July 17th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
Ten months – well actually less than ten months to go now until our big day! Our featured brides aren’t lying when they say the run up to the wedding flies by, and in a twist of roles, it is these knowledgeable now-married ladies that I’ve found myself turning to for guidance along this tricky planning path. For despite being immersed in weddings day in day out, and constantly absorbing the expert advice passed on by the amazing suppliers that we work with, I’ve come to realise that nothing quite prepares you for planning your own – and those armed with the most solid advice are the couples that have been there, done that, and bear the wedding bands to prove it.
I therefore really enjoyed putting together this recent post, which lists top tips from our real brides over the past few months, and I’m now trying to put their wise words into practise – “enjoy the organising”, “don’t stress”, “split the workload”, “be decisive”, “break things down into bite-size chunks”. And so, I found myself scheduling a ‘wedding meeting’ with groom-to-be Andy. Sounds rather bridezilla-esque I know, but as we both lead busy lifestyles (or more to the point, our evenings are currently taken up with Love Island #teamdanijack) I felt like it was necessary to ensure we gave the plans some quality time and got a few things ticked off the ever-growing to do list.
It started out all angelic with a notebook and glass of Buck’s Fizz in our sunny garden, though ended with us sat at a computer screen indoors with our heads in our hands. But I’m pleased to report that progress was made!
The invites are almost ready to hit ‘print’ on thanks to my super talented best friend Nic – a graphic designer/art director with a fabulous eye for detail and styling. Another top tip often mentioned by our featured brides is to call on the skills of family and friends, and I couldn’t agree more. As well as potentially saving you a little money, it’s also a lovely way to involve someone you care about in your plans and to bounce ideas off too. I can’t wait to reveal the final result, but if you want to check out some of Nic’s gorgeous wedding stationery designs in the meantime, take a look at her lovely little business, Paper Dates.
In-line with the sorting the invite designs we’ve also firmed up our guest list, which is no mean feat, as despite family politics, we’ve remained determined to invite those closest to us, rather than who’s ‘expected’ to be attending. At my brother’s recent wedding (where Andy and I are pictured in the opening image to today’s post), he and his partner Ben invited just 40 people to their ceremony and evening reception – the vast majority of these being friends – and then opened up the invite to around 100 guests the following evening for a larger-scale party. The result was a really special and intimate atmosphere for the main part of the wedding that we’d love to replicate on our big day, though our numbers are slightly higher due to the style of wedding. Evening guests have been kept to a minimum not to disrupt the flow of the proceedings, and as we’re having a Thursday wedding we appreciate the logistics of people travelling on a work night could be tricky.
So what else? Just the small matter of finding my wedding dress! It fills me with both excitement and nerves to say that after just two bridal boutique appointments, I’ve found the one! I’m not nervous about my choice, just that it makes it all seem so real and we have plenty of planning left to do.
When initially thinking about my dress search I loved the idea of going to around four or five boutiques, trying on lots of gorgeous dresses while enjoying glasses of fizz before making my mind up – but that wasn’t quite the case as it all happened rather quickly, and on reflection I’m rather glad it did. You see, I’m notoriously indecisive so in the back of my mind I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the perfect dress and as the search would continue I’d become more disheartened and lose my focus.
For anyone fearing the same, my advice to help you in your search would be:
1 Initially look in magazines and blogs to find styles of dresses that you think you would like.
2 Next, try to find designers that have those styles in their collections, the price range of such dresses and the boutiques that stock them.
3 If you come across a certain dress by a designer that you are really drawn to, enquire with the boutique if they stock that particular design and, if not, are they able to call it in from the designer for you to try on at your appointment or do they have a designer event coming up where they will have the full collection in store for a limited time?
4 Take two, three people maximum to your appointment with you to avoid too many differing opinions. I took my mum and best friend Nic as these are the people I tend to shop with and they know my style and personality best. Most importantly I knew they would be 100% honest with me.
5 Try on a variety of styles. Even if you couldn’t think of anything worse than an A-line princess gown it’s good to try a variety of style to get an idea of what you do want – and while you might not like the overall style on you, there may be an element, such as the neckline, that you love and can look for in another design.
