Tag Archives: wedding planning

Real wedding: Keeley and Mike at Cooling Castle Barn

21 Jun

Mike and Keeley had a civil ceremony for 80 guests last year at Cooling Castle Barn, Rochester, Kent. The mix of vibrant colours and stunning backdrop make this wedding feel really warm and welcoming. Here Keeley talks us through their big day.

“I had been to weddings at Cooling Castle barn and although I really liked it I wanted to get married somewhere I hadn’t been to before. After looking at lots of other venues and having no luck, Mike put his foot down and booked for us to see Cooling! Even though the heavens opened the day we went to look around, it didn’t dampen its charm and we fell in love with it and everything it had to offer. This was back in November 2009 and the first date they had was 22 months away – we put a deposit down straightaway to avoid waiting any longer! The staff at Cooling Castle Barn were fantastic and able to help us whenever we had any questions regarding the day.

We had almost two years to plan but spent the first year not doing too much except finding the venue, saving money and getting ideas. The second year was when we started putting all the ideas together and buying things. I thought I would be the one who did all the planning but I was pleasantly surprised by how much Mike got involved, although he does say ‘she might ask you for your opinion but will always go with what she wants anyway’!


We found our wedding car when it was parked outside another church!  The colour of the car was what first caught our eye first and we both instantly fell in love with it. It was a blue 1930’s Beauford and we had a Bentley Mulsanne S for our bridesmaids.  Our drivers were father and son from Old and Blue, and they were thoroughly professional and so friendly. They really helped to keep me relaxed on the journey to the venue.

From the very beginning we said we wanted something a little bit different that was bright and fun. We had a bright pint and orange colour theme and our florist, Cherry Tree Events, helped us choose our flowers. It was on our second visit there that we noticed the vintage style card holders and birdcages – we knew we had to have them as part of our day. We had pink and orange gerberas with lime green blooms inside our birdcages which worked really well to give them a contemporary twist.

I had a contemporary wired bouquet containing mango cala lilies, hot pink and orange gerberas, hot pink and orange roses, palm, soft ruscus and caged lily grass. The bridesmaids had pink and orange bouquets, the ushers had a single hot pink rose and Mike wore a mango cala lily. Our flowergirl had a flower wand containing hot pink and orange gerberas.

My dress was by Alfred Angelo from Country Brides in Faversham. My Mum picked the dress in the shop but at first I wasn’t that keen on it. After trying on a few dresses I put it on and once I saw it in the mirror, I knew it was the one for me. After months of looking, it was such a relief to finally find the ONE! As I’m 6” tall I knew heels were going to be a no go. I didn’t like lots of the flat shoes available but thankfully I found a diamante style sandal by Pink that were perfect. I had earrings and a matching necklace from Goldsmiths and a Swarovski bracelet that was a beautiful wedding gift from Mike. My veil was also from Country Brides and my hair accessories and bag were my ‘something borrowed’ from my sister-in-law.

Mike wore a Navy Blue Edwardian suit from Perfection. The bridesmaid dresses were also Alfred Angelo dresses, the flowergirls dress was from Bhs and the two best men and ushers suits were also from Perfection.

Our stationery and table place names were from Wickedly Innocent and Mike had said from the very beginning that he wanted to name each table after Stereophonics songs as this is one of his favourite bands.

I remember being blown away when I first saw the barn set out with all the things we had chosen. I had been so worried that perhaps all the colours might not quite go together or might be a bit much, but it just looked amazing. So many people commented on how lovely it looked – it was so worth going for something bright and different. Keeping with the bright theme, we chose bright pink organza bags filled with our favourite white chocolate jazzie sweets. We got them from eBay and Mike’s mum very kindly filled all the bags herself.

We had the caterers at Cooling Castle Barn who were amazing. Everyone commented on how good the food was and there was so much of it! We found it really difficult to choose from such a wide choice that the venue offered so we went with things that we thought everyone would like.

