Make your day a Milestone and not a Millstone!
Guardian, 14th February 2002
A wedding planner can make sure that your big day will go without any extra hitches, writes Juliet Shedden
Traditional church weddings in England and Wales, which for 20 years have made up more than half of all weddings, now only account for 38%, the rest being held in register offices or approved premises such as stately homes or castles.
The main reason for the shift towards alternative venues is the 1994 Marriage Act which, for the first time, allowed couples to get married in 2,500 approved premises as well as churches and register offices. With this greater choice of civil ceremony venues, it is not surprising that numbers of civil ceremonies other than in register offices have risen from 2% in 1995 to 23% in 1999, according to Office of National Statistics (ONS).
A wedding is probably the most expensive celebration in which many of us take part. You and Your Wedding magazine estimates the average cost at around £13,000. With so much choice on offer to couples, organising a wedding can be daunting, which is why so many couples are turning to wedding planners for advice.
A wedding planner can help you find a venue and deal with civil wedding legalities and designing a personalised ceremony. They can help you select the service suppliers involved on the day and arrange transport to and from the venue. They will even send out your invitations and monitor the replies.
First appointments with wedding planners should be free and you are under no obligation to use their services.
Charlotte Nickolds Smith set up The Wedding Design Studio in Kent three and a half years ago, after getting married herself. She thought that after 10 years in corporate hospitality she would be able to organise her wedding day herself. But, she says: "I could not relax being the bride. I found I was the coordinator on the day as well."
This gave her the idea to set up a service for other couples. "At first meetings we talk about how much the couple want to spend and what must be included - like a specific colour or location. For instance, one client specified the venue must have a lake.
"Most couples who come to me started planning their wedding themselves, but have ended up in a panic when they can’t get the venue they want on the day they want," says Charlotte. The Wedding Design Studio organises no more than 30 weddings per year for a fixed fee of £995.
It’s important to book a wedding planner well in advance. "I can't organise a wedding in a week. It usually takes 6 months. But it all depends on when couples are getting married. Summer dates are booked up quickly and couples should book these 15 to 18 months ahead," warns Charlotte.
Everything but the Groom, based in Chelsea, London, was set up by wedding and party coordinator Elizabeth Johnson three years ago. Organiser of the Ebony Bridal Show in Kensington Town Hall at the beginning of this month, Elizabeth says she knows how to help future brides fulfil their dreams.
"Every wedding is individual to the couple involved and must reflect their tastes and ideas. I am there to take the stress and thoughts of last minute problems away," she says. Last year Elizabeth organised 35 weddings, many of which were Nigerian or African-Caribbean weddings. She charges a fee of 10% of the total cost of the wedding and says: "The main difference between white English weddings and Nigerian or Afro-Caribbean weddings is the food, drink and music. Brides want calypso music, want to drink rum and the food is an African feast."
Yinka and Ben Aiyenuro used Everything but the Groom when they got married in May last year. "I didn't want to do all the running around myself, so I got Elizabeth to help me. I had already chosen my dress and knew which church I wanted to marry in, but had no venue for the reception.
"Elizabeth organised everything - from new furniture in the hall, down to the detail of the flowers on the tables. She oversaw the whole day, while we just relaxed and enjoyed our day," says Yinka.
Keeping the costs under control
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