I recently got married, and after we had set our wedding date, I started browsing the web for wedding tips. I found that some of the tips didn’t necessarily match my or my groom’s way of doing things. So, we decided to flow to our rhythm.
If you have an organised disposition, these tips may work for you too. Either way, soak up what works for you and wring out those tips which don’t suit your personality or style. I’ve taken some of the guidelines I read elsewhere and tweaked them according to our experience.
Disclaimer: the contents hereof are based on our personal experience when planning our wedding. You will soon find out, that even the best plan, in theory, doesn’t always work out practically. Toss in an epidemic, and watch how your plans can disintegrate overnight.
Plan in advance, or maybe not
Yes, planning months or even years in advance is wise and usually the best way to go. However, our experience in 2020 was that plans can fall through at the drop of a hat. How many weddings that were over two years in the making had to be postponed or cancelled due to the harsh lockdown restrictions experienced during peak COVID-19 times. There may be many mutations and other pandemics on the way – who knows. So, if you’re engaged and the two of you are 100% committed to one another, what’s the point in waiting. A small wedding can easily be planned in less than two months if organising comes naturally to you. And, you don’t need a wedding planner! Set out a clear plan, starting with a budget and a rough guest list. Admittedly, if your guest list exceeds 100 people, with some guests travelling from around the world, you will need a bit more time. Having said that, if COVID-19 and its consequences continue indefinitely, you may be waiting forever to get married if you’re insistent on having guests from abroad or out of town at your wedding. Flexibility and Livestream are great friends during unpredictability.
Set a realistic budget
Factor in every detail, but be realistic without stretching your budget too far. There is still a life and expenses after the wedding day. Remember to work in additional costs like alterations to the dress and suit, beauty expenses, every accessory provided by the florist and decorator. Costs can add up quickly.
Helping hands, or not
Friends and family will be more than willing to help and be involved in planning your wedding day. People you trust can certainly make your load much lighter by helping with various tasks. However, we preferred doing all the planning ourselves and only requesting help from our respective maids of honour, where required. If you’re super-organised, planning a wedding does not require many helping hands. I find too many hands spoil the broth and cause more irritation and follow-ups than is necessary (or healthy). Be honest with yourself and decide how much assistance you require. If you have the capacity, jump in and start organising one email or call at a time. Once you’re on a roll, it flows. You’ll be amazed at how much one person can do in a week.
The guest list
Here we wholeheartedly agree with many wedding planners – do not be guilt-tripped to invite people who you don’t want to come. Costs per head add up rapidly. This can be the most challenging aspect of the entire planning process, but by reflecting deeply on who means a lot to you and why – you’ll soon realise exactly who to invite. The guest list has to be the bride and groom’s sole decision. Don’t allow family or friends to decide who you should or shouldn’t invite. If you haven’t heard from a relative or friend in years, why invite them? We found this exercise rather easy – we knew exactly who we wanted to share our special day with. There were a few more we would’ve liked to invite, but COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions trumped our choices slightly. Depending on the level of lockdown you find yourself in, you may have an added challenge in compiling your guest list. Once again, Livestream is a great option for those who don’t make your initial list or cannot make it for whatever reason.
Consider where you live and where most of your guests live. Try not to stray too far from the majority of invited guests, as this could affect their decision to attend. It also affects the timings of your day, especially if you’re having a morning wedding. As a bride, many people are attending to you on the day – I found being close to the wedding venue a huge relief. The service providers attending to me on the day were much more eager to arrive early or at all because I was situated so close to the venue. It saved us time and money in the end.
Have a Plan B
Especially during COVID-19 times! Bear in mind that the lockdown regulations may change the day before your wedding, affecting how many people you may host, to the venue, to whether you may serve alcohol or not. The weather may have been a major consideration for a Plan B in the past, but in these unpredictable times, there are many other factors which could turn your dream day into an absolute nightmare. Plan alternatives for every scenario, consider that Livestream option in case you are suddenly not permitted to have the ceremony with more than a handful of witnesses. Wedding insurance is also recommended – remember to check the circumstances covered under the various policies. We leapt in faith and never invested in wedding insurance as we chose our wedding day to be two months after getting engaged. However, if you’re planning a wedding a few years in advance, wedding insurance is recommended.
