Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St Ermin’s Hotel

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St Ermin's Hotel
St Ermin's Hotel is a romantic and timeless venue for a central London wedding. Photo:Nadine van Biljon & Occasion Queens

Minnie Sibanda, St Ermin’s Hotel’s Wedding and Events Coordinator, has created a smart guide for couples who are planning their celebration. Follow her advice to enjoy a stress-free run up to your wedding day


Photos: Dominic Lemoine Wedding Photography;
Nadine Van Biljon

Planning your perfect day is always about practical details – and the more you tap into your chosen venue’s expertise the better. Here, St Ermin’s Hotel Wedding and Events Coordinator Minnie Sibanda gives her take on ways to manage your budget, guest list and other key planning details like a pro – saving money and time and also reducing stress in the run up to your perfect celebration.

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
Minnie Sibanda of St Ermin’s says keeping budget front of mind is a good way to prioritise what matters most to you and avoid unnecessary spending

Budget like a professional

Boring but vitally important, set yourself an estimated budget before you start planning. Keeping a firm idea of your limit front of mind helps avoid unnecessary spending – always a temptation for couples since there are so many brilliant wedding ideas out there. Even more importantly, having a budget helps you cost out and prioritise the things that matter to you – selecting your ‘must have’ items and then deciding on ‘nice to have’ extra details.

If negotiating isn’t a skill of yours, state your budget before asking for prices. This way the providers you speak to know exactly what you are able to afford and are more than likely to try to find a way to fit your budget.

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
Hotel packages are a good way to be smart on costs – typically including flowers and food as well as other bonuses such as wedding planning services. Photo: Nadine van Biljon

Look for package savings

Always a brilliant way to cut costs, packages are offered by many leading hotels and wedding venues. They usually include the vital wedding components, including décor and catering. This is where much of the money is spent at weddings so it is useful to have these key elements covered off.

Also tap into the other ‘extras’ offered to you. For instance, many hotels offer will discounted accommodation for guests and – more important still – a dedicated wedding planner to assist with all the planning and ensuring your day runs smoothly.

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
Booking early not only gives you peace of mind, but also widens your choice of suppliers and enables you to tap into more special deals. Photo: Nadine van Biljon

Book early for the widest choice

Everyone will tell you this, but it’s really important to book as far in advance as possible. This offers you far wider choices, especially if you are planning a celebration during the traditionally busy weekends.

Attending wedding fairs is a good way to see the widest choice of suppliers and also tap into the many good deals that are typically offered at these events so that suppliers can firm up their schedules for the months to come.

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
You should definitely expect a tasting of your wedding breakfast menu – it’s the only way to ensure you will be happy on the day. Photo: Dominic Lemoine

Test out your suppliers

Food is such an important part of your big day. Always insist on a full menu tasting to ensure you are 100 per cent happy with what you and your guests will be served. Some hotels include a food tasting session in your wedding package at no additional cost. This can also provide a helpful date for your and your partner to catch up with each other and indulge in a pleasurable part of the wedding planning process!

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
Managing your guest list and seating plan can be stressful, so both should be planned early – this is your day so focus on nearest and dearest to celebrate with you. Photo: Dominic Lemoine

Manage the guest list

can be all to easy to let the guest list ‘mushroom’ and this can inflate costs on the day without adding to your enjoyment. Sticking to close family and good friends will ensure your nearest and dearest have a really special day and that everyone celebrating with you adds to your happy memories.

“Alternative layouts to the traditional top table can feel far more social and relaxed”

It’s also important to make a start on your seating plan early. This can take longer than expected to put together and can be one of the most stressful tasks. I recommend that couples consider alternatives to the traditional top table layout and perhaps go for a centre table instead. For example, you could sit underneath a central chandelier or perhaps have a different tablecloth or a larger centrepiece. This creates a very social setting and often feels more relaxed.

Another tip is to name your guest tables instead of numbering them. This adds a personal (and sometimes humorous) element to the day and, at a stroke, avoids guests being offended at their placement on, say, table 10.

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
Flowers are such an expensive element at weddings, St Ermin’s find couples often like to give them to guests as a gift after the celebration. Photo: Dominic Lemoine

Be smart with party extras

Flowers are a really important part of creating a beautiful setting for your wedding but can be a very expensive element, so why not offer them to guests to take away at the end of the day as a lovely extra ‘party favour’? At St Ermin’s, this is a popular option at weddings and we always ensure we have a stash of florists’ paper for people to wrap up the flowers and transport them home.

Also remember that you don’t have to spend a vast fortune on drinks – friends are there to be part of your special day. Hotels’ drinks allowances in their wedding package are generally quite generous – for instance, a glass of Prosecco or Pimm’s during the reception, half a bottle of wine during the meal, and a glass of Prosecco for the toasts.

If you do want to treat your guests to more, consider alternative package options such as unlimited drinks for a pre-agreed time limit. It’s always a good idea to discuss options with your venue and wedding planner, as there are many ways to manage this aspect of your wedding budget and ensure the party flows.

Guest columnist: Planning tips from Minnie Sibanda of St. Ermin's Hotel
St Ermin’s Hotel is a classic London wedding location, with a celebrated history and a choice of fine event spaces

About St Ermin’s Hotel

Located around the corner from St James’ Park Underground and close to the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace, St Ermin’s is an historic hotel and a popular central London wedding venue. Its stunning ballroom is one of three main internal event spaces, and the hotel also features a lush tree-lined courtyard. Wedding packages start at £99 per guest. For more about weddings and celebrations at the hotel, visit


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