To theme, or not to theme, that is the question…

photo 5

Can you see me?

In traditional Western weddings, the Wedding Breakfast (a formal sit-down meal) is one of the main features. To attempt to cater for a wide range of tastes, likes or dislikes (not to mention dietary requirements) of the 80 or so guests, many wedding venues have tried to make these as easy to manage as possible, which can result in some fairly similar outcomes! One way of making your wedding different to other people’s is to try and make this more personal. The menu may be limited by different factors, however how you dress the Dining Room and tables for your guests can create a real sense of occasion.

The Wedding Breakfast has its origins in late Georgian times, when the wedding ceremony always included a Holy Communion. This would have required the bride and groom to have fasted (not eaten) since the night before so that they were deemed eligible to receive the Holy Sacrament. As part of the Communion the priest would have blessed and distributed a selection of wine and bread or cakes, therefore meaning that the bride and groom would ‘Break Fast’. This over time developed into a meal at lunchtime, after the morning marriage service, and now we still use the same term to describe the large, formal meal that takes place (usually about 4.30pm!) during an English wedding celebration.

Nicola Veal Wedding HarpistOften dining rooms are set with round tables for 8-10 guests, each with a series of place settings, name cards and copious quantities of glassware. In the middle of each table is a wide expanse of nothing-ness which you can use to your own means to create a centrepiece for your guests to admire. Often florists jump in and create some stunning works of floral art for your guests to admire, surround with candles or similar. These can create beautiful coordination as they will match the flowers that the bridal party carry, and other decorations around the venue. The will also follow your colour scheme of your stationery and bridesmaid dresses, both creating and completing the ‘look’ of your day. Flowers are romantic and versatile as they can be moved around during the day, so these make a fabulous focal point. Don’t be afraid of adding to them, or around them, however with items of your own to create something more personal.

Table names are a great way of putting your mark on things. Catering teams will need some form of name or number for your tables so that they can make sure that the correct guests receive the right food. Numbers, however, can be a little problematic. Being seated on table 2, for example, can give your guests a sense of importance, but being placed on table 14, may not result in the same reaction! To combat this, table names are an easy alternative, as no one can guess which is more important that the other! I have seen many different themes; many people go with places that are important to them, or films that they have seen together, but here are a couple more that I have seen recently that I have quite liked!

On the left was a wedding reception themed with the couples’ favourite books. The top table (of course!) was Beatrix Potter’s ‘Peter Rabbit’, and other table included ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Each table had a beautiful, hard-backed edition of the book in question, presumably so the guests could read aloud to each other in between courses! A good party theme was different types of sparkling wine. Each table had an (empty!) bottle wit the name held into the cork and then every guests’ name card was itself mounted onto a champagne cork. A lovely keepsake, and a suitable theme for a wedding celebration!

Nicola Veal Wedding HarpistIf, however, you would prefer the more traditional table numbers, try to think of way that you can still add in something personal to them. I saw this at a wedding this summer, which I thought was priceless: each table number had two photographs, one of the bride and one of the groom, but both as babies or toddlers. (This was also a great way of getting in ‘those’ embarrassing photographs, without the need for long PowerPoint presentations as part of the speeches…!)

Whatever you choose to do for your wedding, remember one thing: your day is unique because it is yours. Your friends and relatives know you, so no matter whether you have booked a Castle or a Cabin to celebrate in, by creating a theme and personalising the things that you can, you will make the day truly unique just by being there. But try to make it different, and a day that everyone will always remember.

 

Dum Dum Di Daaaaaa!

Wedding Ceremonies in Western Culture have for the best part of a century frequently featured the same two pieces of music, but why?

No-one ever doubts what is about to happen when the opening bars of Wagner’s ‘Wedding March’ from Lohengrin is played; the bride is about to make her entrance into the most important day of her life. The piece is originally from an opera by Wagner written in 1850 and is sung when the women of the bridal party accompany the heroine Elsa to her bridal chamber.

Our most popular wedding recessional (when the bride and groom leave the ceremony) is the Wedding March by Mendelssohn. Felix Mendelssohn, another German composer, like Wagner, wrote a suite of music to be played for a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this Wedding March is one of the pieces.

