I’m so excited to announce ticket sales for the highly anticipated Flourish & Prosper: The Wedding Academy are now open! Together with my fellow biz partner in crime, Louise Beukes from b.loved, we have been busy behind the scenes over the past few months assembling a super duper incredible team of expert speakers, fabulous partners and stylish sponsors! We can’t wait to open the doors to our very first F&P event and meet lots of excited wedding pro’s looking to grow their businesses!
F&P: The Wedding Academy takes place on 1st November 2014, at Icetank Studios - a hidden gem in the heart of Covent Garden in London. We’ve got so much planned for the lucky 25 attendees who sign up, seriously this is one you really don’t want to miss!
My poor little blog has been a little quiet recently as I’ve had a super busy wedding season to take up my time, as well as getting everything planned for the first ever Flourish & Prosper event. Excited much? YES!
I’m also prepping the house for baby number two, due to arrive at the end of August. So hard to resist buying every single cute item of baby clothes that catches my eye on pinterest. Just seven more weddings and a spa date to go before I have a little time off.
Anyway, I thought it might be nice to give you a bit of a visual round up of what I’ve been doing behind the scenes at Jessie Thomson HQ since I last gave you an update in May.
Since my last update I’ve had three weddings and a tea ceremony, lots of travel around the Cotswolds and the UK, many itineraries and schedules created and sent out, smelled beautiful florals, eaten delicious macarons and mallows, and enjoyed plenty of toddler snuggles in between.
I’ve had the most wonderful start to May 2014, two beautiful and totally different weddings, an inspiring workshop with those talented ladies at Illuminated Collective. A trio of incredible fine art photographers who have collaborated to help bring their work to a wider audience, inspiring others along the way!
Some of you may follow me on Instagram already, but I thought I’d give you a little round up of images from behind the scenes of my month so far… and with two more weddings to go this weekend, it’s set to stay exciting!
Hope everyone is looking forward to a lovely weekend of weddings or relaxing!
Well wedding season is truly underway! After a nice break and some weekends to myself after the last wedding in January, I’m just getting back into the swing of things and enjoyed two fabulous and very different celebrations over the last few weeks.
One involved a 13 hour day and 9.5 hours of driving. Yikes! It was an amazing woodland forest inspired wedding with a nod to Shakspeare and the Cornish sea. Plus the most amazing first dance ever! The other was a classic country wedding in a Cotswolds manor house, a beautiful bright sunny day with the cutest of teeny flower girls.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you want to check out a few behind the scenes photo’s before anyone else!
Today though I wanted to write a quick post on when you might want to suggest to a bride that they should hire a wedding planner.
This isn’t just a post for desperate Mum’s of brides and well wishing bridesmaids, it’s also (I hope) helpful for any suppliers who find that their clients might be in need of a little extra support.
There are some tell tale signs that a couple might benefit from hiring an independent wedding planner:
1. The bride or groom appear to be getting easily stressedor feeling overwhelmed by the planning or design process.
2. The bride or groom both work long hours, have a career that takes precedent or who just aren’t that interested in planning a wedding beyond picking a date.
3. Frequent emails/calls/texts in a panic about the smallest of problems – wedding planning is rarely a smooth process, and having an independent and objective planner you trust can alleviate those nerves.
4. Problematic or challenging family members – this is almost always Mother’s, I hate to say. It usually stems from a positive place but can be stressful when emotions are running high. Sometimes giving a neutral 3rd party control over supplier communication can avoid any serious dramas!
5. When the venue is far away – having someone on the ground, who knows the venue and area well, is invaluable. If someone is planning a destination wedding, they should really hire a planner.
6. A strong desire to have a beautifully styled wedding, but no natural ability to create an imaginative design concept. Here hiring an event designer or stylist is worth it’s weight in gold!
7. When planning a marquee wedding or venue without an in house co-ordinator. Although once again I want to remind you that in house wedding venue co-ordinators are not one and the same as as an independent wedding planner. Read this article for more info.
