves and last long into the night.
Bestman: Steer your fiancé towards the best, best man he has. The best man has many more responsibilities than just that famous speech. He needs to be reliable and responsible on the day. Tell him what he’s in charge of and update him when you are planning. A good best man will be pleased to help in any way he can. Best men and ushers can replace toastmasters (someone to lead guests through the day) who can take a hefty slice of your budget.
Cake: Beware of local cake makers. Ensure that they are recommended to you and have experience in making the cake you’d like. The recent interest in cupcake towers means cake makers have less experience in making traditional three tiered creations. Everyone can bake a bit, but few can bake to a professional wedding standard. The cake is a talking point amongst the oldies. If it’s not good everyone will know about it. Why not play it safe and buy one from the high street? I can personally recommend Marks & Spencer’s Romantic Pearl Cake which has a 5 star online customer rating. You can decorate the outside to add a personal touch (we had cascading maple leaves from Hobby Craft). Alternatively, your florist can supply flowers to match your bouquet.
DJ: This is something you definitely shouldn’t skimp on. Entertainment can affect the whole atmosphere of your wedding. There is nothing worse than an empty dance floor surrounded by groups of anti-social guests. My best advice is to go to as many weddings as possible in the run up to your own. Look at what works well and what doesn’t. Once you find a DJ, book a meeting and tell them what you want and most importantly what you don’t want. Start with your first dance, followed by a sentimental one (people will be feeling cuddly after seeing yours). Perhaps dedicate the second song to your parents – they will feel obliged to dance and others will feel sorry for them and join in. Follow this with 5 popular dancey songs and you will be guaranteed participation All Night Long.
Eats: When it comes to weddings there are three things people remember most: the dress, the weather and the food. Choose food that you like as a couple and find a caterer who suits you. Depending on the weather, you can cut costs by going for seasonal foods. A BBQ is great for the summer, whilst a traditional hog roast is lovely on a chilly day.
Flowers: It is possible to get specific flowers at any time of the year, but if they are out of season in the UK they will cost you significantly more. Consider cheaper stems of a similar style or research silk flowers which look realistic and last forever. In recent years the number of brides choosing to throw their bouquet has declined. If want to stick to tradition, consider buying a replica bouquet with cheaper flowers to throw so you can keep your own.
Gratitude: Be thankful to your suppliers. The more involved they feel, the more likely they are to do a thorough job on the day. Tell them your ideas (even if they don’t directly link into their area of expertise) as they may have some invaluable input. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Help: Accept help. Do you have family members who are good at sewing? They could alter bridesmaid dresses or even make them from scratch. Do you know anyone that works in childcare? They could put together some party bags to keep children entertained. Are your bridesmaids creative? Get them together to help make your invites. You would do the same for them, I’m sure.
Inclusion: Whether your parents are contributing or not, try to include them in your plans. Weddings can trigger feelings of loss as young ones are fleeing the nest (even if they actually fled years ago). Give them a bit of TLC and understanding – you don’t have to do everything they suggest, just listen.
Jitters: Usually a few days before your wedding, some bright spark will ask you if you’re feeling nervous. Unsurprisingly, this will make you feel nervous. Don’t worry! Stop and take a moment to think about why you’re getting married. The enormity of the planning can sometimes overshadow the real meaning of the day. Have a break from it all and do something together that doesn’t involve thank you gifts and favours.
Keep calm: There will always be something that doesn’t go to plan. Luckily for us it was only the fact that the snooty woman who owned the venue confiscated play doh we had bought for the children. But the point is that only you know how it was supposed to happen. The day will go so fast that you won’t remember tiny slip ups. Remember why you’re there and enjoy the day.
Little Touches: Little touches can make all the difference. If your venue is in the middle of nowhere (a country hotel/ barn etc) supply a box of toiletries for the guests – just in case. Weddings can be such a long day for guests so a quick freshen up will keep them comfortable. Don’t forget a mini version for yourself.
