The Ultimate
Guide to
Planning your
Dream Wedding

He put a ring on it!

Congratulations! If you've recently got engaged, you're probably still showing off your engagement ring to pretty much, well, everyone. But the next thing that will inevitably come to mind is the wedding.

How do you feel about planning the 'big day'? Are you excited? Nervous? Or does even the mention of it bring you out in a cold sweat? You're not alone…. As Steve Martin in Father of the Bride said: "I used to think a wedding was a simple affair. Boy and girl meet, they fall in love, he buys a ring, she buys a dress, they say I do. I was wrong. That's getting married. A wedding is an entirely different proposition."

While it's true that this is ultimately the best time of your life (I mean you're about to marry the love of your life, what could be better?) it can still be a little overwhelming.

And that's where we come in. We've put together this guide to give every bride (and groom)-to-be advice and tips for when it comes to planning their big day. We'll include budgeting tips, checklists, advice and ideas for all things wedding!

Wedding budget

The budget

Lets start with that little thing that makes the world go round - Money. Your budget will probably be the first thing you think about when it comes to planning your wedding but whether you have $$$$$ to spend or $, with a bit of organization and some zealous budgeting, everyone can have the wedding they always dreamed of. So how do you go about deciding on a budget? Well you start by doing your research. There's no point budgeting for something until you know how much it costs in your area.

Getting married in Utah? Well it's good news as according to research from The Knot 2014 real weddings study, its the cheapest place to get married in the U.S, with the average wedding costing just $15,257. We say "just" because compared to Manhattan, where the average cost of a wedding will set you back $76,328, it's, well… cheap!

When deciding on your budget, invest in some time to meet all kinds of wedding experts, from photographers to caterers, and get printed price lists so you know where you stand. Alternatively, why not check out this wedding cost estimator, which provides average spending by other couples in your area along with estimates based on your selected options (e.g. guest size). The next step is to prioritize. Decide on which elements are important to you. What will you 100% categorically not compromise on? The dress? (Well that's a given!) The photographer? The venue? This can be the tricky bit. Of course, nothing should be neglected, I mean it is your wedding after all! But if you're not too interested in going all out for say, the invitations, then there's ways of cutting back so you don't go over budget.

To help with this, we have provided you with a wedding budget checklist. Use the suggested percentages as a guideline to figure out how much to allow to each component. (Adjust the numbers as you wish; just make sure the total adds up to 100 percent).


Next it's time to talk guest list. If you're planning a big wedding, it's probably a good idea to get all the family together to discuss the guest list so there are no surprises when it comes to whether you've decided to invite all of your distant relatives or not (as truth be told, the parents will inevitably have a guest list agenda of their own!)

Of course your guest list is often dependant on your budget. If you've got enough in your budget to invite everyone - even your old next door neighbour that you haven't seen since you were in diapers - and you've got a big enough venue, then you can probably skip this chapter! But if budget (or venue) is an issue, then there's a good chance you will have to crunch those numbers down and we aren't going to lie, this isn't always an easy process.

Start by dividing your guests into groups: immediate family, closest relatives, extended relatives, family friends, friends, acquaintances, kids, etc. Once you've both got your lists, see if you can trim the list down. Keep going until exceptions start to pop up, then evaluate each guest individually. Remember you can usually invite 10-15% more people than you actually have capacity for as you can usually assume the above percentage won't be able to make it. If you are still struggling with the crunch, don't feel obligated to invite all your co-workers. Just ask yourself, apart from the job, do you have anything else in common? If you're tempted to invite more people on a whim later on because you feel guilty, just be honest with yourself and ask yourself this: If they were never on the list in the first place, why are they on there now?

The theme

Why theme your wedding? Why not! Adding a theme can tie together the personal elements of your wedding and can really illustrate your personalities. Whether it's dictated by a color, an era or even your own style, there are lots of things you can consider to help you choose a theme.

Sit down with your partner and think about what is important to you e.g places you've travelled, favorite colors etc. Look in your closet. Look around your home. Do you trend towards modern and clean? Retro and quirky? Romantic and soft? It's the things around you that will inspire the type of wedding you have so take a look. Also, ask your closest friends and family. It's up to you how much involvement you want from other people but if you're feeling stuck for theme ideas, ask for help from the people that know your best.