I talk about this with a lot of friends and suppliers, and the question of tact is almost always brought up when I mention referrals. No one wants to appear rude or like they don’t care about their client or friend. So here are a few ways you can gently suggest a wedding planner might be handy..
“Do you know who will be in charge of your wedding day timings and logistics yet?”
“Have you thought about hiring a professional to help pull everything together and recommend reliable suppliers?”
“Do you think you might benefit from a little extra support from an independent wedding planner?”
Or even very simply… “have you hired your wedding planner yet?“.
Let’s make it the norm people!
If this suggestion isn’t met with shock or horror, then now is the time to recommend your own wedding planner or, if you’re another wedding supplier then you can list any you like working alongside. Remember, as a wedding professional it shows you in a positive light when referring trustworthy suppliers.
It may well be worth reiterating the value that us wedding planners add to the overall experience too.It’s not just about timelines and schedules, it’s about creating a wedding that truly reflects a couples personality and allowing them the freedom to actually enjoy the planning process.
On the flip side, there are a few warning signs when not to hire a wedding planner….
1. They have a really tight budget. This couple may be able to afford an “on the day co-ordinator” but it’s unlikely you can afford the full service. Yes, yes, we can save you time and money. However it’s often not enough when you’re working with a £5k budget and 200 guests!
2. The parents are paying and they don’t want a planner. Let me tell you, nothing makes a wedding planner’s job harder than trying to please multiple parties with a vested interest, who aren’t the client. If those parties aren’t willing to trust an independent planner to do their job properly, then having one may well only result in more conflict. It’s also a very good reason to hire one (!), but in that case it’s essential the planner meets the parents and brings them on board upfront, and occasionally the couple may need to remind Mum & Dad that the planner’s professional opinion takes precedent.
3. The bride is a control freak. I get it, so am I. Most planners will work closely with a couple and don’t try to take over the planning process completely. They just take the stress out by suggesting appropriate suppliers and managing more boring admin. However if you’re going to question the planner’s activities daily and send thousands of emails between meetings, you’re not really making good use of that supplier! If this particular friend/client has the time and the inclination to plan a wedding from start to finish… let them! They might still benefit from partial planning to help manage the final few weeks and the day itself though.
Are there any couples reading this who wished someone had suggested they hire a planner for their own big day? Anyone who wished they’d suggested hiring one as they ended up being the co-ordinator/counsellor throughout a friend’s wedding?
I hope everyone had a lovely Easter break? I’m in full on wedding season mode now, but wanted to share a beauty of a wedding with you!
When I first visited this beautiful family home in the Cotswolds, I felt instantly happy. It was a beautiful day and everyone was gathered to talk about wedding plans excitedly, I left with a box of freshly laid eggs and a big smile. Such a lovely place to live.
This marquee wedding that I worked on last year was true to the location, full of sweet personal touches, real ale, and a relaxed vibe which made guests feel at ease amongst the hay bales. Never let a bit of rustic charm put off a bride from choosing the finer things in life though… Suzanne Neville gown, Hermione Harbutt headpiece and Vivienne Westwood heels… yes please!
I arrived on the morning of the wedding to an excited family merrily drinking champagne and getting ready for the big day. After adding finishing touches to the set up, including a few DIY flowers, I headed over to see the bride and her girls getting ready. Loved the mismatched Twobirds Bridesmaid dresses!
Once I was confident everyone in the bridal party was happy, I zipped over to the church where the groom awaited nervously! Actually that’s a lie, he was pretty laid back and enjoying himself at this stage. More excited than nervous.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom led their guests on a lovely little country walk across a pretty field to their marquee site, where I was ready with the catering team to hand out bubbly and cold drinks… it was a scorcher!
The marquee was dressed with colourful lanterns, country flowers and sweet egg cup favours – each guest had their own little personal note from the happy couple. Such a lovely touch.
