Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Wedding Reporter

One of the lovely people I met first at the Taunton Tweet Up in the summer this year and then again at the opening of Isabella Grace Bridal Boutique in Tunbridge Wells was Emma Woodhouse who is The Wedding Reporter. I do like to discover and bring to you diverse  ideas and information connected to weddings and Emma certainly offers a service that I'd never heard of before - and to be honest wish I had done before our wedding in 2008!

The Wedding Reporter
I have always written down everything important that’s happened to me. I think I have a phobia of forgetting momentous events, and I like taking time to think about what’s happened as I write it down. Reading it back years later I end up being astonished by things that I thought I’d remember forever.

You think that you’ll remember everything about your wedding. It’s one of the biggest days of your life, right? So much blood, sweat and tears goes into the preparation that you can’t actually comprehend not remembering all of that pain for years to come. How could you possibly forget anything about something so momentous?

The answer is: easily. Weddings are an absolute hurricane of chaos, a tour de force of emotion and adrenaline, and a blur of conversations amidst a sea of faces. In the same way that you won’t get enough time to properly talk to all of your guests, you also won’t get the opportunity to savour the sheer brilliance of the day.

I created The Wedding Reporter in order to offer a service to any bride and groom who want an added layer of texture to the memories of their wedding. Essentially, I attend the wedding as a professional guest; jotting everything I see, hear and feel in my trusty notebook. I burst into tears at the entrance of every single bride because I believe in the power of love. No two wedding reports are the same because no two weddings are the same.

After the wedding I write all my notes up into creative non-fiction account of the day. At the end of it, the couple will have a literary legacy of their day. The words become their property, so they can simply print it off and send it out with thank you cards, or I can have it made into a real book for them. My affiliated designer can create a bespoke cover and publish the reports into unique hardback books that sit beautifully alongside your photo album.

I have created The Wedding Reporter out of a passion for both words and love. There is something luxurious about the written word; I like taking time to labour over the exact sentence structure and choice of words used. This thoroughness is the very least that I can do when endeavouring to narrate what many people will consider to be the best day of their entire lives.

If you would like more information or would like Emma to attend your wedding, you can contact her through her website, Facebook, or Twitter  

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Calling All Peacock Design Lovers...

Our Guest Blog this week comes from Suzanne at Esemee designs who has some fabulous new Peacock designed accessories to add to her extensive collection of amazing fascinators. We always like an update from Suzanne as her designs are fabulous - not just for weddings either! If you're off to Ascot or Henley next year get in contact with her now to order something to get everyone noticing you!
'While I was on my travels to the Far East and India, I came across this amazing Peacock fan which is used for Deity Worhip by the local people.  I was so inspired by this fan that I set about creating some fabulous items featuring this design and added a few sequins along the way! 
In my new collection for next year is the amazing Peacock Fascinator which sits to the side and a matching clutch bag with extra sparkles.'

If you're wondering what to get Mrs LG for Christmas or birthday this stunning clutch bag would be very well received, hint hint Mr LG! As always you can contact Suzanne through her website and follow her on Twitter. 

If anyone is thinking about having a Peacock themed wedding, Lilguy Stationery have a fabulous selection of Peacock designed invites and stationery which will certainly add a touch of glamour to your special day.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Jenny and Gary Chose Burgundy and Pink Invites for their Gorgeous Dartmoor Wedding

Our Guest Blogger this week is Jenny, who was one of my happy clients from March 2010, and wanted to share some of her wedding memories.
Firstly, all great weddings have to start with planning and preparations, luckily, Kim Stewart from LilGuy Stationery was able to put together the most exquisite wedding invites for my guests and an extremely useful PostBox for all of the cards we were given.  I can’t recommend using a PostBox highly enough as I know so many Brides that have had drinks spilt on their cards where they were left placed on tables as guests were not too sure where to put them down or who to give them to.  Kim was also able to help with lots of advice on Wedding Favours, table decorations and table plans.