Pick your best girls and guys
Your maid of honour/bridesmaids and your groom’s best men are your principal source of support throughout the planning process. It is important to choose them wisely. We only wanted one or two close people supporting each of us, for the same reason as tip 3 above. Again, don’t allow anyone to pressure you into choosing them – it is your wedding, don’t lose sight of that. This is the one time that you and your groom are at liberty to decide exactly what you want and how you want it. Ensure that you communicate the level of support you require and your expectations upfront. Give them the option to decline if they feel they are not up for it or don’t have the time. Some brides lean heavily on their maid of honour/bridesmaids, others need little assistance. You do not want your support crew being your biggest irritation. They must make your load lighter, not burden you with unnecessary questions and requests, or worse, plan around their preferences and not yours. Remember also, you can choose the opposite sex to be your support person, be it the bride’s brother as her “bridesmaid” or groom’s sister as his “best man” who you would like to honour with that role. No matter who you choose, do so sensibly.
Choose a photographer who aligns with your style
The photographer is probably one of the most important service providers on the day. You will want to relive the memories of your wedding day in years to come. If you prefer more natural, candid shots, for example, don’t choose a photographer who is fixated on staging every photo. Meet the photographer beforehand and be honest about who you are and how you would like your memories captured. Do your research carefully so that you find someone who understands exactly what you would like. Shop around – we found costs varied extensively amongst service providers in this field.
Feel great, but be yourself
This is certainly a day on which you want to look and feel fabulous, so it’s a good time to adopt a healthy lifestyle if you’re not already doing so. However, try not to follow an extremely rigorous exercise programme or diet if this is new to you. Remember that your groom wants to marry you as you are, so don’t radically change your look. Trial hair and make-up sessions are a good idea. If you usually don’t wear much make-up, don’t suddenly decide to plaster your face for the wedding. To make your features stand out in photos, you need to wear slightly heavier make‑up, but avoid too much foundation, eye shadow, or fake tan.
Make the day yours
Try to incorporate as much of your style and personalities into this event. Your wedding is all about the two of you, so make sure that you add your specific flair from your outfits to the cake, food, decorations, and venue. It’s wonderful hearing your guests comment on “how you” the wedding is.
Lists are a must
You may feel overwhelmed by the number of lists you need to make as you progress with your planning. Services providers all have their contracts, preferences, payment dates, and so on. Work together to draft a budget spreadsheet of forecast and actual costs as well as notes on when payments are due. As payments are made, include each on your spreadsheet. Include a list of what has been done and what is still left to do with deadline dates next to each. Remember to ask your service providers for their contracts before you pay the deposit. There may be hidden clauses they never mentioned before accepting your deposit. It’s far less stressful dealing with the finer details you disagree on before you’ve given them any money.
Surreal is to be expected
You may find that on the day everything seems surreal, so much so that you feel as if you’re in a movie and that your experience is not based in reality. This is completely normal. There is so much “abnormal” attention on you as the bride. Leading up to the wedding, I felt overwhelmed by the thought of it, but on the day, I was unexpectedly surprised when it all felt like a dream. I think it’s a good thing, it certainly made me feel calmer.
Remember what’s important
Many close friends reminded me to not get too caught up in the planning and stressed that it’s ok if things don’t go completely according to plan. This is truly a pearl of wisdom you’d do well to adopt. Remember what’s important – you’re marrying the love of your life. If the flowers are wilting by the end of the day or the chef forgets to add menu boards, it’s ok. No one, including you, will remember those little mishaps. But they will remember the importance of your union and how much love they felt. I only realised this on the day…
Authored by Delilah Nosworthy (née Sao Joao)