Thursday, 29 December 2011

Xmas Kisses - does getting married tie-in well with Christmas?

It's the time of year when people are naturally inclined to party. The year is coming to an end, and what a better time to catch with friends and family to look back upon the past and look to the future.  Since this is what weddings seem to be a lot about, it seems to be a natural move to have a wedding during the festive period.  But is that really such a good idea?

Author's own

When author Marian Keyes tied the knot with her husband Tony on December 27th, she records in her book Under The Duvet that this was not a popular decision with her family.  Her mother put everyone on a diet so that they would look their best for the big day, but that meant no chocolate or biscuits or treats of any kind at Christmas!  For brides planning to slim down before their wedding, planning a date around Christmas may not be the best idea.
Source unknown

When it comes to suppliers and venues, Christmas week might as well be the third week in June!  They get booked up months in advance and are likely to put their prices up too.  Specific wines can be in high demand and hard to come by, venues are hosting corporate events and Christmas parties, and florists will having orders flooding in.  (Second only to Mother's Day, Christmas is THE busiest time of year for florists.)

Author's own

Weather is an unpredictable factor.  For three years straight, heavy snowfall dogged the Christmas period across the UK.  And yet this year has taken everyone aback by it's comparative mildness.  You just never know what you might get.  Snow can cause havoc for those who need to travel to your wedding, yet if it's a White Christmas Wedding you're dreaming of, you can be just as easily be disappointed.

Author's own

On the upside, Christmas can lend itself well to small, intimate, candlelit weddings full of festive cheer.  Mulled wine or cider is a wonderful (not to mention cheap!) alternative to serving champagne on arrival at reception.  Cakes made of mince pies rather than cupcakes looks rather Christmassy.  Personalised crackers are great as favours and provide amusement at the table.

Source unknown

Parties are going to happen around Christmas and New Year's Eve whether you like it or not.  If you want to make your wedding one of those parties, why shouldn't you?  Go on - it's Christmas!

Author's own
A very Merry Christmas to all my readers.  x x x

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Please Mr DJ, Don't Upset the Bandman - live versus piped music

It's not often discussed, and yet it is an issue that people seem to have very strong opinions on: live versus recorded music at weddings.  There is a big stigma attached to having a CD play your recessional rather than having a full-blown orchestra there to do it instead.  But would the orchestra really provide a better solution?

When Big Brother 5 star Michelle Bass walked down the aisle, she did so to the strains of  Water Shows The Hidden Heart by Irish music star Enya.  She loved how pretty the tune sounded.  She could have chosen to have some musicians come in and play their version of the song.  But she didn't want that; she wanted the version she knew and trusted - the Enya original.  Any event musician, no matter how talented, would have struggled to recreate the tune given the level of studio tuning the song has.

Louise Raynham

The main nub of the matter is often cost.  Those with money have the live bands; CDs provide cheap alternative for those who have to watch the pennies.  Even in churches, organists can cost upward of £200.  Most places of worship and civil ceremony venues are fitted with decent sound systems these days.  This is something you can take into consideration when deciding between live or recorded music.  Always ask to hear the sound system play something if you want to be sure.  (This rule is also true of any musician you consider, be they organist, chorister or band - always make sure you hear them perform live before you book.)
For evening receptions, the classic choice has always been between live band or disco DJ.  Nowadays, with the advances in music technology, you could always create a digital playlist (on iPod, MP3 player etc) to play all your favourite tracks to party the night away to.  Downsides include hire charges for amplification equipment and asking someone to stay sober and keeping an eye on the music all night long.

Ultimately you must remember to stick within your budget and any other constraints on entertainment you might have.  We can't all be like Petra Ecclestone, who hired the Black Eyed Peas to do a private show at her Italian nuptials.  Given that the final wedding bill came to around £12m, we're guessing they didn't come cheap!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Don't Tell The Bride - Good TV, Bad Influence?