I was also super impressed with the DIY wedding cake efforts, nice to have a talented sister and bridesmaid on board eh?
I love it when brides make speeches, and this one was absolutely brilliant! Followed by much dancing and merriment, including some fun on hay bales…
With huge thanks to BMC Weddings for capturing all of the magic, including these stunners…
You can also get your tissues ready for this gorgeous film preview from Simon Clarke too…
I’ve been itching to share images from this wedding with you for ages! It was featured on Rock My Wedding a few weeks back and had a HUGE response from readers.
I am hugely grateful to Camera Hannah for being an absolute champion and getting all these amazing shots, as well as creating a super special wedding film which you can see at the end. Took me ages to choose my fave images… so many.
I was first contacted by this incredibly cool bride back in the Spring of 2012, and I liked her immediately! This was a couple who wanted a wedding that was more like a party, they wanted to make it personal and they wanted to make it awesome. There were a few drawbacks… a not so massive budget, a groom who liked to party on through the night, a requirement to have all of it outside despite the UK’s tendency to tip it down at most inconvenient times, and a large number of guests flying over from the US! It was certainly going to be a challenge, but I was excited, and they needed my help. What could I say?
Over the next year and a half I became a huge part of “Team Jones” and their crazy wonderful wedding vision. From finding the right venue (I have never seen such a long shortlist as the one first presented to me!), to sourcing every single supplier, advising on timings and budgeting, and everything in between… we ended up creating this incredible day.
As with most couples on a tight budget, there was a serious amount of DIY effort put into the decor, but two creative minds are evidently unstoppable! It helped that we had some amazing suppliers on site who really understood the vision too, as well as a host of wonderfully supportive friends and family to volunteer their services in the final few days. I loved the little community that was formed at the wedding site all weekend, it made everything feel so much more special.
I had THE BEST time at this wedding. I know, I was working, but it honestly didn’t feel like work once the party got started. Oh and I got to walk around a fire maze with “Ring of Fire” being played at the same time by the headline act. Career highlight, for sure.
I hope you enjoy the photo’s as much as everyone enjoyed the day. Remember, don’t be afraid to get your dream wedding. Anything is possible, especially when you have a wedding planner.
Do take a look at this wedding film by Camera Hannah too. It’s beautiful, and really gives you more of an insider view of the day. She’s so darn clever!
I am in such good spirits right now! The sun is shining, I’ve announced my new amazing side business, and also revealed exciting news about a new arrival in the Thomson family later this year. My brides and grooms have been so sweet in celebrating everything with me, for which I’m eternally grateful.
Today I have yet another announcement! This one is for all my photographer friends (and friends of friends!). You may have already heard about The Photography Parlour which is run by the award winning lovely lady Rosie Parsons?
If not then you definitely need to check it out, as there has just been an lovely rebrand and lots of new additions with some of my absolute fave industry suppliers offering up their mentoring skills too.
I’m sure some of you have a few questions too, so I thought I’d do a quick round up for you… but do feel free to email me at email@example.com if you want to know anything else.
What is fine art photography?
Now obviously I’m a wedding designer and stylist, not a photographer (seriously, I impress myself if I create a decent image using Instagram). So I asked Ashlee from Taylor Barnes Photography to explain her own words for you…
“Fine art wedding photography has developed primarily as a result of demand from the aesthetic driven bride. With a strong focus on stylised, romantic and timeless portraiture. Fine art photographers strive to make an artistic feature out of every detail which has been carefully selected by each couple to make their wedding day unique to them – be it a bouquet, veil or cake. It does not however detract from traditional wedding photography – rather it enhances it.
Fine art photography should also not be confused with film photography. I believe this style of photography lies heavily in composition and the use of natural light, not which medium you use. I personally use both digital and film cameras to capture my own fine art weddings”
Why should I book?
Maybe you’re already an experienced photographer who is comfortable with your camera, who loves shooting weddings, and who would generally say “I’m a really good photographer”.
