'Low cost wedding' Category

Child Friendly DIY Wedding: Games, Activities and Making it Special for Kids, by the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Everyone matters.

About twenty-five of our hundred or so wedding guests were young people or children, their ages ranging from very newborn to virtually old enough to vote.  This included our own children, who are very little.  Here are some of the things we did that helped the under 18s to feel welcome and special and to have some fun.

1. Chose a child friendly venue 

As our venue, Kench Hill, is usually an activity centre for young people to explore nature from, we could relax about the setting being generally safe, secure and well set-up to meet the needs and interests of a range of ages.  In addition to the charming duck pond and kitchen gardens, there was play and activity equipment for all ages:

There was an enclosed garden for toddlers and young children, with trampette, mini-slide, wendy house, mini-seesaw and other small play equipment;

Slightly older children had fun on the tyre swings and with the giant Connect 4;

A large shed containing a games room with babyfoot and snooker, which backed onto a small basketball court, appealed to the 10-14 year olds;

The football pitch and assault course gave older kids a chance to get physical.

Indoors, there was a cupboard full of toddler-friendly toys, board games, books and a piano.

2. Include decorations that can be played with

Photo by Tracy Morter

We draped the tree we had our handfasting under with rainbow streamers and planted rainbow windmill toys at its base.  After the handfasting, children plucked off the ribbons and picked the little windmills, and played with them in the sunshine.

3. Don’t forget birthdays! 

One memorable, touching moment was when one of the young members of our family was surprised in the middle of the speeches and open mic by her dad, who was bearing a birthday cake, while her extended family and a hundred odd people sang her Happy Birthday.

4. Have awesome relatives

My brother included a gigantic teddy in his speech – which was a big hit with the children afterwards.

5. Include child-friendly food

Food can be a big event in a child’s day.  As well as catering to specific dietary requirements, our venue were great at making sure there were staple foods for younger children on offer in the buffet, such as sausage rolls, cheddar cheese, fresh fruit and bread.  We decided to order the tables by number of children (and vegetarians), so that there was plenty of choice of simple foods, and less potential for stress, for the younger ones.

6. Make sure there’s a range 

As favours, we did stickers for the under 3s, Top Trumps for primary school kids and normal packs of cards for the preteens and teens.  While the under 3s and younger primary school children loved their favours, the older children weren’t too fussed – however, they did enjoy the props left in jars on their tables, and had a lot of fun with everything else that was on offer to them.  Really, what mattered was showing them that they each mattered to us – like every guest at the wedding.

 

(Uncrafty) Bride on a Budget and Food: Canapes and Wedding Breakfast / Buffet for a DIY Wedding

I have to begin with the canapes.  Such things of rainbow beauty.


L-R: Apple Alices, Rainbow Swirl Biscuits, Rainbow Bakewell Slices

As we arrived at our reception venue around 3pm – tea time – it seemed very fitting to have baked canapes.  My dear friend and bridesmaid, Helen, made a selection of baked goods as a gift to us (we paid for ingredients but the time, energy and love she put in were frankly invaluable).  As well as perfectly jammy and almondy bakewells, delicate biscuits, fresh, moist apple slices and perfect lemon drizzle cupcakes, Helen made pesto and cheese swirls as a savoury alternative.

Two of my young nephews helped Helen to plate up on pink heart doilies (thanks, Aunt Julie) the morning of the wedding. Then, while we were off getting married at the lovely Tenterden Town Hall with our loved ones witnessing, Kench Hill staff put out the canapes on this colourful length of IKEA fabric (it’s machine washable, so is now our reusable tablecloth for kids’ parties and other celebrations) and were ready to serve with non-alcoholic fizz and prosecco when we pulled up in the sunshine outside this gorgeous, Georgian house.

Wedding Breakfast / Buffet

We chose a hot and cold buffet as our main meal, as it fitted with the Garden Party vibe of the afternoon reception.  We all ate at a mixture of picnic and round tables, in the beautiful grounds, between two ponds, with the buffet laid out in a gazebo.  When we first visited, Sandi, who runs Kench Hill, suggested that the best way to plan feeding all our guests would be to name a budget, and then figure out what they could do within that that met everyone’s dreams and needs.  This made so much more sense than trying to adapt our budget around the set price list most venues present, and ending up with a meal that didn’t quite satisfy.  I’ll be honest – it was mildly terrifying not knowing what the food was going to taste like on the day.  However, I needn’t have worried. It was utterly delicious, with plenty to go round for children and adults, vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike.  It was an added bonus knowing that it was, on the whole, locally or sustainably produced, with the vegetables fresh from the kitchen garden.

