May 13

How will I have my hair for the big day?

My hair has been a lifelong battle. It’s curly and thick and difficult to control if it’s anything but sunny and dry – and I’ve already formed a contingency plan to have a pair of emergency GHDs at our venue in case it’s raining. Because rain equals game over on me looking well-groomed, whether it’s my wedding day or not!

People keep asking me how I’ll be having my hair at the wedding, and until recently I hadn’t given it much thought, other than that I definitely want it long and down. Then, I went to the launch of Holly Willoughby’s latest clothing line and she was wearing her hair in the perfect, perfect style. I snapped a cheeky photo while she was giving a speech…

I think Holly's 'do is perfect for a wedding

I think Holly’s ‘do is perfect for a wedding

I think I’ll probably get a hairdresser in to do my hair on the day – not to wash and blow dry it (I find I get better results myself because professionals always underestimate how unruly it is!) but to put it up and make sure it will hold in the style I choose.

Other than style, there’s the issue of colour to tackle. I veer between being blonde and having my hair red – and since I’m getting married in the Autumn, I’m thinking red would look the best. (Also, it suits me best red anyway.) But getting the shade right is tricky.

So when Wella invited me down to their HQ to try out their new Illumina range – which apparently leaves your hair 70 per cent shinier than it is naturally – I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. Who better to advise me on wedding hair than the experts?

My hair was looking pretty dull, drab and lifeless before Martin worked his magic.

My hair was looking pretty dull, drab and lifeless before Martin worked his magic.

While getting my hair done and munching on the tasty pizza they’d provided, I picked the brains of my colourist Martin Quenault, salon director at KH Ashby and art team member at KH Hair. He’s behind loads of poster campaigns for KH and works the shows at London Fashion Week, so I was in good hands.

“Get your final colour done about a week before the wedding,” he advised. “You don’t want any regrowth but you do want it to settle down a bit. Definitely experiment before this, though. Decide what colour you want long before you get your final colour done! While you’re working out what you want, take in swatches of your bridesmaids dresses so your hairdresser knows what shades will and won’t look good on your big day.”

Interesting! I’d never have thought of that but it definitely makes sense.

Flicking through the Illumina colour charts!

Flicking through the Illumina colour charts!

“Don’t do anything too drastic before the wedding – unless you’re super confident. And look around for hair accessories you want well in advance. They have to go with your dress, obviously, and you’ll need to take them with you to your trial.” I’ve already bought mine, but I’m keeping them hush hush along with the dress… I’d best make sure they arrive before I book a hair trial with a stylist, actually. I’ll add that to my ever-increasing ‘to do’ list.

Martin put three colours on my hair – Very Light Brunette Blonde mixed with Medium Red Gold Blonde mixed with Light Blonde, and I was really, really pleased with the results. This is definitely how I want it for the wedding – if I can find someone to do as good a job as Martin, that is…


Ta-dah! The end result.


May 13

The lowdown on wedding videography

When I went to the National Wedding Show a couple of months ago, I was struck by how many stalls there were offering videography packages. We’d already booked ours, thank goodness – as I’ve said before, it’s a bit overwhelming when you come up against so many different options in one go.

Everywhere we turned (well… when we weren’t ricocheting between photo booths and donning comedy wigs – I think mum and I had one glass of fizz too many!) we came across another company offering a different take on the idea – some of them provide cameras for your guests to film the day themselves, some provide fancy dress, others put together a professional, edited film of the day’s action, complete with music, messages from your guests – all sorts.

It can all get a bit confusing, particularly because it’s a relatively “new” concept. So I decided to speak to a professional to get the low-down for me – and all you other brides-to-be out there! Our videographer Rachael Givens is creative director, filmmaker and chief editor at Lovebug Films, and was only too happy to chat to me and offer up some tips. (She’s lovely – and a true romantic, too! And having set up her own company when she was just 19, she’s an absolute expert.)

