Before looking at venues decide what is most important to you. Are you looking for a fairytale wedding in a castle; are you a foodie or is dancing most important to you? Different types of venue will work best for certain elements of the day. Consider your guests. Many will have to travel some way to attend at some considerable expense so make sure they are catered for and comfortable. Ensure there are a variety of places for them to stay catering for different budgets from B&Bs to top hotels and that transport is arranged to and from the ceremony and reception.
Choose your venue before your dress. A long formal gown may look wonderful if you are getting married in a castle but will not be practical for a more informal venue.
If the ceremony and reception are in different venues, make sure you minimise the time in between when guests are left in limbo. Ensure guests have drinks and canapés prior to you and your groom disappearing for photographs.
Research your flowers. Read up on costs, seasons and fragrance before selecting your flowers. The peonies you love may work wonderfully if you are marrying in Summer but be exorbitant if you’re marrying when they are out of season – look at alternatives such as roses or winter ranunculus if this is the case. Lilacs, gardenias, lily of the valley and hydrangeas may wilt on a hot Summer day and flowers with strong perfume such as lilies are wonderful in church, in your bouquet or in large arrangements but avoid them in table arrangements as their fragrance may overpower the food.
Make sure you leave plenty of time to get yourself ready and have your hair and make-up done. The last thing you want is to arrive at the ceremony red faced and stressed having had to rush to get ready in time.
Make sure you practice your hairstyle with your hairdresser several times before the big day. This is a day that you will be recorded for ever in photographs and you want to look and feel your very best. Your day will be ruined for you if you do not feel happy with how you look.
Brief your photographer thoroughly before the big day. Make sure they have a list of exactly what you want and who needs to be in group photographs, plus any tips such as your mother hates being photographed. Do not be too rigid in what they take or you may miss them taking informal, unplanned shots which are often the best. Make sure you are clear on your policy about children. You may wish to include children, in which case it is a good idea to arrange for a children’s entertainer to keep them occupied during the reception and possibly a separate table for them for the meal. If you do not wish children to attend, make this very clear to their parents in good time so they can make childcare arrangements.
Often couples budget around a per head price, forgetting extras such as flowers, cars, the band, photographer, etc. can double the actual price per head. Make sure you account for this when budgeting.
The drinks bill amounts to one of the biggest expenses at a reception. If you holding the reception in a marquee, then source the drinks yourself or, if not, check the venue’s policy on drinks and if they allow it, supply your own and just pay corkage. Consider driving to France and purchasing wine and champagne there as it is often much cheaper. The budget supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl now supply some superb wines at low prices so carrying out a number of tastings prior to the big day can ensure you have wines excellent drinks at a reasonable price.
Chances are your parents may be contributing to the cost of the wedding which means they will want a say in the planning of the event. This can lead to friction so be proactive by including them in the planning from the beginning – invite your mother to the dress fittings and ask her opinion on the cake design and flowers. That way, if there is something that you really want but she is likely to disagree with, you are far more likely to get your way without a battle.
Make sure you sound check the music. You and your friends may love to dance to loud music but older guests may be struggling to talk to each other. If it is impossible to converse, then the music is just too loud. If you really want that volume, then ensure there is a quiet seating area for those wishing to chat.
Most importantly, keep a clear, concise check list and work through this methodically and you will avoid becoming a Bridezilla!