Monday, 28 February 2011

Oxfam Weddings Launches!

So, today is a big day for Archie The Goat and myself - the fabulous new Oxfam Weddings website has launched and I am very very proud to be involved with this.

I was asked last year to become an Ambassador for Oxfam Weddings and I was thrilled to help out. Who could resist the advances of a goat as gorgeous as Archie?

But joking aside, this is something I feel strongly about. I love the idea of weddings doing good and the Oxfam Unwrapped gift list is a wonderful way to give something back. Instead of being given a set of napkin rings you might use once a year when the in-laws come for dinner, how about providing a bicycle for so a rural midwife can give better care to women? Unwrapped has so many gifts that people really need - if every couple put just one Unwrapped gift on their wedding list, so many people's lives could be changed forever.

There's also a new range of wedding favours available and of course, don't forget that Oxfam is a great place to find some unique vintage items for your wedding - jewellery, accessories and even tea-cups and cake stands for decoration. You can shop on-line too so it really couldn't be easier. There are also some exciting competitions coming up on the new Oxfam Weddings site so keep an eye open if you'd like to win some fabulous things for your big day.

So, when you're planning your wedding, do consider doing something for charity - it doesn't have to be a grand gesture, you don't have to forgo all wedding gifts and you don't have to spend extra money. Or, of course, Oxfam is always around to welcome any donations of those 'interesting' weddings gifts after the event.

I'm so happy that the new website has launched and fingers crossed, together we can all have 'good' weddings. I'm proud to be involved and hope lots of brides, grooms and guests get involved too. But please, hands off the goat, he's mine...

You can follow Archie The Goat on Twitter - @ArchieTheGoat

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Brides - You Can Do It When You B&Q It!

This seems like a good post for a Sunday, the traditional day for wandering aimlessly around DIY stores because, as you might have gathered from the title, there is a slight B&Q-ish bent to this post.

We all know that we need to choose some kind of colour palette around which to base our weddings and I also know, from lots of conversations with brides who have slightly spinning heads at the thought of this, that it's not the easiest thing in the world to do.

So, I'm here to tell you that B&Q (or indeed any DIY shop, in the interests of impartiality) is the place where you might well find the answers to your colour conundrums. And the place in particular - the aisle with all the paint charts...

I mean, just look at some of these fabulous colour combinations - rich colours, fresh colours, warm colours. All kinds of colours, shades and tones and what's the best bit - they're all in one place! You can take the colour sample charts home and play around with the different types of pinks, blues, purples, reds, greens, yellows and neurals until you find your perfect set of wedding colours. No hunting for pics on-line, no seeing a colour you like on a billboard as you pass in the car and no running around the bed linen department in John Lewis holding different colour sheets next to each other (No-one else done that? No? Ahhh, just me then).

You've then got your wedding swatch set to carry around with you, to give the sets of the colour cards to your florist, your dressmaker, your cakemaker, your wedding planner, your stationer, anyone really. It's a perfect way to show everyone what they need to know.

And another 'best bit' is that the cards show a range of tones around the same colour - including a range of tones in floral arrangements and bouquets gives a real sense of depth to the finished items, there's no blandness and just lots of fabulousness.

So there you have it - who would have thought that a dull old DIY store could be the answer to one of the most common wedding dilemmas? But it most certainly can be so the next soggy Sunday that we have, ask your beloved if he'd like to look at drills and head off for a hot date at Do It All!

Son & I spent a happy hour today playing with colour cards and he has chosen the above as our 'dream scheme' - "pink for you and blue for me". That's my boy!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Supplier's Speech - Brown Box Photography

For the first in my new series of interviews with wedding suppliers, I'm talking to the lovely Claire Baggott of Brown Box Photography...

Tell me a little bit about your business (where you operate, how long you’ve been operating, maybe a bit about your style etc)
My name is Claire Baggott and I have been working as a professional wedding photographer for four years. My company, Brown Box Photography, is based in Reading, and I cover weddings in Berkshire and surrounding areas. I often get asked why the company is called Brown Box, and to tell you in a nutshell, it is named after a very shabby and gorgeous brown box which contains a diamond and sapphire ring left to me by my Grandmother – I thought it had a nice ring to it (excuse the pun!), and it has great meaning to me. With a real passion for all things wedding, I strive to capture the true story and emotion of a couple's wedding day, delivering stunning images and excellent customer service. My style combines a mix of classic, contemporary and reportage photography, tailored to the needs of each couple that I work with.

