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a comprehensive guide to planning your big day

this ebook is brought to you by:
Author: Georgina Kirk
Interior Design and Composition: design team
Cover Photography: Piotr Ciuchta

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The information in this ebook is distributed on an “As Is” basis, without warranty.
While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of the ebook, neither the author nor and shall have any liability to any person
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Throughout this ebook, trademarks are used. Rather than put a trademark symbol in every
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© 2009 Tracy Toh

What sort of wedding do you want?..............................7
Where do you want your wedding to take place?............................... 8
Do you want a theme?....................................................8
What time of year are you going to get married?........................9
Setting your budget....................................................13
Think about the number of guests. ....................................14
Other ways to stay within your budget.................................15
Wedding planning timeline..........................................17
Wedding customs and etiquette..................................23
Before the wedding......................................................24
During the wedding......................................................24
After the wedding........................................................25
Miscellaneous ideas and suggestions.........................28



Your wedding is probably the biggest event you will ever organise. You are
making a public commitment to the person you love and plan to spend the
rest of your life with – and you want everything to go perfectly.

These days, more and more couples are planning and paying for their wedding
themselves. This ebook is therefore aimed at the couple, although of course
most of it applies across the board, whoever is organising the wedding.

Traditionally, it is the bride’s parents who take responsibility for most of the
organising and expense – and many still do this – but, perhaps partly because
people are tending to marry later in life, couples are taking more and more
upon themselves.

The positive aspect of this is that, as the couple, you get to make all the
decisions and to have everything exactly as you want it (in theory, anyway).

Potential negative aspects are that planning a wedding can be a lot of work and
that a wedding can be extremely expensive. Do delegate as much as possible,
both to take some of the stress off yourselves and to involve your family and
friends, many of whom may be feeling nearly as emotional about your wedding
as you are.

In this ebook, you will find ideas to help you focus the sort of wedding you
want, a suggested plan of action in terms of what to do when and some advice
about how to make the day itself go smoothly and happily.

There is a lot to think about if everything is to go as you want it to. But don’t
lose sight of the fact that you are doing this to celebrate your love. Planning
your wedding is a very special time: enjoy it!

What sort

of wedding do
you want?
W h at s o r t o f w e d d i n g d o y o u w a n t ?

© 2009 Kriss Szkurlatowski

The first thing to think about is what sort of wedding
you want. Are you more focused on being married
than on the wedding itself, so that a small, quick
wedding will suffice? Or do you want a big,
colourful extravaganza to celebrate your union?
Do you want something formal and elegant or
something more casual?

Whatever type of occasion you are planning, make

sure it reflects who you both are. If you are quiet and
shy, don’t feel you have got to push yourselves into
a huge shaft of limelight. If you are extrovert and
enjoy attention, your wedding is a great opportunity
to sparkle and shine. Either way, it doesn’t matter
what is “expected” of you. Your wedding is YOUR
special day and it should be arranged to suit, first and
foremost, you, the couple.

W h at s o r t o f w e d d i n g d o y o u w a n t ?

Where do you want

your wedding to take place?
It is traditional to marry in the bride’s home church, either in the place
where she grew up or where she lives now. However, if, for whatever reason,
this doesn’t suit you, there are thousands of other options, both in this
country and abroad. You just need to make sure your marriage will be legally
recognised in the UK.

Do you want a theme?

Many weddings these days have a theme. If you have always dreamed of
a fairytale wedding, why not make it happen for real? You can dress up as
Cinderella and Prince Charming, or whoever you would like to be, ask all
your guests to come in costume and decorate the venue as the prince’s palace.
This is one example of what people do (mainly in America, as you might have
guessed, but increasingly in Britain as well).

Other examples of wedding themes are:

• historical (Lancelot & Guinevere, Robin Hood & Maid Marion, etc)
• underwater (mermaids, dolphins and so on)
• cowboys and cowgirls
• rock ‘n’ roll / Elvis
• nature / fairies / A Midsummer Night’s Dream
• jungle
• Romeo and Juliet

You are limited, as they say, only by the bounds of your imagination!

W h at s o r t o f w e d d i n g d o y o u w a n t ?

Even if you don’t want a theme as such, you may like to have a colour theme,
for example a blue and gold wedding. This may begin with the bride’s attire
and extend to the bridesmaids’ dresses, the flowers, the table decorations…

What time of year are

you going to get married?
Whether you have a spring, summer, autumn or winter wedding will affect the
atmosphere of it. Without going as far as a theme, if you don’t want to, you
can definitely do a lot to accentuate the characteristics and benefits of your
chosen moment.

Each season has its own charm and you can have fun incorporating that into
your wedding vision.

