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Choosing your wedding venue...

When you start planning your wedding, one of the first things you’ll need to do is decide on your venue. You may already have your ideal venue in mind, but this may change depending on your guest list, your budget, your chosen theme/style, the time of year you want to get married and the venue’s availability.

Some of the things that you will want to think about before viewing any venues are:
     - Do you want the ceremony and reception at the same venue, or different ones?
     - If your budget is an issue, would you consider having a small ceremony with a larger reception? Could your venue accommodate this, or would you need two venues?
     - Do you want an indoor or outdoor wedding? Or do you want any outdoor space?
     - What theme are you having, and does the venue suit it?
     - Do you need accommodation onsite or nearby?
     - Would you prefer a dry-hire venue, where you can often have the day before to set up and the day after to take everything down? (In which case, you might want to consider hiring a wedding co-ordinator to liaise with all the suppliers, arrange the set up and make sure the day runs smoothly.)

When you’re viewing venues you’ll want to bear these things in mind:
     - Do they have in-house catering?
     - Can you use your own suppliers, or do you have to use their preferred/recommended suppliers?
     - Does the venue offer a package with everything included, such a cake, photographer and décor?
     - What exactly is included in the price?
     - Will the venue let you decorate it yourself, or do they require you to have insurance?
     - Does the venue allow live music?
     - Are fireworks permitted?
     - Logistically, how does the venue run on the day (including timings)? This is especially important if you’re having the ceremony and reception at the same venue, and they require time to turn the room around.
     - What is the back-up plan in the case of adverse weather?
     - Will a member of staff be present on the day? If so, who? Can you meet them?

Also, don’t forget to check the finer details, such as:
     - Can the suppliers set up the day before?
     - Can you use real candles?
     - Does the venue allow confetti?

Your guest list and budget will be the biggest deciding factors when choosing your venue, but there are so many different venues available for weddings, including churches, castles, stately homes, hotels, woodlands, tipis, barns, marquees, contemporary, traditional and historic venues, that you are sure to find something that will become the setting for your perfect day.

And don’t forget, if you need any help choosing a venue or planning/styling any aspect of your wedding, please get in touch to find out how I can help you!

It's a nice day for a summer wedding...

When the weather is beautiful and hot, like it has been for the past few days, I can’t help but think of all the happy couples who got married recently. When you’re getting married in England (or doing anything in England, for that matter!) you can never guarantee the weather. You could decide on an outdoor wedding in a field, with a marquee, in the middle of July, expecting the lovely weather we’ve had recently, but then it may rain heavily for the week preceding the wedding, leading to the field becoming waterlogged and unusable. Or, you could have dreams of a winter wedding with snow on the ground, but the chances of it snowing when you want it to are rather small. You just cannot predict what the weather will do, which is why couples and wedding planners must always have an alternative or ‘wet weather’ plan as a back-up.

The weather can be a cause of a lot of worry for the bride and groom, especially those having outdoor ceremonies, which is usually the most important part of the day. Speaking from personal experience, I can vouch for this! When I got married, we planned on an outdoor ceremony at our venue; I wasn’t keen on the wet-weather option, so I was keeping everything crossed for a hot, sunny day. Our wedding was in the May, so we were expecting dry, mild weather, but the weeks leading up to the wedding were wet, grey and dismal. During this time, our dreams of a hot summer’s day changed into a silent plea of ‘please just be dry for forty-five minutes when the ceremony takes place – then it can rain!’ As it turned out, we needn’t have worried; the day was sunny and warm, and some people even got sunburnt as no one was expecting such good weather. It meant we had the ceremony (and day) that we dreamt of, but it also made me realise how much time I had wasted worrying about the weather; it’s not something I had any control over and my time could have been better spent focussing on some other aspect of the day.

Now, in my role as a wedding planner, I always encourage my couples of embrace their wet-weather plans, so that if they need to be implemented, there will, hopefully, not be too much disappointment or inconvenience. It’s important to remember that it's not the end of the world if you don’t have your ideal weather for your special day. After all, as long as you get to marry your partner/other-half/soul mate/best friend, does it really matter what the weather’s like?

