#2 Elliot Gets Married

Elliot proposed to Tom after they had been dating only a year.  Swift one might think but I think Elliot knew pretty early on that Tom was going to be the one.   Tom, being a teacher, wanted the wedding to be in the school holidays.  Makes perfect sense as he also taught Saturdays!

When Tom and Elliot were planning their wedding I was living at Elliot’s so I was often involved in wedding planning chat.  They came up with some frankly bonkers ideas.  I was constantly saying to them ‘just keep in mind the guest experience’.  There is little point organising a day that will cost you a substantial amount of money and invite your nearest and dearest to then have them stood in the cold with no refreshments for most of the day.  My constant reminding of the ‘guest experience’ earned me the role of Director of Guest Experience/Chief Usher.  Let’s be realistic, there are few roles that are more important in the wedding party!

When planning your wedding do keep the guests at the forefront of your mind.  You might want to have a wedding on a private island in the Caribbean but can your guests afford to get there?  You might want to get married on Christmas Day but will your guests want to come along?  You might want to do a photo shoot in your wedding finery on the beach near the venue but your guests might not want to entertain themselves for two hours.  You might want an outfit change between day and night but do your guests really want to spend the day changing their clobber.

Enough of my obsession with the guest expereince, and back to Tom and Elliot’s wedding.

Elliot and Tom are a christian couple but were unable to marry in a church.  They had a small civil service for family at the venue in the morning and then a blessing in the afternoon which had hymns, readings, and a blessing from a vicar.  It felt very much like a traditional church wedding especially as there is part of Elmore Court that feels a bit churchy.

Do check what you can and can’t do in a civil ceremony before you get married.  There are certain songs and readings that will not be allowed.

Elliot and Tom pondered for sometime as to where they would get married.  Should it be in London, Warwickshire (where Elliot grew up) or Gloucestershire (where Tom’s family live).  London was soon ruled out when the cost of the day became realised.  It was then a case of finding the venue that best suited them as a couple.  Elliot hates a marquee so it needed to be somewhere that could fit in all the guests without the need for a tent. Elmore Court has a great space that has been built specifically for weddings and parties.  The people who own Elmore Court also run the Secret Garden Party festival so they had a great attitude to making the day happen as Elliot and Tom wanted.  They weren’t rigid in their approach which was great and allowed them to get their perfect day.

There are a number of rooms at Elmore Court so the wedding party plus close friends stayed over.  This meant the party didn’t end until the very small hours for some of us.  I did think I might not recover from the hangover after Elliot and Tom’s.  It wasn’t the funnest trip back home!

Tom and Elliot relied heavily on their wedding party to help deliver a really great day.  Don’t shy away from giving tasks to your best man, ushers and bridesmaids.  It is what they are there for.  You should be enjoying the day but make sure you have someone who can be the point person for the venue and guests during the day.  This will save you so much stress and guarantee that you get what you want.

Do talk though your ideas with you bridesmaids or ushers.  They might be able to save you a lot of hassle and money by bringing a reality to what you’re planning.  Tom and Elliot had some crackers ideas at times and I really did despair.  Sometimes you need a party pooper who will point out you are wasting money and it will have no impact on the day.

Tom and Elliot kept the guests at the forefront of their mind when planning this wedding and it really paid off. The couple had a brilliant day and the guests loved every moment of it.

Tom and Elliot’s wedding has also been great inspiration for some of my comedy.  Take a peek at my take on their day.

Sarah Southern

#1 Laura Gets Married


Episode one of the podcast is me chatting to my best friend Laura about her wedding to Ben.  They married in 2012 at the Chateau du Ludaix in France.  Perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have stayed at a wedding.  The Chateau is own and run by Stephanie Holland and David Morton. Two wonderful hosts who made Ben and Laura’s wedding so personal and fun.  The Chateau can be hired with accommodation for 27 people and David and Stephanie can help secure local accommodation close to the Chateau for your guests.

Ben and Laura got engaged in the spring of 2011 and spent just over a year planning their day.  As Laura talked about on the podcast they decided to have an international wedding as the Chateau was a special place for them both.  There were of course a few issues in marrying overseas.  To legally get married in France you need to be resident there for 6 weeks ahead of the wedding.  Do check the legality of your wedding if you choose to get married abroad.  Check out the .Gov website for advice on marriage abroad.

