My Utterly Wow 2015 Season: Part One

If you like real weddings then you’ve come to the right place today. With my Utterly Wow 2015 season done and dusted, I think it’s time for a little jaunt through the generally awesome weddings I’ve planned, designed, styled and coordinated this year. This is an image heavy post, so grab a brew, settle down and enjoy Part 1…

A Laid Back Garden Party

Kicking off the season were Danielle and Lewis who eloped to California last year and wed on a cliff overlooking the Big Sur. Back home, they wanted to do the whole thing again in front of their family and friends, so enlisted me to help them plan a big party in their back garden in Bexley, Kent… handily just a couple of miles down the road from me! They were determined to have a relaxed, happy day without breaking the bank, but with 150 guests some very careful planning, sourcing and budgeting was required.

The chalkboards were all done by my own fair hands, and I’ve got to give a big shout out to Joanne Truby who I’ve wanted to work with for a long time, and who provided the beautiful flowers. This couple and their families were great fun to work with, and by all accounts the party continued long in to the night…

Awesome photography by Chris Deller Photography

Utterly Wow-1 Utterly Wow-2 Collage Utterly Wow-1-3 details1 Utterly Wow-1-2 details2 Utterly Wow-10 Utterly Wow-11

Utterly Wow-27

Super Pretty in West Sussex

Next came Sarah and Oli, who introduced me to the fabulous Grittenham Barn in West Sussex. I first met Sarah way back in Autumn 2013 when she was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of planning a wedding and wanted to chat about how I could potentially assist. In the end this pint-sized beauty was a-ok planning a most splendid day on her own, but she did ask me to coordinate for her, and of course, I was more than happy to oblige.

A gorgeous, relaxed, flexible venue, flowers in tin jars, a stunning bride and a cake table even more heaving than my own, this pretty June wedding was just a delight from start to finish.

Supplier shout-outs to Alexandra’s Kitchen who were great to work with, and Source Images for the beautiful photos.

Photography by Source Images

0003-5

so1

0001-88

0007-34 so2 0001-137 0003-17 0004-11 0004-60 0005-23 0005-79

so3 0008-24

0004-124

so4

A Whimsical and Playful London Wedding

Now I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but I think Natalie and Steve were up there this year. My first London wedding, this gorgeous pair got hitched at the top of the National Theatre, before boarding a boat at Festival Pier for an hour and a half of  drinks and canapés, and finally docking at Westminster Boating Base in Pimlico where they ate and danced the night away. Hired in my favourite capacity of designing, styling and coordinating, Natalie and Steve practically gave me full creative reign and I loved every second.

Working with a colour scheme of mint, peach and gold, I wanted to have fun with this styling, and so made two large paper garland backdrops for both the ceremony and the reception venues, as well as hand-writing the place name cards and vintage mirror table plan. We had a giant ‘bouquet’ of balloons for Natalie and Steve to guide their guests along Southbank to Festival Pier, and at Westminster Boating Base (which is actually a pretty tricky space to style due to the low ceilings and venue limitations) we went all out on the tables, with sparkly, chevron runners from Gilded Linens, mint goblets and mis-matched glass candle sticks from Classic Crockery, and pretty, pretty flowers from Pip Lowe.

Natalie and Steve went with several of my supplier recommendations, with Handmade Food providing the BBQ feast and Kate Ruth Romey creating gorgeous, bespoke stationery and paper goods. The dream team was complete when Flood The Floor (my own wedding band) brought the house down in the evening, and these guys partied hard. A brilliant, brilliant wedding.

Humungous thank yous to Emmie Scott for capturing the day so brilliantly, and to the lovely (and equally pregnant) Bec from Heart Shaped Weddings who assisted me on the day.

Images by Emmie Scott Photography

0141

0104 0118-2 0154-2 0245

0256 0252-2 0257

Collage

0323

0324 0326-2 0341-2

0351 0364 blog1

Love and Laughter Abound in South London

Ahhhh, Laura and James’ fab wedding had me finally working at Asylum in Peckham- an amazing deconsecrated chapel I’ve wanted to work at for yonks. This fun-loving pair booked me for my hugely popular On The Day Coordination service, and I loved bringing their day to life- despite it being one of the hottest days of the year!

