How do you plan a wedding?

October 2018

We just had our wedding early in 2018. We thought we were super organised, I work in the wedding industry after all, how hard can it be? We weren’t super organised, we were super laid back about it all and we padded each other on the back when we ticked a couple of things off, totally underestimating the sheer amount of things to do leading up to a wedding. This super laid back attitude turned into anxiety a few months before the wedding, which only increased the more days were ticking by.

When people hear “we’re getting married in a few months” they get all doe-eyed and think it’s lovely, but…. and this is a big BUT!! Planning a wedding is not something you pull off in a weekend. Unless it’s just the two of you, but that still requires a considerable amount of time.

Where to start with your wedding planning?

Have a good heart-to-heart conversation between the two of you and let each other describe their dream wedding. It’s good to be honest with each other and plan a wedding together that you both look forward to!  

A good starting point is to ask each other these questions:

If you could plan your wedding without anyone interfering or suggesting anything, where would the wedding be?

  • the beach
  • outside or inside
  • in a hotel
  • in a castle
  • in a barn
  • in the registry office
  • a museum
  • the zoo
  • the botanic gardens
  • abroad
  • in your back garden
  • on the rooftop of a wedding venue
  • in the wood

What time of year would be your favourite wedding season?

  • A spring wedding with flowers everywhere, but still a bit of cool lingering in the air?
  • A summer wedding, everyone in their summer dresses with the possibility of an outdoor reception.
  • An autumn wedding - think autumn leaves, deep autumn colours, pumpkins, but possibly windy and rainy.
  • A crisp winter / possibly Christmas wedding, with snow, candles everywhere, fairy lights every where.  
  • Or do you want to ignore the seasons and get married abroad at any time of year?

What type of ceremony would you have?

  • Religious
  • Civil Ceremony
  • Humanist
  • Interfaith

Big wedding or small wedding?

How do you imagine the wedding day? People describe “small wedding” and “big wedding” with different numbers of guests, and you have to decide for yourselves what you are comfortable with. An “average” wedding in Scotland has between 50-100 wedding guests. Whereas an Indian wedding is considered “small” if there are only 200 people attending! Don’t be led by suggestions, or minimum numbers suggested by venues. Choose the number of people based on your own ideas.

  • Would you want to be surrounded by the whole family, brothers, sisters, their partners and kids, cousins, aunties, uncles, friends of your parents, your own big circle of friends, your friends from Uni, your school friends, your work colleagues
  • Would you only want your closest family there and have an intimate wedding?
  • Would you elope?
  • Would you want a tiny wedding with just your best friends as your witnesses

How much are we willing to spend on the wedding?

Think about your budget too, and then work out how you can fit your dreams into your wedding budget - everything is possible these days!!

Here are our "cornerstones" from which we started planning our wedding

For us it looked like this: I was 100% sure I wanted a family wedding with only closest family members (parents, brothers & sisters, their partners and kids) and one best friend  each (with partner). I didn’t want people in the room I barely knew or were invited by my family members because it was “the done thing”.

Mo on the other hand could have imagined a wedding with all his friends, and he felt a bit guilty that they couldn’t come. So we needed to find a compromise we were both happy with. We had our intimate family wedding, and six weeks later we had a wedding party with 90 people. I could wear my dress again :)

Once you have these cornerstones, you can then start with the actual planning!

Start with ticking off the big things: date, venue, photographer, band/DJ

Setting the date

Setting the date for a wedding might seem simple, but there are a few things that can make you change the date a few times. So don’t announce the date unless it’s all confirmed.

Setting a date and choosing a wedding venue often go hand in hand, as your favourite date might not be available at your favourite venue. If you are really set on a special date, you need to find a venue that has availability on that particular date. If you are really set on a particular venue - then the date you choose might be one they have available in their diary. But they might have a date available a week later, sometimes a month or a year later, depending on the venue’s popularity. Once you have the date confirmed and the deposit paid to the venue - that’s when you can announce it.  

Choosing a wedding venue

I touched on this a little bit above. After you discussed both your ideas, you want to start researching venues online. Narrow down the list of options and start visiting them. Arrange an appointment with their wedding coordinator and let them show you around. Get a feel for the place and ask them lots of questions. Ask them what their suggested day plan is with the usual timings. If they only plan 30 minutes for the reception - that’s VERY short and doesn’t leave enough time for photos, family photos, relaxed chat and so on.

Every venue has a certain wedding protocol they follow and they hardly change it. They know what works for them and their venue, but it’s important for you to know if they are flexible to accommodate your wishes - you are the client after all.