6 Go to a professional boutique rather than shopping on the high street or at warehouse style stores. The service that I received at both boutiques was second to none, as experienced stylists they listened to my plans and style and suggested dresses accordingly, and even made further suggestions on how the design could be altered. Those that have an in-house seamstress in particular are great at giving you alternatives, such as differing necklines, adding straps, sleeves or building in bra cups (the ab-so-lute dream for us small-busted girls keen not to look like a 13-year-old on their wedding day).
7 Move. Don’t just walk around the changing room and boutique rigid, you will need to be able to eat, drink, sit (and possibly kneel if in church), hug and dance in that dress so you have to feel comfortable and at ease.
8 Finally, when you find a dress you like ask yourself – can you see yourself getting married in that dress and will it work with the venue? Don’t worry about the styling, as these are details that will follow and that you can alter to work in-line with the dress. The most important thing is that you are comfortable, feel confident and above all, you love it!
During my appointments my mum and Nic compared me to Princess Diana and Shirley Bassey in some of the dresses so their speechless reactions and teary eyes spoke volumes when I emerged in what will be my dress for the big day. Thankfully there were no comparisons and the overriding opinion was that the dress was totally me!
And so, my journey continues, and I imagine there will need to be a fair few more ‘wedding meetings’ scheduled with Andy up to May, not to mention a ‘hen do brief’ with my #bridesquad as I try to decide where to have my final hurrah as Miss Parry – and make clear that no phallic straws or inflatables will be required!*
*Editor’s note: Just try and stop us Rach!
June 29th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
As we find ourselves at this sensationally sunny mid-point of the year it’s time to reflect on the on the words of wisdom shared by the fabulous brides who have featured on the blog so far this year.
There is certainly nobody better to advise you on how to handle the run up, as well as the big day itself, than those who have been there, done that, said the ‘I dos’ and worn the Jimmy Choos. As such, we’ve picked out top 20 pearls of wisdom that we consider golden to assist you on your planning journey; from recruiting the right suppliers and avoiding a dress shopping crisis, to working as a dynamic duo and really making the day your own!
So readers, prepare to take note as these fully-fledged brides complete the following sentence – “My top tip to other Brides Up North would be…”
Click on the links to see each wedding in full.
Louise says: Firstly, enjoy every minute of the planning as well as the big day. Don’t over think things. Set your budget but when you see something you really like, go for it. I think you can spend so much time scrutinising everything and it can take over your life. Secondly, don’t leave yourself too much to do in the last week before the wedding. The build-up was such good fun and we loved spending that time with our family and friends before the big day. We also used Brides Up North in the lead up to our wedding to help with the planning – I followed the Instagram account (and still do!) We also read the wedding blogs on the site as it is a great way to get ideas – and who doesn’t love to hear about other people’s wedding stories?! We used the online supplier directory as a sense check too.
Sarah says: Don’t stress about the little things; as long as there is good food, drink, dancing and good company you will have the best day regardless.
Rachael says: Enjoy the process of organising the wedding as much as you can. It is such a busy and, at times, stressful experience worrying about making the right decisions and trying to keep everyone happy, but it is also a really special time and one that doesn’t last forever, so make the most of it. Ultimately, it’s your day and, as long as you do what makes you both happy, you can’t go wrong.
Jemma says: Take your time and don’t get stressed! Start planning early and do bite sized tasks bit by bit so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Jessica says: I would strongly recommend getting a venue decorator/stylist. It’s easy to think that it’s easier to do it yourself but it was so reassuring to know that we could enjoy the day before without worrying about centrepieces. Oh, and get married early – it gives you loads of time to chat to everyone!
Jen says: Follow your gut and do what feels right for the two of you. Make sure you push to have an occasion that is personal and keep it fun. Everyone says it, but the day itself goes so fast, take some time to be together and sit back for a minute to look around. The ceremony is the best bit, so don’t forget about it in the planning madness!
Nic says: Do everything together. People often say that planning a wedding is stressful. It’s as stressful as you choose it to be! Make all the decisions together, split the workload and be decisive.
