9 Things No One Tells You About Wedding Planning
With just over two months left until our wedding day (how did that happen?!), now feels like a good time for me to sit and reflect on these past 19 months since we first got engaged. We started out without very much of a clue of what we wanted our day to be, dithering between a family wedding and just eloping, but we’re now just mere weeks away, and we’ve learned so much in the process of planning our big day and we’re so excited for it to finally be here.
I wanted to share some wisdom with you, in case you’re planning your own wedding day too. There are definitely dozens (hundreds) of things that we’ve discovered during the process, some of which are things we’d never really given a thought to or even knew about, and there’s lots of things that nobody had ever told us would be the case. There’s good surprises and bad during the planning process, so it pays to be prepared - read on for my top tips…
it will consume your entire life
Yes, even if you’re a so-called ‘bridechilla’. You might start off with great intentions about how the wedding is just one day, and it won’t have that big an impact on your life, but take it from me, these are famous last words… We definitely discussed ‘Wedding Wednesdays’ early on in the process, where we’d allow ourselves one night a week when we’d deal with all admin instead of letting it take over every waking moment - but they never happened. Wedding planning creeps into evenings and weekends, lunch hours and commutes - you’ll likely be a living, breathing wedding-planning machine, but hopefully you’ll love every single second.
Thoughts of your wedding will also take over every minute of the day. You’ll judge every single wedding you see online or are invited to attend, assessing every minute detail, and of course, discussing how you’ll do it differently for your own big day. Literally everything can be made relevant to your wedding, if you only try hard enough!
How much anything really costs
The cost of a wedding - it’s like a secret member’s club, that you’re only privy to once you take possession of a sparkly engagement ring. Prior to that, you really have no real idea of the financial implications of a wedding, and it can come as a massive shock. We had only two guidelines to refer back to: the first was that on the TV show Don’t Tell The Bride, the couples get £12,000 to spend for their wedding. The second is that the average cost of a Scottish wedding in 2019 is £35,000. So there’s no real guidance there - we just knew that it wouldn’t exactly be cheap.
We’re not conditioned to speak openly about money, but it seems that once you start planning a wedding, other engaged couples and newlyweds around you will suddenly open up and let you in on the costs they incurred - but it can still be a surprise. I’ll never forget the gut-punch I felt when a quote from a venue we loved pinged into my inbox, telling me it would be £22,000 to hire for the wedding. Ouch. But it turns out that isn’t too uncommon - I mentioned it to married friends of ours, who then casually mentioned that they’d been quoted prices in that region for several venues. WTF?
How stressful it can be
No, really. Everyone expects you to enjoy every second, and if you dare to mention that you feel like tearing your hair out, you’re faced with either being accused of not appreciating what you have, or the old ‘well, you could have just eloped”.
The reality of wedding planning isn’t always easy. You’re planning a full-scale event, trying to look after dozens (if not hundreds) of your family and friends, and also make sure that you’re having literally the best day of your entire life, all at the same time. It’s expensive and exhausting, there are millions of decisions to make and the probability is that things will go wrong along the way.
Wedding planning can be hugely stressful and nobody really talks about that bit, which can make you feel more frazzled if you’re led to believe that you’re the only bride-to-be in history that’s not enjoying every single second of planning. But rest assured, you definitely aren’t the only one!
the difference between a real wedding and a styled shoot
Pinterest has a lot to answer for. You’ll likely have seen gorgeous weddings, dressed up to the nines with every fine detail taken care of, from the napkins and place settings to the most beautiful chairs and signage. Utter perfection. But how do you know it’s all set up for an actual, real wedding? Because sometimes, nobody will tell you that the image you’ve fallen in love with for your wedding isn’t really for a wedding at all?
Styled shoots are very popular among wedding vendors now; a collective of suppliers will collaborate on a shoot that can then be sold into wedding magazines, or used on social media, showing off their very best work to the highest level of detail. The results will often be breathtakingly beautiful, but it can lure you into a false sense of what’s achievable. Of course it’s not feasible to expect your wedding to look the same! Some vendors will be vague about which images of their portfolio are from shoots and which are from real weddings, so make sure you ask the question, as they might not tell you…
how to actually get married
Everybody asks about the ceremony and what kind of wedding you’re having, but nobody really talks about how you actually make it all legal. We got ourselves clued up early on; we’re having a Humanist ceremony, which is legal in Scotland as a registered belief ceremony, but in England, you would need to get married in a registry office first if you want to have a Humanist celebrant on your wedding day. So we did our homework and got ourselves prepped to ensure it would all be legal and ready to go, but it was something we had to figure out on our own.
For posterity, here’s what you need to do - in Scotland, anyway.
For a religious ceremony, you’re best speaking to the leader of your chosen religious institution and find out what their requirements are for you to be married there; you may need to attend worship regularly in the lead-up to your marriage, or take marriage classes, so it’s best to find out well in advance what you need to do.
For a belief ceremony, i.e. a Humanist ceremony, you need to become a member of a Humanist organisation, and find your chosen celebrant, before booking them for your big day. You then need to give notice at the registered council for the area your wedding will be in, within three months of your wedding day. You can give notice via post or in person (we did it in person because it’s more romantic!). Then you will work on your ceremony, writing it alongside your celebrant for a super-personal feel, and pick up the marriage certificate a few days before the wedding.
For a civil ceremony, again you’ll need to give notice within three months of the wedding at the local council building for your venue. The only difference is that your registrar will handle all of the admin for you, and bring your paperwork to your ceremony.
everyone will have an opinion (and they won’t hold back)
It’s true, and I’ve probably heard them all - from everyone like your colleagues to your family, and everyone in between. Nobody means any harm, but there’s so many elements of a wedding, and so many variations versus traditions, that people are bound to share their thoughts, whether they’ve been asked to or not. It can, at best, be irritating, and at worse, worrying, upsetting and stressful. Think along the lines of…
“You’re not doing that, are you?” (Yes, we are).
“Why don’t you have your hair like that?” (Because it’s my bloody hair and I’ll wear it how I want to).
“Where is such-and-such going to stay?” (I don’t know. Book a hotel, I’m planning everything else!).
“Why didn’t you do it like this, or that"?” (Because it’s our wedding, we’re paying for it and we’ll do what we want, thanks).
In short, exhausting, so unless they’re paying the bill - pay it no mind and move on. Easier said than done, certainly, but much better for your head!
you’re bound to feel disappointed sometimes
From guests that can’t make the big day, to those who aren’t there for you as much as you’d hope for, to bigger and smaller dramas in-between.
Everyone has so much going on in their lives, and unfortunately your wedding won’t be at the top of everybody’s lists. Lower your expectations, don’t ask too much of anyone and hopefully you’ll limit any disappointments that come your way.
Forums will become your best friend
Never have I ever been a forum member before. But since wedding planning, I’m in four of them. FOUR.
When you’re freaking out about the minutiae of the day, or you want somewhere private and anonymous to vent about something that’s really pissing you off - there’s nothing like the safe space of a wedding forum, where thousands of other brides have got your back and will support you with sage advice. Embrace it and make the most of it, and pay it forward, of course. It’s invaluable!
you’ll get stressed about stuff you didn’t know you cared about
Examples include: shoes that nobody will even see under your wedding dress. A car that nobody will see arriving. The colour of the ceremony chairs (and their seat pads). The fabric the napkins are made from. Where people will leave their coats.
In short, shit that really doesn’t matter, but you’ll blow it up out of proportion in your own head anyway. Breathe, consider if you’ll actually care on the day, and then move on.