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Congratulations! You are about to embark on one of the most amazing times of your life. Planning a wedding doesn’t have to be stressful – just follow our handy checklist and you’ll be fine!

So you’ve just got engaged, there’s a year or more to go until the big day so you can take things slowly right? Wrong! The more things you get organised now, the better! Remember every wedding is different and the tips below should be taken as a guide only, and adapted to your day.

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Set a budget

First things first. You and your h2b need to sit down and work out what type of wedding you really want and set a realistic bridal budget. Work out how long you have to go before the wedding; what contributions you’ll get from family and what you have already saved. We wouldn’t recommend getting a loan to pay for the wedding but there are many ways in which you can save money and cut back in less important areas without having to start married life in debt.

This is also a good time to figure out who’s paying for what – traditionally the bride’s parents will foot the majority of the bill, but times have changed, and it’s now more common the couple themselves to cover the costs with maybe a few contributions from the ‘rents.

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The venue

Now you’ve worked out a rough budget, the venue is next on your list. It’s the blank canvas for so many things that comes with wedding planning, and it’s where the majority of money is often spent. So make sure it’s what you really want! There are hundreds of licensed wedding venues all around the country. From churches and country houses to barns, museums and even zoos, there is an ideal location for every couple.

Many venues will offer all-inclusive wedding packages. These prove to be really good value for money, and in most cases, include everything you need for the day, from the welcome drinks and three-course wedding breakfast, to the evening buffet and DJs. Once you have a venue in mind and provisionally book a date, you need to check with the local registrar or minister that they can marry you on that date. If so, you can confirm your booking. If not, you will have to rearrange a date or find another venue.

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The big suppliers

Okay, so you’ve set your budget, booked the venue, and secured the registrar. Now the real fun begins, as you have to find your dream dress and book your photographer and florist. Let’s take the wedding dresses first. For a made-to-measure gown, you need to allow at least 8-10 months for designing, making, fitting and so on. However, the majority of b2bs will buy their gowns from bridal boutiques who carry a number of designer and manufacturer dresses. This is the time to think about choosing a wedding dress to suit your body shape. When buying a gown from a bridal boutique, you’ll try on a sample of a gown first of all.

Once you have chosen your favourite, a brand new one in your size will be ordered from the maker. When it arrives, the in-store seamstress may have to alter it to fit you exactly. You’ll need to allow at least 6 to 8 months for this whole process, although the quicker you can decide on a dress, the better! Your gown will lead your future decisions about accessories, reception details, maybe even colour schemes, so it’s best to get this sorted early on. Read more handy dress shopping tips in our planning section.

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Another thing to get ticked off the to-do list quickly is finding your wedding photographer. Good wedding photographers tend to get booked up a year in advance, so it’s essential you get on this! Look in magazine and wedding blogs to find out the latest wedding photography trends and styles of photography you like. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Also, your venue may be able to help – they usually offer a list of preferred suppliers who have worked in that property before.

Similarly, good florists will get booked up quickly so if flowers are important to you, make finding a florist one of your priorities. They will be able to guide you in terms of colour scheme and what’s available at the time you’re getting married. For example, September may be too late for peonies!

Guest list

Once you have these key suppliers in place, you can relax and turn your attention to your wedding guests. Average all-inclusive day packages cater for 50 to 70 people and you can add more in the evening at an extra cost. 50 people doesn’t sound like a lot but if you don’t have a large family you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to fill those spaces. You can also start sending out save the date cards and start looking at evening entertainment options. Your venue’s co-ordinator will be able to suggest bands that have played at the property before.

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One last thing…

As you start putting down deposits on the larger wedding items, it’s essential that you buy some wedding insurance. In these tough financial times, no one can predict the future and you don’t want to be left out of pocket if a venue or manufacturer goes bust!

Watch out for part two of our fab wedding checklist coming out next week! In the countdown from 9 to 6 months you’ll be finding outfits for the bridal party, researching honeymoon destinations, starting your beauty regime and more.