As we all know, I’m all about the boom of alternative and cool weddings that we’ve been enjoying in recent years. The rise of more personal weddings focused on the couple rather than age-old traditions which don’t resonate is something I feel super passionate about. And as well as often being the best styled weddings ever, they’re also a chance for couples to work with fabulous celebrants to make the ceremony a show-stopper – what’s not to like?
Although Humanist celebrants can’t conduct legal ceremonies in England (yet! Hopefully that will change soon – they can in Scotland) they can conduct meaningful, personal ceremonies full of symbolism and sparkle that will make your wedding go down in living legend. As well as conducting the ceremony itself, they can help you write it from start to finish, including your vows! I spoke to two of my favourites, wandering minstrel celebrant Zena Birch and London-loving wedding celebrant Katie Matthews, to find out more about the process of working with a celebrant to write your ceremony.
What does a celebrant do?
“A celebrant works with a couple to design and conduct a wedding ceremony that is totally personal to them.” Katie the Celebrant explains. “We get to know our couples as individuals. We find out what makes them work as a team and why marriage is an important next step for their future together. We ask all the nosy questions, basically. We DIG DEEP and, after we’ve pumped our couples dry, we spin all that gold into one hell’a ceremony that kicks their big day of celebrations off in style!”
Zena Birch continues, “A humanist celebrant has one of the best jobs in the world! After working closely with couples to find out what what their hopes and dreams are for the memories they will share with everyone on the day, we then work our magic. Our job is to find a way of expressing that in a perfectly personalised ceremony script which should in turn be full of love, laughter, tears and riotous applause. The process of working with a couple in the run up to their ceremony is often just as much fun and rewarding as the day itself.”
When should you source a celebrant for your wedding?
Katie suggests booking your celebrant about 18 months before the big day. “I start working with couples from about six months before their big day, but I usually get booked roughly 18 months before the date – in other words, it’s never too early! You’ll hear this everywhere but if you’ve got specific vendors, including celebrants, in mind then book ‘em quick cos the good ones get snapped up!”
Zena explains why they’re so important: “Just like venues, the demand for celebrants is increasing now that couples are starting to realise that they don’t just have to have a standard registry ceremony, but can make the ceremony itself just as reflective of their hopes and intentions, their voice and personality – as the rest of their day. So I would highly recommend finding the right celebrant for you and discussing all availability as soon as you possibly can, so that you can book your venue safe in the knowledge that you will be also able to book the celebrant you want.”
“I would say that sourcing your celebrant should be in the big three of your first decisions….Venue, Celebrant and Photographer (But I may be biased!) Not only that, but the work you will do with your celebrant is so helpful and informing to all the other things you might need/want on the day, we can be invaluable at helping you to clarify what is important and the overall feeling of a couple’s vision for their wedding day. It’s interesting, over the 8 years I have been working as a humanist celebrant I have witnessed that when you get the ceremony right, all guests suddenly have a deeper understanding of precisely why they are there, the meaning is clear. Instead of just having to endure the ceremony to get to the rest of the celebrations when you get the ceremony right it naturally becomes the reason for everything else, the feasting, the dancing, the celebration! Everyone should be enjoying the ceremony so much they don’t want it to end, but when it does – the rest of the day is like catching the perfect wave – stories and memories continue to be shared whilst making new ones, speeches make sense, because everyone is up to speed, the euphoria is infectious. I sound like I’m gushing, but seriously, I witness this over and over again!”
Is it ever too late to bring a celebrant in to your wedding?
“In spite of what I just said above, no!” Zena says. “One of the most special ceremonies for me was with a couple who found out their venue had lost their wedding licence three weeks before their wedding day. They found me in a panic. We worked super closely together over those three weeks, they were both wonderful at doing the homework I set them, we went out for dinner and talked for hours, I helped settle their fears that months of planning had gone down the drain and indeed we all decided it was the best happy accident that could have happened. The process which can usually take anywhere from six months to a year plus to develop was done at high intensity and we were rewarded magnificently for it. Their ceremony was a blast! Communal singing with a swing band, personal stories, poetry written especially for them, a huge swelling brilliance of them both – which they never would have had in their registry ceremony.
This kind of late instigation is totally dependent on what time of year you’re getting married in, though. Zena adds that luckily this couple were getting married in November, as August may have been trickier – and Katie agrees. “Good question! For me, yes, it can be too late – but that’s because of the way I work. I can’t just turn up and deliver a ‘standard’ wedding. I’m not here to slot your names into pre-written templates. I need time to get to know my couples and to spend time writing their personal ceremony. Depending on the time of year, I’d say anything less than a month before is too late to do all that.”
What advice do you have for couples writing their vows?
As a master of a good party and a lover of love, Katie always advises her couples to keep them a surprise from each other. “I love it when couples keep their vows a secret from each other so they can surprise each other on the big day. So – advice: agree the length, the structure and the TONE (that’s an important one, nothing worse than when one person takes a sincere approach and the other goes for THE FULL ON BANTS!) between you…and then surprise each other with the actual promises you make on the day.” And if this vow-writing terrifies you, don’t worry! This is something your celebrant can really help with, Katie explains. “I ask all my couples to send their vows to me in advance so I can steer them in the right direction.”
