The thoughts of a luxury cake designer

Wedding Industry Codes of Conduct

                                   
The gorgeous Laura Caudery of Parallel Venues posed a question on Twitter to make people think, that went something like this: “Quick question - people tweet photos of the bride as well as other details from the weddings they’re working at. Do you ask permission?”.  

After Laura’s tweet I went back through my timeline to see how many people were tweeting pictures about an event before it happened.  I was actually quite surprised at what I found and I was also surprised that I hadn’t picked up on it earlier.  Possibly the worst examples I saw were suppliers who tweeted pictures before the couple had even got a chance to see it for themselves.  If I had been a bride I would have been incredibly upset to see any aspect of my wedding on Twitter before I’d even got married.

It brought my attention to something that hadn’t really occurred to me before.  People seem to be in such a rush to show their work off that maybe they forget that they’ve been privately commissioned to produce that bespoke piece for a special day in a clients life.  Also, the photographs that suppliers take on their phones don’t always do their work justice so surely it would be better for them to wait for professional photos.  Often if you ask the photographer nicely they allow you to use the photographs containing your work as they will get a credit on your blog etc.  If you wish for them to send you a disk with high res images on it, it should be assumed that they will require some sort of payment as their time is as important as your own.  It would of course, also be polite to check with your client whether they have any objection to their wedding details being shown despite any clauses you may have in your contract.

Personally, as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, I very very rarely post pictures of client cakes.  This is because, despite a clause in my contract, I don’t truly believe that I have the right to show the world a cake that has been specifically designed for my client.  It is something that is personal to them and as such, it should be their right to show the world the details of their special day when and if they ever want to.  Obviously, I cannot stop other suppliers from blogging images of my cakes (as long as I get a credit!) but it is very rarely that I would do so myself.

This then got me thinking about other aspects of my personal codes of conduct that I use in my business.  Although I’ve never written them down before, they are there and they are strongly adhered to. 

Number one and probably the most important, I believe that discretion is vital so I personally would never name my clients; to do so, I believe, would be crass.  I do however, think this is slightly different for photographers who feature their weddings in their blogs.  As they usually show the couple’s faces it makes sense to include their names.  

Although I am very friendly and sometimes make friends with my clients I don’t ask them personal questions such as what they do for a living as, quite frankly, it is none of my business.  If they offer the information that’s fine but I have no wish to pry into their private lives.  As my cake designs are always bespoke I do need to get a sense of who they are and what they like but this can often be achieved by chatting generally and getting to know their personality during the consultation.

If the client does not have a planner then I try to make everything as easy as possible for them.  I check with the venue regarding delivery times, cake stand, cake knife etc.  and always speak to them (or email if they’re not the speaking kind) on the day before the wedding to allay any anxieties they might be having.  When the client has a planner, the planner usually contacts me and this is all done through them.
If I haven’t heard from the couple or the planner, I generally follow up a wedding about a week to ten days later to make sure that everything was as they would have liked it to be.  Customer service doesn’t end on the day of the wedding but should also not be intrusive.  Again if a planner is involved this is usually done through them. 

I always respect my clients time.  Clients generally have a planner so they have a single person to deal with.  The last thing they need or want is to be contacted directly by all their event suppliers so it’s important to adhere to this unwritten and often unspoken request.  You can generally tell from the clients themselves and the planners they’ve chosen whether it would be appropriate to contact them directly or not.  On the whole, like I say, if there is planner, conversation should always be directed through them.

I always perform my tasks as I would like them to be done if I were the client.  This is why I always personally set-up the cakes I deliver myself and why I would never dream of leaving cakes in their boxes for the planner or bride to set up, unless of course that was the instruction given.

Sometimes things are beyond your control and you have to make the most of a situation you find yourself in.  In these cases you just have to do your absolute best to make things right.  Recently a stacked cake suffered movement on the way to the venue.  It was the first time (and only time touch wood) that it has ever happened to me.  I repositioned the moved tier as best I could and when the groom came to inspect and sign off the cake he was really happy with it.  It didn’t stop me fretting about it afterwards though; analysing whether more could have been done to both prevent it occurring and in the fixing of it, but that’s just me.  Unless things are 100% as perfect as possible I will fret until the cows come home even though there’s nothing I could have done to change it.  I dread to think how the groom would have felt if I had been the sort of cake designer that dumps the cake in its box and leaves. 

Another one of my codes of conduct is with regards to my fellow wedding professionals.  I truly believe that there is plenty of room in this industry for all of us.  I have witnessed some, quite frankly, ridiculous school ground nonsense in the past year that isn’t dissimilar to the woes of my eight year old.  It is really important to behave in a professional manner at all times.  This means not publicly slagging off your perceived competitors.  Competition is good; it keeps things interesting and keeps you sharp.  Adolescent bitchiness has no place in business.  There’s that old saying about being respectful to those you pass on your way up as you never know who you might need help from on the way down, and this is so true in all of life. In the words of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other”.  Life is hard enough without making things harder for yourself or others.  Try to be happy at others achievements, even if you would rather it was you achieving instead of them, and if you can’t be happy at the very least behave in a grown-up professional and respectful manner.