Laura and James kept the decor clean and simple (you really don’t need to do much in that fab venue!), with a fresh colour palette and hugely thoughtful favours from around the world for their lucky guests. In the evening guests hopped on a London bus and headed to The Pepys pub in the city where the partying continued well in to the night.

Marianne Chua was behind the lens, and if you’re after fun, quirky and real reportage photography than she is most definitely your girl!

Images by Marianne Chua Photography

James Laura-389 JL1 James Laura-427 James Laura-502 James Laura-508 James Laura-413 James Laura-509James Laura-518 JL2Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 11.39.25James Laura-984 James Laura-914

I’m a lucky wedding planner, right? There are three more weddings to come in Part Two (one of which is going to be on Love My Dress very soon as it features a certain Lovette), and I tells ya, they’re all pretty special.

Sama xx

Advertisements

I Can Help You Find Your Dream Wedding Venue

So, completely brushing over the fact I haven’t blogged in about three hundred years (more on that later*), I just wanted to pop on today to draw your attention to a service I offer through Utterly Wow called The Venue Hunt.

Finding your wedding venue can be an absolute bitch. Fact. One of the first things you need to get booked once the planning begins, it can also be one of the first things to burst the just-engaged-bubble-of-love you’ve been bopping merrily around in for however many weeks. Agreeing on the type of wedding and venue you’d like, reeling at the expense, trying to compromise with parents and outside opinions, having your world crumble around you because you eventually find the ‘perfect venue’ but it’s fully booked until 2019… there are many, many hurdles to leap before you can finally circle the date on your calendar, clink glasses and say, ‘The countdown begins!’.

My perfect wedding venue- The Great Barn, Rolvenden.

My perfect wedding venue- The Great Barn, Rolvenden.

Of course, the key to finding your ideal venue is learning where to compromise. Your wedding venue is never going to be 100% perfect. It will feel perfect by the time your wedding rolls around because by that point you’ve completely forgotten what had made finding the venue so ruddy difficult in the first place and, of course, you’re about to have the Best Day Ever and are more excited than you ever will be in life, ever. I stumbled across The Great Barn fairly early on in my wedding search, but when I rang to enquire they didn’t have any availability on the April date I had in mind. It took a further month of endless internet research, venue visits and a tantrum or two before I realised that moving the date back 6 weeks to a lovely May bank holiday weekend instead really wasn’t the end of the world.

My 'if I won the lottery and could get married in a greenhouse' wedding venue- Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

My ‘if I won the lottery and could get married in a greenhouse’ wedding venue- Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

But back to those three little words that strike fear and loathing in to the majority of people who lead busy lives…. endless internet research. Finding a venue takes time, y’all. There’s a selection process that happens for every potential venue you come across that usually plays out in a series of questions. Is it visually appealing? Does it match my main criteria? How much does it cost? What does that include? Does it tick ALL the boxes? Is it available?  And of course, more often than not the website alone doesn’t have all this information. You have to download a brochure (or have one sent in the post); you have to call and enquire about dates and the finer details; you have to pack for a road trip and visit the bloody thing; you have to run it past whoever’s paying. And repeat ad infinitum…

My 'if I was having a quirky London wedding' wedding venue- Brunswick House

My ‘if I was having a quirky London wedding’ wedding venue- Brunswick House

This is where I come in. Believe it or not, I love internet research and am actually pretty good at it. I dislike how a whole day can go by hunched over the computer, but I enjoy problem solving, and I love uncovering hidden gems. I’ve also been immersed in the world of weddings for a long, long time now so I have great deal more contacts, insider knowledge and venue-finding experience than the average just-engaged person. If you are looking for something special in the south-east of England then, quite frankly, you’d be a fool not to hire me for your venue-finding needs.

So how does The Venue Hunt work?

