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From Miss to Mrs...

Well… after a 4 year engagement this wedding planner has finally said ‘I do’!


As a wedding planner, I must admit that I am no ordinary bride. I’ve seen and organised hundreds of weddings in my 8 years of wedding planning and I can honestly say my only cause of stress during the run up to our big day was the fact that I wasn’t stressed...


I think the reason for this was simply that I’ve seen so many weddings and I understand each element. I knew what all of my suppliers needed and why. I knew what needed to be done first and what could wait until nearer the time. For most couples this is their first time and they have no idea where to start! So I hope this blog and my experience can help you understand the little things and know just how normal they are when planning your special day…


Where to start? Well, my motto is that you cannot organise something until you have organised yourself. So I made a list of anything and everything that I would need to do and I bought a folder for any paperwork that would follow. My list was roughly as follows;

· Find and book our venue

· Book registrar

· Book entertainment (for me, this was a harpist, a DJ, singing waiters a Photo-booth and a sweet cart)

· Book photographer

· Book Toastmaster

· Sort stationary

· Book venue décor

· Book flowers

· Book cake

· Book favours

· Buy dress, veil, shoes etc

· Sort out bridesmaids

· Buy suit, shoes, tie etc

· Buy rings

· Book hair (I personally did my own makeup)


Your list will evolve as you plan so buy a notepad – ideally one that can fit in your bag and come with you to each meeting so that all of your notes are in one place. We also created a wedding email address specifically for wedding stuff. Again, so everything is in one place.


Photo by Bryony Thatcher Photography

Finding and booking our venue…

For me, this was one of the most important decisions simply because it’s usually me who is the venue! So I wanted to find a venue ‘with a Lauren’; another me who I could trust to look after us just as I look after my couples. We used a popular wedding website to send enquiries through to venues that we liked the look of. I used this part of the booking process to try and narrow down where we went to view because I didn’t want to waste our time or the venues. I removed some of the venues from my list at this stage – a particular favourite was a response from a venue that firstly got my name wrong and secondly referred to a completely different website to the one I had enquired though – delete! In the end, we viewed three and we fell in love with the third one. We both loved it the moment we stepped through the door and we felt safe in their hands. A quick look for the parents and all was settled. We booked our venue 2 years in advance and our menu tasting one year in advance. This gave us plenty of time to plan ahead at our own pace (and save pennies!)


Booking the registrar…

This, I had never done before. The only thing I knew I needed to do was call and schedule in an appointment. We needed to do this a year in advance as the diary isn’t usually open any earlier than this. Sometimes it can open earlier so it’s always worth checking and stating your interest in the date at the very least. The registrar will want to know your venue so you need to book your venue before booking your registrar. You have a meeting with them to give notice of your wedding, you pay your deposit and you fill in a form! They make it very easy for you and generally give you a step by step of what you need. You receive an initial list of what is needed at your first meeting (we didn’t read this properly and had to come back again as we didn’t have what they needed. So read the email!) One month before your wedding, you then have the option to meet you registrar as they will have allocated a specific person to your wedding by this time. It isn’t something you have to do but it is something that I advise you do; at the very least, it ensures that your registrar knows your face on the day…


Booking entertainment…

During the day, we booked a harpist for our ceremony and drinks reception which was a personal decision for us. Lots of couples create a playlist on their phone or an IPod for example and play this throughout which works beautifully as background music. We then booked singing waiters during the wedding breakfast and this is something that created a lot of memories and hilarious photographs (and videos..!) so we’re really glad we chose to do this. Our wedding wasn’t huge, an intimate 58 in a small marquee - a nice size – and this was the perfect addition to the day! They posed as waiters during the drinks reception and then as wine waiters during the meal. Halfway through dessert, they burst out into song and had everybody in hysterics! We booked around 2 years in advance and had a ‘final conference call’ the week before the wedding. This was a lot later than I thought I would need to finalise with them but it was a very easy call and they didn’t need much. We trusted them to just do what they do best and gave them freedom with their performance rather than dictating what they sang for example. We had nothing but positive feedback so we couldn’t have been happier.


