Weddings - I've catered for a lot - nearly 400 at time of writing. Three already down this year and 40 more in the diary for 2016.
I’ve seen pretty much every type of ‘big day’ there is to see. Big, small, lavish, simple, ultra-religious, more ceremonial. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, what helps, what hinders…
There is no blueprint to such a momentous day, so many variables and ideas and people want to put their own stamp on proceedings, but I hope this helps your planning.
Guest perspective -
As most drive back over the Tamar bridge to travel home from a friend’s wedding in Cornwall, slightly worse for wear after a truncated night’s sleep, the 70’s disco classics from the early hours still ringing in their ears… Conversation will always cover a wide variety of topics (depending on the severity of the hangover!).
The weather – us Brits absolutely love a chat about this! I read a stat only this week that the average person in the UK spends 4 months of their life complaining about the weather. Four months! The praying, Met-Checking, more praying, days and even weeks in advance. Were the bride and groom lucky/unlucky? Was it too hot (who complains about this?), too cold, too windy, too changeable? You have literally zero control over the meteorological conditions on the day, so just make sure you have options both inside and out for whatever gets thrown at you. Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere!
How the bride looked – always a hot topic. Most of the time of course, they look fabulous. But that doesn’t stop the discourse! What would they have done differently, will do differently (if yet to tie the knot). Colour, length of dress, headwear, train, colour of bridesmaids dresses…ooh so much to discuss!
Food – a pivotal part of the day, but of course I would say that. Quality, quantity, type of cuisine, options for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians. Were people hungry at any point? Remember it is a long day, for everybody involved. I have found in more recent times a definite desire to put on more food as the evening draws on. Usually a simple, satisfying fayre. Pasties, bacon 'sarnies' and the like.
The entertainment – again very important and can make or break a day. How much fun the guests had after the ceremony is often what they will take away from the event as a whole. Cornwall is fortunate to have lots of greats live music acts, but tastes are always very subjective. Ceilidh’s are a popular choice, encouraging those young and old (and of all levels of musical ability!) to join in right from the start. Big bands are also increasingly popular. Just try and get some variety. If there will be a lot of younger guests on the day, it may be worth thinking about hiring a children’s entertainer, like a magician. It can keep the little ones amused while the adults can relax and eat, drink & talk nonsense!
Décor – for a lot of your guests, this is not incredibly important, especially when balanced against how much time and consideration you may have given to it. The attention to detail, the sourcing of various materials, the inevitable tantrums. Much of it will, unfortunately, go unnoticed. One of the wedding party will usually be ‘the artistic one’, who may be charged with polishing rocks, remembering their calligraphy lessons from school, creating ornate place names. Their hard work and talent may not always be appreciated – in the case of producing place names for example, they can often be seen as a hindrance or obstacle on a table where space is often at a premium.
It is obviously nice to have a fantastic looking venue but I would advise not going overboard on this particular aspect.
Everyone loves an amazing wedding breakfast, but weirdly, expectations on what can be produced/achieved often have a low ceiling. Why so? I'm perplexed. You certainly spend enough on it, so expect great things!
Choose a menu that reflects yourself. What do you like? What would make you happy?
Consider the time of the year - lighter food sits better in the warmth of the summer months.
Give the caterer the chance to showcase their skills, dull brief - dull menu - dull food! It’s a chance for them to impress, and to potentially get recommendations for future events. They want to create amazing food, so let them!
If you get married before 1pm - serve canapés - there is nothing worse than being hungry as a guest.
Only invite guests you are willing to buy dinner for. Perhaps trim the guest list slightly, and serve higher standards of food. Just a thought!
By getting married slightly later in the day (2pm onwards) it will save you money on catering in the evening, perhaps only needing modest snacks. The majority of your guests will hopefully enjoy a good feed at 4.30pm!
If someone is a nervous public speaker, move the speeches to before the wedding breakfast, or split them throughout the courses. A twitchy dad or best man will thank you for letting them ‘get their bit out of the way’ after the starters!
There is clearly no right or wrong answer as to what is served and its cost, as it is totally on an event by event basis. People always enjoy a free bar, but won’t complain if there isn’t one or if it is limited to between certain times. Don’t feel obliged to throw too much money on providing alcohol.
For the tables though, consider high-quality glassware, it makes the occasion feel special. If you have a notoriously rowdy bunch amongst the guests though, maybe reconsider!
Planning tips -
Try to enjoy the process, however daunting it may seem - most suppliers know each other, so can always point you in the right direction. If you need something, ask, don’t be afraid. It’s your day, you call the shots.
If you have the venue, church/ registrar booked - the rest should be easy. Now put your time, effort and imagination into planning a memorable dinner/party!
Always check an independent wedding planner’s terms. I once lost a client, even though our quote was more affordable than a competitors, because they worked on a percentage of quotations implemented.
The venues that wedding planners choose to work with are nearly always great - they know the venue inside and out. They won't let you try and put a square peg in a round hole. Trust their knowledge and intuition on most things.
Photographers - choose one you like, on a personal level as much as admiring their portfolio. You will be spending a lot of time with them on the day, so you want a good rapport to help get the best photos and videos possible.
Remember your £1.50! Many divorces start with an argument in a car. Cornwall won't charge you however, when you venture back West!