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The Best Wedding Planning Guide 

Planning your wedding should be fun, but here at Matt Ryle Wedding Photography we understand it can feel over whelming when you feel like you are not in control or don't understand what needs to be done.


Over decades of experience in wedding days we have compiled a lot of knowledge, and have created this list to help you navigate through a list of top things you need to do pre and on your wedding day. Whether you book us for your wedding photography or just use this guide to help you plan your day smoothly, we'd love to hear what you think. 

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Stunning engagement ring for happy couple in Chichester

You Just Got Engaged

Insure Your Ring


Congratulations, One of the happiest moments of your life has just taken place, you are going to marry the person you want to spent the rest of your life with. Now we want you to celebrate, to shout it from the room tops, tell everyone you know about how happy you are. Now you need to get that rock insured. I know I know, that's not fun or exciting, but losing or having that very significant investment stolen is definitely going to put a damper on things if you don't at least have the insurance in place to sort out having another made. We recommend either talking to your home insurance, but be aware this will effect your no claims discount should you need to claim, you could also look at a ring/jewellery insurance specialist which is particularly worth it if the ring is very valuable. 

What's your Budget


There are several factors that go into this part of the wedding planning which we will go into in more detail as we go, and, the budget may change as your wedding day planning develops, but we highly recommend sitting down as a couple and hashing out what you are comfortable spending, we never recommend over stretching yourselves even if it feels tempting. Work out what you can afford as a couple and stick to it. If family decide they want to also contribute, then you can alter enhance certain parts of the wedding down the line. Almost all vendors will happily let you add on extras, it’s not so nice having to have the conversation of removing budget from the day. 


A Checklist of things we think are crucial to include in your wedding planning and how much to allocate to each item:


1.    The Venue 20% of your budget​​

2.   Catering 15%​

3.   Wedding Rings 10%

4.   Photography 10%​

5.   The Band 5%​

6. Drink 5%​

7.   Flowers 5%​

8.   The Dress and the Suits 8%​

9.  Lighting and Decor 8%

10. The DJ 2%​​​

11.  Guest Entertainment 2%​

12.  Hair and or Makeup 2%​

13. The Cake 2%​

14.  The Transport on the day. 2 %​

15.  Wedding Favours 2%​

16.   Officiant 1%​

17.  Additional shiny bits 1%

For our Full Budget break down Click here 

Remember to always be flexible, you may have to make sacrifices in some places to move the budget around for others. Enjoy it.

Happy Wedding couple in West Sussex
Bride being pushed on a swing by her new husband

Are you Aiming for Bridgerton or Boho Beach 

Deciding the Fit and feel of your wedding day is a totally personal thing, for some couples this might have been planned out for years, for others it may require some introspective thought.

Who are you and what do you like. There is no right or wrong answer here. Do you see yourself sitting in the woods eating a hog roast round a fire pit, or do you see yourself with white horses pulling a shining carriage to a manor house. Deciding what you want the theme of your day to look like will really help narrow down what all the other detail and vendors will need to look like to fall in line

We shoot both all the time, so if you want some inspiration head over to our wonderful wedding blog page here

Beautiful Chichester Bride celebrating with her friends on her wedding day.

Whos Invited


Awkward Silence......The Guest list at a wedding may well be one of the most contentious parts of planning a wedding, there are many factors that come into play, budget being one, and of course the external voice of everyone else that want to have an opinion on who "absolutely has to be invited” even if it is your cousin once removed  who wants to bring their boyfriend of one weeks committed relationship. The reality is that people are aloud an opinion, but that’s all it should be, and you shouldn’t be made to feel like you have to justify your decisions before or on the day, even if it does offend Sal from Australia, they will or will not get over it, if they don’t, more fool them because all you will remember is the fun you had on your big day with the people that you actually want to spend time with and see. Obviously if Mum and or Dad are contributing financially this does muddy the water some and needs to be taken into consideration, but not at the expense of your day, and if it does then find ways to cut back and take the power back into your own hands.

Hire a Planner

If your Budget allows you may want to hire a wedding planner. What are the Pros? 


  1. Money saving, yes that's right, it may well cost you to hire them in the first place, but that little black book of contacts may well save you in the long run.

  2. Knowledge. A wedding planner that has been in the industry for some years will have a strong knowledge of what contractors work best for certain circumstances and for what budgets.

