So they proposed, now what?
What do I do? What’s first? What’s second? Who do I need to tell? I don’t want to offend anybody, who do I tell first? When do I need to book things? What ‘things’ do I even book? How long is too long to wait? When do I start? Can I wait a few years? Who gets involved? Who does what? What do I book first? How do I book stuff? When do I need to book everything by? How much does it all cost? How much notice do I have to give people? When do you send out invites? What on earth is a save the date? What is expected? What is traditional? What are the rules? Can you hand me that drink..?
First things first… yay! They proposed and it feels amazing, right?! So enjoy it. Smile, jump up and down, open the fizz and scream at the top of your lungs because you’re engaged! Allow yourself to enjoy that moment and try to remember every little detail because you only get this once. It’s yours to enjoy first and foremost with your new fiancé. Everybody will tell you to enjoy each moment you get together on your wedding day because it goes so quickly. Well, I can honestly say that the same goes for the proposal; if you don’t embrace that feeling, it will be over before you know it! What did I do? I looked up. It was a beautiful afternoon in May, the birds were literally singing and the sun was shining so I looked up with my eyes wide open and took it all in. Then I took a picture of that view; the view of his proposal. We enjoyed the afternoon together and told nobody. It was our little secret for the day; our little bubble of love. We walked around, hand in hand, smiling and laughing. We grabbed lunch and we didn’t actually call anyone until the evening - it was bliss!
Now that you’ve enjoyed your love bubble, tell your family and friends the great news. You tend to gravitate towards the person you are closest to first (for me, I called my mum). It’s so personal to make that phone call or tell someone in person but nowadays that’s not always possible. In this day and age ‘changing your status’ is the most effective way to spread the word. Just make sure you tell your loved ones first… nine times out of ten, they know already because they were asked permission so they’re sitting by the phone!
Some couples have engagement parties, some couples don’t. Some couples get married within a few months or even weeks of the proposal, some couples wait a few years. I myself have four years and a day in between my proposal and my wedding day. There are no rules anymore. This is your wedding and you get to make the rules, together. Everyone is different! Old tradition is going out of the window and new traditions are being made in their place. It’s exciting…
One of the first things you need to do is choose a date, you can’t do much else without that. This is generally the first thing that people will ask you for. Once you have a date, you can begin.
The two most important things to book are your venue and the registrar/church. The registrar will need to know your venue when you book with them so the majority of couples book their venue first followed closely by the registrar. Top tip: the registrar’s diary doesn’t open until 12 months before your wedding day so if you have booked 6th June for example, you can call on or after 6th June of the year before. If you’re only a few days/ a week or so before this then try to call as they may take a note in the diary for you. The average venue gets booked up around 18 months before (popular venues, peak dates being May to September) but don’t let this scare you – a surprising amount of venues will have availability after this point so never assume, always ask.
So what do you need to do when booking a venue? Firstly, decide between yourselves how far you are willing to travel. A lot of couples tend to keep it within an hour of where they live; however, some couples do take their guests’ travel into consideration (where possible!) It’s also important to have a rough idea of how many guests you will have so that you can narrow down the venue search – you don’t want to fall in love with one to find out that it’s too small! Once you have decided this, you can use great online websites to research different venues. If you know of any local venues, have a look at their websites too! Send through some enquiries either via the websites or give them a call. It really depends on how you would like to contact them.
Once you have narrowed down the search, it’s always a good idea to go and visit the venue. Most wedding venues know that you work when they work so weekend appointments will generally be available. A lot of couples try to book in a few viewings on the same day - if you want to do this, I have a few tips for you;
1. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time in between for travel/traffic. Most appointments will be around 1hr but this is largely dependent on the size of the venue and how many questions you have so give yourself enough time. If in doubt, ask. If possible, let the venue know that you have other appointments so that they know you are on a schedule.
2. Take a notebook and write down any questions you may have to ask the venue. Bring this notebook with you (and a pen) to the viewing and take any notes as you go around. This will help with further viewings too.
3. Make sure you take lots of pictures! It’s amazing how few seconds it takes to forget everything that you’ve just seen. If the venue doesn’t show you images during the show round, remember to ask as they will be more than happy to send you pictures via email.
