What Shirley Did… Food (& Flowers) For Thought.

I’ll be honest, I had a bit of a panic attack over the summer about the wedding organisation. I think I spent sooooo much time looking at all the pretty that I drove myself nuts trying to narrow it down and it ended up whirling round in my head. I even had a few sleepless nights because I just couldn’t get a clear vision of what I was doing on any one thing so it just kept going round and round (anyone else felt like this?).

Since the kids went back to school at the beginning of September, I’ve been trying to get on with the wedding planning with the focus being on *doing* rather than *looking*. It’s definitely helped now that I’ve started making decisions and booking things as I can start ticking things off on my list. It feels like ages away yet but in reality it will go quickly, especially as I have a 13yo birthday ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ to arrange in November and Christmas to get through between now and the wedding!

Food Glorious Food.

I love my food but because of my dietary restrictions, it’s never a simple affair. We’ve been putting a lot of effort into finalising what food we’re having on the day as I can’t get the menu cards printed without this info.  Because we need gluten, nut and fish free options, it has been a bit complicated but we went for our final food tastings last Friday and here is what we’ve chosen…

  1. Crab and smoked salmon salad
  2. Chilled melon with seasonal berries and fruit coulis
  3. Traditional Aged Roasted Sirloin of Scottish Beef, Yorkshire Pudding and roast potatoes
  4. Gluten Free Goats Cheese and roasted onion tart
  5. Oven Roasted Corn Fed British Chicken Breast, stuffed with cheese and wrapped in Serrano ham (In this picture, there are actually 2 versions of the chicken – with different fillings – so that we could choose the one we liked best)

Burnham Park have been great at trying to accommodate the various dietary requirements that I’ve thrown at them and were willing to take on my challenge of making a gluten free savoury tart – not many places would – and I was very impressed with the pastry. We discussed a few tweaks to the dishes, which they were more than willing to accommodate and we left with full tummies – hurray!


Wedding cake is hard for me as I obviously can’t eat a regular cake, and even gluten free cake gives me stomach ache, so I’ve been on the hunt for alternative options. I’ve considered many things including a rice crispie cake, chocolate boxes, a chocolate fountain, chocolate mousse cake, gluten free cookies, a sweetie cake and even jelly!

To save some money, we’ve decided not to serve a separate dessert – we didn’t see the point in spending money providing a dessert AND wedding cake, plus it’s a great way of saving money (at least £5 per head). My final choice on wedding cake is to make my own gluten free cheesecake as I cannot find anywhere that will make one for me (if you know of anywhere please let me know!!). To this end, I have been serving up cheesecake on a regular basis in our house! I came across a very light and delicious orange cheesecake recipe on the BBC Good Food website, but I can’t get the topping right! Here are a couple of my attempts:

This is orange cheesecake with an orange glaze which is *supposed* to sit on top of the cheesecake, but it didn’t set so when I took the cake tin off, it all slipped down the sides! It didn’t stop anyone from eating it too fast for me to get a picture of the whole cheesecake though – this is the last slice!

This is the same cheesecake (different day!) but with fresh berries on top.  This was too difficult to cut easily and it doesn’t tie in with my colours very well but it tastes good! For my next attempt I’m going to try some orange coloured fruit sliced on top – maybe apricots, what do you think?

In the evening we’re having cake pops, which unfortunately aren’t gluten free, but look soooo amazing that I *need* them. I’ve ordered 120 from Pop Bakery and owner Claire O’Connell has been really helpful in sorting out contemporary designs in my chosen colours.

I think the Angry Bird cake pops are pure genius but I’m going for something a little more conventional with glitter, drizzle and love heart designs in my orange & turquoise colour scheme. These images just show how talented Claire and her team are! I’m so excited to see them, can’t believe I have to wait 6 months!

Great Balls of …….. Flowers!

I’ve also been working hard on flower choices. This was an area that I wasn’t going to spend much money on, until I fell in love with this picture:

What Shirley Did

I *needed* them BADLY … until  I found out that a florist would charge £165 per medium sized flower ball to make one of these up!! I nearly fell off my chair when I found that out! So I’ve been doing plenty of research to see if I can have these balls at a cheaper (bargain basement) price.

