Advice // How to Host your Wedding Reception at Home

Image: Catie Bartlett {via Style Me Pretty}

Hosting your evening celebration at home is becoming increasingly popular as brides and grooms search for innovative ways of saving money on their weddings whilst maintaining quality, style and beauty. At home receptions are highly personal, intimate and relaxed affairs, as long as you have the time and space to pull them off, they can be a delightful experience. If you have a small guest list then you’re fine, but if you would like to invite everyone you’ve ever known then you need to consider if your home will be big enough to accommodate everyone. If you’re lucky enough to have a large house or a very spacious garden, or if a close friend or family member does, then you’re probably going to be ok. If you live on a farm then an at home reception will be perfect!

Images: First Mate Photo Co. {via Style Me Pretty} // Elisa Bricker {via Plum Pretty Sugar}

As you can imagine there are quite a few issues to consider when planning this type of event and the term ‘labour of love’ comes to mind whenever I think of at home wedding receptions. Without the assistance of a venue’s experienced and well-connected event or wedding planning team, all of the planning and coordination tasks will fall to you, your groom and your near and dear. This can seem like a heavy burden but with some very careful planning, some serious effort on your part, and my advice you can plan a gorgeous and highly personal wedding reception right in your back yard!

Decoration and facilities:

Perhaps the very best thing about having your wedding reception at home is the ultimate flexibility you have with regards to decoration. Venues are sometimes a little strict regarding what you can and cannot do in terms of decoration and flowers for your wedding, but at home the only limitations are your imagination and your budget! That being said, don’t go too over the top as you may end up spending the money you would have saved by hosting your wedding at home!

Personally I believe that the best way of hosting an at home wedding reception is to restrict it to the garden. If you have enough space I urge you to consider hiring a heated marquee, large tent or Indian canopy to keep your guests warm and dry as you simply cannot rely on the British weather to behave itself. The company who hires out the marquee to you will be able to advise you on the best way to go about keeping your guests warm and comfortable, even after sunset when it becomes chilly.

Providing your guests with toilet facilities is another important issue which must be addressed. These days you don’t need to subject your guests to festival-style plastic loos, as you can now hire luxury portable loos which come complete with chrome fittings, wooden interiors and running water. Before you book a company to provide loos just make sure that they will also supply an attendant to maintain them throughout the evening.

Images: Dylan & Sara Photography {via Green Wedding Shoes} // Feather & Stone {via Elizabeth Anne Designs} // Aaron Young Photography {via Hostess With The Mostess

Transport:

Organising transport for your guests to and from your home is essential as I’m sure your neighbours will not appreciate their driveways being blocked by other people’s cars. Obviously if you live on a country estate or farm you don’t need to worry about this, however most people would do well to organise for a coach or pretty vintage bus to collect their guests from their houses and to transport them to your home. If your guests live in quite a few different areas, consider asking them to collect themselves at a small number of pre-arranged locations where the coach can pick them up. Don’t forget to also include plenty of taxi numbers with your wedding invitations and in a pile at your reception so that your guests can get home.

If you have a few people coming from far away and need to find spaces for their cars you could always ask your friendly neighbours if it’s possible for those people to park on their drive ways. You will be surprised how many people will say yes when they find out it’s for your wedding!

Catering:

Catering an at home wedding reception can be a little tricky, especially if you have a small kitchen with very little room to manoeuvre. There are two main options here which you may like to consider. The first is to request that your guests bring something homemade and yummy along with them and lay the food out on large tables for everyone to share buffet-style. This is great if you have a cold room, larder or a large fridge to store the food in until it’s ready to serve, but not so great if you’re really pushed for space.  The second option is to hire a mobile catering company who will take care of everything for you in their own portable kitchen. Obviously this second option will be more expensive; however it will be far less stressful as the catering company will take care of everything from the cooking of the food to the washing up!

Images: Gina Cristine Weddings // Liz Caruana Weddings {via One Wed} // Laura Murray Photography {via Ruffled}

The neighbours:

Holding your wedding reception at home is accessible to anyone so long as they have enough room and facilities to keep their guests entertained, warm and comfortable. Perhaps the biggest concern related to at home receptions is the noise and how the neighbours will react. If you can’t invite your closest neighbours due to space concerns (or if you simply don’t know or like them), then be courteous and pop a note through their door a week or two before the wedding letting them know what is going to happen. Very few people will have an issue with a bit of noise if it’s for a good cause, and if they do object kindly suggest that they pop over for a cup of tea and a chat so that you can allay their fears and concerns. If someone is just being awkward for the sake of it they probably won’t even turn up for a chat, in which case you can consider their objection nullified. 

