Last weekend, friends of mine James and Lucy got married. A beautiful country wedding in Surrey with a ceremony in the village church followed by a marquee reception in her parents' garden. I was there as a guest, but as always, I found it hard taking off my Brides hat - or rather fascinator - and so here I am now with a bunch of tips to share with you. In my mind, this is a wedding that "worked". It was planned down to the last detail, but the ceremony and party were both relaxed and personal.
The couple went for a four o'clock ceremony. This is a great plan since it meant the day flowed from afternoon to night without lulls. No moments of clock-checking, which can be a problem if your celebrations start earlier in the afternoon and guests are left wondering how the time is going to be filled. If you've already lined up an early afternoon ceremony, then it's a good idea to have a swift reception after the ceremony followed by a break (when guests can have a couple of hours to themselves) before re-grouping for an evening party.
The wedding was beautiful, but more than that, it was a true reflection of James and Lucy as a couple. They had included lots of little details, which of course are what the guests will remember. James went to school in Edinburgh so bagpipers played his school anthem after the ceremony, and the homemade fudge favours were made by his mother who is renowned for her delicious fudge recipe. An element of surprise is always good at weddings, and you can't get better than the singing waiters, which the couple had booked to perform during dinner (www.thethreewaiters.com) and left even the most restrained guests cheering.
The couple broke from the tradition of a tiered wedding cake and opted for a tower of chocolate brownies, which looked and tasted spectacular. It was a nice change from the cupcake extravaganza, which is very "now" and cleverly they had their "brownie-cutting moment" before we sat down to dinner so that the caterers could plate up the brownies and serve for dessert. For great brownies (pictured), check out www.blondiesandbrownies.co.uk
Finally, a good tip if you're planning to have little flowergirls and pageboys: make sure you have a bag of quiet distractions to entertain them during the ceremony. Lucy's niece, as cute as she was, was far happier reading a book from her goodie bag than standing at the altar behind the bride and groom. If you're inviting lots of children to your wedding reception, it's worth arranging crèche facilities (www.artfullsplodgers.com) or at least tailoring the reception tables where little guests are seated. Paper tablecloths with crayons are a credit-crunch ways to keep children occupied.
So do as Lucy and James did. Think about the schedule of the day, don't be afraid of making the day personal to you both - if you love brownies, have brownies! - and remember the little guests. You'll have a wonderful day, and better still, so will your guests.