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  1. When we got married, the first thing that we booked was the venue, and the second thing, the photographer. Good photographers get booked sometimes years in advance, and my husband-to-be and I knew that we wanted someone who'd be able to see and reflect our personalities through their lenses. So if you are like us and want to have photos that you will treasure all your life, make sure you read what Sarah from Sarah Horton Photography has to say below.

    Award winning Sarah is listed for the second year in a row in the 50 Best Wedding Photographers, which described her work as 'unique, captivating and deeply romantic'. Based in Nantwich, where I met her at a local networking meeting, Sarah covers Cheshire and the North West area, but also destination weddings abroad. In fact, one of her photographs of a wedding at Lake Garda recently scooped 'Photo of the Week' at Brides Magazines.

    Sarah Horton Photography

    Here's what Sarah shared with us for this month's version of 'Let's talk about...'.

    Sharon: What are the current trends in wedding photography? What are couples looking for?

    Sarah: Ooh I’m definitely seeing weddings becoming more and more relaxed and moving away from tradition. I’ve chatted to a number of couples for this year who’ve decided to ditch the cake cutting pics, aren’t having a first dance, or only want 3 or 4 group shots. I’ve worked recently on a wedding where the bride and groom have got ready and walked over to the church together. Weddings feel much more about spending the day with loved ones and celebrating, rather than focusing on the details. Doing things your own way rather than 'just because' ensures a truly unique day. Elopements and small intimate ceremonies are more popular than ever, with many couples choosing to travel to somewhere special with their nearest few - this can make for some stunning photographs in epic locations!

    What's the best way for couples to find the right photographer for them?
    There are so many different shooting and editing styles and it can be totally baffling. Photography styles range from full documentary where moments are captured exactly as they happen, the photographer has little to no input into the day, rarely posing couples or shooting formal images, right through to traditional wedding photography, more like staged images where the photographer sets up each shot in a particular way, there might also be additional lighting used. I’m probably totally in the middle of the two, relaxed, natural light photography. For the most part I let the day unfold, looking for laughs and little moments, but will offer guidance as needed on posing and getting couples to feel comfortable in front of the camera. I use natural light as much as possible and try not to take couples away from their guests for long for portraits.  
    Again, there are a million different ways your images can be edited, and its totally down to personal preference. I'd suggest having a look at a good amount of photographers and see what you’re drawn to most, think about the kind of pictures you’d want to hang on your walls, or look back on in 20 years time. 
    Once you’ve found ‘the one’ be sure to get your date secured in their diary quickly. Dates book out as far ahead as 3 years! 
    What questions should they be asking? What should they watch out for?
    Ask as many questions as you like until you’re confident enough to book, we totally don’t mind! Definitely make sure you’ve seen lots of previous work, a good full portfolio or full wedding set with images consistently edited in the style you like, and look for reviews from previous couples. You might want to check about the number of images you’ll receive, what the editing turnaround time is and whether there are any additional costs - for example do you need to pay for extra images or retouching. Also ask about how long your photographer will be there on the day, will it actually be them who comes on the day or an associate, if they offer a second shooter, and what their deposit and payment schedule is. The answer to all of these questions will vary between photographers so make sure you have all of the info and ask away until you’re happy! 
    What should couples do to make the most of their photographic moments?   
    There are some little things you can do to really help with your images on the day.. 
    Bridal or groom prep spaces - choosing somewhere with lots of natural light and space to move around makes such a difference. Dark, cluttered or busy rooms are really hard to work in, not just for photographers but also for hair and make up artists too. Its worth taking the extra time to think about where you’ll be. 
    Unplugged ceremonies - this doesn’t have to be for the whole day, but I’ve got many a first kiss image with an iPad in the air, or a 360 camera on a stick across the aisle in front of the bridal party - encourage your guests to put the screens down and enjoy the moment :-) 
    The weather - The great British weather is something that worries lots of couples and photographers alike. If your wedding day happens to be wet I’d totally encourage you to embrace it - we’ll plan for inside space and continue to look out for dry spells but absolutely pack some brollies and wellies and get out in it, it makes for fab images! 
    Any tricks for looking great in photos?
    It’s easy enough to say but try and relax to avoid stiff or uncomfortable images! On your wedding day during your portraits might be the first time you get to spend some time alone together, I normally tell my couples to take the opportunity to have a catch up and it won’t feel all about the photographs. Im looking for little laughs and cuddles that will come naturally in that time. If you think it’s something you’ll stress about definitely look at booking a pre-wedding or engagement shoot with your photographer to have a bit of a practice run. A couple of little tips too - try and avoid fake tanning, it can look super obvious when standing next to someone with a natural skin tone! And if you’re having a makeup artist definitely book in a trial to make sure you’re totally happy with it, check it out in the daylight too! 
    If you'd like to see some of Sarah's gorgeous wedding photos, head over to her website here, and if you want a chat, I'm sure she'll love to hear from you!
    This blog is compiled by Blue Lily Magnolia, provider of bespoke and alteration services for wedding and bridesmaid dresses and accessories. Photography has been supplied by Sarah, with permission to share here.
  2. Emma and Richard tied the knot this spring at Stapleton Church, just outside Shrewsbury. They held their reception in Richard's parents' back garden, where three joined tipis squeezed into a corner of the garden, creating a spectacular 'secret garden' theme. In this blog, they share with us their beautiful and quirky story and wedding memories, with some advice on making your wedding unique and your own .
    The pair met on - it does work!! Emma says, "We had our first date at The Old Market Hall in Shrewsbury where we talked and drank more tea than a human being can consume in one sitting, until finally we had to leave as they were closing. We both knew then and there that we were onto something special."
    Richard proposed in their kitchen. He had prepared her a meal that they had seen Mary Berry cook at a Good Food Show - duck and apple chips. "I hadn't even got through the door from work when he popped the question. He was very nervous and couldn't stand waiting any longer. It was simple, and perfect", Emma recalls. 