I also think that it is vital to work well with other wedding professionals (not just competitors).  Everybody has their own role to play in creating an amazing event.  A planner cannot produce outstanding events without sourcing outstanding suppliers and likewise, where a planner is involved, they are the directors of the show and ultimately responsible for bringing to life the wishes of the clients whilst ensuring that everything runs smoothly.  Everybody has talents and skills that they are bringing and nobody is more important than anybody else when it comes to creating the day.  As I say, everybody has their role to play.  It is therefore in everybody’s best interest to understand that everyone is there with the same aim; to ensure the event is wonderful and that the clients are happy, and the best way to achieve this is to work respectfully, professionally and harmoniously together to create synergy - an event that is much better than all of it’s separate elements.  

Lastly, I think it is really important to remember whose day it is.  I might well have designed and produced a cake to beat all cakes but the client is the star of the show.  They are the reason we’ve done the work in the first place and regardless of whether we like their style or not, regardless of whether they are spending £500 or £5,000 with us, they deserve the same amount of good service and respect as we would expect ourselves.  

Do you have any codes of conduct you work to that I haven’t mentioned?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

(image taken from http://www.coaching-kids-sports.com/codeofconduct.html)

How To Do Collaborative Styled Shoots

This article is primarily for the wedding community although brides to be might find it interesting to see how the pieces they see in magazines and on wedding blogs are brought to life.

I am very lucky to have worked with some of the country’s best wedding suppliers on various projects, most of which have appeared in printed magazines and / or the leading wedding blogs including You and Your Wedding Magazine, Wedding Magazine, Rock My Wedding, B.Loved, OMG I’m Getting Married and Love My Dress to name but a few.

The purpose of a good styled photo shoot is to inspire future brides and to make them aware of the possibilities open to them with a little thought and imagination.  Therefore one of the most important things that a styled shoot has to have is a fabulous and original concept.

A brilliant example of this was the Twilight shoot put together by relative newcomer, Sonia Collett of Want That Wedding blog.  Sonia brought together some amazing suppliers to produce her take on the wedding scene from the popular Twilight movie series.  The images were brilliant and the shoot was planned impeccably, but the genius was in Sonia’s timing.   Sonia waited to release the shoot until the same day as The Twilight Breaking Dawn movie was released.  There was a huge media buzz around the launch of the movie and the Want That Wedding Twilight shoot tapped into it brilliantly.

Twilight Breaking Dawn Shoot for Want That Wedding Blog 


Of course, if the photography had been poor or if any of the “details” hadn’t been up to scratch then the shoot would not have been the success it was.  This brings me nicely round to the suppliers that are required to make a shoot great.

One of the most important suppliers to get on board is a fabulous photographer.  No matter how good the cake, flowers, stationery, models, dresses etc are, if the photographer lacks the ability to capture their full worth, the shoot will be a failure and the only way to possibly save it will be through extensive post-production. That said, there is no point having a fabulous photographer if what they are photographing is of low quality.

A particular bug-bear of a good friend of mine is that so often in styled photo shoots the beautiful dresses do not fit the models properly.  If the dresses cannot be physically altered to fit they should be pinned, even bulldog clipped to make them appear as though they do.  Moulded busts should be close to the skin and not inches away; backs and underarms should also not be gaping.  No matter how great a dress is, if the model wearing it either doesn’t suit it or it isn’t fitted properly, the dress will not be shown off to its best.

The details of a styled shoot are all the things in the shoot other than the model and dresses.  These can include the cake, flower displays, jewellery and accessories, sweets, shoes etc.  Although these things are either worn by or often form the backdrop for the model (usually in soft focus so as not to distract from the main subject of the model and the dress) these items are also photographed individually to show them off for all they are worth.

The best way to achieve a fast flowing photo shoot without wasting time is to properly story board each scene so the stylist, contributors and photographer knows exactly what is to be achieved for each group of shots.

As I said before, to create a really good shoot you need an original concept and the best of these are the ones that tell a good story; a story that readers will be able to relate to rather than a group of disparate images that bear no relation to each other or make no cohesive sense.

I was incredibly proud to be a part of The Good Day Sunshine team that was featured recently in Wedding Magazine.  The theme of citrus greens and yellows was, dare I say it, a ray of sunshine.

Good Day Sunshine featured in Wedding Magazine.

