Dress Crushing

And I don’t mean the type of crushing that turned Walter White’s  RV-come-meth-lab in to a piece of flat pack furniture, yo. I’m talking the kind of crushing that gets your heart racing and your pupils dilating. (Although, to be fair, the meth lab probably did that too.) The kind of crushing that I had on Jared Leto when I was 13 and on Leonardo di Caprio when I was… well, now.

My job in the bridal boutique means I turn up to work and am surrounded by gorgeous things. I get new crushes every day; when a bride shows me the most exquisite engagement ring, or when she puts on a dress and it just floors the entire room. Bridal boutique owners and employees are literally falling in love every day at the moment, and you know why? Because the SS14 dresses are arriving, folks. Never has the grumpy man from UPS been so welcome.

Now I may be biased but I’m going to put it out there and say that Blackburn Bridal has The Best Dresses. Bohemian romance, old-school glamour and total originality are what we do, and today I thought I’d share just some of the sumptiousness that is brand new in for the upcoming season.

Brides-to-be, I am so jealous of you right now.

Jenny Packham

I don’t think there’s a person in the entire world who hasn’t heard of Jenny now, thanks to a certain Duchess. Her gowns are glamorous, luxurious and totally timeless. She has created some absolute beauties this year but my favourites have to be Genevieve for it’s simplicity, feminity and intricate, opaque white beading, Tilly for it’s nod to 1970’s bohemia, and Kathleen, because it’s slouchy. And covered in beads. ‘Casual-glamour’ would be an accurate description for this Boudica-esque beauty, I feel.

Genevieve by Jenny Packham

Genevieve by Jenny Packham

Tilly by Jenny Packham

Tilly by Jenny Packham

Kathleen by Jenny Packham

Kathleen by Jenny Packham

Leila Hafzi

Leila Hafzi is a new and very welcome addition to the boutique rails. These dreamy, bohemian, feminine gowns fuse high-end fashion with sustainable, ethically produced garments… so perfect for the stylish, eco-conscious bride! Made from the lightest silk chiffon in either ivory, champagne or the palest of pinks, my favourite is Fariba. Wear her with bare feet and a big old flower crown and you can’t really go wrong.

Fariba by Leila Hafzi

Fariba by Leila Hafzi

Charlotte Casadejus

Oh man, we love this lady. And her collection of original, vintage-inspired gowns were a no-brainer when we spied them at The White Gallery in May. Charlotte LOVES genuine vintage and antique fabrics, so when it comes to lace sleeves and belt buckles, no two dresses are ever the same- which is something I find very exciting! Cecile is the epitome of 1930s glamour, whilst Coco is… well, Coco is just fabulous. Utterly niche and too cool for school, we can’t wait to meet this bride. (Or should I say ‘anti-bride’?)

Coco by Charlotte Casadejus

It’s a shirt dress! Coco by Charlotte Casadejus

Claire Pettibone

Does Claire really need an introduction? I wore one of her gowns myself and she has boho brides travelling to us from all over the world to try on her stunningly romantic designs. Her Découpage collection consists of only six pieces, but the stand-out has to be Wren. A beautiful guipure and chantilly lace top, fluid silk skirt, and a keyhole back to make all other keyhole backs feel totally inadequate; this dress is going down a treat in the boutique right now, and it’s easy to see why.

Well, I feel much better for getting those out of my system. I must confess to having tried all bar two of them on… (well, when you work in a bridal boutique it would be rude not to, right?) and they feel as good as they look. There are a few dresses to come in still, meaning I will have more to share with you in the coming weeks courtesy of Suzanne Neville, Clinton Lotter and Sarah Janks, but for now I want to know… which is your favourite??

I’m going with Genevieve. No, Wren. No, Geneveive… gah!

Sama xxx

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A Well-Stocked Wedding Bar… Part 2

Welcome DIY-ers! If this is the first time you’ve come across The Utter Blog, chances are you’re here because you’re wondering just how much booze you should be buying for your forthcoming wedding. Well, firstly hello and congratulations on your pending nuptials, and secondly, I hope that I’m able to provide some of the answers you’re looking for. If you’ve been here before… you know the score.

Now if you haven’t read Part 1 of A Well-Stocked Wedding Bar, then go. Go right now, have a good read and then come back for Part 2. In Part 1 I broke down the key things to think about when stocking your own wedding bar- what drinks to provide, how much to buy (using a friend’s wedding as an example) and where to buy from. Oh and there were a few pictures of reeeally cool DIY bars too, just for inspiration and pinning purposes. Obvs.