A word on pets:

It’s so lovely to be able to include your much loved pets in your wedding day celebrations! However, you need to bear in mind that dogs and cats can often become distressed if they see a lots of strangers milling around their previously quiet home. Add to this the noise created by merry people, blaring music, and the often overenthusiastic affection shown by little children, and you can have one stressed out pooch or kitty cat on your hands. The best way to deal with this is to provide your pets with an ‘escape zone’ where they can hide when it all gets too much. This could be as simple as a cardboard box lay on its side and containing a few soft pillows, their bedding, some toys and some fresh water. Be sure to leave the room dark, close the curtains and keep the door slightly open so your pets can come and go as they please. Encourage your guests not to enter that room and ask any children in attendance to be gentle and quiet whenever your pet decide to make an appearance.

Remember not to leave small children alone with a dog or cat. Even if you trust your animals completely it’s best to keep a watchful eye on them just in case.

Images: Pinterest // Jose Villa {via Style Me Pretty} // Milk Photography {via Style Me Pretty}

The big clean up:

Once your big day is over you will be left with more than happy memories and a hangover if you’ve chosen to host your wedding reception at home! I suggest that you consider hiring a professional cleaning company to deal with the mess the next morning, especially if you’re due to fly off on your honeymoon. Being faced with a massive cleaning mission is not what I would consider to be a romantic start to your life as a married couple. Do feel free to delegate the supervision of the clean-up to a trusted family member.

--Lottie ♥

Advice // Booking the Best Suppliers for your Wedding

Images: Krista Leigh Hurst Photography {via Ruffled Blog}

There are so many issues to consider before you make a leap of faith and place an important part of your wedding day in the hands of a wedding supplier. After all, your chosen supplier will probably have been a total stranger to you prior to your initial enquiry! So many elements of your big day which are pivotal to its success or failure rest in the hands of someone else; the cake, the catering and the entertainment to name but a few. So what is the best process to follow in order to safely book the perfect suppliers for your wedding? Take a look at my advice below…

Images: White Loft Studio {via Style Me Pretty} // White Loft Studio {via Swooned Magazine}

First of all I urge you to take your time with visiting wedding fairs, flicking through bridal magazines, reading reputable wedding blogs, perusing supplier directories and asking friends and family for their personal recommendations. Don’t rush through this part of the wedding planning process as it’s so important that you choose carefully. Your initial aim should be to create a list of potential suppliers in each area which you can keep in your wedding planning folder and refer back to on a regular basis.

Pay close attention to how each supplier handles your request for information and reviews. If the supplier is friendly, provides you with the information you require in a timely manner and follows up with a phone call, then the chances are that they are trustworthy and capable of providing you with whatever it is that you require. If they take forever to respond, go weeks without answering your questions or seem to be rude on the phone, then strike them off the list. If a supplier doesn’t impress you or takes an age to answer your enquiry, just move on!

Images: Jose Villa Photography // Lacie Hansen Photography {via Grey Likes Weddings} // The House That Lars Built // Paige Newton Photography {via Bird Dog Wedding}

Once you have a list of potential suppliers you can start whittling them down by checking that they have a diverse portfolio of styles and event types, and therefore that they are accommodating and interested in making your wedding day truly unique. You don’t want your wedding to look like a carbon copy of the last wedding they did, and you want them to be flexible enough to incorporate your ideas seamlessly. Another great way to check up on their previous work is to ask each supplier for an email address of their two most recent clients. Chatting to these newlyweds will give you the best impression of what the supplier is all about, and whether they are worth booking. Brides especially always love to share their experiences of their big day, so it will be rare to find a bride who doesn’t want to have a quick chat. If the supplier refuses to provide you with this information and doesn’t have a list of reviews, simply move onto the next option on your list.

Images: Dana Laymon Photography {via The Knot} // Jose Villa Photography {via Once Wed}

Always pay particular attention to suppliers who come up with savvy money-saving tricks and ideas. If your supplier can work to your budget then they are a keeper! However, it’s important not to expect every supplier to be able to lower their fees if they are simply out of your price range.

So, to summaries the points I have included above, take a look at the steps outline below for booking your suppliers, and remember not to rush through this stage of the planning process. It’s vitally important to do your research and to be completely happy with a supplier before you sign on the dotted line…

  1. Create a shortlist of three suppliers in each field who have already impressed you via their portfolios, their website, their reviews and their social media accounts. Make a note of what drew you to them over the others, for example did you see something on a florist’s website which you’d never seen before?
  2. Call your chosen three suppliers for more information and to ask if you could have the contact details for a couple of their most recent clients or whether they have a list of recent reviews. If they say no, move on to the next supplier on your list
  3. Once you’ve had time to digest the information gained through the initial telephone call, it’s time to call all suitable suppliers back for a quote
  4. When you have your quotes recorded you need to sit down with your fiancé to make some decisions. Don’t do this when you are tired or rushed! Remember to keep all quotes and other bits of information in your wedding planning folder
  5. Once you’re both in agreement call your chosen supplier back to arrange a meeting or to book their services
  6. Attend the meeting with your fiancé and go armed with any further questions you may have
  7. Discuss the meeting with your fiancé and book your chosen supplier!
  8. Keep a copy of your contract safe in your wedding planning folder, once you’ve thoroughly read through it of course!
  9. If you meet with a supplier and you’re no longer impressed, simply arrange to meet the next supplier on your list

Images: Alison Mayfield Photography Studio {via Style Me Pretty} // Pinterest // Brosnan Photographic {via One Fab Day}

If you follow the tips above and really spend quality time researching and booking your suppliers it’s very unlikely that you will have any issues with them as your wedding day approaches. However, if you feel that one of your suppliers just isn’t pulling their weight, don’t be afraid to walk away. It may create a bit of a headache right now, however in the long run your wedding will benefit. Be prepared to pay a fee to cover any time they’ve already spent on your wedding, but don’t expect to have to pay the full amount.

