When it comes to the wedding ‘first dance’ there are two camps – you either love it, or you loathe it. And I think it’s safe to say, without a shadow of a doubt, Stephanie and Ben loved it. Performing a seven minute long choreographed first dance routine, this pair absolutely owned the dance floor. It was the perfect excuse for Stephanie to buy a short and sweet Alexander McQueen number too.
Stephanie has written the longest real wedding report in the history of RMW time, so I’m going to let her tell you all about her big day, get comfy, it’s full of brilliant advice…
Stephanie the Bride: I’d never been a girl who had always dreamed of her perfect wedding dress. I didn’t have a clue! People’s advice could also be so conflicting: some would say ‘keep an open mind, I know so many people who tried on something they wouldn’t usually dare and it really surprised them’, then some would say ‘don’t do anything too different, you still want to look like you on your wedding day’. I took on a combination of this in my search for my wedding dress.
Usually I flick right past them, but I started by looking at a load of wedding dress adverts in magazines and noted down the designers I liked the look of. I then looked at where those designers were stocked. The same shops will start to emerge time and again – it’s most likely if you like one of the designers there, you’ll like the rest that they stock too.
I did keep an open mind on the first few visits to wedding dress shops. I picked up a variety of styles to try and it soon became evident which shapes suited me best, which helped to narrow the search on future occasions. This is pretty crucial given that most shops in London only give you an hour to look for and try on the dresses!
But I think the ‘be you’ mantra is most important. I didn’t want anything to distract from the enjoyment of the day itself, let alone the dress. I knew I would feel self-conscious if I wore something strapless and would be constantly hoicking it up to avoid any pop-outs! And I knew I didn’t want to wear anything too tight, as then I’d feel like I’d have to wear control underwear. I didn’t want to be spending 5 minutes every time I went to the toilet wriggling out of them and jumping back into them! Time is so precious on your wedding day, don’t waste it on that!
Blackburn Bridal in Blackheath was the first bridal shop I went to, and after visiting a number of other boutiques, it ended up being the place that I bought my dress after all! Blackburn Bridal is the flagship store for LA designer Claire Pettibone in the UK. I loved the look of her dresses in pictures and they lived up to expectations in person too. I feel ‘structured boho’ is probably the best way to describe her dresses! They were different from anything else I could find – you certainly feel you won’t have seen anyone else wearing something similar – but not so dramatically that it feels like a glorified evening gown – it’s still obviously bridal! She has such a keen eye for detail and her dresses are exquisitely made too. It made me feel so special.
After umming and ahhing over so many in her collection, I finally chose the Cora dress. It gave such a flowing and flattering silhouette and the shade beautifully suited my skin tone. It had a scalloped neckline, capped sleeves, sheer back, synched in at the waistline with a French Guipure lace belt and the skirt kicked out slightly with a scalloped hemline too. So many people asked me if it was a genuine vintage dress and some even compared it to Kate Moss’ wedding dress – which is my favourite celebrity wedding dress (I even went to the V&A exhibition to see it!) – so I took this as a huge compliment!
As much as I loved the Cora dress, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear it for our first dance – which became something of a Strictly-style show dance! It was so delicate – with lots of spins, swivels and sashays, and even some lifts, I was afraid it would rip! I didn’t want to ruin it but neither did I want to restrict myself in the dance, so I decided to search for a shorter dress which still had an air of bridal wear to it.
I had actually been helping my mum to find a mother of the bride outfit in the Net-a-Porter sale when I came across an Alexander McQueen dress. I had always intended to buy something from the high street for the dance – it seemed far too extravagant to splurge on a second wedding dress! Yet this Alexander McQueen design ticked every box – it was an ivory, a-line cut with a cascading pleated skirt falling just above the knee that I could tell would create a killer twirl! I still couldn’t bring myself to buy it and spent so much time searching for something else on the high street to absolutely no avail. But the Alexander McQueen dress just kept going down and down in the sale! In the end, my mum said I should invest it, rather than endlessly shopping around for something not quite right. It was so worth it and I have worn it since the wedding so it’s not just sitting in a box at the back of the wardrobe either!