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 22.25.18

“I think having your wedding filmed should be a must for every couple getting married, and more couples are choosing to do this in addition to photography,” she says. “Hearing your vows to each other is the most beautiful thing to watch back – you’re so nervous on your wedding day and time just goes by so quickly you forget all the little details. Through social media, couples are now able to display their wedding film for all their family and friends to watch too which I think is a great thing – especially if there are family who couldn’t make it to the wedding.”

That’s true, and something I hadn’t thought of. Our guest list is so tight because of numbers and cost – for people we’d love to be there but who we unfortunately can’t invite, this could be a good way around it?

“Choosing the right videographer for you is crucial,” she adds. Rachael has given me five top tips for making sure you’ve got the right person for the job…

Top Tips…

1. When looking for a videographer you should always meet them first – as they will be a massive part of your big day. They’ll be there from beginning to end, even if you don’t notice them around, so make sure you choose someone who is easy to get on with and who is passionate about their job!

2. You should choose a company who can give you what you want, for example, their style of filming, editing and finished product.

3. Watch their films to make sure you are happy with what you’re paying for. You must have an emotional connection to the films – I always secretly love it when people cry watching my films, it means I’ve captured their hearts.

4. Speak to the videographer. Tell them your visions and ideas – I always feel the better films of mine are the ones where the couple are themselves around me and forget the camera is there. They talk to me about the proposal, funny stories, little details etc. That way, your film represents your love story to the best of my ability.

5. Think about the costs. When it comes to paying for your videographer sometimes cheaper doesn’t mean worse and pricey doesn’t mean they’re the best. I would advise lots of research into getting your package right.


After speaking to loads of people about videography, I had a few questions about it too. I gather I’m going to be pretty busy on my wedding day (!) – do I have time to be filmed, too? Rachael has answered my questions below:

How long are you at the wedding for? As long as you would like us to be! On average we normally arrive at the brides house when she is scheduled for hair and makeup, and we stay til 20 minutes after the first dance.

When do we get the finished product? 12-14 weeks after your wedding.

How much input do you have ie do you tell us what to do? As much as you would like us to have!

How many people film and edit? There are two film makers, myself and another fully trained film maker. I edit myself as it’s my favourite part if it all, watching it come together.

Do we choose our own music? If there is a certain song you would like I always try to include it.

I forgot to ask what happens if I trip up. Will it be edited out?! Anyway. Turns out it’s not just wedding videography that people are after these days either.

“An engagement film is the ‘new kid on the block’ in the videography world,” Rachael says. (Click here to watch one of hers.)  “It allows the couple to practice being in the company of the filmmakers and cameras. It also provides an opportunity for your love story to be told, because many of your friends and family may not know how you got together or how he proposed. This can be filmed several months before your wedding and can be sent round via social media and DVDs for your guests to watch before the wedding, giving them a taster of what’s to come. It can also be used as a save the date or wedding invitation – something very different – and what I’ll be doing when it comes to my own wedding. For some weddings, couples can have their engagement film played at their wedding before they enter the reception as husband and wife!”

Makes our plain old paper save the date cards seem a bit dull, really…

For more info about Rachael visit her website by clicking here.


May 13

Videography – yes or no?

A videographer was second on my list – right after photographer – of ‘things that I believe are absolutely essential to our wedding’.

As all my friends and family know, I am partial to taking a lot of photos. Too many, some might (and do!) say. I document everything – and everyone I ever go on holiday with (apart from James, my bridesman, who’s as enthusiastic as I am. “Al! Al! Take a photo of me looking nonchalant in this Hungarian subway!” etc) is driven mad by me making everyone line up and say cheese – or pout – every five minutes.

Not getting a videographer is often, apparently, a bride's biggest regret

Not getting a videographer is often, apparently, a bride’s biggest regret

But fast-forward ten, 15 years – more – and nobody ever regrets having ‘too many’ pictures of a holiday or a family party. Who is it that everyone comes to to go through photo albums and laugh about hilarious times at uni, foreign jaunts we’ve been on, misjudged hairstyles and outfits, how disheveled we looked (and we thought we were cool!) when we went backpacking on the other side of the world, family snaps – birthdays, get togethers, wedding anniversaries, new babies, Christmas – from way back?

