Ahh the infamous Bridal Party. Often the most difficult thing couples face during their planning process – us included! So here’s a bit about where we’re up to, what’s been easy/difficult, and my top tips for choosing yours!
The Bridal Party – Where are we up to?
If you keep up to date with my Youtube channel, you may remember I made a video last year about my Bridesmaid & Bride Tribe boxes, (you can find the video here) and I touched on our bridal party decision making process then. But, I’ll fill you in a bit more on here.
So with Euan, it was most definitely an all-or-nothing approach. He could either have all of his close friends, plus my brothers and his brother-in-law (totalling 8!) or he could scale it back and just have family plus his best friend as his best man. After a lot of going back & forth, he decided to keep things simple (and therefore offend the least amount of people) by having my brother and his sister’s husband as ushers, his best man, and a musher (mini-usher) aka my youngest brother who will be 13 when we get married.
And then there was the bridesmaid decision! Don’t get me wrong, Euan found his decision hard, but I definitely found mine harder. I have a fabulous bunch of girlfriends from this area and I also have some wonderful childhood besties from where I grew up. However, I was even more adamant than Euan about having small numbers for my bridal party. Anyone else feel like they would just end up doing things to keep everyone else happy rather than themselves? And the thought of finding a dress that 6-7 young women will agree on surely makes your head spin? It certainly did for me.
I also started going down the round that I’m sure many of you are familiar with; the ‘well if I have them, then I really should have them too. And if I’ve got her, then I should definitely have her’…. And so on! My head could honestly have exploded.
In the end I went back to where I started and asked my cousin to be my maid of honour, and my childhood bestie and a very close friend from later years to be my bridesmaids. And I feel so good about my decision!
The Bridal Party – Extras!
Euan & I both have a close friend with a little one, which has been perfect because we’re involving them by having their children as our flower girl and page boy. Even more perfect is my friend has a daughter and his friend has a son – so we’ve got one of each! We’ve got another flower girl and page boy who are yet to be asked, so we’re keeping that close to our chests until we’ve had a chance to ask them.
And, back to my gals. Although I didn’t feel right having everyone as a bridesmaid, I still wanted my closest girls to be involved. So instead of bridesmaids, I’ve got them as part of my ‘Bride Tribe’. They can still help with all the fun parts of a wedding (the hen party planning, getting ready in the morning, etc) but without the whole bridesmaids dresses & walking down the aisle thing.
Start writing or type / to choose a block
The Bridal Party – What has been difficult?
I’ve pretty much already answered this one – the most difficult thing was actually making the decision. Some people are bound to find this easier than we did, but I do think it’s a tricky one for most people. Neither Euan nor I like upsetting people, but at the end of the day we had to do what was right for us.
Most of our friends were absolutely amazing about it and respect our decision (especially my girls, bless them!). It’s never smooth-sailing though and we did have a bit of trouble with someone, but we knew that would happen! Can’t win with everyone now can you?
The Bridal Party – What has been easy?
Choosing our flower girls & page boys was incredibly easy, and I cannot wait to see them all in their little outfits!
My 3 bridesmaids are yet to hang out together, but we’ve got a group chat and they’ve all been amazing on there. So supportive, excited, and genuinely full of love for me & Euan and our wedding, which makes life so much easier. We’re all meeting up in June to go bridesmaid dress shopping which is when the four of us will properly get to meet up together – and I know it’s going to be super.
The Bridal Party – Top Tips?
Okay so my top tips for The Bridal Party…
Choose people who genuinely love & support you and your fiancé. You want to be surrounded by people who want to be part of your day because they love you. Not because they don’t want to be left out!
Don’t choose someone your other half doesn’t get on with. You might feel super close to them, but if they don’t see eye to eye with your fiancé then you’re fighting a losing battle, and it won’t be pretty.
Find jobs or other roles for those who aren’t in your bridal party but who you don’t want to upset. There are somany things people can help with/be involved with when it comes to a wedding. And you might find they will prefer that to being in your bridal party anyway!
Make the decision for you, and make sure it’s the right one. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is your day. People will get over not being in your bridal party, but you only get one shot at your wedding day. Each and every decision should be made because you want to make it, not because you feel like you have to keep everyone else happy.
