Saturday, 30 November 2013

Now we will try to do...

Moany post last week (can you tell it was getting a bit much?) so positive post today! The ideas and tips we have been given that are really great and we will try to remember! I might do this as a semi regular post once we get a build up of good tips as it’s great to have somewhere to record them all and they are really handy. These are just general tips we have picked up not specific to our wedding so many of them may not actually get done they’re just really useful things to think about.
Saving Money
  • Use the bouquets for flowers on the top table to save having more flowers.
  • If you do a meal then a buffet later always do the evening buffet for less people than you think, don’t cater for the whole evening do otherwise it will cost a fortune – most people having eaten a 3 course meal earlier won’t want anything else.
  • Free printable invites  
  • Free printable place cards 
  • Free printable signs.
  • Pretty much free printables of any sort…cheap way to do a few personal touches

 Decoration and DIY’s
  • Other options than a guest book – Polaroid photos, signing a canvas or photo, advice or joke cards. 
  • DIY chalk board for the table plan or timetable, or a charity shop large mirror.
  • Centrepieces – DIY discussions like growing pots of spring flowers, making candles, arranging our own flowers. 
  • To make flowers float in water (Like in a bowl with some floating candles) put them on a little bubble wrap raft, just cut a hole in a small square of bubble wrap to poke the stalk through and make sure you can’t see it under the flower  – the most epic tip I have ever had! 
  • Make favours something that guests take away from the table décor – like a candle holder or their name card holder. This way you don’t have to double up on work and can incorporate the favours into the décor. Trying to think of something to do as this is genius.
  • Don’t stress about the décor too much, if people are snarky on the day about the napkins not matching the table cloths then you've invited the wrong people.

 Hair, beauty and dress
  • Get some flat shoes for the evening (I actually thought about these before the main shoes for the daytime) even if you don’t end up wearing them it’s better to be able to change if needed. 
  • Don’t take too many people dress shopping, 2 or 3 at the most otherwise it gets too confusing, and if you go to numerous shops have at least one person who has been to all of them with you so they have seen all the options. 

 Timing and organisation
  • Make a wedding website with all the info on, to save you being asked the same question over and over. 
  • Make it so people can RSVP via the website as well, nobody posts anything any more so it will encourage people to RSVP quicker. 
  • Number the RSVP cards as someone will send one back without a name on. 
  • Put all the suppliers, what they are supplying, the quantity (i.e. caterers - how many of each dish), where it needs to be set up at the venue and when, and their contact information on one sheet of paper. Give this to the staff at the venue, your bridesmaids, your maid of honour, ushers and best man, keep one in your room as well. Then everyone knows what is meant to be arriving when, from where and where it is meant to go so most little queries or problems can be resolved without people having to ask you. 
  • Put someone in charge other than you or your fiancé on the day. Most likely your maid of honour or best man, or both. Meet with them before the day and run through what is happening when, where and with who so they can be in control of rounding people up for photos, asking people to move on to a different area, initiating speeches and generally being the person guests can ask for directions to the loos etc. 
  • Don’t worry too much about entertaining your guests at all times, they will be happy to go to the bar or just chat between themselves before the music or after the ceremony for a little while, obviously hours of nothing to do and no music might be a bit dull but you don’t need to fill every minute of the day.
  • Allow a few minutes after the ceremony for you and your husband to have some time to yourselves, just to have a glass of champagne or a quiet few minutes before starting the photos or going out to the drinks reception.
  • Plan your wedding as if it is a week earlier. Don’t actually book things for a week before the date like flowers of course but aim to be done with the planning, have all the bills paid, finish DIY projects, have all the RSVPs and table plan completed etc a week before. You then have a week buffer for any last minute issues (late RSVPs, room changes, supplier queries etc) so they are hopefully all out of your system by the day. Also you have a week to spend time with your fiancé, family and friends to relax, unwind and get pampered ready for the day!
  • Allow more time than you think you need for everything on the day! You don’t want things to be rushed or cut short. Getting ready will take longer if you want photographs taken, if you have to book the church or registrar for a certain amount of time then allow a little bit longer than you think it will take, photos might take longer if the weather or light isn’t great and you need to allow time to round up everyone who needs to be in the photos. Allow enough time for the food to be served and for a bit of time between courses.
  • Allow a bit of time after the food before the evening celebrations for people to go touch up their make up, go to the loo, check in with the babysitter, park the car etc. Otherwise you will lose people for the first part of the evening and people might miss the first dance.
General genius ideas
  • The bride and/or maid of honour can make a speech if they want to…undecided if I want to yet! 
  • Emergency kits – have one or 2 bags made up with plasters, spare buttons, sewing kit, chalk (for dress smudges), spare makeup, deodorant, hairspray, hair accessories, pain killers and heartburn and indigestion tablets, any medication you take and anything else you can think of. Have one of these left out somewhere obvious in your room and one in the maid of honours room on the day so that it is all easy access and you don’t have to send someone rummaging through all your bags to find a hair grip or a paracetamol. 
  • Get some nice umbrellas in case it rains, you can return them/sell them after if they aren’t used.
  • Don’t worry about the drinks – people mostly don’t know the difference between expensive and cheap champagne and if people don’t drink wine they can get a drink at the bar.
  • Simple is key – don’t make it unnecessarily complicated!
  • Take some money with you on the day – sounds silly but a lot of people apparently forget to take their purse and you end up having to pay for your room on checkout or paying for breakfast etc if it’s not included! You can obviously leave it in the hotel room as it’s just in case really, you won’t need to buy any drinks at the bar!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Well you must do...

