How to find and book your wedding entertainment

How to find and book your wedding entertainment

It doesn’t always have to be The Wedding Singer

If you were to believe every rom com you’ve ever seen, you’d believe that wedding entertainment was subpar and pretty poor, wouldn’t you? Embarrassing, balding DJs with whiny voices introducing songs for lovers to empty dance floors, or awkward bands comprised of middle-aged men who always wanted to be a rockstar but never quite had the pizzazz. Well, now that you have that visual – get rid of it. BIN IT. KONMARI THAT RUBBISH AND GET IT OUT OF YOUR LIFE. There are so many ace wedding bands and DJs out there nowadays that this is a thing of distant past and unnecessary future – you just need to know where to find such fantastic beasts. That’s where I come in. I’ve asked a couple of my favourite wedding entertainers to chat through the process of finding and booking wedding entertainment, both from a band’s side and a DJ’s side…

Ikon gallery wedding by Parrot & Pineapple Wedding Photography

What different types of wedding entertainment are on offer?

There’s loads of different types of wedding entertainment available out there – variety is the spice of life, after all – but they tend to fall into two main categories. These two main categories are bands and artists, and then DJs. They have similar effects – an amazing atmosphere, a throbbing dance floor and loads of energy – but they’re quite different vibes.

DJs play songs as you would listen to them on the radio, but mixed expertly and with the killer playlist compiling skills you can only dream of. (See below why it’s NOT just like creating your own playlist on Spotify!) They tend to play for the majority of the evening do, staying until they play the last song – mine would be the dirty dancing song (complete with an elbaorate lift), if you’re wondering – although this isn’t necessarily always the case. For example, if you have a cocktail hour in between ceremony and reception and you want to keep things fun, DJs can provide a super cool rooftop bar vibe.

Saxophonist plays alongside a DJ at a London City Wedding. Image by Parrot & Pineapple.

In comparison, bands cover songs live on their instruments. As Charlie from Heavy Beat Brass Band, a New Orleans style brass band, explains, they come in all sorts of varieties. “There are standard function bands that can play your favourite Funk, Soul, Rock and Pop tunes almost identical to the record. Then, there are more unique performers who try to stand out and provide an alternative to the standard wedding band. We’re the latter – as a New Orleans style brass band, we can play all your favourite tunes, but entirely on brass instruments. It’s all familiar music done in a fresh way.”

Although they aim for 2 x 50 minute sets in the afternoon or evening (with a break in the middle), bands are just as versatile and flexible with timing requirements. “We offer anything from the ceremony to the late night party.” Charlie says. “We can parade the bride down the aisle at 11:00am, then have her dancing on the bar at 11:00pm!”

What should couples be looking for when they’re booking their entertainment?

The Best Men, a Midlands-based wedding DJ collective, start off with some sound advice regardless of whether you’re leaning towards a DJ or a band. “It’s good to make sure your own tastes are catered for and that you avoid the cheese,” Arthur explains, “but also bear in mind the demographic of your guests and what will work for everyone too.”

If you’re looking for a DJ specifically, he then goes on to say, “A good DJ listens to the couple and plays to the room. We always sit down with each couple and have a long chat about their likes and dislikes to tailor their night to suit them, but the set is never pre-planned. The DJ should be able to think on their feet and read the room and shape the night as it goes on.”

Charlie has a hot tip on how to find an incredible wedding band, too. “When you’re looking for your wedding band or artist, you want to get someone who’s fun, engaging, unique and professional. Our top tip is to keep an eye out on smaller stages at festivals for some of the most interesting performers.” (Can booking festival tickets count as a wedding expense? I think it can!)

What are your top tips for getting people on the dance floor?

The Best Men pride themselves on being a non-cheesy DJ service whose purpose is to entertain the crowd and keep the dance floor packed all night – so I thought they’d totally be the men for the job. I was right! “We want to make sure your tastes are covered, but always make sure the songs are floor fillers.” Arthur says, “Having the skills and experience to read the room and adapt and steer the night to keep the dance floor packed comes from years of experience in mainstream alternative clubs. First and foremost we’re all music fans so we like to treat the wedding like one of our club nights, and not sticking to a rigid wedding playlist that seems to occur at lots of weddings.”

