Ten top wedding planning tips for tying the knot in 2021

Bride With Wedding Flowers (1)

More than a quarter (26%) of couples who got married in the past five years used a wedding planner, according to recent research we conducted1.

Three in ten (30%) of those who chose to use a wedding planner said they came highly recommended while just over one in five (21%) said they decided to partner with them because it made the experience easier.

This year’s wedding season was like no other and many couples will have desperately been looking for expert advice and guidance on what to do as Covid-19 began to threaten their big day.

Wedding planner Rianna Elizabeth helped to move as many as 15 weddings across the UK and Italy for international clients over lockdown, which given the short notice was a huge challenge despite her vast experience in managing weddings and running large scale corporate events.

To make matters worse, Rianna was forced to postpone her own wedding which was due to take place in June until 2021. It meant that she spent weeks negotiating with an army of different venues and suppliers to rebook weddings, while also trying to keep her business afloat as lockdown brought the curtains down on the 2020 wedding season.

Rianna has been in the thick of it in recent months, learning valuable lessons that will stand her clients who have rescheduled for 2021 and those who are looking to book from 2022 onwards in good stead.

We spoke to Rianna to get her top wedding planning tips for anyone intending to tie the knot in 2021.

  1. Forget about the most desirable venues and dates for 2021

    “If you are hoping to get married between April and September next year, which is peak wedding season, you will be hard pressed to find a reception venue that has availability on a Thursday, Friday or weekends.

    The entire 2020 wedding season is effectively being crammed into 2021, so demand has gone through the roof. If you’re moving your wedding from this year to next summer, you could consider looking at mid-weeks, or keep an open mind about the location. For example, one of my clients was due to get married in a large, desirable venue but is now doing it in a marquee in the garden of one of the family homes.”

  2. Beware of cancellation fees – check the small print!

    “If you choose to cancel rather than postpone your wedding, you do risk losing some of your money. The details of any cancellation fees should be detailed in your contract so check the small print.

    There have been some horror stories of couples being charged thousands of pounds, but these are relatively few and far between. Most venues are understanding and are willing to be flexible when it comes to cancellations and rebooking.

    The Competition and Markets Authority recently advised that refunds should be fair and that companies should only seek to retain money to cover any costs it has already incurred.”2

  3. Be prepared to potentially lose some supplier deposits if rebooking

    “If you are rebooking your wedding for next year speak to all of your suppliers as soon as possible. If they are available in 2021 on your chosen date, then most should be willing to move for free. Their prices may rise slightly to account for inflation, increased demand and possibly other specific service charges, but generally these should be small.

    If your supplier isn’t available then you may find that you won’t be able to get a refund on your deposit, as most suppliers use that money as cash flow for the business, particularly smaller ones.”

  4. Negotiation requires patience now more than ever

    “The venue for one of my clients tried charging a £6,000 cancellation when we asked to move the wedding to next year. I did eventually manage to persuade them to back down on this, but it took nearly three months of negotiation.

    Although some conversations with venues or suppliers can be frustrating, a patient and friendly attitude is the best way to get what you want. If it’s just one supplier who is acting unreasonably and requesting a large fee to move to a new date, then you might be able to persuade them to change their mind by highlighting the goodwill of all your other suppliers. Even if they might not waive the entire fee, you may be able to come to some form of compromise or agree to meet in the middle.”

  5. Overseas weddings increase the risk

    “People are still planning to get married overseas next year and I regularly receive new enquiries about weddings in Europe.

    However, getting married abroad does add another layer of risk and generally my advice to couples is that it may be better to wait until 2022 if they want an overseas wedding. For any elderly relatives, whether that’s parents or grandparents, travelling is more complicated, and you run the risk that a loved one will be unable to make it there on the day.”

  6. Put the party on hold with an intimate ceremony

    “Not all couples have given up hope of getting married in 2020. Some people have decided that they would prefer to have a small, intimate affair before the end of the year or early in 2021 and hold a bigger celebration at a later date, once they are able to extend the guest list.

    You may wish to choose a lovely private dining room in a restaurant or switch from a large hotel or country house venue, in favour of booking a single room, such as an orangery or conservatory. One of the benefits of lockdown is that venues have taken the time to conduct renovations, which is giving people extra choice. The barn or the warehouse that wasn’t an option before, may now be ready if you want to hold a small, intimate wedding.”

  7. Go for 2022 or later if you want your dream wedding

    “A lot of couples still have their hearts set on the dream wedding and it can be hard to picture a scaled down version of this.

    But anyone who does choose to go ahead with their wedding this year or in 2021 will have to make some sacrifices. Therefore, my advice for anyone who still wants to plan the perfect day without any limitations is to think about booking for 2022 or even later.

    This is especially true if you are in the process of planning your wedding and working to a relatively tight budget. By waiting until at least 2022, you might reduce the prospect of cancellations or having to move dates, which can be costly.”

  8. Insurance offers peace of mind but not unlimited protection

    “If you have rebooked a wedding for next year or are in the process of booking a wedding then make sure to check the contracts with your venue and suppliers. The most important thing to do is to ask for their updated COVID-19 terms and what options are available to you, so that you understand what will happen if you have to cancel for any number of reasons.

    If you’re considering taking out wedding insurance make sure you read and understand your policy. It’s unlikely it will protect you from any government-led restrictions that prevent your wedding from going ahead, but it may offer some protection if someone in your party becomes ill or if the venue has to cancel because a staff member is unwell.”

  9. If in doubt, then don’t rush into booking a new date

    “There is still so much uncertainty about what will happen over the next couple of years, so my advice to anyone unsure about what to do or is feeling cautious, take your time and don’t rush into cancellation or booking a new date. Make sure you have all the information to hand first.

    If people have recently lost their job or are concerned about their future income, and have a wedding booked, then speak to your venue and suppliers and explain your situation. On these occasions, most suppliers are very understanding and sympathetic.

    If you still intend to get married but can’t decide on a date at the moment, then you might be able to agree a holding deposit with a supplier that means they will move your wedding free of charge up to a certain date, obviously depending on their availability.”

  10. Prioritise what’s most important to help keep on top of your wedding budget

    “Events of the past six months have acted as a strain on many people’s finances and couples who are getting married may find they have to tighten the purse strings. Discussing budgets with a venue or supplier can be the hardest part of the conversation, but it’s crucial to set realistic expectations about what is possible and what is affordable now circumstances have changed.”

    This view is echoed by Paul Went, managing director of our consumer lending division, he adds “You may find you incur some additional costs that you hadn’t accounted for when you began planning your wedding. If this is the case it’s better to prioritise what is most important and look at how you can save money in other areas, to avoid overstretching your finances at such an uncertain time.

    If you do choose to borrow additional funds, think carefully about what your limits are and research your available options to make the best decision for you.”


Author Rianna Elizabeth is a UK-based wedding planner who has been working in the industry for the past decade and has experience organising weddings ranging from large, lavish celebrations in Florence and Paris, through to smaller, intimate affairs in London. She is also the co-host of The Wedding Planning podcast and is a regular contributor to the news and guides section on our website where you can read more about planning and financing your big day.        

1Survey of 500 people who got married in the past five years. Conducted by 3GEM Research & Insights between the 1st of November and 18th November 2019.

2Wedding services: coronavirus (COVID-19), cancellations and refunds, Competition and Markets Authority, 7 September 2020