Being engaged and planning our wedding was both incredibly exciting and exhausting. These feelings all came flooding back when Martyn and I received our wedding photos and pre-wedding photos from the photographer this week. The photos have let us re-live it all again and got me thinking about the wedding experience as a whole and the lessons I learned whist preparing for this big life event.
I hope you find following observations helpful and can learn from some of my mistakes.
All photos taken by Cross-Jones Photography
Number 1 - Weddings are bloody expensive
I initially wanted a small, budget wedding. When I say small, I mean small in relation to the average UK spend of a whopping 27k on weddings in 2017. I thought I would invite about 40 people, have street food and a registry wedding ceremony but when I actually looked into prices for the things I wanted everything cost double my original estimate. The price to get married in Cardiff City Hall in the room of my choice was the same price as a gallery in the National Museum Cardiff so obviously I went for the more extravagant setting which was far more in keeping with my tastes.
The guest list quickly escalated from 40 to 65 for the day and closer to 85 in the evening and finding a venue without a huge hire cost and extra fees for furniture and catering led me to chose a restaurant for my wedding reception.
I was incredibly lucky to have help from my mum who paid for the reception but a jump from my estimate of £4k to £7k was something I wasn't really prepared for. There were lots of costs I hadn't thought about like a dog sitter, a tip for the venue staff and lunch for vendors. It really helps to have a budget spreadsheet or notepad to get a grip on all of these details and I would highly recommend a budget cushion of a few hundred pounds. If you don't have a budget like Prince Harry and Meghan you may want to do some research about companies like Cash Lady before the big day to help with any unexpected costs and avoid any last minute stress.
Number 2 - Realising what is important & what I was willing to compromise on
I wanted good food, a laid back city feel and a informal day with all of my loved ones. Ultimately the wedding was about sharing my love for Martyn with friends and family.
There are a lot of add-ons that are thrust upon you with weddings but I learned to say no. I didn't care about expensive stationery and invitations - as most of my guests were around 30 years old I made a free wedding website and everyone RSVP'd there. Venues will try to up-sell packages with more expensive drinks and courses you don't need. Negotiating was key with my venue and I was able to get more for my money by having a Sunday wedding and swapping food in my package for more drinks.
I also had to compromise with my mum - I didn't really want a fancy car and was going to have a shop bought wedding cake but she really wanted to go all out and hired a vintage car and got me a glittery cake which I did really like but wouldn't have opted for if I was paying...
Number 3 - Not everything needs to be DIY
I was incredibly anxious before the wedding - my dress didn't fit properly and I had a lot of people to co-ordinate. Making elaborate table decorations and favours would have added to me pre-wedding nerves and I'm so glad I scaled back on my DIY aspirations.
I bought Welsh cakes from a local baker and bagged those up myself for the favours and bought lots of candles and glitter confetti for my tables which the venue set up for me. It felt like I was missing something the day before the wedding because we only had to pick up the cheese tower and take the decorations to the venue and we were done - very stress free.
Number 4 - Hire suppliers who you trust
We met with our wedding co-ordinator/venue manger on a number of occasions before the wedding and she couldn't have been more helpful (Chapel 1877, highly recommend it!) She decorated the venue for us, added a vegan option to the menu, dealt with 20 texts a day from my mum and ordered in special drinks that family members like. She went out of her way to deliver more than she had agreed to and our wedding day would not have been as special without her. I recommend a face to face meeting with vendors before booking as they can make or break your big day.
My hair and make up artists came highly recommended from my photographer and members of wedding facebook groups and she instantly put me at ease during my trial and helped to calm me down on the day of my wedding.
I met my photographer in 2011 when we organised a blogger meet up together and have seen a lot of the photos she takes as part of a husband/wife duo featured on their blog. It felt comfortable to be photographed by people I knew and who's work I admired.
My only regret is that I used the venue DJ who didn't really get our music taste - camp pop meets sad indie and Martyn's love of punk and a lot of songs we put on our essential playlist were not featured at all.
Number 5 - Have relaxed expectations
"It will be the BEST.DAY.OF.YOUR.LIFE" Yes, it really will be but things will go wrong and there's not much you can do about it. I forgot to buy a nose stud and had to wear a basic hoop in my nose all day. The traffic on the day of the wedding was awful, the dog sitter couldn't get to the house so Coco had to go in the car with Martyn - this worked out perfectly and Martyn loved having Coco arrive with him. There are a list of tiny things that went wrong but I real can't remember what they are now. My lasting memories of the day are seeing Martyn waiting for me at the end of the aisle, getting ready with my mum and dancing the night away with all of our friends.
I hope this rather long ramble about our wedding has helped those currently planning their own wedding or any other big life celebration. If you need any advice about wedding planning or want Cardiff vendor recommendations please leave a comment below.