5 couples on what they wish they’d known before planning their wedding


It’s four o’clock in the morning and Samantha Morris can’t sleep. She’s spent three years planning her dream wedding, but now that the big day is here she just can’t shake the feeling that the centrepieces she’s chosen aren’t right. Are they big enough? Are there enough flowers?

This may seem trivial, but wedding planning can be intense. We don’t all have £20 million to spend on our big day like PrettyLittleThing billionaire Umar Kamani. With the average wedding in the UK now costing £20,700, it’s understandable for couples to want everything to be perfect.

But what Morris discovered is that little details don’t matter, which is something she wishes she’d realised sooner. “Unless you tell people, they won’t know if something is missing or not quite right,” she says. “I spent so much time stressing over how I wanted the wedding to look, but when it came down to it, it really didn’t matter.”

With white dress season getting underway, we asked five couples what they wish they’d known sooner when planning their wedding, with advice from an expert on how to avoid the same mistakes.

Give yourself plenty of time to book the venue

It’s something that can put fear into even the most organised couples: finding the perfect venue, only to discover it’s not available on their wedding date. But what do you do first after getting engaged — do you set a date, or do you start viewing venues?

“I wish we had thought about choosing a date that gave us more time to plan,” says Olivia Sanders, 28, from Islington. “We set a date within a year of our engagement and all of the venues that I fell in love with were already booked.”

We spoke to Hannah Rose, a wedding expert and event planner, to find out the best approach. Rose suggests having a few dates in mind which could work for your wedding to avoid disappointment. “If your ideal date and dream venue match up, then great, but don’t get your heart set on one date,” she says. “If you have a date that you definitely want, make sure you are clear about this with the venue before booking a viewing.”

Wedding venues can get booked up quickly (StockSnap / Pixabay)
Wedding venues can get booked up quickly (StockSnap / Pixabay)

Keep the budget realistic

It’s no secret that wedding costs can easily spiral out of control. Suppliers like make-up artists tend to charge more for weddings than other events like birthdays, and brides have even been known to lie about their booking to save on inflated costs. Once you factor in essentials like the photographer, DJ, venue and dress, the price soon starts to creep up.

“I regret spending so much on our wedding,” admits Chloe Nolan, 33, from Barnes. “We had a budget of £40k, but spending so much put pressure on everything to be perfect. A couple of things went wrong during planning like vendors letting us down, and I felt frustrated at how much we’d spent. I couldn't help thinking about what else we could have spent that money on.”

If you’re not sure about the best way to handle your wedding costs, Rose suggests allocating half of the budget for the venue and catering, with the remaining half for everything else. “You need to decide your most important factors: do you want to put more budget towards the food or the band, for example,” she says. “Work out what is important to you and make sure everything is budgeted for.”

Don’t choose such a tight dress

Saying ‘yes’ to the dress is a big deal. On average, brides in the UK can expect to pay around £1,300 for their wedding dress, but you could easily spend over £5,000 depending on the style and designer (and your budget). With that in mind, you want to make sure the dress is not only beautiful, it’s comfortable too.

“If I could do it again, I’d wear a different dress,” says Samantha Morris, 35, from Essex. “Taking into account a three course meal plus alcohol, a tight dress just wasn’t comfortable all night.”

So what’s the best way to plan a dress fitting? “When you’re trying on your dress, make sure you can sit down and move around in it, don’t just stand still,” says Rose. “Eat lunch first so that you’re full and can get a true reflection of how the dress will look on the day.” Rose also advises against wearing anything tight or restrictive under your dress, such as ‘hold you in’ underwear or underskirts.

Samantha and Andy Morris at their wedding in Essex (Daniel Farley)
Samantha and Andy Morris at their wedding in Essex (Daniel Farley)

Be ready for no-shows

It’s something that happens more than you’d think. You agonise over the save-the-dates, you send out the invitations in plenty of time, but some people still fail to show up. “A couple of people didn’t turn up to our wedding and didn’t even tell us,” says David Kuttappa-Gold, 32, from Greenwich. “We really didn’t expect it and wish we could have planned ahead.”

Once you’re over the shock of how anyone could do such a thing, our wedding expert has advice for navigating this social faux pas. “Have a couple of guests you can bump up to the day from the evening,” suggests Rose. She also recommends alerting the caterer so that there are no empty seats. “If there is anyone that you know you’ve invited but cannot see at the drinks reception, make your caterer aware.”

David and Kiran Kuttappa-Gold at their wedding in Greenwich (Dan Biggins)
David and Kiran Kuttappa-Gold at their wedding in Greenwich (Dan Biggins)

Provide plenty of refreshments for guests

If you’re having your ceremony in a church and your reception elsewhere, you’ll need to think about transport for your guests. Not only this, you’ll need to make sure they have plenty of refreshments. “Something we didn’t even consider was putting refreshments on the bus we had organised to take our guests from the church to the reception venue,” says Elizabeth D’Andrea, 37, from Surrey.

So when it comes to transport and refreshments, what should you keep in mind? “I planned a wedding for a couple recently who provided goody bags with snacks and refreshments for the bus and everyone loved it,” says Rose. “It’s not just about the food or drink, it’s the thought that people love.”

Rose advises that the way you plan your refreshments will ultimately depend on how long it’ll take your guests to be transported from the ceremony to the reception venue. “If the journey is over an hour and you had your ceremony during lunchtime, definitely provide something for the bus,” she says. “If it’s later in the day and people have had a chance to eat, or if the journey is under 20 minutes, then it’s not as much of a worry.”