Sunday 4 December 2016

Planning your big day? Here's the essential wedding checklist

Published 20/03/2016 | 02:30

Bright happiness
Bright happiness
Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

There is nothing quite as soothing as a good to-do list when faced with the planning of your wedding.

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Quite apart from the obvious practicalities, a good check-list serves as a handy reminder throughout all of the fuss and fun during the months ahead (as well as the 'friendly' advice and the self-proclaimed VIPs) that logic and action are always your best allies.

Whether you are the type of person who has had your wedding planned since childhood or the thought never crossed your mind before now, every bride and groom can benefit from a little master-planning.

"Planning your wedding should be an enjoyable and exciting experience," Edel Becton, wedding planner with Frog Prince Weddings & Events says. "A wedding is one of the most important days in a couple's life. It can also be one of the most stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Putting together a wedding planning schedule and doing things step by step can help you to overcome what can be an overwhelming process. And it ensures that you never lose sight of the real reason for the wedding; the fact that you are celebrating your love. It is important to start ticking off your list in a logical order so you don't take on too much too fast at any one time in the lead up to the big day."

12 months to go

The budget:

Once you and your other half have agreed upon a loose date for the big day, the next step is to determine your budget. There is always one half of every couple who is more sensible with money than the other, so pick a number in the middle of your individual estimates and go with that. Certain venues will offer more affordable wedding packages during off-peak times of the year and/or the day of the week, which may be something to consider before you set a more concrete date in your diary. The wedding budget will no doubt fluctuate en route, but it is vital to have some idea of what you hope to spend before you start looking around and falling in love with venues that you simply cannot afford.

The venue:

The way to your guests' hearts, according to The Wedding Expert Bláithín O'Reilly Murphy, is through their stomachs, so remember to sample the cuisine of any prospective venues before your head is turned by any fancy décor or fairy tale staircases. And when you have made a decision on your location, be sure to block-book accommodation at (and if needs be around) your venue for your guests. It's important at this point to also make contact with the relevant parties regarding your ceremony, be it a religious or civil celebration.

The photography:

Whether you are having a photographer, a videographer or both on the day, some of Ireland's best wedding snappers are often booked up to 18 months in advance, so get in there quick.

Follow the advice of Niamh Fisher, of Little Bird Weddings, and be sure that whoever you choose to go with on the day understands both who you are and what you want from them. "Leaving out a wedding video is the number one regret for most Irish couples," Niamh says. "We have found that most couples are put off by the cheesy videos of the past or think their budgets won't stretch; so it's important to find the right people for you and your personality and the right package. We like to be the alternative eyes and ears, and capture all of the things throughout the day that the bride and groom might miss because they are so busy, and that way there are no regrets."

Engagement photoshoots are also growing in popularity in Ireland, not only for capturing the happy occasion but as a practice run for the couple for being in front of the lens.

The music:

Music can make or break the atmosphere at your wedding reception and ceremony, but good wedding bands and musicians, who know not only how to work the crowd but how to capture the sentiment of the day, are in huge demand. Early booking is essential to prevent disappointment. "Spend as much as your budget will possibly allow on your music; it is a major part of the day," says planner Bláithín O'Reilly Murphy.

9 months to go

The dress:

Shopping for your wedding dress will not only give you more of an idea of how you'd like the rest of your wedding to look, but it may also be a huge relief as if all else fails, at least you'll have some idea of what you'll be wearing on the day. "Approach shopping for your gown with a sense of adventure," head of bridal at popular chain Folkster, Roisin Hennessy, advises. "It should feel fun and wonderful. In a lot of cases, everyone will want to be part of your dress adventure - which is lovely and such a compliment. However, we find that it's really important that when you start shopping, you keep your crew limited to just a couple of your absolute inner circle. Too many opinions can distract and upset a bride." And Roisin believes that keeping an open mind is key to success. "It is a nice idea to be open to trying on a couple of styles which you had previously ruled out," Roisin adds. "Gowns can look completely different to how they seem on the hanger."

The flowers:

"Book and meet with your florist," Edel Becton of Frog Prince Weddings says. "From the moment you walk down the aisle to the moment you throw your bouquet, flowers will mark the occasion. So bring along your Pinterest board and any photos of floral designs that have impressed you. This will help your florist create a floral design that is unique to you."

