How To Be Happy - Throw Your Phone In The River...

Saturday was a truly lovely day. The sun shone, the birds sang and soared in the sky above and the very best bit of all was that Son didn't have to go to school. So, with a song in our hearts, a spring in our steps and a dog by our sides, we set off to watch some of Son's rowing friends competing in the Wallingford Long Distance Sculls.

Walking by the Thames is, I must admit, one of my favourite things. I've taken part in 100km and 50km races along it, I've boated on it, picnicked by it, paddled in it and thanks to Son's love of rowing, I spent a lot of time near it. These things make me happy.

Or so I thought until I threw my phone into my beloved river.

The river, minutes before phone loss - screenshot from Instagram!

The river, minutes before phone loss - screenshot from Instagram!

Yes, you read that right. I have the distinctly dubious honour of having done just that. In my well intentioned gesticulations to a rower who was heading off course around a tricky bend, my phone flew from my hand and plopped ignominiously into the deep water. With a few frankly pathetic bubbles and within a few seconds, it was lost from sight.

Some prodding around in the water with a very long stick and tentative investigations of the bank confirmed the fact that there was no hope and the phone was indeed lost.

R.I.P. Phone.

But I have to say that since that moment, I've been happy. Happier, more peaceful and a whole load more productive than I have been in months with the apparently 'useful tech' by my side. I've been completely 'in the moment', I've got things done, I've had proper downtime and overall, my life has been way happier.

Yes, I've still had a nice and comfortable Mac sitting on my desk so I've not been totally cut-off but my dramatic ditching of said iPhone has made me realise just how much time I waste faffing around with crappy apps, checking things that really don't need checking and generally wasting huge chunks my life staring at a tiny screen when the big wide world is out there passing me by.

This shouldn't come as a surprise of course. I've read endless features listing the benefits of 'screen free time' but I've never thought they applied to me. I've always thought that it's Son who needs to learn how to manage his screen time, not me. I'm a responsible adult who can be totally in control and besides, it's really important that I check the weather/the TV schedule/Twitter/Instagram/Ocado/Teamer on a regular basis and why shouldn't I play a game or two when I get a free moment?

The answer of course is that there's no reason why I shouldn't do those things but my goodness, how all of that crap has been sucking my time away. In an effort to be more organised, more efficient and more productive, I've been less so.

The last few days have made me realise how I've let my life be run by something that absolutely doesn't give a monkeys about me. My phone doesn't want me to ask it about its day, my phone's face doesn't light up when I give it a hug or offer to play a game with it. My phone doesn't give a hoot if I'm relaxed, happy, calm, loving or useful in any way.

In short, my phone was a bit of a shit.

Don't get me wrong, phones can be useful but let's be honest, they're in no way essential. Yes, I'm sad to have lost some photos but those moments still happened and actually, if I'd not been taking the flipping photo at the time, my memory of that moment that I so desperately wanted to capture would probably be all the clearer. So more fool me.

My happy time over the last few days has been free from bongs, bings, flashing screens and endless alerts. Instead, it's been full of better moments where the world outside hasn't been allowed to intrude at will. Yes, I've checked up on things but without the phone continually tethered to my side, craving attention like a needy two-year old, it's all been on my terms instead and that's been rather wonderful.

So, when the new phone arrives tomorrow, will I re-install all the apps I had before? Will I be able to resist?

I hope so because as unexpected cold turkey goes, the last few days have been bloody brilliant.

Happy Anniversary To Me!

It's not often that I toot my own trumpet but October sees a rather lovely anniversary that I'm most definitely going to be celebrating. Next month marks two years since I started writing features for the wonderful Glitzy Secrets.

And I want to celebrate this for so many reasons. Firstly, I LOVE the Glitzy team. They're great people and they're incredibly supportive (especially of my other book writing projects) but mostly, I admire how they completely 'get' the wedding world. I have to say that I really look forward to receiving my monthly briefing document from them because I just never know what I'm going to be asked to write about and that's such a treat.

I also really admire the fact that Glitzy Secrets blog about things they know their clients are going to be interested in. It would be really easy for to just fill GS Inspiration with loads of features that purely promote their products but they don't and I think that's brilliant.

So, if you'd like to hop on over to Glitzy Secrets to check out the blog, do. It's packed with features and new ones are published on a very regular basis. Just follow Glitzy Secrets on Twitter to find out when ever new piece goes live.

If you're wondering where to start, here are a few of my own personal favourites but trust me, there's loads here to enjoy:

If you'd like lots of lovely blog content for your own blog, just get in touch - tamrynlawrence@gmail.com. Although Glitzy Secrets name me as the author of the features on their website, I write for many wedding professionals 'anonymously' too!

I do always seem to get given anything period or with an historical slant. Can't think why!

I do always seem to get given anything period or with an historical slant. Can't think why!

Welcome To Flossy & Willow - Wiltshire's Newest Bridal Boutique

As you might know, I just love the team at Perfect Day Bride, the super stylish bridal boutique in the Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon. So, when they told me they were opening their second shop just a few minutes away, I couldn't wait to find out more.

And I wasn't disappointed. Flossy & Willow has the same cool contemporary feeling and friendly, knowledgeable staff that ooze passion for their work yet the wedding dresses on offer sit at a different price point to Perfect Day. The latest collections from LM by Lusan Mandongus, Mikaella by Paloma Blanca and Willowby by Watters not to mention the vintage inspired delights of Eliza Jane Howell are all available from £900 to £1500.