What do you wish all couples knew?

“Deciding not to have a DJ and make your own playlist can seem appealing on paper, but a set you pre-plan for your kitchen or car does not always translate to a diverse room full of people, and you have no capacity to adapt and change.” Arthur warns. “The last thing you want is frantically trying to make a new playlist on the night or people skipping songs on your device. Having someone with experience to shape the evening curated to your tastes is the key to success.” As personal curation is key, they also don’t offer out sample playlists. As no two weddings are the same, no two playlists should be either: “We are all about consultation, communication and listening to your needs. We cater for all sorts of tastes, funk, soul, indie, rock, metal and so much more so we firmly believe that there is no “one set fits all” playlist.”

And once you’ve booked them – look after them! Charlie says, “If you look after the band, they will look after you! Sometimes after long journeys to exotic wedding venues, a bacon sandwich can go a long way to keeping our energy at 110%.”

relaxed fun wedding photographer


The Best Men are not your average wedding DJs – in fact, they’re about as far away as you could get. They’re a Midlands-based wedding DJ collective providing a bespoke, non-cheesy service for couples who love music and want their floor firmly filled. They’ve DJed alongside some super impressive names (hello Jarvis Cocker, Jamiroquai, Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys) – check out their website for more http://www.thebestmen.co.uk/


Heavy Beat Brass Band are a New Orleans style brass band, remixing modern Jazz and Pop with the sounds of a roaring Mardi Gras Band. Find their full repertoire list as well as videos, photos and FAQs on their website, and check out their latest adventures on Youtube: https://www.heavybeatbrass.com


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How to select your wedding rings

How to select your wedding rings

There’s just something so exciting about a wedding ring isn’t there? Sure, they started as a visible sign of a dowry, but (thankfully!) since then they’ve evolved with the times to become a symbol of commitment, love, and over-arching joy. In line with this shifting sentiment, cool wedding band styles are now much more readily available too. Where once upon a time, there were few choices to be had and even fewer questions to ask yourself, there’s now loads of options for alternative, stylish wedding ring designs. If you’re struggling with how to select your wedding rings – this is the blog post for you. 

How to select your wedding rings. Groom places ring on brides finger at winter wedding. Image by Parrot and pIneapple

That’s where Victoria comes in! She owns The Quarterworkshop, a studio based in the historical Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, where she runs – wait for it – how to make your own wedding ring workshops! Is that not just the most fun you’ve ever heard?! With such jewelled wisdom, I thought she’d be the perfect person to ask all my questions to: how to choose a wedding ring, what the different types of wedding rings are, and all the wedding band styles explained…

Victoria from The Quarter Workshop tells us how to select your wedding rings.

Do you have advice on how to select your wedding rings?

“Your wedding ring may be small, but it’s a pretty important bit of the whole thing – your wedding ring is the most lasting part from your wedding day, which you’ll see every day from that day onwards.

It will always be a reminder of the day, of your marriage, and of your partner, and to others it’s a symbol of your commitment to your partner and your marriage – so it’s important to get it right! For this reason, firstly I would say choose something that’s a true reflection of you and your own style. Often, when couples start looking in shops they are faced with a bewildering amount of choice, but they will often say to me that nothing really connected with them or felt right. Most of the rings in high street shops will have been machine made so they can seem a little soulless – that’s when they start looking for alternatives and find us!

Bride laughs and shows off new wedding ring to guests

Often, your engagement ring will play a role in dictating some of the details for the wedding band, such as what material it should be in – it’s best to wear the same carat and type of metal next to each other, as all metals have a different hardness.

Another really important thing to do it to try some on! If you have never worn a ring before or don’t know what will look and sit best next to your engagement ring, then the best thing to do is try them on, to see how they both look and feel. Also, have a look at images and what your friends have – it’s amazing how you can suddenly have feelings about how yellow you like your gold to be, or if you like very straight edges or softer curves!

