London hen party restaurant ideas

Laura Santtini
With Laura Santtini at Santini’s London

When it comes to throwing a memorable party, Santini’s in Central London has the lot. Private dining, a cocktail bar, an intimate restaurant and a gorgeous terrace too. Ok, so I was blessed with some pretty fabulous company, but honestly, I am not even sure you would need that to have a good time at Santini’s! And I can tell you from personal experience, you really are guaranteed a night to treasure, because not only is the food utterly exquisite and the cocktail menu to die for, the relaxed atmosphere at this stunning venue – steeped in a glorious history is… out of this world too!

Established back in 1984, Santini’s offers a superb menu of classic Italian food and wine served with a distinctive Santini’s twist! Designed with a strong Venetian accent, the menu is simply incredible and can only be described as a massive hug on a plate that literally ignites the senses. Now in it’s 30th year, my party and I had a ball at this intimate venue that seems to really come alive after 9pm. Trust me, it was buzzing and we visited early in the week!

Santini's restuarant evening dinner

Now headed by Laura Santtini (pictured) who is recognised as a global expert in flavour and as an award-winning author of the cookbook At home with Umami, this iconic venue has also played host to a wealth of stars and politicians over the years from Bill Clinton to Lisa Minelli and was also known to be Frank Sinatra’s favourite restaurant in London too!

So, if you are looking to add a little star dust to your Hen Party plans, Santini’s is definitely the location for you. And with private dining rooms at your disposal, you could even think about hosting an intimate wedding dinner or pre-wedding meal at this venue too!

For bookings click here

Santini's private dining room London wedding

Seaside themed weddings in Brighton

Weddings in Brighton

Weddings in Brighton

Ok so maybe the kiss-me-quick and candy floss look might not be for everyone, but I adore Brighton and the diversity it offers for a truly spectacular wedding destination. Actually, talking of candy floss, bringing elements of the traditional British seaside actually works really well for a summer wedding, as does customised rock for your favours – just had to snap this advert to share with you! I am also loving retro ice cream vans serving classic 99’s and of course the Nation’s favourite – fish ‘n’ chips – to follow the theme through onto the table. The real treasure of Brighton of course is it’s natural ambiance and this really is something to treasure…

Sunrise in Brighton

Sunrise in Brighton

I recently spent a weekend at The Steine Hotel courtesy of my friends over at BuyAGift and what a gorgeous retreat it was. My converted loft room was so homely and everyone welcoming. As was breakfast, delicious in fact, and all locally sourced. Brighton in general has to be the most eco and food conscious town in the UK  – offering a vegan option is the norm for example. Finding guest accommodation or a little retreat for a pre-wedding getaway on the other hand takes a little research and can be more challenging. It’s not the cheapest place to stay in the UK, but this little nugget – as with Brighton itself – is worth every penny and I am more than happy to recommend to you.

Steine Hotel Brighton

Steine Hotel Brighton

And on that note, here is my top 10 rundown of favourite wedding venues in Brighton for you to check out too:

The Royal Pavillion

The Tempest Inn

Brighton College

Hilton Brighton Metropole

Brighton Music Hall

Proud Cabaret Brighton

The Grand

Blanch House

Drakes of Brighton

The Old Market

Click here for more brilliant ideas from BuyAGift.co.uk

*Background image by Child Friendly Brighton

Luxury destination weddings in Marrakech

Worlds Greatest Wedding Venues

CASINO ES SAADI

When I was invited to review Es Saadi Palace Gardens & Resort in Marrakech it really didn’t take me long to say yes. In fact, one visit to the website and I was hooked! To be fair, anyone in their right mind would hop on a plane tomorrow to soak up such luxury, and luxurious ladies & gents I assure it is. To hit the top spot of my Worlds Greatest Wedding Venues series you need to be pretty spectacular and this venue truly deserves it’s position at the very top of the A-list pile.

Designed in 1966 by Jean Bauchet, the Palace has been passed down through the generations and is now run by his grandson, Jean-Alexandre Bauchet and his wife Caroline. Known as the most glamorous venue to be seen at in Morocco, the venue certainly lives up to it’s reputation and has played host to icons including: Princess Margaret, The Rolling Stones and more recently Leonardo DiCaprio. Even our very own Kate Moss has graced the casino. Quite simply, Es Saadi oozes sophisticated fifties star-style glamour that is near on impossible to replicate. An authentic Moroccan experience that guarantees to deliver a memorable celebration unlike any other.

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My adventure began with what I can only describe as one of the most spectacular of welcomes I have ever experienced in my life – a poolside party at one of the Palace’s 10 private villas. Not only a sensational location for a private dinner, but an incredible space to choose for a pre-wedding celebration with loved ones, or even a wedding breakfast. Something I always treasure in a venue is a flexible approach to hosting parties and this is where Es Saadi Palace delivers a first class service. The food btw, was to die for! The traditional lamb Tagine with all the trimmings I sampled on this particular evening was something not to be forgotten in a hurry!

Es Saadi palace breakfast

After the night before it was time to explore Marrakech, kicking off with a gorgeous breakfast with my fellow travellers. The view poolside from this location is just stunning and again, makes a gorgeous spot for hosting a drinks party on your big day. To be fair, you could pick any spot within the grounds to say ‘I do’ and it would be incredible. On that note, my room was rather fabulous too, with lots of lovely personal touches including handmade truffles on arrival and an indulgent body scrub to delve right in to. Hello I am in heaven!

Biggest pool in Morocco

An aerial view pool side – The 2400 metre swimming pool is the largest in Marrakech &
includes a swim-up bar!

SENIOR DELUXE SUITE_Es_Saadi

A Senior Deluxe Suite at Es Saadi Palace & Gardens

Now clearly I couldn’t come all this way without checking out the World famous souk markets & ancient Palaces of Marrakech. Abdul our knowledgeable guide gave us a whirlwind tour of the key sights and even managed to throw in a few beauty treatments along the way too! Morocco is renound for its incredible mix of herbs, spices and healing oils. And I guess ultimately all these Ancient Moroccan traditions are the true Wonders of Marrakech – beyond the fact it is only three and a half hours from London and the sun is always shining – that and Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle which was honestly a highlight and worth a visit in it’s own right.

Exploring Marrakech

Exploring Marrakech with our brilliant tour guide Abdul

Jardin Majorelle in the summer

A view of the spectacular Jardin Majorelle – home of the late Yves Saint Laurent.

Next up, it was time to hit the five star spa at Es Saadi Palace – the perfect way to relax, unwind and prepare for a party! Showcasing the very best in luxury treatments, the spa boasts a cutting edge mix of hydrotherapy treatment systems, one of only two Dior Institutes in the World offering professional make-up services and an in-house salon to get you big day beautiful before the wedding. At the heart of the spa is a 100 year old eucalyptus tree that symbolises renewal and transformation – everything this incredible spa stands for. And the best bit? Well, I am thrilled to be previewing an exclusive first look at the new couples spa treatment room, which is due to open at the end of 2015 and quite honestly, is out of this world…

Couples spa at Es Saadi Palace

Es Saadi Palace couples spa room

So, all dressed-up and ready to go post spa indulgence, it was time for a big night out with a sumptuous dinner and a cocktail or two at the stunning L’Epicurien bistro & lounge bar. And to really get the party started we hit the dance-floor post meal and popped some bubbles to celebrate Es Saadi style! A dream location to toast any occasion – especially a post wedding party – that guests can continue into the early hours at the TheatrO nightclub. Literally all your entertainment needs are fulfilled and exceeded on-site to the point you don’t ever have to leave the resort! You can move between the various spaces on offer at Es Saadi and each one feels like you are somewhere different. When it comes to the wow factor, it doesn’t get bigger than this. And without doubt, this is what really makes Es Saadi stand out above and beyond the rest. The Palace even plays host to Africa’s very first casino too. A hugely popular attraction for both residents and tourists alike. When I said, everything is catered for I wasn’t joking!

L'EPICURIEN LOUNGE RESTAURANT

L’Epicurien bistro & lounge bar

TheatrO nightclub Marrakech

TheatrO nightclub – the best in Morocco

Diamonte camel Marrakech

How was I ever expected to resist a snap with a sparkly camel?!

Kate Moss outside casino Marrakech

More importantly, how could I say no to a quick swing in the cage outside the casino? Granted, I may not tick all the boxes of a traditional showgirl, but hey, when they told me Kate Moss had a go on a swing at the casino, not even security could hold me back! What a backdrop and what a night to remember.

