Utterly Wed: Joe & Louise

Joe and Louise were referred to me by the very lovely Anna from Bride & Glory, and I have to admit to being a teeny little bit over-excited when their consultation form came back detailing festoon lighting, mis-matched chairs and street food vans. When I saw that they’d booked the humble, hugely generous and ridiculously talented Ed Peers to shoot the day, I may even have let out a little whoop and a fist pump, and so I am beyond thrilled to be able to share their day in full today.

Although they’d booked me months before, I didn’t meet Joe and Louise until a few weeks before the wedding to walk through the day at their chosen venue of Huntsmill Farm in Buckinghamshire. Essentially Huntsmill Farm is a set of beautiful stone cottages providing holiday accommodation, but with a marquee available to hire from the relaxed owners and 360 degree views of sprawling English countryside, it also happens to provide a glorious backdrop for a relaxed, DIY wedding. Oh, and it has the most perfect tree to have a blessing under.

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See?

Their wedding day was a truly DIY affair, with this creative pair crafting all sorts of lovely pieces and getting their guests involved in a number of ways which you will read about below. There were also A LOT of suppliers coming in and out throughout the day as street food vans were a bit of a theme. We had no less than three vintage camper vans turn up providing coffee and scones before and after the ceremony, a mobile bar in the evening and wood-fired pizza for the late-night munchers. Pitt Smoked BBQ Co provided platters of pulled pork and wedges from their converted Airstream, and the photobooth was a black cab called Alfie! As such Joe and Lou made the very wise decision to hire an On The Day Coordinator (that would be me!) to manage all these arrivals, as well as completing the set-up and generally ensuring the day ran to plan. But that’s enough from me. Let’s dive in to this absolute treasure of a wedding, with a few words from the bride and groom themselves. Enjoy…

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Louise: My dress was a bit of a mish mash! The base dress is ‘Vera’ by Sanyukta Shresta but then I worked with them to design a series of bespoke overlays: a tulle skirt, a one-shouldered embroidered top, and a lace top all held together by a hemp silk belt. It was a risk but thankfully it paid off! The floral crown was by Rock n’ Rose and worked really well with the bridesmaids’ DIY-ed versions.

Joe: I wanted a less traditional suit that complimented the farm vibe. I opted for a mis-matched suit with texture. My blazer was from Oliver Spencer- it was the first thing I bought and I fell in love with it immediately. My waistcoat was a vintage find from a charity shop that I had repaired and tailored to fit me. My trousers and shoes were bought from Topman after I started having doubts about my original trousers. Although not an exact match, they did go with my waistcoat quite well!

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Louise: We had a few ‘must-haves’ when it came to our vision for the day: an outdoor ceremony by a tree, festoon lighting, and food trucks. We got all three! We also wanted everything to feel quite personal and centered around our guests.

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Louise: During the ceremony we’d asked Joe’s sister and my neice to choose readings for us. We had no idea what they were going to do and it was such a nice surprise on the day! We love that they went with songs- Beyonce’s Dangerously In Love and Method Man’s You’re All I Need.

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Louise: The decor and details… wow, where do we start? It’s probably easiest to break this down in to what we made and what we sourced… :)

We DIY-ed A LOT:

  • Tassels (we made about 1000 in total)
  • Scrabble place names (Joe collected these over a number of months)
  • Vintage Ladybird books chosen for each guest (again collected by Joe)
  • A giant string heart held together by nails on wood and made by my Dad and Joe. We wanted a piece of art made by our guests that we could keep forever
  • The chalkboard Plan of the Day made by Joe two nights before the wedding
  • Messages in a bottle for our 1-year and 10-year anniversaries (Thank you Sama for making sure this happened!)
  • Invitations- tea towels designed by Louise with illustrations by a friend, and wooden Save The Date magnets
  • Bridesmaid flower crowns which were DIYed, as well as the groomsmen’s boutonnieres.

We sourced:

  • Festoon lighting which Joe put up the night before with groomsmen… and then rearranged at 1.30am that morning
  • Flowers from a local flower farm; bouquets made by the bridesmaids
  • Milk bottles which we borrowed from the sweetest lady we met at a local farmers’ market
  • Mismatched chairs from The Poppy Trading Company
  • Each and every supplier separately- no package deals here!

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Louise: There are a few stand out moments. I loved seeing Joe waiting in the field for our first look, and also seeing our guests contribute to the giant string heart. But then our last song of the night was really memorable- Joe and I had talked about what to play as the final song for months but didn’t end up choosing one. Our friends started singing Wonderwall a capella and convinced the DJ to play it- it was overwhelming as we had chosen 99% of the day, and instead this was chosen/given to us. A very special moment.

Joe: For me I loved it when Lou finally put her arms around me at our first look. Also it was a fairly overcast day until Lou started walking down the aisle and the sun came out as she came towards me! Sitting on top of the camper van was also pretty surreal- definitely a ‘spur of the moment’ moment!

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Louise: Our favourite part of the planning process was probably meeting some amazing people- we are so lucky to have found the best team/suppliers for the day. We couldn’t have pulled off the day without them. Also seeing everything come together on the day, and a few hours before – when everyone started arriving and it started to feel like “our wedding” had begun.. Sama was a massive help during this period too :)

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Louise: Our advice for other couples would be to research, research, research… don’t go for the first quote / supplier just because it’s easy. There are hidden gems out there, you just need to find them.  Also you’ll naturally always prioritise the big things during the planning, but make time for the smaller, personalised things too. They’re the parts you’ll remember.

