September 2nd, 2015 | Rachel Parry
Last month our real life bride and celebrity columnist Jane Witherspoon, took a brief break from her hectic showbiz reporting schedule to jet off on her hen do to the south of France. Fancy!
Joined by her top ladies, Jane and her squad enjoyed a memorable weekend (well sort of), of culture, relaxation, fine food and wine – oh and champagne, oh yeah, and vodka!
Here she reveals all they got up to (well the bits she can remember), as in true bride-to-be hen do style, Jane adopted a somewhat go hard or go home approach. Jane, we salute you!
Now back home in the UK, Jane has less than six weeks to go until the big day and so is shoehorning in the last minute preparations and planning around her numerous work commitments, which includes covering London Fashion Week. Sounds glam hey? But seriously we don’t know how she fits everything in, she certainly works hard – and from what’s about to follow, she plays hard too…
jane says: It’s often billed as a last big hurrah for many brides to be but I feel like I’ve been practicing this partying business for quite a while now. As for my hens – they definitely know how to have a good time.
I’m very lucky to have some amazing girls around me especially as I approach the six-weeks-to-go milestone. They threw me the most brilliant bash in the south of France and this blog post is dedicated to each and every one of them for the part they played. Mam, Emma, Emsy, Nicole, Karthi, Sara, Karyn and Krysia – love you ladies!
An early start in drizzly Stansted didn’t dampen our spirits as we began our little jet-set jaunt. We were soon air bound having cleaned up on free shots in Duty Free. That’s as tacky as it got…who am I kidding!
On arrival in Lourdes we were soon in a taxi and taking a short detour to nearby town Tarbes to pick up Nicole who was travelling by train from Poitiers to meet us in the Pyrenees. I arrived wearing a fancy dress nuns habit which the girls had insisted on. Not even a ‘hello’ let alone a ‘bonjour’, ‘where’s my prosecco?’ Nicole asked. That’s how it started…
Karyn and Krysia had invited us to spend the long weekend at their 18th Century farmhouse in Bernac-Debat, Midi-Pyrenees. As we pulled up to the iron gates we muttered ‘wow’ in unison. The place was incredible. Shutters, chandeliers and champagne. After a not so quick (the place was huge) tour of the grounds and pool, everyone bagged their four-poster beds and it was down to business. We had a weekend of eating and drinking ahead of us.
For anyone thinking of a trip to the region I couldn’t recommend our base in Bernac-Debat highly enough. It is 20 minutes from the airport on the edge of a fabulous mountain region and nearby Tarbes town and Lourdes is a must.
After a few rounds of hum bug (a guessing game where you hum songs. Sadly these videos have been deleted) we had the most amazing roast duck meal cooked for us. So I’m told. I sadly had to leave the girls to enjoy this without me after a forfeit involving a tumbler of vodka put paid to my plans for the evening. Yes I missed the first night of my own hen do. On the plus side, my 13 hour sleep meant I was fresh as a daisy for day two.
A short bus ride meant we spent the day exploring the beautiful town of Tarbes, its cafes and fountains. A quick trip back to the house to freshen up and we were on our way to dinner.
Emsy had booked us into a restaurant which features in the Michelin guide called Trait Blanc – albeit the booking was for the week after we were there. Our lack of French vocabulary was brushed aside and waiter Jean-Henri sat us in a private garden out the back (which was just as well because of the noise we made). The reviews said ‘look nowhere else’. The food was incredible. I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for great food that’s reasonably priced.
Sunday was pool party day. We soaked up the night before with a fry up then cranked up Gloria Estefan on the music system and went for the burn. More cheese, wine and laughs from the moment we woke till we slept. The weekend was drawing to a close far too fast. But, there was one tourist spot just down the road we had to squeeze in.
You can’t go to Lourdes and not visit the town itself and the famous grotto. So it may not be very ‘hen do-ey’ but it’s definitely worth a visit whether you’re religious or not. It’s a beautiful town and the Cathedral is stunning. After a brief whirlwind tour and a quick prayer we were headed for the airport and UK laden with holy water! Well, we certainly didn’t need any more duty free booze!
