August 8th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh
Wedding etiquette can feel like a minefield of decisions and dos and don’ts, with one wrong step having the potential to cause a rift of Cold War proportions. Where to sit your couple-no-longer best mates – and their new partners? To free bar or not to free bar? At my own wedding in 2011 the fish starter emerged from the kitchen only for my Aunty Breda to announce (within full earshot of that top table) that she “couldn’t even look at a fish”. Six years on and I’m still thinking about that haddock entree and Aunty B’s pursed-lip fish disgust. Time to let it go, man.
But anyway, I digress. My point is that the build-up to any big day involves running the gauntlet of tough decision-making, and undoubtedly one of the most controversial dilemma of them all is this: to invite the kids, or declare your big day child-free?
Couples split into two camps on this one, with some thinking that weddings = love and that = family, and so the more under tens running around pulling knee-skids on the dancefloor, frankly the better. An equal number are at the other end of the spectrum, considering their big day to be a less-than-perfect environment for a four-year-old suffering from mood swings and a Haribo addiction.
So, what can help you make the initial decision as to whether to invite the kids or not? Well, we’d always advise taking a good look at your close family and friends first. Do your siblings or best mates have children? Would they struggle to organise sitters for your long wedding weekend in Ibiza? Be aware. We’re not suggesting you change your dream day to accommodate everyone else or feel the pressure to invite children when it’s never been part of your plans. However, you may have to accept that if your sister-in-law is going to be breastfeeding a three-week-old at by the time the day rolls around, she may feel she can’t attend – and you might have to be ok with that. The best way to avoid fall-outs is to give your guests plenty of notice so that they can organise childcare if needs be – oh, and another top tip from the wise: be clear on your wedding stationery as to who exactly is invited. Don’t write ‘The Joneses’ if you actually just mean ‘Mr and Mrs Jones’ and not their adorable-but-ear-piercing six-month-old. These things have a habit of being misinterpreted.
If you go the other way and decide to invite children, you may want to have a think about how best to keep them entertained. Weddings are feats of endurance even for grown-ups – I can’t count the amount of times I’ve disappeared from a reception for a sneaky power nap – and so the average two-year-old who relies on two scheduled daytime sleeps a day is going to find a wedding tough going.
Consider when your ‘golden times’ will be, i.e. when you really, really need children to be quiet – most would say the ceremony, particularly the vows, and the speeches – and plan, plan, plan. I’ve seen everything from a vicar’s warm reminder that it’s ok to step out during the ceremony if required (i.e. if Nathaniel loses the plot) to a ‘pop-up’ creche organised by a local nursery for a couple of hours (more affordable than you might think).
Here’s the best of the Brides Up North brainstorm for keeping the kids onside…
ask the experts
Speak to your venue – after all, they’ve done this before. Do they have a room where children can go for some downtime? Provide a hamper of quiet toys and games? A stash of high-factor sun cream, plasters and Calpol? Sofas and blankets for a snooze?
And while you’re on it, ask about children-friendly food; lunchboxes for during the drinks reception, plastic plates and cups and child-size cutlery. Saves a multitude of potential accidents and meltdowns.
keep em quiet
Definitely consider children’s packs for during the meal. Never underestimate the novelty value of a CBeebies magazine, a sticker book or a mini Lego set. If you don’t have children yourself, you might want to speak to mums and dads you know to get some age-appropriate ideas.
star of the show
Rather than trying to keep them out of the way, why not get them involved? Many children love having a job, so whether it’s Unofficial Instax Photographer, Number One Confetti Thrower or Holder of the Guest Book, they’ll be all over it.
Fun and games. You can even tie the kiddy entertainment into your theme. Cute retro vibe? Go for space hoppers, a sweetie table or even an ice cream van. Rustic country feel? Giant wooden Jenga, croquet, or a rounders match. A word of warning, though – you may be fighting the adults off the pitch later in the evening!
April 20th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
Here at Brides Up North HQ, we’re huge advocates of choosing a wedding photographer that’s right for you and your big day. But in order to get perfect results, it’s not just about picking your favourite style of photography, but also someone who has the professional experience, skills and equipment to capture your day without fault. After all, you only get one shot.