But today I am providing a breakdown of my own wedding bar. Number-crunching stylee.

Are you ready?

I spent far too long creating this on easel.ly

I spent far too long creating this on easel.ly

It’s important to take numbers like these in to consideration when stocking your own bar. As weddings go, ours was relatively short. Although my friends party hard, the evening part didn’t really get going until 8pm-8.30pm meaning we were only truly partying for four hours. If your wedding breakfast is scheduled to be over by 6pm with a home time of two in the morning… well you’re probably going to need considerably more.

On the other hand my wedding was practically child-free, meaning the majority of our guests were drinking alcohol. If you are having 100 guests of which 20 or 30 are children, then the numbers below may be a little excessive.

So just how much did I buy then? And how much did we actually drink? Fortunately for you I’ve created this handy little bar chart which should reveal all…

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 15.39.22

Look at me! Technical wizardry or what?

So what does this tell us? Well, the Coronas served straight after the ceremony and the keg of ale that was opened in the evening were completely drunk dry. As was the vodka and most of the gin.

The white wine was more popular than the red (as I’d predicted, hence the extra bottles bought), but I was still surprised with just how much red was left. And fortunately for me I still have a crate of my favourite Prosecco sitting in my garage awaiting a special occasion or two.

But the biggest surprise was the bottled beers bought for the evening. As is always the way when hosting a party, Paul and I power-struggled over how much booze to buy. I notoriously under-cater and Paul notoriously over-caters, although he hates to admit it. However, with Paul determined for the bar not to run dry (rightly so), he bought what even he considered a lot of Coors Light… and then bought some more. We had 420 bottles in the end (35 boxes of 12), but were still more than a little gobsmacked when we arrived back at the barn the following morning to be greeted with around 27 boxes of unopened Coors Light. That means only 100 odd bottles were actually drunk!

Turns out the spirits proved pretty popular in the evening, which makes me so glad we’d opted to have them available. Paul may have massively over-catered on the beer front, but it was he who encouraged me to buy a fourth bottle of vodka a few days before ‘just in case’. Credit when credit’s due and all that…

And for those who literally don’t know where to start when it comes to soft drinks, this is what we bought and drank:

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 15.56.25

In terms of the soft drinks, it really was a case of guesswork for me. I overbought on everything but ended up taking some of the pop (coke, diet coke and lemonade) back, as well as the Schloer which was meant to be served with dinner and forgotten about (whoops).

Something else to take in to consideration if your venue is dry hire/blank canvas is to provide mineral water, as drinking water may not be available. I estimated that our ten tables would get through around three bottles each during dinner and then the same again throughout the evening, and this proved to be plenty.

So there you go! My Well-Stocked Wedding Bar in numbers. I hope those of you that have come here via a ‘how much alcohol to buy for wedding’ type Google search have found this helpful. I know I would have loved to have found something like this when I was planning my DIY day.

One final nugget of advice before I leave you to enjoy the weekend:

I spent an enjoyable few months searching for the right wine to serve with our wedding breakfast. I wanted to serve a decent white and red that would please the discerning palette… whilst pleasing my purse strings too. In the end I opted for a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and a spanish Syrah that went down an absolute storm, and then bought a selection of mix and match ‘3 for £10’ wines for the evening when people weren’t so fussy.  Sadly this is the stuff I’m left with now, having bought them too far in advance to return to the supermarket.

I’m not a big red wine fan anyway, and this stuff is rank! So the lesson learnt? Don’t cheap out too much if you’re planning on keeping the leftovers. There’s only so much spaghetti bolognese a girl can cook, y’know…?

Happy Weekend everybody!

Sama xxx

The Wedding Fair Conundrum

I have to admit that when I was planning my own wedding I didn’t go to a single wedding fair. Firstly, I didn’t need to – blogs, magazines and the wonderful creation that is The Internet provided more than enough inspiration for me. But it was a trip to the National Wedding Show with a friend a few years back that had really put me off. The huge, starkly-lit space that is Earls Court, hundreds of (bored) exhibitors handing out flyer after flyer, women getting naked in the middle of the aisle in order to try on a not-particularly-nice dress, and an hour-long queue to get a drink. I found it completely impersonal and totally devoid of inspiration, if I’m honest. Particularly when there are fantastic events such as The Cream going on across the other side of the pond.

