Tag Archives: wedding tips

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!


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.

DIY shabby chic wedding invitations

21 Aug

I would LOVE to be able to afford some gorgeous, bespoke wedding stationery. It goes without saying that for good quality, expect to pay good money. But if you don’t want to pay out big money and still want something gorgeous and unique to send to your guests, why not make the invitations yourself?

Here’s how I’ve done it!

You’ll need

  • A pack of pre-made A5 cards and envelopes.
  • Multi-purpose glue and a glue brush.
  • Scissors (and a guillotine is optional depending on how steady your hand is)
  • Vintage-style scrapbook paper
  • Ribbon and / or lace
Most of the above can be found at Hobbycraft or any other craft or haberdashery shop – but I’d seriously recommend Hobbycraft for the scrapbook paper.
How to
1. Step one is to separate the paper. It will often be two-sided so decide which sides you like better of each. Then group the ones that mesh well together.
2. If you got your card from Hobbycraft, it should naturally bend in the middle. If it’s not pre-folded, fold your card in half.
3. Choose a background for your invitation. Then put your folded invitation against in and cut around it.
4. Put a couple of dabs of glue onto your card and spread with a brush. Leave it for thirty seconds and stick your craft paper background onto the card, smoothing it down to make sure there are no lumps or air pockets.
5. Find a detail or pattern that you like from a different but matching piece of craft paper and cut it out.
6. Paste the back of the cut out and stick it onto the card.
7. Add your final detail, such as a piece of lace tied in a bow or a ribbon.
8. Et voila – you have yourself an invitation!
Now all you need to do is find a pretty font and background, print out A5 inserts with everything you want to say and pop them in the post!
And because I’m covered in glue and quite proud of myself, here are a few more I made earlier!
So there you go – they may not be the most professional looking cards in the world, but they came from the heart and everyone who receives one will hopefully appreciate how much effort an care went into them. Leave me some comments and suggestions as I’m still learning! 10 down, 120 to go!

You’re invited! Kind of… more etiquette advice from the Shabby Chic Bride

12 Aug

I always swore I wouldn’t have evening guests. Why would I want to treat any of my friends any differently to each other? There are many people who are important to me and I’ve always been adamant that I want to include them in my big day.

Until I did the numbers.

It’s a disappointing process to have to single out your family and your very very closest friends as day guests, but sadly most people simply don’t quite have the budget to have everyone they’d like at the whole day. That leaves two options: do you leave people out altogether? Or do you invite them as evening guests?

If the thought of having to cut people from the guest list altogether is too upsetting, then you face a dilemma as to how to approach the evening guest question.

I’ve been to weddings where I’ve been invited just to the evening party. Equally, I’ve heard of weddings where guests have been invited to the ceremony and the evening reception but not the meal in between. There are two schools of thought on this and, in the interests of objectivity I’ll share them both with you (and to make it all a bit more straightforward I’ll relate this to my own wedding):

Pros of inviting guests to both the ceremony and the evening reception

The obvious benefit is that you get to have as many people at as much of the wedding as possible. For example, despite the fact that I can only really afford a meal for family and people directly involved in the wedding, that doesn’t mean that my other friends aren’t extremely important to me. I know a lot of them would be really sad not to hear us say our wedding vows and would prefer to have a bit of a break in between the ceremony and evening party than to miss out on the most important bit.

Besides, many of them will have traveled from other parts of the country to be at the day and will want to get as much from it as possible. A couple of hours’ break means that people can go, freshen up and come back looking more gorgeous than ever for the evening party.

Cons of inviting guests to both the ceremony and the evening reception

Some people will inevitably by offended. No matter how noble your intentions, it still stings on some level to have to leave the festivities and come back later when you know they’re going on without you. Also, many weddings are now taking place in one venue. For example, my ceremony, meal and evening reception are all in the same place. So rather than leaving a ceremony venue and some people going on elsewhere, there will be that awkward moment when people have to leave.