A spring wedding ...

is in tune with nature and the sense of new beginnings. Pastel shades,
floral patterns, freshness and simplicity reflect this well. There are lots of
pretty flowers to choose from in March, April and May: daffodils, tulips,
bluebells, candytuft, forget-me-nots… If you time it right, you will also have
all those wonderful apple and cherry blossoms to decorate your venue.

Butterflies make a nice motif for a spring wedding and a popular idea for
favours is to give each guest a little, specially-designed packet of seeds, which
they can then plant and think of you as the shoots grow.

W h at s o r t o f w e d d i n g d o y o u w a n t ?

A summer wedding ...

is the most popular in this country and gives the bride the opportunity
to wear a strapless gown without (we hope!) shivering. The intense heat
and holiday atmosphere of a summer such as we had in 2006 can reflect the
passion and joy of your relationship, and driving off to your hotel at the end of
the evening in an open car under the summer stars will be a moment you will
never forget.*

Plenty of roses and bright, summer colours will ensure a warm and sunny feel,
even if the weather lets you down.

In the summertime, you can have your drinks reception out of doors (if it
rains, you either put up a tent or go inside). Champagne al fresco is a very
civilised way to begin your married life!

An autumn wedding ...

offers may possibilities for being a bit different. This is a particularly
good time for a themed wedding, with Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night in the
background. You can use the ubiquitous pumpkins to create a “scary” setting,
in which your brave, pure-hearted bridegroom has to protect you from
“evil spirits” (these can be young cousins or friends’ children dressed up in
whatever costumes you and they would enjoy). Or your pumpkin ideas could
be more along the lines of Cinderella’s coach.

With or without pumpkins, now the nights are drawing in, a few fireworks to
celebrate your wedding will show up very nicely.

An autumn-leaf colour scheme is very cosy and you can have scented candles
wafting autumn aromas of sandalwood, mulberry or juniper.

* An open car is a less good idea on the way to the wedding because you don’t want the wind
ruining your carefully styled hair!

W h at s o r t o f w e d d i n g d o y o u w a n t ?

A winter wedding ...

also lends itself well to fairytale drama. You have the opportunity to wear
striking velvets, thick taffeta and even fur. Or you can be the ice queen, in
white silk and diamonds.

You can have roaring fires and mulled wine, and fill the venue with delicious
winter aromas such as pine cones, cinnamon and vanilla.

Snowflakes make a nice motif and there are lots of brightly coloured winter
flowers available to you: poinsettias, amaryllis, hyacinths, lilies… and, of
course, holly and mistletoe.

Whichever season you choose for your wedding, take its mood into
account and make it work for you.


Setting your budget

© 2006 Vea Avernalis

Once you have decided where you want to get
married and whether you want a traditional wedding
or a wacky theme, you need to settle down and work
out how much money you can afford to spend.

While it is certainly possible to arrange a beautiful,

memorable wedding on a shoestring, if you don’t
set out your budget at the beginning – and stick to
it – you will find the bills mounting up inexorably.
Calculating the cost of getting married may seem
unromantic but it is nothing like as unromantic
as starting married life in debt and stressed, if not
arguing, about money.

If you are paying for the honeymoon as well as the

wedding yourselves, think first about your priorities
here. Most people would say that the wedding is more
important because you can always have other romantic
holidays later, but you may not see it like that.

Setting your budget

The average wedding these days costs around £14,000. If this is way out of
your league, you could consider asking your parents to help, postponing your
wedding until you have got more money or paring back your plans until you
know you can afford them. It is essential to be realistic at the outset because
it can be terribly distressing to have planned something wonderful and then
have to cancel it, or have to choose between that and something equally
wonderful (such as getting married in that castle or having that dress). Build
a vision you can pay for without overstretching yourselves.

Think about the number of guests

If it is beyond your means to invite everyone you want to invite, you could
consider having a much smaller wedding and throwing another party a couple
of months later to celebrate your marriage. This time, you could cater it
yourselves or ask people to bring stuff – and there are many other savings to be
made, such as on the flowers and decorations. You need fewer at the wedding
venue for a smaller party and you don’t have to have any at the bigger do.

If money is an issue but it is really important to you to have lots of people

there at your wedding, you will need to go for a reception more at the cheap-
and-cheerful than the luxurious end of the spectrum. There is nothing
wrong with that; it is usually the people rather than the place who create the
atmosphere. Be realistic with your choice of venue. It is much more fun to
go somewhere affordable and have whatever you like than to go somewhere
expensive and have to be very careful.

Setting your budget

Other ways to stay within your budget

Look at each aspect of your wedding and decide on your priorities and where
you want to focus your money. What has to be top quality and where could
you make savings?