Both of these pieces became popular as wedding standards after they were used at the wedding of Princess Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria) to Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858. The ‘Kate and Will’ of the day, once this royal pair had used this music, everyone wanted to copy and it became the wedding standard processional and recessional that we know and love.

Whilst these two pieces of music keep being requested (and for good reason) don’t forget that your music for your wedding need not be traditional if you would prefer it not to be. Make it as personal as you like – but there is a reason why everyone likes to hear ‘Dum, Dum di Daaaa!’.

“I’m just a little black raincloud…”

We live in a temperate climate here in the UK, and that means one, important thing – it rains. A lot.

We can never really predict the weather in this country, and this summer seems to have been worse than most. We have had cloudy days and many days with a sprinkling of rain. If you are currently planning your Special Day for next year, please remember these days! Sadly, it is absolutely no reflection on either you or your wedding if it rains on your Big Day – it is just down to luck. As we can’t predict the future, the easiest and safest plan is for your wedding to be weather-proof.

Having played at well over a hundred wedding venues over the years, at more than 500 weddings, it really is the venue that makes or breaks a wet wedding day. Some venues are well set up so that if you and your guests can’t be outside in the sunshine, there are pleasant spaces as alternatives inside. This is really important. We have all been to weddings where the heavens have opened and the guests are crammed into a bar in a basement with not enough room to swing a cat, let alone a canapé. Whilst I would NEVER suggest that you plan your wedding for the sole benefit of your guests, make sure that all of the rooms can fit all of your guests in, if the need arises.

Outside wedding ceremonies in beautiful gardens are increasingly popular, with many venues building stunning gazebos for the ‘I Do’ moments. Do be aware, however, that these are far less pleasant sitting on a soggy chair under an umbrella. Many registrars simply will not conduct ceremonies outside in the rain as they have to be incredibly careful about the registers themselves getting wet. This means that if you would like to have a ceremony outside, you absolutely must have a wet weather plan. Sadly, I have played for wedding who don’t and then 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to start, it’s all hands on deck to move tables, flower arrangements and chairs to create a ceremony space inside. This never makes for a calm start to your day, so  make sure that there is an alternative inside. With so many wedding venues now available, make sure that you look around and think about what might happen if the weather does decide to have an off-day!

Two stunning weddings from this month, one at the Westerham Golf Club, Kent (left) and the other at Rivervale Barn, Hampshire, both on days that completely poured down with rain. The set-up, however in both venues was simply stunning and whilst I am sure that it would have been lovely to be outside, it didn’t detract from the special day for either Bride and Groom, or guests.

Where did it all begin?

Playing the harp is a rather unusual choice of hobby for a girl from Maidstone, and so this is where my career all began…

As a small girl I was regularly sent off to sleep listening to cassette tapes (yes, I am that old!) of harp music played by my mum’s university colleague. I decided that being a harpist meant that clearly you were an angel and therefore that’s what I wanted to do! Rather sensibly, my parents said ‘No’, and instead they arranged for 4-year-old Nikki to have piano lessons as we already had a piano at home. After ten years of hard graft, I had managed to take all of my grade exams (and several on the flute as well) and they finally agreed to take me to London for a trial harp lesson.

Harpists, and therefore harp teachers, are a fairly rare breed and therefore my parents knew that this was going to be a serious commitment in terms of attending lessons regularly. What they didn’t exactly appreciate was the change in lifestyle that having a harpist in the house meant… Not only was the front room rearranged to accommodate our new instrument, but we even had to go and buy a new car to move it around in!

Once we had found a harp, a car and a teacher I begun to learn the instrument that has become my professional world. This simple little piece was one of the first things that I learned to play and I still include it in my warm-up every time I sit down, more for the memories than the technicalities!

I am incredibly lucky that my long-suffering parents gave me the opportunity to play this wonderful instrument. I know how much of a big ask it was to commit to something like this, and will be forever grateful for all of their (continued) support with my mad-cap ideas! At least this one paid off ok in the end…