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That last image is increds. If it were me I’d supersize it and hang it above the bed.

See? I told you it was a goodun’. Thank you so much to Joe and Louise, not only for allowing me to share their day on The Utter Blog, but for hiring me as their coordinator. I was a busy, busy bee that day, but thrilled to see it play out just as Joe and Louise had hoped- and I still am in awe of their creativity and general coolness!

A massive thank you to Ed Peers as well who I would work with again in a heartbeat. I get as much pleasure from looking through this set of photographs as I do my own.

So gang, what’s your favourite aspect of this epic day? And who can spot me making a Where’s Wally appearance in one of the shots?!

Sama xx

Credits

Venue: Huntsmill Farm

Photography: Ed Peers

Coordination: Utterly Wow

Coffee Van: Monkshood Coffee

BBQ Van: Pitt Smoked BBQ Co

Mobile Bar Van: CamperVin

Pizza Vab: Pizza of Dreams

Black Cab Booth: Alfie The Black Cab Photobooth

Dress: Sunyukta Shrestha

 

Wondrous Wedding: Frankie & Rob

Jeremy Freedman

When I started The Utter Blog I really didn’t know what it was going to lead to or indeed if anyone was going to read it! So when emails started trickling in from people who were, indeed, reading and enjoying, I was thrilled. What has surprised me the most over the last couple of years though, is the number of emails I’ve received from brides-to-be who have or are getting married at the wonderful Great Barn in Rolvenden, the place that holds the most fondest of memories for me as I, of course, was wed there a lifetime a mere 14 months ago.

I feel an instant connection with everyone who chooses to get married there; it’s a special venue and a bit of a hidden gem, so when Frankie emailed me last year to say that a) she was getting married there too and eagerly following my blog, and b) could I tell her a bit more about the lighting I’d hired, I obliged of course. Imagine my absolute delight then, when, 6 months later she posted a sneak peek of her wedding on The Utter Blog’s Facebook page. I emailed her IMMEDIATELY (after several squeals of delight), and now I’m very excited to share her day and brilliantly written report with you lovely lot.

You’ll see I’m also sharing some images from the set-up day before. Selfishly because it brings back such amazing memories from my own set-up day, but also because it eases you in to Frankie’s lovely tale of how her and Rob met. Enjoy…

All photography by Jeremy Freedman

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“Rob and I met at a work party (snore) complete with Cantonese buffet and late-night karaoke which, on paper, is a pretty classic way to meet your future spouse, except that Rob didn’t actually work at the same place as me so technically wasn’t supposed to be there! He’d done work experience with them in a totally different part of the country and had been given a special invitation to come along to the party in London as he’d done such a good job. He was a stowaway, essentially the only man in the room I didn’t know, and his smile knocked me out from across the room. Me being me, I tactically ‘ran into’ him and a colleague of mine at the bar who then introduced us.

We chatted for a little bit but didn’t really speak to each other much until we all got thrown out of the venue at the end of the night. We ended up walking to the night bus stop together with a friend of his who had had one too many shandies.  It was a bit awkward saying goodbye, and then I just watched him get on the bus without even a phone number, email address, carrier pigeon instructions… nothing. I thought I’d never see him again.

Of course in the age of Facebook, nothing is ever over. A few days later he was tagged in a picture by said drunken friend, so I went out on a limb and messaged him.  We then continued to message each other lots about loads of stuff including advice on where to live as it turned out he was moving to London! We then went on a proper ‘date’, he moved into a crazy house in Mile End with 10 housemates and two cats, and 5 years later we got engaged.  What I didn’t know at the time was that he actually hadn’t been planning to move to London at that point at all. But he went out and got a job, found somewhere to live, and moved here on a total whim all because of a girl he hardly knew that he’d met at a work party. Nuts. Classic Rob.”

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“We wanted our wedding day to be fun, informal, and personal to us. We had a small search area venue-wise as we needed to be as close as possible to Rob’s family home in Tenterden.  After visiting a whole bunch of different types of venues offering varying levels of essentially ‘package’ weddings, we went for the Great Barn as it gave us loads of flexibility and the chance to create a day that was ours. There were no stipulations about suppliers, no corkage fees… we could do as we pleased pretty much which felt brilliant. It also meant we could have the ceremony and reception all in one place which kept things nice and simple. PLUS we’d also found The Utter Blog along the way and followed the planning of Sama’s own wedding which massively inspired us and gave us the confidence to go for it!”

Jeremy Freedman

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“Our ceremony was short and sweet. I was utterly terrified of the whole ‘spectacle’, and writing our own vows just seemed to bring too much pressure with it, but we did add some personal touches. We asked my dad to sing for us. He’s a carpenter/builder by day and blues musician by night, so we picked a beautiful song by blues man Eric Bibb called ‘For You’.  It was amazing- I cried. Our friends’ 6 month old baby, Alba, loves music and also decided to ‘sing’ along during his performance which was mega cute! Then Rob very bravely said that he’d like to do a reading as part of the ceremony, the content of which wasn’t revealed to me until the ceremony itself. He chose a traditional Native American poem — it was such a good choice and beautifully read. Again, I cried…”

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“I’m a graphic designer — by default I like things to look nice, and so I had the most fun (and therefore stress) planning the overall look of the day. My style is a little bit eccentric, colourful and eclectic — I like to think of it as a sort of creative, organised chaos! I wanted to extend the feeling we have in our own home into the barn, to kind of welcome our guests into our new family home, offer them a seat at our new family table… that kind of thing.