For example, how important are professional photographs to you? Have

you got a friend who could take good posed shots of you and your families
etc and then take a lot of jolly snaps at the reception? Or is the wedding
photographer a vital part of the proceedings for you?

What about the car? Do you dream of arriving at your wedding in a limousine
or could you get there in a friend’s car or a taxi?

Does having special stationery really matter? Could you make your own?


Wedding planning timeline

© 2009 Hilde Vanstraelen

Your choice of wedding date will depend mainly on
your circumstances and how soon you want to get
married. However, you do need to bear in mind
that if you want a fancy do, it will take some time to
organise it.

Most people allow at least six months for planning a

wedding and many give it well over a year, though this
is generally not strictly necessary. If you have decided
to get married in less than three months’ time, you
are going to have to move quickly. It can certainly be
done but there is no time to lose!

For the purposes of this timeline, we will assume you

have set the date for six months from now.

Wedding planning timeline

6 months or so before the wedding:

• Book the church/register office/ceremony venue and the person who will
be marrying you – not your partner (you have already done that!) but the
vicar or celebrant who is going to make it happen

• Set your budget (see above)

• Draw up a guest list

• Book the reception venue

• Decide on and book your honeymoon

• Set up your personal wedding website at

• Book a lovely, romantic hotel for your wedding night. Depending on your
plans, it may not be practical to leave for your honeymoon straight from
the wedding party. There is no need. Stay somewhere local and set out
fresh in the morning.

4 or 5 months before the wedding:

• Book the magician for your wedding reception! Ring Iain Moran
on 07813 022432. Visit for more details

• Book the band or DJ and any other entertainment you want for your
wedding reception

• Arrange for someone to entertain the children at the reception

• Book the wedding car

• Arrange transport to your hotel after the wedding

• Book the photographer

Wedding planning timeline

• Check you both have valid passports, if you are going to need them

• Think about if and when the bride is going to change her surname

• Decide who you want as best man, bridesmaid(s) and ushers and ask the
people concerned

3 months before the wedding:

• Buy or have made the bride’s wedding dress, allowing time for fittings and

• Buy shoes to go with it

• Arrange hire of formal wear for the groom and his party

• Arrange dress(es) for the bridesmaid(s)

• Buy your wedding rings

• Plan the ceremony and choose what music and readings you want

• Arrange an organist or pianist for the ceremony

• Order your wedding stationery

• Set up your wedding list of the presents you want

• Order your wedding cake

• Order your wedding favours, if you want them

• Engage a florist for the decorative flowers, bouquet and corsages

Wedding planning timeline

2 months before the wedding:

• Send out the invitations with your wedding website’s address printed
on them, e.g. You can also include a map and
suggestions for local places to stay, if people are coming from far away.

• Book the time you want off work

• Draw up a seating plan for the wedding breakfast

• Decide on the menu and arrange it with the caterer, remembering to take
into account any special requirements your guests may have

• Make appointments with your hairdresser and beauty salon

3 or 4 weeks before the wedding:

• Have your hen and stag parties

• Buy presents for all your wedding attendants, to give them on the day

• Start to wear in your wedding shoes

• Buy clothes and anything else you need for your honeymoon

• Buy special lingerie for the wedding and the honeymoon

2 weeks before the wedding:

• Confirm numbers to the reception venue and caterer

• Check all arrangements and bookings are in place for the wedding and the

• Rehearse your hair, make-up and accessories

Wedding planning timeline

1 week before the wedding:

• Pack for your honeymoon, with a separate overnight bag for your
wedding night

• Arrange that the best man will take your luggage to your hotel

• Arrange for someone to collect the flowers on the day

The day before the wedding:

• Hold the wedding rehearsal

• Have a manicure and perhaps a massage

• Get a good night’s sleep

On the day:
• Have something proper to eat before the wedding

• Have your hair and make-up done

• Allow plenty of time to get dressed

• Enjoy your wedding day!

After the honeymoon:

• Write and send thank-you notes for your presents

• Talk to the photographer; choose and enjoy your photographs


customs and
Wedding customs and etiquette

© 2006 Simon Cataudo /

These days, etiquette is nothing like as strictly
adhered-to as it used to be and there is quite a
bit of scope for you to make the proceedings your
own. However, for reference, below is an outline
of the main rituals of a traditional wedding and
reception. You can decide whether you want to do
what is traditional, miss something out or adapt it to
suit yourselves and your style.

Wedding customs and etiquette

Before the wedding

On the morning of the wedding, the bride prepares herself, with the help of
her bridesmaid(s). The groom has never seen the dress she is going to wear
and bride and groom certainly do not meet on their wedding day before the
moment that the ceremony begins.