When planning a styled shoot every aspect needs to be carefully thought out and scheduled.  Time allocation should be given for each dress and detail scene to avoid spending too long on the early items meaning that the remaining shots are rushed and have less thought into making them the best they can be as you are just trying to “get them done”.   Often several dress designers have contributed their work as well as all the flower displays and cakes etc and each deserves equal attention.

The cakes used for styled shoots generally have polystyrene centres and are iced and decorated with real icing.  As styled shoots are a chance to “showcase”, the cakes (that I make at least), are generally quite intricate and therefore take a long time to produce.  The florists involved in shoots often spend hundreds, and occasionally thousands of pounds worth of flowers that cannot be sold afterwards.  Bridal shop owners take at least a day out of their businesses and everyone from the hairstylist and make-up artist to the model they work on dedicate their time and skill to the shoot preventing them from accepting other work.

In collaborative styled shoots everybody involved gives their services and time free of charge and their only form of “payment” is that their work is credited fully and properly every time their work is shown and they therefore gain exposure and hopefully kudos.

Crediting the work of others is not a tricky business.  In fact there are only two golden rules that everybody should adhere to:

Number One Golden Rule: Everybody whose work is featured in any photograph present on a blog is credited fully, directly underneath the set of images.  This is done so readers can see a direct correlation to the work and the person or company that produced it.

Occasionally a blogger, photographer or supplier might only feature selected images from the shoot that do not show all contributions from the team of suppliers present on the day of the shoot.  In this case, all contributors shown in the images are credited according to the Number One Golden Rule.  The other contributors, whose work has not actually be shown, are often included as an “other suppliers involved in the photo shoot” postscript as this is good manners and respectful of their contribution.  I
f the shoot has been featured fully on another blog and all the contributors are credited properly, it’s great for your readers if you add a link to that blog as it gives them all the images released as well as the full credit list.  In this case, it is not necessary to credit the people whose work has not been shown on your site, as you have linked to a properly credited page.  That said, it is acceptable (even if it is not best practise) that these suppliers are not credited as their work has not actually been shown on your site.  


Very occasionally you come across a situation where suppliers really don’t get on during the photo shoot or the work of a supplier is not to the standard expected by other contributors and so when the shoot appears on a blog written by one or other of the disgruntled people they really have no wish to promote their adversary.   In this case the Number Once Golden Rule still applies and personal feelings have to be left to one side.  No matter what your personal feelings towards another supplier, if you have shown images of their work, they have to be credited properly.  If you feel very strongly that you don’t want any association with them and refuse to credit their work, the only way you can do this is to omit their work completely.   If you don’t show it, you don’t have to credit them.

If planned properly a list of all the contributors should have been distributed with the shoot schedules and key contact information but sometimes a styled shoot can feature so many contributors that you’ve lost track of who did what.  In this case the stylist, planner or the person who conceived the shoot should have a full list of everybody’s contributions that they can send to you.

Which brings us to the Number Two Golden Rule:

If you don’t know who you should be crediting, don’t publish until you find out; thereby adhering to the Number One Golden Rule!

As I’ve said, to take part in collaborative shoots takes time, money and effort and to omit a credit for any reason, or to fail to properly make the correlation between the work and its producer, is wholly unacceptable.

So there you have it, everything you need to know about how successful styled photo shoots are produced and blogged to a professional standard.   Best of luck with your own!!

Credits:

Twilight Breaking Dawn - 

Production and Styling - Sonia Collett of Want That Wedding Blog

Venue Styling - Idyllic Days 

Photography - Chanelle Segerius Bruce

Venue - Nonsuch Mansion 

Models - Katie Cobley and James from Gingersnap Model Agency

Flowers - Jamie Aston

Hair - Lovehair

Make Up - Make Up By Jodie

Wedding Gown and Veil - Belle and Bunty

Grooms Suit - Pose London

Bespoke Hair-piece - Jannie Baltzer from Luella’s Boudoir

For all other contributors and full set of images please follow this link to Want That Wedding Blog


Good Day Sunshine - 

Photography and Concept - Juliet Mckee

Styling and Concept - Stacey-Marie Chalk Cherry Topped Bespoke Weddings

Dresses (Lou Lou and Jesus Peiro) and Shoes (Pink) - Miss Bush Bridal

Hair and Make-up - Gemma Sutton

Sweets and Jars - Creative Candi

Flowers - Fairynuff Flowers

Vintage Wedding Beetle - Polly Pootles

Table Decor - Jones Hire

Additional glassware etc - Nest Home

Venue - Pendell House

Model - Kitty Sage from Model Mayhem

Model - Gemma Underhay

For the full set of images please follow the link to Juliet Mckee Photography

A couple from 2011 and what’s to come in 2012

I trust that everybody had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and by now have settled back into every day life of 2012.

