Part 2 of my feedback instalments; featuring valuable advice and insights from some of my past couples on some key areas of their wedding planning experience they were happy to share. This instalment focuses on ‘Vision, Décor & Styling’ and ‘Dry Hire Wedding’ advice and tips.
As before, I’m always really keen to get any feedback about how couples felt before, during and after their wedding. No matter how big or small the details. If they have any advice they’d like to share and how they found working with a wedding planner as well, no matter what service they had me for. Mainly so it can help me gain a better insight into how the experience was for them. Even though I’m married myself, I find this incredibly valuable – and I always want to help where and I can and do my job even better next time. To be able to help more as a wedding planner, to understand how different areas of the planning affected them, how their preferences and venue(s) affected any choices, and so on… the list goes on!
So here is the second instalment! Over to my couples again!
(A consolidation of advice gratefully received from a few of my past couples of 2018-2019, who were happy to share on the blog for the benefit of future couples ❤️)
Vision, Décor & Styling
- Make a mood board of your theme (can be a really fun project!) (Thanks Michelle – I swear this isn’t a sales pitch but I do actually offer this service…! However, this can be done super easily yourself on Pinterest, which is growing every day in increased user functionality btw; check out all the pre-prepared boards I have on my Pinterest if you need a hand to get your own started. But even going old school by keeping cuttings in a scrap book will work too – you’ll find it so useful to refer to and to help keep you on track.)
- Use sites like Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and Ebay if you’re on a tight budget. You’ll be surprised at what you can find.
- Don’t underestimate the power of good lighting – this can add loads to the atmosphere on the day. (Great point! And we’re not just talking candles, there are many companies that offer proper installations of festoon lights or fairy light drapes, giant suspended disco balls, uplighters, etc – this can really work as your entire décor plan and can totally transform a venue. Let me know if you need any recommendations for companies who do these sorts of things.)
- Be open to seasonality and new ideas – I had my heart set on peonies initially but they weren’t in season for our wedding, but what our florist came up with was definitely more ‘me’ and I loved my flowers so much. Have trust in your suppliers that they know what they are doing! I definitely found that quite hard and hard to let go! But don’t make life any harder for yourself!
- We didn’t have space on our tables for much décor or many flowers because we were having a feasting style menu, but we invested in coloured linen napkins and I loved how they made the tables look along with our (very spaced out) flowers! This was all it took to make our tables look that extra bit special for me, and I don’t regret spending the extra money hiring these!
Dry Hire Weddings
- Imagine you are the guest – walk through your day as a guest and try to imagine their experience and what they will take away from the day. We got married in a summer heatwave, so walking through the day made us think about what we could do to help guests be more comfortable, including their arrival to the ceremony, drinks, dinner, dancing and getting home safely. We ended up tweaking our ‘to-do’ list quite a lot after considering life as a guest at our wedding! We created signs for the car park and ceremony area with instructions of how long the walk from parking to ceremony would be (great warning in advance for girls with heels!) and also good to inform our elderly guests of what to expect upon arrival. (Phoebe actually had a tipi wedding, but this applies to any dry hire wedding; think about the whole day, including small but important details like where guests dump coats, and how. A lot of dry hire venues don’t include coat rails as standard FYI.)
- Manage guest expectations – we sent out an email to all our guests two days before the wedding saying how excited we were to see them. We included advice on parking provisions, the nearest train station, taxi company details, how far the ceremony was from the car park, and pre-answered some of those ‘on-the-day’ questions that were likely to come up had we not already answered them. This really helped to put our guests at ease and prepare them for the big day and an outdoors-y wedding. (This is a really great point, and can include anything from weather warnings, to noting you are having an unmanned coat rail, to advising on suitable shoes, to cash vs card payments at the bar, to baby changing facilities – or lack thereof. Some of your guests may not have experienced a ‘dry hire’ wedding before or may be expecting hotel services or concierge facilities…)
- Be prepared for things to go wrong. Our reception venue’s caterers went bust right after we signed our contract, and for a long time it looked like they wouldn’t find a new one. Our wedding suddenly became a dry hire one with external caterers, which required A LOT more planning and expense. It was quite a stressful time, but we ended up with a fantastic caterer and were able to choose exactly the kind of booze we wanted.
- Which brings me on to my next point – if you’re supplying your own alcohol, make sure you have somewhere to store it. Our living room was basically our wine cellar last summer, and then we had to move everything into wine storage halfway across town when it got so hot we were worried it was all going to go off. And then move it all back the night before the wedding. In the pouring rain.