Important questions to ask your venue:

  • Will there be a second wedding on my wedding day?
  • If there is another wedding, how do you separate both sets of wedding guests? Will we still have access to the gardens / certain venue features with another wedding close-by?
  • Will our wedding celebrations take part in an area of the hotel / venue where other guests can walk in, or sit around? (this is odd, but common!! hard for the photographer to know who is wedding guest and who is hotel guest)
  • What amount of time do they suggest for the wedding reception? (make sure there is a minimum of 90 minutes, better still 2 hours, between the end of the ceremony and the call for dinner - excluding any travel time!).
  • For example, your ceremony is at 2 pm, and lasts 45 minutes and is a ten minute drive away from the venue. You will be a few minutes late, the ceremony is then over just before 3 PM. Until you leave the church and have spoken to your guests and the confetti has been thrown, it’s 3:20 at the earliest you’d leave the church. If the venue then starts ushering people into the dining room at 4 PM, there really is only a 30 minute reception!

Choosing photographer, videographer, band

The best thing is to delegate the research on these suppliers. So for example one of you researches photographers, the other researches videographers. Or you can make a list of your three favourites for each of these and compare notes. I would strongly recommend to meet with the suppliers, or if you plan your wedding from afar - have a Skype or WhatsApp chat, where you hear and see them and find out if you are a good fit for each other.

Once you have ticked off the big items, it’s time to get into more detail.

Plan together - use a wall planner - have everything visible that’s still to do

The important thing is to plan your wedding together, and you can also enlist the help of your bridal party (bridesmaids, best man and so on) as well as your parents. Delegate tasks and work with a system that works for you. The system we used especially in the last few weeks before our wedding I have actually suggested to my own clients now and it is now available for purchase - it’s a wedding wall planner - a 12 month countdown - which goes on general sale in January 2019. If you are interested, put your name on the waiting list and I will contact you once it’s available for early-bird sale.


Talk about the logistics of your wedding day.

  • Who will get ready where.
  • How will you both arrive at the venue?
  • Who will be with you on the morning of the wedding.
  • Who have you delegated breakfast duties to?
  • Do you need to pick anyone up from the airport days before the wedding?
  • Do you need to help them with accommodation?

People will be people! Don't stress (we did!!)

This is the biggest thing - there WILL be hick-ups with people. Every single couple tells me stories about people not responding to RSVPs, or the chief bridesmaid announces 2 months before the wedding she is no longer able to attend, or the Best Man has been pulled in by the RAF a week before the wedding, people not knowing if they will come only to change their mind one week before the wedding (when the table plan is printed, place cards designed etc.).

We spend SO much time before our wedding trying to make sure our tiny number of wedding guests would have the best time. We provided a website (we spent DAYS on this!!) with all the information about our venue, about their accommodation, about the location and things to do - and no-one even read it! You can provide a list of accommodation suggestions, your venue might have rooms available too. And then leave them to it. If they book, they book, if they don’t, they don’t. We wanted to please everybody, and we ended up being quite stressed out about things. But guess what, we had an amazing day :)

Things we wasted time on

Creating a website. We had a website in both English and German. This included photos of everyone attending, who they were, information about our venue, their accommodation, how long it takes to travel to the Isle of Harris, how to get there (plane, ferry etc.). No-one bothered to read it.

Music Playlist: Mo spent many many evenings sifting through music, what would work we thought, what is “us”. In the end - we mostly had a playlist playing in the background. We didn’t have a party with dancing as such, only a first dance song. We then used the playlist for our wedding party, a few weeks after the actual wedding. Our venue had a DJ and he was experienced and played “party music” and everyone loved it. The evening went sooooo incredibly fast, I have no memories of any music as I was chatting to so many people.

Wedding dress shopping: This is a personal thing for me - I went to few wedding boutiques in Edinburgh and found the experience very unpleasant. Thankfully, I decided to have my wedding dress designed and made from scratch - you can read the story about my wedding dress here.

Procrastination: We procrastinated a lot about “we have to do another planning session”. Procrastination sucks the energy out of you. If you have a gut feeling you need to do something, do it.

Trust your suppliers, and ask them questions: Choose good suppliers and trust they will do a good job. Build a relationship with them before your wedding. Also use your suppliers to answer your questions. I love being in touch with my couples and I get asked all sorts of things - totally unrelated to wedding photography. I had brides ask me about the best length of the wedding dress for walking in, couples asked me about types of ceremonies and how many readings they should have. Every couple will have questions. Ask the internet, but also ask your suppliers!!

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Wedding Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a wedding photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in big family weddings in Edinburgh, Scotland, and internationally. I have photographed so many weddings, and it is my mission to help couples with planning their dream wedding. Any questions I come across repeatedly - either in person or online, I will pop in here and provide more insight.

I hope you will find them useful :)

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer