Hints & History

Unless you're in PR it won't be every day that you look for somewhere to host what is, effectively, something of a theatrical event for you, your family and friends. So here are just a few things or thoughts which might be worth bearing in mind as you plan and organise.

• Yes, we've all seen the pictures of 'celebrity' weddings: they prove, if nothing else, that anything is possible if you can pay for it. But unless you've a magazine deal, sponsorship or just lots and lots of lovely money, it's rather too easy to be swept up in a train of frills, favours and fireworks. Don't be too influenced by magazines (who just want to sell you things you may not really need) or by what you think you have to have. Those initial ideas may not be feasible or realistic for the budget. With careful planning and a dash of creativity it is perfectly possible to create something truly beautiful, memorable, wonderful and unique that need not cost a third mortgage.

• To achieve that memorable wedding, we, here at Friars Court, endeavour to offer couples a considerably greater degree of flexibility and control. Having control gives you your wedding your way but... it is no quick route to a free lunch - it's planning, organising, delegating, liaising and devoting time to sourcing, contacting and keeping up with all the suppliers you'll need to create the wedding. That may well have you reaching for the Kalms or the gin especially if you're one of those brides who hasn't been planning your wedding since before your 10th birthday. The sheer breadth of trends and "must-haves" out there can be rather overwhelming, one strong, bold statment is worth far more than lots of fussy bits and bobs - there'll be a lot going on during the day, guests may well not notice the tiny details. Maybe look over the extended galleries on the Silver Pear website for inspiration or just the confidence-boost of seeing what other couples have done before. Many brides adapt, borrow or copy. Don't forget, I am here for styling advice beforehand and on the day - in fact some brides pay me to "dress" and style their ceremony and reception for them.

• You could well be dealing with a variety of suppliers; whoever you deal with and however nice they sound, always get things confirmed in writing: email is wonderful for that. And bear in mind too, that something you discuss with one supplier may affect another so, for instance, if the wedding breakfast is a 'table buffet' mention it to the florist - neat posies will be totally obscured by the food-stands - if you have an epic list of photos make sure the caterer has an idea of the photographer's schedule or you'll have the food cooling but the caterer boiling over if you're still having photos when you should be on your first course.

• Check supplier's delivery and set-up dates in case their ideas (or assumptions) don't coincide with yours or ours - marquee and furniture hire companies, florists and cake-makers are prime examples as they may want or need to deliver at different or difficult times.

• Recommended suppliers are put forward purely on grounds of merit, personality and value for money: if I suggest someone it's simply because I think they'll be on your 'wave-length' not because there's £50 in it for me if you book them. I don't take commission from anyone. Many of my recommended suppliers have come from previous couples, so if there is someone you know we're happy for new people to work here - just encourage them to visit so they know where they¹ll be working and what they might need to bring.

• Cakes and seating plans... a source of much stress! If the cake's coming from a "professional" encourage them to liaise with us on delivery and setting-up, bear in mind that the cake may need to move location once it's here - from store to the Garden Room then over to the barn or into a marquee - so anything fragile or delicately-fixed might well give you, the cake-maker, me or the caterer the vapours 'til it's safely relocated. If you're supplying your own cake or buying one from a super-market (don't knock it - M&S or Waitrose will always be consistent!) don't try to put fruit cake on top of sponge and check if the cake needs dowels that there are dowels with the cake. Last thing anyone wants is The Leaning Tower Of Cake. And so on to seating plans... a treat to look forward to, especially when three guests drop out just after you've produced it. No, it's more for the caterers - give them a sketch of where you'd like the tables, they may not be able to execute it exactly but it'll help them. And rather than the cop-out of numbering them from 1 - 10 (unless you're a maths teacher) try naming them - it can be comic, tell a story or just be something, anything, 'personal' to you as a couple. But getting back to the setting-up, some brides want to set out name-cards themselves, others can't or don't. Present the caterers either with a list or a plan with guest names listed in seating order per table. Better yet, pack little boxes with a kit for each table - then you know you've included everything you want for each table. And one other thing... if guests have the same names (I counted 4 Toms at a recent wedding) a surname initial will help sort who's where; oh and one more - make sure the same guest names tally across caterer's plan, table plan and name-card - you may well know someone by a 'random' nickname - but we won't!

And the most useful tip of all:

• Never assume: if in doubt, check. One our marquee suppliers has a great motto (which isn't printable here) - it goes something like this: "Assumption is the mother of all ****-ups". It may aggravate to double-check detail, better that than panic on the day when something should be done but no-one knows they should do it. On the day you will have more important things to concentrate on (like getting married!).

A History Lesson

Jeffrey moved from London in 2002. Working in Interior Design (for more years than he's prepared to admit to) has proved great preparation for guiding couples preparing for their wedding or partnership. He now has an Honorary Degree in Suggestion, Persuation and Arbitration. Friars Court was granted a Civil Ceremony licence in 2003 and in that same year Jeffrey set up Silver Pear Weddings. Since then he has worked with over 350 couples celebrating their marriage at Friars Court.

Jeffrey's expertise lies in his ability to work with couples, teasing out their ideas, steering them to ideas they didn't know they had and match-making them with suppliers to bring that idea to life.

Jeffrey combines all this while continuing with interior and garden designing commissions including the gradual make-over of Friars Court itself.