As the cost of a wedding can easily stack up, we appreciate the temptation to take up a ‘mates rate’ offer from your relative or friend that has a flashy camera, but an ‘all the gear and no idea’ approach is a sure recipe for disappointment.
In a bid to demonstrate the difference between images taken by a professional versus a have-a-go snapper with a DSLR camera, our Sponsor and award-winning photographer Jonny Draper, teamed up with some of the team at Lancashire wedding venue Ashfield House, and a number of other North West suppliers, to showcase how the results of each vary.
Lighting, focus and composition are just a few of the issues to look out for, but it’s certainly easy to spot the difference between the pro and amateur pics.
Here to explain more about the concept and results of the comparison shoot is Ashfield House co-owner and wedding coordinator, Katie Street.
katie says: With the average UK wedding costing £26,989* it’s no surprise that couples are faced with tough cost-saving decisions when their budgets creep up and up. It’s heartbreaking however, to hear from couples who are disappointed with their photographs after the wedding because they chose the slash their photography budget. That friend with a decent DSLR camera may have the best of intentions but will the results be good enough?
With the help of our friend and award-winning wedding photographer Jonny Draper, we decided to conduct our own side-by-side, like-for-like wedding photography experiment.
Jonny, armed with his high-end equipment and years of experience was pitched against Karen, our assistant general manager, complete with her ‘decent’ DSLR camera, and our makeup artist Kerry Baker was on hand to snap away with her camera phone too.
Your friends and family, or the hobbyist, will have incredible intentions yet, if they haven’t got the equipment or the technical expertise and continued learning, then there really is no comparison. Most of the work in photographing a wedding is before and after, hours of painstaking editing, which our average enthusiast doesn’t have the ability to get right.
Years ago, taking the actual photographs was the easy part. The processing in the dark room and time spent with chemicals could go on for days. Photography was reserved for those elite professionals who had invested in their cameras, lenses, lights and film, plus the need for a dedicated dark room. It was big business! Every high street had a celebrated photography studio and you needed to book weeks in advance to arrange your sitting for family portraits, and months in advance to secure your wedding day photography.
This day and age, you can teach yourself the necessary skills from the comfort of your own laptop, and, if you have the money, invest in the world’s best kit. But – as these images show – that doesn’t replace the skill, expertise and experience of a dedicated wedding photographer.
May 27th, 2016 | Rachel Parry
Whether you’ve been waiting for what feels like a lifetime for a proposal, or been whisked off your feet in a whirlwind romance, once that engagement ring is firmly on your finger exactly how long should you wait before getting hitched?
There is of course, no wrong or right answer to this, it’s a case of personal preference, but there are various planning elements that a couple should take into account when setting a date.
We see our creative readers planning their dream weddings over the course of a number of years, months and, in some cases, just weeks, and all do a fabulous job. But if you’re not sure how long to wait between saying “I will” and “I do” then today’s Big Debate could help you decide on the ideal time planning scale, as we discuss the possible pros and cons of a short engagement vs a long engagement.
Image by Alyssa Nikole Photography
rachel says: don’t feel the need for speed
I’m certainly not getting any younger and so can’t quite believe that I’m in favour of a longer engagement. However, one of my main reasons for taking such a stance is having seen first-hand the pressure planning a wedding in a matter of months can cause the bride and groom-to-be. Nobody wants a pre-wedding meltdown.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that the engagement be drawn out over the course of five or more, or even three or more years, really (or I might never get my man down the aisle!). But what I am advising is that couples take their time to ensure they are making the right decisions (weddings are a pricey business so nobody wants regrets) and that they also take the time to enjoy the planning process. As I see it the wedding day is just that – a day – so the run up to the event should be made memorable too – enjoy viewing venues, going to open days and tastings, and include your friends and family in the excitement also!
In most cases I’d say spend at least a year planning, though I think for me, 18 months to two years may be closer to the mark (sorry mum). Not only to save up (with a house move next on our agenda), but also to ensure we can secure the venue and suppliers that we want. Talented photographers in particular tend to get booked up a year or more in advance, especially if you are planning to wed on a popular date or in ‘peak season’, but florists, caterers and bands can also have super packed diaries.
