Wednesday 29 February 2012

TAKING THE LEAP: How to do a leap year proposal in style with Cartier

Make sure you prepare a soft landing: taking the leap
In uncertain times, there’s always one thing that can be relied upon to make us all collectively sigh.

A good proposal story: replete with tender, touching gestures and for one day only, the chance for us girls to pop the question to our beloveds. According to a tradition dating back to the 13th Century, on the turn of the leap year day of February 29th, it is considered permissible for women to propose to their menfolk: so if you are one of those brave souls considering asking that most extraordinary of questions, our proposal guide might help nudge you towards that perfect proposal that gets the all-important 'yes!' yelped in delight...
1. THINK LIKE A MAN Be wary of going too soppy or sweet. He won't have been educated into the whole canon of romantic ideology and cinematic love-conquers-all fairytales we girls are brought up with, so you'll need to find a way of tapping into his soft side. The easiest way is to razzle dazzle him with high-octane style, a spectacular setting and thoughtful detail that makes him feel special. '
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE Equally, in keeping with love being a fairly simple thing after all, there isn't much more romantic than snuggling up to them in bed, with a "How's about marrying me then...?". Intimate and charming in its innocence, you could try pitching up at his door and riffing on Bob Dylan, presenting placards listing how and why you love him and want him to be yours for life.
3. DRESS YOU UP It sounds obvious, but by dressing up with a good dress, some cannot-fail YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick and heels, you will not only up your confidence levels, but be a knockout vision for him, too.
4. THE WAY TO A MAN'S HEART Those old wives knew a thing or two. What's not to love about a hearty, decadent surprise home cooked meal from Hawksmoor at Home? Job done.

5. IT TAKES TWO Avoid unnerving him by proposing in too public a space. This also alleviates some of the pressure of an audience! If you are going to propose at a sport event or in at a restaurant, wait until the crowd around you is jumping up to celebrate a goal or write the proposal on their napkin to keep it discreet - if they react euphorically, then you can both jump up and do a victory dance on the table, or accept the free champagne...

6. YOU HAD ME AT HELLO Don't over complicate what you're going to say. Proposals are nerve-wracking things that can make you feel very vulnerable so you need to speak from the heart about how much you adore them and get the question out. Don’t speak in riddles, but do give into the giddiness and euphoria of it all – it’s a nice thing you’re asking, so don’t be embarrassed. Let your love do the talking.

7. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Try not to panic if he doesn’t instantaneously say yes. He may be a touch dumb-struck, think it’s a ruse or you may simply have stolen his thunder by pipping him to the proposal.

8. MORE MOET, MORE PROBLEMS Have one drink for Dutch courage, but don’t get sloshed to try and staunch your nerves: this is a recipe for slurred words and you may not even remember having asked or what the outcome was the next morning. Wait to pop a bottle of Moet & Chandon finest open until he's said yes.

9. FALL AT YOUR FEET Don’t kneel - it looks a little less chivalric, more craven when a woman does it. Plus, it’s tricky in heels and skirts and hard on the knees!

10. PUT A RING ON IT Seal the deal with a kiss, or a classically beautiful Cartier watch such as the Ballon Bleu (above) with the proposal date engraved on the back plate.
Visit the London boutique 143 - 144 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9AY.

And remember, tradition dictates (and was once law) that if he refuses you are entitled to a kiss and a silk gown; if he says yes however, the positive is that many men will return the proposal to ensure you get the diamonds!


Thursday 23 February 2012

PUT A RING ON IT: Tiffany's What Makes Love True campaign

True love.

Almost as hard to define as the bounds of the universe, it exists above, beyond, under, through, regardless, without rule or reserve - like a north star, always lighting the way even when the daily grind makes you forget to look up and wonder at the magic of it.

True love is the rarest and most precious of things. You have to consider lucky those fortuitous enough to find the person for whom their love never wobbles in this crazy, crazy world. A little sprinkling of everyday gold-dust, is love. It's so very special that countless songs, poems and masterpieces have been inspired by it (or for want of it). And now, adding some sparkling weight to this canon of love comes Tiffany's adorable What Makes Love True campaign.

Made cool - as opposed to saccharine - by hiring cult fashion favourite Scott Schulman (of The Sartorialist) and his beautiful girl Garance Dore to curate, this little offshoot from the main Tiffany's website is where I go to cheer myself up and remind me why really it is love, actually, that is all you need.


I'm not quite brave enough to upload my Love's and my image (plus, the cat would be a little out of the bag about the identity of QBride!) but wholeheartedly encourage you to. It's the second best thing to your lover actually kneeling down with one of those magical little baby turquoise boxes and asking "Will you...." seeing your beaming faces here among many, caught in a timeless Tiffany's-shaped testament to your love being true. I've posted below my favourites - a word of caution though, you just might need a lace-edged hankie to hand...