However, with a new business to shout about and curiosity getting the better of me, I decided to take a little trip to Scotney Castle in Kent yesterday for the Vintage & Unique Wedding Fair hosted by Creative Brides. My interest was two-fold: firstly I wanted to meet and make connections with like-minded suppliers (my networking record to date is pretty abysmal if I’m honest), and secondly I wanted to see if this particular fair could be worth exhibiting at with Utterly Wow in the future.

There was certainly no doubting the beauty of Scotney Castle as a setting. A National Trust property consisting of a large manor house, sprawling gardens and a 14th-century moated castle, the venue offers small, intimate wedding ceremonies and afternoon receptions, but the fair itself took place under the large canvas of an LPM Bohemia marquee erected on-site.

DSCN1562

The LPM Bohemia marquee.

The Vintage Dotty caravan

The Vintage Dotty caravan

The best thing about this charming fair was that the suppliers exhibiting were (mostly) on the same page. Many were in their first years of business, and there were tea cups, bunting and hay bales galore. I thought the range of suppliers was varied as well- it wasn’t over run with photographers (a common hazard with wedding fairs), and there was an interesting variety of styling companies, dress boutiques, cake makers and other specialists. (Plus I found a haybale company! Those things are notoriously difficult to track down.)

From a research point of view it made me realise how important it is to have a visually appealing and ‘easy to read’ stall. There were some that I’d walk straight past, and others that made me stop and want to find out more. Stand-outs included Dotty Vintage, a fun and retro catering caravan, Rebecca Douglas Photography and her metres of photo bunting, and my pal Kate Ruth Romey, whose creative stationery and simple but beautifully curated stall had people stopping by all day.

Kate Ruth Romey posing beautifully. (Can you spot my Save The Date?)

Kate Ruth Romey posing like a pro. (Can you spot my Save The Date?)

It was also lovely to meet the Frou Frou Boutique girls (technically ‘rivals’ but their stall was full of gorgeous gowns and accessories), and Joanne from Joanne Truby Floral Design who has been a Twitter friend for a little while now and had created a sumptuous autumnal display.

It is an odd thing though, the wedding fair. And I’m talking about fairs in general here, not specifically this one. I find them daunting for both supplier and customer, and there’s a definite sense of unease in the air; no-one wants to be on the stall that people walk past, after all. I’ve decided that layout is really important; to be walking up and down ‘aisles’ can make the potential customer feel a bit like they’re on a conveyor belt, and it can be quite hard to stop… unless you catch a welcoming smile or are particularly interested in whatever product or service is being offered. “Would you like a flyer?” just doesn’t cut it… or not for me anyway.

When I got home I sifted through the many leaflets and postcards I’d been handed, assessing which companies’ cards caught my eye and which didn’t. Again, the importance of strong branding and design is unequivocal. Those that had splurged on good quality card and had an attractive/interesting/quirky design I made note of to look further into. Those that were on cheap, flimsy paper or were too wordy, or complicated, or just plain dated… well, they’re currently in the recycling bin beside me… staring at me accusingly.

There is no doubt that the humble wedding fair is a huge expense for the suppliers involved- particularly those just starting out.  First there is the cost to exhibit, then there are the numerous marketing materials (business cards, flyers, banners etc), plus the product you are actually selling and the props with which to display your wares. And surely the more impact you want to make, the more you’re likely to spend?

I still haven’t decided if a wedding fair is the right way to market my business or not, but what I did learn from yesterday is that there is no point in exhibiting if you can’t ‘sell’ your product. And by that I mean:

  1. Create a visually stimulating stand that spells out exactly what it is you’re offering
  2. Be friendly, approachable and interested in the customer you are trying to appeal to, not just your product
  3. Smile! There was a band performing who sounded brilliant, but the lead singer looked so utterly miserable it was off-putting.

I know that both brides-to-be and much of the wedding industry have a love/hate relationship with wedding fairs, so I’d love to know where you lot stand on the subject. Have you or did you visit many wedding fairs when you were engaged? If so which were your favourites? What made you stop and find out more, and how many of you found suppliers through the fairs?

And if you’re a supplier, what’s been your experience? Do you find there are better ways to market your business or do you enjoy being able to meet potential clients face to face?

I am GENUINELY interested. Come on, let’s talk.

Sama xxx

Friday Favourite: Being a Guest Contributor on Bridal Musings!

For those of you who are wedding blog addicts (like me), you may have noticed I’ve gone ‘to the other side’ this morning.  Fortunately ‘the other side’ is a pretty, peachy, love-heart filled place, full of beautiful weddings from the UK and across the pond, inspirational ideas and the latest wedding must-haves. And all put together by a rather lovely lady called Elizabeth.

