The Affordable Wedding Guide Part 3: See it, like it, book it

Thursday, 19 January 2017

I think the fact that Jay and I had both worked in the event industry really helped when it came to planning our wedding. We both had a very similar vision of a relaxed but incredibly fun day with family and friends. To help us stick to our budget but get what we want we made three lists:

1. The absolute necessary list
Marriage license fees, venue, and legal stuff went on this list.
2. We really want
This list featured things like welcome drinks for guests, and hair and make up appointments.
3. Love to have
Our final list featured the little extras that made our day super special and these things didn't always have a cost associated to them. It featured everything from scented candles to a window of photographs of our grandparents who couldn't be there with us.

And so we set about tackling the lists! Once the absolutely necessary list was sorted we moved onto the next. To speed things up, we adopted a 'see it, like it, book it' approach and provided it fitted in with the budget we'd set ourselves - we went for it. We really wanted the day to be personal to us and so a lot of our suppliers turned out to be people we already knew, friends or friends of the family.

We were also very lucky that Crook Hall supplied lots of the things we knew wanted inclusive. Our beautiful mis-matched vintage tea sets and cutlery was all provided by them and they even helped supply the table decoration stands (mis-matched between tree trunks and slabs of slate) and wine bottle candle holders. These added in alongside myself and my Mom's vintage jam jars and coffee pots which we decorated with twine and hessian from the farm looked exactly as I imagined.

Our stationery was designed and printed by my friend Debbie. As well as invitations and the order of the day, she painstakingly helped me re-draw all the maps of Crook Hall so our guests could feel free to truly explore all the house and gardens. We also created a special 'fairy trail' for the younger guests, that highlighted where the fairies of Crook Hall might have left chocolate coins - this was one of the best things we did and kept the kids entertained for hours!

My make up was done by my lifelong friend Victoria - having known each other since school, I knew she'd know exactly what I wanted. I didn't even have a trial I was that confident! Julia from Kerry Wedding Hair joined us to whip my hair up into an updo and I decided to go with wearing a veil and covered the top of it with one of my Grandma's vintage hair combs.

The bar was open all day but as well as welcome drinks, we managed to add post-ceremony drinks and canap├ęs and more for our guests to ensure no one got hungry or thirsty throughout the entire day. Each drink I asked Crook Hall to style into different glasses from jam jars to flutes depending on the type of drink we were serving.

Crook Hall is full of the most beautiful decorations and ornaments anyway but we added some extra special personal touches. My Mom provided lots of sweet pea scented candles which added to the fragrance from all the flowers. We created a memory window with photos of loved ones who are no longer with us and added their favourite colours in the form of roses that grew in my Grandparents garden. Robins have always played an important role in my family, (as we were encouraged as children to believe when my Granddad passed he had turned into a robin) so we had a couple hidden in various places. The highlight of my day was when a real robin flew right in front of us as were having photos taken.

We didn't want the fuss or drama of having 'roles' so we had two flower girls and Jay had a best man... though my brother did take the role of Maid of Honour upon himself and delivered the most hilarious and lovely speech. Our flower girls (more photos to come) wore the most sweetest dresses that matched incredibly well with mine from Sainsburys! They were an absolute bargain in the sale at £15 each - we even bought an extra one which my Mom managed to chop down and make into a beautiful dress for Jay's niece, Phoebe who was only one year old.

Our afternoon tea menu was bulked up by opting for a gentleman's size portion and despite a lot of apprehension from some who prefer a bigger feed - it went down really well. We later served bacon and sausage sandwiches with salad and fries for supper, with cake for afters of course.

Music was always going to play a massive part of our day and I'm so glad we picked the songs we chose and the people we did to play them. My brother's best friend, Matt is the most talented piano player and played a piano version of Taylor Swift's - Love Story for me to to walk up the aisle to. This was meant to be a surprise for Jay as he loves TS but he found out just before. Matt also played Your Hand in Mine by Explosions in the Sky as it's my absolute favourite piece of music, so moving and was also a nod to one of my best friends who couldn't make the big day. Once the ceremony was over, it only seemed fitting to walk back down the aisle together to Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered! The music didn't stop there as one of Jay's close friends Tom Butler, who is from Seattle and has played all over the world, played in the gardens throughout the afternoon for us. He made me smile on so many occasions changing the lyrics of songs to about us and keeping my Mom happy with her shout outs. Before he finally played our first dance, Death Cab for Cutie's - I Will Follow You (kindly changing the first line to 'be mine' rather than die). It was the most perfect song and the perfect person playing it, Jay made me giggle throughout the whole thing and though it was the part of the day I'd dreaded - it was one of the bits I most enjoyed.

