Inspiring Couples Marrying in the Cotswolds

Brides of 2018: How to get the Markel Sparkle for your makeup

Okay, so her natural beauty aside – we can all agree that Meghan nailed the peachy, glowing ‘effortless’ makeup look. She looked incredible, but most importantly, she looked like herself. Fresh with freckles, soft and light and oozing timeless… More

Supplier Spotlight: Bellapeach Creative

Today’s Supplier Spotlight is for bespoke stationer Annabelle Gallagher. Annabelle specialises in creating contemporary stationary for any occasion but loves to design quirky styles for weddings. We caught up with Annabelle to find out more… More

Are you ‘Getting Married’ or ‘Having a Wedding’?

Contentious Post Alert……… the cost of Weddings is always a tricky subject and if you believe the multiple media articles that have been written on the subject, mention the W word and its curtains. But have we created a false impression?

According to glossy mag Brides Magazine the average cost of a UK wedding is £30,000 (September, 2017) up from £20,500 in 2015 (You and Your Wedding)

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Having experience from both sides of the fence, as a Bride planning a DIY wedding and a Wedding Supplier I can appreciate and understand the misguided frustrations that sometimes surround the cost of products and services associated with this special day. I mean we can’t all afford 200K on a Givenchy haute couture bridal gown now can we?!

So with the costs rising were do you start?

Spoiler alert: The thing is – your wedding is as expensive as you choose it to be.

I know you’ve probably heard all this before and guessing your eye rolling right about now. This post isn’t going to tell you have to DIY like a pro or how to barter for wedding services but hopefully will help you put into perspective what is important for you to gain from your wedding day (vows aside) so that you can prioritize your finances.

We all want the same thing, a beautiful day surrounded by those we love and who love us, celebrated in a way that reflects the personality of the couple tying the knot.  So the obvious aside: The dress, beautiful pictures, stunning florals, wow factor cake. Why are you getting married? And more importantly:

Are you getting married? OR having a wedding?

Wow now that’s a game changer!

By breaking it down: getting married, its actually pretty straightforward –  the saying of vows and becoming legally bound to one another. A necessity if  you want to get married and have that all important piece of paper.

Having a wedding, is all the extras that are associated with getting married, the dress, stunning venue, gorgeous florals, wow factor cake etc.

So rather than why are weddings so expensive? Think of it as how much do I want to spend on celebrating getting married……….. after all you are choosing to cater for an all expenses paid party for a number of guests albeit with a ton of things that you wouldn’t normally do if you were organising a birthday party.

Lists will be your friend

Try and list everything that you think you’d need at your wedding or perhaps you’ve seen at other weddings – then go through and prioritize (i used a traffic light colour system: green – definite must have, orange – would like to have if budget allows and red – definite don’t want/not going to have) Try and be as thorough and detailed as possible ie catering to table confetti! Try our version here

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With your list of whats important to you be mindful when chatting with suppliers about your requirements –  understand the VALUE, SERVICE and EXPERIENCE that is each supplier is offering along with the service/product cost. As with most things and party planning – there will be things that you will want which you will find non-negotiable, and there will be other things that will hold little value to you and your celebration….. this is absolutely fine and many suppliers understand this.

But please do not expect suppliers to undervalue their product because it holds a lower value for yourself. Would you haggle with the sales assistant at Chanel or Christian Dior?

Want something but can’t quite make the budget work?

Remember whilst your wedding day will always be a special day its the journey and experience of getting to that moment – think outside the box if you need to- are you creative or perhaps you have creative friends and family that may be willing to lend a hand.

With DIY being hugely popular and ‘on trend’ right now check out local courses or you tube to find ways to ‘do it yourself’ everything from flowers to cakes, favours to stationary are covered. Why not check out our workshops page for what on and the nest bit your learning a new skill.

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So as a final thought: Creating memories to last a lifetime…… What price do you put on this and more importantly what memories do you want to cherish the most and do you really need all the ‘extras’ to have these memories.

My advice: be sure to secure the capturing of these memories for eternity

Happy Wedding Planning

Sophie

xx

Supplier Spotlight: MakeUp by Natasha Louise

Our Supplier Spotlight today is for Natasha Davies, the businesswoman and make up artist extraordinaire behind Natasha Louise. Natasha and her handpicked team of artists are just want you need on your wedding day or special event to ensure your are looking your absolute best.
We caught up with Natasha to find out more about her, her business and of course the make up!
Tell us about you
Hi my name is Natasha Davies and i am chief make up artist and owner at Makeup by Natasha Louise.
My business ethos is to ensure our brides/ clients look the very best version of themselves whatever the occasion, i have now expanded the business and developed a team of professional make-up artists, and we make it our responsibility to put our clients mind at ease, leaving them free to treasure every moment of their special day.
How long have you been in business?

