Thursday, December 23, 2010

Who will be at your side when you walk down the aisle?

In the latest issue of An Essex Wedding (Jan/ Feb 2011), we were asked by a bride whether she could have both her real dad and her step dad at her side when she walked down the aisle. 

Here is our advice:

Q:  My parents divorced when I was five and I have always been closer to my stepfather than my biological dad.  However, while I would prefer to have my stepdad walk me down the aisle, I feel as though this would break my real dad's heart.  Is there any way I can have them both at my side or should I ask my mum to walk me down the aisle instead?

Clare Beckwith Weddings:  It's common for brides and grooms to try and make everyone happy on their big day, but I'm a firm believer in having the wedding that you truly want, rather than trying to please everyone else - even if that means parting with tradition.  Therefore, if you would like both of your dads to walk you down the aisle and they're happy to do so, there's no legal reason why this can't happen. 

Why not have a chat to your registrar or religious minister to see what the possibilities are?  It all depends on the type of ceremony you're having and where you are having it, as every district has its own set of rules. 

However, if having both fathers walk you down the aisle isn't possible, perhaps it would be wise to ask your mum to step in and give each dad another important role in your day instead.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A White Wedding...Dreamy backdrop or a planning nightmare?

It’s been snowing quite heavily here at Clare Beckwith Weddings HQ for a quite few days, but last Saturday we did venture out to a wedding at the 5 * Hanbury Manor where we have been invited to help out as Wedding Concierge.

With the forecasters predicting snow, we packed the car full of sensible essentials (spade, food, water, high vis. jacket etc) plus lots of warm clothing, and set out early.

It started to snow heavily after we arrived and the snowy backdrop of the Garden Court was picture perfect. It was everything you could ever dream of for a white wedding.

But white weddings can cause havoc with your plans too, as we were about to witness when the live 5 piece band call in to say they couldn’t make it, and the photographer turned up red faced and hassled, half way through the ceremony.

It wasn’t a wedding that we had designed and organised ourselves, so all we could do was watch and learn.

As a wedding planning business, we always think ahead and put contingency plans in place, and if you are organising your wedding yourself you should too. It’s essential, even on a normal weather day!

We’ve spoken to a few of our wonderful suppliers to help compile these 10 top tips to help you think of everything if you are facing a snowy, crisp weather wedding.

1) In the planning process, make sure you get good wedding insurance and have a written contract with all your suppliers containing a cancellation clause.

2) A few days before your big day, watch the weather. Yes, boring we know and much like watching paint dry, but very necessary if you want to avoid nasty surprises. Try

3) As soon as you hear of weather warnings, contact your suppliers to alert them, and to see what their travel/contingency plans are.

4) If snow is forecasted, encourage suppliers to drive up the day before and stay in a B&B.

5) Make sure all suppliers know where they are going and what time they need to be there for. Provide maps and rough estimates of drive times between venues. It might seem like spoon feeding, but some people aren’t as sensible as you!

6) If you are planning a winter wedding, try to hold it all in one place, or within a very short distance from ceremony to reception venues. Make sure staff are prepared for the winter conditions and that guests are kept happy and not standing around in the cold.

7) If you are booking a live band, try to do so through a reputable agent. Try
They only have musicians and bands that have been interviewed and auditioned. The musicians are trustworthy and won’t let down clients. In the unlikely event that someone is ill in the band, they will organise other musicians – giving you additional peace of mind.

8) If you are let down by any of your suppliers, check with your venue. They should have a list of local suppliers that could be contacted in an emergency. Alternatively, they might have other musicians on-site for residencies or other events that might be able to provide some entertainment – even if it wasn’t what was originally planned.

9) Contact suppliers via local business websites that might be able to assist. Even if they can’t, they might know someone that can. You would be surprised how everyone helps in a crisis!

10) If you find yourselves without a photographer, ask one of your guests with a decent camera to stand in for a bit until they arrive. You might even discover a hidden talent!

And to keep everyone comfortable and warm...

1) Make guests aware of the conditions so that they can dress appropriately, wearing suitable footwear, coats etc. Read my last blog post by Isobel Kershaw for some stylish ideas!