Zena agrees that discussing them beforehand is a good idea. “As these are the words you are going to work hard to stand by every single day of the rest of your married lives, it is vitally important that together you are on the same page about this! I try to remind couples that these vows will be what you celebrate as you stay true to them, but also what will help you to stay strong when life throws its inevitable shade in your direction. Once you have decided on these foundations – which must be able to shape shift and still be relevant in 5, 10, 15, 30 years time – then, you can go off and write them separately if you would like to. This is great because it means they will sound like you, have your own personal turn of phrase. You can also put in some little lines which reflect the twinkle in the eye you have for each other – they don’t have to be deathly serious, most peoples’ foundations need a good kick of cheekiness to them, but at least you know the fundamentals have been decided on together. I would also say, never try to learn them! Reading them will be fine, you have enough to worry about on the day without adding extra anxiety!”
What do you wish all couples knew about wedding ceremonies?
Zena wishes every couple knew how important the ceremony is – and not just because she’s biased! “It isn’t just about the day, it’s about the foundations you are forging, publicly, in front of people who really matter to you and who will hold you accountable. It has the potential to be one of the most unforgettable moments of your life – that sort of magic can’t be cheated and will carry through right into the marriage itself.”
There’s a trope of couples telling their vendors too much about their wedding plans, but Katie wishes that everyone knew that that wasn’t the case – especially when working with a celebrant. “The more you give, and the more open you are with your celebrant, the better the wedding ceremony is. I like to be BOMBARDED with information about my couples. I want to be OVERWHELMED with the minutiae of their lives together. It’s not that all that detail will make its way into their wedding ceremony – far from it – but I need to know them inside out to create something super special that will do their relationship justice.”
What do you think makes a fun wedding?
Life is a cabaret, and so is your wedding. Well, not quite, but Katie’s tips for a fun wedding are to focus on them being a celebration: “For me, weddings are CELEBRATIONS… and I love wedding ceremonies that reflect that. The best ones, for me, are fun and relaxed occasions, full of laughter, tears and LOTS OF SINGING. I also love dogs on ring duties and brass bands bursting out of the audience after the pronouncement (Love Actually style!).”
What can couples do to make their wedding informal and relaxed?
Other than book a fun and super relaxed wedding celebrant – ahem – Zena suggests keeping focussed on what you want as a couple. “If something in the planning is causing stress or becoming difficult stare straight at it, do you really need it? Is it really what both of you want? And if it isn’t get rid of it! Couples often make choices based on tradition without ever really thinking about whether that tradition is relevant to them or not. I know a number of couples this year who asked both their mum and dad to do a combined “father of the bride” speech because their dads were sick with worry, public speaking not being their strong point, especially when it carries emotional intent. So, why do they have to do it alone? They don’t. Having two people (especially the two people who brought you up!) share the load and enjoy reminiscing, teasing and celebrating you is a real joy to behold – so much better than someone who clearly looks sick with nerves. So I would say, challenge tradition, do what feels right for you and never, ever try to keep up with the Jones’.”
Zena Birch is a Hertfordshire-based wedding celebrant fully accredited with Humanists UK. She’s conducted ceremonies just about everywhere – including sunny California, atop snowy ski slopes (really!) and all sorts of spaces in between – and brings brilliance to every ceremony she works on. She’s all about the personal touch with her celebrancy: “My website is a good starting point, but I would say absolutely nothing beats the personal touch when it comes to a celebrant. I try to meet with my couples as much as I can and then am on hand constantly to answer any questions, to advise, distract or simply share a glass of wine with to let off steam. There is also a link to my instagram feed, which I so enjoy collating. There are rarely any filters, or even professional photos for that matter – there is enough of that all over the internet, it is simply a true to life documentation of the adventures I have with my couples and it makes me smile daily!” https://zenabirch.com/
If you don’t know Katie The Celebrant, get on that PRONTO. She’s a humanist celebrant who specialises in totally bespoke ceremonies for kickass couples and fun-loving families. After 10 years of journalism – meaning she’s very good with words – she retrained as a celebrant with Humanists UK, giving her the ability to channel her incredible energy plus her love of people and karaoke into wedding ceremonies. Check her blog out for more info on what Humanist celebrants can do, why you should pick her and what working with her is like: https://www.katiethecelebrant.com/
The idea of choosing a wedding cake may be one of the parts of wedding planning you’re most excited about, and totally understandably. Good cake is literally one of life’s greatest joys – as are weddings – so put those two hands together, and what do you get? AMAZING WEDDING CAKES.
But having said that, choosing a wedding cake can be a difficult process. It needs to look great and tie in with the vibe and theme of the day, it needs to survive the logistics of the day (transport, set up and weather) and it absolutely non-negotiably needs to taste incredible too. How do you find a wedding cake maker who’ll tick all these boxes for you and more? Well, that’s where I can help. I asked two amazing wedding cake makers for their advice on choosing a wedding cake, and in the process got all the wedding cake tips you’re searching for. Before I hand over to the experts for their advice, may I proffer some of my own – you might need a slice of something delicious to help you read this as your tastebuds will be going wild!
What should you look for when choosing a wedding cake maker?
Sarah from Tiny Sarah’s Cakes has 2 key pieces of advice for choosing a wedding cake maker. “First, you should be looking out for someone who could be your friend,” Sarah explains. “I highly believe that you should only hire people as your wedding suppliers if you feel like you belong to the same gang. Your wedding is one of the most emotionally charged day of your life, so you should make sure you spend all the time prepping for it and eating or enjoying the results of that prep with the best people. It’ll make you feel comfortable, relaxed, and safe – especially when it gets tough and stressful.