Me, of course!

And what do I love even more than my thousands upon thousands of photos? My videos.

Nothing takes you straight back to a memory quite like a video. Hearing people’s voices, laughter, watching them move – it’s like they’re right there in the room with you and you’re reliving a moment that’s long gone. My grandpa, who passed away two and a half years ago, was an incredible jazz pianist. I have so many videos of him playing the piano at Christmas and at big family parties, with everyone dancing away as he bashed out a version of Sweet Georgia Brown with my Uncle Ron…These are precious memories that a photo can’t even begin to capture.

Which is why I spent ages and ages and ages convincing Sean that we absolutely 100% need a videographer on our big day.

“It’s a waste of money,” he argued at first. “Anyway, nobody will want to watch it but us.”

I did a lot of research on this in my bid to win him over. Apparently, not getting a videographer is one of the biggest wedding day regrets. Hardly surprising – the day goes by so quickly (so I’m told), and I bet you miss so much when you’re the bride and groom. Everyone I know who had a videographer to document their day tells me they can spend hours rewatching their wedding video and that every penny was well spent.

I’m happy to say Sean is now totally on board with this. He’s even planned which songs we’ll use in the video as background music. I think his change of heart is down to our amazing videographer Rachael. More about her in the next post…

May 13

Florist to the rescue

A few weeks ago I was having a panic about my bridesmaids’ dresses. In fact, that’s an understatement. I’d totally gone off them. I still loved the style, the length, the neckline… all of that. But the colour? Nope. I’d made a terrible mistake.

I don’t know whether it was because they were bought on the hop – before I’d even really had chance to think about what colour I wanted – but I’d convinced myself they just weren’t going to work with the overall colour scheme of the wedding. In fact, they’d changed the overall colour scheme of the wedding to something I really, really didn’t want.

Uh oh.

Flowers, flowers, more flowers...

Flowers, flowers, more flowers…

I’d worked myself up into a right tizz, putting in calls to my sister and inundating her with Facebook messages full of different dresses in different colours. Poor Verity. “Don’t worry, we can get new ones – it’s not too late!” she reassured me.

Sean, knowing I’d already spent our allocated bridesmaids’ budget on them, wasn’t so impressed with my change of heart, I have to say.

All this was the week before I had my first appointment with our florist Chris – a lady who lives in the same village as my grandma, who I’d asked to take charge of sorting out all our flowers. (On a side note, fellow brides-to-be – delegation is key! My grandma was more than happy to take on this job for me, I love her being included – and it was a weight off my mind. I live a couple of hundred miles away from our venue and trips back and forth are costly and time consuming.)

The Flower Lounge in Neston are doing all our flowers - and I'd highly recommend them to anyone else getting married in the area

The Flower Lounge in Neston are doing all our flowers – and I’d highly recommend them to anyone else getting married in the area

I took one of the dresses along to the appointment, which I went to with my mum and, of course, grandma. Needless to say, Sean was sitting this one out. I doubt any groom is ever going to be particularly fussed about the flowers…

I’d done no research into the names of the flowers I wanted – all I knew was the colours and overall ‘look’. But my florist, Chris, was brilliant. She was immediately on the same page as me, suggesting different sorts of flowers I’d never heard of, pulling out samples of foliage, reassuring me that it would all work and look gorgeous. I was impressed. She even offered to post me two of the main flowers we’d settled on so that I could take them with me when we go to choose Sean’s suit, to makes sure it all ties together nicely. Great service! Grandma had really played a blinder on this one.

