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Planning a wedding can really feel overwhelming at times (trust me, I do it for a living). While a few couples often hire a professional to help manage their wedding planning, there are plenty of reasons why they might also opt to take on the majority of the responsibilities on their own. Probably they are working on a tight budget or want to execute all your DIY ideas themselves. That’s a lot of extra details and time, but since we always have the support of family and friends in Uganda, it is very possible to plan your wedding yourself. However, no number of unprofessional manpower will beat a professional’s.
The key to keeping everything on track when you’re faced with decisions, lists, deadlines, and everyday life to deal with is being organized. So how do you do that?
We have created this list of indispensable tips and tricks to help you pull off your wedding or introduction successfully;
1. Get a grip on your guest list
Settling for a specific number of guests should be the first step on your wedding planning journey. You should get your numbers right even before you search for the venue. We advise allowing for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it’s really not if you count the space you’ll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the entertainment crew and a dance floor.
2. Stick to your Budget
Your wedding budget will be the driving factor for many of your wedding-related decisions, so this should be one of the first things you tackle. If any family members will be contributing, chat with them about what they’re comfortable spending. If you’re footing the bill yourself, it’s time to take a hard look at your finances. Once the two of you have got that magic number, stick to it!
3. Budget for only the money you have at hand
It can be tempting and exciting when wedding pledges start flowing through but having been in this business for years, I can assure you that relying on pledges to fund your wedding budget is the worst mistake you can do. Don’t believe me? Ask friends who have recently had a wedding.
Truth is, most people will not fulfill 80% of their pledge amount and some won’t even pay any bit at all. To be on the safe side, your budget should base on the money you have in cash., not what you expect. You don’t want to be that groom who will be calling people 10 times a day as if they owe you.
4. Plan for the weather
You can’t control the weather but technology has increasingly made it easier to plan ahead. Weather forecast apps are becoming increasingly accurate and it’s getting easier to predict a day’s weather on an hour per hour basis. In 2019, I successfully planned a client’s outdoor OPEN wedding in the middle of a rainy season at Munyonyo Commonwealth resort. It did rain but I knew precisely the time frames in which we would have rain and I planned accordingly. That way, my client was able to have a wedding of her dreams – an outdoor open wedding. Another tip is to always have a plan B. You would have to talk this over with the venue personnel to ensure not only have weather alternatives but actually taking a look at how they would be executed. Your vendors need to be well informed of these alternatives.
5. Let one vendor lead you to another.
Many people forget to take advantage of this line or they feel unsure trusting one vendor to find them another. However, your wedding photographer could tell you which florist’s blooms really pop, or which venues are picturesque. Additionally, your decorator could connect you to a good but affordable caterer.
6. Cut on that list
Is your budget getting out of control? You don’t have to break the bank but the easiest way to trim your wedding budget is to cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it’s costing you UGX.150,000 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you 1.5m. Look, the thing is: you need to understand that no matter how generous you are, you can’t afford to feed all your cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, and neighbors.
Manage your guest list with the “tiers of priority” trick. Place immediate family, the bridal team and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can’t imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbors, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.
Actually, unlike what you think, most of them won’t hold a grudge with you simply because you didn’t invite them to your wedding.
7. “This card permits only …. people.”
Another similar tip is to clearly let invitees know that each invitation card is restricted to the number of people indicated on it. For example, if you invite your buddy Some people will receive an invitation card that accepts one person but they’ll bring along their entire household – kids, neighbors, nanny, etc. I have even some weddings where invitation cards clearly indicate that children are not invited. After all, it’s a wedding. Not a birthday party. To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal team).
One trick to enforce this strategy is to place number seats and ensure that the protocol team seat guests according to the numbers on their invitation cards. However, during your wedding meetings, your organizing committee or wedding planner needs to have clearly communicated with some of the meeting attendees who will, in turn, inform others. That way, guests will have been informed that seats have been prepared for only invited guests.
For this arrangement to be effective, have ushers and the security team (ensure there’s no interruption from your guests) take care of the entrance and seating of the guests.
If asked why you’re not allowing children and friends to bring guests, size or budget constraints or your parents’ never-ending guest list are good reasons. If you need an extra excuse, blaming it on your wedding planner always works.
