One of my many jobs is as a part-time Administrator for the beautiful Stately Home, Capesthorne Hall, in Cheshire, which is also a wildly popular wedding venue. They have recently begun a ‘Behind The Scenes’ blog and asked me to contribute to it. They posted my top ten tips as a series of mini-blogs, but here’s the whole lot in one!…
I have been married for 2 years now but find myself referring back to our wedding (more specifically the planning of it) all the time. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, despite being a stereotypical girl who dreamt about my wedding from day one. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of responsibility and the number of people I felt I had to please. People constantly told me that it was all about me and my Husband, but for me it really didn’t seem that simple.
If you are a Bride or Groom to-be and any of this resonates with you, keep reading!
I have the privilege of being part-time Administrator at Capesthorne Hall, therefore speak with and meet a number of couples who are getting married. One of my favourite things about being a married woman is being able to offer advice to others going through their planning stages. Therefore I’d like to offer my humble Top Ten pieces of advice that I regularly give out to those planning their weddings:
- Make a list of your priorities, both individually and together.
This is actually the best practical piece of advice I could give anyone planning a wedding. Unfortunately myself and my husband only did this half way through our planning period! But it made life so much easier afterwards. It’s important to listen to one another and accept your differences of character and opinion (remember, that’s probably one of the reasons you’re marrying them!). For my husband, food was at the top of his list and I’m so glad it was otherwise our guests could’ve ended up eating McDonalds and not going away saying “that was the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding.” More on the importance of Food later. My priority was the Music, which was kind of a given being a Musician myself! Again, more to follow on that… But once we were clear on each other’s bottom line, everything became so much simpler. We were also able to delegate tasks to other people more easily, being more aware of what we needed control of and what we could relinquish control of.
2. Don’t be limited by what you see in the first instance. It’s amazing what can be done with creativity.
A lot of venues we looked at seemed already ‘dressed’ to us and therefore had a pre-determined ‘theme’ or feel about them, which put us off. We were looking for a blank canvas on which I could have creative freedom over. Looking back, I did create an awful lot of work for myself! But working at Capesthorne has actually made me see the endless possibility in an already dressed venue. Capesthorne has an historic elegance about it. Many couples fall in love with its decadent beauty, its idyllic romantic setting and dare-I-say its glamour. Some people might be put off by these things, believing it’s not their style or taste (I was one of them!), however I have seen how a venue’s whole ambience can be transformed by small touches. The colour of the table linen, the choice of flowers, the wedding favours scattered across tables. And actually many weddings become all the more unique when people think outside of the box and add their own personality to an already dressed venue. If you are struggling to find your ‘Perfect Venue’, I would encourage you to be confident in your overall vision and not be limited by places just as they are.
3. Use your contacts!
We are fortunate enough to be blessed with a plethora of talented friends and family. My sister-in-law is a very popular florist, my brother is an artist (and designed all of our wedding stationary), not to mention my rolodex of musician contacts. Don’t be afraid to call in favours from those you know with particular talents, or even to ask if anyone knows someone creative. Speaking as a creative person, we are more often than not are dying for the opportunity to use our creativity to make others happy.
But not just creative people, any people. Don’t try to do absolutely everything yourself as it will take its toll. It did with me and I ended up very poorly the week running up to our wedding including the day itself, which leads me on to my next point…
4. Include Family and Friends. They love you and just want to help.
You may be experiencing the a-typical strain of two families combining. You have my empathy! But I’d encourage you to go easy on your families. It may not feel or seem like it at times, but its highly likely that they just want to help. It’s also worth remembering that they will have dreamed about this day for as long as you have, if not longer. It really means a lot to them and just offering them small ways in which to be a part of your experience will mean the world to them. Once the day has gone you can’t get it back, so go easy on your loved ones and involve them in your special day.
5. Employ people who understand your vision.
I can imagine myself and my husband weren’t the most conventional (or easiest!) of couples whilst planning our wedding, but that didn’t mean that we deserved to be treated with any less regard than anyone else. I experienced this on a few occasions and I was too afraid to stand up for myself. In hindsight, and speaking as an Administrator at a wedding venue, every single person deserves to be listened to, understood and treated with respect. This is your wedding, your marriage, arguably one of the most important things you will ever do! Again, it makes life so much easier to have suppliers who respect your vision. Therefore if you’re struggling to make decisions on caterers, florists, etc, I’d encourage you to think with your heart as well as your head and not just go straight for the most popular suppliers, the coolest, flashiest, or simply by recommendation. Employ people you feel confident will serve you well.