Luxury destination weddings in Marrakech do not come bigger than this, in all honesty, I think you will be hard pushed to find such a treasure anywhere globally offering so much variation under one roof. It’s not a brand, it’s a family home and that’s what truly makes Es Saadi so special for a wedding. Steeped in a glorious history, there is an air of both majesty and mystique – a thrilling combination that is rarely found and cannot be faked. Es Saadi is the real deal. A place to make your own, where memories to treasure for a lifetime are made and dreams really do become a reality.

CHRISTIAN DIOR DINNER

Getting ready for a party – table setting for a Christion Dior dinner

To discover more about hosting a wedding or event at Es Saadi Palace Resort & Gardens simply click here to connect with their wedding team

Luxury castle wedding in Ireland

World’s Greatest Wedding Venues

Lough_Eske_Castle_night

Introducing LOUGH ESKE CASTLE

Nearly 20% of British couples now opt to say ‘I do’ outside the Kingdom and as this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon… I decided to pack my bags and hit the road to see what all the fuss was about. And yes, the options are endless if not a little overwhelming, but my quest in uncovering The World’s Greatest Destination Wedding Venues could not have started in a better place. And yes, there is a reason why they call it ‘The Emerald Isle’ – this is one adventure I am never likely to forget…

Bristol_Easyjet

And like any trip to a foreign land nowadays, it all kicked off with an early morning flight a la Easyjet. All aboard for a skylark both myself and trusty partner in crime Al McLeod proclaimed. We were having a ball already, pole dancing our way to the terminal gates. After all, when you’re not flying you should be dancing right?! In all fairness, I think the double shot latté had kicked in twenty minutes previous and perhaps the other passengers were not quite so enthralled with our early morning exploits as we were, but hey, you’ve got to try your best to entertain the troops right? I am a wedding fairy after all.

Peggy's Diner Ireland

Not one to shy away from a spot of spontaneity, we decided to road trip it from Belfast to Donegal. And what a hoot that was. A chance to take in the scenery, explore the sights and take a pit stop at Peggy’s Diner – still a highlight for us and probably our finest find en route to the castle! Turns out I am a MASSIVE fan of the Irish cuisine and it all kicked off with one of Peggy’s breakfasts. And some much needed mapping advice. We were a little lost at this point and only about 30 mins into our mission. Possibly I am more suited to a schedule rather than a free-stylin approach! Anyhoo the pic below was the snap that really got us excited… we were nearly there!

Lough Eske Castle route

The Wedding Fairy descending on a real life Fairy-tale castle sort of felt like it was meant to be. There was a majestic vibe in the air, although I suspect this was more down to the breathtaking scenery, rather than letting my imagination run wild with me. And who could blame us, the Lough (Irish spelling of Loch) totally blew us away en route! We hadn’t even arrived at the castle yet, made it up the drive in fact, and already it felt like we had arrived somewhere seriously magical… I am rarely lost for words, but the landscape of Lough Eske totally left me speechless.

Lough Eske scenery

And yes, we were a little giddy with excitement at this point!

Outside Lough Eske Castle

Yay! We’ve landed. From Weston-super-Mare (home of Dismaland just in case you haven’t heard of it before!!) to Donegal via taxi, plane, hire-car and foot… done and dusted in 8 hours! Yes, a mild bout of hysteria may have kicked-in at this juncture. But we made it and my goodness we were glad we had.

Inside Lough Eske Castle

Booking-in completed, we headed to our suite where I promptly stripped and slipped into the gorgeous set of slippers and cosy robe that awaited me. Our room was utterly gorgeous and the little basket of fruit, hand-made truffles and delicate fancies that greeted us really was the icing on the cake. The heated floor in the bathroom was a proper treat too! You could not ask for a warmer welcome and for me, this is what really excels a venue from fine to fabulous – beyond the luxuries and natural beauty of a space. There was a sense of pride about the castle from all the team members we met actually and I think that is a really important touch when considering a wedding venue.

