A calendar countdown to the big day

As all married couples will know, the run-up to a wedding is not all lightness and merriment – there’s a lot of decision-making and discussion to do, too! Julia Sibun is a wedding and party planner based in the Cotswolds. she has been organising weddings for fifteen years so she knows exactly what decisions need to be taken for the planning countdown to the big day!

After the excitement of the engagement party passes, sleeves are rolled up and everybody gets stuck into the detailed planning for the big day. It’s an exhilarating, yet critical time when no detail can be overlooked. Suppliers are sourced and secured; the chosen date is securely planted in the diaries of family and friends.

A twelve-month planning calendar is important to allow sufficient time to be given to taking the many decisions and a checklist is the best way to keep an account of what needs to be done!

Here are some pointers to help create the most perfect day.

12+ months before

Pick the date and time! After careful consultation with both families, select a couple of options and then check with the several choices of ceremony venue and reception venue (if the reception is not taking place at home), the vicar/registrar and those important guests that are to be invited to attend.

Once the ceremony venue has been chosen, check that the seating is adequate: with small churches and chapels, additional chairs can often be hired.

There are many wonderful venues to consider, from cosy and remote barns to beautiful manor houses and hotels.  Research carefully, draw up a shortlist and allocate time and several weekends to view. Consider their rates, location and approved suppliers –draw up a ‘pros and cons’ list to help comparisons of each venue.

Start planning the guest list – it will be important to have a good idea of guest numbers as this will be the main criteria when it comes to selecting a venue.

Consider setting up a wedding website providing as much information as possible for the day. Post your fun engagement photographs on the website – and why not provide profiles of your chosen wedding party?

Assemble a planning team, and consider using the experience of a wedding planner who can carefully guide throughout the planning process and provide recommendations for good reliable and trustworthy suppliers.

Speak to relatives and those special friends who are to be invited to be involved on the wedding day, or who will be a member of the wedding party – Matron of HonourBridesmaidsBest ManUshers and those with readings to be given during the ceremony.

Begin to draw up a wedding budget as quotations are received and meetings take place, as it will be helpful to log all costs so that tabs can be kept on the agreed budget. A simple excel spreadsheet works very well, and it is possible to then prioritise where the budget is spent. There’s so much to factor in when planning weddings - a little organisation will help you feel relaxed and in control.

Naturally the bride will be considering the wedding dress of her dreams. Make sure you allow time for shopping, and order the dress in plenty of time to allow for alterations as required leading up to the day. 

8 – 10 months before

Send the save the date card/notification to your guests – this is particularly helpful for those guests who have to travel and secure local accommodation. Your card can also direct your guests to the website where you can list more exhaustive information and take any questions that might arise.

Think about researching and booking the wedding professionals and suppliers. This can be a daunting task considering the multitude of marquee companies, electrics & lighting providers, caterers, mobile toilet companies, entertainers, photographers and videographers (and so on) in the market. This is definitely an area where a wedding planner can assist. Allow time to interview the professionals for photography, filming and entertainment, including bands, DJ and florist.

Consider the style of wedding breakfast before interviewing caterers. Think whether it is a plated meal served to the table, or a buffet, or family service of shared and mixed platters to the tables that you want – there are many different styles of service, and many couples prefer the informality of ‘chefs providing theatre’ with BBQs, hog roasts and giant paellas!

Discuss your thoughts on the theme for the day and style of flowers and decorations. It’s a great idea to spend a little time online, specifically on Pinterest – which can serve as a mood board for your ideas - and buying up your favourite bridal publications for inspiration and ideas.

Don’t forget to research a wedding insurance company to protect the wedding deposits, and safeguard against unexpected cancellations leading up to the day and on the day itself. Nobody likes to anticipate anything going wrong in any way but come any awkward eventualities, you might be glad you did!

Research and make reservations for accommodation, particularly if there are any well-known national events taking place in the area at the same time, or if the wedding destination is located in a beautiful area/tourist area.

Begin to think about the wedding gift list, what is required and where the list is to be registered.

6 months before

Request an outline of the order of service from the vicar/priest/registrar so that music and hymn choices and readings can be considered and chosen.

Consider and book ceremony musicians to avoid the disappointment of not having the first choice.

Organise days out with the Bridesmaids to select and book their dresses.

Don’t forget the planning for the honeymoon! Renew/obtain passports if necessary!

