Ask The Experts – Hawke And Hughes.


Morning you gorgeous lot you…today as you are reading this I shall be on my way to the wedding “weekend” of some of our very good friends Lisa and Will. I am so excited I haven’t been able to sleep for a week….and the event is truly turning into a genuine a right old “Rock My Wedding” affair with RMW sponsors Anna Clarke and Simon Clarke capturing everything on camera and film, Mr O’Shea donning his fancy usher suit and our very own Adam Crohill second shooting…….Yours truly is even assisting with the blooms.

I’ll be posting a few sneak peeks on instagram (Charlotte O’Shea) if you want to keep updated!

Now then, just as I can remember from my own experience the amount of time and effort it takes to plan a big day (yes even a relatively small, intimate affair like my own) I have been very recently reminded having been involved in only a teeny tiny part of Lisa’s decor and logistical dilemmas.

As a result I thought it would be a good idea to perhaps incorporate some general wedding planning advice and tips in our Ask The Experts column courtesy of luxury event organisers Hawke and Hughes.


Launched in early 2012 by , luxury wedding & event design company Hawke & Hughes creates beautiful, bespoke and elegant weddings throughout the UK taking inspiration for its event design from the world of high-end fashion bringing a distinctive, cutting-edge look to every occasion.

Schooled by the renowned Niemierko Wedding Academy, Hawke & Hughes’ founders Emma Zamani-Hawke and Sam Hughes both have formal event planning expertise and an enviable black-book of industry contacts.

But don’t let the word “luxury” put you off asking the ladies any W-day related question your heart desires, they’re here on RMW this morning to offer advice regardless of budget and having met with them both in London recently I can tell you first hand that they have LOTS of super stylish ideas.

And yes their locks really are that glossy in real life.

They also have a rather enviable collection of shoes which I would very much like to half-inch.


Emma And Sam: We find that the majority of brides who get in touch with us are either completely overwhelmed by the planning process and have no idea what-so-ever where to begin, or have too many ideas and don’t know which direction to go in. In order to help you along the way we’ve compiled a list of ‘tips’ to consider when starting out with your big day planning, we hope it’s useful and provides some focus for your months of wed-min ahead!


Discuss And Decide

First of all it’s very important to sit down and discuss with your fiancé what type of wedding you want to have. It’s important to consider what your likes and dislikes are. Do you envisage a chic city wedding or a laid-back country affair? Once you have decided what type of wedding you are looking to achieve you can begin your venue search as the two go hand in hand. A plush hotel in the city centre doesn’t scream laid back country wedding – so knowing the type of wedding you want will help narrow down your search and lead you to the perfect venue!


Pick A Date

It’s best to start by choosing the time of year that suits you best, ensuring you consider holidays and major events. Then select three dates that work best for you, your fiancé and both your parents, so that you have some flexibility when arranging the ceremony and reception locations. Make an initial draft of your guest list. There’s no need for addresses and contact details just yet, but it’s good to get an idea of numbers as this has an effect on your budget, ceremony and reception.


The Budget

Never underestimate how much a wedding costs; the rule usually goes….decide how much you ‘think’ it would cost then double it! 😉

…..Especially if your taste is anything like ours!! 

Discuss with your fiancée how much is being contributed and by whom. Will the bride’s parents be covering the whole event or are you and your fiancé paying? How much are they/you able to contribute? Do you need to start saving some extra to have the wedding you want? Once you have an idea of your overall budget you can start looking for suitable venues that you know you can afford. Setting your budget is probably one of the most important parts of organising a wedding and it’s important to get it right; you don’t want to end up in debt!


