Wedding season has officially begun. If you’re here because it’s you getting married, congratulations! Welcome to one of the most exciting times of your life. If you’re here to help a friend, family member or colleague come up with ideas, good luck! You’ve come to the right place. With several weddings under our belts across the team and two of us steadily planning our own this year, we know the tips, trials and tribulations of organising a wedding. Getting married can be, for lack of a better word, a challenge. Everyone says it’s the most joyous time of your life, yet the planning and decision-making can be crippling and time-consuming. What should I wear to get married? How do I find a wedding venue? How much is too much to spend on a wedding? One of the most difficult parts, in our experience, has been creating an event that feels different to others. Naturally, your wedding says a lot about who you are as a couple, and wanting to be a modern bride with a day that is both contemporary and original but not necessarily bank-breaking can be hard.
Fear not, though—we’ve got you. From the big’uns like the wedding dress and location to the finer details like favours, flowers and wedding music, we’ve compiled a playbook of what we’re doing and what we’ve learnt along the way. And who are we? Rebecca Rhys-Evans and Remy Farrell aka the two token engaged Who What Wear editors who have been poached to help other brides-to-be. And we couldn’t be more delighted to be your wedding planners (figuratively, not literally). With that, we give you our guide to every last detail of planning a contemporary wedding. Buckle up, babe!
It’s inevitable that the first question you’ll be asked after “How did they propose?” will be “Have you found the dress?” For some, the answer will an easy yes (it might have been on your mood board for months), but for others, what you decide to wear on your wedding day will take a little more deliberation. Are you a suited and booted bride? A traditional gown or fashion-first bride? A minidress-and-leather-jacket bride? Whatever your style and whether you choose to buy, rent or wear pre-loved, don’t settle for anything less than the outfit that makes you feel your very best.
“It might have taken nearly a year and a half to plan my wedding, but the first thing I confidently locked in was the dress. Unlike a lot of brides, I didn’t actually need to try on dozens of styles until I found ‘the one.’ I’d spotted it on Instagram and immediately knew, and trying it on only confirmed it (a testament to Halfpenny London’s exceptional and thoughtful design). I’d toyed with the idea of being the party bride who wore a vintage mini and flats and hated the idea of ‘traditional,’ but when it came down it, as soon as I saw the square-necklined mikado gown, I knew I would feel incredible in it, and I really did. When you know, you just know.
“The only shoes that could stand up to such a dramatic silhouette were, of course, Jimmy Choos, but I opted for sensible mid-heel mules to save my feet from aching. The only thing left to decide on is an easy dress to change into for the evening party, and in all likelihood, I might rent something sparkly or feathery that feels contemporary, but the advice has always been the same. Choose something you can really move in to make the most of the dance floor, and I plan on doing exactly that.” — Remy Farrell, Shopping Editor
“The funniest thing I’ve found so far about getting married is that despite dedicating 10 years to working in fashion and advising people almost daily on what to wear, I’m really struggling to find the dress that feels like ‘the one.’ It almost seems like there’s a heightened pressure to wow everyone, and people often ask me what I’m wearing as if I’ve always known what I’d want. Unlike Remy, I’m yet to say yes to the dress, But one piece of advice I’d give to others in my predicament is that your dress should match the mood of the day. Barn, beach, church or chapel in Vegas, wearing something that goes with the vision you have for your day is a good place to start.
“One tip I have is to look to accessories. They’re a great way to show personality with less of the risk you may feel you’re facing with the dress. At the moment, I’m drawn to long gloves. There’s no doubt that they’re making a comeback along with traditional Italian lace veils (think Apollonia in The Godfather). We’re going a little kitsch with ‘Til’ death do us part’ slogans on the invites, so this Clio Peppiatt bag is a must. I’m also noticing an increasing amount of long capes on my search and detachable XL bows on the lower back. Also, party outfits for later in the evening or events around the day (dinner the night before, engagement celebration, hen party) promise opportunities for pieces you can most definitely wear again. This Liberowe two-piece, for example, has been in my Saved folder on Instagram since the month I got engaged, and it hasn’t left my mind since.” — Rebecca Rhys-Evans, Branded Content Editor
As your bridesmaids are your nearest and dearest, they deserve more than an unflattering meringue. Looking for dresses that will still look good in photos in 20 years time? Eschew tradition and opt for styles that they’ll be able to wear time and again. (That goes for you, too, mother of the bride.)
