Psst, want to know a secret? No-one really knows what they’re doing when they start planning a wedding.
Don’t feel bad if the whole thing starts to overwhelm you. It’s a big task, with jargon you’ve never heard of before, and 80-plus people expecting the time of their life. Pressure? Just a bit.
But another truth is that is can be fun and the whole planning process can go (pretty) hiccup-free. What you need to do is make sure you’re aware of all the pitfalls that can befall you and avoid them. It’s pretty handy then that we’ve listed the 25 mistakes most wedding couples will make and how to avoid them, right?
1. You Blow Your Budget Too Early
Blowing the budget in general isn’t ideal, but finding yourself with a maxxed-out credit card and suppliers still to pay six months before the wedding is panic-inducing. Money is a tricky topic but you need to have honest conversations with your partner, parents and own bank statements about what is affordable before you start booking things.
We know how exciting it is at the start, but don’t start ordering everything you see on Pinterest. Make a realistic budget (with a month-by-month saving and payment plan), find your venue, decide your theme and what flowers/décor/entertainment are non-negotiable, and work backwards to budget everything else.
2. You Let Other People Decide the Guest List
It’s your big day and it should be the people you love watching you walk down the aisle – not randomers your parents know. Family are hard to say no to, but you’ll save yourself a lot of expenses and stress if you learn how to set boundaries and stop them interfering with your guest list.
First, make a list of the people you and your partner absolutely couldn’t imagine your wedding without. After that, there’s three main solutions: 1) if they financially contributed, give each set of parents a limit of, say, 10 invites, but no more; 2) tell them they need to stump up the extra cost per head themselves; or 3) suck it up and wave to your old dentist as he eats your beef wellington.
3. You Announce Your Engagement Immediately
Put the phone down! As tempting as it is to share a picture of the proposal as soon as the ring is on your finger, give yourself time to enjoy your engagement first. Spend a few hours (or as long as you can) basking in your happiness together and then tell close family and friends. They might be really hurt if they find out on Facebook at the same time as everyone else.
4. You Include Traditions for the Sake of It
Here are some things you don’t have to do at your wedding: wear white, toss your bouquet, not see your partner before you get to the altar, be given away, cut a cake, have a best man or maid of honour.
2020 is all about mixing and matching traditions that actually have a meaning for you with modern, fun and empowering ideas that speak to you as a couple. If you’re having a same-sex wedding, you can ditch any tradition that doesn’t appeal to you – instead how about one of these?
5. You Assume DIY Will Be Cheaper
Factor in the cost of craft products and your labour and sometimes it’s better to leave it to the experts. Plus you’ll save yourself some sleepless nights when your DIY invites definitely don’t look like the Pinterest tutorial.
6. You Order Your Wedding Dress Too Late
Start your dress search at least nine months before your wedding. You’ll need to go shopping, find ‘The One’, order it into store and get it altered – all of which will take longer than you expect.
7. You Skip the Videographer
Quite often the biggest regret we hear from couples is that they didn’t get a video of their wedding day. Photos are beautiful, but some moments – the speeches, the vows, the first dance, the bouquet toss – are most magical when captured on film. Is there somewhere you could find the money from in your budget? When the day goes by in a flash, you’ll be wishing you could relive it on tape.
8. You Make Everything Last That Bit Too Long
You never want the day to end, but it’s not the same for your guests. Time dragging between your ceremony and reception can get boring; an hour and a half of speeches is tough for anyone to sit through; being expected to dance until 2am is hell in heels.
Guest comfort should be a main priority. Make sure you have entertainment, like a magician, during the cocktail hour, and plenty of seats for tired feet. Set a time limit for speeches so you can move onto dessert. If you’re organising transport back to hotels for your guests, don’t make them stay until the early hours – have a couple of shuttle runs, including for those who want an 11pm bedtime.
9. You Don’t Have a Wet Weather Plan
It’s Britain, people! You’re just tempting fate by not having an alternative plan if it rains.
If you’re marrying in the garden of a venue, speak to the coordinator to see if there’s another room that they could quickly dress and put chairs in if the weather turns. If you’re having a fully outdoor wedding, it’s in your best interest to put down a deposit about six months ahead with a marquee company and see what the weather looks like much closer to the day. You might lose a deposit but that peace of mind will be priceless. Damp guests and a muddy aisle aren’t the look.
10. You Elope Without Properly Thinking It Through
If you elope, give it some serious consideration. Eloping can be wonderful: you save money, stress, and get to have an intimate day exactly as you want it. But family members can often be upset by the decision and you may regret not having as “special” a day as you’d have with the big dress, your loved ones and photos that last forever. Weigh up the romance with the practicalities and legalities before you elope.
11. You Let Pinterest Get In Your Head
Once you’ve got a theme or you’ve ordered your flowers with the florist, stop looking at more ideas on Pinterest. You’ll start to second-guess all your choices and that’s silly: you’ll adore what you chose when you see it on the day. Once something is booked, cross it off your list and give your scrolling finger a rest.
12. You Forget the Legal Bits
Most important on your wedding day is that you walk away legally married. This won’t necessarily happen on the day if you’re having a celebrant-led ceremony as celebrant ceremonies are not legal in England and Wales. Likewise, you need to do proper research first to find out if your destination wedding is legally valid in the UK.
But even in the UK, there’s proper procedure you have to follow. We have a full guide to the legal side of getting married you can read. Did you know that if you don’t register your church wedding within a week of the ceremony you could face a £1,000 fine?