    The couple really took care to include both their personalities into their wedding celebrations, which made it all very personal as well as uniquely quirky and memorable. Richard and his family are very musical. They had a brass quartet playing in the ceremony, and Emma walked down the aisle to the quartet playing "Rule the World" by Take That. To add more musical elements, their confetti cones were homemade out of Richard's mum's old music sheets. "Rich and I love going to ceilidhs so we had  a ceilidh as our entertainment in the evening."

    Emma is a biker, so all her family and bridesmaids wore leather jackets and she wore white and gold boots as she can't live without her leather boots! Emma tells us, "I also wanted to wear a leather jacket on the day and so had the idea of painting a jacket with the words 'Mrs Jones'. I bought a really lovely jacket off ebay for next to nothing and painted a flower design on the back with leather paint, with the words 'Mrs Jones' in the middle. I'd never done anything like it before so I was really happy with the result. Rich loved it when I showed it to him so he decided to do one himself, although he cheated and bought an iron on vinyl that said Mr Jones. Not only was it a crowd pleaser, the evening was so cold that it was a life saver too!"

    "Rich had the crazy idea of me arriving at the church in my brother's motorbike and sidecar because I am a biker. I was up for the idea but the sidecar was still in the 'project' stage as my brother was restoring it. The weather was pretty windy and rainy when I got to the church so I was glad that we decided on a classy Rolls Royce instead!"

    As with any British wedding, one has to be prepared for any weather eventuality. The only little hiccups for this magical wedding were unsurprisingly mainly to do with the weather. Richard is a meteorologist, so nice weather tends to be rather boring for him! Of course, it had to be 'interesting' weather on their wedding day! It started with Richard and his family getting up at 5am to tie the tipis back down as they had come loose in the wind. They even had to get the tipi company out to try and secure it for the day. Thankfully Emma blissfully didn't know anything about this as she got ready in her nice warm cabin surrounded by her bridesmaids and family. She recalls, "The weather cleared up thankfully in the afternoon but it was still chilly for spring time - not helped by the fact that our blown air heating in the tipis ran out of gas and members of our families had to try and track down a new gas bottle".

    The couple did most of the wedding organisation and decor by themselves, which was a lot of work as it was a completely DIY wedding. They rallied friends and family on the day and they all chipped in to make sure that everything was running smoothly. They made all the decorations themselves, so everything had a 'homemade' feel to it. And a fabulous quirky idea was that of having a guest 'bench' rather than a guest book which is now in their garden:  "We love reading all the messages when we sit in the garden".