2) Prime your ushers to help push cars in the snow and also make them aware they may have to remove snow in places for guests to get to the church. Give them spades to do the job!

3) Serve warm mulled cider in the church to keep guests warm and happy!

4) If you are having a church ceremony, give out hand and foot warmers to guests with their order of service. Churches often have no heating and are cold at the best of times.

5) At the reception venue, ask your photographer to set up lights in an allocated room to do all the formal family shots which will keep guests in the warm.

6) Lay out a red carpet laid for the bride to walk on in places where it is particularly snowy or icy.

Winter weddings are wonderful. Don’t let the snow put you off. Just be prepared!

Our sincere thanks go to the amazing Lord and Leverett and to Viva Live music for their contributions to this blog post.
Photo credit:
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Are you a guest at a Winter wedding?

OMG - it's just 2 degrees outside at the moment - a comparatively warm mini-break from the really, really cold snap of the past few weeks.  The weather forecasters are telling us to prepare for another an arctic blast this week. That’s fine if your winter weekends are pretty free and you can embrace the snow and go sledging, but what do you do if you are invited to a wedding and want to look stylish?

To help you with your winter wedding style woes, I have done what I always do when I need style advice, and called the very lovely and incredibly stylish Isobel Kershaw from the NHJ Style Consultancy. She has these words to stop the onset of style panic...

Isobel says...
“The great thing about a winter wedding is that you don’t rely on the weather and can therefore dress to accommodate it, knowing that it will be cold!

And so with this in mind, here are a few inspiring looks to help you on your way to choosing a stylish outfit as a guest of a winter wedding.

A Church Wedding

Church weddings will be cold and you know that you will be travelling from the church to a reception venue, so how do you dress up warm, but still look like you are at a wedding as opposed to on a skiing holiday?


It’s big this season, and fake fur has never looked better.

This faux fur from FCUK will ensure you will stand out in the crowd and it will certainly keep you warm!

Or go for drama with this vibrant red faux fur jacket from M&S.

If you are not into the all over fur look, there are some great coats on the High Street which have fur trims to give that glamorous edge to any outerwear.

The other alternative for a bang on trend winter coat which is dressy enough to go to any event – is the cape! There are lots on the High Street including this one from Reiss with the military shoulder detail.

So with the outerwear sorted, what goes underneath? Here are a few dresses for different body shapes to inspire you.

For the Rhubarb shape, we have a stunning print dress from Karen Millen with long sleeves to keep you warm whilst looking very stylish.

Accessorise with statement earrings colourful opaque tights (red) and platform heels.

For the hourglass, we have a curvy and very sexy dress from LK Bennett.

This is a very versatile dress that can be used after and with the right accessories can be glammed up for a winter wedding. Add a skinny patent belt and sparkly cuff to ensure that you will turn heads! And to add to the appeal, it has been reduced from £195 to £115.

So for all you lovely pears out there, here is the dress for you.

A fabulous navy lace (again so on trend) dress from Whistles. Another feminine dress with sleeves which is so important in the winter. To style it up, I would change the belt for one of a contrast colour in red or cream or even a metallic to make it look more party.

Also accessorise it with colourful tights in orange or a more subdued purple.

And now for the Apples, let me entice you will a dress that will flatter and make you feel gorgeous.

This pretty print dress from Phase Eight will certainly brighten your day with its colourful flower print and is a very flattering with an empire line shape. This dress also doesn’t need too much accessorising as it makes a statement with its print and colour.

And so to finish off with a few more accessory ideas to ensure you individualise your look.

The hat – Many of you may think about wearing the classic style hat for a wedding whether it is winter or summer, but think outside the box and again think fur!

The Cossack hat from Debenhams at £18 will bring a bit of edge to your outfit, but sometimes you need to be brave to carry off such a hat!

Gloves will be needed and if you are wearing the cape, you will need long ones!

These long red gloves from Hobbs will really make a statement and are certainly a nice change from black!

At £69 though, you had better make sure you don’t lose them!