As an extension of this idea I really wanted 100% wooden trestle tables but the shape of the space, and our budget, just wouldn’t allow for this so we opted for round tables with cloths. Pretty standard stuff, but SO efficient, affordable and actually more guest-friendly. In terms of seating, I opted for a mixture of mismatched dining chairs and lime-washed chiavari chairs, the combination of which looked SO brilliant. We also hired in a beautiful yellow chaise longue in mustard yellow from the lovely Jenny at Bellaboo and Beau for us to sit on during the ceremony (£50 well spent!), and I bought a 9m-long carpet runner so I could walk down the aisle bare foot. It was a bargain but utterly filthy when it arrived so we spent a weekend in the yard in Kent with a domestic carpet cleaner… the things I did for this wedding!

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So what else did we fill that big empty barn with? Myself, my bridesmaids, and Man of Honour made approximately 80m of bunting in my chosen colours of pink, blue and yellow with flashes of gold. We bought a bunch of cheap, papier-maché letters from eBay which we spray painted white and gilded gold leaf along the edges. These were used as table ‘numbers’, as a sign for the cake table and at the bar. We bought around 60 cheap, old books with nice coloured covers (again on eBay) to use as props on the tables and generally around the space. And my mum and my aunt hand-picked all the flowers two days before at Blooming Green in Kent, and arranged them all in jars for the tables and to hang on the back of the chairs.

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Lighting-wise, we hired light-up letters from the fabulous Amanda at Doris Loves. Then all other lighting we got from the amazing IA Sound and Light. We had festoon lights hanging in the main space and out to the marquee at the back of the barn which were surprisingly easy to hang and we only had a couple of breakages! We also hired in a bunch of floor cans to use in the darker corners of the barn, plus a few for the stage area with coloured gels. We also got a cheese-tastic DJ lighting package which, when we were setting it up, I thought looked RIDICULOUS but actually, when the lights went down were amazing!

In terms of other little details, I made fun bow ties for all of the men in different shades of pink, blue and yellow, along with matching pocket squares. And we painted Rob’s old guitar white and asked guests to play it and write messages on it throughout the day. What with everything else going on though, it wasn’t very well signposted so wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped! I also made little monsters out of socks for the kids table which went down a treat.

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Jeremy Freedman

I’m not a particularly ‘girly’ girl, so booking in to a more traditional bridal shop was never going to be for me. This, combined with the fact that my engagement ring and both of our wedding rings were all antique, meant I always knew I’d go down the vintage route.

I had been expecting to traipse across London, scouring through vintage rails for months on end, but when it came down to it all it took was one trip with my mamma to Annie’s Vintage, an amazing boutique in Angel.  Annie only has one rail of wedding dresses in her magical shop but it’s FULL of gems, all selected by her, and my-oh-my does she have an eye for beautiful dresses. I probably tried on about 75% of them and in the end I bought two! Lucky I did because the very bottom of my first dress didn’t survive me running around in the grass all day, so I’m glad I had a backup to change into for the evening!

Rob wore a tweed suit from Walker Slater. He bought it somewhat spontaneously when we were away for a long weekend in Edinburgh. Like Annie’s, the Walker Slater shop was just an amazing experience to be in- we loved it! Plus, at the time, we thought we were snapping up a one-time-only Scottish number but it turns out they have a store in London too so we actually could have got the exact same suit there… but we like to tell ourselves that it wouldn’t have been the same. He wore it with a checked shirt, brown brogues, some cycling-related cufflinks (Rob’s massively into cycling) and a slightly silly yellow bow tie that I made.”

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“Our most memorable moment was probably down to our friend, Sam, who bravely put himself forward to DJ in the evening and put together an awesome playlist full of songs we love, plus a few surprises. Not only did he basically choose our first dance song for us (a whole other story), he also put on a stonking last 10 minutes of the night. This included two ‘essential’ songs that we had asked for- Livin’ On a Prayer for the air-guitar players amongst us (and my mum who’s a massive Bon Jovi fan), and Man in the Mirror because we just love it (CHOOOOOOON). BUT the surprise moment was that he threw in Never Forget by Take That in between the two. After Bon Jovi, everyone was on a massive high and this resulted in a massive sing-a-long, lots of drunken arm waving, simultaneous gospel-style hand clapping, and me and Rob in the centre of a big circle of love high-fiving all our guests. It was drunken, it was awesome; we loved it.”

Jeremy Freedman Jeremy Freedman

Jeremy Freedman Jeremy Freedman

“My favourite part of the planning process was actually the two days we spent in the barn prior to the wedding setting everything up. Ironically, it was actually the least stressful part of the whole thing, as finally everything we’d been chatting about for months on end was happening. We couldn’t squabble about it or change our minds on things; we were just getting on with it and it was brilliant fun!

Both of our families were there — including some of my family from the states who had flown over for the wedding — and everyone mucked in to bring the space to life. After planning it for the best part of 18 months totally on our own it was really nerve-wracking waiting to see if the vision we had in our heads was actually going to turn out OK in reality. Of course when you’re setting everything up you don’t really have much of a chance to think about it, but when the last few flowers were being put in place and we did a final sweep of the floors and looked at what we’d achieved, it really was such a brilliant and emotional feeling and it was amazing to have shared it with our families and close friends.

For that very reason, if you can face it, I would 100% recommend a ‘DIY’ wedding. It’s stressful and infuriating at times, but SOOOOO satisfying to see it come together and see how every person in that room had contributed and made an impact on how the day will be.”

