A bit of a caveat before we get into this: the following are the personal opinions of us WedShed ladies. While we think we’re fairly level-headed and mostly normal-ish, it’s important to recognise that everyone has different ideas for their big day.
What we’re basically saying, is heed this advice at your own risk or benefit. The following is dished out as if we were talking to a close friend but it may not be right for you.
We invited our Instagram community to ask us the question that would most help you plan a wedding. The initial idea was just to answer a few of them via blog posts but they were all such good, valid questions that we decided to have a crack at the lot.
We hope you find some helpful tips below. And feel free to leave your questions in the comments section at the bottom and we’ll do a round two in the future.
What type or style of food service should we have at our wedding? For example I love the experience stations with antipasto and dessert tables but will people get up to get food? Are shared platters better than alternate service? Would love to know the pros and cons you think for each? (@zoe_tommy)
Amy: I am a huge fan of stations and shared things. Go with what you love – if that’s antipasto and dessert stations then awesome. People will always gravitate to food so don’t even spare a second thought on that.
The trick is timing – perhaps have some antipasto platters laid out for immediately after the ceremony and then replace with a dessert station later? Or just have the dessert station on display right from the get-go (if the desserts allow for it and won’t melt) – people should realise that it’s not appropriate to tuck in until after dinner.
I believe shared platters are the single best thing that happened to the wedding meal, ever. As a person who gets food envy, alternate drop never satisfies and as an adult, I like to choose what I’m eating. Plus it’s more communal for your guests and easier for your catering team too – wins all round.
Mel: If you’re anything like my friends, I don’t think you ever have to worry about people getting up to find food. I like the idea of either a grazing table or roaming canapes to start, but just make sure you have enough staff to go around as you don’t want people chasing down the waiters. If you don’t want too many staff, I would opt for a double-sided grazing table. Or do both to take the pressure off.
Alternate drop is risky and can leave some guests disappointed. Share platters give the wedding that feasting-feel – and for those who are really hungry, an opportunity to clean up so there’s no leftovers.
My question is: why weddings can’t be just relaxing gathering for family and friends that cost less money and simply celebrate the moment? (@nordesthome)
Amy: Before I got married, I was set on making the day just a big, fun gathering with family and friends. Which it was. But it was also not. It was way bigger than just a gathering. Let me explain.
There’s nothing like getting married. No matter how low-key you want the day to be, it’s a completely unique experience to any other shindig you’ll ever hold. I guess one way to look at it is to imagine how excited you get when you host your close friends for drinks and dinner at your place… and then multiply that anticipation by 1000 and add a huge heaping of expectation about the future to come. And then pile on a truckload of endorphins and (good) emotions to finish.
This said, I do believe that weddings can be lovely, chilled celebrations. I would say the less people, the more intimate and relaxed (and inexpensive) the day will be. More people = more party (and more money for food and drink). Decide with your partner what’s important and then don’t be afraid to ditch any traditions or expenses that don’t align with that. There will always be someone there to tell you that you need X or Y, but beyond a registered celebrant that’s able to marry you, nothing else is 100% necessary.
Mel: Weddings can be whatever you want them to be. There are no rules now, except someone official saying a few special words. Think about what makes you happy – what’s your favourite type of gathering? Backyard soiree, a country hall dinner, local restaurant – the options are endless. We saw a wedding recently in the courtyard of a pizzeria and instead of gifts the couple encouraged everyone to bring their fave bottle of red to enjoy with dinner.
If you’re after a simple but special celebration, my advice would be to have only your closest mates and family, hold the ceremony and reception in the same place or very close proximity, write your own vows, do simple styling with lots of green foliage, have simple wholesome catering and don’t take on too many DIY projects as sometimes they will consume you and like you said, can take away from what is important.
How do you keep it simple when the other half wants ‘the lot’ and everyone? (@urs76w)
Amy: I’m going to pop a wedding-planning-counsellor hat on for this one (health professionals: maybe there’s a market for this?).
- I would both write down five things that are non-negotiable for you when it comes to the wedding (e.g. like having a live band, hiring an amazing florist, having a destination wedding).
- Then write down five things that you’d like but you can live without (e.g. inviting your cousin’s partners, having a cocktail station, working with a wedding stylist).
- Pour two big glasses of wine.
- Share your answers and discuss.
This might be a good way to start the negotiations. And let me know if this works as I’m curious.
Mel: Guilty… but he loved every last detail on the day.
I just got engaged and I’m wondering how do you start planning? Where do you start? (@leahcar1989)
Amy: This may sound biased but I promise it comes from a very genuine, self-experienced place: find your venue first. The venue tends to be one of, if not, the biggest shapers of your wedding.