My mum also wanted to get me a keepsake for the wedding, but the only jewellery I ever wear is big beaded necklaces, which wasn’t quite the right accessory for the occasion! So the headpiece seemed like a perfect alternative. When I looked at Debbie’s website, I realised she is actually based in Sheffield, which isn’t too far from my parents’ home. Her studio is like an oasis of calm in the city centre and she is so lovely. We spent as much time as we wanted trying her different styles and then she suggested she could make something bespoke, showing me how she would do it. She actually created something in two parts (though you would never have known) so in future if I want to go for a full-on look, I can do, but equally I can do something more subtle too.
Amanda Bell did my make-up. She was one of the first people I booked! I knew she had worked in Paris and London for some top brands and she used to be the official head make-up artist at the BAFTAs, but had moved back to her native north-east to be a freelance make-up artist, so I guessed she would be in high demand! Amanda was more expensive than other MUAs, but so worth it – she looked at what we would usually wear and just enhanced that – rather than radically changing us. The rather appropriately named Alice Hare did my hair! She trained and worked for a number of years at The Castle Spa near Hull, where I grew up and has been my hairdresser ever since I was young. After a series of disastrous experiences at other hairdressers near Durham, Alice kindly agreed to travel up on the day of my wedding – and the style stayed in all day and night, from 11am to 1am is no mean feat!
Ben sweetly said that he would prefer the clothing budget to swing more in my favour than his. But after looking around the high street stores and not really finding any suits that suited him, he chose to have one made to order at Marks & Spencer. M&S only offer this service at its store in Marble Arch and there are only two tailors there – Lynne and Joseph. They told us that we needed to go for a two-hour appointment to have the fitting and find the suit. But we hadn’t anticipated how many cloths, linings, threads, buttons, cuts etc. there were to choose from! I think we just about managed to decide on the cloth at the first appointment!
Consequently we got to know everyone in the M&S menswear department by name at Marble Arch and whenever they saw us, they allowed us just to sit in the corner and sift through all of the books! The team there are so friendly – we had lots of fun sitting in the store, talking to the staff about the times that David Gandy and Dermot O’Leary come to get their made to order suits from M&S too!
It can cost as little or as much as you’d like it to, depending on what types of things you choose, but Ben treated himself to a very soft but light Italian wool in a very unusual blueish/greyish colour, accompanied by a beige waistcoat with a paisley print silk back. Ben is a die-hard Burnley FC supporter, whose team colours are claret and blue, so he wished to have a claret coloured tie to finish off his blue suit. He even found some claret and sky blue socks in Ted Baker as well.
He completed his outfit with cufflinks from the college where we met at university and a watch he’d bought when we first started dating but had broken. He didn’t know I had taken it to get fixed and I gave it to him as a surprise on the morning of the wedding. Apparently he had had the same idea to get it repaired for of the wedding, but he didn’t dare tell me that he couldn’t find where it was!
We’ve always felt that a wedding should be a reflection of both of the couple, including the venue. Ben and I always knew we would like to get married in Durham. It’s where we met at university and so it’s somewhere that has always held a special place in our hearts. And in our minds, it’s one of the prettiest cities in the UK, so not a bad backdrop to boot for your wedding day!
This said, we believe that it’s the people that make a wedding, not the place. We didn’t like the idea of a ‘day’ list and an ‘evening’ list and we wanted to have all of our friends and family alongside us for each special moment. Durham is quite a small city and so there aren’t many venues where you could fit 100+ guests for the ceremony as well as the reception. But luckily, our top choice Durham Castle could! It proved to be the perfect blend of people and place.
We were so fortunate that Durham Castle had just become licensed for civil weddings and we decided to have an outdoor ceremony in the Fellows’ Garden which is surrounded on all sides by the Castle walls. Nature is the most beautiful backdrop of all and we had always hoped to have something outside, but obviously most Northern venues don’t really offer it! I truly believe that we were being looked upon on our wedding day, the weather was absolutely glorious all weekend. The Fellows’ Garden didn’t need much decoration at all – we had some simple shepherd’s sticks with some hanging glass jars filled with flowers along the aisle and some floral centrepieces at the front – and it looked stunning in the sunshine.
They close the Castle especially for weddings – it’s remarkable to have the run of a place like that to yourselves! So as well as the Fellows’ Garden, we used the Castle courtyard for our drinks reception, group photographs and garden games, the Great Hall for our wedding breakfast and disco, and the Undercroft bar for our pub quiz! The Bishop’s Suite – which is the honeymoon suite – was bigger than our London flat, filled with historic tapestries and had its very own four poster bed too!