Before I write about my predictions for cake designs in 2012 I just wanted to let you know about a couple of things I got up to last year.  Aside from client orders from Brides and Grooms, I was very happy to make some cakes to mark some special occasions in the life of businesses and charities.

These are just two of my favourites.

I was very pleased to be asked by Olivier Laudus to make some small miniature cakes for the launch of their new wedding studio at 63 Wigmore Street London W1U 1BQ.   

Janet Mohapi-Banks Miniature Cakes 

Olivier Laudus is a bridal accessory boutique offering a large selection of beautiful wedding accessories to make your wedding day perfect.  The items on sale are a unique collection of handcrafted personalised wedding ring cushions; matching luxurious wedding guest books with gold or silver edging; stunning and stylish bridal jewellery including a brand new Signature wedding collection designed by Olivier Laudus who’s created a range of beautiful wedding necklaces, bracelets and earrings to match with your perfect hair accessory. We also have an extensive range of wedding tiaras, including crystal tiaras, pearl tiaras or a mixture of both and of course a superb range of fashionable bridal headbands.

I was also asked by Tenee Attoh to provide some special cupcakes for the launch of the Why Cameras Not Bread Exhibition at the Strand Gallery in London.

The Why Cameras Not Bread, Cumca is a charity that started in Korea and was brought to London by the non-profit charity organisation Theatre 4 all.  This photographic exhibition showed photographs taken by Zambian children with disposable cameras and portrayed the simple life of Africa.  It hoped to give them a voice by allowing them to document their environment and tell THEIR story.  The photographs were chosen to be exhibited by local school children and each added a comment about why they had chosen the image.  It was a very uplifting and inspiring exhibition and I was very pleased to provide some Camera Cupcakes for the opening day. 

Tenee Attoh is a truly amazing fine art photographer that, I’m very pleased to say, is also moving into the world of wedding photography this year.  Do go and have her look at her work, but hold on to your socks as she is liable to blow them off!

Back to the world of weddings, and my my wedding cake predictions for this year.

The 2011 cake trend of tall cakes will continue well into 2012 and beyond.  Designs will be lavish and extravagant with gold accents playing a larger role than previously seen.  The structure of wedding cakes in 2012 will also become more elaborate with different shaped tiers and double height tiers being mixed into the popular round and square tier structures.  

2011 saw wedding cakes getting brighter and bolder.  2012 will see the continuation of the use of bright colours including red, navy blue, hot pink and hot yellow but these will become accents on a white base rather than the main colour of the cake.  Black as an accent is also making a comeback after a couple of years away.

On the pale end of the spectrum, cakes that are subtle shades of blush, taupe and pale green will be popular to match many of the 2012 wedding dresses available.  Also to match the 2012 wedding dress collections, lace designs and ethereal ruffle designs will be popular.

Sugar flowers will make a huge comeback in 2012 either as large sugar flower accents or as luxurious focal points to an otherwise simple tiered cake.  

The vintage theme is still holding it’s ground in 2012 and focuses quite heavily on the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods.

On the whole, wedding cakes will move away from the rustic designs popular in 2010 and 2011 towards a more elegant and refined style for 2012.

Below is my favourite cake of my 2012 collection.  The full collection will be on my website soon.

 

Photography by Juliet Mckee Photography - www.julietmckeephotography.co.uk 

Styling by Cherry Topped Bespoke Weddings - www.cherrytopped.co.uk 

Flowers by Wild About - www.wild-about.com 

Stationery by Ivy Ellen- www.ivyellen.com

Venue by Parallel Venues Fetcham Park - www.parallelvenues.com

That Sticky Subject

                                

Like many in the wedding industry, for years I have held the opinion that paying commission to people in exchange for their referral is fundamentally wrong.  I believe that suppliers should only be recommended to potential clients based on their expertise and suitability for that client and not because the person doing the recommending was getting paid to do so.  Therefore, for any money to change hands between the supplier and the planner would place the trust between the three parties in jeopardy as nobody would be sure if the supplier was the best person for the job or whether they are just paying the planner the most.

I still believe all that, but last week I met up with a wedding planner that caused me to view things from a different angle.  Last week I was forced to step out of the wedding industry and to remember a previous industry in which I worked.  

When I worked in the Theatre one of the first things you tried to obtain as soon as you become professional was an agent.  An agent works on his performers behalf to get them good and appropriate jobs.  For this, his clients would pay him a percentage of their earnings when they were working.  They were paying the agent for his little black book of contacts and the years he had spent networking within the entertainment industry which enabled him to find the juicy roles his clients craved.  If the agent is very good, he would be the first place that casting directors would go to, to fill roles and this would give his clients the edge over other performers.  Of course, he would only have people on his books that he felt was good enough to be there as they represented his agency, and to place anybody that was of a substandard ability would reflect badly on him.  This is normal practice and it is completely accepted within the land of showbiz.  The casting directors know that the agents take a percentage of the performers wage, the performers agree to the percentage before signing with the agent and everything is very transparent.  

