I love a wedding with a bit of variety and Luci and Will’s day certainly provided that! From two beautiful locations in Saffron Walden to afternoon tea, from Samba to folk music, magicians to giant jenga, blazing sunshine to torrential thunderstorm, and finally a cadleigh in the evening – Luci and Will’s day really did have it all. However the best thing I remember is the fantastic atmosphere, completely chilled and fun, full of love and warmth and, as the bands played in the tents in the sunshine and the guests drank beer on the lawn the reception felt like a fantastic mini music festival rather than just a wedding reception! If I was going to be guest at a wedding this is exactly the sort of wedding I would love to come to!
I started off by photographing preparations at Luci’s parent’s house in the morning before heading off to the very impressive and beautiful St Mary’s church in Saffron Walden. After the ceremony there was Samba outside the church before we all made our way through the little streets and alley ways of Saffron Walden to Bridge End Gardens. The gardens really are an absolute hidden gem and you really couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting for a marquee reception. The afternoon was spent playing lawn games, listening to a variety of music before afternoon tea was served. More relaxing garden party/mini festival relaxation followed before the evening buffet and speeches during which there was an absolutely torrential thunderstorm as the hot weather of the afternoon broke. Into the evening and there was music and dancing.
I had a thoroughly fantastic time and it was one of those days where you come away with a warm glow in your heart and a rather smug feeling of satisfaction at having been part of, and also been given the privelige of recording such a personal and special event.
Are you just about to start planning your wedding and feel a little lost, don’t know where to start and are in need of some practical support and advice? Are you in the middle of planning and, rather than being fun and fulfilling, it’s draining your time, stressing you out and taking over your life? Or are you in the final few days in the run up to the big day – sleep deprived, snowed under by “to do” lists and confused by mobile toilet specifications and flooring options for your marquee?
If any of the above sounds familiar then you might well want to consider the possibility of using a wedding planner. I think often brides don’t even consider this as an option as they are not fully aware of the types of help and support that a planner can bring to your wedding. Maybe it can seem as though organising a planner is just another job to do, so I thought it would be helpful to gather together some information and to find out a few more details.
For the first part of my new career in investigative journalism (!) I chatted to Zoe McKeown from Cherish Wedding Planning and started off by asking her about the advantages of hiring a wedding planner and how it could benefit a bride and groom. One of the main interesting points for me, and one that I suppose that I hadn’t previously realised, was that Zoe was talking about how couples often hire her to help with certain parts or segments of the planning process. I think I had previously assumed that a planner was there from beginning to end and that they took control of the the whole process. It was reassuring to hear that a planner might just help with getting quotes from suppliers, coordinating things on the day or perhaps just at the outset to get the ball rolling. Zoe was also reassuringly clear about how a planner will always work with you and your ideas and just how much of a collaborative process it clearly is. I also asked Zoe about ways that using a planner might actually save you money and she explains a number of ways that a planners experience and bargaining skills might well create cost savings. There is also a lovely moment in the video where Zoe explains that she passionately believes that “couples should enjoy planning as much as they do the wedding day itself” and I think that this is a great sentiment and often, by using the services of a planner, it’s possible to cut out a number of the more tedious planning tasks and bring the excitement and joy back into the whole experience!
I then spoke to Katrina Otter from Katrina Otter Weddings and Events and asked her specifically about how helpful it can be to have a planner with you on the actual wedding day itself. As Katrina mentions, this is becoming an increasingly popular service especially with the increasing complexity of modern weddings and also with a number of larger wedding venues only allocating a relatively short window of time for setting up each wedding. Again, Katrina emphasised just how much of a collaborative effort this is involving liaising with the couple before hand and working with them and, as she said, doing “whatever the couple want me to do on the day”. This might range from organising suppliers and sorting out problems to going to the nearest supermarket to pick up emergency supplies! I think the over-riding feeling I got from this is just how reassuring it must be on your wedding day to have someone there who will take care of all of the practicalities in just the way that you want. A wedding is a a huge day both emotionally and practically and to be able to just concentrate on enjoying it and having the time to savour it without worrying about the table plans must be immensely reassuring and offer great peace of mind. Katrina also mentioned that she often will be available for the couple for the whole day, right up until the end to ensure that taxis are called and everyone gets to where they are going without a hitch.
Finally, I caught up with Bernadette Chapman from Dream Occasions and co-author of the new book “Wedding Planning for Dummies”. I asked Bernadette about how you should go about actually finding the right planner for you and she offered some great insights into researching planners and comparing what services they offer. The real take away point was that the most important ingredient in the relationship between a planning bride and groom and a wedding planner is rapport. In fact Bernadette did say that your planner may well start to feel like “part of the family, or your new best friend” throughout the planning process and this rapport is built by making sure that you are stylistically thinking along the same lines and that you actually connect and get along on a personal basis. Bernadette specialises in marquee weddings and we also talked about the rewards and challenges of these types of events before finally going onto consider how a wedding planner can advise you stylistically and can help bring your creative vision to life. We talked about a number of sources that are good for gaining inspiration and also how to use these starting points to really develop the personality and character of your wedding and to achieve a real “wow” factor when everything comes together on the day.
All of the interviews were absolutely packed full of useful gems of information and advice but I came away with two main points – both of which I think I hadn’t really appreciated until I spoke to Zoe, Katrina and Bernadette. The first was that I had, somewhere in my subconscious, a bit of an assumption that a wedding planner would take over, you would lose creative control and that they would plan for you rather than with you. This was clearly very misguided and it was very clear from all of the planners that I spoke to that it is very much a collaborative process and that they are there to support and advise and do whatever you would like them to do. It is still absolutely your day and the planner will be there to make your day happen in the way that you want it to.
The second incorrect assumption I had made is that a planner was automatically involved with your wedding from the start of the planning right through to the end and I found the concept of using a planner to help in certain areas really appealing. I can imagine a number of couples really enjoying planning their big day but struggling in certain areas, be it doing the leg work in choosing suppliers or liaising about final details on the day and using the expertise of a planner to help out just in these key areas.
A wedding is a whole experience from engagement right up until the end of the day itself. (Well actually that’s only the start of a life time journey!) It seems to me that the whole of this process should be enjoyed and using a wedding planner, whether throughout or just in certain areas can ease the burden, reduce the stress and bring back the joy! In all probability a planner can save you money, they can certainly save you time, so financially it can make sense as well.
A massive thank you to Zoe, Katrina and Bernadette for offering their time and expertise so generously. You can find their contact details below:
Pip and George got married at the very beautiful Hampstead Parish church in London before moving to St Stephen’s (another converted church which is now the most beautiful multi purpose venue) for their reception. As you can see it rained, and rained and then rained some more before the skies finally cleared and the sun shone briefly in the early evening. I actually don’t mind the rain so much, it can make for some interesting photographs – reflections, people running to keep dry, huddling under umbrellas – and people generally quite like something to chat about and a bit of bad weather is great for raising English spirits!
Despite the rain the day was fantastic fun and I had a great time photographing everyone enjoying themselves. I have included some of my favourite moments below – I think my personal favourite is the one of Pip and George giggling together at something during the ceremony (7th one down). I think it was possibly during a hymn, it was the type of image that was “hard won” from my point of view – I sort of knew that it was inevitably going to happen and it was the result of a good few minutes of patient waiting on my part. The glance between them only lasted for a second or so but it was well worth the wait – I love George’s crazy fun expression!