The day of our March wedding came and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day, which was even warm enough for our first glass of champagne on the garden terrace and to have our gorgeous wedding photos taken outside. 
We married and had our Wedding Breakfast at the Moorland Garden Hotel which has a stunning setting just on the edge of Dartmoor where you can watch wild ponies and sheep grazing on the Moor.   The staff ensured our Wedding Day was perfect and all our plans for the day went like clockwork – apart from our cat Thomas getting lost the night before our wedding, which is a rather long story but he was eventually found safe and well the next day!

The Chandelier Ballroom at the Moorland Garden Hotel was bright and spacious with large windows overlooking the garden and we were very fortunate to have the last of the afternoon sun pouring in while we were finishing our speeches which was lovely.
Once everyone had enjoyed the Wedding Breakfast and a few glasses of wine, it was onto our Evening entertainment.  Hubby and I had our First Dance and then arranged a surprise Line Dance taster for everyone to join in on!  My Mum and I are very keen Line Dancers and although it took a bit of persuasion for hubby to let us to do some dancing at our wedding, it was great fun and we have some fantastic memories of all our guests trying to master the steps!  Our fantastic Line Dance Instructor, Sophie Turner was our Caller and did very well in trying to keep our guests dancing the correct steps and staying in the lines!  We had such great feedback from our guests on how much they loved this and how it made our day very memorable for them.  I would recommend any bride to try something a bit different on their day!

Thank you Jenny for sharing with us your wedding day. You can visit the Moorland Garden Hotel website, find them on Facebook  and follow them on Twitter.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Surrey Networking Tweet Up

One of the great things about working for myself at home is being able to use Twitter while I work. I've made some valuable contacts and lovely friends through it and it provides virtual 'office gossip', which is in some ways better than 'real' office gossip as you can literally switch it off if you're too busy or don't feel like getting involved. Twitter is great for picking up on different things such as information and events like networking meetings. Earlier this year I picked up on the Taunton Tweet Up which I made the effort to go to (yes, it's a long old drive from West Sussex to Somerset, but it was worth it as I tied it in with visiting family). It was great to meet some of the people I'd been tweeting with as well as making new contacts within the industry.

I'd been quite apprehensive whilst driving down to Somerset - sometimes it's difficult to walk into a room full of people you've never met before, but I'd committed myself to going so there was no chickening out! The first people I met were the Marry Me In Somerset girls, Abi & Lisa, along with Rachel and Lucinda, two of the Wedding Ideas Magazine 'herd' - all of whom were very friendly and welcoming. Another person I met in Taunton was Pam Wallin who is the driving force behind the Weddings In Surrey Directory. Having tweeted with her many times over the past year or so it was wonderful to finally meet her - like the Marry Me Somerset girls and all the WIM herd she is as lovely and friendly in person as she is on Twitter! I met many more wedding industry people that evening and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

When I saw a tweet a while ago about another Tweet Up, this time a little closer to home, I signed up for it immediately and put the date in my diary! Organised by Pam Wallin and Wedding Ideas Magazine, it was held at Fetcham Park House in Surrey, a beautiful wedding venue near Leatherhead.
The superbly elegant Grade II* Listed Queen Anne building is set in grounds which were originally landscaped by the famous Capability Brown and is believed to be one of only two remaining buildings which combine the work of architect William Talman and the artist Louis Laguerre.

I'd allowed plenty of time to tackle the A24 to Leatherhead as the evening was due to start at 6.30pm and arrived around half an hour early, plenty of time to admire the splendour of the reception rooms before they filled up with other attendees. If it's country house elegance and  style you're looking for then this venue definitely fits the bill and the Laguerre murals in the hall and stairway give a dark, richly opulent feel whereas the reception rooms are decorated in light creams and gold with intricate and colourful high ceilings.
Laguerre mural, Fetcham Park House
Louis Laguerre Mural, Fetcham Park
In contrast to the previous networking Tweet Up in Taunton I was not feeling at all apprehensive and had been looking forward all day to meeting more people that I had been chatting with on-line and some that I had yet to connect with. The list of attendees was for around 160 and we certainly filled the place up both physically and in noise level! 