It’s also somewhat unfair to expect people to travel and pay for a hotel for your wedding when you’re not going to be feeding them a full meal. Plus they might not relish the thought of wandering around a new place while you’re having the meal.

In short, guests shouldn’t have to feel obliged to give up their whole day when they’re not involved in every part of it.

So how do you manage it?

If you do decide (as I probably will) that you love all your buddies too much not to have them involved as much as possible, then there are a few ways to show them how important they are to you and to let them make a decision about how much of the day to attend:

1. Be honest – explain that your budget is tight and that you can only really have family and those directly involved with the wedding at the whole day. If your friends really care about you they’ll find a way to understand.

2. Give them a choice. Word the invitation as you would for an evening guest and then add at the bottom the time of the ceremony and that all are welcome to attend should they choose to. That way guests can decide for themselves if they’d like to attend the ceremony and will do so with a full understanding that there will be a break during the day.

3. Have an afternoon ceremony. Rather than expecting guests to sit around all day, make the break as short as you can, no more than two or three hours. That means that people can go off and freshen up or have some food but that boredom won’t set in.

4. Create a list of local attractions and restaurants. Make sure that evening guests can find something to do in the break, and that it’s all affordable and convenient.

5. Introduce people you think will get along. If someone has come to the ceremony and evening reception but doesn’t know anyone, pair them up with people you think they’ll like. Then they might well make some new friends before the evening.

6. Make the evening special. Perhaps save the majority of the speeches, the cutting of the cake and the first dance until the evening party. That way nobody misses out on too many of the truly special moments.

7. Be consistent. Seriously only invite those who must be invited to the meal. Definitely don’t pick and choose between groups of friends and set clear and understandable reasons for why some are invited and some aren’t. For example, only invite family and the wedding party to the meal.

8. Have a photo booth set up for the evening. That way people won’t miss out on being in photos even if they missed the meal, as well as breaking the ice.

9. Make sure you’re not all sozzled by the time the evening guests come back. That will leave them feeling awkward and give them a lot of catching up to do. Try to keep a respectable lid on the drinking until everyone’s there to enjoy themselves.

10. Spend proper time with your evening guests. If they made the special effort to come to your ceremony AND your party without coming to the meal, they must really care about you, so show them how grateful you are.

The whole question of who to invite and how is a difficult one, and it’s all about personal choice, but hopefully this post has offered you some guidance – good luck!

Wedding etiquette dilemmas – the Shabby Chic Bride way #1

8 Aug

OK, I’m the first to admit that this Shabby Chic Bride has hardly been through finishing school. But I do have the benefit of mulling (and agonising) some of the more difficult dilemmas. So, I’m going to hang up my Shabby Chic hat and become an agony aunt for the purposes of this post. This week I’ll be going through a few classic dilemmas and telling you what I would do about them.* First up is the classic kids at a wedding question…

*Disclaimer – what I would do is not necessarily the objectively correct, polite, or moral thing to do. I accept no responsibility if you take my advice and it blows up in your face 🙂 Just kidding.

Dilemma: I don’t want kids at my wedding – but I know this will offend people. Help!

There are some couples that go all gooey at the thought of rosy cheeked little ones running around and enjoying a wedding. There are some for whom the thought of a baby screaming over their “I dos” is intolerable. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to consider a child ban at the wedding.

First of all you need to decide on a cut off age. Is it just babies that are facing the ban? Under 16s? Under 18s? Once you decide on a cut off you need to stick to it. Seriously, you’ll ruffle a lot of feathers if you make any exceptions. The only way around this is to appoint the kids you DO want there as flower girl, page boy etc. etc. but even that might anger a particularly touchy guest.

Then you need to break the news that your friends and family will have to leave their little darlings at home. This isn’t always easy and the most tactful way to do it is to say that the party is going on late and that it’s adults only. It’s better to couch it that way than to bluntly write “no kids allowed”. I’ve read a lot of rubbish about how if you only NAME the adults on the invites they’ll magically know that only means them. Load of crap if you ask me. Before you were involved in weddings would you have had any clue about the coded wording of a wedding invite? Best to tell it straight to avoid embarrassment and confusion later on.

