Below are a list of things we did that were helpful in planning our big day. Some may resonate with you and some may sound silly, either way I hope this is helpful, let me know in the comments below.
1. Use google docs and spreadsheets for your planning
Google docs was our best friend. We used it to create our guest list, which was then duplicated to create the guest attending list, where I added an accommodation column so I knew who was staying at the venue, and subsequently I added a gift column so I knew who to send thank you cards to.
We also used it for our to-do list and budget spreadsheet. This had columns for the costs, who paid for what, and a deposit column if that was required. This was a good way to see if we were keeping within budget and to track how much each person had spent. We did relatively well at this although there were some unexpected expenses at the end. Our wedding landed up being 60 people in total, and while it was smaller than we intended (more were invited) it was the perfect number as it was intimate and we got to speak to everyone but it still felt full and lively.
2. Create a mood board/Pinterest board
I gathered all my wedding inspiration from images I'd saved to Pinterest images and created a PDF to share with my bridesmaids and Mum. This was super helpful as a starting point as I'd had a Pinterest board for a while but that had a few too many styles going on and I needed to refine it for our day. Even if you know things will change this serves as a vision for what you'd like and a way to start planning. If, after research, you realise it's not what you want or not cost effective and then you can update and change the mood board. I realised that hanging plants/flowers in our reception was not within our flower budget so that is one thing I had to change.
Having this board also helps when your bridesmaids or Mum ask you questions, you can then refer back to the pdf. People will have questions, suggestions and ideas that are all good, but if you don't have a clear idea of what you'd like then it can become overwhelming. I obviously showed Mark this PDF before sending it out to check he approved of my ideas and he added a few of his own. Below is a condensed version of what it looked like.
3. Choose a good bridal party (bridesmaids and groomsmen)
I had incredible bridesmaids, including my lovely sister as my maid of honour. Having people who know you so well will ensure you have an EPIC kitchen tea and bachelorette party with all your favourite food, music and games.* I really had the best weekend with a delicious champagne breakfast at Blueberry Hill in Nottingham road followed by a chilled afternoon and then an evening of games, mojitos, tapas style food and of course dancing and tequila (who would have thought we'd be able to go out and dance till 3am in sleepy Hilton!).
*I also sent a list of items I'd like as gifts (to my sister) as I'm fairly fussy when it comes to underwear and colours. This was great as I love all my gifts and know I'll use them.
4. Communicate with each other
Communicating a lot with your fiance about everything, from your to-do lists to your expectations about marriage to your frustrations about the menu design. Remember your end shared goal and ensure you're on the same page.
5. Consider a few therapy sessions
Have a few sessions with a good psychologist. If you know me you know I am a huge believer in therapy, and as engagement and then marriage brings about a significant change in your life, chatting to someone outside of the wedding bubble can be very helpful.
6. Realise it will be fun but also a lot of hard work
Make it fun but also acknowledge that it will be a lot of work. Planning an event for any number of people is stressful no matter how simple you try to make it. There will be times when you feel pressure from people to meet their expectations, but always go back to the core things that you want to stand out on your day and focus on those. For us it was food, music, a sense of family/community and fun.
7. Couples Premarital Counselling
Have some premarital counselling with a couple you get on well with, trust and who have a good sense of humour (and who don't mind the occasional tears). This was super helpful in preparing us for this big step. We spoke a lot about housework and who does the dishes but also the big decisions and emotions surrounding this commitment. I can't stress how much this helped us and we were lucky enough to have Monte, one half of our counselling team, marry us, which was incredibly special.
8. Create an order of the day send it out
We, by that I mean I, created an order of the day which I sent to our MCs, speech givers, photographer, videographer, Pastor and DJ. I could have sent to my makeup artist and floral designer but I just communicated with them about arrival times. I also printed out a few which I gave to the venue coordinator and my sister. It was really helpful and amazingly everything went according to our timeline without us having to hurry anyone along or start playing music to stop a long speech (haha we'd never do that). I also gave our MCs and venue coordinator a list of our suppliers' phone numbers, so that if there were any questions or problems they could communicate without interrupting us. Again, this helped things go off without a hitch (as well as having a very organised and lovely venue coordinator). Here is our order of the day, to serve as an example.
9. Create or download a countdown checklist
I found on in the one wedding magazine I bought, I've made my own (more realistic) version here that you can download and then tick off as you go along. It's helpful breaking it down into months, weeks and days before the wedding and might have some things on it that you haven’t thought about before.
Early on I created a google doc with a ‘to-do’ list that I shared with Mark and we spent an evening a week checking in and making sure we were on track. This was by no means entirely successful as I’m good at making lists but not actually following through on said list. I also had one weekend in April when I went home to meet with suppliers, see the venue and just generally get organized. As our wedding was in the Midlands (where I'm from) and not Cape Town (where we live) I had to have a weekend like this. One of my bridesmaids, Cara, came down from Joburg and we went for my makeup and hair trial, visited the venue with my folks for a look around and a menu tasting, met with the photographer and the priest and started on the venue decor. It was a lot for one weekend and whilst I was glad to tick off a lot of items it wasn’t without me having a little breakdown or two. Thankfully I had Cara to talk some sense into me. I had to keep reminding myself that this was our day and if we wanted something done a certain way then that was ok and people could weigh in with opinions but ultimately it was our decision to make.
*All photos by Casey Pratt Photography (except the mood board)