4 years, including a relocation from Herefordshire to glorious Gloucestershire.

How and why did you start your business?

Since suffering with teenage skin, I had to become the master of cover up and quickly loved how makeup made me look and feel. I started formal training 10 years ago and soon after I got asked to help out with friends and family weddings. I then realised how much I LOVED being part of a someones special day. My hobby quickly turned into a business, and after a move to the Cotswolds the decision was made to pursue Makeup by Natasha Louise full time. With a handful of stylists in my team we’re now able to accommodate bookings across the three counties.

For you what is the best part of running your business?

I love the flexibility that self employment brings. I can do a job I love and spend quality time with my children without the ‘mum guilt’

Contact details to find out more:
Additional info you’d like to share:

Your wedding day is one of the most wonderful days of your life, which is why you should look the very best version of you.

You can expect your trial to last between 2-4 hours. This gives you plenty of scope to try as many looks as you need to until you are 100% happy with your bridal makeup. The trial can take place at your home, or if you’d prefer your makeup artists home. 

Some more pics to swoon over:

Happy planning
Sophie
xx

Thoroughly Modern Meghan…..

After weeks of hype its all over and now we discuss and debate the details of the wedding of the year, one of which being Meghan’s choice of wedding dress.

Firstly from us here at a Cotswold Wedding we wish the newly titled Duke & Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a wonderful start to the next chapter in there lives.

With not a scrap of lace, tulle or sparkle in sight Meghan’s choice of dress was the epitome of minimalist style, reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour and that most famous of style icons Audrey Hepburn.

As expected the wedding trend will follow suit, as it did after the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge’s marriage and you can expect to see, simple, classic lines with tailoring as key over the next months/years. But the truth is, British brides are already choosing gowns with a simpler, more classical, elegant approach you only need to see current collections of Suzanne Neville & Sassi Holford for examples.

The chosen designer for the wedding dress, as always has been a closely guarded secret, although London designer Ralph & Russo had been hotly tipped to be the creative team behind it.  The honor was bestowed to Clare Keller, second woman only to head up a major fashion house that is Givenchy.

Given that Givenchy also dressed Audrey Hepburn for her wedding day, i cant help but feel the fashion house was first choice in creating a modern yet stylishly timeless wedding dress that clearly fits within Meghan’s fashion styling ethos – functional, classic, well tailored pieces without additional ‘accessories’ (lace, beads, detailing) in sight.

The piazza to her wedding gown ensemble was Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau. The tiara was specifically made for Queen Mary in 1932 to accommodate, in the centre, the detachable brooch which was given as a present for her own wedding in 1893 by the County of Lincoln

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With many comparisons already being made between Meghan’s dress and that of Kate’s and Diana’s – was it too plain? Should it of been bigger? I can only say this – you wedding dress should be reflective of you as a person. Meghan’s was quite frankly perfect….. for her.

Here’s a shot of these two gorgeous ladies on their respective days- both dresses and simply stunning and both reflect ‘them’ as individuals perfectly. Kate as a future Queen and Meghan as a charitable patron with a clear ethos on style.

Happy planning!

Sophie xx

All images via The Guardian + The BBC and Copyright Reuters, PA

Supplier Spotlight: The Homemade Wedding Company

Today’s supplier spotlight is for passionate DIY weddiner, and homemade wedding expert  Jess Watson of The Homemade Wedding Company. I love the passion that Jess has in helping couples create beautiful homemade items themselves for their weddings to add a personal touch.

I caught up with Jess to find out more about her and The Homemade Wedding Company:

Tell us about you:

Hi my name is Jess Watson and i own The Homemade Wedding Company.

What does your business offer?

My aim is to work with couples to help them create the day they’ve always dreamed of whilst staying within their wedding budget. I offer DIY wedding workshops which show couples how to create their own beautiful wedding flowers, favours and decorations at home.

I also offer help with generating ideas and inspiration. How to use their wedding budget effectively and efficiently and provide advice on where to source the best value for money materials.

How long have you been in business?

The website has been running since 2016, the services and workshop side of things will be officially launched summer 2018.