If you really can’t stick to your guns but can’t bear the thought of the moment you declare your infinite love for someone interrupted by a grumpy infant, then it might be worth investing in a childminder or creche facility away from the main event. That way people can have peace of mind knowing their kids are close by but your wedding will also go off without a hitch… unless someone objects!

Good luck!


Pick up a bargain at Bride2Bride

2 Aug

There’s nothing more inspiring to me than someone who is brave enough to make their dreams a reality. That’s why I was so thrilled to see the lovely Sophie Trinick doing just that and launching her fabulous bridal website, Bride2Bride, this week.

Bride2Bride is a unique online service that allows brides to be, like myself, to buy items listed by newlyweds who have been there and done that. From speaking to Sophie, I know how much this service means to her and how hard she’s worked to make it happen. I know so many brides out there will be thrilled to start using the site.

The site is run by Sophie and her husband John, who does all the design.

Sophie and John on their wedding day

The initial concept came about when Sophie ran into some frustrations planning her own wedding. In her own words:

“I wanted to make my wedding day perfect (mainly copious amounts of bunting, fairy lights and paper lanterns!)

I had to do some serious shopping around, and spent a small fortune having to buy it all new. As well as worrying about how much I was spending, I also started worrying about what on earth I was going to do with it all after the big day – there are only so many fairy light strings one small flat can take! I thought I could probably advertise it on Ebay (but get stung for selling fees), or perhaps on Gumtree (at least it’s free), but neither of these are designed specifically for buying and selling wedding items.

In fact, I couldn’t find any site that was dedicated to this, and surely a site like that would be so useful? From this point on the seed had been sown in my mind. I casually mentioned this idea to John, and to my surprise he said “uh, yeah – I could do that”. And so began the journey to where we are now. It hasn’t been an easy ride – we have spent many an hour inside huddled over computers when the sun has been shining and we were longing to go surfing with our friends, but we hope that all the effort was worth it, and that everyone who uses it is as happy as we’d hoped they’d be!”

I’m really excited about what this site has to offer and am confident that with Sophie and John’s dedication and enthusiasm, Bride2Bride will be a huge success.

Sorry to sound like an overexcited teenager, but there’s some seriously awesome stuff up already, so go on, get listing and buying!

Sophie and John are making their dreams a reality

Distressed wood, metal hearts and a VW camper

17 Jul

It’s time for more of my favourite shabby chic wedding decorations. This Shabby Chic Bride is particularly fussy about decor – so here are more of my top detail ideas.

Distressed wooden or metal signs

I’ve fallen in love with distressed signs around the venue. For example, this sign from The Wedding of my Dreams is a perfect touch for any venue. Many suppliers will also sell signs that direct people around the venue.

And They Lived Happily Ever After sign from The Wedding of my Dreams

Metal hearts

There’s something about metal + hearts that brings out my inner magpie. Here are a few of my favourite metal heart venue details. You can find all of these at Spottybutton.co.uk

Ivory hanging heart from Spottybutton.co.uk

Light up your venue with this heart-shaped tea light holder

Hang these rustic tea light holders around your venue for that magic touch

And a VW camper van

There are loads of amazing, fun and original ways to incorporate a beautiful, classic VW camper van into your day.

For example, hand out ice creams at a summer wedding with Split Screen Ice Cream

VW Ice Cream Van from Split Screen Ice Cream

Or, if you’d like the fun to last a little longer, try Camper Booth for a VW camper van that’s also a vintage style photo booth. Complete with props. In my experience, photo booths go down extremely well at weddings, and create some incredible memories.

Finally, if you just want to enjoy it, use it a VW camper van as a chill out area during the wedding – then drive away in it! Snail Trail does some great retro rentals.

More of my favourite vintage / shabby chic decorations to come this week… why don’t you tell me yours? Leave me a comment!