How has your role of a wedding consultant developed over the years?
When I started in the wedding industry, the concept of what a professional wedding planner was not well understood (by the wedding market, by venues and by couples) and was very fledging, with very few dedicated wedding planners operating in the UK and mainly being reserved for only the ultra-luxury budget sector. This was teamed with a very formula-led wedding market which took a few years to modernise and diversify.
When I began my first wedding planner role 15 years ago, the role often involved explaining what we would actually do and why we could make a difference; nowadays it’s more about couples finding the right wedding planner to translate and create the finite detail of their own personal style for their wedding.
My own role has evolved from wedding planning with couples to now almost entirely working with venue clients as a consultant and trainer. As the wedding market has become increasingly diverse, demanding, individual and detail-oriented, an increasingly number of wedding couples are looking for the venues themselves to provide inspiration and lead event planning. As such, there is a growing importance for venues and their in-house events teams to be as well-informed, knowledgeable and passionate about their locations as possible to do their best within the modern wedding market.
What trends have you seen in regards to different styles of venues being chosen for the big day?
When I started The Bespoke Wedding Company 15 years ago, it was only very bold and brave couples that would pick somewhere that was not a hotel, and not a package wedding with everything included.
For some even a hotel was a bit “out there”, especially if they were opting for a secular civil ceremony at said location as opposed to a more traditional Church or religious wedding. It was around a decade ago that bridal couples started to prefer a more tailored approach than the ‘gold, silver, bronze’ wedding package and yearned to pick event spaces like Unique Venues of Londons’ members where they weren’t treated like they were on a conveyor belt, feel like they were at a conference or have to share with another couple.
Exclusivity has become an essential offering in the wedding market, evolving from being a luxury splurge to now being the most desired venue offering across all price points. Bridal parties are moving away from conventional ‘tick-box’ formats, selecting more quirky locations that help completely turn the wedding day format on its head.
The love of the outdoors and the more informal has also become very on-trend for weddings so light, bright, airy spaces like orangeries and garden rooms with a touch of shabby chic have become increasingly popular.
How important, in your opinion, is the role UVL play within the UK wedding market?
Unique Venues of London is a great organisation that provides the opportunity to truly showcase the diverse range of venue options that exist in the London events market for weddings. A typical couple can be somewhat overwhelmed by the choice and possibility that now exists, and UVL is a great resource to help couples on their journey to having a really one-off wedding celebration in our fine capital city.
What do you see as the benefits to a bridal party selecting a unique venue over a dedicated wedding space?
It’s always a very personal choice and dedicated wedding spaces come in all shapes and sizes these days (not just factory production line wedding venues) so it’s competitive. Unique venues undoubtedly have their benefits, often being a venue that the wedding guest list have heard of and always wanted to visit so there is a kudos factor for a couple choosing a known landmark building for such an important occasion.
There is often a very unique story for that venue to tell and if that is connected to the couple marrying and allows them to express their personalities, heritage, hobbies, passions and more, then a wedding space isn’t going to match it.
The possibilities of bringing history to life are often a wonderful benefit to a wedding day in somewhere unique such as incorporating brief history tours and much more. Over and above this, I have often found that venues conducting a smaller number of bespoke events per year tend to be able to deliver a more personal and higher level of service.
Can you give examples of how you’ve seen in-house events teams go the extra mile when working in partnership with a wedding co-oordinator?
As a wedding co-ordinator some of the best experiences have been where the venue team have taken the time to work in partnership with me throughout, to ask me what would make the clients’ heart sing, what would make my role easier and then on the event set up and event day have welcomed me as an unofficial member of their team so that we’ve worked seamlessly to deliver the best experience to the couple.
It’s often the simple things like including me in staff meals, giving me and my team a location where we can store coats and bags and ultimately letting us support and work collaboratively. Two UVL venues who do this brilliantly well are Beccy Thorp and team at Syon House and Chris Stallworthy and team at Spencer House.
What has been your stand out wedding memory?
There are a lot as each and every wedding and couple has been special to me. I remember being particularly proud of a very complex high-level wedding event that ran at Spencer House where we utilised every inch of the venue but also built a bespoke marquee which was converted into a Moulin Rouge nightclub, in the deep mid-winter! Various members of the high-profile guest list commented that they thought the marquee was actually a ballroom and not a temporary structure - that was pretty special!
How do you see the wedding market evolving in the next 25 years?
25 years seems like an impossibly long time in the wedding market. When I consider that it’s shifted on its axis in the past 15 years, 25 years seems a very long way ahead to predict. I would love to know though, given that I have a 6 year old daughter now, a crystal ball could be very handy! Over the next 5 years I see it becoming increasingly diverse with more unique locations that would previously been considered ‘unweddingy’ becoming popular. The trend for weekend-long celebrations will extend and drive growth for those properties with accommodation and the possibility to host multiple-day events. And I anticipate big change afoot in the wedding ceremony arena, with a Registrar-led ceremony being less popular in lieu of an independent celebrant-led celebration, restraining couples less to licensed only premises. I am pretty confident that the law will eventually change to license celebrants instead of venues so that wedding ceremonies can truly be conducted anywhere, as in many countries of the world.