The day absolutely flew over and I've only mentioned a small portion of our suppliers and friends who helped make it so amazing. If you're planning a wedding this year and trying to stick to a budget, it really doesn't mean that you can't have the day of your dreams. Create your lists, work through them in order of priority and it pays off. TBC.

The Affordable Wedding Guide Part 2: The Dress

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

I'll be the first to admit prior to getting married, I was very much naive when it came to weddings. I'd been to plenty as a guest and buying an outfit for them was always easy - so I (wrongly) assumed buying a wedding dress wouldn't be too hard.

A quick google search quickly informed me due to my limited time frame I wasn't going to be able to order a dress and have it fitted and ready in time (you need at least 6 months to do this). I was limited to second hand, vintage, off the rail and outlets. I had a quick scour of some local vintage stores and popped into a couple of boutiques but nothing really struck me. I had lots of ideas about what I thought I wanted and so I pinned on Pinterest and researched every wedding blog imaginable... nothing fussy or busy I kept telling myself as simple is very much my normal style and I certainly didn't want anything big given how petite I am. I decided a trip to an outlet might be a good idea so I could try on lots of different dresses and get a better feel for what I liked.

I tried a couple of places with no luck, when I randomly came across an advert for a new outlet on Scotswood Road in Newcastle. My Mom and I were passing one afternoon so called and we were lucky enough to be the only people in the store. I had only been in for a couple of minutes when I spied a dress poking out from between a rail of brilliant white dresses. It wasn't champagne coloured and it wasn't blush, in fact I really couldn't describe it. It caught my attention and I pulled it out and thought I'd give a go.

Quite honestly, until I tried it on I wasn't that impressed with the dress and I even contemplated putting it back on the rail. It looked so busy hanging up and the complete opposite of what I had been pinning! There was lace, flowers, beading, Swarovski crystals, layers, a train and even a belt but once it was on, I knew it was the one for me. I didn't get 'the feeling' (that some brides will rave about), there were no tears but I certainly knew that I could dance, walk without falling and feel comfortable all day long wearing it and I loved the fact that it was a one off and that it was unique so no one would have one exactly the same!

There were a few threads of beads that needed fixing and my Mom (ever the bargain hunter) negotiated a discount. I wasn't really sure at this point whether I wanted to wear a veil or not but as we were about to pay, one caught my eye sparkling in the sun. It was very simple (unlike the dress) and finished with matching little Swarovski crystals so I tried the whole thing on again and decided to go with it.

My dress did need a few alterations since I'm quite petite and only a UK size 6, so after some tlc with my Mom's tailor tucking in, up and fixing the few threads on the skirt, it was good to go! I can't remember the exact figure it came to but my dress, veil and alterations came to under £500. My budget to find a dress was well over double that however I simply didn't need it.

Jay had heard me many times trying to describe the dress to people and I'm sure he thought I was deliberately trying to confuse him. It was such a fun and playful dress but elegant too so I knew he'd love it.

Shopping for my dress was so much fun and I especially loved the fact that my Mom quite often got to help me in and out of the different ones we were trying rather than surprising her with a reveal from round a curtain. We made proper days out of it and went for lunch and it was such a lovely time with her. Some people have turned their noses up when they have heard the word 'outlet' however I was given the same attention I was in several bridal boutiques and still managed to pick up a unique gown at a brilliant price! If you're dress hunting, I can't recommend these guys enough.
All photography credit to our wedding photographer Jade at GASP

The Affordable Wedding Guide Part 1: Charlotte Mills Shoes

Friday, 30 December 2016

You'll know if you've read my previous posts that I'd always assumed that when I got married I'd have a long engagement. And our original plan was to do just that and to get married next year, in the summer of 2017... however when our venue was available on a date we wanted this year and was a lot more affordable, we snapped it up! Then quickly realised that gave us 3.5 months to plan everything! Given that we cut the length of time to plan, we also cut the budget. However I still managed to get everything I had wanted and dreamed of plus more, so I thought this might be a nice little feature for anyone who is planning their wedding.

Once I'd chosen my dress (I'll write about that next - promise), I set about finding myself the perfect pair of shoes. My dress was pretty unique and busy so I had a hard time finding inspiration online. I needed something plain and wanted something beautiful and my budget was under £100. I'd trawled through Love My Dress and the Little Book for Brides (back when the wedding was meant to be next year and my budget was a bit bigger) and clicked on every shoe link imaginable from Belle Bridal. I kept been drawn to Charlotte Mills and her designs but none of the current styles seemed to fit with my dress, nor my budget.

