Bridezillas, bouquets and beautiful dresses: The realities of wedding planning
In the first of our blog features looking at the staff behind the scenes in Hallmark Hotels, we turn our attention to the Alicia in Liverpool, where Jenny Phoenix assists nearly-newlyweds by offering expert guidance and support in planning the most important day of their lives. There’s a tangible enthusiasm evident when Jenny Phoenix talks about her job. Clearly equally in love with her profession as the couples she helps are with one another, it’s hard not to be envious. After all, she gets paid to make people happy. Based in the elegant surrounds of the Hallmark Hotel Liverpool South (formerly Alicia), to use an appropriately northern phrase, over the years she has meticulously planned more weddings than most of us have had hot dinners. From the flamboyant, to the delightfully intimate, to her the role is all about getting to know clients, their passions and their relationships in order to deliver the perfect experience for them. “No wedding is the same, so every day is different,” Jenny explains. “Today so far has been about tomorrow’s wedding, preparing the bride when nerves have kicked in- ‘Have I done this, have I done that?’- yes you have. Settling her in, looking at the favours for the table, how she wants things positioned. The groom just stands back and has a calm little coffee. Then I have a couple coming in who are getting married in June, so looking at timings, schedules, where they are getting married- venue or in a church. When will they arrive, when will the guests arrive, colour schemes- every detail from start to finish.” Anyone that has attended a wedding- and let’s face it most of us have- understands that it’s the finer details that really make the day special. Intrigued, we ask what the ratio is between Jenny’s input and advice, and the couple’s own specifications. “We’re not here to tell them who to go with- what florist to book and things like that. We’re here to guide them and keep them on the right track. You go to wedding shows and see how much variety is on offer, people can get carried away. Sometimes they lose sight of what a wedding day is actually about. So then you have to get them thinking of why they are doing this in the first place, and then the reality hits that perhaps they don’t need 25 singing waiters- they want their friends and family to be fed and watered, and fed and watered well.” Timescales are often the cause of stress when it comes to ceremonies and receptions. So just how long should you allow to fine tune plans and ensure there will be no oversights? Again, according to the professional at hand, this is very much down to the individuals. “It really depends. At the fastest, we can put together a wedding in seven days. And we have done. Legally speaking, though, you need 28 days to give notice of marriage. If they already have that in place then it can be quite quick. We once had an older couple that had been together 25 years. He wasn’t very well, and they had put their notice in about eight months prior, and decided at the last minute to get married.’ “Some, though, book four years in advance, change their colours every month and then wind up going back to the original plan in the end. It really varies, but on average it’s anywhere between 12 and 18 months for most people.” Although very much a job, and a business, those finding themselves in this career are privy to some of the most intimate and personal aspects of people’s lives, despite the fact those people are strangers before their first appointment. That alone could be challenging depending on the situation, but also guarantees some stand out memories will be taken away from the work itself. We ask for any examples that have stuck with Jenny. “My favourite in all the years was an Indian wedding- the bride was Indian, the groom English, and they were both deaf. So we had completely different cultures and completely different styles of the day, with half the guests deaf and half with hearing. The vibe and feel was like nothing I’ve seen before. “She had no family there, as they didn’t approve of the marriage. So it was just herself. Over 18 months you really get to know someone, help them get dressed for the occasion and things like that. We learnt minimum sign language so we could get through basic conversations, when they were getting married the registrars legally had to speak everything, but then there were interpreters signing everything too. “Most of the guests that were hard of hearing had a signer next to them, so everyone was signing to someone different, some for people they didn’t know. Then there was a sit down Indian buffet meal, as it was her day. Then the speeches were amazing- the groom’s dad spoke and signed for everyone, the groom signed his and had an interpreter speak it out. The best man had been his friend since they were kids and learnt how to sign from the groom, so he signed and spoke the speech himself, with no interpreters or help. “It was actually really emotional. The atmosphere was out of this world- you could sense how much love everyone had in the room. For the evening they had a DJ as normal, a live band, and a Michael Jackson tribute singer. It was the vibrations from the music that they felt, that’s how they communicated with the performers. And, to be honest, I’ve never seen a party like it in the evening. It was out of this world. So that’s my favourite, and probably one I’m most proud of.” Emotional stuff to say the least, from the best to the worst, we can’t help but ask about the looming image of a Bridezilla, demanding, shouting and getting angry over every minor discrepancy or decision that isn’t in line with her dream wedding. Amazingly, though, this couldn’t be further from the truth. “I don’t know if it’s a Liverpool thing, but I’ve worked in this venue for coming up to six years and can honestly say I’ve never had a Bridezilla. Everyone has their moments, when they start thinking they can’t do it, or they just want the day to be over. If that doesn’t happen then there’s something wrong. But it’s more nervous excitement that kicks in, rather than tantrums. Maybe it’s a Scouse thing, but most of the women are quite laidback and listen. “Then again, I wouldn’t tell them ‘you can’t do that on a Wednesday’, as I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me that. But I will mention if they aren’t putting on enough food. It’s surprising how many people think they’re having an evening do and so they only need cold finger food, but even if it’s just an evening party the guests will have been at the church or service venue from early in the day.” As the conversation comes to a close we finally get to the important stuff- what are the five most important things to take into consideration when you’re beginning to plan a wedding. An insider’s guide, if you will. Unsurprisingly, our expert is quick to reply, giving us the ideal information to pass on to you. Notebooks at the ready, then. “My top five tips... well, firstly follow your gut instinct, because your gut instinct is always right. Have what you want for your wedding day, not what everyone around you says you should have. Make your wedding day personal to you; don’t forget to bring yourselves into the wedding day because it’s a wedding day. There is no rulebook in terms of what should happen and when, it’s about you. Another major thing is to build a picture of your wedding day together, so it’s not just the bride’s day, it’s a team effort because that’s what a wedding is all about. And, finally, enjoy your planning and you’ll enjoy your wedding day.” Sound advice, we’ll leave it at that.