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.

 

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.

Brides-The-Show-Letters.JPG

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.

A Summer With Shades Of Coco...

I am beyond happy that I get to work with the amazing Emma Hla of Coco Wedding Venues. Coco, if you've been somewhere with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, is the most deliciously designed website. Every style of venue can be found here, including some that you just won't find anywhere else. It's beautiful, it's stylish and it's making a splash for all the right reasons. Despite only launching earlier this year, Emma & Coco Wedding Venues made the shortlist in the prestigious 'Best Designed Blog' category in Wedding magazine's blog awards. Whoop and whoop again.

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However, Emma's super stylish eye extends beyond the screen and she collaborates with the equally lovely Katrina Otter to produce beautiful shoots the brim over with detail and pretty aplenty. Earlier this year, the duo directed a shoot at Narborough Hall that's already featured on Rock My Wedding and in Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine. I also happen to know that there's more of this shoot coming up in other excellent magazines soon so keep watching.

The Coco Wedding Venues/Katrina Otter shoot features in Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine...

The Coco Wedding Venues/Katrina Otter shoot features in Wedding Flowers & Accessories magazine...

In August, I was thrilled to be able to go behind the scenes at Emma & Katrina's latest shoot at the beyond stunning Iscoyd Park. This delectably house, nestled on the English/Welsh border played host to some tip-top talent and I am almost having to sit on my hands now to make sure I don't spill any of the secrets of the shoot before it's published. However, I can promise you that you're going to love it.

The very talented Rebecca Goddard capturing something beautiful...

The very talented Rebecca Goddard capturing something beautiful...

How To Ride Your Elephant

I have spent the last day or two thinking about how best to ride my elephant. Now, I understand that this probably isn't the opening you were ever expecting to read but since Mr Apple has been reading 'Switch' by Chip & Dan Heath and sharing the salient points with me, my elephant riding skills have been rather on my mind.

Perhaps I should explain. 'Switch' is all about how we deal with change and, most importantly, how to change things when change is hard. And it all comes down to how you motivate your elephant...

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via  Pinterest

Your elephant is your emotional brain and the rider is your rational bride. See the almost daily stand-off between this pair when your alarm clock shrills every morning. The rider knows the right thing to do is to bound out of bed, eat the healthy breakfast and get a jump start on your day. Your elephant however has other plans and hits snooze and retreats under the duvet again. Once in a while, the rider will win these battles when you use big doses of willpower to take control of the elephant but it doesn't happen often.

You see, the elephant is big and powerful and it wants instant gratification. The rider sits in a precarious position and sometimes, despite its noble aims for long-term improvements, it can't always direct the elephant in the 'right' way. Despite this, the elephant isn't bad - the elephant is the source of passion and all those wonderful emotions that quite often lie behind our greatest achievements. The rider isn't perfect either - in its quest for perfection and its need to 'do the right thing', it can over-think and over-analyze and render itself immobile.

So, to really change things, to really head with power and energy in a new direction, you need to harness both elephant and rider. You need to appeal to the emotions to galvanise movement in the right direction and you need specific details to appeal to the rider.

A wishy-washy aim, however impressive it might sound and however genuine it might be, of 'I want to get some more clients soon' isn't going to work. Some isn't a number and soon isn't a date. The rider doesn't know where it's heading and the elephant doesn't see what's important. So nothing changes.

Inspiring presentations don't consist of endless powerpoint slides decorated with graphs and charts and a speaker who sounds flat and boring and reading motivational quotes doesn't guarantee you momentum. You need power, energy and a specific goal. You need to ride your elephant down a clear path - you can't drag it by the nose along an indistinct walkway. Change is hard when you use all your energy in just getting the elephant moving - you're often just mentally exhausted, not lazy. Willpower is finite and however much you want something, once your willpower is gone, you've lost the battle and your elephant will clump happily back to its original starting point, despite the fact the rider is begging, cajoling and sobbing for it not to.

You've got admirable goals, you know where you want to go, you just need to fire up your elephant.

Now Is The Time For New Things...

I would never classify myself as a runner. Endurance walker, badminton player, lover of the sit-up and the tricep-dip - yes. Runner - no.