Mean Girls: Picture the scene, you’ve just got engaged, your finger is hovering over the send button on your phone asking your ‘best friend’ to be a bridesmaid. STOP and THINK, they could be more of a hindrance than a help. Unfortunately, the news that a friend is getting married doesn’t always go down well. It’s not your fault; some people have other things going on. Just protect yourself by knowing that bridesmaid bitchiness will hit most brides at some point. Ignore them, it’s your day and when it’s their day give it back two fold (only joking).
No: Just say no. If you don’t like something or feel uncomfortable, don’t do it. Everyone always has ideas, but they have either had their day or will do in the future. Be gracious but firmly state your position.
Outfit: I refuse to say ‘dress’. It’s your day and you can get married in exactly what you want. I couldn’t find anything I liked in bridal shops so I had an outfit made for me. Hire dressmakers after receiving recommendations and ask to see examples of previous work.
Photos: I’m not someone who enjoys having my photo taken. I was dreading this element of our wedding and I took exception to having to pay so much for it. A good idea is to contact students who are willing to photograph your wedding for the chance to build up their portfolio. I found someone on gumtree.com but unfortunately she had a day job and our wedding was on a Thursday. This is a hidden downside to booking a weekday wedding – it’s often hard to negotiate deals as wedding suppliers often have other responsibilities during the week. You have to work out early where the savings can be made.
Questions: Talk to friends and family about weddings they’ve been to in the past. This will help you find out what works well and what doesn’t.
Relatives: OK, so they can be a pain in the proverbial, but family is family (as the Mitchells would say). When you’re considering your guest list, think about how you would feel if they were getting married and you weren’t invited. Or if they are already married, did you attend? Often families only see each other on the big occasions (christenings, weddings and funerals) and it’s important to invite them to save an argument. You may be concerned about the number of people you are inviting, but more people will decline an invitation than you realise.
Shoes: I love shoes. The first thing I bought were the shoes. The dress was designed based on them. I cried when I saw them (I didn’t with the dress). Make sure the shoes are both comfy and pretty. They need to fit perfectly so that you don’t have to take them off (there is nothing worse than a bride wandering around barefoot on her wedding day – it’s a disaster waiting to happen). Remember you are fair game for anyone who demands a picture on the day and your shoes could end up as a focal point. Don’t think they are hidden under your dress – a photographer will probably take twenty pictures of them before the day is out.
Theme: Have a theme and stick to it. You’d be surprised how soon the little things add up. We couldn’t use our spare room for the 9 months leading up to the wedding and didn’t even use some of the things we bought. Sit down and talk about what you expect from the day and don’t buy anything unless you are sure. Most things are available on the internet so don’t worry about walking out of the shop unless it is bespoke and you are sure you won’t be able to get it elsewhere.
Ushers: Give the ushers specific jobs to do so that they aren’t walking around aimlessly. They have been asked to be ushers for a reason (they are important to you). So make them feel involved in the day and don’t forget to give them a little present as a thank you (preferably something that fits in a pocket so they don’t have to carry it about on the day).
Venue: When you find your perfect venue, don’t be caught out by hidden costs. Our venue had a compulsory caterer (who didn’t display prices on their website). This meant that the majority of our budget went on food and we were unable to afford a honeymoon. Be careful.
Winter Weddings: Summer is the most popular time to get married, but I find this can mean weddings are a bit samey. Be bold and go with a different season. We went to town with our autumnal theme which is popular in the US at the moment. That means in the next couple of years it’ll be big in the UK. Be the trendsetter here. Why not have a Winter Wedding? You can do so much with that theme.
Xtra Information: Inform your guests about the day beforehand. Let them know when they will be fed and how much and if they need money for the bar. Tell them when it’s due to finish and point them in the direction of others they could share a taxi with. It’s the sign of a good wedding if the guests feel comfortable.
You: Have a think about what is most important to you personally. Did you have an idea in mind from childhood about how your big day would go? Tell your fiancé about it and see what can be done to make your dream come true.
ZZZZZ: You will need a lot of sleep before and after the wedding. We had so much prep to do beforehand that I was up until 2am on the wedding morning. I felt exhausted on the day. After the wedding it’s ok to feel relieved that it’s all over. I promise you, you will want to sleep for a week. But your dreams will be sweet and you will be ready to begin your new life together.
Megan Ball is the creator of The Student Housewife a blog about juggling university with housewifery.