Monday, 30 April 2012

Put A Ring In It - Why bother with an engagement photoshoot?

It's a trend that started in America and I didn't realise how popular it was becoming until I learned that two acquaintences of mine had done one before their April nuptials last year.  What is the point of such a thing one wonders?  They're an extra expense,  and what value do they really serve?

Personal touches are all the rage when it comes to weddings at the moment.  Couples want their big day to be reflection of who they are as people, and rightly so.  As part of this, there is a notable trend towards couples printing up wedding invitations featuring photographs of themselves.  This is especially useful for guests who have only ever met one part of the couple, e.g. work colleagues, those living abroad, etc.

Sometimes you can get to the wedding planning and realise that you've not got a single image of the two of you together as a couple.  You've been together for years, but somehow just not managed to ever get in the same frame as each other.  It happens.  An engagement shoot certainly corrects that problem.

It also gives you an opportunity to get to know how photographers and photography work.  There's no pressure during an engagement shoot so you'll have plenty of time to ask questions: what does that do?  Which positions look best?  How do you make the most of the light?  Think of it as a dress rehearsal for your big day.  It's an added bonus if you're using the same photographer that you plan to use for your wedding, but it's not essential.

One of the best reasons I can think of for having an engagement shoot is simply to have some 'time' together as a couple.  Weddings are pretty stressful things and they can take their toll on your relationship.  An engagement shoot gives the two of you time together to enjoy each other's company and remember why it is you decided to get married.  Have the shoot in a place that means something to both of you.  Keep the pictures as reminder of everything you feel right in that moment.

Remember: marriage is hard work, the wedding is just the beginning.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Right Words - find the perfect readings for your wedding

I have heard some people say that they think readings at weddings are a waste of time.  People want to get the ceremony over and done with as fast as they can in order to get to the reception and have a drink.  To me, this is rather sad.  A typical wedding ceremony lasts around 30mins and it is such a significant moment in a couple's life that it deserves at least a couple of minutes pause and reflections.

Source unknown

It's all to easy to become obsessed with 'The Wedding' and forget that after 'The Wedding' comes the Marriage.  Readings help to focus the mind, to remind those witnessing your marriage why they are there, and to give a sense of the kind of couple you intend to be; whether that is reflective and level-headed, or lighted-hearted and humourous.

The first place to start looking for suitable readings is, of course, ye olde faithful Google.  The web has a wealth of poetry, short stories, sayings, proverbs and anecdotes at its fingertips.

If you're a little more traditional, you could head to your local bookshop or library.  There are hundreds of books giving suggestions on readings for a wedding ceremony, but there are are also poetry anthologies, such as the Nation's Favourites collections put together by the BBC.  Take a look at the Love poems or the ones about Desire and you're bound to find something.

Source unknown

If you're having a religious ceremony, speak to your minister about passages from religious texts that might be appropriate.  (Remember: if you're having a civil ceremony, any piece you choose must not contain any religious references or connotations whatsoever. ) Always read a piece all the way through before making a decision about it.  It must be appropriate to you as a couple.  There's no point in having someone reading out something you or your partner thinks is utter rubbish.

Author's own

You could always do what two friends of mine for their wedding: they turned to a close writer friend (i.e. ME!) to write and then read something composed for them and them alone.  This is what I wrote for them:

Throwing Out The Cliches

The other afternoon I went to my closet, searching for the right words.  I had a very important speech to make; I was speaking at my friends’ wedding.  I’d known them for years and I wanted to find the perfect speech for their perfect day.  As I opened the closet door, a ‘love is like a red red rose’ and a ‘compare thee to a summer’s day’ fell out.  I picked them up and looked at them.  They were classics for sure - the Mary-Janes of love poetry - but they looked a bit tired and old.  I’d worn them too many times before.  So I put them to one side and carried on looking.  I came across a ‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ I hadn’t used since 2002.  I doubted it would fit anymore.  Further on, I found a ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that was even older.  I shook my head in disbelief, tutting to myself at the rubbish I had kept hold of.  This closet didn’t need a clearout – it needed an exorcism!  At the back, I found a little box of tiny gems such as ‘I can’t live if living is without you’, ‘Never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight’ and a very precious ‘you are the wind beneath my wings.’  Beautiful though these gems were I didn’t think they were quite right for this occasion.  As I moved through the closet, I found more one-time classics like ‘You had me at Hello’, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ and ‘Ditto’.  But everyone had heard those before.  What was the point in saying the same old thing yet again?  And it was then that I had my eureka moment.  The thunderbolt of inspiration; my muse of fire!  Why not start from scratch and create something completely new.  Something in today’s style, something that would fit perfectly and, above all, something that would keep it simple:  The groom is a man who’s kept me laughing for more than ten years.  From belching his way through school plays to a scarily accurate impression of a psychotic RS teacher.  And he didn’t even shout at me the day I shut his nose in a door.  The bride is a lady guaranteed to make me feel inadequate because her beauty, her smile and the warmth of her personality could outshine Sellerfield during a meltdown.  I am so happy you two have found each other and, like everyone else here in this room, I want nothing but good things for you two; even if you’re engagement and subsequent setting of your wedding date has set me back a tenner.  I love you both very much.  And with that ‘I love you’ I realised I’d uttered the ultimate cliché.  But I thought, ‘What the heck?  Just because it’s a cliché, that doesn’t make it wrong.’  So I said it again: I love you both very much.