Speaking of flowers... now that spring has finally sprung, London was looking gorgeous this May bank holiday. I snapped these daffodils in Greenwich Park and it made me think how pretty they'd be at a wedding around this time of year

Speaking of flowers… now that spring has finally sprung, London was looking gorgeous this May bank holiday. I snapped these daffodils in Greenwich Park and it made me think how pretty they’d be at a wedding around this time of year

After we’d sorted out a rough plan of how many table decorations, pedestal arrangements, corsages and buttonholes we’d need, and discussed what I want for my bouquet (shower bouquet or hand tied?) and my bridesmaids’ bouquets – plus baskets and wands for the little ones – I glumly pulled out the dress.

“It’s not going to work with this though, is it?” I asked, telling her the colour I thought might be better. She was horrified. “That would look terrible!” she exclaimed. “The dress you have is perfect. It’s going to be really unusual, and really striking.”


Well, if the professional says it works, then that’s good enough for me.

Apr 13

Wedding photographer found!

“What sort of photographer do you think we want?” I asked Sean, a couple of weeks prior to taking his mum up to the Wirral to visit our wedding venue for the first time. I’d decided to cram as many appointments as possible into our scheduled weekend visit, and that included meeting with potential photographers.

“Umm…” he replied. “A good one?”

Hmm. Helpful! And about as far as I’d got myself.


We already have some engagement photos displayed at home – and they’re nowhere near as important as the wedding pics will be. Finding the right photographer is one of the most crucial elements of planning a wedding.

Neither of us know the first thing about photography. All I know is that the pictures from our big day will be with us forever and ever and ever, so it’s pretty important that we like the end product. I was determined to get the right person for the job.

I phoned ahead to arrange appointments with a few local photographers whose websites I was impressed by.

(Honestly, wedding planning is just a series of meetings with different people – I don’t know what I’d do without my wedding planning diary. It was an engagement present from my lovely friend Rachel, which is even engraved with the words ‘Alex & Sean, the happy couple’ on a silver panel on the front. I love it!. Every bride-to-be needs one.)

My beloved – and now a bit battered – wedding planning diary, courtesy of my friend Rach

Turns out, choosing the photographer is a tricky business. There are so many different styles to think about.

There’s reportage photography, which tells the story of the wedding day (aren’t all photos supposed to tell the story of the wedding day?) candid photography, where you don’t know the photos are being taken (yikes! This definitely isn’t right for me – I don’t want to be caught unawares adjusting my dress or, heaven forbid, with a double chin), artistic wedding photography, which seems to be the sort that is done in sepia and looks like you’d hang it on your wall as ‘art’, even if you didn’t know the bride and groom…


I was beginning to get a bit overwhelmed by it all. (And at least I don’t even have the extra worry of the photographer we want being booked up – getting married on a Monday in October, we, unsurprisingly, seem to be able to have our pick of suppliers).

The best way to work out what you want is definitely just by asking the photographers if you can see wedding albums they’ve done in the past – preferably at the venue you’re getting married at too, to get a feel for which set ups you like and where the photos can take place.

We quickly ruled out arty and candid photography and soon realised that the photos we want are going to be pretty traditional.

Apparently at the moment there’s a shift away from group shots of family members gathered together for the formal wedding photos. But I definitely want that. I know my parents and grandparents would prefer that to arty shots of us staring into the distance in black and white, anyway. (Although we’ll definitely throw in a few of those for good measure!)

We eventually settled on an amazing photographer, Verity (also my sister’s name, it must be a sign). You can see some of the work she does here. She put us completely at ease – and let’s face it, if someone’s going to be with you for a large chunk of you wedding day, you certainly want them to do that – was an absolute pro, and more importantly, flicking through her albums that Sunday morning actually made me well up and get all teary.

They were perfect – exactly what I picture when I imagine us looking through our own treasured wedding album decades from now.

Another job sorted.

Apr 13

The wedding cake

I’m feeling pretty chilled about our wedding cake, knowing it’s in the very safe hands of my bridesmaid Charlotte. She has three cook books being published this summer and, having been one of her taste testers (lucky me!) when we lived together and she was developing her cake recipes, I know it’s going to be amazing. She is so talented and an absolute kitchen genius. I could not be happier or more grateful to have her on board, and I love the personal touch of having one of my best friends make our cake.