The girls at Flossy & Willow have been absolutely overjoyed by the reaction to their new venture and, as you ca see from this feature I wrote for Love My Dress, it's no surprise when the boutique is this fabulous...

images by Evoke Pictures

images by Evoke Pictures


May Your Days Be Merry & Bright

So, here I am, about to flick on the out-of-office, mix myself a Snowball (filthy, I'm so sorry) and kickback for the Christmas holidays. But, I couldn't let this moment pass without saying a huge and heartfelt thank you to some of the people who've made the last twelve months all kinds of brilliant.

Coco Wedding Venues, Katrina Otter, Perfect Day Bride (and the forthcoming Flossy & Willow), Wedding Yurts, Glitzy Secrets, Tarnia Williams, Liberty In Love, Pudding Bridge, Coco & Kate, Roberta Facchini, Chosen Wedding Collective, Always Andri, Vivien J, Oyster & Pearl, Olofson Design, Hot Pink, For The Love Of Weddings, Gemma Milly, The Wedding Industry Awards and of course, the ever-fabulous Annabel and everyone at Love My Dress are just a few of those who've made me smile throughout the year. I also must mention The Wedding Reporter and The Little Wedding Helper for simply being all-round ace.

I'm going to be taking some time out with my family and friends now until Tuesday 5th January when I'll be back and firing on all cylinders, ready for more wedding words and stories in 2016 (2016?!? OMG!!) and I look forward to seeing you there.

Finally, all that's left to say is whatever you're doing this festive season and however you're celebrating, may your days be merry and bright.

So much love,

Tamryn x

p.s. if you can't quite disengage the work-brain over the holidays and want to get a head start on the planning for the new year, I've still got a few spots left for my 2016 Planning Sessions and if you need words for websites, brochures or blogs, why not drop me a note now and I'll get back to you in January...

The Hub:2 - See You There!

So, I'm absolutely thrilled to be joining a rather fabulous line-up of speakers at The Hub:2 in a few weeks time. I'll be waxing lyrical about the power of words and stories and the huge impact they can have on your business so be prepared for something a little bit different. Of course, The Hub covers so much in one jam-packed day and there's more information about my talk and the other amazing women who'll be sharing their knowledge and insight here. All I can say is - bring a notebook!

It would be just all kinds of brilliant to see you there and tickets are still available from The Chosen Wedding Collective website. If you'd like to read a little bit more about The Hub, do check out my thoughts here on my blog and also this feature I wrote for Love My Dress. As you can probably tell, I was completely inspired.

Now I know I've written before about the benefits of getting out and meeting people (you know, old school meeting people where you talk write than type and have meaningful conversations rather than send generic emojis) and The Hub is such a supportive, friendly and great place to do this. You'll be among lovely industry types, at all different stages of their business journeys, and I know you'll get so much from the day and take away so much that will stay with you for months.

Kiki, the smiling powerhouse behind The Hub, manages a truly excellent event - it's inclusive, inspiring and super pretty. How could you not be inspired and it's the perfect time to get out and mingle before we're all claimed by Christmas and New Year madness.

It would be simply ace to see you at The Hub on November 27th so if you've not already bagged yourself a ticket, do it now! I'll see you there xx

Success Is In The Trying

Oh dear blog, I have neglected you so badly but summer... well, summer was a speeding bullet of busy. And to be honest, early September was more crazy than ever because my son went to senior school.

Now, I've written about this fantastic place before and I have to say that now he's there, the school is even more amazing than I thought it could be. Son has made the jump to seniors without a care and that little jump up has made him take-off. He's flying already and I couldn't be happier.

You see, the school really gets the kids going - they're all about being curious, being independent and being brave. They want the kids to make mistakes because, as the Head said, you make mistakes when you're outside of your comfort zone and it's when you step beyond those cosy little barriers that you've created for yourself that the good stuff happens.

So, as we start (and please forgive me for saying this) the run towards Christmas and the New Year and we begin to think about what we've achieved this year and what we'd like to aim for next, remember that success isn't simple and different people use different measures. You're not the same as anyone else in any way, shape or form so why in heavens name would your success look the same as yours?

But mostly, look at whether or not you tried. Because if you did, you're already most of the way there...

Why You Just Can't Go Back...

So, last weekend was my school reunion. Slightly terrified by the thought that it has been just over twenty years since we left school, a couple of brave souls organised a get together for our (legendary) cohort. It was like returning to the scene of the crime as we all headed to a local sports club that had been the scene of some pretty spectacular (and often messy) school parties. Or discos as they were in those days.

However, what struck me most about the evening was the fact that you absolutely can't go back...

No indeed. You can never go back because, as Alice so rightly says, you were a different person then. And my goodness, how we get better with time.

Our 'Class of 1994' reunion taught me that people change and the passing years make us better, nicer, more rounded and interesting people. We might have thought we were great when we left school but now, we are actually truly brilliant.

We can chat about topics other than ourselves and our own tiny little part of the world, we can share experiences, be kind, be funny and be a damn sight nicer, friendlier and more inclusive than we ever were before.

People who'd fallen out at school made up, people who were never in the same group talked and laughed, people who'd broken up weren't awkward or angry and people who I can be very sure had never had things in common before found they did.

It was, frankly, amazing. 

But what, I think I can hear you ask, does this have to do with work or the wedding world? Well, only that I'd like it to serve as a little reminder to keep your mind open to the idea that you're a different person to the person you were yesterday. You're smarter, more experienced, wiser and well, just different.

Things you found challenging a while ago might not be so tough after a little more life experience so don't be afraid to try again. If the thought of standing up and speaking out at an event would have made you quake with fear when you started out in business, give it a go now because I can guarantee that you've got lots to say that people would want to hear. Should you feel like an industry newbie, an outsider or anything else even slightly negative, just check and see if that's actually the case and not just a big bundle of feelings. 

You can't go back to before and you shouldn't want to because you've got so much to more to offer now. OK, some of your life-baggage might feel a little heavy from time to time but most of what you carry with you is actually brilliant. Perhaps you just need to stop and have a look at what's really in your suitcase.

So, you can't go back. Just keep on going. Forward.

You Can Always Tell Who The Strong Women Are...

"You can always tell who the strong women are. They're the ones building one another up instead of tearing each other down."

There are so many reasons why I love that quote. In fact, I love it so much that I want it writ large on my wall. As much as I'm more than a bit of a tomboy, I'm also a complete woman's woman and I'd support 'my ladies' through thick, thin and everything in between. Happily for me, I work in the wedding industry where this girl-power, go-getting attitude is the brilliant norm.

Recently, I've been lucky enough to bag invitations to a couple of truly fabulous events, both aimed at people looking to develop their wedding business and I've certainly come away re-energised, re-invigorated and re-focussed.

But, as you might have gathered, this post isn't really about me, it's about the strong women. It's about the women that build each other up. From Kiki, the kind and oh-so-inspiring founder of The Hub and Kirsten & Emma, the two wedding industry powerhouses behind The Wedding Sessions to the endless list of amazing women who fill my working life, the bloggers, designers, creatives and retailers, they're all indescribably passionate about helping women achieve, connect, move forward and feel proud about what they're doing. 

A few snaps of mine from The Hub

A few snaps of mine from The Hub

They're also providing a support system for an industry that counts among its talented number a lot of lone workers. As much as I love what I do, sometimes sitting tapping into a screen, hoping that people are liking what you're doing is a lonely way to make a living. When you're having a tough day, there's no-one to talk to over a cuppa and when you're having a good day, you sometimes forget to celebrate in the rush to move on to the next thing. That's why you need a support network. You need people to talk to, people who'll listen, people who'll advise and people who'll care. 

The wedding industry is full of spectacular, extraordinary people. Yes yes, they're creative, talented and super committed but they're also utterly supportive. I've never met anyone who doesn't want to help or who doesn't bring something new to my own personal party. The fact I've been in this industry for over 12 years now is quite simply down to everyone around me.

A few more images of mine, this time from The Wedding Sessions

A few more images of mine, this time from The Wedding Sessions

So, the next time you see an event like The Hub or The Wedding Sessions mentioned online and you think 'oh I'd love to go to that', sign up. Sign up without question. It doesn't matter that you don't know anyone else going or if you're just not sure about putting yourself out there. Go, be a strong woman and you never know who you might help to build up.

Springing Back Into It...

For someone who loves writing and makes her living from writing, I've been really really bad about writing for myself of late. And I don't just mean here on this blog but for the purposes of this post, we'll content ourselves with talking about this blog. Or this not-really-a-blog as I probably should call it.

Anyway, I have nothing whatsoever to complain about because so far, 2015 has been all kinds of awesome. Since Christmas, I've worked on some absolutely amazing projects, have met lots of wonderful people and have so much goodness in the pipeline, it's unreal. I promise, hand on heart, to be far more diligent about keeping you and this let's-try-and-make-it-a-blog-again on track over the coming months.

So, to ease me back into this and to bring you up to date with some fab things you might have missed, let's have a little run down of what's been going on this year so far...

The brilliant Perfect Day Bride has had a complete makeover - new look boutique, brand spanking new website and beautiful new logos and images (courtesy of Xander & Thea) so if you've not yet taken a look, then I suggest you do...

Whilst we're talking about Xander & Thea, have you seen that exquisite new website yet? I absolutely adore Alethiea's images- they seem to have flown to my screen straight from an art gallery wall. You might also want to take a look at her engagement shoot tips over on B.Loved as well...

I'm always so proud to say that I write for the fantastic (and multi-award winning!) Love My Dress and it's a privilege to be a tiny part of Annabel's brilliant and inspiring creation. My catalogue of features grows by the week but I'd like to draw your attention to this piece all about the stylish Belle & Bunty. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Hannah and Alice of late and I hope this feature does their creativity and passion justice.

Image by Julie Michaelsen as seen on Love My Dress

Image by Julie Michaelsen as seen on Love My Dress

I've also been writing for the sparkly Glitzy Secrets and you can find my musings over on GS Inspiration. I'm really loving writing these pieces although I have to admit to spending far too long finding images to inspire me. But hey, when you love what you do, no time is wasted. Right? Right?!

I am also having to sit on my hands (well, not really but you know what I mean) as I write this because I've been working away behind the scenes with lots of super talented wedding suppliers on new websites, new projects and all manner of fabulousness so do come back soon to find out what else I've been up to of late. Oh, what a tease!

Yes indeed, 2015 is shaping up to be a right good 'un.

The Use-By Date On Inspiration...

So this post has its roots back in 2012 and that amazing summer. I am not ashamed to admit that I loved every single minute of the London Olympics and, if you ask my son, he'll tell you 2012 was his best year ever. We'd cheered the Olympic flame when it came through Reading, we'd loved the Opening Ceremony and we'd got more and more excited with every medal and every day.

One morning during that rather unforgettable fortnight, son and I hauled ourselves out of bed at some crazy-early time and made our bleary-eyed way onto a London-bound train with lots of other half-awake, half-excited people. Just the night before, I'd managed to get two tickets for us to watch the hockey in the Olympic Park. I'd not chosen them with any plan in mind or because son or I were particular fans of hockey but because I wanted us to share in the excitement of just being there...