However I know that most of us in any sector of the wedding industry are always looking to improve our skills and services, to keep growing as artists, to not just be “good” but to be truly “great”. No scrap that, we want to be the best. Right?
I also know from first hand experience that it’s not always easy to build up a portfolio that attracts the right kind of bride, the aspirational clients, those with a great wedding planner or an exceptional eye for design. Creating a styled shoot is an art form in itself, and too often suppliers don’t quite get it right.
So, if you…
1) want to increase your fine art and film photography skills and techniques
2) would like to keep growing as an individual and for your business
3) want to learn how to get more weddings/styled shoot submissions published
4) are keen to attract clients who create beautiful weddings with a certain design aesthetic
5) have never worked with a wedding designer or stylist, but would love a chance to shoot what they create
6) would like advice on how to style your own images, and which ones to include within your portfolio
… then this workshop is an absolute must for you to attend!
Places are strictly limited to ensure that you get plenty of one-to-one time with your mentors, and plenty of opportunities to actually compose beautiful images with hands on tutoring from two of the very best fine art photographers in the UK. So make sure you book fast!
There is also a fantastic opportunity to win a FREE place with our amazing sponsor Wedding Sparrow – a seriously swoon worthy wedding blog dedicated to featuring fine art wedding photography. Entrance closes and winners are announced on Friday 14th March.
NB. If you really want a place on the workshop, make sure you do book and pay the deposit anyway, so that you don’t miss out… and if you’re picked as a winner then we’ll refund it for you straight away. Places are already selling out quickly and we’d hate for anyone to be disappointed.
We are very busy behind the scenes planning some big announcements and working away on the website, so more will be revealed very soon! It’s very simple really though, together our aim is to encourage and inspire anyone setting out or already established within the world of weddings – connecting like minded businesses and professionals, in a creative and beautiful environment.
I’m so looking forward to sharing more about what we’ll be doing over the next few months, and in the meantime I have a series of beautiful real weddings to share with you too. So watch this space!
Please do follow F&P online too, for all the latest news and updates:
Rachel has very sweetly agreed to return with some simple steps and professional tips on how to achieve the hair florals that she also created for the shoot.
Floral headdresses or floral crowns are becoming more and more popular with brides. A gorgeous and natural accessor, they can suit the most bohemian bride looking for a statement piece, to the more traditional bride looking to wear just a simple floral headpiece.Here I focused on using various types of foliage to create the circular head band, which sits neatly onto the head. The foliage consisted of olive, which has a beautiful Mediterranean feel with soft green tones, natural mixed grasses to offer lots of texture and sprigs of pale grey eucalyptus foliage. By wiring the various pieces together into a circle that fits the head, I then taped on the two huge ivory peonies, a real statement flower offering great impact.
In the shoot we created a very simple wired floral hair accessory, perfect to slip into a fabulous up-do. By using various sprigs of foliage cut to length such as olive and honeysuckle to form the backing of the hair decoration, I then taped a wired large blousy peony and a sprig of soft ivory astilbe to the foliage. This was then snuck neatly into the beautiful hair do, standing out perfectly against the brunette locks.
Thanks so much to Rachel for sharing the insider info! Olive is having a real moment in the wedding industry, and I will always (I swear it) love honeysuckle, astilbe and peonies. Honeysuckle always reminds me of my own wedding day, such a beautiful scent.
Is anyone having a go at making floral headpieces themselves? Or are you leaving a job this important to a florist?
As a wedding planner one of the most frequent enquiries I receive is for “on the day” co-ordination, for those couples that want last minute support and someone to oversee the wedding day that they have planned themselves. They realise there is way too much to handle on their own, and they’ve also sensibly realised that their “free” in house wedding planner is not going to cover everything an independent planner will.
