Rarely does an American bride head down the aisle without a wedding planner two paces behind the bridesmaids.
British women have been slower in handing over control of their biggest day to another woman, though.
The DIY wedding still reigns supreme for couples wanting to keep a close eye on the nuptual budget – and get hands on with the arrangements.
But a new trend is emerging for on-the-day planners, professionals who step in on the wedding morning and stay until the party’s over, to ensure the event runs like clockwork, without you so much as having to lift a wedding ring.
“You have done all the hard work of planning your wedding, but on the day you want to sit back and relax. That’s when you need a professional to hand all the responsibility to,” says Laura Green, of Sheffield-based Little White Book Wedding Planning and Management.
Since setting up in business in 2008, the Ecclesfield 29-year-old has kept over 100 weddings on track.
“I’m the person behind the scenes, running around making sure everything the couple wanted to happen does happen – and putting right anything that goes wrong. And believe me, on wedding days, they often do,” she says.
A former events organiser at Hillsborough Arena, Laura has had to avert a host of potential wedding day disasters – from ripped dresses and collapsing cakes to drunken guests.
For10 per cent of a couple’s wedding budget she can organise everything from start to finish. But more and more couples are opting for her £350 wedding day service.
“It gives them control, but also peace of mind,” she says. “I meet couples prior to the wedding to find out exactly what they hope from the day, then liaise with everyone involved – from the photographer to the reception venue – to make sure it does. Couples don’t get to hear about the mishaps I had to act on until well after the event.
“It’s the perfect job for me – I love all the organising, and the creative aspect. And I love weddings!”
Wedding planner’s matrimonial timeline
When Sheffield civil servants Katie Pearson and John Slater tied the knot at a civil ceremony in Weston Park bandstand, wedding planner Laura was on hand to make sure the day went perfectly. These are the extracts from Laura’s Little White Book:
7am: It’s Katie and John Slater’s wedding day. I’m ready to go, having sorted my first dilemma of the day; what to wear. It’s important to look smart out of respect for the occasion. But I don’t want to be confused for one of the guests. I’ve settled on my new Vivienne Westwood cotton summer dress, with some gladiator sandals.
8.30am: I’m at my Sharrow Vale Road studio in Sheffield and gathering up everything I need, including eight shepherd’s crooks, a cake knife, the evening reception sweetie bar I’ve hand-made and trimmed with bunting, plus umpteen metres of ivory organza and my trusty tool box.
Forget a clipboard, every good wedding planner needs a fully-stocked DIY kit. You have to be able to fix things on the spot. Inside mine is string, hammer and nails, screwdriver, Super Glue, sewing kit, chalk...
Super Glue once came in handy when an elderly chap broke his false teeth at the reception. Chalk covers lipstick on a wedding dress and I’ve sewed ripped wedding dresses, fixed bridesmaids’ disintegrating head-dresses and attempted to rescue collapsing cakes. Even though I’ve been checking long-range weather forecasts for a week, into the car boot go a stack of white umbrellas. The most common wedding day problem is rain; you’ve got to have thought through a back-up plan.
9.30am: Pop into the Rutland Hotel, scene of the 4pm reception and evening do, to drop off the sweetie bar and check the tables are decorated.
10.30 am Arrive at Weston Park. The wedding is taking place in the bandstand at 1pm.
10.40am: Trying to switch off the screeching of the bandstand alarm system with the Weston Park wedding co-ordinator.
10.50am: The alarms are still going but I need to get my jobs done. I get out the blue carpet runner, but it’s so windy it’s blowing everywhere. Kids come to help me – and ask if there is another Royal Wedding going on.
Now for the shepherd’s crooks. They need to be hammered into the ground in lines either side of the carpet and draped with the organza. It seemed like a great idea, but it takes 20 minutes to get them standing straight and the wind blows the organza everywhere. Out come scissors and emergency string.
11.50am: Arrive at the home of Katie’s parents, Gill and Bryan Pearson, in Wincobank. But no one answers the door; It’s the right house, but everyone is upstairs, having hair and make-up done.
The bride is still in her jeans and seems calm. But she has a real dilemma; which shoes should she wear for the ceremony?
She has to walk across grass; might her treasured £425 blush-pink satin Manolo Blahnik shoes get dirty? Would she be better off wearing the cheap white back-up pair and switching shoes in the bandstand? This is serious stuff.
Remembering how hard it was to hammer in the shepherd’s crooks, I tell her the Manolo heels will be fine and remind her the groom will just be setting off.
12.15pm: While I keep my eye on the clock, Katie, her bridesmaids, sister Zoe and best friend Keeley Ellis, go to get dressed. I gather up all their overnight bags, put them in the boot of the bridal car and discuss timings with the chauffeurs.
12.30pm: The bride looks elegant and beautiful and is ready to go – almost. She wants headache tablets, a tot of whisky with her dad – and a last cloud of hairspray.
12.55pm: Everything is going to plan, I’m thinking as I drive the wedding photographer to Weston Park. We’ even manage to park close by.
Katie is just arriving at the museum, the guests are in the bandstand and the sun is shining. Katie goes for her interview with the registrar so I check the groom is okay I inform the chauffeurs they need to move the cars – but abide by the park’s 5mph with hazard lights rule.
I spot an usher still has his name tag on his button hole and tear it off. No one else had noticed.
1.25pm: Katie is ready. I fly off to the bandstand and signal for the music to start. But the iPod curse suddenly strikes. There is silence. I run back to the bride to delay her departure. The notes of a Beatles song strike up; we’re back in business. She, her dad and bridesmaids, and those Manolos, make their grand entrance.
1.40pm: Panic: during the ceremony when a council bin buggy approaches to empty the dog poo bin. Me and the park’s wedding co-ordinator wave him down. Relieved, we take a breather.
1.45pm: Suddenly, an usher is rushing from the bandstand to summon help. A guest has fainted. I’ve never had this happen before. The wedding is halted for a few minutes. We carry the woman out and lie her on the grass.
I run like the wind for water. Wedding car drivers Vinnie and Pete step in with supplies and First Aid advice. The wedding ceremony continues.
One of the guests is a paramedic and helps keep her calm. I think its best we get her medical assistance; an ambulance is summoned.
2pm: Reassured she’s in good hands, the wedding co-ordinator and I get on with the next task. The service is over, there are champagne bottles to open and glasses to fill. I get one of the ushers to help and we are back on track.
2.15pm: While guests are posing for pictures, I tidy up and head to the hotel. Everything is ready for the bridal party’s arrival. I help the photographers round up family members and sprint to find the bridesmaids’ bouquets when they’re needed in the shots.
3.15pm: The wedding breakfast begins. I wait in the wings for an hour, then head to the bar for a sandwich – my first food of the day. At weddings, I’m always too busy to realise I’m hungry.
5pm: I spend an hour building, stocking and dressing the sweetie bar; it’s a focal point for the evening party. Out comes the tool box but I’ve made a school boy error and forgotten my screwdriver, so I have to borrow a butter knife from the kitchen.
7pm: I finally get 10 minutes to just be... and have a coffee.
7.30pm: The evening do is about to start and Katie and John are happy for me to go home. It’s an early finish; often I’m on hand until 11.30pm.
After a 12-hour day, I head back to Ecclesfield to my partner, my sleeping son – and a big glass of wine. The job isn’t completely over, though; the following day I need to go back to the hotel to pick up the sweetie bar, and Weston Park to uproot those shepherd’s crooks.