5 Helpful Checklists!
So, you’re engaged - congratulations! You’ve been dreaming of this day for so long and now it’s happened. You have a fiancé and you are SO READY to plan your wedding day. Now if you could just switch your mind off…
Where on earth do you begin? What are you supposed to look for? What are you supposed to ask? Are you even ‘supposed’ to ask anything or is it just expected that you know how to do this suddenly?! What is expected of you? What order are you supposed to do everything? Is there an order, will you look stupid if you haven’t done something before you start the next thing? What even is the next thing?
It’s ok that you don’t know where to start. There is no right place, there is no wrong place, there is just the two of you and us. We can help. We actually love to help, that’s why we plan weddings and it’s why we love what we do, so just breathe, drink those bubbles and enjoy the experience because one way or another, there’s going to be a wedding at the end of it and you’re going to be married to the person you love so let’s enjoy the ride, shall we?
Firstly, and most importantly, enjoy the moment. Enjoy the fact that you are now engaged and you’re going to get married! There is no reason to start planning straight away so enjoy the honeymoon period of fiancé-dom (not a word, making it a word). We only ever plan to be engaged once so you may as well enjoy it. When I got engaged, we didn’t tell anybody for a few hours, we stayed in our little bubble and enjoyed the rest of our day out. My now-husband popped the question and the first thing we did after I said, ‘oh my god, really?! YES!’ was nip up to the little café and grab some lunch. The first thing I ate as an engaged woman was a cheese sandwich. It’s the little things like this that you remember. If you go straight into planning-mode, you miss out on all these little memories… it would be a shame to miss them…
Once you’ve enjoyed the moment, it’s time to enjoy the planning! First things first, make a list (could have seen that coming!) Over my 8+ years of wedding planning, I really have found this to be the best way to organise one’s thoughts.
List 1: First steps
· Enjoy the moment (seriously, enjoy it!)
· Talk about a date – when do we want to get married? The first thing that everybody will want from you is a date so even if you don’t have one in mind, try to think of the time of year you want to get married at the very least. (For us, the date we wanted was 4 years after we got engaged so we pressed pause on planning until we were 2 years away)
· Talk about a rough guest list (the date and the number of guests will literally be the first things that anybody you speak to will want to know so it’s helpful to have an idea, even if not certain, before doing anything else)
· Talk about the type of ceremony you wish to have i.e. a religious ceremony in a church, a civil ceremony at a venue or a more spiritual ceremony such as a humanist ceremony
Once these decisions have been discussed, it’s time to look into your wedding venue. This may be one venue to host the entire day or it may be a few different venues (i.e. one for your ceremony, one for your wedding breakfast and one for your evening reception). Most couples have one or two venues. Either a ceremony venue followed by a reception venue (everything after the ceremony, essentially) or one venue for the entire day. When you know how many venues you need, it’s time to start researching!
List 2: Venue types
· How many venues do you need?
· How far are you willing to travel to your venue? (Try to think about your guests here i.e. is anybody travelling long distance or from another country altogether? Remember to take your own transport into consideration too i.e. how are you both getting there? Most frequently, the bride will stay at the venue (or nearby if they don’t have accommodation) and the groom will travel up on the day; sometimes it’s the other way around!)
· What is the most important thing you want from your venue? I suggest you each choose something. For example, our two things were 1. On-site accommodation because we had a lot of guests travelling and 2. Trees in the gardens because we got married in May and wanted blossom trees in the photos
When you have these in mind, it makes things a little easier when looking for your venue because it narrows down the search based on location and size. There are lots of helpful websites who group the venues together for you in one place, making it simple for planning your special day. They allow you to shortlist venues and have lots of helpful checklists and planning tools to help you along the way. A few examples of these are Guides for Brides, Hitched and Bridebook… There are many out there so my advice is to google ‘Wedding Venues’ followed by where you are looking for i.e. ‘Wedding Venues Oxfordshire’ and go from there…
You can either enquire through these sites by requesting a brochure or you can contact the venues individually once you’ve decided you want more information from them. Most couples spend an afternoon looking at venues and requesting brochures. They come in via email/post (however you asked for them) over the next few days and then you can both sit down and look through them together. A lot of venues leave it a couple of days and then follow up with either another email or a phone call mostly to make sure you received the brochure. Unfortunately, a lot of our emails go into your spam/junk folders and you’re none the wiser so please remember to check these folders. It will also help both you and the venue if you just send them a quick acknowledgement – this ensures we know you have the information and would like to be left alone to look through it. (We don’t want to pester you!)
A lot of wedding venues don’t put their pricing online, so you need to contact them to get a better idea of what they can offer. The main reason a lot of venues don’t publish pricing is because their pricing is very dependent on the time of year, the number of guests and your individual requirements. Pricing is often bespoke so to put a price online would usually end up misinforming you. As frustrating as it is not to just have a price there and then, there is a genuine reason behind it.
