Don’t Tell the Bride Review – Series 5, Episode 1: John and Jackie

13 Sep

What happens when you give one man who never listens and seems to have all the competence of a mushroom £12k to plan a wedding – without any involvement from his control-freak bride? Yes, Don’t Tell the Bride is back on the BBC and – because I’m a complete fanatic – I’ll be reviewing every single episode.

Now, usually with Don’t Tell the Bride, I’m sort of rooting for the groom. OK, he was probably chosen for being somewhat of a dunce, but at least he tries. Sometimes he gets it horribly wrong, like the infamous Vegas episode, where a groom chose to send his poor bride-to-be to Las Vegas – leaving the majority (OK, pretty much all) of her family and friends behind! Sometimes they get it very right. OK, I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head – but honestly, they do (even if they mess up a few times along the way)!

However, this episode (available on iPlayer for another week) awakened some sort of inner Bridezilla in me. Pretty much foaming at the mouth with rage, by the end of the episode I was hovering on the edge of the sofa, chanting “jilt, jilt, jilt”! This is the first groom I can honestly say thought of nobody but himself in the entire process. So let’s get to business.

Jackie and John are different – apparently. In that they like to drink at different places: Jackie likes cocktails and John likes the miner’s club. See how different they are? Apparently this gives the BBC license to call her “trendy Jackie” for the majority of the episode. “I want her to be in total shock from start to finish” says thoughtful John. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the episode.

Within five minutes of her leaving, John’s said the words every bride wants to hear. “Sky dive down to the ceremony…” Just what every girl wants for their wedding day – to put on an orange jump suit and be thrown out of a plane.

While Jackie wants a erm… “modern” stately home, John would rather have his wedding reception down at the miner’s club. At first I think he’s joking. This is surely one of those things where they show him dithering between a good choice (a stately home) and a bad one – before inevitably choosing the good one. No, miner’s it is – complete with light-up fruit machines. But first, he’ll drive his bride an hour into the countryside (after having thrown her out of a plane) to her dream venue so she THINKS the whole day will be there. But SURPRISE! There’ll actually be a short ceremony followed by an hour’s coach journey to the miner’s club. At least the decor will be classy… right?

“I’m going to get a Christmas tree” he says, proudly. I die inside. Yes, our clever groom is going for a Christmas theme. In the middle of May. Not even a nice, elegant, winter wonderland theme. Nope, neon lights, tinsel, the works. But don’t worry, he’s thought of Jackie too! He’s bought some toilet seats (I kid you not) with pictures of cats to class the place up a bit. Yup.

Other achievements include choosing a nose-shaped wedding cake – for no apparent reason other than he seems hell bent on ruining everything, having a big, strippery, pukey stag do, spending all of thirty seconds choosing her wedding dress and, of course, eventually throwing her out of a plane.

Unbelievably, despite some initial reservations, the bride seems absolutely thrilled with her groom’s planning. So, either she’d seriously been at the champagne (well, wouldn’t you?) or there really is someone for everyone.

Episode 2 of Don’t Tell the Bride airs tonight (Tuesday 13th September) at 9pm on BBC3 – join me on Twitter for some live chat! 



How to… choose your wedding dress

8 Sep

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every bride is in want of her perfect wedding dress. The problem is, while many brides think they know what that is, the picture they have in their heads of how their ideal dress will look is not always how it works out in reality.

Take, for example, your faithful Shabby Chic Bride. Once upon a time, when I was a (very, very) little girl, my dream dress probably would have looked something like this (it lights up and everything):

Photo credit the Daily Mirror
Then I grew up and got engaged – and for the first few months of my search I was dead set on a ballerina-come-fifties style tea-length dress. In fact, my dream dress would have been this stunner from Candy Anthony:

But alas, as breathtakingly gorgeous as this style is, it just wasn’t me. Even though I didn’t try on this particular gown, every tea-length dress I tried on swamped my petite frame – and guess what? A large bust meant a strapless dress just wasn’t my friend.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Perhaps liken picking your dream dress to making the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone. And no, I’m not belittling the seriousness of your wedding vows, but more making the analogy with that initial experience of meeting your life partner. Most people who’ve found true love will tell you that it happened when they let go of a fantasy in their heads and became open to a real-life experience. It’s the same with your dress. How many women on Don’t Tell the Bride are positive they want one thing – and then try their groom’s choice only to fall in love with it?