So that’s our bridal party update! If you missed my last post about our wedding suppliers, you can find it here.
Today I’m chatting about our suppliers; where we are up to, any problems along the way, and what’s left to do!
Our Suppliers – Where are we up to?
I’d say I’m about 50% of the way through the planning process now. And I definitely prioritised certain suppliers because I know they get booked up fast!
So what suppliers have we booked? The following have been ticked off my list…
I’m also in the process of having my wedding dress made, and about to book hair & make-up. Phew!
As I’m fortunate enough to work with an abundance of amazing suppliers, I pretty much knew who I wanted and booked the first 6 almost immediately.
Our original wedding co-ordinator fell through, and at first I was pretty cross about it. But as it turned out I’m actually so glad! I went on a little hunt for wedding planners and found a wonderful lady on Instagram. I’m thrilled she’s now our wedding co-ordinator and I can’t wait for her to be part of our day!
Our Suppliers – What’s left to do?
Sounds like I’ve got it pretty sorted, right? Oh I wish! There’s still a lot to do… (not that I’m stressing or anything…!). So, what is actually left?
Bridesmaid & flower girl dresses
Bridal accessories (shoes etc for me & the girls)
Gents outfits (Kilts for Euan & his best man, suits for the ushers, and outfits for the page boys!)
Decor, all the decor!
Tables & chairs
Linen, cutlery, crockery, glassware… etc etc
Gifts for various people
No doubt I’m forgetting some crucial things… Some of the above are urgent, others not so much. But it all still needs doing! Luckily, our church is booked. So if all else fails, at least we are actually getting married (and I’ll have a dress to wear).
Our Suppliers – Any problems?
Apart from the original wedding co-ordinator, we’ve actually had it pretty smooth-sailing so far (touch wood!). I just want to start really getting the smaller details sorted and then I’ll feel loads better. Anyone who’s previously been a bride-to-be will know those awful wedding dreams (nightmares) where everything is going wrong, or the day is happening earlier than it should, etc etc. But luckily I’ve used those nightmares as planning motivation, so whatever went wrong in the dream I’ve then sorted in real life and they seem to go away! (Until I start worrying about the next thing).
Supplier Top Tips
Okay so top tips for choosing suppliers…
Ask another supplier’s advice. Obviously this requires having actually booked a supplier, but you get to know a lot about different suppliers when you work in the industry so it’s well worth asking around for recommendations.
If you don’t know where to start but have a friend who’s been married or – even better – works in the industry, then ask their advice.
If in doubt, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t rush into making a decision. Take your time and trust what you feel!
With photographers, make sure they send you a link to galleries of more than one full wedding. And if they don’t, just ask. It’s important that photography is consistent across not one wedding as a whole, but multiple weddings too. And if they’re reluctant to send you a gallery then that answers your question for you!
With florists, make sure their ‘style’ is in keeping with what you want from your wedding. They may be very talented, but just not your cup of tea. And you want your day to feel like yours so don’t be afraid of going for someone different who suits your style more.
Feel comfortable. With any supplier, but especially those who are going to be there on the day, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable. Yes, recommendations are super important but if you don’t feel comfortable with someone who has been recommended to you, keep searching until you find someone you do feel comfortable with. This is your day.
Take a look at my previous post to find out more about our venue. And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram if you don’t already!
First thing’s first, the venue… If you’ve been keeping up to date with my Instagram stories over the past 6 months or so, you’ll know that our wedding venue is somewhat unique, beautiful, and – so far – incredibly stressful! I’ve never been one for the ‘easy option’ and my wedding has been not exception…
The Venue – Where are we up to?
For those of you who don’t know, we’ve chosen to have our wedding reception at my parents’ house in a stunning, old, (and currently semi-derelict) barn. (We’re getting married at a church in Tavistock).
The barn (when completed will be named ‘Chapel Barn’) has always been an incredibly special place. My parents have had plans to do it up for the past 10 years (since we moved to Devon) and they finally started by doing the roof back in 2017.
