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The internet is full of links to articles offering advice on your wedding planning timeline and to do lists, which I usually find aren't particularly helpful or sensible in approach.

In order to feel in control of the process I am aware that many people like to assign due dates to jobs and different stages of their planning - but what is most important is not the timings but the order in which you tackle each element.

I am consistently surprised at how many people contact me along the planning journey looking for support, having secured some suppliers, but without first setting time aside to breakdown and itemise their overall budget or proposed spending limit. It doesn't matter what level your wedding is, I would always recommend tackling this first and foremost. I understand it's hard to guesstimate costs without experience, but far too often I see clients who decide to add up as they go along with quotes and proposals, quickly spiralling out of control and having to pull back on areas due to financial commitments already made.

A budget breakdown isn't set in stone, it should be a tool to brief suppliers, adjust expectations and track overages or savings as you progress. Everything can be seen in context, with full visibility on where plans may need to be adjusted along the way. I never provide "example" budgets or "average spend" advice to those who enquire about my services. Why? It's unrealistic and unhelpful. Each client, spend and set of expectations or priorities is different. I of course advise on unavoidable, reasonable and expected costs, but it's always in relation to your personal project.

Once you have your draft budget sectioned and planned out properly (preferably inclusive of all elements with detail), then my advice is always to start with your largest costs with the most impact - normally that is a venue or marquee, and your catering and drinks. Having a guide on spend here before attending site visits and tastings is extremely helpful, and once you have proposals and quotes in you can see it in context with the rest of your wedding spend.

Following on from this is design planning. It is absolutely the most important part of the planning process once the foundations have been laid. A full document outlining and detailing the overall vision, with logistics, imagery and a full brief alongside your updated budget is absolutely essential before gathering quotes from other suppliers. It allows you to feel in control, with a strong idea of the aesthetic, mood and workable levels of spend for each section. Without this you can quickly start to look at each element in isolation, which ultimately will lead to overspending and a lack of cohesion when it's all brought together on the day.

Again, once you have this visual guide ready then I would always start where you'll spend most with the greatest impact - and that is usually flowers.

Obviously if you have fallen in love with a particular vendor or artist then it's worth contacting them early to get information on availability and pricing. I find that often a photographer or florist will be on my clients "dream team wish list" for a while, and so I like to be able to factor that into their budget and plans.

There are a few timings to be aware of:

  • Your dress and outfits - do not leave this last minute if you want bespoke, couture or an in demand designer

  • Save the dates - send nice and early for destination weddings, ignore the advice elsewhere and send as soon as you have a date and location

  • Formal invitations - tradition tells us to send them 12 weeks before a wedding date, but it is absolutely fine to do earlier if you'd like to. Just don't send too early, or guests will lose details or forget to RSVP on time

  • Final itineraries - I always start doing these around 8 weeks before a wedding. Earlier and your suppliers aren't ready to finalise the minor details, later and it's not enough time to disaster plan anything that comes up as a problem. Ideally I like to have everything signed off 2 weeks before.

  • Hair and make up - do a trial only once you have chosen your dress and accessories, but don't wait until close to the wedding or you risk disappointment and having to find a last minute replacement.

In short - do things at your own pace, methodically and with clear guidance to each supplier selected for their ability to deliver your brief on budget. There are no set dates by which you have to finish jobs, and it will be extraordinarily helpful if you have a planner to keep on top of it all for you throughout.

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