Congratulations – your loved one said “Yes!”. Now the hard work begins! Planning a UK wedding is great fun and allows you to be creative, but it does require some really strong organisational skills. It would be a great idea to get that really organised friend on your wedding party. (There’s a top tip for you!)
Wedding planning can and does take a lot of time, so get started as soon as you can and be prepared for negotiations, set-backs, changes to plans, and some emotional rollercoasters too.
That said, it’s an incredibly exciting time and we wish you the best of luck on your endeavours. Planning your wedding is going to require time, energy, and money, so let’s get into it…
How long does it take to plan a wedding?
To be on the safe side, give yourself a good 12-18 months to plan a wedding, especially if you’re going for the full wedding breakfast, evening party, honeymoon and more.
Think about it: Organising a holiday takes some doing and that’s just a small part of all this (the honeymoon).
Give yourself a sensible time frame for this project. A wedding is a big project that you’ll need to direct and put in place. Your time frame will also be influenced by other factors, so including venues, family from overseas, births, and other dynamics.
Let’s take a look at a timeline based on the obvious things you need to put in place. Planning a wedding will need every ounce of your planning skills, so we do hope this framework gives you a place to start.
12 Months from the Wedding
With a year to go, it might seem too soon to plan but there’s a lot you need to do early on.
Set Your budget – this will help all of your decision making. Having a budget planner in place with help you make choices and find places where you can shrink or expand your expectations.
Create the Guest List – Too soon? No, not at all. How many will you be catering for? What size venue do you need? How much budget will you need? The ‘head count’ is essential to this so go early and make some decisions now. You may also need to negotiate gently with family members and let them know where you’re drawing the line. Your Mother-in-Law’s nephew’s neighbour’s dog might not make the final cut.
Hire your wedding planner? – Or maybe just call up that friend who’s brilliant at planning. A wedding planner (especially a professional one) will be way ahead of your thinking on all this and could well be the best investment you make if you’re after a wedding that is both memorable and goes to plan. It’s not always seen as essential but if you’re planning on hiring one, the time is now as it will save you a lot of time and probably a few headaches.
Agree on a wedding theme – Again, this is best done early on with your budget and guest list. The wedding theme will help you decide so many things that are coming up in your big To Do list.
Find and book a wedding venue – the big one. Once you have the budget, approximate guest numbers, and theme set, you can go about choosing your wedding venue. Here are some helpful questions to consider. This will in turn set your next big decision.
Set a date! – This is it, the big day. It’s also where you’ll work back from and the date you need to book people for, so you have to get this in place as early as possible. If you’re getting married at a church or venue then you’ll be guided by their availability on this and again, that’s why you need to do it sooner than later. Saturdays are the most popular day but you may save money on a mid-week wedding if everyone’s happy to have the time off work.
Find and book a caterer if needed – If you’re having a marquee wedding at home or a barn wedding then you’ll likely need to hire a caterer for your wedding. They get booked up quickly and you’ll have lots of choice, so start hunting soon. If you need some recommendations then please do ask us as we work with some fabulous caterers in Birmingham, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, and the Cotswolds.
11 Months from the Wedding
Find and book people who book up quickly! This will include your photographer, band, DJ, and videographer. You’ll need lots of important people and many of them get booked up years in advance. Some can handle several weddings in a weekend (cakes, florists etc) whereas some (photographers, bands) can only really take on one couple a day.
Get your hit list together and start making calls and booking meetings to see them so you can book them for the date.
10 Months from the Wedding
Wedding dress shopping! - Yes, this is one of the more exciting ones (for the bride and bridesmaids in particular) so get to it early on. Availability for a proper wedding dress shop visit with all the trimmings will be limited, as will availability of your key members of the wedding party so plan ahead.
Find and book hotel rooms for your wedding guests – Nearly all weddings have a wedding breakfast and evening party and they nearly all have guests from all over the UK and even abroad. Accommodating them is a key area of your planning.
Most wedding venues have deals and packages for you if you’re staying and getting married here, so get to grips with these and be sure to tell your guests the special deals and any contacts you have.
Create a website, blog, Facebook Page or Pinterest board – It’s a modern world and weddings are ever-more digital. If you’re planning a wedding, then a wedding Pinterest board or private Facebook group is a great way to mobilise the troops and keep them in the loop. Of course, a good old postal invite is still better than a WhatsApp message so don’t go too digital on Grandma!
Get an engagement shoot booked and taken – Engagement shoots are a lovely thing to do. As well as being a permanent reminder of your love, you’ll also be able to develop a rapport with your photographer so you feel more comfortable and at ease with them on the day. You’ll want to get this booked in if you’re keen to have one. As we mentioned above, photographers get booked up fast so get your shoot in their diary before someone else does.
9 Months from the Wedding
Choose and pay for your wedding dress – You’ve had the show around and fun weekend of deciding on a style, now with just nine months to go it’s time to choose and set the wheels of measuring and fitting in action.
Post your invitation cards – Yes, invite your guests now or even send them a Save The Date card earlier than this if you like. Getting 50, 60 or 100+ people to one place at the same time needs some advanced warning. With your theme, guest list, venue, and date all chosen you could do this sooner if you have all the main details to share with your wedding guests.
8 Months from the Wedding
Create your online wedding gift list – John Lewis and other providers offer lists that are really simple to set-up, and it’s great fun to walk around and physically choose your wedding gift ideas. You could leave this a little later, but you need to give your guests the time to log on and buy your gifts.
Now that you’ve invited them (and hopefully received their RSVP) you’ll be in a place where you can confirm their attendance and then furnish them with your wedding gift list if that’s what you choose to do.