Images: Sarah Box Photography {via Magnolia Rouge} // Wedding Lovely

Most suppliers will expect you to pay a deposit in order to secure your booking, and they will then expect the full balance to be paid around four weeks before the event. Be aware that once your wedding has taken place you may still have some late invoices to pay, as well as charges from any accommodation, room service and bar bills. You should also be aware that some suppliers will ask to be paid in cash on the night, so make sure that you have cash available to cover these costs and that this plan has be prearranged. 

--Lottie ♥

Advice // Creating your own Wedding Concept

Images: Casa De Perrin, photographed by Paige Jones {via 100 Layer Cake}

Creating a totally unique wedding concept is central to all of the most memorable and beautiful weddings. I truly believe that every wedding should be born from a concept which is envisioned and developed by the two individuals who will be getting married, and that the concept should be based on their relationship, their joint passions and their outlooks on life. I have never been a huge fan of wedding trends as they tend to be fleeting and detached. Instead I adore the idea of each and every wedding be highly personal, and spun from the memories and experiences of the bride and groom. This is the foundation that the Lace & Love Hearts blog is built upon!

Images: The Lotus Blanc, photographed by Joie Lala {via Burnetts Boards} // Joy Thigpen // Potterybarn

Creating your own wedding concept couldn’t be easier. All you need to get started is a blank piece of paper upon which you need to write down words, phrases and ideas that you feel drawn towards. If you or your fiancé enjoy gardening perhaps you could write down words and terms such as ‘beautiful blooms’, ‘watering cans’ and ‘eco-friendly’? If you love woodlands and nature perhaps you could include words such as ‘earthy colours’, ‘woodland creatures’ and ‘wild flowers’. Do this in the style of a starburst diagram and use a big piece of paper as it was quickly fill up with inspirational scribbles!

Images: Squeeze My Hand & Rachel Derman Events {via Wedding Chicks} // Ooh Events! {via Wedding Wire}

Once you have a decent collection of terms, start to enter them into a search engine and Pinterest along with the word ‘wedding’, and see what you can find. The search results will give you some idea of what each of those styles look like in real life by showing them as they appeared in other people’s wedding setups, and within styled shoots. If something catches your eye then make a note of it on your starburst diagram and save any pictures on your laptop or device. Creating a Pinterest account is something which every bride and groom should do as it’s a fantastic way of safely storing your ideas, and your boards can be shown to potential suppliers. Oh, and don’t forget to store your starburst diagram, scraps of paper or other bits of inspiration safely in your wedding planning folder. These are very important documents which you will be coming back to again and again as your plans develop.

Images: Adam Barnes Photography {via Wedding Chicks} // Weddings by Scott & Dana {via Wedding Chicks} // Jessamyn Harris Photography {via Style Me Pretty}

Once you feel that you’ve got a good idea of what’s out there with regards to styling ideas, you will want to turn your thoughts inwards. Outside inspiration is fantastic and essential to really getting your creative juices flowing, however to really craft a wedding day which accurately represents you as a couple, you need to bring in elements from your relationship and your individual personalities, interests and outlooks. To get you started you may like to answer the following questions for both of you in turn…

  • Where did you meet, and where did you get engaged?
  • Do you suit a specific colour? Open your wardrobe and see if there’s a colour which you tend to wear over and over.
  • Do you find yourself planting the same flowers in your garden year after year? Perhaps those flowers could be incorporated into your bouquet.
  • Which books and movies do you read or watch over and over together, and what kind of music do you listen to? Perhaps elements of those could be incorporated into your day.
  • Have you travelled the world or are you a home body?
  • Do you have any pets? Could they be included within the day somehow?
  • Does your family observe any special wedding-related traditions, or do you have some special saying?
  • Do you have a favourite season? If you adore the fiery colours of autumn, then perhaps you should get married in October or November.
  • What culture(s) do you and your fiancé belong to?
  • What kind of wedding dress do you envisage yourself wearing? Many wedding themes come from the style of dress which the bride is drawn towards.

Answering these questions will get you on the right track towards creating a stunning wedding concept! Whatever you do it will be totally unique to you as it came out of your head. It really can’t be anything but representative of you and your fiancé as creative people as you have used your relationship and your passions as inspiration.