If you're still struggling with finding that all important inspiration, then Pinterest is brimming with original, classic and (mostly) gorgeous wedding photos and ideas. Get pinning and look for trends in what you're attracted to. But be warned -it's very easy to become a Pinterest wedding addict (as many bridal bloggers confess!) so step away when you've got some solid ideas.

The venue

There's no denying that choosing the venue is a big deal. When thinking about possible venues it's good to start considering if your wedding venue fits with your general wedding vibe - is it low key and intimate or extravagant with fireworks? The perfect venue culminates your wedding so with this in mind, you should think about venue practicalities. Start by putting together a venue spreadsheet so you can keep track of all your research. Include information like location, capacity, availability, layout, rates, restrictions and parking (organization is key to wedding planning don't you know!)

Things to consider:


This might sound obvious but make sure the venue is within your budget. How much can you afford to spend? Once you know this, you can start narrowing it down. Don't torture yourself and keep a $15,000 venue on the list when you can really only afford $5,000 - it will only disappoint!


Is the venue available at your desired time? If your heart is set on a special venue, like the place where you and your other half first met, or the same church your parents got hitched, it's up to you to prioritize the most important parts of your wedding. If venue is at the top of your list, your wedding date may have to be flexible to fit with the venue.

Venue Type

The number of guests will affect the type of venue you can pick. A wedding with over 150 guests points you towards a hotel or marquee. For intimate weddings, say 50 guests or less, a private venue might be better suited. If you're having trouble trying to decide the actual kind of wedding venue you want, this website offers useful pros and cons for different types of venues:


Once you've chosen the type of wedding you want, be it country-style in the rolling Pocantico Hills of New York or the stylish Milwaukee Art Museum, a considerable factor should be venue accessibility. Will there be onsite accommodation for guests? If not remember that transportation may be required from guest hotels to the wedding venue.


It's worth checking out if your venue has any restrictions. This is particularly important for those eccentric thinkers aiming for a more unconventional wedding.

The decor

There's one thing that dictates the decor - and that's the color. Your color scheme will tie everything together - the flowers, dresses, cake and decorations should all look as though they belong together so make sure you are 100% certain on your chosen palette!

Get inspired by...

The location

Choose accent colors that work with the space. If the location doesn't work with your chosen colors, consider switching it up a hue or two so you don't waste your time trying to cover up the fact that it doesn't match.

The season

Your wedding color scheme can be inspired by the time of year you are getting married. If you're getting married in the fall, look to the leaves for color inspiration and incorporate shades of yellow and orange. Rosy pink is perfect for spring, while a brighter coral is a summer staple.

The mood

Colors can help create a feel and vibe for your day. Think about the style and atmosphere you want. Classic shades like ivory convey a sophisticated feel whereas dark colors like ruby are more dramatic.

Of course it depends on what kind of wedding you have (indoor/outdoor etc) but here are a few things to consider when it comes to your wedding decor:

Pew decorations

Decorate the aisle or pew ends with hanging hearts or jars filled with flowers or candles, wreaths, bows, tulle or ribbons.

Reception tables and chairs

Don't forget to decorate the tables with table linen, table runners, chair covers and sashes. This will also be a good time to think about the seating plan. Check out this cool table planner app where you can drag and drop guest names, tables and chairs anywhere on the screen and decide on your seating plan in minutes!


This is often flowers or candles or even a mixture of both. There's some beautiful arrangements out there so you'll be spoilt for choice! Just remember the practicality of sitting at a table with a centerpiece. In other words, don't block out anyones view!

Wedding favors

Your wedding favors are a way of saying a big thank you to all of your guests for joining you for your special day. Traditionally guests would receive a small bag containing 5 sugared almonds (for health, wealth, happiness, long life and fertility) but now, of course, your wedding favors can be almost anything to reflect your own taste and personality. Feeling creative? Why not take some inspiration from these DIY wedding favor ideas.

Still stuck for inspiration? Then check out these spectacular wedding decoration ideas. There's more than 130 ideas for you to feast your eyes on!