Well, upon deciding that you could probably do with some outside help and making initial contact, I send you a pretty extensive questionnaire that covers everything I need to know- from budget and numbers, to whether you require wheelchair access and what you are drawn to aesthetically. Once this is filled in and back with me, I get to work doing the necessary research, drawing from the knowledge I already have and even visiting potential venues if time and distance allow.

As I mentioned earlier, there has to be some compromise when deciding on your wedding venue, and I’m able to glean from my questionnaire which criteria are essential and which are, shall I say, subject to negotiation. Once I’ve settled on 3-5 venues that I know tick most of the boxes, fit within your budget, are available on the date(s) you require and I think will excite you, I put together a detailed report listing each of the venues, along with its strengths, weaknesses, real wedding images, logistical concerns (if any) and my potential solutions. It’s then up to you to arrange site visits for those that appeal and make the final decision at your convenience.

And all for a bargainous £150.

But that’s enough from me. Here’s what a recent Venue Hunt client had to say when I sent her report over…

Sama, you’re amazing – thank you so much! We didn’t find any of those places when we were looking and honestly cannot tell you what a weight off our shoulders it is to have four such exciting venues to consider! It must have been very tricky searching for us and we really do appreciate all your hard work on this- I will definitely be recommending you to my friends when they start looking for venues!

And then ten days later…

I just wanted to let you know that we visited Hampton Court House on Saturday and completely fell in love with it – we’ve booked our wedding there for Saturday 5th September next year!

Ohh, it’s enough to warm the cockles of a cold, tired heart 🙂

If you know someone who could do with some help finding their dream venue, then please do send them my way. I shall probably be sitting in a corner patting myself on the back still, but I shall stop immediately to get hunting. I’m considerate like that.

Sama xxx

*So, erm, back to the fact I haven’t blogged in approximately three hundred years. It’s abominable and I don’t even have a half-decent excuse other than I’ve been busy doing Utterly Wow stuff, decorating my house and watching all five seasons of The Walking Dead. Expect a final 2014 post making all sorts of dramatic resolutions and promises that I will struggle to keep next week.

Utterly Wow’s Season of Love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred miiiiin-utes…

Any Rent fans out there? Sweet Lord of all the musicals, I loved that show. In writing the title of this post I just YouTubed Seasons Of Love and about a million gazillion memories from sixth form and University came flooding back. I don’t think there was a single person who came in to contact with me around that point who I didn’t inflict the soundtrack upon. I wanted to play Mimi. No I wanted to play Maureen. No, I wanted to play Mimi…

Anyway I digress. Today is all about Utterly Wow‘s Season of Love. I’ve been banging on about my fantastically busy first season, so today I thought I’d do a quick romp through the seven weddings I had the pleasure of being a part of this summer, sharing some pictures, telling you my highlights and giving supplier shout-outs to some of the fabulous folk I met and worked with along the way.

So diving right in, my season kicked off in style with the supremely elegant and stylish wedding of Sarah and Nic. The wedding was held at Sarah’s b-e-a-utiful family home in the Essex countryside, and Sarah and her extremely welcoming Mum had put so much thought and preparation in to the day, I was quite blown away.

sn1 sn2

My role was to coordinate the day  itself, as being a marquee wedding at home there was obviously no venue manager or anyone to take charge.  The marquee looked incredible- Sarah had really thought about every detail, from the ghost chairs and mercury glass vignettes, to the gorgeously branded stationery and over-flowing cheese table. Outside there were lawn games, a baby creche set up in the summerhouse and a fire pit for later in the evening. The weather was pretty wet so sadly the outside accoutrements didn’t get utilised quite as much as they should have been, but it was such a sumptuously inviting setting inside the marquee that I don’t think anyone minded.

sn4 sn3

Images by Claudia Rose Carter

The day ran without a hitch, the one memorable blip for me being a very excited lost Boxer dog that found it’s way on to site just before Sarah and her family left for church and had us all (the staff) running circles after it. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and with no-one appearing to claim him, we tied him up by the catering vans and looked after him all day. (I think one of the catering lads ended up taking him home, for which myself and Lenny the cat will be eternally grateful.)

