The 30-Day Challenge #6: Plan A Wedding In 30 Days

From the venue to the dress, ELLE's Debbie Black dedicates a month to planning a wedding

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When I scanned my yearly horoscope at the beginning of 2016, it stated: 'This is less of a Tinder year and more of a "Will you marry me?" year, Leo.'

If you've been following my Year of 30-Day Challenges from the beginning, you may recall that I said in my intro piece: 'I'm not going to get married or have kids in the next year.'

Well, how things change! The date is set for July 24 – four days before my 30th birthday.

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I met my Northern Irish husband-to-be last August – two weeks into 30-Day Challenge #1 - on a flight back from Mexico.

He proposed on Christmas Day (see part of the proposal in the photo above) after moving in with me three weeks earlier.

To say that the past six months have not gone as expected is a huge understatement. But I couldn't be happier.

Since I met Dale I've been questioning why I set out to do all these challenges in the first place. Was it perhaps some sort of distraction?

When I decided that I was going to plan our wedding in 30 days as one of my challenges, several friends actually thought I was getting married in 30 days. As fun as that might be for you to read, I imagine we'd probably have gone completely insane under that sort of pressure. But I did set myself the challenge of ticking everything off on my planning list within a 30-day timeframe.

As I had never put any real thought behind getting married (because it would literally have been farcical to, seeing as I've been single for most of my life), I didn't have any preconceptions of what the day would look like – it's much easier to paint a picture on a white canvas than try to find the exact palette to match the half-painted picture.

Where to start?

Wedding Venue

What we already knew for sure was that we weren't having a church wedding. We even toyed with the idea of having it at my parents' house (I'd always fancied the idea of a garden wedding – but it is England, after all, can't rely on the weather) though logistically this just wasn't going to be an option. We also wanted to find a venue that was licensed to hold civil ceremonies, as well as our reception, plus a capacity big enough for lots of people. So this somewhat narrowed down our search! My mum suggested a venue right at the beginning, before we had even started looking at other options, and despite looking through what felt like hundreds of wedding venue websites, it ended up being this venue that proved to be perfect for everything that we wanted. (Well, mums do know best!)

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Wedding Date

This sort of came down to the availability of our venue, which I must admit I was quite concerned about. We liked the idea of getting married in the summer, preferably in July – we didn't want to get married later, nor did we especially want to get married earlier (even more pressured planning!) and, lucky for us, there were quite a few options for us to choose from! We went for Sunday 24th July in the end – four days before my 30th!

Notice of Intent to Marry

I didn't even know this was a thing. We are getting married in Surrey but we live in London, so we had to book (and pay) for our appointment at our local registry office to inform them of our intentions and answer a series of questions each. It went well. Apart from when Dale temporarily forgot where we lived. That bit was hilarious. Understandable, though - he'd only moved in the month before!

Registrars

I could only book the local registrars for our wedding venue once the venue, date and time were 100% confirmed. They had already stated their availability on the 24th July as 1/2/3/4pm so we just had to have the deposit sorted, contract signed and time of day chosen, then our registrars were booked.

WEDDING DRESS!

I made an appointment at a local boutique, Pronovias, and took my mum and one of my bridesmaids. I was nervous. I had earmarked four dresses that I really liked from perusing their website, and one that was a clear favourite. What if they all looked awful on me? It turned out, my favourite was still my favourite once I had tried them all on, including another couple of random options after arriving at the store. But it wasn't until the very end of the appointment when the lady said that I had tried on all their dresses in the particular style I liked, bar one, and would I like to try it on? Of course! Well, that's the dress…! I went back the next week to try it on again and that was it - I didn't go to a single other shop. Done.

Bridesmaid Dresses / Suits

I'm not going to lie, I can't take any credit for the suits at all. Dale organised the suits all by himself and the bridesmaid dresses I fell in love with on one of the Pinterest boards that my bridesmaids and I share for the occassion – it was one of their suggestions and I thought they were perfect.

Photographer

My friend used to work on a bridal magazine and I asked her if she could recommend her favourite real-life wedding photographers. She gave me a list of seven and Dale and I looked through all of their websites and picked our favourite and got in touch. After a FaceTime chat to discuss everything, we booked her!

Band / DJ

Again, this was a recommendation from a friend (I love recommendations) and I fell in love with them the minute I visited their website – so lovely and friendly, too – and Dale thought they were great, so we booked them.

Florist

My mum recommended the florist – a local lady (the venue is less than a ten minute drive from the family home) and when we arranged to meet with her we ended up chatting for almost 2.5 hours! Enough said, we booked her.

Catering

My mum also recommended the caterer (can you tell my mum and I are very close?!) – we haven't actually been for our tasting yet but it's only a couple of weeks away now – and they were very reasonable by comparison and offered everything we wanted – including an entirely separate meal for my very fussy (when it comes to food) groom. It's his wedding too after all!   

Cake

My very talented friend kindly offered to make the cake for us. She is quite the extraordinary baker and recently baked a cake for our mutual friend's wedding that was so spectacular everyone had to stop and take pictures of it.

Hair & Make-Up

My friend is also doing the make-up on the big day and she is recommending someone that she works with to do our hair as well – I'm lucky to have such lovely, talented friends.

And aside from a few other wee bits and bobs (wedding insurance and the like), that was everything that was achieved in the 30-day timeframe.

What was the hardest part of the challenge?

The guest list. It was so hard that I didn't complete it within the 30-day timeframe. It was too much of a big deal to rush. 

What was the most fun?

The wedding dress shopping, of course!

What did I learn?

- Be calm

- Be open to taking recommendations

- Be prepared to compromise

- Don't rush what doesn't need to be rushed

- 'I get by with a little help from my friends'

I love that so many of my nearest and dearest will have played a role in our big day and I can't wait to celebrate with them all. Although at this rate we have a whole party ready and no one going - best get sending out those invitations...!

Next 30-day challenge: Meditation

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