4. Try to book your viewing on a date when there is a wedding (if the venue allows it – some will be exclusive use so won’t be able to accommodate this). This gives you a great real-wedding insight into how your day might look and can help you visualise your day.
5. Don’t book a viewing on the same day as a wedding fair unless you can get a specific time slot – fairs tend to be busier so the wedding planner won’t be able to give you the time and attention that they would usually like to, meaning you may leave with unanswered questions.
It’s really up to you how many venues you view. Some couples find ‘the one’ after their first viewing. For others, it may take longer. I’ve known couples who have viewed 20+ but when you know, you know. Lots of couples tend to narrow it down to one or two and then invite parents/family to see it before they book – just to get their opinion. If my parents didn’t like my venue then I likely wouldn’t have booked it. Once you’re both/all happy with the package and pricing, it’s time to book. Most venues will ask you to sign a contract and/or terms and conditions before paying a non-refundable deposit. Once these are done, it is official; you have a roof over everybody’s head for your wedding day – woohoo!
You will likely find that your venue is the biggest part of your day chunk-of-money-wise so this is the scary bit done. Now it’s time to have fun and fill that lovely venue with lots of personality. Most venues will have catering facilities already so you won’t need to worry about booking things like that but some venues don’t – such as a lot of barns and marquees, so remember to think about this if you are booking a venue like that. The venue should list what you need to think about but I would suggest that the basics are catering (including kitchen facilities, potentially also linen, cutlery, glassware, crockery and staff), bar and stock, toilet facilities and electricity on the odd occasion.
Once the basics are covered within the venue, the fun begins. My advice? LISTS, lots and lots of lovely lists. Remember the notepad I mentioned earlier? It’s about to become your best friend; your sidekick; your memory. Now, I love pen and paper and I have a fabulous wedding notepad however, we don’t always have the capacity to carry it around. But you know what we do always carry around… that’s right… our phones! Use the notepad on there if you forget.
Your initial list should be what you may need to book and/or plan; it will expand from there. Lots of those lovely wedding planning websites you used to research venues have fantastic wedding planning tools (and apps for your phone) so I would advise looking at these too. They are very helpful and split them into ideal months before (i.e. you should be doing THIS around 12 months before etc).
'Stuff to think about’;
· Work out a rough budget (try and stick with it but I can tell you now, it’s very rare that you will!)
· Take out wedding insurance (if you want to – the venue may have this already so it’s always worth asking the question)
· Choose your bridesmaids and/or groomsmen (and ask them!)
· Choose your photographer and/or videographer
· Book your DJ/Band/Entertainment (i.e. photo booth, sweet cart etc)
· Book your Toastmaster if you are having one (some venues include this too, so double check)
· Send save the dates (roughly 9 months – 12 months before the wedding if you can)
· If you’re travelling to your venue on the day, arrange transport
· Order Invites (send 6 months – 9 months before the wedding if you can)
· Look into a honeymoon and book some time together
· Get your outfits! (including bridesmaids/ushers/parents etc)
· Buy your wedding rings
· Book your florist
· Book your cake – don’t forget to ask if your venue has a cake stand and/or knife if you or your cake maker don’t have one. And don’t forget to buy a cake topper if you’re having
· Arrange any decorations either if you’re doing these yourself or hiring them in. Check with your venue who dresses the space i.e. if you do it yourselves or if the venue does this for you. Most venues do it for you but some don’t so it is always worth checking!
· Book accommodation (lots of venues include a honeymoon suite in their package so check)
· Table plan i.e. once all of your invites are returned and you know your guest list, sit down with a large bottle of wine and a pizza, and get through your table plan together!
· Hen/Stag night arrangements
A very basic list and I really could bulk that out with lots of ideas but you know where I am if you have any questions. On that note, make sure you build a relationship with your co-ordinator/planner at the venue. We are here to help you and we love it. There is no such thing as a stupid question and believe me, we’ve heard it before!
My honest advice is not to sweat the small stuff. I can promise you that on the day, it just won’t matter. All that matters is your love for each other and the fact that you are surrounded by the people you love most in the world – drinking, smiling, indulging, laughing and so much more…