We wrote up a table order that prioritised tables by number of children and number of vegetarians, to make sure that those with dietary requirements we knew of weren’t left with no choices.

Some of the locally, sustainably-produced foods in the hot and cold buffet

Evening Rolls 

During the evening music, poetry and dancing, we were laid out a smorgasbord of locally-baked rolls and fillings for us to self-serve.  The rolls were so good, you could eat one with nothing on.

Bar Snacks and Biscuits 

As well as having the baked canapes, buffet and evening rolls, we had boxes of crisps and other typical bar snacks on the bar, and biscuits and cakes in the kitchen.

Alternatives: DIY BBQs and Pot Luck Buffets 

During the planning process – before we found Kench Hill – we thought about having a pot luck buffet at a London venue.  The plan for this would have been for us to supply some staple foods, like a huge stew or curry and some cooked salmon, then to ask guests to bring a dish to share.  Personally, I think this idea only works if the majority of guests live locally, so they don’t have to travel with food, and if there are delis and shops nearby for out-of-town guests to pick up things like bread or dips to contribute.

A popular DIY wedding breakfast is the BBQ.  We had a barbeque for guests staying the night before the wedding – about forty people.  I would recommend overcatering for the wedding itself, imagining that each adult will have two plates of BBQ food, and bulking up on salads, deli foods and breads. We were lucky to have close relatives and friends to help out with the Friday BBQ, making utterly amazing salads and diversifying the vegetarian options.

Breakfast / Brunch Buffet

My lovely sister and stepmum provided a breakfast / brunch buffet, with a range of food to keep everyone going as we prepared the venue and ourselves for the wedding.

The Wedding Cake 

Helen convinced us that it was a good idea to have a centrepiece cake to cut, and she was so right.  She made the most delicious, double-height chocolate cake, iced with a rainbow.  We included the cake cutting as part of our more personal rituals at the reception, and have very affectionate memories of it.

Cut the cake, and eat! 

Photo by Tracy Morter 

A Guide to Organising Low Cost Wine and Drinks for Your Wedding, by the Uncrafty Bride on a Budget

Photo by Tracy Morter

For us, one of the key aspects of our low-cost, DIY wedding was that, wherever possible, it should be low cost for our guests, too.  I read a few scary stories online about couples who had got freebie weddings by getting loved ones to pay £150 per night for three nights in a country house, then had an extortionately priced bar with no free drinks for guests, costing guests around a grand for the whole thing while costing the hosts very little – that kind of thing.  We didn’t want that.

We did, however, want to see our guests properly ‘watered’.  A disappointing scenario for the kind of party we wanted to throw would have been for the booze to run out mid-wedding.  Here’s how guests ended up going home with wine in their trunks and cool bags, instead.  (Clue: it does have to do with our friends and family being utterly lovely.)

1. Decide what you want to provide as a host

We knew that we wanted to provide guests with a glass of fizz at the Town Hall after the ceremony, as well as fizz on arrival at the reception venue.  We also knew that we wanted to provide enough wine to go with the meal.  We wanted there to be tasty options for friends who are teetotal, do not drink for religious reasons or were driving.

2. Decide on a budget

If you’re going to start married life on an even keel financially, you need to decide on a budget and stick to it.  We knew that we could budget around £6 per bottle of fizz, £5 per bottle of wine and £3 per non-alcoholic toasting fizz, in order to cater for half a bottle of fizz per adult, and between half a bottle and a full bottle of wine per adult.  You may find a wine calculator useful – you will also know your guests and their preferences and limits.

3. Decide on your search terms

Most weddings we have been to have had perfectly acceptable wine.  Neither of us could remember any outstanding wines, from weddings we had been guests at.  However, nor could we remember any disappointing wines.  We couldn’t recall any bold choices.  For us, the perfect wedding wine had to be ‘inoffensive’ and ‘perfectly quaffable’.

It turned out, we were particularly pleased with both the prosecco and white wines we chose – Aldi’s famously good value Belletti Prosecco and their delicious Chardonnay.  These wines got really good feedback from our guests and we wished we had bought more of the white as, unusually (and in spite of us buying more that we calculated we needed), it was the white that ran out towards the end of the meal.  However, in spite of our enthusiasm for it —  we call Aldi’s Pinot Noir our ‘house wine’ — the red was more hit and miss, although that may have been due to the heat of the day and sod’s law, as that was the wine we had bought a bigger surplus of as we’re used to people hunting red wine at a party!