Now before I start this one, let’s just make it clear that I really value people’s opinions and help, after all this is the first time I've done this. Advice and opinions are always appreciated and I’d always rather people be honest with me if they think something is naff rather than just go along with whatever I say. 
However, our wedding doesn't have to be the same as your wedding, or any other wedding, in fact it really shouldn't be. There are no rules. We do not have to do anything other than sign the register with the registrar, the rest is optional. Pressuring someone to have something at their wedding that they do not want is not cool. My word, people can get funny about weddings, even when it is not their own wedding. 
I know a wedding is a traditional thing, but it doesn't mean we can't put our own stamp on it, we don't have to do something just because it's traditional. Really if we had to do everything the traditional way we wouldn't have been living together for the last 6 years, our parents wouldn't be divorced and attending with their new partnersDad would be paying for the whole thing, we'd probably be considerably younger and my unmarried sister and her daughter wouldn't be in the bridal party. Traditions move on guys, keep up.
Tom and I aren't religious, so we will not be having a church wedding as it seemed hypocritical to get married in a church just because it looks pretty when neither of us go to church regularly (or at all) and people seem to accept this quite willingly but then are horrified when I say we might not have headdresses for the bridesmaids!

My advice on this is to just do what you want to do, I'm hoping it will get easier once we've actually bought/booked things as at the moment we have just booked the venue so all this is theoretical...and people seem to think they can persuade us out of it but once it's booked and paid for they can't really do anything about it. I am taking practical advice on board from lots of people (like on flowers and the timing of the day as I have have no idea) but the stylistic and trivial things like suits, dresses, hair and favours are really down to mine and Toms taste, not up to anyone else to dictate. Also as we are planning on mostly paying for the wedding ourselves (with help from family but not them paying for it all) I think if it's our wedding and we are paying for the objectionable item then really it's nobody else's business.
Some things we are considering or thinking of not having that are a break from tradition and have caused a bit of a stir:
  • Not having loads of posed photos – I’d rather the photographer take more pictures while we are mingling, chatting etc. I hate having my picture taken (I literally cannot smile on command without looking like this) and Tom would rather be having fun, so we will have a some done after the ceremony of us together and with our families and we will get my ones with my bridesmaids etc and Tom with his best men etc out of the way before the ceremony…but no we won’t be having a 1-2 hour long photo shoot… 
  • Tom not hiring a morning suit. Oh wow people are really attached to these morning suits, and when I asked Tom what he thought he might wear his first response was 'well I suppose I'll just hire a morning suit?'. After I said he could wear whatever he wanted to (if he wanted to have a morning suit that's great I just wanted him to choose what he wore), he actually has had some really great ideas of his own what he would like to wear and what his best men and ushers could wear. Although when we say to people we are thinking of buying suits or hiring something different to morning suits (maybe a tuxedo? Maybe a designer suit? No idea yet) they say 'still go and look at the morning suits though' or 'well that's...different'. If I didn't like a certain wedding dress nobody would dare tell me I had to wear it, why should it be different for Tom?
  • I might wear my hair down…although I know an updo is probably more practical or 'bridal'. I have really long hair that I always have up, and I’d like to get it done nicely and wear it down (depending on the dress of course, I might eat my words if it looks stupid with the dress).
  • Bridesmaids – I'm having them, but I'm not going to loads of effort getting them designer dresses and asking them to spend a fortune on their outfits. I'm not worried about headdresses or hats, or complicated matching hairstyles or whatever for them.
  • Yes I am having a hairdresser, but no I am not paying for everyone to get their hair done and I am not going to demand that all my bridesmaids get their hair done. I’ll get the hairdresser up to do my hair on the morning, and anyone else can book in to get theirs done if they want to but they will have to pay for it themselves. My bridesmaids are very capable of doing their own or each other’s hair if they don’t want it done professionally.
  • I will not have a makeup artist. I've been putting makeup on my own face for years and am quite capable of doing it again.
  • Music – A bit of a sticky one for us, as we are yet to decide on ANY songs for ANY of the wedding (We both have very broad music taste which is mostly wildly inappropriate for a wedding ceremony!). We can’t have any religious connotations either as it’s a civil service. This means no hymns. People are more disappointed by this than I thought they would be!
  • Favours – Oh if I have another conversation about favours. People all say ‘Well you don’t need to go over the top...’ or ‘They really aren't that important…’ but if you say you might not have them then you’re a cheapskate or not making the effort!
  • Money – This is also a bit of a tricky one as lots of people have lots of ideas, but we don’t want to get into debt to pay for our wedding so even though some ideas really are great and I’d love to do it we just wouldn't be able to afford them or they are too over the top for our intimate wedding.
A more positive post next week on the great ideas I've heard so far!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Let's start on the pretty stuff!