Supplier shout-outs go to Claudia Rose Carter who was back shooting her first wedding since maternity leave and took such gorgeous, evocative photos, Talbooth Catering who were so slick, professional and a sheer delight to work with (and majorly came to the rescue with dog gate), and The Top Bananas, three musical entertainers on stilts who were fun and cheeky and simply brilliant.

~  ~  ~

Of course, Sarah and Nic were the start of what I’d dubbed May Madness; three On-The Day Coordinations back to back that had me head down and nose to the grind for a solid month. Next up were Joe and Louise, who’s wedding I’ve blogged in full already but still remains as one of my favourites from the season.

Festoon lights, food trucks, mis-matched chairs and so many personal touches getting setting up was to the wire, but the venue (Huntsmill Farm in Buckinghamshire) was so beautiful and guests loved every minute. I won’t talk too much about this day as you can read all about it right here, but Joe and Louise were such a generous, cool, sweet couple to work with, it truly was a delightfully creative wedding to coordinate.

JoeLou_361 JL10 JL13joelou_818 joelou_902

Images by Ed Peers

There were A LOT of suppliers involved in the day but my favourites were, of course, Ed Peers (photographic superstar and totally awesome human being), Alfie the Black Cab Photo Booth, (a photo booth… in a black cab- total novelty and had guests queuing all night), and the venue itself, Huntsmill Farm (gorgeous location, welcoming owners and lots of options and flexibility for a DIY day).

~  ~  ~

Before I had time to put my feet up it was on to Wedding #3, and from Buckinghamshire to Surrey I went, to coordinate the nuptials of Suzannah, a food writer for Good Housekeeping, and James, a television producer. (They met whilst both working on The X Factor! Love that story.) These two were SO. MUCH. FUN. and their wedding really reflected that. I had been booked to help set up the day before as well as coordinate the wedding day itself, and spent about four hours on the Friday up a scaffolding tower stringing streamers and pom poms across the ceiling of the pool house where the reception was taking place. Fortunately I had Suzannah and her bridesmaids on hand to help as well, and whilst we were all in pain by the end of the day (you try crouching on your knees/toes at the top of a scaffolding tower for FOUR HOURS), I think you’ll agree the pool house looked AH-MAY-ZING when it was all finished.

SJ3

This wedding just oozed fun and personality from start to finish. From the oversized paper flower backdrop Suzannah had made for the ceremony, to the doppelgänger place names, Bugsy Malone sing-a-long during the speeches and confetti canons for the first dance, I could tell that everyone was just having the best time. From a personal point of view, I was super impressed with the venue, Ridge Farm. Of course it helped that the weather was perfect, but it really is a fantastic place to hire for the weekend and throw a wedding/party and the team that worked there were friendly, helpful and flexible.

I’m DESPERATE to share their professional photos with you (shot by the brilliant Craig + Kate Photography), but as Rock My Wedding will be featuring this wedding in full very soon, I’m afraid you just have to make do with a couple of Instagram snaps for now. Sorry 😦

~  ~  ~

So in June I mainly slept. Well, that’s not technically true. I worked my day job, did house stuff and made 30th birthday plans whilst, of course, continuing to prep for the rest of my weddings. July saw me hot-footing it up to the Peak District where I was oversee-ing the nuptials of Tess and Phil. Now Tess and I were actually at university together (she was in the year above), and when she got engaged back in 2012 she originally booked me to coordinate her 2013 wedding before an unexpected surprise came along in the form of a baby boy called Hudson. The wedding got put back a year, and my role grew as Tess juggled planning a wedding with becoming a new mum.

TP4TP2

Whilst I had little to do with the design of this g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s day, I’d been involved logistically for well over a year, so it was a joy to see this epic wedding weekend unfold. There was style aplomb thanks to a whole host of talented friends; Kate Halfpenny of Halfpenny London was a bridesmaid and made Tess’ beautiful bespoke dress as well as the bridesmaids’ skirts, whilst Tess’ sister-in law is one half of Florrie & Eve who made the floral necklaces. In the marquee, flowers were suspended from the ceiling, place settings were modern, quirky and perfectly branded, and there was delicious food in abundance.