We also decided that, due to the quantity we were buying, the wines needed to have as small a carbon footprint as possible for our budget, so we went for European wines (French and Italian, in the end) so they didn’t have to travel too far.

4. Do your research 

Aldi and Majestic do mixed cases of wines, so you can get willing friends and family involved in trying out different options in the run up to your wedding. You don’t have to get a pre-mixed case from Aldi – as long as you order in multiples of six, you can mix and match as you see fit.

For the non-alcoholic options, supermarkets offering deliveries often have deals in the summer months.  It’s good to have a range of options, if possible, such as elderflower and fruit presses (sparkling drinks) as well as the more typical Schloer.

5. Instead of a paying bar, have a bring and share bar 

This is where our guests’ loveliness came into it.  We had a bring and share bar, which was unstaffed.  Friends and family brought whatever they wanted and added it to the large, sheltered table outdoors, then helped themselves as the day went by.  We provided these non-plastic, biodegrable, Magritte-ish cups, some reusable beakers from the pound shop that we donated to the venue afterwards, some mixers and a couple of huge ice buckets, which Tenterden Majestic very kindly assisted us with.

This is, of course, a really cost effective option for guests, too.

 

Around the bring and share bar. Photo by www.tracymorter.com

6.   Get the ale drinkers together 

My husband, inspired by another friend’s wedding, started a ‘Real Ale Fund’, where all the ale drinkers contributed to have boxes (like small kegs) of local bright beer delivered.  He worked out that for £10 a head, there would be enough for everyone to have plenty of pints… then got the fear as that sounded far too reasonable, and doubled the amount.  It turned out that there was a little under half the amount left over the next day, and a couple of people went home with ale sloshing about in their car boots! So a tenner a head would be feasible.

7. Have unlimited tea, coffee, squash and water available, as well as bar snacks 

We may come from two big Irish families, but cliches are exactly that.  Thanks to our venue, guests were able to help themselves to tea, coffee, herbal teas and squash all day (which I bought in with a big supermarket delivery on the Friday we arrived).  We put tins of typical English biscuits with the tea, and large boxes of pub snacks on the bar.

8. Know your supermarkets

According to a recent study (ahem), Lidl and Aldi have the best wines.  We also rate the fairtrade range by co-op, although they don’t do delivery.  Our back up in case Aldi had any problems delivering was the beautifully-designed Majestic Loves range.  The label designs are just perfect for a celebration.

 

Cheers! Slainte! Salut! Chai yo!

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Venue for an Idyllic Weekend Wedding on a Budget



Gorgeous photos of the idyllic venue by our friend Natalie S.

When we started planning our wedding, we each made a list of what was most important to us.  One of the things that came to the top was it being somewhere our family and friends could spend a portion of time all together, making a sort of special world for a couple of days.  Some of our favourite weddings as guests included those where we had experienced this – at a coastal fort in Cornwall, in a row of village B&Bs in Wensleydale.   Of course, we recognised that as we were marrying slightly later down the road than other friends had, many of our guests would have commitments to families, jobs, etc., and not everyone would be able to (or want to) spend the weekend away, so it also needed to be somewhere within driving and public transport (ish) distance of our part of London.  We also knew if it was going to be low cost for us, it had to be low cost for our guests, as well – anything else just didn’t make sense.

We were free to decorate in our own style. Photo by Tracy Morter

We started out looking at Youth Hostels; I have a lifelong passion for the places.  We found YHAs with amazing potential for the kind of wedding we were planning: YHA Hartington Hall and YHA Ilam Hall in Derbyshire and YHA Wilderhope Manor in Shropshire have wedding packages.  Other YHAs, such as YHA Hawkshead in the Lake District, were very accommodating about figuring something out.  However, in the end, we felt they were all too far from our home for us to even make a viewing visit by public transport, which meant they definitely wouldn’t have been convenient for many of our guests.

Through a link a relative sent, we came across the amazing Kench Hill, in Kent.  Kench Hill is a charity that creates educational adventures in nature and wildlife for children and young people from Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham.  It’s an old, Georgian mansion on the outside, with 3* hostel accommodation of dormitories, single, double and family rooms inside.  Revenue raised from hosting weddings helps to support their brilliant work with children from East London.

Georgian Manion on the outside… Kench Hill. Photo by Natalie S.

I made an easy visit by train (from Charing Cross, but could have also gone from St. Pancras) and a pretty bus ride on a scorching hot day in late Spring. Kench Hill manager, Sandi, picked me up from the beautiful, old High Street in Tenterden – where I noticed the Town Hall, with its picturesque balcony, surrounded by flowers, as a ceremony venue. As we drove into Kench Hill, I knew: This must be the place. 

The front lawn was perfect for canapes and drinks and our handfasting.  The spacious, pretty gardens by the duck pond and lake, with a mix of wooden tables and round dining tables, made a beautiful, relaxed English garden party setting for the wedding breakfast.  The long kitchen gardens made a lovely, sunlit walk.  There were hens and ducks about. Children played happily between the Wendy House and small outdoor toys in the enclosed area by the meal, or on the swings by the front lawn, while older children played basketball and babyfoot.  The night before the wedding, we had a BBQ down by the thatched hut, which was all lit up with candles.  We dressed the Straw Hall with fairy lights and colourful pom poms, votives, bunting and paper flowers for the reception’s speeches and open mic.  We filled the alcove with photo bunting, to which guests added memories, poems, crafts and photos, as our guest book.  The bar was outdoors, under a wooden shelter, lit by a storm light.  There was even a little camping in the top meadow.

A relaxed, English wedding breakfast in the grounds of Kench Hill.

Photo by Tracy Morter

Ducks and wildflowers at Kench Hill on the wedding day. Photo by Natalie S. 

The Straw Hall, ready for music, poetry and speeches. Photo by Natalie S. 

Sandi and her team made everything incredibly easy, relaxed and personal.  Whenever I worried I was asking too many questions, or being demanding, Sandi and her colleagues’ responses came back light, flexible and positive.  We really felt that they wanted our wedding to be whatever we dreamed of it. Kench Hill promotes sustainability and a love of life, and the atmosphere is full of that hope and gentle joie de vivre.  We were able to provide our own drinks and partly self-cater.  The food Kench Hill catered was brilliant too – but that’s for another post.

To contact Kench Hill, see their website or facebook.   You can also see photos on their facebook of other weddings, each with a totally different look, which shows the flexibility of the venue for glorious, DIY, budget weddings.  We found our fab photographer Tracy Morter as she had shot a previous wedding at Tenterden Town Hall and Kench Hill – you can see photos of that gorgeous, and, again, totally different, wedding, here.

 

Should You Book a Professional Photographer for a Budget Wedding?

It’s a question that everyone planning a wedding on a budget comes to ask at some point.

Some people argue that with our cultural propensity towards documenting nearly everything on our tech and our access to decent cameras, we should be able to ask our friends and family to email their photos along after a wedding.  I have been truly skint and am not about to tell people to find money that simply doesn’t exist – however, if you have any room in your budget for booking a professional photographer for at least part of your event, after our brilliant experience with Tracy Morter, I would strongly recommend you make that booking.

Our wedding was all handmade, hand-me-downs, made with love and colour and not always great craft.  We trusted that it would feel amazing on the day, and that the love infusing everything from decorations to clothes to flowers would make it look spectacular as a whole.  However, we also wondered how well it would translate to photographs, unless they were taken by someone who really had a way of getting to the human experience behind the image.

We met our photographer over Skype and realised how excellent her communication skills were when we finally understood that, due to a glitch at our end, she could only see our shoulders for the duration of the Skype call.  Despite this, Tracy had a calm, clear, personable manner and understood everything we were hoping for.  On the day, these people skills were shining – many of our friends and family said how nice it was to meet our friend who took the photos.

Tracy captured each and every one of our one hundred or so guests at their happiest and most emotional.  It was an absolute treat for us to see the day we remembered wasn’t a figment of our imagination – and if it was, everyone was sharing that same, fantastic, loving, colourful world, including our photographer.  She also took amazing photos of our friends and family (and selves) during the open mic / informal concert – luckily for us, she also shoots live music and poetry performances.

 

You don’t have to have a full day booking – consider what means most to you, and see if that fits your chosen photographer’s schedule.  You might, for example, be met at the ceremony, then say goodbye to official photos after the first dance.  Of course, it is still a sizeable chunk of a budget – but, if you do have the opportunity to have your wedding photographed by someone who can really show how it felt and what it meant, as well as recording it at its most beautiful, then it is one not to be missed.