--Lottie ♥

Advice // How to Get the Most Out of your Engagement Photo-shoot

 Image: Ciara Richardson {via Bridal Musing

Perhaps the most unique and personal way of announcing your engagement to your near and dear is with a styled engagement photo-shoot. Your shoot can be as simple or as lavish as you like, it could take place in your home or at a location which means a great deal to you as a couple, it could even include your pets! As long as it represents the two of you perfectly, feel free to be as subtle or as outrageous as you like!

Photos: Alders Photography {via Style Me Pretty} // Brandon Kidd Photography {via Inspired By This} // Brandon Kidd Photography {via Inspired By This} // Kayla Barker {via Grey Likes Weddings}

An engagement shoot is also the perfect opportunity to really get comfortable and confident in front of the camera ahead of your wedding day, where you will be photographed left, right and centre! If you are super organised and have already booked your wedding photographer, then perhaps they can also take your engagement photos? An engagement shoot will give your photographer the perfect opportunity to see how you are in front of the camera, and therefore how to properly shoot you so that you look your very best when your wedding day arrives! Gorgeous engagement photo-shoot images will provide you with inspiration for very personal and totally unique save the date cards, they can be used to decorate your wedding website (if you have a craving for such a thing), and they make great gifts for your parents or guardians.

Images: Tara Photographics // June Bug Weddings // Pinterest

Take a look at my tips below to ensure that you get the most out of the experience …

  • Before you begin searching for a photographer you may like to create a few mood boards which identify and expand upon the atmosphere and style of shots you wish to capture. Pinterest is perfect for this job as your resulting boards can be emailed or shown to potential photographers.
  • Choose a location for your photo-shoot which is appropriate for the time of year. If it’s midwinter you may want to stick to cosy indoor setups with a roaring fire, rather than parks, gardens or beaches. Unless you have your heart set on a wintery backdrop of course! Great autumn locations include woodlands and city parks to take advantage of the fiery colours, while great spring and summer locations include bluebell woods, secret gardens and nature reserves. Use your chosen location to the fullest by taking plenty of shots in different areas or rooms to capture different backgrounds and angles of light. Also, engagement photo-shoots at the home you share with your fiancé can be particularly moving and make for beautiful shots.
  • Practice your makeup or book a makeup artist to create a natural but glamorous look for your shoot! If you opt for a makeup artist you will want to have a trial first (just as you will for your wedding day look), to ensure that you are completely happy with the result before you book. You will need to wear a bit more makeup than you would usually wear, as makeup doesn’t show up as well on photos.
  • Keep your hair style simple and natural. Stay away from highly styled looks as you want to keep those for the big day itself! If you want to colour your hair for the shoot then make an appointment at your salon at least a week before, and apply some intensive moisture masks to add shine and bounce.
  • Again, keep your outfit simple and tidy, but don’t try to change your own style of clothing as you won’t feel, and therefore you won’t look, comfortable. If you live in jeans and hi-tops then don’t force yourself to totter around in five inch heels and a sequin dress! Pick a few different outfits to wear, stay away from anything too intricate or highly decorative, and don’t forget a coat and accessories. Also, get a second opinion regarding your outfits from a trusted friend or family member. You may think that the pink jumpsuit and gold wedges you’ve chosen looks fab, but a trusted friend will give an objective opinion and perhaps rein you in bit. Oh, and steer clear of sheer fabrics or you may end up with more on display than you intended!
  • Include your pets and hobbies where possible to keep the shoot highly personal to you as a couple. If you have a well behaved dog then it’s almost essential that you take them along to get involved with the shoot, but remember to take a friend along also to look after the dog between shots.
  • Have fun with it! An engagement photo-shoot is the perfect platform to allow your fun and flirty side to shine through, so discuss ideas such as props, funky backdrops and personal touches with your photographer. Make it as unique as you can by choosing props that tell the story of your relationship, and always take your photographer’s opinion into consideration. Prop rental companies are a great source, both of advice and of top quality decorative items.

--Lottie ♥

Advice // DIY Goodie Bags for Little Wedding Guests

Image: Pinterest

The topic of whether to welcome or exclude children from your wedding day celebrations will probably be near the top of your wedding planning to-do list, and this is not a decision to be taken lightly. For my husband and I it was an easy decision to make as we are incredibly close to our nieces and nephews, and we simply could not have pictured our day without them playing a big role. As soon as my husband popped the question my mind was full of images of kids toddling and chasing around our venue, and instantly I knew that our four nieces would make beautiful flower girls, and our two nephews would make very handsome ring bearers...and indeed they did! 

That being said, I do understand why some couples opt for an adult only wedding. It’s not that I’m saying you should always include little ones, as adult only weddings provide parents with an opportunity to truly let their hair down. Excluding children is also a fantastic way of reducing the wedding breakfast catering bill!