Follow our real life bride and celebrity columnist Jane, at @Janeyspoon.
January 29th, 2014 | Julia Braime
Our lovely guest blogger Rachel’s back this afternoon with more pearls of wisdom, all because she wants your wedding speeches to be memorable for all the right reasons. Don’t forget to raise a glass to her too!
Rachel says: Although I’m currently as close to getting married as Justin Bieber is to winning a role model of the year award, it’s a growing concern of mine just how my Dad will manage to hold it together long enough on my wedding day to make a speech.
Basically he’s an emotional guy – he’s been known to cry over Forest Gump (forgivable), waving my 19-year-old brother off on his two-week holiday to Thailand recently caused him to blubber, even a beautifully cooked steak sandwich has been known to reduce the man to tears (I kid you not).
Hypothetical talk of my wedding day is another catalyst of emotion for my Dad. It’s therefore no surprise that I worry how he will fare when it comes to delivering his farther-of-the-bride speech – a duty that has caused even the sternest of fathers to well-up.
As the only daughter I would never take the privilege away from him – I know he’ll make a wonderful job of it (no matter how many boxes of Kleenex he goes through in the process), but this trail of thought did get me thinking about who else I might like to speak at my wedding.
Traditionally speeches are delivered after the wedding breakfast by the father-of-the-bride, the groom and the best man, but as couples continue to shake up formal proceedings, speeches are taking place at different times of the day and are being delivered by different people.
A popular new addition is inviting the father-of-the-groom to deliver a speech. Witnessing a child tying the knot is a big day for any parent whether it’s a son or daughter taking their vows. As such mothers-of-the- bride/groom are also taking to the stage.
To me, those picked to speak at a wedding should be the people who know the bride and groom best, both before and during their relationship. As well as a parent, it’s a nice idea for a grandparent sibling or friend to be invited to say some words too. Admittedly there needs to be a short-list, not all those nearest and dearest can contribute but speeches given by people who know the couple in different capacities gives a well rounded overview of the new Mr and Mrs that all guests can relate to.
Another change to note is the rise of the bride’s speech. After all ladies why wouldn’t we want the opportunity to thank our loved ones, speak kindly of our new husband (oh and have the right to reply to any cringe-worthy stories delivered at our expense).
Much to the relief of many people’s digestion systems, speeches are often now planned to take place before, rather than after the wedding breakfast. Whether it’s outside during the welcome drinks or prior to the sit down meal, this enables all to relax and enjoy without struggling through courses with their stomach in knots.
Whoever you choose to do the honours, here are a few quick tips for a spectacular speech:
Plan In Advance
I’ve actually seen people leave their speeches until the last minute and try to wing it, I’m yet to see this done successfully. The nerves on the day are enough to contend with without piling on the pressure by having to make up a speech on the spot.
Those who plan and practise in advance often deliver the best speeches, whether they provoke tears, laughter or a combination of the two. Rehearsing will give those not used to speaking in public the opportunity to build confidence whilst running their speech passed others to gain feedback.
Engaging with the audience is key to delivering a good speech so don’t bury your head in a piece of paper and read out your prepared speech word-for-word. Instead try to come across more conversational, get the main parts in your head ahead of the big day then have a few clear notes to hand during your moment in the limelight to ensure you don’t miss anything, or anybody, out.
Be Aware Of Your Audience
The last thing any wedding couple wants is a speech that warrants a #awkward or #cringe tag. While embarrassing stories, dating anecdotes and hen/stag do memories can add a humours element, speakers should consider if they are likely to upset or offend. Particularly bear in mind children, older relatives and protective parents.
Make It Memorable
Incorporating photos, videos or props in a speech can help to make it all the more memorable. It might be a souvenir from the hen do, a video message from someone unable to make the wedding day or a montage of childhood photos but whatever you choose don’t forget to take it with you on the big day.
Finally, remember the tissues – God knows I’m going to need them at my wedding!
Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog – Images © 2014 as credited
Rachel Parry is a regular guest blogger for Brides Up North
December 10th, 2013 | Julia Braime
As it’s the season for giving, our regular guest blogger Rachel is back to talk wedding favours.
An age-old wedding tradition, favours originated in Italy in the form of five sugar almonds which were given to guests as a thank you for attending the wedding and as a symbol of good luck. Each sweet almond was said to represent a different quality that the couple would hopefully experience as husband and wife – health, wealth, happiness, fertility and longevity.
But just like many other wedding traditions, the favour has evolved over the years with many of today’s couples ditching dated sugar almonds in place of creative and individual gifts for their guests. Rachel makes the case for tradition.
She says: Just this week a friend of mine was telling me how a male colleague, who is due to get married next year, was having a moan about wedding favours. His outburst went a little something like this: “Now she’s talking about what favours we should get the guests – I tell you what favour I’m getting them, a three course meal, wine and evening buffet – what more do they want?”
He makes a point I suppose, but done right carefully chosen favours can add an extra element of enjoyment and/or serve as a wonderful reminder of the big day.
The budget will obviously need to be taken into consideration when selecting favours and couples will have to decide if they want to buy, make and/or personalize their gifts. Whether couples choose to blow the budget on special keepsakes, or take the cheaper novelty route, there are plenty of options to choose from (without an almond in sight):
Something to Eat
Perfect for food lovers this is a simple idea that can be as thrifty or indulgent as couples like. A tasty treat is always greatly received by guests and can be easily personalized to fit in with the chosen colour scheme or theme.
Popular choices include handmade chocolates, cake pops, macaroons and Pic-A-Mix style bags of sweets.
Another foodie option is for couples to make and jar their own preserves such as jam, marmalade, chutney or honey, which can be individually decorated and stamped with the wedding date.
Mints served in personalised tins puts an individual twist on a classic idea while movie lovers can opt for popcorn served in bespoke containers.
(For those really wanting to impress their guests, I recently came across a company that will decorate gingerbread men to look like your guests, or alternatively you can order a DIY kit to give it a go yourself. While this involves a fair amount of organization the reaction from your guests will be well worth it.)
Something to Drink
This can be a way of buying your guests a drink without having to offer a free bar. Brides pick miniature bottles of their favourite drinks to give to the ladies while grooms choose their top tipple to give to the men. Popular choices include mini bottles of wine, spirits or champagne. Miniature bottles of alcohol can also double up as name places by tying a simple name tag around the bottle neck with decorative ribbon. For those who would prefer a non-alcoholic option, fruit teas fit in well with organic and country style weddings while specialty coffee will be greatly appreciated by guests the morning after the wedding. Those with a sweet tooth may prefer to give cocoa or hot chocolate mix.
Something to Grow
An ideal option for eco-friendly brides and grooms who want to give their guests a lasting reminder of their big day. Top choices include pretty packets of wildflower seeds or tree saplings for guests to take away and plant in their gardens. An alternative for foodies is to give locally grown herbs planted in recyclable glass jars dressed up with a ribbon.
Something to Break the Ice
Some couples like to mix up their guests on different tables encouraging them to get to know one another, in which case icebreaker favours are perfect. This type of favour is also ideal for couples who don’t take life too seriously and want to inject some humour into their special day. Options include old-school origami fortune tellers, table trivia and quirky wedding badges with statements such as ‘I love the groom’, ‘I’m next’ and ‘The bouquet is mine’. Couples choosing to have a fun photo booth at their wedding may want to give favours in the form of masks or fancy dress items which double up as great props for the booth.
Something for the Little Ones
A couple’s choice of favour might not suit all ages so separate gifts for younger guests may be required. While sweet treats generally always go down well with children it’s a good idea to give a favour that will keep little ones entertained during less active parts of the day such as the meal and the speeches. A goody bag including a small present, puzzles and colouring pencils is a great solution.
