Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

planning like a pro: newly engaged? step this way!

January 18th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh

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Chiascuro

As we touched on briefly in yesterday’s post, the festive season was a peak time for couples to put on a ring on it with a strong stream of just-engaged selfies filling up our social media feeds through late December and early January.

Firstly, if that was you – congratulations! Secondly, if you’ve wound up on these pink pages thinking ‘what next?’, you’re in the right place! For we’re here to hold your hand and guide you through the first steps on your wedding planning journey. So, open up the first page of that wedding planning journal, and let’s begin…

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Maddie Farris

tick tock

Chances are, questions about the date will start flooding in seconds after you’ve uploaded your first ‘Does this ring make me look engaged?’ photo. Cast your mind forward – are there any big family birthdays, anniversaries or events coming up that you don’t want to clash with – or alternatively, you’d like to honour? How long do you think you’ll need to plan – and save? Trying to predict the British weather is a bit like trying to guess what Britney was going to do next in 2007, but the season or month you choose may have significant impact on the finer details such as colour theme, flowers and dress style, so it’s worth bearing it in mind. Try to come up with a broad range (ish) of dates that would suit, and then it’s onto the venue.

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Sarah Maria Photography

location, location, location!

It might be tradition for the bride to be married in her hometown, but who says it has to be your tradition? Often couples have moved away from their respective homes, or might have a special relationship with another place – a university town, the city where they met or first lived together – and can’t imagine getting hitched anywhere else. Sometimes logistics have to rule – couples often consider venues that are close to or between their respective families or a venue that can cater to particular requirements – offering total exclusivity if that’s a deal-breaker, is licensed for weddings if you’re not having a religious ceremony elsewhere, has disabled access or can manage a rowdy rabble of nephews and nieces.

But before you get too weighed down by shoulds and musts, close your eyes and imagine the day you’ve dreamed of. What do you see? A remote countryside retreat, a candle-lit manor house, an edgy urban rooftop bar? What feels most ‘you’ as a couple? There. That’s your starting point. Get online and get searching in your chosen area. Even better, get yourself to a wedding fair (‘tis the season!) at one or two of your potential venues, get your wedding party on board and get scouting. And speaking of the wedding party…

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Stories Of I Do

on the list?

Our advice with this one is to start big. Ignore budgets and venue capacities – you’ll be forced to do some trimming shortly. Who would you have if you could have everyone you wanted, from your long-lost best friend from reception class to that lovely bloke from IT at your last job?

You‘ll also need to consider how much financial help you’re going to accept from parents and in-laws-to-be. If they’ve offered, you’ll need to be sensitive – mum and dad may want (and be entitled?) to ask a few friends, but it’s best to have that conversation and set some boundaries before you start cashing cheques.

Then – and this sounds harsh – start culling. We suggest you get yourself some golden rules – have you actually met cousin Phil’s new girlfriend? No? Then it’s not a ‘plus one’. Have you spoken to Lucy from uni – actually talked to her – in the last two years? Then ask yourself whether you need her there on your big day. It works the other way, too, though – you might not have seen aunty Margie and uncle Derek in the best part of a decade, but is the inevitably nuclear family fallout from not inviting them really worth it?

Get it down to a ballpark figure, and be conservative – 60? 100? 120? Now you need to ask venues about their capacity.

Jessica Stott Photography-30

Jessica Stott Photography

money talks

This really goes hand in hand with the above, but it’s time to talk budget – sadly, wedding planning involves a fair bit of spreadsheet tedium as well as the occasional sprinkling of glamour. Based on potential guest numbers and average venue charges per head (choose a venue that’s currently middle-of-the-range on your list), do your figures. How much have you already got saved/can you get saved by your earliest possible wedding date? How much are family able and willing to contribute, if anything? Stack this against your guest list and bear in mind other big ‘wants’ – is it achievable? If not, you need to trim your list further or reorder your priorities – where can you make some cuts?

Warning: time, patience and compromise required. Think of it as good practice for your marriage!

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Amy Louise Photography

snap happy

The final biggy on your list has to be a photographer – good ones are booked up literally years in advance and if you’re having a weekend wedding and you want to get wed in 2019, chances are they’ve only got a handful of dates left. Here once again, the internet is your friend. Make trawling through some wedding blogs and Instagram your priority (this post from Brides Up North being the perfect place to start your search, obvs) and make notes on the kind of style and shots that make your head spin and your heart sing. Don’t listen to friends and relatives who say, ‘Oo, such-and-such was great at x’s wedding’ – ‘great’ photography is so subjective, this really has to be a decision for you and your other half alone. Scour their portfolios, get in touch and – eventually – go with your gut.

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about the author

Laura McDonagh
Laura is a true Northophile: she married Adam in Durham in 2011 accompanied by 200 Northumbrian lamb shanks and a Mackem 1950s tribute band who did a rockabilly cover version of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. They honeymooned in Northumberland in a 1972 MG convertible, went surfing in Alnmouth and made it to the Edinburgh Fringe (let's ignore the fact that it rained all week). Her big mantra is 'no regrets'...but if she could travel back in time and wear a wedding dress with a Peter Pan collar and pockets, she'd pretty much die happy.

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