I am trying not to get ahead of myself, as we aren't on pretty things yet but I just cannot help myself sometimes! So here is a little inspiration post...not necessarily anything we will have but things I love the look of. All from my wedding pin board.



So torn between up do or hair down...all depends on the dress.

Photo shots and inspiration for poses

Our 2 flower girls would look so cute in something like this shot
I might be reluctant to lie on the ground in a white dress (the most expensive dress I ever bought as well!) but I like this for the engagement shoot
There is a gorgeous staircase at our venue and I love this as a less formal couples shot.
So there we got he first 'inspiration' post, I'm hoping to do a few mood boards and more inspiration posts. Mainly to keep myself reigned in, we have so many more things to sort out like food, drinks, music and paying for those and the photographer before we can start on pretty stuff like dresses, suits, flowers, décor etc but I can't wait!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

To theme or not to theme?

People keep asking what our colour scheme or theme will be… the answer is actually that we have no idea yet! We have colours that we like, mostly blue tones as I wanted green but Tom hates it so we agreed we could maybe compromise on a turquoise or light blue. We also have our own personal styles and likes but a theme seems to restricting for me. I don’t know if nowadays you really need to have one either. We don’t have to decide just yet, but it’s not too far off that we will be looking for dresses and suits so we will need to think about it then.
I think I’d like to set a general ‘feel’ for the day but not restrict it to a theme or certain colour only. I think it allows much more freedom, for example if I love a certain table decoration but it’s not the right colour exactly to match my strict colour scheme and I have to keep looking even though I've found something I like, that seems to be adding unneeded stress to the process! I would however like to have a general feel of the day in mind to help us, otherwise it might get a bit jumbled and messy and hard to choose things.
Your wedding should be all about you and your style and personalities. Anyone who knows us would agree that a blinged out fancy wedding just isn't really us. I’d like to have a quite relaxed day so wouldn't go for a feel that’s too formal, like with a dress code and a massive load of decorations, flowers, bling and a humongous dress. Although if that’s your style of course there’s nothing wrong with that!
Some themes I've seen which I liked, but that we probably wouldn't go with (Out of practicality and just what suits us and the venue) are:
  • Circus/Fairground – Love the idea but a bit much effort to make it worth it (you’d have to go all out to make it work and I don’t have the time/money/patience)
  • Certain Films or Books - Pride and Prejudice, Water for Elephants etc – Again too restrictive and I could never pick just one book!
  • Glamour and Glitz – Nice to see everyone dressed up but would like a more relaxed day.
  • Princess/Disney – Dangerous as I wouldn't want it to be too childish or themey. I’ll be going on 30 on the wedding day so no dressing up like Cinderella but I did fall in love with these Beauty and the Beast centrepieces, so simple!
  • Literature – Like favourite books as table names, readings from books, themed favours etc. Love it. Only problem is I'm the reader in the relationship, I've seen Tom finish about 2 books in all the time I've known him so that theme would be all me.
  • Travel – We LOVE to travel, and there might be a part of this in the day but as an overarching theme it wouldn't work as although we love travelling we haven’t really been to enough interesting places to fill the whole day…that’s what the honeymoon is for :)

 Some feels that I'm considering are:
  • Vintage – I like vintage but Tom doesn't like stuff that ‘looks old’ so thinking vintage but high end vintage (i.e. Carrie Bradshaw vintage not charity shop find vintage) like 1920’s-1930’s glitter or 60’s/70’s hippie chic.
  • Almost a country fair feel, with games outside, nibbles and talking points spread around the venue.
  • A garden party or tea party – the venue lends itself to quite posh stuff really, and quite nice or old fashioned parties.
  • A general spring theme – like with the flowers and colours, it gives you a theme or feel but isn't too restrictive and is open to interpretation.
  • Festival – no tents but a general festival feel like food outside, sitting in the grass, music and a chilled atmosphere.

To be honest it will probably be a mixture of a load of things, like a vintage fair in spring with a travel and literature twist! OK that’s exaggerating a bit, but I was seriously considering favours that incorporate reading and travel, and have been looking at vintage dresses online, and the wedding is in the spring so we are almost there already on most of those…I think we will let the theme and feel of the day kind of evolve as we go...