Something to Keep
For some couples the whole idea of a wedding favour is to give a gift that will act as a lasting reminder of the big day. Popular options include personalised tea towels, coasters, mugs and pens featuring the couples name and wedding date.
A mixed CD made up of songs played during the wedding day is perhaps one of the best keepsake favours that will instantly evoke memories of the wedding.
For something a little different, couples tying the knot during the festive period could give a personalised Christmas tree decoration that will provide a reminder of the special day year after year.
So what do you think? Will you be doing favours for your guests, and if so what?
This is not a sponsored post
November 11th, 2013 | Julia Braime
It’s been a busy Monday morning and Friday feels a long way off. What better time than for our regular guest blogger Rachel (we’ve missed you Rach!) to talk time out and remind you that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, she’s all about facilitating that “minimoon”. Monday blues? What Monday blues? Go on, get it booked…
Rachel says: I don’t know about you but I love an excuse to extend a celebration. Take my birthday for example – of course the main celebration is the day itself but I like to push the partying over at least one weekend, if not two. After all there’s the family meal, weekend away with the boyfriend (I hope) and drinks, shopping and spa treatments with friends to squeeze in. And don’t even get me started on festive celebrations in our household – they stretch from the very beginning of December right into the new year (though thankfully don’t include a turkey curry buffet).
Looking at today’s wedding scene, it’s clear there are many wedding couples who share my mindset with a growing trend for weekend weddings. After all, why would you confine the celebrations to just one day when you can easily spread it across three with a pre-wedding dinner the ceremony itself and then, of course, a day of present opening, cake eating, champagne quaffing and catching up with family and friends.
But now brides and grooms are taking extending the wedding celebrations a step further by delaying their main honeymoon until later in the year, or even the following year, and taking a minimoon in the meantime instead.
The minimoon was originally born out of the credit crunch when many wedding couples were forced to tighten the purse strings. Research revealed brides and grooms were swapping lavish two-week holidays to long-haul destinations such as the Maldives for shorter holidays closer to home. But as circumstances have continued to change so too have couples’ holidaying habits, with many brides and grooms now having the best of both worlds – booking themselves a minimoon for a that much-needed break straight after the wedding and a honeymoon a little later down the line, giving reason for the wedding excitement to live on.
A minimoon usually consists of a relaxing three- to four-day break at a destination not too far away from the wedding location. Some couples might choose a sentimental location such as the first place they went on holiday together or the place they got engaged, while others might just want a destination that provides pure relaxation to unwind following the tense pre-wedding build up. In the UK top choices include rustic retreats, spa breaks and city locations while those flush enough to push the minimoon boundaries are jetting off to romantic European destinations such as Rome, Paris and Venice.
While delaying a honeymoon in favour of a minimoon does effectively spread the celebrations, it has become a big hit among today’s wedding couples for many more reasons.
The minimoon is particularly popular with teachers and those with work commitments that can’t afford to take large amounts of time off work all in one go. It’s also ideal for those asking their guests for contributions towards the honeymoon instead of traditional gifts as they book a holiday suited to the fund following the wedding.
For those who can only handle so much planning at a time, delaying the main honeymoon means there will be more time to organise the holiday after the wedding preparations have taken place. Taking a minimoon in the meantime means couples have that essential break before returning to the daily grind after their wedding day.
A postponed honeymoon also gives brides and grooms who will be stumping up the honeymoon costs themselves longer to save up and book their holiday at a time suited to the best prices and weather conditions.
So while the credit crunch may curbed our Topshop sprees and cocktail drinking, we do have it to thank for the introduction of the minimoon/postponed honeymoon trend which helps keep the post-wedding day blues at bay that bit longer.
What do you think? Will you/ did you take a minimoon? Any hot spot recommendations for our other readers?
This is not a sponsored post
September 27th, 2013 | Julia Braime
Our regular guest blogger Rachel – editor of Mosaic Brides – is giving me the morning off, as she takes control of these pretty pages to debate the pros and cons of a wedding at sundown. No more worries about getting to the church on time: if you’re going to be fashionably late, why not make it official?! Over to Rachel.
