So you're getting married... Congratulations! Now comes the fun part of making your day exactly how it should be! Package weddings are boring - here are my 14 elements to make your wedding unique.
I'm Joe Carter, I've been a DJ for 15 years. I've played at a whole host of festivals including Glastonbury and Bestival, numerous bars and clubs around the country and over the years, I've provided the music at plenty of weddings. From my experience, the best weddings consider and execute all of these elements perfectly.
Remember: Your wedding resembles your personalities combined. Be sure to include elements of yourselves in everything!
The Obvious Ones
Numero uno on your list should be the venue. This will often be the starting block for loads of other stuff - once you have your venue, everything else becomes much easier. Here are 3 Indy venues I have performed in which I loved the most.
Grittenham Barn, Sussex
Brixton East, London
St. John, London
Setting a Date
Once you have found the venue of your dreams, naturally you will want to set a date. If you have chosen to hire a venue then be prepared for it to be a long wait! But that's ok, it means the venue is in demand and regularly holds weddings to a good standard. When planning our wedding, the earliest date we could get was 18 months in advance. This turned out to be great as we were able to enjoy getting a lot of the other wedmin* done in a relatively leisurely fashion.
*A term my wife insisted upon using throughout the process.
What Are We Going To Wear!?
Believe it or not, there is a fashion around wedding wear. This can work well both ways. If you are a fashion guru and believe that your wedding should look up-to-date and expect to be on the cover of Wedding Ideas Magazine, then you can take full advantage. If however, you aren't too fussed, you can pick up some bargains from fashion outlets if you time it right. I bought my wedding suit from a Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row at 40% of the price it should have been, just because it was last year's look.
Equally, you can find bargains all over the place - some of the best dresses I've seen have been bought in a charity shop or vintage market and tailored after. This takes a lot of time and effort, but can be a real budget-saver if you're looking to cut some costs!
Finding Great Flowers
Flowers are KEY bro. Get the right blend of colours and your photos will go from being average to looking stunning. We wen't with Angel Like Flowers and have recommended them to so many people since.
Food & Booze
When it comes to the wedding breakfast*, this is a chance to get creative. Throw away the rule book. And that doesn't mean do a hog-roast (no offence to hog roasts - I am a fan) We barbecued beef and had summery salads. Simple, elegant, filling. Whatever your budget, you can be very creative. What/Where did you guys eat on your first date? Do you have a favourite place to go for brunch or dinner? perhaps they do catering...If not, perhaps they would after hearing your romantic story and creative ideas.
Why not get everyone to make something and bring it along? This is a great way to include everyone and makes a great talking point. I remember a small vegan wedding where each person was challenged with making a vegan dish for a buffet-style wedding breakfast. It got everyone chatting!
Let's talk canapés. We've all had enough vol-au-vents to fill the Titanic by the time we're in our mid twenties, so what other options are there I hear you cry! Here are some of my favourites.
I once had ice cold radishes with a variety of dips. Perfect at a summer wedding. So refreshing and completely inoffensive. I've also seen tuna and watermelon tartare and Pintxos.
Pintxos (pronounced Pin-Choss) are a small, one or two bite tapa. We got engaged in the Basque region of spain so we knew all about these. We loved them and they really impressed our guests. they ranged from jamon serrano and poched quail's egg on tostada (pictured) to simple tortilla (spanish omelette) and the elegant palate cleansing gilda.
Also, it's good to remember that canapé time is prime time for boozing. If you want to keep your renowned distant cousin from falling off his chair or stop auntie Sue interrupting the speech then I suggest over-compensating on the pre-game nibbles!
CAKE! We saved by honouring my Mother-in-Law with the task of producing a real show stopper. Seriously, she should do bake off. If you have a similarly talented friend or relative, ask them!
As a DJ I'm always curious to see what (if any) late night snacks are on offer as I'll be looking to get a little something myself, especially if I'm going until the early hours!