8. Avoid Rushing into commitment
It may be enticing to book the first photographer or decorator you meet, but when it comes to booking wedding vendors, it’s essential to not rush into any decisions. Consider at least a few different options to make sure these important wedding vendors understand your vision and can also work within your budget. But that’s not all, you need to take your time around these vendors(especially the big ones like decorator, venue, caterer) and ensure you are comfortable working with them. You could probably meet them – at least – twice before locking in your payment. The last thing you want is to commit to a vendor with whom you are going to be fighting over some details even before the wedding day. Also talking to a number of vendors gives you an overview of the prices and their work procedures. Additionally, it gives more bargaining power since you are now more knowledgeable.
9. Feeding your wedding vendor crew
You are probably thinking; “I paid them! I don’t have to feed them” but here is the thing: Decorators, photographers, ushers, and other vendors, along with their crew members are planning to dine and wine off your wedding budget. And as unfair as that might feel, it is true.
First, in Uganda, that is the norm – you can’t eat as others look on. Secondly; it will be really hard to keep those guys off the food and drinks. That said, the bigger your function is, the more vendors you will have to feed. In some cases, you will be feeding around 50 vendors.
One tip to avoid such unforeseen expenses is; before you sign the contracts, make sure you’re not required to serve vendors or at least, not the same meal that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 50 additional Kampala Serena meals. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed and what you want them to serve.
10. Ensure you have all the time you can get for Setup
You must make sure there’s ample time for setup. If you’re renting a venue and bringing in vendors like decorators or caterers, ask what time people can come in to start setting. See if they can start the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day before the event starts. It would be disastrous if your venue has an all-night event yet your decorator has to do a major venue transformation.
11. Go over the ground rules
Talking of transformations, you also need to clearly communicate with the venue and understand what transformations are allowed and which are not. For example, Speke Resort Munyonyo and many other top hotels like Serena do not allow decorators to make any changes to their hall walls. The best advice would be to visit a venue with your decorator so they can clearly communicate with the management what it is they need to do with the place. Otherwise, you may end up paying for expensive decor items or a concept that can’t be executed because of venue restrictions.
Additionally, you need to ask the venue manager to explain a list of their restrictions. Are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)? What’s their policy on corkage? Recently, I attended a wedding at a certain hotel in Kampala where a couple had to pay a corkage fee of over 1.5m for fresh juice which they had bought from a juice vendor.
12. You need the Fashion Police
A gown is definitely a big deal – if not the biggest. When it’s time to go gown shopping, don’t go on your own—all the gowns will start to look the same after a while and it will be harder to recall which style you really loved. However, be careful about who you bring along. If your mom or sibling can’t make the trip, ask a friend who is truly honest. This is the time when you really need to know which dress looks best. The same applies to the groom.
13. Hire a wedding planner or at least, a day-of coordinator.
I clearly understand the way we do weddings in Uganda; So many couples think they can do all of the planning on their own, and friends and family are willing to help, and that’s completely fine—up until the day of the wedding. Remember that your friends and family are as excited about your wedding as you are. Also, they have friends and family they’ve got to keep company. After a drink or two, or a few hours running around, they fall off the cliff . And now, you have no one to coordinate the vendors. Literally, everyone starts doing as they wish: the waiters sit while your guests lack drinks.
If you can hire someone to handle the details on the actual day, it alleviates so much stress from you and your friends or family giving them an opportunity to suck in the evening and enjoy your wedding. You and your family should be guests at your wedding, not the staff. Even if a planner isn’t in your budget, here at Parties & events, we offer more affordable, day-of services.
14. On-site of Off-site Wedding venue
An Off-site wedding is where you need to bring everything in—think of items like an outside caterer, soft drinks, beer, etc. Literally, the venue just provides you with only space . A common example is the Naguru hilltop gardens. Since most Ugandan weddings consist of over 300 guests, off-site venues provide a cheaper budget option especially when you consider items like food and drinks. A buffet meal at Kampala Serena which costs UGX.120,000 would cost you UGX.30000 from most outside catering companies. Additionally, you can get a bottle of at 2500 from local suppliers if you have an on-site wedding but you’d pay almost 4 times that price for 1 beer at Serena.
However, if you’re planning your own wedding, having an “on-site” wedding—somewhere like a hotel or restaurant—will make the planning process that much easier as they’ll likely have a range of catering offerings available, as well as access to the basics, including designated space, food and drinks, chairs, and tables for your ceremony and/or reception.
Whewww…that was a long one!
If you need decor (see most of our work on Instagram @ugandanweddingplanner) or professional wedding planning and coordination services, we are more than excited to work with you. Reach us on +25677911818 (Call/WhatsApp)