The planner I spoke to last week by and large works as an agent for his suppliers not only getting them work where appropriate for the client but also advising them on the pricing levels they should be charging etc.  He only has a few of each supplier on his books and only recommends the most appropriate cake supplier to his clients and limits the choice of the other suppliers too.  As he said, his clients pay him to make the choices for them.  

In this instance, it is the planner that signs all the contracts and therefore it is the planner that is invoiced and it is him that pays the supplier.  The supplier then receives an invoice for the referral fee from the planner just as if he was the Theatre Agent.  According to the planner, his clients are fully aware that he charges his suppliers a referral fee and the suppliers are aware that they will receive an invoice for a percentage of the cost of the services or goods they provide.  So as you can see, everything appears to be as transparent as in the show-business model.  

Like the show-business model, the planner charges the same percentage to all the suppliers on his books and therefore chooses the most appropriate supplier for the client as he gains nothing by introducing one over the other; and again like the show-business model, his reputation is based on the suppliers he has on his books, so he only has the best.

I still believe that unless all parties are aware of what is going on, commission is wrong and dishonest.  For instance, if the planner was to charge the client more than the quote given by the supplier without either parties being aware of the fact, I believe this to be almost fraudulent as it’s underselling the supplier and conning the client about the cost of the goods or service they receive.  I believe that if the planner is to obtain money from the supplier it should not come at the expense of the client and it should be a completely separate business transaction that can be logged in the suppliers accounts as such.

Do I therefore think that all planners should charge referral fees?  No, just to confuse matters further, I don’t.  I think that each case is different and it depends upon a number of factors.  These factors would include the ability of the planner to get the suppliers clients they wouldn’t be able to get without him.  Another factor would be the relationship the planner has with his client as some clients might not like or appreciate the fact that the planner obtains a referral fee, in which case it should never be charged.  Also, the client might have a particular supplier that they would like to use and therefore, as the planner was not responsible for introducing the supplier to the client, again no referral fee should be payable.  

I don’t believe that anybody should pay to be on a venue’s recommended supplier list as they do not work as an agent for the supplier.  The list is there to assist the clients find suppliers but it is not generally narrowed down to those that are suitable in budget or style.  Also the venue does not set up meetings between the client and the supplier or assist in the explanation or selling of the product as a planner would and I therefore think that the venue is possibly exploiting the suppliers and it might be construed as misleading the client to charge a fee for being on the recommended list as recommendations should be made on merit and not money.

From meeting the planner I’ve been talking about in this piece to coming to the conclusions I’ve outlined here took a long time.  My brain was telling me that due to the way the planner runs his business, everything was fine and all the objections I had to the commission argument were unfounded in this case, but as my heart had believed something very different for so many years, my heart was unwilling to accept what my head was telling it.   As those of you who know me can testify, unless a situation feels right and honest and honourable I just can’t do it; I get wiggles in my tummy and I don’t sleep well at night.  Therefore, even though the planner in question would probably be very beneficial to my business, I couldn’t get on board with him unless all the issues were resolved in both my heart and my head.  

I’m very happy to say that my whole body is now working in unison again and that is how I know that the final decision I have made about whether or not to work with him is right for me.  

I know that this is an almost explosive topic in the wedding world and I would love to hear your thoughts.  Has anything I’ve said made you reconsider your long held views?

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information regarding the planner’s policies are true to the best of my understanding from our discussions.

Bye Bye Cookie, Bye Bye Cupcake!

I recently announced on Twitter that we would no longer be taking orders for cookies and cupcakes.  All orders that are currently in discussion will of course be honoured.

I’ve been asked a few times to explain my decision so I thought I would tell you all.

My great pleasure and joy lies in creating wonderful works of edible art and although some of the cupcakes and cookies I’ve created have been good fun, it’s not really the area that I want my business to concentrate on.  By not taking further bookings of cookies and cupcakes it means that we can concentrate our efforts in creating the large luxury cakes that we are best known for.

Why then, you might ask, did I offer cupcakes and cookies in the first place?  Well the answer to that is simple; I thought I had to!  With other cake companies starting to offer these products I felt that I should too otherwise I would be “missing out” somehow.  

What I have come to realise though is that doing something just because somebody else is doing it, is completely the wrong reason to do it!  

At the moment there is a big trend toward dessert tables offering cupcakes, miniature cupcakes, cake pops and cookies, and there are cake companies that have made them the focus of their business and they do it extremely well.  Tempting Tables by Tempting Cakes are a prime example of beautiful dessert tables.   