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Let's talk money much is this whole shebang going to cost? We have already allocated/spent some of our budget, but really at the moment everything is pretty fluid.
OK...I'll admit some things we don’t even know how much they will cost yet…I never thought about how much buttonholes cost before I started planning this!
We know how much we want to spend on the expensive stuff like venue, catering and photography. We've already booked the venue for £3500 (nearly paid off) and have actually booked the photographer for £1000, less than we thought it would be. Catering is next on the list and we’re looking for around £2000-£3000.
After this we will have already spent around £7000 which seems like loads, in fact it is loads but this will be the bare bones of our wedding - venue, food and drink, registrar and photographer. We could get married with just that, the rest is just dressing really. It’s so surprising how much money you can save up if you really try and have something to aim for, I would never think we could get £7000 together in under a year until now, it makes me feel so stupid that we never got our deposit saved up for our own house – after the wedding this will be our next step and now I know we can do it I want to get it together pretty quick!
The budget for the rest is pretty fluid but we want to keep it near to the £10,000 mark for the whole thing, so we have around £3000 left (around being the operative word here this is far from accurate budgeting). We aren't stuck to that limit though, we’re really just going with what we can afford at the time so it might be more, or it might be less. I don’t want to get into debt to pay for our wedding, and while I want to have a beautiful day I also don’t want to make loads of work by having unnecessary stuff there, I'm busy enough as it is! I'm hoping to have the venue paid off by the end of the year and have the money saved up for the catering by early next year so we can pay it off in one go, this will leave us clear for all the other stuff to pay for next year. Our approach is to do this bit by bit, so paying things off as we go and then moving onto the next rather than paying for it all together on a credit card then paying it off until our 10th anniversary, remember we still don’t own our own home and have that to think about in the future.
We do also have the offer of help from family which we are so grateful for, for example Toms mum has offered us the exact amount that our photographer costs, and my Dad wants to help us out although I've not yet taken him up on that offer but we will (possibly with the catering). We are adding in help from family as additional to our budget, so this is where we can allow ourselves a bit of an overspend if needed, and where we can maybe have some nicer things that we wouldn't be able to afford on our own. To be honest we weren't counting on our families to pay for our wedding, in this day and age I don’t think you do, but its traditional for them to help out and they want to so we’ll happily let them.
The things we have left to pay for are:
Music - The ceremony and in between music we're planning to be free, so the evening music is the only thing. About £500 seems to be an average price for a DJ but to be honest we haven't enquired anywhere yet!
Invites – Less than £200 if we can. Hoping to DIY some parts and use offers/coupons for money off printing. Debating also just printing some of the parts ourselves like the accommodation information and directions to go with the invites. We don’t want anything too fussy with ribbons and bows etc, just a nice invite, maybe with a photo background. Postage is also a factor for them, we can hand deliver to our immediate family but will need to post some, and some need to go abroad.
Clothes – Dress no more than £1000 (hoping a lot less but it depends on sale prices, I have a whole year to stalk the sales!), and accessories, hair and makeup less than £500. Suit for Tom – Not sure yet depends if we buy or rent but less than £500 hopefully.
Flowers and Décor - Hoping to DIY a lot of the décor and centrepieces so the budget for that is as low as possible but around £500, the only flowers we will get from a florist will be 4 bouquets and the buttonholes so hopefully less than £200 – depends on what flowers we have, not decided yet.
Cake – Around £100 for a shop bought cake...unless we have another option - more on that soon!
There are also the additional and miscellaneous expenses, which we won’t know the amount for yet but it will probably be for things like travel, last minute disasters (replacement shoes or adjustments to dresses etc) or just stuff we add on as we go.
Those are mostly our highest estimates, some will be less, some will be more, we will have unexpected expenses, and I may look back at this and laugh at my naiveté after the cake costs £800…

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Saturday, 12 October 2013


I said in last weeks post that we had already booked the photographer. We were planning to book the photographer early next year after looking around and meeting with a few different ones, however on the August bank holiday I saw one I liked the look of on an offer on Facebook. Her style of photos were exactly what we were looking for, plus she had a bank holiday offer running of £100 deposit and 20% off, but this offer was to expire that day.
I've looked around and this price seems pretty good, most other good photographers who’s work I liked the look of were at least double that, although many did include printing. However if we get the photos printed somewhere else I'm sure the total cost will be less. I really like her style also, not too formal and very natural, she does do some of the traditional family line up shoots and bridal party etc but prefers more candid and natural shots – exactly my preference! A lot of the photos on her website are of couples smiling, laughing, playing around, not all serious and posed or ‘moody’, which is just what we want.
We just went for it and booked. It might seem like jumping the gun a bit but we liked the style of her photos, she seems very nice, and the price and what we get for that price are great so I'm not too nervous about it! Also it’s only a £100 deposit, so if we end up cancelling we've not lost a massive amount – although I doubt this will happen.
For the price (Just over £1000) we get an engagement shoot (and all the photos from that shoot – maybe for use in the invitations), the photographer all day at the wedding from getting ready in the morning to the first dance, a photo booth setup, use of a Polaroid camera and of course her editing afterwards. The price doesn't include printing, although she can offer this in various forms, but we will get all the edited photos on a memory stick and in an online album and are free to print them elsewhere if we don’t like her prices or options. Her printing options start from £400 for a wedding album, but to be honest we’ll probably look into getting them done somewhere else. I like this freedom as we have heard of people not getting their photos after the wedding and them being the property of the photographer so you can only buy prints and albums from them and don’t get the photos electronically…not what we want.
So all in all we've taken a gamble booking someone so quickly, and without really looking at others (I've browsed websites etc but not met or spoken with any other photographers) but I think it will pay off as we seem to have found the style of photographer we wanted for less than we would have paid elsewhere. So far she's is getting great feedback in the 'brides group' she has set up on Facebook. We'll see how it goes at the engagement shoot!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

What Next?

