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Author: JIThomas

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Are unique weddings a good thing?

I think it’s widely accepted now that you should have the freedom and flexibility to create your own unique wedding but is this always a good thing?

I mean it sounds good to me. Your perfect wedding, just as you want it. But does it always turn out that way? Unfortunately not. We’ve been offering weddings here at Brook Farm since 2011 so believe me, we’ve seen a lot. The good, the bad and the ugly! Yep, it does happen.

So what do you need to know to keep your wedding on track….

By all means get busy googling, check out Pinterest, Instagram and wherever else you want. But you need to do some checks before you book your suppliers.

It is very easy for a company to have an all singing and all dancing website but can they deliver what you want or are they just paying you lip service? It’s very easy to say yes and tell you they can do whatever you ask but have you seen them in action? This is important guys!!!

We’ve had bars that take your booking and your money but then disappear, caterers that haven’t delivered and the bride and groom have then taken them to the small claims court and then there are the suppliers that do turn up but are USELESS and JUST DON’T CARE. This is serious agg that you do not want.

Now it’s not to say there aren’t great new suppliers out there because of course there are and we’ve had some lovely new suppliers here recently. You just need to do your research.

Seeing your suppliers in action is a fantastic way of checking them out. Word of mouth recommendations are great too. If you find a supplier that you love but have literally just discovered them, how should you proceed?

Meet with them, chat, ask them to give examples of what they’ve done before. Ask them what is challenging for them and how they deal with it. EXPERIENCE is key and you need some proof! It’s basically a friendly interview and that’s ok, this is your wedding day after all.

And what about the recommended suppliers that come with your venue? Ask your venue what the deal is with their list. Do suppliers pay the venue to be on the list or give a % fee to them? This is how the vast majority of venue’s recommended supplier lists work. This is absolutely NOT how we work here at Brook Farm Cuffley. We’re sick of seeing bad suppliers so for us to have added a supplier to our preferred supplier list, it means we think they’re fantastic. And that’s it. There are no financial deals between us and our suppliers. We prefer them as we’ve seen them do their thing and want to share this with you guys. Tried and tested on your behalf.

Finally, if you have a lot going on and you have decided to have lots of lovely suppliers it would be a wise move to book some on the day management to coordinate everything. You don’t want to be stressing about things on your wedding day or getting involved with the management of things and even the most relaxed, laid back wedding needs someone to manage it but that’s a whole new blog post.

So it looks like you can have your wedding, your way just as long as you do your homework!

Brook Farm Cuffley

Rain on Your Wedding Day….

“Well it all sounds very nice and it is absolutely beautiful but what happens if it rains?” says the (delete as appropriate) Mum/Dad/soon to be in-laws. The killer question that crops up, usually at the end of a viewing, accompanied with a tight lipped nervous smile and a raise of the eyebrows.

You could probably even create a little flow chart with the standard responses of “oh Mum! It’s not going to rain, it’s August and it is going to be scorching…” or a panicked “I hadn’t thought of that. Oh my goodness what DO you do? Has it EVER happened?”

Well the answer to that is yes, it has rained during weddings held here and now I’m guessing that you want to know the details…

Time to think back to your girl guide / scout days and make a plan B. This my friends is the answer.  Wherever you are, be it a stately home, your parents’ garden or a farm, if it rains, you just go inside.  Unfortunately we can’t control Mother Nature so you just have to accept it could happen.

Now, there are things you could do so if it rains you are more prepared.  You can put a few brollys in a stand near the door for anyone who does have to pop out in it, if you’re having a blessing, make sure there is enough room inside for it (often the back up plan is for the couple to stand on the dance floor with their guests seated at the tables). Maybe you want to put down extra flooring outside as an entrance path or a path to the loos?

And that’s it.  The wedding still takes place, you and your guests all still have an amazing day and there’s nothing to worry about. Yes, ideally we’d all opt for the sun but everyone is coming together to celebrate YOUR wedding and a bit of rain does not dampen the mood. Ask Laura and Dave (the couple in the photo above) if you don’t believe me.