It can also be a good idea to think about lifestyle as well. If you go to the gym a lot or work with your hands, it might be a good idea to choose a harder wearing metal. Alternatively, if you are going to take your ring off a lot, or if like the idea of it getting marked and developing a patina over time, silver can be a lovely choice as it will pick up lots of little surface marks along the way and grow to be full of character.”

 

Victoria has a really good guide on her website to give you an idea of how to pick your wedding ring; https://thequarterworkshop.com/designing-your-rings

What are the different styles of wedding bands?

“There are so many! In some ways a ring is so simple, but the variations you can get – especially if you are making it yourself with me – are endless. In the most simple of terms you have the following wedding band styles, explained:

  • A D shape is a very classic style of band, which is flat on the inside and curved on the outside.
  • A court shape, which is curved on the inside and outside, making  it easy to take on and off
  • A Flat shape, which has straight edges and corners  
  • Round or halo

However, if you’re making your own rings, you should think of these as just your starting shape. You can then sculpt, file or shape them, as well as leaving them how they are.

 

You also get a wide variety of metals for your wedding ring. At the Quarterworkshop, we specialise in precious metals: this means we use silver and the golds in red, yellow and white – both 9ct and 18ct.”

How to select your wedding rings - wedding rings being made on a workbench.

What should couples look for if they want ethical wedding rings?

“If you’re looking for ethical wedding rings, you can nowadays opt for fair trade materials to make your rings with – your jeweller will carry the symbol on their website. Alternatively, you can use recycled silver or gold to make your rings with!”

How to select your wedding rings

The Quarterworkshop is a studio based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, dedicated to sharing their craft knowledge to help couples make their own wedding rings together. They’re all about the hand made, and creating bespoke unique pieces using fine craftsmanship techniques. They’re the opposite of mass-produced, soulless bands – just like you’re the opposite of a mass-produced, soulless couple.  https://thequarterworkshop.com


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?

Check out my portfolio

Read about me

Learn all about my packages

Contact me to chat more

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Collage of wedding ring images and text reading What to do when selecting your wedding ring

What to consider when dressing your wedding squad

What to consider when dressing your wedding squad

Picking out bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s outfits is, in essence, a pretty weird idea. There’s probably no other scenario in which you would instruct your best friend, a fully grown adult, on what to wear, and especially no other scenario which is as emotional as this! You want to get it spot on, and I want to help you get it right to minimise your wedding stress (that’s the aim, and photography’s the game.)

But don’t worry. Firstly, banish any ideas of the horrendous scaremongering photos you’ve seen on instagram – no crinoline here, unless it’s what you want. Nowadays, there’s loads of amazing designers out there who are creating outfits which perfectly bridge the gap of bridesmaid with still being on trend. With that in mind I chatted to Joanna from Bowen Dryden – creators of the INSANELY HOT Badass Bridesmaid collection which will basically change your life – about how you should dress your bridesmaids.

Bride groom and wedding party pose for a group photo at The Asylum in London.

How much should clients budget for their wedding party outfits?

“Wow, that totally depends on how much you have to spend! Firstly ,think about how many people you have to dress (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls and pageboys) and whether you are getting contributions from anyone else. Alternatively, are they paying for themselves?

I would also consider the kind of outfit you want to wear, as this will impact your overall clothing budget. Do you want to go bespoke and have a dress designed especially for you? Is there a particular bridal shop you have always wanted to experience? Ask these people their minimum charges and see if you are comfortable with the answers. If you are, then tell them a bit more about the way you want to feel on your day and what you need to wear to achieve that feeling. Similarly, if you have no idea at all want you want and need some help, then ask their advice. If they get what you are trying to achieve then they are your people. If not then thank u, next.”

And that’s a double whammy from Joanna – as all those questions you need to ask of yourself when shopping for your dress and setting your budget are good questions to ask re: bridesmaids’ dresses too. Do you want them to wear custom made outfits? (more on that below). Do you want them all to match? (More on that below too. God, I’m good to you.) Is there a particular shopping experience you want with your squad? How do you want them to feel?