Sam and the team at Durham Castle were superb. We knew from our time at university that you can’t meet a friendlier or warmer bunch than the people of Durham. But the Durham Castle team in particular were so amenable and accommodating to our wedding whims! They knew we had both attended Hatfield College, so they assigned one of the Hatfield College staff to be our Master of Ceremonies and he wore the College tie especially for the occasion. Thoughtful touches like that make all the difference. We also couldn’t believe when we saw the video of our wedding dance that all of the team were at the back of the Great Hall, cheering us along too!
We decided not to have a particular colour scheme. It felt like it could become far too restricting – we knew couples who couldn’t find certain items in their colour and it became a huge headache for them. And while those little touches seem important at the time, none of your guests are going to notice whether something matches or not! We thought it was better to choose your tone – so in general we had a pastel palette, from the flowers to the confetti cones, which my parents made out of some card from Hobbycraft! Though that said, we had bright blue and purple photo frames on the windowsills of the Castle hall, featuring photographs of other weddings we had attended which couples could take home with them, as well blue and purple uplighting for the evening reception, and we had a green cake – but all of these colours were already included in paler shades in our floral centrepieces. And my dad made a bright red postbox for all of our cards – we bought a MDF template from Amazon and then he got lots of cans of red and gold spray paint. You can hire vintage postboxes for the day, but it’s nice to have the memento for our post at home now! As you can tell, we really weren’t conscious about colours, but somehow it all worked together!
Ben and I both love our food and our travels, so our table names reflected our favourite restaurants that we’d visited around the world. Our designer – Richard Small from Letter Presser in Hampton Wick, South West London – really went to town on the table plan, table names, the place names and the menus, all of which were created in the restaurant’s own branding. How he managed to achieve it, I have no idea! He also made our orders of service and invitations, which looked like plane tickets from our own airline in the colours of Ben’s beloved Burnley FC. However he probably did too good a job, as a number of our guests thought a loved one had bought them a surprise trip away! We don’t know if they were disappointed it was only our wedding instead…!
Rather than have a guest book, which inevitably people always forget to sign and then drunkenly scribble something inside at the end of the night, we had a card to complete at each person’s place setting. We’d seen it at my friend’s Sophie wedding and we thought it was such a good idea! I believe she bought them from Adam’s Apple (who have a great range of confetti too) but we made them ourselves. Each card was accompanied by a personalised pen too, with our names and the date of our wedding. Most guests took the pens home with them, so there’s no excuse not to remember our anniversary too!
Our florist was Hollie at Fleur Couture, who is based in the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle. We had visited other florists and it ranged from those who couldn’t tell us what flowers would be in season in late August to those who were extremely knowledgeable but weren’t very collaborative in their approach. Hollie listened to our very rough brief and then talked us through what was actually achievable. She pitched in lots of suggestions, but she wasn’t pushy with it at all, they were inventive ideas about how we could create the desired effect yet save money at the same time! For example, I had really wanted a flower arch but this would have completely blown the budget! So instead we had two urns filled full to the brim either side of our ‘altar’, which were then moved to the entrance to the Castle hall during the drinks reception and then into the hall itself for the reception. We recycled everything during the day and night multiple times over!
Like my dress, I also asked for ‘structured boho’ for my bouquet. And I told Hollie that I would really like it to be fragrant, especially with scents to bring back happy memories – such as eucalyptus to remind me of mine and Ben’s month-long trip around Australia just before we got engaged. I had dusty pink memory lane roses, sky blue delphiniums, lilac scabiosas, pale yellow stocks, plus sprigs of rosemary and mint (whose flowers are a very pretty purple).
As the castle hall is so grand itself, we felt the floral centrepieces needed to match – smaller centrepieces on each table would have got somewhat lost in the room. So we had less but more. We had 5 ‘trees’. Hollie created big balls from large flowers such as hydrangeas and lots of foliage, plus some of the flowers from my bouquet, which sat on top of tall glass vases adorned with twigs and moss and tealights hanging from the ‘trees’. We had so many compliments on those centrepieces!
You have to put a lot of trust in your florist; Hollie was always very clear that she would have to work with what she could get at market at the time and so I was very nervous as to what to expect! But she had clearly got what we wanted – the bouquet and the arrangements were everything and more than we could have imagined!