The key is to make sure that you don’t go the other way and have an engagement that’s too long or you can run the risk of losing a little momentum on the way and you also face the danger of changing your mind about things as you have too much time to think things over.
So I say once he’s put a ring on it, set a date that’s achievable and that gives you enough time to think about what you want, secure your first choice suppliers and to enjoy the build-up. Just don’t take too long about it so that couples around you start to steal your thunder, or even worse, your ideas!
Image by Chris Rowland Photography
julia says: take your marks, get wed
It took me 18 months from proposal to “I Do” to get down that aisle. Factors such as cost (like, duh!), other close friends’ wedding dates and a general desire to enjoy every moment of the planning process contributed to this decision. However, if I was to do it all over again I’d give myself a year -max – or even go for a shorter still planning process.
Ok, in my line of work it’s easy for me to say, I know. I have bridal contacts coming out of my ears, and would know my go-to professionals to pull off my dream day almost immediately. In fact, I honestly reckon that I could plan a knock your socks off wedding in just a week (sample gowns at the ready of course)! Anyone dare me to try?
However, I know that most people aren’t in the same position and in any case, might like to deliberate and enjoy the bride-to-be spotlight for just a teeny bit longer than that. But come on girls, let’s keep our foot on the ignition.
To me, a shorter engagement is just that bit more lovely. It says whirlwind, romance and “Sod the timescales for a bespoke gown, I just can’t wait to be married to you”! It takes the pressure off decision making (no time to deliberate for months about just the right shade of eau-de-nil), sorts out your true friends from the crowd (they’d be at your hen party at an hour’s notice, let alone a few weeks) and keeps the adrenalin pumping.
It might also save you a little bit of money if you are prepared – or forced – to be flexible and can take advantage of last minute deals. I’ll caveat this by advising that if there’s a very particular something – the venue and frock are usually the biggest deal breakers – or someone – like a band, photographer or officiant – that your wedding day will just be ruined without, book them as early as humanely possible and work the rest of the planning around that decision.
So I say, what’s the delay? You put a ring on it, now just go get hitched already!
Image by India Earl Photography
what you said on social
Diane says: “Having waited eight years for a proposal I didn’t want to waste any time so chose a date that has given us just six months to plan the wedding. It’s been hectic but enjoyable, plus I find I work better under pressure.”
Lisa says: “We had our hearts set on a wedding during August Bank Holiday as it’s the month that we first met and thought we could spread the celebrations over the long weekend. Unfortunately our dream venue didn’t have availability for the date until 2018, which will mean that we will have had a three year engagement. I don’t mind though, gives us plenty of time to get all elements spot on – and some things are worth waiting for!”
Isabelle says: “We got engaged five years ago after having our first child together – we couldn’t afford the wedding that we wanted at that point but wanted to show that we were committed to each other. I’m just in the early stages of planning now and it will be another 18 months until we actually tie the knot but I’ve got lots of inspiration over the past few years and we are now in a position to have the wedding we’ve been dreaming of.”
May 13th, 2016 | Julia Braime
As couples continue to get creative with their big days the options on styling, venue and setting seem almost endless.
So how’s a girl (and guy) to choose? The time of the year will ultimately play a part with couples less keen to take their celebrations outdoors during the colder months. Also, how much effort and spends a couple want to put into the styling will need to be considered – so a lavish five star hotel will generally not need as much décor as say a barn or tipi wedding, though the later allows for far more creativity and freedom.
Then there’s accommodation and catering to think about – would you want to go traditional fine dining or for something a little more alternative, such as a barbecue, afternoon tea or sharing boards?
Keen to offer inspiration for all couples, we here at Brides Up North HQ have recently expanded our luxury wedding exhibition offering to include a number of fabulous outdoor festival themed wedding fairs, in addition to our existing events held in grand and exclusive venues across the north.
With all this in mind, today we’re debating two very different styles of weddings that would tick the boxes for us Brides Up North gals!
rachel says: indoor elegance
I’m continuously super impressed by couples’ ability to think outside the box and do their big day their way with celebrations that are both individual and inventive. That said, I always find myself drawn to the simple and timeless weddings that have more of a traditional vibe.