While many vendors like photographers are willing to travel around the country, it’s often more affordable to book vendors local to your venue for certain things, like catering. And the venue you choose will also determine the kind of things you might need to hire.
Once you’ve chosen a venue, you can then go ahead and look at ticking off all the other big ticket items. What are the big ticket items? Check out the different categories of wedding suppliers on our vendor directory. You won’t necessarily need them all but this will give you a good idea of all the different elements that often come together for a wedding.
We’ve actually put together a seven step guide to kickstart your wedding planning, which is a free download that should definitely help too.
Mel: My advice would be to sit down with your partner and think about what kind of celebration you want.
Then you need to start ticking off the big ticket items and of course the venue is a great place to start! No seriously. The venue shapes the entire wedding so once you have this in place, you’ll see everything else will follow.
Are you expected to pay for transport if your wedding guests can’t access public transport to and from the venue? HELP ☺ (@bre.luppino)
Amy: I don’t think anyone expects you to pay for it but it would be nice if you could give your guests a leg-up, for example liaise with the local taxi company ahead of time and let them know that you’ll be needing a maxi taxi service to start running from X o’clock.
I would encourage your guests ahead of time to car-pool, leave their vehicle at the venue (if this is allowed – check with your venue), taxi home and then get another guest to help do a car pick-up the next day.
Mel: My next question would be – are there taxis in the area the wedding is located? How far is the taxi from public transport? For instance, if your wedding venue is only a five minute cab ride from town, I don’t think you need to worry about it. However if cabs are few and far between and there’s no public transport, I’d suggest arranging some buses.
Photos with your partner before the ceremony, is it worth taking the initial reactions to a private moment between the couple rather than in front of friends and family? (@erint)
Amy: This is so personal. And both have wonderful pros. I don’t honestly think you can lose out here – it really depends on what you’d prefer.
I loved seeing my partner’s reaction as I walked down the aisle/paddock and it made the moment super overwhelming. But I’ve also heard from people who saw each other before the ceremony that it was lovely to have the time together before it all got started and that the aisle moment was still very powerful. Plus it meant that they didn’t have to slip away for photos during the reception. But I loved the slip-away as it meant Chris and I had time to ourselves to reflect on the fact that we’d just gotten motherf*cking married!
Do what feels right for you and know that it’s going to be awesome either way.
Mel: I was only married a few months ago and I have no regrets, but I would tell other couples – particularly those with bigger weddings that are on a tight schedule with their venues – to have photos before.
Seeing my partner at the ceremony was incredible, but I think would have been just as incredible prior to ceremony with just the two of us. Once you’re officially hitched, there are a lot of hugs and kisses to come, family photos, canapés, champas, bridal party photos, more photos of just you two, oh, and then some again later to catch the perfect light. So it could be nice to have that private time.
Final thought – it’s not something you need to do, but it can take the pressure off and if one of you is shitting bricks it will definitely help in the nervous stakes.
Wanting to have a small guest list: how do I decide who makes the cut? (@deanacastello)
Amy: Oh gosh, this is so tough. Cutting down the potential guest list was a job-and-a-half but here are two tips:
1) Break your guests into groups, for example, immediate family, close friends, work mates, uni friends, etc. Then see if there’s a group or two that could be left out. It may suck but if it’s the whole group then noone else from that group gets upset.
2) Don’t invite the partners of people you don’t see that often. If you just explain that while you’d love to have their gf/bf/wife/husband there but are having a very small, intimate wedding, hopefully they’ll understand.
Mel: Start with your families and closest mates. Count this number as attending because 99% will most likely be there. From here, it’s a tough road ahead and it’s not an easy thing to do. In fact, it might actually be the hardest job, but just remember that people understand and it’s your wedding, which only happens once, and as much as you’d love to have everyone there, you just can’t.
What do you recommend as the best resource for planning everything and keeping track? A book? An app? Online? (@kimzenchi)
Amy: To be honest, there isn’t one great single resource (yet). We used a combo of Google Docs and a notepad with random info, lists and notes scribbled in it. It wasn’t the most organised thing you’ve ever seen, I assure you.
That said – we recognise this is an issue we’re not special in facing so we’re in the very, very early stages of developing a solution. We’ll keep you posted 😉
Mel: We’re all so busy these days with so many different apps and programs that most brides we chat to say they end up just using a notebook. So I recommend these five simple things:
- A main notebook or folder (segment your wedding and have tick box to-do’s. Also a mini notebook for your handbag for when you randomly remember things (you don’t want that shit living in your head – must buy strapless bra lived in my head for a few weeks).
- A calendar (put all your deposit due dates and pretend your wedding is one month earlier than it is so you have everything done and can enjoy the final month.
- Pinterest for inspo (share this with your vendors – florist, stylist & photographer so they know where your head is at).
