Take inspiration from the Stylist team!
Following on from my previous blog post I asked some Stylist brides to share their pictures and some of their best tips.
Stylist’s deputy editor Susan Riley got married in January 2006 at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.
There's no point listing all my suppliers – they are all Canadian! - although I got my dress and veil from at Brides of Cheshire in Knutsford, Cheshire, near where I grew up. It stocks all the big designers but mine happened to be one designed by the owner of the boutique. Other than that, my tips for a wedding abroad are:
ABOVE: Stylist's deputy editor Susan with her husband John
1. Don't bother with bells, whistles or trying to make your wedding 'original' - your location does that for you. I spent much more time arranging the trip itself than my wedding day. I booked everything for my guests: hotels, flights, coach hire to transport us; and a week's worth of activities like ice walking, husky sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. It was a lot of work but it was less stressful as I kept 100% control – I didn't have to chase people up or worry they'd not booked their flights. Plus I got group deals to make it cheaper for everyone.
2. Give people lots of notice. I told my guests 14 months before and estimated the exact cost of the trip, so that they could plan it as part of their holiday year and budget accordingly. That's probably why most of the people I asked, accepted. Having said that, if you're getting married abroad, you have to go into it with the mindset that your wedding could have only the two of you there. If this bothers you too much, don't do it!
ABOVE: Susan's wedding took place at Lake Louise in Canada
3. Make compromises. Many locations – especially the Canadian Rockies!! – don't offer the same choices that you'd have in London or another city, but you just have to go with it. I didn't love my hair (I didn't have a trial and the hotel stylist was a little 80's in his styling!) and my photographer was more traditional and less reportage/modern than what I was after, but I just had to suck it up. As long as you get those one of two killer shots – which we did – that's all that really matters.
4. Don't turn into a tour guide. On our flight to Canada, I handed out 'brochures' to all my guests. Inside was a v. sarcastic 'who's who' of the wedding party and a casual schedule for the week with all the info they'd need – pick up times, activity details, prices, addresses. This was a) for amusement and b) to avoid getting loads of questions throughout the week, which worked. I wasn't too controlling either - all my guests could opt in or out of all the activities I set up and had loads of time to do their own thing. Remember it's their holiday as well as your wedding.
5. Pick a souvenir 'favour'. Mine were mini bottles of Canadian maple syrup, which everyone loved as they were going to buy some at the airport anyway. I went to a friend's wedding recently in Cornwall too, and their favour was local fudge. So a speciality from the region that doubles as a keepsake will go down well (unless it's really stinky cheese or something, obviously).
ABOVE: Susan opted for Canadian maple syrup as table favours
Collette Lyons, Features Editor, got married on December 23 2011, managing to plan a gorgeous winter wedding months after starting a new job at Stylist – I’m still not sure how she did it!
Stylist's Features Editor Collette Lyons and husband Paul, above
I have heard horror stories about eye-watering prices, hidden charges and unhelpful staff at friends’ choices of reception venues, but the lovely Ziggy at Old Finsbury Town Hall looked after us like she was my own in-law. You can actually get married there too, but we just did the dinner and dancing bit in the exquisite Victorian hall, complete with gilded angels, antique mirrors and ornate ceilings.
Harriet Benton basically made my entire wedding happen. She listened to me waffle about table plans, sourced LED fairy lights when my hopes for candles indoors were dashed, employed the friendliest waiters imaginable, didn’t try to charge us silly amounts of corkage (in fact, she charged us none at all) and, probably most importantly, cooked canapés and a chicken and chorizo stew that fuelled everyone for six solid hours of dancing. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. We got our bread from Gail’s, baked fresh and delivered that day.
Despite my turning up at our wine tasting with an epic hangover, Theatre of Wine in Kentish Town humoured me, and then plied us with well-priced beer, wine, Prossecco, port and whisky until I was, erm, a bit drunk again. And when our guests failed to drink 100 bottles of the beer (the rest was entirely polished off), they came and picked it up, and refunded us.
