Updated: Dec 17, 2019
It’s the time of year when you’re likely to see lots of posts that look back over the last twelve months, giving a roundup of the wins, the best bits and the favourite memories of the year before the calendar flips into 2018. This year has changed my life in a myriad of unexpected and often intensely painful ways. It’s tested my strength in the face of trauma, loss and grief, but it’s also left me with a rock-solid conviction that this industry is where I belong. I’ve been totally bowled over by the support from other wedding businesses that I’ve received, and the new friends I’ve made have helped to soften some of the year’s sharp edges.
While it might not make for easy reading, it’s really important to me that I share some of the journey I’ve been on over the last few months, and say thank you to some incredibly special people. So grab a cup of tea and a mince pie and get comfy – this is my 2017.
On the morning of the 28th February, I woke to a crust of snow across the Welsh moorland. Today was shoot day at The Giraffe Shed, and while the weather made conditions trickier, it intensified the atmosphere and made for some beautiful shots. I was working with a fab team including Hannah from Rocksalt Photography and Donna from Pheasant Botanica, and the styling and co-ordination of the shoot kept me run off my feet for most of the day. When I finally checked my phone I found lots of messages and missed calls, and immediately knew something was wrong. I phoned my husband, who with an extremely heavy heart, broke the news to me that my mum had been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, and the prognosis wasn’t good.
Over the next six months, I spent as much time as possible with my mum: lying in bed with her watching our favourite Italian movies, going with her to chemo, and sharing as much of my life and my daughters’ lives with her as I could. She fought like a lioness, but devastatingly on the 28th August my lovely, feisty, funny mum passed away.
I could write thousands of words’ worth of stories about my mum. She was vibrant, sometimes hot-headed, always mischievous. The Eddie to my Saffy. Her wicked sense of humour never failed to shock me, and she was a fiend for hilarious memes and videos that would pop up in my inbox or on my phone to make me smile. Even towards the end, she never lost her sparkle. She’d sleep through her chemo, but ping awake the second it was over and say ‘right, I’m taking you for lunch’. She ALWAYS wore her best shoes, no matter how awful she was feeling, and was never too tired to listen to other people's problems, no matter how big or small. She was, quite simply, my hero.
And more than that, she was my number one fan. Ever since I started For The Love of Weddings she has been there, cheering me on. She accompanied me on one of my first shoots (where she did a fabulous job of styling the models’ hair and putting everyone immediately at ease when I was a bundle of nerves); she ran out and bought dozens of copies of Wedding Ideas magazine the first time I appeared in print; and any time I had the slightest wobble, she’d push me forward. She just refused to even countenance that this business of mine would be anything other than a roaring success, and she made me feel proud of myself for doing it.
After that February phonecall and the news of my mum’s diagnosis, the world shifted in focus for me. I had to split my brain and my heart in half, to be able to keep the business I love so much going, while simultaneously caring for my mum; my daughter’s precious and beloved ‘naughty Nana’. I found that keeping busy helped my brain from running away with me, and have been immensely thankful that the work I’m doing is something I’m genuinely passionate about. But there were some things that I just couldn’t do, and for those, I reached out to the wedding community in the hope that someone might be able to assist me. The response I got was totally and utterly overwhelming.
Two days after the diagnosis I was due to be styling another shoot at stunning manor house Twyning Park with Katrina Bartlam. This ‘white simplicity’ shoot had been months in the planning, and I was determined not to cancel on my team of talented suppliers. I posted in the UK Planners and Stylists Collective group on Facebook, asking for last minute help, and not one but two talented ladies immediately offered their services. Lauradana of Wedding Creations and Holly of Daisy Says I Do stepped in for me and styled the shoot to perfection – it was exactly as I’d imagined it would be (you can see it in all its light and elegant glory on Rock My Wedding).
The gorgeous Hollie styling this stunning cake from Cake Daydreams
The beautiful Katrina Bartlam photographing the very talented Lauradana’s flatlay consisting of stationery from Ollie’s Studio, silk from Kate Cullen and jewels from Glitzy Secrets.
