Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

rachel’s diary: building the #weddingsquad

May 10th, 2018 | Rachel Parry

Rachel's Wedding Diary (3)

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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planning like a pro: details & dancing

May 7th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh

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Ruth Atkinson Photography, image source

If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of our How To Plan Like a Pro series, then it’s catch-up time as we’re steaming ahead with this third instalment to ensure you remain firmly on the planning tracks.

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…

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Beneath The Pines, image source

having a ball

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!

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Rachel Joyce Photography, image source

check my wheels

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!

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Emily Hannah Photography, image source

goodies & gifts

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.

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Jess Yarwood Photography, image source

kiss & makeup

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.

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don’t be like the rest of them, darling: personalising your big day

April 17th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh

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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.

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James Tracey Photography, image source

the ceremony

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.

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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!)

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Image by Carla Blain Photography, image source

the reception

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.

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Image by Carla Blain Photography, image source

decor and styling

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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talk that talk: tips for brides taking to the mic

April 9th, 2018 | Rachel Parry

Melissa Beattie

Melissa Beattie Photography, source

Nope, the topic of this afternoon’s post isn’t wedding karaoke or even new craze marryoke, but instead brides shaking up tradition by choosing to make a speech on their wedding day.

Gasp you might, as this is a duty usually dealt to the groom, father-of-the-bride and best man, but no longer are speeches considered a male-only zone, as mothers, maids of honour and brides themselves are stepping up to the mark and relishing in the opportunity to address and entertain guests with their memories, anecdotes and well wishes.

And with bride-to-be of the moment Meghan Markle, set to be making a speech at the royal wedding, we can only see this emerging trend continuing to grow. As such, we’ve invited an expert in the field to the blog today to inspire and inform you ladies on how to smash public speaking – please welcome our wonderful Sponsor, Emma of Emma Taylor Presents.

The fairy godmother of wedding speeches, Emma offers a series of group workshops and one-to-one coaching sessions on how to nail that moment in the limelight, covering everything from content and structure to the delivery.

So, for those of you keen to exercise your vocal chords at the top table as well as on the dancefloor, we’re handing over the blog to the lovely Emma who has golden girl power advice to share…

Emma Taylor

It’s becoming increasingly popular for brides to make a speech on their wedding day, why would you say that is?

emma says: In an age of equality, it seems very odd that the bride – who has usually ploughed copious amounts of time and money into making her big day one to enjoy and remember – should sit mute when the time comes to formally speak about the day. Very often if brides work in positions where they have to present regularly, they know they’re decent speakers and that they can handle a speech. They think, ‘well if the chaps are doing it, it seems strange that I wouldn’t.’ Meghan Markle will give a speech at her wedding, and is any one surprised? She’s a modern, capable professional.

What are the main considerations for brides to think about if they do want to make a speech on their wedding day? What content could they include?

She needs to understand the speech responsibilities of the other speakers and make sure she doesn’t stray into their territory.

In terms of a content roadmap, the bride should open by thanking her maid of honour and bridesmaids for all their support. A funny hen do anecdote that captures the fun and dedication of her top girl team will always go down well. It needs to be pithy though; edit out the dull bits but expand and play out the big, humorous moments.

Now she should talk about her new husband. How they came to meet and the life journey they’re about to embark on together. This should be kept light, witty and original. Although guests might say ‘ah’, none really wants to hear, “And I can’t believe I’ve married my Prince Charming.” It’s been done to death. But they will relish something like, “And I look forward to the years ahead; converting Adam to the wonders of yoga, meat-free meals and moisturising.”

The bride should thank her family and the groom’s family for any outstanding non-financial help they’ve given. She should let the groom thank the families for monetary contributions. She could remark on the hours her mum put in accompanying her to wedding fairs and dress fittings. If she fears she’s been a bit Bridezilla during the planning process, then now’s the time to fess up and apologise. She could finish by proposing a toast to the continued health and happiness of her parents and parents-in-law.

Stu Ganderton Photography

Stu Ganderton Photography, source

In what ways can you help brides with the construction and delivery of their speech?

I can help her to select the best material and eek out as much entertainment from it as possible. I can help her structure it so it flows beautifully and doesn’t jump jerkily from one section to the next. And I can help her give a poised performance so that she won’t cringe and want to hit fast-forward when she watches her video back.

How can a bride making a speech add to the wedding day and why would you encourage ladies to take to the mic?