For starters there was a choice of  Prawn Cocktail or Marinated vine plum tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. For the main course we chose Roast Beef or Bangers and Mash. The vegetarian option was Ravioli of chargrilled vegetables and basil pesto. For dessert, Lemon Meringue Pie or Vanilla Cheesecake with red fruit coulis.

We had a three tier cake made up of two fruit cakes and one sponge from Marks and Spencer. They were decorated by our very clever friend Kerry who handmade all the flowers from icing.

We had a DJ who came with our wedding package and we were a little worried that we did not get a say in who we could have. However we needn’t have worried as he was amazing and played everything we had asked for and so much more. As it was a mid-week wedding we finished at 11pm but we started the reception early so that we could have plenty of time to dance. Our first dance was At Last by Etta James as we thought it was a beautiful song with such meaningful lyrics. We both loved garage music when we were younger so we had a selection of garage tracks which had the dance floor over flowing all night!

The fabulous Fleur Challis was our wedding photographer. Fleur had photographed our friends wedding and they spoke really highly of her. Seeing how wonderful their photos were we contacted her. As soon as we got chatting to Fleur we knew she would be the perfect person to capture our day. She had fantastic ideas and was so on our wave length.  We had a pre wedding shoot in Canterbury which was a great way for us to relax in front of the camera before the big day as neither of us are keen on having our photo taken. We are so pleased with our photos and they have captured the day perfectly”.

Thanks to Keeley and Mike for sharing their day with us. And so any last words for our wedding couples to be?

“Yes, talk to your friends about suppliers they used. We got lots of recommendations from friends which saves time doing lots of research and lastly enjoy every minute, it goes far too quickly!



Counting the Cost: Your Wedding Budget

19 Jun

One of the first things many couples need help with is working out their budget.

It sometimes depends on where in the planning process you are as to what money you have available.  Some couples book their date 18 months in advance and then start saving towards it with a final budget in mind, others already have their budget in place and want to book a date as early as practically possible.

Whichever camp you are in here is a rough outline of how you can start your budget planning. Be warned it does not include a honeymoon, designer wedding dress or glittery Louboutin’s, for those you will have to work extra hours or and tell absolutely no-one we said this…… use the contingency :0)

When working out a budget we use the following percentages to help break it down:

  • Reception Venue & Catering 45%
  • Photographer 7%
  • Videographer 7%
  • Brides Outfit 5%
  • Grooms Outfit 1%
  • Wedding Planner 5%
  • Bridesmaids 2%
  • Florist or venue decoration 5%
  • Entertainment 7%
  • Stationery 3%
  • Wedding Cake 2%
  • Wedding Make Up & Hair 1%
  • Wedding Cars 2%
  • Ceremony & Legalities 3%
  • Contingency 5%

After an initial look there maybe some things you won’t be having and some other stuff you need to add.  This is entirely up to you and will depend largely on the type of day you want.  You may have friends who can help them out with different aspects of your wedding but Bridezilla’s take note! Before embarking on getting friends to help you just be sure they are reliable enough to deliver on the day and that you won’t end up falling out if it doesn’t go exactly to plan.

Once you have juggled the percentages then you can start getting quotes. Suppliers will usually give you a quote based on the number of guests you have or the budget you have allocated. Once these are in you can then start putting actual costs against your percentages to give you a fully costed plan.

If you are struggling with this or need to find ways to reduce your budget, then hey, get us involved! We have lots of suppliers who happily offer discounts to stretch your budget a bit further and we have ways and means of helping you juggle your budget to make it work for you.

We offer special wedding planning workshops that can help you get started with budgeting or make the most of what you’ve got left. For more information of dates and times click here.

Sunday Summary: Calm before the storm

17 Jun

Welcome to Sunday! This weekend has seen some peace and quiet in the Wedding Dolls households as our other halves are occupied with Le Mans 24 hour racing and Euro 2012 – it does leave you wondering who makes more noise, kids or husbands…. It’s been just what we needed really as the next few weeks for the Wedding Dolls is pretty full on. With trips abroad, exhibitions, the launch of our new blog, as well as the small matter of organising weddings to get stuck into, we are so glad there are two of us on the case!

bride and groom in grounds

Kelly & Scott, by Emma Knapp Photography

On the blog this week was the new bridal range from Topshop which seems to be dividing opinion in the wedding world! See what you think right here.  We also took a look around one of our favourite boutique hotel wedding venues in Kent, Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells. If you want understated luxury, fabulous food and gorgeous rooms to round off your wedding day this promises to make it onto your shortlist as well.