In April 2018 Euan popped the question and after initially deliberating over whether to use the barn, or to have a marquee in one of the fields, we decided on the barn. Which meant there was a timescale for the project and things needed to start moving pretty quickly!
The floor needed digging out completely (it used to be home to 3 giant corn mills!) so that was the first job. Then it was underfloor heating and re-laying the floor. That started in October and is the only thing that has been completed *sigh*.
We’ve had the windows & doors made, which have arrived in a less than perfect condition *sigh* so need to be sorted asap. Then they can be put in and we can finally get the second floor in! Then stairs need to go in and that’ll be the worst of the structural stuff done. Until that point, my blood pressure will remain pretty high…
The Venue – What has been difficult?
At the moment, the most difficult thing has been waiting for it all to get done. Mainly because until it’s finished, it’s hard for us to decide exactly where everything is going to take place! I’ve got a pretty good idea in my head of logistically how it’s all going to work, but until I’ve seen it in the flesh it’s really hard to be 100% certain.
The other thing which has been slightly hard is the size of the barn. It only seats around 100 people comfortably, and our ideal guest-list is more like 150… But, we knew this was the case when we chose the barn over the marquee (and was actually one of my reasons for choosing the barn… but more on that later).
The Venue – Best Bits?
My absolute favourite thing about the venue being the barn is that it’s so incredibly special & personal to us. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve worked for wedding venues, or because I’ve always thought of my family home as the perfect place to celebrate my wedding. Either way, I’m so grateful to be lucky enough to have this amazing barn to use!
I also love that I’m completely starting from scratch. Whilst it would be so (so so so so) much easier to get married at an existing wedding venue where everything you need is provided already, I cannot express how much I’m loving the challenge of putting it altogether myself. I am a wedding planner after all, so it makes sense!
Recently I’ve been looking into tablecloths and comparing prices, as well as all the fun bits like table decor and signs. It’s not an easy journey but fully worth it!
The Venue – Top Tips?
Okay, so top tips for your venue search…
Don’t pay too much – you’d be amazed at how many venues totally overcharge for the ‘privilege’ of using their space. At some point I’ll do a blog with a breakdown of venue costs etc so you can see what you should be spending.
Decide what is most important to you a find a venue which fits your needs. There are hundreds (and hundreds) of venues out there, so don’t compromise on the things that matter. Everyone will have different priorities, and that’s okay! So figure out what yours are before you start your venue search. The perfect one will be out there, I promise!
Make sure everything you need is included, not extra. Sometimes a deal will seem too good to be true, which means it probably is!
Wet weather!! If your venue is perfect in the rain, then it’ll be extra perfect in the sun. This is the UK, and good weather is a luxury, not a guarantee. Hope for good weather always, but go for a venue that is prepared for the worst.
Most importantly… fall in love with it! You only get one shot, and feeling comfortable and happy with your decision is a total priority. You can absolutely fall in love with a venue as much as I’ve fallen in love with our barn, if not more!
So that’s the venue. Next up I’ll be sharing our suppliers, how we (I) found them, and some top tips for choosing yours!
If you want to see more from the barn, head on over to my Instagram page (@lilabaileyweddings) and have a watch of my ‘Barn Renovation’ highlight.
Check out my last post for a bit about my past year of engagement…
To mark a year of engagement (how has that happened?!), I thought it was time for a ‘Wedding Planning Update’ blog post series. In this series I’ll be talking you through all the decisions that have been made, suppliers booked, the ups & downs of planning a wedding, and all the bits in between!
But, let’s start with what I’ve learnt about engagements from other people, and from my own experiences.
I think people often fantasise about being engaged. It’s glamourised in the media, and from a young age girls are brought up looking forward to that ‘will you marry me’ moment. And, to be honest, I think it’s incredibly unhealthy.
Being engaged isn’t about the shiny ring, the glamorous trips to wedding dress shops, or the excuse to drink champagne all the time. It’s about a commitment you’re making to another person, a commitment that’s going to last for the rest of your life. I think people lose sight of that amongst the excitement of ‘wanting’ to be engaged, and they forget that an engagement also means a marriage. Don’t get me wrong, being engaged is a wonderful period of time – possibly the best ever! But only if it’s for the right reasons, and with the right person.