“I wanted to keep things easy for my bridesmaids and spare them the discomfort of wearing matching dresses they didn’t like, so I asked them to choose their own styles, all with the same brief: black satin. For some, black is seen as a no-no for a wedding (the term ‘funeral vibes’ was bandied around), but more brides than ever have been searching for black wedding dresses in the last few years, and the colour looks so timelessly chic that I don’t think there’s any better or more refined option. (Although, jewel tones were a close second.) It’s also the perfect base for my bridal party to accessorise in any way that suits them, and it will look incredible against their colourful bouquets and my mum’s floral De La Vali maxi.” — Farrell
“Navigating how to make your bridal party all look their best, keep them happy and have some semblance between them in their outfits seems like a logistical nightmare. Lucky for me, I’m not having bridesmaids. I am, however, going one notch above ‘black-tie optional’ and doing ‘black-tie and black dresses mandatory.’ Seems like Remy and I have released our inner goth, doesn’t it? I think it’s actually just because black, especially satin, is always chic and timeless. Personally, I made this decision really because I can’t imagine another time where I’ll be able to get my brothers and dad in a tux, so I’m seizing the opportunity. I’ve extended this to black ensembles for women, too, because when I look at photos of other weddings, I’ve found the clashing colours and prints a little distracting. So call me a pedantic creative, but for the sake of the pictures, my guests will be embracing the dark side!” — Rhys-Evans
In the run-up to the big day, your bridal beauty prep can start from as early as a year in advance. (No sweat—we’ve put together a handy wedding beauty timeline for your perusal here.) But when it comes to the look you decide on for the ceremony, pull together references from your favourite beauty icons and add your own spin for a modern take on glam that still feels like you. Who said bridal beauty had to be one-size-fits-all?
“I’m taking the opportunity to entirely switch up my look for my wedding and do something a little different from my usual beauty routine. I cannot stress enough just how helpful I found having a makeup consultation to get the colours and finish just right, and frankly, no one else could have convinced me beforehand just how much I would love pinks and peaches after being a red-lipstick devotee. As my wedding is in summer, I wanted to keep the skin fresh and the accessories light, but I also love the current trend of brides adding embellishments to their beauty look. What other opportunity is there to wear floating pearls in your hair or an iridescent eye shadow?” — Farrell
“People usually consider changing their outfit for their reception, but not so much their beauty look. An industry friend told me she changed her hair, and as I plan to dance the night away, I think I’ll do the same—tying it up for reception and having it down for the ceremony. Nails are another excuse for a statement. Most often, brides go for nudes, but I’m more of a red or very dark (read: almost black) burgundy girl, and I want to continue this tradition for my reception. Whichever colour I opt for, I will do the same for my lipstick. I want them to pop in pictures of us laughing and cutting the cake. For fragrance, I’ll either wear Byredo Super Cedar, which will always remind me of my partner, or Chanel Mademoiselle as an ode to my grandmother. I haven’t worn it since she died, as it reminds me too much of her, but I think this will be a nice way to make her feel present even though she sadly isn’t.” — Rhys-Evans
Whether you’re escaping to the country, travelling abroad or heading to the local town hall, the location and wedding venue are an opportunity to get creative and think outside of the box. When it comes to planning a day you’ll remember for the rest of your life, the backdrop sets the tone for the rest of your day. There are more options than ever for you to find the place that speaks to you, works for your budget and helps the day to run as seamlessly as possible, so look for places that mean something to you as a couple or resonate with your aesthetic. The memories will last a lifetime.
“Like many I’m sure, we toyed for months on where to wed. We loved the idea of going abroad. A chateau in the South of France? Lovely! A traditional Italian church ceremony followed by a traditional Italian feast? Fabulous. But ultimately, the logistics that would be involved in planning a foreign wedding kept us in London. We wanted somewhere that wouldn’t cost the earth for our guests to come to, something cool and photogenic, so the ceremony will be at Marylebone Town Hall. Weirdly, I was initially obsessed on having a venue that had exposed plaster walls and old fireplaces. We looked at lots of gorgeous venues that fit these criteria—Brunswick House, Sessions Arts Club, Below Stone Nest and Clapton Country Club—but in the end, they fell short on either capacity, cost or carriage time. (We wanted a party that would go on past midnight—sue us!)