Choose the bridesmaids' dresses – Just like the wedding dress itself, this choice will set into action measurements and dress fittings. Give yourself a lot of time here, especially if your bridal party are tricky to tie down. You may need to send them in two by two or when they can make it to the dress shop.
Choose a florist – Flowers are important so you might want to move this task higher up the list, especially if you’re choosing a popular florist. Once the venue and theme have been chosen, you’ll be in the position to work with a florist so feel free (as with all this list) to go sooner than we’ve listed. Here are some useful tips for choosing a florist.
7 Months from the Wedding
Hire entertainment – Party time! Need a band? DJ? String quartet? Fire breather and accompanying jugglers? You’d better get online and book a chat with them.
Book your catering and event hire – Call us! No, seriously, get this in place as soon as you can. We have weddings regularly booked years ahead and although we can cover many weddings in a weekend, there will always been limits on certain things and it pays to start this relationship early on.
Chairs, Linen, table covers, glasses, crockery and more are a whole area of organisation on their own. Luckily, most catering hire companies can help you by asking the right questions from their years of experience. Well… we certainly can, anyway!
5 Months from the Wedding
Book your wedding cars – How are you getting to and from the church? What about your bridal party? If you’re hoping for a specific car then get the date and time to the company as soon as you can, or at least by now, to make sure you’re booked and covered.
Book your honeymoon – You could have done this a bit earlier but then you might find some better offers later on. Booking through a travel consultant is increasingly a preferred method as they’re covered with insurance, ABTA, and they can tailor your honeymoon to you. They also do all the searching and find the best deals, many of which are not on Google. This can save you HOURS of work so it’s worth considering.
Choose the groom’s suit – Suits (unless you’re going down the tailormade route) need less of a lead time. If you’re just hiring a suit, then you can leave this later if you like.
4 Months from the Wedding
Food tasting with caterer or venue – The good stuff is coming up now. Food tastings, wine tastings, and more are likely being pushed your way, but if not - book them in and choose the food and drink for the wedding breakfast!
Find a cake maker and choose your wedding cake – Yes, you still need some cake. Many opt for the cupcake route but a cake you can cut is far better for the photos. Some things are just better when done traditionally!
Go wedding ring shopping – You may well opt to do this sooner too, but we’ve added it in here as you’ll certainly need to go and buy some and there’s enough time to get them resized and fitted.
Choose the best man and ushers’ suits - Book in a fitting for all your ‘men’ and make sure you keep an eye on them. Ideally, arrange a one date and get them all in to fit together, but that’s not always possible, so keep a check on them. Maybe set up a group chat to keep them focused. Be very specific and remind them about the colour socks they need and the type of shoe you expect them to wear. Do not assume they’ll know!
Hair and makeup trial – for the girls (and guys if they like). Book this occasion in nearer the time as you can really start to build the magic with this type of event. Make a day, morning, or afternoon of it if you like. The trial is a great opportunity to spend time with the bridal party so perhaps you could go for a meal or drinks afterwards to enjoy the whole experience.
3 Months from the Wedding
Confirm your guests – Confirm those who said “Yes!” and give them any information they need about accommodation or the wedding list.
Confirm your menu – You may well have done this already by now or right after the first tasting, but confirm this now and add it to your invites so you can confirm the food choices. You’ll probably need to take note of any dietary requirements to pass to the venue and caterer, too.
Create or buy the wedding favours – Getting those tables all pretty and decorated? Now’s the time to create or buy the favours and table decorations. How can you make these personal for your guests, or related to you as a couple?
Write your speeches – Usually the job that gets put off until the last minute, this is best done near the wedding… but not the night before! There are loads of great books and blogs about speeches so go on your crash course of public speaking or simply put some nice words down on paper. Be yourself… that’s the best way to go, in our opinion.
Select people to do a reading – and of course if you’re having a church wedding and would like one of your party to give a speech or reading, then give them as much notice as possible so they can prepare.
2 Months from the Wedding
Book and attend your first dress fitting – It’s hotting up and this is a big one. The first dress fitting really does mark the moment when it all becomes real and you realise it won’t be long until you’re married. Get this booked in for about 2/3 months out or sooner if you’re not on a ‘wedding diet’ and planning to be a little leaner on the big day.
Get some special gifts for your wedding party – you’ll be leaning on your wedding party by now and even more so on the day, so get them something nice to give them either on the day, the night before, or even during the speeches. The groomsmen, bridal party, mother and father of the bride are the first on the list here.
Supplier check-in – call all your suppliers to confirm dates and anything they need. That includes caterers, venue, cars and more. Tick those all off or get someone to do it for you. As with any planning, don’t leave it to chance. Be certain it’s all in hand now so you have time to fix it if it’s not.
Choose your first dance, background music and reception tracks – And when the entertainment confirms – tell them what you want to be played at the beginning, middle, and end!
1 Month from the wedding
You’re nearly there – some final details to sort out.
- Build gift bags and other DIY items.
- Pay your suppliers in full if required.
- Create a table plan or order it from the venue.
- Consider any final venue decorations or finishing touches.
- And have a final venue check over everything above.
Oh… and break in your wedding shoes so they don’t kill your feet on the day!
It’s a big day and a big organisational job. Get the right people around you and plan it as early as you can. The above list isn’t exhaustive either, so be sure to add in your other tasks and plot them on the timeline so you don’t miss a thing.
Oh… and enjoy it! Enjoy the process. Talk to your partner on the day and spend some time together – that’s what it’s all about, after all!
Have fun, and if you need some catering hire equipment in Birmingham, Warwickshire or the Cotswolds, remember us, won’t you?
Need more help?
Download your wedding planning schedule here.
Find our full wedding breakfast plan here.