The Wedding Party
I chose not to have any bridesmaids. I have lots of female friends, so it would have been too hard to whittle it down! Plus a lot of my friends, family and colleagues who have been part of a bridal party previously seemed only to complain every step of the way towards the wedding – and I even know people who have fallen out over it – so I didn’t want to put any of them in this position! I wanted them all to enjoy the day as they wanted, not how they were told to.
Though Ben took the opposite approach and had as many people as he wanted to be his groomsmen! As it would have been too expensive to kit them all out, we provided them with a tie and pocket square each (the same as Ben’s in the claret of his beloved Burnley FC!) plus a flower buttonhole, but everyone wore their own suits.
We also had a flower girl and flower boy (our honorary niece and nephew). Luckily our nephew already had a little suit from Monsoon which he’d bought for Ben’s sister’s wedding a few months prior to ours, so he wore that with the same tie as all of the other men (Ben’s mum had shortened it for him!) I looked all around for a flower girl dress, but actually Next had some fantastic choices of girls’ party dresses, which could work well for a wedding too. The one I’d seen had sold out, but my mum kept checking back on their website for returns and luckily one appeared back in Beth’s size so she got it straight away! And the skirt twirled which seemed to be the most important thing for Beth!
For my arrival at the ceremony, when we had researched the cost of chauffeur-driven cars, we found that it wasn’t so cheap. Having had a look online to see what was available, we actually decided to hire a classic car for the day. We booked a 1970 Jaguar E-Type from Northumbria Classic Car Hire and this turned out to be a great option. Ben got to have fun driving it the night before the wedding and one of the ushers Rob drove me on the morning of the big day. I felt a million dollars arriving at the ceremony in it and it almost seemed like something out of a James Bond film when Ben drove us away from the ceremony in this beauty.
The best ceremonies we had attended were the ones that had felt completely personal to the couple. We can’t remember how many times we’ve had to sing ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’ or listen to ‘Corinthian Chapter 13 (the verse quoting love is patient, love is kind)’! So we were adamant from the start that we were going to make the ceremony our own.
Our guests got their first taster of this from the orders of service, which looked like a celebrity magazine cover. I work in PR and writing is one of my favourite parts of the job, so when I got engaged, my colleagues joked that I should have written the news in a press release to announce it! And I thought ‘hey, there could be something in that’! We also included some little quizzes at the back too, about wedding traditions around the world and funny facts about our wedding guests. If you don’t know many other people at the wedding, it is a particularly pleasant touch to have some extra reading material while you are waiting around for the bride’s arrival and the signing of the register!
Ben and I each chose a person to do a reading. Ben’s Uncle Bob read Mark Twain’s poem ‘These I Can Promise You’ and one of my best friends, Rebecca who had travelled all the way from her home in New York for the wedding, wrote her very own beautiful poem for the occasion, which was just perfect.
Fortuitously, two of our good friends are in a fantastic wedding band called Brass Funkeys.They were getting married themselves just a few months before us, so we agreed that Ben would take some photographs at their wedding and they would play at our ceremony in return, instead of buying gifts for one another. They especially arranged a number of songs for us. I walked in to ‘God Only Knows’ as my dad is the world’s biggest Beach Boys fan, then we had ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’, ‘L.O.V.E’, ‘When I’m 64’ and ‘Enjoy Yourself’ – all of which we felt were very apt! I think a few people were taken aback by these, but once we had encouraged everyone to stand up and sing along, it was good fun!
But our best decision was to write our own vows. We were crying one second, then laughing the next and I think the congregation were going on the same emotional journey too! Our personal promises meant so much more to us than the official vows and it was one of the stand out moments of the day.
We then walked out to Angry Anderson’s ‘Suddenly’ (played out from some wireless speakers) which was the song used at Scott & Charlene’s wedding in Neighbours. We first bonded over our love for the Aussie soap and the words are so touching for a wedding – so it felt like the right fit for us to start married life!
We had a long drinks reception, so we could have time to travel around Durham city centre for some photographs, and we knew we would have to try hard to keep our guests entertained for three hours! Durham Castle is a popular tourist destination and they run guided tours throughout the year. So we asked if they could continue for our guests too! They proved to be extremely popular. We also had a number of garden games and Mike the Magician during the drinks, who amazed our guests with his tricks.