NATIONAL TREASURE: Last minute chance to buy National Wedding Show tickets for London Olympia 24 - 26th February

If by chance, you have tomorrow or this coming weekend free, you won't have for much longer: if there's one piece of advice I manage to distill to brides through this blog, it will be how inspiring, helpful and enlightening a good wedding show can be.

Never has this been more true than when it comes to the National Wedding Show, which rocks up London Olympia from the 24th to the 26th February (and then wends its pretty way to the Birmingham NEC on the 16th March).


A one-hit wonder of chic and beautiful dresses, catwalk shows featuring the likes of Sassi Holford, Claire Pettibone and Jenny Packham, bridal confidence coaching, venues, fantastical floristry and reception ideas it is both a perfect and effortless starting point for the newly engaged and a cunning way to source the finishing touches should you be somewhat further along your adventure up the aisle like me (7 months encounting as of yesterday!). What's not to love?

Tickets start at £13.50, bookeable below or on the ticket hotline 0844 581 1404

Wednesday 22 February 2012

LET THEM EAT CAKE: Pomp de Franc and Janet Mohapi Banks

Seriously. Cakes do not come much better than the delightful creations from the hands of these two preternaturally talented cake-artists. It's going to be difficult to describe the works of Janet Mohapi Banks and Katie Franklin without resorting to hyperbole and excess, but think something along the lines of airy flavours that hint at deep, exotic Madagascan vanilla, the softly spoken tease of marzipan that oozes once the heady chocolateyness has subsided, or banana laced sponge twinned with caramel infused chocolate. Wedding cakes are your one chance to be flamboyant, to indulge and have a cake that is so achingly pretty you almost daren't eat it (but heck, you're going to anyway). I cannot recommend these lovely one-woman-band talents enough - makers of luxurious cakes that are almost enough of an excuse to marry for alone.
Something borrowed, something blue: Pomp de Franc's flower cup-cakes


As sweet as her cakes, Janet is one of our newest discoveries at Quintessentially Weddings: the dense chocolate and almond miniature wedding cake encased in the most perfectly horizontal icing we've ever seen (piped with droplet swags) rendered the whole wedding planning team speechless - no mean feat. Working from her Surrey cake atelier, she is the favoured supplier of the Dorchester, The Ritz, The May Fair Hotel, Syon Park and the Connaught no less which speaks volumes about her chic and scrumptious cakes. Every cake is entirely bespoke, a word I usually dread as too readily commandeered by marketing types, but which is very apt here with each cake handmade by Janet herself and tweaked to perfection to incorporate your favourite flavours.

Wedding belle: the super pretty Falling Blossom cake

Roses are red: a wedding cake of which Robbie Burns would surely approve
CREDITS: All flowers courtesy of Wild About, venue Fetcham Park House (Parallel Venues), styling Stacey Marie Chalk, photographs Juliet McKee

With her pleasingly English affection for the lightly bonkers, Katie Franklin of Pomp de Franc is one of the most creative and whimsical cake-makers out there. When she's not crafting giant gingerbread houses for the likes of Mulberry, Vogue, Stella McCartney, Lanvin or Lily Cooper (formerly Allen), she can lend her hands to gorgeous, candy-coloured cupcakes topped with botanical forms, edible glitter and chocolate turrets and towers of luscious chocolate cake or layered rainbow coloured sponge which make for novel and unique wedding cakes.

The height of yumminess: a Pomp de Franc chocolate wedding cake
Cherry-pop: fun and tasty, what's not to like?

Monday 20 February 2012

BLOOMING LOVELY: Wedding flower tips and The Flower Appreciation Society

Flowers are one of the great wedding staples. They deliver endlessly beautiful, natural decoration and can either oomph up your venue's glamour, or simply accentuate, embellish and prettify. No matter how big or pared-back the wedding you are planning may be, these humble seducers of buzzy types are a must.
Wedding wonderland: replete with Bambi and fairytale flowers. Image courtesy of Ann-Kathrin Koch on
The good news is, as weddings have diversified and become far more idiosyncratic (and dare I say, stylish) things, it has encouraged a blossoming of fantastically talented florists for each and every aesthetic, feel - and most importantly, budget. Whether you want luscious piles of heady Great British roses, or loose, just-strolled-through-a-meadow-and-grabbed-these-as-I-went naive arrangements there will be a florist to suit.
Novel vases make for interest and a style statement, meaning less flowers and money saving!

One of the most important aspects of wedding planning is working out your budget allocation: dependent on how ornate or 'finished' the interior decoration and furnishings of your ceremony and reception venue already are you may need to dedicate anything between £200 to many thousands to dress your space. The secret to effective flowers is to be tactical - not only in terms of what flowers you plump for, but what you do with them. Hydrangeas for instance offer an amazingly generous head of blossom for not much money, and come in a sumptuous range of candy shades from lilac to dusky pink, and Wedgwood blue. They look heavenly spilling out over urns or buckets, and as I have recently seen, look particularly sweet peeping out of wicker baskets for some Thoma Hardy riffing country style. So without further ado, these are my top tips for maximising your flowers, whatever your budget...