Next up was the Wedding of Kelly and Scott with a classic purple colour scheme and gorgeous detailing all set in the beautiful grounds of Turkey Mill, Maidstone. To round off the week we posted some of the most popular and alternative first dance songs that we’ve seen over the last year. If you don’t ‘have a song’ then this might just help narrow down the choices.

We’re super excited too as it’s countdown for our next Bride and Groom, Vijay and Leanne, and their gorgeous indian fusion wedding at Nettlestead Place on Saturday. We’ll share a little preview with you on Sunday but other posts coming up on the blog this week include our designer of the week, an overview of how to set your wedding budget plus a beautiful wedding at Cooling Castle Barn.

Happy Sunday!

x

Five of the Best: First Dance Tunes

16 Jun

You either have ‘a song’ as a couple or you don’t. If you do choosing your first dance tune might be that little bit easier. However if you are in the ‘we don’t so help us please’ category here’s a little inspiration for you taken from real weddings over the last year.

Famous five

A Groovy Kind of Love – Phil Collins
Can’t take my eyes off of you – Andy Williams
First, last, everything – Barry White
Everything – Michael Buble
Greatest Day – Take That

Alternative five

Nobody Does it better – Carly Simon
You & Me, Always Up Forever – The Wannadies
Iris – The Goo Goo Dolls
She’s Electric – Oasis
Altogether Now – The Farm

Don’t forget you will need to actually dance to your choice of song so think about the music and whether or not you need to cling together and shuffle for a bit or will be doing a fully fledged Dirty Dancing routine.

If you have a favourite first dance song please share with us!

Kent Hidden Gem: Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells

12 Jun

We just love the Hotel du Vin for gorgeous wedding’s or a fantastic place to spend your first night as a married couple. We’ve been to Tunbridge Wells, to take a look at their wedding rooms and meet the team behind this stunning town centre venue. We have previously worked with some of the other hotels in this luxury chain but it was fantastic to get to see one closer to home. Amy Carey, the Sales Manager showed us around.

The hotel is set in one of the historic spa town’s architectural landmarks, a Grade II-listed sandstone mansion built as a private residence in 1762. It has retained its authentic detail and has gorgeous function rooms and outdoor spaces including a terrace area and gardens for weddings during the summer months.

The Speyside Glenlivet is the largest function room. An atmospheric room with antique mirrors, guilded decoration, square natural dark stained wood tables and chairs. It overlooks the hotel gardens and Calverley Park and can accommodate a maximum of 84 people. Wedding catering packages start from £45 per person. Food served at the hotel is sourced locally where possible and a tasting session for the bride and groom is all part of the service.

Each of the 34 bedrooms in the hotel is sponsored and named after a famous wine or Champagne house. They all feature Egyptian cotton bed linen, deep baths, power showers, fluffy towels and bathrobes, Satellite television, CD players, DVD players, mini-bars, hairdryer and air conditioning.

There are three fantastic suites, all with freestanding roll-top baths in the rooms. The Deluxe Suite also has an 8ft square bed, plasma screen TV and wonderful views over the garden and park behind the hotel, making this the perfect place to spend your first night as husband and wife.

If you want to take a look around the hotel then visit their website for more information and the team their will be more than happy to show you around. We’re also super excited as we’ll be running wedding workshops here in October  – click here for more info.

Feature Fun: James and Marika’s Race to the Marquis: Part 2

9 Jun

Earlier in the week we shared with you the gorgeous wedding of James and Marika at the Marquis of Alkham. As part of their evening celebrations they got all their guests in on the photography action by having a photobooth. We love photobooths as they give everyone a chance to go a bit silly and you have fantastic pictures afterwards as a brilliant reminder of your day.

