Wedding planner Rianna Elizabeth has been in the industry for the past decade and has experience organising lavish weddings in Florence and Paris through to smaller, intimate affairs in London.
With the start of Spring just a few weeks away, we’ll soon be entering wedding season.
Planning the perfect day can be a daunting prospect for some people. But regardless of your budget and whether the task excites you or slightly intimidates you, a few useful pointers from those in the know can never go amiss,
With that in mind, Shawbrook Bank, Personal Loans Division, has spoken to London-based wedding planner, Rianna Elizabeth, about some of the most important things she has learnt.
She offers her expert advice on everything from deciding on a style for your wedding, setting a realistic budget, choosing a venue, managing the finances and dealing with family dilemmas.
1. Work out what you’re not willing to spend
The first piece of advice from Rianna is to start by figuring out what you’re not willing to spend and work back from there to set a realistic budget.
“A lot of people come to me and say they don’t have a budget, but most of the time they do, because there is always a top-line budget they don’t want to exceed. For example, I can say to someone that it’s going to cost them £10,000 and straight away they would say that’s so much more than I expected.”
2. Don’t get caught out by booking a venue that’s too small
One of the first and biggest challenges is to find a venue, says Rianna. Thankfully, there are lots of amazing directories online to help you with your venue search, such as Coco Wedding Venues, Hitched and Guides for Brides.
“If you’ve got a guest list of 150 you need to find somewhere that can comfortably hold that many people, and a little bit more to be on the safe side. If you have an evening reception with a band, a stage, dancefloor and dining tables then the space is heavily reduced and that will condense the numbers down.
“Don’t choose a venue that has the exact capacity, unless they say it takes all of these things into consideration.”
3. Trends do change so be wary of going over the top
Rianna also advised couples to think very carefully about what style they’re going for.
“People often get caught up in a trend and then look back on their wedding day and wish they had gone for a more timeless style.”
One of the trends that has become extremely popular in the UK is the boho style, which is hugely popular in Australia. Celebrity and royal weddings also have a very long-lasting effect on styles and lots of people still model themselves on Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle’s looks.
“Bloggers and influencers also play a big part in setting trends and influencing how the wedding market in the UK evolves.”
4. Make the most of alternative options
Couples getting married today are spoilt for choice. Many years ago, options were much more limited and there was far less to consider when planning a wedding, including fewer places to go for inspiration and guidance other than magazines.
But as Rianna points out, with websites, blogs and apps, such as Pinterest and Instagram there’s so much more to see and think about.
“There are so many alternative options out there now which is great as it allows people to incorporate their personalities into their wedding. You’ve got alternative wedding dresses and a lot of people turning to online clothing sellers such as ASOS. Brides are generally being more adventurous.
“But there is a risk in going for something too ‘quirky’ if it isn’t you, as you may look back at your wedding photos and think ‘what on earth was I thinking?’”
5. Go through contracts with a fine tooth comb
If you have a contract with the venue or other suppliers, then make sure you double check all of the details carefully, because you can easily be caught out.
“Over the years I have heard many stories in regard to contract issues. For example, a couple had booked and paid for a band, but as the wedding approached they discovered there was a very strict sound restriction at the venue, which meant they wouldn’t be able to play any live music after a certain time in the evening. I have even heard of occasions when the venue had the wrong date for the wedding listed, so always check prior to signing.”
6. Be clear on parents’ expectations before borrowing any money
If parents are paying for a chunk of the wedding then it is understandable they may want to get involved in some of the planning
“You need to set expectations before accepting money from family members. Ultimately, if you feel it’s going to cause too much of an issue then you should be strong and say no, however tempting the offer is.”
New research from Shawbrook Bank, Personal Loans Division, found that 40% of newlyweds said that raising money was the most stressful part of planning their nuptials.
Paul Went, Managing Director, Consumer at Shawbrook Bank added: “When looking at additional funding options, it’s important to do your research.
“If you’re accepting contributions from parents or other family members, you want to make sure that neither party will be put under any undue financial pressure or strain as a result.
If you need to borrow additional funds, whether that’s through a personal loan or a credit card for example, think carefully about what your limits are and make sure you understand the options available to help you to find a solution that works best for you.”
7. Play to your strengths and areas of expertise
There are many elements to planning a wedding, with administration, finance, styling, music and photography, so try and divvy up tasks based on where your interests or skills lie.
“Naturally, some people will take more control of the administration and others will be more into the style, design and the overall guest experience. Often it is the bride that takes the lead and will delegate tasks, but the groom will be able to make use of a different skillset.”
8. Don’t be scared of revealing your true budget to suppliers
In many forms of negotiation, people are often reluctant to reveal exactly how much they have to spend in fear of a seller taking advantage of the situation. But Rianna warns that you should always be forthcoming with suppliers.
“A reputable supplier is never going to max out your budget just for the sake of it. You may actually lose out on the quality if you understate how much you have to spend.
“Plus, ask for upgrade options, it’s always good to have the starting price and know what the upgrades to that service could be. This is how I work, I create a shopping list for everything that comes within a couples’ budget and then I’ll put everything else in a separate column, which is basically the add-ons. You can also try asking for packages and what the different options are if you wanted to increase the budget by £100, £200 or £500.”
9. Don’t forget the tax man
One of the biggest things people forget to factor into their budget is VAT, says Rianna.
“Always allow for plus VAT because if you set a budget of £40,000 that doesn’t include it, then that’s a big dent in what you can actually afford to spend.
“For example, food could be £10,000 and then you’ve got to pay £2,000 on top in VAT, which can really sting people.”
10. Keep a close eye on the non-sexy costs
You might think you have everything covered off but there are always additional, unexpected costs that are regularly overlooked. VAT is one of the big, non-sexy costs but Rianna says there are several others to keep an eye on.
“Stamps is something most people don’t budget for. But if you’re posting save the dates and wedding invitations the cost can easily be as much as £100, particularly if it includes international postage for overseas guests.
“There’s also often multiple delivery and collection costs for set-up, such as hiring cutlery, furniture or glasses. It’s wise to try and find local people who can deliver more than one item, or that will pick things up and take them back as I’ve had people who’ve spent as much as £6,000 on delivery costs.”
11. Honeymoons have to be factored into your spend
The ambitions of married couples when it comes to their honeymoon has changed drastically over the years.
“Today honeymoons have to be factored into your spend because some couples want to go on these huge, once-in-a-lifetime holidays. Whether it’s on safari, around the world trip, or a tour of South East Asia, people can spend £5,000 to £10,000 on a three week holiday which can eat into your overall wedding budget.”
12. What are your priorities?
Finally, Rianna says one of the most important things to do is to have a clear handle on where your priorities lie so that you can direct your spend more effectively.
“You may not be interested in spending loads on flowers, you may just want some bud vases running down the table and put more money into having a bigger, five-piece soul band.”
“Alternatively, you may be happy with just a DJ and want to spend more on flowers to create a gorgeous dining table look.
“Dry hire barns and marquees might seem desirable and cost-effective, but you’ve then got to pay to ensure that the venue has access to things like water, heating a kitchen and lighting.
“Try and determine your priorities and then it’s easier to find solutions to fit what you’re looking for depending on how much you’re able to spend.”