Wedding Planner

What Are the Best Wedding Planning Advice for Brides?

When planning your wedding, some things are nice to know, and there are things you need to know—advice so essential any bride who's lucky enough to hear it thinks, "I'm so glad someone told me that!" If you're wondering whether there's something you may have missed (or even if you've got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets below. Too busy with life to really plan your wedding in detail? Have someone else do it for you and check out our list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help take the stress away.

Top Wedding Planning Tips

Any bride who has spent even just one-afternoon wedding planning knows it takes an enormous amount of organization. With dozens of decisions on your horizon, creating a fine-tuned budget and laying out a well-planned timeline is critical. And since this is likely your first time organizing such a large-scale event, it's easier than you'd think to fall prey to the pitfalls of wedding planning.

So, where should you begin so your wedding planning starts on solid footing? "Once your budget is established, you can make intelligent decisions on hiring the right team of vendors who work best with your personalities and will execute your vision for the day. Having these discussions early will set the tone for the overall planning and result in less stress as you go through the process.

Start wedding planning early

You might have summer 2020 in your mind as the ideal wedding date, but don't think that means you have to wait two years before you start planning. The earlier you get onto it, the easier and less stressful it will be as your day approaches. Having a clear plan before you start will help you keep on top of everything and be sure that you don't forget something important. Insurance, rough guest list numbers and the budget should always be your first three things.

Guests Come First

Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you'll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there's ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it's not if you count the space you'll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band and a dance floor.

Be selective with the guest list.

Sorting the guest list early is essential, so you can then focus on finding the perfect venue that will cater for your chosen number of guests. Costs per head will most likely be your most significant expense, so don't be guilty–tripped into inviting people you don't want to come. It's the most influential and most challenging decision in the whole planning process, but it has to be your and your h2b's decision only.

Nail the budget

Don't spend anything until you've set a realistic budget that won't stretch you too far. It's a common mistake to forget all the little extras, too – for the funding to work, you need to factor in every detail. Don't forget to account for additional costs like dress alterations, gifts and beauty expenses. These can all add up!

Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program. Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).

Investigate Wedding Blackout Dates

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk or another local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. Here's a handy list of potentially problematic wedding dates coming up in the calendar.

Helping hands

Although it's your big day, your friends and family will be more than willing to help and want to be involved in the planning. By getting help from people you trust, you're more likely to feel that you can be honest if things aren't exactly as you want them!

Long-distance venues

You may not be a fan of where you currently live or want to wed where you grew up, but make sure you don't stray too far from the majority of your guest list, as fewer people will be likely to attend. It will also affect the timings of your day – you can't expect guests in Liverpool to get to Somerset by 11 am, for example. This is especially important if you're planning a wedding abroad. To be safe, expect that many people won't be able to make it.

Listen to Mother Nature

Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deer flies and mosquitos) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests' gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking SunriseSunset.com. Oh—and always, always have a Plan B for unexpected weather snafus.

Make sure you have a Plan B in place.

However much you don't want to think it, something could go wrong on the day. This could be anything from a problem with the catering to rain (despite the forecast promising a dry day). Plan alternatives for each scenario and account for anything that might not go to plan, so you're not left stressed out and panicking on the big day. Additionally, you should invest in wedding insurance and check what circumstances are covered under your policy.

Pick your best girls.

Your bridesmaids should be your most significant support throughout the planning process, so choose wisely. Friends you've recently made, or cousins you rarely see are not the best choice. Instead, choose your sisters, long–term best friends or close relatives. The last thing you'll want is to look at your wedding album a few years later and to be no longer in touch with one of your bridesmaids.

Book the best photographer you can

Your wedding album is how you'll relive the cherished memories of your day, so don't underestimate the importance of a good photographer. Research carefully and find someone who understands precisely what you want. Engagement shoes are a great idea too because you'll get to know your photographer better as well as practise your poses!

Get the menu right

One of the most significant talking points at any wedding is the food. From hog roasts and buffets to bake-offs and mini fish 'n' chips, the quirkier, the better! Avoid skimping in this area – hungry guests are never a good thing!

Make a Meal Plan

Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you're not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don't forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.

Pay It Forward

Let one vendor lead you to another. Your wedding photographer can tell you which florist's blooms pop, and your reception manager should know which band consistently packs the dance floor.

Lighten Your List

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The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it's costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

Ask, and You Might Receive

Request an extra hour for cocktails or your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line. Most vendors would instead secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on (which might turn you off of them). Later on, though, they may be less inclined to meet you halfway.

Feel fabulous, but don't overdo it

Everyone wants to look fab in their wedding photos, so if you'd like a confidence boost, now's the time to adopt a healthy eating plan and practise a few simple exercises to tone your body. On the other hand, going on an extreme diet is not a good idea. Just remember that your groom wants to marry you precisely the way you are!

 Don't fall for common beauty mishaps.

The main culprits here are too much fake tan, coloured–eyebrows and too much foundation. Yes, you will need to wear slightly heavier make–up than usual to make your features stand out in photos, but don't go crazy! 2015 is all about soft, smokey eyes and peachy tones on the lips and cheeks.

Give your groom his responsibilities.

