At Light Collections we live and breathe weddings – we chose to be a part of them as our career after all! but it might surprise you that we didn’t always know how to plan a wedding. We remember and reflect on this often…
We’d just gotten engaged, and vividly remember how ecstatic, yet overwhelmed we felt. We were so excited, but had so many questions. Being so young, we’d only been to a few weddings at the time, and really had zero clue. Where does someone even start to plan a wedding? What is the first thing to prioritise? How much does a wedding cost? How much control can I have over certain aspects? How on earth do we decide on a photographer, celebrant, venue, style, menu, flower arrangement – the list goes on and on.
Since becoming professional photographers, we have made it our mission to simplify and streamline as much as possible for our couples – teaching them to be confident in planning their wedding.
Over the years we have realised that many aren’t even sure where to start. So to help, we’ve put together the most important steps to consider when planning a wedding (in Brisbane, or anywhere else for that matter!).
Step 1: Determine your Budget
The first and most important step in our ‘How to Plan a Wedding’ guide is determining your budget. Weddings can be expensive, and it’s essential to establish a realistic budget early on to avoid overspending.
For example, for a traditional wedding in Australia, the average cost can range from $15,000 to $50,000. That’s a huge difference! This price includes expenses such as the venue, catering, photography, entertainment, decorations and more.
By far, the biggest impact on the final cost will be the venue and the number of guests you want attending. This figure will often be at least half of the overall budget.
If you’re wanting a formal, sit-down, alternate drop reception, the average price per guest varies depending on the source you are looking at. However generally, you can expect to pay over $100pp for a package such as this with approximately three courses (this typically doesn’t include a drinks package).
Alternatively, you and your partner might like to opt for something more casual at one of your favourite venues. Many offer the option of things like a canape-style, a cocktail reception or something completely unique (like the woodfired pizza option below!). These types of wedding catering can be significantly cheaper, but still allow you to get the venue of your dreams – therefore helping to keep costs down.
If you’re considering a destination wedding, the costs can be even higher. Again, according to the source you are looking at, the average cost of a destination wedding varies. But keep in mind that although the guest list may be smaller, you need to factor in things like travel, accommodations, insurances and other expenses that might not be relevant to an Australian wedding.
For those looking for a smaller, more affordable option, a registry wedding could be a great choice. A registry wedding typically involves a small ceremony with close family and friends, followed by a reception at a restaurant or other venue. Registry weddings in Australia are much cheaper than any other wedding. For example, a ceremony at the Brisbane Wedding Registry starts at $375. With the final price depending on whether you choose to add in the variables mentioned above (photographer, flowers, food, number of guests). We have a great blog you can read about how a registry wedding works here.
Keep in mind that these estimates are based on average prices, and the final cost can vary depending on the specific details of many other elements at your wedding (eg. Photographer, Videographer, styling, cake, dress and more).
Overall, no matter how big or small your budget, it’s essential to establish a clear and realistic total when you start planning a wedding. This will help guide your decisions and ensure that you can enjoy your special day without breaking the bank.
Step 2: Decide on your Photographer!
Our second recommendation in our How to Plan a Wedding guide, is that you must prioritise booking your photographer (videographer too if you are choosing to have one). Photographers often book out very far in advance – and so it is common for a couple to book a photographer more than 12 months before their wedding is even taking place. Also, many couples choose to book their photographer before they even book a venue as the photography is the most important (and longest lasting) part of their wedding.
There are a few other reasons why this happens so far in advance. Firstly, photographers have a limited number of dates available each year, especially during the peak wedding season. As a result, they may receive many inquiries for their services and need to book weddings well in advance to ensure they can accommodate all their clients.
Secondly, photographers often take on a limited number of weddings each year to ensure they can provide a high level of service and attention to each couple. The good photographers don’t rush. They love to work closely with the couple throughout the planning process, they take well over 1000 photographs of your day, and then will spend weeks carefully curating and editing your collection (longer if they are creating a photo album for you).
Thirdly, good photographers are often in high demand, and couples may book them far in advance to secure their services. Couples may also book their photographer early in the planning process to avoid disappointment if the photographer becomes fully booked.
