How To Plan The Perfect Wedding

How To Plan The Perfect Wedding

A wedding planning guide, tips and information



It may seem obvious to say but a wedding needs all its planning done well in advance. I have seen extreme behaviour resulting in the lack of this, with reams of spreadsheets are given out on the day, or orders constantly barked to unsuspecting volunteers. A little bit of pre-organising can pay dividends, making sure people know if they will be asked to completed a task. Most venues have their own wedding planners, if not you can employ an independent planner or alternatively rely on your own master of ceremony or chief bridesmaid. Either way, once instructions have been given and agreed upon, my most important bit of advice is for the bride and groom is to sit back and enjoy the day. 

I have photographed many weddings and seen most things that can go wrong, do so. Broken down wedding cars, stained wedding dresses, lost rings, late guests and without exception by the end of the day, all is well. The marriage certificate is signed, and your having a drink and a laugh with your loved ones.

Groom getting ready buttoning shirt for wedding planning guide
Bridal preparations, make up applied


Most wedding planning, starts with finding a venue. The most popular will be booked out for over a year in advance for the preferred summer dates, so start early. If a lot of people in your friendship circle have recently hosted their wedding, it can be difficult to find somewhere unique. You may have to explore the area more, luckily more and more venues are opening up, do not be afraid to think outside the box. If you have to expand the search area, make sure the venue has plenty of accommodation, or there are nearly hotels for overnight guests to stay.

I have photographed weddings in castles, country house, marquees in farm fields, lighthouses, city hotels, barns and church halls and whilst a spectacular venue may posses the initial wow factor, the best weddings are all about the people having fun. So if the budget or logistics prohibit the sourcing of the so called ‘perfect’ venue, I would not worry too much and just concentrate on ensuring guests are relaxed and enjoying themselves.

If you need some inspiration, here you can see a list of South Wales wedding venues.


Getting Ready

This is when nerves will be at their worse, so best to choose carefully those who are present at this time. Everyone is different, some want a calm and quiet time of reflection, others prefer a fun filled distraction. Cultivate your preferences from the beginning, opt for music, food and drink choices that set the tone. If you are having professional hair stylist and make up artists, plan the timing carefully, implement with a little run over time, there is nothing more stress inducing, than having to rush the last portion of getting ready, just before you have to leave for the ceremony.

If you getting ready away from home, pop a little pair scissors in your bag, handy for nipping off tags of new dress and shoes.


Ushers and Bridesmaids

Sometimes less is more, it can be quite difficult narrowing down your selection of close friends and family, but the truth is the bigger the wedding party the less help they are. To coin an economics phrase, the law of diminishing returns. Nothing wrong with a large group, but it is advisable to assign tasks, rather than assume everyone will muck in, this will ensure a smooth running of duties performed.

Bride walking up church asile
Boy with wedding reception canapé


Bridal bouquets date back to ancient times, when bunches of herbs were carried to provide a pleasant aromas for the bride. These days with the standard of flowers and the arrangement skills of a professional florist you can have anything you heart desires, subject to seasonal availability of course. Though you can have too much of a good thing. Oversized bridal bouquets may look amazing, but having to carry them down the aisle whilst holding hands with your new spouse may prove too difficult. If you need two hands to hold the stems comfortably then you may need a rethink, especially considering a full length wedding dress often requires a spare hand to pick up the hem. 

It is also worth nothing that table decorations placed between guests, need to allow them to conserve unhindered without opposite guest having to weave either side of a giant blossoming vase to see who is talking. More than once have I witnessed agitated guests demoting floral objects to the floor in frustration.



I was an experienced photo-journalist before I started my wedding photography service over fifth-teen years ago. I had photographed international sporting events, celebrities, royalty and national politicians, though even with this experience, documenting weddings was a steep learning curve. It does take an alchemy of all genres of photographic skills portraits, reportage, architectural and still-life, combine this with a tight schedule, long hours and uncontrollable elements such as the weather, strict vicars and bossy aunts. It is not surprising the amount of diplomacy and general people skills also required, the best full time wedding photographers are in high demand.

With this in mind, finding an experienced professional wedding photographer is paramount, though I appreciate I am bias in this matter! Each photographer will have their own style of images and method of working, so choose one which fits into your ethos. For example some  photographers will concentrate on stylised, fashion influenced portraits for couples who are happy to take time to pose, other couples will want to minimise the amount of time in front of the camera and are looking for more natural, candid type of photography.