How and why did you start your business?

Whilst planning my own wedding in 2016 I struggled to find enough DIY wedding inspiration and information. I was really keen to take on a lot of the wedding prep myself as I knew I’d enjoy it – which I did- and also thought I could save myself a bit of money along the way.

After the wedding I started the blog with the aim of providing inspiration and information for other brides like me who wanted to make and create elements of their wedding themselves but perhaps weren’t sure where to start. It was only after my daughter was born in 2017 that I realised I could turn it into a business and actually share my passion for wedding DIY and money saving with people through workshops and one-to-one sessions.

For you what is the best part of running your business?

Speaking to couples about their wedding plans is always pretty special for me but I love being creative and that’s what really makes me happy day to day.

Contact details to find out more:

Additional info you’d like to share:

My first DIY wedding flowers workshops will be taking place on Sat 30th June 2018 and Sat 28th July 2018 at Twyning Park, Tewkesbury. Places will be limited but if you’re interested in booking, please get in touch. Find out more here

 

What you can expect from The Homemade Wedding Company:

 

Happy planning!

 

Sophie

xx

Wedding Cakes and Fresh Flowers – 5 Top Tips

Fresh flowers are still a hugely popular choice for some couples to decorate their cake,  Sarah Osbourne of Simplicity Cakes by Sarah runs through the pros and cons of having fresh flowers on your wedding cake and 5 top tips to consider.

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It’s just a couple of weeks now until the next Royal wedding between HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Ms Meghan Markle and as they have already announced that their cake will feature fresh flowers, it’s a safe bet that this ever-popular trend will stick around for a while longer, much to both the delight and frustration of cake designers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some spectacular designs which can be created safely with fresh flowers (I had a stunning arrangement for my own wedding cake), but it seems that no matter how much designers shout about food safety, the power of Pinterest always wins and we’re asked to replicate designs which are fundamentally unsafe.  That said, flowers have been decorating cakes since cake began so I’m hoping to set the record straight with some info, warning and general safety essentials to help the B2B.  If you really want to use fresh flowers, do it safely!!

So to begin…why are fresh flowers (potentially) bad?

Decorations inevitably come in contact with the edible part of the cake, especially if the cake is buttercream-covered.  Many venues also routinely decorate the ‘cut’ cake with the leftover flowers to make it look pretty… thus, they are in direct contact with what you eat….now think of this…

  • A lot of fresh flowers are toxic (i.e. poisonous). Sometimes it’s only parts of the flower (the stamen, sap, petals), but, either way, it’s bad.  Would you put poison on your cake??  No?  So toxic fresh flowers shouldn’t go there either.  Symptoms can range from nausea and vomiting, to itching/blistering where contact has been made with the skin (or worse) if ingested.  Most people will now say, ‘well, I’ve never heard of anyone dying from fresh flowers on a cake’, well, neither have I (although I have heard of hospital admissions). But why risk it?  While I’m no botanist, some of the most common toxic flowers include:
    • Lillies
    • Delphinium
    • Lilly-of-the-valley
    • Poinsettia
    • Hydrangea
    • Tulips
    • Gypsophelia is disputed and contentious amongst cake designers but I personally have read enough to put it in the ‘toxic’ category.
    • Sadly, many of these are very popular wedding flowers.  For more information, have a look the Royal Horticultural Society… https://www.rhs.org.uk/Advice/Profile?PID=524
  • Most (I stress most, not all) fresh flowers these days are mass produced – they are treated with pesticides and fungicides to make them last and look good. Even ‘organic’ flowers get treated.  These treatments both permeate the flower and sit on the surface, meaning the treatment touches the edible cake.  Again, if you fancy spraying your dinner plate with ‘rose shield’, go ahead [joke – do NOT spray your plate with rose shield!!]…otherwise, be aware that commercial chemicals designed for horticulture are not designed for human consumption.
  • Have you ever looked in a florist’s bucket? Or in the stagnant water in the tubs of supermarket flower sections?  Well, this is what your flowers (which will be inserted in your wedding cake) have been sat in.    That is all I think needs to be said here.  This picture is actually pretty good compared to many I’ve seen but there were still a few dead leaves, bit of plastic and weird residue in the water…

 

  • We all know that flowers provide vital habitats for wildlife, but many insects live IN our flowers, especially in the tightly nestled petals of some of our favourite bouquet blooms. If you don’t want any surprise visitors emerging when you cut your cake, make other plans!