The transport:

Whether you are travelling in modern style or old fashioned glory, pick a plane, train or automobile to suit your day and bridal party needs. And try not to forget that the father of the bride may need a lift back from the church!

6 months to go

The bridesmaids' dresses:

Choose your bridesmaids' dresses or at least begin on what can often be a long and arduous road towards some sort of consensus. And remember if you are going down the online route to keep an eye out for short returns policies.

The cake:

There are so many wedding cake options out there these days, from alternative cheesecakes (ie tiered wheels of cheese), to pies and cakes of every description - such as the less traditional wedding cake table or cupcake offerings - so you can quite literally have your cake and eat it. Just make sure you give the bakery plenty of notice, particularly if you want a better deal.

The documentation:

Regardless of the type of wedding ceremony you are having, you will need to prioritise your paperwork. In order to marry in this State, you need to give your local civil registrar a minimum of three months' notice of the marriage, providing your birth cert amongst other documents - miss this window and you will just be having a big party. Check out hse.ie/go/marriage for more information. Those getting married in the Catholic Church, will also need to provide the church with additional documentation including a new long form baptismal certificate issued within six months of the proposed date of marriage from the parish of your baptism. For more information see accord.ie

The Hen/Stag:

Most hen and stag parties will typically take place anything from six- to 10 weeks before the big day, which will allow just enough time for any little blunders to rectify themselves (ie the groom's eyebrows to grow back). However, for a truly great pre-wedding send-off, Siobhan Scanlon, founder of hen party specialists The Peacock Bride, believes that the planning needs to start much earlier in the year, so now may be time to start dropping those hints thick and fast.

"Hen parties can be a bit of a chore to organise, but I've found that if you get the ground work done well in advance, about six months or so beforehand, it makes for a much smoother experience," suggests Siobhan. "My advice is to go to the group with a solid plan in place, as that way people are less likely to give their two cents and you have them on board from the get-go. Arrange as much as you possibly can in advance, things like food, costumes, even taxis, so there's transparency in the cost."

Relax and go with it... Your wedding is a very special occasion, a public declaration of your love and an incredibly special commitment. There is no doubt that there will be hiccups, but hopefully you will be enjoying yourself too much to care.

"Soak up every moment of this very special day," Edel of Frog Prince Weddings advises. "The morning of your wedding is such a special and happy time, getting ready with the people that mean the most to you. Make sure to steal some time away on the wedding day for just the two of you, as the day goes by so quickly."

3 months to go

The ceremony:

Decide upon readings, prayers and music for your ceremony and discuss these details with your celebrant or priest. "Think about how you can really personalise your ceremony," The Wedding Expert Bláithín O'Reilly Murphy suggests. "A truly personal ceremony is very important, but often a lot of couples get absorbed into this Pinterest fantasy of wedding receptions and forget what the day is all about. The best weddings I have ever been at have been the ones where the couples have put a great deal of thought and consideration into their ceremonies."

The suits:

Book or buy the suits for the groom, groomsmen and both the father of the bride and father of the groom, if required.

The style:

Book your make-up artist and hairdresser and begin trying out looks for your big day. Start your dress fittings.

The tasting:

Pick your wedding menu and wines with balance in mind. "It's important to get the right balance between feeding a large amount of people and your menu not being too bland or predictable," Bláithín O'Reilly Murphy suggests.

The stationery:

Order your invitations and other stationery for your day including menus, place cards, signs and ceremony booklets. Gather your guests' addresses.

2 months to go

The gifts:

Choose gifts for your bridesmaids, flower girl(s), page boy(s), groomsmen and parents.

The shoes:

Buy your wedding shoes and start wearing them in pronto, but maybe just around the house!

The invites:

Send your invitations and create a spread sheet to keep track of your RSVPs as your guests respond.

The rings:

Choose and order your wedding bands.

1 month to go

The final details:

"Meet with your florist and make the final decisions," Edel Becton of Frog Prince Weddings advises at this point. "Discuss playlists with your band and DJ and meet with your venue coordinator to confirm the timings and details for the day." Now is also the time to call any guests who have yet to RSVP before creating your seating plan.

* Call all wedding suppliers and re-confirm details.

* Confirm your final numbers with the venue.

* Finalise your table plan.

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