26 Dec 2019
The ultimate small wedding planning guide
There’re lots of advantages of choosing a small wedding, not least the simpler logistics and planning. So rather than the planning element of your wedding being something to stress about, you can actually enjoy every minute spent planning your wedding. But most of us (yes, us included before we got married!) have no clue as to where to start with organising a wedding, and that’s where shared experience can help you create a wedding checklist planning, and make your wedding experience a positive one from start to finish.
We struggled to find a wedding checklist UK centric enough to help our couples so we’ve developed our own to help you. Based on our experience working with lots of wonderful couples planning intimate weddings over the past few years, we’ve put together what we hope is the ultimate wedding checklist especially for small weddings. We include a wedding checklist planner and wedding planning tips that you can use to ensure your wedding planning is totally stress-free and fun.
Most small weddings held at The Brickhouse Vineyard are booked 3-18 months in advance of the couples’ chosen wedding day. Because of this we’ve not used pre-defined timelines, rather we use three phases of planning: “initial planning”, “implementation” and ‘final checks” that can be stretched or squeezed into the amount of time you have available ahead of your special day. We’ve even worked with couples who book 6 weeks before their wedding date, proving all things are possible with a good plan!
We’re sharing our small wedding checklist here. Take a read through our small wedding planning guide below for a full guide to small wedding planning and our top time and stress saving tips.
1. Create a joint vision of your wedding day.
This is time for the two of you to agree the fundamentals:
- Ideally when do you want to get married?
- How much is your budget?
- Who do you want to share your wedding day with?
- Who do you want to play special roles on your day? e.g. bridesmaids and best man
- What sort of environment do you want to get marred in?
- Do you want a religious ceremony or civil ceremony?
- Do you want a blessing afterwards in a special place?
- What activities (e.g. dining, entertainment, games, trip to beauty spot for photography etc) will you want to include on your wedding day?
- Will you stay close to home or are you wanting to create a journey to a special place to get married?
Top tips for creating a small wedding vision
- Spend quality time on this, talk things through and consider options. It’s time well invested up front that makes the rest of your wedding planning so much easier.
- Involve anyone else whose opinion you value at this stage, but only include those ideas that you both agree on and add these to your plan.
- Stick to your plan.
- For a smaller wedding involving a few key guests you may well want to sound them out on dates before finalising your ideal wedding date options.
2. Create a budget sheet
Having agreed a budget, it’s important to stick to it. Create a budget table or have a notebook page dedicated to this subject, save it and refer back to it regularly as you start to incur costs.
Top tips for budgeting
- We recommend earmarking 10% of your budget for “contingency” purposes. There is always something…
- Review your budget regularly together as any variations away from your budget need to be agreed by the two of you to avoid conflict. Start as you mean to go on!
3. Research your venue options
Based on your small wedding day vision take a look at the options available online.
Look for venues that specialise in small weddings and have recommended suppliers that they work with locally. Not all wedding day service suppliers will take on smaller bookings, so it’s best to be assured that there are great people available near your shortlist of venues.
Request quotes and availability from your preferred venues, compare and ask questions of the venues you are seriously considering. If time and budget allow, arrange a viewing, although most venues do have excellent video and photographic content meaning that this is not essential in most cases.
Based on your wedding day vision, make sure you ask questions that are important to you before deciding on your venue. These may include:
- Do you offer any support with the wedding coordination?
- Will you be hosting any other weddings at the same time?
- How many weddings do you host on a weekend?
- How many guests can your venue accommodate?
- How much can we incorporate their own decor into the venue?
- Can we use their own suppliers such as caterers?
- How much time do we have to decorate before/take down afterwards?
- What is your live music policy?
- Do you have accommodation or can you recommend some close-by?
- Do you have parking for guests?
- Can both the bride and groom get ready on site?
- What’s your policy on dogs and children?
- What deposit is payable to secure a reservation?
Top tips for research
- We can recommend some great websites available for this including: Coco Weddings, Petite Weddings and Love My Dress.
- Take a look on your preferred venues Facebook, Google Business and TripAdvisor pages to see reviews from others to help validate your choice of venue.
- If the dates you want at your number one choice of venue are not available consider what is most important – the date or the venue? Decide whether you move the date to secure your first-choice venue or if you select your second-choice venue to secure the date.
- Venues that include assistance in wedding planning and provide on the day coordination are perfect for smaller weddings. If there’s no help of this kind, we’d recommend asking your chosen venue if they can recommend a local wedding planner. This is an investment you’ll not regret.
4. Book your venue, wedding official and invite your guests
The first financial commitments you will need to make are to pay a deposit to secure your venue and your registrar, religious officiant or independent celebrant.
Once you have done this, you’re ready to invite your guests to your wedding.
Top tips for booking your venue, wedding official and inviting your guests
- If you are thinking of a religious wedding ceremony, make sure you speak to the officials at the actual venue you want to hold this religious ceremony to ensure you can meet their criteria. These can vary and are sometimes be onerous.