Image: Dominique Attaway {via The Knot}

If you do decide to include children on your guest list then you need to think of ways of keeping them entertained. Hiring event nannies is now extremely popular and tons of reputable wedding day childcare companies have sprung up all over the country. We decided to have all children under the age of ten (who were not flower girls or ring bearers) cared for by a wedding crèche company during the ceremony and the drinks reception which followed. Our reasoning behind this it to prevent bored and fractious children from being noisy during our vows, and also to prevent mums and dad from having to leave to calm the aforementioned children down. However, while we booked the fantastic 'Perfectly Practical Parties' crèche to entertaining the children during the ceremony and drinks reception, it was totally up to us to provide activities for them during the wedding breakfast and afterwards at the evening reception.

Images: Justin & Keary Weddings {via Ruffled}

So, how do you prevent boredom and keep little fingers busy? Well the best way to go about this is with DIY goodie bags! Of course the children will want to run around and dance under the glitter ball once they are full of sugary drinks, however you may want to provide them with a distraction until the evening reception begins. Exciting goodie bags handed out to each child will go a long way to helping you achieve this goal.

Goodie bags don’t have to be expensive, they just need to contain a variety of fun activities which will keep the children busy for a little bit while their parents relax and enjoy the celebration. For our wedding I filled brown paper bags with goodies and then securing the bag with a sticky label saying ‘just for you’. For our tiny wedding guests we changed the contents of the goodie bags to exclude craft items such as crayons and paper, and to include more ago appropriate toys.

Image: Nakai Photography {via Style Me Pretty}

Below you will find a list of some funky and inexpensive products for awesome goodie bags…

  • Pencils & crayons – stay away from pens to avoid making a mess
  • Colouring pages & dot-to-dots – these can be printed rather than bought
  • Stickers
  • Pomp oms & pipe cleaners
  • Bubbles
  • Wind-up toys
  • Disposable cameras – so that each child can document the occasion!
  • Glow sticks
  • Fortune fish
  • Eye spy games – again, these can be printed
  • LED balloons

Just remember that there’s no point in popping expensive toys and games into the goodie bags because at the end of the night it’s very likely that these bags will be left on tables, or chucked in the bin. The aim of a goodie bag is simply to keep children occupied for a couple of hours, and if they do that then you’ve done your job very well!

--Lottie ♥

Advice // Appointing your Maid of Honour

Image: Makeup By Megan {via Polka Dot Bride}

As a bride the task of choosing your maid of honour could be a very simple one, or it could be a decision that requires some serious thought. The honour of being asked at accompany a bride on her wedding day, to provide support, to ensure that she always looks her best and to praise and encourage her is something which many women take in their stride. However, not every one of your best girls is going to be properly equipped to assume this most vital of roles.

While you’re still riding high on a wave of joyful emotions and excitement following your engagement it can be very tempting to rush over to your best friend’s or sister’s house, champagne in hand, and ready to pop the cork and the question. However, you may end up doing yourself and your wedding a disservice! Most of you lovely ladies will have plenty of responsible and organised women in your lives, but are they all qualified to be your right hand woman for the day? My advice is to wait for the post-engagement craziness to calm down a bit, and to spend some time thinking about this important decision objectively.

Images: Jessica Strickland Photography {via The Knot} // Jenny Sun Photography {via Style Me Pretty} // Cluney Photo {via Style Me Pretty}

Take a look at the points below and answer them for each of your potential maids of honour…

  • Can you truly and completely rely on her? She may love you, but that doesn’t mean that you can be sure she will be there when you need her.
  • Is she the type of girl who offers confidence boosting compliments and heart-felt words right when they are needed?
  • Is she a calming influence on you? Or does she tend to get a bit overexcited?
  • Has she recently broken up with a long term boyfriend? Do you think she would feel any negative emotions towards your wedding because of this?
  • Is your best girl a new mother? Does she really have the time to dedicate to assisting you with the planning of your big day?
  • Does she live close enough to you for regular meetings and days out at wedding fairs and events?
  • Does she have a good relationship with your groom-to-be?

Images: Todd Hunter McGaw {via Polka Dot Bride} // Pinterest // Pinterest // Jenny Sun Photography {via Style Me Pretty}

All of these issues need to be carefully thought out before you are properly able to make the right choice. It’s so important that you choose the perfect maid of honour on the first attempt as it’s pretty much impossible to change your mind later down the line! If you're having a long engagement then I urge you to hold off for a little while as relationships change over time. It would be awkward if you chose a friend to be your maid of honour only for the two of you to drift apart before your wedding day arrives.

But what if upon hearing your happy news one of your friends assumes that she will be asked to be your maid of honour? If this does happen to you then remember that you are under no obligation to choose someone unless you believe they are completely right for the honour.  With this in mind you should be able to politely announce that you have not made any decisions regarding this role, and to leave it at that. You should not feel forced into choosing a particular person by anyone as this decision is completely yours to make. Your mother or guardian can speak her mind, as can the mother of the groom, but ultimately you should be the one to make the decision.