The 5th series of BBC3's hit show Don't Tell The Bride has just come to an end.  It's been lighting up our screens for 5 years now (hard to believe, isn't it?)  It certainly makes for fascinating viewing on a dull Tuesday evening.  Twitter lights up whenever it's on. #dttb  But when it comes to wedding planning, is the influence of Don't Tell The Bride and other reality wedding shows a positive one?

When you watch DTTB, the determination to outdo everybody else, to be memorable, is ever present.  But in a bid to be original, there ends up being a lot of copycatting between brides and grooms.  I've lost count of the number of helicopters I've seen feature in DTTB, for example.  Neither can I recall any of the names of the couples taking part.

Other shows such as Channel 4's Wedding House encourage couples to think big.  They bring couples from all walks of life to a glamorous hotel in South East London and promise them the wedding of their dreams.  Except that they don't, not really.  They give them an outrageously over-the-top themed ceremony and then send them outside to have their pictures taken on the lawn with only a PLASTIC (yes, that's PLASTIC) glass of bubbly.  Parties and receptions elsewhere, if you don't mind.

Perhaps I'm judging reality TV too harshly.  After all, one could say that the royal wedding was one lived in the spotlight.  For all the publicity and audience figures these reality shows tend to pull in, I don't think there is yet to be single 'trend' or influence over wedding style that can be attributed to them, which is not true at all of the royal wedding.  Trees, lily of the valley, bridesmaids in white, floral headdress, sleeves...  The trends that have sprung for Wills & Kate's nuptials are endless

Mostly these shows end up with couples talking about what an amazing day they've had and how it was better than anything they could have imagined.  It's all a bit same old same old to me (call me cynical, it's been done before).  It's seems a bit of a shame that the brides and grooms spend so much time trying to wow each other and their guests, not the mention their audience, that they often miss the point of what a wedding is really about: Two people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together.  Now if BBC3 did a series on what happens AFTER Don't Tell The Bride, now that I would watch!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bye Bye Bare Arms - the sleeve is back!

When the announcement was made over a year ago now (my how the time flies!) that Prince William and Kate Middleton were engaged to be married, we all knew that whatever gown she chose for her big day it would be a trendsetter.  And we were not wrong.

Hello Magazine!
Resplendent in Alexander McQueen couture, Kate has certainly buoyed up the bridal market for lace and white bridesmaids dresses, but also for sleeves.  For more than 10 years, strapless arm-bareing gowns have been in vogue, but it seems that the tide may be about to turn.  Kate's dress alone would not a trend make, but the second most hotly anticipated gown of the year bears many of the same features.

Summit Entertainment / Alfred Angelo
Bella Swann (played by Kristen Stewart in the Twilight movie series) married her long-term love Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson) in a long sleeved Carolina Herrera gown with striking lace detail on the back.  So much hype was focused on the dress, the movie trailer deliberately only gave teasing, tantilising glimpses of it.  Only now that the film has been released.
Summit Entertainment / Alfred Angelo

The design has proved so popular, women and girls are claiming to be engaged just to be able to get into Alfred Angelo stores, where replicas of Bella's dress are being sold, to try the dress on.  I've been rooting for the return of the sleeve for years - perhaps this could its turning point.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Reception Rules - What to do and what NOT to do

Abbey Clancey and Peter Crouch were criticised by well-known tabloid for not sitting on the top table with their parents, choosing to sit with their friends instead.  I must admit, even by tabloid standards, this did sound like a regular hoo-ha over nothing.

Tradition also dictates that the parents of the bride sit either side of the couple.  Last wedding I went to, this was 100% necessary in order to stop the groom's parents fighting each other.  But it doesn't always have to be this way.

The couple were also accused of segregation by serving different desserts to their male and female guests.  Men got fudge brownies while the ladies had cheesecakes.  There is nothing new in this.  The Beckhams did this at their wedding more than a decade ago, serving their gentleman guests sticky toffee pudding while the ladies had Fruits of Forest.

Personally, I'm not in favour of this.  It sounds like the couple are trying to make a trendy,  quirky statement with their dessert, but I think it's just asking for trouble.  You're bound to get a few guests who want the other dessert and will get peeved that they can't have it simply because of their sex.  (As a hardcore feminist, I'm in favour of equality even when it comes to dessert!)