We’re in England which has a gorgeous countryside with lush green grass. This can only thrive with a mixture of sunshine and rain. That’s just the way it is.   Does a bit of rain ruin your wedding day? Hell no!


Photographer: Purple Pear Tree Photography

I Do

Let me introduce you to a couple that I think a lot of you are going to relate to.

Carly and Craig are engaged and in the throngs of planning their big day. They love the idea of having the freedom to create their own special day just as they want it and are excited about all of the possibilities. Armed with a copy of the Rock My Wedding book, the ideas are buzzing.

They have their hearts set on a relaxed, outdoor wedding at the venue of their dreams in front of all of their friends and family. Their venue is not licensed for them to legally marry there but they are able to hold a blessing so that is what they have decided to do. They’re doing the legal bit a couple of days before with their very closest family but the big wedding celebrations will take place after their blessing. So now they just have to design their own ceremony but they are a little stumped as to how they go about it….

It turns out there are quite a few different angles they need to consider. They fancy a boho theme and want a couple of their mates who are a guitar/singer duo to sing Carly down the aisle and provide a bit of music later in the blessing too. They want their kids to be involved too but are hoping for a bit more than just flower girl duties. Then there’s Carly‘s Gran & Grandad and Craig’s Great Auntie Maud who are all religious and are a bit miffed that it isn’t going to be a church wedding. So how are they going to please everyone? Not quite as straight forward as they first thought.

Thankfully for Carly and Craig, they discovered a celebrant who was able to provide a ceremony that ticked everyone’s boxes. Their fairy godmother had arrived.

Following a recommendation from a friend, Carly & Craig contacted Janette Smith and instantly clicked. Janette is so personable it would be hard not to get on with her! They met up with Janette and chatted. She met their children, discovered how they met, all about the proposal, their hopes and aspirations for their wedding day and beyond. Then they listed out all of the differing views they had to consider or to put it as Carly and Craig did, they listed out all of the problems they envisaged.

Unfazed, Janette suggested idea after idea and talked through previous blessings she had performed to give Carly and Craig a whole new way of looking at things. There was a great deal of chatting and laughter as they chipped away at the ‘problems’ until they had a good idea of how it could all work. Janette then went away and designed a ceremony that was magical not just for Carly and Craig but for their kids; Ava and Madison and of course their guests too. It was quite literally all inclusive.

So for those of you who can relate to Carly and Craig, do not despair. There’s nearly always a way to create a ceremony that is exactly what you want but that can also acknowledge the needs of your nearest and dearest from the kids right up to the Great Auntie Maud’s. Don’t be afraid to reach out and find a celebrant like Janette with a wealth of experience so that you have the ceremony you truly desire.


Celebrant: Janette Smith

Photographer: Red on Blonde

Anna & Bhav at Brook Farm Cuffley

The tea was bad, the chat was good

‘We met in Afghanistan whilst on a tour of duty at HM the Queen’s behest. He was bomb disposal with the Royal Engineers, I was a translator and nurse. We became friends. We drank tea together at night sitting on a bench made from empty ammunition tins.  The tea was bad, the chat was good.  When our tours ended, we missed the tea. And possibly the company. We can bore each other of wartime anecdotes no-one else wants to hear. It’s what keeps young people together these days so I understand.’

These are the words from today’s featured bride as she gives us the lowdown on how they met.  It is little gems of information like this that we discover about each couple and one of the reasons we love our job. So after hearing that, all we wanted to know was how we could help make their wedding dreams come true? From ammunition tins in Afghanistan to an arable farm in Hertfordshire, welcome to an explosion of joy, happiness and colour – welcome to Anna and Bahv’s wedding!