This is not where my heart lies though, and it is not where my business’s heart lies either.  There are many sectors within the cake industry and as we don’t wish to be all things to everyone, we are limiting our products on offer to those we both enjoy and excel at.  Our speciality is in creating large luxury wedding cakes and celebration cakes and tall, exquisitely iced miniature cakes.  Therefore, along with our private parties, these will now be the only products we offer.  

Talking of our private parties, please note that we shall soon be discontinuing the cookie and cupcake parties too and only offering parties in miniature cake and large cake decorating.

So there you have it.  We’ve cut our product line in half, but the half we have left can never be beaten.  

My brother flew over from his home in LA for my Grandad’s funeral this week.  Tattooed on his back he has the words of this speech.  I believe that it is the most fantastic speech ever written.  Although it was written 71 years ago it’s as poignant today as it was then.  On this, the anniversary of the terrible atrocities in New York, I believe it has many lessons that should be learnt so that we can make this a better world in which to live.

The Final Speech of The Great Dictator

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.

Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite! 

by Charlie Chaplin. (Music by StrangeZero)

It’s been a funny old week….

In my singer/songwriter days I once wrote a song about how I’d rather that my life was the rollercoaster it was than a roundabout that just went round and round.

Well this week, I think I could’ve done with the roundabout.  The highs were manageably high but the lows were far too low.

It started the night of the Get Together.  A few minutes before I walked through the doors of Dirty Martini I got a phone call from my Mum saying that my lovely Grandad had had a stroke and the doctors had called her to Newcastle as they didn’t expect him to last for much longer.  He had been admitted to hospital last week after falling on the landing and fracturing his hip but he’d been fine and was apparently in good spirits.

When I spoke to my Mum I knew by her tone that the chances of him lasting the night were very slim and I was so sad that I can’t even begin to tell you.  Being from a theatre background, I knew that the show must go on and so I dried my tears and walked down the stairs smiling to meet and greet all the guests of The Get Together.  

I was so grateful for everybody who came.  You were all so lovely and you kept my mind off my sorrows.  I was especially grateful for the lift home as it meant that I didn’t have a chance to get “thinky” on the train.

I had a really great night and I’m led to believe that everyone else did too so that makes me really happy.  People have asked if I’ll be organising another Get Together and although it’s not yet definite, I think I might do.

Mark Osborne (@markmaker) took some beautiful photos of the event. These are some of my favourites.  If you would like to view the whole collection please visit Mark’s blog.

Andri Benson and Sally Humphreys

Dasha and Natalie

Juliet Mckee

Dominic Sharland

Kim Price

Simon Nickell

Charlotte, Sharon and Louise

Yvonne White (@YvonnePhoto) also came and took some great pictures, and these are my favourite of hers.  Again, to view all of Yvonne’s photo’s of the event they can be seen here.

Victoria Mary Vintage

Melanie Helen

Jeremy Corner

Natalie Haverstock

Fiona Kelly

Andri Benson and Amma

Fiona Kelly, Ana Ospina Ruiz and Anna

Andrea Freeman, Fiona Kelly and Ana Ospina Ruiz

Andri Benson

If you click on the pictures you’ll open their websites.  There are a couple of missing links to go with the pictures:

Ana Ospina Ruiz -http://anaospinamakeup.co.uk/

Charlotte Garratt - http://www.charlottebridal.co.uk

Louise Beukes - http://www.bijouxbride.com 

There were lots of other people that attended but I’m afraid I couldn’t featured pictures of them all.

___________________________

I woke up the next morning to another phone call from my Mum telling me that my Grandad had indeed died at 9.30pm the night before.  Strangely I think this was about the same time that my gorgeous friend Jeremy told me he loved me.  Oh how we laughed! (Don’t worry Mrs Ivy Ellen, it was all very innocent I promise.) 

After a quick visit to Twitter to thank everybody for coming the night before, I went for a little lie down and didn’t get up again until the evening.  I can’t describe how I felt any better than to say that I was just full of sad.  I felt like my head was going to explode with sadness and I was incapable of doing anything much.  I’m so lucky that I have a wonderful husband who was able to work from home and help with the children.  I don’t know what I would’ve done without him.

Thursday was another “the show must go on” day as I had to finish a cake for delivery on Friday and I also had the Kosibah event to go to.  Yemi Osunkoya has been a couture bridal and evening dress designer for 20 years this year and held a celebration event at 116 Pall Mall, The Institute of Directors.

I had bought a vintage Karl Lagerfeld evening dress for the event as Yemi asked us to pull out all the stops and I finished the look with a fabulous piece of handmade costume jewellery from Sarah Marks at Tiny Gems.

Part of the Kosibah evening was the launch of Yemi’s new collection named Bienvenue 20.  This collection keeps with his signature corseting style but has taken inspiration from the Ballet.  I recommend viewing them and Yvonne White has some great pictures of the collection on her blog.