The above reasons are also why the good photographers can be expensive, and so a significant part of your budget must be dedicated to it.
It’s worth noting that while some photographers book out far in advance, others may be available on shorter notice. Overall, finding the right photographer when you begin planning a wedding is crucial. It’s better to book your preferred photographer early to avoid your date being booked by another couple. Also, by booking your photographer early, you get to work with them and know them deeply. Meaning you can be comfortable knowing that you have secured someone who will capture the emotion and love of your day with confidence and ease.
Step 3: Choosing your Wedding Venue
Choosing the perfect wedding venue is a huge part of planning a wedding, and occurs at a very similar time, if not alongside finding a photographer. Southeast Queensland has an abundance of stunning wedding venues to choose from, each offering its unique style and charm (we’ve written about some of our favourites here). We’ve also put together a list of some of the most popular wedding venues in Southeast Queensland below – but our top tip, be sure to explore the less popular venues, as they can offer a similar experience for a more affordable price – and sometimes even more incredible photos:
Sirromet is a picturesque winery located in Mount Cotton, just 30 minutes from Brisbane. The venue offers a range of indoor and outdoor spaces, including a stunning barrel room and lakeside gazebo, perfect for weddings of all sizes.
The InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort is a luxurious and exclusive venue located on the Gold Coast. With its stunning views, exceptional service, and high-end amenities, this venue is perfect for couples looking for a lavish and elegant wedding.
The Old Dairy Maleny is a beautiful, rustic venue located in the stunning Sunshine Coast Hinterland. This venue offers a charming, intimate setting and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
The Joinery is a unique and contemporary venue located in the vibrant suburb of West End in Brisbane. This venue offers a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, with an industrial-chic design and beautiful outdoor courtyard.
The Gardens Club is a charming venue located in the heart of Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens. This venue offers a tranquil and romantic setting, surrounded by lush greenery and stunning floral displays.
Hillstone St Lucia is a stylish and sophisticated venue located in the heart of Brisbane’s prestigious St Lucia Golf Links. This venue offers a range of indoor and outdoor spaces, including a beautiful ballroom and manicured gardens.
There are some incredible spots at Mt Tambourine and The Secret Garden is one of our favourites. It’s lush grounds offer the most stunning garden wedding you can imagine.
Lightspace is a contemporary and industrial-chic venue located in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. This venue offers a flexible and creative space, with a range of indoor and outdoor areas and a beautiful rooftop terrace.
Cowbell Creek is a beautiful country estate located in the Gold Coast hinterland. This venue offers a range of indoor and outdoor spaces, including a charming barn and stunning gardens, perfect for a rustic and romantic wedding.
Gabbinbar Homestead is a beautiful heritage-listed venue located in Toowoomba. This venue offers a range of indoor and outdoor spaces, including a stunning garden pavilion and elegant ballroom, perfect for a classic and timeless wedding.
When planning a wedding and finalising your wedding venue shortlist, consider the number of guests you will be inviting, the style of wedding you want, and of course your budget as we mentioned earlier. Don’t forget about the location and accessibility for your guests, as well as any specific requirements or restrictions of the venue (for example, if you want drone photography the venue may have restrictions on this). Take your time to research and be sure to visit several venues – make it a fun ‘date night’ process even!
Step 4: Plan Your Wedding Guest List
Creating a guest list can be a challenging task, and must be the next step in planning a wedding. Especially if you have a large extended family or a wide circle of friends. When you factor in both circles of friends, their partners, and the guests that parents want to invite, the list can grow rapidly. To give you a general idea, smaller weddings might have between 30 and 50 guests, whereas bigger weddings would be upwards of 100.
Here are some tips to help you narrow down your guest list when planning your wedding:
- Start by listing everyone you would like to invite, including family members, friends, and work colleagues. Then divide the list into categories, such as “must invite,” “would like to invite,” and “if there’s space.”
- Think about the type of wedding you want – what sort of people you and your partner are. Do you want an intimate gathering, or a big celebration? This will help you determine the number of guests you should invite.