OK so we have the venue booked, what now?
Well we have to pay for it first which we will hopefully do by the end of this year, but I thought I’d get our rough plan after this in writing. We actually booked the photographer already, we were planning to look around a bit and book one early next year but we found one sooner than we thought we would.
This will probably change over the course of the year but this is the rough order we’re planning to do everything in:
Early 2014
Firstly we will sort catering – Start of 2014 we want to be going around the 4 caterers tasting food (looking forward to that!) and hopefully choosing one and getting a menu put together. We’ll look at adding a drinks package as well with the venue.
Spring 2014
Then we get onto the official ins and outs of the day, like paying the registrar and declaring our ‘intention to marry’ with our local council. In England you book the registrar in the area you are getting married to actually do the ceremony and you sign the register of that area, but you must also inform your local registrar where you live of your wedding date and the registrar who will be marrying you so they can record it there, you cannot do this longer than one year before your wedding date so we’ll do that spring next year.
Music and entertainment. We want music in the evening (undecided still on band or DJ but leaning toward DJ) and something for the ceremony, the venue also has an iPod system so between the ceremony and meal and also after hours (the amplified music has to stop at midnight) we can have background music, so we’ll need to get going on some playlists and get someone booked. We also like the idea of some entertainment in the day like games (We loved the duck race idea back here) so will be trying to come up with something and looking into options with the venue.
Summer 2014
We will get our invites printed and sent out around this point as I want to get the invites out with plenty of notice as we have to allocate the bedrooms ourselves before the venue will start taking payments from our guests for their rooms, so we need plenty of time to sort that out! We also won't be bothering with save the date cards or anything so we'll just get the invites out early. 
I’ll start shopping around for my dress, and dependent on the state of my bridesmaids (there are possible baby plans) we will start looking for dresses for them and the flower girls. I might choose the dresses so we can start planning flowers, accessories etc but have them on standby so we can get them nearer the time dependent on everyone’s size! We will start looking for suits for Tom and his best men (he has 2) and the ushers. I'm not overly keen on the rented morning suits, mostly because everyone around here gets them from the same place and they’re really old fashioned with cravats and cummerbunds etc so we might look into a nice tuxedo or suit but will shop around and see what Tom likes. We said he wants a cape, top hat and cane last time we discussed it so you can see how serious he is about it. This could all run on into autumn as there isn't any rush to get all this done in summer, I’d just like to make a start on it.
We will be getting to less than a year before the wedding so once we have the colour scheme and the dresses we'll look for the cake (more tasting – yay!). 
Autumn 2014
I’ll want to start looking at flowers, decorations, table settings and favours (He’s currently really into all the planning but I think Tom may lose interest once we start talking flowers and napkins so I’ll draft in the bridesmaids and mothers to help) and will hopefully be getting some RSVP’s from the invites so can start allocating the rooms out (I might give this to Tom to do if he’s not helping with the rest).
Winter 2014/15
In winter next year and over into 2015 we should be working on the extras and finishing touches, I want to have a dress either bought and having alterations or on order and be shopping for shoes, underwear, accessories, makeup etc. We will buy Toms ring (My Nanny left me her wedding ring when she died, so I won’t need to buy one), and book any hairdressers or beauticians. We should probably start looking at the order of the day and the details like the first dance song (seriously the hardest part to decide?!), who will do readings (so we can ask them and give them time to practice), the layout of the tables for the meal and the chairs for the ceremony, any extras we want to add like photo montages, canapés or activities for the guests.
Hopefully at this point our wedding party will also be working away on the hen and stag do’s :)
Once we get into the start of 2015 we’ll be on the home stretch, we can then start on the seating chart, last minute logistics for people coming from further away and last dress and suit fittings for everyone. We’ll also have meetings with the venue, photographer, hairdressers, caterers etc to get everything finalised with them. We’ll also be doing any DIY stuff like centrepieces and decorations in the run up to the day. Luckily the venue has large tables and we only have 60 planned for the meal so we won’t need loads of table decorations.
I'm sure there are millions more things to add to this list, but that’s the kind of general idea of how we’ll progress. Really the gist is that we want to get the big and expensive stuff booked and paid for first before we start on all the little things. I want to try and DIY as much of the decoration as possible, like the centrepieces and table settings, because I enjoy that kind of thing and to save a bit of money, so the longer we have for this the better. We are hoping to have a beautiful day but not planning to go to over the top on having loads of extras and make more work for ourselves. Although there is still so much to do, and looking at this list I'm actually starting to appreciate having it booked in 2015 even though it wasn't our first choice!
We’re trying to keep the budget as low as possible, we've already allocated a huge chunk of it (more than half) for the venue and catering which is why we want to get that booked first so we can pay it off before we start on the rest. I’ll do a post on our budget at some point. We do have the offer of help from family, which we are immensely grateful for and will add to our initial budget. We are trying to allocate the money that we have from other people to specific things as it makes it easier to work out the budget. I really want to have as much paid off at the time of booking as possible as I'm such a credit phobic, so through autumn and winter this year we will be paying off the venue and saving up the catering money and hopefully can start next year with a good chunk of it paid. After this we will just keep saving throughout next year and be able to pay things off as we go.
Phew it's a lot to do but looking forward to getting my teeth into it, the hardest part at the moment is keeping myself reigned in as I keep trying to get ahead of myself and have been looking online for dresses already!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