I tried making my own to see how difficult it was … Answer: it’s not hard at all, or even that time consuming but I was worried about whether I would have time to do 24 of these a day or two before the wedding. I did consider having a flower party with as many people as possible stuffing oasis balls with carnations! It cost about £15 to make the flower ball below including the oasis and then dish that it sits in. I used chrysanthemums because that’s all that the flower shop had in large enough quantities, but I’d need a similar number of carnations.  You could do the same with roses (though you’d need more), gerbera’s or dahlia’s.

Tada! It looks pretty good doesn’t it?  It only took me about 30 mins to make this, and that was including me not having a clue what I was doing and making it up as I went along J I reckon with practice you could probably knock one of these up in 5-10 mins.

Then I found some seriously cheap silk carnation heads on eBay – 250 of them for £20.00

So I decided to order some more oasis balls and have a go at making some artificial flower balls on the basis that if I could make them months in advance then that would relieve the time pressure:

They actually look pretty good – you can tell they’re not real if you get close enough but they don’t look obviously fake either and with a spritz of perfume they might pass inspection.  The downside was realising just how many carnation heads I need – 26 for the small ball, 51 for the medium and I lost count on the large!

My best friend Liz then told me that her step daughter Tanya used to be a florist so I arranged to meet up with her last week and she gave me a very reasonable quote to make my flower balls up in fresh carnations. Much as I don’t mind doing the flowers myself, it will be a lot less stressful if I don’t have to spend a whole day just before W-day sorting them out! So, despite all my DIY experiments, I think I’m going to order the flowers from a fabulous wholesaler that I found called Nursery Fresh who are uber helpful, pretty cheap and will deliver the flowers I want a couple of days before the wedding. Bonus! Then Tanya will come and work her magic on them and create lots of beautiful flower balls, 3 bouquets and a few buttonholes too. Tanya is trying to get back into floristry on a freelance basis after a baby break and is based in the Harlow/East London area but will happily travel, so if you need a good value florist to create your expensive ideas on a cheaper basis then I can definitely recommend her. You can contact her on tanyasflowerdesigns@gmail.com

So that’s it lovelies … hope you’re enjoying my wedding mania!  I’d love to know if any of you fell in love with an expensive idea you saw in a picture and attempted to recreate it on a budget?.  Also if you know anyone who could make a delicious gluten free cheesecake (x3) then please let me know, and if you have any suggestions on gluten free buffet options (especially a non-traditional idea) then please say as I’m desperate for ideas on that front!

Oh and I couldn’t leave without squeezing in a gratuitous picture of our newest addition to the family … Baxter, our 10 week old puppy.

See you next month!

Shirley x

Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

40 thoughts on “What Shirley Did… Food (& Flowers) For Thought.

  1. Um… Shirley, please can I come to your wedding? I’ll have the chicken and ALL of the cake pops 😉

    Seriously though, your day sounds FAB. Am a sucker for a ball of flowers too – they will look amazing!!


  2. Those flower balls are A.Mazing! 9 days to go….I don’t have time to rethink my flowers do I?! lol

    The food looks yum and is making me hungry!

    And aaaahhhhhhh at the puppy 🙂


  3. I have previously emailed The English Cheesecake Company and I spoke to them at the National Wedding Show the other week and both times they told me that they wouldn’t be able to provide a gluten free (or even wheat free) cheesecake. They’re very expensive too!

    @ Laura Babb – thanks for the cake info, I’ll definitely contact her.

    @ Katie – hahaha your comment made me laugh 🙂

  4. Shirley – I like the way that you are prepared to try all these idea’s out but then not be afraid to decide it’s the wrong way to go… I think so many people, once they have an idea, feel they have to see it through. Often that will cause more of a headache in the long run. Or could even lead to last minute wobbles, which can spell disaster.

    Test it out, if it’s not working out how you want, move on.