Jeremy Freedman

Ahhhh, it just brings everything back! I remember feeling that mixture of satisfaction, elation and anticipation when we did the final floor sweep having prepped the day before, the spontaneous drunken song that had our guests surrounding and serenading us at the end of the night, and, of course, that beautiful barn and setting which really does provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxed, fun, DIY wedding.

Thank you Frankie for getting in touch and allowing me to share your beautiful day on here. It really does feel right to do so, and I hope my readers have enjoyed your write-up as much as I have putting it together! And, of course, a huge thank you to Jeremy Freedman who took such lovely photos.

Happy Wondrous Wedding Wednesday everybody!

Sama xxx

 

 

The 30 Tell-Tale Signs I’m About To Exit My Youth

Yup, tomorrow I turn 30. Bye bye twenties, hello eye wrinkles and conversations about bin collections.

I’m alright about entering the fourth decade of my life, I think. I’ve always looked forward to being a ‘proper grown-up’, and am excited about what my thirties may bring. But for every time I’ve practised saying my new age out-loud (does anyone else do that in the run up to their birthday?), I’ve thought of another reason why, actually, I may have emotionally reached thirty some time ago…

So here are thirty ways (see what I did there?) in which I’ve been feeling a little more ‘mature’ of late. It’s tongue in cheek, of course, but I’d be very interested to know if anyone can relate… or if I’m just thinking way too much in to this. I may regret hitting ‘Publish’.

FASHION

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

1. On the high street, I’m not entirely sure where I belong any more. River Island and Topshop (once staples of my wardrobe) feel way too young and trendy 99% of the time. I’m not quite ready for M&S, whilst Dorothy Perkins has the tendency to be a little mumsy. Which is slightly disconcerting seeing as half my wardrobe is from there.

2. Cheap fashion no longer appeals. Whilst I used to think, ‘Woohoo, I’ve got £20- I’m hitting Primarni and New Look!’, I now consider the ‘more affordable’ end of the high street cheap and nasty and try to avoidSadly my £20 doesn’t get me very far in the shops I’d like to be spending my hard-earned cash in, like Whistles or Reiss.

3. I feel I should whisper this one, but John Lewis is now on my clothes shopping circuit… namely for brands such as Mint Velvet and Somerset by Alice Temperley. However, purchases in these concessions are rarely afforded (see point 2).

4. I have never and don’t think I will ever embrace body con.

5. Ditto crop tops.

6. I never thought I’d say it, but whilst there was a time when I lived in heels, I’m now way more comfortable in flats. I still love a heel for a night out, sure, but they have to be on good quality, well-cushioned soles and not a millimetre higher than 4 inches. I don’t do platforms.

7. I’ve found myself venturing back in to Clarkes. Frequented as a child for the foot measuring machine and the shoes with the key in the sole, I’m back aged 29 and 364 days- this time for the cushioning and the comfort.

8. I’ve dubbed my go-to weekend outfit (turned up skinny jeans, converse, tshirt and long cardigan) ‘school-run chic’. I don’t do a school run.

LEISURE

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

9. A bit like the high street, when it comes to magazines I’m not entirely sure what I should be reading. Once a magazine addict getting through 2 or 3 a week, I now steer clear of my old favourites and those aimed at ‘young women’, such as Company, Grazia and Glamour. If I have a long train journey I’ll occasionally pick up a copy of Marie Claire or Red… but I often find myself staring longingly at the covers of Good Housekeeping and Psychologies instead, wondering if I’m old enough to buy them yet. (Until now the answer has always been No. Who knows if I’ll feel differently tomorrow??)

10. I no longer buy Heat magazine every week, scour the Showbiz section of the Daily Mail website, or generally give two hoots about celebrity gossip. And for someone who was once OBSESSED, that’s saying something.

11. Gone are the days of drinking three nights on the trot á la my university days.

12. Ditto necking two bottles of wine and suffering a ‘slight headache’ the next day.

13. I’ll still dance your Nan off the table, but only if it’s to pop music, and preferably nineties pop music OR what is now lovingly referred to by everyone over a certain age as ‘old school club classics’. I’ll be having none of this dubstep malarkey, thank you.

14. I don’t actually know what dubstep is. Nor can I differentiate between artists such as Sam Smith, John Newman and James Blake. (Athough the latter point can more likely be attributed to the fact I no longer devour celebrity magazines.) I do actually still listen to the ‘young’ radio stations but my grip on the music scene is fast-fading.

15. If I was in this year’s Big Brother house, I’d be the third oldest there. (WTF?!)

16. I have no desire whatsoever to go on a Club 18-30 holiday. Nor will I be allowed to very soon.

17. Given the option of going home from a night out early, or partying late and crashing at someone’s house I’d choose the former every time. Nothing beats your own bed and shower.

HOME LIFE

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

18. I no longer feel like a fraud when referring to ‘my husband’.

19. Making my house a home is fast becoming my favourite hobby.

20. We’ve taken up gardening. I say ‘we’, I mean Paul’s taken up gardening…  I mainly shout directions from the back door but I am interested.

21. Last week the arrival of a compost bin was considered an ‘exciting delivery’.

22. Same with the steam cleaner the week before.

23. …And a dust buster the week before that.

24. I have food shopping down to a fine art. I menu the whole week, know the aisles like the back of my hand, and group my purchases on the conveyor belt in to their designated bag categories: Dry, Chilled/Frozen and Fruit/Veg. Uh-huh. No-one be messin’ with my conveyor belt.

PHYSICALITY

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

Image by Ari Seth Cohen

25.  My body is ageing. It’s subtle but noticeable in that my skin is drier, I seem to grow a new freckle or mole every day and I bruise more easily.

