Here is the latest in my Big Day Small Talk series of interviews, featuring the wonderful people who make our brides’ wedding days go so well. Today’s chat is with Melanie Helen, the gifted and extremely capable owner of cranberryblue weddings and events planning. We met at the rather swish Threadneedles Hotel, a great place for meetings, and an excellent cup of tea.
Well, Melanie, thank you so much for meeting me here today – it’s always a pleasure to see you.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I originally started my career working for the high-end fashion designer Roland Mouret and got my first taste for event planning, as I was involved in his catwalk show for London Fashion Week. I then moved onto work as a Fashion Buyer for a number of years, but became increasingly involved and passionate about the event side of things. My transition into weddings came after I attended several weddings that were disorganised and I felt strongly that I could utilise my skills and experience to create beautiful and seamless weddings. I organised my first wedding in 2007 and then formally
set up my business – ‘Cranberry Blue Weddings & Events’ just over a year and a half ago, which I’m pleased to say is going from strength to strength. You may wonder where I got the name ‘Cranberry Blue’ from? Well, it’s actually the name of a butterfly which in some cultures represents love and marital bliss…
What do you love about your job?
How many things can I mention?? One of my favourite things is working with such a wide range of different people and personalities, both clients and suppliers. I also love creating the design concept for the day and planning all the minute details, and lastly, seeing the couple and their guests having a fantastic time on the actual day – knowing that you were responsible for that is very satisfying indeed
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about organising weddings?
Probably the fact that there are so many strands and details involved in planning a wedding which all have to come together perfectly. In addition to this, although it comes with the territory, things change all the time and this can often happen right up to the last minute. It’s great to see the end result however and know everything has gone as planned
What do you think are the trends this year?
The biggest trend has to be the vintage theme which has followed on from last year and continues to be just as popular in 2011. Alongside this, the English country garden/fete theme is also very important this year and sits nicely alongside the vintage look anyway. In terms of colour, soft faded vintage shades (blush pink/dusky lilac/nude) look newer in slightly deeper tones and coral is really big for this year (which looks great with grey). There is also the trend for stronger ‘pops’ of colour and slightly unusual colour mixes, such as aqua with red or yellow and grey. In terms of wedding format, a lot of couples are opting for more and more unique and original ideas, rather than sticking to the traditional rules which means they can truly personalise their day
What has been your most memorable booking and why?
The one that stands out was last May in Austin, Texas and I got to go too, which was fantastic. The couple were based in London but the bride is from Texas so they wanted someone they could meet with face-to-face, so I was involved in different aspects of the planning process whilst liaising with other contacts in the States. The ceremony was held in the garden area of a beautiful colonial house and we decorated the trees with hanging lanterns and fairy lights. Even though the ceremony wasn’t until about 7pm it was still boiling hot which was a challenge in itself
What do you think of the wedding industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
I feel positive about the year ahead as changes are starting to happen now after the downturn where people were booking things much closer to the wedding date and being more frugal, whereas now I feel that confidence is growing again and people are being much bolder. I think the importance of the wedding planner will continue to grow, as people realise the benefits of using our expertise and that we are much more accessible now to people, as opposed to just being viewed as a luxury. William and Kate’s wedding will definitely have a positive effect on the industry too, and I’ve already seen in the press people in the States asking for Kate Middleton’s hairstyle! Her dress, bouquet, cake and the quintessential Englishness of the occasion are some aspects that people will take inspiration from as well
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I’m sure there must be lots but the one that springs to mind was at a church wedding where there was metal grating running the length of the aisle, and which the vicar had firmly stated he didn’t want covered with anything other than a thin fabric runner. This really wasn’t going to cut it as it was too risky for the bride to walk down in her high heels without risking breaking her ankle. We had to enlist the help of the ushers to keep the vicar occupied whilst we discreetly put down some MDF boarding with the fabric runner on top. I was on my hands and knees putting everything in place when I saw a pair of shoes standing in front of me…I looked up, and saw the vicar – caught red handed! I was very embarrassed and felt like a naughty school kid but managed to talk him round and persuade him to let us keep it there
A website and/or blog you like?
