Sensory Sensation

When I was setting up the Joy Planner I had some amazing advice which was to “immerse yourself in something if you want to get started”. This resonated for many reasons, but it has the most impact because it can be applied to almost anything, especially when planning weddings and events where you want to have a huge impact on your guests.

I offer you this advice while you plan your big day because it will help you get so many ideas before you start looking for all the elements that will make your wedding uniquely about you and your partner – spending a bit of time doing what I talk through below will narrow down what can seem like endless options and will keep you feeling on top of your planning and (quite importantly) your budget.

As I write this I’m sat in Peggy Porschen’s Bakery in Chelsea, I wanted to come up with some useful blog posts for you all and this place sparked inspiration around the five senses and how important they can be for making an event truly memorable. I had a meeting in London in the afternoon and so I decided to book in for brunch somewhere I had really wanted to go for some time. We’ve all seen their beautiful Instagram and I love eating in visually stunning surroundings as it really enhances the experience for me. It also doesn’t hurt that I really love cake….

This can work in exactly the same way for you while you are searching for all the perfect pieces of your wedding puzzle – the venue, florals, entertainment, décor and food and drink. Different things evoke memories for people and taking your time on those things that ignite the senses will mean everyone will take away something that means your wedding will stay with them for a very long time. Let me give you some examples.

When you look for a venue, no matter what your budget is, you will obviously visit to look around and see what the options are for your ceremony first and foremost as this is the point you will say “I do”. If you’re looking at churches and registry offices then take some time to sit in and take in how it feels to be there. If it is somewhere that already holds special memories you’ll feel at home straight away, try to visualise what it could look like dressed with flowers or sashes or ribbons and if you can see the colours you might want instantly. Take a notebook with you and write these thoughts down, what do you both see when you visualise yourselves getting married on this spot.

If it’s an unfamiliar space and you are visiting for the first time then take the opportunity to make some memories there as part of the experience. Sometimes couples go for the appointment, take the tour, discuss dates and initial costs and then leave – this can be like a first viewing of a house, you can get some of the feels but you will have trouble remembering everything and might miss some important details. When you look for venues make a shortlist and then check to see if you can book in for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea so you can really make the most of your time there and what it’s like. What sort of service do you get? How lovely is the food? What rooms would be wonderful for photos and are the grounds everything you’d hope for when your guests get together for drinks? Take it all in and use the time to talk about what’s important to you on the day visually and again does it evoke some pictures in your mind of how things could look for you?

Florals can be really important to some couples, I’ve seen some with fantastic arrangements in ceremonies and room decors and they create something that can make any colour theme pop. They also give scent – this can be a powerful memory for you and something that will remind you of your wedding for years to come as you can buy bouquets as gifts for anniversaries and special days. To immerse yourself in this before you start choosing your flowers take a morning out in a flower market and walk around the blooms to see what really gets you excited in colour, smell and type. Ask the sellers for some advice as to what is in season at the time of year you want to get married and take some notes of what the ones you really love are called. This will be a great start when you start to look for florists to make your ideas come to life as they put their expertise into costing up what you want and the scent it could create.

If flowers are not the big focal point for your décor then you could think about creating memorable scents in a different way? How about candles? I had fig scented candles at my wedding and I keep these at home for lighting on cosy evenings (we got married at the end of February) or you could have diffusers around the room to release a gentle wave of aroma through the evening? On a personal level you could look for a special perfume for the day that you can use afterwards? Things like this will add small touches that your guests will appreciate and you will remember for a long time afterwards as catching these smells at any point will take you back to the best day of your life.

So I’ve talked about visuals and scents, sat here in Peggy Porschen’s Bakery I’ve got plenty of those as they have fabulous lighting installations and flowers in the windows and all I can smell are beautiful cakes and rich coffee. But the touch points are equally important and are all part of the experience. I have lovely cutlery and smooth colourful cups and saucers that tie in perfectly with the décor. The menus are textured and feel great quality, little touches like this add something to the experience.

If you spend some time in your venue as I describe above you will see what their linen and cutlery are like and what glassware you could expect on your tables. Do you like them and if not would you think about hiring in something different to get the textures on your tables you want if this place feels like the one? How would that be managed on the day? Get these thoughts down and add it to your list of questions for your contact before you sign a contract. Will you add to your colour theme with table cloths or runners and would you want extra touches with place settings and cards? Think about what you really want and how this figures into your budget, you can talk about what’s included with your venue and what you could have left for the extra bits so you know what’s on your to do list.

So, we’ve covered sight, scent and touch so that leaves us with taste and sound – probably my most favourite of the senses. Your food choices should be something that will leave you feeling happy, there will always be some dietary requirements to take into consideration but it should always be something you would pick off a restaurant menu. It could be a hearty meal (I had sausage and mash for my wedding breakfast) or something that takes you back to the place where you got engaged or a cuisine you love. Having some food at a venue you are considering will give you an idea of the quality before you even get to a point of discussing menu options. Do they have food on the menu that instantly makes you feel hungry? Is the afternoon tea generous and have something for everyone? It will help you decide if there is more than one place in the running to hold your big day and form a view if what they offer is worth the cost for you.

What extra options will you add into your day when it comes to food? If you’re getting married at around lunchtime will you offer canapes before the main wedding breakfast to keep your guests going and if your party goes onto until midnight will you have a buffet and something extra for the hardcore partiers to help them stay the distance? Think about the timeline of your day and what could be needed so you can add this to any quotes when you ask for them.

Entertainment is close to my heart because my husband is a sound engineer and this was something that made decisions for us when we were planning our day. The venue we picked had a sound installation that was specifically geared for a party (he should know as he put it in), my husband knew it would sound amazing and that he could enjoy himself knowing he wouldn’t be distracted by duff quality. I love dancing and going out so for me, immersing myself in this is not hard. Think back to gigs or nights out you loved and put the songs on at home or even plan a night out with your partner and your friends to see what gives you the biggest musical high. Music makes a party, I have so many memories with friends and my husband that come flooding back when a tune comes on the radio or in a bar or club so it was also a big deal for me to get this right as I would be on the dancefloor for hours. A big question for your venue is what entertainment can you have? If you love rock n roll and you want a fantastic party band then ask for example if there is a sound limiter in the room where you want to have your reception. These can be set quite low and a band with a drum kit will very likely set it off and trip the sound if the microphone is near the dancefloor. You don’t want to find this out when the singer is getting to the good bit of Mr Brightside..

DJ’s are a great option as they read the room and can play requests or genres you really love, they will bring in lights and make it a real party. You could always create a playlist as background music for dinner that has songs that you know will spark something for certain friends and family to make it even more special on the day. In all respects you could talk to a sound and lights professional about creating a set up that will make your party the best anyone has been too, having this at ours coupled with a brilliant DJ still has our friends talking about how amazing our reception was, we created some traditions that night and now we always request certain songs every time we’re all together. That was ten years ago!

All these elements layer up to provide a sensory sensation that you will always remember, immerse yourself and see what gives you the strongest feel – that’s what you want for your wedding and your new life together.

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