26. I own a Ped Egg.

27. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve physically changed in the last year, or because I feel older, but I hardly ever get ID’d any more. Seeing as I’ve legally been allowed to drink/smoke/gamble/play the lottery for twelve years plus, I’m actually enjoying this recent development… but ask me in a few years time and I’m sure I’ll feel differently!

28. I no longer seem to be able to bend down or stand up without saying “Ooof”.

29. Nor can I bend back in to bridge. Although to be fair this was always tricky and thoroughly awkward to watch.

30. And finally, erm, how can I put this… It’s become apparent that my pelvic floor muscles aren’t quite what they used to be. Last weekend I went to a BBQ with a trampoline in the garden. Three bounces in and I had to scurry off to the toilet, and I HADN’T EVEN BEEN DRINKING. I’ll say no more.

Mature or practically senile? I’ll let you decide. Tomorrow I’m heading down to Kent to have my first taster menu experience with my Ma, and getting thoroughly sozzled on Saturday when we throw open our doors for a birthday/housewarming bash chez moi. Much fun is going to be had; I’ve bought a swingball set and everything.

These amazing images are all from Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style blog in which he spends his days photographing the fabulous, style-confident older women of NYC. LOVE.

Sama xxx

 

Just Call Me Cinderella?

So listen. I know I’ve just come back from a self-proclaimed blogging sabbatical and that I’m not the most regular of bloggers. I know that I have a tendency to be a bit self-obsessed, and that since getting hitched I may not write about weddings as widely or as thoroughly as I used to… But there’s this thing called the Wedding Blog Awards. It’s a fairly new awards bash thrown by the people at Wedding and Wedding Flowers magazine. If you’re a general wedding blog fan you may have already heard of it. Hell, you may have already voted for it, in which case you’re really not going to want to hear another voting plea…

…But this one’s slightly different.

See, I don’t want you to genuinely vote for me. Ok, well I do want you to genuinely vote for me, but I’m not deluded enough to think that I deserve to win or that I even can with my 12* readers and my distinct lack of wedding-related content in recent months. But I reeeeeeally want to go to the party. I like free champagne. I like dressing up. I’d like to meet for real the various people I talk to regularly on social media. I want to eat a cake pop.

The thing is, I’ve met the nice people at Wedding magazine several times through my job at the bridal boutique. My own wedding was featured in Wedding Flowers magazine last year. There may even be one or two people who have heard of Utterly Wow by now… but this lil’ ol’ blog o’ mine (woah, apostrophe frenzy) is still fairly unknown. So my somewhat skewered reasoning is that by encouraging you lot to vote for me, I’m going to get on the very outer rim of the judges radar, and I may, MAY just get an invite to the Do.

So what’s in it for you? Er…. I’ll be honest, not a lot. This is an entirely selfish request that benefits no-one but myself. HAVING SAID THAT, if I were to get long-listed you can guarantee you’d see a fair few more posts from me over the coming months as I make some pathetic attempt to appear like a good blogger. And f**k it; if I were to get an invite, I’ll take one of you ‘orrible lot as my plus one. Fancy it?

BLOGGERS-MPU

If you want to help Cinderella get to the ball, then click on the link above to head to the voting page. It will take some effort and a minute out of your day, but I’ve had it on good authority that karma of the positive kind will come to those who vote, so…

In the meantime have a look at Sarah. I coordinated her wedding to Nic last month and their photographer, Claudia Rose Carter, has recently shared some images from the day on her blog. Doesn’t she look like a movie star??

Stunning image by Claudia Rose Carter

Stunning image by Claudia Rose Carter

More coming soon…

Sama xxx

* 12 readers is an understatement, obviously. Hopefully.

My Blogging Sabbatical (Or That’s What I’m Calling It Anyway)

Shall we just, erm, skim over the fact that this is my first post in two months? Mmm? Let’s not dwell on my sudden disappearance from the blogging world and my distinct lack of effort to even say Hi/check in/write more than 140 characters on Twitter. We just won’t mention it. Like, ever again.

No we won’t.

It’s all been a bit of a blur, truth be told. May Madness, I was calling it to anyone who listened. I’d thought April was busy but May took multi-tasking to a whole new level, let me tell you. Here’s a little taster of the last 8 weeks…

Praise be to the solicitors- we’ve moved!

Hello new house; Utterly Wow HQ; fish eye living room; just call me Carrie Bradshaw

Hello new house; Utterly Wow HQ; fish eye living room; just call me Carrie Bradshaw

We completed on 2nd May- the Friday of the first May bank holiday weekend and a date Paul and I had cheekily suggested (it was sooner than anyone had previously mentioned) but one which everyone amazingly agreed to. Now as everyone who has ever moved home before knows, it takes up a teeny weeny bit of your time and can be just a leeetle bit stressful. Our move went surprisingly smoothly, despite the various ‘I HATE PACKING’ tantrums I pulled which may or may not have involved the stamping of feet. On move day itself I took on the role of Project Manager, Communications Officer, Cleaner, Furniture Placement Director and Cat Care Assistant, whilst Paul, his Dad and his brother took on the less enviable role of Removals Men. They did a sterling job, and by 5pm we were in our local pub, ever so slightly delirious and toasting to this huge, beautiful house Paul, Lenny and I have somehow managed to acquire.