  3. Negotiating better rates. Often wedding planners like professional trades will be able to negotiate better rates than someone of the street, whether that’s through using preferred vendors or just being good at haggling.

  4. Fire Fighting. There will of course be some trip wires along the way, a wedding planner will be very used to this and instead of you trying to sort out a potentially stressful situation with a supplier from work, most of the time small issues will be resolved by the planner without you even needing to know.

  5. We would like to think this ultimate wedding guide will give you all the tools to make sure nothing on your big day is overlooked, but with the experience of a planner you can pass that liability over.

Casual Meeting

Selecting your Wedding Venue


There are so many stunning wedding venues here in West Sussex, whether you want a secluded woodland wedding or a grand manor house extravaganza we really are spoilt for choice, some of this decision will have already been partly decided if you have followed the previous steps in our guide, budget allocation and theme for your wedding day. However, for some of our favourites that we have photographer couple at see our Wonderful Wedding Blog for more details. 

A quick 5 of our favourite wedding venues around West Sussex






Couple walking back down the aisle with confetti
Stunning sunset wedding on the beach in West Sussex

Book Your wedding Photographer


Although here in West Sussex we have an amazing talent pool of photographers that are very good at their jobs. We also get booked up far in advance, here at 2024 is almost fully booked already and we are taking booking for as far as June of 2026. 


Having looked at budget you should already know what you can spend on a wedding photographer. So now begins the task of phone calls and meeting with the prospective photographers. We really do think one of the main things you can do as a couple to serve you well is finding a wedding photographer that you get on with. If you Like the look of their portfolio, you like them and they are in budget then don’t hang around, we’ve lost count of times couples have called back after a few weeks only to find the slot has been booked in-between.

Ask if you can see a full wedding album, it’s very easy to hide behind a few good images on a website, but it’s nice to see what a full wedding day actually looks like on delivery, you will also easily be able to see any wholes/red flags in their work, poor lighting conditions is a great way to test a photographers skill, so look for shots/weddings they have taken on bad weather days or in the evening. Although it’s a real buzz word natural light photography only works when the sun and or clouds are playing ball (we live in the UK so that’s certainly not all the time) If a photographer doesn’t know how to use off camera lighting you may find your images lacking.


Are they too good to be true? If a price sounds too good to be true, it is. That’s a hard and fast rule I follow in life, nothing comes for free and normally only rubbish stuff comes cheap. If you are after the ultimate budget photography for your wedding day rather than someone who will really capture the beauty of it we would seriously consider just investing in some throwaways and excepting it’s a different way of recoding the day.


Do they offer Photo and Video? More and more couples are looking for wedding photo and Film coverage, there are currently not many photographers offering this, it’s very comfortable just doing one or the other, and does require a considerable amount more work and effort on the day. We are proud to be able to offer this hybrid style coverage where even with just a single shooter we can offer photo and video of your day.  If it is something that is on offer make sure you know exactly what you are getting, and again your happy with the portfolio you can see.

What Will You Be Eating

As mentioned in the budget section above, we are biased when it comes to food, we are foodies through and through and are always amazed by some of the spreads that couple put on for weddings. Now unlike the Invite list where we believe this should be all about what you want, this is an occasion when we do want to think a little about the rest of the party, after all, that is what this essentially is, a really good party you are throwing for yourselves, and although you may be a chilly king or queen, guests can be less adventurous, and we don’t want to spend all this money on food simply for it not to be eaten. Focus on specific genre of food, then find a vendor that fits your day and talk to them about how the menu can be tailored to be more universally excepted. 

Food Plate
 Happy groom with his best man, celebrating his wedding day and life of friendship with his best friend.

Wedding Day Insurance


You’ve started putting some money down now and like with your engagement ring it is worth getting insurance for your wedding day. Chances are your house will never burn down, but we all have house insurance for that “Just in case day”   

Hire the rest of your vendors 


We have a full breakdown of key vendors not to forget on your wedding day over on our Wonderful Wedding Blog, but for a brief checklist:






Live Music 

Stunning Wedding flowers
A stunning wedding dress on a beautiful bride during her morning prep

10 months or LessStart Looking for your wedding Dress

For most Brides this is one of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding but can also be one of the worst parts. You may be one of the lucky few and stumble upon your dream dress the moment you walk into the first shop you go into. But from our experience talking to couples Brides tend to find it a bit more of a challenge. 


