Things I wish I had known about planning my wedding

As someone who was never into being a bride or planning a wedding, I learnt a lot along the way planning my wedding.  Here are a few things that happened to me along the way, I hope they are helpful to you!

Get your marriage licence as early as possible
We nearly didn’t get our marriage licence in time for the wedding and it was the single most stressful thing in the entire planning process.  We live in London but got married in New Zealand and only arrived in NZ 6 days before the wedding, on Easter weekend.  I was so worried about the marriage licence being an issue I checked with the NZ Embassy and Department of Internal Affairs 3 times in the 6 months leading up to the wedding.  We were told we could get the marriage licence until 3 days before the wedding and advised to get it in NZ instead of applying for it from London, even though time was tight for us to get it when we arrived in NZ.  The office was shut on Monday for a the Easter holiday, we couldn’t get into the office on Tuesday and finally made it on Wednesday afternoon.  My fiancé made the 1.5 hour trip down to the office, queued, filled out the form, handed over the paperwork and was then told he had left it to late to get the marriage licence for Saturday.   Multiple phone calls and 2 trips to the office later, we finally got the licence at 3pm on Friday, exactly 24 hours before our wedding.

Pack a bride bag
Put essentials and emergency items that you might / will need during the day and give it to your bridesmaid / bestie. My bag had painkillers, comfortable flat shoes, a jumper and my phone - all super uncool and not glamorous, but these were the things I was worried about needing.  My bridesmaid was 13 (my step daughter) so I gave it to my best friend who had refused to be my bridesmaid on the grounds she was too old!! She had my back all day and reminded me when I needed to touch up makeup (not something that would ever be on my radar but wanted to look good on the day), take meds, helped remove my veil etc.  You don't want to be carrying your phone - people will be calling and texting if they are lost / late / sending congratulations etc and that can get really distracting!

Delegate where you can
At the end of the day the most important thing is that you and your groom enjoy your wedding day.  No one really cares if you hand paint feathers to make centre pieces or bake fudge for wedding favours.  I felt so guilty delegating out decorating our reception venue to extended family -- but they ended up doing a much better job than I ever could have, and I would have been so exhausted if I tried to do it myself.   If people offer to help - graciously accept and enjoy it!  It feels good to help others and people like to get involved.  If they make a genuine offer of help and it will actually be helpful to you, go for it.  One of the things we look back on and remember the most about our wedding was how lovely our guests were and how much they were involved in helping us prepare.

Check your wedding invitation 3 times and then check it again and then get someone else to check it (not the groom!)
In spite of proof reading our wedding invite 6 times, and getting my fiancé to check it too, we still managed to have 2 very stupid annoying errors on the wedding invite - the rsvp email had two letters transposed and the year was wrong for the rsvp date.  We couldn't afford to reprint our invitations so had to send them out with the mistakes and hope no one noticed... this caused a fair bit of stress & confusion and triggered a lot of embarrassing explanations.  I’ve since found out that I’m not alone, 2 of my cousins confessed to similar issues with their wedding invitations and its also mentioned in an excellent blog post on Love My Dress about the things that didn’t go right on her wedding day.  

Despite your best efforts, the days before your wedding will probably be manic
I was super organised before our wedding, but because we live in London but got married in New Zealand and had to fit our trip in with British & Belgian Easter school holidays, we arrived in NZ just before the wedding.  There were still so many little but important things left to do that we had not realised and we were all so jet lagged!  Your wedding day will be full on and wonderful and you need lots of energy to enjoy it to the full! We only had 4 days to finish organization for the wedding and reception and I really wish we could have chilled out a bit more.  Do as much as you can in advance, delegate and make lots of lists!  Make a timetable for your wedding day - mine had: a time line for when everything had to happen, who was responsible for it, transportation - who was driving the cars and who the passengers would be (for the wedding party).  I discussed it with my family and the photographer, then handed it over to the MC (one of my brothers)..... and forgot all about it!  The day went really smoothly and pretty much to plan.  I loved handing over the responsibility and finally not having to think about it anymore.

