Hi All,

Now our Internet is finally fixed (for now), I am back in business… at last! As promised I am going to give you my top tips for which online tools to use when planning your wedding, as well sharing some pearls of wisdom from what I learnt planning my own wedding. I have planned many weddings and (literally) hundreds of events but you never know it from the brides’ perspective until you are in fact, the bride.

So… you’re planning your wedding and have decided to take on the bulk of it yourself. There are an endless number of websites and magazines offering checklists, planning kits, lists of questions you should ask this person and that person… it can all become a bit overwhelming- ESPECIALLY when they each say different things. Personally I recommend using the checklists to ensure you don’t miss anything vital, but tend to ignore the timelines somewhat. I don’t believe that thinking about certain parts of your wedding at an allocated time in the planning process is neither realistic nor practical for a majority of weddings. Also it’s not fun- most of us live by a schedule whether it’s at work, with kids or in the home, why should it seem like a military chore to plan the best day of your life? Get everyone booked as soon as you make the decision to use them (but don’t rush that part, its an exciting time but you’ll regret making rash decisions as I will talk more about later). Utilise these timelines to follow up and confirm details if anything. Sending invitations 8 weeks before is fine if you’re getting married during school term on a Saturday and all your guests are local, but totally unrealistic if you’re asking them to fly 5000 miles during summer holidays when flights are at their highest rates. This may seem obvious but when a bride doesn’t know where to start they often get overwhelmed and literally use these lists as an instruction manual., going with that age old saying: “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it”.

The checklist I most relate to is from the fabulous website “The Knot”, which you’ve undoubtedly come across already. The checklist can be seen here.

I have listed the 3 online tools I highly recommend based on their purpose, ease of use and the end result. I promised 5 but I don’t want to go on too much when I rate the three below so highly.

1- appycouple

A tool to build your own wedding website and within the cost ($40 US one time payment) you’re given the option of making it available as an app for guests to download free. This was quick, easy and practical to manage as you are literally guided through the steps, but there is nothing simple about the result. A classy, high-end and very professional website & app which are easy to navigate and use.

Since we got married here in St Lucia, had around 60 people from the UK flying in and hosted pre- wedding events in addition to the big day, this tool was a GODSEND. It meant guests knew exactly where to be at what time to get buses and was completely customisable to our wedding theme/colours. You can have guests RSVP through the service to minimise post or emails (we didn’t utilise this feature instead choosing to create a custom email address), add polls to include your guests in the planning and share your gift registry details. We added information about the island such as lists of local hotels, restaurants & attractions and an open gallery where guests could share their pictures from the wedding week. It also means you’re not sending a full information booklet with your invitations, but can simply give them the website address and wedding code to access the information. (Make sure you check this on a few computers and phones before going to print)

I went through about 5-10 wedding website builders, created free demonstration sites and watched various videos online before making the decision to use appycouple- and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Tip though, don’t try and add info or edit the site from your phone, its significantly trickier than editing it from the website and ensuring the option to “add information to app” is always on.

For more information and to create your own website and app click here.

2- Budget Template

Again, I’m not a fan of brides being told what they should be doing, especially when it comes to budget. I find that the ones with a flexible budget can’t stick to it due to the vendors, size, and enhancements they decide on, and those with a lower budget feel intimidated by it. With over 2.2 million weddings in the US alone per year, how can we all be expected to sing from the same hymn sheet? I personally wanted a LOT of flowers as a focal point at the reception, since living in St Lucia meant I couldn’t get blue water voltives, the quantity of silver charger plates I needed and other decorative elements I’d have loved. We had to hire every chair, table and linen despite having the wedding in a well-known venue and this changed our budget allocations considerably.

I kept my own running budget via Excel – as I am used to doing this for events- however some people just don’t like numbers and want a simple spread sheet. If you’re on a tighter budget you may want to put some expected costs against each item, to allow you to shop around based on that cost and negotiate where necessary. For a list that includes all elements of the wedding down to spending money click here.