Of course, what follows a house move is a couple of weeks of trying to make that house a home. We’ve spent every spare second and day off at Ikea/Homebase/B&Q/insert appropriate home-ware store. Paul has bought useful things like furniture and power tools. I’ve impulse-bought light pendants and throws and have ended up taking much of it back. We’re at the stage now where everything is unpacked and pretty much has a place to live. The house is by no means finished- in fact we haven’t even got started- but as an entirely liveable space with faux wooden floors and neutral walls, the doing up and general home improving is going to be a long and gradual process. Whilst we’re not thinking of this as our Forever Home, we do intend to be here for a long while (possibly up to 20 years- crikey!) so it’s comforting to know that there’s no rush to do anything.

You may notice there’s a House To Home category in the Pleasure section in the menu bar. I intend to fill this category over time with house-related posts if you lot don’t object? House tours and Before and Afters and that sort of thing…

Release the doves- Wedding Season has begun.

The Tope Bananas; I do; creative crafters; streamers from hell

The Top Bananas; I do; creative crafters; streamers from hell

One of the reasons I really pushed for us to move at the beginning of May was because my first full wedding season was kicking off with three Big Days in a row starting at the end of the month. I was a little apprehensive about taking on three in succession, but as each enquiry came in with tantalising details of what sounded like completely unique, creative, glorious weddings, I just couldn’t say no. And whilst I spent an entire month surgically attached to either my emails or Excel, these completely unique, creative and glorious weddings were totally worth it.

We had performers on stilts, a disco in a shed, torrential rain, glorious sunshine, vintage ladybird books, sequin runners, a Bugsy Malone singalong, champagne saucers, food trucks, camper vans, a cheese table to end all cheese tables, three b-e-a-utiful brides and a stray dog. Yeah, I said a stray dog. Whilst I suspect all three are going to be snapped up by the big boy blogs, I shall be doing my utmost to share all three wedding reports in full once the professional photos are ready. I’m a lucky wedding planner.

Oh yeah, and an anniversary…

A room with a view; tourists; the ridiculous bathroom; industrial chic at The Big Easy

A room with a view; tourists; the ridiculous bathroom; industrial chic at The Big Easy

Of course, in the midst of all this Paul and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. It was the Sunday after my first wedding, and left to the very last minute (as I was just a tad busy and Paul isn’t chemically engineered to plan these sorts of things), I got ideas way above my station and booked a room at the Corinthia hotel in London. Whilst we live less than 20 miles from central London, our nights in the big city always end with McDonalds and the last train home. It was lovely to dump our bags and spend the afternoon doing the tourist thing, wandering through St James’ Park and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. This was all to do with wanting to stretch our legs of course, and nothing to do with me not liking the first room we were given and having to kill an hour or so until our replacement room was ready… ahem. But what a replacement room it was! A view of the the London Eye rather than a dingy back street, more floor space and a palatial bathroom… even I surpassed myself with my negotiating skills.

The Corinthia really is an incredible luxury hotel, and whilst a room for one night cost nearly as much as a package holiday for one week, we both agreed it was worth it. The location is perfect (a few minutes walk from Charing Cross), the service flawless and the spa is the best and most decadent I have ever experienced (…even though Paul was witness to an unfortunate incident in the male changing room involving a naked man being completely rubbed dry by what we could only assume was his ‘man-servant’.) But we couldn’t stay in the hotel all night, so we eventually headed out to Covent Garden where I continued the decadence by deciding it was a Prosecco-only evening for me, and we gorged on lobster and mountains of meat at The Big Easy. It was the perfect celebration.

Of course, I had imagined writing at length about our first anniversary; perhaps a What Marriage Has Taught Me post, or a look back at the day itself. But is there really much to say after a year? Marriage hasn’t taught me anything yet (jeez, we’ve only just got started), but I can tell you that I like it. I guess I do feel a bit more secure- it is rather lovely to know that the man you love has vowed to look after you FOR EVER- but I think the overwhelming difference is that I feel so much older. I’m sure this has everything to do with turning 30 in less than a month, moving in to our ‘family home’ and purchasing a compost bin in recent weeks, but being a married woman is a definite factor in this too. Thankfully I don’t snigger every time I refer to ‘my husband’ anymore… but nor have I quite got used to my married name.

But enough about me, HOW ARE YOU?? Is anyone still there or has my ‘blogging sabbatical’ caused a mass desertion? I feel like doing a register, or a number call which was always my favourite. I’ll start…

1!

Sama xxx

 

Busy Busy Bee

APRIL HAS STOLEN MY LIFE!

No, seriously. Spring has sprung, the evenings are light and beautiful, the pollen party outside my bedroom window is in full force each morning… and my life seems to have gone in to overdrive. April has been busy, busy, busy, so to reflect the speedy gonzales-ness (totally made up word) of this whirlwind month, I thought I’d do a little round up using my much-favoured literary tool, the bullet point. Let’s go.