4 bridesmaids wearing yellow stand against a yellow wall

Is there any expected etiquette on what you can and can’t ask your wedding party to wear?

“Not in the Bowen Dryden book! If you all like it then it is appropriate and probable pretty awesome too. Brides do not need to wear a white dress unless they want to. If they want to wear a black trouser suit or a bikini a la Pamela Anderson then do it. Feeling confident, beautiful and like the best possible version of yourself is the aim of the game, and it’s the same with your partner and bridal party – wear what you want!

 

But please, from all the bridesmaids around the World, consider the style of your party. If your best friend hates blue and wearing dresses, please be a babe and don’t ask her to wear a blue dress. Could she perhaps wear a green jumpsuit instead? She is going to enjoy your day so much more if she doesn’t feel self conscious and like her Mum has dressed her.  There will be less crying emojis on the WhatsApp group too.”

 

This is SUCH an important point. Of course, your bridesmaid or groomsman will feel super privileged and honoured to have been asked to be a part of your wedding day – but that doesn’t mean they suddenly lose their own autonomy and owe you their life. You’ve asked them to be part of your close-knit team because you value them and everything they bring to your life, so your outfit should celebrate them by making them feel comfortable and confident! This may mean chatting to them about what they’re happy with, and letting them know what you’re envisioning to gauge their reaction.

What should you recommend if your wedding squad are all different shapes and sizes?

“Embrace it and celebrate the people you love and want in your bridal party. I love the eclectic look of people wearing what suits them and what they enjoy wearing at weddings! You could get your squad to wear different outfits in the same colour, or colour palette, or outfits of the same garment in different colours. It looks awesome! People will look and feel happy – this is why our Badass Bridesmaids collection was created. It is a collection of bridesmaids separates that allow each person to wear a style and colour that suits them and their shape and look amazing.”

Bride and bridesmaids huddled together at a wedding. Image by informal wedding photographer Parrot & Pineapple.

What would you want all couples to know before they start thinking about their wedding party outfits?

“This is really important. Not everyone has to like your outfits (other than the people wearing them). It is impossible to please everyone, as you are not a puppy – not everyone will love your choice, but neither should they! Your Mum is unlikely to dress the same as you on all the other days of your life so it is unlikely she would choose the style of your dress too. Your best friend who dresses like Barbie and you who is partial to Tank Girl are unlikely to choose the same bridal look. AND THAT’S JUST FINE! Therefore please do not choose your bridal outfit by committee, as the choice should be your own. It does not mean that they all won’t cry or think you are the most beautiful creature in the World because they will. They are there because they love you and this will not change regardless of how you’re dressed.

 

You will all look beautiful. Keep to your vision and work in your magic and you will look amazing. Find someone who will work with you not against what you want and it will be fantastic.”

 

I mean, if Joanna ever decides she’s done with bridal design, I’m up for her going into politics with that rousing battle cry…aren’t you?

 

Found this useful? Then click here to check out the other blogs in my wedding planning advice series

And pin this image to your pinterest board to remember it for the future

Tips for dressing your bridesmaids and groomsmen. Images by Parrot & Pineapple.

 

What does a wedding celebrant do and do you need one?

What does a wedding celebrant do and do you need one?

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!).”

Bride hugs her mum while holding a rainbow coloured bouquet. Image by relaxed wedding photographer Parrot and Pineapple.

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’.”


Wedding celebrant Zena BirchZena 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/


Katie Matthews - wedding celebrant

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/

 


 

How to find and book a wedding cake maker

How to find and book a wedding cake maker

How to find and book a wedding cake maker

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


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/


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


 

How to find a wedding planner (and do you need one?)

How to find a wedding planner (and do you need one?)

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.”

Bunch of babes, aren’t they? Check out my blog post to find their top tips for fun weddings, from the wedding planning experts themselves!


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. Website: https://www.perfectlyplanned4you.com

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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/

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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/


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