So with that in mind, let go of all your expectations and follow this simple guide to choosing the right dress for you:

  • Trust your instincts. There are some fabrics and styles you’ll never, ever like. Regardless of whether they suit you or not. Be true to yourself and rule out what you DON’T like – that will make it much easier to find something that both flatters you and that you’ll adore.
  • Make a list of designers you like and whose dresses you’re attracted to – but cast the net as widely as you possibly can. Then book appointments with local boutiques that stock those collections.
  • Bring two trusted people. And by trusted, I mean trusted. That sour-faced friend who could barely muster up a “congratulations” when you got engaged? Don’t take her. The friend you love dearly but whose taste is completely at odds with yours? Not her either. Get my drift? No more than two people, by the way, or you’ll end up with a chorus of dissenting voices and it will only confuse you.
  • Set a budget – and only ask to see dresses within them. No point falling in love with a dress you really can’t afford.
  • A good sales person will let a combination of your instincts and their judgement guide you. On my first appointment I was walked around the shop and asked what I didn’t like – dresses were eliminated over several rounds on that basis until I had a short list to try on.
  • Consider your body type. Big chest? Don’t go for a high neck. Are you self conscious about your arms? Try sleeves or a bolero. Don’t just objectively consider how you will look, think about areas you feel most insecure about – it’s important that you’re not, for example, constantly trying to hide your tummy on the day or feeling embarrassed about showing your legs.
  • Trust your friends. If you’ve chosen them well, they’ll be honest and help you properly. If something doesn’t suit you, they’ll tell you.
  • Trust your reaction. When I first tried on THE dress, I felt like a fairy queen. I didn’t want to take it off. Ever. I looked over at my mum and future mother in law and they were both welling up. All the other girls in the shop did a little “aaah” gasp. Being a sensible lass I didn’t buy it straight away, but went off to a few other shops to try on dresses. It was depressing – like that feeling of going on dates with perfectly nice guys when you’re still in love with someone else. I had dreams about it. I knew I had to go back for it. When I saw it again, it was like being reunited with a pristine, white, floaty friend after too much time apart. It was emotional. And that’s how your dress should make you feel.
While your dream wedding dress may not be what you thought it was going to be, it’s out there – and it’s waiting for you! Happy shopping!

How to write your wedding vows

5 Sep

Lots of couples are opting to alter, or even ditch altogether, traditional wedding vows. But what happens next is sometimes a struggle. While they might be bursting with feelings, many find themselves frustrated, staring at a blank piece of paper and willing adequate words to magic themselves onto the page.  If you’re stuck writing yours, I’m sorry to disappoint but this post isn’t going to tell you what to say. It might, however, provide you with some tools to get the creative juices flowing – and to unlock what you truly feel about your future husband, wife or life partner.

Some of you might know that, while I’m the Shabby Chic Bride by night, I’m a writer (of sorts) by profession. As such I’ve found a few techniques and tricks really helpful in finding the right words to express myself.

1. If you can’t write, borrow. You might not be Shakespeare – but guess what? Shakespeare is. If writing isn’t among your talents, then choose the words of others that resonate with you. After all, there’s no such thing as truly original material – and you can’t beat some of the best lines of the classic poets… or have a flick through Love Letters of Great Men and Women to see how the pros pour their hearts out!

2. If you can write, don’t try to make it perfect. Nobody’s expecting award-winning prose, and sometimes the most heartfelt vows are the ones that are raw, simple and real. Don’t lose the heart of your vows in complex language – just tell it as it is.

3. Make them personal. Write down all the things you love about your other half – not generic qualities, but the little things that make your relationship unique. Keep it PG-rated though! Every relationship has its own challenges and every couple has unique promises to make to each other – so make yours relevant!

4. Think back to the beginning of your relationship – it tends to reawaken old feelings of excitement and anticipation that sometimes get forgotten in the rush of everyday life. Remember those butterflies? They’re still in there – and if you listen really carefully, they might just tell you what to say!

5. Do something that inspires you – take a walk and clear your head or have a bath. And carry a notebook everywhere – sometimes inspiration hits when you least suspect it.

6. Write them together. Your vows are about your commitment to one another. Unless you’re set on surprising each other, why not talk about your relationship priorities together. That way your vows will really unify you – and they’ll be important to you as a couple.

7. If you’re funny, use that strength in your vows. Now, when I say this it comes with a big disclaimer: USE WITH CAUTION. If you’re the kind of person whose jokes tend to be met with rolled eyes, don’t attempt this. Also don’t make any jokes about sensitive issues such as weight, ex partners or anything that could upset anyone. However, including some lighthearted references in your vows can help you ease nerves. Just keep it at a minimum as you don’t want your vows to turn into a bad comedy show.

