Once Upon a Time in New York City


Since bringing you the interview with Carly from Epic Elopement many of you have contacted me asking for more posts on eloping and advice on planning a destination wedding.

Some of the hardest parts of trying to plan a wedding outside of the country you live in is figuring out what everything will cost and trying to find reliable suppliers. In this post Claire from Wed in Central Park, provides a basic breakdown of the costs involved in a British couple getting married in Central Park on a budget…

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I have been planning weddings for couples who want to get married in New York’s Central Park for almost five years.  One of my primary goals since founding this business is to offer a great service with talented, reliable and enthusiastic people for a good value price.  I checked what my main competitors were charging to plan a wedding in Central Park and I was certain that I could do it for a lower price, without cutting any corners in the quality of wedding that we deliver. 

Some of the clients I work with are aiming for a big, lavish wedding with a huge group of family and friends from far away, with an expensive gown and a big reception somewhere exclusive and characteristically ‘New York City’.  I can help to provide that, and I am very happy to do so.  I am naturally a frugal person, though, so I cannot help but get excited when I meet a couple who are looking to have a great day on a budget, and are willing to be creative and work a little harder to do so.  I love that you can get married in New York City and have a unique and breath-taking wedding without breaking the bank, and I want to share this idea with as many people as I can.  What follows is a basic breakdown of the costs involved in a British couple getting married in Central Park on a budget.

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Writing Personal Wedding Vows


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It probably isn’t a surprise to you that the ceremony IS THE WEDDING in my eyes. Without the ceremony it wouldn’t be a wedding – it’d just be an expensive party. I’ve done a number of posts on how you can personalise your ceremony such as this one from 2015 and this one from 2012, and I always mention how I well up listening to a couple say their vows to each other.

The husband and I including personal vows in our ceremony was something I wasn’t going to negotiate on. In the UK you have to say certain vows to make the marriage legal, although you get to choose which legal vows you say from a pack the registry office/church give you. These vows can be incredibly beautiful on their own, but I wanted to write extra vows ourselves so we could say our own personal promises to each other.

What I did not realise, is how difficult writing your own vows can be. Every time I sat to think what I wanted to promise him my mind went blank. After quite a bit of time though we both manged it, and I’m incredibly proud of the vows we gave each other.

Here are my tips on how to go about writing your own vows:

  • Before you go anywhere near a search engine, sit and think about what makes your relationship unique, and what silly little things are features of yourself, your partner and your relationship. Note these things down.
  • Note down little things he does for you that you’re thankful for.
  • Jot down what sort of things you’d like to promise your loved one.
  • When taking notes of all these things don’t worry about wording it in any set way, and don’t worry about if the things you’re jotting down are things you definitely want to include in your final wedding vows. This is your initial ideas stage.

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Wedding Customs


Bridesmaids were traditionally used to ward off evil spirits by being dressed similarly to the bride in the hope that the evil spirits would become confused and the bride would be left unaffected. The tradition of the bridesmaid being dressed similarly to the bride is seldom followed in modern weddings, although many brides do choose dresses for the maids that have the same neckline or are made out of a similar material.

Almonds are the traditional favour as they symbolise fertility, longevity, wealth, health and happiness. That’s why pretty much everyone has been to a wedding where the favour has been sugared almonds!

It is customary for the Bride to stand to the Grooms left during the wedding ceremony. This custom dates back to the Anglo-Saxon times when the Groom would hold his Brides right hand with his left so that he could hold his sword in this right hand in case anyone tried to steal the Bride from him.

When it comes to the speeches the first one should be given by the brides father, followed by the groom with the best man last. Slowly more couples are choosing to break this tradition by having the bride say a small speech after the best man speech.

The top table should be ordered from the left as follows: Chief Bridesmaid, Grooms Dad, Brides Mum, Groom, Bride, Brides Dad, Grooms Mum, Best Man. This top table arrangement is to symbolise the joining together of two families. This custom has all but fallen by the wayside due to complex family issues, meaning many couples opt a non traditional seating plan. If you don’t want to stick to this tradition why not have a sweetheart top table for just the two of you with parents ‘hosting’ tables, or have the top table with just the couple, bridesmaids, best man and ushers.

Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue And a silver sixpence in your shoe is the traditional list of what a Bride needs to be kitted out with for her wedding day. Although the Silver sixpence in the shoe is rarely still practised, old, new, borrowed and blue often still is.