So if you have a winter wedding to prepare for, you may now be a little more inspired by what you are going to choose to wear and with lots of reductions already happening in the shops, you can splash out on a few extra accessories.”
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Monday, November 29, 2010

A passion for all things vintage

There's something about vintage weddings we adore.  Pretty vintage dresses (be they the genuine article, or simply vintage inspired), beautiful flowers like peonies and roses, music from yesteryear...the list of beautiful and desirable things goes on.

You can really have fun with the styling of the reception too and with the current popularity of vintage weddings, there are no shortage of suppliers to help you create the look you are after.  One particular one that caught our eye in the week was

When Rosie Watson and Katie Coakes first met at work back in 2006 little did they know that their shared fascination for the old fashioned would eventually mean they would end up starting their own business together four years later.  Scouring flea markets during their teabreaks really paid off when they launched their professional china hire and styling service.

We loved their vintage collection (and their passion) so much that we contacted them to find out more.  Rosie told us
"Our ethos is to reclaim, revive, recycle and breathe new life into forgotten treasures. We offer the ultimate ‘green’ style solution, and choosing vintage means that brides on a budget can make their funds go further. Why buy new when you can re-use something original for a fraction of the cost?"
We totally agree Rosie, and wish you and Katie all the best as you approach your first anniversary!
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Having an outdoor ceremony?

...then take a look at our advice in this month's issue of An Essex Wedding (page 94).

Their reader said:  "I have my heart set on an outdoor ceremony next summer, but I'm conscious that the British weather can be very unreliable.  What's the best way to prepare for the grisly conditions?"

We said:  "It’s lovely that you are planning an outdoor ceremony – it’s such a romantic idea and will save on venue decorations, as you’ll have the natural beauty of your surroundings to wow guests!

And don’t worry; there are quite a few things that you can put into place to put your mind at rest on the day, so that you can relax whatever the British weather brings! Here are some of our ideas...

• Choose a venue that offers an alternative indoor space if the weather makes a turn for the worse. Braxted Park in Essex is a great example. You can hold your wedding outside in the beautifully restored Knott Garden, and they also keep the Orangery free for your use in case of unexpected downpours!

• Consider having some sort of cover like an open-sided canopy where your guests can sit out of the rain. Mangapp Manor in Essex provides just the thing, with the opportunity for you to marry in an African thatched gazebo, floating on water. Your guests are seated on the lakeside, under cover if required.

• Make sure that you tell your guests that the wedding will be held outside so that they can dress appropriately. If there is a drizzle, leave a selection of pretty umbrellas for your guests to huddle under. My personal favourites are the ones by Lisbeth Dahl.

• The outdoor surroundings can sometimes also drown out the sound of you making your wedding vows, especially if the rain is coming down too, so consider hiring in a sound system for you and your groom. Your DJ or band should be able to organise this for you.

• With rain often comes a drop in temperature, so why not consider leaving cosy blankets on everyone’s chair. That way, guests won’t be left in the cold should the rain come down! You could also consider using portable heaters and have warm drinks ready for your guests after the ceremony.

• If all else fails, use the weather as an excuse to acquire more pretty wedding accessories. Embrace the rain with a pair of wellies! I love the ones by Weddington Boots ( They can even be customised with diamante, feathers and ribbons!"
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Wedding Favours on a budget

It's always lovely to have your advice in print, and once again, we've been featured in your Herts and Beds Wedding magazine (December 2010 / January 2011 issue) on page 85.

Here's what we had to say:

Question: I know it's traditional to give favours to your guests, but my partner and I are working to a really tight budget, so to afford gifts for everyone, we'd have to compromise on other parts of the wedding.  Is there anything else that we could do, or give that our guests will appreciate? 

Clare Beckwith Weddings' answer: Giving favours to guests has long been a wedding tradition, the most popular type being five sugared almonds representing fertility, health, wealth, happiness and longevity. Favours can be expensive, but there really is no need to overspend if your budget is tight. My advice to you is to make your own – it would be a lovely gesture to hand craft something personally and you don’t even need to be particularly creative. Why not look at recipes for simple chocolate truffles for example. Seedlings and cuttings from your own garden make great favours too and add that extra personal touch!