The flowers

The Flowers: A crucial part of your ceremony that require special attention. Flowers compliment the 'prettiness', the theme and the style of the wedding and will be in almost all of your formal photos. Here are some of things you'll need to consider ordering:

  • A bridal bouquet
  • Bouquets for your attendants
  • Boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen and fathers
  • Corsages for the mothers
  • Flowers for the ceremony site
  • Centre pieces for the reception tables

And the list can go on. It's a good idea to meet with a few different florists to see what's out there, compare prices, styles and personalities. Prepare for such a meeting by answering the few questions below:


1.What's your budget?

If cost is a concern then stick to the essentials. Centre pieces are key as guests will be spending most time in the reception. At the ceremony you can go for just two big pieces in the flanking area where you'll exchange vows. The big splurge should (of course!) be saved for the bridal bouquet.


2.How many do you need?

Think about who'll be wearing flowers. Think about how many guest tables need centerpieces. Are you decorating chairs or pews? From this estimate you should begin to get an idea of the kind of price you're looking at.


3.What's your style?

This can be a tricky one so it's recommended to only do the flower shopping once a theme, a venue and a dress is sorted. Bring a photo of your gown to the florist so you can work together to find the perfect arrangement to compliment the venue and the dress.

If you don't fancy the florist route there is always the option of DIY wedding flowers. The internet is filled with 'how to' videos so don't be put off by the responsibility if you like the DIY idea! Here's a couple of useful links that offer a few do's and don't to think about when creating your own flowers!

'Tis the season? Remember that it pays to use flowers that are in season. Look at the venue date and season so you know that the flowers will work stylistically and be available. You can still get your favorite flower even if not in season but this might be considerably more expensive as it's likely it will have to be imported. Lilacs ordered from Holland for example are about three times more expensive than local violets picked in the spring.




The photographer

It's the one thing that will leave an everlasting memory of your wedding day. Your photos are a big deal, which means choosing the right photographer is essential. So, where do you start when it comes to narrowing down the perfect photographer?

Start by asking around. Good photographers will have a good reputation (believe it or not!) Do any of your friends or family have any recommendations? If not, ask for recommendations from your venue, your florist, your wedding planner etc. When you do have a list of potential photographers in mind, it's time to do some digging. Check out their website, ring them up, then meet them in person. What is your first impression? How are you greeted? What do you think of their offices? These are all things you can ask yourself to help with the elimination process.

It's also important to think about the style of photography you want. Would you prefer more traditional photographs? Or something more light-hearted and candid? There is no correct answer! It's what you like that matters. A good photographer should be able to offer you a variety of styles and capture your personalities. Be clear on what style you want and make sure the photographer can provide this in their portfolio. Once you have a particular photographer in mind, make sure you ask to view all of their images (not just the ones they want to show you) so that you can check that the image quality is consistent throughout.

And remember - high-end prices don't always guarantee the highest quality. Photographers should be open about their pricing and you should be clear on your budget. Your photographer should offer a variety of packages to suit all and these are usually flexible, so see if your photographer can tailor make a package to suit you! Don't forget about any hidden extras either. Some photographers charge an additional fee for editing, VAT, the album etc so make sure all the costs are covered in the quote before you sign on the dotted line.

The caterer

Who isn't a foodie? Choosing the right wedding caterer is essential to your wedding day. It's likely they will do far more than just supply your menu. They will ultimately help you coordinate the whole evening and in some cases, supply the bar and the wedding cake too.

When selecting a caterer, you are looking for delicious food, excellent service and the ability to work with the enormity of the detail involved in your big day. Not too much to ask, right?! To help you achieve this, we've put together a list of essential questions to ask:

  1. Do they have a license?

    (Obviously, this includes a liquor license!)

  2. Can they provide references from former clients?

  3. Do they specialize in certain foods?

  4. Does the meal come full service?

    (In addition to food preparation, will they handle everything from the table settings to bar service and cleanup)

  5. Do they offer different price packages?

  6. Can they provide specialist meals?

    E.g vegetarian, kosher or halal?

  7. Do they offer tastings before being hired?

  8. Can they provide a wedding cake?

  9. What is the dress code for the day?

  10. Where will they prepare the food?

  11. Are there any hidden extra costs?

    (service fees etc)

The average tab for food and drink for each guest is approximately $66 so make sure you pick a good 'un!

