'zero waste wedding' Category

(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.

 

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