The Styling

Once the important financial elements are out of the way you can start to focus on the more fun aspects of wedding planning. The most exciting part of planning a wedding, in our opinion, is the styling – what theme will the wedding have? You can gain inspiration all around you, from magazines, blogs, books, shop windows, interiors etc. It’s a good idea to start collecting images of all the different things you like as you’re going about your day-to-day life and slowly start building a moodboard, you’ll most likely see a pattern emerging. We do love a moodboard! So much so we even have a weekly feature called ‘Moodboard Monday’ on our blog. If you’re stuck for inspiration, pop along and have a peek into our world

With the likes of Pinterest, it’s so easy to create moodboards online with pictures you love. A few of our brides share photos they love with us and we use them as inspiration to incorporate or form as a base for their wedding day. They are great for compiling looks to show your different suppliers, from your florist to your caterer you can source images to provide a clear brief as to what look you are hoping to achieve. Looking at past weddings is another great source of inspiration. If you’re unsure as to how a particular idea may work, have a look on wedding blogs to see what/how other people have incorporated it, chances are someone somewhere has done it before!


Get Organised

Staying organised is very important and the best way to do so is to start a binder. Buy yourself some dividers and split it into categories such as: guest lists, budget, the dress, bridesmaids, invitations, flowers, cakes, reception ideas, contracts etc. Having everything accessible at a glance will help to keep you focused and will hopefully ensure you don’t get too overwhelmed by the planning process as it enables you to deal with one element at a time.  

Give your wedding a name….When a couple books with Hawke & Hughes their wedding is given a name based around the theme, the name can only be used once. No two weddings are the same. This creates an air of mystery/intrigue with guests as to what they can expect

Write a list…or if you’re an excel whizz start a spreadsheet, they will become your best friend and will be the only way you can keep on top of everything without feeling overwhelmed. Break down your wedding into sections and be sure to include each and every cost involved with the various elements. From groomswear to gifts and flowers every cost must be included, be sure to add information on whether deposits have been paid and when final payments are expected, the last thing you want to do is unexpectedly go over budget or miss out on final payments to secure your suppliers.


See? see what I mean about the shoes?

So then folks, what are you waiting for? ask away!

Big I’m keeping my fingers crossed for sunshine Love

Charlotte xxx

Author: Charlotte O’Shea
Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.

33 thoughts on “Ask The Experts – Hawke And Hughes.

  1. Happy Friday Lovelies!! 🙂

    We are here most of the morning to answer your Wedding Day dilemmas so please feel free to ask away and Thank you for the lovely post Charlottle 😉

    H&H xoxo

  2. Hi Emma and Sam, I have serious shoe envy right now!! I am planning my wedding but it’s not until Dec 2014 so still a long way off, I was wondering what should I really hold off booking / buying? I am getting carried away and wanting to plan everything now but I know my tastes may changes, do you have any tips on elements I should hold off on?

  3. Morning Lisa,

    Which girl can resist a good pair of shoes?! 😉 As much as we try, we definitely can’t!

    Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding, exciting times! Wedding planning goes in peaks and troughs. You’ll start and will be so overwhelmed with what there is to do, once you get the main items out the way then everything else can be sorted 3-6 months prior to the day.

    Most important of all is your venue, especially if you have your heart set on one already. Get this booked and that’s one big job done. After that, aim to do tick a couple of things of the list a month – that way you’ll be done in no time. However, if there are particular suppliers you’d like to do your wedding, get them booked up ASAP – you wouldn’t want to miss out! 😀

    There is so much choice in the wedding world, you need to be decisive and stick to a style otherwise you could end up with a mis-mash of looks on the day. A good way to get around this is the (ol’ fave) moodboard. If you pin everything you like on there you’ll soon start seeing your style and this will hopefully help you with your decision.

    Hope this helps and Good luck with the planning 🙂

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

  4. Thanks for your advice, I have recently joined Pinterest so am looking forward to becoming quickly addicted and making moodboards for the day. I have my venue booked so will focus on choosing my photographer and florist next because I definitely dont want to miss out and will try and hold off on the decor ideas until next year 🙂 I am very indecisive so as you recommend it’s definitely best to hold off on this. Every time I open a mag or look on here I change my ideas, there are too many pretty ideas!
    Thanks for your advice ladies 🙂

  5. Hi Emma and Sam,

    My wedding is in 4 months, eek! It’s going to be quite a big wedding, 180 people, as it was really important to us to have all our family and friends around us. We are getting married in our village church and the reception will be in a marquee. I love all the craft and styling ideas I see on the wedding blogs, but I am feeling quite intimidated at the thought of having a large space and lots of tables to decorate. I just don’t think I will have the time / sanity to make 180 personalised favours and name places. Do you have any ideas for decorating large spaces and lots of tables that have a big impact, but won’t take up every waking second to put together? Bunting just isn’t my bag!

