Wedding planning tips and advice - 6 things which could make all the difference
This week, band leader Mike Paul-Smith shares his top wedding planning tips and advice.
Recently, sat in the pub after one of our public shows, we got round to talking about weddings. After years of performing at weddings I had recently planned a wedding myself, doing it in three months (and loving every second of it – watch out for a future blog post on how we did it!)
During the conversation, one of my friends said to me: “you go to loads of weddings… you must have loads of advice and ideas for couples planning a wedding”.
It got me thinking about what five top tips I would share with people planning a wedding. There are loads of articles out there, writen by far more knowledgable people than me, giving sensible advice like “spend time together on the day”, “don’t fight” and other things like that - but with due respect to those articles, I’d like to share some more practical advice that you might not have considered and which could make a difference on your wedding day.
Wedding planning tip #1:
Have your photos before the ceremony
This was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions we made on our wedding day. I’ve been to so many weddings where the bride and groom have been missing for huge periods of the day because they are off having photos.
I totally understand the reason for that, but it always seems like such a shame because you miss spending time with the people who have come so far to see you on your special day.
Therefore, we made the decision, along with our photographer, to have an hour of photos before the ceremony. It was such a good idea, for so many reasons:
- we had more time to spend with our friends and family on the day;
- we knew exactly how much time we had for photos, meaning the rest of the wedding day ran to time;
- from a brides point of view, (I’m told that) the photos happen when you’re looking your best – when your hair and make up have just been completed, meaning you don’t need to make adjustments or touch-ups after a potentially teary ceremony.
Some people look at me in horror when I suggest this to them, because of the romantic idea of the couple seeing each other for the ‘first time’ when they meet at the altar.
However, I think the positives far outweigh this negative – and you still get a moment when you see each other for the first time. We carefully choreographed this moment with our photographer and made sure it was captured on film, with our closest family around us, and it’s a really special memory.
Wedding planning tip #2:
Don’t be restricted by the choice of food
Food is quite important at a wedding, purely because it’s such a long day, and it’s amazing how much wedding food is boring. It’s also one of the biggest expenses you have to think about when planning a wedding.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had boring chicken and Dauphinoise potatoes at weddings and decided that I wanted something different – so we had a curry.
It was an excellent idea for a number of reasons; for one, it actually worked out cheaper than having ‘traditional’ wedding food so it was an excellent money-saver. Also, because the Indian dishes were served in different bowls people served themselves at their tables and it had a great, communal feel.
There are so many great caterers out there serving amazing and varied cuisines and I really would encourage you to look around and choose something different. You might not be curry fanatics like my wife and me but don’t feel you have to settle for boring chicken when you could have tagine, pizza, stifado, chow mein, and so much more...
As a side note, when researching different wedding venues I was surprised at how restricted the food choices could be - many venues insist you use their in-house caterer, and others will only allow you to choose from a list of accredited suppliers.
There are excellent reasons for this, which I fully understand – but don’t feel you have to be restricted with food choices, and look elsewhere if the venue doesn’t offer what you want. There are loads of venues which allow you to bring your own caterer so don’t settle for something you’re not happy with.
Wedding planning tip #3:
Decide what’s most important to you, and spend your money on that
Everyone knows weddings are expensive, but I’m convinced that many people pay more than they should because they buy things they don’t really need.
I’d urge any couple to decide what is most important to them, and spend the right amount of money on that – saving on other things if you need to. Whatever happens, don’t let anyone else make you feel like you should book frivolous extras… I’ve seen it all, from light-up dancefloors the couple didn’t really want to a photobooth that sat unused all evening. By all means book those things if you think they will add to your day, but don’t get them just because you have to.
However, there is one caveat to this point, which is…
Wedding planning tip #4:
Have live music at some point throughout your day
Obviously as a professional musician who runs a wedding business, I’m passionate about people having live music at their wedding. The difference live music can make to a wedding day is just amazing – I’m always disappointed when I go to a wedding with no band, and I know lots of other people (not just musicians!) who agree with me.
Even if you can’t afford to hire a large party band for the evening, try and have live musicians for at least one part of your day – e.g. for your wedding ceremony, drinks reception or dinner. It just adds such a special atmosphere to a wedding and I honestly think it’s worth every penny.
Of course I’d love you to hire one of my bands, but if we’re not right for you there is so much amazing live entertainment available. For the party, you can have a rock and pop band, mariachi band, ceilidh, folk band… and for afternoon entertainment, a pianist/vocalist or guitarist/vocalist is all you need for a great atmosphere at a great price.
I’m also not going to give you scare stories about not booking younger, less experienced acts – because I was one once. If you can’t afford a full-time professional band like Down for the Count, don’t let us (or anyone else) guilt trip you! Look around for a younger band local to your area who are starting out – choose carefully and you can get a fantastic band at the beginning of their working career. It’s worth scrolling through to the lower pages of Google for this, because sometimes you can find a gem.
Wedding planning tip #5:
Pay for your photographer to stay for some of the party
All photographers calculate their prices differently, but many will stop their "standard coverage" after the first dance. I'd really encourage you to pay them a bit more to stay for at least an hour of the "party" - it always seems a shame when that part of the day isn't captured because for me that's where some of the most special memories are.
Wedding planning tip #6:
Find out if your venue has a sound limiter before you sign
My final piece of advice is to find out if your venue has a noise limiter before you sign. I’ve written a long article about sound limiters which you can read here, but to sum it up – a venue with a noise limiter can have live music, but it’s really important you know before you sign. That way, you know exactly where you stand and you can plan accordingly when deciding on the live entertainment for your wedding day.
We love speaking to people about weddings and finding out how we can make the day extra special. Get in touch now to find out how we can help make your wedding day stand out from the crowd!