For the evening, we had a DJ as our main entertainment and a sweet cart to the side for the kids! We also had a Photo-booth which was a real pick-me-up half way through the evening so I highly advise! They gave us a photo album at the end of the night with copies of all of the photos taken which meant we had some photos of our day before the main photographer had sent us the professional images. This was lots of fun to go through! We booked all of our entertainment about 2 years before with catch up calls and emails around one year prior and a month prior.


Book photographer…

Our photographer is also a florist so we got the best of both with a package deal – always great to hear the words ‘package deal’ when paying for a wedding. We’ve known our photographer for many years so this was an easy decision and we did not regret it in the slightest. We allowed her to just ‘do her thing’ and she has captured so many memories for us. She did the group shots that we wanted (these will make great Xmas presents!) and she took us off for some couples shots but the rest of our photos are from her capturing the moments you would otherwise miss on the day itself. A photographer plays such an important role with any wedding because they give you the memories afterwards. My honest opinion is to try not to dictate too much – I know it’s difficult but a photographer does what they do best when they are literally doing what they do best. If you’re telling them what to do with every step it just isn’t the same thing. Yes you’re paying them, but you need to trust them too. If you don’t trust them then you probably shouldn’t be booking them. Do some research on their photos and especially their social media nowadays – trust your gut, trust each other and all will be well. We booked our photographer two years in advance and then caught up around a month before. She was also our florist and we had the bouquets and button holes provided by her. She also provide a long and low piece for the registrar’s table / top table as part of the décor but we didn’t have any other real flowers for our wedding – our décor ladies did the rest.


Photo by Bryony Thatcher Photography

Don’t worry tip: so many of your suppliers won’t need to speak with you until much closer to the wedding than you would think. Sometimes even the week before! They have so many weddings before yours that you want their focus on you so this is a good thing, I promise.


Book Toastmaster…

A Toastmaster is a must in my opinion. They help to ‘herd the sheep’ as I put it – they communicate between your suppliers and your guests and this is so important on the day. This is important for you, the happy couple, because everything is happening around you. On your wedding day, you have no sense of time whatsoever! Especially when it comes to food, I find… if your guests know what’s happening and when, this makes it so much easier for your suppliers to do their job. A Toastmaster is an excellent addition and helps to add a bit of charisma to a wedding staff. We booked ours around a year in advance and caught up with him around one month prior at the venue so he could liaise with the venue planner.


Book venue décor…

Nowadays, a lot of couples ‘DIY’ which can be really personal to you as a couple - you need to know what you’re plan is before going shopping and if you can do this then you are stronger than me! If not prepared, you will spend a lot more money than necessary and change your mind a lot before you get to the end product. I am very much like this so we decided to hire some help! My husband and I both knew that we would spend way too much money doing it ourselves and end up getting much too stressed. We had an idea of what we wanted so we took this to the décor company around two years in advance and they evolved our ideas into a reality – even surprising us with some extras on the day. We took them to the venue around 3 months prior so we could plan what was going where. Décor companies need to know how many tables you have etc so there’s no point having this meeting 2 years prior when you don’t even know how many guests you have! We had a final meeting 1 month prior and it was that easy. They are very good at what they do so if you truly have no idea what you’re looking for, go and have a chat – often, they will know what you want before you even ask…


Sort out stationary…

Stationary involved a lot of going back and forth until we were both happy but it was worth it in the end. Our save the dates took the longest because they were the first design – we used this design to then evolve the rest of the stationary (the invites, the place cards and the table plan). We sent the save the dates out one year prior (we used little magnets which we thought would be a good idea but only around 50% of the guests realised they were magnets…) and we sent out invites 6 months prior, giving them a 3 month deadline so that we could chase anyone who didn’t come back to us. Let me tell you now, even when you stamp a return envelope and send it with your invite, you still have to chase people for RSVP! Definitely give yourself plenty of time for any guests who don’t come back to you in time… Your place cards and table plan have to be done much nearer the time, when you have an idea of final guest lists. We finalised everything around 2 weeks prior.


Book cake…

Having seen many a wedding cake in our time, we knew we wanted a 3-tier round cake and we knew the flavours we wanted (Chocolate and orange, Victoria Sponge and Lemon). We took this information to our cake lady around a year prior and she designed a cake based on our discussion. She also used our invitation design to influence the cake design which we loved. This was a very simple process and we were so happy with it on the day! Lots of it was eaten on the night and we froze the rest. We still have cake after 1 month so everyone is happy; who doesn’t love cake?