    S x

  6. Hi Emma & Sam,

    Just to say hello and hope you gals are having a lovely morning so far! Cannot express how amazing Hawke & Hughes are, I am getting married in Septemer and since our first meeting over a couple of yummy “business” cocktails, it has been such a lovely experience working with them both. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of planning a wedding but Emma and Sam have made the process easy, fun and exciting! Counting the days til the BIG day, cannot wait to see all our plans come to life! Thank you ladies, you have been such a great support and I know that Ben and I’s wedding will be unforgettable. Don’t know what I would do without you!!!xoxo

  7. Hi Emma & Sam

    I’m getting married up in the Lake District on Easter weekend next year. The location of our venue is AMAZING!! Right on the shore of Lake Ullswater and surrounded by fabulous scenery. There are a couple of things that I’d love your opinions on. Hopefully we’ll be having our ceremony under a gazebo right next to the lake. Bu if the weather is bad it will be inside. The views from the ceremony room are still amazing so either way we’re very lucky. But what aisle decorations can I plan that will work well both inside and out? The other thing I’m struggling with is that the room we are having our wedding breakfast in is quite heavily styled with a pallet of lilac, ivory and champagne. I’m blending my colour scheme with this and adding grey and navy as I think they compliment it really well. But how can I decorate a room which is the total opposite to a blank canvas? Would tall centrepieces be too much? I’d love to hear your opinion.

    Claire xx

  8. Hi Sarah,

    Eeekkk!! Not too far away now!

    If it’s the country look you are going for go for lots of seasonal flowers in vases of various heights on the tables accompanied with lots and lots of candles. Candles are fab for creating a romantic ambiance and the soft lighting they give off is exquisite. The garden look is very much ‘in vogue’ at the minute so why not bring the outdoors in and purchase some large plants to place in the marquee?! Also, spend the money on coloured tablecloths – this will help inject some colour and break up the white, unless you are going for the white look….

    Paper lanterns are another inexpensive way of decorating. By hanging lots from the marquee in the wedding colours will help make an impact when guests walk in.

    Regarding favours, an idea could be to give your guests seeds to plant in their garden. This way, each year when they bloom – they’ll be reminded of your special day. Simple and effective, perfect!

    Good luck with the wedding and we hope the ideas help. Remember, nowadays anything goes! 🙂

    H&H xoxo

  9. Hi Kim!

    What a surprise to see you here!! Thank you so much for your kind words you lovely lady! Your wedding is going to be AH-MAZING and we can’t wait to see it all come together.

    Our life is of course made so much easier when we have the loveliest of couples to work with, who trust us to do what we do. And believe us when we say Kim is one of the easiest and most organised (seriously!!), brides we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Roll on September 😀

    We ‘may’ be sharing some images from Kim & Ben’s big day, so stay tuned 😉

    Speak soon Kim.
    Lots of Love,

  10. Hi Claire,

    Ooh! The Lake District, the setting sounds gorgeous!!

    For the aisle, we would keep things simple. Perhaps lanterns and rose petals going up the aisle and a flower wedding arch at the top of the aisle for you and your beloved to say your vows under. This would look GORGE!! *sigh*

    It’s impossible to say exactly what we would do without seeing the room itself, however, simplicity is key if the room is already busy. You don’t want your guests to walk in and not no where to look as there’s so much going on. What you’re doing is perfect, you have to complement the colours that are already in the room. Instead of having tall centrepieces, have lower ones on the tables so it doesn’t ‘clash’ with the room decor and if you can, give your tables an understated ‘wow’ factor so that guests are distracted from the other elements of the room that you wouldn’t want them to focus on. You’ll be surprised at what guests don’t focus in/pay attention too at a wedding.