How did we choose?

In the last 3 posts you can see the 3 different venues we looks around, how did we decide which one was for us? 
The venue is such a massive part of the wedding day and it's also the first thing that a lot of people book, therefore setting the tone for your whole day. It's big decision! All 3 venues that we saw were very similar in price so cost was not really part of our decision making between them. They were all also within our requirements for size, amount of rooms, style and location. This is really what made the decision hard as on paper we could have chosen any of them and it was really down to which one we just liked best.
It seems pretty obvious now which is the best venue, but we were really torn between the private house and the small hotel. So how did we decide in the end?
We viewed all the venues then went off for a few days to Cornwall for a beach break as we had the rest of the week off, so we had time away from work etc to really relax and talk through all our options at length. I would definitely recommend doing this, taking a few days after viewing to really think about it, don't feel pressured to book there and then. 
What we found was that we had disregarded the large hotel, and on an emotional basis we loved both the private house and small hotel but when we weighed up the pros and cons there were some concerns with the hotel that we didn't have with the private house. Mostly that all the parts we loved were outside and if it rained we wouldn't get to use them, and as we’re looking at Spring so March/April/May there is a good chance it might rain. Well actually in Britain there’s always a good chance it might rain! Also if the small hotel had just been in a quieter area it might have won, but the crowds and very public nature really couldn't compete with having our own manor house for the day tucked away in a few acres of land. The house has also been converted with events, especially weddings, in mind, so is really well suited to a wedding and has plenty of space, rooms, toilets etc and the décor is all pretty and compliments the house but is very neutral to allow you any colour scheme for your day.
So we mainly chose the private house for the size and the fact we get the whole place to ourselves, other than that the bridal suite and gardens/location also were quite persuasive. The only downside was the shared bathrooms in some rooms, other than that we really couldn't think of any drawbacks! The rooms are a reasonable price for the venue (more than a cheap hotel or B&B but not expensive) and there is a cheaper Holiday Inn/Travelodge type hotel about a 2 minute drive or a few minutes’ walk if people did want to stay there instead or if we filled all the rooms at the house. The catering is all done externally and we have caterers to chose from (we will be arranging menu tasting as soon as we've paid a bit of the venue off) and most seem to be reasonable prices and have nice looking menus.
Also we could just see our wedding there. Tom said he could actually almost hear my sisters, mum and bridesmaids all chatting and running between the bridal suite’s dressing room and its interlinking rooms with rollers in their hair carrying hairbrushes and bouquets etc. I really liked the suite and like the idea of getting ready there, neither us, my mum or dad have huge houses so everyone getting ready there would probably be a lot easier and it would save us hiring a wedding car for me to arrive in (Tom is rather gutted about not having a cool car though so we might have to arrange something for him!). It might also make the morning a little more chilled as no worries about getting to the venue on time if we’re already there!
We could also just visualise the ceremony and meal there in a way we couldn't at the other 3 places, I think because it is such a personal venue and we can really do whatever we want with it that just made it so much easier to picture. It means we can have a completely bespoke day, and the house is pretty as it is so I'm not planning to go too OTT on the decorations but we can have anything we want and put decorations in every area of the venue if we wanted to not just a function room.
I just can’t wait to start on the rest of it! We are looking at spring 2015 so have a while to arrange and pay for stuff, they didn't have any availability for later next year (and I could organise it by then but spring 2014 is too close to get it all paid for!) so we had to go to the year after which I was a bit disappointed by but Tom has the outlook that it’s longer to organise and means we can afford to have some nicer things. We’re aiming to pay off the venue hire quite quickly (by the end of this year hopefully) as we have the catering to arrange, so rather than if we had gone for a hotel and had it all in one go it’s split in half to pay for the venue hire then the catering separately. This kind of works for us as we can pay off the venue part then save up for the catering, rather than paying one massive chunk of it at the start.
My advice if you're torn between 2 venues would be to weigh up the pro's and con's and look at all the details, also as I said in this post don't be afraid to go away and think about it, or take someone for a second opinion.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Venue Number 1

