Guest Book Alternatives

This month’s ‘rush item’ has been guest books. We stock a lovely variety of styles at The Corner Store, but even so, I’m not really surprised to hear that couples struggle to find the right one for their wedding.

I suspect the issue is less about the range of guest books available, [does a quick count – we have more than 20 different styles in store!] and more about the limitations of the traditional guest book – when it comes to creating a wedding keepsake, you’re hoping for so much more than just a list of names. So, here’s a few alternatives I’ve seen recently, and fallen in deep love with:


One of the simplest, yet most effective guest-book ideas ever. Rather than a formal guest book with measured spaces, use a blank page notebook, and encourage your guests to share their favourite quotes or advice for the newlyweds.

[inspired by Nelson based pottery artisans Pottering About]
Personalise the centre of a blank bisque platter with your names, date, colours or theme, and set it on a table for your guests to decorate with comments, pictures, etc, using a simple ink pen or pencil.  After the wedding, the writing is permanently inked, and the platter is then fired and sealed, creating a permanent, washable, celebration plate for use in years to come.
One of the things I love about this idea is that if anyone writes something stupid or mean [because sometimes people just don’t think], you can choose not to make it permanent. You can also select your favourite comments [or specific people’s comments, eg your parents] to be inked in another colour to highlight them – lots of ways to make it a really special memento.

[inspired by Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography] You’ve probably picked up, by now, that I’m a huge fan of the ‘engagement photo shoot’, as the perfect opportunity to test drive your photographer, and get the best value out of your practice hair and makeup. And now, there’s even more reason to make the time to get those photos: Using the photos from your engagement photo shoot, plus an assortment of your own photos [from your childhoods, when you first met, hen/stag nights etc] you can create a beautiful, conversation-inspiring photo-journal to use as a guest book.

DIY or order through The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store]

For the greatest ‘anti-guestbook’ – a directed journal to inspire your guests to write more than just ‘good luck’ or ‘congratulations’. Each journal is hand written with questions and comment prompts to inspire your guests to share from their wit and wisdom. Books can be customised on request, with a photo and page for each guest or couple, or with specific prompts relating to the couple’s specific situation.

[order through The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store]

A signature frame is ideal if you’re looking for something more than your standard guest book list of names, but don’t want the guest book to be a significant focus of the reception – guests can quickly and easily add their names, and a comment if they wish. After the wedding, you pop in your favourite photo/s, creating a visual reminder of your celebrations. Made in NZ, there are lots of options for framing, mattboard style, etc.


In New Zealand, we tend to let our Christmas trees go bare-legged, but I’m told that Christmas tree ‘skirts’ are a stylish way to catch dropped tinsel/pine needles and disguise the plastic bucket or three prong spike the tree stands in. If you’re planning a summer wedding, using a Christmas tree skirt as your guest book will create an heirloom which will bring fresh memories each year as you pull out the box of Christmas decorations and re-discover the signed skirt, just in time for your wedding anniversary. I’ve seen some simple white and red tree skirts with words such as ‘peace, hope, believe, joy’ etc., which are Christmas themed, but can still fit with a  wedding theme!


Put your table name cards to double use by encouraging guests to write their comments [tips?] on the back, and drop them into a jar. Of course, any cute cards will do. I like re-using the name cards because it’s elegant but un-fussy, encourages every guest to contribute, and their small size gives guests just enough room to write something meaningful without pressuring those less eloquent guests.

The Corner Store has lots of new [and very cute] designs of woodcut name cards in all kinds of shapes, which are perfect for doubling as guest book inserts:


Breaking Out The Bubbly

I have had so much fun this week, thanks to The Wedding Kit loaning me their bubble machine!
We set the machine up in the entryway of The Corner Store, and ‘commenced to blowing’:
instant clouds of iridescence wafting along the street, [which was fun straight out of the box] but what’s been the most delightful has been the reactions of people passing by.

So far, no-one’s said “bah humbug”.  Apart from one run-away buggy [with baby still inside, and caught just in time!] the bubbles haven’t caused any accidents.
So far.
If anything, it seems like the streams of bubbles occasionally wandering out across the road have caused people to drive a little slower around our horrible corner. Though, I do wonder if I should write a letter of apology to the teachers unlucky enough to attempt crocodile filing  three classes of 8 year olds past my door yesterday.

Men in suits, the Postie, pretty much anyone who had passed by has at the very least smiled, if not dawdled for a while. Small children have predictably erupted into paroxysms of  bubble-glee, thanks to passing parents who parked their car, unstrapped the baby, and walked them over to play!