Make a list of group shots and creative photos you want for your photographer
Our photographer asked for a list of everyones names in the group shots and the MC called out for everyone and so we managed to charge through all the group shots in half an hour.  A big priority for us was to make sure we weren't away from our guests for too long having the wedding photos.  Our photographer was great, and kept everything very realistic timings wise, and we got some brilliant photos.  A couple of days prior to the wedding we met with the photographer and did a recce of the church and locations for our photos - this meant on the day we just got straight down to it and then were able to quickly get back to our guests.  I'm not a fan of overly posed photos and chose our wedding photographer based on this.  I also sent him inspo images of wedding photos that I liked from his portfolio and other cool wedding photographers.  On the day he totally got the look I wanted, although we did somehow end up with a lot more kissing shots than were really necessary.....

Decide on your budget and stick to it
Decide what you want to spend on and what isn't a priority.  Make a spreadsheet to track your spending right from the beginning - it adds up really quickly, and over the months of wedding planning its easy to forget items you've already paid for.  For me it was really important to have amazing photos, and although I am totally not a makeup girl, I wanted to know that I looked gorgeous on the day, so my splurges were photos and HMUA.  My husband paid for his suit and I paid for my dress and HMUA.  Everything else we split.  Its so easy for the spending to spiral out of control, and we found having it all written down and planned out allowed us to save for the things we really needed and make easier decisions to ditch the things that weren’t necessary (burlap table runners at $10 a metre I’m looking at you) I’ve popped some links to spreadsheets for budgeting & planning at the end of the article.  We saved money by using recycled jars as vases, borrowing the decorations for the venue and buying the flowers from a wholesaler.  

Have a hair & makeup trial
Avoid any makeup surprises on your wedding day by having a hair & makeup trial, especially if you have never worked with the HMUA before.  Your makeup artist will ask you to send them inspiration images (and if they don't they should!) and its also great excuse to lose a couple of (many) hours on Pinterest figuring out what you really want.  One of my friends ended up with purple eyeshadow and bright red lipstick during her trial (hello?1?!), another friend was given a beehive, and I discovered that my idea of light coverage was very different to the makeup artists….  

Seating Plans
I was really worried about how to seat people at our reception after hearing so many nightmare stories about it from friends.  Four days before the wedding when we finally got the table arrangement / numbers from the reception venue they didn’t fit so well with the natural groups of our wedding guests.  I ended up making up some seating charts and then handing them over to my Mum & a couple of friends who knew most of the people at the reception.  They made a few suggestions and adjustments and it was all done!  I was prepared for it to be a nightmare and take ages, but it ended up being all sorted an hour and a couple of gin & tonics later.  We also got the kids involved in the seating arrangements as much as possible... because we had 16 kids at our wedding ranging from 6 - 18 years.  The girls came up with the idea of having a girls table and a boys table and it worked out really well.  Their tables were next to each other so they were talking and swapping seats all night  but not annoying each other (thank goodness!).   The rough groupings had for seating were: Mum’s Family, Dad’s Family, Husbands Family & German speaking friends, Cousins in their 30’s, Girls, Boys, Friends who know each other, Friends who don’t know each other yet!  

Be present and enjoy the moment
So many friends advised me to take a moment with my husband to just enjoy the day.  I didn’t really get what they meant until the wedding day was just flying by and we managed to have a couple of minutes together to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment together.  Please do this!!!  Time accelerated by about 200 during the ceremony and reception, and before I knew it the day was over.  Take as many moments as you can during the day to enjoy what you have created and worked so hard for.  

I hope this has been helpful in some way and good luck with your wedding planning! xx

Links to planning & budgeting spreadsheets:

This website has clear, well designed sheets, but they are only for organisation, not for budget: Its set up as a google doc so you can easily share it with your crew.

This one is a downloadable excel spreadsheet focussing mostly on budget: For practicality it would probably be better to save it as a google doc for sharing.  This one also has everything in tabs on one sheet which is easier to keep track of than multiple sheets.

This spreadsheet from has very clear instructions: