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FAQs and expert advice about wedding planning

Here is a selection of Q&As from Your Bristol and Somerset Wedding magazine whether it be about flowers, hair and makeup, fashion, wedding themes, health & beauty, cakes, stationery, legal advice. If you would like your question answered by our experts, please email it to editor@yourbristolsomerset.wedding

We Do

We Do

Q What is your advice on taking the first steps in wedding planning?
A Amber Packer-Hughes says: Location, location, location! Where you want to marry dictates everything else. Decide if you want a church or civil wedding, then go venue hunting. If you've opted for a civil ceremony, next you'll need to book the registrars to actually marry you. Get in touch as soon as you know your date and venue. We normally take bookings up to two years ahead and summer Saturdays get filled up pretty fast. This really is crucial and we panic on behalf of the couples we meet who've got everything else nailed down but haven't booked the official stuff with only a few months to go!

For the most up-to-date info on all licensed ceremony venues, you should check council websites. Since we licence the venues, we list very single one in our districts. You'll find some hidden gems that don't crop up on the usual sources, from barns and inns, to castles and country houses in Somerset and North Somerset.

Amber Packer-Hughes, Somerset Wedding Service

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Q What is your advice on creating a winter wonderland wedding?
A Samantha Smart says: Winter weddings are so different to any other, but they're still as exciting to plan and organise. Plus, venues can often be cheaper to hire as it's deemed to be out of season. My top tips for creating a wintry vibe include tailoring your menu. Soups for starters are perfect, lamb shanks for a main and a crumble for dessert are just so warming and comforting.

Opt for warm colours for your theme. Using soft tones for your table setting is ideal. You could also add warm shawls for your bridesmaids to keep them nice and cosy. If your wedding is around Christmastime, why not add some mistletoe, mulled wine and have poinsettias as your centrepieces, along with warm lights and lanterns.

Little touches, such as winter-themed wedding invitations and making blankets available for your guests can also give your wedding the wow factor.

Samantha Smart, Wedding Regency

Where to begin

Where to begin

Q I'm newly engaged and already feeling overwhelmed by the thought of planning. Are you able to give me a steer on what I should book when?
A Georgia says: It's all very new and therefore bound to be overwhelming at times. Here we are to the rescue with some initial steps! First is budget. Before you book anything, make sure you have a clear understanding of your own finances and the costs involved. Next, take the Top Three Challenge! Your wedding is a very special day and there'll be lots of important elements to consider. Choose your top three points that you won't compromise on. You can then make concessions in other areas, but this will keep your vision on track and guide you towards who you book and when.

The times to book everything can be very fluid. You can organise a wedding in a couple of months or a few years. However, first and foremost ensure the exact date is booked with your venue and officiant/celebrant. This means you all have a target to work towards with guests and suppliers. After this, think about which suppliers are most important to you. Is there a photographer you've been admiring for years or beautiful blooms you know one company excels at? Head to these ones first to ensure you don't disappointingly miss out.

Georgia, Berwick Lodge

A helping hand

A helping hand

Q I'm finding that planning my wedding alongside working full time and looking after my family is taking its toll. A friend suggested I hire a wedding planner, but I'm not sure what to expect, I don't want to relinquish full control. Can you tell me more about the process?
A Samantha Smart says: Most wedding planners will offer you a free no-obligation meeting, as I do, so that you can have a chat about how involved you want them to be. When I sit down with my couples, I discuss their wish list, budget, date, how they met, the proposal and much more. But, if you'd rather carry on planning the wedding yourself, you may want to just consider hiring someone to manage the big day only. This is a service I offer, whereby I look after everything on the wedding day, allowing you to focus on the occasion without any of the stress. I can even help to plan the hen, stag or family gathering if you'd like. Planning and managing a wedding can be stressful, so let a professional lend a hand and you can breathe and enjoy your special day

Samantha Smart, Wedding Regency

Al-fresco

Al-fresco

Q My fiancé and I have just started looking for our dream wedding venue, and we'd like to get married outside. What should we keep in mind before booking?
A John Blake says: If you're thinking of an outside wedding, the first thing you'll be worried about is the weather. What if it's pouring with rain? Fear not, last minute change of plans can easily be accommodated. For example, we use our beautiful ceremony room in the Great Hall, which can seat up to 75. It also works the other way around! Earlier this year, we had a couple who were desperate to marry outside, but the weather didn't look good. Finally, the sun came out 30 minutes before the ceremony and we decided to go for it. So, do check that your venue can be flexible.

We have a great team of registrars here in Somerset and they're always accommodating so that ceremonies are happy and informal occasions. If we're outside, we generally put out a few seats for elderly and special guests, but most people are standing, which gives them a good view. Our brides can make the perfect entrance, through the gathered guests to join their spouse-to-be with the 16th-century manor house and gardens in the background. Welcome drinks can be served on the front lawn and celebrations can continue in our fabulous marquee... so, what's there to stress about?

John Blake, Old Bridge

Wed with conscience

Wed with conscience

Q We're keen to make our wedding as sustainable as possible. What can you recommend?
A Simone Parkinson says: While an eco-friendly wedding is desirable, it's not possible to be completely carbon-free just yet. However, there are a few changes you can make in the meantime that will help you along the way.

- The venue. Choose somewhere that cares about its environmental impact. Could your venue plant a tree in their grounds to offset some of your wedding's carbon footprint for example? At Berwick Lodge we try to strike a balance between encouraging eco-conscious decisions and ensuring our couples' personalities shine through with their own personal touches.

- Decorations and flowers. Save on plastic wastage by hiring your decorations. Using locally picked wildflowers as centrepieces is also a lovely natural touch. Some florists only use blooms from local picking sites.

- Transport. Provide a bus or shuttle service that can pick up your guests and take them to the venue to reduce the amount of petrol used. Similarly, why not suggest carpooling?

- The dress. The best thing you can do for the environment is to go for a pre-loved gown. Preloved or Bridal Reloved both have beautiful options.

- Food. Sourcing seasonal and local ingredients not only tastes amazing, but also reduces transport pollution while giving back to the community. We grow our own herbs on site and source beef from the farm next door. It's also good to bear in mind how much food is wasted at weddings, so see if your venue is signed up for a scheme like Too Good To Go that allows consumers to buy any surplus, or consider donating to a local food bank.

- Drink. English wines are starting to earn a great reputation and every town seems to make its own local gin. The same can apply to soft drinks. At Berwick we send apples that fall from the trees in our orchard to local not-for-profit company, Trust Juice, where it's pressed and pasteurised before being sent to Bushel & Peck for bottling. It's available to buy and serve at your wedding.

Simone Parkinson, Berwick Lodge

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