Maybe I just don’t have the creative vision that others do, or maybe it’s growing up with thoughts of the perfect princess-like wedding in my head?
I’m personally not one for gimmicks, which is why I like the simplicity of a traditional wedding and for such an important occasion I like the safety of the indoors. I’m the type of girl that visits the hairdressers on a clear sky, sunny day and yet always finds myself in a relentless downpour when I leave – for my wedding I just don’t think I could take the risk.
I’d still want to pick a venue with lovely grounds in which elements such as the drinks reception could take place, though the majority of the proceedings would be under cover.
I’m thinking a beautifully decorated period venue with lots of natural light during the day and lit by romantic candlelight at night. I’d love a grand dining room with long tables anchored by stunning floral arrangements down the centre, interspersed with pillar candles and tea lights. And as a foodie, an elegant three-course meal would be right up my street before dancing the night away.
Overall the real beauty of an indoor wedding for me can be the convenience of on-site accommodation, which you don’t usually get when hosting a wedding outdoors. This is not only for the bonus of getting ready at the venue on the morning of the wedding, but also for guests to nip back to and freshen up throughout the day and, of course, for everyone to easily retire (stagger) to at the end of the night. Plus, thankfully it means just a short crawl back to the dining room for breakfast with your nearest and dearest the following day.
julia says: outdoor rustic
I’ve always been an “indoor kinda girl”, generally preferring five star boutique hotels to camping or glamping. So, when it came to my wedding day, I followed suit, and it was indoor luxury all the way.
Although I wouldn’t change anything about my own big day, I’ve recently found my head turned by other types of celebration, and have felt the distinct draw of the great outdoors.
It helps that we’re smack bang in the middle of our series of Brides Up North Festival Wedding Fairs, and that the sun is shining outside as I write this, but as I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many fantastic festival style and outdoor suppliers over the past year in the build up to our huge events that I’ve realised that I might have been too hasty in my judgment.
Firstly, the huge sailcloth and tipi tents available for your outdoor wedding are not akin to the thin, freezing tents that stuck to my face during my Duke Of Edinburgh days (enough to put me off hiking for life!). These are warm and weatherproof structures that are great in all weathers – cool in the summer, warm in the winter – and withstand even the most horrid weather conditions. Fun and fabulous, these tents add a stylish and different edge to your wedding celebration before it even starts.
Secondly, with an outdoor wedding comes loads of extra space for quirky extras like garden games, styling details, Prosecco vans (I’ve just discovered the sheer joy of these!), vintage caravan photo booths and even huge white bouncy castles. What’s not to love?
I may be a little biased at the moment… you might have noticed that we are still on a high from WEDSTOCK’16 last weekend and looking ahead with glee to WEDSTIVAL’16 at Capesthorne Hall next Sunday 22nd May (find out more and register here)… but if you come prepared, to me an outdoor celebration has very little downside, even in a downpour. Embrace the wellies, collect your Prosecco before passing GO! and look forward to some awesome wedding photos afterwards!
what you said on social
Alana says: “I’m currently planning an outdoor wedding and I’m loving making lots of the decoration for the marquee, with the help of friends and family. It means we can have the wedding exactly as we want it and feel the personal, homemade touches will make it all the more memorable.”
Jodie says: “I’m at the beginning of the wedding planning and am totally torn! I’d always thought I would have a church wedding followed by a lovely hotel reception but seeing more outdoor weddings has got me a tipi wedding would be really cool and a little different. Help!”
Emma says: “We are sticking to tradition with an indoor wedding at an historic venue with lots of character. Instead of adding lots of details we will be letting the venue speak for itself and hope to make use of its gorgeous grounds for the drinks reception, though have a Plan B just in case the unpredictable British weather strikes.”
April 29th, 2016 | Rachel Parry
image by Helen Russell Photography
As couples continue to bend the ‘wedding rules’ in order to have a big day that’s done their way, we are seeing more traditions fall by the wayside.