Yes, I am VERY happy to announce that I am the new Wedding Dress Expert over on Bridal Musings (oh yes, I said ‘expert’- who’s sniggering??), and my first post is up today.

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 10.24.47

Now for the beady-eyed and loyal readers amongst you, you may notice that this post has, erm, some similarities (read: it’s pretty much exactly the same) to this little post from nearly a year ago

Well, you know what?  I was very proud of that little post.  And although it’s had more views in the last 10 months than I ever dreamed it would when I first started The Utter Blog, that number is only a fraction of the readership that Elizabeth gets over on Bridal Musings.  And as I’ve been harping on about for the last few weeks… sharing is caring!

So why don’t you pop on over and see my words on a real-life proper wedding blog? We are slap bang in the middle of peak dress-buying season, so my Top Tips will hopefully be of help to a whole host of brides-to-be. I’ll be contributing to Bridal Musings once a month from now on, covering a range of dress-related topics, from styles to suit different body shapes, the latest bridal trends, and oodles and oodles of insider know-how. And if anyone wants me to write about something in particular, then just let me know!

LOTS of love and virtual high fives all round,

Sama xxx

Claire Pettibone Trunk Show at Blackburn Bridal Couture

Oh hello weekend! And hello dearest Uttersons…

I’m slipping in a cheeky little post today to publicize an extra-special event taking place at the boutique I work at next weekend.  Claire Pettibone is one of my favourite bridal designers, and I’m so lucky to work somewhere that not only stocks her beautiful creations, but is also her main UK stockist (and exclusive in London!).

The beautiful ‘Toulouse’ by Claire Pettibone

Claire’s bridal designs are the epitome of bohemian romance.  Soft, fluid, colourful, intricate, whimsical, delicately embellished and as light as a feather; season after season she brings out a collection that is a cut above the rest in terms of quality and originality… in my humble opinion, of course 😉

Queen Anne’s Lace by Claire Pettibone. Image by Sarah Gawler

Mystere by Claire Pettibone. Image by Gia Canali

Midnight by Claire Pettibone

Ok ok, so she does stunning dresses, but what’s this Trunk Show all about then?

Well, next weekend (Friday 5th and Saturday 6th October), Blackburn Bridal Couture will be hosting an event to showcase all three of her stunning collections: the Continuing Collection (with favourites such as Queen Anne’s Lace, Kristene and Willow), the 2012 french-inspired Beau Monde Collection, and her brand spanking new 2013 Windsor Rose China Collection.

Not only will there be over 40 dresses of hers to coo over and try on, but there are some fantastic suppliers coming along on the Saturday to bring a little extra je ne sais quoi.  Ana Ospina will be in store giving mini-makovers, Kate Ruth Romey will be showcasing her bespoke stationery creations, Rosalind Miller will be providing the cake (Claire Pettibone inspired of course), and Jay Archer will be on hand to talk boho blooms.

So this is a last call for all you discerning brides out there still searching for The Dress, as there are only a few Saturday slots left!  Got your dress already?  I bet you know someone who hasn’t… so spread the word and pass this post on.

Want more pretty? Oh go on then- here are some of our beautiful Claire Pettibone brides looking simply resplendent…

Rosie in ‘Juliet’- via Love My Dress

A high-fiving Rebecca in ‘Orange Blossom’- via Whimsical Wonderland Wedding

Laura in ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’- via Love My Dress

Gemma in ‘Mystere’- via Pocketful of Dreams

Katie Melua in ‘Arwen’- via OK Magazine

Yeah, that’s right. I just casually threw a celebrity in there. (And quite possibly the nicest I’ve ever met.)

There are only a few Saturday slots left, so to book your place at the Claire Pettibone Trunk Show next weekend (and spend an hour of your day with me, yay!) simply get in touch.

Enjoy the weekend, oh wonderful ones.

Sama xxx

Sarah Seven In Da House!

This week has been aaaaaaaaaaaall about Sarah Seven.

If you’ve not heard of this über-cool San Francisco designer before, then fret not.  Until now she’s only really been stocked stateside…

…But not any more!

My new favourite rail.

The first batch of her dresses arrived at the boutique this week and I was a squealing, clapping, high-fiving-myself ball of excitement as I opened up the box of goodies.  We’re talking gold spun fabric, coffee-coloured chiffon, lace, ruffles and sparkly belts galore.  She brings everything that is cool about California over to the UK in a small but oh-so perfectly formed collection of quirky, modern, edgy, young, fun and undeniably romantic wedding gowns.