Peonies and Pearls is a superb wedding blog with a fashion twist, I also love Style Me Pretty and of course Love My Dress
What talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be able to play the piano [Did you ever start?] Yes, I played at school but didn’t want to study for the exams so gave up and I’ve always regretted it. It would be fantastic to be able to sit down and just play without any music
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
Soppy but true – my husband
Something that is overrated?
Caviar and oysters
Your favourite film of all time?
This is a tough one – I should probably say something classic [Not at all you can say something cheesy if you like] Well, okay then, my most watched film is the Hugh Grant film ‘About a Boy’ [In my family it's another cheesy Hugh Grant film - Love Actually]
A book you’ve enjoyed recently?
I loved the whole Stieg Larson Millennium Trilogy. I did try reading ‘The Snowman’ by the ‘new’ Stieg Larson author Jo Nesbo but it was too grisly for me so that one went straight to the charity shop!
What ambitions have you yet to achieve?
Working on building my business up and being renowned in the wedding industry, for someone who creates original, personal and breath-taking weddings
What would you say has been the main key to your success in your business?
Developing relationships with great suppliers and focusing on working with people who share my outlook on offering the highest level of service to our clients by going that extra mile. Being friendly and personable but by no means a walk-over and above all having a strong sense of determination (laughs)
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to become professional and do what you do?
Try to gain as much work experience as you can, wedding planners tend to take on students over the summer to help out on the wedding day itself. Experience related to other events is also great, so working as an events co-ordinator at a venue for example would be ideal. Lastly, be true to yourself about the reasons why you want to be a wedding planner, don’t embark on it as career if you just enjoyed organising your own wedding as it’s entirely different to organising someone else’s
Three tips for brides?
1. Focus on the three most important things to you for your wedding. It might be the photographer, the florist and the cake for example, so when you’re budgeting, you can keep these in mind and make sure you don’t compromise on these at all
2. I know this will sound set-up as I’m talking to you Steve, but don’t ever scrimp on your photographer [yes, Melanie really did say that!] or videographer. Honestly though, your wedding day will whiz past in a blur and you have that one chance to capture everything that happens. Choose the best photographer that you can afford and love or you will bitterly regret it if your photos are terrible
3. For the look and design of your big day I always ask my brides to start looking at magazines and pulling out images of things they like and equally some that they don’t like [a kind of mood board idea?] Yes, it’s a good starting block for developing your ideas. It’s also important to consider your venue style and existing interior colour scheme – for example if the main room was predominately red then it wouldn’t really work to have a pink colour scheme. It’s much easier to work with what you have to begin with
What is your most treasured possession?
A gold locket from my Gran who died last year. It has a really old picture of her and my Granddad inside, that’s very special to me
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being around my family and close friends makes me happiest
What would your superpower be?
That’s an easy one – I wish that I could stop time! It would be fantastic to be able to stop the clock so I could catch up on everything and even get ahead of myself. I’m quite good with managing my time but there’s never enough of it and being a perfectionist there is always more to do!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
It’s something my Gran used to say to me actually – ‘All will be well’. I think this is great to remember when things don’t go quite to plan, as however bad something may look or feel at the time, things do always turn out okay in the end
Your favourite indulgence?
I love Cheese and red wine but also shoes! I honestly think I have a shoe addiction, I love them!!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything else to be honest (I live and breathe weddings… I even dream about them sometimes!) but it would definitely be within events. If that’s a bit of a cop-out answer then I would probably be still working as a fashion buyer
Tea or coffee?
Cat or dog?
Cat – I don’t like dogs
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I hate that question as it’s so hard to think that far ahead but I’d like to see my business really thriving with a small team of people working with me on a full time basis, so I am then able to arrange more weddings. I think it’s really important however to maintain the ’boutique’ feel I currently have, to keep continuity and a really personal service as you develop a
relationship with your clients in the run up to their big day. A slightly terrifying thought as well but In 5 years time I hope to have a couple of children by then (eek), and probably live outside London [Well, come to St Albans] Yes, St Albans would be nice! (Laughs)
If you had one wish…
That’s so hard [You can assume world peace and health for all!] (Lonnnnnggggg pause) Other than wishing I had the type of skin that actually tanned (!), it would be to have health and happiness for my family and friends
Thank you Melanie, it has been a delight to talk with you.