The cake

There are so many styles and types of cake to choose from these days and cake designers are getting more and more creative, which is awesome! But at the same time, that can make the decision process a hell of a lot harder!

Obviously there a few factors you need to consider first, such as guest size and budget. For that, we have created a wedding cake builder so you can actually see your wedding cake being made. Answer the questions, build your cake, print it off and take it along to your baker - it really is ‘a piece of cake!'

And remember, don't feel like you have to settle for the traditional fruit cake if you're not that type of girl! There are literally hundreds of flavors to choose from these days. Here's our pick of the best:

Red velvet
Not quite chocolaty yet not quite vanilla. It is rich and smooth and is frequently paired with cream cheese frosting.
Light and tangy, this citrus flavor is perfect for a spring wedding.
You can't go wrong with vanilla! A popular choice for a traditional wedding cake.
Chocolate mint
A dark fudge cake layered with creme-de-menthe and chocolate buttercream. Yum!
White chocolate with raspberry
Combining the sweet richness of white chocolate with the fruitiness of raspberry is a match made in heaven.

The music

Music can add so much emotion and atmosphere to your day - before, during and after you say “I do.” Remember that music is going to be played at different times throughout the day, so you want the music to coordinate with what is happening at that time. You'll need music for the ceremony, the cocktail hour or pre-reception drinks party and the reception. Our tip for helping you pick the right music? Imagine your wedding as if it was a movie - honestly it works! This way you will be able to work out which key events will need specific wedding music (e.g walking down the aisle) and which moments simply require background music. Need some inspiration? Then check

The wedding party

Your favorites. Your A-team. Your best friends. Your sidekicks. Whatever you want to call them, these are the people that are going to be the front line on your wedding day so pick ‘em wisely! How do you go about creating the perfect wedding party? Let’s take a look:

The Maid of Honor
This is your chief ringleader. This is the one who will plan your bachelorette party, the one who will help pick the bridesmaids dresses and the one that will keep the other bridesmaids in check. This is your right-hand woman! Pick the most loyal person you know. You know the one that would openly tell you if you look “fat” in that dress? The one that’s been there through thick and thin? Who held your hand when you broke up with your eighth grade boyfriend? Yeah, it’s that one.
The Best Man
Is he reliable? Is he organised? Has he too been there through thick and thin? If so he could be the best man for the job! It’s the brother or the best friend that won’t get too sloshed the night before the big day, that certainly won’t loose the wedding rings and who will roll out a killer best man speech!
The Bridesmaids
Who will still be in your life long after you’ve said “I do”? Will they still be around when it comes to celebrating your 1st, 2nd or even tenth wedding anniversary? As members of team bride, they will need to smile when purchasing their bridesmaids dresses (even if it is “so not their color”), do everything in their power to make sure the day runs as smoothly as possible, be the first ones up on the dance floor and the last ones to leave! Who has got what it takes?
This will include the old friends, the cousins, and the brothers. The groomsmen will be there to help seat guests, make sure things run smoothly, and most importantly, dance with the bridesmaids!

Remember you can have as many (or as little) bridesmaids, maid of honors, or groomsmen's as you like! If you want two maids of honor then there’s no rule to say you can’t but if there is a lot of people you want to include in your wedding party, then remember you can always give them another role. Maybe you could give someone the role as usher or give someone the opportunity to give a reading at the ceremony.

And lastly, don’t be afraid of hurting someone's feelings. It’s your wedding day and you should choose who you want. You don’t need to ask someone to be in your wedding just because they asked you to be in theirs. At the end of the day, a true friend will understand, whatever decision you make, and that’s a fact, no matter how cliché that sounds!

The dress

Now for the important bit.

How to choose the dress. Hopefully by now you will have a set amount of money for your dress. Remember that is how much you’ve got to spend so don’t look at dresses that you know you just can’t afford. That’s just torture! Just because you have set aside $1500 for the dress doesn’t always mean you can buy a $1500 dress. Remember that you need to factor in things like shipping and alterations.