13. You Ignore the Hidden Costs
Your suppliers need feeding. The postage on your invites might be higher than expected. The venue could have extra security, cloakroom staff or cleaning charges.
Hidden costs can sneak up everywhere so the best thing to do is set aside 10% of your total budget for these surprise expenses and don’t touch it unless absolutely necessary. Make sure you’re getting all your contracts with your suppliers in writing to avoid these issues in the first place.
14. You Don’t Call in Favours
An easy way to save costs is to borrow friends’ talents. Know an ace cake maker? Great amateur DJ? Graphic designer pal who’d love to do your stationery as a wedding gift? As long as you don’t take advantage, people are always willing to help. There are always some areas, like photography, that we’d recommend going with a pro, but if you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth seeing who can assist.
15. You Bankrupt Your Dress Budget
Remember alterations, the veil, shoes, bag, jewellery, lingerie and other accessories come into this budget too. Be firm with yourself at the bridal boutique if a dress is right at the upper limit of the price you had in your head. What if you later decide you want a reception dress too?
16. You’re Too Strict About Social Media
Unplugged weddings are brilliant: no iPhones blocking the photographer’s shots, nobody sharing an unflattering picture of you on social media, everyone living in the moment rather than for the ‘gram.
Your guests will completely understand if you want phones away for the ceremony, but don’t limit all their social activity. No doubt, they’ve dressed up, are feeling good and are enjoying the day – think carefully about how ‘unplugged’ a wedding you’re willing to enforce.
17. You Invite Too Many People
Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could invite everyone you’re friends with to your big day? Unless you’ve got the bank balance of Harry and Meghan, that’s a pipe dream.
You can expect around 10-20% of your guests to RSVP “no” to your wedding if you send your invites out the traditional 6-8 weeks in advance; if you’ve sent save the dates much further ahead of that (6 months+ for example), that “no” number can drop quite considerably. This means if you send out invites betting on a good fifth not being about to make it, you’re going to have too many guests on your hands. Create an “A” and “B” list and stagger your invites. When you’ve heard back from most/all of the “A” list, send out the “B” invites.
Similarly, when you first get engaged, it’s easy to get swept up and promise an invite to every Tom, Dick and Harry you meet. Slow down and take time to work out a budget first. No one is expecting you to know your guest list right away.
18. You Try to Please Everyone
Everyone has an opinion – and boy, will they tell you it! You will never make everyone happy so only focus on making you and your partner have the day you want. The trick is to be kind but fair: say you appreciate their advice or opinion, but you prefer this and, as it’s your day, you hope they understand. A little “thanks but no thanks” goes a long way.
19. You Overdecorate
This is an intervention: you do not need those glittery tealights you saw on Amazon at 3am. Before you buy any decorations:
- Find out what décor is already in the venue and how much space is on the tables
- See what your florist has – they’ll often be able to lend you candelabras etc, as part of your centrepieces
- Draw yourself a plan of how you envision the room and tables – ask yourself if it feels too busy
Honestly, less is sometimes more when it comes to wedding venues. Instead of a flower installation hanging from the ceiling, Moroccan-style seating area in the corner, Prosecco pimping station to the left, and balloon wall on the other side, prioritise tasteful arrangements your guests will be able to speak over.
20. You Micromanage Your Suppliers
They’re seasoned experts at this; put your trust in your suppliers. Never be afraid to ask questions of your suppliers or venue, but lecturing a caterer on how to present your lamb shank or your photographer on every shot you need them to get is frustrating. The basic rules are: be clear and honest about what you want, trust them and give them creative license, be constructive if you need them to change something.
21. You Don’t Have an Engagement Shoot
Getting comfortable in front of your photographer’s camera is essential for those perfect wedding photos. Most good photographer will include an engagement shoot in your package or offer it as an extra. You’ll learn how to follow your photographer’s direction, find poses you both feel relaxed in, and get to spend time with your photographer before they spend 10 hours with you. Tip: get your hair and make-up trial done that day and you can see how they’ll look on camera – which leads us onto…
22. You Don’t Have a Hair and Make Up Trial
Firstly, don’t do anything drastic like going from dark brunette to icy blonde just before the wedding. Secondly, don’t leave something as important as how your face and hair will look in every photo to chance. You’ll be looking at these pictures forever. Book a trial in for about three months ahead of the big day, which gives you time for a final trim and your hair to grow back to the practise length before the wedding.
23. You Reject a Wedding Planner
A wedding planner isn’t essential, but can be worth their weight in gold in saving you stress and solving problems. Don’t think they’re just for celebrities: there’s planners for every kind of budget and wedding style. It might be the first thing to go if money is tight, but actually a wedding planner can save you money because they can get great deals using their supplier and venue connections. Bear one in mind.
24. You Don’t Eat
In the whirlwind of getting ready, it’s easy for the bride and bridal party to skip a hearty breakfast and lighter lunch. The trouble is it could leave you all faint when standing up at the altar. Likewise, for grooms, you might want a beer or two to calm the nerves, but make sure you’ve lined your stomach too or you could find starting early hits you when it comes time for speeches.
You’ll likely miss the canapes and may not get to eat your whole meal if you’re greeting guests so ask the caterer to set you aside a few nibbles and have something waiting in your honeymoon suite for the evening too.
25. You Forget What’s Important
Your wedding day is one of the best of your life, but the reason you’re doing it is to start a life together with the person you love. During planning, arguments happen and debts can build up – which isn’t how you want to start married life.
At all times, keep the wedding in perspective. Schedule in date nights where wedding chat is banned, have honest conversations when tensions arise and don’t allow costs to spiral. It’s the rest of your life together that’s important.