During the reception, we had Andrelli, a four-piece string quartet play throughout the meal. My friend Nikki had taken me for an afternoon tea at The Pump Room in Bath for my hen do and they had a string quartet play during the tea there – it created such a lovely atmosphere, we decided quite late in the day to look into this! We were amazed to get Andrelli at such a late stage – they literally fitted us in between two other gigs! Ben had always thought that he would like me to walk down the aisle to ‘Canon in D’ and I had asked if the moment could be a special song for me and my dad instead, so we compromised on walking together into the hall as husband and wife to ‘Canon in D’. We chose songs specially for certain guests and it was so heart-warming to see the likes of Ben’s cousin’s husband, who is a staunch Liverpool FC fan, to sway an imaginary scarf to ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ during the wedding breakfast!
The Castle bar called ‘The Undercroft’ or ‘The Undie’ is legendary in Durham and pub quizzes are one of our favourite past times, so we held one after the reception in there. One of the ushers Hugh took on the role of quiz master and each round, Ben and I swapped teams so it gave us a good chance to talk to everyone. We also hosted some ‘Play Your Cards Right’ sessions with some giant playing cards at the bar. We gave everyone a raffle ticket and we had managed to beg, borrow and steal some prizes – from bottles of perfumes to Bond box sets – so guests were hoping their number would come up! It was fairly informal, but such good fun and everyone really got into the spirit!
We’ve been to so many weddings with a ceilidh dance in the evening. They are really good fun, as it encourages people of all ages to get up on to dance and as you swap partners it’s a chance to see everyone, so we wanted to replicate this but with our own twist. Three years ago, Ben bought me a set of Ballroom and Latin American dance classes for my birthday with a school called Flow Dance. Even though we had two left feet, we absolutely loved it and we have been continuing lessons with Elena, our teacher at Flow Dance, ever since. So it seemed fitting for us to host a group salsa class! Luckily our teacher Elena kindly agreed to lead the class for us, but a local salsa teacher would be able to do something similar. We were so surprised how many people took part and fully embraced the salsa vibes!
Our dance school Flow Dance also run courses of wedding dance lessons through Wedding Dance London. When we told Elena that we had got engaged and we wanted to do an extra special first dance, she insisted that she personally take charge of it! But the other teachers – Carlos, Bogdan and Anna – all do amazing choreography and we’ve seen them create some really special routines for their couples, most of whom have never done dance before. They are all either former or current professional dancers (like the Strictly stars!), who are so patient and positively will you on! I know after going to a dance class straight after a stressful day at work, Elena was the one to bring back some sense of perspective to me!
We were just going to do the one song – Especially for You by Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan – but Elena convinced us to do a medley to show off all of the skills we had acquired in classes – and we’re so glad she did! It was something distinctive to the usual sway and spin around the dancefloor. She allowed us to select songs that were special to us, then she arranged them and advised us which style of dance would suit each one best. In the end, we danced for 7 minutes (Elena told us that professionals would only ever commit to 4 minutes for a show dance!). It took us 3 months to practise and perfect, which certainly helped with our ‘wed-shed’! Ben was as cool as a cucumber but I was so nervous before the first dance – we had only ever done the routine in front of Elena and a couple of our classmates! But it strangely felt like it was only Ben and me in the moment. I remember hearing everyone whooping and clapping when we started our finale – the Dirty Dancing routine – and smiling to myself, then snapping back, thinking ‘stop, I have to concentrate!’ People still reminisce about that first dance!
For the rest of the evening, we created our own Spotify playlist which we plugged into the Castle’s sound system. We’d been to enough weddings to know what songs get everyone up on the dancefloor (the Conga around the Castle was a particular highlight of ours!) and we wanted to throw a few of our favourites in there too. So rather than send a playlist to a DJ, we thought it would be just as simple to save one on Spotify and save us a bit of cash too!
At our menu tasting, I liked the seabream with crab and samphire, and Ben liked the roasted butternut squash and carrot tart. We both liked the duck with celeriac dauphinoise and red cabbage, but when we told a few of our friends and family, they thought it would be a controversial choice. We therefore convinced Castle to let people choose whether they wanted to be a meat eater throughout the wedding breakfast, or if they would prefer to become a vegetarian for a starter or main. This allowed us to give some sort of option (technically it was simply a case of offering out the vegetarian dishes to everyone) at no extra cost. Though it turns out that duck wasn’t so controversial after all! And everyone finished with the lemon tart with raspberries and lavender meringue.
