Weddings: At an average cost of twenty thousand pounds for a UK offering, most bridal magazines and experts suggest you give yourself around twelve to eighteen months to plan your big day, with months devoted to key elements like dress buying and venue hire.
But what if you don't want to, or can't, take that sort of time. I decided it could be done in a hurry, and in fact did just that, saying my vows on the 2 November this year after deciding to get hitched once and for all in the second week of September.
Image is writer's own, photography by (the fabulous) Photography: In the Moment
Just to be clear, if you have spent your whole life dreaming of your wedding day or really, really love big days, this is not the article for you -- chances are planning it in a couple of months will ruin all the fun for you. If, however, for whatever reason you do want to just get it done, here are my top tips for taking the pain out of planning to get you down the aisle with just a little more speed and hopefully a lot less money.
1. Work out your budget/ priorities: I hate to break it to you but unless you have an army of helpers, a wedding fund Jordan would envy and planning skills army generals specify in their recruitment drives, compromises will inevitably have to be made. Whether food or the dress, there is something that will matter most to you. Work out what it is and exactly what budget you have then make a list for everything else and stick to it.
2. Ask for deals: Yes it is difficult to ask for a best price, but given that our priority was picking an intimate venue that would offer great food at a reasonable price we had to get used to this pretty quickly. It's easier than you might think. Booking out of season and at short notice meant we got a great deal on a venue we were initially offered for four grand more earlier in the year!
3. Guest Planning: Invariably the bit that all married couples I know find tough. Very few people can invite everyone they want. We capped the list at 60 people, making it easier to manage planning and costs (and because our venue wasn't big enough for any more than that).
We cut the list in half, putting our top thirty each in (respecting that at that notice not everyone would be able to make it) with a reserve list of our most important others, ensuring that family sizes were roughly the same.
We decided on no place settings, letting people sit where they wanted to save the hassle of 'who sits where' and we also took children out of the equation for all but our own. Not an easy choice when all your friends and family have (gorgeous) kids, and certainly not popular with a couple of people but given that everyone was asked the same thing, we felt losing the few who refused to move past their children being excluded and were sadly deeply offended was a price we were willing to pay for a room filled with people we love and more importantly loved us enough to understand the restrictions we were working with.
4. Get the outfits sorted and be prepared to change your mind: Be warned that dresses take months to make so you will have to buy off the rack. I was fortunate to find a fantastic team (Hinxworth Bridal) to help me choose the dress, patiently going through styles and not even baulking when they asked which style I liked and got the answer ' jeans and a t-shirt'. And the mind change? That came when I tried on the biggest dress in the shop after being absolutely determined that I was only picking something simple. And fell in love with it. Sparkly loo roll holder it was.
5. Ask for help: At about four weeks in everything went wrong. My hairdresser cancelled, I was freaking about the cake, flowers, everything. One post on Facebook later and things were sorted. So many people stepped forward with skills I didn't even know they had. My flowers for example were made by a school mum friend at cost and I have never seen anything so lovely. My mum took over the cake and my former army sergeant Father spent the morning of my wedding sprinkling glitter around the room with a panache even Laurence Llewellyn Bowen would envy. Job done.
6. Pick great support: Neither my husband nor I could have gotten through without a ton of assistance from our Best Man and Bridesmaids. Never underestimate the help and support a few people who know you best can give you.
7. Stay away from Pinterest: And wedding fairs, bridal magazines and certain handmade websites. Yes those mood boards are amazing, yes those centrepieces look wonderful. No you don't have the time to ship in a herd of glittering llamas whilst hand making individual plate silver jewellery for all your guests. The money adds up in all the little details and I promise you, after a few glasses of wine no-one will notice if the chair sashes you spent twenty seven hours and a mortgage worth of money on are rosy-peach or pinkie-peach.
And finally celebrate the imperfections. You can plan all you like but invariably things will go wrong and they will also work themselves out. It won't matter a thing when you get there. Three seconds after I made my big entrance, my four year old dropped the rings from the cushion I spent hours sourcing online, scattering them across the courthouse for our guests to scramble for. I laughed.
Halfway through the ceremony, the veil I had to re-order a number of times to get right fell out of my hair, leaving my perfect do a birds nest. I barely noticed. Our driver forgot how to turn the car on in front of the whole congregation. Hilarious.
When all is said and done, the dress, the guests, the food, the whole lot stops mattering when you are saying those vows. When you are there, making that commitment to someone you would walk over hot coals for, whether it is just the two of you or a hundred and fifty, you realise that that is truly what matters.
And let's be honest. If you can plan a wedding with someone on a limited budget, in eight weeks and NOT kill each other, you are clearly meant to be anyway, so take a breath and repeat after me. Pinky-peach is a made up shade and this too shall pass....