Wedding Shows - A Supplier's Perspective

After my last blog-post, discussing the reasons why couples should attend wedding fairs, I had a few comments (which led on to lengthy discussions!) about the pros and cons for the suppliers.

The most obvious benefit from a supplier’s perspective, is that they could potentially generate new business. I do think that there’s more to it than that, though; you get the opportunity to speak to potential clients face-to-face and find out exactly what they need or are looking for, which can be harder to do if it’s by email. You can try out your latest ideas on them, see what responses you get, and gauge how well your product(s) or service is being received.

Wedding fairs are also a great, informal place to network with other suppliers. There’s often a lot of talk about ‘rival companies’ or ‘the competition’, but I try not to see it like that; every business offers something slightly different or approaches the way they run their business differently, and there are more than enough weddings and clients to go around! Exhibiting at a wedding fair means that you can meet a variety of wedding professionals in one place, discuss weddings and experiences you’ve had and build relationships. After all, we all work together in one way or another to produce incredible weddings for our clients.

Of course, you cannot guarantee that each wedding show will be busy and that you’ll come away with lots of enquiries or bookings. Various things can affect the numbers attending, from poor advertising of the wedding fair to bad weather, which you can’t always avoid. I once exhibited at a wedding fair in mid-March, when you’d think the weather would be relatively mild, and it snowed, which meant there was a very low turnout. If you’re concerned about how well a show will be advertised, book one through an experienced and well-known wedding show organiser or get a recommendation from other wedding suppliers.

If the thought of doing a large wedding show makes you a bit nervous, try exhibiting at a smaller one first and see what it’s like, and then maybe build up to doing a bigger show. Some suppliers would say that the bigger shows attract more couples and so you stand a better chance of getting more business. However, the bigger shows tend to be more expensive, so you would need to generate enough business to cover the initial outlay to make it worthwhile.

Wedding shows can be a bit of a gamble, but I have found them to be a good way to meet clients, get new business and meet some great fellow suppliers. Why not give it a try?

Here's to 2018!

I think it's safe to say that 2017 has been a rather busy year here at Caro HQ. After taking the plunge and launching my business, I have been involved with a variety of events, including birthday celebrations, weddings, wedding fairs and styled shoots. This has meant that I have been able to try out different ideas and styles, and I have developed a varied portfolio which showcase the different events I have worked on. I have also met and worked with some fantastic venues and suppliers, and built good, long-term working relationships.

Caro has expanded in the last few months in ways that I had not anticipated happening quite so quickly; I always had the intention of venturing into the styling side of events whereby I would provide the chair covers, centrepieces, etc. myself, but I thought it would be in the second or third year. Fortunately, an opportunity arose and I was able to buy a large amount of stock in bulk, and I haven't looked back since. I love that I am now able to offer my clients the full package of planning and styling their day.

As well as the day-to-day aspect of the business, I have also re-designed and developed my website, and I am thrilled with the results. I have tried different marketing techniques and found what works and what doesn't; I even tackled the dreaded tax return - and it wasn't as bad as I'd feared!

I'm very proud of what I've achieved with Caro this year, but I'm also incredibly excited for what's to come in 2018. As well as bookings that I've already got in the diary, I'll be exhibiting at the Wedding Experience at Detling at the end of January, and at two wedding fairs in March, one at Royal Wells Hotel, and the other at One Warwick Park Hotel. Come along to any (or all!) of these events if you're planning your wedding or a special event, and have a chat to find out how I can help!

So, here's to 2018 and a rather busy and productive future for everyone! I look forward to meeting and working with you soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Why you should do a styled shoot

When starting out in the wedding and events industry as a planner or stylist, it can be difficult to show potential clients what you are capable of, without having photos of events you have worked on. When I set up Caro Events UK, although at the time I had nearly seven years’ experience of working on a variety of events in Kent and London, I could not use any of the images, as they belonged to the companies I had worked for. Fortunately, I was quickly commissioned to work on a few events and so I was able to begin to build my professional portfolio for Caro Events UK.