“My second piece of advice for this question – someone whose style you go WOW for. It’s easy to make the same decisions as your friend who got married a year before you, or what you’ve seen on pinterest, but trust me, there’s so much more to wedding cakes than naked cakes – it’s obviously totally fine if that’s what you want, but most couples who enquire about them do because they don’t really know what is possible! Cake makers are basically edible artists and you shouldn’t ask someone who specialises in buttercream and fresh flowers to make you a fondant cake with lace details.”
Laura from The Cake Spa also points out that you should “Always check they are registered with the council, have a good hygiene rating and have insurance. It also helps to look for businesses in your area, as generally they will need to be local to the venue!”
Where can you find a wedding cake maker that suits your wedding?
Lucy from Lil’s Parlour suggests Instagram as the first port of call of wedding cake ideas. “Social media is a great place to start. Most of my wedding clients come through Instagram because they like my style.” To fully maximise your Instagram searching (because we all know what a time thief that app can be), think of hashtags that could describe your wedding aesthetic as well as whereabouts in the world you’re getting married. #weddingcake may give you ideas, but it probably won’t seem like so much help when you fall in love with a design exclusively made by a fondant artist in Kuala Lumpar. Instead, try searching things like #weddingcakebirmingham or #kawaiiweddingcake.
Laura also suggests searching your other suppliers’ profiles as a hack to find well-suited wedding cake makers near you. This is true for all social media, as she explains: “Your venue should be able to put you in touch with trusted suppliers, and you would hope their style would be inkeeping with the venue, and therefroe your wedding!” So get scrolling through their photos to see what impresses you and who’s credited to it.
Another good place to look for wedding cake ideas is on wedding blogs. “If a wedding blog suits your wedding style, then browse who they’ve already featured! Chances are you’ll find different styles of cakes that all work within that certain aesthetic – you’ll have plenty of inspiration and a list of people to contact.” Sarah explains.
And, as Lucy points out, don’t forget about word of mouth and ye olde wedding fairs – if you find a wedding fair with a good style that matches yours, it’s always nice to go along to meet people face to face.
How far in advance do you need to book your wedding cake?
“This obviously depends on a few things,” Sarah explains, “for example, if that cake maker works alone (most do) or have a team of people, if your wedding is during summer and the busier months or quieter, and the cake maker itself. I think the earlier the better to enquire – if it is too early, they will just let you know! I can get booked up up to six months in advance, and already have dates booked for next year.”
Lucy agrees with the mantra of booking the sooner the better. “I would say as a rule 8-12 months before the wedding is the “golden time” to get your cake sorted. Some brides are super organised and like to get booked in several years in advance which is brilliant, but it can sometimes be difficult to do an accurate quote as with the current financial climate in the UK prices are changing so quickly. On the other end, I have fitted people in at really short notice – there’s no harm is asking!”
Laura’s guidance is the same – and she says, regardless of what type of supplier you’re thinking of, the best advice is to get them booked asap if you love them.
How should couples deal with guests that have very specific dietary requirements?
Both Sarah and Lucy say that a good wedding cake maker should be able to cater for specific dietary requirements. They both actually specialise in vegan wedding cakes (and, as Sarah points out, if you have a good cake maker you won’t be able to notice a difference in tastes between different dietary options!) “In my experience, I think asking your guests honestly is the best way forward.” Lucy says. “I do however express that it’s YOUR day and you should have what you want. For example, a couple I worked with were going to have their whole cake made with gluten free ingredients for the sake of one guest. It really wasn’t what they wanted and after a lot of chats we all decided that a cupcake for that person would suffice. The guest was thrilled.”
Sarah also suggests a smaller additional version in these kind of situations – especially in the case of gluten-free wedding guests, as she explains. “Whereas making a nut free cake wouldn’t cost me more, gluten free flour is veeeery expensive, so I suggest a gluten containing cake as the main cake and a smaller cutting cake that is gluten free. That way, when plates arrive, the gluten free people have visually the same dessert as others, and it hasn’t cost a crazy amount extra either. I am personally always very touched when people think about me at events and if I’m not singled out, even better!” Sarah’s website also has quite an in-depth section on allergy info to ease any anxiety, which is super helpful. https://www.tinysarahscakes.co.uk/allergy-friendly-cakes/
And if you’re worried about flavours, Laura says “I tell couples to pick flavours for them, not for the masses as its their day.”
What makes a fun wedding?
“For me, fun is all about being yourself and singing to your own tune. Your day is about you and your partner, so have what YOU want and the fun will happen automatically!” Lucy recommends.
“SO many things,” Laura says, “but personally I think losing the traditions and just doing what you love to do! Drink, dance, be merry, sing, glitter, games, live music, confetti, cake! I love to add fun to my wedding cakes with a cheeky cake topper or some rude phrases on biscuit favours!”
“Having activities and various ways to break the ice between people who don’t know each other is fun!” Sarah suggests. “We had loads of board games so people sat together and played together – and we also had a buffet and no staff so everyone took turn washing the dishes, serving food and drinks, and setting stuff up!”
What do you wish all couples knew?
Brace yourselves, team – we’re about to not only hit you with our rhythm stick, but with two waste-reducing, budget-conscious wedding tips. Don’t say I don’t treat you, okay?
“I wish all couples knew that dummy cakes are an awesome way of having those 4 tiers without waste.” Lucy says. “They also cost slightly less – and no one knows the difference. You could claim I am a terrible sales woman but I always express to my couples that less is more!”