Lough Eske Castle bar

Next up it was onto the important stuff – hitting the bar! And a pretty impressive cocktail list it was too! I must say, having never been to Ireland before, the food in general was right up my street. Home-made, wholesome and utterly fabulous. I sampled a Donegal fish chowder earlier in the day next to the Lough, teamed with my first official pint of Guiness in Ireland – a pretty special moment. But I had no idea what was to come later in the eve… my first Irish lamb stew at the castle was to die for! As you can probably tell from said picture, the party started early and finished late for us. A proper Irish knees up. Just as it should be.

Lough Eske breakfast

Good morning! Yes the morning after the night before can often be a rather delicate affair, but on this occasion, all that was needed was a hearty Irish breakfast and a beautiful welcome courtesy of the restaurant team. We were totally set up for the days activities and put it this way, there is no fear of being under-fed at this particular hotel! The breakfast buffet was hands down the best I have ever seen. More of an event than a breakfast. You name it they had it. The freshly smoked salmon was simply divine. Breakfast done, I promptly headed back to said boudoir to slip back into the robe ready for my morning spa treatment. And again, the spa itself really was a treat. I have sampled many and am quite often left a little disappointed by the treatments in hotel spas, but on this occasion, my deep tissue massage really hit the spot. Actually it was up there as one of the best treatments I have ever had. And yes, a little dip in this beauty below was also very welcome to round off proceedings.

Lough Eske pool

Post lunch we hit the road again to explore the area and boy I am glad we did. The coastline is World famous and for good reason too. The stunning scenery draws tourists from all over and makes for a pretty sensational set of picture perfect postcards. I had a bit of a moment below and as you can see… I am certainly not over emphasising the point, which for me, is pretty unusual.

Donegal views

Back at Lough Eske Castle post road trip, it was time for us to dress for dinner, which for me always proves to be a highlight when away. I just love popping on my finest for a gourmet treat and that it really was. The relaxed approach to dinner was also a winner for me too. Quite often, fine dining can be a little stiff, but the ambience at Lough Eske Castle hits a really lovely balance between the two and for me, that really ticks all the boxes and is quite hard to find actually.

Lough Eske dinner

In all honesty, we didn’t want to leave the next morning! I was last seen grabbing onto the reception desk for dear life, before finally being evicted from the property by security. I am of course joking, but parting with my comfy robe and heated bathroom flooring was an emotional moment. But luckily our adventures didn’t just end there, we took the coastal route back to Belfast airport, catching the famous Giants Causeway before finally boarding our Easyjet for the flight home. Yes it was a whirlwind tour, but one I will truly treasure. And as for Lough Eske Castle, well, if you are looking for a 5 star service without a 5 star attitude, this is most definitely the destination wedding venue for you.

Lough-Eske-weddings

Built in the 17th Century and steeped in Gaelic history, Lough Eske Castle is licensed to hold civil marriage ceremonies and operates a one wedding per day policy which I love. Nobody would want to share such a space on their special day! The venue can cater for up to 280 guests, with food prepared by Donegal’s award-winning and Michelin trained chef, Philipp Henkes. There are a range of packages you can choose from, or tailor make your own. You can even do a castle take-over and exclusively hire the entire venue for your celebration… including the spa! For more on weddings at Lough Eske Castle just click here to visit the relevant pages on their website. Trust me, you will NOT be disappointed.

Mary & Darragh

5 star service without the 5 star attitude GUARANTEED

Lough Eske dinner

Wowed at Tylney Hall

Tylney Hall

Tylney Hall

 

My 24 hours in wedding venue heaven…

When I say I was wowed by Tylney Hall – trust me I am not joking. I was wowed. Totally and utterly. And the magic truly kicks off the moment you arrive, I mean the first visual of the venue front is literally breath taking, but for me, the private car parking space on arrival was quite a touch. That’s special and that’s detail people. Memorable moments make a wedding and Tylney Hall is riddled in them…

 

Tylney Hall Exterior


Welcome to Tylney

The Hall dates back to the 1700’s when it was built for the Tylney family and has quite a rich and varied history behind it. During the first world war, the venue acted as a hospital housing wounded soldiers and in 1948 became a school – until it closed in 1984 – when it was transformed into the divinely luxurious hotel it is today. The venue now boasts a whole host of deluxe facilities including: a gorgeous mix of individually designed suites, an Award winning dining room, a sensational spa with both indoor and outdoor pools, plus the most impressive grounds I have ever seen at a wedding venue.