I got obsessed with this bit, visiting every charity shop in north London to collect vintage crystal decanters for the port and vases for the flowers. My mum also made hessian table runners, I wrote guests’ names on brown labels, tied around the brown paper bags (www.ebay.co.uk) containing a mini crusty baguette with blue and white string from Re-found Objects. Gifts for guests were mini bottles of Black Grouse whisky and a mini Gail’s mince pie.
The bride's place setting, above
I wanted something wintry as we got hitched on December 23, and Rona Marie Hickerton totally got what I was talking about – the bouquets and table arrangements, packed with thistles, Anemone, eucalyptus, black berries and rosemary, looked and smelled divine.
I detest fruit cake, so it was all about the chocolate at our wedding – a massive white chocolate cake covered in fruit, in fact, from Maison Blanc. Which, being the bride, I totally forgot to eat…
The man who gave me cheekbones and a pretty pout was Daniel Sandler, whose own-brand of make-up I’ve become obsessed with since. The bouncy curls are down to Natasha Lawes. Pre-nuptials, I also spent the day at Harrods Urban Retreat for a top-to-toe pampering – the Carol Joy facial kept my skin glowing for weeks afterwards.
The original 1930s dress was from a tiny vintage shop in Oxford but the alterations were done at Paper Dress Vintage in London. The headpiece, which is rose gold plated, was from Kabiri, the shoes are Miu Miu from Net-a-Porter and the fur is from Cloud Cuckoo Land in Islington. Underneath it all were massive Spanx Slim Cognito pants-and-bra. The bridesmaids are all in Ghost.
After a first dance of All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey (yes, really), we danced all night to the tunes spun by Sagar at Bloody Awful Poetry. Ignore the name – he was bloody brilliant.
Stylist’s celebrity editor Debbie McQuoid married Alex in Northern Ireland in October last year and is still the most low maintenance bride I have ever met!
Stylist’s celebrity editor Debbie McQuoid and her husband Alex, above
I’m from Belfast and my husband is from Wales but we went with Lissanoure Castle in Co Antrim (about 60 miles north of Belfast). The fact that the church - All Saints Church of Ireland - was on site was a real plus point. We situated our guests on the Antrim Coast (beautiful, Giant’s Causeway, Guinness, go there!) and it meant a short coach journey. But once people were there, we wanted them to not have to pile on the coach again – they could just walk up to the venue. The venue manager, Sheryl, was brilliant. They were relaxed, fun, helpful, but gave us space. And she scurried me away for a brandy mid-afternoon when I hadn’t had a chance to breathe by pretending she had something important to discuss with me. A life-saver.
If you are ever, ever, ever in Northern Ireland, call in to the Yellow Door Deli. We knew immediately we would go with them - whisky-soaked salmon and beetroot, beef Wellington, and pistachio and chocolate; plus, really impressive veggie options - and while they weren’t the most economical, food was a really important element to our party. I didn’t care if we had a photo booth or not, but I wanted everyone to have eaten well. Everyone said it was the best food at a wedding they’d ever been to, except for my friend Helen who drank so much that the next morning she commented on how strange it was that we hadn’t served dinner. We knew it would be worth it!
Penelope’s – which is round the corner from my mum’s in Belfast – was brilliant. She understood exactly what I wanted which was to take advantage of what was in season so I could keep costs down. They left off the flowers, lent us vases and helped me brainstorm ideas. We used different heights of vases on each table as our room was huge and I wanted to make it seem smaller.
Debbie's dress, up close, above
My best friend Jessica made our cake. She was seven months pregnant and did a blooming brilliant job making a three tier carrot cake. I cut it with Alex and then shoved him aside for another picture with her. She took everything into her own hands and didn’t bother me with any details except making sure I was happy. Total star.
