I’m treating you to two guest posts this week, as next week on the blog will be totally devoted to my brand new website and wedding stationery ranges. I’m getting very excited to show you so be sure to check back on Monday morning from 8am for all the news!

Anyway on to today’s guest post from the fantastic Sarah at Helen Carter Weddings.You can contact the team at  http://www.helencarterweddings.co.uk . There is lots of amazing planning advice here so I really hope some of you find it useful! ….

Let’s Get The Planning Started!

“So you’ve just got engaged and the daunting task of planning the best day of your life is filling your every waking thought. There are so many things to consider, costs, traditions, families, fashions, venues, flowers, photographers, entertainment that your future husband is looking slightly queasy and you spend every lunchtime searching for ideas on the internet. Becoming overwhelmed with the whole idea of planning your wedding can mean that you lose some of the enjoyment of the next few months, caught up in a whirlwind of stress, decisions and trying to please everyone else.

When I was a student one of our lecturers asked “What is the best way to eat an elephant?” (luckily my degree wasn’t in zoology or catering which would have put a different slant on the question!), and his answer was always “One bite at a time”. The same holds true with planning your wedding. At the moment the task seems daunting, but by breaking it down into easily digestible chunks, you can make real progress without feeling snowed under. By prioritising and scheduling tasks on a month by month basis you can set yourself mini-deadlines by which to complete tasks and not become overwhelmed by the enormity of planning the wedding as a whole.

The first stage you will probably want to look at will be setting a budget and one of the first questions you will need to consider when devising your budget is who is going to pay for the wedding? It is important to discuss this with your families before you start your planning, so that everyone is aware of their financial obligations from the outset.

It is very important to be realistic when setting your budget, and it will ultimately become a juggling act requiring you to prioritise what is most important to you on your day. If you want a huge guest list you may need to have a less formal celebration or be happy to include a number of DIY elements to keep within budget. Or if you want champagne all the way and lavish decorations you may be happy to keep your guest list more intimate to achieve this. Whatever you decide, be realistic about what you can save before the big day. Don’t imagine you can stash away every spare penny – you still want to enjoy a life outside wedding planning, and you could easily start to resent your plans if you have no spare cash available. Also remember that most suppliers require payment of the final balance 4-6 weeks before the wedding date, so ensure you factor this into your calculations.

Once you have an overall figure, divide it across the different areas of your wedding so you have a guide as to how much you can spend on different suppliers – you don’t want to blow your budget on the flowers and have nothing left for your transport or entertainment! This will vary according to your priorities and preferences, but as a guide you should expect to spend:

– 45-50% on the ceremony and reception (this includes legal fees, venue hire, catering and decoration)

– 8-10% on photographer

– 4-6% on flowers

– 5-7% on entertainment

– 2-3% on transport

– 2-3% on wedding cake

– 8-10% on wedding outfits (for the bride, groom and attendants)

– 3% on wedding stationery

– 10% on the honeymoon

– 1-2% on beauty (hair and make-up)

Once you’ve set your budget, keep a spreadsheet for your wedding expenses – this doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated, just something simple that means you know exactly how much of your budget you have spent and how much you have left. Keep a folder for everything to do with your wedding (e.g. contracts, receipts, etc) so that you have everything in one place and can find things easily.

Of course, if this still fills you with dread, you could consider handing some or all of the administrative burden over to a professional. Wedding planners are no longer just the preserve of the rich and famous, and many offer bespoke services from which you can pick and choose which elements of your wedding you require assistance with.

A full planning service will take away all the administrative burden of planning your wedding as well as allowing you to draw on the styling expertise of your planner in the lead up to your day, and give you access to a range of vetted, high quality suppliers who can make your budget work harder for you. Or, if you prefer you can use a planner to help plan certain elements of your day such as finding a venue or certain suppliers or just to give you help at any stage if it’s all getting a bit much for you. If you’re a planning whizz and have everything in hand, many offer an “on the day” service where they look after all the last minute correspondence with the suppliers you have chosen and are on site on the day itself to orchestrate the wedding of your dreams.

Planners typically charge a percentage or your total wedding budget for a full planning service or offer a selection of individually priced services depending on how you would like them to be involved in your day. Yes, it is an additional expense, but often through their good relationships with suppliers planners can negotiate a discount or a service upgrade which can even cover their fee. In addition, their expertise and experience can allow you to stretch a tight budget a little further by suggesting some clever twists or alternatives to that must have idea you saw in the latest magazine! Add to that the fact that by having them involved you will save time and minimise the stress of organising your perfect day then hiring a planner becomes a serious consideration rather than a luxury solely for the rich and famous.”

Photo credits as follows

Ceremony room – Charles Cielo (www.charlescielo.com)
Mantelpiece and Candy Buffet – YB Photographic (www.ybphotographic.com)
Chair, urn, wedding cake – Lloyd Dobbie (www.lloyddobbie.com)
B&G, cupcakes, escort cards – Peachey Photography (www.peacheyphotography.co.uk)  
Wellies, marquee interior, sports day, favour display, carousel B&G – Magno Photography (www.magnophotography.co.uk)