One thing that can help to demonstrate your creative and styling capabilities, is to work on a styled shoot. I was invited to work on my first shoot this summer, and although I was nervous (because I didn’t know exactly what to expect - daft really, when I've worked on so many events already!) I thoroughly enjoyed the experience; it was great to meet and work with other local suppliers in a beautiful venue. This shoot then led on to another shoot, which had an elegant, classic style in a Tunbridge Wells hotel, and was rather different to the rustic ‘afternoon tea wedding’ style of the first shoot.

I am currently working on the planning and styling for a big shoot for the wedding brochure for an up-and-coming wedding venue in Kent. I am delighted to be working on such a big project and already have a fantastic local photographer, who I have worked with before, on board. I have also been invited to work on a wintery wedding shoot just before Christmas, so I will have an extensive and varied collection of images for my portfolio by the end of the year.

I quickly learnt that each shoot, whilst similar in the standard running times, can be just as different and varied as each wedding and event I’ve worked on, which means they never get boring! Styled shoots also give you the opportunity to play around with different ideas to see what may or may not work at an actual event, be it a new centrepiece, a room layout, or even a smoke bomb for a photo; it is your opportunity to show what you can do.

To anyone in the industry, be it you are just starting out, or even if you have years of experience, I would recommend exploring the options that a styled shoot can give you.

Collaboration and Networking

Over the past few months, I have been meeting with other local suppliers in the wedding and events industry, from venues and photographers, to bakers and confectionery suppliers. The reason for these meetings is to introduce myself and Caro Events UK, as well as finding out more about the suppliers, their businesses and what they offer.

When starting a new business, it can be incredibly daunting putting yourself and your business out there, but networking and finding these businesses to collaborate with is an essential part of building any business and making it successful. You have to approach each meeting with an open mind and think, not only about how this association could benefit you, but how you can assist the other business.

By meeting suppliers in advance, you can build relationships with these businesses, so that you know which is the best business for a particular event you are working on. From this networking, you may find businesses that you can collaborate with, whereby you work closely together, recommend each other, or offer discounts to your clients for using each other’s business.

Collaboration between businesses can be beneficial to both sides; it can inspire you, educate you, help you to solve problems, and, of course, it enables you to grow your network. It will be unlikely for you to be able to collaborate with everyone you meet, but these businesses will still be part of your wider network that you may work alongside in the future.

Fortunately, everyone that I have met with have been friendly and personable, and several businesses have been added to my list of recommended suppliers, as I know that they will deliver excellent customer service. However, networking is never-ending; there are always new businesses to meet and new ideas that people have about what they want at events, and this means that there is always the potential for your business to grow.

Mini-moons

It is well known that weddings can be quite expensive, and with the added cost of having your honeymoon immediately after your wedding, it is no wonder that many newlyweds are now postponing their honeymoons for a while after their wedding. However, a break is surely needed (and well deserved!) after the hard work of planning a wedding, so some newly-married couples are now favouring a short break or weekend away, duly dubbed a ‘mini-moon’. A mini-moon allows the couple to enjoy their first days of married life together away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, whilst also enabling them to save their money to spend on a belated honeymoon, or put towards a new house or whatever they need or want.

Here are some suggestions of places to go for your mini-moon (or to just treat yourself for a short break!) that I have either visited myself or have been recommended to me: 

 

Apsley House Hotel, Bath

Apsley House Hotel is a beautiful Georgian country house, originally built for The Duke of Wellington. Each room has been elegantly decorated in individual ways, and the hotel has a luxurious but very homely feel to it.

There is free parking onsite, with a bus stop out on the main road to take you straight into the city. Alternatively, you can walk into the city in about half an hour. A session in the Thermae Bath Spa is a must if you want to relax, and the Roman Baths are well worth a visit to explore the history of this old city. Architecture lovers will appreciate The Crescent, The Circle and Bath Abbey, whilst Jane Austen fans will enjoy retracing her steps around the city and visiting the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street.