But…I saw this design on Pinterest and it’s sooooo perfect!!

Just because you saw it on Pinterest, doesn’t mean you can have it for your REAL wedding cake…not if you want to eat it anyway.  Cakes used for styled shoots are not designed to be eaten so who cares if toxic flower goo permeates the sponge?  This also applies to supermarket magazines advertising ‘DIY’ wedding cakes and cake TV shows.  I regularly see premium supermarket brands’ magazines showing ‘styling suggestions’ of fresh hydrangea or calla lilies – some of the most toxic plants out there.  Just because a brand you trust implies it’s OK, does not mean that it is.

But I really want to use flowers…

Ok, so, if reading all the above isn’t putting you off, there are basic precautions that you MUST follow.  And by ‘must’, I mean that if you are serving a food product, you must ensure by law that it is safe.  Read on for 5 basic rules and tips…

1 – NO TOXIC FLOWER MUST COME INTO CONTACT WITH EDIBLE CAKE.  EVER.

End of.  Use non-toxic species or, if a toxic breed is absolutely ‘necessary’, use artificial tiers for that arrangement and make up the servings with kitchen cakes.  This is even more of a concern if you are going with a ‘naked’ cake or a coating which is sticky and likely to adhere to the properties of what it is near to (think pollen falling off a stamen).

2 – USE ORGANIC FLOWERS DESIGNED FOR THE FOOD INDUSTRY

I’ve found most florists are not able to trace the provenance of their flowers or their growing conditions.  This is not the fault of the florist (they are not training to be food handlers after all) who buy from wholesalers for the mass market.  Their flowers are not designed to be eaten.  There are a couple of companies which provide edible flowers such as Maddocks Farm.  This is really where you should be looking.

3 – CLEAN YOUR FLOWERS

If you can’t do ‘2’ above, always wash any flowers which are coming into contact with the cake carefully but thoroughly and check for ‘hidden protein’ (i.e. insects & bugs).

4 – PREPARE ARRANGEMENTS

There is two things you are trying to prevent when you prepare stems for insertion into a cake:

  • Leaking goo from the stem itself penetrating the sponge (eeeuw)
  • Toxic/dirty/general nastiness coming into contact with the edible sponge/cake covering

To the best of my knowledge, the only ‘fully approved’ mechanism for safely inserting flowers is to tape them together using floral tape and then insert the arrangement into a posy pick.

There are some wax-based products out there which claim to do the job – I’m personally not convinced after my own experiences where the wax flaked off when the stems bent as I was inserting the flowers into the cake.  I can see it working for really stiff-stemmed flowers and those which have already been taped and wired but, for anything else, I’d go for the ‘old school’ method.

A more modern technique which, I have used myself on a few occasions is to wrap the flowers individually in tape, then cover that in CAREFULLY folded tinfoil and squeeze.  Fill the end of a straw with a blob on fondant and insert the prepared stem into the (open) end of the straw.  The tape and foil double-ensures no drippage.  The foil must not be damaged/split or it will be useless.  The straw provides the food-safe barrier and the fondant blob prevents contact between the taped flowers and the cake at the end (that said, even if that fails, foil is food-safe anyway).  Either way, you’ve taken every precaution and the odds of contamination are negligible.

Unless the flowers are ‘food safe’, you should also try to add a protective barrier or paper, foil or film between the flowers and the edible components.  Greaseproof paper works well for ivory cakes, cellophane for white/colored designs.

No matter what happens, NEVER (I’m making hand gesticulations here while writing this), repeat NEVER simply snip off a flower head and stick it in a cake.  I’ve seen it done several times on TV shows and (proper edible flowers notwithstanding), it is wrong, disgusting and illegal in the UK because it breaches food hygiene regulations.  TV shows are for watching, not necessarily for actual eating.

5 – RESERVOIRS ONLY GO UNDER THE CAKE

A lot of delicate and really luscious arrangements need water to keep them looking their best – that means a reservoir.  Reservoirs must never be placed above edible cake in case they drip onto the tiers below.  Not only is there an obvious hygiene issue, but water will cause serious damage to any fondant-covered or royal iced design (it won’t look too good mixed buttercream or ganache either).

OK, so I’m feeling deflated at this point…where can I use fresh flowers??