I advise you to shortlist a few venues. Hopefully you both like the same ones however, you could each choose up to 3 to give yourselves somewhere to start. Once you’ve shortlisted your venues, it’s time to visit them! Venues are often very flexible with booking in your appointment because let’s face it, they want your business! So, if evenings and weekends work best for you then don’t be afraid to ask. It doesn’t have to be on a weekday between 9am and 5pm – wedding planners often have weekdays off because they’re in over the weekend with appointments. Lots of couples book their viewings on the same day and go from one venue to another, which is a great way to do it – if you’re going to do this, ask each venue how long their average viewing takes and map how far each venue is from one another. I’d suggest then adding on 15/20 minutes as a cushion to relieve some of the stress and anxiety just in case you run over because you’re chatting, hit traffic or simply get lost on the way. I don’t know about other venues, but I usually give my appointment 15 minutes over their arrival time before I give them a call to check up on them! We understand that these things happen...
List 3: What to look for on the Venue Showround
· Did you find the journey simple enough?
· Does it have parking on-site or nearby? (if nearby, what charges apply in the car park?)
· Does it have accommodation on-site or nearby? (if nearby, do they have a deal on rates?)
· Does it have an outdoor space for pictures? (and if not, do you like the alternatives?)
· What was your first impression as you walked up? (this will be your guests first impression too)
· Were staff friendly on arrival?
· Remember to take pictures when you’re looking around because you will forget most of what you’ve seen and the more venues you see, the more they will blend in your mind when you’re thinking back
List 4: What to ask on the Venue Showround
· How many guests can each room you've shown hold comfortably?
· Do you have highchairs?
· Do you provide linen, crockery, glassware etc on the tables?
· What is the usual table setup?
· Are there any decor restrictions?
· Do we need to decorate, or can we drop off at the venue the day prior for you to do for us?
· Is there a surcharge if the venue is doing this for us?
· Do you have a cake stand and cake knife we can use?
· Do you provide background music for the wedding breakfast?
· Is there a turnaround or are the wedding breakfast and evening reception setup in different rooms?
· Where do guests go during the turnaround if there is one?
· What are the bar facilities like?
· When does the bar close?
· How many staff would be working-ish?
· Where do wedding photos usually occur on a dry day?
· What is the wet weather backup option?
· Do you have a master of ceremonies? (someone to communicate between staff and guests on the day, usually the wedding planner)
· Is there a surcharge for this if the venue is providing?
· Can we see a standard bedroom and a suite to compare?
· Can we see the honeymoon suite?
· Do you have family rooms?
· What would bedroom rates be for wedding guests (including family rooms), is there a discount?
· Do we have to book a minimum number of bedrooms?
· What are your wedding packages?
· What do Children's packages cost?
· What are your minimum/maximum numbers?
· What is NOT included in your wedding packages?
· How many do I need to cater for in the evening?
· Is your menu flexible? (If they don’t provide food, who are their recommended caterers?)
· Does it cost more to offer a choice menu if we gather a pre-order?
· Will there be other people around on the day or is it sole use?
· Do you have preferred suppliers, or can we bring our own?
· Do you have a sound limiter? (Your DJ/Band will ask this so it’s good for you to know – this is when the music is cut off if it reaches a certain level)
· What time does the bar close?
· What time can we finish?
· Is there a charge to extend if we want to?
· How much is the deposit?
· What are payment terms i.e. when are payments due and when is the final balance due?
· When are final details due? i.e. final guest numbers, table plan, dietaries etc
· Can we hold a date? When would you require an answer?
If you’re holding your ceremony at the same venue, make sure to ask the following:
· Is there somewhere for the bride to get ready if she’s on-site? Or will it be in a bedroom?
· If in a bedroom, will belongings be moved for her to the honeymoon suite? By who?
· Is there somewhere for the bride to park and hide if travelling on the day?
· How is music played in the room?
· Which registrar do you fall under? (i.e. Oxfordshire Registry Office – you will need to contact the registry office separately to the venue. They have their own charges)
· Is there additional room hire for this space?
· What do you provide in the space? i.e. furniture
When we looked around our 3 shortlisted venues, I shocked myself with how easily I fell into focusing on the negative parts of a venue. So, the one piece of advice I will give to you from my own experience is to try to go in with an open mind and keep it open as you walk around. Choosing a venue is like choosing your wedding dress – the one you choose is often the one you didn’t like until you tried it on… (I know this to be 100% true because that’s exactly what happened to me!)
Once you’ve chosen your venue, I advise you to place it on a provisional hold while you arrange your ceremony. It’s very rare that a church/registrar isn’t available on the same day, however, it can occasionally happen so by holding the date with the venue first you won’t have lost any money if you need to amend the date. (You need to have a venue decided before booking your ceremony because whoever is hosting your ceremony will need to know your venue and your date.) Once your ceremony is booked, it’s safe to book the venue!
Once you’ve booked your venue, the rest will fall into place…
List 5: What else to think about
· Bridal Party (Maid of honour and bridesmaids)
· Grooms Party (Best man and groomsmen)
· Wedding Insurance
· Stationary (save the dates, formal invites, on the day such as table plan and place cards)
· Wedding Dress, Veil, Shoes, Underwear, Accessories, Hair and Makeup, Nails
· Suit, Shoes, Underwear, Accessories
· Wedding Rings
· Wedding Cake
· Entertainment (i.e. DJ/Band, Musicians, Photobooths, Sweet Carts etc)
· Bridal and Grooms Party outfits
· Who’s looking after the pet?
· Travel to and from venue(s)
Of course, so much of the above can be DIY - take a look at Pinterest or Instagram for some inspiration;
I hope you’ve found these lists helpful and I wish you all the best with finding your venue!