The fact is that even if the bride doesn’t intend to make a speech, she’ll most probably be called upon to do so. Guests love hearing from the bride. And, like anything in life, it’s always best to be prepared. So I think brides who feel confident about speaking should state that they will speak – guests will look forward to it – and for those who don’t feel confident, they should prepare a speech anyway in case their guests start to chant their name and demand a few words, and the poor bride suddenly realises that if she doesn’t take to the mic she’ll look impolite and disappoint them.

What would you say to brides who like the idea of making a speech but that are nervous about public speaking?

The same as I say to all wedding speakers. Do your preparation; good prep is the fountain of all confidence. Accept that adrenalin will be in the body before you speak but manage it by controlling your hands and feet and breathe in deeply through the nose. Remember too that everyone there is willing you to do brilliantly. You’re their woman. Think how warmly Adele would be received at the Brixton Academy or Lady Gaga at Carnegie Hall – well your guests are going to respond to your performance with that same level of warmth and affinity.

Laura Calderwood Photography

Laura Calderwood Photography, source

What for you are the key ingredients to a good bride speech?

Humour, confidence and enjoyment. Although brides are more than capable of delivering a witty, polished speech, a lot of guests are surprised when they actually do. Although guests like to hear from the bride, they often expect her contribution to be a nervy, giddy, teary few words, so when their expectation is completely subverted, and she storms it, it’s just brilliant.

What is the feedback like from brides who you have helped to construct a wedding speech?

The feedback’s been great. Brides typically love the planning stage; talking through their material and polishing it. Although, as they do this, the majority are nervous about actually delivering the speech. After they have, however, they are very pleased that they took to the mic, and this is largely for posterity’s sake. They’re thrilled that their children and grandchildren will be able to watch them addressing their nearest and dearest while looking stunning on such a special day.

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blissed out bride: moddershall oaks

April 5th, 2018 | Rachel Parry


Waking up to more snow on Easter Monday only drove home how epically long winter has felt with the relentless cold weather affecting not only our heating bills (we dread to think!) but also our skin and energy levels – both of which could do with an almighty boost.

As a newly-engaged bride-to-be I’m also feeling the effects of trying to keep on top of the early wedding planning, while keeping all in the loop – oh and plan my brother’s stag do and assist on my best friend’s hen do as well. So, all in all a lot on, which super exciting but a little depleting on the batteries.

Moddershall Oaks Indoor Spa

The perfect remedy for a change of season and busy schedule though has to be a spa break, and so when Staffordshire based Moddershall Oaks got in touch with the offer of an overnight stay to switch off from the outside world and restore balance, I took it up quicker than Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing can tell a girl he’s falling in love with her.

Situated in a rural location near the market town of Stone, Moddershall Oaks is a country spa retreat and idyllic wedding venue – so it could tick two boxes for those of you still on the venue hunt. Whilst there I did get to view its stunning and flexible spaces for weddings – including a gorgeous oak gazebo surrounded by tranquil woodland for beautiful outdoor ceremonies – and would certainly encourage couples planning to wed in the Staffordshire area to pay this place a visit.

Reception & Spa Shop 2 - high res

Though not particularly worn out from the wedding planning (though he must be exhausted from all the stag do preparation – a number one priority from grooms it would seem *rolls eyes*), my fiancée Andy was lucky enough to join me on this getaway. We arrived at Moddershall around noon on a Wednesday and was welcomed by a warm atmosphere, friendly staff and a strawberry Bellini (start as you mean to go on, right?)

Having filled in a few quick forms we were given a run through the facilities and our (very relaxed) itinerary for our stay, before being shown to one of the gorgeous ten 5* boutique bedroom suites to drop off our bags. The room was comforting, spacious and beautifully decorated, plus there is access to a shared hot tub, should we want to continue the pampering after visiting the main facilities.

Amazingly, we fell on a gorgeous spring-like day with clear blue skies (I will add that it had snowed either side of our visit) and so we wasted no time in heading to the crème de la crème of Moddershall, its outdoor heated vitality pool. Here we enjoyed bathing in the bubbling hot water in the open air made complete by a countryside views, oh and a couple of glasses of prosecco delivered direct via waiter service – this was our kind of spa!

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We were joined in the courtyard area by other couples, as well as a few small groups of women and a couple of (I assume) mothers and daughters, which demonstrated how perfect the spa is for a romantic getaway as well as much-needed girly time.

After drying off in the Kelo sauna, also located in the courtyard, we retired to the relaxing lounge area indoors to recline on big sofas next to a warming fire and filled up on afternoon treats of cake and coffee.

ModdershallOaks-060 high res

Next it was treatment time – having only just managed to convince Andy of the benefits of moisturising daily, it didn’t surprise me that he passed on this, but the metrosexuals out there will be pleased to hear that Moddershall has blissful treatment options for both males and females.