- Excel spreadsheet for budget (columns for item, deposit, balance).
- WedShed’s advice blog on hand – some serious gems in there.
First comes love, then comes dessert? No, no, no… la dolce vita (the sweet life) ALWAYS starts with what’s on the dessert table… how to create the perfect wedding dessert display, sure to spark a life of sweet romance? (@_.mon._)
Amy: Look no further than social media for all the delicious inspo you need. Instagram and Pinterest have your back here.
I think the trick to nailing a dessert table is making it personal to you and your partner. Don’t feel like you necessarily need traditional ‘wedding’ cake flavours – if you like hummingbird cake, do hummingbird cake. If you prefer donuts, add a stack of them in. Lamingtons too. And yes these are my favourites just for future reference in case you ever need to know.
A tip: see if there’s a Country Women’s Association local to where your venue is located. Many CWA’s will be happy to take your recipes and bake your goods for you – this way the money you spend on your dessert table will be directly injected back into the local community.
Mel: First, choose something you both absolutely love and go big. Our desserts lasted three days and it was the gift that kept on giving.
Second, don’t be afraid to mix things up. If you want espresso martinis with donuts, go right ahead.
Lastly, make a deal about it. So many people miss out on dessert because they are either a little too excited on the dance floor or didn’t even realise it’s happening. Perhaps even ask the staff to hand it out after 20 minutes or start a conga-line that goes past the dessert bar.
What are the best tips to keep cool in front of the camera and not be too shy on the day? (@boph22)
Amy: First up, choose a great photographer. A great photographer (ahem, such as any that we have partnered with on our vendor directory) will be an absolute pro at making you feel at ease. It’s part of their job.
Secondly, if you’re concerned about acting awkward, you could tee up an engagement photo shoot with your photographer. This is a good way to get to know each other and have some practice at being in front of the lens.
Thirdly, try not to think about it too much. Our fave wedding photos are natural, candid captures of the day – you don’t need to play up to the camera. Just be your happy self. You’ll honestly forget the camera is there for most of the time.
Mel: Definitely choose a photographer whose work you love but also choose one who you get along with. Meet with them first and if you hit it off and can have a laugh, that’s your photographer. It’s a long day so you don’t want someone lurking around on your special day that you don’t particularly enjoy having around.
Also, ask them before the wedding to be honest with you. I asked my photographer to let me know if what we were doing looked… crap. I learnt quickly that I should smile in every photo. Unlike Tyra Banks, smizing is not my strong point.
What is the best way to organise all of your planning and information? Such as keeping track of cut-off dates, checklists, payments? (@jordann.fisher)
Amy: For now, I’d suggest just using an Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc. But we’re working on something more fun so hopefully we can help provide an alternative option soon.
Mel: A physical wall or desk calendar and excel. Being able to look at a snapshot and seeing what is coming up is better than a ‘ding’ reminder saying you’re going to be really poor every couple of days – no thanks!
Gift registry, wishing well, nothing? What’s the etiquette and new social norm for gifts? (@meredithjosette)
Amy: In a nutshell, the new etiquette is that etiquette is flexible. It’s OK to ask for money. Most couples have moved out and subsequently have all the homewares they need so cash is understandably the most useful gift, especially for honeymoons.
In fact, we wrote an article about how to ask for money without sounding like an a-hole. Check it out.
Mel: Anything goes these days. Bring wine instead of gifts, no gifts, only cash – options are endless and totally personal to you.
Children or no children at the wedding? If you make the no children call, how do you deal best with disappointed parents (especially when its family) and what age do you make the cut-off? (@that_alyce_girl)
Amy: This one again is really personal, I couldn’t really say yay or nay when it comes to kids. It probably depends on your relationship with them, with the parents, how old they are and how many there may be.
If you do make the no children call, I would let the parents know that while you love the little tykes, you would really like them to have the day/night to relax and enjoy the party. Depending on the venue, there might be safety concerns (e.g. farm equipment, dams on the property, electrical cables attached to rigged up lighting) that you could also use as legitimate reasons for your decision to make it a kid-free event.
If you think it could cause tension, you could always book a childsitter for the wedding so that the kids are physically there but are being kept happy and entertained which allows the parents to also relax and have some time off.
Mel: My thought process might lean towards the fact that I’m not a parent yet, but I’m for no kids. The feedback from most of my friends that have kiddies is that they love an excuse to go without them. One friend who had a toddler said she would not be able to relax knowing they are there and wouldn’t be able to fully switch off and enjoy the festivities. So let’s just say you’re doing them a favour and with that might notice I’m sure they can find a sitter. That being said, this person is coming to your wedding so they are obviously close to one of you – call them and just chat about it.