Firstly, make sure it's something YOU both like. This seems obvious, but it's so easy to get caught up in what other people might want when organising a wedding.
Secondly, you want something simple, ideally dealt with by someone else. I've seen it all, from massacred jumbo cheeseboards and lasagne on the dance floor to elegant artisan donut towers and posh kebabs.
The guys at Eat the Street do a mean selection of late night food (including the aforementioned posh kebabs) for those with a medium to high budget.
When it comes to booze, it's always cheaper to provide your own wine and bar. Why not hold a little wine tasting with your bridesmaids and groomsmen - you'd be surprised by some supermarket bought wine. Set yourself a budget per bottle (a fiver, say) and get tasting! For the evening, why not contact a local brewery to appease the beard-stroking craft ale brigade and find a few artisan spirit start-ups to create a couple of elegant cocktails for the ladies.
It was Shakespeare who said, "If music be the food of love, play on." He was right. This is another chance for you to throw away the rulebook. Get a funk band! Get a festival style DJ! Get an X-factor reject! I actually looked in to getting a Cheryl Cole impersonator as a surprise for the wife at our wedding but she was unavailable on the day!
Have fun with your music and do what you love! I asked my Dad, a guitarist to play a song for us as we walked down the aisle. He ended up writing something especially for us and then giving us an MP3 - an amazing memory for us and a something so unique and special.
There are various styles of photography and it's really down to personal taste on this front. My only advice would be to raise your budget slightly, photos and a video are your memories of the day - make sure they are perfect. I know a number of wedding photographers from performing and networking, feel free to get in touch if you are looking for one!
The Less Obvious Ones
The Table Plan
This is a fun one, especially if you fancy yourself as a tactician. we got loads of mini post-it notes and some big paper and drew our tables out. We then spent the next 3 months trying to figure out who should sit where, which personalities matched, who would get on with each other, do we put all the children on one table? In the end, we nailed it. Needless to say, we probably over-thought it a bit but it worked for us. Be creative with your table names/numbers as well. We went for Fibonacci as we thought we were clever and no-one would get it. Everyone got it.
Should We Allow Children?
A classic wedding dilemma. Of all the weddings I've been to, the ones with children tend to have a more family-like atmosphere, the ones without tend to get more raucous. The best children's entertainment I've seen at a wedding is a table full of lego. There were as many adults playing as there were children!
The Morning After
It's becoming more and more popular to have a morning after brunch/BBQ/pool party to help you transition out of SUPER-EXCITED-OMG-WEDDING mode back to reality / your ridiculous honeymoon. this can be as easy as a nice hungover brunch in a local establishment with your nearest and dearest, to a BBQ at Auntie's house, you know - Auntie with the nice garden.
If your wedding isn't a cab journey away from your home, you might consider staying somewhere special nearby. you might also want to advise others on local accommodation around the time of the wedding. Check for other major events going on in the area before you book and be sure to advise your guests to book early. As a fail-safe your venue might be one that provides accommodation in the price or even on-site camping!
You've found your perfect venue but it's in the middle of nowhere. Almost everyone will be on the sauce so no-one will be driving. Hmm..... Have a list of local cab companies to hand or if you're feeling flush, lay on a coach / bus service to/from the reception. I've seen guests turn up on a red London double decker bus, Rolls Royces and mini coopers. I actually ended up on a bus full of after-party goers once!
The Ones You Hadn't Even Thought of!
Entertaining the Troops
I like the wedding where there are a couple of fun things to do. There are loads of companies offering photo booths these days, but we can be more creative than that if we try.... Have you ever heard of Mölkky? It is possibly the best and most inclusive game ever invented.
I'm going to say it one more time. Throw away the rule book! This is again a great chance to get creative and stamp a bit of your personality on the day. what are you guys known for? What brought you together? Can you easily personalise something for each guest?
Thanks for reading. I hope this has been remotely helpful for you. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below!