Previously through The Big Debate we’ve discussed whether or not couples should stick with tradition by spending the night before the wedding together or part. It’s a contentious issue as superstition has it that it’s bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony. But for some couples it’s all about feeling comfortable and at ease, rather than running scared of marriage day myths.
This desire to feel relaxed on the day of the wedding has now also led to some couples opting for what’s known as a ‘first look’ prior to the ceremony. So instead of setting eyes on each other as ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ for the first time at the altar, the couple share a private moment together ahead of taking their vows where they can see and speak to each other, calming any pre-wed nerves. In most cases the couple’s photographer would join them for the first look moment to document the ‘big reveal’ emotions, just as they would usually capture it at the beginning of the ceremony.
So today we discuss if ditching tradition in this case will make that big reveal moment more, or less, special?
Image by JPR Shah Photography
rachel says: save it for the ceremony
During our previous debate on the night before the wedding I said I was willing to risk the bad luck factor of spending the night with my hubby-to-be in order to get a good night’s sleep ahead of the big day. However I stipulated that I’d still want to go our separate ways on the morning of the wedding in order to achieve that highly-anticipated entrance at the ceremony, in front of both the groom and the guests, and I stand by that.
I’m certain I’ll suffer wedding-morning nerves, as in case you didn’t know I’m a worrier by nature, (I worry about worrying!) but I fear that seeing the groom just minutes before the ceremony would turn me into even more of an emotional wreck than I’ll already be.
Also, I’ve found that the brides we feature on the blog often say their favourite part of the wedding day was meeting their partner at the altar – the expression on their face and perhaps any words they exchanged is what they remember most. I realise you can still get this with a first look, but I think the big reveal is one of the most memorable parts of the wedding for guests too, and something that they feel blessed to be a part of. For example last year when my cousin got married, she cried as she reached the front of the church and watching the groom wipe away her tears, put a tender arm over her shoulder and make her laugh and smile instantly showed us onlookers how perfect they were for each other – and that moment is now etched in my mind!
There’s no doubt that emotions will run high, but that’s all part and parcel of a wedding day and I don’t think the bride and groom need to keep such moments to themselves. So along with not walking under ladders, smashing any mirrors or putting up umbrellas indoors, I’ll be avoiding bad luck by saving the first look for the ceremony!
image by Sarah Brabbin
julia says: just the two of us
Prior to my own wedding day, I wouldn’t have been game for a sneaky peek, or “first look”. I was firmly of the opinion that the arrival of the bride should be met with awe and wonder at the end of an aisle… veil down, music high, anticipation huge.
That’s until I learned that my nervous new husband had spent the best part of the wedding morning literally almost throwing up with nerves. Worries about marrying me? Never! Slight hangover? Possibly. Crowd shy? Very.
When we got hitched waaaaaay back in 2010, the whole wedding scene was still pretty traditional compared to now. A first look wasn’t even mentioned, let alone properly discussed. If it had been, I probably would have discounted it (hey, it was “my moment”!) but in retrospect, it might have worked very nicely for us – him especially – whilst also allowing us a special photo opportunity and a lovely moment of togetherness and anticipation before the ceremony itself.
Some might think that its bad luck to meet before the service, but it’s hardly cheating if it’s on hallowed (or licensed!) ground, is it? For me, a first look only ups the excitement factor, is cute and romantic and is all about togetherness – a stolen moment for just the two of you to cherish.
And hey, if you still want to do the whole big entrance thing, your partner can always sneak in the side-door as The Bridal March starts up. In fact, no one need ever know it happened at all…
image by Laura Calderwood Photography
what you said on social:
Natalia says: “We are only having a very intimate wedding of 20 guests so I don’t see the need for a first look ahead of the ceremony as I will be comfortable with everyone that will be present.”
Jenny says: “I’m not good at being centre of attention so we’ve decided to have a first look to help ease my nerves. I know seeing my partner will calm me down and give me the confidence I need to make a good entrance.”
Clare says: “I’m totally superstitious so won’t be taking any chances! I’ll be spending the night before away from the groom and then won’t see him until I get to the altar. I think doing it any other way would lessen the magic and excitement that builds while you are apart!”