We tried the house wine at the tasting, but we also bought some other more expensive bottles to taste test at home, which we believed would go down better. We did this blindly with Ben’s family (who happened to have some wine tasting markers, as you do!) and actually we all preferred the house white and red much more than any of the others – it’s incredible how labels can influence you!
The Photography & Film
Ben works in the world of photography so he was the one to hunt out our photographer and videographer! Luckily he knew Jeff Wood, our videographer, through work. I literally knew nothing about Jeff until he turned up in the suite where I was getting ready on the wedding morning – but I trusted Ben when he said he was one of the best!
Jeff is based in Manchester but travels all over the world for weddings and shoots in a very cinematic style. We’ve been to other weddings where the videographer is trying to get guests to play up to camera, but Jeff spotted all of those happy moments as they happened so there was no need to force it. In fact, both himself and our photographers were ninja shooters – they were so unobtrusive, we literally had no idea they were where they were most of the time! It was only when we saw the stills and footage that we said ‘hey, how did they get that?!’ I told our photographers this and they took it as a huge compliment!
It was a little less easy to seek out our photographer, but it was so worth the wait for Stan Seaton Photography. Unfortunately Ben didn’t know any Northern wedding photographers. When we went to the Lumley Castle wedding fair, we met a lady photographer who had taken all of the pictures used in the Durham Castle brochure. As we’d seen lots of her work there, we asked if she may be available – but she was already booked up on our date, 16 months ahead! She recommended someone else, whose work was similar to hers. He accepted our booking but then cancelled some weeks later when he realised it was the Bank Holiday weekend and he wanted to go away with his family! Back to square one, we had meetings with a number of other photographers, but we soon came to the realisation that particularly in photography, you get what you pay for. It’s so easy to set up as a photographer these days – pick up a camera, point and how hard can it be? – but it truly is a trained art and thankfully, Ben had all of the technical know-how to separate the imposters from the real deal. Not that you would need this too – usually if the price looks too good to be true compared to their competitors, there’ll be a reason why! Frustrated at not finding anything, we went back to the photographer who cancelled on us to ask if he had any recommendations. He suggested Stan Seaton Photography – which actually comprises of Stan and Jane, who go to all of their weddings together.
We went to meet with them at their studio in Darlington and they couldn’t have made us feel more welcome – they had so much time for us, we definitely went over the hour allocated! They are so down to earth and genuinely interested in each of their couples (they remembered so many small details about their other weddings when we were flicking through their portfolios) that they make you feel immediately at ease. With a photographer, it’s not only about their work but also about your rapport with them – they are with you at all of the most intimate moments of your wedding, more so than any guest – and so this is really important to consider. And we knew straight away that Stan and Jane were the right photographers for us.
A few months before our wedding, they came to see us in London for an engagement shoot. Neither Ben nor I had been keen on having an engagement shoot – we found them far too staged and somewhat cheesy – but Jane pointed out that it would be a good exercise to experiment with the photography. We could be honest and tell them what we liked and what we didn’t from the engagement shoot, then on the big day itself, they could concentrate their time most effectively on things they knew we’d be happy with! As I soon realised I’m not a natural in front of the camera, Stan and Jane gave friendly but firm directions and some good tips (eg. make sure you both walk on the inside leg then the outside at the same time!) for the wedding itself. In fact, Stan managed to give friendly but firm directions to all of our guests for the group photography (there’s nothing worse than having to organise yourselves at a wedding – it’s only a waste of precious time!) and also the general public! After the ceremony, we went into the city centre of Durham for some couple photography and Stan managed to clear all of the people who had congregated on Prebends’ Bridge and redirect traffic on Old Bailey, purely for the purposes of our photography. That’s going above and beyond to get the perfect photograph!
Also Stan and Jane listened intently to what we wanted. One of our friends told us that her wedding photographer specified she was only allowed a maximum of six group shots and he wouldn’t do any more because that ‘wasn’t his style’. At the end of the day, you are the client and the photographer should work to the client’s brief – in no other line of work would it be the other way around, but since she told us this story, I’ve heard it time and again with wedding photographers. If that isn’t their usual style, then they don’t need to publicise it in their portfolios, so don’t stand for it!
