Welcome to part three of our easy guide to planning your Lake District wedding – designed to make your wedding planning as stress free as possible! In parts one and two we’ve covered the ‘big’ steps: putting together your budget; deciding on a date, theme and venue; booking a photographer. This time we’ll be focusing on those smaller tasks that can quickly add up to a big headache if you don’t stay on top of them.
Your wedding invitation is the first insight your guests will have to the theme of your wedding, so it’s important to present it in a way that is consistent with the theme you dreamt up when you first started planning. Consider it a way of setting the scene for what will be in store on the big day. While traditional etiquette is for wedding invitations to be sent 6-8 weeks in advance of the wedding, practicality should win the day here – allow plenty of time for people to reply and make arrangements, and for you to get a full understanding of who can and can’t come.
First things first, once you’ve got your date and venue, you should send out ‘Save-the-Date’ cards to those guests you definitely want to be at your wedding ceremony and reception, particularly if they will have to travel a long distance to make it there. These simply inform guests when the ceremony will occur, as a signal of an actual invitation to come – the card will often note ‘invitation to follow’. As with your invitations, the ‘Save-the-Date’ cards should reflect the theme of the wedding.
While the ‘Save-the-Date’ cards only outline the date and location of the ceremony, your wedding invitation is a complete package of the information your guests will need throughout the celebration. This is why it’s still important to send them out in plenty of time – no closer than three months to the wedding, ideally. They need to have this information in order to book accommodation and make travel arrangements if necessary. Include reply cards to ensure they all RSVP, and ask your guests if they have any dietary requirements – again, you’re giving yourself plenty of time to accommodate them before it can become something to stress about.
One of those tasks that may seem small, there is a lot more that goes into putting together a gift list than people may think. You might be tempted to skip the gift list altogether – almost half of couples forgo a wedding gift list these days – but it is actually very helpful to your guests. Your family and friends will want to buy a gift to celebrate your day, and having a list of gifts to choose from that they know you’ll love will make things so much easier for them.
The key, as with most things, is to start early and to take your time. Picking out a long list of gifts for yourself is one of the most enjoyable parts of planning the wedding, but it can still be time consuming and might take a little longer than you might initially anticipate. Starting early allows you to put together a list full of items you truly love, without stressing about the time it’s eating up that could be spent on planning other parts of the wedding.
This is especially important because you’ll want to make your list as big as possible – put down more than you need. There’s no rule that says every item on the list has to be bought, and you should give your guests as much choice as you can. Not only does this give an element of surprise to what you will actually get, more importantly it means that attendees with similar budgets are still able to find something to buy as things are being bought for you and ticked off the list. Additionally, make sure to cater to all budgets and vary the items from low cost to more expensive. Some guests will want to spend more, but others might not be able to stretch their budget.
Finally, and most importantly, make a list that reflects you. Some couples feel restricted by tradition, but don’t be. Add items that you really want and will treasure forever.
There can sometimes be a temptation not to bother with a seating plan – allowing people to find their own seats and sit with whoever they want. Please resist this temptation. It might make the planning a little bit easier for you, but on the day it won’t make things easy for your guests. Inevitably there will be spare single seats left at some tables, ‘odd-ones-out’ who can’t fit onto other tables, and people still scrambling for a seat when the food is being served. Having an organised seating plan helps everything run smoothly, and while it might seem like a nightmare to sort out at first, it may turn out to be much simpler and easier than you first think.
First of all, make sure to consult with the venue and double-check the capacity, the number and size of the tables and how many guests they sit before starting to work out your table plan. Don’t wait for all your RSVPs to come in before you start planning; instead start working on your table plan as soon as possible to avoid it becoming too stressful. You’ll probably go through a few different versions as your RSVPs come in, and there may even be one or two last minute dropouts that mean you won’t have a finalised version until late on – and that’s fine. By starting early and getting the bulk of it done, these changes will just be minor tweaks instead of a major headache as you rush around sorting other important things in the lead-up to the big day.
You’ll know best where to seat your guests, and with who, but remember to find a balance in how you distribute them. Seating everyone together in family groups means people lose the chance to mingle, but placing together complete strangers can make it awkward for everyone. Take into account ages, interests and personality and remember a few golden rules: seat elderly guests away from speakers, children near the doors (for tears or the toilet!) and don’t try to have a ‘singles table’ – your guests are there to celebrate your day, not find a potential partner, and you’ll just make them feel awkward.
Lastly, remember to include yourselves in the seating plan. It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people forget this after being so busy worrying about seating everyone else.
Top image courtsey of Steven Barber Photography.
Looking for the perfect Lake District wedding venue? Come and take a look at what we offer at New House Farm. Our beautiful lakeside location and rustic Hayloft Barn makes for the perfect fairytale wedding! To arrange a viewing please contact Hazel on: 07841159818.