  • I had a hair cut. A really bad one. It wasn’t so much that the cut was bad, it was just not what I wanted. I said long Alexa-Chung-style boho bob, she gave me short, neat, graduated bob. (See Exhibit A.)
  • I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that tears were shed in the H&M fitting room to which I fled directly after said hair cut.
  • I’m more embarrassed to admit that to the hairdresser, I simply smiled and said, “That’s great, thanks”. WHY DO I FIND IT SO HARD TO TELL A HAIRDRESSER WHEN I’M NOT HAPPY?
  • I attended a small industry soiree. It was a mere two days after my hair was shorn off but I’d got over it.
  • I was late. I hate being late. But somewhere between reading the invite and seeing/processing the time of 12pm some weeks before and waking up the morning of the do, my brain had deviously changed the time to 1pm.
  • I got ready VERY fast (thank god for the short hair), drove VERY fast (thank god I didn’t get caught), and made it just in time (read: 10 minutes late).
  • I shall tell you a bit more about Kalm Kitchen in due course, but myself, Andri from Always Andri and Vicki from Pocketful of Dreams were treated to a delicious spring luncheon (see Exhibit B) and waxed lyrical about weddings, business and dodgy hair cuts for three hours. The perks of being a wedding planner.
  • I went to the White Gallery. This is an annual trade event for retailers and the wedding industry media set over three days in which designers showcase their new collections and boutiques do their buy for the next season.
  • It’s always an exciting time, and myself and Russell (the owner of Blackburn Bridal) got giddy and bought too much. Again, I shall be sharing a bit more about the new collections in due course, but if you’re getting married in 2015 and you haven’t bought your dress yet, YOU HAVE TO COME TO US.
  • See Exhibit C for a sneak peek of some of the dresses that will be arriving next summer.
  • My husband turned 30!
  • Now he’s not a man for big celebrations so I wasn’t going throw a surprise party or whisk him away to Vegas (all to do with his wants and nothing to do with my finances, obviously…). Our celebrations consisted of a curry with his family the night before for which I made a This Is Your Life/Mr & Mrs style quiz to test who knew Paul best. (Gah! Beaten by his little brother.) Then I took him for a night away in a Kent village called West Malling where we did lots of walking, drinking and mussel-eating. And the festivities concluded with a night out with his besties and their WAGS in which we went for a Chinese and had way too much fun playing with the Lazy Susan.
  • He says it was his best birthday ever. Although I suspect this is more to do with his presents which consisted entirely of cleaning tools for his car. (Men. Are. Weird.)
  • I got promoted! Or more specifically, my amazing manager/friend/life mentor Mandi left the bridal boutique after eight years for pastures new, meaning I am now Acting Manager (oooooh, get me).
  • So far, so good. The wedding planner side of me is relishing being in control and I’m making plans and To Do lists like it’s going out of fashion.
  • Our house sale/purchase is speeding towards it’s conclusion. I write this with every body part crossed as our sellers have encountered a small blip with their purchase (please let it be ok, please let it be ok), but we signed the contracts yesterday and exchange is set for Tuesday. All being well, we should be drinking champagne and doing cartwheels in our new glorious garden (see Exhibit D) in a matter of weeks.
The long boho bob I wanted, and the short, graduated bob I got.

EXHIBIT A: The long boho bob I asked for, and the short, graduated bob I got. 

Delicious deliciousness as prepared by Kalm Kitchen

EXHIBIT B: Delicious deliciousness as prepared by Kalm Kitchen

EXHIBIT C: These two Jesus Piero beauties are coming to BBC very soon...

EXHIBIT C: These two Jesus Piero beauties are coming to BBC very soon…

EXHIBIT D: The garden that is so close to being ours!

EXHIBIT D: The garden that is so close to being ours!

So that’s been my month so far. Its been pretty relentless, I have to say, so I’m looking forward to spending the weekend at home, catching up with emails and Utterly Wow stuff, tidying the house and doing the copious amount of washing that has spilled out of the bedroom and in to the hall. (Why don’t men put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket please? Is it an actual chemical malfunction?)

My Utterly Wow season kicks off in May with three weddings back to back, so my blogging schedule is likely to get even more irregular than it already is, FYI. If you enjoy following my shenanigans then now is the time to add me to your blog reader, or click the little button at the bottom of the side bar which will send you an email update every time I publish something new. The wonders of technology!

Have a lovely long weekend, everybody. Let’s hope the sun stays out for most of it.

Sama xxx

Ps. Thanks to all who have commented on my When I Grow Up I Want To Be… post. I’ve loved, loved, loved reading about your diverse jobs and career paths. Feel free to keep ‘em coming!

 

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

Careers. Shall we discuss?

when-i-grow-up3

For some the end goal has always been in sight. From early aspirations to the necessary education, training, those first steps on to the ladder and the subsequent climb, there are those in the world who have known what they’ve wanted to do from an early age and have gone on to achieve it. Their career path has been an invariably straight and well thought-out line.

For others (dare I say the majority?), the path is considerably more wobbly. This group of people may go to university to study a subject they enjoy but don’t really know what they’re going to do with; they go on to take jobs that they didn’t necessarily expect to, and end up switching careers a number of times before settling on what they finally realise is their vocation.

And then there are those who don’t really have a career as such. I’m not talking about the unemployed or the work-shy, but those for whom ‘career’ is not the be all and end all. They work to live, earning what is necessary in order to do what they really want to be doing, be it raising a family, travelling or learning etc.

Why am I blathering on about this today? Well, in a couple of months I turn 30. THIRTY. That’s fully-fledged adulthood, a milestone birthday and a new phonetic to get my tongue around the next time I’m asked my age. I have to admit I’m one of those weirdos who has looked forward to turning 30 since I was old enough to count. I was a mildly precocious child, and believed that 30 was the Pinnacle of Life™. Now it’s nearly here I’m surprised to find myself pretty horrified at the prospect of leaving my 20s behind. (And at the two grey hairs Paul has recently plucked from my head in the last couple of months.) I’ve achieved much of what I’d hoped to have achieved at this age: I’m married to the love of my life, we own our own home and have a lovely, if perpetually obnoxious cat, I have a wide circle of brilliant, interesting friends and an active social life, I’m the slimmest I’ve been since I was 15 and I’m certainly the tallest I’m ever gonna get (5’4″ and a half, yes!). But there are also goals that haven’t quite been met and aspects of my life that I’ve perhaps spent too much of my twenties fretting and procrastinating about; my career being one of them.