Where to start when setting your budget (prioritising, conversations about who pays for what, staying within it and everything between)? (@alibg86)
Amy: I’m just going to go out there and say it: wedding budgets are a bit of a myth. Don’t get me wrong – I had every intention of having a budget and sticking to it (that’s the very nature of a budget after all). But the reality is that it’s hard to set a budget because generally speaking, it’s the first time you’ve ever held a wedding and it’s hard to know how much everything adds up to.
This sounds kind of dark and financially terrifying but don’t stress. Here’s how I would suggest trying to get a hold on something resembling a budget:
- Take the figure that you currently have in your head as your wedding budget, write it down on a piece of paper. Put that piece of paper somewhere so that you can come back and laugh at it later.
- Rather than pulling a number out of thin air, first of all do some research on the average costs of wedding vendors like photographers, florists, caterers, celebrants, videographers, stylists etc. Put the average (or even most expensive) quote into a spreadsheet.
- Add in other items that you’ll also need to spend money on (e.g. dress, rings, shoes, etc) and assign a figure that you’d be happy to spend to these.
- Search for the venue of your dreams. Shortlist some of your favourites (aside: did you know that WedShed has an ‘Add to Favourites’ feature? We hope this comes in handy). Pop the average cost of your fave venues into the spreadsheet
- Tally this up and add a 20% contingency.
This will help give you a rough indication of what you’re looking at money-wise. Don’t forget that the more guests you have, the more you need to factor in for food and alcohol.
When it comes to discussing who-pays-for-what, being open and sensitive to everyone’s financial situation is really important.
It’s good to keep in mind that just as wedding traditions and trends have relaxed, so have the customs around paying for the big day. If your parents and your partner’s parents are happy to chip in, that’s so wonderful, but it shouldn’t be expected. Many couples self-fund their whole wedding or have differing sums contributed from both sides of the family, or have family members pay for certain parts of the wedding (e.g. one side might cover the booze, one side might cover something else).
We’ve written a couple of articles that will hopefully also help when it comes to all things money and budgets:
Mel: What she said and start with: how much money do you have for your wedding? None? How much can we save before the big day. Not enough? Have a long engagement – don’t put too much pressure on yourselves and if you’re lucky enough, how much will be contributed by family?
My other bit of advice is to set up a bank account and put the money you have already allocated into it and use that card for all wedding purchases. Keeping it separated will have you feeling like you’ve got control over it and help you stick to the (original) budget. In addition to that you can easily transfer the info to your excel budget.
How much should a wedding planner cost? A percentage of your budget? (@belindamarraffa)
Amy: It really depends on how much assistance you’re getting from your planner.
Hiring a wedding planner doesn’t necessarily need to be a start-to-finish partnership – you could simply use a planner for on-the-day coordination or to help get you organised in the very early stages. Understandably, the more work, time and liaison involved, the more their services will cost.
Sorry I can’t give you a cut and dry answer here, but basically it’s not a percentage of your budget but rather is dependant on how closely you work together throughout the planning process.
Where do I begin when it comes to planning a wedding!? (@karalennon)
Amy: Here’s hoping some of the answers above help!
Step-dad and dad: who walks me down the aisle? (@emmymilly)
Amy: Why not both? Check out a post that we put together for Father’s Day last year of ‘dad + daughter moments’ at weddings – the third pic down shows a bride walking down the aisle arm in arm with both her dad and step-dad. We thought it was beautiful.
Another idea would be to have your birth dad walk you down the aisle and your step-dad do a reading during the ceremony.
Mel: Both for sure!!
Is it better to go for a ‘look’ for your wedding or for a ‘feel’? I’m finding at the moment I’m wanting to go for a feel and some vendors are really confused by that, but if you find someone who understands a feel more I think you’re onto a winner! (@niicolenightingale)
Amy: Aiming for a ‘feel’ is the way to go too I reckon – and you’ll find that you’ll get the ‘look’ you want as a result too. And couldn’t agree more – when you find vendors that understand what you’re getting at and whose wedding values align with yours, lock them in!
Mel: Both! I wanted mine to feel really festive and that’s how it looked as a result.
Someone with sticky fingers and clumsy toes, how do I keep things simple and small, and attempt the perfect DIY wedding? (@bexceee)
Amy: Recruit your mates. In particular, the ones with crafty fingers and sturdy (?) toes. Organise a pre-wedding crafternoon where you supply the champers and cheese and they supply the artsy talent. Many hands make light work of DIY too.
Mel: Keep DIY projects simple and get them done early doors. Don’t be stuck doing them the day before the wedding and don’t worry if they don’t quite work on the day. I made 50m of white bunting that just didn’t work anywhere so we didn’t use it.
After more honest, no-BS wedding planning advice? You can find it here.