    If you’d like to discuss further tips feel free to drop us a note 😀

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

  11. Hello!

    Bit of a random question – I love the skirts you’re both wearing in the pics, where are they from?? I’m getting married in November this year (eek!) and am currently looking for something to give my wedding dress a bit of volume, I don’t really want to spend a lot of money on a petticoat I’ll never wear again but yours look so pretty I can imagine wearing a skirt like that again!

    Ling x

  12. Hi Emma & Sam,

    I’m planning on rustic/home-made styled barn next July. We will be having a small gathering during the day and then 150 guests in the evening. My issue is similar to Sarah’s, but specifically I need help with decorating tables for the evening. I have no idea where to start! Place settings for a meal wont be needed, but I still want the tables to look busy, as I think bare tables (with just the centre flowers) change the look and feel of the whole room. Any ideas would be much appreciated.

    Nicole x x

  13. Hi ladies! I’m getting married on the 27th July this year and have most things sorted but I’m struggling a bit with the finishing touches… We’re getting married at my Grandmother’s house with a walled garden ceremony and marquee reception. I really want to avoid ‘shabby chic’ so no bunting! I have some big floral hearts from Monsoon’s shop window to hang at each end of the marquee…but that’s about it. Any ideas from you two would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you! Xxx

  14. Hi Ling,

    Haha, you wouldn’t believe the numerous emails we’ve been sent asking about where the tutus are from. To be honest, we can’t remember! :-/ We ordered them online a while back and between the pair of us, we’ve been racking our brains but to no avail.

    If we find out in the next couple of months we shall let you know ASAP!

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

  15. Bonjour H&H

    Firstly, I share the same question as Ling and your other tutu-envying readers re the tutus – please share the deets when you remember!

    My other question, (which will appear later today on my real bride 2014 application post..eek – i think i am up at 2.30pm..) is about kids at weddings…

    I am so nervous about how I approach the “sorry loved friend, but your kids aren’t invited to our wedding”… I know i can be more tactful than that, but it is really freaking me out. I have read several blog posts (of course the RMW one) with advice, but I don’t think I am comfortable with our approach yet.

    My predicament is…our wedding is in France with 100 (adult) guests, if we were to invite all of our friends’ kids we would have 27 kids under 5…our venue counts over 2s as adults so we would have to un-invite adult friends so that friends could bring their cherubs… or go well over budget and include all the kids… and if i am honest, i don’t want loads of kids running around playing sliding on knees on the jazzy dancefloor.

    Am I evil…?

    I wondered if you had any advice…?

    Thanks (sorry about the long post…)

  16. Hi Emma and Sam

    I’m getting married in just over 8 weeks and most things are sorted but I was hoping you could offer me some advice on a couple of issues we are still debating about. The first is guest books. I think we want to go down the traditional route of an actual book, although we are still toying with the idea of having a photo frame for people to sign, but I’m struggling to find a decent one. Any suggestions of where I should be looking? My other question is with regards to the present/card table. With an online gift list I’ve been questioning the need for one but I don’t want to get caught out so do you have any styling tips?

    Thank you

  17. I love the idea of lanterns and petals for he aisle! And I think you’re probably right about lower centrepieces bring a better idea. I want to make sure people can see each other across the table too! Thank you so much for the tips! I seem o have so many different ideas that sometimes I think I just need someone to tell me what to do!

    Claire xx

  18. Hi Nicole,

    We are loving the different styling everyone is having at their weddings… go girls! 😉

    The first thing that screams to mind when we hear barn – candles and fairy lights! (that’s two things but still, we’ve never been the girls who follow rules!)

    We recently posted a picture on our Instagram (hawkeandhughes) which we think would look fab at a barn wedding. Collect some jars and get different types of lace to put around the jar. Use these as candleholders to accompany flowers for the tables and for around the barn. You have to see the picture to see how good it can look. I’ve included a link…hopefully you’ll be able to see the picture.