Please also keep in mind that there are various “hidden” costs with weddngs- a great concise list can be seen here.

3- Perfect Tableplan

I have SUCH fun with this program (don’t judge me- organisation is my thing) and it was especially helpful for us since we gave guests meal options to pre order. Once you have your accepted guestlist you can either import it or input the guests to the program manually. You can add them as individuals, couples or families and have the option to add information such as allergies, meal choices and even people they can’t sit with (ex’s, ex’s new partners etc.)

You then use a super simple floor plan programme (it literally asks what shape table and how many people, then you just pop it on the floor plan where you want it and drag the guests name onto their seat). At any time you can access updated lists to allow you to follow up on those pesky non-responders, and there are various formats available depending on who needs what information. Maybe you want it alphabetically with table numbers for your seating plan or a full guestlist by table number with meal choices and allergies for the caterer. You can even print large copies of the floor plan with this information on. The programme is simple, fun but essential for your planning, and will ensure everyone has the same, correct set of information After all you don’t want Aunty Sue being sent to table 9 when her meal is going to table 4 and your groom is thanking her for the cake whilst staring confused towards table 6.

You can see some real life examples and download the programme here.

So those are my top 3 wedding DO’S. To finish this post, here are 3 DON’T do’s from my own experience of planning others’ and my own wedding …

1- Don’t make rash decisions in your excitement or hire someone in desperation
Its an exciting time, but when you find a company with a fantastic website or lovely Facebook photos, they’re available, within budget and talk the talk, don’t just commit. If they’re worth hiring they will hold your date for 24 hours + to allow you to shop about and come back to them. They should be able to provide photographs, testimonials and any information on their service you request. In larger countries such as the US and UK you can often find real-life reviews by goggling them. In smaller countries such as St Lucia, your wedding planner will know who to use and more importantly, who NOT to use.

Has one of your vendors cancelled late in the process? Stay calm! Put together a list of companies/people to contact and find out who’s available and within your budget. Then ask those people to hold the date until you’ve gathered all your information. It seems like you have no time, but this is something you can delegate to someone you trust and knows your vision and taste. Your groom, parents, siblings or the bridesmaids perhaps? Give them the relevant information and let them crack on. ALWAYS treat these late bookings as you would a normal booking though, ask to see pictures, testimonials etc. to ensure they’re up to standard, if it’s a few weeks or a couple of months before meet them and go through the normal processes (e.g. food tastings). Don’t just hire the first available person who can do it for your budget as you could come to regret this on the day.

2- Don’t assume someone knows because it seems obvious to you

If something seems blindingly obvious to you, its normal to assume that others would use common sense and know it too. NOT the case and when you only have one shot to get it right, its well worth stating the obvious to make sure its perfect. Given your coordinator a box of décor? Make sure you go through each piece one by one explaining where it goes exactly, even providing a picture of how it should look setup if you’re super organised. This will ensure everything is just as you pictured it.

3- Don’t let it ruin your day when something goes wrong- it will happen

Here is the BAD news brides (keep it together), something WILL probably go wrong!!! I hope for your wedding it’s something small like a misplaced flower on the cake or the wrong size drinking glasses at the bar, but things will go wrong, it’s inevitable. The bigger things are often not anyone’s fault, our mobile fridge/freezer just so happened to pack up on the morning of our wedding which meant the caterers had to find another within an hour (not easy Sunday on a 27mile island- one of our lovely guests tapped into her own company resources to assist us thankfully). This delayed the meal, and made the whole thing look disorganised because the drinks reception had to go on longer, the canapés were starting to run out and the caterer was run ragged. Lots of guests also decided they wanted a different meal when theirs arrived, which caused nightmares, note to guests- DON’T DO THIS, eat what you’ve given especially when you chose it!

That’s all for this week, see you next week. Topic still to be decided…

Charlie xxx