FLOWER PEDESTALS!!!!  These can add such an unbelievable ‘wow’ factor to your cake with the total flexibility of having whatever you want because they are below the edible components.  Nothing to drip, nothing to fall.  If you want flowers on the rest of the design, heed the above guidance or, even better, have your designer make sugar versions (which are technically edible).  Have you considered artificial flowers which can be thoroughly cleaned and prepped in advance?  We’ve created several flower pedestals in the past – take a look at our wedding cake gallery for some ideas!

ARTIFICIAL TIERS… If you want a fresh flower topper, use an artificial top tier.  While you still must be aware of items falling onto the edible tiers below, you are at reducing direct contact.  Trim flower stamen or anything which could fall.

PROPERLY PREPARED, EDIBLE FLOWERS…There are companies which specialise in these types of flowers which can look incredible.  Just be prepared to be creative with your designs 🙂

So, that’s all I can say about fresh flowers on wedding cakes.  My aim is to provide a ‘best practice’ approach for fellow designers and, especially, the brave bride who is contemplating recreating a look herself.  This is a subject of contention amongst cake designers, all of whom will have their own policies so don’t be surprised if your designer requires you sign additional disclaimers if you want fresh flowers on your wedding cake.

For now, I’m off for a cuppa and to wonder what Meghan and Harry will choose for their design!

If anyone has any questions, feel free to drop me a message on Facebook, or send me an email 🙂

Lots of love – S xx

 

About Sarah:

Today’s blog post is courtsey of Sarah Osbourne of Simplicity Cakes by Sarah.

Simplicity Cakes by Sarah specialises in luxury wedding cake designs. Based in Swindon, we regular deliver throughout Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and beyond. We use the finest quality ingredients to create commissions which taste as spectacular as they look and our end-to-end service makes ordering your bespoke wedding cake stress-free and enjoyable.

Website: http://www.simplicitycakes.co.uk

Email: sarah@simplicitycakes.co.uk

Phone: 07796 224 591

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimplicityCakesBySarah/

 

Real Wedding: A Knight In Shining White – Sophie & Ash’s Modern Cotswolds Fairytale

Most little girls start dreaming of their wedding young…. probably something to do with the abundance of Disney films where the princess/girl next door wins the heart of the handsome and charming prince who rides to her aid on his trusty stead. Here’s what happens when this dream is in the 21st Century, a modern cotswolds fairytale of course

So what happens in a modern fairytale? The trusty stead is replaced with modern day horsepower… a Nissan GTR Supercar of course. Married in a traditional church ceremony at the stunning St Michael’s and All Angels Church before riding off into the sunset (or to the reception!) at the historic hill climb racetrack that is Prescott Hill Climb.

Here’s what the bride had to say:

Our day was definitely ‘us’ – we made a pact that I could choose the ceremony venue and Ash could choose the reception – knowing his passion for cars (he’s a massive petrol head!) and being Bugatti members at the time it was a pretty sure run thing he’d pick Prescott.

Our budget was pretty strict, so a few things were created/done by ourselves and our families. At the time pocket fold invites were the ‘in thing’ for invites and I knew I had to have them, I just couldn’t justify the spend, so a lot of eBay rummaging later I found a bride selling off surplus of her invites on eBay – having designed and printed all the inserts ourselves and picking up envelopes and stock on gems from the local craft store, the invites only cost £15. We also created our Order of Services too. They were our best bargain wedding item.

We hired amazing florist Donna from a The Flower Studio to do our flowers – Donna created the exact vision I had in my head – which at the time even family and friends couldn’t see working. The florals were stunning. To complement Donnas flowers (bouquet, bridesmaids, buttonholes, top table and table arrangements) a close family friend created out church displays and then we had these moved to reception afterwards to dress the cake table and reception entrances.

The cake was made by me, having recently launched my own cake business at the beginning of the year it was a given I was going to create my own.

As Ash is into his supercars, and with his racing background we were able to secure the use of a Nissan GTR for the weekend from Dreamcare Hire. This may seem extravagant, but it was a must for us. I on the other hand walked to the church!

As we had everything crossed for a nice day – we wanted our reception to be held outside, we opted for a relaxed hog roast for the wedding breakfast. As it turned out we had the only hot weekend that July (2011). We also chose not to have a defined seating plan – this made things easier for us as no added stress and guests got to sit with who they wanted to sit with!

If you had to describe your day:

A traditional church service followed by a relaxed, alittle informal, alittle quirky reception with a petrolhead undertone!