My mum once said to me ‘marry the man for the man, not for the wedding’, and it’s so true. If you weren’t getting a beautiful engagement ring, you weren’t getting the dress shopping, you weren’t getting the wedding, the bridesmaids, the gifts, the photos… Would you still want to get married? It seems like the simplest of things, but in actual fact it’s astonishing how many people I’ve met who are one hundred percent getting married for the wedding, and not the person or the marriage.
“Fall in love with the person, not the life they can give you”
Engaged for a whole year!
I actually can’t believe it has been a whole year! I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. So, what has it been like? Amazing, exciting, but by no means perfect.
The things I’ve loved most is being surrounded by friends & family who adore me & Euan and cannot wait for our wedding. The support and love we’ve felt in this past year has been incredible, and we are so grateful for our amazing friends. There’s something indescribably magical about people genuinely loving the two of you as a couple and is absolutely essential for a lasting relationship.
I’ve also loved the amazing memories I’ve made with my closest gals going wedding dress shopping (in many different places!), the last-minute (ish) engagement party we had last year, and the memories we’re yet to make in the next 17 months!
And of course the wedding planning itself. Which is also the part that has brought the imperfections… But more on that later!
So you’ve heard about the wonderful experience, now for the not-so-wonderful… (if you missed my last post then catch up here before reading this one).
The bridal stylist sat us down, and at first was quite pleasant and talked us through what I would be doing during our appointment. However, quite quickly our ‘welcome chat’ became a little patronising and almost felt like a dictation of what I will and won’t feel when I put a wedding dress on. I was asked about my wedding and my vision for the day, and I explained in quite substantial detail about what I pictured for the wedding and the dress. I mentioned fabrics and necklines, as well as the overall ‘feel’ of the dress. An error of mine was failing to mention that I was in the wedding industry and had worked with wedding dresses before, plus I had visited the Harrogate Bridal Show every year of my childhood and teens, so my understanding of the wedding industry – in particular wedding dresses – was quite vast. I wonder if this would have made a difference to the way I was treated (not that of course it should have done). Very bluntly, I was asked what my budget for the dress was. I don’t like to discuss money, and despite my bridesmaids being family or as good as, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable talking about my wedding budget in that environment. I gave the stylist a starting figure but said I was aware I will probably be spending more and was okay with that. I explained there was flexibility in my overall wedding budget to spend a little more on a wedding dress if I decided to. She retorted with an incredibly blunt ‘well our dresses start at X which is almost double your budget’ and gave me a look as if to say ‘so what on earth are you still doing sat there’. I replied explaining I’m open to expanding my budget for the right dress, but unfortunately she had already made her (uninformed and incorrect) assumptions about me and frankly wasn’t interested.
Nevertheless, we powered on and went through the collection of lovely dresses, picking out ones in styles I knew I liked from the previous appointment. I selected one dress which was made of a very interesting fabric, and I was curious to try it on as I’d never seen anything like it. Instead of taking that one to the dressing room, the stylist picked another one and ushered me behind the curtain. Once we were in the dressing room, the stylist said ‘the dress you picked out is not in your price range so I’d advise you to not try it on’ I was slightly shocked by her audacity and replied ‘oh that’s okay, I’m really open to trying anything on’ and she looked at me coldly and said ‘we’re talking £12,000plus for this particular dress so I don’t think you should try it’. Her boldness was honestly outstanding.
(A Suzanne Neville dress)
The appointment only continued to get worse. I was told to put on these enormous platform heels, which I was fine with. What I was not fine with, however, was stepping into these (rather large) dresses without even a hand to hold onto for support. Keeping in mind (as many of you will know from dress shopping yourselves) you’re not wearing an awful lot when in the dressing room, and for someone to watch you struggle into a dress whilst wearing giant heels (and not a lot else) is nothing short of terribly embarrassing. I cannot tell you how anxious I started to feel as the appointment went on. The stylist made it perfectly clear that she was completely disinterested in the appointment, and if the yawning wasn’t enough, she kept disappearing to have whispered conversations with her colleague behind the front desk.