The options ranged from massage, detox and body therapies, carried out by experienced therapists in the cosy treatment rooms, to a full range of beauty treatments undertaken in The Snug. This gorgeous area is available to hire privately for hen dos, birthdays and the like and, for Moddershall brides, it can also be taken over pre-wedding for big day pampering and preening, complete with nibbles, bubbly and music.

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up for discussion: indoor vs outdoor wedding

March 29th, 2018 | Laura McDonagh

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Johnny Dent Photography, image source

Outdoor weddings used to be a bit of a rarity in the UK, favoured by a few hardy souls who wanted a boho big day with all the festival feels and weren’t put off by Britain’s notoriously unpredictable weather. There was also the issue of licensing; in England and Wales (the rules are more lenient in Scotland), you have to be married under a fixed roof for a marriage to be legally binding – not a marquee, a tent or a flower arch, however lovely the photo opportunities might be. Gah, pesky laws!

However, in recent years there’s been a rise in the number of venues licensing beautiful outdoor structures for the ‘I dos’ or offering the option of a legal ceremony indoors followed by a beautiful symbolic ceremony outside. Alternatively, some couples opt to do the legal bit in a lowkey ceremony at the local registry office and then go all-out on their outdoor ceremony and reception a few days later. It seems like years of stunning photos of American brides walking down aisles of meadow grass and couples exchanging rings by a lake on Pinterest have worn us down – we want the same levels of pretty! And with numerous companies specialising in props and accessories for outdoor weddings to help your day go without a hitch whatever the weather, open air ceremonies are becoming more common.

Of course, putting the ceremony aside for a moment, the outdoor reception has always been pretty popular concept, from a relaxed marquee ‘do’ in a big back garden or a farmer’s field to a luxe tipi or sperry tent affair resplendent with oak chandeliers, firepits and fancy portaloos (piped music and funky lighting optional). But can an outdoor reception ever really wrestle the crown from indoor weddings, with all their certainty and control? Let’s see…

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Photography34, image source

indoor wedding

Control, Control, Control: From temperature to lighting, most factors can be controlled with an indoor wedding – appealing for a couple who want things to go as predictably as possible. Most couples worry about rain, especially if planning a spring or summer wedding, but extremely high temperatures can also pose problems: sunburn, wilted canapes and guests going a bit, err, wild on the drinks in an attempt to cool down. If this sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen, then perhaps indoor is the best choice for you.

Rest Your Head: With most indoor venues, there’s ample accommodation to be had either on site or nearby. Hassle-free, all you need to do is confirm your venue and send the details around your family and friends inviting them to book. No worries about putting on transport, setting up a campsite or shepherding people into taxis at the end of the night…

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York Place Studios, image source

Extra facilities: With a conventional indoor venue – hotel, restaurant, country house etc – you may have access to other facilities in the run up to or the morning after your wedding. You might find yourself in the spa, letting the other half loose on the golf course, hiring bikes or enjoying a final meal together as Mr and Miss. Not quite so easy if you’re having an outdoor celebration.

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Marie Marry Me, image source

No hangover: The morning after the wedding, you want to be scoffing Eggs Benedict and flashing your new jewellery to anyone who’ll humour you – not sweeping up confetti and packing away 300+ glasses. With a conventional wedding this is taken care of by the in-house team, whereas with an outdoor wedding you’ll have had lots of freedom in your planning but also may have to shoulder some responsibility for dismantling/packing up – or hiring somebody to do it for you.

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Suzy Wimbourne Photography, image source

outdoor wedding

Laidback vibes: There’s just something so – chilled – about an outdoor wedding, whether ceremony, reception or both. If the gods are smiling and you land a day that isn’t too extreme at either end of the weather spectrum, there’s nothing more wonderful than a relaxed open-air celebration. The feel-good factor increases by 100% when we’ve got our shades on, a little bit of sunshine on our skin and a glass of something refreshing in our hand. It might be a little risky, but it’s nigh-on impossible to beat if you manage to pull it off.

Super styling: Unless you’re Mariah Carey, you can’t really walk into a hotel and demand that they change the wallpaper, the chairs and that hideous light fitting. Whereas with an outdoor wedding – marquee, tipi or sperry tent – you’re almost given a blank canvas to play with. You’ll have more freedom with styling and decor and, dare we say, simple (and cheaper) decor often works better outside – a few candles, fairy lights and flowers can transform a venue from a Plain Jane into Sandy-at-the-end-of-Grease.

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