TP1 TP6 TS-549

Images by Tom Oldham 

This wedding was packed full of talent, but special kudos has to go to Tom Oldham who heroically stepped in last minute to shoot the wedding when the original photographer had to pull out just days before, The Hog & Apple, another catering company who were über professional and generally awesome to work with, and Mowgli the band who were SO FRICKIN’ BRILLIANT I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch, enjoy and even have a little boogie. (A 90’s club classics/old school garage half hour? Yes please!)

~  ~  ~

Wedding #5 was that of Katie and Luke, a pair of childhood sweethearts who were getting married close to their home in West Sussex. They’d found a beautiful setting to host their marquee reception; a clearing in the woods of a private estate that overlooked a lake. It really was picture perfect.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.40.04Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.38.06

Katie and her Mum had planned the wedding to a tee. So much so, I was handed a folder at our first meeting three weeks before the wedding that practically did my whole job for me! On the day itself I was on weather watch, putting together the finishing touches inside and outside the marquee, greeting suppliers as they arrived, lighting candles and making sure their well-laid plans fell perfectly in to place.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.39.31 Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.38.58 Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.40.54 Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.41.33

Images by Allister Freeman Photography

This was a classic, sweet, personal wedding hosted by a gorgeous family. Supplier shout-outs go to the lovely Allister Freeman who photographed the day, and Jay Marsh, a super talented musician who entertained guests upon arrival (and helped me retrieve numerous picnic blankets during a downpour!).

~  ~  ~

July went and August came, and my season was to culminate with the two weddings I’d been the most involved with. Lisa and Jon were up first. They were getting married at the Wise Wedding Venue in Kent- a fantastic space in the woods that boasts neon lights, swinging sofas, a treehouse and an enormous marquee ready to host the evening celebrations. It’s a large, blank canvas space, and Lisa and Jon hired me to design and style the day, as well as managing the wedding weekend itself. I’d seen this venue featured on a number of blogs in the past and was understandably way over-excited to get my creative mitts on it.

LJ-382

LJ-367

Jon wanted paper lanterns and lots of colour, whilst Lisa wanted twinkly lights and rustic romance, so I set out to create a colourful, fun, whimsical day that took a bit of bohemian inspiration from the gorgeous surroundings. There were hand-made wooden signs, a floral archway, streamers hanging from the trees, festoon lights, mis-matched napkins, rustic centrepieces and a hanging installation above the top table…to name but a few.

LJ3 LJ-511

Images by Laura McCluskey

Lisa and Jon were dream clients and I loved every second of working on this beautiful woodland wedding. And despite August forgetting it was supposed to be a summer month, the sun shone brightly all afternoon much to everyone’s delight! Lisa and Jon’s family and friends were oh-so welcoming and the day was made even more awesome by the super-skills of Laura McCluskey, the photographer who I’d so been looking forward to working with, and Cappy from White & Winsome who took the brief and delivered the most perfect flowers.

~  ~  ~

And last but soooooooo by no means least, were the simply glorious Tiffany and Bright, who booked me a year ahead of their wedding to provide design and styling assistance as well as coordination. Originally wanting a barn wedding, they’d decided to make the most of their budget by hosting the reception in a large, modern village hall set in the very pretty Essex village of Wickham Bishops… and this space needed filling!

TB1 Image by Rebecca Douglas Photography - www.rebeccadouglas.co.uk

The brief was colourful and fun; they wanted to incorporate a few rustic touches with a nod to Bright’s Ghanian heritage. So we lowered the vast ceiling of the village hall by filling it with paper lanterns and festoons. We used traditional Ghanian kente cloth as table runners and lined the walls with foliage-adorned wooden pallets. And the Bake-Off table was like nothing I’d ever seen before- we had to bring in an emergency trestle table there was so much cake.