Laura’s about to burst another myth too – “Naked cakes aren’t that much cheaper in the grand scheme of things, despite what everyone thinks!” she reveals.
And from pre-wedding to post-wedding, as Sarah learned this from her own day. “You will forget things that happen on that day, because there is so so much to take in. My best piece of advice is to write EVERYTHING that happened and that you remember on the day after your wedding. You will be so glad you did a few years later when you read that – all the little jokes, all the hugs, all the tears. That moment in the toilet when everyone was removing their make up, or the one your sibling held you tight and told you they loved you.”
Tiny Sarah’s Cakes is a Reading-based bakery specialising in utterly unique and beautifully breathtaking vegan wedding cake designs. “I love making kawaii cakes but also art-inspired ones; my inspirations range from Van Goth to My Little Pony… I also love working with fresh flowers but I like to make cakes that are different. I am a massive texture and paint geek so I love incorporating that in my cakes too.” Check her website out for a) stunning vegan cake designs with the cutest fondant decor b) an about page you’ll fall in love with and c) loads of great info and helpful wedding cakes tips. https://www.tinysarahscakes.co.uk
Image by https://www.reddoorphotography.co.uk/
Image by http://meganelle.co.uk/
Image by https://www.thelemonhouse.co.uk/
Image by https://carolineopacicphotography.com/
Image by http://www.rebeccalouisephotography.co.uk/
Image by https://carolineopacicphotography.com/
The Cake Spa is a Midlands-based bakery producing modern, stylish cakes often with an industrial or urban feel. Laura gets a lot of inspiration from raw materials, buildings, structures and textures. She lives by the motto that “Your wedding cake and its display should be a bit different, something people haven’t seen before that makes it a talking point, memorable and a feature of the day. So whether that’s a cheeky topper, a black cake or a cake on a swing, people will talk about it for years to come!” She also has a facebook group, The Insider Bride Guide, full of useful tips and resources for couples getting married. https://www.thecakespa.co.uk/
Image by Life Through a Lens https://www.beckytranter.com/
Image by Life Through a Lens https://www.beckytranter.com/
Image by Life Through a Lens https://www.beckytranter.com/
Lil’s Parlour is a Birmingham-based bakery with a focus on the good life. Using only the best ingredients, Lucy’s buttercream creations and baked goods are fun, contemporary, and very very tasty! As well as making delicious wedding cakes, Lil’s Parlour can do mobile pop up tea parties in traditional vintage or super cool Mid Century Retro style. http://lilsparlour.co.uk
So, now you know the difference between planners, stylists and co-ordinators thanks to my handy guide, the next question on your lips is probably ‘Do I need to find a wedding planner?’. I chatted to my crack squad of planners and experts to discuss all of the important questions when hiring a wedding planner: what to look for when hiring one, how much they cost, and why they’re important. Take it away, ladies…
What should you look for when hiring a wedding planner?
Firstly, it’s important to find a planner who’s style suits the day you’re looking to have. Ellen from LND Events explains: “You will have to spend a good chunk of your time with them and even if it’s just your wedding day that you’ve asked them to coordinate, that’s still asking a stranger to be part of your special moments! Most should offer a non-obligation meeting of sorts, so don’t be afraid to contact a few, to see the difference in them and how you gel with them.”
This means getting on with them personally – like Lianne from Blonde Army says, “Having someone who you ‘click’ with is so important so that your working relationship is clear and strong. How great is it when someone just second guesses everything you’re thinking? That’s the kinda relationship I look for when meeting my couples.” But also, it means liking their style aesthetically, as Michaela from Clear Hearts Planning details. “I would look for words on their website or Social Media that relate to you and your partner! Images that catch your eye and make you think about how fun your day would be if these planners were part of it. We know exactly who our super cool, badass clients are so when you go on the Clear Hearts website or Insta you will probably see images you love.”
Laura from Devine Bride says you can’t overstate the importance of good testimonials either. “If they don’t have any on their website or on their Facebook page, this is a big no-no for me (that goes for any wedding supplier, actually). Facebook reviews and Google reviews are un-editable by the business, so you know you’re hearing it from clients themselves, in their own words, when looking at either of these.”
Lianne also suggests getting recommendations from your other suppliers. “It may be helpful to work with someone who has previously worked at your chosen venue. They’ll have a better understanding of the venue’s restrictions, access etc and be able to guide you through design choices based upon their previous knowledge and experience. Plus, find a stylist and coordinator who is recommended by both clients and suppliers as you want to be sure they can both deliver your vision but also work well with the other suppliers you’ve booked.”
And Chenai from By Chenai says, as always, communication is key. “Always ask questions about experience and ways of working. I am by comparison to most, relatively new to the industry but I always offer references from past clients and venues that I’ve worked with. Transparency is important.”
How can you spot a good wedding planner vs a charlatan or a chancer?
“Wedding planning is not easy, and the job can be viewed as something that anyone could do.” Cherelle from Perfectly Planned 4 You warns. “Where possible meet with (or speak over skype) to the planner, and talk through your ideas for your wedding and see how they respond and help you. Most planners will provide a written quote; how quickly was that sent? How accurate was it? Do the ideas match up to what you’re thinking?”