Remember if you turned up in a paper bag everyone would still see a glowing dream like figure walking down the aisle. 


Find a Vendor that makes you feel special. Google reviews are helpful in weeding out bad experiences before they happen though.


Don’t write of charity shops. One of the most special wedding dresses I’ve ever seen was brought buy a bride from Oxfam.

Have an Engagement shoot and shout it from the roof tops 

Do you need an engagement shoot.


The quick cheap answer is no. But why should you consider it? well there’s several reasons and we break it down in full detail here on our Wonderful Wedding Blog.


Some Key take aways from the article are: 


1.Practice makes perfect

2.You get some beautiful images to use on all your wedding invites/order of the day etc.

3.You get to know your photographer before your wedding day


Bride to be on her engagement shoot
Wedding day website

Wedding Website


With technology as it now is in almost everyone’s pockets, you may think it’s a no brainer to have a wedding website. 


It’s a great place to centralise all your wedding day information, save the date, information on the venue, menu choices. It’s also a lovely place to post your engagement photos if you chose to have them taken.  But it’s not for everyone and good old fashioned posted invites are just as nice, everyone likes different jam.

The perfect Flowers from a professional  Florists


The value that good floristry adds to your day is priceless, those added touches that connect us back to nature can feel special. 


If you’re not keen on the idea of the waste that is attached to real flowers, here in West Sussex we have some amazing alternatives, create some incredibly beautiful handmade paper flower options, must be seen to appreciate how beautiful they are. 

Beautiful wedding day flowers
Page boys and girls wating before their mum and dad to start the wedding day.



The invitations to your wedding are a special thing, for some people if they haven’t already heard the news in person, or seen it online, it may be the. First time they are hearing about it, it’s exciting, and some thought wants to go into what that looks like.

Look into a professional designer creating them, but don't write off your own personal touch you may be able to add by doing it yourself.

Its time to pull the trigger on the Wedding Dress (around 9 months out) 


It’s time to pull the trigger. This feels like it should be at the very top of the list, but we need to be patient and realistic. 9 months out is a good time to look at your life style, if you have got on a gym rush you will have seen what your progress looks like, if which we hope you all are, you’re just happy with your body then you should be able to maintain your weight over that 9 month mark with relative ease assuming no health hiccups come your way. Be confident, and remember, you will look amazing no matter what you turn up in. 

Groom picking up his new bride at Bignor park West Sussex
Friend Enjoying the evening at a wild wedding party




If you are going to be compiling a gift list, then sit down together and really think about what you need when starting your lives together.


People do love giving but remember to have a wide range of options, everyone will want to show their love, but some people are on tighter budgets than others.

Send out your Save-the-Dates 

It’s time that everyone officially knows when and where you're wedding day is. Have a checklist of names as and when you send them just to make sure no one is missed off, even if there are some you’d like to.

Couple kissing after a evening celebrating friends marriage.
Bride with all her Bridesmaids with the West Sussex south downs behind.

Bridesmaids' Dresses

This should be fun, but do your research first, sit down as a group if you can and brainstorm ideas, create Pinterest boards that are relevant to the mood and colour pallet of the day. 

It’s your day and you want the girls to look how you are visualising your day….but don’t forget they have feelings to, and I’m sure you can think back to a time when you put a dress on and just though, “Ohhh no, definitely not” But with that being said, bridesmaids, remember it’s not your big day, be able to compromise and don’t be divas, be a dream team.

Time to Dance

You may have already found the perfect musician by this point but we suggest getting them booked in asap. It's amazing how well live music gets people up on their feet for a dance.

Couple celebrating through the evening after their friends just got married.
  A proud Grandma watching her daughter get married

Getting comfortable


Check with your venue to see what is supplied, but you may need to book in things like, speciality chairs, draping’s, a dance floor etc. Not everywhere has good seating even if it’s a great venue, you can rent in some beautiful options for lounging and make the evening far more enjoyable for your guests. 

Make the Officiant official. 


If you aren’t marrying in an actual house of worship, you’ll need an officiant. make sure to speak with them in person before booking, they become quite a central part of the ceremony.