This was where I went a bit mental and spent a fortune. But I figured it’s my own money and it was separate from our budget so I could really go for it. It’s called Kristene from Claire Pettibone. I loved the vintage lace on it and it suited my figure in a subtle way. I nearly cried when I first started looking and every bridal shop took one look at my bust and tried to get me into a strapless, Jordan-esque gown. ‘Make the most of your assets, dear’. Arghhhhh!!!!
I couldn’t find what I wanted (a 30s cap-style veil) and eventually found Rebekah at Visionary Veils – again in Holywood, Northern Ireland (even though I had searched in London – she does shipping too). She did an amazing job and I loved it. It was unique to me and might just be my favourite part of the outfit. Although, and this is one regret, I styled my hair in a vintage way too and I really think it was overkill. I look back and see someone from that crap sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart. I wish I’d gone softer like I was in the evening...
For our first dance we went with Wings of a Dove by Madness. It’s short (neither of us like being the centre of attention) and gets people dancing. Then a local band, The Diesel Drinkers (!!) played until 1:00am. They were awesome but I must say we were pretty relaxed. My only stipulation was that they didn’t play Robbie Williams’ Angels. The best decision we made was having a bluegrass jazz band in the afternoon – The Martello Jazz Band. They played for two hours during the (usually quiet) drinks between church and the meal and had everyone dancing from the start. It’s really up to you what vibe you want but they were perfect for setting us up with in a party mood. Only minus point was my mum threatening to strip tease at one point. Luckily it was just a threat!
Stylist’s Digital Ad Ops Manager Holly Bolt got married last month
Stylist’s Digital Ad Ops Manager Holly Bolt with her bridesmaids, above
I have always lived in London, so am used to the busy hustle and bustle of city life, which is why for my wedding I wanted to go for the complete opposite and go for a country look and feel. I searched online for country wedding venues in surrounding areas of London (Essex, Suffolk, Kent etc.). I came across a website which specialised in country wedding venues. I selected my favourite 10, researched them in more detail (prices/distance etc) and then decided on the three that I'd like to view. Gaynes Park Barns in Epping, Essex, was the second venue we visited, I knew from the long drive up to the venue, with fields of sheep either side, and pheasants and bunny rabbits hopping around, that we had found something special, and it did not disappoint.
I found a great stationery website that did bespoke designs, which were quirky and unlike the traditional invites/table plans that are so commonly used.
They fitted with my theme perfectly and helped me decide on my flower arrangements: white, green and dusky pink.
If I hadn’t been working to a strict budget then I would have definitely had a band. The DJ was great, but I think you get a whole other vibe from a live band as they really get the crowd going.
Instead of a band we spent our budget on a photo booth I didn't want your typical photo booth box, I wanted something that went with my theme and venue and this really ticked all the boxes. I would recommend having something fun like this, all the guests loved it.
Our photographer Peter from Cinnamon Photography had a very relaxed approach, which made us feel at ease. He took some amazing natural shots of us and our guests.
To continue with the country theme we opted for a cheese tower cake, instead of the traditional sponge/fruit cake. We served it during our evening buffet with crackers, bread and chutney.
Holly's Cheeseshed Cheese Tower Cake, above
Here are the blogs and websites I found really useful:
Stylist's editorial assistant Julia Maile got married in January last year in New Zealand, having planned the entire thing from London - brave lady!
Stylist's editorial assistant Julia Maile and her husband Kurt, above
Try not be a complete control freak. Delegate to your fiancé (it sets a good precedent for the future when he'll have to organise everything) and your bridesmaids. They’re your best mates, after all...
Trust your instincts when shopping for your dress. The minute I tried on my Temperley gown I knew it was The One.
If you’re marrying abroad, hire a brilliant wedding planner. We got married on the other side of the world - in Auckland, New Zealand - so a planner was essential. Ours turned out to be pretty rubbish in the days leading up to the wedding (J. Lo would have done a better job), so we should have asked friends for recommendations.
Don’t leave your precious wedding dress beside the baggage carousel at Hong Kong airport on your way to the wedding. It will result in lots of unnecessary tears and frantic pleading with surly security staff.