And if you are in South East England, and would like a documentary / reportage style that really shows the relationships that make weddings such an extraordinary bit of human time, we would – obviously! – recommend Tracy Morter.  A handful of our favourite photos are on this post – but as we have decided generally not to share photos of our guests (a shame, because these photos are STUNNING), if you would like to see more examples of Tracy’s documentary style, here are her facebook and website.

All photos by Tracy Morter

 

Low Waste, Upcycled Buttonholes (Boutonnieres) – Easy Wedding Crafts for the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Of all the makes for the wedding, this is the one I had to practise the most before finding something I was happy with.  The initial attempts included glitter foam and pyschedelic, pink and orange rosebuds – they ended up on our flower girl baskets.

Finally, after quite a few glue gun blisters and times spent lying on the carpet in a world of self-doubt, I made these.

Bow Tie and Kerchief from Le Colonel Moutarde

I made these buttonholes based on a tutorial in ‘Handmade Weddings’ by Moyle, Moyle and Faust (Chronicle Books), which was kindly handed down to me by the teacher of one of my preschooler’s activities.  Mine are a more-rustic adaptation.

Here’s a How To…

Materials:

Old clothes (my daughters’ outgrown winter dress and summer dress, in rainbow colours)

White felt, leftover from a craft project

Florist wire (also used for the bouquets)

A second-hand pair of dark green corduroy trousers

Wool (leftover from pom pom making)

Glue gun and glue sticks

Pins with rainbow heads (ebay)

Scissors

Method: 

  1. Cut strips out of the old clothes and felt, measuring approx. 3″ (7.5cm) wide and about 5-6″ (12-15cm) long.
  2. Fold them in half, lengthways.
  3. Cut into the fold, stopping about 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Make these cuts all the way along the length, with about 1/8 inch between each. This will create a fringe effect.*
  4. Pipe a line of hot glue along the uncut edge, then roll the uncut length up tightly, having shifted the tips of the fringe to a slight angle away from the direction you’re rolling in (the angle isn’t essential, but creates a nicer shape if you are able to do it).*
  5. Fluff up the bud.
  6. Glue in a piece of florist wire.
  7. Cut a leaf shape out of your chosen green fabric.
  8. Put two buds together, and fold the base of the leaf around them, sealing (inside) with hot glue.
  9. Double up the florist wire to make a more substantial ‘stem’ and wrap this loop with either brown or green wool.

Et voila! Les boutonnieres!

* High Tech Paper demonstration of 3 and 4:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A link to Handmade Weddings 

(Un)crafty Bride on a Budget: Underwear for a Bias Cut, Ghost, Slip Dress

This week’s post is a bit niche: relatively-budget underwear / shapewear for a bias cut, thin, slip (aka cami) dress.  I hope it coincides neatly with any last-minute, NYE pants panic.  I appreciate that if your dress is quite see-through, this post is likely to only be helpful for someone with my skintone.  However, if you’re looking for pants for a dress with a thicker fabric, this post should be more broadly useful. 

If you’ve just got engaged and are here for tips on saving money, easy crafts, sustainable ideas and ways of personalising your wedding, firstly, congratulations! Secondly, I hope some of my earlier posts on finding outfits, making your own flowers and bouquets, venue decorations and table decorations are useful to you. More to come in 2018 for the uncrafty bride on a budget.  

But for now. The Underwear.  Once I had found The Dress, I became obsessed with The Underwear.  It was so hard to find, and there was so little online to point me in the right direction, so I do hope this is useful.  It is the result of my frugal and exhaustive search.  

Ghost slip dresses are extremely lightweight, and cut on the cross, which is what makes them beautiful.  It is also what makes them virtually impossible to wear pants under, because EVERYTHING shows through.  Moreover, mine had a spaghetti strap on one side (requiring a strapless bra), a very deep scoop (making any bra difficult, especially a typically full-cupped strapless bra), and a thigh-high split on one leg (making shorts difficult).  

A quick reminder of the gorgeous, flimsy Ghost dress I thought was going to be my wedding dress

Advice I had been able to glean online suggested tiny, seamless hipsters – however, as I have had four major abdominal operations in the last six years, including c sections, I wanted to wear something that held my tummy.  I am self-conscious about my mother’s apron, aka The Flap.  I was very wary about becoming negative and shameful about my body during what is supposed to be a celebration of love and life, but also wanted to feel, well, held, and comfortable.  

Here is the Ghost dress with the invisible, seam free, belly-button-high shorts I already owned.

HERE ARE MY BIG PANTS!

They were not invisible.