Images: Pinterest // Etsy.com // Trent Bailey Photography {via Wedding Chicks}

And if you simply cannot choose just one maid of honour? Well, there are no rules saying that you can’t have more than one! If you decide to have a collection of maids of honour, then make sure that each lady knows which aspect of your wedding she is responsible for. Perhaps you could appoint one maid to walk down the aisle with your younger bridesmaids, one to make sure that your dress and veil always look perfect, and one to sit with you on the top table at your wedding breakfast? For me it is so important that brides and grooms feel that they do not have to stick to tradition regarding appointing their wedding party, or with any other decisions regarding their wedding. It’s your big day after all, so do what makes the two of you happy!

--Lottie ♥

Advice // Planning a Beautiful Barn Wedding

Image: Pinterest

Barn weddings have been increasing in popularity steadily over the past few years as brides and grooms seek to host a wedding with a difference, something a little more rustic, a little more easy going, and of course, a little more budget-friendly. Barn weddings along with farm weddings, garden weddings, woodland weddings, and festival weddings are often held in late spring and summer in order to catch the finest weather, and despite the relaxed atmosphere of a barn wedding, you will find no compromises on style and grandeur here!

In my opinion the number one plus point for choosing a barn wedding is that you will have so much flexibility in terms of catering, decoration, entertainment and the overall atmosphere of the wedding; you can dress them up for a formal occasion, or dress them down for something earthier. Generally, when you hire a barn you will be hiring the building and that’s it, although some venues may offer decoration and catering services as part of their package. Stripped down wedding packages frequently mean that you end up paying a little less than you would if all of these services came as part of the wedding package, as many venues overcharge for things like floral arrangements and wine.

However, with increased flexibility comes an increased chance of something going wrong. Sourcing, researching and booking suppliers when you have no previous experience of doing so can be fraught with difficulties and risks, and could end up taking a very long time. If you are not naturally an organised person with the ability to juggle lots of suppliers, meetings and invoices then you will probably want to consider hiring a wedding planner to successfully design and coordinate this type of wedding with you, and to make sure that you stick to your budget!

Images: Sarah Becker Photography {via Wedding Chicks} // A Brit and A Blonde {via Style Me Pretty} // Pinterest

‘But aren’t wedding planners very expensive?’ I hear you ask! Well yes, but any decent wedding planner will be able to save you lots of money and hassle when it comes to booking suppliers (as they will have heaps of quality local contacts!), and greater peace of mind on the lead up to your wedding day is well worth paying for, believe me. Generally, a talented and reasonably prices wedding planner will save you most of the cost of their fee, so meet with plenty of candidates before booking one.

If you are up for a challenge, fiercely organised and you do decide to go it alone, then the very best of luck to you. You sound like my kind of bride! Organising your own barn wedding is perfectly doable with a bit of assistance from your near and dear and a focused and relaxed mind. Take a look at my tips below for successfully planning and executing your own beautiful barn wedding…

Insurance, licences and permissions:

As I mentioned above, barn weddings offer greater flexibility than the average hotel wedding as you’re often simply hiring a building. But before you book a venue you need to make sure that you and the venue management both sign a clear and wide-ranging contract which states what you will and won’t receive from the venue for the money you are handing over. You also need to make sure that they have up to date insurance and the correct licences and permissions to host weddings.

Images: Veronica Varos Photography {via Ruffled} // Jacque Lynn {via Elizabeth Anne Designs}

Catering facilities:

Before you book a venue it’s important to thoroughly check their catering facilities. Is the kitchen large and well equipped enough to prepare food for a barn full of hungry wedding guests? You also need to check that everything is clean and in a good state of repair. An oven breaking down just before the wedding breakfast is due to be served will cause no end of stress for both you and your catering company.

In house catering at wedding venues does tend to be a little overpriced (or a lot overpriced at the more prestigious locations!), so if you are able to search for and book your own catering company, you could be in line for a big saving! For brides on a super-tight budget why not ask everyone to bring a dish with them, and reduce or cut out the need for a catering company altogether?

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your menu, after all it’s your wedding. If you want to serve pie and mash, a cute finger buffet rather than a sit down meal, or an international menu, then go for it! The beauty of a barn wedding is that you can hire whoever you like to cater your wedding, rather than being stuck with the venue’s own team of chefs.

Images: The Cotton Wife {via Rustic Wedding Chic} // Hearth & Made // Stephanie Sunderland Photography {via Le Magnifique Blog}

Other facilities:

It is very important that you spend plenty of time at each potential barn before making any decisions so that you can get a really good ‘feel’ for the place and its facilities. Do a walk through with your wedding planner or with whoever is helping you to plan the wedding and make a note of anything which jumps out at you, whether for a good or a bad reason. Check that the site has access to water and electricity, plenty of secure parking, staging for your chosen entertainment, heating for later in the evening and ample lighting for the inside and outside of the barn.

Does the venue provide bathroom facilities? If not then you need to do some research to locate a supplier to provide posh portable loos for you and your guests. I say ‘posh’ because the standard festival loos aren’t really good enough for such an important occasion.