- Be prepared to make tough choices. You may need to cut some people from your list, especially if you’re on a tight budget or have limited space. Remember, it’s your day, so don’t feel pressured to invite everyone your family insists on inviting.
- Consider the size of your venue and your budget. A smaller venue will limit the number of guests you can invite, while a larger venue will give you more flexibility.
- Consider the location of your wedding. If you’re having a destination wedding, you may want to limit the number of guests to close family and friends who are willing and able to travel.
- Consider your relationships with each potential guest. Are they someone you speak to regularly, or someone you haven’t seen in years? This can help you prioritise who to invite.
- Keep in mind that not everyone you invite will be able to attend. Be prepared for some guests to decline the invitation, and have a backup list of guests you can invite if necessary.
Remember, your wedding day is about celebrating with the people who mean the most to you. While it’s important to consider your family’s input, don’t let them pressure you into inviting people you don’t feel comfortable with. Plan your wedding with you and your partner’s preferences first – always.
For us, the guest list was one of the toughest things to do – and we still talk today about the people we would not invite if we had our time again. However, with careful consideration and communication (and following our How to Plan a Wedding guide!), you can create a guest list that reflects your priorities and vision for your special day.
Step 5: Choose Your Wedding Party
Our next step in our How to Plan a Wedding guide is choosing your wedding party. This is another important decision that can have a big impact on your wedding day. Not only are they there to support and help you with any task, they will also be in your photographs forever! Choosing these vital people is something that should not be underestimated or rushed.
Here are some tips to help you make the best choice when planning your wedding:
- Consider the personalities of your potential wedding party members. Ideally, you want people who are supportive, reliable, and willing to help when needed. Think about who you can count on to be there for you throughout the wedding planning process and on the big day.
- Choose people who are excited and enthusiastic about your wedding. You want your wedding party to be just as excited about your big day as you are, so look for people who are genuinely happy to be a part of it.
- Think about the size of your wedding party. You don’t want to have too many people in your wedding party, as this can make things more complicated and difficult to manage. Aim for a balanced number of bridesmaids and groomsmen based on the size of your guest list.
- Consider the roles you want your wedding party to play. Do you want your maid of honour or best man to give a speech? Will your bridesmaids and groomsmen be responsible for helping with decorations or other tasks?
- Don’t feel pressured to include everyone you know in your wedding party. While it’s tempting to include all of your close friends and family members, it’s important to choose people who you know will be a positive and helpful presence on your big day.
- Be mindful of any potential drama or conflicts. If you have friends or family members who don’t get along, it’s best to avoid including them in your wedding party.
- Remember, your wedding party is there to support you and make your day special. Choose people who you trust and who will be there for you throughout the entire wedding planning process and on the big day.
Overall, choosing your wedding party is a huge part of the process when planning a wedding, and is all about balance and support. Look for people who you know will be there for you no matter what, that compliment each other, and who will help you make your big day the best it can be.
Step 6: Book Your Wedding Vendors
Some of the toughest decisions when planning a wedding is deciding on your vendors. So step 5 in our How to Plan Your Wedding list is dedicated to this.
Booking these businesses can be a daunting task. Not only are there lots of vendors to book, but within each category, there are so many to choose from! This is another area where your photographer can help. We work with so many different vendors for our weddings, we know who are the very best – so be sure to consult with us heavily.
Here’s a list of the vendors you should book in order:
- Venue (Ceremony and Reception): We’ve already mentioned this one – Your venue is the most important aspect (after photography) when planning a wedding, so it’s important to book this vendor first. Make sure to tour multiple venues and find one that fits your style, guest list, and budget. Also, many offer sample menu tastings too so this part of the planning process can be very fun.
- Celebrant or Officiant: Whether you’re having a religious or civil ceremony, it’s important to book your officiant early. Make sure to discuss your ceremony preferences and any special requests with your chosen officiant. Don’t book this person without having met with them first.
- Wedding Planner: These people are the gurus when it comes to all things wedding. If you are the type of person that just wants to leave all of the organisation to someone else, a Wedding Planner should definitely be considered. They can help you with all aspects of your wedding and ensure that everything runs smoothly on the big day – and then you don’t need to worry too much about the rest of this list!