The wonderful results...
Photo credit; Captured by Katrina
My biggest wedding of the year; a three day extravaganza of modern romance for a wonderful couple at Garthmyl Hall that you can read more about on Coco Weddings was in mid August. Mum was in and out of hospital by this point, and I have to say that bringing this wedding to fruition was extremely tough on my brain. However, I did it, and the results are something I am truly proud of. Though I didn’t need to call in the cavalry, I was incredibly touched in the run up to the wedding by the dozens of messages I received from my fellow planners, stylists and other suppliers, offering everything from virtual hugs to on-the-day back up, despite it being smack in the middle of everyone’s busiest time of year. Katrina - the biggest, most heartfelt thank you to you, lovely lady, for being not just a fabulous and inspiring mentor, but an incredibly supportive friend, taking time out in the middle of an extreeeemely busy wedding season to glance over my timelines and notes. Helen, Jenna, Helen, Helaina, Jenny, Charlotte, Kat, Lauren, Sienna, Emma, Amy and Julia – thank you. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
Photo credit; Matt Willis Photography
There’s one more event I want to mention: the gorgeous wedding of Jess and Andy that I had designed and was due to be styling on 16th September. It had been 2 weeks since I had lost my mum… I just couldn’t do it. I’ve agonized over this, but it was the right thing to do, although making the phone-call to my lovely bride to explain that after two years of planning I would be handing over to someone else was heartbreaking. The someone else in question was Lisa from Beatrice Ambery, who proceeded to blow my mind with her wonderfulness (technical term.) The week before the wedding, I spent 90 minutes on the phone to her, essentially downloading everything from my brain into hers, and that was it. Lisa went totally above and beyond - even attending the wedding rehearsal the day before in order to meet the couple and their families and put them at ease. She did such an amazing job that Jess and Andy nominated her for The Wedding Industry Awards – and rightly so. Lisa, you are a legend!
This couple's wedding would not have gone with quite such a bang had it not been for another trio of superstars, to whom I am incredibly grateful. Pheasant Botanica's Donna made a superhuman effort, driving buckets of flowers up the motorway at top speed all the way from her flower farm in Wales, while the lovely Amanda from Vintage Gold China spent two days at the venue dressing and styling her heart out, with props from Linda at Table to Dine Four, before hopping on a plane to Thailand for her holidays. This dream team meant I was able to switch off and focus on my family, knowing without a doubt that Jess and Andy were in safe hands.
Photo credit; Dan Morris Photography
There are so many more people who have helped me over the last 10 months. From checking in with a text, to brainstorming ideas, offering cups of tea or hugs, or making me laugh when I didn’t think I’d be able to... like the lovely Hannah of Bride & Bloom who eased me back into work by inviting me on a beautiful shoot with a gorgeous bunch of suppliers at brand new venue, Barton Court. And Hannah of Rocksalt Photography, for coaxing me out of my cocoon and my comfort zone for an empowering photoshoot with some totally fabulous female entrepreneurs. (You'll be able to read more about this, and see the 50s glam results, in a future post).
Photo credit: Rocksalt Photography
The phrase ‘community over competition’ is banded about a lot these days, but I’ve really felt this first hand this year. The wedding industry professionals I’ve met have made me proud to be a part of this community, and each day help lift me out of what could have been a very dark place.
As painful as it is, I know it’s important to look back and reflect on the year and what it’s taught me; I am forever changed. I wake up every day and it still takes a little while to register that she’s gone. But knowing what she wanted for me, I am getting ready to look forward, too. Knowing just how much my mum believed in me has helped set the spark within me alight, and I am damn well going to keep it shining! I’ve got big plans for 2018 – I’m working with some wonderful couples and intensely creative suppliers to bring more relaxed luxe weddings and styled shoots to life, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Happy New Year – hold those close to you tight, and let’s make it a good one, shall we?
(And here's to raising a glass for my ultimate #girlboss, my hero, my mum. Thank you for everything you have taught me. I love you all the stars in the sky.)