Son and I having our Olympic moment...

Son and I having our Olympic moment...

And yes, it was everything I hoped it would be. Brilliant, wonderful, amazing and something son and I will have forever. At the time, there was talk everywhere about the legacy of the Olympics - would it, could it, inspire a generation?

Fast forward two years and son comes to me, asking if I would help him sign up to his local hockey team. He'd played the last season at school, was pretty good and thanks for to a couple of encouraging games masters prodding him along a little, he wanted to join a club to get better. He knew he had to work hard, he knew he had lots to learn and lots of time to give up but he didn't care. He was inspired.

"What started all this off?" I asked him one cold Sunday morning, post hockey match when we were driving home, desperately trying to warm up.

He looked at me like I was a complete idiot. "What do you mean?"

"This love of hockey. Where did it come from?"

"When we went to the Olympics," he said, still incredulous that I could have to ask such a stupid question.

I genuinely hadn't made the connection. I'd lost the link somewhere in there between Olympic action, finally playing at school and then wanting to join a club. But my son hadn't. He'd not lost that spark of inspiration that had flickered into being two years before. It had stayed with him, it had grown, he'd tested it out and then, when he was happy, he was ready to commit to it. And commit he has. Freezing training sessions in the cold, matches that mean he loses huge chunks of his weekend and the inevitable ups and downs of sport. The inspiration is still there.

This has got me thinking about inspiration and the fact it has no use-by date. We all love to read the latest inspiring book, attend an inspirational workshop and talk to inspirational people. And so we should because we absolutely need these things and many more beside to keep us motivated and moving forward. But it's not a race to use that inspiration before it runs out for things that truly move you stay deep inside for a long time.

'Being inspired' isn't something that should come with added pressure - how to harness it, use it and leap forward because of it. It can stay with you, quietly, until you need it or until the time is right. Then you bring it out, dust it off and find it to be as good as ever it was. 

Inspiration does not need manipulation. The time will come when you can use it - whether that's because a project pops up or because you decide you're ready to move. Don't push it, don't force yourself to act immediately - 'quick quick, I've been inspired, what can I do now now now?' - because the best kind of inspiration, the long-lasting, never-ending inner power, is always there.

So, be a bit kind to yourself. Don't panic because you've read a book/been on a course/talked to someone amazing and you've not leapt into action within days. If you've been truly and genuinely moved, have no fear. Inspiration will never leave you.

 

What I Did On My Holidays...

So, that's it. The first week back at work after the Christmas break is over and done with and it's been a cracker. New clients, new plans, new opportunities and a diary that's filling up rather beautifully with all kinds of goodness.

But this blog post isn't about all that. Oh no, it's the grown-up version of that back-to-school staple, beloved of teachers everywhere, the 'what I did on my holidays' essay. Because holidays are for life, not just for Christmas.

No, before you think that this is some cryptic way of me telling you that I'm giving it all up to sail endlessly around the Med or I'm off to live the life of a hermit in the Hebrides, let me explain. You see, I loved my Christmas holiday. I loved the lack of early morning alarms, the slower pace, the time I had to indulge my passions and the opportunity to connect with people a little more without being a slave to my to-do list. So, I've determined that, like those bonkers people who refuse to take down their Christmas lights, I'm going to hang onto elements of that festive vibe for as long as possible.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that I can laze in bed longer and stay up later everyday and in fact, I don't want to do that all the time. What I do want to do however is cling onto certain parts of the holidays that I think will make a big difference to my wellbeing and overall happiness. These things, I know, will mean I'm in better shape, physically and mentally, to give my absolute best to what is going to be a rip-roaring year.

In that spirit, let me tell you now that, after I've trilled 'bedtime', my iPhone will henceforth only be used as an alarm clock. I'm going to continue luxuriating for a good half and hour in bed before I doze off with a book, a mug of rooibos and a feeling of great contentment. No more checking social media or messing around with apps. They can wait. I'm more important.

I'll also be getting more flexible. Not in a twisty-yoga way but more in a 'I'll shape my own schedule' kind of a thang. I want my days to include a dog walk and time with the kids when they get home from school but I'm not going to get bent out of shape obsessing about precise timings for walkies and din-dins. It'll happen. I just need to let it go a bit - the clock is not the boss of me!

Christmas was also a reminder that keeping the creative alive is super important. I wrote for myself, I took photos, I faffed around crafting and I listened to more music than I have done for a while. It was all good and it all left me feeling more rounded - as if each activity had wrapped me in another layer of goodness (it might also have been the mince pies making me feel more rounded but we'll skip over that).

Most of all, the Christmas break reminded me just how flipping important breaks, holidays and time away from the norm can be. When you work for yourself, it's hard to ever truly leave your work behind because you always know that ultimately, the buck and just about everything else stops with you and there's no helpful little temp or team member picking up your work whilst you're away. However, holidays are the salve to the soul that we all need. No-one can keep going apace indefinitely and who would truly want to? Work is great and life is great when they're balanced. I'm going to balance like a tightrope walker crossing Niagara this year and our Easter holiday has already been booked (cue record-breaking rain in the Lake District during April I'm sure). The next battery-recharging pit-stop is in the diary and that feels fantastic.

I guess this little missive is a plea to us all not to be in such a rush to charge headlong into the joys and excitement of a fresh new year that we forget to take note of the teachings of the holidays. It's easy to do. We sprint back, full of vigour and energy without stopping to think what it was that has made us feel so brilliant. It was the holidays and the things we did in them.

