Hanson Gets Married
So you’d think being an event manager, eternal bridesmaid, and all time romantic, I’d find planning my own wedding a piece of cake right? Well in many ways, yes, but oh boy were there some challenges along the way!
It all started when Steve proposed in November 2015. Given the fact that I like to have control over what we do, when we do it, and how, he had his work cut out if he was ever going to surprise me, but surprise me he did!
I had planned an early Christmas present for Steve that year and had booked us a week away in Edinburgh. Having moved from Scotland to live with me in Kent two years previous, it’s fair to say that he doesn’t get to see the lovely friends he left behind as often as he’d like. As such, I had secretly arranged for his friends to come and join us for the weekend in Edinburgh. Little did I know, Steve had a surprise planned too!
Consequently when Steve’s friends arrived at our apartment in Edinburgh, his reaction wasn’t quite the ecstatic elation I had envisaged! I haven’t actually ever asked what his original proposal plan was, but having confided in his friends whom he soon recruited as accomplices, to my surprise he proposed that following morning!
Having been together for two years and openly discussed how we had found ‘the one’ (and let’s face it we were getting on a bit too!), when and how Steve was going to propose was often on my mind! The fact that when it did happen, it was such a lovely surprise, made it all the more special and as such I would like to share my first piece of advice...trust them. Even if you’re thinking, ‘enough already, just propose!’, know that it will happen and it will be amazing!
Despite describing myself as a romantic, I didn’t actually have my ‘dream wedding’ planned, I knew, as ever, I probably wouldn’t want the same as everyone else and also with December being my favourite time of year, that a winter wedding would be amazing but that was about it! Conveniently, opting for a December wedding gave us (well, me!) a whole year to plan! Or should I say prepare ourselves!
So there I was, with a wedding to plan, easy peasy, just like any other event I have planned and executed! Except I certainly didn’t have the luxury of the larger budgets or brand names behind me that I’m used to. In fact, I was quite determined that with my experience, I could create our wedding on a very small budget. In reality we spent double what I had originally hoped to spend (oops!), but we still spent considerably less than the national average, which is apparently £30,000! Regardless of whether you have events experience or not, there’s so much inspiration, advice, reviews, venues, themes, and styles, out there at your disposal that you can create your dream wedding whatever your budget may be! For the record, I should probably just add that professionally I am much better at coming in under budget!!
One of the perks of my job is getting to experience some of the best venues around. This might be why it took far longer and was much more stressful than I had anticipated to find our venue. Several London venues that were on our radar were fully booked for the year ahead and not taking any further enquiries. Others were either way out of our budget, or just totally impractical. Just when we really thought we were at the end of our venue hunting tether, I discovered Coco Wedding Venues - like a genuine ray of gorgeous sunshine, it put the fun back into the hunt and also led us to discover our wedding venue (more on that shortly!). Listing wedding venues suited for all budgets, styles and requirements, all personally reviewed by founder, Ema Hla, I felt it was a welcome breath of fresh air and would definitely recommend it!
So that’s how we discovered the fabulous Walcot Hall in Shropshire, our wedding venue. Hiring venues on a regular basis, I was keen to find a venue that allowed us as much freedom as possible and the lovely Walcot Hall did exactly that. We weren’t going to be tied to an off-the-shelf, ‘this is how we do weddings here’ package, nor would we have to use their in-house caterers paired with the ivory chair covers - hurrah!! We finally found it!! And yes it might sound cheesy, but the venue felt so ‘us’! A little quirky, certainly not the norm, and it was set up perfectly for the informal friends and family get together we had in mind.
Ironically, we actually ended up booking Walcot Hall’s ‘wedding package’ (cue Steve rolling his eyes profusely after we’d searched the entire country for the opportunity to do exactly the opposite!) but what a fabulous package it was and my it was a wedding-planning dream! One thing I was constantly asked during the whole process was ‘how’s the wedding planning going’, and I kept thinking it was fine, not much to do at all, to the point where I would question if there was more that I should actually be doing. I don’t think that was all down to the day job, having opted for a package meant we had our ceremony and reception venue booked, the drinks package, caterers, florist, DJ and accommodation all sorted too - what a dream!! If you’d prefer to organise as little as possible and maybe a wedding planner is out of the question, then perhaps a wedding package is the way forward for you! Plus we were really lucky that the suppliers associated with our wedding package, who had been handpicked by the lovely Caitlin, Venue Manager at Walcot Hall, were truly fabulous and accommodating of all our requests so even if I do say so myself, our wedding didn’t feel at all like a ‘package’.
