When we got engaged in November 2014, I had grand plans of documenting the process of planning our wedding on this little blog. Between turning 21, going on a whirlwind two month trip around Europe and nutting out the little details in just under four months, blogging got put on hold and all thoughts of planning moved out of mind as quickly as our wedding day had passed. Fast forward a year and a half, with Valentines Day on the horizon, I’ve been reflecting on our special day, and the special time we had prepping for it. Before any more time passes, and I completely forget everything that happened, I thought I would share a little on what planning looked like for us – and why it doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world. Actually, it was one of the most fun times of my life.
I have to preface this post by saying that Peter and I were both incredibly lucky to have supportive parents and families who took interest in our wedding and offered as much and as little advice and support as we would have liked. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience – but being on the same page as your family makes planning so much easier, and we couldn’t have been more thankful for the way our families helped us go about planning, decision making and putting the whole thing together.
I’ll split this into sections, and in order of how we organised things. We were engaged for a total of nine months (we got engaged on November 2, 2014 and married on July 18, 2015), but keep in mind that two of those months were spent out of the country, and wedding planning went on hold.
The Big Stuff
Eight to nine months before the wedding
- Set a date
- Church/ceremony location
- Reception location
- General ‘theme’
- Bridal party
- Photo location/s
- Guest list for wedding reception
- Guest list for wedding ceremony
- Guest list for engagement party
We had spoken about some of the big key details before we even got engaged – where we wanted to have the ceremony, what kind of reception venue we’d like and how many bridesmaids and groomsmen we would have. Once we got engaged, we quickly checked our minister’s availability and we searched for a location that worked with our availability and his. Since we got married in winter, we were extremely lucky to get one of our venues of choice on the perfect weekend, with only eight months notice. When picking our venue, we considered a few things – but for us the main things were a) the look and feel of the place, b) whether it suited our ‘theme’, c) accessibility for guests, i.e. not too far away, d) how many guests it could accommodate, e) expense, f) the catering. We ended up going with a beautiful old renovated post house with a marquee out the back, which perfectly suited the elegant-rustic feel we were going for, and comfortably fit our guests.
Within two weeks I had chosen a dress that I loved. Although I don’t regret my choice of dress at all (I secretly wish I could wear it every week), I do wish I had gone to more than two dress shops, just to make the most of the bridal experience… this being said, choosing a dress on the first day meant that I didn’t get overwhelmed and confused, which I’m so grateful for.
When looking for a photographer, we wanted someone who a) took beautiful photos, b) who we felt like we could communicate easily with, c) who was affordable and provided lots of photos and d) would make us feel comfortable. We quickly got in contact with a lovely local photographer who was all of the above, and met with her for coffee to chat about packages, our vision for the day, and the kind of photos we wanted. She was so helpful, and made the photo-taking so much fun. Make sure you pick someone you click with – you’ll spend lots of time with them on the day.
Choosing guests can be hard. We wanted everyone who wanted to come to our wedding to be involved, but we weren’t sure how to make that happen. In the end we settled on roughly 100 reception guests, and had an afternoon tea after the ceremony that everyone who attended could be part of. We made two guest lists (one for the ceremony and another for the reception). For reception guests, we a) wanted to invite close friends and b) wanted to invite people who we could see being involved in our lives long term.
Locking in the big stuff early meant that we could rest easy – we figured that so long as we had a place to get married, someone to marry us, and something appropriate to wear, the wedding could go ahead without the nice-to-haves if need be.
As a side note, remember that your planning won’t always go to plan. You might plan for an outdoor ceremony like us, but have to get married inside due to weather limitations – that’s what happens when you plan to get married on a flood plane and it rains all week! Be ok with last minute changes, and it will make it a whole lot easier. Process the possibility of things going wrong, and you won’t lose it two days before when you realise you never even really considered getting married inside!
Three to four months before the wedding
- Bridesmaid dresses/groomsmen suits
- Ceremony decorations
- Table/reception decorations
- Bomboniere (table gifts)
- Engagement party
- Kitchen tea/hens
Keep in mind that these things don’t need to be planned this close to the wedding. If they’re important to you, or you need peace of mind that they’re done earlier, then get them out of the way early! Its all about sanity.
Peter’s mum kindly put together a lot of our wedding flowers, and she did an amazing job. For the bouquets, pins and my flower crown, we had a local florist put things together. Be ready with lots of photos, or even a list of flowers you love – but before you get your heart set on something, make sure its in season. For instance, I knew I loved peonies, and knew that they might not be available in winter. Our lovely florist managed to get some from The Netherlands for our bouquets, but she wouldn’t have done so unless I’d mentioned how much I loved them. My mother in law and I spent a couple of hours one day discussing colours, arrangement sizes and where flowers would go. She made a great point that flowers can be reused between the ceremony and the reception, so make sure you get the most out of your flowers! We gave the table arrangements away as thank you gifts when the reception was over – well, our families did. We had already left!
