If I couldn't make it myself, or rope a friend or family member into helping me make it, it was really important to me that we used small local businesses. Although I have mentioned a few already in part 1, there were so many people to thank that I decided to dedicate a post to them. We didn't have anyone in particular to take control on the day but everything went swimmingly and all the little business just rocked up and did what they did best.
I didn't realise how important a photographer was to me until we had our engagement shoot with Heather. At a wedding fair at Belton Woods hotel my bridesmaid Lucinda, who is into her photography, was drawn to Heather's photos. They chatted for ages and I went and joined in. I was on a bit of a high after just finding my wedding dress. I am used to craft fairs and chatting to people, but I found a table of photo books at wedding fairs quite intimidating and didn't approach or stop at any other stands in all the fairs we went to. Heather was so smiley and casual that you wanted to speak to her. She was really passionate about her photographs, but also about how they are displayed and what happened to them afterwards. Her albums are such amazing quality; it's hard to describe how breathtaking they are. The prints were on matte paper but looked 3D, they were like a Harry Potter photo and I half expected them to move. All the albums are made locally by a small business with ethically sourced materials. Heather was sounding more and more up my street by the minute. I left her with my details, spoke to Dan and told him we found our photographer Heather Jackson Photography and booked her in.
I would never have had an engagement shoot if it wasn't included in the package. When Heather explained it was just a way of getting to know us and relax in front of the camera, especially for George and Dan, it made perfect sense. We had the most sunny day in April and got some amazing couple and family shots having a walk through the woods in a dress I had made especially for the occasion. It made me super excited for the wedding day and seeing how Heather would capture it. It gave us even more trust and faith that we had picked the right person to play such an important part in our day. I would highly recommend taking your photographer up on the offer of a pre-wedding photo shoot.
I had no idea how much prep work and "homework" there would be for the photographs, but I can now completely appreciate what a ball ache the group shots are. People all of a sudden forget their name, what family they belong to and question if they are a friend or family member because they consider themselves both. A list of who needs to be where was more helpful than I could have imagined and my brother ran around like a headless chicken gathering people up and dancing for George when we needed a smile.
Heather's work speaks for itself throughout this blog. Please get in touch with her if you want to use any of her pictures or if you are looking for a photographer yourself. By the end of the day she felt like a best friend and I felt bad that I had not made her a bridesmaid dress to join us. I was so pleased Lucinda captured this picture of us before she left and that I dragged her into the magic mirror.
Nothing will prepare you for the impact of the tipis. You can't describe to someone the Tardis-like size of them; you just have to see them. Thankfully Boutipi had a couple of open days before our big day so we went to both. One when we booked them, 16 months or so before the wedding, and one four months before to get some last minute inspiration to try and work out the lay out and final details. When we visited early in 2018 we had loads of snow, it was a great opportunity to see how they held up in the elements. With the fires going it was super cosy and really reassuring.
Boutipi are a family run business and everyone we dealt with was helpful and professional. The team that put the tipis up just cracked on but communicated with us throughout to make sure it was all as we wanted. I wouldn't hesitate recommending Boutipi to anyone.
It wouldn't have been possible to have the tipis if it wasn't for Dan's Dad and Step-Mum, Andy and Jane. They put an enormous amount of effort making the house and garden perfect and I am petty sure there were points they regretted agreeing to it. I think they will agree now that it was totally worth it and we will be talking about it forever.
During weekly visits to our local breastfeeding group when George was younger, I made lots of new friends including Nyree. Nyree had done a floristry course at college and when we attended her little one's Naming Ceremony, I saw how talented she was at making the table centres, and so she was recruited. I explained my not-so-themed colour theme and that I was happy to just go with what was available and in season at the time.
The day before the wedding we both headed to Stamford market and walked out with £120 of flowers that would be enough for her to make three bouquets, 12 button holes and three flower girl baskets and for me to fill the tipi with flowers. I'm not going to lie, turning up to a market I had never been to before with no set plan and just 24 hours until the big day was a bit terrifying but when we arrived I was instantly at ease and excited. We got so many flowers for a bargain price and just got a few extra from Morrison's. We came back to our house and raided the garden and we were done. Nyree took her share and I took the rest.
Nyree sent me pictures the day before and I was so thrilled with them, they were more amazing than I could have planned. They were even better in the flesh when she arrived with them at the hotel room. You can find her on Facebook as Sweet Stems.
For someone that works with fabric every day, I really had no idea what dress I was looking for. I didn't want bright white or strapless. I love fabric so I didn't want anything too simple but I didn't want anything too bling . I like lace but not anything too "curtainy". I tried on loads of dresses; I had a favourite for ages but something stopped me saying yes. It may have been the price tag.