I get quite tired of rules of ettiquette at times.  Whilst there's nothing wrong in good manners and decorum, stupid rules about how men and women must be seated alternately around the table is absolute RUBBISH!  What if you've got a big group of friends, all of the same gender, who want to sit together?  And how about gay friends and their partners?  Must they be forced apart just to acommodate a rule?  Have you got friends you haven't seen for ages coming to your big day?  Would rather sit next to them than your mother whom you see all the time?  Then do so!

What about the kind of wine you serve?  You must have a white, a red and a sparking for the toast.  Oh really?  What if you prefer rose?  Supposing you don't drink at all and would rather not serve any alcohol at all.  (In this circumstance, it is polite to let guests know in advance that this will be the case.)

Anyone who tells you in matters like this that your choice is wrong can't love you very much.  It is your day and you should get to celebrate it in whatever manner you chose.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Keep It Simple, Keep It Real - remembering what it's all about

I was lucky enough to witness the moment when Sir Paul McCartney and his bride Nancy Shevall arrived at Marylebone Register Office, waved to the crowds and then headed inside to say their vows.  When I say "witnessed,"  I acutally mean 'caught on the BBC News 24 channel'.  This very rarely happens to me - being just in time to catch a significant moment - and I can't helped but feel a little proud of this.

The other thing you couldn't help but notice was how happy he and his bride looked.  My belief is that not only were they in love, they didn't have many of the hang-ups of a big wedding with lots of photographers, media attention, and general hullabaloo that weddings seem to attract.  Paul and Nancy had it sussed - they invited only 30 of their closet friends and family to witness their marriage.  They then had a party at home with food and music exactly as they wanted it.  No bending to specific venue suppliers, fussy caterers or overbearing magazine photographers trying to get as many celebs as possible in the one shot.  Perfect!

Having a quiet wedding when you're a celeb is not easy.  Madonna and Guy Richie's nuptials in December 2000 had the world's media circus clamouring at the doors of Skibo Castle in Scotland.  Yet ultimately, all the disruption was for nothing.  Photographers and fans alike were left disappointed by the complete no-show of the happy couple.  Some fans even felt let down that they were not permitted a teensy glimpse into their favourite singer's big day.  Many locals felt peeved at having so much upheaval and disturbance, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, with no reward.  At least Kate Moss had the decency to send everybody in Southrop a bottle of champagne to say sorry for the disruption!

Perhaps the best way to handle public interest in a wedding is by doing it the way that Zoe Ball & Norman Cook, Abbey Clancy & Peter Crouch, and Ed Milliband & Justine Thornton did it: by keeping the celebrations strictly behind closed doors, but posing for fans and photographers for just a couple of minutes.  The public gets what it wants and the couple can party in relative peace.  Alternatively, when Macca married Heather Mills in 2002, they issued one official photograph from their day which was sold to media agencies in exchange for a donation to their chosen charities.

Thankfully, press control is something few of us will ever have to worry about.  However, if you're planning to marry quietly, 'just us two', you may want to consider hiring a good photographer, selecting one image and sending it out a print - an 'official' photograph - to your friends and family who weren't there to give them a little taste of what the day was like.  It will probably help to heal any sore wounds caused by a missed opportunity to party.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Marriage and Motherhood: what's it like being pregnant on your big day?

It's the ultimate sign of commitment between a couple; a day you'll remember for the rest of your lives...  But what are we talking about here?  Getting married or having a baby?

I recently asked a friend of mine what she thought about a bride being pregnant on her weddding day.  "Well," she said.  "If you can see the bump yet, then I guess it's kinda cute.  I mean, it's like a secret between the bride and the groom.  It's the ultimate commitment.  But if she's showing then it just looks desperate."  So, according to my friend, on that basis Lily Allen was cute but Alicia Keys was desperate.