Alcohol:

A great way to save on bar costs is to buy bottles of wine and beer in bulk from a wholesaler to serve to your guests. Most venues will have a licence which allows you to sell alcohol, but double check early on in the process. Be sure to discuss licences and permissions extensively with the venue management.

Images: Chic Vintage Brides // Jeremiah & Rachel Photography {via Style Me Pretty} // Jeff Loves Jessica {via Style Me Pretty} // Taylor Lord Photography {via Style Me Pretty}

Decoration:

As decorating a large space such as a barn can be a daunting prospect (and an expensive one!), you may like to book a venue decorating company from whom you can hire a lot of your decorations. Mix hired decorations (such as lighting features, ceiling swags and topiary trees) with fairy lights and floral arrangements and you are well on your way to a breath-taking wedding venue.

To keep the cost down and to add some personal details to your concept, why not ask your near and dear to create some decorations themselves? Ask them to make paper flowers, garlands, pom poms and other paper items to scatter around the space, and remember to save everything they have made to pop into your memory box once the wedding has taken place.

Transport:

Booking a venue which will host your marriage ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening reception will save you lots of money when it comes to on-the-day transport costs. If you can arrive at a venue in the morning, get married there and then spend the rest of the day on site; you won’t need to hire cars or buses to move your guests from A to B.

If you do need to move guests between venues then you could either ask them to organise their own transport, or you could hire buses to move people around. The cost of transport can be very high; however barn weddings tend to take place out in the countryside in locations which are no so easily accessible. To avoid guests getting lost and all of the stress that this will bring with it, I always advise brides to organise buses.

Images: Anna Routh Photography {via Style Me Pretty} // Rustic Wedding Chic

Booking suppliers:

Before booking a supplier you will need to tell them that you will be having a barn wedding and ask them if they are fully equipped to cope with the restrictions which come with that. This includes generators, lighting, tables and chairs. If your catering company does not provide tables, chairs, linen, crockery and cutlery then you will need to source all of this in plenty of time ahead of the big day, and ask both suppliers to coordinate with each other.

The most important tip that I have for planning a barn wedding is to get other people involved, especially if you decide not to book a wedding planner. Don’t try to do everything alone, ask for other people’s opinions, and take a friend or family member along with you when you book a supplier. Having someone else there increases the likelihood that all important questions will be asked, if you are more likely to walk away from a dodgy potential booking if someone else is there to back you up.

All the best with your barn wedding!

--Lottie ♥

Advice // The Giving of Horseshoes as Good Luck Tokens

Image: Silver Sixpence in her Shoe

On your wedding day it is very likely that you will receive a couple of beautifully decorated horseshoes as gifts from some of your wedding guests. But what does this unusual tradition actually signify for the bride and groom?

The tradition of giving the bride a horseshoe following her marriage ceremony probably dates back to the Victorian period (as many of our most popular wedding traditions and superstitions do), and it’s purpose was to bring good luck to the newlyweds for the duration of their lives together. However, it is possible to trace the horseshoe as a good luck talisman even further into pre-Christian times, when the horseshoe was thought to represent a crescent moon, and was therefore a very potent fertility charm. As with many of our modern rituals it is almost impossible to accurately identify its roots, but in my opinion this is what makes them truly magical and romantic!

Images: Etsy.com // Pinterest

So, back to the Victorians. As you are probably aware, the Victorians placed a great deal of importance on superstitions revolving around good and bad omens, which were believed to foretell the success or failure of a marriage. These days we take far less notice of such things in our everyday lives; however the world of weddings seems to be one area where the observance of certain rituals and traditions is given extra weight. Brides, you only need to think about how you would reacts to breaking a mirror or to accidently seeing her partner on the morning of the marriage to accept that we still place importance in these traditions.

So how exactly are horseshoes incorporated into the average wedding day? Well, traditionally the bride would be presented with a decorated horseshoe by the female members of the family, particularly children. Having a child hand over the horseshoe to the bride is said to ensure her fertility, which would have been extremely important to the newlyweds back in the Victorian era. The bride should then carry the horseshoes with her bouquet for the formal photos, and should ensure that the horseshoes are displayed, along with the bouquet, for the rest of the celebration so that everyone can admire them.

Images: Silver Sixpence in her Shoe // Etsy.com

These days you can easily purchase ornately decorated horseshoes from card shops, stationary shops and online. I have seen some gorgeous store-bought horseshoes during my research for this post, however the most stunning examples have all been handmade! I was lucky enough to receive some horseshoes on my own big day (see below images), and I must say that my favourite was the one given to me by my sister-in-law, Steph, because she had made it herself! Even if you aren’t very arty it is so easy to buy a horseshoe, paint it and decorate it (remembering to add a ribbon loop as a handle), and to present it to the bride. She is bound to appreciate the extra special bit of love that you placed into your own creation. Just remember to keep the ends pointing upwards in a ‘U’ shape so that it can catch lots of good luck, and try to get hold of a real shoe, rather than a plastic one.