 

Hever Castle B&B,  Kent

The 5* rooms at Hever Castle are situated in the Astor Wing and Anne Boleyn Wing in the Tudor-style buildings behind the main Castle. They are all en-suite, and offer different features, such as four-poster beds or roll-top baths. All B&B guests have complimentary access to the Castle and gardens during normal opening hours.

The village of Hever is well-situated for guests to be within half an hour’s drive of the spa town of Tunbridge Wells, National Trust properties Ightham Mote and Knole House, and the surrounding market towns of Tonbridge and Sevenoaks.

 

Langley Castle, Northumberland

There are a variety of 4* rooms at Langley Castle, such as the Feature Rooms and Deluxe Castle Rooms within the Castle itself, as well as the Castle View Rooms in converted listed buildings in the Castle grounds. The rooms are individually decorated and some feature four-poster beds and window seats.

From Langley Castle, guests are within a half an hour drive of Hadrian’s Wall, the historical Roman site of Vindolanda, and the vibrant city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

 

The Cavendish Hotel, Derbyshire

This sumptuous hotel has two main suites, The Redesdale Suite and the Hartington Junior Suite, as well as Standard, Inn and Superior Rooms. The hotel is within the Chatsworth Estate, which you can explore at your leisure, and the main house is a fifteen minute walk across the grounds in front of the hotel.

The Cavendish Hotel is also well-placed to explore the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales, and is within a half hour’s drive of the buzzing city of Sheffield and picturesque market town of Chesterfield.

 

The Royal Duchy Hotel, Cornwall

The Royal Duchy Hotel is situated by the sea, and has 45 smartly-decorated rooms, some with views across Falmouth Bay or of Pendennis Castle inland. Turndown service is available, and some rooms offer luxury bathrobes and slippers.

There are two beaches within walking distance of the hotel, and it is ideally located for guests to explore Pendennis Castle and the National Maritime Museum, in Falmouth. Cornwall is famous for water sports, and the beaches in the Falmouth area offer a variety of sports, including sailing, kayaking and surfing. The Eden Project, which is a must-see, is within an hour’s drive of the hotel. 

Ideas for your own Beauty and the Beast-themed event

As promised in my last blog-post, here are some suggestions for your own Beauty and the Beast-themed event, be it an afternoon tea, a party or even a wedding! 

The invitations from Etsy-based shop Gorgeous Invites are perfect for setting a luxurious tone for your event.

There are plenty of menu ideas on the Taste of Home website, including a three-cheese soufflé, jellied champagne dessert and a hazelnut chocolate mousse.

A cake is the perfect feature at any event… the first stunning cake is from Sweetie Darling Cakes and the second beautiful one from All Shapes and Slices Cake Co.

You could have your own Mrs Potts and Chip teapot and cup, which you can get from numerous eBay shops, although it will set you back around £40.00 for the pair.

There are some decorated glasses from Etsy-based shop JJ Glamour Glasses, if you fancied a tipple.

And, of course, you would need some themed decorations…

These candle/tea-light holders can be purchased from Jar Of Stars Magic on Etsy.

Simple bunting adorning the walls can be a simple and yet effective way of decorating any venue, and the silhouette bunting from Alice Ann London is perfect.

And finally, a decorative rose is a must-have for this theme! This one is available from Illuminated Glasswork on Etsy.

I hope these suggestions help you to start planning your own special event. What other themes would you like me to explore in the future?

Be Our Guest? Ooh, yes please!

This week I was treated to the very special (and fully-booked until the end of November!) Beauty and the Beast-themed Tale as Old as Time Afternoon Tea at The Kensington Hotel in London, and I wanted to share my experience with you.

Upon our arrival at this luxurious hotel, we were shown through to the Townhouse Restaurant and sat at a table by a roaring open fire. Now, with it being April, the open fire might have been a bit much, but it was a dark, damp day outside, so the sight of a warm fire was a rather welcome one!