Fleur Challis, fabulous Kent photographer, set up her own photo booth as part of her wedding package for Marika and James. Take a look here at some of the pics from the evening.

Thanks to Marika and James for sharing their day with us and a big thanks to Fleur Challis for the images.

Real Wedding: Marika and James’ Race to the Marquis Part 1

7 Jun

Sometimes a wedding comes along that just has so many gorgeous pics we can’t fit it all into one day. This wedding is one of those. For part one we’re sharing the wedding of Marika and James who got married in May at the Marquis of Alkham. Here Marika tells us about the planning of their big day.

wedding day sign

“We searched for a long time to find the right venue. We found the Marquis restaurant in a cookery magazine, having no idea there was such a highly acclaimed restaurant so close to where we lived. As soon as we drove down the beautiful country road, we were hopeful and when we arrived, walked inside and were warmly greeted by Hannah Walton saying “sorry I don’t have a brochure made up, we don’t really churn out weddings…” we were sold! The more we saw, the more we loved it. It just felt right, we wanted somewhere really special for our 39 guests. Hannah is the wedding co-ordinator at the Marquis and without her help, all of our ideas would not have been able to become a fantastic reality. We had so much fun and we regard her as a friend now.

wedding shoes for the bride

Sarah Kay, a friend’s sister, does floristry part-time. My bouquet was rustic and contemporary, with white lilacs, thistles, ranunculus roses, freesias, green hydrangeas and Columbian roses, which came through in my hair, the bridesmaid’s hair and the button holes as well.

I always wanted white lilacs as they hold fond childhood memories for me, hiding under a giant lilac tree in our front garden in Ireland. I love ranunculus roses and hydrangeas as well, this is one of the reasons I convinced James that May was a great time to get married. I had always imagined wedding photos in a bluebell wood.

I bought my dress from Signature Brides in Hythe and it was a beautiful lace strapless dress from Tia by Benjamin Roberts. I tried on many shapes and styles and had more or less chosen one. I tried on a few more and am so glad I did because that’s when I came across the Benjamin Roberts dress. I loved the simple style dress with the delicate lace detail – it made it so special. As soon as I tried it on, I walked out of the fitting room and said “uh oh, I am in a bit of a pickle now!” as the dress was more than I had anticipated in the budget, but it was worth it!

The shoes I wore were from Next for just £35. I bought two pairs and decided just before walking up the aisle which ones to wear! I had some very simple freshwater pearl earrings from eBay and a Columbian ivory rose in the side of my hair. My make up was by Emma Smisson at Bridal Beauty.

My sister was my bridesmaid and her dress was from Coast.

James bought his suit from Ventura at Moss Bros. It was a brown/copper shade and he just chose what he felt most comfortable in.

We had a civil ceremony. We decided not to personalise vows because we have been together long enough for people to know how in love we are and no need to gush about it! We chose a reading called “the Art of a Good Marriage” that my childhood friend read wonderfully and it epitomized what we feel strongly about in our relationship that would carry through into our marriage.

We had a slideshow with the signing of the register during the ceremony. It was full of photos from when we were children, our first date, our holidays, our 10 year anniversary and pre wed shoot. If there wasn’t a dry eye after the ceremony, there certainly wasn’t after the photos which were accompanied with some sentimental songs. We then played an extended version of this throughout the evening by the bar for people to quietly sit and watch if their feet needed a rest from dancing.

After the ceremony we had photos in the church gardens and then everyone went down to the terrace for drinks, canapés and garden games which was a lot of fun.

We wanted to make sure that our guests got to meet everyone so we mixed the tables up for dinner and had a sharing menu. The starter was a ‘Kentish Antipasto’ which consisted of poached asparagus, rabbit rillette, pickled light Sussex eggs, cured beef, cheddar fondue and homemade bread sticks and chutney. The main course was a ‘Sunday Roast’ of beef topside, Yorkshire pudding with confit shallots, herb roast potatoes, crispy flank and watercress salad and seasonal vegetables. The feast was rounded off with a dessert of chocolate fondue, served with marshmallows, flapjack and tropical fruit. It was all washed down with Tenterden sparkling wine, a lot of gin and tonic and a tab behind the bar, which all the guests were very grateful for!

