Jenny Wren's wedding planning Q&A

Article Published: Monday 16th February, 2015 - 2:11pm

Where to begin? Wedding planning begs many questions. Here, planning expert Jenny Wren offers up some expert pearls of wisdom and practical advice on getting started...

Tyron MacKenzie

Where would you advise a couple to start with the planning process?
The very first thing couples should do before they even pick up a wedding magazine or the laptop to begin researching their dream wedding is to figure out what budget they have for their wedding day. No decisions can be made until you know how much money you have to work with. Seriously think about what your limit is and speak to family members early on about what they may contribute. This is likely to feel awkward to bring up but it is important to do before you begin so you can then make plans for your day that are realistic within your budget and not get carried away.

What are the key things to start thinking about straight away? 

Once you have peeled your eyes away from that sparkly ring on your finger, let the planning commence! Decide whether you would like two separate locations for the day, one for ceremony and one for the reception or if you would rather have it all in one place and begin making appointments to look around potential contenders. Venues get booked up far in advance so this should be top of your list, along with booking your officiant. Next up I would advise to begin researching caterers, photographers, videographers, and bands/music.

Do you have any advice concerning how to work out your budget, and how to stick to it throughout the planning process?
Once you have added any contributions from family to your own money for the wedding allocate it sensibly to all of the elements (venue, dress, flowers etc).  If you have a wedding planner they will be able to guide you on this or there are many tools online which can help too.  Remember to leave 10% for contingency to give room for changes.  Create an excel spreadsheet with two columns, predicted and actual so you can keep track of everything that has been spent. If you are anything like me you will enjoy watching the numbers change as you add things in and it is so satisfying when things come in under budget! Which often happens for my clients as I categorically take no commissions from suppliers, they instead turn this into a discount for my couples, giving them the best possible price.

Do you have any advice concerning the guest list and how to avoid guest list strife?

The guest list can spin out of control easily so it is important to keep on top of it from the start. Firstly simply think about how many you can realistically accommodate at your venue and how many you can afford to have there. Once you have these numbers then sit down together and begin drawing up your list. This can be really enjoyable, thinking about who you would like to share your day with, but the list can quickly get as long as your arm. So have some structure to it, I suggest separate it into three categories; people who you could not bear not being there, the people who you would really like to attend but not critical and the people whom you would enjoy having but could eliminate if necessary.

Lots of people are likely to have an opinion on who you should and shouldn’t invite, listen and consider their say, but always keep in mind your own desires first and foremost.

If your wedding is being funded by either sets of parents they may feel they can invite certain people, old friends for instance who your fiancé may have never met, taking up the place of one of his or her friends. You need to reach a compromise and they need to understand it is your day and you should be surrounded by the people you want to be.

You may also find that, once people have received their invitation, some may ask if they can bring extra people. An easy way to ensure it is clear on how many the invite is for is to add this line to the invitation-We kindly reserve one/two seats in your honor.

Something else to bare in mind on average about 20-25% won’t be able to attend the wedding, so refer back to your categories to fill in.

Nick Walker

How should you choose the key members of your wedding party?

As soon as you announce your engagement, those closest to you will be wondering who’s in the wedding party.  This is an area many couples really struggle on, as it can be so difficult to choose who to have involved and budgets do not always allow for as many as you would like. Each additional bridesmaid is another dress, shoes and bouquet remember. In your heart or hearts you will both know who you want there by your sides, so be true to yourselves and pick who you want to not who you feel you should.

Of course you do not want to put anyone’s nose out of joint but sometimes it can not be helped. Decisions on who will be the bridesmaid(s) for example can be really difficult and at the end of the day it is just not always feasible to include everyone you would like to in the bridal party. Which generally people will understand but my tip would be to acknowledge the fact they are not included and speak to them about it directly rather than glazing over it and not mentioning it at all, as they may feel unimportant. Perhaps suggest other ways they can be more involved in the day such as assisting with setting up the venue.

Do you have any advice concerning where to start with the styling process?
I advise couples to initially spend some time thinking about their wedding vision, so what’s important to them both for their wedding day? What are the emotions they want to evoke? Forgetting about how it will look for a moment and thinking about how they want it to feel. For example fun, heartfelt, romantic, full of surprises, respectful of traditions, or one hell of a party!

Think about key words that would capture and define your day, this will help you come up with ideas. If you find it hard to determine what you want then think about what you definitely don’t want. What have you seen at other weddings that you don’t like? Defining your vision early will make it much easier and avoids those magpie moments that many people fall into, getting everything that catches their eye, with nothing pulling the look together.

Pinterest is a fantastic tool, acting as an online scrapbook, it keeps a record of everything you have ever seen and liked (pinned) for your wedding style. It’s great to browse for inspiration and by using the search tool it can give you specific ideas related to the style you are going for. Searches could be 'pastel shades wedding', 'nautical wedding' or 'winter wedding ideas', for example. My couples often share their boards with me, which gives me a great insight into their vision and I can pin suggestions for them too.

When it comes to colour work with your venue not against it. If you have a marquee wedding, you are lucky to have a blank canvas, giving you free reign to introduce whatever colour you like. But if you have picked a venue, take the time to walk around and pick out the tones in the room(s). That way you can plan your colour scheme to fit with them avoiding clashes with curtain fabric or carpets for example.

Consider seasonality when choosing your colour scheme too, ask your florist what flowers will be in season at the time, they can set the tone. If you are struggling to pick colours flowers can be a great starting point.

Simon Burt

What are the advantages of booking a wedding planner and/or on the day coordinator?
If you are anything like me, it is likely you have been dreaming about your wedding ever since you were little and now that you are engaged are very excited to begin the planning process. Going to cake tastings, choosing your dress and swooning over elegant centre pieces all sounds very appealing, however the fact is planning your wedding is not all fun and games and it can be hugely time consuming and very stressful.