The one we booked!
This was the private house, and was my favourite although neither of us had been there before but on the website it looked good. We saw this venue first, on the morning before going to the large hotel. The house is a private hire venue, so you hire the whole place exclusively for the day and night, an idea I really liked.
I was actually really surprised when we started looking that we could afford this type of venue, I looked at the website for one private house on a whim expecting it to be way out of our price range but nice to dream about hiring a stately home for the day, and was shocked to find that it was within our (modest) budget.
The house has a long tree lined drive, you can’t see it from the road, it faces away from the road and looks out over the gardens to the river at the end (too big and deep for duck races unfortunately but lovely for photos). The gardens are pretty simple but look good, with a walled courtyard between the house and coach house, then a patio area onto a rolling lawn sloping away from the house down to woods and a river. There is a pagoda in the garden for an outdoor ceremony, which we are considering, they can set up for an outdoor ceremony but if the weather isn’t great bring everything inside on the day so it’s nice to have the option.
You enter into a hallway with a spiral staircase at the end which goes up through all the floors of the house and has a glass dome at the top, it was really pretty and let in loads of light and really a feature of the house. The manager who was showing us around showed us examples of photos people have had on the stairs and they make a great backdrop. There is the bar adjoining this room with a big fireplace and a few tables with chairs.
Also on the ground floor are the room for the ceremony and next to it a larger room for the meal and evening entertainment. All the rooms on the ground floor have large windows (floor to ceiling in some rooms) and the whole ground floor had hardwood floors and was decorated neutrally in white, cream and beige tones so you could go with any colour scheme. I really liked the ceremony room as it was light and airy and felt very spacious, we would stand in front of large windows looking out into the gardens to say our vows. It also had nice features like a fireplace and chandelier and was large enough to easily accommodate our guests.
The ballroom where we would eat and have the music in the evening is also really spacious and has huge windows that let in loads of light. On the ground floor there are also 2 other smaller rooms, the ‘garden room’ had windows covering one wall facing out onto the patio and a bar along one side, it’s apparently usually where people serve the evening buffet. There’s a TV mounted on the far wall and we’re debating on some way to display photos people have taken at the wedding, like on a twitter feed or instagram. The smallest room was the library or ‘white room’, a corner room with nice views over the gardens, it would be where we would meet the registrar prior to the ceremony and nice for people wanting to get away from the music and partying later on.
Up the spiral stairs were the bedrooms, the bridal suite was huge, you entered into a hallway and off that was a large corner bedroom with views over the gardens, then a bathroom and a large dressing room with a sofa, hanging rail and bar and stools along one side with mirrors for applying makeup. We would be able to go up early to get ready, or even stay the night before if we booked a minimum of 15 rooms. The dressing room also had 2 doors coming off of it interlinking into 2 other bedrooms, which in turn linked to another so you could have 4 rooms all opened up for getting ready in the morning.
The rest of the suites and rooms were nice, although with it being an old house some had odd layouts and not all rooms have en suite bathrooms. Most do have an en suite, some have a private bathroom which is over the corridor or next door, but a few rooms have shared bathrooms and some of the suites have 2 bedrooms but only one bathroom. This was the only downside of this venue really, but it isn’t too much of an issue. Already we have some people earmarked for the suites with shared bathrooms as they’re perfect for a family of 3-4 to share (most are a double room, single or twin room and bathroom). The rooms with shared bathrooms we will just make sure are occupied by people who know each other very well, we get to say who goes in which room so we can hopefully sort it out that everyone is happy. There are also ground floor rooms which is good as there isn’t a lift.
There were nice touches around upstairs as well like large seating areas with coffee tables and magazines etc between the rooms, and all the rooms were decorated well and most had a nice view over either the gardens or farmland to the nearby village.
So, what was right?

  • It would be completely ours all day we wouldn’t just be confined to certain function rooms or areas, so if the weather was bad there’d be plenty of room for everyone inside as the ballroom and bar would be large enough but we also have the other 2 rooms and the entrance hall etc in between.
  • Flexibility. The manager we met was very helpful and made suggestions of what other people tended to do and what has worked well before but really it would be completely up to us what we want to do where, and if for example a painting didn’t fit with our colour scheme or we didn’t like it they would take it down for our day.
  • I liked the idea of having a separate area/room for the ceremony (rather than having it all in one room and having to change it around between sections) as it means we can set up the tables etc before and not have to kick everyone out to change the room over straight after the ceremony.
  • The gardens and area were scenic but not too far from main roads for ease of access
  • The bridal suite was the best one out of the 3 venues and was complimentary on the wedding night.
What was wrong?
  • The only slight complaint I would have is that the rooms with shared bathrooms are the same price as those with en suites when I think they really should be cheaper, I don’t think people would be so worried about sharing if they were getting the room cheaper! We will probably leave the shared bathroom rooms until last to allocate and do en suite first come first served. So if you’re invited book a room asap!