Tiff & Bright's Wedding 0697 Image by Rebecca Douglas Photography - www.rebeccadouglas.co.uk Tiff & Bright's Wedding 1039

Images by Rebecca Douglas Photography

Tiffany and Bright literally laughed all day, and their family and friends danced their socks off all night. I was gutted to miss the magical, gospel music-filled ceremony as set-up was to the wire, but fortunately they’d hired the brilliant and truly lovely Rebecca Douglas to capture every second. Cappy from White and Winsome was with me again to create floral magic (including Tiffany’s lovely headpiece), and I also have to mention Tiffany’s dress- originally her Mum’s wedding dress and re-worked in to something entirely beautiful and bespoke by Charlotte at Wilden Bride London. You can see this wedding in full on Rock n’ Roll Bride very soon.

What a day, what a season… what a post! You can see more images, more supplier credits and even a client testimonial or two from these awesome weddings over on my website right now.

Bookings are coming in thick and fast for next year, so if you’re a bride or groom-to-be and think you might like some Utterly Wow assistance, be it creative, design, logistical or coordination- then get in touch!

A mega post calls for a ma-hoosive cup of tea, methinks…

Sama xxx

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

 

An Utterly WOW Winter Offer

Print

Winter is a’coming, folks! Which means shorter days, longer nights, plummeting temperatures and Christmas paraphernalia hitting the shops way before we’re ready. But for some of you, it also means the countdown is well and truly on for your Winter Wedding of Dreams. Exciting!

For many wedding planners and suppliers in general, the winter months are a chance to take a well-earned break having worked pretty much non-stop from April to September. But having only launched Utterly Wow this summer, I’m not knackered yet, you see. My 2014 Summer of Love is starting to take shape, and I’ve even got 2015 enquiries coming in… but that all seems like a life time away at the moment. I’ve only just got started and I’m hungry for more! Not to mention the fact that I ADORE winter weddings, and even planned my own fantasy one on here a few months ago. Roaring fires, candles galore, fairy lights, sparkle and the chance to wear some sort of glamorous fur wrap… what’s not to love?

So what’s this offer all about then?

Well, in a bid to satisfy my winter craving I would like to offer ONE wondrous wedding my On-The-Day Coordination service at a fantastic price. This service usually starts at £400 depending on distance and workload required, but for a very special wedding I am offering full day-of coordination for only £200.  £200! It’s a ruddy bargain. You can read all about what this service entails and the benefits of having a Day Coordinator in this little post here, but in a nutshell I am offering the following:

  • Liaison and final confirmation with all suppliers in the weeks before
  • Creation of a detailed schedule/timeline for the day
  • Set-up and decoration of the venue(s) in the morning
  • Full management and coordination on the day until the party is in full swing
  • Advice and guidance in the lead up to the day to ensure your wedding runs without a hitch.

Sounds good, Sama, but who is this for?

Well, this is an out-of-season offer, so your wedding needs to be taking place between December 2013 and February 2014, and ideally in the south-east; London, Kent, Essex, Surrey and Sussex are preferred. I will consider further afield but extra travel/accommodation costs will likely apply.

In terms of the actual wedding, On-The-Day Coordination is best suited to those taking place in a dry hire/blank canvas venue. If you’re braving the elements and planning something just a little bit special in a barn/ village hall/ marquee in the garden/ warehouse space or equivalent, then I’d love to hear from you. You may think that your friends and family will have it under control but I can’t emphasise enough how much you DON’T want to be worrying on your wedding day. Getting married in a serviced venue but want someone to be there who is entirely invested in you and not just the venue? Well I might prove very useful to you too. Particularly if the styling/look of your day is of the upmost importance to you.

 You’ve convinced me- how do I take you up on this offer?

I’d love to say it’s a case of first come, first served, but it can’t really work like that as there are certain dates/locations that may not be possible for me. Instead, I’d love you to send me an email by 31st October telling me a little bit about yourself and the wondrous winter wedding you are planning. You can even send me a picture or a link to your Pinterest board if you like, just to whet my appetite. If I can’t do your date I’ll let you know straight away, but otherwise I’ll pick a wedding out the hat on deadline day. Hell, I might even pick two.