So I saved up Clubcard Vouchers till I had enough for £50 worth of underwear from Figleaves, and bought a plunging strapless Wonderbra and a pair of Spanx Undie-tectable lace shorts (both in my skin tone).  

The Wonderbra was a stroke of luck – it provided support for my ample-enough bosom and wasn’t visible.  

The Bra

The Spanx pants sounded great, as they were not the kind of upholstered, high-waisted, long-legged, need-assistance-to-pee, no-feasting-allowed Spanx, just a pair of big pants with some light smoothing action.  Unfortunately, the band of shame at the top of the Spanx pants showed through the dress.  

The Pants

The mesh of the lace worked, so I did some searches for seamless, high waist, mesh shorts.  For months.  Couldn’t find a pair.  Looked at a lot of pictures of knickers.

Found out about something called a C String.  With wire as a gusset.  Ran away.

AVERT YOUR EYES

Anything which changed texture was out, as different textures showed through the dress, so most high waisted shorts were out, too, as they all seemed to have inbuilt control panels (which I really didn’t want anyway, as I find them constrictive, and I wanted to eat and drink and be jolly).  

Finally, quite close to the wedding, I discovered H&M’s light control shorts.  They came to mid-upper thigh at the bottom, and up above my tummy button at the top, they were blissfully comfortable, and didn’t ride. They were relatively inexpensive, at £17.99 for two pairs.  As I have very pale, caucasian skin, I was lucky that they were a good match for me.  They come in a pack with a very pale pink and a black pair, and are also great for wearing under summer dresses, for anyone who, like me, gets a bit of chub rub.  Ta da!

My Trousseau

 

If I was to do this again and had more of a budget, I would talk to the woman behind www.hotknickers.ie – I think Ali would be able to figure out a good solution.  Choosing a local producer would, of course, also be a more ethical, sustainable option.

This is an area it seems easy to get priced out of if you’re looking for ethical options, however, if you are far craftier than me and would like to have a go at making your own pants, here is a link to a tutorial.

If anyone has found solutions to a similar issue, please do comment – especially if you know of any brands that sell various tones and / or of more environmentally-friendly options.  

Happy New Year!

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: The Wedding Dress

A dozen years, or so, before my wedding.  I ask my mum to make me a white version of this green Jigsaw dress, with a slit up the leg as well as a ruffle.   She says Yes.  I am single.  She says she will figure out how to make it when the time comes.  She is trying not to laugh.  She will do it, though.

http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2011/08/22/week-eleven-of-why-so-many-clothes-the-best-of-clothes-the-worst-of-clothes/

Four years before our wedding, when our first daughter is tiny, and my mum has recently died, I watch a lot of Don’t Tell the Bride.  I fantasise about what my wedding dress scene would be (although we are not engaged).  I imagine my husband would find something lovely, and very thoughtful, but I would be in West Cork, in Alice Halliday’s studio, giving her my mum’s and granny’s linens to make something like this wedding dress she made from the bride’s grandma’s tablecloths

When I propose to my husband, a year and a bit before our wedding, we consider a last-minute, seven-weeks-away booking on the (don’t-think-too-much-about-it) cancelledweddings.co.uk .  I decide the dress doesn’t matter, I just dream madly of a simple shift, this amazing cape by Alice Halliday (made for Florence Welch) and these R. Soles boots.

We settle down, decide a real budget, and I realise my £150 dress and shoes budget won’t quite cover one boot.  

A year before the wedding, I find, on ebay, a white version of my green jigsaw dress, with a slit up the leg as well as a ruffle.  It’s £79; it’s an original 1990s Ghost dress, probably one I eyed up as a child, seeing the perfect wedding dress.  It’s an ethereal copy of what I’d dreamed up with my mum.  

 


A few months before the wedding, I realise that a chiffon white dress and a one-of-a-kind, beaded cape and two small, gorgeous, beloved, huggable children, who will be eating a lot of chocolate wedding cake, will not mix well.  I decide to get a back up dress and to find a less delicate cape, veil or shawl.  

I order a dress from ebay, but the corset stops an inch above the waist of the bodice, and it does odd things with my body.  My oldest child suggests I sew fabric flowers onto my waist.  It seems feasible… In the end, I resell the dress for what I paid (£20).  

Can you tell one of my kids took this pic?

I try a dress on in a charity shop near work.  I decide white suits me.  I become emboldened.  I decide I will look good in anything.  This is better than the me who has been worrying about her mother’s apron in her Ghost dress, wanting there to be less of me.

I buy a back up dress on ebay for £30.

