What I wish I had known before planning my wedding

It’s been a while since I did this feature, however with everyone around me getting engaged I thought it was time to speak with another London bride about her wedding.  

Wedding Mariam and Dan

Mariam had an Asian wedding with her Irish husband at the Mandarin Oriental hotel (It just happens that the groom is also my boyfriend’s brother).  Although their Knightsbridge wedding venue sounds like it would cost the earth, it’s impressive to read how she negotiated the price while still getting the wedding she wanted.


Mariam and Dan
Stunning couple, eh?

 Q: How did you approach your wedding budget?

Our wedding initially was just going to be very small scale, just close family at a registry office. We ran this by my dad and he point blank refused to have this happen. My mother had apparently made him promise to give me a big wedding, which meant our budget had massively increased! Our approach ended up being to come up with a figure and then try and fit our requirements into that.

Q: Where did you spend the most money? Did this surprise you?

We spent the most on the venue which was the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, it wasn’t that surprising as the package included all the food and drinks too.

Q: How far under or over budget did you go? Why?

We eventually went over budget, which wasn’t that surprising. I ended up digging into my savings to buy the wedding jewellery I wanted. In hindsight I could’ve chosen costume asian jewellery but once I clapped eyes on the set I REALLY wanted it. Four years on I still love looking at them and am considering taking it to the jewellers to have it broken down into more wearable pieces.

Q: Did you negotiate prices with suppliers and vendors? If yes, how did you do this?

We did, at the time of our wedding the UK was undergoing a massive economic decline, which meant luxury venues were failing to take in the revenues that they wanted. Having saved for my big day since I was young we managed to take advantage of the current climate at the time! The mandarin ended up being very flexible with us and we didn’t have to rent out all the rooms which would have increased the cost considerably. Another example of negotiation was my jewellery. I bought it from an Asian jewellers so its pretty normal to haggle on the price that is quoted. I remember sitting in the shop for a considerable time trying to get a price that we were both happy with.

Q: Anything you think you spent money on that was not noticed or appreciated by guests?

I think things like menus and place cards probably were not noticed. They came as part of the hotel package and we chose the most basic and cheapest options so they were fairly plain.

 Q: What was your favourite detail of the day?

Its probably one of the silliest parts of the day, but the planner at the Mandarin told us that we could fly any of our national flags. SO on the day we had the Irish and Pakistani flags flying at the front of the hotel. Lots of people noticed it (including the driver of the taxi we were using the following day).

Q: Did you have to compromise because of the budget and if yes, where was that compromise made?

Yes, the hotel were trying to get us to spend on the in house florist who were amazing but so so expensive. We looked around and still didn’t find any florists that could fit our budget. In the end my mother-in-law mentioned that one of their old family friends were married to a florist in London. I went to visit her and she was fantastic, quoting us with a really reasonable price and doing a lovely job on the day.

Q: Any tips for brides about budgeting for the big day?

Make a list of all the things you want for your wedding and order them by priority, then assign a budget accordingly. For my wedding day I knew that the big ticket items would be

1. Venue

2. Food

3. Photographer

Everything closer to the end of the list we would have to compromise on.

A ‘Trash the Dress’ shoot and a parrot

alan and tanya (34 of 54)
alan and tanya (29 of 54)
Alan, the groom, is a good high school friend of the amazingly talented photographer Kari Bellamy.
When Kari and Alan met in Los Angeles over the Christmas period, Alan admitted that he didn’t hire a wedding photographer when he recently married his wife Tanya.
So Kari suggested that the couple pop on their wedding outfits and do a “trash the dress shoot” in Joshua Tree National Park.
Alan and Tanya thought it would be fun to bring their parrot Rhubarb along, and I couldn’t agree more. Parrots are the cheekiest birds and Kari found a creative way to include Rhubarb in a lot of the photographs without deflecting attention away from the in-love couple. Don’t you just blush when you see the photograph of Alan biting Tanya’s ear?  That is the definition of ‘newlyweds’.
More than anything I really love how Kari made the most of the soft, natural lighting. It goes to show that for a photographer lighting is everything and Kari sure knows how to make the most of it.
Thanks so much for sharing.