PICKING THE DRESS
So I’ve never been a ‘THE dress’ kind of person - I mean I've watched my fair share of “say yes to the dress” as much as the next but I've never been one to worry about the way I personally look on the day (I’m more about the styling and the overall look and feel for everyone rather than what the dress looks like). I also had the added complication of being six months pregnant on the day and so I was never going to be able to wear whichever dress I wanted to. One thing I knew for sure though was that I would never, ever be seen dead in a Grecian style tent of a dress!
I’m a big believer that you should wear a dress which you feel fantastically fab in no matter what it looks like or what your pre-conceptions of a style may be and so I never had a set style in my head and I also didn't want a ‘too many cooks’ situation. So one Thursday just before heading off to work I took myself into town and had a browse of some nice high end high street stores and wandered into Coast. My eyes fixed onto a two piece with a blush sequinned crop and a lovely blush skirt; I tried it on and that was it! I walked out with it that day!
The skirt sat just on top of my bump and the top was gorgeously sparkly! It wasn't white, but who cared and I bought it on my own, but then I've always been a strong decision maker and I love it. I still do! The great thing about my wedding dress is that I can whop it out at any snazzy occasion either the skirt with a simple top or the top with black jeans and I get to relive a little piece of my wedding whenever needs must!
SUITED & BOOTED
CJ was never going to be told what to wear by me and even though I tried once (or twice) I got told very firmly from the beginning not to try to tell him what to wear. He told me that if my dress was going to be a surprise so was his suit. And I'm glad it was. He picked out the most stunning blue three piece from John Lewis and when I saw him down the aisle my heart skipped a beat and I couldn't believe I was about to marry the most handsome man I had ever met.
I was told after the wedding that the size shirt they sent over was huge and way too big - a detail that was only noticed only the morning of the wedding. But Tom (from Lina and Tom) stepped in as the pro he is and helped CJ to tuck and adjust it to make sure it sat just right! Phew!
THE VENUE & DECORATION
The barns was the one from day one. After working in a fair few venues in the area I had always been impressed by the professionalism and care of the Granary Girls; partner this with a venue that ticked all of our boxes and after dragging CJ along to have look we booked on the dot! We needed a venue which had the separate space for a creche (our daughter was 4 and had invited a couple of close friends so we set up a fun cinema den for them); the cleanliness and the space was spot on and the fact that we could host everything indoors made it the perfect venue for our winter wedding.
In all honesty we didn't book the barns because we wanted a barn venue or look, we booked it because it was spacious enough for us to create an indoor Narnia style forest. When we were younger we carved our names into a tree in a small forest which was half way between our childhood houses, around 12 years on it was the spot where CJ proposed and so we were adamant we would re-create this for our wedding day.
We enlisted the help of Elizabeth Hall and set about hiring in live trees to create the forest, festoon and lanterns to create a night sky and succulents and candles for the table to reconstruct a forest scene. I must say it was pretty tricky getting those trees in and out of the side doors but once it was all set up the look came together and blew us away.
FLOWERS & FOLIAGE
As I said our priorities lay with creating a forest rather than focusing on table top decorations. Elizabeth Hall styled in some succulents for our tables but we didn't go for any floristry displays apart from my bouquet. I opted to go with the Tayler Studios for my bouquet and got a glorious winter flower arrangement from Grace. After seeing her workshop I held every trust in her that she had great style and the know how to great fantastic flower pieces. So after showing her a couple of pictures of some wintery bouquets I had in mind I left it to her to create the final piece.
I don’t like to step anyones creativity and I like to trust the suppliers I work with and so even though she was surprised I gave her full creative control (not something most brides do) I was not disappointed and she delivered a stunning bouquet fit for a forestry winter wedding.
As a wedding planner I am of course a big believer of doing things properly and seeing everything through and although some may disagree I am in the camp that if you're going to get married it should be in a church. I am not religious and my husband isn't overly, so the decision to get married in a church wasn't a traditional or religious one. I believe that the day should be separated out into the more formal and contemplative church service to be followed by a celebration in another space and so this is why we opted for a church. Lets not forget why you're getting married. Its not to just have a huge party, wear a great dress, drink bubbly and dance. It is to make a commitment to one another to support each other, be true to each other and be a team for life and this needs to be taken seriously.