So yes, my holidays were great. My year is going to be even better.

2015 & The Self Preservation Society

I feel I should start this post with a warning that I am not a huge fan of New Year. Maybe it's because I love Christmas so or because I dislike being told to have fun NOW, I don't know. I do know however that I don't like New Year's resolutions and all the self imposed pressure that they create. It seems mad to me that choosing to start something new or do something differently somehow means more if you make that decision on January 1st. It's a bit bonkers.

That said, this year I do feel the odd compulsion to make a statement about what I want to do in 2015. I think it's  the clarity that a week or so off work has brought and the space to see that it has given. I have loved my break this year and I've had time to look back over the last twelve months with fresh eyes. There's no doubt, I'm incredibly chuffed with what has been achieved but similarly, what's fallen by the wayside makes me a little sad.

You see, the things that have slipped are my things. I have allowed myself to be blown off course too frequently. Not by a lot each time but many times over and all of those tiny deviations from my goal have left it too far away. I want to write another book you see. There, I've said it, that's what I want. I have an idea, a burning idea that makes me smile whenever I think of it but instead of doing it, I do other things. Family things, work things, things that seem important but aren't really and things that no-one would notice if they were never done again. My agenda seems to be written in the lightest pencil strokes whilst the other points on the never-ending list are writ large in thick black marker pen.

This is, however, no-one's fault but my own. I am the only one who is truly in charge of my ship and I should be setting the course, trimming the sail and staying alert at the wheel to keep me moving in the right direction. So that's what I'm going to do this year. I'm joining The Self Preservation Society and putting myself first. Not all the time, just some of the time. Actually, just enough of the time to achieve something that will light up my life.

And it's important. It's important for me for certain but it's also important for my son and my step-children to see that if you want something, you work for it, you prioritise it and you go after it. It's important to know what you want and to know what will make you happy and, most of all, to know that those things are worth chasing.

So chase I will. Because I know where I'm heading.

You Know What's Coming Don't You?

It's the first of December - that date in the diary when it suddenly becomes ok to send the kids off to school having already eaten chocolate and when fairy lights become your primary source of illumination. So, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you what's coming do you?

Yes, you've guessed it, it's...

I am not at all ashamed to say that I love Christmas. I've loved it ever since I used made tissue paper hats at school for our Christmas party (AND we got to watch a film on the TV that they'd wheel into the hall - treat!). I have vivid memories of wiggling down my bed to prod hopefully at my stocking on Christmas morning in the hope of finding something hefty.

Now I love it because I get to make the rule about when the Christmas tree goes up and because I get to do the things for my son that my Mum used to do for me to make it all so special. We have alternative advent calendars with vouchers for treats as well as chocolates, we make decorations, have PJ days and have homemade charade pots that prove none in this house would ever make it on the stage (Lark Rise To Candleford once became Bird Flying From A Cupboard which pretty much tells you all you need to know) but most of all, we have time.

Time. That precious precious commodity that I value more every year. Today, I sent notes to clients telling them when to expect the bounce back 'out of office' note in December and January and it feels great to know that I've got two weeks all to myself. Well, not totally to myself with partner, kids, dog & family but you know what I mean.

So, what do I plan to do? How am I going to make the most of every moment. Well, I'm not going to. I'm not going to fill my holiday diary. Christmas is not a time to overindulge on commitments. On chocolates and treats, yes but commitments, no. This is a time to recharge batteries, take stock, make plans, go for runs or walks, read books or do precisely nothing. This is time that's not governed by the inflexibility of school timetables or the pressing need to squeeze in dinners between arrival home and departure for evening activities. It's a fortnight without obligation and however I or you choose to fill it is our business. 

It's ok to reach the end of a busy year frazzled. It's ok to need a break and to look forward to some time out. We all need it. And, in kick-ass businesswoman mode (not my default setting, it must be said), I'm going to take it. But I'm taking it gently, asking if I may and saying thank you. I'm going to appreciate my break, luxuriate in it and drift through each and every day with not particular plan.

This Christmas, I promise not to grade the success of my holiday on the number of notebooks filled with ideas, books read, presents delivered, dinners cooked or miles run. Instead I'm going to just see how I feel when I'm back at my desk in January and that should give me a pretty accurate idea of just how great my Christmas holiday was.

Shock! Horror! A Non-Weddingy Event...

So, yesterday evening I hopped on a train to Bristol to attend, shock horror, a non-wedding industry event. The bash in question was the Sawday's 20th Anniversary Awards and I was lucky enough to be invited along by the really rather wonderful Lizzie from Wedding Yurts. Lizzie had been asked to bring one of her fab yurts along to the event and oh my goodness, it looked brilliant. Later on in the evening, there was literally a queue of award-winners outside waiting to have their photos taken in the glam, flower-festooned peacock chair.

Wedding-Yurts-Sawdays-Awards.JPG

Anyway, it was such a treat for me because, as you might know, I'm a massive Sawday's fan and admit my love for their Canopy & Stars brand on a frequent basis. So being in a room with all of these amazing venue owners was just great.

But it was the ethos and atmosphere of the event and the Sawday's people that really stood out. I know that I bang on about the great men and women that make up the wedding industry on a regular basis and the same creative, free-spririted joie de vivre was everywhere last night.

The venue owners I was lucky enough to speak to were all vocal ambassadors for their ventures. So many had given up successful corporate careers to pursue their dreams, others had reinvigorated dying family estates and quite a few had been told that trying to do something that was a little bit madcap was bonkers. But they did what they knew to be right. And it worked, fuelled by belief and powered by passion, and they were all there last night to celebrate.

