With wedding planning, there are so many possible questions! It was hard to pack it all into one Q&A but we did try our best. From starting the planning process, to the latest trends, this piece has it covered.

Where would you advise a couple to start with the planning process?

The best place to start when planning your wedding is looking at the sort day you always dreamt of, or if not dreamt of, what sort of vision or overall feel you want to have for your day.  You might want a big party where everyone just has fun, you might want a formal do with all the traditional trimmings, or you might want a chilled out celebration where you and your guests can all relax and share the day.  If you’re unsure about what you want, I would advise going to look at a few venues and seeing what appeals to you.  At Lillibrooke, we generally do show arounds on Saturday mornings so that couples can see the venue set up for a wedding and get an idea of what can be done with the spaces.  Once you’ve thought about what you want, put a budget together so that you know what you are looking at and whether you can afford to do everything you want to do.  This will take a bit of research, so start to look into possible venues, caterers and numbers to make a start as these tend to be the biggest spends

What tips can you give to help couples find their perfect wedding venue and create the right look for the venue?

You might be looking for a rustic barn wedding, a formal hotel wedding, or a marquee wedding, but think about what you want and where you want to be and look at available venues in that area.  Once you have found your venue, think about what you want to do there, how you want to decorate it and create the look you have always dreamt of for your big day.  Lillibrooke Manor works well in this way, I always think of it as a beautiful blank canvas, to be shaped and formed into the venue of your dreams, either magically filled with fairy lights and drapes, or left to be naturally beautiful as it stands.  Venues will generally have a gallery on their website – Lillibrooke, like many other venues now, use a lot of social media, so we put ideas and images of weddings each week on our Facebook page, Instagram and Pinterest.  If you can’t find this, the venue should be able to send you images showing what has been done in the past and they will probably also have preferred suppliers who will be able to give you advice on what they can do in the given space and within your budget.

What tips can you give for choosing the season and date of your wedding?

The date and season of your wedding is very much personal choice and a wedding can be lovely at any time of year.  If you have always imagined your wedding to be summery, with flowing strapless dresses, an outside ceremony and Pimms reception, or a winter wonderland with Christmas trees, mulled wine and guests wrapped in furry boleros, then stick to your guns and wait for your available date at your perfect venue.   If you’ve never had a clear image in your mind about season, and budget is an issue, you could think about having your wedding out of peak season (i.e. May to September) because many venues will have reduced hire rates.  This also goes for days of the week – for example at Lillibrooke, even in our peak season, you could get married Monday to Thursday for a substantially reduced rate, leaving you the extra cash to spend elsewhere on your day!

How can a couple create a guest list which will keep everyone happy?!

Traditionally, the couple get half the list and the two sets of parents get a quarter of the list each.  Make a list of everyone you would think about inviting, then look at your venue and budget.  Split the list into all those you will definitely invite – your nearest and dearest and those you can’t imagine not being there on your big day, then have a second list with everyone else on – those you would love to be there if numbers allow, but who, for example, you might not have seen for 2 years.  Send out your first wave of invitations (to those on your first list) in good time, allowing enough time to send invites out to those on your second list as regrets start to come in.  Remember that you can also invite some people just for the evening part of your wedding.

What advice would you give on choosing a menu which will cater for all?

Look at your venue’s menus and think about what your favourite dishes are and about what you think most people are likely to eat as the majority of venues will want you ideally to choose one meat and one vegetarian option.  Go for a tasting and don’t be afraid to ask if there are adjustments you would like to make – our head chef James, will do his best to cater to any taste, budget and extra requirements and you can discuss anything you wish with him during the tasting.

What tips can you give when creating the room layout and seating plan?

Look at the space you have in your venue and ask if they have a sample floorplan they can send to you.  Depending on the layout of the tables and the type of tables being used (round or long) it impacts on what fits into the space and your venue will be able to give you advice on this.  Look at the Facebook and Instagram pages for your venue and any photo gallery they have on their website, as that should give you an idea of what has been done before and what works within the space for that particular venue.  Layout may be partly dictated by your numbers, because you might need to seat guests in a certain way in order to accommodate maximum capacity for your venue, or you might choose to go for smaller tables and space them out a little more to create a good show for a small and intimate group.

What styling is popular at the moment?

Weddings are now generally much less traditional and more adventurous, with couples giving their day the personal touch, encompassing their interests and favourite things.  Many couples are making things themselves to be included in their wedding, so for example we had a couple at Lillibrooke recently who made 1,000 origami birds to hang from the ceiling around the venue as this apparently gives good luck, and another couple who made personalised cookies for each and every guest, yet another couple created their own mini hot air balloons which they hung from the beams and had a photo booth themed as a hot air balloon basket, complete with a huge bunch of rainbow colour balloons for guests to hold.  Many couples also choose to create their own table decorations, from flowers in jam jars, to carved wood, to giant personalised tennis balls!  One couple, half of whom worked for Lego, had Lego favours with cars for men and necklaces for women

What is the current trend on table names and colour schemes?

These things are very much a matter of personal choice, with no real set rules nowadays.  It is always nice when we get a different idea for table names or centrepieces – this year we have had personalised records with the couple’s favourite songs, golden circus animals, balloons, tennis rackets and balls (all Wimbledon themed), carved wood pieces with favourite Caribbean places and seashells with different fish types.  Many couples choose pictures of themselves in their favourite places.  Colour schemes tend to change with the seasons, but are often colourful and fun, with light colours throughout the Summer (corals, dusty pinks, greens, light blues), in Autumn colours tend to get slightly warmer, oranges and darker blues and reds, in Winter they are a darker shade still, with Christmassy colours coming through in the later months of the year, and then in spring the colours start to become more summery again.  Many people are choosing a mix of colours and styles now, depending on, for example, what style and colour of dress suits each bridesmaid.  The colour schemes are also often governed by seasonal flowers, so it is worth checking what is available in your budget before settling on your colour scheme

What sort of wedding cakes have been popular this season?

We’ve had naked cakes, vintage cakes, traditional cakes, cheese cakes and leopard print cakes!  I think again with cakes, it is becoming more the personal choice of the couple.  They are choosing a cake which reflects their personalities and the mood of their wedding, which is usually a fun party affair nowadays!  Cake toppers also tend to be very personal, showing the couple doing something they are interested in – white water rafting, diving, skiing or even lying on a sofa!

Do you have any advice concerning how to work out a budget, and how to stick to it throughout the planning process?

The easiest way to put your budget together is to create an excel spreadsheet which lists all the elements of your day and their costs – this will allow you to have a sliding scale with different options, such as the number of guests, different venues or menu options, and the different costs depending on these things.  It will do all the calculations for you and you can easily change things as and when you need to.  You will need to do a bit of research –  possible venues, caterers, drinks, DJ/band, bride’s dress/shoes/jewellery, bridesmaids, men’s outfits, thank you presents, favours, decorations, etc.  Research everything you think you might want, and include all the small things too because they can all add up!  At the bottom, put in a contingency calculator so that 10% of your end amount is calculated and updated automatically.  You will probably find that prices vary significantly from one provider to another, so get prices from a few options and if you need to cut costs anywhere, or make compromises to stay on-budget, it is easy to do and keep track of on your spreadsheet.


Images courtesy:- Faye Cornhill, Hannah Mcclune & Ed Godden

Alys Hilbourne
Blogger & Events Manager
Having worked in London for most of her career, Alys discovered & fell in love with Lillibrooke Manor in 2012 and has never looked back, delivering hundreds of events and ensuring that each one is special and perfect in every way
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