Tylney Exterior


The Wedding Fairy has landed…

It’s the little touches that take Tylney from great to spectacular. The staff were all so attentive and welcoming on arrival, you really felt there was a genuine passion to make you feel like you were somewhere special. And this superior level of service continued throughout the duration of our visit. The room itself was a real delight and very spacious, with a lovely lounge and dining space combined – quite a treat. Again, the beautiful bowl of fruit and delicious selection of truffles over coffee added perfectly to what was quite a welcome. Once settled in, I decided to pop on those boots that were made for walking to explore the grounds. We could have walked all afternoon to be honest. The lake is a particularly gorgeous spot to sit and relax, but after a couple of hours, I decided to head back to slip into a suit and get ready for pre-dinner cocktails… I am pretty excited at this point, but had no idea about what was to follow!

TYL Italian Lounge gold_low

Quite clearly the only way to kick off such a spectacular evening is with a glorious glass of bubbles darling. We popped into the utterly divine Italian lounge, sank into a chaise longue – Barbara Cartland style – and soaked up the magic as it unfolded. Actually it was more Downton than Barbara. There is something quite wonderful about dressing for dinner and at Tylney Hall, all those indulgences are catered for and then some. In fact at times, it felt like I was starring in an Agatha Christie Miss Marple mystery and I loved every second of it. After taking an hour to relax and enjoy the surroundings, we were invited through to have dinner in the award winning Oak Room Restaurant and again, this was an experience I certainly won’t be forgetting in a hurry…

The Oak Room

Yes dining at Tylney is something everyone should have the opportunity to experience at least once in their lifetime. Candle-lit and utterly gorgeous, we were seated next to the grand piano and immediately felt at home as one show stopper of a tune was being played after another. I had to stop myself from belting out a number. Not so sure the other diners would have appreciated my vocals… once again, the drama really is in the detail here – and I am not talking about my singing skills! The service is second to none and presented with such style and grace – I loved the classic cloche presentation of our main courses! You gotta love a little bit of silver dome action at the table – oh and prob the best steak I have ever tasted in my life to boot. And don’t get me started on the soup – I need a tureen in my life like now! The highlight however, was my creme brûleé finale – best I have ever tasted. Period.

After dinner we resided to the library – as one does – and enjoyed a port night cap, before heading back to the boudoir so we could plan breakfast, which by the way. was served at exactly 8.45 am as requested. A perfect start to the day…

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I guess this is what makes Tylney so unique. You get to live like a King for the day without all the formalities. The only annoying bit is having to leave!

Weddings at Tylney Hall


WEDDINGS AT TYLNEY HALL

Whether you are looking for an intimate space to celebrate with a close few, or a venue that offers a little something larger in scale – Tylney has thought of it all. With access to private gardens and the option for exclusive hire, Tylney can cater for up to 120 seated guests and offers a mix of packages to suit all styles and budgets. The venue is also licensed to host wedding ceremonies on-site, allowing you to nestle into this gorgeous country retreat for the whole day and night – without the worry of transporting your guests from one location too another. Add in the potential for afternoon tea on the freshly mowed lawns and a bbq by the pool with a few cocktails thrown in during the summer months and I am sold! Book me in for summer 2016!

Your perfect wedding day starts right here ladies and gentlemen….

 

Elite hotels weddings

Elite hotels weddings

 

DISCOVER WEDDINGS AT TYLNEY HALL

Advice for booking a wedding venue

Great Fosters Bride and Groom outside venue

Advice for booking a wedding venue…

Let’s book!

So the big day has been set, the budget is planned and now all you need to do is find that fairy-tale venue to bring the dream alive!  A place to say I do in style and remember your first dance forever. Choosing a venue to celebrate your nuptials is a vital ingredient for any couple. This is your moment, so embrace it, cherish it and make sure you choose a venue with some va-va-voom!

Whether you are looking for city chic or a rural retreat, there really is something for everyone. I always advise every couple I meet, to choose a space with character, that really represents your unique relationship and personalities. Now for some, this can be quite extreme.  Getting hitched down a coal mine or on the wings of an aeroplane is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly is unique! For most of us though, the day itself is about cementing a union between two people and the venue of choice should represent that union. Wow, I am getting quite teary already!