Alastair Sawday had given them all a voice, he'd championed the different and the off-beat. This was not a bland event full of identikit companies, this was a joyous occasion where people who'd taken a chance had come to be recognised. From the owners of handmade shepherd's huts to those who'd renovated old fire lorries, Sawday's has celebrated their commitment and I loved it. 

It was towards the end of the evening when the Sawday's staff stood up on stage to sing 'Goodnight Sweetheart' to the assembled guests that I really made the connection between this event and the plethora of wedding get togethers I've attended recently.

They're all about sharing. Sharing your passion and your work with other people who just get you. Sharing your celebrations and plans for the future. Sharing the fact that you've taken a chance and it's paid off or sharing the notion that trying to be better and trying to do better is good and it should be embraced wholeheartedly.

Alistair Sawday shared his passion, he's done things differently and he's been true to himself. By being authentic and genuine, those that have gathered around him share his values and everyone works together, appreciative of the input of others.

Whilst it might have a few faults, I truly believe that the wedding industry is like this and can be more like this. It's populated by downright amazing individuals who are, like the people I spent my evening with yesterday, good and passionate and unafraid. I know that I am very lucky to work for and with likeminded people.

But this doesn't happen by luck or accident. It happens, as it did with Alistair Sawday, by being clear who you are and what you stand for. There's no real right and there's no real wrong, there's just clarity and belief.

Be clear about what you believe in and you'll light up your work. You'll light up so bright that you're not waiting for a lightbulb moment or a flash of inspiration. You'll just be alight. Always.

Me and the super lovely Lizzie...

Me and the super lovely Lizzie...

The petal-perfect flowers in Lizzie's handmade yurt were by Lily Violet May

One For My Son...

Apple Junior is at that interesting age of 12 where he's a child one moment and a gangly adolescent the next. He still doesn't care how he dresses and will still mouth 'I love you' at me across a crowded hall at school (he did this yesterday - I almost cried) and yet he's doing his own thing and becoming his own person in a way that I just love.

His current obsession is his YouTube channel. He loves it and spends so much time planning content, working on content and editing content that I'm amazed by his work ethic. A few weeks ago, we did a deal that when he hit 50 subscribers, I'd write him a blog post.

And so I am.

What has really struck me through his forays into the world of YouTube and social media is a) how switched on about it all he is and b) that he sees this new media razzamatazz as a valid career choice. Whilst I know that part of his excitement is down to youthful exuberance, I couldn't be prouder that my son is seeing career options beyond the usual school-uni-job route. And if he's doing it, there are obviously plenty of others that are doing it too.

I've always wondered what living with someone who spends their time up to their neck in the wedding industry pretty would do for him and now I know. It's given him options, choices and a wider frame of reference for careers and lifestyles than I ever could have hoped. He sees talented and driven people working for themselves and making a difference. He's exposed to relationships of every type, he understands how to treat people, he sees that working for yourself is brilliantly rewarding but also how much discipline it requires. He knows that there are many more ways to be creative than simply wielding a pencil in art class.

So, to Pip, I know I might sometimes rib you a bit for your determination to become a 'YouTuber' but I have no right to. You can do anything you set your mind to, you can make the life you want, you can dream big little one and you can do all of this because you are brilliant.

And to everyone else reading this post, the same goes for you too.

The Wedding Blog Awards - Don't Try To Be Different...

So, if you've got a vague interest in the wedding world (and I can't think why you wouldn't!), you'll know that last Friday saw The Savoy throw open its doors to Wedding magazine and The Wedding Blog Awards. You might well also know that I was there, along with the lovely Caoimhe, representing Team Love My Dress. I could write a long post about the champagne, the canapés, the decor and the terror, twice over, of having to hop up on stage to accept the awards for 'Best Real Life Weddings' and 'Best Bridal Style' that Love My Dress scooped on the night. But, as so many wonderful women have already penned and published posts about these things (see list at the end of this piece), I'm going to write about something else. Obvs.

I do love a little bit of people watching and so having a good look around at everyone who was sipping champagne and waiting for the awards proper to begin was really interesting. And then it hit me, these women, these terrific and talented women who made up the shortlists for the awards all had one thing in common. None of them were trying to be different.

via Pinterest

Now, this is the moment when you might well be sitting there thinking I've lost the plot completely but hang in there while I explain myself.

The key word in my bold assertion isn't different, it's trying. The blogs on the shortlist are all different, they have found their niche and they're totally working it. But they're not trying to be different or trying to be something they're not. And this is exactly why they're great.

Nova, the gorgeously passionate powerhouse behind the (deservedly) award-winning Nu-Bride is, when you meet her, exactly as you would expect from reading her blog. She's kind, caring, gentle and strong. Another woman who I fell a bit for was Charlotte from Fizzy Bunting. She 'isn't a dress kind of a gal' so rocked the tux at the awards and was true to herself. Raj from Secret Wedding Blog wanted to write about multi-cultural couples and weddings so did. B.Loved's Louise and Emma from Coco Wedding Venues are just as stylish as you imagine and they're also as warm and as positive as their writing suggests. In short, no-one was trying to be different, they were just being themselves. 

And that's really the key to it all. Don't work so hard to be different that you lose sight of who you really are. Don't strive to stand out when all you really need is to just be you. Just on a really good day. We all might have been dressed up fancy for a night out but everyone was still the same person. And it was great.