On average between 250-300 hours is spent planning a wedding and trust me this is not all spent on the enjoyable tasks!

Having a wedding planner working for you means you can really enjoy the journey to ‘I do’ as they can take care of everything from the hours of supplier research, managing your budget and reviewing contracts to providing a wealth of creative ideas and insights, managing logistical elements and using their expert skills and contacts will make your day come together seamlessly. Keeping you involved as much or as little as you prefer, working closely with you to ensure the day is exactly as you envisage.

In a nutshell they can…

Save you money
I can not speak for all planners, but I categorically do not take any commissions from my suppliers, instead I ask them to turn this into a form of discount for my couples, ensuring they get the best possible price. Planners are in a much better position to negotiate with suppliers as they can potentially get them repeat business.

Save you time
Especially important for those time poor couples who have demanding jobs or small children perhaps. A planner will be your suppliers point of contact, giving you regular updates so you do not need to spend your valuable time dealing with everyone involved in your day.

Minimise stress and anxiety
During the lead up to this special day emotions can run high and spoil what should be a really lovely and exciting time. Having a planner on board alleviates this stress so you can enjoy the lead up to your day.

Recommend reputable suppliers
There are likely to be many people involved in your day and you need to feel confident that they will deliver an exceptional service. I am extremely picky about the suppliers I will put forward to my clients and as I take no commissions my recommendations are based on experience, reputation, integrity and suitability.

Offer knowledge and expertise

A planners knowledge and experience of weddings is invaluable.  We know what works and what doesn’t and can foresee potential issues, remedying them before they have the chance to arise. When it comes to the day itself we will know the ins and outs of your wedding day to the same level of detail (if not more) as you, making us the best equipped to manage the day.

Using a wedding planner doesn't mean you couldn't plan your own wedding, it just means that you recognize the value of professional assistance on what is arguably the most important day of your life.

On the day coordinator
Looking ravishing, relaxed and relishing every single moment should be how any couple should feel on their big day. Not dashing off mid conversation with their guests, red faced and flustered to sort out yet another problem, or constantly checking their watch to ensure all is running to schedule. Unfortunately, this is the role many couples end up playing on their big day that do not hire a coordinator; that of the ‘host’ dealing with mini crisis after mini crisis. 

The fact is no matter how many months, even years are put into the planning of a wedding and how perfect it looks on paper, it is all about the control on the day, something which in my view, the couple should not be responsible for.

Many couples approach me for this service after they have planned the whole wedding themselves and need the back up on the day knowing all that they had hoped, wished and spent hours planning for themselves will run like clockwork.

After a full handover of plans contact is made with each and every supplier involved, managing them from that point forward and creating a very detailed schedule of the day.

On the wedding day itself your planner will be there early in the morning to oversee the set-up of the venue, coordinate all the suppliers involved and provide that extra level of detail required to ensure the rooms look perfect. Leaving you and your wedding party with no on the day jobs to deal with, instead you will have time to relax, sip champagne and think about marrying your best friend.

Management of proceedings throughout the day will ensure you are not constantly checking your watch or worrying that the speeches are over running which will upset the caterers for example. Your coordinator will ensure all of your guests are comfortable and deal with any problems that may occur behind the scenes, so you don’t even know about them.

The wedding emergency kit, which comes with me to every wedding and contains over fifty items is at your and your guests disposal throughout the day, with everything from a sewing kit to rescue remedy your coordinator will be well equipped to deal with pretty much anything!

In my view a on the day coordinator should be at the top of your wedding planning list, it really is an invaluable service that you owe to yourselves after doing all of that work to create your day plans.  Leaving you both to simply turn up on your wedding day and excel in being fabulous!

Do you have any general advice about the best way to approach your wedding planning, i.e. ensuring that it’s enjoyable rather than overwhelming?

My biggest piece of advice would be to not get caught up on what you think everyone else thinks or will want to see at the wedding. Yes you want your guests to enjoy themselves and feel comfortable but if you try to think about what will please everyone else you will drive yourself crazy! It is your day, don’t loose sight of that.

If you are planning your day yourselves then break your planning down and give yourself dates of when to have things done by. That way these milestones will give you a real sense of achievement and you won’t feel so overwhelmed about how much you have to do, instead you will have a clear vision of where you are at and what else is to be done and when you plan to do it.

Start early but not too early. Starting early gives you the luxury of taking your time to handpick your suppliers and means you won’t rush and panic book (and often end up paying more for the privilege) you will have time to negotiate and really do your research.

However be warned, your taste and ideas for your day can change over time, if you start too early you may regret some of the decisions you made later down the line. Also if you drag out the planning for a long time you run the risk of loosing interest in it.

Please feel free to include any nuggets of advice or wisdom which you feel will be relevant or helpful to our newly engaged readers!

Time and time again couples leave the booking of band, artist or DJ until late in the planning. This is usually when their budget is looking a little low and the music has almost been seen as an afterthought. In my view it is so important, it can really create the atmosphere for the day so ensure you think about it early on.

Ensure you or your planner pays a visit to the venue to do a tour with the in house coordinator before making plans that follow. This is so important, as a venue layout, existing decor or in-house rules can cause restrictions and may limit what can be done, ensure you ask questions about what you are allowed to do with the space.  Conversely, a venue visit and chat with them may reveal other opportunities for creative paths to follow.

Don’t tire yourselves out the week before the wedding with all those little jobs to do, such as picking up the table decorations, folding the name place cards or writing the photographers shot list. If you do not have a planner then get help from friends and family. The last thing you want is to be shattered on your big day.

Lastly, enjoy it and if you are not enjoying it then get help. Your only ever going to do it once so do it the right way.