Get married on a Friday. Then you can have a big boozy post-wedding party on Saturday and none of your guests can complain that they have work the next day.
Don’t worry too much about wedding favours. We’ve been to weddings where they have all been left behind (terrible etiquette!) so didn’t have any and no one seemed to mind. Or at least they didn’t say so.
Take a moment to appreciate having everyone you love in one place at the same time. All because of you. Well, you and your new husband.
Eat the food! We were too busy having fun and missed the entire cheese course (sob) and didn’t eat any cake.
Think about what your guests like to drink when deciding what to provide at your bar. We originally planned to serve champagne, wine and beer but after requests on the night, opened it up to a full bar. Tequila shots all round!
Don’t stress about your first dance. It won’t be nearly as bad as you think.
Makeup artist: https://www.facebook.com/JuliaONeilHairandMakeup
Bridal cars: http://www.firstclassclassics.co.nz/
Julia's Jimmy Choos, above
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to pour over other people’s weddings; it’s almost as good as property porn.
Although it can sometimes make you feel like you haven’t done nearly enough (I quickly realised that people go to a LOT of effort) it’s a great way to get inspiration and ideas and, if you’re anywhere near as lazy as me, steal other brides entire weddings…
Doughnut mountains steal the show, above, by Style Me Pretty
Here are the websites I pour over on a regular basis:
Stylemepretty.com – This has some seriously lovely weddings all with a vintage/outdoorsy leaning and some great tips for do-it-yourself touches like homemade favours.
100layercake.com – Another US website so frustratingly most of the suppliers are based there, however you can buy things from their online shop and have them shipped over in under four weeks.
etsy.com/weddings – Great for buying wedding paraphernalia. I’ve bought some wedding signage, sparklers and sweetie bags for my favours.
nytimes.com/pages/fashion/weddings – Most wedding trends (as with most other things) do tend to start in the US so if you want to be ahead of the wedding curve, this is a good place to start.
niemierko.com - Widely considered to be the best wedding planner in the UK, Mark Niemierko has countless ideas and a great little black book of contacts.
Handmade cufflinks, above, from 100layercake.com
I'm not sure if you noticed (I highly doubt it seeing as though I only did three updates), but I wasn't very good at my previous blog, the Olympic sport challenge. My plan to cycle from London to Paris in June culminated in just one outdoor bike ride in which my boyfriend (fiancé - but that's such a grotesque word I refuse to use it) told me that I was so unfit he doubted I'd make it past 40.
Unfortunately I can't really avoid the fact that I'm getting married on 18 August, so I thought I should redirect my energies to writing a wedding blog.
Be warned: this is very much a sceptic's blog to getting married. There will be no use of the typical wedding vernacular and a complete lack of Pilate classes, bunting and 'themes'.
Alix and her husband-to-be, above
It's now just three months away so I've done a lot of things already. Here's what I've learnt so far:
1. You may (read: probably) split up before you get there.
2. You will realise there is no dress that will suit all of your bridesmaids (especially if, as in my case, they are aged between ten and 35) and thus run the risk of making at least one of them look like an overstuffed toilet roll holder. You can only apologise and rest assured that if they haven't already, they will do it to you too when their time comes around.
3. Your mum will become a complete maniac (mine has, in total, had £10,000 worth of 'mother of the bride' outfits delivered to her front door. She has, in total, returned £10,000 worth of 'mother of the bride' outfits to their respective retailers.)
4. You will spend huge amounts of time on Pinterest even though you still don't really understand what it is.
5. You will think your ideas are original - a cake table, Alice in Wonderland theme, photobooth - they're not. In fact, unless you intend on getting married perched on top of the Shard then you will not have one original idea about your whole wedding.
6. You will plan on losing two stone, healthily, and long before you are due to walk down the aisle. You will continue to eat vast amounts and then, around three months before, start to consider wearing a muzzle to stop yourself eating all day.
Are you a jaded bride-to-be? Share your stories on Twitter or in the comments section below.