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!
May 7th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh
Ruth Atkinson Photography, image source
The star students upon you that have dutifully swotted up on the first two pro posts, should now have your date, venue, budget, theme, styling and dress in place – mentally, at least – so it’s onwards we go.
Yup, things just got really real. And they’re about to get pretty (and fun!) too as we start thinking about your rockin’ reception and all of the admin and suppliers that go with it…
Beneath The Pines, image source
Once the ceremony is over and you’re signed over to each other as legal partners (whoop whoop!), couples tend to breathe a huge sigh of relief, grab a glass of fizz and are ready to start celebrating. The options to ensure that the reception starts – and continues – with a bang are endless, and now that you’ve done the serious stuff we give you permission to think about the party. Will you be looking for a DJ, or live music? Have you considered other forms of entertainment – a magician, a caricaturist, a photobooth complete with props wardrobe, garden games? Get creative and customise according to your budget – a full-scale fireworks display might be out of reach, but what about some sparklers (plus the metal pails for extinguishing them could totally fit with your rustic, barnyard styling)? Some of these options will involve hiring external suppliers, but it’s also a chance to consider the little touches you can add yourself to make the day truly personal to you. For example, a cinema-addict friend of ours added a popcorn maker and candy-striped bags to her sweet table: charming, super-sweet and – bonus! – inexpensive. Your creativity is your only limit!
Rachel Joyce Photography, image source
Will you need transport for your wedding day – from church or home to venue, or to ferry your guests about later in the evening? It’s probably time to start thinking about logistics and researching your options. Even if you’re booking taxis, you probably want to speak to a company in advance and warn them that it’s the biggest day of your life – you never know, you might be pleasantly surprised by what they throw in! When it comes to transport decisions, our advice is similar to choosing a dress – OK, you might not necessarily go for the horse-drawn Cinderella carriage or gondola ride (the transport equivalent of a full-n-frothy ballgown), but would it really hurt you to see what options are out there? Do your research and, whether you end up going for a bike or a vintage bus, make sure you ride in style!
Emily Hannah Photography, image source
In the midst of all of the planning excitement, don’t forget about your guests and your squad who got you to this day. Whether it was your mum hand-embroidering 125 napkins for favours or your #bridesquad girls who organised The Hen Do Of Dreams (and will take the specifics of your drunken rambling to the grave with them), you’ve probably got some presents to purchase. Jewellery, flowers, vouchers? Make sure you leave plenty of time to shop or order for delivery.
Jess Yarwood Photography, image source
If you’re planning on hiring in a professional to make you look your very best, it’s essential to book significantly in advance, especially if you’re getting married at a busy time for the industry (err, so every summer Saturday date). But either way, start to think about the direction you want your wedding day look to take. A month or two before the wedding you want to go through the full makeup and hair process – and time it! – and within four weeks of the wedding have your final haircut, colour and maybe even treat yourself to a facial. The week before the big day is too late – no one wants their photographs to be blighted by a facial-induced breakout.
April 17th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh
David Walters Photography, image source
We do love a theme here at Brides Up North, and some seriously picture-perfect big days have been popping up on the blog recently: all-natural woodland-inspired weddings, ultra-romantic chic celebrations and Pantone’s colour of 2018 (ultra violet, in case you’re wondering) have all made an appearance on these pinky pages of late – but when you’re looking for gorgeousness and scrolling through inspo galore, how do you stop those glorious images blurring into one? You want to be inspired, yes, but not reduced to copying – the last thing any discerning bride wants is a wedding that’s a carbon copy of a real wedding that’s gone viral, are we right?
So, it’s time to channel the inimitable Coco Chanel and find a way to stand out, whatever your theme. Sadly, those ‘20 Ways to Make Your Big Day Unique!’ articles aren’t going to do the trick – we hate to break it to you, but they’re full of the same old tired advice. You simply can’t ‘fake’ originality; the trick is to think long and hard about what’s representative of you as a couple and find the elements of your big day where it feels really important to be true to yourself.
Easier said than done? Well, ask yourself this: what are you known for amongst your family and friends? What shared loves did you and your partner bond over? Start brainstorming, but don’t worry about integrating it into your wedding plans just yet – just get thinking. Are you a pair of bona-fide coffee snobs? Love Tarantino movies? Sunday pain-au-chocolats? Holidaying in Lisbon? Tequila?! Whatever it is, get it down. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to think about which elements could fit into your wedding day – and how that might happen.
James Tracey Photography, image source
Depending on your choice of ceremony, you may have the option of adding to the legally-required script – however, you need to check with the celebrant and the relevant local council. Nevertheless, it’s a great option for couples looking to personalise their day. What do you want to promise your other half alongside your love and fidelity? Your support for their goals and ambitions? Your laughter? Control over the remote during Olympics season? Go for it.
Image by Ed Godden Photography, image source
Readings are also an opportunity to express your individuality in a civil ceremony, whether you decide on a conventional Captain Corelli’s Mandolin-style all-about-the-love excerpt or something more unusual. Go back to your list – do you love Manchester like this recent Brides Up North couple? Perhaps have a read of Salford bard John Cooper Clarke’s poem I Wanna Be Yours. Met at Uni in York? Check out York-born WH Auden’s Tell Me The Truth About Love. Of course, lots of couples go for highly personal music choices – you might recall this film-loving bride whose ceremony featured the hauntingly beautiful Jurassic Park theme tune. Hey, that Tarantino passion might prove unexpectedly inspirational – what about dancing back down the aisle to Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell like Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction? Do it, please (and then send the photos to us, natch!)
Image by Carla Blain Photography, image source
There’s lots of opportunity for originality at the reception, too: do away with the roast dinner and deny your guests fruit cake if it doesn’t do it for you (FYI eating a roast is my idea of an I’m A Celebrity challenge, and so we had leg of lamb and Moroccan couscous for the main at our wedding – insert shrugging emoji here). Go for innovative flavours that reflect your personal tastes (Jaffa? Reece’s peanut butter cups?) or cancel the cake altogether and have something altogether more representative – a cheese board, a pork pie ‘cake’, fondue or a croquembouche. Favours also benefit from the personal touch – donations to special charities, a jar of your favourite childhood sweets or access to a specially-compiled Spotify playlist charting your relationship to date. And as far as drinks are concerned – what about a rum-based welcome drink to pay homage to your Cuban honeymoon? A signature cocktail with Yorkshire rhubarb or Irish whiskey to celebrate your heritage? Limoncello to hark back to your Italian engagement? The personalisation possibilities are endless.
Image by Carla Blain Photography, image source
Stationery – so, orders of service, menu cards, seating plans and table names – are often the first port of call for brides and grooms looking to make their reception a little more ‘them’. What about naming your tables after your favourite albums (psst! LP sleeves are the perfect size for a table sign and have the added bonus of looking super-cool), important years in your families’ histories complete with old photographs, favourite movie titles or quotations (romantic or otherwise) or favourite holiday destinations? I once went to a wedding where the tables were named after different breeds of sheep – proof that there’s no limit to some couples’ creativity!
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