Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bank Holiday Weekend Fun

I had planned to write about my 'Vegan Cupcake Bake-Off' but the sunny Bank Holiday weather tempted me outside and kept me there!

Instead I'm going to share some of the wedding-y bits and pieces I got up to this weekend with my friend Caoimhe and some lovely things I saw that I think would make great venue or table decorations.

First was a trip to Ikea in Milton Keynes as I needed some storage boxes.  While there I spotted these gorgeous plant pots.

We like the idea of having living plants as decorations and if we do I thought these would be a great way to disguise a plastic pot. They are only £2 - bargain!  (view online)

I also loved these gorgeous paper lanterns (£4  - Ikea) I think you can get round versions of these lampshades online in lots of different colours online but I liked the unique shape of this Ikea version. I think these would look great hung at different heights like this in a wedding venue with high ceilings and would look gorgeous both lit, or unlit. We haven't picked colours for the wedding yet but I picked up a bluey-green one for our spare bedroom.

The weekend's adventures continued on Sunday at Hertfordshire County Show. We had a great afternoon in the sunshine wandering between the different marquees and watching some stunt biking and JCB relay racing. There wasn't a great selection of veggie foods, as you can imagine, but I picked up a Hot Chipotle Sauce from Capsicana for James .

I'm always saving pictures of flowers and floral arrangements I like from magazines and the internet.  I believe these 'Rhapsody in Blue' start out in this gorgeous purple but fade to a slate blue. I love the purple against the terracotta pot.

Speaking of living plants - how gorgeous are these succulents.  They would make the cutest little wedding favours.  I love the colours! 


With the excuse of post-wedding drinks reception research, we sampled some Raspberry Liquor from the English Spirit Distillery. I don't see it on their website but it was really nice, particularly with lemonade and a slice of lime.  They also create bespoke liquors, so you can pick the flavours and they'll create it - a great idea if you're creating a signature cocktail for your wedding day. We also tried some toffee vodka. I'm not a big vodka fan but this was quite nice (Thunder Vodka).

I also put in a call to Table 10 Event Hire to enquire about some chairs for the wedding.  As our guest list is Riverdale's capacity it was suggested that we look at hiring Chivari chairs as they are a bit narrower.  As I'm a not big fan of chair covers and would much prefer to have nice looking chair, the lime washed Chivari are perfect.!

What did you get up to on your Bank Holiday weekend? 


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Thursday, May 23, 2013

358 Days : The When and The Where

The first items on our wedding check list were the date and venue. We didn’t have a special date in mind, but wanted our wedding in spring/summer and decided on May in the vain hope that we’d get one of the UK’s rare May heat waves, or that it would at least be relatively dry and bright (Our current May weather isn’t encouraging!)

We had more ideas about what sort of venue we wanted...
- We wanted to have our ceremony and reception at the same venue, so we could spend the whole day with our friends and family and to cut down on their travel time.
- We are both originally from the beautiful North Coast of Northern Ireland and a lot of our family and friends live on the arc between Derry and Belfast so we thought having it somewhere near home would mean no one was travelling too far.
Image by Nicky Thompson

Image by Richard Robinson
- We made a very very provisional guest list which came in at around 140 people, so our venue needed to be able to accommodate this number of guests for the ceremony and the meal.
- We aren’t religious so a church wasn’t an option.
- We wanted somewhere that would cater properly for vegetarians and vegans, or somewhere we could hire caterers to create a meatless menu for us.
- We wanted a venue we could personalise and decorate, nothing too formal or fancy (we’re not formal or fancy people) but somewhere with real character. Plus, as ridiculous as it sounds I’m really not a fan of patterned hotel carpets... Yes I’m that peculiar!!

We decided our ideal venue would be a big old barn somewhere in the Northern Irish countryside.  There are lots of beautiful barns near where we live in England but Northern Ireland seemed to be lacking in the old wedding barn department!

So instead we looked at - 

Ardtara,Upperlands  – Gorgeous country house with a baby grand piano in the entrance and a conservatory with great view of the grounds. They were happy to chat with us about a vegetarian/vegan menu but unfortunately they couldn’t accommodated our large wedding guest list inside the house. They suggested we have a marquee outside, which they often do for larger weddings, but we aren’t keen on a marquee wedding. We’ve been to some beautiful wedding receptions in marquees but it just isn’t for us.

Photo from

Townhall, Portrush – Gorgeous view of the sea, Barry’s just across the road PLUS James and I first met in Portrush (WTSS Yacht Club gig in 2002). The venue doesn’t have a bar (we could have worked around this) but we got the impression that having our wedding there would just be too much bother for them. Not something you want to feel particularly when you’re planning your wedding from a different country. (Check out this gorgeous wedding, in Portrush Town Hall  - pictures by the extremely talented Ten21

Templeton Hotel, Templepatrick – We didn’t visit the Templeton but contacted them after I’d seen pictures of a friend’s wedding there. I was keen to talk to someone because their meatless menu options weren’t what we wanted. They didn’t have anyone available to talk but they sent us some information on their wedding packages. I loved the sloped roof and wooden floors but this wasn’t our venue.