Photo by Bryony Thatcher Photography

Book favours…

Favours can be a really personal way to thank your guests for joining you on your special day. Lots of couples go with edible favours and some go with something your guest can take away such as a personalised place name. We went with fudge! We ordered it around a year in advance and then finalised the order around one month prior when we had our final guest numbers. We got to pick three flavours for around the room – we each chose a flavour and we let our maid of honour choose the third flavour. (Strawberries and Cream, Chocolate and Caramel, Vanilla – in case you’re wondering!) They were delivered 3 days prior to the wedding and it was so difficult not to eat all of them… it’s a good job I ordered extras, let’s put it that way!


Buy dress, veil, shoes etc…

I think I may have been the most excited about this part… this was one of the very few things I had never been a part of. I started looking 11 months before the wedding which is about average so you have time to shop and time for any alterations. I was very lucky as I found my dress in the first bridal shop. Albeit, it was around the 20th dress I tried on! But nonetheless, once you find it, you know. I took my mother and my maid of honour on my first visit. I re-visited on my own 5 months prior to try it on again and talk through any alterations I wanted. I then re-visited a few times nearer the wedding to finalise these alterations. The thing that shocked me the most with the dress was the alterations and how close these were made to the wedding. My final fitting was 2 days before my wedding. While this could be stressful, you must remember to think about how many weddings the bridal shop has before yours and how normal this structure is for the bridal shop/seamstress. This unfortunately means that you are generally not a priority 11 months before! So while I was a teeny bit agitated about my final touches only being done 48hrs prior, I completely understood why this was the case. My maid of honour picked out my veil (I wasn’t originally going to have one but then I put one on… end of story…) and I found my shoes at a local retailer for around £30.


Sort out bridesmaids…

We didn’t have any ushers, just bridesmaids. So one shop and we were done! I had three bridesmaids and one maid of honour. We had a pink and grey theme so we went with grey maxi dresses. I wanted my girls to be comfortable and every woman is a different shape so I wasn’t too fussed if the dresses were the same style just that they were the same colour. My bridesmaids all picked the same dress and my maid of honour had her own style, just for her. We didn’t have the budget to be able to buy all of their outfits for them so as a Christmas present, I gave each of the girls some money towards their outfits which they all really appreciated. We then went shopping in the January sales and bought the dresses. So long as they stuck with the colour scheme, I didn’t mind what shoes or accessories they had. I bought them each a bracelet on the day which meant (accidentally on purpose) they had matching jewellery, hehe!


Buy suit, shoes, tie etc…

We bought my husband’s suit much nearer the time; around 2 months prior. We thought about hiring one but he actually preferred the ones he could buy and the one he liked ended up being cheaper for us anyway, so we called that a win! He doesn’t like to shop so we tried to get everything in one outing! Once happy, we sent a link out to the relevant people who needed to match and voila.


Buy rings…

We chose to return to the jewellers where my husband bought my engagement ring and we’re so glad we did. They had just what we wanted. We tried to do the rings as close as we could (in case of any weight change with either of us) while leaving enough time for any size changes nearer the time. As my ring was 4 years old at this point, I had it cleaned… which wasn’t expensive and completely worth it. I sent it away around a month before the wedding just in case of any delays. When I got it back 10 days before the wedding, I didn’t put it back on until the wedding day – so it was as shiny and new as my wedding ring. You don’t know how filthy a ring is until you put it on the same finger as a new one…


Photo by Bryony Thatcher Photography

Book hair (and makeup if you’re having this done professionally)…

I almost didn’t book a professional to do my hair and I am so thankful that I did… I only booked it around 4 months before my big day and I am so lucky they were available. It was very much worth it and really made the whole bridal experience come to life on the morning of the wedding… We did a hair trial around 2 months prior and when it was done ‘for real’, it took my breath away. And it made the experience all the more fun for my bridal party! The morning of the wedding was all laughter, bubbles, hair, perfume, hairspray and pins; such fun!


Thanks for reading,

The new Mrs Hill x

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The Cosener's House, 15 - 16 Abbey Close, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 3JD

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