I could tell you about the pile of old saris that Anna’s Mum transformed into bunting. The ‘sari station’ where anyone without a sari was able to be transformed, ready to embrace the day. Or how about the huge birdcage that resulted in a rather awkward journey home on the Eurostar but when suspended from the tipi with flowers tumbling from within they knew it had been worthwhile. Lots of little nuggets of loveliness but really it was the pure J-O-Y and happiness that made the day. All captured so magically by Nick Tucker Photography and to be honest, who needs words when you have photos like these?


Flower Arch - Blessing at Brook Farm Cuffley

Paramedics, handfasting & Hawaii!

I’m never really sure where to start when describing a wedding but for this wedding there really was a standout feature. The Flower Arch. Wow! It really was the most beautiful thing and such a perfect back drop for a blessing.  

Even though it was mid-August, we saw quite a bit of rain in the couple of days before the big day but come Saturday, everything fell into place and the sun came out to play. One of Grace and Ashley’s big wishes was that they would be able to walk down the tree lined aisle and have their blessing conducted by the lake. This dream came true. 

Grace and Ashely had opted for a humanist ceremony and had asked the lovely Janette Smith to conduct their blessing. I’m not sure if you know what a humanist ceremony involves? If I’m honest, I didn’t. It is basically a non-religious ceremony that is created especially for you. 

Janette has now conducted a couple of blessings here at Brook Farm and she really does bring something special to the celebration. You can have elements from a traditional ceremony as well as lots of personal touches which really make it special to you, your family and friends. You can therefore design something that everyone will be happy with, no matter what their beliefs are. Fill it with music, readings, stories, reflections, remembering those who can’t be there and make it your own. 

During the ceremony you can conduct a meaningful symbolic act and Grace and Ashely chose handfasting. This is an ancient tradition in which the hands of the bride and groom are bound together with a ribbon.  You can get others involved in this so parents, grandparents, aunties, friends or whoever is closest to you can come and help you guys quite literally tie the knot!

Another symbolic act Janette described to me was Mixing Sand and this is one which works particularly well when there are children involved. The bride, groom and little ones all bring a different colour of sand to mix into a beautiful glass jar to create one combined sand that can be sealed and cherished forever.  This represents the coming together of all those involved.  The Sands are unchanged and retain their separate identities, yet they have become inseparable.

The couple’s story is also one of my fave parts of the humanist ceremonies as, let’s be honest, this is what it is all about! So what did we learn about Grace and Ashley? They met at Herts Uni in 2011 where they were both doing a Paramedic course. How did they get engaged? They had a holiday booked to Hawaii and Ashley thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take their relationship to the next level… As they planned what they would be doing on their trip, the visit to Pearl Harbour gave Ashley a light bulb moment. Out he went to buy a gorgeous pearl ring which he deftly packed away inside a sock to take away. Luck was on his side and Grace steered well clear of his socks enabling Ashely to smuggle it out ready to pop the big question. Off they went to visit Pearl Harbour and when the time was right Ashley dropped down on one knee to propose!

Shortly afterwards Grace and Ashley started their wedding planning from a beach in Hawaii. (I think I’ve just worked out why one of their friends was playing a ukulele, originally from Hawaii, in their ceremony!) They decided they wanted a country setting where they could really create their own unique wedding and that is exactly what they did. A blue and white big top took centre stage and was surrounded by straw bale seating, a photo cut out board, picnic benches, jars with flowers, a vintage ice cream van and a pretty impressive bit of DIY from the Groom in the form of a bar made from pallets. 

Their guests were able to delight in seeing their food cooked before their eyes in an enormous paella dish. First they feasted on the smell and vibrant colours and then they feasted on the actual paella. Cooking the food before your guests sets a relaxed tone and is almost like providing a form of entertainment as your guests won’t hesitate in going over and checking it out.