But now, you see, I need to be a runner. Well, I need to be enough of a runner to keep up to RAF requirements after I pressed submit on my application to join the RAF Reserves earlier this year. So, despite the voice in my head that told me THIS IS NOT WHAT I DO and the initial huffing and puffing on the pavements (for which, people of Reading, I apologise), it was time for new things...

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Sometimes, we need a real push to encourage us to branch out. When all in your world is happy and trotting along nicely, why would you need to start floundering around with something new? Oh, the awkwardness, the time spent feeling odd and strange and the unavoidable sense that you could be so much more profitably employed doing the things you're good at. 

But you see, it's whilst we struggle with the new things that we learn a little bit more about ourselves. Whether you learn that you're tougher than you thought, more capable than you thought or just a whole lot more stubborn than you thought, it's been worth it because who knows when you'll need that knowledge. When you glide through days without a challenge or without a little hurdle to climb, it gets dull, it gets boring and that safety net that's held you so comfortably for so long starts to kill you with kindness.

So, what else do you need to be? What else would you like to be and, most importantly, what else could you be? Granted, I'm never going to be out front at the London marathon but I am packing in the miles in a way I never thought I would and that makes me ridiculously proud. Proud that I tried something new, proud that I didn't hold myself back and proud that I wanted something enough to, pardon the pun, literally work my arse off for it.

If you picked one new thing to try, what difference would it make to you or your business? Where might it lead? What might you learn and how would that make you feel? If you ever look around at other people doing things that you'd like to be doing, stop wondering how they got to be doing them and just do them yourself. Read a book, sign up for a class, attend a workshop and just try. Try something different and something that, even if it doesn't go to plan, you can always say 'well, I gave it a go' and that one sentence is always something to be proud of.

The longer you leave it, the harder it gets. The harder it gets, the longer you'll leave it and the days, weeks and months dance onward in their own time, not yours. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain and the joy you'll feel at trying something different or doing something you've never done before will far outstrip the difficulties you'll encounter.

So don't wait, don't linger and don't just flick through your diary promising to start at some unspecified point in the future. Now is the time for new things...

Start Before You're Ready

Maybe it's the feeling of my own increasing decrepitude that another imminent birthday brings. Or maybe it's the fact that my 'little boy' is now playing cricket for the under-13 team. Either way, this week, I'm determined to recapture my youth.

Before you panic/despair/call my Mum, I'm not going to be hiding under the duvet reading 'Forever' by torchlight, playing football with the boys in the playground or even holding hands with that unsuitable but irresistible school sports hero under the desk during chemistry. Oh no, I'm just going to do stuff. Right now. This moment. Before I'm ready...

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Remember when we were kids, we never waited for 'the right moment' or carefully weighed up the pros and cons before even thinking of taking the smallest step forward. Oh no, we rushed, headlong and happy into new things, screaming with delight and whooping joyfully at our own bravery and daring. Sometimes stuff worked out and sometimes it didn't but we tried, we learned and we didn't hold ourselves back.

But now, we wait. We procrastinate. We plan, we research, we discuss, we schedule and we diarise. I'm not saying these things aren't useful but they are not, they cannot ever be, more useful than actually doing stuff. All the preparation in the world doesn't guarantee success. That can only come with action.

I have learned that my stubborn streak, that part of me that relentlessly says 'go on, I dare you' in my ear when I consider something new is actually my best helper. Without it, I never would have completed marathons, written books, launched businesses and done all the other things that scared me witless at the time. Was I always utterly ready? No. Was I determined to do my best and see what I could push myself to? Absolutely.

You see, the problem with waiting for that far off perfect moment, that time in the future when the stars align, the angels sing and the moment becomes absolutely perfect, is that while you're waiting, like the demure kid sitting quietly at the front of the class, someone else is out there doing it, living it, being it and making it.

If you have even an inkling of an idea or a dream or a thought, stop delaying. Don't put it off to an unspecified ideal moment in the future when you think you'll be ready. Run at it. Chase it down and make the right moment right now.

Be a child again. If you want something, get on with it. You'll never be more ready than you are now.

And, if what you want is worth it, what on earth are you doing waiting?