6. Keep your guests well fed (and watered)!
Did you know that people like to drink a lot of alcohol at weddings?! Play it safe and offer food at regular intervals throughout the day. I’m talking twice as much food as your alcohol! It may be pricier but it’s worth it! No-one likes an embarrassingly drunk Uncle or a cousin throwing up in the toilets! If you’re having a summer wedding and it’s likely to be hot, this is even more important!
7. Try to plan your day from the perspective of a Guest at your wedding.
When thinking about timings of your day it’s worth remembering what it’s like to be a Guest at a Wedding. Ever had the experience of standing around for 3 hours while photographs are being taken? Enjoy it? Personally there’s only so much small talk I can make with friends and relatives before becoming really dull, or (referring back to point 6), drinking too much and starting to make inappropriate jokes! So it’s worth being a little sensitive to your guests. It’s your Photographer’s job to get all the photos you would like, without needing to keep you away from your guests for hours upon end.
Also bear in mind the age ranges of your guests. My parents reminded me of our older guests when we were selecting our chairs for our reception venue. It seems silly, but they deeply appreciated the thought of a comfortable chair, as they were sat there for a long time. Personally, we chose not to have any small children at our wedding reception, simply because it’s a really long (and boring) day for them. We also wanted their parents to let their hair down (which in my experience, they are very grateful for). We don’t remember really enjoying a wedding at aged 5… or remember them at all. It’s a little bittersweet but just the reality of human nature. If we did have children there I would have liked to have thought we’d have considered entertainment for them. Bouncy castles I hear go down really well with guests of ALL ages!
8. If Music Be the Food of Love….
…keep it playing on and on! Ok, now as a Musician I’m biased on this point. Having said that, I have worked as a Music Consultant for a wedding because the Bridal Party really believed that music played a big part in creating ambience throughout the day and they wanted to get it right. I planned everything from what the Bride came down the aisle to, to the 18 piece swing band at the evening reception. Again, speaking biasedly, the difference professional musicians can make to a wedding (indeed any event) is huge. People like to watch musicians at work, so it also becomes some form of entertainment. Music has the power to affect any kind of mood. Equally, silence can make a big impact, so keep a playlist going in the background between any live music acts so that guests don’t begin to feel awkward. I was accused of being a little over-the-top for having a Pre-ceremony playlist, Drinks Reception playlist, Wedding Breakfast Playlist and Evening Reception playlist. Each one was different and carefully crafted for the various stages of the day. I may have gone over the top but it really is worth thinking about your guests being sat in uncomfortable silence if the conversation and music has run dry.
9. Plan ‘Wedding-Free Zone’ dates with your spouse to be!
I should have put this higher up the list to mark it as a priority. Taking time to not discuss your wedding, in my humble opinion, is crucial to saving both your sanity and your relationship! Planning a wedding is not normal, day-to-day life and when it’s over people often feel a bit of a void, because life had become so consumed by it. It’s also not the reason people fall in love and have relationships. A wedding is ONE day. Marriage is the rest of your lives so it’s important to start investing in that before you say the big ‘I will’ and practise being normal with one another!
10. Don’t be afraid to express yourselves.
There are so many expectations and stereotypes surrounding weddings, which personally I found very difficult. People have a way of being opinionated without openly berating your choices and it is the unspoken expectations as well as the spoken ones that can start to take their toll on you. I constantly used the phrase “too weddingy” to my husband, which baffled him for a long time until he understood that I wanted our wedding to reflect us as people. We aren’t glamourous, we’re not super-cool, we don’t have a specific ‘style’ (not Retro, Vintage, Stylish or Romantic) and neither of us is comfortable with drawing attention to ourselves. It felt insincere to adhere to a template that has traditionally or socially become expected. What was criticised in the run-up to our wedding is now commended for being ‘original’, when actually all we did was choose things we liked. But I’m not ashamed to say that I am proud of the wedding we put together.
My biggest tip that vetoes all of the above is to remember that the most important thing is the awesome and reverent act of uniting with someone you want to share your life with. Nothing else, absolutely nothing, is more important than that.