So that's the one we booked, we've been up again recently for a wedding fair and showed some of our family around. Next on the list is the catering, then the dress :)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Venue 2 - The Small Hotel

This was a boutique hotel in a beautiful village. It’s a typical Cotswolds village (similar to Bourton on the Water or Broadway) and very picturesque. Think Cotswold stone, winding lanes, doorways with roses growing around them and a small river running through the centre with stone bridges crisscrossing it. It was a sunny day in July so there was quite a lot of tourist traffic, a coach full of Japanese tourists was arriving as we got there.

This had been our third choice venue, neither of us had been there before but we liked the look of it on the website and people had told us it was nice, however we really didn’t have any preconceptions and were completely blown away by the beauty of the village and the hotel from the outside. It was an old hotel on the side of the river, built in Cotswold stone and covered in ivy. As we drove into the village and it came in to view we both went quiet and I think I might have whispered something like ‘oooh it’s pretty’.

The hotel was decorated nicely inside, quite dark blues and greens and with fireplaces, eclectic furniture and overstuffed armchairs etc (Think stereotypical English countryside hotel). The function room was being redecorated, but would eventually be dark blue walls with white panelling on the bottom half, and a blue and green tartan style carpet. The carpet wasn’t laid yet but it was throughout the hotel in other rooms, and one wall was painted, so we could get a vague idea of what it would look like. The blue was a pretty overpowering colour to be honest it wouldn’t leave much choice of colour scheme. They would have been happy to hold a date for us until the work was completed a few weeks later and we could look around again before making any financial commitment.

We would have had use of the main function room and also the adjoining library exclusively and then could also use the bar and communal areas of the hotel. The restaurant and bar had a nice terrace area and were decorated in a modern but comfortable theme. The bedrooms were nice, although expensive, and all had gorgeous big bathrooms and huge beds.  However, the ‘Bridal Suite’ was really just a standard room with a few added extras, and while most rooms had nice views over the village it looked out into the back of the hotel. It had a 4 poster bed and a nice bathroom but in reality it was the same as the other (expensive) rooms and would have cost even more. 

The real reason we liked this place so much was the village it was in and the garden of the hotel, it was on the other side of the road from the hotel and not massive (about the size of 2 tennis courts maybe). There were 2 streams/rivers running the length of the garden on either side and the landscaping was well done, with paths, trellis (trellis’? trelli?), nice garden furniture and deck chairs, level grassy areas and flowers and shrubs in beds at either end. You could have the ceremony outside, and although the village does get busy the hotel gardens are for guests only, and we had them to ourselves that morning. The hotel and gardens were on the main road through the village though, literally right on it there wasn’t even a pavement, so they weren’t actually that quiet or secluded and I would maybe feel a little on show having the ceremony outside.

The events planner also said that the village hosts a yearly duck race, and a popular thing to do is to have a mini duck race in the river running through the garden. We thought this was such a lovely idea, you could give the rubber ducks as favours and let people decorate them  then have the race after the meal while the room is being changed around for the evening. The river ran through a paved channel in the garden and ended at a grate on the wall which would catch the ducks at the end of the race, it was quite shallow and even so would be easy to drop ducks into and everyone could take part.

So, what was right?

  • The location. The surrounding area, the village and countryside were gorgeous. The backdrop for photos would have been great.
  • The gardens and the duck race, I was so in love with this idea that it really was the main plus point of the venue for me, and we’re trying to think of something similar at the place we actually booked (any ideas please let me know!).
  •  The hotel looked very well run and the events co-ordinator was very organised, it felt like the event would be well handled.
  • The hotel itself was also pretty as well as the area around it, the inside was nicely decorated and everything felt quite luxurious and well done.
  • The menu in the restaurant looked good, and it was the kind of place where we could adapt the menu to fit.
  • The bedrooms were nice, spacious and beautifully decorated.
What was wrong?

  • In this post I explained that we didn’t want to book somewhere just on the strength of the outside as the British weather may let us down on the day. We were there on a glorious day in the middle of the July heat wave, but we tried to imagine it on a wet day. If we were confined to inside, the hotel actually was not very large so we would be in 2 rooms which although they were nice were just function rooms at the end of the day and would maybe feel a bit cramped.
  • The tourists. While we were in the gardens people were all milling around outside and taking photos of the hotel and gardens (and us in the gardens). It kind of spoiled the vibe of a nice country hotel tucked away in a little village having it surrounded by crowds of people. The road was right outside the hotel and it was pretty busy with cars going over the bridge to get in and out of the village. This was midweek, on a sunny Saturday it would be even busier.
  • The bedrooms were very expensive although they were the nicest ones out of the 3 venues, but the bridal suite was disappointing.
  •  The popularity of the area with tourists also meant that hotel rooms are booked up far in advance, so we would need to reserve a lot of rooms. We would have had the cost of the rooms taken off our final payment, and our guests would just pay for their rooms at reception on check out as normal but it was an initial outlay we wouldn’t have elsewhere.

All in all we loved it, and agreed we would stay there sometime for a nice romantic break. It only just lost out to the other venue that we had seen. Although we really went back and forth for a few days and had to do a list of pros and cons for both before we really were sure. More on the one we booked soon!