But all in all, our top tip if you are struggling to find a photographer too: even if your favourite photographer isn’t free, ask them who they would use instead. It’s a fairly small world of wedding photographers in local areas – they all know each other – and they are only going to recommend someone that reflects well on them too.
Try to see the wedding as a journey rather than just a day. I stole that piece of advice from one of my work colleagues. She told me that she couldn’t justify spending so much money on one day, but she could more do so if it was spread over the year. So take enjoyment out of the whole wedding planning experience, where you can (let’s face it trying to get the perfect seating plan is never going to be fun). We are never going to say that we weren’t pulling out our hair at the planning at times, but we tried to create special moments where we could. We’ll never forget our wine tasting night, which we did blindly over steak and chips with family (turns out we all liked the cheapest one anyway!)
We had plenty of laughs looking at childhood photos of our friends and sharing the stories behind those cringey family photos, which we placed at each person’s seat to start those conversations all over again for themselves. Like the wedding day itself, you hopefully only get to plan it once too, so embrace and enjoy what it brings!
Talk with your partner about what you did – and critically didn’t – like at other weddings you’ve attended. No idea is ever truly original and you can shape yours accordingly. For instance, we noticed that if you took the traditional positions at the ceremony – the bride’s family sitting on the same side as where she is standing and vice versa – you spend the whole time looking at the reactions of the person who you didn’t come to see get married! So we swapped this around. You don’t always need to stick to tradition!
Take note of recommendations. Of course, you like to think your wedding will be totally unique but in reality, someone else has already been there and done that. Someone has already got married at your venue, someone has already worn your dress. Ask your venue, ask suppliers, ask friends, family or even forums!Listen to them and write them down. One of my colleagues told me that Adam Apple was the cheapest natural confetti she could find. I decided to look around myself and of course I couldn’t find anything cheaper than Adam’s Apple. Their suggestions can save you a lot of time and energy looking at every little thing yourself.
Make friends with people that are also planning a wedding. Your single friend does not want to hear you talking about the trials and tribulations of wedding planning, there are a lot more trials and tribulations for them in the dating pool! We found that people who have been married for some time have forgotten what wedding planning is like and they’ve moved on to the next stage in the lives, so their minds are focussed there. You can talk with fellow brides-to-be until you’re blue in the face without boring them! They truly understand where your head is at and they can – and are happy – help.
Delegate tasks where your strengths lie. You should trust each other’s tastes by now! Ben works in photography, so obviously he would be able to better judge this than me and I left him to it. Whatever he chose would be the best choice for me too. And make sure to make it a joint effort! I will never understand why some women think it is their own day. That’s a birthday party, not a wedding! Why are you marrying this man or woman if you don’t like anything that they stand for themselves?! A wedding is a celebration of a union, so surely both sides of the partnership should be reflected in it. Incorporate ideas from the both of you and it will be all the better for your and your guests’ enjoyment of your (in the plural sense) special day.
In many instances, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is still sort of true. So decide early on what your top three priorities are, spend there and save elsewhere. It’s amazing what you can beg, borrow and steal!
Our friend Carolyn told us to write down absolutely everything you remember the day after your wedding. You think you will never forget every single bit of your wedding day, but you will. Think of your prom night or graduation – you probably thought the same thing then, but how much can you actually recall now?! You just start to remember the big moments, the moments captured on camera or on film. There are so many little moments we jotted down, that we know we would have forgotten now otherwise and it brings a smile to our faces whenever we read them!
Photography by Stan Seaton Photography
- Videography Jeff Woods
- Bride Claire Pettibone
- Boutique Blackburn Bridal
- Evening Dress Alexander McQueen via Net A Porter
- Headpiece Debbie Carlisle
- Shoes Rachel Simpson
- Hair Alice Hare
- Make Up Amanda Bell
- Florist Fleur Couture
- Venue Durham Castle
- Cake Marielle’s Cake Boutique
- Flower Girl Next
- Groomsmen M&S
- Stationery Letterpresser
- Dance Lessons Flow Dance London
- Wedding Dance London
- Music Andrelli
- Brass Funkeys
- Transport Northumbria Classics