Planning Guide - Tim Dunk

Planning Guide

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shit’s about to get realllllllll

You’ve done it.

You’ve chosen the lucky individual you’ll spend the rest of your life with, deciding what to have for tea and what to watch on Netflix.


Now to plan a suitable celebration of your commitment to undying tolerance of each other.

The best bit about weddings is the chance to get your very favourite humans in the same place for almost certainly the one and only time, so you might as well make it the best day possible right?

There is just one rule.

Only one, but it’s an absolute whopper.

Here it is, drumroll please…….

You. Do. You.

That’s it.

Read on for as much advice as I can scrape together on how to stick to The Rule…

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Planning a wedding can seem like a monstrous task but it doesn’t have to be terrifying.

While all awesome weddings are unique, there are some basics you can do at the start of your planning which will make things wayyy easier.

Firstly, chat with each other about what you’re looking for from the day. You (hopefully) got engaged because you love each other’s company (if not, this guide is the least of your worries) so take the time to sit down and discuss what a suitably awesome wedding means to each of you, on both the mini and the massive level. What’s the most important thing to you? Is it food? Music? Your outfits?

Once you’ve (hopefully) agreed on the kind of vibe you’re aiming for (compromise is key, can’t beat a boho-thrash-metal-fusion wedding) you can start to think about the details.

With that list of priorities settled, it’s time to move on to the practical planning.

BUDGETING TIME! Even putting it in capitals with an exclamation mark doesn’t make it fun, but it’s got to be done.

Work out how much money you have to spend on the day. If you’re setting aside a portion of your monthly income to add to the kitty, make sure that it’s a reasonable target. Wedding days are great and all, but ask yourself if those fire-breathing mixologists are worth you having to live off beans on toast for a year and a half. When you then break down the budget into sections, make sure you keep a buffer. This helps when you inevitably forget stamps for invites and other little bits that all add up.

Once you’ve got a vision and a budget, you’re armed and ready to get cracking. Neither of these have to be rigid – your priorities may change over time, as your budget may well too, but you’re in a good place to start researching.

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how to have
a wedding
that’s true
to you

(and tell your Nan that’s what’s happening)

Wedding days can come with a lot of pressure. It may be that, as soon as you got engaged, people started piling on the questions, asking where you’re having it, what you’re wearing, if so-and-so is going to be your bridesmaid – and it can feel all way too much. Sure, you’re excited to get making plans, but do you have to tell the world just yet?! (If you haven’t had to field too many intrusive questions yet, that’s a surefire sign you’re surrounding yourself with the best people. Keep them close.) 

All of this can make you feel the pressure big-time, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to do things a certain way. The most common regret couples have about their weddings is that they didn’t have the day *they* wanted, and I want to make sure this doesn’t happen for you! 

There’s two strands to this: managing your own expectations, and those of other people. When making decisions, think about what is going to feel like *you*, even though it’s *you-on-a-big-exciting-day*.

When you’re thinking of your wedding outfit, would *you* choose to wear a dress or is that what other people would expect? Would *you* be comfortable in a shirt and tie, or would you feel like you were wearing a costume?

Remember The Rule. Keep asking yourself whether you actually want XY or Z at all. You should probably wear something for your ceremony – if you want it to be legally binding, at least – but there are other elements that just aren’t necessary if they don’t resonate with you.

Tradition is peer pressure from dead people.

Spending the night before away from your partner, for example, or having wedding favours, or the traditional speech setup, don’t have to be done if they don’t feel right.

And a little note on other people: their expectations may need to be managed for your sake. This just means that if they give unsolicited advice – or criticisms – simply tell them that you’re doing things in the way which feels authentic to you.

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how to make your ceremony rock

When you think of unique weddings, you’re probably thinking of the reception – a super cool venue, an epic band, a veritable feast, and styling to die for. You’re almost certainly not thinking about your ceremony, because they have to be a standard way, right? Certain things have to be said, in a certain order, and there’s no deviation from that, right? WRONGGG.

The ceremony is so often brushed aside in wedding planning, and when you think about it, that’s weird – it’s literally the reason everyone is there. Sure, they’re all excited for the great party afterwards, but what a lot of couples don’t realise is that said party can start in the ceremony! It’s such a shame when I hear that couples aren’t that fussed about the ceremony and just want to fast forward it, so here are a few tips on how to make your ceremony one to remember…

Celebrant led ceremonies

The ceremonies with which you can have the most freedom are the symbolic ones. Those are ceremonies led by Humanist or independent celebrants, which can be led wherever you choose – yep, even outside! These aren’t (yet) legally binding in England, but a lot of couples do the legal bit at the registry office a couple of days beforehand with an intimate number of friends and fam, leaving the big guns for their symbolic ceremony. (It’s a really nice way to take the pressure off too, and just leave the ‘big’ ceremony for pure, sheer joy.) Your celebrant will work with you to create a ceremony that really reflects *you*, giving you so much more room to inject your personality in than just the readings. 

From start to finish, celebrant-led weddings represent you. There are no templates to slot into, so you can craft your own wording, create your own memorable rituals, choose your own songs, and plan some surprises too. Singalongs, dance-offs, full comedy sketches, communal shot-taking – if you feel like it’s an accurate representation of you, then anything goes.  