In the past Saturday was not the favoured day to get married as although is isn’t an unlucky day it isn’t a lucky one either. In days of old most couples got married on one of the first three days of the week.
Monday for wealth
Tuesday for health
Wednesday the best day of all
Thursday for losses
Friday for crosses
Saturday for no luck at all

May has been considered an unlucky month to marry in for a number of reasons. In Pagan times the start of summer was when the festival of Beltane was celebrated with outdoor orgies. This was therefore thought to be an unsuitable time to start married life. In Roman times the Feast of the Dead and the festival of the goddess of chastity both occurred in May. The advice was taken more seriously in Victorian times than it is today. In most Churches the end of April was a busy time for weddings as couples wanted to avoid being married in May. Queen Victoria is thought to have forbidden her children from marrying in May.

Rings worn on the third finger of the left hand. This tradition dates back to the Greeks who believed that a vein in this finger lead directly to the heart. Technically all veins lead to the heart, buy we’ll let the Greeks off as their belief dates back long before a proper understanding of the circulatory system was gained.

White wasn’t always worn by the bride. White was first worn by rich brides in the sixteenth century and the tradition was given a boost by Queen Victoria who chose to wear white when she got married to Prince Albert in 1840 instead of silver which royal brides usually wore. Before wearing white became the norm after Queen Victoria brides just wore their best dress, which could have been any colour. A bride wearing green was uncommon unless she was Irish as it was seen as a sign of promiscuity (think rolling in the grass casing green stains).

Veils have a few different customary backgrounds. According to records veils were first worn by Roman Brides. Wearing a veil became popular in Britain in the 18 hundreds and is associated to modesty and chastity. In some Eastern countries the bride is left veiled until after the ceremony is complete.

Carrying the bride over the threshold is a popular wedding custom. Where this custom came from is unclear as different sources provide different reasons for why this custom came about. One belief is that because the bride was supposed to be a virgin before her wedding night, the groom carried her over the threshold to save her from the embarrassment and scandal of looking too keen to loose her virginity. In ancient culture people believe that bride was especially likely to be taken by evil spirits that would lurk in doorways and enter the bride through the soles of her feet, therefore the groom carrying her over the threshold protected her from the evil spirits.

Lessons Learnt from Attending a Wedding


10 days ago I published a post about how I choose a wedding guest outfit as I had bought a dress to wear to a wedding I attended on Saturday. Below I have reviewed each element of the wedding and given the lessons I have learnt.

The Venue
Newbury Manor Hotel

The Ceremony
The ceremony was at 3:30PM. The Bride who was wearing a cream mid length straight cut lace dress looked a picture of pure happiness walking down the isle with her father. The vows were short and sweet with two heartfelt readings given, one by a daughter of the bride and the other by the grooms daughter. Decorating a narrow shelf that went the whole way round the room at about chest height was a synthetic vine and candles with the only other decoration being chair covers finished with gold bows. The pictures after the ceremony were taken outside by one of the Brides daughters. Between the ceremony ending and the wedding breakfast beginning was about 1 hour.

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The Wedding Breakfast
The couple decided not to do a receiving line, instead opting to enter the room together once all guests were seated. The wpid-imag0880_1.jpgstationary theme was birds and bird cages with simply elegant laser cut style bird cage place cards and favour boxes housing three foiled wrapped chocolates. Generally the food served at weddings isn’t the best, however all three courses were incredibly enjoyable.

I am also glad to report that the happy couple arranged the seating plan so that guests were sat with people they already knew. Lets just say I am not an advocate for seating guests from the brides side on the same table as guests from the grooms side if they do not know each other. Although when two people get married it is two families becoming one, in the modern world the reality of the two families ever spending any time together after the wedding is slim; so why sit them together under the pretense of it being important for them to get to know each other.
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The decorations for the wedding breakfast seemed to be usual package wedding decorations with a classic floral display atop a mirror plate and scattered table sparkles.

disappointment arrived in the form of the speeches. The father of the bride (TFOTB) gave a succinct speech hitting all the key points; memory of the bride, sentiment about the groom and welcoming the grooms parents to the family ending in a toast. Despite the good start to the speeches made by TFOTB the Grooms speech bored everyone to tears by bring ridiculously long. He hardly mentioned his wife, opting to talk mostly about his sister, which was sweet but odd. After the longest speech in the history of wedding speeches it was the turn of the best man. Unfortunately the Best man did not give a good speech either. In total contract to the groom who loved the sound of his own voice the best man shook like a baby in snow, spoke as quietly as a door mouse and did not include even one joke or story about the groom. NOT EVEN ONE!

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The Reception
The reception was held in the same room as the wedding breakfast, so after a quick turn around where everyone mingled outside or by the bar we re-entered the room for the reception. The newly weds cut the cake and had their first dance. I left with the people I arrived with at about 23:00.
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A buffet was served during the reception and even though the buffet was smaller than average more than half was left untouched.

What I’ve learnt from attending this wedding
If you are planning on a budget you will come across times when you have to make a decisions on what is more important to include such as whether or not to include favours or whether or not to get that entertainer. Therefore I have included below things that people really wont notice if you decide to cut them from your day.