8. If you’re close to your parents, here’s a unique way to honour them: ask them each to write one wish for your marriage, which you can read out as part of your vows. This brings together generations and is a nice way for them to give you their blessing.

9. This is certainly not for the conventional couple – but you could write each other’s vows! Perhaps not as a final draft, but it will be revealing of the commitment you’re each looking for from one another.

10. And if you can’t think of anything, simply say “I will love you” – it’s simple, timeless and Carrie Bradshaw promises she won’t take credit for it.

Did you write your own vows? If so, where did you find your inspiration? Leave me some comments!

Are you a Bridezilla?

1 Sep

Last night I was watching a Don’t Tell the Bride recap episode, where couples from previous shows looked back on their behaviour while the groom planned the wedding.

What interested me the most about the brides reflecting on their actions was how contrite they all seemed – for coming across like a Bridezilla. That’s what inspired me to write this post. Well, that, and I also had a dream about Godzilla last night (yes, Godzilla).

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably thinking you’re more Shabby Chic Bride than Bridezilla. However, I was having a very interesting conversation with a well-known and fabulous industry hairdresser the other night who said something very interesting: “all brides are the same – even if they think they’re different. They all want their wedding to be impressive.” So perhaps there’s a little Bridezilla in all of us.

So here’s my little Bridezilla quiz – answer honestly!

How involved is your groom in the wedding planning?
a.) Very involved – we have long discussions about the important decisions and make them as a team.
b.) I show him things. He grunts. I go ahead with them.
c.) He’s not remotely interested – I have to do everything myself.
d.) He keeps trying to help, but he’s mad if he thinks I’m going to trust him with anything!

How do you refer to the wedding?
a.) Our wedding or the wedding.
b.) My wedding.
c.) Mostly “our wedding” but occasionally a “my” slips out!
d.) My party. Or, to be more specific, my pretty white dress party.

How often do you talk about the wedding?
a.) Only when people ask or when I’m talking to suppliers or my groom – I wouldn’t want to bore people.
b.) I try to keep wedding talk at a minimum but do tend to go on a bit if asked.
c.) I probably talk about it more than I should, but hey, you only get married once, right?
d.) All the time. To everyone who’ll listen. Even the postman knows what my centrepieces will look like.

How did you choose your bridesmaids?
a.) Easy. I chose my closest friends – the people I love enough to have around me on my big day.
b.) I chose a mixture of close friends and family.
c.) I chose people who seemed most helpful and “into” the wedding.
d.) I deliberately chose bridesmaids who wouldn’t upstage me. Wait till they see their dresses!

How far in advance did you plan everything?
a.) Plan? I’ve just booked things as and when – going with the flow.
b.) Booked the essentials around a year in advance but sort of left everything else to the last minute.
c.) Booked and planned everything around a year in advance – I’ll need a year to sort out last-minute details.
d.) I’ve been planning my wedding since before I could talk. In fact, if you look closely at my childhood crayon scribblings, you can just about make out a hand-tied bouquet of garden roses and peonies!

How many suppliers do you meet before you choose one?
a.) Meet? I go with whoever has the nicest website!
b.) I shortlist a few on the phone or via email, then meet one or two.
c.) I make a comprehensive shortlist based on reviews and style – then I meet at least five based on their attitude on the phone before I make my final decision.
d.) I meet as many as possible – and bring a detailed list of questions (with a ranking system) to decide who’s most suitable.

Which of these statements rings most true for you?
a.) A wedding is the union of two people in love, who are committing to spend the rest of their lives together. All other details seem inconsequential.
b.) A wedding is about committing your life to the person you love – but it’s a real also once-in-a-lifetime occasion and should be treated as such. If things go wrong it’s a shame, but it’s not the end of the world.
c.) If you’ve decided to get married, you’re probably already in a loving, committed relationship. A wedding is about throwing the party to end all parties to celebrate and it’s hard to do that if things go wrong.
d.) Every girl should be a princess on her wedding day – and it all has to be perfect.

Your favourite wedding film (of the following is)
a.) My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It’s a simple love story of two people crossing cultural bridges in order to spend the rest of their lives together. Despite the name, the wedding is all about family and the couple never go too OTT.
b.) The Wedding Singer. It’s about a girl planning her dream wedding – which is, of course, important. But it’s not complete until she finds her dream groom.
c.) The Wedding Planner – how apt that someone who spends their life planning lavish weddings probably gets her own – we wonder what she’ll come up with!
d.) Bride Wars. June at the Plaza? Sigh. If my best friend stole my wedding date, there’d probably be a low level war.