When it comes to hair and makeup, I really valued having a trial. Although I’m not fussy about hair and makeup in general, I wanted to make sure I felt like me, and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t have to touch it up much throughout the day. I knew I would be having too much fun to care – and I was right.
We went with an old fashioned car that was reasonably priced considering how long he was with us. We decided on using one bridal car, and my parents’ car transported the bridal party. I’m in love with this photo of my dad helping me out just before the ceremony.
We decided to save time and money by hand making our own invitations – but let me say, I don’t think we necessarily saved time and money! Although they were relatively cheap to make, the invitations we designed were incredibly labour intensive, and took four nights of team-effort with friends and family to complete (and lots of piles of books to press sheets and glue together). Were we to do it again, we would go with a simple design and have a printing company do the printing for us. Lots of our friends have done this since, and its simple, beautiful and very effective. Don’t let Pinterest carry you away! This being said, I absolutely loved our invitations, and Peter did an incredible job on the design. We repeated some elements of the design for the order of service, which we also printed and put together ourselves, with lots of help from friends and family.
When it came to bridesmaid dresses and suits, we wanted something that matched what we were wearing to some extent, but also didn’t cost a lot. We found some pretty dresses on special by Review in Myer (I think they were $89 discounted from about $300), and some suits that were on sale for over 50% off. I loved that the dresses had some lace and fringing that tied in with my wedding dress, and the charcoal suits perfectly matched Peter’s custom made one. When it comes to bridesmaid dresses, it pays to look in places you wouldn’t expect to find something. Bridal shops can put a huge premium on formalwear, and often you can find something just as nice for less if you step out of wedding world.
We did a lot of the decorations ourselves – a) to save money, but b) for a personal touch. My mum and grandma spent months collecting doilies which I sewed into bunting, we bought mason jars and tied string and lace around them to use as vases, we repeated the invitation design for menus and table numbers, printed and decorated our own place cards, did our own lolly bar with a bunch of lollies from a local factory, and used wood from a friend’s recently fallen tree to place down the aisle and as coaster decorations on the tables. Also, remember to ask friends if they have their own decorations they would mind you re-using. We decorated the church foyer with bunting that was made for our sister and brother in law’s wedding, and hessian table runners from a friend’s wedding. People are usually just happy to see their hard work get a second life.
We decided to use the lolly bar as a bomboniere, and decorated small jars for guests to fill. Using some of my grandma’s scrap floral fabrics, we covered the lids and used lace to tie around the top – they looked beautiful on the tables, and didn’t cost much to put together.
When it came to ‘extra’ events, my lovely bridesmaids were all over it. They threw me a beautiful kitchen tea and hens night (we did a belly dancing class!) and all I had to do was show up – but make sure you have clear communication with your friends. Ask if you can do anything, ask if they even want that responsibility, and be clear that you don’t have any crazy expectations – the aim of the game is to get married, and have fun in the process!
The Morning Of
Plan ahead so you can sit back and relax
It might seem silly, but think about the morning before it happens. I think my mum wrote out a rough schedule, so we knew when people were arriving (bridesmaids, florist, hair, makeup, photographer, car), and when we would have time to fit in things like breakfast. Give yourself more time than you could even imagine needing, and don’t stress if things don’t go to plan. Talk to your partner beforehand about whether you’re going to write each other a letter or exchange gifts on the morning of the wedding. For me, this was such a nice time to sit and breathe amongst the chaos (not that our wedding morning was actually that chaotic).
Make sure you have time to enjoy the morning with your family and bridal party. The whole day might be about you getting married, and it’s a huge deal for you – but its also a huge deal for them. Let your mum help you into your dress, hug your dad when he sees you in your dress for the first time, and chat to your siblings while you feel like you’re about to get stabbed by that mascara brush. You’ll be grateful for it later.
Tools for Organisation
Get started early
- A notebook
- A folder for invoices
- A diary/calendar
- A reminder on my phone
Some people like to use a traditional wedding planner – and hey, whatever works for you! Personally, I wanted the freedom to plan at my own pace and in my own way. I purchased a wedding folder from Kikki K which had the perfect amount of pre-organisation (labelled pockets, a checklist etc.) and allowed me to file all the invoices and payment details in one spot.
For everything else, I used a simple notebook. Here, I kept a log of phone calls I made, contact details for our photographer, reception venue, dress shop, florist, hairdresser etc. This made it so easy. When you have a billion things buzzing around your brain, its great to be able to go back and see where you’re up to. These days I’m using a bullet journal, and I swear it would have made wedding planning that much easier! I’ll be posting about my experience with bullet journalling soon, so keep an eye out if you’re interested. Other than that, I used my regular diary to schedule appointments and set reminders in my phone for payment dates and to make any necessary phone calls.
At the end of the day, no matter how organised you are or how exciting you find the planning, make sure you’ll be comfortable, that the big things you care about are planned well in advance, and that when you look back, it’s not just a hot mess. We wanted to honour each other, honour our family and most importantly, honour God on our wedding day. It’s not about the details… its about getting married.
All wedding photography taken by Holly Prins Photography.