The next step is to focus on finding the best dress silhouette that suits you. Of course, details are important - the elegant handcrafted beading and the corset bodice with the lace up back can be the difference between a good wedding dress and an amazing one but before you pick the details, it’s important to figure out what silhouette suits you. Try not to get caught up in the trend of the moment but instead pick something that you feel comfortable in. How do you want your dress to make you feel? Do you want to feel sexy? Modern? Chic? Traditional? Or perhaps you want a more vintage feel? Once you know that vision, you can share it with your wedding dress consultant and they can help you pick out styles that match.

When trying on potential wedding dresses, dance like no one is watching... literally! You need to test how comfortable you feel in it so sit down, dance, walk up and down and do a little jig. You don’t want to spend your day battling the gown. You need to feel comfortable and the best way of doing that is to try it out. Once you’ve found a dress that you don’t want to take off, that’s an indicator that your search may very well be over!

The bridesmaid's dresses

You thought choosing your own wedding dress was hard? Wait until you have to deal with the bridesmaid’s dresses! Choosing a bridesmaid’s dress that flatters all of their body shapes can be a challenge in itself... and choosing a dress that all of your bridesmaids are happy with is likely to be, near enough, mission impossible! But we’ve got some advice so you can keep some sanity in the search for the perfect attire for your bridesmaids.

Once you’ve picked your own wedding gown, choosing the bridesmaid dresses should become a little easier. Although the dresses don’t need to match, it’s likely you’ll want them to co-ordinate in one way or another. If you’re wearing a vintage inspired dress, you probably don’t want your bridesmaids dressed in modern shift dresses. You get the gist.

Start by choosing a color or a style - whichever is more important to you. If color is key, remember not every color will suit every skin tone so don’t be afraid to experiment with different shades. If you are set on sticking to the same color for all of your bridesmaids, go for a strong shade that will flatter both cool and warm skin tones. An emerald, deep red or royal blue shoud do the trick. Unsure what colour scheme to go with? Then let the season guide you. Rich darker colors are great for winter weddings and lighter, and brighter shades are perfect for a summer wedding.

Also remember one size doesn’t fit all. Unless you’re Taylor Swift or part of her entourage, you’re bridesmaids probably won’t all be 6ft tall models! Choose a style that suits all of their shapes or alternatively, make subtle adjustments to the dresses so that all of your bridesmaids feel comfortable. If one of your bridesmaids has a bigger bust, add a wider strap. Again, you get the gist!


Let's not beat around the bush… all eyes will be on the bride. People always have a lot more to say about the bride’s dress than the groom’s tux, but that doesn’t mean the groom can look anything less than the best they’ve ever looked!

For a formal wedding, your best bet is a classic wedding tux, but for a more casual affair, a suit might be better… suited! If you are going doing the tux route remember that not all tuxedos are made the same. Subtle differences in collars, jackets and pant styles can be flattering or fatal depending on your body shape. There are three measurements which provide the best guidelines for an accurate fit. The overarm (around the shoulders, over the biceps, with the arms relaxed at the sides), the chest (the circumference under the armpits, with the arms down at the sides), and the seat (around the hips and rear, with no wallet in the pocket).

Short and stocky? Try a tuxedo jacket with a slim shawl collar. The top button should fall at the small of the waist to give the torso a leaner look. Tall and slim? Then a double breasted tuxedo with slightly broad shoulders and a suppressed waist would be one to try. Tall grooms need to take extra consideration when it comes to the length of the jacket too. To determine a good fit, place your arms at your side and relax the hands. Your fingertips should touch the bottom of the jacket, and your shirt cuff should extend half an inch beyond the jacket sleeve.

And don’t forget to personalize your look. Patterned ties, quirky cufflinks, shoes, funky socks etc are all ways you can add a bit of your individual style to the look. Your guys (groomsmen) will probably wear something similar to you but again, their look can be personalized. Why not try a different style or patterned tie? Or even a different color tux? It’s your day so make sure you stand out (in a good way though, obviously!)


We’re not going to lie, that is a lot to remember. So we have put together a wedding planning timeline so you know what to do and when you need to do it. Just print it out and follow the tasks each month to avoid any unnecessary mad dashes as your wedding day creeps nearer. Since every wedding is different, remember to make edits or keep a separate checklist for anything specific to your wedding that we might have missed out.