The wedding industry is a sociable place - people like to get together and you see a lot of each other. If you're putting on an act or if you're trying too hard, you'll get found out like the kid at school who pretends to be way cool when they're just not and ends up miserable, even when they're hanging with the crowd they want to be with. Because, now that we're not kids in the playground, we know that trying to be different never works out in the long run.

I got to be at The Savoy on Friday evening because a while ago, Annabel asked me to be part of Team Love My Dress. And it was revelatory. Annabel doesn't try to be different, she just tries to be good. And she, and the other fabulous, brilliant, spectacular and downright excellent women in the room on Friday evening, have totally nailed it.

Who doesn't sit on the stairs in The Savoy of a Friday night clutching two awards?

Who doesn't sit on the stairs in The Savoy of a Friday night clutching two awards?

So Caoimhe and I just had to get in on the photobooth action...

So Caoimhe and I just had to get in on the photobooth action...

So, if you want to read the reports and reflections on the awards, let me point you in the direction of these little beauties...

 

Love My Dress

Coco Wedding Venues

Nu-Bride

B.Loved

Fizzy Bunting

How To Stand Out At Brides The Show...

"You'd never have had anything like this ten years ago," said a wedding planner friend to me on Saturday as we met on the stairs at Brides The Show. I was descending, past the huge light-up letters that must have been every bride's selfie spot of choice at the show to the vintage photo booth and Imagination Room and she was heading up to The Sommelier's Table, wedding cake exhibit and Wedding Planner's Lounge. And she was right - times they are a-changing.

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After too many years of wedding fairs/fayres in nondescript hotel function suites where 6ft tables draped with white linen cloths, complete with the creases that come with laundry service ironing, are guarded by wedding suppliers who had their sales patter down pat, the wedding industry has most certainly evolved into something softer, chicer and a damn sight more pleasant.

Yes, there are still the 'bag-hunters' at events like Brides The Show - those who want to cruise the stands picking up as many impressive looking branded bags as possible whilst ditching everything that's inside as soon as they're out of sight. There are still also the slightly confused looking men, the trying-to-be-excited-even-though-it's-not-about-them bridesmaids and the Mums who might as well wear badges saying 'I have no idea what's going on here'. But, happily, their numbers are dwindling.

So, the challenge for wedding professionals who spend a lot of their time and money in prepping for an event like Brides The Show or good quality regional/local event is - how to stand out. And, from what I saw on Saturday as I wandered around the show, there are basically two ways to do this.

The first is one I really don't recommend and that is to style it out, Old School. You know what I mean by this. I mean the stands that are still manned by the vaguely predatory sales people. They have no finesse, no real connection with the person they're talking too - they've been given their targets of brides to sign up and damn it all, that's what they're going to do. The Old School stands are either too bland or too try-hard. They're often a bit too corporate and a little bit soulless. They're staffed by employees who trot out the company line, not owners or enthusiastic assistants. They're not great and they stand out a mile. I'm sure they get enquiries and I'm sure they pick up business but they don't connect with type of bride who becomes a virtual ambassador for the brands she chooses. It's transactional, nothing more.

On the other side of the walkway (literally in some cases) there are the exhibitors who've got it spot on. Their stands, whatever size they are, are welcoming and well styled. These companies, whatever their size, are staffed by good people doing good work. The chat is engaging and genuine, not a conversation that's clearly steering you round to the 'can I take your details' closer. Brides linger on these stands because they want to, not because whoever is talking to them WILL NOT LET THEM GO. Brides who love this approach rather than the wham-bam-thank-you-maam hit and run outlined above are the ones that will sing your praises online talk about you to their friends and become your own unpaid PR. Working relationships with these consumers are easier - you're more well suited, you understand each other and, like a good marriage, you're coming to the relationship as equals. Yes, some show visitors might pass you by if they don't get you. And that's fine - you don't want every client, you want your clients. And they're there - you just have to show them you are too.

The Revival Rooms at Brides The Show

The Revival Rooms at Brides The Show

So, in short, how do you stand out? By being real, authentic, genuine, welcoming, passionate and friendly. You get that your stand is more than just somewhere to store your brochures for a weekend, it's a little look into how you work with your clients and a real reflection of the brilliance they can expect from you. 

It seems unlikely that a great quote for planning a successful wedding show stand, or indeed planning any event or project where you interact with potential clients, would come from a baseball movie but it does...

"If you build it, they will come."

Just build it right.

Halfpenny London at Brides The Show - Cool. As.

Halfpenny London at Brides The Show - Cool. As.

The Rosewood London's stand was pretty, full of personality and absolutely spoke volumes about the hotel. 

The Rosewood London's stand was pretty, full of personality and absolutely spoke volumes about the hotel. 

Totally loved Minna Hepburn's stand...

Totally loved Minna Hepburn's stand...

Nila Holden's session in the Imagination Room was standing room only and she spoke from the heart. Perfect.

Nila Holden's session in the Imagination Room was standing room only and she spoke from the heart. Perfect.

Who Is Going To Stop Me?

Last week was a good one. Aside from the unbridled joy that finding a couple of skirts that fit me and also suit me brings, I also got to spend a lot of time talking to and being with some really fabulous women. Wonderful, amazing, inspiring and unstoppable women.

The word 'unstoppable' is simply beautiful to me right now. It conveys motion, movement, force, determination and an unceasing progression towards... Well, towards whatever you want and that, my friends, is the joy of it.