Tithe Barn Wedding London

Ok, so, let’s get down to business. Where do we start? Well, generally the geographical location is the best place to kick-off and once this has been decided upon, you can work with the venues located in that area. Even if you have an ideal place in mind, I always advise couples to view at least 5 other spaces to spark ideas and inspire you both.  The amount of people that have a preferred venue and then choose another is incredible, so make sure you don’t limit the possibilities. Be adventurous and check out everything from the local village hall to a river boat!

For the first viewing, make sure you go as a couple to ‘feel the space’ and probe the wedding coordinator for all the info you require including: menu options, wedding packages available, plus on and off-site accommodation for your guests to choose from. It’s important to try and cater for all budgets when it comes to guest accommodation and having ample parking facilities for that matter. On top of that lot, find out if the honeymoon suite is thrown into the mix for good measure, or an additional cost for you to consider? Get a break-down of everything included in the package, so you can consider costs for any extras. A venue that can be flexible in it’s approach and happy to barter a bit of a deal is always desired! Don’t be afraid to ask.

Meadow wedding

Some wedding venues will push you to use services from their preferred supplier list, so if you have others in mind, check that this is allowed and not going to cause you any problems later down the line. Will the venue/hotel be exclusively yours for the day/eve (most couples prefer this)? And if you desire, does the venue offer an extended license or is willing to apply for one? Ensure you explore all table-layout options/spaces available and check everything is covered to cope with unexpected weather conditions. Most importantly, read the small print of the contract. I always recommend wedding day insurance anyhow, but it is important to check what the deal is, in terms of a cancellation by either party. A payment schedule leading up to the big day is also essential. No venue would expect all the cash upfront.

Try to get a real feel as to how the day itself will unfold. Make a list of questions to ask beforehand and as I say, do not be afraid to probe. It is the coordinators job to make your day a reality. If you are concerned about the costs involved or being able to stretch your budget efficiently, tell them and see what other options they can offer. Summer bbq’s or sharing foods, such as home-made pizzas with all the Italian themed trimmings, are all the rage at the moment and can often be much lighter on the budget over a traditional evening buffet. And remember, it is very difficult to negotiate a better rate on a Saturday because this is the most popular day of the week to get married and gets booked up quickly – often up to 12 months in advance, so bear this in mind when starting your search and setting dates.  If a mid-week wedding is at all possible you will definitely get a lot more for your money.  A great coordinator generally has a solution, but of course you must be realistic!

BG Vintage Sports Car weddings

Selecting a wedding venue is a bit like buying a house for the day. Trust your gut feeling. Sometimes it just feels right. And if you are not sure, book a menu tasting session in the restaurant to firm up your decision. Some venues offer this as a complementary service once booked, but don’t take it as red – some don’t and very few offer for free so you can try out. On that note, don’t forget to check corkage costs if you are wanting to source your own wine, as it can sometimes work out to be just as expensive if not more, than choosing from their own wine menu. Canapes can also be a pricey addition. I always suggest ditching these for something a little lighter on the budget if looking to cut costs. Serving popcorn for example, is a great alternative and much fun if themed into the overall wedding styling (think classic American-retro popcorn making machine with all the accompanying regalia for example). I feel a fairground concept coming on… one of my personal favourites!

If you want input from others or need some re-assurance, then feel free to take key family members or friends on a second venue visit. Once the final decision has been made, make sure you put some thought into the actual day itself. Don’t just let the wedding coordinator put together a generic day for you. Ensure you add all those memorable little touches and have some fun, to make your big day stand out from the crowd. Maybe you want to create your very own his n hers cocktail to serve instead of champagne or prosecco before the wedding breakfast? Again this is much fun and often a lot lighter on the budget front if a minimal amount of alcohol content is used. Remember, it’s only the first drink and your guests have the whole day ahead of them, so a fruity refreshing punch often goes down really well. A welcome drink to greet your guests with post ceremony, is a real must in my book and really helps set’s the tone for your day ahead. Perhaps you could also invent a pudding in honour of your new surname, or choreograph an entertaining first dance opening for the evening do?! The World is your oyster, but whatever you do, remember my three p’s personalise, personalise and personalise some more… it’s the fun times that people remember over the colour scheme and pew-ends! Oh and of course, enjoy every second – let’s party people!

TWF x 

Photography by Great Fosters – as featured on The Wedding Fairy Website.