I was a bride myself once. I planned my wedding down to the very last T. I worried and stressed about every last detail from the invites to scouring the country for the perfect bridesmaid dresses. Some days I nearly had a nervous breakdown. No seriously I did. I spent nearly a whole day ringing round every BHS in the country trying to track down an age 11 flower girl dress. I nearly collapsed when I opened my tiara box and found that it was broken (luckily one nimble fingered husband-to-be and a tube of superglue later, all was well). I nearly had kittens when I realised I’d ordered too many invitations (stupid me forgot everyone was in couples but then maths was never my forte). I spent hours on wedding related discussion forums poring over threads about colour schemes and sugared almonds. I could never have done it without those girls, they were my saviour! As a result, I feel I am suitably qualified (or at least I hope I am) to comment on what is most definitely one of the most stressful events you will ever plan in your life. I’ve put together some very candid hints and tips to help you in planning your Big Day. I’m not writing this to save you money, more to save your sanity. Although you may not agree with some of my suggestions, or even any of them I hope that you at least take away with you one or two handy tips.
Do not scrimp on your wedding dress. I really cannot emphasize this enough. It’s the one and only dress in your life that you deserve to splurge on. It’s the dress you’ve dreamed about since you were a little girl. So here’s what happens. You start off with a budget in mind – well scrap that for a start and double it. If I had a pound for the amount of brides I’ve spoken to who have entered the doors of a bridal boutique only to find their dream dress is five hundred pounds more expensive than their budget will allow, well let’s just say I’d be a very rich lady. So what do you do? You try it on of course (just out of curiosity, to see if it fits, it’s not like you are going to buy it is it?). You then shimmy towards the mirror and BINGO – you are in love. But damn, it’s way too expensive. Your heart sinks as you take it off and try and put it out of your mind but that damn dress keeps creeping back in. You’ve found nothing like it anywhere else, you’ve scoured eBay and the local paper but nothing comes close. It made you feel a million dollars; a princess, it knocks ten pounds off you and then realisation hits you….YOU SIMPLY MUST HAVE THAT DRESS! So, what do you do? What can you do? It’s very, very simple ladies. You jiggle the budget around and you buy it. You will never regret that decision.
Do buy well fitting comfortable shoes. Yes, I know that sounds incredibly boring but honestly you will be so glad you did. As opposed to your dress I really don’t think it’s necessary to spend hundreds of pounds on shoes for your wedding day. Honestly, believe me when I say, nobody is interested in your shoes apart from you. Okay, those Louboutins may be crying out to be displayed on your tootsies but nobody will know they are Louboutins apart from your fashion conscious friends. Imagine your dismay when you overhear your Great Aunt Maud saying she saw three pairs for a tenner down at her local Shoe Express? The colour will drain from your face. A well fitting, fashionable high street bridal shoe is all you need. I’d also not go any higher than three and a half inches for your heel, unless you fancy tripping over down the aisle – not a good look.
Accessories and jewellery – Do not go overboard on your accessories or jewellery. Think of the motto “Less is more”. You have a beautiful dress; you don’t need tons and tons of bling to accompany it. There are an array of hair accessories on the market now. If you decide to wear a tiara I’d advise going for one made with Swarovski. Swarovski AB has a beautiful iridescent rainbow effect when it catches the light which makes it a popular choice for brides and bridesmaids. You won’t find anything more sparkly anywhere. For your jewellery, a beautiful pearl necklace or a statement vintage diamante choker is all you will need and some simple earrings. I also wouldn’t advise wearing a watch on your wedding day – for two reasons. The first is I don’t think it’s a good look and secondly you will be forever clock watching and stressing yourself out if things aren’t running exactly to time.
The same goes for your lingerie. I wouldn’t advise spending a fortune on fancy, frilly bridal lingerie. Do you remember that wedding you went to where you welled up at the sight of the bride walking down the aisle, her face full of emotion? Well that wasn’t emotion you were seeing, it was a pained expression caused by a cheese wire resembling a piece of lace between the cheeks of her backside. It probably wasn’t helped by the skyscraper pair of Louboutins she was wearing either. By all means snap up that beautiful basque you’ve seen in Agent Provocateur- but reserve it for your honeymoon. Let’s face it 8/10 couples do not consummate their marriage on their wedding night anyway, myself being one of them. The only thing I was hugging on my wedding night was the fine porcelain toilet bowl….but that’s another story.
