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Author: JIThomas

To Heel or Not To Heel…

Ok, so this is probably not one for the guys but nonetheless this is an important subject. Do you wear heels when you’re going to a wedding that essentially is in a field……

All kinds of heels have been worn here and so it can most definitely be done. However, if you’re a little unsteady on those heels anyway you are really upping the ante by trying to wear them on a grass field. I know, this is not what you want to hear. The heels finish the outfit off just perfectly, right?! Ok, no problem. Wear the heels but consider these top tips:

  • Pack some flats too. You really then can wear whatever heel you like as you have your plan B shoes in case you need them. (Don’t forget to take your heels home!)
  • Go for a wedge or block heel so you’ve got the height but they’re far easier to walk on
  • For the stiletto heel, invest in some heel stoppers

And that ladies is that ~ go strut your stuff!

Photo Credit; Purple Pear Tree Photography

Marie Wootton Photography

Poll Results

I spent a long time on Monday night trying to work out what I’d done wrong with the poll I’d put up on stories. I’d already broken my rule of ‘no checking work emails or social media after 9pm’ so thought I’d go the whole hog and put a little poll up. For a long time, all I could see was the Yes option to the poll showing. In fact it was actually the ‘OMG Yesssss’ option in reply to the question; “Does the thought of creating your own ceremony scare you?” Then the penny dropped. That was the only option you guys were selecting!

It did level out and in the end it ended up that 30% of you said yes and 70% of you laid back lovelies out there were selecting the ‘no, let the fun begin’ option. However, it is still a lot of you that are put off and I’d really like to help you combat any ceremony planning fears so you can tackle them stress free…..

So, if we forget the ceremony bit for a minute, let’s look at the other parts of your DIY wedding. The marquee/tipi/yurt. You’ve chosen it and you love it. Do you put it up yourself? Of course you don’t, you get the professional marquee/tipi/yurt supplier to do it. That’s their job, they know what to do and you can just sit back and let them get on with it.

How about the food? You know what you want, so do you dig out your pinny and plan to rustle it up on the day? No way! You find a professional caterer to do it for you and just enjoy eating it! I think you can see where I’m going with this…..

You don’t get married all of the time so why would you know how to plan your own ceremony? That’s absolutely normal and ok.  You just go to the professionals like you’ve done for all of the other major parts of your wedding. There are so many celebrants out there and this is their job! We’ve talked about this before back in the I Do post and although you may have ideas and certain things that you definitely do want included or definitely don’t want included, you really don’t need to know more than that. Your celebrant will meet with you, get to know you and your partner, find out about your story, your likes and dislikes, what you desire for the day and they will create it for you.

So the only thing you really need to do is select your celebrant… I can highly recommend Janette Smith who has performed many a beautiful blessing here and has a lot of positive feedback from our couples. Then there is Jennifer Patrice who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time this year as she performed a lovely blessing here. And there are so  many more. Holly June Smith and Nat Raybould have recently caught my eye on Instagram so I reckon they are worth a look. But all you really have to do is find someone that you like and trust. They will do the rest.

Photo Credit; Marie Wootton Photography

How To Theme Your Wedding

~ Guest Blog from White Button Weddings ~

Halloween has got us thinking about themes and while you may not be styling your wedding around it, here are some wise words of advice from White Button Weddings on just how you get the ball rolling, whatever your theme.

• Take time on working on a theme. Talk with your partner about what it is you want to achieve, what’s important to you and how you want the day to make you and your guests feel. The best weddings are those that reflect the couple getting married, not just a well styled day so think about who you are as a couple rather than just what’s on trend

• Think about things that you like to do together – are you outdoorsy people?, the festival type?, do you really enjoy fine dining and the more formal environment?, do you love travel? This may be a good basis for your theme or at least a starting point to the feel of your day

• Once you have a theme sorted it will make everything easier as you will have a bit of a brief to be able to offer to suppliers such as florists and stylists and it will bring everything together to ‘work’.

• Make sure your venue fits with the look you want to achieve. It’s no good viewing very sophisticated country houses with round tables and white linen if you’re set on wanting a very rustic, informal wedding so plan your venue search according to the look you want to achieve. A blank canvas venue is the perfect spot for creating your own theme because you don’t have a venue to work around. You then have free reign to bring in whatever structure you like whether it’s a formal white marquee or a more relaxed stretch tent or yurt.

• Start gathering pictures together of things you both like, little bits of fabric or ribbon that you see that inspire you, little touches that you see out and about. Put together a moodboard whether it’s cutting out pictures you like and sticking them on a big piece of card, or using something like pinterest. Quite often you will start with a whole heap of mixed ideas and gradually as time goes on you will find you are gathering more of the same, whether it’s a certain colour or a certain look.

• Take into account the season – it’s no good going with a light summery look and feel in the thick of winter. Swap fresh summer cocktails for cosy winter warmers, swap soft linens for velvets and go for something like a nice winter stew rather than something lighter for the meal. If you’re getting married in the UK we are so lucky to have such beautiful seasons so try and work with that where you can. This time of year there are so many stunning colours on the trees so take inspiration from what’s around you and on offer.