Here are the snapshots of this beautifully unique day:

 

Ceremony: St Michaels and All Angels Church

Venue: Prescott Hill Climb

Wedding Photography: Shane Cox and Robert Leons

Dress: Sottero and Midgley

Suits: Slaters Menswear

Catering: Prescott Hill Climb

Cake: The Cheltenham Cakery

Event Decor: All About Fun

Flowers: Donna Beaver at The Flower Studio

Car hire: Dreamcar Hire

Supplier Spotlight: The Cotswolds Event Planner

This weeks Supplier Spotlight is for wedding and events coordinator Louise Pritchard.  With her trademark bob and love of sparkles, this lovely lass is just the gal you need planning your wedding – find out more about Louise, her experienced hospitality background and passion for planning below.

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Tell us about you

Hi my name is Louise Pritchard and I am The Cotswold Event Planner.

I help businesses and individuals save time, money and stress when planning their events by using my industry experience, my network of the very best local suppliers and some good old fashioned hard work! On the day itself, my clients can relax and really enjoy the event, knowing I’m on site making sure all the well planned details run smoothly and any loose ends are tied.

How long have you been in business?

I have been The Cotswolds Event Planner for 8 months, although my entire career has been in hospitality and events.

From my very first weekend job at 16, it’s always been about hospitality.  My university years and also those that immediately followed were spent getting to know event and wedding planning in hotels.

I followed that with an incredible couple of years working for an Event Management company in Swindon, as account manager for 2 large clients. My work took me across Europe and further afield with planning and on site event management of events from 10 to 250 delegates. My knowledge and understanding grew exponentially.

A wedding and a relocation brought my husband and I to Cheltenham. After a few years in a beautiful country events and weddings hotel, an opportunity to be part of the opening management team for the Montpellier Chapter – now the Malmaison, Cheltenham – came along and was simply too good to pass up. It was a thrilling time at an amazing venue that I will never forget.

How and why did you start your business?

The time just felt right. Working in the events industry  can be unforgiving and isn’t always easy with 2 small children- the hours don’t necessarily suit family life, but I missed the buzz organizing and planning gave me. So I decided to work for myself, this way I can control my work life balance, and I’m thrilled I did.

For you what is the best part of running your business?

There is just nothing like the feeling of being at an event you’ve planned, watching the guests having a fantastic time, grins all round, knowing that you’ve been part of that. It gives me goose bumps!

Contact details to find out more:
Additional info you’d like to share:

I offer prospective clients a 30 minute, free of charge, no obligation meeting. With a range of services I can provide feel free to get in touch if you’ve got an event to plan. I offer event consultancy at an hourly rate, with full, partial and on the day packages, making my services accessible to small businesses and individuals.

Here’s some pics of Louise and her handiwork:

Happy planning!

Sophie

xx

How to Hen: Blue Lagoon, Iceland

With the honor fast approaching of moi to arrange besties Hen Party i’ve suddenly entered a whole new world of ‘How to Hen’. Rewind 8 years to my own hen, a spa pampering day full of mini luxury treats (including a fish pedi), a champagne bar and full on makeover style photo shoot before a few cheeky cocktails and a nightclub boogie.

Like countless maids of honor before me I have been researching whats hot, whats not and current hen trends, to ensure my bestie has the best time. I can honestly say its been overwhelming.  The hen party it seems has morphed into the hen weekend, not only that but gone are the days of celebrating the last night of singleness with a few drinks and dancing around your handbags until the wee small hours at your local night hot spot.

With almost limitless options available, catering for all budgets and tastes has never been easier and so a rise in the hen mini break has appeared. Trips to the Mediterranean for the sun seekers, rock climbing and skiing for the adrenaline junkies and of course the luxury spa breaks and wellness breaks  – think yoga retreats, for the more laid back.

Iceland

I was fortunate enough to experience such a break in Iceland. A geo thermal paradise that boosts not only stunning scenery and natural wonders but one of the most amazing spa experiences I have ever had. Coupled with the options of activities like whale watching, glacier walking, lava tunnelling and of course the chance to experience the Northern Lights, whats not to love! It’s no wonder it’s called the land of fire and ice.

We spent 3 wonderful days exploring Iceland’s natural scenery – sturdy walking boots are a must in the winter months. Our first day was spent taking in the location before a late afternoon spa. If you’ve seen any pics of the Blue Lagoon I can honestly say it’s way way better. Totally surreal experience being in minus temps before sliding into warm milky water. The spa offer a free mud bar experience – their own recipe silica mud mask – made my skin so wonderfully soft. If you’ve upgraded to the premium package you also get an additional mud mask – all at the scan of your wristband

Also included in all packages is a complimentary drink – again to head to the swim up bar and scan you wristband (additional drinks are scanned on your wristband and payable at the end of your visit)

Then just relax…… Float away any stresses.