    Another way of making the tables look busy is by jazzing up the table linen. All too often brides tend to go for plain tablecloths but there are so many wonderful textured ones out there. We are currently working with Eventiz Couture to custom make some table cloths for one of our weddings. It will give the table a different look and is so simple to accomplish.

    Regarding flowers, as it’s a barn wedding you could go totally different and instead of using vases/jars use a bucket (wooden or metal) that your flowers could sit in. It will definitely be a talking point for your guests and if done right, looks soooo cute!!

    Should you feel you need help with just the styling element, we do offer a service just for that. Good luck with the wedding plans.

    Love From,

  19. Hi Sam & Emma,

    Seeing that you’re clearly shoe lovers, I thought you might know a hidden gem out there to find shoes for my ‘broader than usual’ feet! Generally, I buy ‘normal’ shoes and they’re fine, but I do start to feel the pinch after a few hours, so was hoping to find some gorgeous shoes for the weding with that little bit of extra room at the front for ultimate comfort. However, Clarks shoes just aren’t going to cut it with my lovely tea length dress! I know you’re wedding planners and not necessarily stylists (although you are very stylish!), but no harm in asking… Thank-you from me and my plates of meat! 🙂 xxx

  20. Hi Francesca,

    The walled garden sounds so pretty!! Can we get an invite? 😉

    Just because you’re reception is in a marquee you’re quite right, it doesn’t mean it has to go down the ‘shabby chic’ route. Your guests will most likely expect that look when they walk in so why not surprise them and make it a glam affair? If your budget allows, have large urns of flowers strategically placed, chandeliers hanging, draping around the marquee, soft music playing as they enter. You can achieve this look without being too opulent. We specialise in laid back luxe and the key is simplicity but pretty. If you check out our blog for our moodboards hopefully you’ll find something you can draw inspiration from, there is there’s a new moodboard every Monday and with a marquee, it really is a blank canvas for you to do as you see fir.

    If you’re still struggling, feel free to drop us a line and we’ll help you where we can,

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

  21. Bonjour Nicole,

    Haha, your question did make us chuckle! Kids at weddings is a tough one. Personally, we believe little people and weddings don’t mix, unless of course they are a flowergirl or a pageboy then that is too adorable!! However, in most cases, children are too young to understand what weddings are about, and the parents spend all day distracted looking after their little ones.

    Our approach is to include a simple one liner on your invitation which states something along the lines of: to allow all guests to relax and enjoy themselves we have chosen for our wedding day to be adults only. Another approach could be to blame space restrictions at the venue. However, as your wedding is abroad and people will most likely want to make a weekend of it, you have to be prepared for some guests not being able to attend due to child care requirement – which can be a nightmare (as a mother I know only to well – Sam x) where as others will see it as a chance to get away and enjoy a break from their children.

    You are definitely not alone on this one, nor are you evil!! 😉 Good luck,

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

    P.S Good luck with your Real Bride application post! x

  22. Hi Sarah G,

    Definitely not long to go for you now! Have the nerves kicked in yet?

    Regarding the guest book/frame, have you had a look on There are some lovely items on there and better yet, you can get them personalised.

    Styling wise, we would set a poseur table up with the guest book on or if you’re having a frame, stand it near to the table and make a small sign, or a box, where presents and cards guests may bring to be placed. Depending on the styling of your day, if you’re going for laid back country chic, do the cutest wooden crates which you can personalised and this can be used to place wedding gifts and cards in.

    Good luck with the wedding and let’s hope the sun shines for you! 😀

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

  23. Thanks so much for your help…

    Feeling much better about un-inviting the “little people” now… already just calling them that is much softer than “kids!”

    Enjoy your morning @ RMW


  24. Hi Kiki,

    Ask us a fashion question and we are in our element!

    Clarks simply will not do darling, no way Jose – especially not on our watch! 😉 Most brides like to splash out on their wedding shoes, after all a pair of shoes can change a girls life – just look at Cinderella!