I haven’t gotten much work done. Without a word of a lie, since I started writing this blog post this morning, I’ve been distracted by a pit bull terrier leaping [all four feet off the ground] to catch bubbles, a classic ’emo-goth-wannabe’ utterly ruining his sad mood, and three tough dudes in black leathers almost choking to death  laughing and trying to catch bubbles in thier mouths.

But the absolute best reactions? All this week, it’s the school boys who have surprised and delighted me. I’ve kind of assumed that teen-aged boys were far too cool to expect any reaction at all to the bubbles – if I’d had to predict, I’d have said a big boy would kick the machine over and run away – turns out, I am totally wrong on that:

So, for your Friday afternoon enjoyement, I give you: What young men [because,  these have all been seniors!] do when surprised by bubbles:

Let’s begin with the group of lads playing a scratch game of “footy with bubbles”, shouting “Gooooaaaalllll!” and running off, shirts over their heads like Pele.

Add one very sharp-looking chap, totally lost in thought as bubbles swirled around him, and his less dapper counterpart, later in the day – similarly entranced. Overlay a soundtrack to the effect of “Duuuude. Wait. What?” and try not to giggle too loudly. I’m not certain, but I think he was trying to catch some to put in his pockets for later…

I’ve seen otherwise unperturbably cool dudes,  breaking into dance, or sitting on the kerb laughing, running off to find a mate to drag him back for show and tell – I haven’t laughed this much in months!

My favourite schoolboy quip so far:  “See, if you don’t wag, you miss this stuff”

I’m going to just say it: Nelson College Schoolboys are awesome. I love that they still have that sense of childlike wonder, and are not afraid to show it, even among their peers. It’s been such fun to hear the surprise and delight of passers-by, and to discover that whether one is have been 3 or 63, apparenlty you’re never too old to play in the bubbles.

If you have a moment and you’re in the neighbourhood, come over and play! [Or if your inner child is old and curmudgeonly, you could curl up on the couch and people watch]

A quick shoutout to the guy who started the party – You can hire one of these magic-making machines for just $50 /day from The Wedding Kit – You don’t even need a special occasion – just start the bubbles, and the party will come to you!

The Wedding Kit: Affordable Equpment Hire for weddings, events, and ordinary days!

Wedding Planning Extravaganza: Nelson Wedding Show 2011

If you’re even remotely dreaming of getting married in the next few years, then the wedding expo this weekend should be at the top of your ‘things to do’ list.
This Sunday, 26th June, 9.30-3.30 at the Trafalgar Centre, $10/person.

It’s a great opportunity to get ideas and information, but most of all, it’s a really efficient way to meet with a wide range of vendors and get a feel for how they might fit with your wedding plans. It’s a really important factor in your decision-making, and usually, the only other way to do it well is by spending literal hours traipsing around meeting with vendors individually.

This Sunday, you have the opportunity to wander the aisles, checking out over 75 different options in one go, watching the way different vendors interact with people, and actually getting to see their setup.

Given the choice between two similar, great options, you’re always going to go with the one that you ‘click’ with – whether that’s a good rapport with the people, or a preference for the colour of their particular version of things – and those are the kind of things you can quickly and easily get a feel for at a bridal show.

If you haven’t already, you still have time to enter the competition to win a wedding dress from Beautiful Brides of Hope, just by telling us about your proposal [enter here or submit to the entry box before 11 on show day] or tell us how you’d rock your frock and you could win the opportunity to do it in an awesome Trash the Dress photo shoot with Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography [enter here]

As well as all of that, there will be three really practical, FREE wedding planning workshops, at 9.30, 12 noon and 3.00. I recommend you arrive early, and plan to stay a while – It’s going to be busy:
The first workshop starts at 9.30, as a warm up to the wedding show opening at 10.00, followed by a fashion show at 11, a second wedding planning workshop at 12, the winner of the Beautiful Brides of Hope gown will be drawn at 1.45, before the fashion show repeats at 2, and the show closes at 3 with a final workshop to finish up the day.

– Just for coming along you could win one of the following great prizes: a luxury night’s accommodation at The MudCastle,  $250 voucher for wedding decoration or hire items from Creative Occasions, Custom designed wedding bands from Glen James jewellers, or an engagement photo shoot from Tasman Photography.

I’ll be there, of course – the last site as you head out the door, and at the workshops – and I’d love to chat with you about what you discover, and how what you’ve learned fits into your wedding plans.

I’m looking forward to chatting with you see you Sunday,


Speaking of Trashing the Dress…

In preparation for an upcoming competition…
[The Wedding Whisperer and Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography are giving away a fantastic ‘Trash the Dress” photoshoot on the Classic Hits Morning Radio Show! Watch this space!!]
….I got to tag along while Becky got her dress trashed for the promo photos!