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our second day was spent on the famous Golden Circle tour encompassing Ireland three main tourist attractions and natural wonders – Thingvellar National Park is a wonder seeing the gorge created by the American and Asia tectonic plate shift, Geysir a hot pool that erupts approx every 5 minutes into the air and Gulfoss a truly spectacular 30meter drop waterfall. Plus these are locations where some scenes of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones was filmed.

Our last day was spent soaking up the culture and sights in Reykjavik before heading to the airport.

Iceland is readily accessible with flights for nearly all UK airports and a wide range of accommodation from AirBnBs and apartments rentals to 5* hotels and so getting their I found to be reasonably priced. Be warned, Iceland is one of the worlds most expensive countries – however costs can be reduced by shopping at the local supermarkets and researching eateries via Tripadvisor.

If we were to go again – hire a car as transfers are expensive and the main attractions are all free of charge to enter (Geysir, Thingvellar National Park and Gullfoss)- this will reduce the cost of the trips which we spent alot on! Most things in Reykjavik are easily reached via walking and its easy to navigate around (google map App). Plus we had the best ever fish and chips down at the harbour.

For things like the Blue lagoon be sure to book your tickets well in advance – they operate on a timed entry system. We had a late afternoon slot and it was perfect – sipping wine in the lagoon watching the most amazing sunset over the volcanoes.

Here’s more pics to swoon over:

So whatever your planning remember it can really be anything and anywhere!

Happy henning!

Sophie

xx

Real Wedding: Wayne & Clare, Win a Wedding in Association with Gloucestershire Media, by Sophie Flowers

Friday the 13th might be unlucky for some, but for one couple from Gloucester the day was a dream come true.

Wayne Cox and Clare Phillips, of Kingsway, were the lucky winners of the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen’s Win a Wedding competition 2017.

Their prize was a magical wedding on Friday, April 13 at The Queens Hotel Cheltenham – Mgallery by Sofitel.

The couple have been together for six years after they met while both working at Tesco in Quedgeley.

Wayne, 38, said: “It was absolutely fantastic.

“The whole day was amazing, it all fell into place on the day.

“Luckily we’re not superstitious and Friday the 13th was lucky for us.

“Friends and family being there was the important bit.”

Clare was given away by her son Ben, 16, while her daughter Paige, 27, was a bridesmaid dressed in the colour theme of the day of Cadbury’s purple.

Clare with her son Ben, who gave her away

The couple are especially thankful to all of their friends, colleagues and customers at Tesco Quedgeley, who helped them collect tokens for the competition.

Clare, 44, works on the customer service desk while Wayne now works as a store manager at the Tesco in Kingsway.

The groom and ushers wore traditional morning suits from Tuxedo Junction, Westgate Street, Gloucester, while the bridesmaids were dressed in gowns from Nina Furness Couture, in Cambray Place, Cheltenham and Clare wore a beautiful gown.

“She looked beautiful,” said Wayne, of Clare.

(Image: Diamond Shots Photography)

The ‘fantastic’ flowers in the purple colour scheme were designed by the Flower Bowl, in London Road, Gloucester.

The whole day was captured by Diamond Shots Photography.

And the finishing touches, such as the purple chair covers and sashes from Sweet Beginnings, St Oswolds Road, Gloucester, and the photo booth from Party Foto Pods, in Staunton, really added a sense of occasion.

“The guests loved the photo booth,” Wayne added.

The wedding also featured a traditional ice sculpture of two swans by Ice Creations, and Chocolate Fountain from Maggie’s Chocolate Fountains, Pershore, which the couple would highly recommend.

Guests were kept entertained by a magician from Ethereal Productions. Clare and her friends loved the hen party at De Vere Cotswold Water Park Spa while the newlyweds still have the couples’ pampering to enjoy at the spa.

The pair were whisked away to a five-night honeymoon in romantic Paris with flights from bmi regional and hotel from HotelsCombined, where for the first two nights they stayed in a hotel overlooking the Eiffel Tower before arranging their own accommodation for the remainder of the trip.