As place cards we had photos of each guest and put these through an app to create individual effects and then printed them out as Polaroid photos which everyone loved.James had three best men, his best friend, his brother and his oldest friend. All of them were asked to give a speech as we moved around after each course. We had so many comments about what a highlight that was and the speeches never got boring because they were all so varied! Rather than a traditional guest book, we had cards and marker pens and passed these around for everyone to leave messages on so that we could put our own book together and enjoy doing that afterwards.

At the reception we had white lilacs, ranunculus roses, lisianthus, eringium, pannicum, Columbian garden roses, avalanche roses, viburnum opulus and freesia’s. The flowers were placed either side of the altar and as centerpieces for the reception, where the arrangements were in small square glass vases that were spread out along the tables. It looked really beautiful!

In the evening we served mini bacon sandwiches and cheeseboards as well as a sweet table where guests could take home sweets in little Chinese takeaway boxes that we put pretty green ribbons on. James made the 7 tier cupcake tower which consisted of small and large cakes, which were all flavours of cocktail. The guests could choose from Strawberry Daquiri, Limoncello or Mojito. They were such a hit and looked fab next to the sweet buffet. There was also a traditional 2 tier fruit cake that the Marquis supplied in their package, for which we provided 2 cake toppers for.

For our first dance, we had a friend mix two records together. We chose Shania Twain’s ‘you’re still the one’ because it was very cheesy but the lyrics were also quite symbolic. It then went into a rendition of Sir Mix A Lot’s ‘Jump on It’ and the dance moves from the iconic ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ scene which seemed to go down with a lot of laughter! We then had a DJ from Discologic.

My mum presented us with a blank canvas that had one of the wedding invite pictures on it and all the guests took turns in signing it and leaving messages.

Fleur Challis and her husband Kevin were our wonderful photographers . We met Fleur through Hannah at the Marquis and we fell in love with her charm and lovely personality. She was so enthusiastic and excited, which made it a lot of fun to work with her. We met Kevin at the pre wedding shoot, and he was great fun as well. To have them both was such a treat and it brought a wonderful balance of posed photos as well as candid photos which captured the day perfectly. As they always say, a picture tells a 1000 words and the couple really did achieve everything we had hoped for. Photography is a big part of our lives and Fleur and Kevin really understood this and the essence of fun, happiness and love that comes through the photos is spot on!

Marika’s final words of advice as “don’t get too caught up in the day itself and remember that it is a celebration of the time you have spent together and the times you have ahead of you, it should be fun! Stay true to yourselves and what is important to you”.

Thanks to Marika and James for sharing their day with us and big congratulations to you both. Watch out for Part 2 when we’ll be sharing their photo booth shots.

Real Wedding: Phil and Billy’s English Country Garden, Part Two

1 Jun

Today Phil picks up from yesterday, sharing with us her dream English Country Garden Wedding. This post starts back at their Vintage Tea Party reception.

“The idea of having the reception at my sisters home seemed really relaxed, the reality was slightly different! The week of the wedding the rain just didn’t stop. Carron Marquees put up the marquee three days prior to the wedding so we could get all the decoration organised but with Aprils rainy weather not letting up the garden was getting muddier by the minute.

But then on the day the sun came out and pretty much stayed out for the rest of the day.  The Wedding Dolls were on hand from early morning leaving me able to relax and get ready.  They completed the dressing of the marquee, finished the favours, organised the car and ribbons, were available to help the florist and even fixed a problem with the portable toilet! They made sure suppliers were set up and that the delivery vehicles were moved into a local car park. The Wedding Dolls were fantastic and really helped with keeping the nerves at bay. I didn’t have to worry about what the time was and where I needed to be as they quietly guided it all into place.

Our table centers were vintage cream jugs filled with country flowers and tied on the jugs were sprigs of lavender to give off a beautiful scent. The favours were tiny metal buckets filled with mini eggs. Small brown luggage tags were used as name settings and tied on with colourful ribbon and heart and pearl beads made by my friend Laura.