Obviously there were a few other things to sort outside of our package. One of which was a photographer, now Steve fancies himself as the next David bailey so I thought finding us a wedding photographer would be something wedding-related that he’d actually enjoy and so I graciously tasked him with the job! And whilst it might have taken a few gentle reminders, he did find us a photographer, and a bloody brilliant one too! Recommended by our venue, Steve got in touch with local photographer Olivia Moon, who describes herself as an alternative wedding photographer, a storyteller. We clicked with Olivia as soon as we met her (over Skype!) and booked her immediately! We’ve all been there at weddings, killing time while there are endless photos of the bride, bride and groom, bride and groom with the bride’s family, groom’s family, extended family….urgh it bores me just writing it! We were adamant not to have that and Olivia totally got that and us. She was so lovely too, working with a couple who when put in front of the camera, literally crumble into an embarrassed mess, and captured all the emotion and fun of our day - just what we were looking for!
I mentioned earlier that I knew when it came to getting married, I wouldn’t want the ‘norm’ and that applied to my dress too. Speaking to lovely friends and family, I was advised that even if I wasn’t going to have a traditional wedding dress, I should still experience the event of finding a dress. And as a self-confessed ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ addict, I thought why the hell not! So I took my mum and my sister wedding dress shopping and it was far more enjoyable than I had imagined! I was expecting to be shoehorned into dresses that just really weren’t ‘me’ but that wasn’t the case at all, it was a lovely girly day of lunch, dresses, tea and cake! What’s not to love?! Although I was expecting a glass of bubbles whilst trying on dresses and instead was offered tea and biscuits but we all know I love a good cuppa!! Needless to say, I still came away thinking that I just didn’t feel right in a traditional wedding dress so the hunt continued.
I had spotted the brand Needle & Thread on my Pinterest and loved the items they produced and one night browsing my phone whilst laying in bed (I think those ‘down with the kids’ call this ‘phubbing’!) I thought I’d have a look online for stockists, even though I shouldn’t be spending, I had a wedding to pay for (blah, blah, blah) and saw the words Net-a-Porter, Needle & Thread and SALE! I ended up ordering three Needle & Thread dresses, one of which I decided on as my wedding dress and yes I dutifully returned the other two!
When I showed my mum and bridesmaids the dress, they loved it, yay! I must admit I was worried what all our other guests might think, especially family that I knew were more traditional but on the day everyone was so complimentary of my dress, which was really lovely and I felt amazing in it! My mum is forever telling me to stop worrying about what other people think and as ever, she was right. It might sound cliched but it’s your wedding day, so you should absolutely wear whatever you want!
I tried to apply the same thought process to my gorgeous bridesmaids and pick something they would love and like to wear again. However, even in writing that I can see the error in my ways, something ‘I’ thought they would love and wear again. I perhaps should have let them choose their own outfits, I picked a navy tulle skirt for them and they picked their own tops, as all three bridesmaids had different ideas and requirements. They looked absolutely beautiful on the wedding day, whether they ever wear a voluminous tulle skirt again remains to be seen though! Having had the honour of being bridesmaid on several occasions, I have an array of outfits and have had an equal array of briefs, some to choose our own outfits, some bought for us, some made for us and I still couldn’t tell you what I think worked best! So again, I think it’s key to do what you want, even if you tell your bridesmaids to pick something they want to wear and that you really don’t mind, they will still want to make sure it’s what you want them in, that it’s the right style, colour, price and so on. At the end of the day, your bridesmaids want to make you happy and be there for you on your special day!
When I started writing this blog piece I thought I had so many tales to tell and so much advice to give, whereas I actually think when it comes to advice you could accuse me of sitting on the fence! There’s an underlying theme that everything will turn out just right, try and relax, stick with your gut and don’t worry too much about pleasing everyone else. My lovely sister gave birth to my nephew just under two years ago now and I remember her saying to me that anyone who says being a mum is easy, is lying and I actually wonder if the same can be applied to planning a wedding - anyone who gives you the impression it’s easy, wonderful, you’ll be positively glowing - they're probably fibbing!