What’s so great about working in the wedding industry?
For me, it is fantastic to be able to do a job that matters so much to someone. Nothing beats the look on a bride's face as she sees her wedding photographs for the first time, it's priceless. Weddings are such fun and happy occasions; it's a privilege to be able to do this job.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions brides should ask when they’re booking suppliers?
I know this might sound a little negative, but be sure to ask about the worst case scenario. It is easy to ignore this as we don't want to think about it, but all your suppliers are human, and it is possible that due to illness or injury they may not be able to honour their agreements with you. But a good supplier, where possible, will have a back up plan for if the worst should happen. Ask your suppliers what would happen if they were unexpectedly unavailable for your wedding day, and think about whether this provides you with the level of assurance you are looking for. I always tell the couples I meet with about my contingency plans, and so many of them say that they would never have thought to ask about it.
Another good tip is to check that all the things you are expecting or wanting to get for your money are included in the price quoted. In terms of wedding photography, I always tailor my quotes to reflect exactly what my couples are looking for – this way they are not paying for anything they don't want or need, and everything they do want is included in their package.

Have you got any great wedding tips you’d like to share?
A little bit of forward planning goes a long way to make your day run smoothly. In terms of your photography, always provide your photographer a list of the formal group shots you would like ahead of your wedding day so that no one is missed. Think about timing; if you have a tight schedule, try to prioritise the shots that you want. After all, this is your day to enjoy, you don't want to be rushing around trying to squeeze in a huge number of group shots into a ten minute window. Even if you do have plenty of time, it is still important to prioritise what shots you want, as you don't want to be having your photo taken for too long and miss out on mingling with your lovely guests. Plus, the time you spend having a nice glass of bubbly and chatting to your friends and family is perfect for some wonderful reportage shots.
I am finding more and more couples enquiring about having engagement or pre-wedding shoots. Not only is it a fantastic way to get some photographs of the two of you together (so many couples tell me that they have hardly any nice pictures of just the two of them), but it is perfect for those couples who don't feel at ease in front of the camera – it's like a practice run and does wonders to boost your confidence and helps you to relax on your big day.

What makes a wedding really fabulous?
The most fabulous weddings I have photographed are the ones that are a true expression of the couple and their affection for one another. And the great thing about this, is that it doesn't matter if you are on a shoestring budget, or have all the money in the world. As soppy as it sounds, a really fabulous wedding is one that is all about love, and this always comes across in your photographs. Also, the finer details also make a wedding day what it is. Whether it is the flowers, the table decorations, the shoes...all those little touches that are the result of so much time and effort are a real favourite for me when it comes to photographs.

Have you seen anything really unusual or unique at a wedding recently?
I photographed a wedding last summer that was really unique, and was a great reflection of the bride and groom's personalities. The marriage ceremony was an intimate affair in a gorgeous town hall, and then everyone continued on to a 'festival' themed reception. The groom's parents had a paddock to the side of their home, and it was there that the bride and groom hosted their guests in a brightly coloured marquee filled with sunflowers and bails of hay. As well as a dance floor, there was also a corner with huge scatter cushions for sitting and relaxing... I can still picture the bride sitting on the floor with her two bridesmaids with a glass of bubbly, it really was lovely.

How do you prepare for a wedding?
Photographing a couple's wedding is a very big responsibility, and so preparation is really important. For me, the preparation starts from the first time I meet with a couple. Getting a good understanding of what a bride and groom are looking for from their photography, means that from that point on – everything is tailored to their needs and expectations. I will always go to the wedding venue a few weeks before the wedding to have a look around, and if the couple can join me that's even better. The day before a wedding all my equipment is prepared, packed, triple-checked and ready to go for the following day. I then make sure I have my schedule for the day, as well as the list of photographs from the bride and groom printed out to bring with me. I also have a fantastic little SOS pack in my bag for the bride – tissues, wet wipes, safety pins, lip gloss... perfect!

What are some of your favourite wedding memories?
My favourite memory from my own wedding, is the very last dance of the night. I was adamant that I did not want a slow soppy song, so my husband and I went crazy to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now for the last few minutes of our wedding day. We spun around and jumped and laughed – it was magic, and I really didn't want to stop.
My favourite memories from weddings I shoot always come from the more informal reportage photographs, where the bride and groom are just enjoying their day and you capture a beaming smile, a laugh or loving look when they have no idea you are there. These are the photos that always make me smile when I come to edit a couple's images.

What do you think the next ‘big thing’ in weddings will be?
Without a doubt, a lot of brides will be taking some fantastic inspiration from Kate and William's upcoming wedding... that is definitely one to watch. Wouldn't it be great if they had giant jenga out on the royal lawn?!!!

If you could give brides just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Your wedding day will go so fast; there are lots of people to speak to and so much fun to be had. My biggest tip, is to make sure that you and your brand new husband try and find just a few minutes to take a walk together, have some quiet time just the two of you to truly take in the magic of your day and the realisation that you are now Mr & Mrs. This is also one of the biggest reasons I love wedding photography, as your wedding images allow you to transform that one day into a beautiful album that will continue to tell the story for years to come.