By the end of the evening, this country girl who is usually found in either slippers around the house and office or wellies outside walking the LGs was feeling decidedly footsore after several hours in gorgeous high heels, but very positive, buoyed up and raring to go! I may not be a wedding planner, but I do have an incredible list of contacts within the industry now and it's always wonderful to be able to recommend a supplier to a bride - weddings and their planning can be an absolute minefield of information and can leave couples and their families feeling that they don't know where to start. So if you're looking for a Wedding Planner, a Florist, a Harpist, a Caterer, a Cake Designer, a Candy Buffet or a Chimney Sweep (yes, really!) if I can't personally recommend one it's likely that I know someone who can.

I's so easy to become insular and isolated when you work at home for yourself, easy too to be in need of a little 'spark' or 'va va voom' and meeting like minded professionals can really help to give you a boost. So many thanks to Pam and WIM for organising such a lovely evening!

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Buy Our Honeymoon - The Wedding List For Couples Who Don't Need More Stuff

A question frequently asked by couples ordering their wedding stationery is how to go about telling guests that they would prefer a donation to their dream honeymoon rather than a new toaster. There are poems you can include with your invitation to this effect and you either love 'em or hate 'em, it's a totally personal choice! Our guest blogger this week is Andrew Green from Buy Our Honeymoon with the perfect solution to this dilemma!

What do you do for your wedding gift list if you don’t need a new set of spoons or bath towels? Perhaps you’d prefer to swap traditional household gifts for the honeymoon of your dreams — but the thought of simply asking for cold, hard cash fills you with dread?

A honeymoon wedding list works in a very similar way to a department store gift registry, but instead of kitchen implements or bed linen, you put together a list of experiences, activities and contributions to make your honeymoon the trip of a lifetime.

Imagine champagne chilling in your upgraded hotel suite, a gourmet meal in the flickering candle light as the ocean laps nearby.  It’s all so much more appealing than a blender — and so much more appealing for your guests, too, who’ll feel that they’ve given you a real gift instead of merely donating to an anonymous pot of cash.

Buy Our Honeymoon is the UK’s top honeymoon gift list service. You can select from a variety of web addresses for your guests to visit, personalise your pages with your own photos, and add absolutely anything you wish to your online list. You can even mix honeymoon contributions  with household items if you’d like.

The site offers a free 7-day trial, and takes no commission out of the gifts you receive. You can receive payment for any gifts reserved from your list in whatever way suits you best — in cash on your wedding day, by cheque through the post, as a bank transfer, or online using a credit or debit card into your own PayPal account.

Buy Our Honeymoon coordinates and manages your gift money, but doesn’t collect gifts on your behalf. This means your gifts are completely safe, and are yours from the moment they’re given.

There’s a wide range of sample wedding lists
showcasing the beautiful design themes and different approaches to putting together your list. And if you get stuck, Buy Our Honeymoon offers a unique Helping Hand service to track down and copy over the best ideas from the site’s thousands of successful lists, to yours.

Buy Our Honeymoon was created by Shelley and Andrew Green to use for their own wedding gift list, and was met with such an enthusiastic response from their guests that they were convinced to launch the site nationwide.

For more information on how to make the most of your honeymoon gift list, visit Buy Our Honeymoon  or call 0845 224 0189. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! 

Also, a quick reminder that the brilliant Wedding Ideas Magazine Awards  has now started. You can find Buy Our Honeymoon in the drop down for Best Gift List (and Lil'Guy Invites under Best Stationery) - please do go and vote, it means so much to all of us involved in the industry!