• Remember, you don’t need to go mad with a theme. Often just a subtle nod to a theme can work really well, it doesn’t need to be over the top. If you were to plan a Halloween themed wedding you wouldn’t need carved pumpkins everywhere but you could create a pretty centre piece with Autumnal tones and nods to Halloween with mini pumpkins sprayed gold, you could have a nice spiced pumpkin cocktail on arrival or a photo booth incorporating some Halloween props. It’s often the more subtle themes that work well.

• Once your theme is set try to keep it consistent throughout and keep it in mind when making decisions on things like food choices, printed invites and menus, table décor, seating plans, cake, bar set up etc. The theme could be as simple as ‘soft and elegant’ but even though it’s subtle bear it in mind throughout the planning process – you may want to go for a softer textured card with calligraphy style font for the invites rather than a stronger look card and font. You may also want to go with some beautiful soft petalled peonies in your bouquet rather than a harsher flower. It’s these little touches that all work together to reflect your perfect theme.

~ Guest Blog from White Button Weddings ~

The Chef's Table

Street Food!

We asked what you wanted us to blog about and it seems that street food is at the top of your agenda. Now we’re really good at eating it but thought that you might want a different angle covered so we went straight to a Caterer that is serving this up throughout the year as well as a Wedding Consultant to give us some advice with the styling. We asked The Chef’s Table and White Button Weddings what the appeal of street food is and how it works at a wedding?

The Chef’s Table; Street food stalls are a brilliant way to introduce different and exciting food to your wedding. We recommend three to four stations for a nice variety of food, ideally in an informal setting for your guests to graze at over 2 to 3 hours. By having a variety of food stations set up and a 2-3 hour serving period your guests really can relax and quite literally graze as and when they want to. This is informal and relaxed at its best so your guests can really soak up the experience and have some fun. It totally negates the need for queuing because let’s face it, queuing is never fun and should definitely not be done at a wedding!

Brook Farm; In terms of having a seating plan and serving street food, would this work?

The Chef’s Table;
We can serve sharing platters of street food to the tables so it can work for a sit down meal if this is what you want. Often a lot of the fun of having street food is the grazing part where guests wander between food stations whilst mingling so you probably want to establish what kind of vibe you want. It is quite common for couples to have a meal served to the tables and then have street food stations for the evening food ~ by serving street food you are offering an experience to your guests as well as the actual food so it is almost like another form of entertainment.

White Button Weddings; Street food is great for the more informal wedding where people can graze throughout a set period of time and definitely works best without a seating plan – half the fun is going up to the different stations and seeing what’s on offer.

If you’re having an early start to your wedding day, street food catering could work on arrival with a longer drinks reception. Guests can arrive and tuck into a selection of yummy food with drinks, play some outdoor games, enjoy some nice entertainment, listen to speeches etc and then sit down later on for the main meal. This works particularly well when the street food is done as small bites – mini burgers, mini bowls of curry etc. A perfect little taster of dishes to keep guests going throughout the afternoon until the main meal is served later on.

If you are going for the main meal to start with, then you can switch it around and it works equally well as evening food. After a day of drinking, by 9/10pm it’s the perfect time to bring out some yummy hot food and street food is the perfect way to provide this while keeping it a bit more fun and interesting.

Brook Farm; Ok, so you have the street food stations but how does it work in terms of crockery, service etc.

The Chef’s Table;
All of the street food is served in bio disposable dishes so the guests just go to the food station to get their food as and when they fancy it. At the Chefs Table, we would advise making sure you have enough staff to go round and clear the dishes away once your guests have eaten. It keeps everything looking tidy and even the most relaxed event will have staff there doing these things, probably unnoticed to most, but it makes sure the whole experience is as pleasant as possible. It will feel relaxed and all seem very straight forward but without the staff clearing, it can quickly become quite messy and appear disorganised.

White Button Weddings;
Street food stations can also be a great way to create some really fun styling and fab focal points. Stations can be set up to incorporate styling of the different themes and places, and food can be served in unique ways to match that theme – it doesn’t all need to be served in the same dishes and it’s always fun to incorporate chop sticks and lovely Chinese bowls for noodles, fish and chips in newspaper cones and so on.

Brook Farm; Finally, I can imagine that some of our couples may be a bit stumped about the main meal now. They’re still looking for non-traditional and fun food but quite like the idea of having the more formal table plan and speeches. What do you suggest?

The Chef’s Table; There are still an array of fun, tasty dishes that can be served as your main meal. What sometimes happens is people have been to weddings and experienced food that is not of a great standard. So really it is about doing your research for the right caterer. Recommendations are a great introduction and you can then liaise with them to work out the finer details of what you want. Your couples may be scared of having what is unfortunately quite common, some bland wedding food – we’ve all been to those weddings where the food is just not that impressive. It is almost expected that you will be served something quite average and that really does not need to be the case. As well as recommendations, a good caterer should offer you a menu tasting and we are lucky enough to have our shop so our couples can actually come along on a weekly basis to try our street food take-aways. Once you have confidence in your caterer and know that you will be getting the flavour and quality that you deserve, the menu selection can then be far easier as you just choose what you fancy.