Chenai also describes what kind of credentials you should be on the lookout for. “A good wedding planner has credentials; I don’t necessarily mean degrees but references. Do they have venues or clients who can vouch for them? Not all planners have Companies House listings but they should have a credible store front (website, social media presence, directory listings). Basically, can you see evidence of their work? I’d also ask if they have insurance documentation as this is required to operate in most venues. Plus, an affiliation to associations such as UKAWP or NAWP are also indicators of credibility and integrity. Also, look out for someone who doesn’t formalise your agreements by way of a contract – don’t give money over to anyone who will not agree to a contract.”
When looking for images of their work, Elinor Softley of Inner City Weddings says looking for authenticity is key. “Look for planners who post pictures of their actual work rather than constantly posting other people’s ‘for inspo’. (Instagram has A LOT to answer for… but I do love it in so many other ways)”.
And on the topic of images, Lianne says don’t be afraid to dig deeper. “Always ask to see their portfolio of work – check out their website and social media as they should be keen to show off their work. If they only show a selection of their own images online ask to see the full portfolio from a particular wedding or editorial; that way you can see the full design concept they designed and executed and not just ‘the best bits’. Also, ask them about their previous experience. I’m quite new to the industry so my portfolio is still growing but I’ve been working in events for over 10 years so I very much know my stuff! Often a different background can bring a fresh perspective to wedding planning so it’s always good to ask – and you may find some common ground which makes for a stronger working relationship!”
And if you find someone you really, really love? Just go with it. “I’m a massive believer in going with your gut instinct. Don’t feel that you need to go with the flashiest, most impressive website. Planning a wedding is such a personal thing, my best advice is to work with a planner who you gel with and understand your vision.” advises Cherelle.
Do I need to hire a wedding planner?
“There seems to be an increasing misunderstanding causing couples to think they don’t need a wedding planner because the venue is providing one,” Ellen says. “However, venue managers or wedding teams are there to make sure your day runs smoothly once you arrive at their establishment. Personal planners are there to do so much more. The two can work together well but I have experienced independent planners being told their services aren’t needed because the venue will help, only to hear the couple have been stressed out because there wasn’t as much help as they first envisaged.” This is especially true if you have 2 venues but even if you only have one, it’s a whole different kettle of fish!
How much does a wedding planner cost?
How long is a piece of string? It all depends on what kind of service you’re looking for and what the day entails. “Much like the range for photographers, it varies hugely.” Elinor explains. “It’s always best to contact the folk you like the look of to discuss your needs and get a bespoke quote. Some planners do coordination only options and ad hoc advice sessions for a few hundred quid, some only take on weddings of a certain budget with a minimum fee. We have pop up wedding prices for certain venues, and go bespoke for others.”
Michaela details the two main ways planners can charge. “A wedding planner can cost either a flat rate or a percentage of your total budget. I decided to have mine as packages (with names like The Ozzy and Sharon and Johnny and June) as a guide which are easy to find on the website and then couples can add extras on depending on their requirements.”
Chenai suggests a ballpark figure for those with spreadsheets out ready and raring (but remember, it is all somewhat bespoke as no 2 weddings are the same!) “For a full plan (i.e helping you from start to finish) you can look at 12%-15% of your total budget spend. My services are completely bespoke so I give 12% as an indicator and I have a minimum fee. If you consider that a wedding takes anywhere from 200 -300 hours to plan, planners’ rates are normally reflective of this time and volume of work required up to and including the day.
On the day coordination services are usually charged at a day rate and in my observations, the scale varies from £450 – £1000 depending on what help is needed on the day and duration of time. For partial or final few weeks planning, for those couples who have done the majority of their planning but want someone to get them over the line, it varies in price. You can expect to pay up to half the cost of a full plan but this will vary on how much the couple have already arranged themselves.”
And remember, as Cherelle points out – “A wedding planner can help you get the most out of every pound you spend!”
When should you book your wedding planner?
“For Full Wedding Planning, I think between 18 months and a year in advance is ideal.” April from Kook! Events says. “But for On The Day Coordination, I would say a year or less before the wedding – I’ve had a booking 2 months out for On The Day Coordination before, but often if you’re getting married on a peak season summer date it’s better to get in there early doors so you can snap them up!”
Whilst shorter timeframes can be worked with – Elinor says she’s worked with everything from two months to three years – you do run the risk of your preferred planner not being available. “If you have your heart set on someone and you leave it until a few months before your day, don’t be surprised if they’re already booked.” advises Ellen. “People look over a year ahead for their venue and so a planners diary will start to have requests of the same nature. You also need to be prepared that if you are asking them to fully plan a wedding with not much notice, they might need to adjust their pricing to reflect the added pressure of workload.”