In the meantime, I need your help, Uttersons, to spread the word on this for me. We all know that the majority of weddings take place in the warmer months, and DIY winter weddings are a little rarer. But if you know someone getting married between December and February who you think would benefit from having an On-The-Day Coordinator but either hasn’t thought about it yet or has decided against having one because of cost… then send them this way!

For those new to the blog, you can view the Utterly Wow website here to find out more about me and my business, and contact me here.

Winter brides and grooms… I can’t wait to hear from you.

Sama xxx

Huge thanks to the fantabulous Kate Ruth Romey for the graphic above.

An Announcement… (Or Two!)

No, I’m not pregnant.

Things are far more exciting than that today over at The Utter Blog/Utterly Wow HQ.

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 18.53.00First of all, I’m very honoured to have my gurning face all over the pages of Rock My Wedding this morning! RMW is one of my favourite wedding blogs and I’ve been reading it since waaaay before I was even engaged, so to be sharing our wedding with a ma-hoosive community of brides (and grooms) to-be is a total and utter thrill. And a very special *hello!* to those fresh from the RMW pages who may have never visited this lil’ ol’ blog of mine before. Stay a while! Have a little browse. You can start right the beginning if you like. Or you could just type a random word in to the Search box and see what comes up… that’s always fun.

I shall, of course, continue to blog about the rest of our wedding here on The Utter Blog (if you haven’t read Part 1 already it’s right here), but for those keen to see the whole shebang in one go I shall allow you to head on over to the girls (and guy) at Rock My Wedding… right after you’ve read my second announcement. 😉

A-HEM…

(Is it too self-indulgent to ask for a drumroll?)

After two years of dreaming, scheming, training, researching, planning, prepping, practicing and designing, I’m pleased to announce the Utterly Wow website is now… LIVE!

Utterly Wow is go go go!

It’s been a long time coming but I’m delighted with the final product- a vision in my head made real (and so much better) by the very talented and super-patient Ian over at Swash & Fold. A special mention as well to Ed Pereira who spent an afternoon with me taking some of the fab pictures you’ll see on the site too. It’s more than a little daunting trying to get your personality, passion and business ethos across in just a few web pages, but I hope we’ve achieved this.

Wanna go take a look? Please do! And if you like what you see why don’t you tell someone about it too? A RT here and a Facebook share there will a very happy Sama make. After all, a snazzy new website is nothing without the attention of it’s target audience. (That would be the brides and grooms of Britain, for those still not entirely clear.)

Ooh… Utterly Wow or Rock My Wedding? Which one are you going to go to first??

I’ll be back on Thursday with Part 2 of the full, no-holds-barred wedding report, but in the meantime have a wonderful week, and a very Happy Monday to readers old and new.

Sama xxx

Utterly Wow: On The Day Coordination

Howdy folks.

I’m trying something new today and kicking off a little series focussing on Utterly Wow; the  wedding planning and styling business I’m ferreting away on behind the scenes and shall be launching in the next month or two.  Over the coming weeks I want to share with you the range of services I will be providing, along with other business-related posts such as how I came up with a name, getting my first clients etc etc. Not to educate (erm… as I’m still learning myself) but because I thought it might just be of interest- not only for those who may be considering using a wedding planner, but also those in the process of setting up (or thinking of setting up) a small business themselves, and not forgetting those who are quite simply enjoying following my career-building utterings.

I’ve chosen to start with the most commonly used/needed/afforded service a wedding planner can provide- On The Day Coordination. And this post couldn’t be timelier- as on Friday I shall be hot-footing it down to a fort on the Cornish coast where I shall be coordinating my first professional wedding ‘gig’. Exciting times!

logo-hires

So what does this ‘on-the-day coordination’ lark involve then?

Well, it’s a service that does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. I’m there to ‘coordinate’ or ‘manage’ the wedding day as it unfolds, which isn’t actually as dramatic as it sounds. I do have a clipboard and a Wedding Kit (for the all-important schedule, contact sheet of numbers, potential emergencies etc), but much to my friends’ disappointment I won’t have a headset or be crying ‘Release the doves!’ à la Franck from Father of the Bride. (Although, erm, if there were an actual dove release I probably would have to do that.)