“Then we looked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Pall Mall, and it blew us away. No, it didn’t have exposed plaster, but it did have balconies that looked over St James’s Park. We could have a license until 2 a.m., and there’s a garden which we’ve hired for a drink reception. It’s also apparently one of the only venues you’re allowed to light candles. Big win. After this, we’re going to continue the party the next day in the Cotswolds in my parents’ garden, with a blessing in the village church. I had my 16th, 18th, 21st and 30th birthday celebrations there, so it only feels right to do it all over again for a wedding, right?!” — Rhys-Evans
“I’ve become known as the ‘traditional bride’ in the office, as we chose a church ceremony and a historic house and garden for our wedding and reception, but the almost gothic and grand setting of the church building with our personalised touches feels more Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet than ‘stuffy’ formality.
“Like Rebecca, a London wedding was always our intention, and in the spirit of echoing the feeling of summer in the city, we chose to make colour and florals the star of the show. Our clothing palette and reception venue are a neutral backdrop, and we’ve chosen big, bright floral arrangements and colourful tableware to bring the space to life. Fingers crossed for good weather, as we’ll be throwing the marquee doors open for dinner and spilling into the gardens for the evening.
“Although we wanted to stay local for the ease of our guests, I’d recommend choosing a venue that allows you to have as much space and variation as possible to give your guests room to mingle and makes the most of the location you do settle on. We’re in the middle of West London (so easy tubes home), but it’s also quiet enough and surrounded by enough greenery to convince us we’re in the countryside… for one night anyway.” — Farrell
So you have the outfit, your bridal party does too, and the location is finally booked. It’s now time to finalise the little details that help to really bring the wedding to life. The floral arrangement, tablescaping, party favours and entertainment are your chance to add the personal touches that will set your big day apart from the rest and create an unforgettable moment that is entirely and uniquely yours. Just don’t forget the seating plan.
“Despite being a dry hire venue, the ICA does have a catering partner, Bistrotheque. If you opt to go with them, they essentially sort everything regarding food and drink, so table linen, chairs, flatware and glassware would be exactly like it is in the restaurant. We, like many, love a Bistrotheque brunch and have spent many nights there, including New Year’s Eve, so going with them and choosing their banquet menu that included sharing platters was a no-brainer for us. For invites, we’ve designed our own based on some old country club membership cards we found on Pinterest.
“Décor-wise, my IG Saved folder is filled with the likes of Hands London—which has inspired me to opt for white linen, candles in antique candelabras, an ’80s-esque meringue cake and martinis on arrival. Of course, there will be an 11 p.m. McDonald’s order, but it will be served on silver platters. Whilst I want the ICA to feel chic, I’m hoping the Cotswolds party will be rustic and informal. Flowers for the tablescape will be mainly café au lait dahlias grown by my mum.” — Rhys-Evans
“Instagram interior pages were our first port of call when thinking about how we wanted the space to look. Searching for ‘wedding tables’ kept bringing up the same bow-adorned chairs and round tables that didn’t really speak our language, so we took the time to pour over the kitchens and living room designs that excited us the most to take inspiration for the day. The Pinterior and Tat London are as good a place as any to start, and Casa de Perrin heavily influenced the final look of our long tables—bursts of colour with Mediterranean tile prints, seasonal British flowers and a very kitsch cake from Lily Vanilli.
“Keeping ambience in mind, I’m currently on the hunt for some scented candles to help personalise the dining space, but as soon as we’re finished and moving onto the dancing, it’s a heels-off, no-holds-barred affair bringing the energy of our favourite nightclubs. Now to find the after-party party…” — Farrell
We asked the married members of team Who What Wear for their best wedding-day advice, and they came up with the invaluable tips that people forget to tell you.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff! So your napkins aren’t the exact measurement you wanted, but no one else will ever notice. Remember, people are there to celebrate you, not make a list of nitpicking errors!” — Hannah Almassi, Editor in Chief
“Compeed blister plasters were the unofficial sponsor of my wedding too. I had them in my handbag and also in jars in the loos for anyone to grab. If you know, you know.” — Maxine Eggenberger, Deputy Editor
“Everyone is at their best when fed and watered. I’ve been to so many weddings now where people have been without drinks (even soft drinks or hot beverages) and food for hours and hours between ceremonies and official festivities beginning. This creates a grouchy guest list, but also, people get drunk and unruly more quickly if they don’t have some sustenance!” — Almassi
“Don’t overspend on favours. Yes, it’s a lovely gesture, but the amount that I’ve seen left on the tables at the end of a wedding is enough to convince me they’re not always worth it. Food-based favours, however, are always a hit.” — Eggenberger
“Let your bridesmaids be involved in their dress choices. The best way to do this now is to choose a colour or range of colours. You can always still approve the dress chosen, but it will give everyone the chance to feel their best on the day.” — Almassi
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