Author's own

If you would like to have a poem or story written for your special occasion, please get in touch with me at

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Inspiration from Hollywood - Weddings from the movies

When Elizabeth Taylor married first husband Nicky Hilton back in 1953, she loved her wedding dress from 'Father of The Bride' so much that she had a near identical one made for her actual wedding.  Similarly when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, she had the world's top couturiers falling at her feet.  She ignored them, and when straight to MGM costume designer Helen Rose who had worked on such films as 'Annie Get Your Gun', 'Two Weeks of Love', 'On The Town', and even Taylor's 'Father of the Bride.'   In doing so, she created one of the most iconic wedding gowns of all time; echoed and repeated ever since.

Hollywood movies have been giving inspiration for weddings everywhere since they first began.  Here we take a looking back at some of the best movie weddings of all time:

The brides, oh how they blush!

Let's start with.......

Twilight: Breaking Dawn was one of the most highly anticipated weddings of 2011, second only to the Royal Wedding.  The Caroline Herrera dress worn by Bella Swann was a closely guarded secret.  The detail in the lace on the back as seen to it that 'back detail' is a hot bridal trend at the moment.

mama mia wedding dress picture

Mammia Mia! had its central bride Sophie in a Grecian style flayered and flowing gown, designed to look as if she'd made it herself.  It had to be a dress appropriate to the scorching hot temperatures of the Greek island of Skopelos.  Whilst it may not have set the world alight in the fashion stakes, Mammia Mia! reportedly had tourists visiting the Greek Isles in droves.  An excellent spot for a romantic honeymoon.

Four Weddings And A Funeral simply has to get a mention.  Okay, it's not a strictly Hollywood flick, but it was such a smash over in the US as the British film industry hadn't had in decades.  The film helped to push aside the long-sleeved cuffed dresses and Juliette caps of the 1970s and 80s and made way for puffy sleeves and floral headdresses.  The wedding dress retailer, Berketex Brides who supplied all the dresses featured in the film, also got a healthy boost to their business.

Sex & The City produced quite a few highly stylish gowns, but this one surely has to be the most iconic of all of them.  With the trademark Vivienne Westwood neckline and a huge princess skirt of the kind not seen since Princess Diana got married, this dress was a piece of unadulterated, luxuriant eye candy.  It's no wonder that because of it, Vivienne was put in the ring to design Kate Middleton's dress.

In the last film she ever made before becoming a princess, Grace Kelly emulated 50s bridal glamour with the calf-length flaired skirt and long-sleeved ensemble in MGM's High Society.      It was yet anothet Helen Rose creation which took inspiration from the fashion houses of Europe with the Dior-style hat.  The lily of the valley motif can be seen on some of the SS12 lines now.

Even Julie Andrews herself said of her Sound of Music wedding dress: "That dress was a miracle.  I've never felt prettier before or since."  And we're inclined to agree with you, Julie.  Simplicity was the key to this gown.  No frills, no lace, no fuss.  It hugged the actress's body and showed off her lovely curves beautifully.  Teamed with a simple floral headdress and a cathedral length veil, it was true to Maria's country-loving roots, but impressive enough to fill the Saltzberg Cathedral.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Trouble's a Brewin' - How to keep your tricky best man from ruining the Big Day

He's your best mate, you've known him forever and he's a laugh a minute.  That is what the groom sees when he looks at the best man.  What the bride sees might be something entirely different.

Source unknown

Theorectically, the best man is to the groom what the chief bridesmaid is to the bride.  He helps him get ready, carries back up supplies for emergencies and is generally the first rock of support on the big day.  In reality, we all know that best men are liable to play pranks and make embarrassment for you and other people.

Author's own

How can you mitigate as many problems as possible?  This starts with the choice of best man.  Pick someone who knows both of you really well.  This way, if he wants to play jokes, he'll know how far he can push things without getting anyone upset.  After all, sometimes the jokes can add the high spirits of the day.

Author's own

You also want someone who can act and look the part.  There's no point in picking someone who is uncomfortable in a suit or nervous looking after crowds.  A best man needs to be a people person; someone who can recall information on demand and be a help to other guests.  Whether this be giving directions to from the church to the reception or knowing where the toilets are.

Author's own

In truth, I cannot recall the last wedding I attended where there was just one best man.  Often the groom has more than one brother, or a friend from years ago and one from recent times, and he cannot choose between the two.  This was typified in the Friends episode where Ross can't choose between Chandler and Joey for his wedding to Emily.