Or if you really don’t have a penny more to spend – then skip the favours altogether! Traditions are lovely, but you don’t have to follow them!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

William and Kate to marry!

Gosh - it's going to be a wedding frenzy next year with William and Kate set to marry.  Congratulations to both of you.  We couldn't be happier.  Let us know if you need any help with the planning!
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Elegant body art

If you'd have asked us a few years ago what we thought about the idea of one of our brides being 'tattooed' on her wedding day, we might have raised our perfectly plucked eyebrows!  But times change and we've got a feeling creative body art is going to be big in 2011. 

Check out the range by Jinny Rainbow.  With 200+ stencil designs, and over 100 glitters (including a new sterling silver one), the only thing to limit you will be your imagination. 

Fun, elegant, different.  We LOVE them!!

Our one plea - just make sure they are professionally applied!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

No ordinary wedding stationery!

At Clare Beckwith Weddings, we love fresh creative ideas, so you can imagine our delight when these bold stationery designs appeared in our in-box! 

They are by Ruth Springer Design who has a passion for everything 3-D.  We adore the clean, modern style.  They are sure to create an impact with your guests!  Take a look at some of these designs, or you can work with Ruth to create one of your very own...

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Real weddings: Fay and Andrew @ Hanbury Manor, Hertfordshire

Having worked on so many weddings over the years, you'd really think we'd be hardened to the emotion of them by now - but no! 

Fay and Andrew had the most incredible day at Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire, and the touching, heartfelt speeches meant the tears of joy just kept coming!  They've been kind enough to share their photos with us - can't wait to show you these...

Photo credits:
Our thanks also go to Fay and Andrew for giving us permission to display their photos on our blog.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Real weddings: Sarah and Tom at Haileybury School, Hertfordshire

As wedding planners, most of the brides we work with ask us to design their days from beginning to end as it helps to take the stress out of the planning.  That's not always the case though.  Sometimes we get calls from brides-to-be asking to tap into our fab address book of suppliers. 

Planning weddings 24/7 means we get to know the good, the bad and the ugly - politely steering you away from the latter and helping you choose ones that will really enhance your day (and of course meet your budget!).  So when Sarah called us, we were happy to recommend a wonderful photographer, Mikaela Morgan.  After we met with Sarah and Tom, we knew that Mikaela's relaxed, yet professional style and girl-next-door personality would suit them well.  Mikaela has sent us a small selection of the gorgeous photos she took on the day.  They are very 'wow'.

Sarah and Tom were delighted with Mikaela saying 'Oh Mikaela, they are just AMAZING! You have captured our day, and everything we remember about it (and a lot more!), to perfection. We laughed and cried watching the slide show. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and special selection of pics. We are about to begin watching it all over again!

Photo credits:
Our thanks also go to Sarah and Tom who have kindly given their permission for us to display their photos on our blog.
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Top Tips: Your wedding, what to plan and when

Autumn is upon us and if you are getting married in the Spring/Summer of 2011, you are probably putting your mind to getting your wedding plans sorted. Planning your own wedding can be lots of fun, but it can also be quite overwhelming if you haven’t organised an event on this scale before, or indeed, one that is so close to your heart. To help you approach planning your big day with a clear head, we’ve put together this sequence of events as a guideline.

As soon as you can after your engagement...

• Spread the news to close family and friends – you might want to think about doing this over the course of a few weeks. Everyone will want to know the entire story of your engagement, and it can be really tiring repeating yourself again and again...and again!

• Set a realistic budget which you can easily monitor as you go

• Decide whether you are having a church or civil ceremony and book the registrar or minister

• Make a guest list and finalise numbers

• Search for reception venues that cater for the size of your wedding party and make a booking as soon as you fall for one!

• Make appointments with bridal boutiques and start the search for your perfect wedding gown

• Choose your bridesmaids, best man, ushers etc

• Search for and book a photographer

• Take out wedding insurance

• If it all starts to get on top of you, book a professional wedding planner

9 months before

Frill Cake by Maisie Fantaisie

• Choose and book your wedding cake maker (make sure you have a tasting first!)