We got married in Burwell Church which is our parish church and our vicar Eleanor was incredibly flexible and approachable through out the planning process. The most memorable moment for me was when we included a promise to our daughter and baby in utero to love and support them throughout their lives after our vows to each other. And I sobbed through the whole service. We walked out of the church to James Brown and the organist played the Game of Thrones theme tune whilst we sign the register.
We also chose to have a reading from Kalil Gibran the Prophet which sums up our way of working our relationship perfectly:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
There were times being a bride/wedding planner when I found it really hard to let go. I felt a huge amount of pressure to create something spectacular because of my background and my job. And I felt as though everyone would be judging me that extra bit. But just as I was considering spending an obscene amount of money on a real snow blower I had a meeting with Parris and she managed to calm me down and talk me out of feeling under pressure to perform. I found it invaluable to have the GGs to chat weddings to because they understand and could relate to what I was trying to achieve.
I struggled with the supplier relationship balance at times, and I think because I hired in industry friends to help me achieve my vision there were definitely times when the lines were blurred but having my husband to talk things through with helped me to detach myself from being a wedding planner and to just be a bride to be. Towards the end I even hired in my own wedding planner to get her to tie up loose ends for me and put an eye on everything. (Aimee I'm looking at you!)
Being a natural control freak - as every wedding planner is - definitely helped because everything was written down and checked over. But being able to work with people I trust and who could understand my vision was most important. And couldn't have asked for a better collaboration of suppliers to pull together my wedding day.
TIME TO PARTY
CJ and I have a shared love of music and dancing. CJ is a very good dancer and although I like to think I'm good at dancing too there is no way I would keep up with him. But also no way that we would be able to have any ordinary first dance.
We decided not to go for a love song or anything which represented our relationship, rather a great song with a great beat that we both liked dancing to so settled on Janet Jacksons 'All Nite (Don't Stop)'.
We then came up with a routine which was perfected and pulled together by our dance friend Bailey Francis and proceeded to pop, lock and robot our way through our first dance.
LINA AND TOM!!!!!!!! The bestest most fantastic most fabulous photography dapper duo you will ever meet. They are incredible and their awesome talent not only managed to capture some really great pictures but the feel, emotion and ambiance of the day. Getting a photographer is my number one priority for any of my couples but finding one which you connect with and who understands you is even more important. Many try to skimp on the photographer because they don't understand their fees but when you realise that this is the only lasting physical memory of your wedding day their importance starts to sink in. And getting the photos back is an unforgettable experience. Just being able to sit in your own house in your own space after the wedding with a glass of vino to relive the day is priceless. I have to say I'm not a fan of stuffy posed photos and my favourites are all the spur of the moment shots including a great one of me shaving my pits! But in all honesty they managed to capture all the little looks and the glances of our family and friends which made our day come alive on print.
Lina even bought along a pick me up snack for the adrenaline dump after the ceremony - they honestly went above and beyond and covered everything. The best money I have ever spent!
TAKE MY ADVICE...
Being a ‘Real Bride’ has made me better planner, I now understand the day from all angles and can enlist on my own experience to run the day. I wrote a blog piece after being married with my own ten top tips which you can find on my website (read the blog HERE). But in all honesty in hindsight the things I most remember are the laughs, the enormous amount of love and the feeling I had in my heart for the whole day.
If you're planning to get married - don't forget that the most important thing that happens is that you marry the one you love. The frills and fancies are great and make for a spectacular day. But if you can walk away from it feeling fantastic and in love then it was a huge success.
But my one top tip and wedding gripe is to make it your own! Don't get suckered into one type of theme or style if it doesn't reflect you two as a couple. You need every penny to work for you and to be spent on reflecting you, your relationship and your love. So put down the Pinterest and look deep into yourselves to find your own wedding inspiration.
Wedding Planning - Inge Louise Events
Styling - Elizabeth Hall Event Design
Catering - Cambridge Dining Company
Lighting - Pro Event Hire
Photography - Lina & Tom
Flowers - The Tayler Studios
Dress - Coast
Suits - John Lewis