  • Decorations in the ceremony room – choose one or two decorations only, such as flowers on the register table and bows on the back on the chairs. The ceremony room doesn’t need loads of decorations as people will be concentrating on you and the commitment you are making to each other.
  • If yours and your partners families don’t get together much you can forego any entertainment as your guests will be more than occupied catching up with each other. The wedding mentioned above was a family wedding where there was no entertainment provided and to be honest it wasn’t needed because we were all enjoying chatting to each other because we rarely all get together.
  • You may decide not to do thank you gifts for a range of reasons; possibly because you have planned the day without any financial support from anyone else, or because you have decided not to have bridesmaids and groomsmen or because you simply can’t find the room in your budget. Thank you gifts have become customary for the couple to give to parents and the bridal party plus other people who have been especially helpful. Usually the thank you gifts are flowers, a bottle of alcohol or a personalised gift. If you still want to thank people but don’t have the budget for gifts then you can thank them in the grooms speech and out cards and a heart felt personal thank you written inside, or just thank them verbally without handing out gifts. It is a relatively new customer so people wont mind if the gifts are absent.
  • Forgoing the expensive evening buffet is a very good idea for the couple on a budget. So much of an evening buffet goes to waste, but people do still like to have a nibble to help absorb some of the merry drinking. Consider serving just your cake and some bacon rolls/small cones of fish and chips as this will give your guests the much needed nibble in the evening while reducing the cost of the evening catering by about half!


Things To Try and Include
One of the most important things I have learnt from the wedding on Saturday is when looking at venues consider how the reception room will impact on your day. If the reception room does not have a bar within the room this will mean that about half of your guests will be where the bar is, which will mean the reception could feel empty. The reception room at Newbury Manor Hotel did not have a bar which did mean half the guests were in the room the bar was in. If you feel this would negatively impact on the feel of your reception try to find a venue where there is a bar within the reception room.

You don’t choose a best man based on their ability to give a speech, you choose them because they are important to you. But if your best man is incredibly shy or extremely under confident with public speaking bear in mind the possibility of having two best men, each given separate duties; one could be in charge of the rings while the other is given the responsibility of giving the best man speech.

Grooms Reaction To Bride Walking Down The Isle


I’ve always said for me the ceremony is the wedding; everything else is just fluff. If I couldn’t afford the full day wedding celebration I would be perfectly happy to have “just” the ceremony. The ceremony is when the couple commit their lives to each other in front of their nearest and dearest. When I have the pleasure and honour of attending someones wedding my favourite part of the day is the ceremony. There is a real magic to a wedding ceremony: the brides walk down the isle, the grooms reaction to seeing his love in her bridal finery, the vows, the signing of the register – it’s the culmination of all those months planning. If the ceremony is personalised with personal vows, tailored readings or an addition to the norm such as a sand/rose or tree planting ceremony, I will cry – without fail.

Whenever I think about my wedding day my mind drifts to how my H2B will react to seeing me walk down the isle. I would be disappointed if he doesn’t turn to look at me as I walk down the isle. Assuming he will I hope to see a big reaction from him; whether that be his eyes growing and him mouthing “WOW!”, or a few tears falling from his eyes as he smiles a big smile at me or him gasping in shock, I crave to receive that emotionally charged positive reaction from him.

A part of me (maybe the part that wants to protect myself from total disappointment) is skeptical about the reactions from grooms seeing their bride for the first time that can be found on all corners of the internet. Some of the reactions are so strong, I wonder if the reaction is not entirely natural. Are they performing for the video cameras, providing their wife with the reaction she has told them she would like, or is this genuine love/surprise/awe they are experiencing?

Or are the men that show the reactions used to create the viral videos more emotional men day to day anyway? My H2B is of the typical cave man variety. He doesn’t express or talk about his emotions unless he is beside himself drunk, and I’ve only ever seen him cry when he is beside himself drunk and telling me about horrible events in his life. I can’t see my H2B giving me much of a reaction when I walk down the isle, but I still hope he does.

High Vows


I thought I’d share with you something I came across today. most couples want their friends and families to remember their wedding day; however it is definitely taking this a step further when you say your vows atop a high wire!

“Couple married in high-wire wedding at Wookey Hole” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-32554088

What’s the strangest wedding ceremony you’ve come across?

Personalising The Wedding Ceremony


For me, my favourite part of any wedding is the ceremony. The ceremony IS the wedding to me, the rest of the modern wedding day is just “fluff”. If the worst came to worst it wouldn’t bother me if my wedding day consisted of the ceremony only. I’ve cried at every wedding, except for one, that I have been to and even watching people get married on TV has me welling up.

The H2B and I will most definitely be doing our own personal vows alongside the normal vows (when we get our pack from the registry office closer to the time we will choose which set of their vows we want to use), but I want to do something else as well to really make the ceremony special and unique.

