What I wish I’d known before planning my wedding: 10 tips from a baffled bride-to-be

Happy Monday!

The excitement is building, and butterflies flicker in my stomach when I think about it…it’s now just 85 days until Ben and I tie the knot!!!

Ben and I at Palm Beach Lighthouse

Ben and I at Palm Beach Lighthouse

It seems that we’ve had a slightly longer engagement than other couples we know, which has been great for us as we were able to take it slow with the planning elements, but then again we both work well under pressure so I’m sure we would have made it work either way.

The fact of the matter is, weddings are very personal and no one can tell you how big your wedding should be, who should or shouldn’t be invited or where to go on honeymoon (although many people *will* try to help—which may also make it more confusing for you!) so it’s important that you make your own choices that make you and your partner happy.

With this in mind, I thought it may be useful to impart some of my own wisdom (if you can call it that), as I near the final stages of the planning process…

1. Create a simple budget and checklist as SOON as you start planning


I have been extremely lucky in that my fiance Ben is super organised and excels at excel! Ben created a multi-tab spreadsheet right at the start, which had formulae to calculate our total cost based on how many attending guests we had.

Now, if you’re not proficient creating your own, the good news is the internet is absolutely full of free downloadable budget spreadsheets that you can use as a starting point and customise as you need to….You can find some great examples here.

In one tab of our wedding super-spreadsheet we also had a month-by-month checklist which has been an absolute LIFESAVER! Yes, I am behind on a few things but at least I am aware of it (and getting married on a Tuesday means certain things have been much easier to organise) and can’t forget anything! You can find an example here, but there are many more online that are easy to find on Google.

2. If you have overseas guests, give them as much notice as possible


This is partly from my experience on the other side, being an expat from the UK living in Sydney, Australia. I pretty much let people know as soon as we got engaged, at least those closest to me – when we intended to get married and indicated if they could make it I would love them to be there. This was so important for us as we chose a date that was a. close to Christmas and b. Sydney is one of—if not THE—farthest and most expensive destination for Brits to visit. However, Ben and I are planning life about a year in advance, including any trips back to the UK or anywhere else – so we’ve missed out on a few friends weddings because we weren’t given enough notice ourselves. It doesn’t even need to be formal (I just sent informal Facebook messages) but once you know the date, make a list and go from there.

3. Don’t be afraid to break traditions


This is a big one. Families are complicated and there are a lot of things and people to consider. Each of us has our own family dynamic. Let me stress here, ultimately it’s up to you on the choices you make BUT let’s not forget we want to focus on the happy day, celebration of your love here and not make anyone feel uncomfortable.

You don’t have to have a maid of honour and one best man (I don’t have one and Ben has three best men!) – and table plans, speeches etc don’t need to be how they used to be back in the day. We live in 2015. We can do what we want and it’s totally acceptable. It’s also the norm now to ask for cash or a contribution to your honeymoon instead of gifts. Do your research, and think about what’s going to work well for your particular situation.

READ: 8 Wedding rules that can be broken

4. Try on dresses before you lock in your bridal style


I did not grow up with any idea of what my wedding day would be like, not a single thing! And even if I did, it’s highly unlikely I would have guessed I would be marrying an Aussie in Sydney, Australia with 25 UK friends and family members coming all the way over to witness it! Dresses were stressing me out—I decided I hated all wedding dresses and I had a Pinterest board full of what I thought I loved—bohemian, Grecian, hold the sparkles.

When I finally tried on a selection of dresses, guess what? I felt and looked my best in the exact opposite to what I liked in pictures. Your body shape will determine what looks best on you, so head to the bridal store with an open mind, but have your budget locked in. Another tip – don’t even try on dresses out of your price range – I didn’t (thank goodness) and have heard of this ending in tears or a huge credit card bill. I knew when I found the one. And funnily enough it was the first dress I tried on! The shop assistant obviously knew what would work on me.

5. Pinterest is your friend


Flowers, cake, dress, bridesmaid dresses, hair pieces, hair styles..even dog outfits. Pinterest has it all. If you don’t already use Pinterest, it’s basically an image based social network. You create ‘boards’ where you can search a huge database of images relating to pretty much anything you can think of, and virtually ‘pin’ them to your boards for inspiration.

I used Pinterest to actually see how colours and styles work together, as well as finding inspiration for hair styles. It’s also collaborative, so I have been working with my friend who is making my cake—she can pin suggestions to me, and I can show her what I like. This saves us a lot of time which is great as we live far apart.

6. Expect the unexpected

It’s important to be flexible and willing to compromise on the less important parts of planning your wedding. Things will come up, people will not be able to attend (And I believe we might encounter this nearer the time) but you have to go with the flow. Wet weather backup is an absolute must! We almost forgot about this, assuming it’s going to be 25 degrees and sunny in Sydney in December (which it might be, we hope it is, but there’s a good chance it could rain) and it ended up taking quite a few weeks and stress to formulate a suitable backup plan.

Nothing is certain, but as long as you are your fiance are there on the day and there to make this special commitment to each other, I think anything unexpected CAN be dealt with.

7. Do you get dress codes?


I don’t! Or at least I didn’t. Ours ended up as “daytime semi-formal”, but I came up with several custom dress codes that I thought were obvious. Luckily I have a few friends with plenty of event-organising experience who assured me people need an official dress code otherwise their interpretation could completely miss the mark. I will add that even my “official” dress code ended up with a few confused emails, so I made sure to contact all guests with the link above just to clear up any confusion. I really don’t want anyone in jeans at our wedding, and I heard at least one or two were considering it.

8. Online RSVPs are awesome

Have you heard of rsvpify.com? We went against advice given to us of supplying stamped envelopes with return cards and integrated an RSVP form into our wedding website. The brilliant thing about this app is that once people have submitted their response, you can use a drag-and-drop feature in to your table plan and move people about quickly and easily. We tried printing everyone’s names out and placing them on to tables, but this ended up as 120 scrunched up pieces of paper in the bin.

9. …As is weddingpaperdivas.com

I did so much research on wedding invitations and had about 20 quotes made for us. I was shocked to say the least about how much these can cost, especially if you have letterpress or foil invites, which was what we wanted. I then stumbled across Wedding Paper Divas—a US based company that has everything you could ever want printed for your wedding: save the dates, place names, menus, and everything in-between. We had some wonderful high quality foil invites printed and shipped from the US for about half of what it would have cost here in Australia. This company is highly recommended by me!



There are moments where one or both of us has been feeling the pressure, or stress about making the right decision. One of the best things about our relationship is I think we’re really good at balancing each other out, so we remind each other of what’s important on a regular basis, and then it goes back to being fun again. Yesterday we had Spotify open and drank a few beers while organising songs for our ceremony and reception. We laughed, cried and it was really fun…I think that is what planning your wedding should be like! So my last piece of advice is: stay grounded, remember what’s important to you and your fiancé…and have fun!

Happy wedding planning!

Coco xo