Some unusual and quirky wedding planning tips
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 from the time I proposed to Ellie to the moment we were standing in front of our friends and families and saying"I do".
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 top tips I would share with someone when planning a wedding.
There are loads of articles out there, written 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 what I hope are slightly more practical and less emotional ideas that you might not have considered, and which could make a difference on your wedding day - Ellie and I certainly think we made the right choices by sticking by these 6 ideas.
In the articles on this website I try and be very professional, however I'm quite passionate about the tips you're about to read here. So apologies in advance if it sounds like a rant. I've also written a (rant-free) article specifically about how to get the best out of having live music at your wedding.
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 and spent so much money to see you on your special day. Trust me when I tell you that you won't get to talk to all your guests on your wedding day as it is - so why on earth would you spend an hour in the middle of the day off having photos and not being with them?
Ellie and I therefore 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 bride's point of view the photos happen when you’re looking your best (or that's what I've been told anyway!) – 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 (actually, most people) look at me in horror when I suggest having the photos before the ceremony to them - I've literally seen friends shudder at the thought - 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 and, with just a tiny bit of planning and choreography, you can catch that moment on camera too - with your closest family around you. That's what we did, and it's a really special memory.
Honestly - do your photos before the ceremony. I promise you won't regret it.
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 also one of your biggest expenses when planning a wedding.
But there's a problem, a curse if you will. You're sat there trying to accommodate loads of different culinary tastes and, in a valiant effort to make as many people happy as possible, you go for the lowest common denominator and serve your guests.... Boring Chicken.
I've been to loads of weddings as a guest, and even more as a performer, and I've honesty lost count of how many times I've had to eat Boring Chicken (go on, you know it's true). I honestly don't mean to criticise wedding caterers - who, without fail, do a tremendous job under stressful circumstances - but there is so much other great food out there.
Which is why Ellie and I decided that for our wedding meal, we'd have a curry.
It was an excellent idea for a number of reasons; for one, it actually worked out as being FAR cheaper than having ‘traditional’ wedding food (yes, that's right - it was cheaper than Boring Chicken) - so it was an excellent for our budget spreadsheet.
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...
(Edit: I got married in December 2016, and I'm updating this article three years later in February 2020. Our friends still talk about how much they loved the food at our wedding - so go on, have a curry. You know you want to!).
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 - and whatever happens, don’t let anyone else make you feel like you should book frivolous extras
Here's one story from a previous wedding we performed for - the Mother of the Bride absolutely insisted that the couple had to either have a black and white light up dancefloor, or a firework display - why it was a choice between those two things, I do not know. Both are wonderful things and they certainly have their place, but the couple clearly didn't want either - but felt obliged to spend well over £1000 on one of those things just because the Mother of the Bride had told them too.
By all means book the extra things if you think they will add to your day, but if you're buying something because you either feel like you have to or someone else has told you that you have to, be brave enough to take control and put the brakes on.
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 – even if it's just a friend playing a few songs on a guitar for a sing-a-long after 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 staying clear of younger, less experienced acts – because I was one of them 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 who are starting out – search locally (to keep the transport costs down) 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 - search for something like "wedding band near Oxford" and scroll through the page 10 results and onwards to see what great lesser-known talent you can find.
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 specifically ask your venue if they have a noise limiter before you sign.
Whilst the enormous majority of wedding venues are honourably run, I am really saddened to report that some venues don't tell clients about their noise limiters when they book - and spring the news on couples a few months down the line, after non-refundable retainer fees have changed hands.
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 so that you're making an informed decision.
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!