I tried on a dress which was absolutely gorgeous and one I really liked, as did my mum and my bridesmaids. The stylist, however, had other ideas. She hauled me back into the dressing room where she put me in a dress which was wonderful, but just not me. It was very much ‘of the times’, and definitely stylish in a designer sense, but not the timeless wedding dress I was looking for.
(Disclaimer – this is not the dress she put me in, but you get the idea…)
As I came out of the changing room she exclaimed ‘this is the dress!’ to my posse of wedding-dress-groupies and started to ramble on about how the last dress was ‘too old’ for me (despite it being strapless with a modern skirt) and how I should be looking for something ‘young & fun’. Without giving anything away, I have certainly not been looking at dresses that are ‘too old’ for me. In fact, quite the opposite. Despite what the stylist (with a blinding complex) thought.
(Another Suzanne Neville dress)
It was at this point where 3 other people entered the shop, one of which being a man. At first, I didn’t mind because I assumed they would be taken downstairs. The women were, the man however was invited to sit on a chair right outside my dressing room. If I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable enough by now, this certainly sealed the deal. I might add too that my dressing room was opposite a floor-to-ceiling mirror and the stylist was not discreet with the curtain. Need I say more?
Despite me taking the time at the beginning of the appointment to explain exactly what my wedding vision was, the stylist had paid no attention whatsoever. She kept describing my wedding as ‘rustic’ when I’d said nothing of the sort. Again, forming her own opinions based on the smallest amount of information. At one point she put me in a dress which I instantly hated and said ‘I’m not feeling this at all’ and instead of getting me out of the dress and into something I liked, she left me standing in it and went to chat to her colleague (again). I was stood awkwardly in a dress which didn’t make me feel good for over 5 minutes, trying to make positive comments about it until she got back and put me in something else. It all started to become very frustrating, and I quickly wished we had never come. What started off as the perfect day was turning into a nightmare. By this point I was feeling so completely rubbish that I didn’t even want to smile when in a dress I liked because I thought if I showed any emotion at all I might burst into tears.
Whilst all of this was happening, none of us knew how we were all feeling about the appointment. I wanted nothing more than to turn round to my mum and girls and say ‘I’m hating this. I feel so uncomfortable and I’m not having a good time’ but I never had the chance. Even when the stylist left us, she was always in earshot. And because I thought maybe it was just me who was picking up on this awful vibe and atmosphere, I didn’t want to start being rude in case the others thought I was being completely overdramatic (no bridezilla moment I can assure you!). As it turned out, we had all felt exactly the same during the appointment, and we were also all unsure of how each other was feeling at the time. I must have a pretty good pokerface because none of them had any idea I was feeling so miserable! If I could turn back time, I would definitely be far less polite and actually tell her she was making me feel awful. Or failing that, maybe just have given up altogether and left. But, I can’t go back in time so I just have to live with the experience and learn from it. After all, a wedding isn’t just about the day itself, it’s all the moments during the buildup and the things we experience during that time.
It was also incredibly interesting to be on the other side of an appointment like that, and it made me realise where the business I used to work in was going so wrong. Whilst we were told to act professional and give the opening spiel to each bride who walked through the door, actually this comes across very negatively and isn’t at all what brides want. Not brides like me, anyway! I much preferred my genuine, down to earth, and relaxing experience at Suzanne Neville where I was made to feel like a princess and my tastes, opinions, and visions were listened to and respected. That’s what a wedding dress appointment should be like.
Possibly the most exciting part of being a bride-to-be is the dress shopping experience. This is especially true for me as I have such an enormous love and passion for wedding dresses, which is why I knew I wanted to visit the London flagship stores of a select few designers. I grew up near London so had often walked past these flagship stores and dreamed about the day it would be me inside. Plus any 90s babies out there will remember the film ‘The Parent Trap’ and how Annie & Hallie’s mother was a London wedding dress designer (mum goals), and the scene in her flagship store was possibly the greatest scene of the 90s… (well, for me anyway).
So, back in May, I told my bridesmaids about the two designers I wanted to visit in London and we got the weekend organised. To say I was excited was an understatement; I was practically bouncing off the walls when we arrived on Sunday and couldn’t sleep that night. Having already worked in bridal fashion, I’m quite clued up on what I want and also know the process is possibly going to be harder for me because of that exact reason.