Can you tell I like them?

I’m not going to lie; I’ve tried most of them on already.  One of them has become an incredibly strong contender for my own wedding.  Such has been my excitement for this new arrival that I was even compelled to battle against my technical demons and attempt an online mood board.  I have called this one Autumnal Amour, inspired by the Amour gown by Sarah Seven.  Think coffee and cream tones, rustic romance and an eclectic mix of textures and materials…

Autumnal Amour- created using Olioboard

From top left: 1. Image via Wedding Chicks, 2. Amour by Sarah Seven, 3. Image via Pinterest, 4. Image via The Natural Wedding Company, 5. Luskey’s Western Store, 6. Dress by Desire Clothing

Here’s some more of her gorgeous 2013 collection to see you in to your weekend, available now at this super-cool bridal boutique… Enjoy!

Ruffles and lace.

Silver beads and a cowl neck back.

The Goldie. Yes really. So beatueous it shares the same name as me …

Pretty, frilly, fun.

Accessories too… check out the statement bib necklace!

I have to go and lie down.

Who wants to be a Sarah Seven bride?

Sama xxx

 

 

The White Gallery, Jenny Packham and Cocktails at The Connaught

So on Monday we shut up shop and headed in to town to spend a day feeling glam and important at The White Gallery– a buying exhibition where bridal designers present their next seasons’ collections to the press, stockists and other industry folk.

I went last year for the first time but having only just started working at the boutique I was a little overwhelmed and far too shy to enjoy it properly. Thankfully I was a bit more confident this year and had fun playing with accessories and feeling fine fabrics and keeping an eye out for my dream dress. (It wasn’t there- although there were many, many beauties!)

We were invited to go and watch Ian Stuart’s runway show- my first ever fashion show experience and a brilliant one to start with as Ian’s dresses are so theatrical and- let me tell you- his runway show was no exception. I’m talking opera, Beauty and the Beast, pumping house and Mary Poppins… and that was just the soundtrack! I apologise for the less than professional pictures but here are a few snaps to whet your appetite…

The front row.

Love the ombre effect

Feathers!

Kate Beckinsale look-a-like…

The money shot and finale dress.

The model in that last dress sashayed down the catwalk to the sounds of Julie Andrews singing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.  Isn’t it just so camp and outrageous and brilliant??!  How commercial it is I’m not sure, but if you have a big personality and want some drama on your wedding day than Ian Stuart is definitely the man for you!

After much wandering, oohing and ahhing, a £7 bagel and more air-kissing than at The Baftas, we jumped in a cab and headed to Jenny Packham HQ in Mayfair where we were to view her 2013 collection.  Her ready-to-wear boutique where the viewing was taking place is just STUNNING, with more sparkly, colourful, glamorous creations than I have ever seen in one room.  Sadly I couldn’t take pictures of the shop itself, but we snapped away downstairs where the buying took place.  I can’t give too much away yet, but here is one of her beautiful new gowns due to arrive in store in the autumn…

‘Mimosa’ from the 2013 Jenny Packham collection

Honestly, it’s even more beautiful up close.

Nearly two hours later we emerged, a little bit sparkled out and in dire need of something alcoholic.  Cue a pop across the road to The Connaught Hotel for a cocktail…

Smug? Moi?

I had never been to The Connaught before, but please please please can I go back? What a luxurious treat- I’m talking marbled floors, wood-panelled walls and proper old-school decadence.  The Connaught Bar (tucked away at the back of the hotel) is super stylish, with monochrome furnishings and an emphatic nod to the twenties.

Inside the Connaught Bar

On sitting down we were treated to an amuse-bouche (I’ve no idea what was in it but there was definitely some sort of banana liqueur)  and an assortment of nibbles which was a very nice touch.  We made our cocktails last (well, at £16 each we were hardly going to neck them) but our nibbles were constantly re-filled and when we eventually asked for the bill we were each presented with our own cocktail’s recipe card to take home. Very. Nice. Indeed.

Oh to be one of the world’s elite and do that sort of thing every day, eh?  But all in all it was a very fun day out and a reminder of just how lucky I am to be working in such a fab industry.

And for those of you getting married next year, there are some STUNNING dresses arriving in store in September.  Including one that might be The One for me… hmmm, we shall just have to wait and see.

Have a lovely day!

Sama xxx