    P.s if you need any more cake testers just drop me a line 🙂


  5. Shirley what an amazing menu!

    I am going to try and do my own cake pops – treated myself to the recipe book but as yet to scared to attempt! But your DIY has inspired me. Got to give it a go right?!

    Also, do you need someone to sit your puppy wedding time? I’m your gal! I accept cake payments!

  6. Wow, I sooooooooo want the flower balls..someone today quoted me 40 quid a ball, for a medium one. Still too dear.

    Your own versions were brill though!

    Can’t help with the food stuff but I second Adam on the trying out of cakes…I am available.

    Big hugs to Baxter, he is cutie! Choc bear would love to be his friend!

    Great post xx

  7. @Jeanie … I was going to try and make cake pops – gluten free ones would be easy as GF cake is nasty and crumbly anyway but thats the way you need it to make pops! But Rog (my OH) overruled my ‘I can do this and this and this’ attempts as he’s worried I will have way too much to do just before the wedding. So … my daughter now wants me to try and make cake pops for her Mad Hatters birthday party!!

    @Adam you’re welcome to come for cheesecake testing!

  8. Awwwww Baxter is so cute! Look how much fun he is having!

    Shirley it really sounds like you are getting on top of your planning. I remember those panicky times when you just have so much to sort and so many ideas whizzing round your brain!

    Those flower balls look amazing, excellent skills!


  9. ummm, somebody please tell me they’re having that giant rice crispie cake for their wedding, or just for fun? In fact, sod, it, i might just do it myself, maybe for christmas…?

    shirley – i love that you seem to be so willing to give things a go, and the flower balls are totally lush, they’re gonna look amazing.

    mrs r.now x x x

    ps baxter is quite possibly the most stealable puppy i have ever seen, you wouldn’t miss him right??

  10. LOVE the flower balls, and i am glad you have found a good solution too… as for your cheese cake supplier – try these guys https://www.mysweettoothfactory.com/ , they do amazing individual cheese cakes, kinda like a cup cake tower, but with cheese cakes instead… it also helps the chef on the night too, as they can easily turn them into a plated pudding with the addition of cream, berries, chocolate sauce or icecream … there is good picture of the cheese cake tower in action on this photographers blog, its toward the end so keep scrolling – good luck and enjoy! https://kerrymorgan.com/photoblog/2011/08/nonsuch-mansion-wedding-photographer/

  11. I really really wanted the rice crispie cake (I make a similar tray bake rice crispie cake as its gluten free) but I couldn’t see how it could be cut easily by the venue as it sets pretty hard.

    @Charlotte – are you wanting to come for cheescake testing or to the wedding to steal cake pops?! I may have to host a cheesecake tasting party at this rate!

  12. Great post!! I love Baxter – does he get to come to the wedding?

    And great balls of fake flowers……

    they are actually way pretty…

    Im off to look at fake flowers on the ebays and see if I cant bag me a box full!!

  13. AMAZERS post Shirley, for lots of reasons:
    1. Rice Crispie wedding cake? Why have I never seen one before?
    2. Not just cake pops, but Angry Bird cake pops?!? Freakin’ brilliant!
    3. The fact that you’ve talked about the food! No-one EVER mentions the food on RMW (well, maybe occasionally), but between you and Robyn, it’s been done twice in a week!
    4. The balls you made with the silk flowers are gorgeous! Could you still use the ones you’ve made, so they aren’t wasted? Maybe hanging from the ceiling, or in the ladies’ loos? They’re sooooo pretty!
    5. BAXTER! Is he a Cocker? My Dad breeds them – too cute!!

    For your evening food, does it have to be traditional buffet food? Or could you do pots of Thai Curry/Chilli/Stir fry etc? My old company did these hot options at about £4 per head less than a trad. buffet, and they were seriously popular!

    Jo xx

  14. @MrsA-to-be (Jo!) – we’re not actually having Angry Bird cake pops but they’re seriously cool so I had to sneak a picture in!.

    Food is important to me because of various food allergies and I want to show my guest that ‘free-form’ food can be just as yummy and delicious as ‘normal’ food. Too often gluten free food is bland, dry and basically inedible.