It’s no secret that I pride myself on providing bespoke wedding planning services to meet individual requirements (as opposed to set packages) – but I truly believe that you can’t just turn up on the wedding day and make sure everything runs smoothly without prior involvement. At the moment, I do offer “on the day” support like this – but I insist that it actually starts about 4 weeks before the wedding date, and it involves a lot of work on my part to make sure that I fully understand your vision, confirming every single supplier, sense checking timings, compiling a detailed itinerary, liaising with the venue, making a plan for set up and clear down… and much more!
There is still a problem even with this level of support though… I haven’t built up personal relationships with all of your suppliers over the full planning process earning their respect and trust, I can’t guarantee that they will do a great job as I haven’t necessarily worked with them before, I haven’t reviewed all of the contracts for you, and no doubt some of them aren’t used to working with wedding planners - in short, I haven’t personally covered the myriad of tiny details I make sure are taken care of in my full planning service.
Luckily I have great attention to detail, am confident enough to step in last minute, and can remain calm in an emergency too… but honestly? “On the day” wedding co-ordination is a HUGE amount of work for me to get up to speed in such a short time frame. Almost always there are forgotten suppliers and parts of the process that haven’t been thought through.
Which brings me to price. Because there are a lot of co-ordinators and planners out there offering this service for next to nothing. So I thought it would be useful to give a breakdown of time taken in order to complete this job effectively (and I have been conservative):
1.5 hours – initial phone or email enquiry and in-person consultation
1 hour – creating and sending a contract and invoices for deposit + final payments
1.5 hours – full handover with bride and groom before the wedding to go through details and checklists (including travel time)
2 hours – creating a full itinerary and finalising wedding timeline, with all details of the main wedding party and each supplier also listed.
2 hours – communicating with and confirming all the wedding details and timings with venue(s) and every single supplier involved
2 hours – general phone and email support with bride & groom in the run up to the wedding
2 hours – final meeting at the venue with bride and groom to review styling, set up and logistics (including travel time)
1.5 hours – attending and overseeing the wedding rehearsal (including travel time)
12 hours – actual time on-site during the wedding day (including travel time)
1 hour – follow up after the wedding with bride and groom, as well as suppliers, and occasionally having to clear down + return any hire items etc
= 26.5 hours of your wedding planner’s time.
In the UK an experienced planner will sometimes charge about £700 for this service, that’s about £26 per hour BEFORE tax and other general business expenses. This can account for up to 50% (or more) of your income, so really you are only making about £13 per hour.
I know many who charge as little as £350, which means they make about £6.50 per hour after taxes and expenses. That’s pretty close to the minimum wage in the UK.
It might also be worth noting that these prices do not include the cost of paying for an assistant on the wedding day, nor do they account for weddings that aren’t local to your area. You do also get some brides who need a LOT more phone and email support than others.
I actually once had a bride choose another wedding planning company over me who were charging under £350 for THREE on the day co-ordinators. How do they even make a profit?
I know that there will always be new people entering the industry (which I absolutely encourage!), and not everyone can charge high prices… we all have different experience and target markets. But surely our collective minimum hourly rate needs to be a little more? And surely it’s better to price at a reasonable rate and then offer generous discounts and competitions for free support when you start out… rather than create lower expectations in the market?
So I guess this is my call to all UK wedding planners, can we please start to pice our work a little more realistically? There are only so many weekends in the year, and we all need to make a living! I know that wedding planners are still a relatively new concept here, but surely we have to see the value of our own worth if others are going to as well?
I must say that this year I’ve thought long and hard about whether I continue to offer “on the day” services at all. I’ve worked on some fabulous weddings with some absolutely cracking couples in the past, but I know that I have in many ways been underselling how much I am actually worth to them. I can’t count how many times brides have been back in touch with me post-wedding and told me I should put my prices up. Hindsight is a beautiful thing I guess!
So for now, I will continue to offer bespoke and partial planning to brides and grooms needing last minute support, but I’m going to price accordingly. I am still going to be earning less per hour than I did in my previous day job, and I may well end up with less clients per year. However as a wise planner friend of mine said to me recently, “work smarter, not harder”. Indeed!