So, although street food can work with a table plan it seems like the whole essence of the street food vibe is that your guests are going to have the freedom to meander amongst themselves. Street food does work well at weddings but if you are having a formal table plan, more often than not street food is chosen as the evening food and will give your guests an experience as well as some really tasty food. We’re sold. And feeling hungry! Love the idea of serving up a big fat flavour punch with some street food and how cool is it to amble amongst the different food stations soaking up the vibrant smells from each stand? Something different. A nod to the festival style. Amazing food. Another experience for your guests. Your wedding will be fun, it will be different and it will taste GOOD!

Brook Farm Cuffley

Dan Struthers Photography

What No Water….?!

I’m always interested to know why couples who have enquired with us don’t follow through and make a booking. Apart from the fact that I’m curious, it just makes good business sense to know this so you can understand any shortcomings and try and do something about it.

There seem to be an array of reasons, from bizarre ones like “we just want to get married in a stately home” yep, we’re definitely not that, to more pragmatic reasons such as the logistics “all of my family live in X and it’s just too far away”. I was quite surprised this year though when a couple told me they were worried about the ‘water situation’. We don’t have running water here so we always advise couples to either choose one of our preferred caterers who are very experienced in operating on a dry site or, if they choose another caterer, to ensure they have that same experience. These guys do this as their bread and butter work and they make it look seamless.

I was just really taken aback at this comment. We’ve been doing weddings here since 2011 and I suppose we are so used to having weddings here and seeing them week in, week out, all running without any water glitches we just take it as a given that this is how it is. We know there aren’t any issues but if you don’t work in events and you don’t see this happening on a regular basis then I can understand this making you feel a little anxious. I mean this is your big day and you have a lot of guests to cater for right?

After the initial shock it made me think back to the beginning. Back in 2009 and 2010 when we were first floating the idea around of using part of the farm for weddings. We did our research. We had various suppliers on site to show them the land and get their feedback and comments. We went to the people that know the industry and how it works and were more than happy to give us the lowdown. So the marquee companies came, then the generator companies, then it was the turn for the caterers. I asked them how they did it because if I’m honest, I was a little dubious. One of them even wrote a little document explaining it was all about their preparation. That the majority of their work was done at their headquarters before they arrive on site. They do bring water with them but only a minimal amount. This is so that they have immediate hand washing facilities (they hire in a nice little handwash basin along with all of their ovens) and then they have water if needed for any boiling, a bit for teas/coffees and a bit as contingency. And that’s it.

On social media we don’t talk a lot about all of the boring admin’y things we do to ensure your wedding is going to run smoothly but as I’ve mentioned handwashing it seems fitting to let you know a bit more.  One of the conditions of our licence is that we work with our local Environmental Health Department to provide a list of all caterers used on site so they can double check them and their hygiene ratings to make sure they’re happy to be used. Let’s face it, this is important to us all.

So, back to the ‘water situation’.  I was dubious but now I’m not. I’ve seen it time and time again and these guys are GOOD! So if this is one of your worries, please do not fear. Come and talk to us or our caterers to find out more. However, if it’s a stately home you’re after then I’m sorry, it’s just not going to work.

Photo credit; Love Adventure

Riding the Rollercoaster

It’s funny how much we get to know about you in the lead up to your wedding. An initial impression is made when you first get in touch. Then we have the viewing where, while you’re checking out Brook Farm and me, I’m checking out you guys! Yep, that’s right! YOU GUYS!! Not in a ‘have they got 3 heads’ kind of a way (because that would be obvious) but I’m just trying to learn a little about what you’re like and most importantly what you want for YOUR BIG DAY ~ three very important words right there that we like to focus on.

So we’ve had the viewing then there is a usually a LOT of email correspondence, calls and sometimes numerous visits while you plan it all out. It all starts off pretty chilled but we do see fluctuations where a little stress or anxiety may come into play when you may be worrying about things. We do our best to help solve any niggles and try to give you the reassurance you need. We then get to ride the wave of excitement in the final week with it all climaxing on your wedding day.  It really is a spectacular ride!

Listening to the speeches at one of the weddings this year really made me reflect on all of this. I was actually checking the volume was ok at the back of the tipi but I got comfy and stayed put. As I stood there listening, I learned the juicy bits – you know the bits in the speeches that give you an insight into any struggles along the way, the successes, the hilarious things that have happened and of course all about your love.  It gives us the complete picture of you guys both individually and as a couple and it is pretty darn special.

As I stood there I was quite literally laughing out loud along with all of the guests. It made me realise how lucky we are to have this experience, so thank you. With this particular wedding the last thing I learnt was all about their hashtag #BURRITOTOBROWN and as their sign said, if you know, you know. If you don’t, ask the groom

Photo credit; www.kirstymackenziephotography.co.uk



festival wedding unique outdoor farm DIY Boutique wedding films and photography

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?