To view more expert advice on a different topic, please select one from the list below.
Q. Can you suggest some ways for us to plan a sustainable winter wedding?
A. Gemma Halliwell says: As wedding planners located and operating throughout the South West, it's really important to us to help couples plan a more sustainable event. Our top tip is to think reusable - whatever season you're planning for, hiring items such as glassware can cut down on waste. It's also a great idea to arrange to collect and recycle wine and champagne bottles which is a service we have been offering to our clients as part of our post-wedding clear-up.
Winter is a great season to display plenty of candles on the tables to create a romantic atmosphere. Vintage candlesticks and cylinder vases can easily be hired and they cut down on having lots of cut flowers on the tables that can go to waste.
As well as making sure you can reuse everything from your wedding, you need to consider purchasing a sustainable dress. We work with some amazing pre-loved suppliers that not only offer beautiful gowns and the full boutique experience, they'll also save you money.
Gemma Halliwell, West Country Wedding Planner
Small yet perfectly formed
Q. We love the idea of having a micro wedding but are worried about upsetting guests. Can you give us any advice?
A. Hazel Parsons and Rebecca Edwards says: We have seen an increase in interest in smaller weddings recently and our advice is don't feel guilty about keeping numbers low and only inviting your nearest and dearest, your friends and family should understand that it's your special day. With smaller numbers it allows you to spend money on other things that you might not normally have considered. Why not make a weekend of it and spend more time with your closest friends and family before and after your wedding?
There are plenty of ways that you can share your day with absent friends and family and help them to feel part of your celebrations. For example, you could live-stream your ceremony. There are also options to use technology in your choice of entertainment to bring in-person and virtual guests together. CherryTop Weddings has a great entertainment product that does this (www.cherrytopweddings.com).
Although the pandemic meant that some couples had to postpone their weddings, it has offered ways in which to be creative. Some of the most beautiful weddings that we've helped to plan have been small weddings.
Hazel Parsons and Rebecca Edwards, Out of the Ordinary Weddings
Paws for thought
Q. We want our much-loved dog to play a significant role at our wedding. What do you suggest?
A. Sabine Smith says: Wedding ceremonies are a family affair and more and more couples are wanting to make their fur babies a part of their celebrations. There are certainly plenty of ways for four-legged friends to join in! Booking a ceremony with an independent celebrant means that couples can pick where they want it to take place, as well as what they wish to say. More are considering pet-friendly venues where their furry companion is made welcome. Having a celebrant-led ceremony in a pet-friendly venue allows cats, dogs and even a horse to be present and play an important part!
When planning the pawfect ceremony, dogs and cats can be the ring bearers or even an honourable flower girl. Your dog can take on the important task of escorting you down the aisle, wearing a special outfit like a bespoke collar or lead which can be designed to match your theme.
Couples can book pet chaperone companies who'll make sure that the animal is well looked after during the day. They can ensure that your pet arrives on time, washed and groomed and looking its best in its wedding outfit. A dog chaperone will present the dog, as agreed, for the ring-bearing ceremony or to walk down the aisle. They can also take it home once the family portraits have been taken to ensure that the couple can party without worrying. Your furry friend can even be a part of the commitment signature!
Why not consider arriving at your ceremony on horseback? Or in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage? As an animal-loving celebrant, I'll embrace any option, incorporating them into the day.
Sabine Smith, Perfect Day Ceremonies
Q. We're having to reschedule our large wedding for a smaller summer affair and are both feeling a bit overwhelmed! Can you help us with a plan of action?
A. Sabine Smith says: Start with getting the official legal part finalised by getting married in a local registry office. You can be legally married with just two witnesses present for a small fee and then host your main celebration anywhere you like. You could even consider a private elopement venue for this part - Cornwall offers many elopement venues where a celebrant will officiate your ceremony and there are no limits to what you can have. Choose a traditional celebration or something more adventurous like a blessing of the rings or a hand-fasting or sand ceremony.
Why not consider an out-of-season wedding? An early-spring or autumn one can be just as special as a summer celebration. There might be more availability at your chosen venue for these bookings and your wedding celebrant can conduct the ceremony anywhere you like, for example on the beach, in a castle, in a yurt or even a tipi hut. How about booking a house overlooking the ocean for your loved ones to gather in or hosting a candlelit winter wedding in a cosy Cornish cottage?