March 18th, 2016 | Rachel Parry
As brides and grooms continue to shake up their big day plans to reflect their individual tastes and personalities, we’re seeing plenty of new dishes appearing on the wedding menu.
During the traditional three-course wedding breakfast usually the only choice would be chicken or beef, but with dining styles becoming more relaxed and couples keen to eat the things that make them go “mmmm” on their special day, the options being brought to the table are certainly expanding.
So is the formal meal another classic wedding practise that’s in danger of extinction in place of more quirky options, or should the sophisticated sit-down meal still reign supreme in the land of ‘I dos’?
Here’s our thoughts…
Photography by Joielala Photography
rachel says: mix it up
When editing the real wedding features for the blog one area I’ve come to pay particular attention to is what couple chose to serve their guests during their big day. From the welcome drinks and canapés, to main meal and evening reception, I love to see if they’ve put their own twist on the menu or stuck with tradition. As a foodie I’m generally happy with either (as long as I’m fed a good meal to help absorb the prosecco), but I do think what’s served up can make a real difference to setting the wedding apart and adds personality to the proceedings.
Following the rise in outdoor weddings, we’ve certainly seen more inventive choices from brides and grooms: from afternoon teas and picnics served in wicker baskets, to open air barbecues and cool street food vendors, such as fish and chips, burger or taco specialists. These styles of dining can not only help reflect brides’ and grooms’ individual tastes, but it can also help to enhance their chosen theme, whether it be a country garden, summer fete or festival style celebration.
Furthermore, not everyone is comfortable with the thought of a sit down meal – not only for the fear of not knowing which knife and fork to use next, but also the awkwardness of being seated with strangers. While we’d all love our friends and family to mix well and get along, not everyone reacts well to forced situations. More informal styles of dining mean that guests can still mix, but in a freer fashion, choosing where to sit and whom to approach (or avoid).
For those however that are fixed on having a sit down meal, there is still the option to mix things up a little with sharing platter style foods or by having a dessert that’s served away from the table, such as ice cream from a traditional style van, so that guests aren’t confined to their seats for too long.
julia says: stick to the menu
Whilst I’m all for doing your big day your own way, there are some elements of a wedding day that I just wouldn’t mess with. The formal dining part in particular: why on earth would you axe the best bit?!
As someone who has attended lots of weddings of all shapes and sizes, the sit down meal is one of the parts of the day that I most look forward to. And whilst I love a surprising menu, I would advise you to keep the overall format on the traditional side.
If there’s one thing that you need to keep your guests happy during a long day – especially the oldest and the youngest ones – then that’s structure. Your guests are expecting to be seated and be fed well in the middle of the day. A wedding can be a long affair and once the ceremony, drinks reception and photo calls are done, most people will be looking forward to a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings.
Others will have equally important concerns: the sit down dinner is the chance to rest their Jimmy Choo weary feet, spend some time relaxing with the fellow guests that they know best and hey, let’s be honest here, finally get stuck into that table wine!
The wedding breakfast rests, refuels and adds a sense of tradition to the day. It’s the perfect platform for toasts, speeches and (if that wine goes down well) dancing on the tables later. A sit down dinner needn’t be boring either: why not add an element of fun by including table games, ‘guess the length of the speech’ betting slips, a designated ‘carver’ (complete with fancy apron) on each table or large sharing platters?
Serve them what you like, but I’d argue that your wedding day is the time to serve it on fine china, not out of a paper cone!
Image found on Etsy
what you said on facebook
Laura: “We are sticking with tradition. While I quite like the idea of paella and crepes I’m not sure that my grandparents would appreciate it.”
Sarah: “We’ve decided on an afternoon tea style meal as it suits our tepee wedding and is logistically easy to organise with having an outdoor wedding. Our choice means that we’ve kept costs down a little too as we have a lot of mouths to feed!”
Kelly: “We’re having the best of both worlds – a sophisticated sit down meal for the wedding breakfast, featuring our favourite dessert (sticky toffee pudding) and then a street food vendor in the evening who will be serving our favourite takeaway – fish and chips!”
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