But – like all things to do with weddings, I’m learning – there are still lots of decisions to be made by me and Sean.

Recently, Charlotte and I spent a weekend skiing in Meribel – which you can read about here and here – and took the opportunity to make some important decisions on the cake front.

Here we are on our cake-planning ski break in Meribel!

Here we are on our cake-planning ski break in Meribel!

Prior to our in-depth discussions, all I knew was that I wanted the cake to reflect my autumnal colour scheme and I was keen to avoid paying some of the price tags I’ve seen. You can spend upwards of a grand on a wedding cake, it turns out!

There are a few cakes I’ve seen that I love, as below…

I love the idea of having a plainly-iced cake decorated with flowers that tie in with our theme...

I love the idea of having a plainly-iced cake decorated with flowers that tie in with our theme…

I love this one too... very elegant

I love this one too… very elegant

…but there are still some important questions to consider, according to Charlotte.

1) Size (per portion per guest and according to how high we want the cake to sit off the table). Charlotte provided me with a nifty little graph to illustrate this, fact fans:

This is the sort of detail that makes me VERY glad that Charlotte is taking charge...

This is the sort of detail that makes me VERY glad that Charlotte is taking charge…

2) How many tiers?
3) Round or square?
4) How will the tiers be separated? Will they be sat on top of each other or on separate stands?
5) Flavours. Do we want each tier to be the same flavour? According to tradition, the top tier should be fruit cake which is then frozen and eaten at your first child’s christening. Is this something we want?
6) Icing and decorations.

Who knew there was so much to think about? And this doesn’t even cover the more logistical aspects of actually getting the cake to the wedding venue. How will it be transported? Where will it be stored? Will our venue provide the cake stand and the knife? Do we need to hire them?

Sean’s eyes glaze over when I try to talk about certain aspects of the wedding and this is definitely one of them, so I’ve taken charge myself. At this preliminary stage I think Charlotte and I have settled on a five-tier round cake decorated with flowers.

I’m sure Sean will be keen to get more involved when he realizes we need to taste test and choose our flavours!

Feb 13

Bridesmaids and bridesmen

Picking my bridesmaids was probably the easiest thing I’ve had to do wedding-wise. I’m having my sister Verity and four of my best friends, my gorgeous goddaughter Lizzie, who’s eight (and lives in New York… tricky in terms of dressing her!), and our niece Matilda, who will be two when we get married.

But, since going to the National Wedding Show this weekend, I’m wishing I’d waited a bit longer to ask them all. On one of the stalls I saw these lovely balloons that had ‘Will you be my bridesmaid?’ printed on them. Such a lovely touch. I wish I’d thought of something like that sooner.

All my bridesmaids said yes, so I’m pleased to report the balloon isn’t a deal breaker. But even so, if I could rewind and do it again, complete with giant, floating helium messages, I totally would!

for the blog

My mum, my sister and I were at the National Wedding Show when we found these bridesmaid ideas. We also had fun trying out the photo booths… I think we definitely need one at the wedding!

Turns out there are loads of lovely ways to pop the all-important bridesmaid question. Cards, baked goods, personalised champagne flutes. It’s left me feeling very inadequate. Am I the only bride-to-be who doesn’t know about all this stuff? I feel like I’ve somehow cheated my bridal party out of something that would have been really special!

So – who are the adult bridesmaids? Five very, very special people – not one of whom I could imagine not being by my side when I walk down the aisle.

There’s Charlotte, who I met when we were both living in Madrid. We bonded over tinto de veranos, a penchant for Daddy Yankee and a mad flat with mirrors for walls and rooms with no windows. Char is a food writer and the most amazing cook I know. I am also very honoured that she’s taking on an extra wedding duty – making our wedding cake. (More about that at a later date.)

Will you be my bridesmaid?