Registrar/Church ceremonies

If you’re having a ceremony led by a registrar or religious official, the rules can be stricter but that doesn’t mean that they have to be dull and dry. Why not have your beloved pet carry the rings, or have your grandma as your flowergirl? Book a surprise brass band to sneak in the back of the church and scare the shit out of the photographer when they burst into action? (True story).


the where

The venue hunt is a biggy – not only does it come early on in the wedding planning (it’s hard to plan the rest of it without a venue secured), but it can be a major chunk of the budget too. There are so many options it might seem like you’ll never make a decision, but here’s some key things that may help you narrow it down.


This is a major deciding factor. Pinpoint whereabouts in the world you’d be happy to get married – where you were born? Where you grew up? Where you live currently? Somewhere in the middle of all three? Or maybe somewhere abroad?


Another major factor might be transport. If you have quite a lot of older or less able guests coming, is it easily accessible? If people are travelling from far and wide, is there enough surrounding accommodation? Can people get to it fairly easily from anywhere in the country?


Are you having a smaller, more intimate wedding, or will your guest list be bigger? You need a venue that will be able to hold and handle all of your guests.


Would you prefer a dry-hire wedding venue, a venue with everything packaged in, or somewhere in between? (Dry-hire wedding venues are venues that require you to hire everything else in other than the 4 walls, essentially.) 


If you’ve got big plans for your wedding day styling, thinking about the aesthetics of your venue might be high priority. You can have as much industrial cool as you want in the props and suppliers you hire in, but if you’re getting married in a traditional hotel, those carpets are going to give it away.


Of course, price! Midweek weddings and out-of-season weddings (October-March, generally) tend to be cheaper.

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find the right suppliers

At first glance, the wedding world can seem a total shitstorm of chair covers, terrible taste, outdated websites and archaic tradition, but dig a little deeper and there’s a thriving community of absolute legends who are committed to making your day what you want it to be. 

Not only should the supplier you pick make you feel confident in their ability, but you should feel comfortable with them too.

It’s your celebration with your nearest and dearest, so there’s no reason to work with anyone who’s style you don’t absolutely love. Your vision of the day should be something they can get on board with and get mega excited about too. For example, there’s no point in booking a photographer who has a moody, dark, fine art style, if you’re planning a vibrant, colourful wedding day.

Your venue is a great place to start for supplier recommendations – search through their geotag and their tagged photos on instagram to see who’s worked there before. Magazines, blogs and directories are also a great way to find cool suppliers – there’s one for almost every niche nowadays, so whether you’re going woodland or warehouse you’ll find the one for you. And, once you find a supplier you really click with and want to book, don’t be afraid to ask them for their recommendation for other suppliers that you need – I’m always happy to share my little black book of legends with couples to help them find the people they need.

Your suppliers don’t have to be specifically wedding suppliers

If there’s a business you really like but you’ve never seen do weddings before, there’s no harm in asking. For example, if there’s a local bakery near you that do a brownie so delicious you’d sell your firstborn child, you’ve nothing to lose by asking if they’d consider doing your wedding.

Weddings are a different kettle of fish though, so make sure they’re capable of what they’re signing up for.

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how to get

wedding photos
that won’t make you

Most people don’t live their lives with a camera following them every day, so the prospect of doing it for your wedding day can be daunting. A lot of people also don’t love looking at photos of themselves, so, again, wedding photos can be a tad unnerving. However, wedding photos don’t have to cause this kind of anxiety –they can be relaxed, unobtrusive and even… enjoyable.

Now, I know you’re thinking sloooow down there pal – enjoyable?

Photos? I don’t think so.

But genuinely, wedding photography that’s not endless stuffy family portraits, awkward posing and forcing your fingers into heart shapes *is* possible. Documentary, reportage, candid, whatever you want to call it. Capturing moments as they unfold, rather than creating the moments unnaturally. This means that instead of forcing you to do something a certain way, the photographer will be in the background, snapping away as you do something the way you’d normally do it. Their aim is for you to not really notice they’re there (but not in a creepy, tiptoeing-in-the-dark kind of way – more of a “Oh hey Tim! Forgot you were there!” kind of way).

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If you’re planning on having some family photos (pro tip – don’t think about whether or not you want to do them now, think about whether or not you’ll be glad you have them in 30 years).

Group photos are best planned in advance – giving your photographer a (short!) list ahead of time, and recruiting a member of your party to round everyone up means they can be done in as little time as possible.

Also letting your family know ahead of time when and where they’ll be needed means less time waiting for them to come back from moving the car/checking in/feeding the baby and more time for chatting, eating, and tearing up the dancefloor with them instead! These photos don’t have to be the traditional line-up either; they can be whatever you want.

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the same goes
for photos of the
two of you

On the day I might grab you for five/ten minutes at a couple of strategic points where you won’t be missed (for example when your guests are sitting down to eat, if that’s a thing that’s happening. It usually takes about 15 mins to get everyone sat and that’s plenty of time to find some awesome light and grab a handful of photos of you and the stone cold hottie you just frickin’ wedded! We’ll go somewhere you’ll feel comfortable, and while I might give you a push in the right direction, I won’t tell you to do anything that feels remotely like Twister. Instead of getting you to make your hands into a heart shape, I might ask you to just chat to each other. Often this is the only time you’ll have on your own together all day, so you’ll get to take a moment to soak it all in!

Meeting up with your photographer beforehand is another way of ensuring your photos are mega. Not only is it a chance for you to meet them and get to know what they’re like, but it’s a chance for them to see how you two work together. This means everyone’s on the same page come the wedding day, and you get epic photos you’ll love!

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what now?

2021/2022 have been majorly impacted by the number of 2020 couples having to postpone. If you want me at your wedding you need to get in touch right now and we’ll book in a chat.

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