Grace and Ashely surprised their guests with a little entertainment of their own and then there was guitar music played during the evening. Quite an eclectic range of music from current chart hits, Oasis and even the Baywatch theme tune which surprisingly had everyone singing along! A relaxed and fun wedding that ended with a ‘farewell’ walkway – showering the bride and groom with love and best wishes for their next chapter as Mr & Mrs.

Photos courtesy of Bethany Harbord Photography

How much can you handle…?

A new job, house move and marriage all within a matter of months might phase most of us but not Cheryl and Adam! They clearly must be organised to have achieved all of this, especially with a little one to throw into the mix!

It was another gorgeous day, the summer flowers were in bloom by the lake and we were soaking up the sun while waiting to meet the suppliers. Nothing out of the ordinary so far but there was one supplier that we were particularly keen to meet… ‘The Purple Blackcurrant‘ who were delivering the wedding cake. We’ve seen quite a few of these now but we’d had a tip off that this cake was a little different from the norm…. Cheryl and Adam wanted a festival vibe running through their celebration and they hoped their choice of cake would reflect this. We watched as it was carefully unpacked and the big reveal was a HUGE burger and fries creation that immediately made us hungry – although we weren’t quite sure whether it was for a burger or some cake!

The day began with Adam being chauffeured to the farm by his best man in a caterham. You can always rely on a stylish little sports car to get the wow factor so Adam’s arrival certainly ticked that box. Cheryl soon arrived in a wedding car that had not only been decorated with the traditional ribbon but there were also some lovely decs on the door handles – a nice finishing touch which meant that whichever angle you viewed the car from, you knew something special was going on. Adam had a smart grey 3 piece with a crisp white shirt, coordinating cravat and a pair of Converse. Cheryl’s dress had silk straps, fitted sweetheart bodice, beautiful taupe ribbon around the waist and intricate lace detailing layered over the body of her dress. They both looked fantastic and captured the finesse that a wedding deserves while also allowing their own style to shine through.

Having your wedding on a working arable farm means that sometimes you catch a glimpse of the agricultural operation in full swing. It was a sunny June day and Adam and Cheryl’s wedding fell slap bang in the middle of our hay making which meant their guests were able to witness the baling taking place as they arrived – not your run of the mill entertainment but one that seemed popular nonetheless.

Adam and Cheryl opted for a blessing by the lake and seated their guests on bales which added to the relaxed and rustic theme. There was then time for everyone to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Guests chatted and soaked up the feeling of countryside calm, the open air photo booth received a visit from the special couple and the kids made the most of the lawn games and the opportunity to wear out the dads with a spot of cricket (or was it the other way round?!).

Something else keeping the guests busy was writing their special messages in the guestbook (scrub that) bench. We always like to pop on site when people are preparing for their wedding day to check all is ok and when we came across Adam he had his drill out and was building a bench. I’m not sure if we looked confused or he just felt it best to explain that he was building a bench for their guests to sign instead of the traditional guestbook. He explained that they had planned to put it in their garden but with their house move they’d have a bigger kitchen so it might be able to go in there. Wherever they put it we think it is an absolutely fantastic idea! Often guestbooks get put away, probably somewhere safe, but although it’s safe its soon forgotten and rarely looked at. Having your ‘guestbook’ as a piece of your furniture is pure genius meaning those happy memories and messages are at your fingertips every single day of your married life reminding you what it’s all about.

Guest Book Bench
Guest Book Bench

Food is an important part of any celebration and Adam & Cheryl had chosen a quintessentially English meal with a festival twist.  A food station in the form of The Frying Squad set up and it wasn’t long before the unmistakeable smell of fish and chips began to drift towards the guests. They opened up their serving hatch and Adam and Cheryl kicked it all off being served the first portions of fish and chips with a queue of guests behind them eagerly awaiting their dinner.

It was a beautiful day and a lot of time was spent outside but when the temperature dropped and it was time to dance everyone headed into the tipi, something that had been part of the backdrop and set the atmosphere for Adam and Cheryl’s festival feel wedding.