Kathryn says: Don’t let the rain ruin your day! It rained all day on our wedding day, but it didn’t matter in the slightest. I’m so happy we decided to embrace the rain and head into the woods for some photographs, as these ended up being some of my favourite photos of the day. The rain makes everything look so fresh and the colours look so beautiful in our photos.
Emily says: Get a wedding planner as they are well worth the money. They keep you on track and have great recommendations; they know what suppliers you can trust and also help to keep everything on track on the day of the wedding itself. I am an extremely organised person so thought I could do it on my own, but my husband convinced me we needed a planner and I am so thankful he did!
June 19th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh
image source, photography by Carly Bevan Photography
So, you’ve chosen your venue, decided on the date, picked your colour palette and drawn up your guest list. Dress dilemmas are done and dusted, and you’ve selected which gal pals will accompany you down the aisle (still agonising? Check out our tips!). You’ve painstakingly worked your way down the wedding admin tick-list, from the cool stuff – food, music, entertainment – to the not-so-cool stuff – insurance and checking the venue’s PAT testing requirements.
If that’s the case, then bravo and a big shiny gold star for you! And we have good news: it’s time to take a break from all the adulting and spend some time indulging in the frivolous – but fun – details. We’re talking about the kind of finishing touches and frippery that won’t necessarily make or break your day (or your budget, for that matter) but are nevertheless important to you. These little features are often used as a way to make your celebration more personal, more poignant or simply to pump up the wedding wow factor.
So how to make your big day stand out from the rest?
image source, photography by Weddings by Smith
Maybe I’m just a weird stationery fiend – always a possibility – but I find that there are so many ways to incorporate little personal paper details into your big day. I’ve been to weddings where origami decorations (flowers, rainbow-coloured cranes) featured heavily, paper pompoms, lanterns and streamers provided a colourful (and cheap) decor hit, and place settings and table plans and numbers/names were creatively inspired. Plus, any excuse for a creative get together and cava – oops, I mean crafting – session with your pals, eh?
image source, photography by Pixsmiths Photography
Couples who put thought into their favours just make us squeal with their cuteness. They don’t need to be expensive – bottles of Bolly and Creme de la Mer products might be affordable for Kimmy K, but not for us mere mortals – so get your thinking caps on. My favourites from recent years have included a pork pie wrapped in floral fabric, gingerbread men from a local bakery, Jameson miniatures from a fellow whiskey-loving bride and Nutella tubs with guests’ names on the label. What’s personal to you that you haven’t seen before at a wedding? I feel a spider diagram coming on….
image source, photography by Bethany Whittaker
Another detail we love – guest books with a twist. Colouring in charts, polaroid or photobooth sessions, date and anniversary ideas, advice for a happy marriage, memory requests, song recommendations – they all get a thumbs up for individuality and creativity from us. Could your venue or interests lend you some inspiration? One couple I know who married in Newcastle’s Baltic modern art gallery asked all of their guests to draw a self-portrait of themselves and stick it to the glass walls, later putting all of the pictures together into a book. It was a great ice-breaker activity on the tables for people who didn’t already know each other and caused a not-insignificant amount of hilarity – bonus!
image source, photography by Bethany Whittaker
It used to be that brides and grooms thanked their mums with a big bouquet of last-minute lilies and that was that. Well, no more. Bridal party gifts are another area where the bride gets to go off the beaten track and have some fun. You can go personal – family pictures from the past turned into a beautiful photobook? – or poignant – an engraved locket with a snapshot of the two of you? Maybe she’d appreciate a massage to unwind from all of the stress of the preparations, or perhaps you could book an afternoon tea for the two of you to debrief and share photos a few weeks down the line. The same goes for your #bridesquad, #groomsquad and all of the others who’ve lent a hand, an ear or a wedding car for the big day – think personal and be creative.
image source, photography by Hayley Blackledge Photography
We look at a lot of pictures of cake (I know, it’s a tough gig) and, by default, lots of cake toppers. It’s clear that this is an area where brides and grooms express their individuality, straying far from traditional couple figurines. We’ve seen Lego people, knitted creations, superhero motifs and even beloved pets rendered in icing. What tickles your fancy?