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Long Weekend In Malta - Part Two

Unfortunately on Saturday evening when we went out in the car to find somewhere to eat, it was raining, as it had been on and off all afternoon. We ended up in a quaint looking Italian restaurant (we were trying to find a small local establishment serving great food rather than one of the larger chains with a TGI Fridays feel to it). After a disappointingly indifferent dinner we headed back to the hotel rather than the clubs and bright lights of Paceville.

As I mentioned yesterday, our hotel is opposite one of the many churches in Malta. It looks very pretty with it's dome and two bell towers which we can see very clearly from our balcony. This is because we are almost on a level with them. Which means that we can hear them. Very clearly. Whenever they are rung. The smaller church a few blocks away has a much softer sounding bell. We haven't as yet quite worked out what the bells are tolled for. At first we thought that one bell sounding one, two or three times followed by the other bell sounding however many times was telling the time, but this doesn't seem to be the case after all. We may never know! All we do know is that sleeping with the balcony doors open is a no-no if you want to get any sleep!

The breakfast here is wonderful - a huge selection of cheeses, fruit, yoghurt, pastries and cooked breakfast ingredients to choose from, fruit juices and water. A word of warning to any coffee lovers however - the coffee here is dire! You can stoke up on as much breakfast as you like and it'll keep you going virtually all day. After a lazy start to the day we headed out in the car to explore a bit more of the island. Marsaxlokk in the south east of the island is meant to be still a slice of traditional Maltese life, however the Sunday market selling a mixture of local produce and tourist tat could have been in any tourist area in the world. We stopped for a quick cold drink and then left.
On Saturday we had seen a sign for The Blue Grotto whilst driving around the Rabat area where Mdina is situated. Just the one sign! So on our way to visit the prehistoric temples in the south west of the island we decided to try again to find the Blue Grotto. 
Blue Grotto caves
We did find the Blue Grotto this time, but unfortunately it was very windy and therefore the sea was too choppy to make the half hour boat trip to the caves seem very attractive, so we passed on that one and made our way to the prehistoric temple site. Unlike Stonehenge which is open to the elements, the temples have been enclosed under a dome to protect them from the elements. At 9 Euros each to view the temples (plus visitor centre) we felt this was rather pricey compared to the value at the cathedral so gave this a miss also.
Prehistoric Temples
A late lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants in Vittoriosa, one of The Three Cities opposite Valletta, and indulging in a spot of people watching, passed a couple of hours.
A narrow stepped street in The Three Cities
The Hypogeum in Paola is an underground necropolis discovered during building work in 1902 and is thought to date back as far as 3600BC. If Mr LGs contract here continues and I get to come here to visit again this is definitely something I would like to visit. Tickets have to be booked at least 2 weeks in advance as visitor numbers are restricted but this can be done on-line before you get here - tours last around 50 minutes and it is not suitable for children under 6.

The Hypogeum
Mr LG is back at work today (boo!) but I've enjoyed a leisurely lie-in, a stroll down to the waterfront, reading my Kindle in the sunshine on the balcony, a bit of blogging and resting my feet! This evening we're going out with work colleages of Mr LG which will be fun but will no doubt be an early evening as they are all working such long hours, added to which the others went home to the UK for the weekend and arrived back at the hotel at around 1.30am so are likely to be feeling a little jaded!

Tomorrow I have another leisurely day, as well as doing a bit of work on my laptop I might also investigate the spa facilities here. Wednesday morning Mr LG and I catch the flight back to LGW and back to what passes for 'normality' at our house!

The long weekend has done both of us good, without the pressures of general every day life at home. It's been lovely to be shown around Malta by Mr LG, to spend time on our own and just be a couple, and I think (hope!) he's enjoyed some time alone with me and showing me around. He warned me that this area is very brown and built up and he wasn't wrong. Everything here is built of local limestone, and if there are planning laws they are not particularly evident, there's a mixture of old and new, and much restoration work in progress. It rained before I got here so where over the last few months everything has been brown and dry suddenly overnight there is a bit of grass here and there.