LND Events help take Yorkshire weddings from “how” to “wow” and their wedding planning prowess is just as wonderful as their tagline. With a focus on telling your story and making total magic, Ellen is 100% committed to making your wedding day exactly what you dream of it being. http://www.lnd-events.co.uk/
A lot of the coolest wedding venues are blank canvas spaces, which makes the vision of your wedding all the more exciting but the execution even more bloody terrifying. If you want someone you can trust to take your dreams for the day and make them happen non-negotiably, Inner City Weddings are your guys. They’re less chair covers and sashes and more hauling-6-chairs-at-a-time to transform empty spaces into uber cool wedding venues. https://www.innercityweddings.co.uk/
In her own words, Michaela from Clear Hearts Planning offers alternative wedding planning for “awesome freaks, geeks, weirdos, metallers, punk rockers, and hip hoppers”. If you’re planning an alternative wedding and want someone who’ll not only understand your vision but exactly why it’s important that you have it that way – plus someone who’s super wonderful and will support you through every step – then she is your gal. http://www.clear-hearts.com
If the idea of a wedding planner seems terrifying, we all but guarantee that Laura from Devine Bride will change your mind. The country’s first and best specialist in pick and mix wedding planning, you can (would you believe) pick and mix the elements of wedding planning that you want help with and hand them over to Laura, whilst keeping control of the bits you’re actually enjoying. http://www.devinebride.co.uk/
To do their job properly, wedding planners have to have a super practical, logistical mind – and to do their job well, they should be super lovely and easy to gel with. By Chenai ticks both of these boxes tenfold – she’s an incredibly inspiring lady who you’d be as comfortable meeting for a cocktail as you would having her in charge of your wedding day. Her luxe London style isn’t about gilded gold and more for the sake of it, but about meaningful moments. https://www.bychenai.com/
If you’re considering a wedding stylist or coordiinator but you’re not 100% sure you need one, we need to do nothing more than refer you to the fab Lianne from Blonde Army events. Just think, if she takes this much care with answering some blog questions – just IMAGINE how good she’d be on your wedding day, right?! And don’t be misled by the title either – alongside being a coordinator, Lianne is a fabulous wedding stylist, orchestrating good-looking great-feeliing celebrations. https://blondearmy.co.uk/
If you like the cut of my jib then why not sign up to my exclusive Club Tropicana to get the low down on everything you need to know when planning a wedding. Plus the first bonus is a free super useful guide on how to choose your wedding photographer.
Want to know more about my informal wedding photography?
If your only encounter with wedding planners is J-Lo and Monica Geller, it’s understandable that you might be a little confused about what they actually do. Throw into that the fact that wedding coordinators and wedding stylists also exist, and you’re probably very confused. What do they mean? What do they do? Why you do need them?!
A lot of wedding planners, stylists and coordinators use the terms somewhat interchangeably, which can add to the confusion – but don’t sweat, pet. The roles are often slightly more defined within them, helping you work out what it is that you want help with in the run up to and on the day itself. Being a wedding photographer lucky enough to work with some incredibly cool couples means I often work in tandem with equally cool wedding planners, stylists and coordinators, so I’ve asked the best of the best from London, the Midlands and Yorkshire to help. This should help clear up the confusion and explain what they do and, crucially, how they can help you. And not a headset in sight, team!
What is a wedding planner?
I think it’s fair to say that a wedding planner is the overarching term for a supplier who’s job it is to make your wedding day run smoothly. They can cover a number of different tasks within their remit – from full planning from day one, to last minute pulling together.
As Cherelle from Perfectly Planned 4 You, Hackney wedding planning specialist, explains, “This is a very good question, one that I feel many couples are confused about. From wedding to wedding, my job is never the same. But my main job is to help my bride and groom to have the best wedding planning experience possible.” This means she offers everything from Full Service Design and Coordination to Day of Coordination and many other options that fall in-between, including finding your suppliers – all the jobs that need to be done to give you more time to enjoy your engagement.
Ellen, founder of Leeds-based LND Events, says “A dedicated wedding planner should be able to do as much or as little as you want. Most offer different packages to suit couples needs, as of course every couple is unique in their tastes and choices, but essentially we are there to guide you in your decision-making so you end up with the right suppliers for your day, the right look and feel for your day, and to make sure it runs efficiently so all you have to do is enjoy it.” Not much then, hey?!
As she’s the go-to gal for warehouse weddings in Sheffield and Manchester, Elinor from Inner City Wedding does a lot of venue work as part of her role as a wedding planner. “We recommend spaces and suppliers (most of which don’t have wedding venue coordinators and are multi purpose spaces), and we have a huge amount of infrastructure we hire out, and assist in logistics and operations of weddings and events. We help our couples make the most of their budgets, collaborate on creative design ideas and implement those ideas, hook them up with awesome small businesses and independents, help set up, help coordinate it and pull all of the brilliant elements together! We also pack down post event as that is the shittest job in the world with a post-wedding hangover.” Woman of the people…
Regardless of what your planner specialises in, the purpose of a wedding planner couldn’t be clearer: the focus is on making the day totally stress-free and enjoyable for you and your family. Michaela from Clear Hearts Planning, a wedding planning service for awesome alternative couples, offers everything from controlling the entire budget and creating a quirky wedding from scratch to a few hours of venue styling, or inspiration sessions to recommend the perfect vendors. “I’ve found with my couples wedding planning can sometimes seem overwhelming at first BUT planning with someone who has worked at venues or knows other suppliers can make it all seem easier. Even in initial conversations, I’ve realised that I know bands or cake makers or venues that would be completely perfect for couples that they may not have found on their own (or would have spent hours searching for).
“We can also create bespoke packages that include a little bit of whatever you need to get your wedding and all the details ready — It’s all about making the day as stress free as possible – turning oh no’s into hell yeahs! The last wedding we coordinated the couple wanted to walk into a specific song and my team and I were on hand to make sure that moment was timed perfectly. These coordinated small details become much less scary when there is a team to ensure them than relying on the bridal party or family. Guests (and the couple) can party the day away without worrying.”