So in H&M one day I spotted a pair of plan white chunky heeled sandals and I thought they would do. I told myself no one was going to be looking at my feet and I couldn't really go wrong for £9.99. So they sat in a bag in the wardrobe with a pile of other wedding things and I ticked 'shoes' off my list.

That was until a month later when the receipt for H&M had gone past the return date and the re-marketing ads started appearing. It was like Charlotte Mills shoes were haunting me. I was meant to be purchasing some handkerchiefs off ebay when I suddenly had a thought and quickly typed 'Charlotte Mills Size 4' into the search. Only one pair popped up and they were perfect! A wedge (walking around Crook Hall Gardens is lethal in a spiked heel), not too high but high enough, had an ankle strap (I'm terrible for flopping out of shoes when there's no strap) and they were only £70. They were unworn as well which surprised me and I pinged off a message about the green safety stickers on the bottom. When the reply came in a few hours later, it was from the Charlotte Mills shop! My shoes were a one off pair and were for discounted sale.
I couldn't believe my luck and I really did think there was going to be a catch but after a couple of calls to confirm things, I hit 'buy it now' and they were on there way to me! They were presented in the most beautiful blue box with gorgeous shoe bags and a borrowed envelope for me to send a snap of them back in to Charlotte. Trying them on for the first time made me weak at the knees in panic that they wouldn't fit but I can honestly say I've never worn a comfier pair of shoes.

I wore them for the majority of the wedding day and I still get them out every now and again for a little wander round the house in!

Quite honestly I would have gone barefoot to our wedding provided I still got to marry Jay... however I'm so glad that I managed to find shoes that were exactly what I had imagined and carried me through the entire day. I love that they have a story to them too. So if you're getting married next year or sometime in the future but can't break the budget, keep your eyes open and don't rule good old ebay out!

This post is in no way sponsored - I just wanted to share how I found the most perfect wedding shoes for me. Take a look at the latest Charlotte Mills shoes here.

I Trashed My Dress : Our Alternative Wedding Photos

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, there's a good chance you'll have seen me chatting about Scream Factory. For those of you who don't have a clue what this is, let me introduce you to one of my husband's family businesses.

To give you the shortest version of this story, Jay and his Dad have a restoration business which they diversified five years ago and created an event management company to produce a Halloween event in the woods. It was inspired by the American Halloween Horror nights and a few hundred people attended. A few years down the line Scream Factory is now the biggest, scariest and the only purpose built Halloween Haunt in the North East of England and sees thousands attend each night in October.

The Tate's are a pretty talented lot (if I do say so myself) and everyone works on the event. From joiners to painters, to actors and cake bakers, you name it they've got it. Plus the event hires hundreds of creative folk each year from around the region.

Given that Scream Factory is pretty close to Jay's heart, people kept asking if we'd have anything Scream Factory related at our wedding. "No!" I'd scoff when they asked. Jay jokingly mentioned about having some zombies turn up and I could only begin to imagine the look on my Mom's face had that happened!

So when our photographer Jade mentioned doing a trash the dress / post-wedding photoshoot... there was a bit of a lightbulb moment and somehow Jay convinced me to pop my wedding dress back on. Except this time I'd accessorise with blood, wounds and tools.

Back in July, some of the haunts still didn't have roofs on (they're re-built each year along with new ones created) so given it was a bright sunny day, it was the kind of weather every bride wants - even a dead bride. I wore my Dr Martens boots and hoisted my dress up as much as I could!

My dress did suffer at the hands of some of the coloured smoke and running blood but to be honest... I kind of like it. It never was just a typical wedding dress and now it's got more than one story to tell.

I'm fairly sure that Jay will have one of the Scream Factory wedding pictures framed and on our mantle piece if he has anything to do with it. I however plan on drowning them out with our real wedding photos!

So if you're in the North East and you're looking for something to do this Halloween, I cannot recommend Scream Factory enough. I might be a little bias but hey, I went round last year fully knowing what to expect and I still needed a sit down and some sugar after!

Scream Factory is split into two tours, so if you're a bit of a wimp (like me) or you have children and want a more magical experience for them - then the Twilight Tour is for you! This year's theme is 'The Mad Hatter's Halloween Tea Party' and there's absolutely nothing scary. It's just a fun Halloween event for the kids, plus it's only £6pp and you get some free sweet treats!

On the other hand, if you're a bit of a dare devil and fancy giving The Extreme Tour a go - you'll love it! I can't tell you what is there this year as it will ruin all the surprises for you but the team have gone all out to celebrate Scream Factory's fifth birthday! Prices start from £14.50 and are available to buy now here!