Thanks to the Win a Wedding suppliers:

Venue

The Queens Hotel Cheltenham- Mgallery by Sofitel

The Promenade, Cheltenham. GL50 1NN

Contact:

Ellie Murray

Conference & Events Coordinator

H6632-sb@accor.com

01242 514754

www.queenshotelcheltenham.co.uk

Suits

Tuxedo Junction

Westgate Retail Park, The Island, Westgate Street, Gloucester GL1 2RU

Contact:

01452 380 066

info@tuxedo-junction.co.uk

Bridesmaids dresses

Flowers

Cake

The Cheltenham Cakery

Linwell Close, Cheltenham, GL50 4SD

Contact: Sophie

07766346788

info@thecheltenhamcakery.co.uk

www.thecheltenhamcakery.co.uk

www.facebook.com/thecheltenhamcakery

Photography

Diamond Shots Photography

Contact: Becky

07835 042 319

contact@diamondshots.co.uk

www.diamondshots.co.uk

www.facebook.com/DiamondShots2012/

Rings

Wedding Car

Azure Luxury Cars

30 Greenway Lane, Cheltenham GL52 6LB

Contact: David

(01242) 51 00 00 & (07714) 20 90 78

david@azureluxurycars.co.uk

www.azureweddingcars.co.uk

Chair covers and Sashes

Photobooth

Chocolate Fountain or Fruit Tower

Maggie’s Chocolate Fountains

Hill Furze, Pershore, Worcestershire. WR10 2NB

Contact: Maggie

07725 339209

maggie@maggieschocolatefountains.co.uk

www.maggieschocolatefountains.co.uk

Ice Sculpture

Ice Creations

Contact: Alan

0800 999 6555

info@icecreations.co.uk

www.icecreations.co.uk

Entertainment

Ethereal Productions

Contact: Joshua-James

07947369422

Productions.ethereal@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/EtherealPerformance

Hen Party and Couples Pampering

Stag Do

West Country Games

Gatcombe Farm, Weston Road, Long Aston, Bristol, BS48 3QT

Contact:

0117 370 0640

bookings@westcountrygames.co.uk

www.westcountrygames.co.uk

www.welshgames.co.uk

Honeymoon flights

bmi regional

Pegasus Business Park | Herald Way | East Midlands Airport | DE74 2TU

Contact:

0330 333 7998

customercare@bmiregional.com

www.flybmi.com

Honeymoon accommodation

About the Writer:

Sophie Flowers is agenda editor for Gloucestershire Live, leading the team that covers  the county’s big issue

Email: sophie.flowers@localworld.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Flowers_S

Phone: 01242 278076

Supplier Spotlight: Artrocks

Today’s Supplier Spotlight is for the very lovely Jane Gray of Artrocks. Supplier of  both contemporary and neon art.
Looking for a unique keepsake for your nuptials? Then one of Jane’s gorgeous neon signs is a must for your day! Why not use it as a cake topper and then reuse it by having it a home – Perhaps on the wall over the kitchen table? or as a feature in between the wedding canvas that you know you’ll be ordering! A permanent glowing reminder of the fabulous day that signaled the start of your married lives together.
Lets introduce you to Jane:
Tell us about you:
Hi i’m Jane Gray and i own ArtRocks.

Having lived in rental accommodation for many years, I struggled to find some affordable, yet unique and interesting artwork for my home.

I eventually sourced a hand-painted abstract painting  – with much relief when it arrived, it was of really great quality.  From that point, friends and family started asking me to order pieces for them and so the ArtRocks collection was born!

What does your business offer? 

I offer couples the chance to have something eclectic  and memorable for their wedding, special occasion or event, i have a range of Neon signs to rent as well as being able to sort bespoke neons such as married couples often go for their surname. They also made great prop backdrops too.

How long have you been in business?

Officially Artrocks has been going a year and loving it! But i’ve been sourcing artwork for friends and family alot longer

How and why did you start your business?

Having been selling a range of sourced art for a while, i decided to expanded into neons – this fitted my brand perfectly and naturally progressed into creating bespoke neons for clients and offering rental neons as well.

For you what is the best part of running your business?

Giving a personal service, running my business around my family and the enjoyment of running my own business!

Contact details to find out more:

Additional info you’d like to share:

Get in touch for a quote to rent or buy a neon sign! currently 10% off when you sign up to the newsletter

Here’s some examples of Jane’s gorgeous works of art both neon and non-neon:

Happy planning

Sophie

xx