I love meeting new people, but I’ve always dreaded the question ‘so what do you do then?’. If asked now I would start by simply saying, ‘I work in weddings‘. I imagine this would suffice for some people, but for those who are interested I could elaborate further: ‘I have a wedding planning business and I also work as a stylist in a rather nice bridal boutique’, for instance. I find it bemusing that I can look back at that sentence now and not feel remotely embarrassed, but ask me five years ago and the conversation would have been entirely different…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: So what do you do then?

Me: Erm… [lowering my voice so that none else can hear me]… I’m an actress.

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: [Mildly impressed] Oh right, been in anything good?

Me: Oh, bits of telly, nothing big…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: [Jokingly] You been in Eastenders?

Me: I have actually-

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: Have you?!

Me: Just one episode. It was ages ago, it wasn’t a big part…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: So what you doing now then?

Me: Er… just auditioning, you know. I’m not working at the minute.

[Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser looks disappointed.]

Me: …Well I am working but just in a call centre. To pay the bills. It’s for Weight Watchers actually, it’s quite interesting…

[Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser looks even more disappointed, verging on disgusted. Conversation ends.]

It’s not something I’ve ever really spoken in depth about before, but eagle-eyed readers may have spotted the ‘actress’ reference here and there. In truth it was my whole life and raison d’être from the age of 16 until about 26. A decade of working towards one career goal… until I started planning my hypothetical wedding, subsequently dipped my toe in to the wedding industry and my enthusiasm for the acting world inevitably began to wane. Of course, the fact that I was beginning to get less work and the elusive ‘big break’ was seemingly out of reach were major catalysts in this career evolution, but the move in to my late 20s certainly made me question where I was going with this acting lark, and whether a new career path could bring more success and better quality of life.

You may be surprised to know that despite the sombre note, my acting career was actually reasonably successful. It’s a tough old business, the acting one. Many fall at the first hurdle (securing a decent agent), and only very few go on to make a real career of it. Following a drama degree and then drama school, I did manage to bag myself a decent agent, and I had a slow but promising start with roles on Eastenders, Doctors, The Impressions Show and Being Human, to name a few. The latter was my closest to a ‘break’- a semi-regular part in the very first series which led to me receiving fan mail (yes really) and being invited to sign autographs alongside Patrick Stewart at the UK’s largest sci-fi convention. (Ok, I wasn’t actually sat alongside Patrick Stewart; I was at one end of the stadium at Milton Keynes while he was at the other, more popular end, but he was there. As were a multitude of daleks and jedi knights.)

Doing my acting thang in Being Human Series 1.

Doing my acting thang and looking an absolute treat in Being Human Series 1.

The highs of being a working actress are brilliant and- particularly in TV- undeniably glamorous (anyone claiming otherwise is a liar), but the lows are stupendously low. Rejection is tough and something you have to become immune to, and the periods of silence and waiting for the phone to ring are long and thoroughly miserable. Looking back over the four years I truly considered myself a ‘working actress’, I probably only physically ‘worked’ approximately 28 days out of 1460. That’s excluding the countless auditions, letter-writing and free bits of theatre I did here and there, but for me it simply wasn’t enough. I was 27 years old, approaching the end of my twenties quicker than I could say ‘Welcome to Weight Watchers, Sama speaking‘, and I wasn’t anywhere near achieving the kind of success I’d aspired to. I loved performing (and always will) but perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn’t the career for me.

My retirement from acting was long and drawn out, and played out through a series of small but defining steps. The first was leaving the call-centre for a job at Blackburn Bridal at the beginning of 2011. The second was undertaking a wedding planning course with the UKAWP at the end of that year. The third was obtaining my first client and the launch of Utterly Wow in 2013. The fourth was reaching my target of summer 2014 bookings. And the last, most momentous and finite step was the email to my agent to call it an end a mere two months ago. My heart was no longer full for acting and I wanted to begin my thirties with one career goal, not two. I cried hot, hard tears for days once my decision had been made, but the subsequent relief and freedom I felt was palpable.

A hug at the end of a brilliant wedding. Image by Assaynation.

A hug at the end of a brilliant wedding. Image by Assaynation.

I’m immeasurably proud of what I achieved as an actress, but funnily enough I’m actually more proud of what I’ve achieved so far with Utterly Wow. I may not be earning the kind of money I hoped to aged 29 and 9 months, but I know that Utterly Wow will get bigger and better, and I have lots of plans up my sleeve within this industry that I hope will see this little business of mine grow and flourish for years to come.

The moral of the story? Well, there isn’t one really, except that a career path doesn’t have to be straight in order to bring success. And that 30 is most definitely not the Pinnacle of Life™ when it comes to a vocation. When I eventually have children I will tell them that whilst going to university is an experience that is brilliant beyond words, the subject they take and the subsequent degree they achieve is not the be all and end all. Oh, and to ignore their school ‘Career Advisor’- they haven’t got a clue. It can take an awfully long time to work out what you want to do with your life, and perhaps there are those of you reading who still don’t really know, but ultimately I believe that if you can find your passion, identify your strengths and work hard to merge the two, your vocation will eventually find you.

So now I’d love to hand over to you. I know we all like our anonymity in this blogosphere of ours but I’m fascinated to know what you lot do, and indeed if you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing 10 years ago? How long did it take you to forge a career, and are any of you about to embark on a new one? What’s the dream??

Go on, it’s good to talk…

Sama xxx