Several years ago, when I was single and on the verge of accepting a life of celibacy, a new trend hit my news feed that sent me into an irrational spiral of rage. As if the new-born baby spam and those so called intelligent dating ads weren’t enough, I was now faced with smug pictures of newly engaged couples, giving each other piggybacks and prancing about in fields like Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. It wasn’t just the excessive display of affection or the annoying wedding hashtags that bothered me – they all just seemed so staged, and incredible cheesy. Pictures ranged from the moderately tolerable (the classic ‘pre-snog shots’, mouths wide open, noses-grazing etc) to the positively absurd (Why are you hiding behind that tree when we can obviously all see you? And, no. You do not need to cup your hands together in the shape of a heart to show us you’re engaged. The 20 + photos of your engagement ring do that perfectly thank you).
I’ve always considered myself a traditional girl with relatively traditional values, and when it comes to our big day in September, they’ll certainly be out in force; we’re sleeping in separate rooms the night before the wedding; I’ll be wearing a veil over my face; my father will be walking me down the aisle and giving me away at the altar; and we’ll be saying traditional vows. But when it comes to stationery etiquette – in particular invitations – we’ve taken a very modern approach. We’re not having any.
It’s a pretty big middle finger to tradition, particularly when just one year ago the thought of not having invitations was unthinkable. I sneered at those who decided to take their wedding ‘online’ and genuinely saw it as an erosion of traditional wedding etiquettes and a threat to the art of correspondence. But up to this point, all our communication for the wedding has been online, and it’s purely because we’re getting married abroad, it’s so much easier to relay information to guests and it’s saved us a huge amount of time and money.
So whether you’re a destination bride who’s starting to think about stationery or a modern bride looking for an alternative to the status-quo, here’s a summary of how I went about it.
You’d think it would be obvious, knowing who your best friends are and who you’d pick as your bridesmaids, and for most of you, maybe it was. For me on the other hand, choosing my bridesmaids was the most mentally divisive and emotionally draining decision I’ve ever had to make. The only other time I’ve found myself in a similar state of turmoil was when I was 15 and had to decide whether to euthanise my physically sound but internally crippled hamster Biggles, who I loved more than my brother.
Initially I tried to avoid the playground politics of picking a team of bridesmaids and at one point considered having none, but that just seemed depressing. I then considered three (to match the number of groomsmen) but selecting just a couple of girls from my best pals started to feel like my own miniature version of Sophie’s Choice and frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional guilt that would inevitably ensue. So in the end, I’ve gone from having none, to what most of my friends and family secretly refer to as a RIDICULOUS number of bridesmaids. I have six. All adult. Plus a flower girl and page boy because they’re so damn cute.
Let me be honest with you about lighting.
When we first started thinking about our decor arrangements, I have to admit that it was pretty low on our priority list. I’d read all the blogs and advice, I knew how important it was for creating an atmosphere, but beyond candles, I couldn’t see why we needed anything more. Along with photographers, videographers, entertainment and catering, it seemed yet another wedding expense that ‘we couldn’t possibly overlook’ if we wanted to create the perfect day – apparently.
Well – a few months on, my opinion remains largely unaltered due to the fact that candles happen to be most appropriate form of lighting for our ceremony and reception. What I have learnt in the last few months (despite my initial cynicism) it that it really is worthwhile looking into lighting options – particularly if you’re working from a blank canvas. So if you’ve no idea where to start and you’re in need of some professional and unbiased advice, make sure you read you RMW’s lighting guide here & here, and check out my tips at the bottom of this page!
I’ve read a lot of real wedding features since getting engaged and the one piece of advice I see over and over again is this: invest in a good photographer and make room in your budget for a videographer. Couples often profess it’s the best decision they made and encourage anyone sitting on the fence to do the same, and it’s easy to understand why. Having your wedding captured in both capacities gives you a very special opportunity to go back in time and relive those events and experience the emotions all over again. But does paying an extra £500 for your photographer really make a difference to how you recall those memories? And is a wedding video really worth it when you’re unlikely to watch it more than once a year?