A close friend gets engaged while you’re planning your wedding. Your first thought is:
a.) I’m so happy that she’s found the love of her life!
b.) I’m really happy for her, now we can have fun planning together and I’ll have someone to talk weddings with.
c.) I suppose I’m happy for her but I’m a bit miffed to have had my thunder stolen. I’ll have to make my wedding way better than hers.
d.) HOW DARE SHE? If she gets married before me, I’ll kill her.

And finally… your dream wedding would be:
a.) Any scenario where I get to marry my amazing husband to be!
b.) A nice, intimate ceremony with personal touches and close friends and family attending.
c.) Something either stylish or a bit quirky and retro. I want people to talk about it afterwards.
d.) Big, lavish and, of course, all eyes on me. I want my fairytale.

And now it’s time for the results… DRUM ROLL PLEASE!

Mostly A

Woah, you’re one chilled out chick. Some might say too chilled out. It’s lovely that you’re so blissed out with your groom, you’re willing to get married any way, anywhere. But remember, a wedding won’t plan itself. So either hire a planner for those details, or perhaps take on a little Bridezilla vibe to motivate you. Either way, have an amazing day.

Mostly B

You’ve got it pretty much figured out. You might occasionally slip into Bridezilla mode (which, let’s face it, is hard not to do) but you have a good grasp of what’s most important and don’t tend to forget it. Just make sure you think your decisions through carefully before you rush into what seems like the easiest option.

Mostly C

Careful there, is that a little fire I see coming from your nostrils? Only joking. You’re passionate about your wedding and want it to be memorable, but make sure you don’t lose sight of the fact that after the party is over, you’ll be married! Take some time out from planning every now and then to spend some quality time with your groom.

Mostly D

OK, step awayyyy from the cake knife! You’re either the world’s most organised bride or… it may be time to admit the truth. You’re a Bridezilla. Just remember, your wedding isn’t all about you. And the most important thing is getting married, so don’t ruin the day for yourself by getting worked up if something isn’t right. I’d suggest some hot Horlicks, a bubble bath and if all else fails, a strong tranquliser. Juuust kidding!

A cautionary tale

28 Aug

I’ll let you in on a secret. I wasn’t always the sacred font of wedding knowledge you erm… read before you today? (OK, maybe I’m not now either!) Once upon a time, I was a confused and, quite frankly, clueless newly engaged gal with NO idea where to start.

Start with the venue, I was told. So what did we want? Well, given my enormous Jewish family and our many friends scattered worldwide, we needed to accommodate a reasonable (and flexible) number of people. We also wanted to get married outdoors, if possible, in some beautiful surroundings with a rain contingency plan and a nice indoor area for the reception. We wanted to do everything in one place and we wanted the venue owners to be easy to work with, laid back and willing to go with what we wanted.

After visiting a couple of lovely, yet unsuitable, venues, we landed on a place that seemed perfect. In the interests of not being a cow, I won’t name the venue, but at the time we were blown away. It had a beautiful rose garden, a little gazebo under which we would marry and a stunning, yet rustic, reception space. Perfect.

As I said, this was well before the Shabby Chic Bride was even a concept, and I was somewhat naive and unaware of how much things cost. We were already aware of venue costs, which were pretty standard. However, at the initial meeting when the venue was booked, we made it quite clear that a sit-down three-course meal was NOT on the agenda for us.

“You have to use one of our four caterers” she told us, “and there’s a ten pound corkage charge per bottle, so you can use our bar to avoid that.”

At this point, we explained that we didn’t have the biggest budget in the world and that our catering allocation was humble. “Don’t worry,” she replied, “our caterers can offer a bespoke service to suit any budget.”

Great, so after going away with le fiance to check out the websites of the various caterers, and to our delight discovering that a basic BBQ started at £10 per head, we booked a June wedding.

Straight away, we began ringing the four caterers to decide between them. The first took an age to get back to us, and when they did had none of the information we’d requested. The second was the eye opener. When h2b rang them, he was put through to an extremely snooty head chef. Explaining that we had our eye on the £20 per head vegetarian buffet, we were met with absolute scorn. “No, no, we can’t do anything less than £35 per head!”

“OK, but your website said…”
“That’s for an evening meal, not a wedding breakfast!”
“OK what’s the difference?”
“The evening meal is a second meal.” (Second meal?)
“OK, well the venue said you could offer a bespoke service to suit any budget. Is there any way we could reduce the amount of options on the menu and lower the price per head?”

Now, at this point, it’s important to bear in mind that we’re locked into a contract and have no choice but to use one of four businesses. While the suggestion of £25 per head might shock some of the caterers out there, bear in mind at this point we were planning for around 150 guests, canapes cost extra and drinks weren’t included. You can probably do the maths. Never mind the cost for us, our business was still worth THOUSANDS of pounds to them.

