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Planning YOUR perfect wedding

You’re engaged, congratulations! YAY! Now what?! Once the initial excitement of the engagement has worn off and you’ve stopped staring at your engagement ring every 30 seconds (yes, I did it too), the reality of planning your wedding day has probably dawned on you and it can be a pretty daunting prospect. With so many blogs, magazines and friends offering advice, it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide what would make the perfect wedding.  

Having photographed weddings for over 10 years I often get asked about what makes the perfect wedding, but the fact is, that every couple I photograph have planned the perfect wedding for them. No-one else, them. Their perfect wedding. Here are some of the things you might like to think about when planning YOUR perfect wedding.

Religious or Civil Ceremony

A very personal choice, most couples have an idea fairly early on whether they want a religious or secular service. This is probably the most important decision you’ll make (yes, even more important that your choice of photographer!), as this will likely have an impact on the venue you can choose for your wedding reception. Many churches insist you have some local link to them, and you’ll want to choose a reception that’s less than a 30 minute drive away, so both venues ideally need to be chosen at the same time.  If you don’t want a religious ceremony and are looking for a venue where you can have both the ceremony and reception you’ll need to find somewhere that’s perfect for all elements of the day, and this can be anywhere in the country.  

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What type of venue do I want? 

Some people are looking for the perfect rustic barn that they can do up themselves, others want a posh hotel with beautiful grounds and fancy food. The number of guests you’d like to have will also help narrow down the choice – it’s no good deciding you’d like to get married in your beautiful village church that only has space for 30 guests if your guest list is over 100. You’ll need to think about where your guests are going to stay, if you want everyone to be able to stay at the same venue you may need to look at a hotel with plenty of rooms who can offer a discount for bulk-booking. It’s worth visiting lots of different types of venue – you’ll know when you find the one that’s right for you. For more tips on choosing your venue please click here

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When do I want to get married?

Many couples dream of the perfect summer wedding, with guests sipping champagne on the lawn until late in the evening. Others hope for a Christmassy wedding with snow on the ground. Whatever your dream, remember that the British weather is pretty unpredictable, and I have seen many weddings confined inside on a rainy August day, while also seeing receptions held outside in the middle of October. Hope that the weather will be kind, but don’t rely on it, otherwise you could be disappointed. Make sure the venue you choose can accommodate you whatever the weather. 

Another factor influencing the time of year you get married may be how quickly you want to get wed. I planned my wedding in 6 months, because I knew it would take over my life, and 6 months was quite long enough thank you very much! I also wasn’t too worried about the time of year, and luckily our perfect venue was available in late October, 4 years to the day after we met. Once you have found the right venue for you, you may have to be flexible about the date, as many venues get booked up months, even years in advance. If you’re happy to wait 2 years that’s great, if not, find another venue you’ll love just as much. 

Some venues offer discounts for Friday or mid-week weddings which can be great, but make sure this won’t restrict who can attend your wedding, as some people cannot take time off during the week, particularly if they have to travel to your venue. 

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Personalise your wedding to suit you

When planning your wedding it can be tempting to think that you have to hand-make everything, for that perfect rustic look, and so that you can proudly declare how much you’ve done yourself and how much money you’ve saved doing it.  That’s great, I love that too, and it can look fabulous in the photos, but not every couple can or wants to do this.  Some couples maybe have a little more money and want to pay someone else to add the finishing touches, or simply don’t feel they are creative enough, or work such long hours that it’s not practical to do everything themselves. Again, think what is right for YOU. 

Think about yourselves as a couple.  What do you love? It can be great to personalise your wedding around something you both love, or how you met. I’ve seen rugby themed weddings, a full working train set, a cake made out of lego, a pheasant theme and many more.  Travel is a popular way to theme tables, naming each one after a place that’s special to the couple.    

I’ll be honest, I don’t really get favours. The old traditional sugared almonds seem to be going out of fashion, and there are new and fun ways to give gifts to your guests, but a lot of the time they are left on the table or not really appreciated. Some of the nicer ones I’ve seen are little bottles of drinks with the couple’s name on, a lavender bag, a Christmas decoration, and probably others too, but there you go, I’ve forgotten a lot of them!

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It’s always lovely to see entertainment laid on for guests, whether this is a live band, a magician, some garden games, tablefootball or even a drag queen! 

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Yes, I’m afraid I’ve got to mention it.  Everyone has a budget and it can be so tempting to get carried away with planning THE perfect day that you feel you simply must have everything, but take a step back and decide what is really important.  Do you really need chair covers, or are the chairs in the venue actually fine? Can flowers be moved from the ceremony to the reception venue to avoid paying for more flowers than really necessary? Do you need an elaborate seating plan, or can a friend design one for you on a blackboard?  You might ideally want to offer an open bar, but are your friends really going to mind buying their own drinks if it means you have more money to spend on the more important things? Remember, it’s YOUR day, don’t worry about what other people might think. Obviously I’m going to say that photography is one area where you really don’t want be cutting corners, but you can read more about my thoughts on that here! 

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And the most important thing?

When speaking with couples after their wedding, they all say how perfect the day was. What made it perfect probably wasn’t the fact that the sun shone (though that would have helped) and it wasn’t that the band were really good (although who doesn’t love a bit of live music). What made it THEIR perfect day was the fact that they got became husband and wife (or wife & wife / husband and husband) surrounded by their family and friends in a way that worked for them as a couple. What makes a perfect wedding is the people who share it with you both, and knowing that from that moment on your love will be forever. 

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I hope this is useful.  Feel free to leave a comment to let me know what YOU think makes the perfect wedding. 

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