The group shots are often a cause for some concern, I find it best to agree to a list with your photographer before hand. Inclement weather may affect the larger group shots, as there may not be room if everyone is driven inside to shelter. Also your desire for less groups may be indirect contrast to the wishes of your family members, so discuss this before the day or be prepared to grin and bare it as mother assembles her second cousins!

This article, How to Choose a Wedding Photographer, offers further tips and information.

Bride high five as she walks into marquee - how to plan the perfect wedding day
Bride and groom laughing at wedding speeches

Dress for the season

The three piece wedding suit may be traditional, but consider your comfort on a summer’s day. If you decide to hire the groomsmen suits, you will not have much choice of fabric type, though if possible a lighter, breathable material is obviously the way to go for summer weddings. Also I would highly advise buying you own shirt at least, hire shop measurements always seem a little on the tight side, too many times have I seen a groom’s head being pinched by an unrelenting collar.

Conversely most wedding dress are made for the summer seasons, so if you having an autumn or winter wedding, think about covering bare arms or shoulders with a little wrap or shawl as there might be a chill in the air you make your way between church and reception venue etc. You will spend more time outside than you think, mingle with guests or posing for photographs.

One word of warning on big dresses, these may look elegant whilst standing in a large bridal shop, but consider the wedding day’s logistics, for example getting in or out of cars, or if you are being escorted down the aisle, can the other person comfortably walk next to you without standing on your dress?

Also layers trap heat, so one hot days you will suffer if you have too many, I’ve seen more than one bride resort to standing over a fan for light aired relief!



To some extent the timings on your wedding day will be taken out of your hands. The whole schedule really hangs on the availability of the religious minister or registrar for your ceremony time. What you can control is the comfort of your guests, so if you end up exchanged nuptials during a lunchtime, guest may well be very hungry during the drinks reception, so best not to scrimp on the canapés or at least advise a hearty brunch. 

The length of a drinks reception is generally one and an half hours with added time for travel if necessary, be generous on this, there is no need to rush the schedule. Though again you will be in the hands of your caterers who require some leeway between the main meal and the evening buffet. 

In my experience speeches generally are better received after the meal, most things are more humorous when your belly is satisfyingly awash with food and wine. The main reason you may want to do speeches before is for the nervous speaker. This is certainly understandable, public speaking is not everyone’s cup of tea. Though you wish to consider splitting the speeches before and after the meal to invigorate the procedure.

Following the main meal or wedding breakfast with the speeches are done and the cake cut, there is a lull in the official schedule, as the room will require the attention of the venue staff to clear tables and prepare the dance floor for the evening festivities. Ideally this will not be too long, best to keep the momentum going and let the fun flow into the evening.

In the summer months, a late lunchtime or early afternoon is the preferable time for a marriage ceremony, as this allows the festivities to roll on into the evening without too much of a lull.


I hope this guide on how to plan the perfect wedding had been of some use, just a few little observations I can part with. Also remember planning a wedding should be fun, so enjoy! 


how to plan the perfect wedding

How To Plan The Perfect Wedding

Top tips and information on how to plan the perfect wedding day, observations from a professional wedding photographer with over 15 years of experience and more than five hundred wedding days attended.

South Wales wedding venues

South Wales Wedding Venues

Not sure where you want to get married, see here for a list of the best wedding venues in South Wales for inspiration. You can also view photography samples from the wedding journal and search via venue for more images.
Cardiff wedding venues

Cardiff Wedding Venues

Looking to get married in the city of Cardiff, see here for a list of top wedding venues in the principality capital. You can also view photography samples from my journal.
How to choose a wedding photographer

How To Choose A Wedding Photographer

Planning a wedding is the first time for most people have booked or researched the services of a professional photographer. This article contains information and tips on how to choose your photographer.
Why is wedding photography so expensive?

Why is Wedding Photography so Expensive?

Most couples will have a budget set for their wedding, but when it actually comes to finding wedding suppliers, a lot of couples find they have underestimated the true cost.
Documentary wedding photography

What is Documentary Wedding Photography?

Weddings are beautiful to photograph with so many different emotions but they have to be treated with a delicate touch, see why documentary may be the aproach you need.