The bride wears something old (to represent her family and her life up
to now), something new (to represent the start of a new life), something
borrowed (to represent the bride’s ties to her family, friends and community),
something blue (to represent faithfulness). She has a silver sixpence in her
shoe, to represent future prosperity, and she also wears a garter, which at the
end of the day she throws out to the crowd. The origin of the garter-throwing
is unclear but it is thought to be because a bride is particularly lucky on
her wedding day and people used to tear at her gown to take some luck for
themselves. She throws the garter to stop them taking a piece of her dress.

During the wedding

Traditionally, the bride arrives at the church with her father. She walks down
the aisle on his arm and he “gives her away” to her new husband.

The bride and groom exchange wedding bands, rings that symbolise
the eternal nature of their love and commitment. It is the best man’s
responsibility to make sure these rings are in the right place at the right time.
These days, more and more husbands are choosing to keep their rings on

Wedding customs and etiquette

After the wedding

As the bride and groom emerge from the church or register office, it is
traditional for guests to throw confetti over them. Originally, people threw
rice, to represent fertility. For a long time, in this country, paper confetti was
used but these days this is discouraged because it makes a mess and is non
biodegradable. However, the answer to this is to get (or ask a bridesmaid or
the best man to get) some organic confetti.

Confusingly, what in English we call confetti is what in Italian is called

coriandoli. What Italians call confetti are sugared almonds that in Italy are
given out as wedding favours.

These sugared almonds are traditional wedding favours in the UK as well.

Five are given to each guest, to represent health, wealth, happiness, long life
and fertility. These days, wedding favours may consist of any type of small
gift, given out as a ‘thank you’ to those attending the wedding.

The bride throws her bouquet into the crowd and all the single women vie
with each other to catch it. According to superstition, the girl who catches it
will be the next one to marry.

A nice tradition (though a tiring one for those involved!) is the receiving line.
The bride and groom, their parents and, optionally, the bridesmaid and the
best man stand in line and greet all the guests as they file into the room where
the wedding breakfast is to be held.

Wedding customs and etiquette

The cake is a central part of the breakfast ceremony. It is traditionally in three

tiers, the top one of which the couple keep and eat on their first anniversary.
(If you plan to do this, do tell your cake-maker in advance.) The bride cuts
the first slice of cake, with the help of the groom, and a piece is given to every
guest. It is also traditional to save a piece for anyone who was unable to be
with you on the day, so that they may share in the good luck.

In terms of speeches, the rules are being bent, broken and abandoned left and
right. These days, for example, many brides are choosing to get involved and
make a speech. According to tradition, however, this is what happens:

• The bride’s father speaks first, welcoming the guests and thanking them
for coming, as well as saying a bit about the bride and the groom. He then
proposes a toast to the happy couple.

• The bridegroom replies, speaking both for himself and for his new wife.
He thanks the parents and toasts the bridesmaids.

• The best man thanks the bridesmaids, tells funny stories about the groom
and concludes by toasting the parents. If there are any messages from
well-wishers unable to attend the wedding, the best man reads them out as
part of his speech.

When the time comes for dancing, the bride and groom take the floor, before
anyone else joins them, for the traditional ‘first dance’.


ideas and
Miscellaneous ideas and suggestions

© 2009 Konrad Mostert

 When planning your wedding, don’t try to squeeze

too much into the day. Remember that things almost
always take much longer than you might expect, so
allow comfortable margins.

 On the day, once you have made it to the ceremony,

don’t worry about the timing at all. Other people can
worry about the schedule: you just enjoy yourselves.

 When you are booking the reception venue, don’t

tell them too soon that you are organising a wedding.
Check the prices for a ‘party’ before you mention the

Miscellaneous ideas and suggestions

 Make sure your bridesmaid has a big handbag full of all the
stuff you could possibly need: handkerchiefs, lipstick and
other make-up, vaseline, a mirror, handcream, safety pins,
plasters, a nail file, a needle and thread the colour of your
dress, mints, paracetamol, a little bottle of water and anything
else you can think of.

 Be organised with your wedding wear and accessories. Lay

it all out carefully the day before the wedding and make sure
you know exactly where everything is. You are going to be
emotional enough on the day without panicking that you have
lost stuff.

 Consider hiring a toastmaster to ensure all the formalities go

according to plan. Or ask one of the guests to take this role.

 It can be a nice idea to present the gifts you have bought for
your wedding attendants when you thank them during the
speeches, instead of giving them to them privately.

 Many couples have a wedding guest book for people to write

in, as a memento of the day.

 Remember that you are there to enjoy yourselves, not to

impress anybody. If anything goes wrong (which, after all
your careful preparation, it won’t), don’t worry about it.
Other people can deal with the practicalities; you just enjoy
every minute of your special day.

With very best wishes

for a magical wedding!