A wedding fair at Belton Woods, that turned out to be the most productive weekend of the year, was not where I expected to find the dress. There was a stand there by The Bridal Lounge and I saw one Stella York dress on their sale rail, I kept hold of it until I could try it on. It was a great fit to start with which I hadn't experienced in any of the other trying ons. I know that doesn't make much difference when it is ordered in your size but it is hard to fall in love with something until you can see how it will look when it is properly fitted. It had layers of lace and beading and really slim straps. I loved it.
I got a lady to do the alterations around the bust but I shortened the length with my Mum and now Mother in Law, Linda, and she attached the belt detail. It was time consuming but relatively easily and wasn't anywhere near as stressful as adjusting the parts with all the beads and things on.
I booked my hairdresser, Lindsay in before we had even confirmed the date. I have been having my hair cut with Lindsay in several different salons, for as long as I have been with Dan and consider her a friend, not just my hairdresser. She now has her very own salon in Sleaford, The Hair Inn.
We didn't have a trial because I knew she would just work her magic. I said I liked plaits and showed her a picture of a few ideas I had seen but I had nothing particularly in mind. The only thing I did know, was that I wanted my Mum to make something for my hair. Mum loves gems and jewellery making and she spent hours creating my hair piece including pearls and my Grandma's charm. She snuck in a blue gem as my something blue too. Mum also made my bracelet and earrings for the bridesmaids.
On the day Lindsay did mine and my two bridesmaids hair and put on our false eyelashes. As I look at the pictures again now, I can't believe my hair looked so amazing.
What I hadn't realised until we looked into it, was that you can't legally get married outside. You can get a license but it has to be for a permanent structure and you have to be willing to allow other weddings to take place there. Having some kind of structure and other weddings in their garden seemed one ask too many of the in-laws. They had already spent a whole summer of endless gardening for this one.
I found a lovely lady doing a quick search who was just a few villages away and she did wedding blessings. Her name is Michelle and her company is Buttons Bespoke Ceremonies. This was my area and I am particularly useless at replying to emails. Michelle was so patient with me. We spoke over the phone initially and arranged to see her when we were in the area. She came along with some toy tractors for George so she was an instant hit with him.
George and my Niece Olivia walked down first with my Mum and then my bridesmaids and flower girls. I walked down with my Dad and half way down my Step Dad, Karl joined us. He has been a big part of my life so I loved the symbolism of him joining us half way down. Dan's cousin Chris played Jose Gonzalez for us on his guitar and it was all perfect.
It was Michelle who suggested we put a bit of background about our bridesmaids and best men in the ceremony which was a really lovely touch and the ceremony was just her telling our love story. My Aunty Paula did a beautiful reading called "What is Love" and it meant a lot she could be part of the day too. I spent a lot of time with Paula during my teen years after she arranged some work experience for me in the hotel she was working for. Her hotel contacts helped on the day when she was able to get hold of some table cloths for us at short notice and wine bottles for our homemade wine.
Michele snuck off unnoticed after the ceremony, as she said she would, it wasn't until the day after that I had realised, it was all a bit of a blur. We opened a gift from her the next day which included a personalised box with a print out of our ceremony. She thought about every little thing to make it perfect for us.
I mentioned that we hadn't legally got married on the day, so you may be wondering when we did . We decided to hold it the Saturday before at our local registry office. We just had George and our parents there. I got a dress off ASOS because I knew I could get another wear out of it on our honeymoon. We went to a local steak house, The Magna and Carter, afterwards and had the best steak we have ever eaten. It was a great warm up and Dan's Mum even made a surprise cake for us to cut.
Whether to invite kids to the wedding can often be a debatable subject. George is such a big part of our life together that it wasn't really a question of whether his friends would be there. I probably wouldn't of had any friends there if we hadn't invited them since we are at an age where majority of our friends have kids.
If we had got married 5+ years ago, we would not of had kids at the wedding. I still didn't like the idea of kids running around during the speeches and food so I looked into event nannies. I found The Childcare Partnership in Lincoln who had excellent reviews, followed all the same guidelines you would expect in a nursery and had a tonne of experience. They were really strict with their Nanny/Kid ratio so I felt reassured they would look after the kids. We booked them to keep the kids amused while they had their own afternoon tea in the baby tipi and during the speeches. As soon as they turned up the kids flocked to them, no introductions needed. They bought toys and activities, they made aeroplanes and just had a great time. They even dealt with nappies! Whenever a child wondered in during the speeches a nanny was a few steps behind to lead them back. All the kids had a fab time and I didn't see any tears all day. I think the parents were just as grateful and meant they had a few hours off duty too. There were some very disappointed faces when it was time for them to go home.
We had already arranged a baby tipi for them to hang out in so they had their own little den. I made a mini sign for their tipi, it was decorated with the awesome toadstools that Will made us and I dotted skittles, croquet and giant Jenga around so there were games still after the nannies left (and for the big kids).