I have previously looked at rose and sand ceremonies, but somehow neither of those feel “us”; so I’ve done some more research on how we can create a more memorable ceremony and one that truly reflects us as a couple. Maybe some of these ideas will help you too.

PLANT A TREE
Before the ceremony, a tree in a pot is placed off to the side of where the ceremony would be taking place. During the processional, both mothers walk in with a small vase full of water and add it to a watering can. During the ceremony, the officiant speaks about the symbolism of the tree and how it relates to a marriage- the stable trunk, the outstretched limbs that offer comfort etc. The water that the mother’s brought symbolizes the love and nurturing that each family provided to bride and groom as they were growing up. When the couple water the tree they are giving the tree love to grow just as their families love will continue to support them in their relationship.

An extra step that can be carried out if for the fathers to bring in a pot of soil from their home town which the Bride and Groom add to the tree pot before pouring the water.

Ideas for the wording of this ceremony
Celebrant: The Bride and Groom will now take part in a Tree Planting Ceremony, to symbolize the roots of their Planting a tree instead of unity candles!relationship, and the continued growth of their love, as they become each other’s family today. Love is the essence of human experience and emotion. It is the root of all and everything we, as humans, do. Love richens our experience, and fills our lives with meaning. It gives us a firm base from which to grow, to learn, and change. Let your relationship and your love for each other be like this tree you plant today. Let it grow tall and strong. Let it stand tall during the harsh winds and rains and storms, and come through unscathed. Like a tree, your marriage must be resilient. It must weather the challenges of daily life and the passage of time. And just like the tree you are planting, marriage requires constant nurturing and nourishment.
Bride and Groom, would you please water the sapling?
(Bride and Groom water the sapling.)
Celebrant: Remember to nourish each other, with words of encouragement, trust, and love. This is needed on a daily basis so you each can grow and reach your fullest potential – just like this tree. The Bride and Groom will plant this tree in their garden to always be a symbol of their love for each other.

CREATE A TIME CAPSULE
Invite any guest attending to write you a note that’ll be read when opening your time capsule at the agreed time, whether that be on your first, fifth or tenth wedding anniversary. The letters from your guests can include well wishes, advice for married life, predictions of what the next x amount of years will hold for you, favorite memories of you two together, or anything else they’d like to include (you can either include a card about this with your invitations, post about it on your wedding website, and/or have nice stationery and pens available at the venue). People could even put in a gift, or a memento they may have from your relationship together, such as ticket stubs, a photo or even a cracker from your first Christmas together.

You can nominate a member of the wedding party to pass around the time capsule box during the ceremony for your guests to drop in their notes, or have the celebrant/registrar mention the time capsule and then pass it to someone near the front. Once the time capsule has been passed around, (to ensure guests have been given enough time to fill it maybe wait until after you’ve signed the register) seal it up as a couple until your chosen anniversary! To help remind each other of your love for each other put something in the capsule yourselves without showing each other as a surprise for each other when you open it.

This idea really appeals to me, as something different to the usual unity ceremonies but involves all of your guests, and will help them to fill the moment when you are signing the register and posing for photos with your photographer.

Extract from Rev Fullers blog
“I officiated a wedding earlier this year where the bride’s father, an accomplished craftsman, gave them a gorgeous wooden box engraved with the couples names and wedding date he had made himself.

We arranged ahead of time for key individuals to bring something meaningful to place in the box. Each person wrapped their item so the bride and groom would not know what it was and included a letter to the future. We placed this ritual towards the end of the ceremony between a Declaration of Support and  the Blessing of the Marriage.

Today, (Bride and Groom), who began on separate paths, have been joined as one. You, their family and friends are a community of support for (Bride and Groom). Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other. I ask that you always stand beside them, never between them. Offer them your love and your support and refrain from judgment. Encourage them when encouragement is needed and listen carefully when they seek your advice. In these ways, you can honor this marriage. Therefore I ask, now that you have heard (Bride and Groom) exchange their marriage vows, do you, their family and friends, promise from this day forward, to encourage them and love them, and to help guide and support them in being steadfast in the promises they have made?” If you agree, please say, “We do.”  ~ We do.

Truly blessed is the couple who come to the marriage altar with the approval and blessings of their families and friends. At this time I would like to invite (Names) to come forward and place their tokens of support for (Bride and Groom) into this time capsule, lovingly prepared by (Bride’s) father.

A phenomenal tenor sang a beautiful song he had written for the occasion while their friends and family filled the time capsule. Once the last item was placed in the box, I continued…

(Bride and Groom), happiness is having something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. May you be ever grateful for the presence of this precious person who has chosen to make a life with you, and look with anticipation on the day you will open this box together, your tenth wedding anniversary, (date)! “