    With all the hard work put into the preparations, Emma and Richard remind us that all of it is actually rather unimportant considering what was actually happening on the day, i.e. getting married, making a commitment to each other. "When you're wedding planning you get very bogged down in the details of the table decorations and how the dress is going to look and so on but that was all forgotten as soon as we said our vows. For both of us, it was like there was no one else in the room when we said out vows and it was truly magical - definitely the best and most important moment of the day!"

    What would be their advice to couples getting married? "I think it's the advice that everyone gave me beforehand - what matters is that you are getting married, not the decorations or the guests or the venue. The day is an absolute blur and we made a real effort to have moments together. Our photographer commented how much we were together on the day and that was because we made sure that we didn't experience our wedding day separately as we had seen so many couples do at weddings."
    And their advice to couples looking for something a little different and fun? "Pinterest is your best friend! And also don't be afraid to make things yourself - we bought so much stuff from Facebook groups and it was a great way to find interesting and quirky things. We made our decorations out of embroidery hoops and hula hoops, garden string and artificial flowers and it looked great."
    EmmaRich3-min  EmmaRich2-min
    Photography by Florence Fox with permission from Emma and Richard. Thank you :-) To see more of Florence's work, pop over to her website here.

    Emma's gorgeous dress fitted perfectly but the length was altered by Sharon at Blue Lily Magnolia.

  3. Lillie Pragnell NutritionistToday, as part of my series of short chats to professionals on the topic of 'Getting Ready for your Wedding', I talk to the lovely Lillie Pragnell, a nutritionist, personal trainer and author of 50 Days to Restart Your Life, who is based in North Cheshire. Lillie and I met through the Cheshire Bizmums group a few years ago, when she volunteered to model our wedding dresses. In this quick 5 mins read, Lillie gives us some of her own personal tips on feeling good about yourself (whether you are getting ready for a wedding or not!).

    Lillie, tell us a bit more about you and what you do

    I am a nutritionist and a personal trainer and I work with clients on a 1-2-1 basis to help them change habits and bad lifestyle choices in a simple, easy way. I find out about their everyday routines and choices and what influences them. This then helps me work closely with them to advise on tweaks they can make.

    How can making little tweaks to your food habits make a difference to your life?

    Massively! It seems so simple and so easy - but it actually is. What I advise has never been rocket science, it is common sense. But sometimes this gets overlooked and we forget how to look after ourselves properly.

    In the context of getting ready for a wedding, what can brides (and grooms)-to-be do with their diet to help them prior to the big day?

    Keep a diet diary is probably the first thing I would suggest, this helps people see where they are making poor choices or what foods might be causing them upset. Look at portion size is another big issue. Over the years, naturally, our portion sizes have become larger, what I would recommend is eating more frequently but eating less at main meals and having healthy snacks throughout the day to stabilise your blood sugars, preventing the energy slump. 

    What are your top tips for:
    Glowing skin - definitely water! We all know this, but we should be drinking 2-3litres a day. Not only does it give you gorgeous skin it helps with cellulite and fat loss too. 
    No bloating - keep a diet diary to help you identify what causes you bloating and discomfort. I would advise you steered clear of carbonated drinks (including prosecco ????)
    Feeling energised & positive - avoid alcohol and reduce your caffeine to ensure good deep sleep on the lead up to the big day. Opt for a nice chamomile tea before bed to help you feel sleepy this will mean you wake up feeling full of energy and no under eye bags to be seen.
    Any final dietary tips for our brides and grooms for the big day itself?

    Confidence and a smaile is always the most beautiful look for any bride or groom. Just remember to be happy with who you are.

    Lillie is also a co-organiser, with Jo Howarth, of the Family Tree Wellbeing Festival, Saturday 3rd August 2019, for wellbeing ideas for all the family. This amazing event will be at Success Factory in Cheshire, with speakers and workshops on all aspects of wellbeing aimed at everyone from children to grandparents.There is an early bird ticket price for the first 100 tickets. The price is just £10 per adult and £5 per child with under 3s coming free. You can find the full programme and book your tickets here:
    And to contact Lillie directly for any queries on her services, you can email her directly at  [email protected] or follow her Instagram feed @restartcheshire, which has tons of healthy ideas for meals, snacks and treats.
    This blog is compiled by Blue Lily Magnolia, provider of bespoke and alteration services for wedding and bridesmaid dresses and accessories. Photography has been supplied by Lillie with permission to share.