If you'd like to find out more about Brown Box Photography...
Contact Claire on 07585 218 627 or
Follow Claire on twitter
And obviously all images in this post are courtesy of Brown Box Photography!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Tips To Make Your Wedding Look Good!

So, you’ve probably got a clear idea of either colours or a theme (however vague or jumbled they might be!) so now it’s time to consider how they will affect your decorations and details. Here are a few things to think about:-

* Be a guest for a moment. Walk through your venue the way that guests will. Are there any features you see that you want to highlight or disguise? Drawing attention to your venue’s ‘best bits’ will have guests oooh-ing with delight so highlight a great view from a window with some low decorations on the windowsills or light up a gorgeous fireplace with lots of candles and petals.
* Where will guests be the longest? If you’re providing a meal for your guests, spend most of your time and budget in decorating the room that everyone will be eating in.

Image courtesy of Dorset Wedding Photographer - Courtenay Photographic Ltd.

* Try to keep the space as ‘open’ as possible. Taller, more solid decorations are best placed around the edges of a room so that the central areas feel spacious. Remember that although things might look empty when you’re planning can look crowded when you add guests, waiters and waitresses and other suppliers.

* Vary the eye line – a mix of low and tall table centres will provide more visual interest, particularly if you’re having a more relaxed look. Ranks of identical arrangements suit a more modern style.

* Keep things in proportion. If your rooms have high ceilings, small, low table centres will be lost whilst taller arrangements will appear more enclosed venue.

* First impressions count so think what guests will see first when they enter. Something that makes them go ‘wow’ straight away is a great idea. This could even be a flower arrangement that is then moved to another location once everyone has arrived.

* Limit what guests have to notice. That probably sounds like the maddest comment but it’s better to place one great detail at each point (on entry to the venue, by the entrance to the dinner room, on the table etc) than cram loads of items onto your table. You might have spent hours tying ribbons and tags onto lovely favour boxes but that detail will be lost if you then throw in table confetti, candles, petals, and all the other essentials such as glasses, cutlery, crockery, salt, pepper, butter, waters, wines…

Image courtesy of Dorset Wedding Photographer - Courtenay Photographic Ltd.

* Look at unusual ways to present the usual. Bulky favours can stand out glaringly on tables that would look absolutely stunning without them. Think about combining them with seating cards on a table outside of dining area to keep tables clear and uncluttered. Be creative and enjoy it!

Thank you very much for the fabulous Dorset Wedding Photographer – Courtenay Photographic Ltd (who's also on Twitter @courtenayphoto if you'd like to follow!).
All images remain Copyright Courtenay Photographic Ltd.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Wedding Suppliers In Love!

So yesterday I took part in a ‘tweetchat’ about Wedding PR and a comment I made has been my most re-tweeted post ever...

“Twitter is like a very long job interview. Clients read everything so if you’re looking for business, stay professional.”

This seems to have struck quite a chord with lots of people, wedding pros and brides alike and some of the comments I’ve received from people have been really interesting. Now I love Twitter – it’s a great way to connect with people, to ‘meet’ people you wouldn’t usually and to find out about new ideas and yes, it’s great for laughs and support too (especially when you work on your own and end up talking to the kettle for company on some days).

However, it’s certainly true that Twitter is also a ‘shop window’ – if you’re a wedding supplier, brides are reading your Tweets and ‘checking you out’. Do you know what you’re talking about? Do you come across as someone they want to work with and are you ‘their kind of person’? This is especially true for people like wedding planners who ARE their product – clients have to like you before they want to work with you. The same is true of photographers, florists and anyone who has direct, face to face, interaction with their clients.

Because it’s important, so important, that brides love their suppliers – wedding pros love it when their clients love them because we’re all the same, we want our clients to be beyond happy. It’s not good enough to just do enough – brides deserve to have their expectations exceeded, to have suppliers working with them that have a genuine desire to give them a great day. Being a wedding supplier isn’t purely about paying the bills. Yes, we all have to make a living but wedding suppliers get a huge kick from making other people happy. And we like it when people love us...

So, if Twitter is a big on-line dating vehicle for brides and suppliers, let’s all clean our teeth, put on our best outfits and go and knock all our potential dates for six with our pure fabulousness!

Brides-To-Be Needed For Fab Mag Feature!

Right, all you lovely brides-to-be out there, here's your chance to get involved with a magazine feature that the fabulous Charlotte Ward is writing....

"I'm looking for brides-to-be of all ages to tell me anonymously the truth about what they are really thinking in the run up to their wedding - be it shocking, funny, touching or bizarre for a magazine feature.For example:
"I've never felt happier because..."
"I've actually put on six pounds on my pre-wedding diet regime..."
"I hate my mother-in-law because..."
If you'd like to contribute please email"

I've worked with Charlotte a lot over the last few years and I can promise you she's just wonderful so what are you waiting for? Tell the world what it's really like to be a bride-to-be, dish the pre-wedding dirt and rest assured, no-one will ever know it's you!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Bright [Coloured] Sparkly Things!