Dunadry Hotel, Antrim - The Dunadry is an old restored paper and linen mill, and has the most gorgeous conservatory which would just be perfect for a wedding ceremony. It’s close to the International Airport for anyone flying in for our wedding and has onsite accommodation. The grounds would be great for wedding photographs but I just didn’t feel like this was the right venue for us either.

Then finally... one Sunday morning, while  James was at football, I typed ‘Northern Ireland Barn Wedding’ into google as I’d done several times before and came across a wedding photographer’s blog featuring a venue I’d never seen before.  

Riverdale, Aghagallon
Riverdale, Aghagallon

I arranged to visit Riverdale when I was home last September.  Jim was in Indonesia so I went with my Mum.  The moment we arrived I got goose bumps! We met with Oonagh, who showed us around.  The venue speaks for itself but she gave us some background, and rather than telling us how they usually accommodate weddings, she gave me the opportunity to mention ideas we’d had for our wedding and suggested how they could accommodate those. Rather than feeling like just another potential wedding in her diary she treated me like the only bride-to-be in the world.

The buildings have been so beautiful restored and the surrounding grounds are just perfect for photographs. The barn is licensed to have civil ceremonies, and there is a also licensed bar. It’s only 25 minutes from Belfast, there are lots of guest houses in the area and it isn’t hard to get to from either airport. They said they were happy to work with us on our perfect vegan menu and I didn’t need to hear anything else! I provisional held a date, then sent Jim a rather long email (with pictures) and thankfully he liked it too!

We just think it will be the most special place for us to celebrate with our friends and family and I'm very excited to finally be taking Jim to see Riverdale in a few weeks!

Friday, May 17, 2013

365 Days: An Introduction


This is my very first blog post... It's all very new to me so I hope you can be patient while I try not to ramble too much (I can't make any promises!)


My name’s Amy.  I’m originally from Northern Ireland but I moved to England about a year and a half ago. I live here with the lovely Jim in a sometimes tidy terrace house in the centre of Leicester I work in event management and Jim’s currently in the middle of his PhD. 

Just over a year ago, Jim proposed.  We started going out 10 ½ years ago, but his proposal was very much a surprise!  One year from today, 17th May 2014, we will get married (!!!) and I have decided to write a blog over the course of the next year as we plan our day. I’m having the time of my life researching and planning and some of the things I come across might be useful for other people planning weddings.

After James proposed, we had a brief chat about how we’d like our wedding day. Brief, mostly because I was petrified if I talked about it as much as I wanted to, he’d change his mind! We had similar ideas, mine maybe slightly more developed , but it was a great starting point. 

The main thing we agreed on however was that we wanted the day to be fun and to really reflect us as a couple. So…as a couple…what are we? 

Well… Jim’s a mohawk-sporting punk & anarchist.  He’s vegan and likes his music political and fast. 

He is a drummer, currently for a Leicester based UKHC punk band.  He cycles everywhere (including the 30 mile round trip to university each day) and plays for an anti-facist football team. He loves reading and gardening, and hates shopping and wearing a suit. He is the oldest sibling of 4 and his sister recently made us the proudest aunt and uncle ever to a beautiful baby girl. As I mentioned above he is currently midway through his PhD, researching the links between Punk music and Anarchism in a contemporary global setting. Which means he spends a lot of his time reading books and listening to music, effectively living the dream!  Right now he's on a 3 week research trip in Poland. He’s very intelligent and passionate about what he does.  He is an amazing cook and generally can turn out a restaurant worth version of most things I suggest. He makes an amazing curry and lots of brilliant Mexican flavoured dishes.

I’m Amy, I’m vegetarian and work for an event management company in the Midlands. I was lucky enough to study my MSc in Events & Festival Management in the beautiful city of Edinburgh and have had the best time since graduating; working with some amazing people on some fantastic music, fashion, and charity events. I love music (all sorts), shopping (particularly for home furnishing, candles and make-up) and my favourite place in the world is the hairdressers (my mum’s fault!!). I’m a fair weather runner and boxfit-er and like a tidy house - something James and I have differing opinions on!

Together we like to be outside, walking or gardening.  We love live music and love going to gigs together. We love entertaining and are happiest when hosting dinners or parties for our friends, Jim does the cooking while I pour the drinks (and do the dishes). We love reading, although rarely the same books. We thoroughly enjoy a semi-regular rum and burrito night and a snuggle up in front of the fire with a good book or film, a large mug of tea each and a packet of bourbons (vegan of course).

Glasgowbury '08
So with all that in mind we set about coming up with ideas for our wedding. This blog will record some of the great, and less than great things, we come across in our year ‘til the wedding. 

Have a great weekend!


p.s. sorry... I rambled.