Hints & History

Unless you work in P.R. it won't be every day that you look for somewhere to host what is, effectively, something akin to a theatrical event for you, your family and friends. These few pointers and thoughts were originally written in the days when we hosted larger weddings, now in lightly edited form they may still prove useful for couples planning a reception...

• Yes, we've all seen pictures of 'celebrity' weddings: they demonstrate that, if nothing else, anything is possible with enough budget but unless you have a magazine deal, corporate sponsorship or just lots and lots of lovely money, it's only 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) or the aspirational perfection lurking on social media: those initial ideas can be inspiring but may not be feasible or realistic on a 'normal' budget. With careful planning and a dash of creativity it is perfectly possible to create something beautiful, unique and memorable without taking on a second (or third) mortgage.

• To achieve that memorable wedding there is no quick and easy 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 thought may have you reaching for Rescue Remedy or the gin especially if you're not one who has been planning your wedding since before your 10th birthday. The sheer breadth of trends and "must-haves" can be overwhelming so making one strong, bold statment will achieve more than scattering little bits and bobs. There'll be so much going on during the day that guests may well not notice those tiny details. Maybe look through the gallery pages of the website or our Facebook page for inspiration or just for 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 couples hire me to style and "dress" their wedding for them.

• You could well be dealing with several suppliers so don't rely on telephone conversations always get things confirmed in writing then you and they will know what's been discussed and agreed: email is wonderful for that. And bear in mind too, that something you agree with one supplier could well affect another so, for instance, mention the florist's table-centre designs to the caterer as that may affect how they present your wedding breakfast or tell the florist how food will be served so they can plan your flowers accordingly, if you have an epic list of groups for the photographer to work through then ensure the caterer has an idea of the photographer's schedule so they can plan their timeline or you'll risk having the food cooling while the caterer is boiling over if you're still posing for 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 what your and your venue are expecting - 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 solely on grounds of merit, personality and value for money no commission payments are involved. 

• Cakes and seating plans... a source of much stress! If the cake's coming from a "professional" encourage them to liaise with you and your venue on delivery and setting-up. When you're discussing the design with your cake-maker bear in mind whether the cake will need to be moved: usually it won't be but if one's one that needs to kept in cold-storage 'til it's ready to be presented and cut then delicate and fragile decoration might not be ideal. 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 attempt to put a tier of fruit cake on top of sponge and check if the cake needs dowels that there are dowels supplied with the cake as the 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 suddenly drop out the moment you've finished it. Seating plans are essential for the caterers - give them a sketch of where you'd like the tables placed, they may not be able to execute it exactly but it'll help them and add a key specifiying children and special diets. Personally I think it's a cop-out numbering tables (unless you're a maths teacher) try creating a talking point by naming them instead: names can be comic or 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 (we've had 4 Toms at a recent wedding) a surname initial will help sort who's where; oh and one more - make sure those guest names tally across the caterer's plan, the table plan and the name-card - you may well know someone by a 'random' nickname - but your caterer won't!

And the most essential tip of all:

• Never assume: if in doubt, check. A marquee supplier we know has a great motto (which isn't fully printable here) which goes something like this: "Assumption is the mother of all ****-ups". It may aggravate to double-check detail but 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. Many years (more than he's prepared to admit to) working in interior design has provided great preparation for guiding couples preparing a wedding. He now has Honorary Degrees 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 500 couples celebrating their marriage at Friars Court.

Jeffrey's expertise lies in his ability to work with couples, teasing out their own ideas and steering them towards ideas they didn't know they'd had yet and match-making them to suppliers who can bring those ideas to life.

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