Devine Bride takes this one step further with her specialist ‘pick n mix’ wedding planning. (It’ll be a kilogram of jazzies and chocolate raisins for me please, no further questions.) “Pick + mix wedding planning is your wedding your way; I offer a much more flexible and creative way for couples to plan their big day. With my services, couples can pick and choose exactly what elements they need help with. From getting help with selected parts, as a consultant, or on a more ad hoc basis. My vision is to make wedding planning accessible and flexible. I offer creative solutions to planning and budgeting in the form of wedding tasking, styling and coordination. I offer a variety of different helping hand services, including but not limited to; Styling + Set Up, On the Day Coordination/Wedding Day Management, Partial Planning, and Hire a Bridesmaid.”
And Chenai, of the eponymous London luxury wedding planners By Chenai, describes her role as a wedding planner as an advocate. “A wedding planner’s job is to help their clients deliver the wedding they want. They are your personal wedding manager, saving you time by undertaking tasks such as researching venues, suppliers, arranging appointments and keeping things to schedule and in budget. They interpret what you envision for your day and help you achieve it. A great wedding planner remains objective, where sometimes on the opinions of family and friends can cloud decision making or add unnecessary noise. I always say I act as an advocate for my couples, be it in negotiations with suppliers, venues or tricky conversations with family members. They are there to ensure schedules are adhered to, details are considered but personally – I just want to ensure my couples have a truly lovely day.”
What is a wedding coordinator?
Wedding coordinators most often sit within the realm of wedding planners. They focus on the on-the-day running of the wedding, but their work with you starts before that. Lianne, founder of London-based Blonde Army, explains “A coordinator helps to bring together all the elements you have planned towards the end of your planning journey. You may have a co-ordinator included at your venue, or you may need a freelance coordinator like myself. I work with you for 1 whole month before your big day to ensure nothing is missed, creating a master schedule and liaising with all suppliers to ensure the day runs smoothly. Wedding coordinators take over communicating and organising, so that you can sit back and focus on yourself rather than on all the logistics of your wedding day..I’ll be there from the start of your wedding day to set up everything with precision and can be there until the very end to assist your guests and help with the clear up.”
What is a wedding stylist?
Ok, so we know what a wedding planner is. We’ve sussed the role of a wedding coordinator. But what’s a wedding stylist?
Lianne, founder of Blonde Army, says: “A wedding stylist deals with the aesthetics of your wedding. We help you work out how you want your wedding to feel and look. For me styling is about making it personal to you, the details, the guests experience and making it memorable to them and that’s a full sensory experience. We work for you – the couple – not the venue (even though we may have been recommended by them). I’ll work with my recommended suppliers to source props & furniture to flowers & crockery and everything in between to create your dream day and execute your vision.
If a cool-as-fuck fairy godmother of weddings existed, it would be Cherelle from Perfectly Planned 4 You. She is the QUEEN of Hackney weddings, with the kind of knowledge you only get from a local, and her wonderful no-nonsense attitude means she’s the perfect person to bring your wedding day together.
LND Events help take Yorkshire weddings from “how” to “wow” and their wedding planning prowess is just as wonderful as their tagline. With a focus on telling your story and making total magic, Ellen is 100% committed to making your wedding day exactly what you dream of it being.
A lot of the coolest wedding venues are blank canvas spaces, which makes the vision of your wedding all the more exciting but the execution even more bloody terrifying. If you want someone you can trust to take your dreams for the day and make them happen non-negotiably, Inner City Weddings are your guys. They’re less chair covers and sashes and more hauling-6-chairs-at-a-time to transform empty spaces into uber cool wedding venues.
In her own words, Michaela from Clear Hearts Planning offers alternative wedding planning for “awesome freaks, geeks, weirdos, metallers, punk rockers, and hip hoppers”. If you’re planning an alternative wedding and want someone who’ll not only understand your vision but exactly why it’s important that you have it that way – plus someone who’s super wonderful and will support you through every step – then she is your gal.
If the idea of a wedding planner seems terrifying, we all but guarantee that Laura from Devine Bride will change your mind. The country’s first and best specialist in pick and mix wedding planning, you can (would you believe) pick and mix the elements of wedding planning that you want help with and hand them over to Laura, whilst keeping control of the bits you’re actually enjoying.
To do their job properly, wedding planners have to have a super practical, logistical mind – and to do their job well, they should be super lovely and easy to gel with. By Chenai ticks both of these boxes tenfold – she’s an incredibly inspiring lady who you’d be as comfortable meeting for a cocktail as you would having her in charge of your wedding day. Her luxe London style isn’t about gilded gold and more for the sake of it, but about meaningful moments.
If you’re considering a wedding stylist or coordiinator but you’re not 100% sure you need one, we need to do nothing more than refer you to the fab Lianne from Blonde Army events. Just think, if she takes this much care with answering some blog questions – just IMAGINE how good she’d be on your wedding day, right?! And don’t be misled by the title either – alongside being a coordinator, Lianne is a fabulous wedding stylist, orchestrating good-looking great-feeling celebrations.
Are you just getting started with wedding planning? You can sign up to my exclusive Club Tropicana to get the low down on everything you need to know when planning a wedding. Plus the first bonus is a free super useful guide on how to choose your wedding photographer.
Want to know more about my informal wedding photography?
So, the day is near! Once you have booked me to shoot your wedding I tend to leave you alone to crack on with your thing. I’m on hand to answer questions, but on the whole I tend to find that couples want to just get their date secured and then reconvene with me once all the plans are in place. I’m a very informal, documentary style photographer – so I’m all abut photographing your wedding, as it unfolds, rather than setting up shots. You probably won’t need my input in the early stages of your wedding planning, but I will need to know your plans inside and out once the day draws closer.