Driving here is not for the faint hearted. Don't be fooled by the fact that they drive on the same side as us and the signs and rules are very similar! It's every man for himself, zebra crossings you should treat very warily and make sure ALL traffic has stopped for you, give way signs don't seem to mean much at all, and if you commit the cardinal sin of actually giving way  at a junction you will be hooted at from behind even if there's not a millimetre of space to jump into! Oh, and Christmas decorations are going up left right and centre - look rather incongruous in the 21 degree sunshine but hey ho!

So on Wednesday I go home and back to being a mum as well as a wife, but feeling like I've had a bit of 'us' time with Mr LG and a bit of 'me' time while he's working - all very important in either getting your groove back or maintaining it!
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A Long Weekend In Malta - Part One

Mr LG is currently working in Malta as a consultant to their national airline, he and the other consultants are very good at what they do and inch by inch they are progressing. Change is not something welcomed with open arms and it can be very frustrating for those that can see that change is the only way forward - "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result." Whoever said that is right (Einstein or Franklin, take your pick!), but the culture here really doesn't like change. This makes the long 10 hour work days for Mr LG really rather stressful and tiring. He does come home some weekends, although not all weekends, and rather than being totally relaxing and stress free they can be stressful too. I am good at coping on my own but when Mr LG gets home things happen such as the terrierist LGs escaping and pulling all nighters which are stressful, and the ordinary everyday stuff  such as laundry doesn't magically do itself so I can't just forget that the school uniform needs to be washed!

Being at home I don't really get to forget that I'm a mother first and foremost. My eldest is now 18 and the youngest 15. The eldest is great at doing practical things such as putting up new fencing to try to contain the LGs, the youngest gets himself up in the morning and gets ready for school. But I'm still their mother and get to do the laundry and most of the cooking and clearing up! So I suggested that it might be an idea for me to pop down to Malta for a couple of days rather than Mr LG coming home, and I have to say that it's been wonderful. Although you never completely forget being a mother, it's rather nice for a change to just be a wife.

Mr LG normally stays in the Victoria Hotel, Sliema, which looks fabulous as you walk in, very opulent and regal, however, he arranged for us to be upgraded to the parent hotel, The Palace, which is connected via a corridor, and the differences are apparent immediately e.g. the lift in the Palace wizzes you silently and smoothly to your destination floor while the lift in the Victoria trundles, rattles and jolts at around a quarter of the speed. I think possibly because Mr LG is a regular here his upgrade request was upgraded again and we have one of the Designer Suites on the 7th floor with an enormous bed you literally sink into,  a huge flatscreen TV in front of a comfy Chesterfield and a luxurious bathroom complete with a deep tub you can wallow in for hours with your Kindle, a separate shower and fluffy bath robes, not to mention the huge balcony with sun loungers, table and chairs accessed via two sets of sliding doors.

Friday evening after I arrived we went out to the local supermarket and bought some food and sat on the balcony to eat it. It gets dark pretty early here, being close to the equator, so it was rather romantic sitting in the warm November evening with the lights on the yachts and all over the towns twinkling away, and the church just across the street looked so beautiful with the dome and bell towers all lit up. Then even though the clouds looked fairly wispy and non-threatening it started to rain, so we shoved the table and chairs under the overhang of the balcony above and continued dinner in what turned out to be a fairly hefty thunderstorm!