Again I had a lovely evening meeting with friends from the wedding industry as well as meeting new and future friends.

So yes, a real week of the ups and downs of life.  As I said before, I’m really grateful for knowing such lovely people as even though they didn’t realise it, they all helped me get through a very difficult week.  Thank you all so much.

Cake Stands

As I promised on Twitter, my blog has returned to the world of cakes after a slight departure to city riots and country pig farms.

Today I would like to talk to you about cake stands.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the choice of cake stand for your wedding cake was limited to square or round, silver or gold. Nowadays the choice of stand, like the choice of cake centre and design is limitless.

Whilst many people do still opt for the traditional heavy base stands, pedestal stands are becoming incredibly popular. These stands give your cake an elegance that the solid base stands sometimes lack and of course they also add height which is never a bad thing for a focal point.

You can also get very creative when it comes to cake stands. Below is a picture of a cake I delivered this year. The wonderful planner Marine Kerivel-Brown of Boutique Weddings devised an amazing cake stand using a huge fish bowl filled with floating orchids.  I think you’ll agree that it’s very unique and incredibly special.




Miniature cake and cupcake towers need specialist stands and these are usually made of clear Perspex but to add drama and colour they can be iced to match your theme and have ribbons attached to the edges which really makes them look part of the styling.

When you order your wedding cake, please ask your cake designer if they provide stands. Whilst many (in fact, nearly all) companies charge a hire fee, personally I do not, as I feel that it’s all part of the cake.  For instance, you cannot have a miniature cake tower without the tower stand.  Although there is no cost for the loan of a cake stand, a deposit that covers the full cost of replacement is required and you will be asked to sign a contract claiming full responsibility of the stand until it’s safe return.

So whatever your cake design be sure that the cake stand you choose shows your fabulous cake off as it deserves.

What I did on my Summer Holidays - Drybeck Farm

Summer holiday’s with small children is a tricky balance of trying to find something that will please everybody.  My husband and I wanted something relaxing and my children wanted a bit of freedom to run around.

For the last couple of years we have taken the children camping as we found that staying in nice hotels was a little constrictive for them.  It’s hard for children to have fun when their parents are constantly reminding them that they have to be quiet so they didn’t disturb the people in the next room.

This year, I decided that although I wanted the children to have the fun and freedom of camping I also wanted a proper bed and a little bit of luxury.  After a little searching on the Internet I found the perfect place - Drybeck Farm.

Drybeck Farm is a small holding run by the very lovely Steve and Paula.  They have cows, chickens, horses and rare-breed pigs; Saddle Back and Gloucestershire Old Spot. My daughter absolutely fell in love with the pigs and named one of them Squiggle.

 

When you first arrive you are supplied with a beautiful hamper of bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans, bread, butter, milk, homemade cake and a bottle of wine.  And yes, the pigs above, or at least members of their family, supplied the incredibly tasty pork products.  

I think it’s important to point out here that unless we eat these pork products the rare-breed pigs would die out as people rarely keep pigs just for the fun of it - although I think my daughter would if she were allowed.

Also in the kitchen tent is tea, coffee, sugar and all the crockery, cutlery and accessories you would need.  And should you need vegetables or additional eggs or pork products then just ask Steve and he’ll go and get some from his garden.  Who could ask for more!

The accommodation has shabby-chic styling with lots of candles and baskets and lovely things to make it all look very pretty.  As you can see the kitchen tent is very spacious so even when it is raining (which it did an awful lot!) you can still relax in comfort.

This is the main area that we used.  It has a wood burning oven that is great for cooking in and it also has two gas rings.  We tried cooking on top of the oven but it took so long we nearly always reverted to using the gas.

The yurt also has shabby-chic styling and is incredibly comfy.  When you light the wood-burning stove in there is gets so toasty and warm you never want to leave.  

   

All the bedding is supplied and the addition of fresh flowers just adds to the sense that you are staying somewhere where the little things matter.  

The shower is wonderfully powerful and again, even though it is essentially in a grand garden shed, it is very pleasant to use.  All the water used in the showers and sink is collected and used to water the flowers, fruits and vegetables grown on Drybeck Farm.  For this reason, you are only allowed to use the Faith in Nature soap products that are supplied.  These are very nice to use and smell gorgeous.  The shampoo and conditioner was fine for my hair which I admit surprised me as I have rather tricky hair to please.

The other thing that gets collected and reused is your own waste products curtesy of the compostable toilets.  Everybody, including the guys, have to sit so the solids and the liquids are separated by a clever funnel design.  Now, although the toilets looked as pretty as everywhere else, I will not lie to you, they take some getting used to.  But you do get used to them eventually.  If everyone remembers to sprinkle the sawdust, close the lids and not to pee in the poo bit, then the amount of flies and the smell is greatly reduced.  I stopped gagging by around day 3 or 4.  But hey! It all adds to the outdoor living experience.