  • Create drama and detail with texture: one of my most recent discoveries (whom I was reluctant to share, but as it's you...) are the super-romantic The Flower Appreciation Society who trained as textile artists. You should also check out one half of The Flower Appreciation Society Ellie's adorable knit-wear line, EDE ( The girls' arrangements are as exuberantly chic as they are Erdem-like, all buxom, soft blooms, layers and punchy colours that are inspired by embroidery and tapestry techniques. Pairing teeny, delicate flowers with blousy blooms such as peonies, Norma Jean Roses and astrantia makes for real feast for the eyes. Try asking for what I'm calling a 'living table-runner': a motley arrangement of vases with trailing plants and foilage wrapped about them, dripping off the sides of the table - and perhaps even some loose flower heads stitched to the table cloth for sensuous, whimsical detail.


Flower 'embroidery' (left) as captured by Elizabeth Messina.
  • Play with dimensions and levels: pop posies of baby's breath or rose heads in antique glasses, votives or milk jugs, and juxtapose with a jumble of larger, taller vases and urns to create a complex yet pocket-friendly display. Focus your budget on the bigger arrangements from your florist, and make the smaller pieces together yourself with some oasis foam soaked in water.
Get messy: toy around with heights and containers. Flowers by Absolute Flowers
  • Go seasonal and British: you'll pay the air miles and inflated price for imported, more exotic flowers. Try and source flowers locally, and work with what's in season - you'll be surprised how gorgeous an armful of delphiniums, apple blossom or ranunculus can look. What's more, bolted (flowering) herbs and potently fragranced flowers such as roses, lily, jasmine and eucalyptus are a clever way of ramping up the perfume, helping create a real multisensory effect to your decor.
Like standing in a bottle of Chanel no.5: nature's loveliest pong.

  • DIY: Don't be shy of having a bash at table flowers yourself - what's not to love about a slightly less perfect, yes, but still dazzlingly pretty arrangement from your own fair hands? Jamie Aston runs accessible, non-scary introductions to wedding floristry courses from his Great Portland Street flower atelier that will have you producing delightful arrangements like a pro in no time.
We're Jamming: get creative with freely available containers - get your family and friends to collect Bon Maman jars or kilner numbers for a low-key retro pretty look.

  • Pick n' Mix: fill a big bucket of flowers for as little as £50 with the pick-your-own option at farm in Maidstone, Kent.
  • Drop the 'W' word: when first making enquiries, tell the florist that you are looking for a bouquet for your mother and some arrangements for a big birthday party - it's a little white lie that may save you lots!
"Oh no, just your average cakestand for a 58th birthday will do...." The lovely work of The Flower Appreciation Society.
  • Don't presume you can't afford a florist: many will help you find affordable alternatives to your favourite blooms and you can cut a big cost by collecting the flowers yourself - bouquets often start at just £50. Also, see the March/April issue of Conde Nast Brides magazine for their illuminating feature on spot-the-difference bouquets - it's like Gok Wan versus Brit Smith Start's fashion-offs, but better.
Say hello to your latest crush: the many splendoured works of Saipua.
  • Visit New York florist Saipua's website and blog for phenomenally beautiful ideas and inspiration. So pretty, you may need as lace-edged hanky to hand. and

Wednesday 15 February 2012


If you were lucky enough to become engaged yesterday (in which case, our most heartfelt congratulations - welcome to the ride of your life!) or are simply hunting for that one, undeniably heavenly gown among the myriad of offerings among the acres of tulle and enough sparkle to outdo Dolly Parton in full blown Memphis rhinestone mode, you will be fast become familiar with the ache of not finding that dream dress. There will always seem to be that one little twist that is missing from even the most near-perfect of wedding numbers, that one overlooked nuance that could have lifted a dress from meh to extraordinary. You will panic. There will be the hours of trawling the Internet and pleas from your Fiance, who will try and palm you off by telling you that you'll look beautiful whatever you wear (a sweet enough sentiment, but if you are a bride like me who is as fashion loving as they are fussy, an anodyne half-hearted dress won't cut the mustard - nor should it).

Worry not. You need only take one glimpse at the Spring Summer 2012 collection of paradisaical gowns from Jenny Packham to realise your hunt should start and quite possibly finish here. From the star-studded bodice and waterfall of chiffon that is Anya, to dark gilded embellishment on Iris (a real siren dress if ever I saw one), Willow with its delicate explosion of gossamer sequins on a classic Packham cap-sleeved, golden-age of glamour silhouette, or the faery-queen burnished gold yoke of Ormlie, these gowns bridge the gap between modern femininity and a lost world of spellbinding, glittering enchantment. The bridal fairytale re-imagined for our time, if you will.


Bride Boutique, 75 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9PJ
T: 0207 730 2264