With images by Jonny Draper Photography
Rachel says: As marriage laws have been relaxed over the years couples have been given much more say over when and where they tie the knot. One of the most recent changes to marriage laws means ceremonies can now be conducted outside the traditional hours of 8am to 6pm so couples can get married at any time of day or night – depending on the venue, of course.
It seems crazy that it’s taken this long for the rule to be relaxed considering it was initially introduced in 1837 to stop people marrying the wrong partner in the dark before the days of electricity (awkward).
The change is seen as a good thing for those looking to save money on their wedding day as it gives them the option to hold their celebrations in the evening, which means less expenditure on food, drink, entertainment and venue hire.
But, as the law was only changed in England and Wales last year (there are no restriction on the hours of weddings in Scotland) the difficulty may be finding a venue that provides the option of an evening wedding, as most would prefer couples to hire the facilities for the majority of the day and evening.
Before deciding on whether or not to say ‘I do’ at dusk it’s worth taking a look at the pros and cons in a little more detail.
Save – As previously mentioned the biggest plus point is considered to be the savings couples can make by holding their celebrations in the evening. So instead of forking out for a champagne and canapés reception plus a main wedding breakfast and evening meal, couples should be able to get away with feeding their guests just the one time. Similarly you will only require entertainment for the evening and the venue hire should be less for the amount of hours you require it for.
Relax – A later ceremony means no rushing around during the day. There will be plenty of time to decorate the venue, take receipt of flowers, cakes etc and make those final checks ahead of the ceremony. This also means more time for the bride and her maids to get ready and make the most of the venue’s facilities (halleluiah).
Personal preference – If you’re not marrying during traditional hours there’s certainly no need to stick to all the formalities. For example after the ceremony you could enjoy a cocktail hour (a trend particularly popular in America) without the fear that your guests will crash and burn before the party really gets started. Also instead of a formal sit down meal you could have street style food or a buffet so guests can mingle and the disco/live entertainment can get underway. If you are a real foodie however, the money you save on only needing to feed your guests once can be pooled on the main meal so you can really go to town and treat your guests to something special.
No lulls – We’ve all been to a wedding where we’ve found ourselves stood around with nothing to do but listen to the sound of our stomachs rumbling. A later wedding means less time to fit things in and so the proceedings should move swiftly from one part of the celebrations to the next without guests becoming bored.
Setting the scene – An evening wedding can make for a more atmospheric and romantic occasion with low lighting and twinkling fairy lights and candles. Creative couples can go all out on a decedent theme to suit the mood such as Great Gatsby with sparkling décor, elegant lighting and glamorous attire.
Grateful guests – A later time of arrival means guests can travel to the venue on the wedding day so those coming from further afield don’t need to book more than one night’s accommodation. An evening wedding, particularly on week days, can also mean that guests don’t have to take a full day off work.
Blink and you’ve missed it – Most couples are put off the idea of an evening wedding simply because they’re told a wedding goes too quickly so they should make the most of it with a full day of celebrations.
Nerves – Many brides, grooms and those that will be making a speech can suffer terrible nerves on the wedding day awaiting their moment in the spotlight. A later wedding means a longer wait and more time for nerves to build.
Venue – As previously mentioned finding a venue for an evening wedding can be tricky as many places will prefer couples to hire the facilities for the day and evening. Also local authorities and religious groups aren’t forced to conduct marriages outside the traditional hours, so finding someone to conduct the legal part could also prove challenging.
Photography – Getting married later in the day, and particularly in the winter, means less natural light for photographs. Those getting married at venues with gorgeous grounds and stunning views will more than likely want to use them as backdrops for wonderful wedding pictures which require daylight. Those who do choose to hold evening celebrations should look for a photographer who has some great night time shots in their portfolio to ensure they still get some standout snaps.
One area of the law that remains however is that 15 days advance notice is required for weddings – so they’ll be no drunken Ross and Rachel style wedding ceremonies taking place in England just yet!
Rachel Parry is a regular guest blogger for Brides Up North
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