Also, we’ve lost count of the number of brides who declare their dislike – or their husband’s lack of enthusiasm – for a traditional fruit cake with marzipan icing. The cake flavours described on these hallowed pages, from chocolate orange to pink lemonade, reflect the individuality of each couple and make us drool with worrying regularity. But who says you even have to have cake? We love it when brides demand something a bit different: a favourite family pudding, a humungous cheeseboard or a croquembouche – or an entire wall of doughnuts?! Now we’re talking!
June 12th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh
Joe Mather Photography
We’ve made it to the last hurdle readers – parts one, two and three of our ‘planning like a pro’ series have dealt with (most of) the wedmin and now it’s (mostly) the smaller elements left to organise in the final countdown to your big day! Eek! Notebooks at the ready ladies and let us chivvy you along to Operation Get Wed!
In the last three instalments we’ve covered how to choose a season and date, venue choice, how to make a decision on key suppliers, the guest list, budget thoughts, the dress and styling and now we’re really focusing in on those all-important details.
Phew! So now it’s time to round things off by taking a look at what should be filling your days when you have just a month or so to go until the vows and celebrations!
It’s time to speak to your celebrant and find out the rules surrounding music for your ceremony before making some tough choices. Churches are often more flexible than they used to be and allow ‘secular’ music, but you’ll find that registrars must check the music for civil ceremonies and that it must be secular in nature. So what, you might think, I wasn’t planning on hymns, but if you’re a diehard Jeff Buckley fan (Halleluiah) or you fancy a classical piece that doesn’t immediately strike you as religious but is (Ave Maria), you might run into difficulties. So, get thinking, discussing and checking – it’s a great excuse to run up a Spotify playlist or two and pit each other’s choices against each other…can we convince you to go for Frankie Goes to Hollywood Two Tribes? Pretty please?
You’ll also need to print your Orders of Service, your menus and other bits of stationery if you’re doing these yourselves. Run menus by your caterer or venue for a final check, especially for the spellings of obscure French wines and vegetable varieties and ask at least two other family members or friends to look over your Orders of Service – preferably those with a particularly beady eye or, you know, an English degree. There’s nothing more dispiriting than unearthing a typo two hundred copies in. Doh.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the scenes in our living room leading up to our wedding were reminiscent of Churchill in the Cabinet War Rooms – minus the cigars, but probably with a comparable amount of claret. How to sit our uni friends together without putting one particularly bitter pair of exes within spitting distance of each other was a feat of problem solving that would have taxed Alan Turing. Where to position Uncle Willy out of harm’s – and the bar’s – way? Our advice: do not underestimate the time a seating plan will take. It’s not a last-minute admin task and the squabbling that may (will) endure will test your marriage before it’s even begun. And that’s before you even get started with the last-minute cancellations. You have been warned!
You might also want to buy your other half a gift for the morning of the wedding – nothing says ‘I love you’ like a carefully considered gift or, you know, a novelty tea towel if that’s what floats your boat. We’ve seen everything here at Brides Up North from a favourite scent to a designer watch – I had a beeyootiful leather satchel made especially for my other half (lined with William Morris fabric, no less) and presented it to him (via his best man) on the morning of our wedding. He was bowled over and still uses it to this day – and I’m still reaping the #excellentwife points. Choose well, readers.
It’s time to work with your key suppliers – we’re thinking celebrant, photographer, caterers, wedding planner/master of ceremonies at the venue and evening entertainment – to compile a definitive running order for the day. This needs to be given to the best man and other members of the bridal party – it’s what they signed up for! – with instructions for them to follow it to the letter. They’ll need to give directions, guidance and hurry people along if they seem to be stalling at certain points, so encourage them to be assertive – after all, you’ll be too busy mingling, posing for pictures and scoffing canapes to take much notice. Plus, you probably won’t have any pockets keep a copy close at hand sooo **insert shrugging emoji here**
May 17th, 2018 | Alexis Forsyth
Image by Jess Yarwood, image source
It’s true, us brides love wedding planning and we’ll more often than not take the lead in all the big decisions for our special day. After all, we’ve been secretly planning our dream wedding since we first stumbled across Disney’s happily ever afters and waltzing down the aisle in the prettiest of white ball gowns. But don’t forget the groom!