About 6 weeks before your wedding, I’ll send you a questionnaire asking some of the big questions I need to know for the big day (although none as big as the “I do”, obvs). It’s a really informal questionnaire, but it’s chocful of super important information so don’t skip it over. But also, don’t be scared by it – sit down with a coffee, tea, G&T or a vino and treat it like a fun date night amongst all the planning madness. (And a cheap one too, which is all the more welcome when you’re on wedding countdowns…). The best thing is, that all my booked couples get their own snazzy online client portal – so you can dip in and out of answering the questions on the form.
I’ll be the supplier that’s there the longest, and I have a very important job to do for you (no pressure!) so I always want to ensure that we are on the same wavelength. That’s why this day details sheet comes in handy. I will constantly refer back to the plan throughout the day, leaving you and your beau to revel in the height of wedded thrills.
To give you an idea of all the exciting details I’ll be asking you, have a gander at the list below and start racking those brain cells/rummaging around in that wedding binder. Here’s my guide for What To Tell Your Wedding Photographer (AKA me)!
I’ll need both contact numbers and email addresses for you and your partner. It’s helpful to have the basics on hand for any last minute messages. You’ll get both of mine too. Most importantly I’ll need both of your email addresses so that I can send you the email link to your finished set of wedding photos!
A pretty key one to start with, hey? A verified full address is always necessary – not just “my Dad’s farm” or “Citizen M”. I want postcodes, so I can Google Map that shizz and get exactly where you are with no hassle for you. It also helps me scout out potential locations for our portrait session to give you some relaxing celebratory time together on the day without taking you too far away from the party. If you’re having your day across two venues, make sure you include the info for both, plus the info for where you’re getting ready if I’m covering that too.
Another thing on the list of absolutely non-negotiably need-to-know things is timings. My super informal, caught-in-the-moment style of photos actually require a lot of pre-planning. I will need to know where to be, when and what the intention is for the day. Then I can ensure I’m absolutely in the right place at the right time.
Having these timings written down has twofold benefits: firstly, it’s good for me to know when all the ‘major’ events are happening, because although I’m constantly on the lookout for the best moments anyway, it’s good to know when things will be changing up. Secondly, it’s good to have the timings written down as I can then advise on when you’ve not allowed long enough for stuff (group photos!), or point out things you may not have thought of.
The important people
Now I am pretty rubbish with names! I do not take pride in this, so I’m going to try and blunder through getting names right by having a list of all the important people in advance. Knowing in advance who the key people are at your wedding will mean that not only will I be able to call them by their name, but I’ll also ensure that these people feature in your photos A LOT.
Group shot lists
Even though I’m all about the spontaneous fun and frolics that badass weddings bring, I totally understand that weddings are an opportunity to get together a group of people who don’t come together very often, and you may want to document that. Group shots are totally fine, but I do advise that we keep them as short as possible to maximise the amount you can enjoy your day and minimise the the time you’re stood with a fake smile wanting to be partying! For this reason I ask for a list of the group shots you’re looking for, itemised with the list of people you want in each one. It’s great if you can include both their relation and their name (this makes it easier for me to find missing people!)
I don’t have any rules around who you choose to have in any group photos (if you want them at all). Most couples tend to go for some combination of the following group shots:
Both families and you and your partner
Your extended family, you and your partner
Your immediate family, you and your partner
Your partner’s extended family, you and your partner
Your partner’s immediate family, you and your partner
The wedding squad, you and your partner
This list will take approximately 25 minutes to work through. If you want to add in other combinations, then you will need to allow for extra time. From my experience of shooting lots and lots of weddings, each combination of a group photo will take 3-4 minutes to organise and shoot.
It’s also super helpful if I can have an official helper from each side of the family – ideally someone who knows who the various different people. Doing so will save a lot of time!
The devil truly is in the detail, and the marketing devil inside of me LOVES to have a solid brief before the job starts. I’ll ask you to describe what you have planned for your ceremony, and to describe what you have planned for the reception. I’ll need to know about any special surprises that you have planned too. If you’re going to let off confetti canons immediately after your first dance, then I’m going to want to make sure I’m in the best position all ready for that!
And I don’t mean guests’ dietary requirements – they should be directed to the caterer. Instead, it’s always really useful for me to know if there’s any tension in particular groups or with particular people as I navigate your guests. Context is important for photos! I come from a very modern family, with multiple sets of parents (that don’t talk to each other!) so I know that not every family is a straight-up nuclear scenario.
Once this is filled in, I generally meet couples to have a chat about a month before the wedding day. Other than just having a lovely natter, it’s great to sit down and cement those plans, and talk them through in person. This leaves me feeling totally confident that I know exactly what you’re planning and wanting for the day, and most importantly should leave you feeling more relaxed, safe in the knowledge that someone else knows the nitty-gritty too. It’s a very informal chat where pets and children are welcome too.
If your plans change – don’t panic! This can and does happen. About a week before I’ll send you what I have as the final plan, to make sure that nothing’s changed since we last spoke. I then bring that with me (or an updated version with any changes) on the day as a crib sheet to refer back to. The final plan is by no means written in stone (it’s usually on my iphone actually), so if there are last minute changes and additions, that’s cool.
Are you just getting started with wedding planning? You can sign up to my exclusive Club Tropicana to get the low down on everything you need to know when planning a wedding. Plus the first bonus is a free super useful guide on how to choose your wedding photographer.
Want to know more about my informal wedding photography?
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