- Have a booze back up plan! We went to France to pick up our wine (via Majestic), but while we thought we’d got absolutely loads, it dawned on us closer to the time we had calculated the wine buying completely wrong! We ended up hiring an amazing horse box bar called The Dawdling Duck too, which allowed guests to buy drinks as well, and they could provide something for everyone.
- Ensure you have plenty of tap water readily available. (Especially important if you are running your own bar, but, generally speaking, guest comfort is paramount to them having a good time. This is a very small but very important detail, and can be as simple as extra hired jugs or decanters on top of your bar front.)
- What I didn’t know about dry hire weddings: Just how restrictive they (sometimes) can be – and how impossible it would be to hold a wedding there without a coordinator! Ours only let vehicles in at really set times (as it was in Clissold House, in the middle of Clissold Park) that completely clashed with our wedding ceremony times, so we’d never have been able to have had our reception there without a coordinator. (Of course I totally agree with this one! But it’s also important to clarify with your venue from the outset what your hire in/out times are, including any specific delivery/vehicle/parking instructions, like for Clissold here, so you can be realistic about what is and isn’t possible, and manage your own expectations as well as your supplier’s – it could very well save you money further down the line, too.)
- Say yes to people offering to help the day before with setup or finishing off décor. People LOVE to feel part of your special day, and it’s definitely better to have all hands on deck and finish up early rather than be frantically folding napkins late into your pre-wedding eve!
- Bonus Tip – for dry hire set up days, make sure there’s someone dedicated to supplying helpers with water and food so that you don’t feel the burden of everyone’s efforts. People are so happy to help, but they need the basics covered!
- Don’t give yourself too much to do. We didn’t have the most complicated wedding logistically (I don’t think), but there were enough elements to it that I was worried about keeping everything running smoothly on the day. The solution? Laura! We used her ‘on-the-day’ coordination service (plus put up and take down), which meant we could focus on our friends and family and have fun. Best decision we made! (Ah thank you Alison!!)
- The best thing we did was to hire an on-the-day-coordinator. We hired Laura to ensure that everything was taken care of. It took so much pressure away from us on the day, and it was so nice to know that everything in hand. With a dry hire wedding, you really need a designated person who can deal with problems and unforeseen issues on the day. It’s also great for guests to have a point of contact that doesn’t rely on them having to bother you on your big day! (Thanks Phoebe!! 😘)
- Finally, don’t forget the clear up! Setting up is a mammoth task, but pulling everything down and clearing away in the evening or the following day is equally time consuming – you will need your trusty helpers on board for this too! Arrange your team, delegate and then treat them to a giant ‘we did it!’ drink and dinner afterwards to thank them all for their efforts. You really won’t be able to do it without them! (This is quite specific to Phoebe’s tipi wedding, but do think about this depending on just how dry hire your wedding is, and what staff you already have on board – and more importantly, what they do and don’t take care of at your venue e.g. rubbish disposal, décor take down, etc.)
- Also ensure there are plenty of bin bags, storage, and boxes for the final clear out (if your venue doesn’t do this for you). Also take along cleaning products, kitchen towels, tea towels and anything else you will need that won’t be at the venue. Have a good think and imagine the clear-up step by step to ensure you are fully equipped! (Again, this was from Phoebe’s tipi wedding, but can also apply to many London and also council run dry hire venues, or church hall type venues.)
Thanks so much to Michelle and Simon, Alison and Philip, Anna and Sam, and Phoebe and Nick for sharing their wisdom!
So great to hear all this insider info from some of my past couples! It’s so easy to forget all the hard work behind the scenes that goes into a wedding, and all the small details that no one usually tells you about. I hope this gave you a good insight into real couple’s honest views. Emotion and client journey is such a big part of what I do, and weddings in general, so I hope you found this as helpful as I did.
Next instalments to come over the coming weeks include advice from some of my past real couples on: Traditions, On the Wedding Day, and some other final wise words…
Stay safe, and hope you are still managing to navigate wedding planning as best you can at the moment given the circumstances.
If there’s anything I can help with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. ❤️
Photo + wedding credits:
- Joasis Photography from Esther + Martin’s wedding
- Through the Woods We Ran from Lizzie + Jamie’s wedding
- Alister Freeman from Christina + Krissun’s wedding
- Charlotte Hu Photography from Phoebe + Nick’s wedding.
Please email any hellos or enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org