Father and daughter having a precious embrace on his wedding day
Bride staring up at the lights with reflections in her eyes.

The Honeymoon 


Whether you’re heading for Barbados or the Lake District, you’re going to want to lock in flights and accommodation as early as possible to avoid crazy prices. As a rule, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly domestically. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the cheapest day to fly internationally. 


Listen to your heart and go where it takes you. 

Taste the Rainbow 


Whether you are having in house or external catering you should have had at least one taste test session, this will be a time to have a final sit down and decide exactly what’s going on the menu, and any troubleshooting/tweak anything that might need to be done.

Bride and Groom having a quiet moment during dinner.
amazing wedding lego cake

What’s your Jam? Or Cake in this scenario


This may have been decided before the 4-month mark in terms of what it will look like, who you will be getting to make the cake, but if not, we really want to settle now. 

If undecided, go back over the wedding décor/inspiration mood boards etc, have at look through Pinterest for inspiration.


Main things to consider, flavour, colour, decorations. 

Hair and Makeup Trial 


Some brides do opt for friends helping out on the day, all we would say to consider is that booking a professional who does it all day will take the pressure and responsibility of someone who is there to just celebrate the day with you.

Bride having her hair done pre wedding
Brides father in laws car for her wedding day

Don't forget to organise how your getting there


However you plan on getting to and from all your wedding day locations you'll want to get it all booked in, make sure its a reliable company with good reviews if its not a family/friend doing it.



Some basic rules to follow to make sure wedding invitations go out and RSPV’S some back smoothly:

1.Order enough of them

2.Allow for some mistakes on print

3.Have a system in place to record all RSVP’S. 

custom made wedding signs
Bride and groom having some momments together
Black and white image of Bride with her brother celebrating on her wedding day

What do you want to say to each other?


Writing you own vowels? This is your chance to tell your partner in front of everyone how much you cherish them.

Writing your own vowels is a special thing, its highly emotional because and you may feel self-conscious, it might feel like you are leaving yourself open to  judgement, mockery, even ridicule, but remember anyone who really loves you will simply be listening with joy in their hearts, feeling privileged that they get to witness such a wonderful moment. 



Whether you are religious, atheist or agnostic, there will be something of great meaning to you if you look. Take your time to compile a list of things that really feel like they connect to you, if they mean something to you the entire room will feel it.

colourful wedding aunty at her nieces wedding day
Bride getting buttoned up by her mother on the morning of her wedding

Wedding Dress Fitting 


Most Brides should be looking to have their first fitting at around three months out for your wedding day. This will allow plenty of time for major adjustments with finer refinements happening at a fitting around six-weeks before the big day.

Pay Vendors in Full 


Don’t make this an awkward situation, Vendors almost all universally work extremely hard for you before, on and for some of us after your wedding day. Chasing payments is a horrible situation for all involved, so try to have a spread sheet or diary of what and when vendors need final payments. 

Groom celebrating with his father on the morning of his wedding
Evening celebrations for the bride at her wedding day surrounded by friends

Seating plans 


Hopefully this shouldn’t need to much thought in terms of damage control, but you want to consider the energy of each table, your university buddies don’t necessarily fit the energy of grandma, however uncle hank can hang with them all, it’s a delicate balance.

Time for a Hike.  


We’ve all at least seen a trailer if not the full movie where Reese Witherspoon  in Wild Hikes the Appalachian trail in some brand new boots. So, we aren’t suggesting you go for a overnight camp, but wearing in your shoes before the big day is going pay 10 fold, you may not make them more comfortable, but you may figure out a few ways to help prevent painful blisters on the wedding night.

page girls walking together over beautiful field
wedding couple on a swing at west sussex venue

Its your Wedding Day Tomorrow

  • Eat a healthy “safe” meal, probably avoid any takeaways, something simple that you are used to is .

  • Stay Hydrated, we  50 to 75% water so make sure you are topped up

  • Sleep, a wedding day is not only physically but very emotionally draining, get your sleep the night before.

  • Get Prepacked with a tick list of all items you are taking to the venue

The Morning of your wedding. 

  • Drink Drink Drink, avoid caffeine if you can

  • make sure the photographer knows what little items you want documenting  

  • Thank everyone around you and enjoy the ride, it’s your wedding day, enjoy it.

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