In amongst my mum’s old clothes, I think, is the rainbow catsuit she had always wanted to wear as her Mother of the Bride outfit.  It comes with a cape, I vaguely remember.  There is a studio photo of my mum wearing the ensemble, in the Seventies.  Her mum had bought it from a graduate of Central St Martin’s.*  I recall a capelet, which wouldn’t be right.  I check, anyway.  I open up the storage bag to find a flowing, sheer, rainbow cape.  My wedding cape.  

I also get hold of a rainbow mermaid dress, for when the red wine starts to flow and the dancing is in full swing and there may be spills…. and briefly consider wearing it down the aisle instead, with the cape.   


A perfectly tidy craft and study area

 

Of course, my period has to make a feature of itself at my wedding.  My cycle goes doolally, so that I will definitely be on on my wedding day. As anyone who has lived with Endometriosis knows, my paper thin, white, chiffon dress is not going to be comfortable.  My back up dress becomes The Dress.

My period got something right.  I loved The Dress; it went with the Lizzie Bennet hair.  It sat unobtrusively under my mum’s rainbow cape, which cradled me in her rainbow colours as I walked up the aisle, with and without her.  When the cape was off, The Dress held me, showed me, and was utterly comfortable.  

 

Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com – an amazing wedding photographer

And, around midnight, I became as shiny as Tamatoa in sequins.  ShiiiiinnnnneeeeeY!

*UPDATE – THE RAINBOW CAPE DESIGNER 

I am exhilarated to have met someone online whose mum has the dress version of the rainbow catsuit and cape. It turns out the designer is Jean Varon, who is credited by some as the true inventor of the miniskirt, and who dressed Diana Rigg in The Avengers. 

I love the threads that connect us all.

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: Decorating the Grounds of Your Venue

Decorating our venue turned out to be an extended process of joy, community, friendship, love, interaction – all  the good things about any wedding, and, especially, a DIY one.

We made a lot of decorations so I will do several blog posts on different parts of the venue and / or specific decorations, so hopefully other enthusiastic wedding makers can find the bits they need more easily.  

This week focuses on the grounds / gardens of our venue. There is a How To / Tutorial on pom pom garlands, as well as tips on decorating trees, bunting and confetti.  There are, of course, a few stories in here, too.

Overall, our decorations were as sustainable as possible and, largely, either homemade or borrowed.  They were also inexpensive!

Decorating the Gardens for a Wedding

Pom Pom Garlands

Garlands in Trees. Photo by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com 

Garlands on the Fence. Photo by Natalie S. 

 

Have you ever made a pom pom out of wool? It’s so easy, the only equipment you need is wool and scissors.  I got a huge bag of leftover wool on ebay for £10, and am still using it to make Christmas decorations and kids’ crafts.

 

  1. Make this shape with the hand you don’t use to write: 
  2. Wrap a length of wool around the four fingers, approximately 50 – 100 times (depending on how fluffy and full you want your pom poms to be).
  3. When you have done this, carefully slide the wool off your fingers.
  4. Tie a piece of wool of about 15cm around the middle, so that you are looking at two loops of wool (rather like the infinity symbol).
  5. Cut the loops at each end.
  6. Fluff your pom pom.

(If you would like some step-by-step photos, please do mention in the comments and I will add some!)

We made a lot of pom poms at my hen do — one of the hens even brought her own pom pom maker.  The gorgeous setting of my childhood’s Holland Park, prosecco, wine and a delicious bring and share picnic helped to fuel our furious pom pom making.  

Crafty Hen Do. White playsuit, lace scarf with armholes and nude Keds, all second hand. 

 

On the day before the wedding, the sun warm on our backs, some friends who had travelled across Europe, friends who had part-cycled from Brighton, my children, their friends and other loved ones, and my (now)husband and I all tried out different ways to fill the trees in the grounds of Kench Hill with pom poms.  The most beautiful method to watch was a friend I had been reunited with after fifteen years (my heart is so full remembering her there, as if we’d seen each other only yesterday, and then, only yesterday) make a huge, woollen web between picnic tables, with the theory this would be the most effective way to make a string of hundreds of pom poms.  It looked beautiful, and certainly made the longest garland of pom poms I think any of us will ever witness — but it was hilariously difficult to transport once made!

The most efficient method was to tie long strings of wool up in the trees and fences we wanted the garlands on, and then to tie the pom poms to them in situ.  Trust us, we tried everything.  

