Nine ways to swap downsizing for personalising

#1- Your guest list
Why smaller really is more beautiful

We have been to lots of weddings of all shapes and sizes. There is certainly something to be said for a huge party full of people having a great time. 

For us though, the most beautiful weddings are those where everyone there is really invested. Where every single person loves (at least one of) the couple. Weddings where nobody considered whether they were going to turn up because there was nothing on earth that would stop them. 

Last year we conducted a ceremony for 10 people ,including the bride and groom. I think it was one of the most beautiful things we have ever experienced. For everyone who witnessed the ceremony it meant something important and life changing. You could feel it in the room – the magic, the promise, the love. 

The couple were free to do exactly as they chose – because they knew everyone there loved them. No need for anything but the truth of their commitment. 

As hardened wedding pros – we, like every single person there (including the father of the groom – a proper ‘crocodile dundee’ Aussie) – shed a tear at the sheer beauty of it. 

There is of course nothing stopping you having a good party or night out after the event when you and your friends can party. It can be far more casual with less pressure, less cost and more people. Janine from work can let her hair down and your long lost auntie Linda will feel included. But for the main event – keep it personal, beautiful, and meaningful Involving only those people you could call at 2am in a crisis. Because they are the ones who will still be there at your 10th wedding anniversary, and your 20th and 30th if they are able.

#2 The dress, the food and the flowers - make it meaningful

Every woman wants to feel special on her wedding day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend a small fortune on your dress. Maybe your mum has her wedding dress in the loft and you can find a dressmaker to turn it into your dream dress. And you’d have your ‘something old’ covered! 

A number of high street shops sell wedding dresses, some by well known designers, for a fraction of the cost. Or perhaps you might find your dress in a charity shop – some larger charities even sell a large range of wedding dresses online.

Mind you, if you really want to do something different, you could consider not choosing a ‘wedding dress’ which may not feel like ‘you’. Instead, choose something that feels like it expresses your personality, whether that’s a beautiful suit, a jumpsuit or a maxi dress. Whatever feels meaningful and special to you, make it your own with accessories and shoes (or not, personally I love to be barefoot, although I have to confess I do love beautiful heels). 

What about the food? As it’s your wedding, why wouldn’t you (the bride and groom) include your favourite food – chicken tikka masala anyone? Many now choose options like pizza from a wood fired oven, a hog roast and a cheese board for the evening. All are really simple to arrange, don’t cost a fortune and, most importantly, people love them.

Flowers can make your day feel really special but they don’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to have lots. Think about which flowers are meaningful to you; have you always loved roses or peonies, or maybe spring bulbs? Maybe just have a few in the places that would have the biggest impact – your bouquet, an arch where you hold the ceremony and on the tables for example. 

If you have green fingered friends, perhaps they will have some of your favourite flowers growing in their garden (or maybe you have some in your own garden). You could also consider picking wild flowers, or focusing mainly on greenery with some of your favourite flowers scattered throughout. Whatever you choose, let it be meaningful to you. 

#3 Tables and styling, why simple is the new bling

I’ve always been a great believer in keeping things simple, to me there’s less to go wrong and the end result always seems to be more elegant. And who wouldn’t want their wedding to be elegant? 

A simple table runner, with a few flowers and candles turns a plain table into a thing of beauty. And you don’t have to have lots of expensive flowers or vases – jam jars or empty bottles of different shapes and sizes, maybe with a bit of ribbon or hessian tied round them can look stunning. Wild flowers or simple greenery from your garden or nearby fields add a natural feel and some interest. 

If you like car boot sales, sifting through junk shops and charity shops, you might find some really interesting and beautiful pieces you can use. Your table settings don’t all need to match and you can re-purpose some finds – making dainty tea plates into cake stands or arranging flowers in teapots for example. 

And if you like a bit of crafting, there are so many ideas out there, on Pinterest or YouTube for example. One of our brides made geometric shapes to hang from the ceiling with straws and gold spray paint. With added greenery from the garden they looked amazing. Another couple made everything themselves, from the table numbers to the signs, the flowers to the games. 

With a little bit of imagination, you’ll have a table and room that looks fantastic, costs a fraction of the price and is totally unique – and you’ll know you did it yourself (with or without help from your nearest and dearest). 

#4 Make the ceremony the heart of your day

The reason you have chosen this day is to celebrate your love, to acknowledge what you mean to each other and to demonstrate that with some well chosen words which are meaningful to you both. The ceremony is the beating heart of your special day and, with the right celebrant, it will be a reflection of all those things that are most important to you. 

Although many couples like to include some traditional elements in their ceremony, you don’t have to. Elements like walking down the aisle, exchanging rings and vows, and ‘you may kiss the bride’ all have their roots in traditional church ceremonies and can make it feel familiar. There are many other elements that have their roots in pagan and other cultures; handfasting and jumping the broom at two that have become more popular in recent years. 

On top of that, when you work with a celebrant you can add some more modern elements like unity candle or rose ceremonies. Or, you can let your imagination run free and come up with some ideas that are just yours – that reflect your passions and interests as individuals and as a couple.

Whatever you choose to include, your celebrant can help you to choose the elements that are most meaningful to you, that demonstrate your love to each other and make the ceremony the most important part of your day.    

#5 Pick one thing and go all in

Although the motivation for your meaningful wedding might be to save money that doesn’t mean that you have to go ‘budget’ – In fact we suggest you do the opposite. Rather than succumb to the temptation to do everything on the cheap, instead identify what is the most important aspect of your day and get the best. If you love flowers, make a statement with big beautiful florals. If it’s about the dress, get something you adore, if it’s the food get the best chef in town. Maybe having a great photographer or video will help preserve those special memories – so get someone amazing who takes the type of photographs you love. Keep in mind not only what will last, but also what makes your heart sing and invest in the best. 