Then there’s Hol. We met at school when we were 11 and both wearing black padded hair bands with our names printed on them in glitter. So 90s! We grew up together loving Take That, ‘Grease 2 and garlic parties’ and making up dance routines to Motown songs, and I cried buckets when we both went off to separate universities. When she tied the knot last summer I was SO proud to be her bridesmaid, too.

I was Hol's bridesmaid in May last year

I was Hol’s bridesmaid in May last year

Next up, James. Yes – I’m breaking with tradition and having a bridesman. (What will he wear…?! I’m thinking a suit with maybe a cravat or tie to match the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses?) Whether we’re going to Ancient Egyptian monuments dressed as members of a famous girl band (don’t ask) or hunting out non-existent techno parties in Paris, he has always, always been there for me and I know he always will be.

Then there’s Sarah, my partner in crime from university. Sarah and I have been in so many scrapes over the years – usually getting locked in foreign banks, skiing in dresses, or taking inflatable parrots on holiday. Sarah got engaged herself a fortnight ago and has asked me to be her bridesmaid, too. (And she wasn’t onto the balloon idea, either… not just me, then!) I am so excited that we’ll both be planning our weddings together. It’s almost as though our respective fiancés planned it! (They didn’t.)

And last but not least, Verity. My little sister, so obviously first in line for bridesmaid duties. She’s gorgeous and has great taste, so I’ll be needing her help choosing flowers, decorations and accessories, and more importantly to tell me how I should wear my hair. (She is much better at these things than I am.) It was Vez who masterminded the initial idea for my hen do – a long weekend in Marbella – and Vez who chose the bridesmaids’ dresses. Already worth her weight in gold!

In fact, the bridesmaids’ dresses were actually one of the first things we bought for the wedding. I was shopping in the sales after boxing day when it suddenly struck me that if I wanted dresses in autumnal colours, and dresses from the high street, I’d have to buy them sharpish – as the next time they’ll be in the shops will be late August this year. That would be cutting it way too fine.

A few days later Vez went and found the perfect ones while on a shopping trip with my mum. She said they were lovely – and they are. We bought an extra one too to make sashes for Lizzie and Matilda’s dresses, and a cravat/ tie for James, so now we just need to decide on hair, shoes and accessories…


Feb 13

The dress

As I’m only planning on ever buying one wedding dress, and it’s supposed to be the most important dress I will ever buy, I decided to make a weekend of it. After a couple of months of flipping through bridal magazines, I felt like I had an idea of what I wanted, so my mum and I booked an overnight stay at Raymond Blanc’s incredible Le Manoir (which you can read more about by clicking here) and headed to Oxford on a very snowy weekend last month, armed with a strict budget set out by my groom-to-be and a clear idea of what I wanted, style-wise and designer-wise, in mind.

Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons was the perfect place to stay while on the hunt for the all-important dress

Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was the perfect place to stay while on the hunt for the all-important dress

But all of that went out of the window once we arrived for our appointment at The Bridal Box. “What sort of thing are you looking for?” asked the lovely owner, after she’d given us some glossy look books and made us cups of tea. “Umm…,” I replied, my mind suddenly blank. And this, despite the fact I feel like I’ve done nothing but look at wedding dresses for weeks on end!

The truth is, when you’re faced with so many big white dresses in an abundance of different styles, where do you even begin? Do you want lace? Satin? Sparkle? A full-on meringue? A train? Strapless? Sleeves? Fish tail? It’s so overwhelming!

Here we are on our dress-hunting minibreak!

Here we are on our dress-hunting minibreak!

Not as overwhelming as the first time you actually try one on, though. I’ve been engaged for a few months now, but I was still unprepared for looking… well, for looking so much like a bride. I didn’t even look like me! It took me a good ten minutes to get over it and actually work out if I liked the first dress or not.

I did. In fact, I liked them all. We’d chosen a selection of about 12 in the end – mainly from the designer I thought I wanted, but with a few others thrown in for good measure, too. And lots of different styles. And yes – I liked them all. Which wasn’t very helpful, to be honest. How on earth do you make a decision? I was worried I’d never have that ‘moment’ that everyone keeps banging on about.