Instead, the role of wedding coordinator can be likened to that of a Stage Manager- a subtle but essential backstage role that involves giving actors and technicians their cues, managing scene transitions and set changes, liaising between cast and production and ensuring everything runs to time.  And if metaphors ain’t your thang, in the wedding world that would translate to cueing the friend-turned-MC to announce the speeches or the caterers to begin serving, managing the room changes (if turning ‘ceremony space’ in to ‘reception space’ for example), liaising between the bride and groom and their suppliers, and, erm, ensuring everything runs to time. To name but a few of the many things a wedding coordinator is responsible for.

Of course, the working hours of a day-of-coordinator aren’t confined to just the wedding day itself. Like any event, preparation is key, and a good deal of pre-planning, advising, scheduling and liaising will take place in the weeks leading up to the wedding.  And in the months before (if you were to book me in advance) I’m here for a sound-off or an update or just a wedding-related chat. I know that the brides I’m currently working with are grateful to have an un-biased and entirely interested ear to talk weddings with. Because let’s face it, our friends, family and partner can only take so much 😉

But who actually needs an ‘On The Day Coordinator’?

What? You mean you’re not already sold? Well, like a play needs a Stage Manager, every wedding will benefit from having someone backstage running the show. But IMHO, the weddings that need a day-of coordinator are those taking place at a blank canvas venue (barn, warehouse, marquee in the garden etc) or those that require a large amount of styling and production.

You may have planned your wedding day to perfection and loved every minute of it, but who is actually going to light all the reception candles whilst you’re off being photographed, or replace them when they’ve burned out? Or greet the band when they arrive during dinner and show them where they need to go? Or pay the DJ? Or call the marquee company when the generator goes? Or cue the dove release?? I jest, but in order for you and your partner and your Mum and everyone else involved to be able to relax and enjoy the day as you all so deserve, a wedding coordinator is a necessity, not a luxury or an extravagance as some people (I’m talking to you, grooms!) may think.

And hey, even I’ve got one! My lovely friend and fellow UKAWP-trained planner, Laura, will be coordinating for me in May. I don’t want to be running around like a mad woman the morning of my wedding. I want to be supping Bucks Fizz and getting pampered with my bridesmaids, and enjoying the beautiful and calming surroundings of the lovely B&B I’m paying a fortune for. It will be up to Laura to hang ribbons in the trees and ensure the tables are set just as I want them and greet guests as they arrive and have a panic attack if the caterers don’t show up. Me? I’ll be luxuriating. Or trying to anyway.

So how do I choose a Wedding Coordinator?

Well, I can’t tell you that.  You may hear a recommendation, or really like someone’s website, or go for the cheapest (not necessarily recommended!) or just ‘get a feeling’. My beautiful Cornish bride, Jenny, contacted me after reading this blog post back in November. Whereas one of my lovely July brides got in touch way back in May last year after stumbling across my blog and realising she had a ‘wedding twin’.  Both ladies are taking a leap in going for someone not yet officially launched and with no ‘portfolio’ as such to share, but they’ve obviously seen something in me which they feel they can trust. Which is the most important thing.  And a pretty awesome thing at that.

On The Day Coordinators will typically charge anything from £250 up to £800 depending on the workload required and perhaps their name and reputation.  Whatever the price you want to pay, I know that having a dedicated and passionate wedding coordinator is worth his or her weight in gold, and paying someone to ensure your day runs smoothly is not something to be scoffed at or begrudge. But hey, I am one, so I would say that, wouldn’t I? 😉

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

So that’s the first service Utterly Wow Wedding Planning & Design will be providing in a nutshell. Over to you now! Would you consider using a coordinator? Are you using a coordinator? Or perhaps if your wedding has been and gone, would you hire a coordinator if you could do it all again?? I’m very interested to hear from you as I make the final preparations for my trip to Cornwall in a few days time…

Wish me luck!

Sama xxx