Your fiancé may not have been planning his wedding since he was five, but he will have his ideas and opinions and will want a say in the planning. Listen to what he says and remember it's his day, too. Most guys like to get involved with the menu, music and budget spreadsheets.

Get Organizationally Focused

In a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a unique email address dedicated to your wedding, and store significant vendor numbers in your cell phone. For on-the-go planning that keeps everything in one place, download The Knot All-In-One Wedding Planner app to keep all of your planning info digitally on-hand at all times.

Tend to Your Bar

Typically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you're serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.

Leave Some Room in Your Wallet

Your wedding budget should follow this formula: 48 to 50 per cent of total budget to reception; 8 to 10 per cent for flowers; 8 to 10 per cent for attire; 8 to 10 per cent for entertainment/music; 10 to 12 per cent for photo/video; 2 to 3 per cent for invites; 2 to 3 per cent for gifts; and 8 per cent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator. It's essential to allocate an extra 5 to 10 per cent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day and ribbons for the wedding programs. Looking for the Top Wedding Planner in Melbourne? Look no further and check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners here.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask.

Your wedding vendors should be your go-to, most trusted experts during the planning process. When working with them, you should feel free to explore what it is you want—maybe it's serving a late-night snack instead of a first course or doing a bridal portrait session rather than an engagement session. The bottom line is that you should feel like you can have an honest conversation with them about your want. Their job will be to tell you what you can and can't make work given your wedding budget.

Make the little details personal.

Your wedding is all about the two of you, so try to incorporate as much of your personalities into the day as you can. From the stationery and favours to the outfits and first dance, guests should say 'that's so them!'

Wait for a Date

Sometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favour. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding venues at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months before your desired time can save you up to 25 per cent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 per cent less than Saturday weddings.

Manage the Mail

Of course, you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all logos are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. Save yourself scouting time by ordering them online. And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send them out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for oddly shaped envelopes.

Prepare for Rejection

Know that about 10 to 20 per cent of the people you invite won't attend as a rule. Naturally, this depends on your wedding location (destination weddings are harder to follow), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the event's timing (some guests may have annual holiday plans).

Make a Uniform Kids Policy

You have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an "adults only" wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide daycare either at the reception space, in a hotel room or at a family member's home. To prevent hurt feelings, it's wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).

Lists, lists and more lists!

With a million and one suppliers to deal with, each with different payment deadlines, it's impossible to keep track of everything by yourself. One of our top wedding planning tips is to sit down with your h2b, make a budget spreadsheet of forecast costs and actual costs, and when payments are due and list what things are left to do.

Prioritize Your People

Pare down your guest list with the "tiers of priority" trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can't imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your parents' friends, neighbours, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

Take It One Step at a Time

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Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don't take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don't hire any vendors before you've confirmed your date; don't design your cake before you've envisioned your flowers, and don't book a band before you've settled on a space.

No Ring, No Bring

If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it's a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you're all set. If it's a table of couples (making her the odd one out) or if it's a table of singles where she won't know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you're not allowing single friends to bring guests, size or budget constraints or your parents' never-ending guest list are always good reasons. 

Release Rooms

As soon as you've picked a date, start to look for hotels at a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a particular wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month before your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, say no—you don't want to be responsible for rooms you can't fill.

Provide Accurate Driving Directions

Make sure guests know where they're going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong, or there's a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts or digital copies of recommended driving directions and even test out the streets yourself. Then include the best tips on your wedding website or email them to your guests to print out if they'd like.

Keep a Paper Trail

Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, "Hello, just confirming that you'll keep the venue open until 2 am versus midnight." Don't just assume everything's all set—sometimes, by the time the actual day rolls around, your contact for sure may no longer be working there to vouch for you.

Schedule the Setup

You must make sure there's ample time for setup. If you're renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask what time people can come in to start setting. See if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event begins.

Learn About Marriage Licenses

You can check your state's license requirements online but confirm with a call to the county clerk's office to see when they're open. Even if it's available from 9 am to 5 pm, they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 pm to 3 pm. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honour (just if you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).

Go Over Ground Rules

Be prepared—ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you'll be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you're exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)?

Classify Your Cash

Wedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a checklist of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers and the photographer, and assign a number to each—one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can't fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.

 Help Guests Pay Attention

Make sure your guests can both see and hear from their seats. Consider renting a mic and a riser if people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium. This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You'll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.

Write Down Your Digits

Keep an emergency contact sheet or phone with your vendor contacts on you on your wedding day—it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost, or you decide you'd like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.

Don't go dress shopping on your own—all the gowns will start to look the same after a while, and it will be harder to recall which style you loved. But be careful about who you do bring. If your mom or sibling can't make the trip, ask a sincere friend. This is the time when you need to know which dress looks best.

Be Realistic With Your Time

When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you're particularly harried), look at your mile-long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things you don't feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting "Just Married" signs or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Cross them off and pledge not to think about them again.

Don't forget what's important.

Wedding planning can be stressful, but if you find yourself getting too caught up in it all, take a step back and remind yourself what your wedding is really about – marrying the love of your life!

Conclusion

Don't forget the reason you're doing all of this, and keep things in perspective. It's all about starting your new life together, so make sure to set up the proper foundation for a positive future. Remember, it's just one day in the journey. Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Planners in Melbourne to help you organise a stress-free wedding.

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