Pom pom garland cost: £10 (large bag of wool from ebay), plus generosity of woolly hens.

Silk Bunting

One of my bridesmaids lent us metres and metres of silk bunting that her mum had made for her own wedding.  The bunting had graced several weddings in between – it was beautiful in its own right, and it was also beautiful to have this link with other loving celebrations.

We strung it in the places that needed quiet transformations: a wall with washed-off children’s drawing from a recent school visit; the ramp up to the music / poetry / speeches hall; a dark stretch between two gorgeous trees.


Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com

Confetti

There was a meteor shower the night of our wedding.  That was pretty good confetti.

Image by Scarborough and Ryedale Astronomical Society.

 

(Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget: DIY Wedding Hair

Photo by (the utterly fabulous) Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com  

 

One of the obvious areas to save money for the wedding was on hair and makeup.  I decided to do my own, which was hugely daunting as I have two daily hairstyles: down, or loose bun (or ‘flower’, as my youngest calls it).  I also have two fancy hairstyles: I can straighten my hair, or I can rag curl it.  

For the wedding, rag curls seemed most bridal and most unlike the everyday.  

I have a set of Remington Hair Envy Heated Rag Rollers, which plug in in their case and are very easy to use.  If you wanted to use zero electricity and chemicals, you could easily do this style using the more traditional method of tearing rags and applying them to damp hair.  

Rag rolling creates lovely ringlets in even the most stubborn, fine, straight hair, which you can separate with fingers to make into loose curls.  

I watched a few YouTube tutorials to help me perfect my method and found this blog helpful http://offbeatbride.com/rag-curls/

My hair is fine but plentiful, straight on top with a slight wave / kink. I am of mixed white British and Irish heritage.  When I began practising, I had a long bob, which was slightly longer at the front, much like Mandy Moore in this Pinterest picture (yeah, honest…)

The bob responded pretty easily to rag curls, as in this first attempt, the summer before (planning is everything…).  

However, as I couldn’t imagine getting married without my old, long hair, I had grown it quite long by the wedding.  The back just didn’t work down by this stage – it was too haphazard and not curly enough, and was best roughly pinned up with the nicely-curled front down and loose, a la Lizzie Bennett in 1990s Pride and Prejudice.

Lizzie Bennet

I put my hair into rollers first thing on Friday, before we left London to head out to Kent to our Saturday wedding’s venue.  To keep the rolls from falling out and / or bashing me in the forehead, I wrapped them in this Liberty silk scarf.  My about-to-be Mother in Law tidied up the back into the scarf for me when we got there, which I really appreciated, as the back kept unrolling.  

Day Before Hair

 

On the wedding day, I got extremely nervous about taking out the rolls, so one of my lovely bridesmaids came into the bathroom with me as moral support.  Once unrolled, it was fine and dandy. I swept back my hair into the shape I wanted, and my lovely friend helped me pin it up.  Honestly, if we could put this together in a tiny mirror in a dormitory bathroom with a puddle of wasps on the floor, you can DIY your hair, gorgeous ones!  Just before we left, my wonderful sister fixed in my rainbow mermaid comb, made for me by the massively talented Irish designer Alice Halliday from sea pottery and shells (http://www.alicehalliday.com/ ).

 

Alice Halliday comb – this is bespoke, but others are available on Alice’s Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliceHalliday 

I avoided using hair spray as no matter what I did during practice runs, my very fine hair ended up heavy and crispy with it.  I had put a curl activator through it on Friday morning.  The key is to roll up your hair when it’s damp, and to trust it to dry out overnight.  The curls really stick for hours, and fall out elegantly enough. Here they are at nearly midnight…

Back to the day of the wedding… After the ceremony, back at the reception venue, I needed to fix my hair and completely lost the ability.  We were still waiting for the second mini-coach to bring guests, so I had a few minutes to fix it.  One of my oldest friends happened to bump into me as I came out of the bathroom having given up.  She sat me down in the breakfast room and the two of us caught up as she gave me a new hairstyle in five minutes flat – something she had last done in 2002 when we were students.  Complete with rainbow mermaid comb, it was magical.

Photos by Tracy Morter www.tracymorter.com

It was important to me to get my hair right for the wedding, and I am very happy with how it turned out.  My hair and I have history.  I grew up with bum length hair, and chopped it all off not long after my mum died, while I was caring for my newborn, first child.  I wrote about that here http://saranesbitt.co.uk/2013/03/14/cutting-my-own-hair-short-an-act-of-grief-identity-or-silliness/