Laura asked me to be her Chief Bridesmaid as one of her closet friends but also as I am an organiser.  There were a lot of evenings spent looking at spreadsheets with them (I say them, I really mean Ben) and working out how the day will run.  From the point of view of the guest, they knew that I was the contact person for the day of the wedding. Ben and Laura didn’t need to be hassled with anything.  I knew exactly what they wanted so could solve any issues that appeared during the day.

Laura and Ben relied on their friends to make their day as special as possible. They are incredibly fortunate to have some very talented friends. Katie Hillier designed the engagement and wedding rings, hair pieces and veil; Henry Holland designed the dress; Adam Reed did the hair and Cameron McNee did the photos.  It was lovely to have some of her dearest friends involved in those elements.  Of course not all of us have an award winning fashion designer as a best pal but no doubt there will be friends who can help with the day in their own way.  Whether this be flower arranging, designing the invitations, making a cake or photography.  Ask if they would like to be involved.  I’m sure they’ll want to help make your day as perfect as possible.

An overseas wedding can often fill a guest with dread.  Must they use their holiday allocation for someone else’s wedding? It can be a drag.  There are definitely ways in which you can reduce the stress on your guest for an overseas wedding, like Ben and Laura did.

Firstly, give your guests as much notice as possible.  Let them know what you’re planning so they can begin to think about how that fits with their own holiday plans.  Let them know the logistics.  What is the closest airport? Who flies there? Do they need to hire a car? Are there other guests they can buddy up with to save on costs?  Booking the flight at a bargain rate is certainly going to lure more guests to come celebrate with you.

Plan the accommodation. If you have hired a chateau like Ben and Laura did work out who is staying there and who else needs accommodation near by.  Ben and Laura were lucky in that most of their friends were able to stay in a youth hostel style accommodation with private rooms and en suite.  It was cost effective and within walking distance of Chateau du Ludaix.  Try and get a deal with a local hotel or B&B close by so guests have somewhere accessible to stay at a sensible price.  Also suggest a number of other places for people to stay that fit multiple budgets and types of groups.  What a single person wants will of course differ to a family of four.

Ben and Laura were conscious that people were having to spend more than normal to attend a wedding in France.  As such they didn’t encourage people to buy gifts.  This was a very sensible thing to do as it removed some financial pressure from guests.  Try and find ways that you can reduce the financial pressure on your guests.  Although I have no doubt they will all still buy you gifts it is a psychological mind set of offering them the option to save something.

Following Ben and Laura’s a group of us stayed in the Chateau for a week and had a lovely holiday.  This was a mixture of their friends and family and was a great way to keep the celebration going before they headed off on honeymoon.  See who wants to turn the wedding into a vacation and get people signed up!

Sarah Southern 

Wedding Guest Extraordinaire Podcast

Welcome! 2018 will be full of joy and weddings. We will of course getting to celebrate with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this May. Later in the year the Queen’s granddaughter Princess Eugenie will marry Jack Brooksbank.  A very exciting and happy year for the Royal family.

Of course other brides and grooms will be choosing to take the next big step in their relationship and get married. In June 2018 I will be Chief Bridesmaid at my friend Clare’s wedding.  This will be the third time I have undertaken such a role (well, one time as Chief Bridesmaid and one time as Director of Guest Experience/Chief Usher).

All of these bits of wonderful nuptials comes just as I am beginning to plan a new podcast called Wedding Guest Extraordinaire. Why Wedding Guest Extraordinaire? Well, I have been a guest so many times.  I have helped friends plan their weddings, I have been invited to weddings on the strength of my wedding game, I love a wedding and well, why not celebrate people’s love.

Join me each week as I chat to friends about their experiences of planing their big day, providing some key tips on planning your wedding, speaking to industry experts and generally getting excited about all the love.  For the ushers, best men and bridesmaids (and indeed guests) I hope there will also be some tips on how to be a helpful member of the wedding party to guarantee it is the most special day possible.

As I type I am in the depths of planning a hen do for Clare’s wedding as well as providing some essential support in choosing her dress.  And of course the key decision: choosing the bridesmaid dresses!  Expect to hear about Clare’s big day and indeed how fun the hen do is.

Do subscribe to the podcast and follow on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Sarah Southern