    If it’s a designer pair you are after, Jimmy Choo makes couture shoes. These are available by appointment only at Connaught Street in London. As the word couture suggests, they will be made to your feet to ensure comfort and if you get a style that you can wear after your wedding then they’ll be a fabulous investment.

    Emmy also make bespoke wedding shoes, here’s the link for you to read more about the process

    The last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day is painful feet so making sure you invest in your shoes will be worthwhile. Remember, there’s nothing stopping you changing into flat shoes for the evening so you can dance the night away, but if you’re a girl after our own hearts; heels are a sure way to make you feel fabulous for the whole day! 😀

    Lots of Love,
    H&H xoxo

  25. Hi ladies,

    Also loving the tutus! 🙂

    I’m getting married in July and also having a marquee reception… We’ve got loads of candle holders for the tables as well as jars for the flowers, but now I’m wondering how candles will work given that its summer and it will still be light outside. Do you just light them anyway or will it be a bit of a waste of time?

    Also… do you have any inspired ideas for table plans? We’re struggling!

    Thanks in advance,
    Naomi xx

  26. Hi Naomi,

    Aww, thanks! The tutus seem to be a hit with you Bride-to-be’s 😉

    For the candles to be effective it would be best to light them when the sun is going down. As you are getting married in July, sunset will be around 9pm-ish depending on whether it’s early/late July. Make sure you have someone to go around lighting the candles at around this time, it will light up the marquee and give it a lovely glow.

    There are so many ideas for table plans – you could have it on a large frame, mirror, a wooden sign – anything goes. Or you could create escort cards. People take the card with their name on it and it tells them which table they are seated at. There are so many ways to display them – the list is endless. Advice we would give though is consider how many people there are at your wedding. If it’s a large wedding and you’re planning on going down the table plan route make sure there’s more than one to avoid creating a bottleneck for people to be seated for dinner.

    For lots of ideas check out pinterest – we are sure there’ll be something on there you’ll like the look of.


  27. Hi Ladies!

    Another Real Bride finalist here, and I am in awe of your tutus!! Wish I could get away with wearing them to work!!

    A while ago on Pinterest I spotted some glitter tableclothes which are utterly gorgeous but I don’t seem able to find them anywhere in the UK (apart from H&M but theirs are too small 🙁 ) Do you know where I might be able to find any in the UK for a reasonable price?

    Thanks in advance!

    Andrea x

  28. Hi there,

    I’m going to be really original and say I loved your tutus too!

    I’m getting married in September this year in London. The venue for the reception is a listed building so we are quite limited on decorations – no candles, nothing on the walls etc. The reception room has a lovely chequerboard floor and is quite ornate, so we are going for tall vases of white flowers on our tables whilst we are eating.

    In the evening though, we move to a much plainer area underneath, which also has white walls. Do you have any suggestions for how we can lighten up the area, given our limitations? I’m trying to go for a glam city look (my very loose theme is ‘London’) if that helps!



  29. Hi Andrea,

    Sometimes we just put on the tutus and float about 😉 Too much fun!! Haha.

    We think we know the ones you are talking about. An American company hire them but it works out very expensive due to shipping costs. We do know of someone who made one recently from her name is Blanca and it may be worth enquiring with her. However, if you can make do with one – even just for the top table, to make an impact, then we may have a solution for you. Feel free to drop us an email at if you are interested and we can discuss it further.

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

  30. Hi Charlotte,

    We are glad you asked this question as we haven’t touched on it in our previous answers…the answer to your problems is lighting!

    Lighting is so important at a wedding and can change the mood instantly. There are all types of lighting you could incorporate, with the most basic type being uplighters. This will give the whitest of walls some character and will enhance the glam look you’re going for. If you want to find out more about lighting, contact Matt Maurice at and he will be able to help answer all your ‘lighting’ questions; including which lights will work best for the look you’re going for.

    Should you want candles on the tables, check with the venue to see if they’ll allow LED candles. They are a great alternative to the real thing, without the risk of a naked flame.

    Hope this helps 🙂

    Love From,
    H&H xoxo

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