I've been meaning to write this post for awhile now to share some tips and advice I have from planning my wedding last year.
Firstly you should relax and enjoy the initial engagement phase for a few weeks, it's a fun time before you start thinking about the big task ahead of you and getting stressed!
1)Try to book the venue, band and photographer as soon as you can.
These all get booked out the quickest! We were very disappointed that we didn't get our first choice of wedding band. I had emailed them to confirm they are free on our date but then we spent about a week thinking it over and when I wrote to them to actually book them, they had been booked by another couple in the meantime! So try to get these big things sorted first.
2) If people offer and are wiling to help, use their talents. When your friends offer to help then accept it, wedding planning is a big job so any help to share the work load is great! Think about what they are good at and ask them to help with a related task. For instance, I had a very creative friend who was great at graphic design who made wonderful table names for each table - each table I named after a place in Germany we had visited and she created table plans with photos of us visiting those places. Do as much as you can over email if you are living abroad and get your team of helpers on the ground to takeover some of the tasks for you since you can't possibly fly over for everything.
I was very lucky that I had my family and bridesmaids helping out in Dublin, especially because I couldn't be there for everything. Pinterest is also a fun way to figure out your wedding vision and share photo and ideas with your bridesmaids.
4) Give your bridesmaids some guidelines on what sort of hen party you would like but otherwise leave it to them. The bride has so much to organize which means it's great when your bridesmaids or friends organize your hen party (or in my case parties) so that you have one less thing to worry about. Just give them an idea of what sort of party you'd like and what you'd hate! In my case I requested nothing too embarrassing! I also said that since I don't get to see my Irish friends very often I'd like to have a chance to chat and catch up with everyone- and being in a loud nightclub for instance wouldn't have worked.
5) Ask your married friends for advice - which suppliers did they use and who would they recommend, what tips can they share and so on? When you go to other people's weddings think about what works well, what you liked and what isn't your style. You loved the band? Then get their details from the couple. Close friends will also tell you about how much they paid for certain things which also helps give you an idea of what is good value.
7) Plan which photos you would like in advance and tell photographer. It's a good idea to give your photographer a list of your must have pictures. For instance if you would like a photo of different relations or one of just you and your bridesmaids. If you can get photos of yourself at the reception with some of the wedding guests it is lovely and a nice keepsake to send the guests a print later with the thank you notes. I didn't make it around to everyone unfortunately, and wish I had! I only managed to get photos with a few people.
8) Negotiate where possible and have a budget.
Have an overall budget to keep track of the costs. We used an excel sheet and also had a column for who had been paid in advance and who needed to be paid on the day. Of course weddings are expensive and you won't be able to have everything you want so work out what's important to you. For instance we didn't hire a videographer so we had more money to spend on drinks for the guests. And in the end my cousin did a lovely video for us!
There are some things you can negotiate somewhat such as the venue so it's definitely worth doing, or trying at least! Or if you use someone you know sometimes you can get a "friend discount". Every little helps!
9) Don't forget the groom. Haha! Get him involved and helping out with the areas important to him. I asked the GerMann early on which things in the wedding mattered to him the most. For him it was the food and music. So he researched possible bands, planned the playlist and had a lot of say in the menu. He was also in charge of the groomsmen, what they wore etc. I was able to choose other things that mattered more to me without interference, such as the bridesmaids dresses, what the wedding cake should look like and the flowers.
11) Have the wedding you want. It's important to have the wedding that is right for you both as a couple and not to feel pressurised into having a wedding that you aren't comfortable with. This is important to bear in mind when choosing venue and guest number. For us we wanted to have a relatively small and intimate wedding so we only had 80 guests which was perfect as we got to speak to everyone at least once!
12) Start getting ready really early on the day. When your makeup artist and hair stylist tell you what time you should start getting ready at, it will probably seem very early but they know best! In my case I wish we had even had our appointment 15 minutes earlier as it ended up going over time which threw everything else off! I had imagined that in the house I would have had plenty of time to eat something, take photos and have chats with my bridesmaids but in the end it felt very rushed!
And finally have fun on the day!
Everyone says that the day itself flies by and to try to take it all in and enjoy it and they are right- it's a wonderful day, so take a second to enjoy it!
Try to find some time where it's just you too. One of my favourite moments from the day was in the car after the church ceremony drinking champagne and having a chat with my new husband before we arrived at the wedding venue.
There are also some more tips here:
planning a wedding in Ireland from abroad
Did I forget anything?