Seek out venues that can offer a virtual tour. Wedding planners are more than happy to act on your behalf and check out the suitability to make your dream day a reality. Ask potential wedding suppliers for a video call and look at reviews online. You can find recommendations for florists, caterers, wedding planners, cake suppliers, photographers and independent wedding celebrants online and through social media groups.
Why not get creative and learn a new skill? Make your own favours or think about creating a personalised guestbook or table decorations. Now's the time to write your wedding vows. If your ceremony is officiated by a wedding celebrant, you can use any vows or readings that you like, unlike a wedding with a registrar, where you can only use their official vows.
The main thing is to remember that you're both in love and want to get married to celebrate your union. You can plan another special wedding day without feeling like you have lost out if you can't party with lots of guests – sometimes less is more!
Sabine Smith, Perfect Day Ceremonies
Q. How can we plan a smaller wedding than originally intended, and make our guests feel part of our day?
A. Sarah Chapman says: A wedding is about two people. It's great you'll be able to have others there to celebrate with you but don't let worries over who can't be there spoil the day for either of you.
Book your legal marriage first at a registry office with two witnesses present, and then hire an independent celebrant. By doing so, you can celebrate your wedding somewhere that's important to you both, like on a beach, in a woodland area, on a clifftop or in a boutique hotel - the possibilities are endless. An outdoor location is better than sharing enclosed space so take advantage of the small guest list and head somewhere that you couldn't go otherwise with a select few family members and friends.
I believe that your ceremony is at the very heart of your day and I will help you write vows and readings that are perfectly suited to you both as a couple and to your family and your friends. You can sign a certificate in the presence of your guests and, after the ceremony, I'll present your script in a beautiful folder.
I encourage my couples to write personal vows, especially when it's a more intimate wedding. Embrace the opportunity to share words and promises surrounded by the people who are closest to you. Include sentimental details, like wearing your mother's necklace or having your dog walk down the aisle with you, to make the day extra personal.
It's important to think of ways that you can involve your guests that should've been there on the day. Attending events remotely will be commonplace as we venture into 2021. By reducing the number of guests at your wedding to an intimate gathering means that you can plan a micro wedding. They can still feature popular traditions, just on a smaller scale.
Book a professional photographer and also consider hiring a videographer to capture and then share the memorable moments with guests who couldn't be present. Invite them to watch a live stream through Zoom or Skype and remember to interact with them throughout the day.
Personalised face coverings make fun wedding favours and some couples customise these with their newly married initials and wedding date.
Let your guests know what's on the menu so that they can cook and eat the same meal from home. Instead of having a large wedding cake, order cupcakes for each guest and send them to arrive on your wedding morning.
Venues in Devon that welcome smaller ceremonies are Tree Top Escape in Umberleigh, Haldon Belvedere near Exeter, Harefield Barn in Crediton, Middle Coombe Farm near Tiverton, Kitley House Hotel in the South Hams district and Bovey Castle in Newton Abbot. The newly renovated Brickhouse Vineyard located just 20 minutes from Exeter is also an ideal choice for a micro wedding.
Sarah Chapman, Sarah Chapman - Independent Celebrant
Q. We are considering eloping, can you advise us?
A. Jane Caterer says: Since March this year, the search volume for elopement weddings in the UK has risen 300% and while there's no sneaking off to Gretna Green in the middle of the night, it has sparked a growing trend for small, intimate weddings rather than the budget-busting events that we've been used to. This is your chance to downsize the numbers but upgrade the experience with no post-wedding debt.
If you're planning an elopement wedding or a small affair with close family and friends, choose an experienced specialist to ensure it's only the size of your wedding that you are compromising on and not the quality. It enables you to be able to spend quality time with loved ones, and even pets. Often, the entire party can enjoy exclusive use of a venue for two or three days, whether that be a barn or even a castle. Food-lovers can upgrade their menu choices or indulge that picnic on the beach - you have the flexibility to create your dream day.
Jane Caterer, Petite Weddings