Before working at Ever After, I worked at a bridal shop in Plymouth, and before that one in Exeter. Partner that with growing up in the wedding industry, I’ve started my wedding dress shopping journey in quite a unique position. I worked in bridal fashion for 2 years and in that time also studied both beginner and advanced pattern cutting, so my love for wedding dress goes a lot deeper than just ‘loving them’. From working in bridal shops I also know what it takes to create an enjoyable appointment, and that it’s the stylist’s job to make the bride feel comfortable, welcome, and special. Dictating to someone what they should be wearing will never work. You have to watch them in the dresses they select and go from there. As a stylist, it’s your job to listen to the bride’s wedding dress vision, and use your knowledge of the dresses in your store to find the perfect one for her. Any good stylist will be able to look at a woman’s figure and know what will look best on her, but at the same time not be discouraging if she’s choosing shapes that aren’t right for her. Instead it’s important to gently suggest silhouettes and bodices etc and work with her from there. At the end of the day, what the bride chooses is up to her. And even if you think she’d look better in something else, your main priority is making her feel as happy as possible, whatever she is wearing.
Anyway, less about that and more about Suzanne Neville…
The first designer we visited was Suzanne Neville. Because my parents also work in the wedding industry, they remember Suzanne at her very first time exhibiting at Harrogate and have watched her grow into the designer she is now. So my mum was especially excited to visit her store and see what wonderful dresses she has crafted. I was slightly nervous when we arrived at the store, but as soon as we were introduced to our stylist for the appointment, Harriet, I immediately felt better.
Suzanne Neville creates some absolutely stunning gowns, and is known for her corseted bodices and elegant silhouettes. What draws me most to her designs are their timeless elegance, and how she isn’t too ‘OTT’ or bold with her designs, yet still manages to be modern and creative. She combines traditional pattern cutting with contemporary touches; even as small as just a lower cut beneath the arms. Personally, I love the traditional structure of a wedding dress (e.g. the corseted bodices) because it feels like nothing you’ve worn before or probably will ever again. And if a dress is made properly and fits you correctly then it will always be comfortable. If it’s not then it either doesn’t fit right or has been poorly made.
The shop itself is in Knightsbridge (which is one of the wealthiest areas in London) and only just down the road from Harrods, so I was expecting to feel quite intimidated. However, the store is located on a modest street which itself is very charming and not too intimidating at all. The building is quaint and has character, including a spiral staircase down to the loos and additional dress storage. The room we were in was carpeted and felt so comfortable and inviting. The shelves were stocked with beautiful headpieces and footwear, and the dresses were all accessible and kept in wonderful condition. The changing room was the perfect size; not so small that you felt cramped whilst getting changed, but not so big that you felt exposed and uncomfortable.
Harriet was a dream. She listened to my hopes for the ‘perfect’ wedding dress and did everything she could to help make the vision in my head a reality in the store. I was quite fussy about a few elements of the fit, and Harriet kept finding me dresses until I said ‘this is exactly the fit I mean’. We worked through different necklines by adding jackets or taking away straps, and she even dug out a dress from a collection years ago just so I could sample that particular fabric. I felt like she not only listened to what I had to say, but she cared and genuinely wanted to help me find my perfect wedding dress. She also understood how important the dress is to me (partly because her job is working with wedding dresses as mine used to be, so she totally got where I was coming from). I went into that appointment worried I might never find the perfect wedding dress, and came out genuinely believing that I could find it in there.
Unfortunately, the second appointment could not have been more opposite. For the sake of professionalism, I won’t mention where we went next. It was honestly a heartbreaking experience, not just for me but also for my mum and bridesmaids who came with me. We walked into the shop and I was naturally intimidated by it’s grandeur. It was elaborate and beautiful, and probably exactly how you would picture the ‘perfect’ wedding dress shop. But looks aren’t everything. We were offered champagne, again, a lovey touch which in theory should enhance the experience. But sometimes a bad experience just cannot be enhanced… But more on that in my next post! Stay tuned.