I’m always banging on about how Trash the Dress doesn’t mean you have to wreck your frock… well, this time was a little different:
Our intent is to create a tiny tad of drama – so… Becky got paintballed:image copyright Sandra Johnson
But the paint wasn’t even the worst of it!
After being splattered with fluorescent paint, image copyright Sandra Johnsonand then being instructed to pose demurely under a tree
[read: sit in the mud, in the rain, and smile!],

Becky’s coworkers
[oh so lovingly]
doused her with buckets of coloured water.
Have you noticed that it’s winter?  And did I mention it was raining?
So do you think it was warm water? oops. No, sorry bout that, Becks.
And did anyone bring a towel? Oh, um, no, sorry about that, too Becks…

image copyright Sandra Johnson

Yet she still smiled and laughed and just looked gorgeous, all the way through. Becky totally gets my vote for Nelson’s next top model!

This clip shows a little more of the process, see some more of the stunning photos [and what a good sport Becky was!].
You can get an idea of how cold it was when you spot me [around 1:30] in thermals, boots, hat and coat… and *I* was still cold!

If you’re inspired to give it a go,  just tell us how YOU would rock your frock, and you could win your own fabulous Trash the Dress photoshoot with Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography. Enter online at

Confessions of a Confetti Lover part deux

While I was scouting fireworks for Guy Fawkes, I found some great spring-loaded confetti cannons  [the big ones shoot streamers up to 20 metres] and snaffled them up, thinking that would be my confetti fix for the next wee while. They’re very cool – palm sized or arm length tubes full of fun, and make me come over all Roald Dahl whenever I talk about them.

But amidst all the fizzwhiffling and bang!popping love, I apparently still have a soft spot for those handfuls of stuff for quietly showering the newlyweds. So when Shirley from Marlborough Lavender walked into The Corner Store today to show me their natural lavender confetti, I got excited about confetti all over again!

Marlborough Lavender have created beautifully packaged cones full of lavender heads, a deliciously scented, natural, environmentally friendly confetti alternative. Each cone has several handfuls of lavender, enough to share with a friend, or create a complete flurry of fragrant confetti. The cones are ideal for tucking into your bridal shoes or gown box as you pack them into storage, too.

Even better, it’s another local innovation, meaning you can support the local economy, the environment, and still have a unique and beautiful accessory for your wedding.

Being a local company also means greater scope for customising the boxes or other packaging to suit your theme and colour scheme. I know that Shirley recently harvested 1,000 head of lavender on long stalks, for a couple to strewe across the floor for their mediaeval themed wedding. Because scent is so strongly linked with memory, I’d bet that a whiff of fresh lavender will take them back to their wedding day, for years to come.

I’ll plan to get the details up on the website, or you can call into the Corner Store and see it for yourself!

The Other Side of the Veil

A couple of days ago, a mother of the bride came into The Corner Store, in search of a gown for her daughter living out-of-town. She liked the one in the window, and was just unsure about the size. Apparently, I look like I’m a similar size to her daughter, so she suggested that I could try it on for her.

Now  I was on the other side of the clothing divide – when I got dressed that morning I hadn’t been planning on stripping off in front of a stranger!  Even though I  often reassure brides that their granny-pants/nursing bra/ stretch marks/whatever really don’t matter, this time the shoe was on the other foot, andif I’m honest, it felt a bit uncomfortable.

I’ve blogged elsewhere about what you can do to make your gown hunt easier. But even armed with good advice and presentable underwear, it can still be intimidating going in to try on wedding gowns. It’s different from trying on normal clothes in a store, for a number of reasons:

For one thing, the fitter will usually stay in the room while you try on the gowns, [and you’ll probably need her to!] Wedding gowns are rarely a one-woman garment – all those fiddly buttons and lacing, not to mention the layers of petticoats and gauzy overlays.

There’s also often a lot more emotional investment in the result – no matter how casually you approach the process of finding a wedding-gown, there’s bound to be at least one moment where you catch sight of yourself in the mirror and realise that you’re really, truly, a bride-to-be.

I get to hear a lot of horrible stories about dress fittings. Average sized brides who’ve been told they are ‘too big’ to wear any of [designer]’s gowns, saleswomen who charge a fee for every single gown tried on, or who will only allow you to try on two, of their choosing. Salon staff more interested in making a sale than in making you feel beautiful. Fitters blatantly lying about whether the zip can be done all the way up, and not ordering in a larger size… the list is heart-breakingly endless.

I sincerely hope that I’m not one of those women. I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never sent anyone home in tears. In fact,  I’m more likely to have sent a bride to another store because they had what she’s looking for and I didn’t.

