We are now less than six months away from our big day and are continuing to push ahead with the planning. Well I am, the Navy has grabbed Phil away for the next five months so that saw us hurriedly going through the to-do list before he went away to make sure he is happy with the decisions that need to be made whilst he is gone.
If you read my blog or follow my Instagram regularly then you’ll know that I do quite like supporting independent suppliers. When it came to planning our wedding I was no different, I wanted to source our day locally as much as possible – either locally to us in Southsea or to the venue in Angmering. If I was choosing a supplier a little further afield then it was to use a friend’s business or to keep things British made. One of the lovely things about weddings is that there is a nationwide industry and network of suppliers. We found our venue, marquee company and caterer within a few miles of the church which was a easy start!
Some of the other details may be harder to find so I’ve pulled together a few tips on how to find the independent suppliers that will make your day absolutely perfect. I’m trying not to give too much away about our big day ahead of time so don’t expect too much detail just yet!
Searching for your dream dress can be a bit anxiety-inducing. I literally had nightmares about choosing a wedding dress before I started looking. Luckily I was able to visit some very kind and patient wedding dress shops that really did make the world of difference. You can go to large warehouses now and plough through rails and rails of dresses – some people might love that, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I chose to visit a couple of Hampshire and Sussex bridal boutiques who took the time to get to know me, the day we were dreaming of and suggest what might suit. They listened to my dislikes and gently suggested what they thought might work. Their experience shone through and apart from in one shop where they insisted strapless was the way forward (an absolute no for me) without listening to me properly, I would go back to them all in a heartbeat. In the end the dress of my dreams (without giving too much away!) is British designed and made – a perfect match! If you’re in Sussex or Hampshire and are looking to find your wedding dress I can recommend Proposals (Chichester), The Bridal Mill (Botley) and Hannah Elizabeth Bridal (Botley).
I am yet to decide on a florist for our wedding but flowers are another place that you could choose to go entirely local on. Many local florists will also do wedding flowers and can advise where they get their stock from. In Sussex we are also lucky to have quite a few flower farms which you can go to directly if you’d rather do the flowers yourself. We will be getting our bouquets and buttonholes made professionally (to save me the stress of perfecting a bouquet the day before!) and I’ll be focusing on the church and reception flowers. If you pick flowers that are in season (in season in the UK!) then you are more likely to find them coming from British growers as well as keeping the costs down. If you have your heart set on peonies in December then you are going to find that racks the price up as well as making it harder to source locally.
If you are in Hampshire or Sussex then I know these florists are well worth a natter with, Charmaine’s of Southsea or Rococo Flowers in Chichester and up in London is the incredibly talented and knowledgable Liz from Blue Sky Flowers – look her up!
I knew instantly who I wanted to make our wedding rings, Phil had visited the wonderful Charlotte Cornelius when he was looking for an engagement ring and together they came up with a stunning setting for the most exquisite diamond. It’s quite moving to know the efforts he went to and that my ring really is entirely unique. Charlotte is a skilled contemporary jeweller whose designs I really admire. We visited her to have a wedding ring consultation thinking we just wanted plain bands. We ended up choosing a twisted two-strand design in platinum for me and a plain brushed palladium band for Phil. After sense-checking by looking at high street jewellers we were convinced that we should go ahead with commissioning Charlotte not only to get the designs we loved but also for the quality heirlooms we knew we will end up with. As a note of reassurance, we aren’t spending an enormous amount more than if we went to the high street by picking a local independent jeweller, in fact the prices are very competitive. Be confident to go and chat with a local jeweller, be honest about your budget and they’ll usually go above and beyond to show you options that fit you both! If you are near to Portsmouth then I recommend popping in to see Charlotte Cornelius, Timothy Roe if you are in Chichester or visit Baroque Jewellery in Brighton Lanes who are all independent, talented jewellers ready to advise you.
There is great debate in the wedding world as to whether favours are on their way out! I suppose that when you calculate the per guest cost that can be seen as gift enough however many couples still opt for favours as a nice way to greet guests to your wedding reception. We are probably going to combine our favours and place settings by labelling them with each guest’s name – a nice way to kill two birds with one stone! You can search our local suppliers to help with favours as a way of really bringing personality to your day. If you have a creatives collaboration or local market that can be a great way of meeting creatives whose products might fit the bill. Try farmers’ markets for small bags of fudge, mini bottles of booze or jars of chutney. Craft fayres for candles, hanging decorations, soaps and scents. In Portsmouth we have the Love Southsea markets monthly as well as the Farmer’s Markets every fourth Sunday. If you don’t have access to local markets, try Etsy to find crafty suppliers near you that might just be what you’re looking for. We are looking at a few options including soaps from Southsea Bathing Hut, making our own essential oil candles and little nuggets of Sussex fudge from House of Fudge in Bosham.
Can I just take a minute to have a mini-rant? In my professional life I am a Fundraising and Events Manager – I know events inside out and back to front but I’ve never experienced suppliers trying to take advantage quite so much until I was organising a wedding. One caterer actually quoted us over £16,000 for a two-course BBQ for 180 guests. I mean do come on, that is nearly £90 a head. I could take every one of those 180 guests out to a Michelin-starred restaurant for £90 a head. Safe to say that we haven’t booked them. It is enormously disappointing that there are ‘recommended’ suppliers out there which have such a monopoly on weddings that they completely take their customers for granted.
Phew! That feels better ;)
Catering really is something that it is easy to suddenly find yourselves enormously over-budget on. Decide early on what it is you are willing to compromise on (check out my wedding budget post for more advice) and stick to your guns. We are both foodies and knew we wanted good, as-local-as-possible food for our big day. However we weren’t sold on run of the mill wedding food nor were we tied to a big three or four course silver service meal. Luckily for us we have no restrictions on our supplier and so started the hunt for a good local caterer to help us. Many venues will recommend people if you ask but be careful that they aren’t recommending them just because they get a commission. We asked friends and industry contacts who they would recommend. I searched for ‘event caterers west sussex’ online and came up with a long list. Then the hard part, speaking to each one and explaining what we were looking for – I was very specific yet happy to listen to suggestions. If you are stuck looking for a caterer, try also reaching out to local restaurants or food market stalls – you’ll often find that they will consider catering for special events and often come in at far less of a premium than ‘wedding caterers’. We have gone with caterers that are the in-house team at a local golf club but also do special events, the perk of Marmalade Catering for me is that after meeting them I had great confidence in the event management ability of their team – something that is an added bonus to selecting a caterer who will also provide the waiting staff too. Importantly their prices were reasonable and we could be honest about our maximum budget for catering too. I’m super excited for the food we will end up serving to our guest – talk about a feast!
I’d love to know about the suppliers you have discovered, please do share your favourites with me!