The table plan was a cream heart shaped metal wire notice board with cream luggage tags with the names of the guests on. All over the heart wire I tied colourful paper flowers from Hobby Craft to give a rustic country feel. My friend Laura helped with the writing of the guests names as she has the best handwriting!

We also had a wedding tree drawn by Laura on a large card. People could leave their finger prints on the tree in different coloured stamps then write their names above. It was a lovely alternative to a guestbook as we are having it framed to put up a home.


Our wedding cupcakes were made by my sister-in-law’s father as a wedding gift and they looked absolutely beautiful on their stand. They were a mix of Chocolate with chocolate ganache filling, lemon with lemon curd filling and Vanilla, all with buttercream icing on top.

Gastro Catering served us a gorgeous dinner of Thai-marinated Tiger prawns or fresh Asparagus salad with duck egg and pomegranate dressing followed by Salmon fillet or slow roasted spit lamb and Yorkshire Pudding, all with potatoes and seasonal veg.

Dessert was chocolate and hazelnut brownie with vanilla ice cream or individual apple crumble with cream. Our favourite drinks were served and included Bottled Corona with lime, Beaufort Brut Reserve and a cask of local ale.

Our first dance was At Last by Etta James ……its all in the words!Billy’s good friend is in a fantastic band, The Rise. They played sets for us at the wedding and a friend DJ’d. We had a big party that could have gone on all night but finished at 12.30 – even though some of the guests attempted to bribe the band and DJ to play on!

And finally Phil gives you all brides-to-be out there a little bit of wedding advice. “Take time and really think about what you want and if you are struggling get some help -it’s definitely money well spent. Things can get a bit crazy but remembering why you are getting married brings you back some perspective. Make the most of having all your friends and family under one roof as you won’t get that opportunity many times again”.

Congratulations to Phil and Billy and thanks for letting us be part of your day x

All images: Josh Spencer Photography

Sunday Summary: Wild Wedding Weather

13 May

This week has been full of up’s and downs. In the name of research we have been out and about looking at potential new wedding venues and getting rained on in the process. However it didn’t stop us getting very excited by some of our fabulous finds for our special venue feature coming up later this month.

kent country wedding scene

Another up was that my hand is recovering well so I managed to get my hand splint off and am now typing this post with two hands – sort of. Hurrah! However I wasn’t able to do my Moonwalk last night (read about my training here) but here’s hoping my team mates had fun – well done girls!

On the blog this week we started with a Butterfly Inspiration Board to get the creative juices flowing. We featured the new Ghost dresses available at John Lewis and shared our top five Bridal clutch bags from the High Street.

There was also the fourth part of our vintage wedding planning special with Vintage Tea Kent who showed us their gorgeous tea sets to help style any vintage event to perfection.

We were also really excited to showcase the Real Kent Wedding of Danielle and Chris. The couple celebrated their day with a fabulous Country Fair theme so take a look if you are planning your own country wedding for more inspiration.

Look out next week for part five of vintage wedding planning with the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the dresses! Plus two fantastic supplier finds and news of a designer dress wedding sale – what’s not to love!

Happy Sunday folks!

Emma x

Image credit: Kerry Ann Duffy

Planning a Vintage Wedding Part 4: Tea Time

12 May

When planning your vintage wedding the styling will ultimately set the scene and create the feel of the wedding. For table settings try Vintage Tea Kent who have beautiful vintage china to hire in Kent and the South East. We caught up with co-owner Emma-Kate who says “you can easily add a touch of vintage charm to your celebration as our gorgeous bone china sets range from early 1900’s, 1920’s Art Deco, right through to 1960’s pretty florals. The collection can accommodate any number up to 140 guests but we are always adding new pieces”.

cakes plate

cake stand

Your table settings are so important when creating a period feel and we think china tea sets just add that special touch. For more inspiration on all things vintage get a copy of  Vintage Life Magazine where you can find loads on styling your own vintage event and lots more.

Image credits: Emma-Kate Photography