Free bar or cash bar? Now this is a very controversial subject. I’ve seen many a bun fight on an internet discussion forum over this topic. My personal opinion is DO NOT HAVE A FREE BAR. In fact I feel quite strongly about it. People do not expect you to fork out hundreds (or thousands) of pounds providing a free bar for them all day and night. A medium sized quality drinks package for your day guests and a welcome drink for your evening guests are absolutely sufficient. A free bar is asking for trouble (and your wallet will hate you for it). It is wedding carnage. People get greedy; they will order doubles, or triples or even champagne cocktails if you’re really lucky. Beer will go warm but what will people do? Not make do and drink up, they will discard it and fetch another one (because it’s free). Your Uncle Brian will be renamed “The Sex Pest” after getting completely bladdered and trying to fondle the bridesmaids. People will start fighting, beer will be spilled on the dance floor and the chocolate fountain will be…well everywhere but in the fountain. I’ve been guilty of it myself, “the greed factor”. I once went to a do with a free bar although I didn’t realise it at the time until I went to pay…and then swiftly ordered a large one…with a vodka chaser. You have been warned.
Favours. Do you bother or not? I’m a big fan of favours, but I think it’s a woman’s thing. Women like pretty boxes tied with ribbon with a treat inside. I really like the personalised touch when it comes to favours – like making your own biscuits or in my case I made all the ladies Swarovski Crystal earrings. Scratch cards are another good idea – check out all the men ferreting about in their pockets for a 2 pence piece and then the look on cousin Billy’s face when he wins…a fiver. Oh well, it will come in handy later at the “non free bar”. Charity pins are also a good choice and always go down well. Steer clear of sugared almonds. They may be traditional but they are tacky beyond belief and very Eighties. Let’s face it who really likes sugared almonds?
Band or DJ? I personally don’t think you can go wrong with a really good DJ who plays a good mix of music throughout the decades that will appeal to all ages. Avoid anything by Black Lace or the Birdie Song but a bit of YMCA always goes down a treat and gets everybody cutting their shapes on the dance floor. Do not make the mistake of playing music that will only appeal to you and your friends. I once went to a wedding where the DJ played hard core house music all night. Great for the bride and groom who were dancing on the tables…on their own.
With regard to a live band, again – don’t make the mistake of hiring a band that only plays a specific type of music. I made this mistake at my wedding. We hired a Rat Pack type swing band. It cost us an arm and a leg (and a kidney) but we were very excited about it. We had visions of the gorgeous looking singer (as he looked in the photo) with his charisma, slicked back hair singing “Mack The Knife” into his old fashioned microphone. What we got was a portly looking very dull bloke (who could sing all right) but had about as much charisma as a wet fart along with his four what can only be described as “grave dodgers” as a backing band. Luckily for us, we hired a DJ as well.
Your photographer. This is also something that is worth splurging on. A good quality reportage photographer who knows his stuff is worth his weight in gold. Do your research first or try and get a recommendation. You can usually tell a lot about a photographer by his website so do your research carefully. I fully support the reportage style photography. It’s modern, uncontrived and gives stunning results. The last thing that you need on your wedding day is some stuffy old photographer with the manner of a sergeant major ordering your family and friends about for the best part of the afternoon. The one thing that irritates me when I go to a wedding is the time it takes for the photos – bride, groom, father of the bride, mother of the bride – brides’ family, groom’s family, Uncle Tom Cobly and all. It takes forever and it’s boring. The beauty of reportage photography is that you hardly notice the photos being taken; they have the knack of keeping disturbance to a minimum. I hardly remember our photographer being there on the day but he must have been because we have the beautiful photographs to prove it.
Invitations and gift lists: Make sure you send out “save the date” cards. People lead such busy lives nowadays and so if you want to make sure all your guests can make your wedding then I would recommend these. Failing that email everybody! The etiquette is to send out formal invitations six weeks before you wedding. If you don’t send out save the date cards I would recommend sending your invitations out before six weeks – for the same reason really. People book holidays, they like to know about things well in advance. With regard to wedding gifts, this is another controversial subject. My personal opinion is that if you have a gift list, you should include it in your invite or at least give people details of where to find it. A lot of couples these days don’t have gift lists and prefer hard cash or vouchers. There is nothing wrong with that but there are ways and means to go about it. I personally detest with a passion those tacky cheesy poems that people use to beg for hard cash for their wedding. I find them rather distasteful and irritating. Some people have even been known to include their account details and sort code at the footer of the poem. Honestly! If you haven’t got a gift list then word of mouth about what you would like is the best way. People will ask you what you want, I personally wouldn’t blatantly ask for cash, I would be clever and ask for vouchers or set up an account at a local travel agents for travel vouchers. I also think it’s nice to get some surprises for your wedding gifts. So what if you get four toasters? You can always eBay them….or buy lots of bread!
Avoid at all costs anything with the “tacky” factor. By this I mean those dodgy looking helium filled teddy bears shaped as a bride and groom, sugared almonds, fake rose petals, personalised ring cushions, sugared almonds, trivia for your tables (if you wanted a quiz, you’d go down your local pub), sugared almonds, stretch limos, oh and did I say sugared almonds?….
Try not to get too bogged down with finer points. Nobody will notice if your lip gloss isn’t quite the same shade as your bridesmaids’ dresses. Everything will fall into place on the day. I promise you. Remember, it is only one day; it will zoom past before you know it and you will wonder why you got yourself in a tizz about nothing. I certainly did.