We had wanted a photo booth but it is quite a competitive market and we saw so many of them. We came across The Outstanding Events Company and they were really friendly, the prices seemed more competitive for the time they were there. They also had a magic mirror option which made more sense because of the space restrictions in the tipi. It went down a treat and we got some hilarious pictures in a signed book but also on a USB stick. All the guests were able to take their photos home with them too. My favourite was the only picture I got with my Nan. By the end of the evening my thighs were burning for having to crouch at just the right height for loads of photos.
Frankie did an excellent job of manning the magic mirror and I know it was a challenge with so many kids wanting to get involved. She left her own great photo and message at the end of the book with some of the pizza guys.
I always liked the idea of afternoon tea, its very me. Dan had no preference so that is what we went with for the wedding breakfast. We had thought about doing it ourselves and hiring the crockery but when we found out there was a wedding caterer in the village who could include the crockery in the package, it was a no brainer and eliminated a lot of stress. With all the help in the world there is no way we would have been able to do the afternoon tea ourselves. Make It Perfect were able to set up in the kitchen and got in waiting staff too.
We had initially thought about going for a hog roast in the evening but it seemed a bit obvious again. When we went to the tipi open day we tried the most amazing wood fired pizza. Everyone loves pizza! Kids like pizza, it is easy to do veggie and vegan and drunk people love pizza. Dan did a lot of research and found The Wood Fired Pizza Company. The guys were great from the first contact and had a great sense of humour even through their emails. Everyone said it was the best pizza they had ever eaten. We even ended up using some of our wedding money to get our own pizza oven in the garden so we could try and recreate it. We haven't quite got to the same standard yet.
Neither of us are big fans of fruit cake. We went to a wedding once which had a naked wedding cake covered in fruit. It looked so colourful and unweddingy, I had wanted one just like it ever since. A lovely lady named Deborah from The Bramble Bakery made our cake and it was so yummy! It was a warm day and the cake was fresh and the cream did not melt. It sat pride of place on one of the whiskey barrels decorated with bunting.
We had thought about just leaving a load of beer and wine in a bath for people to help themselves but the Yorkshire Bartenders work with the tipis all the time. It meant we had someone on site that knew how they worked in case there were any questions or problems. They had a wide range of drinks and had really competitive prices, just what you would expect to pay in town, so it seemed like a great option. They sent a questionnaire and put together a bespoke cocktail menu just for the wedding. I did my best to work through them all but I didn't quite make it. The guys were great on the night and really friendly. I was told that when they arrived on the day they helped put up some last minute bunting and other bits too.
Music was one of Dan's areas. Back when we met, the young 18/19 year old Dan worked in the local club where he controlled the lighting but also learnt to DJ. He's always had an interest in music and has a much better rhythm than I do. The walking down the isle song was easy. I have always loved Jose Gonzales - Heartbeats so we asked Dan's cousin Chris if he would play it for us and it was beautiful.
Picking the music for the evening was a big task. At first we thought a ceilidh as we have been to a few and they are great fun. The more we thought about the fact we had been to other weddings with ceilidhs, the more we went off the idea, after all we wanted to be unique in as many aspects as possible. Dan started looking into wedding bands, there are some amazingly talented artists out there. The band that we found and wanted to dance around and get drunk to were called Just for Tonight. They are a 4 piece with a male and female lead singer, which on the videos suited a much wider range of music than a lot of the all male bands we saw. They would arrange and perform our first dance so we just needed to think of what song to pick.
The first dance was Dan's responsibility. Everything was too soppy, too depressing or too obvious for him. We looked at what was number one when we met, it was Nelly Fertardo's Man Eater, maybe not. The first concert we saw together was Pendulum. It was a birthday gift from my Mum and one of Dan's favourite bands. He started looking into acoustic versions and we finally decided on The Island. Just for Tonight did an absolutely fantastic job of it. Their whole set was awesome and the dance floor was full whenever they were playing, we would highly recommend them. We got so many people coming up to tell us how great they were; all the hours of Dan's research definitely paid off (although he can no longer listen to Happy by Pharrell any more after listening to 50 different bands sing it). The last song of the night was even more epic than the first. Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer had everyone that was left, on the dance floor. After shouts for "one more!" (a George catch phrase), they played Mr Brightside and we ended up dancing in the middle of all our guests. It was truly epic and my best memory from the day.
When attending other weddings, I had never considered all the people that were involved. So, if you take anything away from this blog, let it be do your research, ask for recommendations and read reviews but use small businesses. Not just for your wedding but if you are buying wedding gifts, Christmas gifts, holding small parties. There are lots of people out there working hard doing what they love to make a living. I promise you that you will usually get the best service from a small business. Their mortgage payments and dinner on the table depend on it. Remember to come back and give them a shout out and good review if they have done a great job. You will make their day and help someone else find a great small businesses too.