If you read Love My Dress, you'll know that it was Annabel's 40th birthday at the weekend and last Thursday, a group of truly unstoppable women gathered at The Rosewood Hotel in London to celebrate with her. What makes this cluster of creativity so fabulous (apart from the fact, as Miss Bush so rightly says in this brilliant blog, they're just damn cool), is that they are the epitome of what women in the workplace need from each other. 

We don't need to be hard-faced, grasping, climb-over-each-other-to-win women. We need to be supportive, we need to be honest, we need to give encouragement as freely as we give kisses at the end of e-mails. We need to be helpful, generous and loyal. I've got your back, you've got mine and between us, we can take on anything. We need to be unstoppable. Together.

Later in the week I met up with another client, a woman who I'm also proud to work with and support. She's also unstoppable (even if she doesn't quite know it yet) because she's passionate, stylish and she's got a super clear vision of what she wants and what she's not interested in. I love this too.

When I was a teenager, I was accused by a boyfriend that I was a feminist (mostly because I read Cosmopolitan at the time) as if this was somehow deeply unattractive. When I was at university, another girl told me that being so interested in sport just wasn't going to be appealing to men. Then, and now, I don't care one jot. I am who am I and as I too approach the 40th milestone, I am happy with this. I am more confident than ever before, fitter than ever before and more willing to stand up, move on and get on in my own sweet way than ever before. 

Through being surrounded by brilliant women, I am full of a belief that I didn't have during my callow twenties or even my eager-to-please-at-all-costs early thirties. I know where I am and who I am and I might just be unstoppable.

I would love it if you were unstoppable too.

Image via www.favimages.net


Let Us Lay In The Sun...

I did this yesterday. I lay in the sun, in the grass, and counted good things. Last week was, well, interesting to say the least and I'd reached the end of it feeling deflated. One slightly negative thought tends to throw open the door to all of its friends and they all come rushing in, determined to party like a fresher at university.

image via Pinterest

image via Pinterest

Work, feeling a bit under the weather, a son home from school with the same bug, builders and plumbers intruding on my peace, emergency trips to the vet, the inevitable crash after the Thames Path Challenge and a myriad of decisions and jobs just made me want to scream. I didn't scream however. I went for a run and tried to run so fast everything would be left behind. That definitely didn't work but hey, I might have given passing drivers a laugh.

Then, I read this article about the stresses of homeworking on The Telegraph website and I found myself nodding along in agreement. Yes, the washing. Yes, the deliveries. Yes, the feeling that you're part house-keeper part home-worker. Yes, the continual battle to get people to take you seriously. It was the perfect piece to read after the week I'd had. Woe woe woe. Sob sob sob.

But it was perhaps at  that moment that the wide open door in my head that was allowing all of the shouting horrid thoughts in was slammed shut. And it was slammed shut by the prospect of the alternatives. Because, however tough this whole working for yourself balance thing can be, the key words in my previous sentence are the ones that made me lay in the sun and count the good things. I work for myself.

A few years ago, I had a short and unhappy dalliance with the corporate world. I would don my office attire and leave home before my son was even dressed for school and return home in time to cook dinner, shout about homework left undone and put him to bed before doing the whole damn thing again the next day. The holidays were worse - no flexbility, no fun, no opportunities to take an hour in the afternoon for a game of badminton and catch up later. I spent my summer in an air conditioned office trying to share an enthusiasm for weddings that no-one else wanted or understood and attending meeting after meeting where nothing was done and no-one spoke their mind. I happily left. I'm not cut out to work like that, for people like that and in that kind of environment.

So when I re-read The Telegraph piece, I looked at it differently. I want this lifestyle. I want to walk my son to school while he still wants my company. I want to go for a run, to pop out if I choose to and I want to be the grown up, working to my own schedule and making my own decisions. I want to have flowers on my desk, pretty on my walls and the freedom to pick and choose my clients. This creative, difficult, fantastic, hard, soul-breaking, heart-filling life is the life I have chosen and it is good. It is full of opportunities and devoid of dullness. I don't have meetings that make my eyes glaze over. I have meetings with people that inspire me to do better. I don't do someone else's bidding. I dance to my own tune.

And, that's worth the juggling, the balancing, the ups and down and any amount of washing you like.

The Must-Have Of The Season - Glitter...

Judging by my diary, my jeans and my inability to walk in heels, I've clearly not been f-rowing it at London Fashion Week (although, Miss Bush's updates on Facebook have been, let's face it, as good as being there). However, despite my distinct  lack of design credentials, I can tell you, good wedding folk of the world, what's going to be hot this season.

Glitter.

I can actually hear you tutting from here and muttering under your breath at my super slow uptake of this wedding trend. But, before you unfollow, unlike and block me forever for being so utterly hopeless, let me refer you to this...

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People that sparkle are always the the best to be around. When someone loves their work, speaks with passion and acts with spirited intent, they are irresistible. But this quote by the sainted Roald Dahl goes deeper than that - it's about living a life that lights you up and it's about watching the world with a sense of wide-eyed wonder. 

Because being part of someone's wedding, being involved in such momentous occasion is not something that should dull you. Yes, yes, I know the mechanics of business can be dull - none of us got into this to do the invoicing or pay the VAT bill - but the weddings, the brides, the grooms, the families, the stories and the emotions are what set our businesses apart from the everyday workaday world so many of us left behind.

If you've involved with weddings, watching with glittering eyes should be the simplest thing in the world. It should be the way you recharge your batteries and redouble your efforts. When you see what's around you, you should see something special and be proud to be a part of it.

The full quote from the marvellous Mr Dahl reads... "and above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places."

So, let your eyes glitter this autumn. And who knows what you'll find.