Speaking to four women who have gone through the experience, HELLO! Online chats to regular readers Louise Purton and Rebecca Pickard, and actresses Manrina Rekhi and Karen David.
Read on to find out what tips and advice these four brides can offer. What was the most important detail to plan for? How long did the whole process really take? And how do you know you've found "the one" when searching for that perfect wedding dress?
When did you start looking for the wedding dress?
Louise started looking straight after her engagement and bagged her dress a year ahead of the big day. "I have to say I wasn't blown away at first but as soon as I put it on I just knew it was the one," she said. "I'm so glad I looked for it early as I don't think I could have coped with the stress of not having the dress sorted."
Rebecca, similarly, bought her Pronovias gown a year in advance. "The wedding gown is very important," she said. "I had an idea beforehand of what I wanted, and I very much took advantage of the fact that I only get to wear it for one day, so went for a full on princess-style dress."
What was the most important detail to plan for?
All the brides agreed the venue was the most important thing, as locations often get snapped up quickly, and finding out when the venue was available would lead to the exact confirmation date of the wedding.
"We knew exactly what we wanted," said Karen. "We looked for an outdoor venue with ocean views that was rustic and cosy, and we knew we wanted a spring wedding. Once we had that in our heads, it made the search much easier and more focused."
With friends coming from abroad, Louise felt it was essential she book a place to accommodate her guests. "We wanted a venue that would allow us to host all our family and friends, so the party could carry on into the wee hours," she said.
"The venue was what Matt and I wanted to book straight away," agreed Rebecca. "Then the photographer, the florist and the makeup artists. They get booked up so far in advance so knowing I had my first choice secured was great."
Manrina advises brides to decide early on how many guests will be attending, as choosing a big or small venue will simplify the planning. "Another piece of advice I'd give to new brides is to consider brand new venues, or venues that haven't opened yet, providing they're available for your day," said Manrina. "The final industry reception was held at The Grange Hotel. It had just opened and ours was the first reception to be held there. As long as the owner of the venue can guarantee it will be ready on time, it's worthwhile considering brand new locations."
Who helped plan the wedding?
Karen and Manrina recommended hiring a wedding planner, for that stress-free feeling particularly in the months nearing the big day. Both their husbands were also hands-on and helped when needed.
"It's important to find someone who understands your vision," said Manrina, who is married to music producer Rishi Rich. "We made sure to meet with the planners several times beforehand and once they understood our dream it was relatively plain sailing. They were a massive help and reduced our stress considerably."
Karen's wedding coordinator was a huge help to her. "Tim, our planner, was so on top of everything, and made our lives so much easier. What we loved was he worked with us and our needs. He was very easygoing and so organised. He was the reason our wedding day went so perfectly."
Rebecca, on the other hand, was the main organiser for her wedding day. "I have had support from Matt and my parents, as well as my maids of honour, but I really knew what my vision was so planned it all, with the help of others to make it all happen."
Louise, likewise, says she would have felt "cheated" if she hadn't been able to plan her special day. "My fiancé Laurence often asks if I would have trusted him on Don't Tell the Bride, or in a similar situation. I think he would have probably done quite a good job, but as stressful as it is, I'd have felt so cheated if I didn't get to plan my own wedding."
How long did it take to plan?
Louise regards herself a very organised person so wedding planning came naturally with her endless lists and spreadsheets. "Establishing a budget early on was really useful as it meant we were able to prioritise the things we wanted to spend on the most, like the photographer, and then allocate the remaining money to all the other details," said Louise. "Having almost 2 years to plan has also meant we've been able to shop around for good deals."
Rebecca also felt deciding a budget was crucial and took to spreadsheets and lists. "My iPhone has been a saviour as I make notes in the middle of the night, on tube, anywhere. I used a lot of online wedding blogs and Pinterest too," she said. She started planning straight away and has had 16 months to plan. "It was a great amount of time, as I did loads at the beginning so could chill out a bit and enjoy being engaged before it all kicks off."
Unlike Rebecca and Louise, Manrina only had three months to plan her dream wedding but she felt this was an advantage for her. "In a way I think this was a good thing," she said. "Having only a short period of time forces you to be a bit more decisive and you get things done much quicker."
Karen's hectic work schedule meant she had less time than most brides, but worked it to her advantage. "Carl and I decided that we would get married within a six month time plan, and contrary to what some people might think, you can totally plan the wedding of your dreams in six months," she said. "We stayed focused with exactly what we wanted, so nothing was ever too overwhelming."