    The silk flower balls – I may still use them on the aisle runner, mixed in with real flowers. I’m sure I’ll find something to do with 250 carnation heads!

    Baxter is indeed a cocker spaniel. Very cute. Just met my parents 2 choc labs for the first time today so is a bit bemused!

    Eve food – far from being traditional buffet food, I’d like to do something different. Not sure what tho but bacon sandwiches have been discussed! Pots of food sound like a good idea too thanks 🙂

  15. Our wonderful venue did us bacon baps for the evening buffet but gluten free baps for the 2 guests who are coeliacs, and chip butties for the vegetarians. With a fine array of red and brown sauces, nom nom!
    Loved the article Shirley – I love that level of detail! And Baxter is very cute indeed. xx

  16. What a great article. I love the flower balls and have been considering them myself, what size are the oasis balls you were thinking of using? I may have to have a little trial session as well.

    Here is a good link for a gluten free blog, I am not sure if there is a cheesecake on their but it might be worth emailing the blogger to see if she has managed to make any.


    Good luck. x

  17. Shirley – when I read those first three sentences, I thought to myself “are you in my head?” I too am obsessed with the pretty, and steal moments at work just to look for another great decoration idea to make our day that little bit prettier and special. I too have had nights filled with confusing dreams about decor and themes, worrying whether I’m trying to combine too many ‘great ideas’ into one day. I too have even considered a Bompas & Parr inspired jelly wedding cake! All I can say is you’re not the only one, which also, thank goodness, puts me at ease!

    Reading your post was so interesting and has inspired me to experiment more. Like everyone else, I completely heart those flower balls and think I might make some for the house if not for our wedding day! I truly look forward to reading more about your preparations.


    P.S. As I type this HTB is playing angry birds on my phone. Thinking I may have to treat him to some of those amazing cake pops!

  18. Hi Looby Lou – I used 20cm (largest), 16cm (medium) and 9cm (small) oasis balls but they come in a wide variety of sizes up to 20cm. 20cm is about the size of a football when stuffed with flowers. I got mine from eBay where there are lots of people selling them. There are 2 types of oasis – dry and wet. If you’re doing artifical/silk flowers you need dry oasis, for fresh flowers use wet – you have to soak it in water (hence the wet). If you are doing the wet oasis then make sure you let the ball soak up water in its own time … if you force the ball beneath the water then it gets an air bubble in the middle and only gets wet around the edge and the flowers die much quicker (top tip from my local florist!) Good luck 🙂 (They’re VERY easy to make!)

  19. OOooh – so good to see delicious gluten free food. I do find it frustrating how few people realise that being gluten free doesn’t mean eating rubbish food. Rather than trying to replace gluten…eat stuff that doesn’t rely on it. Simples! Hope you find someone to take the cheesecake making off your hands, but obviously enjoy your trial bakes in the meantime. I know I would. Any excuse to eat cheesecake regularly is good with me. x

  20. Hi Shirley, I have a suggestion for your cake problems. I am not to sure if she will be able to do it, but she is unbelievably talented and does everything from her own kitchen. Her names Claire and she owns a company called Blondies Bakes, if you google her and pop her an email, I am sure she will be able to help. The only problem is she is based in Cambridgeshire….hope that helps! xxxx

  21. Love love love the flower balls – they look so good and they will be totally gorgeous with the real carnations!

    Food looks amazing too! – Yummy!

    Rachie xo

    PS: WIll Baxter be at the wedding? He is too cute xx

  22. Hey! Great to hear about all the wedding preparations!! Love the flower balls! Did you know your Auntie Rosemary and I made 60 cake pops for Mya’s birthday guests using claire’s book and ordered some Pop Bakery cake pops for her birthday cake. They were amazing. As you know it was an ice cream party so Claire did some great Fab, magnum and twister cake pops and a girl to represent Mya – you will love the results! Denise x

  23. HI, I was just wondering if you remember the seller of the silk carnation heads, or anything that could help me find them on ebay? We’re doing a Great Gatsby theme for prom this year, and I stumbled upon your blog! The flower balls would make great centerpieces! Thanks!

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