Images: These are my horseshoes from our wedding. Aren't they gorgeous?

Sadly the act of giving the bride a horseshoe appears to be dying out, so if you have been invited to attend the wedding of a friend or family member this year, you may like to partake in this tradition in order to help keep it alive. If nothing else it will act as a talking point during which you can explain what the giving of horseshoes is all about. Hopefully, by bringing this tradition to the attention of your social circle you will ensure that you receive some good luck tokens on your own big day!

--Lottie ♥

Advice // Choosing the Perfect Wedding Venue

Image: Brosnan Photographic {via One Fab Day}

Visiting, debating and selecting a venue for your evening reception (or your entire wedding day if you’ve opted for a non-religious affair) can be a long and daunting task. If you aren’t one of those lucky couples who already have your hearts set on a specific venue it can be difficult to decide between that magnificent stately home, that cosy hunting lodge or that sweet little boutique hotel, and even more so if you don’t approach your options in an organised frame of mind. Having been through the process of selecting my own wedding venue fairly recently, I feel that I am best placed to share my advice and insight with you. It’s all about research, calling venues to find out more information, and effective communication between yourself and your groom…

Images: Tierney Photography {via Boho Weddings} // Country House Wedding Venues

Before we jump into my advice I’d just like to say that if you are working to a budget it’s likely that grand castles and imposing stately homes probably will not be within your grasp. Do yourself a favour and don’t visit anywhere which you think will be way over your budget. Doing this only serves to tease you and will make you feel like you’re settling for second best when you visit more modest locations. I remember being tempted to look at a hugely famous castle while I was viewing venues, however I knew there was no way that would could afford to get married there, so I resisted and I really think it was the right choice. The venue I eventually chose was everything I could have wanted and more. Thanks to my ability to resist temptation it remain the most grand and luxurious of the venues we visited.

Images: Babb Photo {via Love My Dress} // Marni Rothschild Pictures {via The Knot} // Brett & Jessica {via Bridal Musings}

So, before jumping in the car to view prospective locations, try to answer all of these questions…

  • Availability – do they have any dates free during your chosen period?
  • Cost – can you have your wedding here and stay within your budget?
  • Space – can they accommodate all of your guests for the ceremony (if you are wish to have your ceremony and your reception in the same location), for the wedding breakfast and for the evening reception?
  • Support and discounts – you will want to ask about wedding packages, any discounts they offer, and the kind of support they provide during the run-up to the big day. Will you have a dedicated wedding planner who will be present on the day? This is the ultimate ideal as it removes any stress once the big day arrives!
  • Catering – does your venue provide in house catering, or will you need to book this separately? This is a very important issue to clear up straight away if you have your heart set on a very specific menu!
  • Outside space – does the venue have any outside space such as a terrace, garden or woodland for photographs and an outside drinks reception?
  • Accommodation - do they have rooms available for your first night as husband and wife, and for any of your guests who may need to sleep over?
  • Licences – if you decide to go for a marquee wedding make absolutely sure that the relevant licences are in place to allow a marquee wedding to go ahead. It’s amazing just how many venues do not have the correct paper work in place. If you aren’t happy with the response you get, it’s worth asking for the General Manager’s contact information.
  • Insurance – does the venue have all of the relevant insurances needed to protect the venue itself and its guests from accidents and mishaps? Also, what security measures does it have in place to keep you and your guests safe, and any uninvited guests out? This issue is particularly important for city centre weddings. Remember to book your own wedding insurance as well!
  • What makes their venue special – do they have any awards for their food or service, do they have a spa for pampering sessions the day after your wedding, do they have stunning grounds and luxurious bedrooms? Basically you want to know why they should get such a large chunk of your wedding budget!

Images: Pinterest // Artistrie Co. {via Ruffled} // Pinterest

Once you have the answer to all of these questions you can then go away and consider the results with your fiancé. Really take your time over this and if you have some information missing then don’t feel anxious about calling a few of the venues back. They will want to help you as much as they can in the hope that you choose them!

The next step in the process is to visit three or four of the venues which satisfy your requirements to see which ones really speak to you on an emotional level. Reading about a venue and seeing it on paper is one thing, but actually going there to look around is something entirely different! As soon as I drove up the long drive to my chosen venue I instantly knew it was the one for me. I didn’t even have the chance to step inside before tears welled up in my eyes. There was just something about it which spoke to me, and to this day I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the beauty of the place, its grandeur, the friendly greeting we were given from the staff…I don’t know, but whatever it was it felt very intense. All I did know was that I had to have it, and nothing else would have been good enough. If you are lucky enough to feel this way about one of the venue you visit then your decision will be as easy as mine was. If you’re torn between a couple of venues I would suggest that you visit for a second time with a much more critical eye. Really look at the details; is there enough light? Do you feel truly at home there? Can you imagine spending one of the most memorable days of your life there?

--Lottie ♥

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