Wedding dresses galore from baby doll, to fishtail and even Cinderella...

Wedding dresses galore from baby doll to fishtail to Cinderella…

But I did. After about two hours of trying on dresses (when, I think, my mum might have been losing the will to live – neither of us enjoy clothes shopping at the best of times and this was a long old slog) I had the ‘this is The One’ moment. I couldn’t stop smiling, I didn’t want to take it off. I almost felt like the dress chose me, the feeling that it was my wedding dress was so strong! And it was definitely not the sort of dress I thought I’d end up wanting.

We went away and slept on it, of course. It’s not the sort of purchase you want to rush into. But the dress was all we could talk about that night, and by the next morning I knew that no matter how many I tried on from then on in, nothing would quite match up.

So I went back, tried it on again (you can never be too sure!), paid a hefty deposit and that was that. Another box ticked!

Obviously I can’t write much about my wedding dress – this is top secret information. So instead, I’ve put together a few tips for fellow brides to be who haven’t started the dress hunt yet…

The suite we were staying in - the beautiful Orangerie

The suite we were staying in – the beautiful Orangerie


Tips when looking for wedding dresses:

1) Wear nice underwear! When you try on bridal dresses the shop assistants help you in and out of the gowns – which I didn’t know until a friend who was a bride last summer warned me. I’m glad she did…! A nude colour is best, and try to make sure your bra has removeable straps.

2) Be super-organised. I thought I was totally on the case – there’s still a good nine months left until the wedding, after all – but I was informed that actually, I was cutting it a little fine. Wedding dresses take a good six months to be ordered, made, and shipped back to the bridal shop – and then you need extra fittings on top of that. So look early!

3) Take someone whose opinion you trust – and who is willing to tell you when something looks awful on you. I must admit I was tempted to go wedding dress shopping with my mum, my sister and all my bridesmaids (more about them in another post to come), and sip champagne while everyone cooed over how gorgeous the dresses look. But I think that only happens in Hollywood! Or to people who have the exact same taste as everyone else they know. In reality, everyone has a different opinion, you end up feeling totally stressed, and it’s hard to get a feel for what you actually think yourself. My mum is my harshest critic and I trust her to tell me when I look rubbish – and likewise, when I look good.

4) Book an appointment. Most bridal boutiques will need you to phone ahead and reserve a time to try on their dresses. Some will even charge you a fee.

5) Keep an open mind. I’ve lost track of how many people have told me they ended up choosing a wedding dress that was nothing like what they were expecting. And I have now joined their ranks! Choose a few ‘wildcard’ options – you never know, one of them might end up being ‘The One’.

6) Ask the owner of the shop if you’re allowed to take photos. Most won’t let you (because you could then take a photo of a designer dress to a dressmaker and have it copied) but if you politely suggest you take a few snaps that you’ll delete before leaving the premises, you might just twist their arm. It’s helpful to scroll back through the different looks because, in my experience, you’ve forgotten what the last one was like the minute you put on the next.

Jan 13

The legal bit

When we first began to plan our wedding, the thing I found most daunting was definitely the legal part. Where do you even begin? It’s like when you leave home and suddenly have to start paying water and electricity bills, and register for council tax. You’ve never done it before, so you have no clue what to do.

Obviously, I turned to Google. And after a few quick searches I found out that Sean and I both have to turn up, in person to declare our intent to marry at the town hall. So far, so simple.

Woolwich Town Hall

This is our local town hall. Rather snazzy!

But, because we’re tying the knot in a borough we don’t live in (in fact, a good few hundred miles away), it’s a bit trickier. Basically, we had to call the borough where we’re getting married and book a registrar for a set time slot on our wedding date. They then provisionally reserve that booking for a month while they wait to hear confirmation from our local borough that we’ve been there in person to say we want to get married, and that there are no problems with the wedding going ahead. Ok……

“But make sure you go in to see your local borough tomorrow,” the lovely lady in our wedding borough told me, when I’d finally got my head around all this and called her to book a registrar to marry us. (We chose the 2pm slot, as it happens. A good time to get married, I think!) “We only hold the booking for a month and they need to post the notice in public for 15 days before we can do anything, so be quick.”