That’s why his response was somewhat baffling:

“No, no that wouldn’t work at all. Any fewer options and the mix of colours won’t be right. We can’t have people complaining that there aren’t enough colours – it’s all about presentation and our reputation can’t suffer.”

After attempting to explain that our friends and family would just be happy to be fed, and that surely there was some deal we could reach whereby nobody would complain, h2b ran out of patience and tried the remaining two caterers. Same story.

Exasperated, we rang the venue and politely pointed out that her “any budget” statement had been extremely misleading, given that we had told her how small our catering budget was. When the coordinator took our deposit, she must have known there wasn’t a single caterer whose services we could realistically afford. Without missing a beat, she replied:

“Well, you’d better find another venue, then.”

Thankfully, our deposit was returned (with an extremely uppity email, charitably letting us know that due to our “financial circumstances” they would make an exception and give us our money back),

So there we were, back at square one and feeling somewhat bruised and humiliated by the whole experience.

Now, I’m not saying that £30 per head is excessive, by many accounts it’s quite reasonable. But at the first meeting, we made it quite clear that was out of the realms of possibility for us. Instead of leading us into a trap, the coordinator should have been straight with us then and there. The caterers can suit any budget – if you’re wealthy. Oh, and wedding novices, the prices on the website only apply if you spend a bunch more earlier in the day. It doesn’t SAY that anywhere, but you should KNOW that!

So brides to be, heed this warning. If you’re on a budget, sense the tone of a place. Our current venue is allowing us to do whatever we like and providing help where it’s needed. If a venue’s “reputation” is more important than helping you to have YOUR perfect day, it may be time to find somewhere else.

Farewell Cosmo Bride

25 Aug

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a wedding magazine addict. OK, a full on junkie. I read all of them religiously, devouring the real weddings, jotting down ideas and cutting out pictures for my wedding scrapbook.

Today is a bittersweet day. Like any other wedding magazine publication date, I’m excitedly anticipating the latest copy of Cosmo Bride. But I’m also sad because I don’t want to read it. Once I read it, that’s it! No more Cosmo Bride for this Shabby Chic Bride. Sad face.

So I just want to pay a little humble tribute to my dear friend, frequent train companion and provider of some of my favourite ideas (for which I will give full credit on my wedding day – of course!) You taught me how to take vintage decor to a whole new level. And the wonders of peach – now my must-have colour. You showed me the true meaning of homespun chic. You were the first wedding magazine I anxiously plucked off the shelf, still half feeling like a fraud as a newly engaged gal! Thanks for everything. I’ll look forward to reading the last issue – you may be gone, but in the scrapbooks, weddings, hearts and minds of thousands of brides, you’ll live on!

Top 5 quirky accessories for a shabby chic wedding

25 Aug

Here at Shabby Chic Bride HQ it’s all about the quirkiness. When I was a little girl I used to love putting on plays – and my love of cool and individual props has followed me into adulthood and all the way to my wedding day!

So here are my top five quirky, shabby chic props which can be used for photo opps on your big day:

1.  A vintage-style mannequin. Just think how pretty your dress would look for those getting ready wedding photos hanging on (or over) a stunning vintage mannequin. Alternatively, if any of your elderly relatives have kept their dresses, you can use vintage mannequins to display them! Try this one from – there’s a whole selection to suit any colour scheme:


2. A retro bicycle with a floral display. OK, so your romantic vision of riding along in your wedding dress with a flower basket may be impractical, but a vintage bike with a cute floral display makes for a great talking point – and you can always pose convincingly for your wedding photos. If you don’t fancy spending a lot of time and money finding one, you can rent one from Event Prop Hire.

image sourced from

3. While we’re on Event Prop Hire, why not get ready in real shabby chic style with a gorgeous chaise longue for getting ready photographs? Available in several different colours, it takes pampering to a whole new level… now all you need is someone to feed you grapes and you’re good to go!

4. DIY vintage photo booth – I’ll do a longer post on how to make one of these – but I can assure you they’re great fun! These booths don’t need to cost a lot to make and will give you lasting memories, as well as breaking the ice on the day.

5. OK, so I just HAVE to go back to the amazing Event Prop Hire! Roll up, roll up! Who wants a fairground-themed wedding? I’m in love with these various themed stalls – and I’m sure you will be too!

Do you have any vintage or shabby chic prop ideas that I’ve left out? Leave me some comments and let me know how you plan to make your day a little different!