You and your partner will no doubt make some key decisions together, such as the choice of wedding venue, the date you actually tie the knot and setting the budget, but chances are, you’ll be the one curating all the Pinterest boards, flicking through glossy bridal magazines, sipping fizz at the bustling wedding fairs (of which Brides Up North are hosting two this weekend) and poring over wedding blogs for inspiration (waves!).
The reality is, your partner is probably not going to share your excitement for floral bouquets and lanterns. So, the trick is to get him involved in the bits that do interest him and which you’re happy to take a step back from, and then let him take charge.
And, for everything else, try to make the planning process as stress-free and fun as possible – and make it a journey you take together. To get you started, we’ve pulled together a few ideas to get your beau all fired up for your special day and help you tick off that ever-expanding to-do list… enjoy!
Image by Jo Bradbury, image source
It goes without saying that you should view potential wedding venues together, but why not make a real occasion out of it, and pique your beau’s interest and enthusiasm for wedding planning from the outset? If the venue boasts an in-house restaurant – treat yourselves to a spot of lunch or even dinner. If the venue is located within a lavish country estate – explore the grounds together with a romantic walk or outdoor picnic. And if there’s on-site accommodation – enjoy a luxurious overnight stay one weekend, all in the name of ‘research’, of course!
Battle of the bands events are commonplace these days, giving couples like you the chance to experience a variety of live acts first-hand as you whittle down your favourite genres and performances in the lead up to your big day. You may even have your eyes on a specific singer or band who have a regular stint at a local bar or venue, so why not get yourselves along to see and hear them in action? Even if your beau is a bit reluctant to get his dancing shoes on, we think it’s unlikely he’ll turn down the opportunity for a cheeky pint and some quality live music.
Image by S6 Photography, image source
Chances are, you’ll have already decided on your dream cake – the number of tiers, whether it’s fully iced or naked, the dainty decorations, even the cute cake toppers. But if you’d like your partner to get just as enthused as you about all things sugary and sweet – why not get him involved in decisions around the flavours? Once again, this might require some research – tasting a variety of combinations to see which is to your liking (a real nuisance, we know). Why not take a tier each and then both agree on a flavour for your third layer?
Most venues will invite you in to sample the menu and choose which dishes you’d like to serve on your big day and it goes without saying that this is something you should most definitely do together. But if you’re more of a free-spirited type, opting for a DIY style wedding and sourcing your own catering, then this can be the perfect excuse for you to both get out and about, following around your favourite foodie pop-ups and vans to sample their creations first-hand.
Image by Ruth Atkinson Photography, image source
When it comes to shopping for wedding bands – think about combining this with a city break as it’ll take the focus off the wedding ring search itself and offer up a much more enticing itinerary packed with sightseeing, culture, food and drink. What’s not to love? And even if you fail to locate your perfect pair of rings, or your hubby-to-be’s enthusiasm for your shopping trip begins to wane, you’ll still have lots of other activities to look forward to during your mini break!
Playing up to your partner’s passions is one of the best and easiest ways to get him involved in your wedding planning. Not only will it make sense in terms of easing your own to do list, it’ll also give him something to take real ownership of. If he loves his gin, ask him to make a batch to give out to your guests as favours. Food more his thing? Ask him to liaise with any external caterers or pop-up suppliers you’re looking to bring on-board. Maybe he’s a film buff, so get him to lead on booking the videographer and briefing them on what you’d like captured on the day. Whatever his vice – think about how it can be incorporated into your special day and let him run with it!
Image by Ed Godden Photography, image source
While you’re focusing on prettifying the venue and adding all those smaller, refined details to the day – think about asking your partner to lead on key but less taxing elements such as the entertainment – whether it’s pulling together a playlist for your DJ, booking (or making) a photo-booth, or crafting some games for the guests to play. Let him plan out all of the day’s fun-filled activities and enlist a little help from his groomsmen to boot.