Having kids before marriage, or even without it entirely, is no longer the taboo it once was TF4T.  If anything there seems to be a complete reversal in that couples now want to procreate and have their children participate actively in their wedding.  Take Victoria and David Beckham: notorious for being extremely protective of their children's privacy, they took great pains to include their son Brooklyn in their wedding photos (covered exclusively by OK! magazine) because they didn't want him asking in later years, 'Where was I at your wedding?'

Perhaps I take a far too practical view of these things, but I think it would simply be too much.  When you're pregnant, your energy levels are lower, your hair and nails are devoid of their normal nutrients and feeling like you want to throw up on your wedding can't be a good thing.  I understand why couples feel the need to be married before their child arrives - legally, it makes things a heck of a lot more simple! - but organising a wedding is a full time occupation.  It's hectic enough to organise without having to plan for a baby as well.  My advice: marry before the baby comes if you wish, but please, leave the big wedding celebration til later.  That way the newest member of your family can also be a part of it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Minding the Monster - In - Law: how to handle your in-laws and other relatives

We've all heard of the woes befallen Heidi Withers in the run up to her wedding and how strongly her mother-in-law to be disapproves of her.  I suspect most of us know someone, or have been ourselves, in that situation.  Managing difficult in-laws, relatives and even friends in the run-up to a wedding can be a nightmare that a lot of international diplomats would balk at.  Here's a few top tips on how to handle them:

Mother-in-laws are a peculiar kettle-of-fish.  They are naturally very protective of their sons and you're the 'Other Woman' who's stealing him away.  (Odd how it's never quite the same with Fathers-of-the-bride.  They seem all too keen to palm their daughters off on the poor unsuspecting bloke who asked for their hand in marriage.)  It can be hard for women to see their mothers-in-law this way, but once you do it can help to create an understanding.  You're on surprisingly mutual ground: You both love this man very much.

Jackie Stallone was a famously difficult mother-in-law to get on with.  Sometimes the easiest way to break the ice with a difficult character is to take an interest in one of her hobbies.  Yes it might involve a bit of sucking up / kissing arse, but if it achieves a bit of peace or even civility then it is definitely worth it.  Finding common ground is generally the quickest way to a friendship.

When Jane Fonda was giving future daughter-in-law Jennifer Lopez grief in the movie Monster In Law, it was the setting of boundaries that finally allowed the women to heal their differences.  Compromise is the key.  We don't always like conceeding ground, especially to pople we don't like, but some times it's the only way.

The last option is rarely popular, but I've gotta say it just the same: sometimes smiling, nodding and giving her whatever she wants is the only way to keep the blue skies overhead.  Always stay your ground - hang on to the things that really matter to you - but anything you're not that fussed about, let her have her way.  Plenty of time for reeping revenge later!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Real Wedding - Purple To Midnight

Back in August, I was delighted to take part in the wedding of Leonie and Sam Butt.  I had known Leonie since we did our A levels together.  She was always lovely and working with her on her wedding flowers was a sheer delight.  I have never met a bride so open to suggestion, yet confident of what she liked and what she disliked.  Here are some pics from the day:

The bride's bouquet was loaded with Avalanche and Akito roses, lisisanthus, Orion thistles, pittosporum, blue veronica, purple freesia and hard ruscus to finish.

The bridesmaids' bouquet consisted of white statis and purple lisianthus, finished with lavender ribbon and pearl pins.

After a mini disaster with the hydrangea wands, wilting leaves were exchanged for organza ribbon.

And I think (hope!) you'll agree that they turned out rather pretty.

Originally the plan was for the bridesmaids to carry purple statis dotted with white Akito roses, but at the bride's suggestion, the colour scheme was reversed.  And what a good thing it was too, or else the purple would have receded into the bridesmaids' gowns and the flowers would have been lost.

And finally...  The Bride, who would have looked dazzling even if she'd been carrying a bunch of dandelions.  