 

As I said before, my daughter in particular, fell in love with the pigs and Steve the farmer was incredibly sweet and allowed her to help him feed them and the chickens every morning.  It was the absolute highlight of her holiday.  

Drybeck Farm is an incredibly relaxing place to be.  It was really lovely to be able to sit out on the swing chair next to the fire pit with a glass of wine, looking over the River Eden, watching out for the salmon to jump.  Building fires in the oven and stove was also relaxing and incredibly good fun.  It took me back to my childhood when we had a wood-burning Aga in the kitchen.

There are many Yurt holidays available, but I believe that the very personal attention you get from Steve and Paula makes this one special.  As the swifts circled above the barn it was with very heavy hearts that we bid our farewells to Drybeck Farm.  But we will be back.  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of Steve, Paula and the pigs in the years to come.  

If you would like more information about Drybeck Farm please visit their website or give Steve and Paula a call on 0785 452 3012  

And when you visit please say big hello from us.  And remember to say hello to Squiggle! 

Have we lost our way?

                                     Moral Compass                                                                                

You cannot live just outside London and ignore the fact that this beautiful city was one of many that suffered under the hands of huge numbers of what we shall refer to for ease, as “rioters”.

The trouble might well have started with the death of Mark Duggan in dubious circumstances but by the time it left Tottenham I doubt that Duggan was on the minds of anybody rampaging the streets.

Speculation is widespread as to the cause of the violence; young single parents, gang culture, government cuts … whatever the reason I think one thing is indisputable.  Somewhere along the way, people have lost their moral compass.

Your moral compass is the little feeling you get, usually deep inside your belly, that stops you doing wrong. It’s the rules of right and wrong, good and evil that you were taught as a child; that flicker of doubt you have before you do something dubious.

And I don’t think that it is just the rioters that feel disenfranchised that have lost their moral compass. The politicians that fiddled their expenses and looted the government purse have also lost their way. The bankers that made wrong decision after wrong decision through greed and self-interest must have been ignoring the internal alarm bells for a long time as they veered off course. As as for certain employees of News International ….

These last groups of people were slapped on the wrist, told not to do it again and basically left to go back to what they were doing. So what message did that send out to the country?  That greed and disregard for others was ok?  Maybe.  Maybe those people involved in the looting thought, “Nothing really happened to them when they took what they wanted, so why not?”

I was born in 1970 so I grew up in the “look out for number one” era that took hold in the 1980’s.  Materialism was everything and people were led to believe that consumerism was the way to a happier life.

Maybe this was the start of the current problems?  During the 30 years between then and now the people that couldn’t live the material dream were made to feel ever-more worthless in society.  And with each generation those feelings of inadequacy are amplified until even trying to obtain it legally seems futile.

Along with the ever-growing materialism that swept through the country I believe that there was also the eroding of a cohesive community spirit.  As the haves and have-nots grew further apart, the sense that everybody was responsible for the welfare of everybody else in the community withered.

Whilst I was in single figures, if you stepped out of line the nearest adult would put you back on the path, and you would stay there.  I was always taught to help those less fortunate, that everyone is born equal and they deserve dignity and respect and to always be as kind and thoughtful as possible.

Somewhere along the line these messages seem to have stopped being taught to some children. Somewhere along the line it became acceptable to tread on those under you as you climbed the ladder to success. And by success I mean being financially rich.

All other types of richness seem to have been forgotten or ignored but to my mind they are more important.  As  Coco Chanel, once said, “There are people who have money, and people who are rich.”

A country run on consumerism and financial institutions is never going to be a rich country no matter how much money it has.  I believe that we should start making things again.  We need industry, we need artists, we need skilled craftsmen, we need everybody to find something to do that they can be proud of.

Maybe if we as a country can regain what is truly valuable in society the gulfs between us will narrow.

The sight of the Broom Armies after the riots brought a lump to ones throat because that’s Old Skool. Looking after your neighbourhood and your neighbours. I really hope that after being brought together in that way, those communities will remain together.

Instead of the Draconian sentences being passed by over-tired Judges listening to reactionary voices, I believe that the minor criminals of the riots should all be sentenced to proper community service rebuilding what they destroyed.  Maybe members of the Broom Army could oversee them.

I fail to see how evicting families from council houses is going to help rehabilitate the children who committed the crimes and turn them into respectful members of society.

Punishment without retribution or rehabilitation will not fix any problems in the long term. We need to change the way these individuals feel and think to prevent a repeat of these awful events.

I believe that it’s time that everyone, and I mean Everyone, check their moral compasses and help those whose compass is lost or broken to find their way back.

(Illustration by Harry Campbell)