- Caterer: Once you’ve secured your venue, it’s time to book your caterer in this wedding planning process. Many venues have in-house catering, but if you have a specific caterer in mind, make sure to book them early.
- Florist: If you have a specific vision for your wedding flowers, your florist should be next. Make sure to discuss your colour scheme, style, and budget with your florist.
- Music/Entertainment: Whether you want a live band, DJ, or other type of entertainment, book this vendor in next when planning a wedding. Music and entertainment can make a huge difference to the style of wedding, and more importantly, how much fun you all have.
- Hair and Makeup: Hair and makeup is a BIG job, and should be next on your list! These vendors will often start working with the bride and bridesmaids extremely early on the morning of your wedding day (think 5am early!). Be sure to schedule a trial run before the wedding to make sure you’re happy with their work.
- Transportation: Finally, remember to consider transportation – how are you getting to the ceremony location from the hotel/home? How are you getting to your chosen portrait location after the ceremony? How are you getting to the reception venue? And how are you getting home or to the hotel at the end of the day? There are a ton of different types of vehicle options – especially in Brisbane.
TOP TIP – All of the best vendors in the below categories will have Instagram / Facebook pages. So be sure to search and follow the ones you like. This will help as time goes on in determining the right ones for you.
By booking your vendors in this order, you can ensure that you get the services you want for your big day without running into any last-minute availability issues. Doing this carefully is a vital part of our How to Plan a Wedding guide.
Step 7: Choose Your Wedding Attire
We couldn’t build our How to Plan a Wedding list without mentioning clothing choices!
Your wedding attire should be an extension of your personality as a couple – and is a very personal choice. Here are some of the most popular wedding attire and styles currently trending:
- Classic: Classic wedding attire includes traditional ball gowns, tuxedos, and formal dresses. This style is perfect for couples who want a timeless and elegant look.
- Bohemian: Bohemian wedding attire features flowing dresses, lace, and natural fabrics like cotton or linen. This style is perfect for couples who want a more laid-back, relaxed look.
- Modern: Modern wedding attire features sleek lines, minimalist details, and bold pops of colour. This style is perfect for couples who want a chic, contemporary look.
- Vintage: Vintage wedding attire incorporates elements from a bygone era, such as lace, pearls, and antique jewellery. This style is perfect for couples who want a romantic, nostalgic look.
- Rustic: Rustic wedding attire features natural fabrics like burlap, denim, or lace. This style is often accompanied by boots or cowboy hats and is perfect for couples who want a more casual, outdoorsy look.
- Beach: Beach wedding attire features light, flowing fabrics like chiffon or organza and is often accompanied by bare feet or sandals. This style is perfect for couples who want a more relaxed, beachy vibe.
When choosing your wedding attire and style, don’t be afraid to mix and match elements from different styles to create a unique look that represents you as a couple. Remember, your wedding attire is an extension of who you are, and should make you feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful on your special day.
Step 8: Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline
Finally (and this item could literally fit in anywhere on our How to Plan a Wedding guide), creating a detailed wedding day timeline will go a long way to making you feel a little less stressed leading into your big day. Again, your photographer is the guru here. We work closely with all of our couples to massage and refine their wedding day timeline. The more detail that goes into this throughout the planning process, means that your vendors will all be on the same page (literally!).
Here’s a glimpse of the Light Collections wedding day timeline. We have a much more detailed one that also breaks down our package options, and you can get a copy of this by contacting us directly here.
How to Plan a Wedding – Summary
Above is our extensive guide on How to Plan a Wedding. There is so much to talk about here – so many tips – it’s impossible to place them all into one blog entry. If there is one thing, above all, that we want to remind you when planning your wedding day, its to be true to yourself, and only think about you and your partner’s happiness. It is one of the few days in your life that is totally dedicated to the both of you. Cherish it and spoil yourselves and you will have the most incredible day to be remembered forever.
For more on Light Collections, or to enquire about how to plan a wedding, visit https://lightcollections.com.au/, https://www.facebook.com/lightcollections.com.au, and https://instagram.com/lightcollections/.