tropical settings march 2014.jpgBasel napkin in teal, and Tropic Palm natural napkin ring, from CRATE & BARREL. Parfait Mossy Garden mini terrarium, from THE PLANT STORY. Favour tag, from KALO MAKE ART. PHOTO: Her World Brides March – May 2014.

I knew what sort of dress I wanted, but everything else was vague. I had about a year to change ideas, and was constantly adding to or removing the pages from my file of things I liked. When I eventually started to work on the wedding planning, it helped me make decisions faster.

A theme focuses the mind wonderfully, makes more of an impact and helps guests remember the event better too! Once ours was settled, everything else fell into place – venue decor, invitations, etc.

Tap your network of friends, relatives and contacts – their skills can be put to good use in your wedding. I also went with Vive Salon for the first night of my wedding (we held it over two nights) and saved the services that came with my package for day two.

My good friend Sharon sewed my ring pillow, and my church photographer was Alan Lee, an ex-colleague from my days at Her World. My brother and sister spent the days in the run-up to the wedding helping us stamp and fold church programmes. My sister even did my bridesmaid’s bouquet!

Guests want to see something they can identify you or your groom with. You can carry on from the theme in the details.

I write, and I love reading, so I included my favourite poem in my invitations. My husband, whose hobby is photography, had a picture he took of backlit trees in autumn, against the New York skyline. We blew that up as a huge banner and used it as part of our stage decor.

If you’re planning on doing everything yourself, make sure you give yourself plenty of lead time.

We DIY-ed our invites, and were held back serveral times by things we didn’t foresee: the ink I wanted couldn’t be printed on the paper I chose.

If you want to save, be prepared to go to different vendors for different things. We went to the bridal card shop for printing, thinking it would save time – no hunting down stationers and printers – and money.

But, as we were already doing the bulk of the work ourselves, we really didn’t save all that much time or money. I could have saved more by tapping on my own contacts through my marketing communications work and going directly to a paper supplier and printer.

It’s your wedding too, and the people who know you would love to hear from you. Remember: Practice makes perfect, speak honestly, and be yourself. Inject humour, but make sure it’s kind. You can find something funny about your groom but always make him look good – he’s got his boss, his colleagues and friends there. Also, don’t be soppy. And never ever giggle nervously.

This is hard to get right – the person putting the whole montage of photos together has got to know your style. Another lesson we learnt: keep it short, so it doesn’t get draggy, and (potentially) bore your guests.

Have a backup for your backup. We had a friend take colour shots in church while we paid Alan for the black and whites. On the day of, our friend’s camera acted up and we ended up with 10 rolls of film wasted and no colour photos of our church service.

A bride has to learn to be thick-skinned. We held our wedding over two nights at the hotel (first night for friends, second for relatives and parents’ friends) and that was our basic starting point for negotiations. Our hotel coordinator helped us in all sorts of small ways, like an extra dayroom for helpers at no charge.

This article was first published in Her World Brides December 2002 – February 2003.