4 – 6 months before

Research and order the wedding invitations, and prepare the information list that will be useful for all the guests to provide information on dress code, order of the day, directions and parking, accommodation, wedding gift list, taxis and dietary requirements.  This same information can be included on the wedding website.

Don’t forget the wedding rings!

Think about other clothes required for the wedding weekend and after – pre-wedding dinner, post-wedding brunch and the honeymoon.

Research and think about the wedding cake, select and book the cake-maker.

Agree a tasting date with the chosen caterer so that the menu can be finally agreed – don’t forget late night munchies towards the end of the evening!  At that time discuss wines, champagne and other drinks that will be served on the day, and place the appropriate drinks orders.

3 months before

Plan the hen and stag events – allow the Matron of Honour or Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man to agree dates with friends, and book venues, entertainment and flights if travelling.

Research and book a calligrapher if the invitations are to be professionally addressed.

The Groom and Ushers should agree style and colour scheme, and book their formalwear.

Think about wedding day transport for the Bride and her father, and other members of the bridal party – vintage or modern, and people carriers for large family groups.

2 months before

Post the invitations, with the information sheet and any relevant maps. Ensure the correct postage, otherwise consider paperless post if many family and guests reside abroad.

Think about and purchase gifts for parents and the bridal party, anyone who has played a part in the big day.

Brides to book a hair stylist and try out different wedding day hairstyles and to book a make-up artist and have a trial run.

Discuss the song list with the band and DJ, particularly the first dance, to enable the band to have plenty of time to learn and rehearse any new songs.

1 month before

Firm up and agree on the timing for the day with the venue and the caterers, and advise all the suppliers and professionals.

Bride to have a final wedding dress fitting with her Chief Bridesmaid to learn how to adapt the bridal dress for the first dance! Also check that all the Bridesmaids have their dresses and shoes ready!

Agree the photography list with the photographer and videographer to ensure no shots are missed, and assign two of the Ushers (one from each family) to be the photographer’s contact on the day to search out friends and relatives for photographs.

Review all supplier and professional invoices to ensure that the correct payments have been received within the specified timescales.

2 weeks before

Review the final guest list, and contact any guests who have not yet sent a response.

Prepare the seating plan for the wedding breakfast.

1 week before

Advise caterers and the venue of final guest numbers and dietary requirements, together with any additional meals for professionals working on the day.

Ensure all the professionals, including drivers of booked transport, have full directions, contact numbers and timing for the day.

Ensure that the venue manager has the name and contact details for either the wedding planner or Chief Usher who will be assisting on the day, if any queries or problems arise at the reception.

Groom and Ushers to have their hair trimmed!

2- 3 days before

Print, or collect, the seating plan, table names, menu cards, cocktail cards if appropriate, and place cards for each guest.

Ensure all the presents and cards have been prepared to thank friends and family on the day who have been involved.

If needed ensure the Bride’s dress is pressed or steamed.

Groom and Ushers have final fittings and collect outfits.

Day before

Arrange for transport to pick up friends and family, without cars, from the airport or station.

Rehearse the ceremony; meet with the wedding party, readers and immediate family and the officiant at the ceremony location to iron all the details and final timing.  Determine the wedding party positions during the ceremony and the order of the party in the processional and recessional.

Deliver any personal items that have been purchased for the day such as table stationery, wedding favours, decorations, disposable cameras, candles, etc. to the reception venue.

Attend a pre-wedding dinner with family and friends – either at home or perhaps making a reservation at the local pub to help with larger numbers!

Present gifts to the bridal party particularly if the gifts are accessories to be worn on the wedding day.

On the day

Don’t forget to give the Best Man the wedding rings!

Enjoy every moment of the day, and allow the wedding planner or venue manager to ensure that the day runs smoothly!

Post Wedding

Ensure that a friend has been nominated to return all rental items, and that the Bride’s dress has been returned for cleaning, and has safe protection for storage.

Ensure the Ushers' outfits have all been returned on time.

Book provisional dates and look forward to meeting up with the photographer and videographer to review and relive the wonderful day all over again!

And finally find time to write all those thank-you notes!

Offer for Cotswold Homes readers

Julia is offering couples a free one hour wedding planning consultation, valid until the end of June 2017. Visit our offer page here.

Find out more about Julia's event and wedding planning services at www.juliasibun.co.uk