• Think about the music and entertainment that you would like throughout the day, and book it. It is often best to go through a reputable a music company or agency. As a professional third party, they can often resolve problematic situations, without causing you unnecessary anxiety

• Choose and book your florist

Bridal Bouquet by Big Day Flowers

• Choose a supplier for your wedding stationery and start by sending out ‘Save the day’ cards
• Forget the wedding – have fun choosing your honeymoon destination!

6 months before

• Book your hair and make-up artists and go for a pre-wedding consultation

• Buy your bridal accessories

• Choose bridesmaids dresses and accessories

• Get your groom and his groomsmen kitted out

• Book your wedding transport (if you need it)

• Set up your gift list with a reputation retailer

• Order your favours

Elegant favour boxes by Kate Aspen

• Choose your wedding rings

3 months before

• Contact your minister and discuss the service and banns

• Choose your hymns and order of service

• Go for a menu tasting at your reception venue and finalise the menu and wine list

• Send out your wedding invitations (include details of your gift list, and local accommodation if needed)

• Have a make-up and hair trial

2 months before

• Choose your readings and/or poems

• Confirm all your supplier bookings – make sure you put everything in writing!

• Choose presents for your bridesmaids, best man, ushers and mums

1 month before

• Confirm your ‘must have’ shots with your photographer. Try to keep these to a minimum otherwise your mingling time at the drinks reception will be drastically cut short!

• Go for your final dress fitting

Final 2 weeks

• If you chose to hire a wedding planner, meet up for a final run through of every detail of the day

• Meet with your reception venue to go through final details including the menu, the wine, the order of the day and any special requests you might have

• Give the venue a copy of your table plan and guests’ dietary requirements

• Pick up and carefully store your wedding dress

• Take delivery of on-the-day stationery such as the menu cards, place cards, table numbers, order of service etc

• Finalise your choice of first dance and the evening’s playlist with your DJ / Live band

• Pick up any hired suits

• Pay any outstanding supplier invoices

The day before

• Go for a manicure and pedicure at your favourite beauty salon

• Deliver your on-the-day stationery, table plan, gifts etc to the venue

The day itself

• Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready. Try not to have too many people in your room as this can be quite stressful when you are having your make-up and hair done!

• Take delivery of your wedding bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, corsages etc

• Relax and let the day take its course knowing you have done everything you can to make it perfect!

After the wedding

• Return any hired suits

• Thank your guests for their wedding gifts

• Write thank you notes and testimonials to your favourite suppliers. This isn’t mandatory, but will be gratefully received I am sure!

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Favourite Wedding Venues...Shendish Manor

A piece about some of our favourite venues is well overdue on this blog.  We've been privileged enough to work at some really stunning ones, so writing about them all is just a matter of time.  We thought we'd kick off with one that we saw only today.  It was the perfect day to see it, as the sun has been shining here in this part of Hertfordshire for a full 8 hours or more!

Here are our thoughts on Shendish Manor. 

You kind of have to ignore the drive to the venue, if we are truthful, as Apsley and Hemel Hempstead aren't that easy on the eye. (For us anyway!) Don't let that cloud your judgement though, as once you turn off the main road and the Manor greets you at the end of a long driveway, it really is a pretty sight. 

The house itself is steeped in history.  The origins of the Shendish name go back to Norman times, when William the Conqueror’s brother is believed to have sub-let the farmhouse which was on the site to a Ralf de Chenduit, whose surname gradually became corrupted over time to the current Shendish pronunciation.

In 1853 it was acquired by Charles Longman who demolished farmhouse and built the present Shendish Manor.  In the first world war it was used an army camp.  Now it's a gorgeous venue for weddings and other events.

We liked the whole feel of the place.  It felt intimate, even though the newer part of the venue has a capacity of 350 people!

We particularly loved the gardens.  As we said earlier, the sun was shining and that always helps, but the grounds were absolutely stunning with mature trees, old brick walls, and a beautiful Gazebo which is licensed for outdoor ceremonies.  If you are hunting for a venue with the option of getting married outdoors, this one is certainly worth a look!  Tell them Clare Beckwith sent you!
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Give your wedding the personal touch!