We chose our tea (Jasmine Silver Tip Tea and Genmaicha) and the savoury entrees of ‘Bite size venison pie’, ‘Beef ragu and saffron arancini’ and a ‘Cheese souffle’ were brought straight out to us; they were full of flavour of certainly whet our appetites for the rest of the food to come. The tiered cake stand full of brioche buns (in homage to the baker in the Disney movie), sandwiches and sweet treats then arrived, accompanied by our own Mrs Potts (full of cream) and glowing Lumière! The layout and display was charming, and included scattered rose petals. The food was nicely tied in to the Beauty and the Beast theme, with ‘Vanilla & gold jelly’ (with an edible rose petal set in the middle), ‘Try the grey stuff’ (white chocolate mousse), ‘Chocolate clock tart’ (a Cogsworth-shaped chocolate ganache with marzipan), ‘Spiced snowball macaron’ (made of coconut and chocolate – and links back to the famous snow-scene in the movie), plus a ‘Speculoos dress’ (a ginger biscuit, with a marzipan topping in the shape of Belle’s yellow dress). As always with the best part of a meal, I saved the ‘Try the grey stuff’ until last, and it did not disappoint; it really was delicious! It was served in the small china Chip cup, which was just adorable, and I have since bought myself a Mrs Potts and Chip porcelain set!

My only disappointment was that there were not enough Lumière candlesticks to go around, so ours was relocated to another table halfway through our tea.

Overall, the afternoon tea was thoroughly enjoyable (even my husband said he enjoyed it and I’m sure he felt like he was there under duress!). It’s not a cheap afternoon out, at £35.00 each (or £45.00 with a glass of champagne), plus travel into and across London, but it is comparable price-wise to other afternoon teas in the city. You can also make the most of being in that part of London, by going to one of the free attractions nearby, including the Victoria and Albert Museum or the Natural History Museum.

 As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this afternoon tea is now sold out, so if you were unable to get tickets, then why not hold your own themed event? Or you could always hire me to plan it for you!

I will post some suggestions for a Beauty and the Beast-themed event over the next few days.

Why should I hire an event planner?

You may wonder why people hire event planners for their weddings and parties; surely, it’s something you can just do yourself?

Many people can, have and do plan their own events, but why make things difficult for yourself? Life can be complicated and busy enough without having the potential stress of planning your special event. You want to be able to enjoy your event from start to finish, and that’s where I come in.

As your event planner, I can help you plan your event to make it fulfil (and ideally exceed!) your expectations. I can source and liaise with all the suppliers, saving you valuable time and energy in finding a variety of options, haggling a reasonable price and confirming details. Also, because of my knowledge of the industry and the contacts I have in different fields, I could help you find the best quality suppliers; I firmly believe that just because something is expensive, it does not automatically mean it is the best, but then the cheapest option is not necessarily a good idea either. A bride I worked with a while ago was adamant that she wanted to save money on the price of their wedding cake by getting it from a high-end supermarket, against my advice. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these cakes, I particularly like being able to show my client’s personalities through their events, and these cakes tend to be quite plain and generic (she only wanted a simple cake topper to decorate it). Upon collecting the cake, the bride confessed that she wished she had at least met with the cake makers I had recommended to see what they could offer. Of course, my clients are welcome to (and sometimes do) disagree with me, but I only make suggestions based on what I think they would like and would work with the event, within their budget.

Event planners often think of things that you have not even considered. Through their experience, they know what works and what doesn’t, and they can draw on their knowledge to improve various aspects of your event, from room layouts to how your menu can be tailored to suit your theme.

Finally, having an event planner there on the day can automatically make you relax, and so enjoy your event more, because you know that if anything, be it big or small, goes wrong, then someone is on hand to deal with it immediately. I would always recommend that your event planner is there for at least the set up and beginning of the event, just to ensure that it starts well and that you are happy. For parties this often works well, but for a wedding, it is useful to have your event planner there from the set up to first dance, as they can be on-hand to make sure the event runs to schedule and handle any glitches.

As a bride, groom, guest of honour or host, you should spend the event with your family and friends, enjoying yourself, and not worrying about anything. So, even if it’s just for the sake of your sanity (!) hiring an event planner is always worth considering.