To view more expert advice on a different topic, please select one from the list below.
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
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
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
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
Q. We've booked a large venue, but now we're having a small wedding in June under restrictions. How can we make it feel more intimate?
A. Lizzie Marshall says: The rooms in our historic venues range from intimate to grand, with spaces ideal for any occasion. For example, the Roman Baths is perfect for an elopement or a grand celebration with 150 guests. It's suitability is all down to how you use the space. Holding a smaller wedding in a large venue has become the norm over the past 12 months. Here are some ideas to make the setting more intimate:
- Make use of the room's features. For example, our venues have some beautiful crystal chandeliers, which make fantastic focal points for a ceremony or seated reception.
- Have all your guests on one table in the centre of the room to create an opulent dinner party vibe.
- Reduce the number of guests per table to increase table numbers.
- Use soft foliage to create a sense of enclosure.
- Divide the area into zones for dining, dancing and the bar. You can even hire in lounge furniture to create an informal, relaxed atmosphere.
Lizzie Marshall, Bath's Historic Venues