It’s a topic that incites a lot of debate (and we’d love to see your thoughts and opinions in the comments box below), but ultimately it comes down to personal choice and budget. You might not be fussed about fine art photography and you might hate the thought of watching yourself on film, and that is fine. But if you are sitting on the fence, I advise you along with so many others on this blog to do as much research as possible – regret is the very worst!
If there’s anything I’ve learned since getting engaged, shopping for ‘the one’ is not always the blissful experience most of us imagine. Thanks to Hollywood movies and hit TV shows, it’s fair to say our expectations have been set; boutiques will be beautiful, champagne will be offered on arrival, dressing rooms will be large enough to waltz around in, and when you eventually have that ‘Cinderella moment’, everybody will cry (including your consultant). But unless you’re willing to pay £25 or more for the privilege, the reality is somewhat different. In several London boutiques I visited, I was lucky to be offered water, dressing rooms weren’t big enough to swing a cat, rear view mirrors were scarce, I had to fight with other brides for the pedestal (and occasionally the dress)…the list goes on. Fortunately, I found sanctuary in Phillipa Lepley who created an experience more memorable than when I first saw Kate Middleton step out of the car in that dress (I camped outside, I love the Royal Family – it was a big deal). But I have to admit, before getting to this point a small part of me was dreading the whole thing, and it wasn’t down to the stories I’d read online or the money I was likely to waste on appointments…
I finally get to reveal our venue! I distinctly remember the first time I saw it online. It was a few weeks after our engagement and long before we started thinking about budgets and discussing guest lists. I was at work talking to my colleague about having a wedding in Italy, namely Umbria, explaining how is was like Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs and American tourists, when I suddenly realised it would be the perfect region to get married in.
Cheaper than its famous neighbour Tuscany but as equally beautiful, Umbria is a region that’s unspoilt, unpretentious and completely unexpected. Its luscious landscape is dotted with enchanting medieval hilltop towns, all within easy reach of one another, and it has the most breath-taking vistas that seem to go on and on forever. It’s also only a few hours drive from Oliver’s family home, 90 minutes from Rome, it has an international airport near Perugia, and for those who want to explore Tuscany, it’s just next door.
So I promptly began one of the first of many non-work related research sessions, typed something generic into Google like “wedding in Italy” and ended up with nothing but links to wedding planners. So I got more specific.
“Stunning venue for a wedding in Umbria – review”.
That ought to do it, I thought, and it did. With these exact words, I came across a review on TripAdvisor about a venue that completely blew me away.
Until about a month ago, I’d never been to a wedding in my adult life. I didn’t even know that wedding blogs existed and I certainly never let myself within arm’s reach of a bridal magazine (because flipping that front cover prematurely would only jinx fate and I’d end up a spinster with 26 cats).
So when the time came to start planning our wedding, I had no idea where to start. I was a complete amateur with zero exposure to anything wedding related and there was so much I didn’t know. There were some who told me this was a good thing – I wouldn’t be influenced by other people’s choices or conform to what is so often expected at weddings. But whilst we’re all told the details won’t really matter on the day and that the only thing our guests care about is being there to witness one of the happiest days of our lives, the fact of the matter is this: GUESTS JUDGE AND DETAILS DO MATTER – despite what any bride or blog tells you! Ask anyone what they had for dinner last week and they won’t remember. Ask the same person about the food at the last wedding they went to and they’ll talk volumes about the canapés but balk over the fact the couple dared to serve a roast dinner on the hottest day of the year (I mean, how dare they?!)
This afternoon sees the start of a brand new series of blog posts for you lovely readers, which will resonate with anyone planning a destination wedding. We’ll be welcoming Bride-to-be Chiara to RMW once a month for a feature which will cover everything you need to know about planning a destination wedding – with a large pinch of decor and floral inspiration thrown in for good measure.
Chiara lives in London and is getting married to her handsome fiancé Oliver in Umbria, Italy next year. For her first post, we hear the story of how our couple met, the proposal and their overall theme and ideas for the big day. We begin with an epic poem, written for the lovely couple by one of Chiara’s best friends…