My hand (white) wearing my rose gold engagement ring with Morganite stone, overlooking Newcastle Upon Tyne

I got engaged over 4 years ago now and I have learned a lot during this period. Not only have I now planned 2 weddings, as the first one we fully cancelled in March 2020, but we've changed as people during this time and so has our interests. The two different weddings we planned had two different themes, decor choices, venues and much more. I've also been reading several blogs, magazines and planners to see what exactly you should consider when you begin wedding planning, so here is what we've learned.

Go online and watch some wedding videos
We went on YouTube and searched for our venue to see people's wedding videos there, then searched more broadly like 'Cheshire Wedding Videos' and so on. You may find inspiration for themes or colours, what type of venue you want (like a barn, a hotel, a teepee in a field etc). You can listen to people's vows and speeches, look at the timeline and so much more. Often people write in the description which suppliers they used too so this can be so helpful in the beginning. Look up whether the venues you're considering or have booked have tour videos online too. More venues have started doing this over the last 2 years and it really helps to save these videos and keep watching them as you plan out your day.

Set up accounts on Hitched, Bridebook etc
Here you can search for suppliers and shortlist them, message them, request brochures and read reviews. You can use their checklists to see a timeline and keep track of what you need to do, and when. Bridebook have even introduced a feature where both partners can use the app on their own phone and use it equally. A lot of the time the planning is focused on 'the bride' but you may have two brides or none. It's 2022, these wedding companies really need to modernise themselves.

Consider everything when looking at a venue
I've spoken about this before but before paying a deposit you need to consider everything. Accessibility is so important and this impacts everyone. It impacts the elderly, the pregnant person, the disabled person, the person with a chronic illness, the person who gets migraines, babies and toddlers, the person who broke their leg. It affects the families and friends of all these people too. There should be a disabled toilet, if there are steps you need a ramp, adequate comfortable seating, no flashing lights, highchairs, etc. At our wedding there will be several elderly people who have access needs, myself and at least one other disabled person who will need to use the disabled loo, neurodivergent people and multiple people including myself that are prone to migraines. I know sometimes it feels like access can have a long list but trust me, it's so worth it. If you put in the effort to provide access, the people who need it will be forever grateful.

Have a look at getting wedding insurance
This seems impossible right now, but have a look and see if getting wedding insurance is possible. We went with John Lewis who provided us two lots of compensation (if that is the right word) for our cancelled and postponed weddings. We now have no insurance because we have claimed twice so we need to look again to see if we can get it. Wedding insurance provides you money where vendors haven't shown up, vendors have cancelled, you've had to postpone your wedding and if vendors haven't provided what you agreed upon. It's so useful if you can get it.

Sign the contracts
This is so important! Your suppliers (within reason) should supply you with contracts that list everything that will be provided at the wedding. This helps you know exactly what you will be getting and gives you something to refer back to. On the off chance something went wrong and you needed to cancel or rearrange your wedding, having a signed contract makes things a lot easier, particularly if you are having to claim with your wedding insurer as they will often require contracts to be provided before paying out.

Make a wedding website
Not only can you provide a lot more information on here than in your invitations, but you can provide a lot of helpful advice too. We have made a website on Zola, where we have put down hotels within a 3 mile radius to the venue, taxi numbers, things to do in the local area and more. We have an FAQ page where we have answered a lot of common questions and some that are specific to our wedding. There is an RSVP page for those who are tech-savvy and will respond online. We have written about our story over the years as we will have known each other 10 years by the time we get married. Finally, we have added the timeline for the day so people can know what time to arrive, what time photographs are in case they want to grab a drink and chill out, what time food is and what time the evening events start. It's so useful and if you use a website like Zola or The Knot, it's really easy to add your information and customise the website design to suit you.

Book hotels in advance
You don't even have to pay for them right now. We have provisionally booked a lovely hotel that is 15 minutes drive away from our venue that at this point, we can't afford to pay for with everything else. We know we can slowly save up to pay for this but at least we have put our booking in now so we know we have somewhere to stay. If your venue does not have rooms to stay in, it's so important you book as soon as it's possible to. We have booked somewhere more expensive as not only is it a treat but also nobody will probably be staying in the same place so we can have some rest ahead of the big day. Some hotels allow you to book blocks of rooms in advance which can come in useful for your guests.

See if your venue has table layout plans
Our venue handed us a ring binder with a ton of table layout plans that are catered for the number of people going to the wedding. We took photos of all of them and so far have made two separate plans, one of long tables and one for round tables. You may have a list of everyone you're inviting but not everyone will be able to come, so having different plans you can edit along the way is really helpful. Wedding websites often have the option to make table plans out of your guest list and this has been really helpful too. The app iVow also has this as an option if you prefer to do it on your phone or tablet.

Consider the time of year
Depending on when you are having your wedding, several things need to be considered. The first is the temperature; if it's hot does the venue have air conditioning or fans, if it's cold do they have heating, outdoor heaters or even fireplaces. The second is the clothing, particularly of the Bridal Party. The people wearing suits may have to opt for a thicker material so buying a year ahead is what I'd recommend. The Bride may also consider buying something to wear around them or providing blankets for guests. We have a basket for blankets and a basket for flip flops for sore feet. The final thing to consider with the season is what your theme is and colours. When we planned for a May wedding originally we have navy blue and blush pink/rose gold but our decor was white blossom trees with pastel blue and pink flowers. Now we've moved to an October wedding we have gotten rid of the blossom trees and are looking at adding pumpkins to the decor along with changing the theme to a celestial/starry night theme.

Make specific Pinterest boards
I started off with one big board for everything and it so hard to look through. I recommend having boards for hair/makeup/nails, boards for interior decor, boards for invitations, boards for the theme or colours you're considering and so on. We also have a board for things we are DIY'ing as Pinterest is a great resource for that too. It is so easy to keep on top of when you have smaller board types.

Real or fake flowers?
I was always going to have artificial flowers as the cost of real ones was not something I wanted to spend a lot on. One thing to consider when weighing up your options is, what happens for people with allergies/hayfever? If it's only bouquets then you only really need to thing about the people holding them but if you want flowers on the tables or dotted around the venue you may run into people sneezing a lot. I ultimately went with artificial flowers so that I can keep my bouquet forever and I need to buy a lovely vase to put it in so I can have it on display after the wedding.

Wedding groups
Facebook has a ton of useful groups on it, I have some for chronic illnesses, vegetarian food, crafting and weddings. You can search by your local area, wedding themes, weddings on a budget, DIY weddings and so much more. People even sell things on some of these groups that they've used in their own weddings if you're looking for something more affordable. People ask for advice so group members can help them out, some people ask for ideas or how to budget and so on. They are so helpful and it's honestly the single only reason I still use Facebook. 

Wedding jewellery 
Don't just limit your search to high street jewellers, look online too. We found both my engagement ring and wedding ring, and Andy's wedding ring on Etsy. I have seen a lot of bad reviews from high street jewellers from wedding groups and it made me want to look into smaller businesses. Maybe look online for reviews from anywhere you're looking to buy from before you get set on rings. This also goes for other jewellery you may wear on the day, including earrings, hairpieces, necklaces and bracelets; any kind of jewellery you like. Definitely look far enough in advance and have a look into getting your rings insured in case they end up needing a cleaning or stones fall out etc. Also, don't get set on engraving your ring, mine is so thin that it can't be engraved so I had to drop that idea.