Last week, I had a truly lovely day in Brighton - it was a bright sunny day, perfect for wandering by the sea, perfect for people watching over coffee and, happily for me, perfect for wandering through the famous Lanes area. Twisting, turning little alleyways that are lined with some amazing shops, particularly lots of beautiful vintage jewellers.

Now, I know I'm coming a little late to the vintage party but I'm now one smitten kitten. Should anyone ever be mad enough to propose to me, I won't be after a plain old diamond engagement ring. Oh no, the gorgeous shops of The Lanes have completely converted me to a lover of brightly coloured sparkly things - pink sapphires, emeralds, rubies, sapphires... What is a girl to do because, let's face it, who could resist these little beauties?

I love the vibrancy of the colour, the unique look of the rings, the statement they make and most of all, I love that there's some history attached to them. Coloured rings are, according to the jewellers I spoke to, the new big thing - apparently there's been a marked increase in sales since Kate Middleton flashed her sapphire & diamond ring to the world and coloured rings are also popular choices with '2nd Time Brides', who I guess, want something that's definitely different to their first engagement ring (and I'd certainly fall into that category!)
But mostly, I think that brides are going for brighter rings because we're all better at 'doing something different' these days, whether it's the choice of engagement ring or the details at the wedding itself. It's all about BIG personality and I'm and BIG fan of that!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Getting Everyone Involved With Wedding Planning

It goes without saying that your wedding day needs to just that, your wedding day. It should be an expression of you both, your style, your likes and dislikes and you should be surrounded by all the people who you want to share this great day with. However, weddings are also undeniably family occasions too and lots of your closest relatives will probably want to get involved in the planning as well. So how do you manage to bring people into the excitement of the arrangements and still manage to retain control when you’re being faced with a seemingly endless stream of suggestions and comments? It’s not an easy task and if you’re finding it tough, you’re not alone! Of the hundreds questions I've answered over the years, a great proportion of them are linked somehow with family problems which is a shame because a wedding can give everyone a chance to spend time together working towards a shared goal. In my experience, the key to keeping relations sweet in the build up to the day is to be clear with everyone from the very outset. I don’t mean that you need to be blunt or harsh with anyone but I do mean that you need to be firm and consistent in what you’re telling and asking people.

Dealing with the first questions - Once your partner and yourself have had a few of the basic brainstorming sessions that were mentioned earlier on in this chapter, you’ll have a reasonably good idea of the outline structure for the day and this will help you to deal with the first questions that are fired at you! So when you’re asked when the wedding will be or who will be invited, you can state ‘we’ve discussed this together and we’ve decided on an intimate spring wedding/large winter wedding’ or whatever it is you’ve decided. When you state everything firmly, people soon get the message that there’s no room for interference but if you say ‘well, I think…’ in answer to any question, it sounds like there’s always the chance you could be persuaded to another way of thinking! And of course, by reiterating that every decision was a joint one, you sound even stronger. There’s no need to feel that you need to provide specifics at this point and if you feel you’re getting pushed, don’t feel bad about pointing out that you’re stilly newly engaged and you’re enjoying that feeling without needing to rush headlong into planning (maybe hide your ever expanding ideas file when you make that comment though!)

Expanded brainstorming – Including your family in the ideas and inspiration stage can really help too. Once you start talking together and bouncing suggestions around, things tend to develop more quickly and there are other people to provide objective opinions on ideas as well. The following suggestions might help make these discussions go more smoothly:-
Only offer options that you like – if you know you really want a high summer wedding, ask whether people feel July or August would be better. If you simply ask which month might be a good choice, you’ll be discussing Christmas weddings before you can say ‘I do’.
Be clear that this is an ideas session and not the point when you’ll make final decisions. Explain that you both want to go away and talk about the suggestions that were made before you jointly make a final decision. Point out that you want to make sure that your final choice is right for your both and that you don’t feel that anything about marriage and weddings should be rushed into. Even if you’re almost having to sit on your hands to stop yourself from grabbing the car keys and heading straight to the nearest dress shop to try on some gowns, it’s important to understand that you do need to consider things carefully before committing, especially to parents and relatives. It’s easy to say to your partner ‘I think I’ve changed my mind about this’ but when you’re having to make the same explanation to more people, it gets much harder and this is when people can start to become defensive.

Don’t build up other people’s expectations unnecessarily. It’s so tempting to enthuse over ideas that you’re not really keen on to please other people but although this initially seems like a good idea, there will come a point when it’s clear that you didn’t like that suggestion and wont’ be including it in the day. It’s better to pass over a comment early on than appear to love it only to have to drop it later, by which time it will be much harder.