Wedding planning: 6 tips every couple should know

So your partner just proposed to you. Congratulations! All of the sudden it dawned on you that you have a wedding to plan! Organizing a wedding can be stressful. Planning your wedding day is hard work so here are 6 tips to make your life easier.

1. Score other weddings

At the age of 37 I’ve been to plenty of weddings. Some of them are fantastic and other just…mwah. So when we started discussing our ideas we looked at the weddings that we really enjoyed. Why was it that we had such good fun at these weddings? Make a list of all the things that made these weddings stand out to you.

Among other things you can think of:

  • Food: what was served, how much was served, what time was it brought out
  • Music: genre, DJ, band, volume
  • Location: grand venue, great views, excellent layout, surroundings
  • Atmosphere: how easy was it to meet other guests
  • Decorations: impressions do count 

Do the same for the mwah-weddings you went to. Write down what you think didn’t work at these weddings. Among other things you can think of:

  • Seating plan: every one knew each other and you didn’t know anyone
  • Location: poor venue, geographically difficult to find
  • Activities: too much going on, nothing going on
  • Food: too little, too much, too heavy, poor quality
  • Beverages: not enough choice, had to pay

Create a list of all the positive and negative points of previous weddings you have attended. Mind you, this list is for you and your partner only. Do not share it with anyone as you might upset someone.

2. Your wedding date

The date of your wedding day is important. The date might have special meaning to you both. You might have met each other on that day, like we did. Whatever the date is make sure you research what else is going on that specific day.

For example we wanted to have our celebration on the 25th of July or the week after on the 1st of August. The latter date would coincide with Amsterdam Gay Pride. This is one of the busiest days in Amsterdam when 500,000 people decent on the Dutch capital to party. Besides the logistical nightmare it also meant that hotel rooms where very expensive. Our preferred date, the 25th, made more sense.

3. Location, location, and yeah…location

Choose a location that suits your ideas and make sure it suits your guests. A year before our celebration we spend a few days in Amsterdam to view venues. One of them was a nightclub, chosen because of the amazing pictures on their website. We entered the venue by crawling over some beer barrels, the carpet stuck to our flip-flops and the place stank of alcohol. All I could think of was my mother and probably more important…my mother-in-law.

For your initial visits to locations and venues make sure you check the following:

  Our location: De Koepelkerk in Amsterdam

Our location: De Koepelkerk in Amsterdam

  • Professional: how eager, polite, friendly, professional are the venue managers you are dealing with? These people are in charge of your wedding so you want to trust them.
  • Layout: make sure you do not have too many rooms. Keep your guests in 1 room if possible. The venue should not be too big or too small. How many guests do you expect?
  • Check every space: seriously! Check the toilets. How many toilets do they have and are they clean. Dirty toilets = dirty kitchen. 
  • Pictures and visualisation: take pictures of each venue. Will the layout work for you, your ideas, your guests. 
  • Notes: take notes at every venue and prepare questions. Afterwards you compare and contrast. 

4. Your wedding story

We decided to work with a theme for our wedding day. Based on the Dutch, British, and American flags we choose the colors red, white, and blue as our theme. Think about your theme or style for your wedding. Create a story line that you can stick to. The story line comes back in your invites, your website, your decorations, your menu, your outfits, in our case our speech, and our thank-you notes.

At the start of your planning process your ”story” should not be set in stone. Why not? Well your plans, your ideas and your attitude will change once you start planning your day. This goes back to what I said at the beginning about making a list of what you really want to see at your own wedding day.

Our ideas evolved once we knew our final venue, when we figured out our budget, and even at a later stage when we got inspiration from places we visited on our holidays (we wanted a live band after visiting Nashville). It is great that you have a vision but it is best to keep an open mind to new ideas. Not everything might work out the way you have it in your head.

5. Your guests

Obviously you want to share your big day with your family and your friends but is your great-great-uncle still considered family? Perhaps you think he is and in that case you should invite him. In my case we drew the line with direct uncles, aunts and cousins.

Deciding which family members you should invite seems straightforward but it becomes murkier when you decide which friends you want to see at your wedding. You are most likely to upset some people by not inviting them but this is inevitable. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Create an invite list in Excel. Write down all the names and categorize them by how you know them (family, friends, colleagues). You can add columns for:

 Your guest list

Your guest list

  • Invite send / received
  • Invite accepted / declined
  • Dietary requests
  • Hotel bookings
  • Guest list registration

6. Budgeting the dream

Some might say you have to decide on a budget first before you start thinking about your venue, your outfits, your friends, etc. We had a rough idea of what we wanted to spend but it was not until we visited some venues did we get a good idea what the actual costs might be. A friend told us that a wedding cost roughly the same as buying a Volkswagen Polo. So that is what we kept in mind when we started shopping around.

“Oh a wedding…that is 30% more”. Okay, venue managers won’t say that to you but you do get the impression that this is how they operate. One of the venues we dealt with wanted to charge us €300 to use their disco ball. That is nuts. Obviously venues need to make money on some items but do not be afraid to tell them off if you think they are taking you for a ride.

The biggest costs for us were:

  • Venue hire: included food & drinks
  • Rings: Shop around you can get wedding rings at any price
  • Entertainment: live band & DJ

Make sure you always negotiate. Look carefully at the quote and see what, where and why the venue (or suppliers or entertainers) wants to charge you. For example the €300 disco ball. Question them on the costs that do not make sense to you. When you are still looking for locations you should compare the different quotes against each other. Use the quote from one venue to get more for your money at your preferred venue. Can they match that deal?

More info

There is a lot more information I can give you. You can download my eBook Gay Wedding Planning on Amazon or buy my online workshop Wedding Planning.

Just for you: this week this eBook is FREE to download. Offer is valid until Friday 20 November 2015 at 12noon (GMT).

Here is the link: Gay Wedding Planning