Make decisions with ease thanks to this handy guide.
With events manager CarlieBlanchett-Burton of Ascension Wine Estate.
Once he’s popped the question and you’ve firmed up your guest list, locking in a venue should be a key priority. Consider whether you want to host your ceremony and reception at separate locations, or if an all-in-one venue is a better option. Decide on the type of gathering you want: will your venue lend itself to a cocktail event, or is it more suited to a traditional sit-down affair?
Look for: Friendly staff, a warm ambience and a willingness to be flexible.
Ask: If there is an outdoor ceremony space, what’s your wet-weather back-up? Can I see photos of previous weddings held here? Can I bring my own cake and hire outside caterers? How early on the day can we start decorating? Do you supply tables, chairs and cutlery?
Red flags: A chaotic atmosphere, a messy garden or interior, a disorganised consultant.
Common mistake: Forgetting to ask about extra charges such as overtime costs; nothing puts a dampener on newlywed bliss quite like being hit with a larger-than-expected bill.
When to book: ASAP.
The Dress Designer
With Lisa Holst of Lisa H Design.
The gown you choose will influence many other elements of your day – themes, decor, the bridesmaids’ attire, flowers – so selecting a dress early will set you on the right path. Collect photos of ensembles you like, but keep an open mind. Consider your venue (a long silk train won’t work on a black-sand beach) and the time of year you’re exchanging vows.
Look for: A designer who’s honest with you, who you feel comfortable being candid with, and whose work you admire.
Ask: To see photos of gowns they’ve created for other brides. Enquire about their process – do they make a calico toile first (a mock-up of the dress to get the fit right)? How many fittings will you have? When will these sessions take place?
Red flags: A designer who doesn’t seem to be listening to what you really want, who isn’t on your wavelength or who bases decisions on what will be easiest for them.
Common mistake: Letting yourself be pushed into buying a gown you don’t love. Be sure to bring a support person who understands your aesthetic and will respect your decision.
When to book: Your first consultation should be at least six months before the big day.
With officiant Aaron Bloomfield.
The ceremony is one of the most emotive parts of the day, so it’s essential you feel comfortable with the person at the helm. Research celebrants online and ask friends for recommendations. Narrow down your search to approximately three people, then meet them in person.
Look for: Someone who’s confident but not overbearing. Make sure you and your fiancé feel as though the celebrant understands and will respect your wishes.
Ask: What does preparing for the ceremony involve? How much input do we have? Can we write our vows and do you offer suggestions? Do you provide your own sound system?
Red flag: A celebrant who doesn’t ask many questions about what you want and need – it’s important your ceremony is tailored to you as a couple.
Common mistake: Settling for ‘good enough’. Not many of your other decisions are determined by your choice of celebrant, so you have the luxury of time – use it to find someone who really ‘gets’ you.
When to book: Eight to 12 months ahead.
With photographer Jeremy Hill.
Once you’ve set a wedding date and venue, visit photographers’ websites to get a feel for the type of shoot, location and photographic style you like. Book a meeting with your top pick – either in person or over Skype – to make sure you have a good rapport. If you don’t click, keep looking! Then work with them to identify the photos that will form your must-shoot list.
Look for: An impressive portfolio that matches your vision, and glowing testimonials from previous clients.
Ask: How many photographers will be present on the day? How many images does your package include? How much retouching will you do? What types of albums are available?
Red flag: Regardless of how you feel about a photographer’s work, be wary if you don’t connect with them on a personal level. Any memories of feeling awkward or uncomfortable will resurface when you look at your photos.
Common mistake: Choosing a less-skilled photographer because they’re cheaper. If your top choice is financially out of your reach, ask if they can work within your budget; maybe they could shoot only until the reception starts.
When to book: ASAP – some photographers are fully booked up to 18 months in advance.
The Ring Designer
With SeventySix Design co-owner Ange McBride.
You’ll be wearing your rings for the rest of your life, so it pays to invest in designs you’ll treasure. You should first think about your wedding bands when selecting the bride’s engagement ring – make sure it will not pose restrictions when it comes to band selection – and keep practicality top of mind; if your job requires lots of hands-on work, for instance, a high setting might make an impractical choice.
Look for: Someone who truly listens to your ideas – it helps if they can create sketches as you go so you know you are on the same page.
Ask: Can I speak to the jeweller who will be making my ring? It’s important that the person executing your design understands exactly what you want and can articulate any difficulties that may arise.
Red flag: Anyone who can’t answer questions about metal and stone properties easily.
Common mistake: Sacrificing quality for the sake of cost – although new two rings may look similar at face value, a poorly made ring will show wear and tear quickly.
When to book: Three months ahead.
With MC and MC coach Nick Logan.
Whether you hire an MC or rope in a friend or family member, you should still think carefully about who you choose for this role – a good MC is crucial to the smooth running of your day.
Look for: Someone who’s organised, flexible and can remain calm when things suddenly change. A clear speaking voice also helps.
Ask: Are you comfortable with standing up in front of a crowd? Are you happy to liaise with suppliers, and resolve issues if they arise?
Red flag: Someone who is easily distracted or not good at thinking ahead; the MC must ensure all key people are in place before big moments such as the bride and groom arriving at the reception, cake cutting and first dance.
Common mistake: Choosing someone because they’re a good public speaker or they can tell hilarious jokes. The MC will inform and guide suppliers and guests, so they must be able to focus on logistics rather than comedy.
When to book: If you’re asking a loved one to act as your MC, do so 1-2 months before the big day, and include them in planning meetings so they understand the flow of the day. If you’re hiring an MC or MC coach, contact them three months in advance.