No problem. I am an organised bride! I got on the phone to our local borough straight away. But when I announced that we’d like to come in the following day, the woman laughed at me. (Not in a horrible way, I must add. She was very helpful.) She informed me that actually, we live in one of the busiest boroughs in the country for weddings, and that the next appointment wasn’t for six whole weeks.

Six whole weeks! But our wedding borough would only hold our spot for one month! And we couldn’t lose that slot. We’d already paid a hefty deposit on the venue!

Luckily, after another phone call back to the wedding borough, they agreed they’d hold it for a bit longer as it was a ‘London waiting time’, as they called it, and that was that.

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Tip: always make time for fizz when declaring your intent to marry…

Those six weeks went alarmingly quickly. (Actually, I suspect that maybe time goes in fast-forward when you’re engaged.) When the day rolled around, we were so excited. We’d both taken an afternoon off work and met in a bar for a quick celebratory bucks fizz before heading to the town hall.

Once there, it was all pretty straightforward – mainly showing them our passports and our proofs of address. And apart from the fact that Sean had a moment of panic and forgot my birthday when he was interviewed about me (and this was after I’d made him revise it beforehand!), it all went smoothly. We signed and dated the documents, and that was that. All official. We are definitely, definitely getting married, and all the legal requirements will be met.

Well. Unless someone posts an objection while our notice is public. Does this ever happen, I wonder? We can pick up our “blues” (the official documents we then need to hand to our wedding borough are nicknamed this, and from what I can gather it’s because they’re printed on blue paper) next week, so I will report back. Fingers crossed…!

Jan 13

Guest list woes

It’s taken us a whole two months. But I think – I think! – we have finalised our guest list.

Phew. I had absolutely no idea how tricky drawing up a guest list is until it seemed like all our discussions about it were turning into heated debates. When we first scribbled down a list of names to invite to our big day (on the flight on the way home from Iceland), it totalled about 150 people. But due to budget constraints we had to slash that to 80 people. And half that number will be made up of just my family!

At first it seemed like a nightmare task. But in reality, it’s turned out to be a really good thing. When we sat down and looked at it, we’d added a lot of people we felt like we had to invite to the list. But do we really want them there…?

Here's a sneaky peek at our save the date cards...

Here’s a sneaky peek at our save the date cards…

It’s our big day. And the more we spoke about it the more we realised that when we’re exchanging our vows, we want to look around the room and see all the people in the world that mean the most to us. I certainly don’t want to glance behind me and think: ‘Oh! Who’s that…?’ about half the people there. Which is what would happen if we invited everyone’s plus ones.

Yes, that’s where we’ve had to slash our numbers. After a chat with a few friends who had done the same thing we came up with a strict rule that if we don’t both know a plus one, then they aren’t invited.

What it really boiled down to was the fact that if we do invite people’s other halves when neither of us (or just one of us) know them, then that person is taking up a space at our wedding that a really, really close friend is missing out on.


Ticking off the guest list

Ticking off the guest list


Then there’s the issue of children. Aside from immediate family (our gorgeous little niece Matilda, who will be a bridesmaid, and her little brother or sister who will be born in March), we’re not having any babies or children whatsoever. It would be different if we both had families full of little ones, but we don’t. Hopefully our friends will love the opportunity to get a babysitter in and let their hair down at our wedding – and not be offended that their offspring can’t come.

Now I understand why so many people decide to elope!

So – now it’s time to start inviting people. We bought some great value save the date cards on a stationery website I found before Christmas – zazzle.co.uk – and I feel like they’ve been sitting in a cupboard forever. Now that we know who we’re sending them to, we can finally getting cracking on writing them this week. And then I can turn my attentions to more exciting matters – like finding a dress…

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