- Don’t pay any money to your selected venue until you’ve secured the registrar or celebrant. Deposits can be non-refundable, and most venues understand that they will need to take a short-term reservation without deposit subject to the officiant being booked.
5. Take out wedding insurance
There’re lots of policy providers offering very similar things. Shop around and find one that suits your requirements and budget.
1. Book your supplier team
Now you have your venue secured you can start to plan the details of your wedding day. With your vision in mind make a list of the services you need to procure. This might include: flowers, bridal styling, catering, drinks, transport videography, entertainment, decorations, photography, garden games, cake etc.
- Select your chosen “first team” and contact them to check availability and costs based on what you want.
- Review the information you receive back from suppliers and ask more questions if you’re unclear in any way.
- Decide on your suppliers’ team and book them ensuring you’ve received and reviewed their terms and paid their deposits.
- Make sure you understand next steps and agree when these will happen with each of your suppliers.
Top tips for booking suppliers
- Save time by asking your venue to recommend great local businesses to provide the services decided you want for you wedding day.
- Before you choose your suppliers, put together a Pinterest style mood board containing 2-3 images to represent each visual element of your day e.g. flowers, bridal hair and make-up, room styling, table styling. Make sure all your ideas blend well together. The discipline of narrowing it down to your best 2-3 images will make it easier to find suppliers with the right style to match your look and in addition make conveying what you want to them easier too.
A lack of immediate responsiveness from suppliers doesn’t mean they’re not interested or inefficient, it’s more likely that they’re super-busy particularly during peak wedding times. Allow them some slack, but do expect a response within a week.
2. Plan your wedding day timeline
You’ll have a time for your ceremony agreed with your wedding officiant, but probably not much else just yet. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Your wedding venue or your wedding planner should provide you with support with this task. Draw on their experience and skills and save yourself a lot of work and angst!
Top tips for your wedding day timeline
- You’ll need to allow time to meet with the registrars’ (if you are using their services) ahead of your wedding ceremony at your wedding venue.
- Bridal hair and make-up can take far longer than doing your own hair and make-up. Take advice from your chosen stylist(s) to make sure you allow enough time for them to perfect your look.
- You’ll probably want some photography of just the two of you at your wedding venue. Ensure your guests are kept busy drinking champagne and maybe nibbling on a few delicious canapés in an interesting area of your venue whilst the two of you go off to have some wedding day photography taken.
- Include relevant actions on your wedding day plan that might happen the day before and day after your wedding e.g. dropping off decorations to your venue and collecting them the day afterwards.
3. Book accommodation
You may have accommodation included with your venue, but if not now is the time to book this.
Top tips for accommodation
- Your wedding venue should be able to recommend great options close-by for all your party, or for those that cannot be accommodated at the venue itself.
- Save yourselves time and money by sending your guests links to recommended accommodation that they can then book themselves.
- Ensure your accommodation has an iron for grooms and guests to ensure outfits are pressed and a bathroom with a shower to steam creases out of bridal and bridesmaids’ dresses.
4. Buy your wedding outfits and rings
Pretty self-explanatory and one not to forget!
Top tips for buying your wedding outfits and rings
- If you’re planning a weight loss initiative before your wedding, ensure you have a seamstress lined up in case of any last-minute adjustments required.
5. Give notice of your wedding
If you’re using a registrar, you’ll need to give notice of your upcoming wedding at least 5 weeks before your wedding date at your local registry office.
Top tips for giving notice
- You can do this as soon as you’ve booked the registrar to come and conduct your ceremony, or at late as 5 weeks before your wedding.
- You can make an appointment to go in to the registrars’ office at the same time or go separately if this is more convenient.
6. Agree the content of your wedding ceremony with your wedding officiant
Your wedding officiant will want to have a chat with you ahead of your wedding ceremony. They usually have lots of options to discuss in terms of wording, content and style of your ceremony. They can also include totally bespoke elements in your ceremony so if you have something in mind make sure you ask.
The heavy lifting has been done now, and it’s time for final checks to ensure the smooth running of your wedding day. These should happen between 4 and 2 weeks ahead of your wedding, although you may want to make some final checks a few days before hand.
- Confirm your final headcount and let your caterer and venue know.
- Ensure your ceremony details are finalised with your wedding officiant.
- Have a final hair-cut (and colour if applicable).
- Check in with all your wedding day suppliers to ensure they are happy with their instructions from you.
- Check in with your guests to ensure they have all the information they need to enjoy your wedding day.
Top tips for final checks
- To save you time your wedding planner will pick up final checks with suppliers and your venue.
We’ve found that following a relaxed, yet pre-determined plan ahead of even the smallest wedding has worked well for the couples’ weddings we’ve been lucky enough to host at The Brickhouse Vineyard. For us, it’s all part of our ethos of helping couples create unique, truly personal, relaxed and fun wedding-day memories that last a lifetime and don’t have to cost the earth.
To find out more take a look at our small wedding packages here.