I’ve helped brides find a picture of their perfect gown in a magazine, and found where she could get it locally. I’ve delivered gowns to the dressmaker of their choice to make sure that the required alterations were possible before selling the bride a gown that didn’t quite fit right. And I know that I’m not the only one.

I have an excellent working relationship with local bridal salons, who offer fantastic service and after sales care. So, while you might get a wider range of options in a bigger city [and, for the record, I seriously dispute that theory], I believe that you’ll get a much more personal experience with a local store than you will with a with a big chain or an internet seller.

I can confidently send you to Beautiful Brides of Hope, where Catherine will happily help you try on every gown in the building, until you find the one gown that makes you look and feel like the bride you’ve always dreamed of being.
Or to PussPuss where Jill and Hayley will help you design a unique, individual wedding garment in rich and sumptuous fabrics that suit your figure and your style. Or to Lainee Hermsen’s studio, where Lainee will take the photo you’ve been drooling over and turn it into your perfectly fitted wedding gown…

And that’s just a few of the many brilliantly talented, passionate women in the bridal gown business here.

Maybe Nelson is an anomaly, because the snooty bridal salon chick, or the uppity designer are rare creatures in my experience. Sure, there are a couple of places in town where you’ll find snooty staff – but that’s a fact right across the industry. There are always going to be one or two vendors who miss the mark – photographers who offer nothing but their set routine of locations and poses, venues that charge for every single extra item, down to each knife and fork, or caterers who make you pick from a limited set list… but the myth of the scary bridal session is something that really needs to be put to bed, at least in this town.

You’ll discover that when you work with someone who’s in it for the love of the game, not just filling in at a job over the summer, you’ll get someone who will help you find YOUR dress, not just one of the dresses on their rack, even if that means referring you to another store. You’ll get the benefit of their experience and knowledge about formal and bridal wear, about fitting to your shape, as well as to your venue and ceremony style.  Expect them to ask tons of questions to help you find what you want, one of the first of which should be “What’s your budget?” .

It comes down to this: If bridal store (or any other business) is treating you badly then vote with your dollar. Go somewhere else. Either the store will learn and adjust their practices or they’ll go out of business. Tell everyone you meet about the bad service you received there. But make sure that’s all it is. Don’t be tempted to write off all bridal stores, just because one of them is terrible. Don’t assume that because the service, quality and range in the big city, that you’re not going to find it here. Shop local. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Scraps of great advice

I’ve just finished updating The Wedding Whisperer’s wedding planning and ceremony planning scrapbooks for The Corner Store.
Phew! What a task. But, WOW! what a lot of information they hold!

Working through the scrapbooks has reminded me just how much stuff I hold in my head – the various ideas and bits of experience I’ve picked up over the past dozen years [and hundreds of weddings] I’ve been involved in.

It’s been such a privilege to have been part of so many different weddings – I’m so grateful to the brides and grooms who have allowed me to learn from their mistakes and their successes, and I don’t take lightly the responsibility I feel to pass that knowledge and experience on to other couples. That’s one of the reasons why The Wedding Whisperer exists – and why the bridal advisory service will always be free and accessible for anyone planning a wedding.

But I’m also realising just how much specialised experience I have. I’ve assisted at beach weddings in howling gales and blue sky days, I’ve officiated at churches and motorbike rallies, I’ve coped with naked gate-crashers, rambunctious dogs, drunken bridesmaids, torn trousers, oil stained gowns – you name it, and I just bet I have an experience to draw on!

So I figure it’s time I start making that available too. The recent workshop series was just one of the ways we’re working to get that information out to brides and grooms to be. In addition to that, The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store also  more in-depth, personalised wedding planning services:

The Quiet Hour: For those times when you need a little extra professional help – a calm voice of experience to get you through the next challenge in your wedding plans. A Quiet Hour may be all that you need to stay on track, whether it’s help with cake tasting or ceremony content, writing your speech, wording your invitations, creating seating plans, brainstorming solutions with fresh, unbiased eyes – whatever it is that you’d like some help with.
By appointment only.   [$35 / hour]

The One Wedding Workshop: A one-on-one planning workshop customised for your wedding, and delivered in the location of your choice. Tailored to suit your requirements, for example: Compare venues with an expert at your side, or create a detailed timeline for your day. A One Wedding Workshop brings you expert advice for all aspects of your wedding planning.
By appointment only.  [$90 / up to three hours]
You’re always welcome to come into the store, curl up on the couch and browse the stacks of bridal magazines, albums and scrapbooks there, to bounce ideas and work on the next stage in your wedding plans. Pop in, call or email The Corner Store for really good free advice, information and inspiration.

I look forward to working with you on your wedding plans!

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