My Wedding Diary: organising advice from Ann Russell

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Got a wedding to organise and no idea where to begin? Take a leaf out of Ann Russell’s planning diary and you’ll soon have it all calmly under control

THE VENUE

Before embarking on your venue
search, it’s smart to have a realistic idea of numbers so you can identify which places will be able to accommodate your needs. Once you’ve established a rough number, have a chat with your partner about the type of wedding you’d like. Grand and luxurious in a country estate? Relaxed and free-spirited in a field? It’s crucial you see eye to eye on this one.
They say finding a venue is the biggest challenge in wedding planning. It can be, but not if you take a methodical approach. Most brides know what they don’t want, so start from there. Search through the venue pages at the back of this magazine and cross out the places that really don’t float your boat. With those options out the way it will be easier to shortlist the ones that do meet your criteria. Remember that an outdoor wedding will need a contingency plan, whether it’s a marquee or a nearby hall – just somewhere to shelter if the rain makes an appearance.
Another boring but important considera­tion is transport for your guests. Does your venue have space for parking, public transport links and good signposts? If you’ve chosen a romantic but secluded spot, you can guarantee at least one member of the wedding party will get lost (hopefully not the groom), so it’s a good idea to arrange group transport or include a detailed map with your invitations.
For me and my fiancé, the venue hunt was relatively straightforward. Having told my parents at the tender age of ten that I wanted to get married in a castle, it was no surprise that stately homes and country houses caught my eye when searching for a venue. We spent a few weeks looking through magazines and websites to get a full picture of what was available.
We wanted the character of an old building with all the mod cons of an updated interior. Although we narrowed down our shortlist to half a dozen places, it quickly became clear that these demands weren’t easy to fulfil without paying a small fortune. Our decision eventually came down to the standard of customer service. My fiancé and I are pretty laid-back, so we were surprised when some of our shortlisted venues appeared uninterested in our plans. They probably have to deal with umpteen engaged couples a week – but is that an excuse? In the end it was the proactive approach of Carberry Tower that won us over – plus, we’d had one of our first dates there, so felt a real connection to the place.
My advice? Don’t limit yourself to the usual suspects. There are lots of unexpected places that hold weddings in Scotland, from museums and warehouses to pubs, restaurants and barns. Whether you’re looking for character or a completely blank canvas, there’s something out there for you so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

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Carberry Tower, Ann’s wedding venue of choice

THE GUEST LIST

When the practical side of your brain kicks in, prepare a guest list. It’s never too early to think about who you want to come to your wedding. These numbers will shape everything from your choice of venue to your evening entertainment, so sit down with your fiancé and create two lists. The first should have the names of the people who absolutely must be there and second should contain those you’d like to attend, space permitting. You obviously won’t have final numbers until you send out invitations, but at least you’ll be able to see there’s no point in dreaming of a quaint little church if your family alone would fill the pews.
At the same time, it’s worth considering who not to invite. What about workmates? Friends’ partners? Many couples don’t invite children, since lots of venues charge the full meal price for kids, even though they’d rather eat chicken nuggets.
Don’t forget that every extra person you invite will add to your bottom line, so keep your budget in mind while preparing your guest list. This part of the planning can be a bone of contention, and the urge to keep your family happy may lead to additions (or indeed omissions) that you hadn’t bargained for. A healthy dose of compromise is always helpful in these situations, while remembering that it’s your big day and that you and your partner, above all, need to be happy.

THE WEDDING FAIR

Now, breathe a sigh of relief. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but take a moment to congratulate yourself on successfully booking your wedding venue! Now is a good time to hit the wedding fairs for inspiration, free bubbly and cake samples galore. Grab your best girls and head to one of the many fairs happening across Scotland this year.
First things first: wear the right shoes. Comfort is the bride-to-be’s best friend, so never wear heels to a wedding fair – you’ll most definitely regret it. Do take a pair of heels in your handbag in case you want to try on a dress, and make sure that bag is big enough for the masses of leaflets and freebies you’ll collect throughout the day.
Your first wedding fair will feel overwhelming, so it’s important to prioritise the stalls you’d like to see instead of trying to tackle all of them. If you’re an early riser, get there before the lunchtime rush so you can steal some precious one-on-one time with the suppliers. Do make time to chat to them – they’re a friendly bunch and are there to help you. It’s particularly important to spend time with bands and photographers to see if you have a personal connection with them. They’re an integral part of your wedding, so it’s vital to establish a rapport.
And don’t be shy about asking for quotes from lots of different suppliers – this will give you a rough idea of how much things cost and will help you shape your budget and identify where exactly you want to spend your money.

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A selection of gowns at Carberry Tower’s wedding open day

THE BAND

Speaking of money, one of your largest outgoings will be the band. I can’t stress enough how important it is to hear musicians play before you book them. It sounds obvious, but some couples assume wedding bands will be able to play every song they like – which isn’t always the case. Each band has their own set list and individual interpretation of modern and traditional songs, so it makes sense to meet them first before signing on the dotted line.
A great way to hear several bands in one go is to attend a wedding band showcase. This gives you the opportunity to hear five or six bands play live – and comparing them will help you identify which sounds you prefer. This is how we found Elwood, a brilliant three-piece band that match the size and style of our wedding and, most importantly, play a variety of music that suits our tastes.
As we all know, staying true to your own style is paramount when planning your wedding. Whether it’s choosing an unusual venue or booking a quirky band, the best weddings are those that are filled with character. So trust your gut instincts – and don’t forget to have fun along the way!

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Wedding band Elwood impressed Ann at a music showcase