We are once again delighted to be featured across the entire suite of County Wedding Magazines, with our thoughts and ideas on giving your wedding the personal touch.  Check us out on page 74 of the Herts and Beds issue.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Style tips for...The Mother of the Bride

At a wedding fayre recently, I had the opportunity to talk to quite a few ‘Mothers of the Bride’ who have been looking for advice about what to wear at their daughter’s wedding. With so much choice on the high street, and the new season’s ranges now in stock, I took the opportunity to ask guest blogger Isobel Kershaw from the NHJ Style Consultancy “What should the modern day Mother of the Bride be wearing this Autumn?”
Here are her thoughts...

When it comes to a wedding, the second most important outfit after the bride’s is The Mother of the Bride; however, if you are the Mother of the Groom, I don’t want you to feel that you aren’t important as well!

I’m afraid though as etiquette goes, the Bride’s mother gets first choice in deciding what colour she is going the wear and the Groom’s mother possibly needs to coordinate – they must not be in the same colour and it is advisable not to clash, just for the photo albums sake!

Even though there may be a colour scheme for the bridal party, the mothers do not need to match. They simply need to compliment the bride’s chosen colour scheme and there are some great colours which will sit well with every option - navy and neutrals for instance.

Many Mothers of the Bride often opt for the dress or skirt suit, which after the wedding may not be that flexible. I’ve put together some alternative ideas to inspire you, for a stylish look that can be worn again and again.

1. The dress and jacket, as opposed to the dress suit

The Tina dress @ LK Bennett

This gorgeous dress is beautifully cut for a figure flattering silhouette for all body shapes. Team it with the Greta lace jacket from Coast for a wonderful Autumn/Winter wedding.

Greta Lace Jacket @ Coast
2. The Skirt and Jacket
Skirts are the most flattering for pear and hourglass shapes as they define the waist whilst covering more shapely thighs. So here are some options for a perfect Mother of the Bride look.

Navy striped skirt@ Reiss
This is a really stylish skirt shape from Reiss. Ensure that there is little or no detail at the top of the skirt because you will want to keep your top out to elongate the torso.  Less bulk at the waistband means a slimmer tum!

Navy knit top @ Karen Millen
Team it with this beautiful navy knit top with satin trim from Karen Millen for an elegant yet understated look, and go wild with the accessories to dress it up as much as you want. Choose a fabulous pair of shoes and finish with a statement necklace and shimmery wrap.

Hallie shoe by KG
Pendant @ Jaeger
3. The Trouser Ensemble
Many of you may feel more comfortable in trousers and you can still look very glamorous and feminine at the same time. In fact this is the season where trousers are dominating in evening wear and so the options are good.
I would recommend a wide flowing trouser which is softer and can then be teamed with a glam evening top and possibly a jacket depending on the time of the wedding.

Wide-leg trousers @ Jaeger
This pair of elegant wide-leg silk linen trousers from Jaeger is not only perfect for a wedding and many occasions beyond, they are also bang on trend as a colour option this season.

Pamela top @ Coast
Add a vibrant feminine top called ‘Pamela’ from Coast, and give it that Mother of the Bride touch with an elegant cream jacket from Jaeger and finish off with some statement pearls also from Jaeger.

Cream Jacket @ Jaeger
Pearls from Jaeger
And finally – we haven’t talked hats yet.  Whilst they may be more common at a church venue, it is always the Mother’s prerogative to wear one. Ensure the brim is no wider than your shoulders and if it is too big, sew in a few darts in the grosgrain trim inside the hat for a perfect fit.

If it is an evening wedding, you may want to opt for a fascinator or jewelled hair piece and remember, you don’t have to match it up with your outfit if you are wearing up to 2 colours.

My Hot Tips for Mother of the Bride looks:

1. Think about the flexibility of the outfit and whether you can wear it after.

2. Try not match up your outfit, especially with your shoes and bag. Contrast for a more current and youthful look.

3. Always buy clothes that suit your body shape and you will feel more confident and more comfortable during the big event.

4. Ensure your shoes are stylish but comfortable.

5. Be adventurous with your accessories to ensure you achieve the right look.

6. And the finishing touches are always important so treat yourself to make-up and hair.

Photo credits:,,,,,
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