The other important job a best man often has to carry out is the best man's speech.  Whilst the main point of the speech is to poke playful fun at the groom, it's good if he (the best man) knows where to draw the line.  Experience in public speaking never hurts either, although it isn't essential.  If talking in front of an audience of dozens is not something the best man has ever experienced before, it is advisable to have at least one practice run.  This is true for all those planning to give a speech on the day.

Author's own
Worst comes to the worst, your best man would have a long way to go before he creates the same level of chaos as at this one.  Good luck!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Anywhere, Anytime - the right to get married whenever and wherever you like

I say this a lot yet it always gives me great pain to say this:  The Americans are better than us at organising weddings.  I find conceding to Americans very hard to do, but there are some times when there's simply no point in denying the blindingly obvious.  Apart from having to have a blood test when you get married, which I do not agree with, Americans have the law on their side when it comes to planning weddings.  You can get married almost anywhere, any time, by any one.  In the UK however.... Oh boy!


The marriage laws in this country are so far behind the times they are RIDICULOUS.  We've only been able to marry outside of a religious venue or register office since 1994!  Historically, the Church of England had a stranglehold on marriage from 1754 until 1836 when civil ceremonies became legal.

All ceremonies must take place under a roof with no locked doors.  No one can be prohibited from attending a wedding.  All ceremonies must take place between 08:00 and 18:00.  This anachronism dates back to before there was electric lighting.  All ceremonies had to take place in the hours of daylight so that priest could be sure who he was marrying and the groom could be certain he had the right bride.

Currently in England and Wales, both the person carrying out the ceremony and the venue must be licensed in order for a legal marriage to take place.  In Scotland the laws are more flexible if slightly more bizarre.  Here a religious ceremony can take place absolutely anywhere, but if you want a civil ceremony north of the border, it can only take place in a register office.

Gretna Green weddings

It's time to stop all this bureaucracy.  Weddings are meant to be happy, fun celebrations and worrying about fitting in lots of groundless criteria in order to make their wedding ceremony legal.  The ANY Campaign is fighting to change the law.  People should be allowed to marry anywhere, any time.  Beaches, ancient ruins, gardens and night-time candlelit ceremonies are all prohibited under current law.  This needs to change.  The Church is looking into dropping the requirement for banns to be called on three consecutive Sundays before the wedding.  This is not only an acknowledgement of how behind the times are legal system is, but it's great news for your budget too!

In the mean time, while we're waiting for the law to catch up with the rest of society, we just have to bend the rules, not break them.  Dreaming of a night time wedding bathed in candlelight?  Head to Scotland in mid December.  Fancy paddling in the sea straight after your ceremony?  Marry in a venue overlooking the beach.  Want to marry in a garden, breathing in the floral scent of summer?  Tie the knot in a conservatory filled with flowers and scented candles.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Here Comes The Bride - picking the music that sounds her arrival

It's possibly the single-most exciting moment in the wedding ceremony.  Silence falls in the room, the music starts and the people rise to their feet: the bride is here.  It's a magical moment as everyone turns around to look at her: eager to see the smile on her face and the dress on her body.

When Phoebe Miller, the beauty and the brains behind the So You're Getting Married blog, was deciding what she would walk down the aisle to, her vicar advised her that it could be ANYTHING in the world.  She plumped for Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.  It still gives her goosebumps.  She did also consider the Imperial March from Star Wars, but thought perhaps that wouldn't go down so well with the parents.

Phoebe's method of choosing which music she wanted to make her first appearance too is as good as any.  If a piece of music gives you goosebumps, it's probably a good choice.  If it has great significance for you and your partner, then it's a good choice (but don't forget to save 'your song' for the first dance).

Author's own

Some pieces are best avoided though, no matter how fond you are of them.  Novelty songs and TV themes are prime examples of this.  Some film scores should be avoided.  'Titanic' and 'Harry Potter' spring to mind.  Their scores are far too closely associated with the films.  What you want is something that will remind your guests for years to come of the moment they first saw you as a bride.

Author's own

Unfortunately, there are some legal provisos to remember.  If you are getting married in a civil ceremony, you are not permitted any music that has any religious connotations at all.  All music needs to be approved by your registrar beforehand.  Some pieces such as 'I Vow To Thee My Country' can be divisive.  It is generally accepted as a hymn, but many clergy refuse to allow it because it contains no reference to God.  Civil ceremony celebrants may allow or disallow it on similar grounds.

The best advice I've heard about picking your processional is to choose something slow but rousing.  You don't want to gallop down the aisle after all.  If you can time your walk beforehand, that will help you pick something of appropriate length.  The most important thing is to pick something that you like.  There's no point in marching towards your very-soon-to-be husband to the strains of something you can't stand.  Pick a piece that suits you and that you love.