Many congratulations Mr and Mrs Butt! x x x

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wedding Day disasters - and how to cope with them

You've planned everything perfectly, down to the last fleck of confetti.  The dress is altered to perfection, the bridesmaids all know their roles and are happy with them, the vicar has the correct readings and Uncle Fred has promised not to drink until the reception.  Everything is as it should be.  What could possibly go wrong?  As Jessie Wallace found out to her cost this weekend, sometimes you need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Admittedly, discovering that your fiance has has been sending provocative photos of yourself to another woman probably points to fundamental flaws within the relationship rather than anything purtaining to the wedding itself, but Wallace's decision to call off the nuptials just hours before they were due to go ahead had serious repercussions for everyone involved.  Guests already en route to the wedding arrived at the venue in Richmond, south west London, were in for a bit of surprise.  Caterers had to remove thousands of pounds worth of champagne and other goodies and florists had to take down all the decorations.  At least most of them would have been on site and it would have been easy enough for the suppliers to remove their goods again.

It's a different story when you're looking forward to the wedding going ahead and then one of your suppliers lets you down.  Coronation Street star Tupele Dorgu was disappointed when her bridal bouquet turned up on her big day in 2009 and it was not what she wanted.  Instead of getting upset, she simply carried her favourite evening bag down the aisle instead.

Holby City actress Tina Hobley had similar problems on her 2007 wedding day.  She had ordered a teardrop shaped bouquet but when it arrived, it simply didn't match with her wedding look.  Thankfully, ace florist Jamie Aston was able to create her a stunning handtied bouquet so that she didn't go down the aisle empty-handed.

Other things likely to go wrong on the big day include dresses not fitting/seams or hems going, people getting lost or unknown food/drink allergies presenting themselves at the last minute.  The best thing to do is to have someone on hand who is calm, organised and preferably distanced from the wedding party itself so that there is no chance of them being caught up in the frantic energy of the wedding day.  Make their mobile number known to people ahead of time.  Be guided by the professionals - caterers will know best how to deal with food allergies.  Keep important telephone numbers (e.g. the number for the nearest dry cleaner/mender) to hand.

In beautiful, barmy Britain the one thing we know we can never ever rely upon in the weather.  In 2007, during the summer of flooding that washed out large parts of the Cotswolds, South Yorkshire and the West Country, many couples had to deal with terrential downpurs on their big days.  Marquees in muddy fields became the order of the day.  But instead of crying in despair, we Brits did what we do best: we put the kettle on and worked out how to get round it.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Ta Tiara! - What fashion accessories are there for your head

When there's the joy of the dress you're going to wear, it's easy to forget about what you're going to wear on your head.  Yet an appropriate head dress can really make an outfit whole.

Whilst we don't all have the Queen on speed-dial to lend us a bit of bling for the big day like Kate Middleton did (The Cambridge Lover's Knot design by Cartier, above), there are plenty of beautiful yet affordable tiaras around.  Tiaras have grown in popularity in the last fifteen years, especially as the veil's popularity declined.  Tiaras are brilliant because they work with or without veils and they are appropriate at all times of the day. Butler &Wilson have a great range of tiaras to buy online and even more in their South Moulton Street store.

Having been big in the 80s, floral headdresses are starting to make a comeback.  They often make an attractive alternative for brides who want a statement headpiece, but feel that a tiara is too formal for a more casual wedding.  A simple band of roses can look very elegant, but it is all to easy to go over the top with flowers a la Liz Taylor.

Hats are a quirky choice for a bride who wishes to steer clear of traditional.  Top hats to rival that of your grooms gives a delightfully feminist twist on things.  In 'The Parent Trap' with Lindsay Lohan, we see a dress designed by her mother - Natasha Richardson - being modelled by a leggy blue-eyed blonde.  Top hats are as good as heels for adding for height if you lack it naturally.  Alternatively, a wide-brimmed summer hat is great for a relaxed garden party feel, as demonstrated by Jemima Khan.

It's not so good a bringing home the 'bride' feel though.

Of course, there is of course no reason why you should not go nude if that is what works best for you and your outfit, as exemplified by Luisana Lopilato when she married Michael Buble earlier this year.  It's natural, it's simple, and if you've got a great hair do, why ruin it with adornment?