Remember this isn’t down sizing so no need for plastic wedding rings and a mail order dress that gives off little sparks as you walk! 

Concentrate on quality in the areas you care about. For those things that are further down the priority list either see number 2 (above) for ideas about keeping the costs down and the meaning up or decide whether they are really something you want. 

#6 Get out of your comfort zone - think outside of the box and get into la vie en rose…

Once people decide on a more personal guest list they often forget the other benefit this brings. Freedom. 

When you have to consider the needs of lots of people you will often choose a venue that is easy for everyone; Maybe a local hotel with ample parking or a church hall that is easy to access. 

With people coming who are really close to you you can start to think a bit differently.

Why not book a place where you can all stay together? Why not get away from it all or go part way to your honeymoon destination. If a honeymoon is not on the cards now, why not incorporate it into your wedding plans?

#7 Get in a pro - you can’t afford not to

A lot of people I know think that hiring a wedding professional is strictly for people with lots of money. Definitely NOT for you, especially now that your budget is tighter. People also think that it isn’t for people who like to plan and are good at it. Well – mythbuster…. It is especially for people who have a tight budget and for those people who are good at planning. This is a blog on it’s own however for now, here are the top reasons why….

  • Having a wedding planner (although we don’t really identify as that) can save you money. What? Yes, having someone who can help you prioritise funding, who knows how to plan a budget, can negotiate and knows the lay of the land (and what the pitfalls are) makes financial sense. If you are thinking of a destination wedding (again we recommend Northern France – but we would, wouldn’t we) Having eyes, ears and taste buds on the ground can make all the difference and save you money.
  • If you are a planner then having your personal wedding team is a MUST! Imagine, waking up on the day of your beautifully planned wedding and then having to run around checking flowers, tables, food. Trying to have your hair done and giving the caterer last minute instructions – We have seen the bride putting up a gazebo instead of having her make-up done!  Do you want to have those precious guests setting up the tables and lights and then all having to clear up afterwards. NO, It’s your day,  you want to be able to kick back, relax and enjoy all the plans you made so carefully. You get to hand it over to someone who knows what they are doing, a team you will have grown to know and trust. Your very own Fairy godmothers (modern, kick ass fairy godmothers). Because today – You get to be the princess (or prince) and NOT cinderella. 

In short, having a planner will make the day so much more enjoyable and help you stick to your budget.  

#8 Invite nature to your wedding - it won’t cost the earth (and may even help save it)

“I Love You” – three simple words – but so often they contain a whole library of shared stories, amazing experiences and intimate moments. Somehow we just know  –  it feels right  –  it feels natural.

Descriptions of love seem always to contain some reference to nature too – like sunshine on the water, birdsong, Islands in the Stream(!). So I guess it’s only natural that when we choose our day to really celebrate and announce our love with a ceremony, we always include nature too – bridal flowers, buttonholes, photographs in the sunshine (if we’re lucky)!

Something else I’ve noticed too – almost all of us feel really good when we are in nature – ask anyone what their favourite places are, or where they have felt the most content and relaxed, and they’ll often describe a woodland, a quiet beach or a beautiful garden.

So, when you’re thinking about your special day, why not send nature an invitation – you might take the whole ceremony outdoors: a summer wedding with hand-fasting in a beautiful forest or a sand ceremony on the beach. Or maybe you bring nature indoors to join you in your favourite venue –  a spring wedding in a French chateau with the room and the tables decorated entirely with local greenery and flowers or an autumn wedding in a quaint village hall festooned with the warm golden hues of autumn leaves and the fruits of the harvest (including the wine)!

Nature is 100% natural (!) – it contains no plastics, harmful chemicals or artificial additives – so everything you’ve used is sustainable, biodegradable and cost-effective too!

Create a ceremony where the celebration of your love walks hand in hand with a celebration of our beautiful natural world – unique, intimate and utterly unforgettable.

#9 Rethinking the day to make it your way - why personal, meaningful and ceremonial is always beautiful

Ok so you’ve decided to Take The Plunge, Tie the Knot, Get Hitched etc etc. But Now What?

So many questions start running through your mind – and probably lots of doubts and worries follow close behind – especially if you’ve already had to cancel because of the lockdown.

Who do you invite?  What’s our budget? What kind of venue?  Where? When? What did my sister have at her wedding?

Sometimes it can seem quite overwhelming and there’s a risk of getting lost in the ‘thick of thin things’ – focussing on things which seem important because they’re ‘big’, or maybe things that are important to other people (you’ll know who)!

It can be really useful to stop and take a pause, maybe take a quiet walk somewhere hand in hand, and remind yourself of what your love means to you, how you came together and why you choose each other – then think about how you want to use this special day to really share and celebrate that.

Start with the ceremony – the Heart of your day – think about the things you want to say to each other, the way you want to feel, the memories you want to make – for you. Then consider who else you want to involve and how, what rituals you might like to perform as a visual expression of your love, and what you want this day to mean for you, and then for your guests. Often you’ll find you come up with something simpler than you first thought, but also something deeply meaningful, authentic and personal to you.

As you bring more of yourselves and your love for each other into the heart of your celebration, you will find a greater depth of meaning and beauty flowing out from that which will infuse your whole day with a special kind of magic, creating unforgettable moments and memories you’ll treasure forever.

We hope this has been helpful. There are so many more things we wanted to say and share and will keep doing so both in our blog and on social media. 

If you feel that a personal, meaningful wedding in Northern France is for you, Why not book a free consultation? Or keep your eyes on our Facebook and IG for dates of our new FREE Wedding Zooms! 

Until then, Au Revoir for now from the AltarNatives Team, Sam, Paul, Lara and Paul (Yep you can’t have too many Pauls)

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