Allow your partner’s talents shine and ask him to get hands on in preparation for the wedding. With so many opportunities to get crafty – whether it’s designing your wedding invitations, building a box for your wedding cards, maybe even making your table seating plan or getting his toolkit out for your centrepiece creations – he can really put his skills into practice and do a little bit of showing off, too, but in an understated way (although we’re pretty certain he’ll still brag about it on the day itself!).
May 10th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
Last week we hit a poignant point in the wedding day countdown – one-year-to-go, whoop! Naturally we paid extra close attention to the weather on May 2nd as if it’s a guaranteed reflection of what the weather will be in a year’s time. But then I reminded myself that the weather can change drastically from day to day in the UK, never mind year to year, and so I suppose we have no clue what type of conditions we are in for until the big day rolls round (just please, no snow!)
I’m a born worrier, though I have to say the weather is one area I’m not too hung up on about the wedding as we took this into consideration when picking our venue – The West Mill in Derby – as it has so much stunning indoor space that it won’t matter if we can’t make use of its outdoor areas due to rain, gales or worse!
So, what have Andy and I managed to arrange since my last diary post? Well I’m afraid we’ve slacked off a little actually, due to being extra busy with work, also my older brother’s wedding is now just a matter of weeks away (eeeekk!) and we we’re also basking in the comfort of having more than a year to plan – a luxury that has now come to an abrupt end meaning we need to pick our socks up.
While some elements we want to keep a surprise for the big day (which we will of course be sharing with you following the ‘I dos’) there are a few elements I can discuss.
Up first is our photographer – a supplier we ticked off the list as soon as we had our date and venue, and I would highly recommend you doing the same as these talented folk get booked up years in advance. Working in the industry I am surrounded by skilful photographers but there is one that I met early on in the industry, who is from my home city of Sheffield and whose images and approach I instantly connected to – and that certain someone is the wonderful Jon Dennis of S6 Photography. Thankfully Andy was equally taken with his spectacular work and Jon was free on our chosen date – phew!
As the photos are your lasting memories of a wedding once the day has been and gone, I think it’s of paramount importance to find a photographer whose style you love and that you can trust to deliver. My advice when searching is to look through full weddings on photographers’ websites/blogs if possible rather than just ‘hero’ shots shared on social media as this will give you a better idea of how they capture the full day; the emotions, details and everything in between. Once you’ve narrowed down your list I then think it’s a case of getting the right vibes when communicating/meeting with them. As your photographer will be with you all day, it’s important to like and get along with them, knowing they will treat you and your guests well.
We are so excited for Jon to capture our day, and highly advise you looking up his work if you are currently on the photographer hunt.
Further to report, last month we returned to our venue for a ‘Tasting Experience’ evening where we could view The West Mill once again, along with its new Mill House accommodation, meet some of their recommended suppliers and, most importantly, sample food from the caterers that will providing our wedding breakfast to give us an idea of what we can expect. We were also invited to take along four guests, which meant we could reveal our choice of venue to our parents – thankfully, they loved it as much as we do!
The function spaces at The West Mill had been dressed to impress so it was great to see what could be done with the rooms and certainly gave us food for thought styling wise – now just to whittle down my ever-growing Pinterest boards!
Having seen gorgeous images of the Mill House on-site accommodation we were also excited to see these rooms first hand, and they didn’t disappoint! Each of the eight en-suite double rooms feature beautiful boutique styling, copious amounts of exposed brick and luxury bathrooms making us want to move in permanently, rather than just stay one night.
And just when we thought we couldn’t be anymore smug about our choice of venue, we sampled the food by their caterers, Jenkinson’s. Wow oh wow – a couple of friends of mine who have attended weddings at The West Mill previously mentioned the food was delicious, but it far exceeded our expectations. Three different starters and mains were delivered to the table followed by two different desserts meaning we consumed a full meal each but got to sample varying options from the menu. Presentation and flavour were both fabulous and the portion sizes were very good too, given the nod of approval by hollow-legs-Andy, who often reminds me that his Barnsley roots means he is requires ‘proper’ meals!
We will now await a meeting with the caterers about six months before the wedding to make our food choices but we certainly left feeling highly satisfied and inspired!
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