Caffe Cordina
Saturday morning we went into Valletta by bendy-bus (yep, Malta has got Boris's cast offs!) which was experience. I don't suffer with travel sickness but it was a close call on a bendy-bus bouncing alarmingly over rough and potholed roads! Don't come to Malta expecting to pick up bargains, many of the shops are British (M&S, Next, etc.,) and cost more than at home. Mr LG did take me to a wonderful place for coffee, Caffe Cordina, which is definitely worth a visit as the interior is absolutely stunning and has a rich history. You can while away some time sipping your coffee and indulging in some of the luscious looking cakes whilst the locals pop in for a swift breakfast taken at the bar.
Interior of Caffe Cordina
Another must see in Valletta is St. John's Co-Cathedral whether you are a practising Catholic or a staunch agnostic - remember to take something to cover your shoulders as you won't be allowed in if not suitably dressed. The rather austere outside of the building hides an awesome baroque interior - the word awesome is used far too readily and has lost much of it's meaning these days, but the interior of this building does leave you feeling truly awestruck.
St. John's Co-Cathedral
Love it or hate it, the intracate carvings, paintings and inlaid marble floors have to be seen to be believed and the very reasonable entrace fee of 6 Euros per adult gets you access to the cathedral to wander at your leisure (outside service times) with a handheld audio guide, viewing works of art such as Caravaggio's Beheading of St. John The Baptist (macabre subject matter but the size of the canvas is immense and makes you wonder how on earth they removed and transported it for restoration!) and Saint Jerome Writing, as well as a collection of sacred vestments and Flemish Tapestries. 
Interior of St John's Co Cathedral with chairs removed
On Saturday afternoon we drove to the ancient walled city of Mdina which is also worth a visit to wander around the medieval and baroque architecture and to gaze at the views from the walls across the island. You can take a horse and carriage ride around the city, but these are very touristy (i.e. overpriced!) and best avoided so that you can explore to your hearts content the narrow alleys.
Narrow medieval street
in Mdina

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Designing and Creating Cakes By Janet Mohapi-Banks

Our Guest Blogger this week is Janet Mohapi-Banks who designs and creates the most exquisite cakes to suit every taste and wedding theme.

Designing and creating cakes is the most enjoyable part of my job. Wedding cake design can take inspiration from the clients stationery, dress, flowers or colour scheme. This ensures that the wedding cake is the centrepiece of the day that ties everything together.

The design process starts with a private consultation that typically lasts a couple of hours and is usually held at the clients home or wedding venue. The luxury service I offer means that I usually get to know my Brides and Grooms really quite well and I feel that this is an important part in designing a cake perfect for them. Although my Brides and Grooms get a portfolio of previous cakes to look at, each design is unique and based on their tastes and their unique wedding day.

Sketches are drawn with the clients present that enables them to visualise their cake and the ability to let know the features they like and the aspects that they would like to change. The sketch is then changed accordingly until the client is happy with every part of their wedding cake design.

Once the design is finalised and the order confirmed, I get to work creating the sugar features that will be present on it. Whether it’s sugar flowers or piping templates, all aspects of the cake including the cakes themselves are handmade to order.

My signature cake Rose contains literally hundreds of hand-pulled sugar roses. Each sugar rose takes between about 10 minutes to about an hour to create depending upon size so it is therefore necessary to start making sugar flowers as early as possible if many of them are featured on the cake.

Rose Sculpture Cake
Cake: Janet Mohapi-Banks -
Photography: Juliet McKee -
Styling: Stacey-Marie Chalk -
Flowers: Woods Florist -
Stationery: Ivy Ellen -

Extensive hand-piping usually requires planning and templates are created to ensure that the pattern is evenly spaced. Obviously the hand-piping can’t be done until the cake is baked and covered in almond paste and icing. This means that although the planning can be done in advance the actual piping has to be done at the last minute.

Given that all Janet Mohapi-Banks cakes are baked as close to the delivery date as possible to ensure freshness, except the rich fruit cake that takes three months to mature, extensive hand piping sometimes requires working through the night.

Whatever the design, a Janet Mohapi-Banks cake is guaranteed to be aesthetically exquisite and tastes as good as it looks.

Forget Me Not Sculpture Cake

Cake: Janet Mohapi-Banks -
Photography: Juliet McKee -
Styling: Stacey-Marie Chalk -
Flowers: Woods Florist -
Stationery: Ivy Ellen -