Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So, What's In Store For Two-Oh-One-Four?

It's New Year's Eve and I'm sat, as my previous post hinted I might be, by the radiator with my dog by my side, indulging in a few minutes of peace.

I'm not one for resolutions. They don't work for me and they don't float my boat. But, if I am the archetypal donkey, goals set are my absolute favourite type of carrot. They keep me trotting in the right direction and their tempting allure guarantees my own kind of perpetual movement.

So, in a personal post, here's what's in store for my two-oh-one-four...

Walking - I achieved my goal of this year to walk 1,000 miles and next year, I'm aiming for 1,250. I also plan on hot-stepping my way around the Isle of Wight Challenge

Writing - Book number three is starting to tumble from my fingertips and even if it doesn't see the light of day, it will be researched and written by this time next year.

Cooking - I will be expanding my repertoire of recipes and will cook four new dishes every month. They may or may not be universally acclaimed but I'll keep going....

Snapping - After the amazing experience of Emily Quinton's MakeLight Workshop, my love of photography continues. I want to document the year, improve my skills and use my DSLR more regularly.

Eating - I love food and as Mr Apple presented me a copy of the Michelin Guide for Christmas, I now have a list of 12 places to visit this year and visit them I shall.

Reading - I should now perhaps admit my lazy streak and own up to the fact that I can re-read my favourite books over and over. Rather like comfort eating for the brain, I turn to these trusty titles too much. So, in 2014, I will read at least 12 new books.

and, finally, possibly the most important goal of all...

Living - More time with those I love, more breaks and experiences, more fun and maybe a little more time for me.

So, that's what's in store so come on two-oh-one-four, I'm ready and waiting...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Comes But Once A Year?

Well, it's that time of year again - today I flick on the out-of-office and head down the slope towards Christmas Day.

I love Christmas and for that, I blame my Mum who made it magical every year when I was a little girl. Now, I love Christmas because it still sprinkles magic, albeit of a different kind, over my life on an annual basis.

No, I don't lay awake on Christmas Eve with my eyes squeezed tight shut in case by being awake, I stop Santa from delivering to me. And no, I don't wiggle down my bed in the morning to prod at my stocking with my foot to check it rustles and crackles with the goodies inside.

Instead, the pleasures Christmas now brings are of the grown up variety - guilt-free time with family and friends, time to indulge my passions of reading and cooking and time itself. Time to slow down, to even grind to a halt for a day or two if I choose and time to breathe, relax, recharge and slip away from the noise and craziness for even just a few moments every day and sit, as I am now, against the radiator in my bedroom with my dog at my side, and just be still.

You see, Christmas Day is, in many ways, like a wedding - we plan frantically, we rush around, we arrange pre-event parties and get togethers and we spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for just one day. Then, just like a wedding, the day itself flashes by in the blink of an eye, a whirl of wrapping paper, presents, glitter and food.

And, just like a wedding, sometimes you can feel a bit down, a bit flat and a bit blue after Christmas. But my friends, the real secret to Christmas, as with weddings, is to not look backwards. Don't try to cling on to what has past and what can never be again. Don't yearn for the 'one day' and everything that came with it, as fabulous as those things might have been.

Oh no, look forwards and look ahead - there will be surprises around every corner, more moments of happiness, joy and extraordinary emotion than you can imagine because these aren't limited to one day a year or even once in a lifetime.

They are out there, every day, like year-round Christmas presents, just waiting to be unwrapped. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Feeling Thankful?

via Pinterest
As my American friends get ready for their Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow, it does seem like a good moment to, well, do nothing for a minute.

You see, this time of year is a crazy, busy, exciting and ever so slightly manic season. Clients getting ready for the new year, me getting ready to take a few weeks off over the holiday period, children in concerts, plays and sports matches, Christmas shopping, visiting family, hosting friends and let's not forget all the everyday stuff that still needs doing.

No wonder the days fly by and the weeks whiz past in a technicolour blur that borders on the downright scary.

So, this quote, sent to me by a friend in the US today, has really hit home. At a time when we're all pushing ourselves to get more done than is humanly possible in the waking/working hours we have, there are things that get missed.

Whilst I know I'm at risk of disappearing in a smog of schmaltz right now, it never does any harm to just stop for a moment and count the good things rather than always dwelling on the less than perfect. I know I'm not one to lecture righteously here as I'm as guilty as the next person for sometimes forgetting how bloomin' lucky I am but it is our ability to recognise the good things, to note the achievements and to give ourselves a pat on the back for the things we've done that keep us moving forward. If we can take heart from what we've already done, we can energise ourselves for the future and be more content with the present. Who wouldn't want that?

I'm off the put the kettle on, take five with a cuppa, give the dog a cuddle and eat a biscuit. It'll be good for me and I'm grateful for everything I have right now.

Especially the biscuit.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Chunk Of Change...

via Pinterest
 When I get an e-mail from the amazing Emma Woodhouse of The Wedding Reporter with just the word...


... followed by a blog post, then I know this is something I want to read. And Emma wasn't wrong to recommend this great post by Seth Godin.

 I absolutely love the sentiment in this post and agree wholeheartedly with the idea that something we should all be doing is giving others confidence to change - whether it's inspiring them to follow their passions or just helping them to try a little new thing. The unknown can be scary and the untried can be terrifying but with someone on your side, someone to emulate or someone to take heart from, anything is possible.

Over the last few weeks, and at the risk of sounding like a complete lovey, I've been changed, inspired and spurred on by others who overflow with passion and encouraged by their confidence. Those huge things I thought I wouldn't do or couldn't do suddenly become smaller things I'm keen to try when a fraction of their confidence finds its way to me. Conversely, I've had conversation with clients and potential clients in the last week where I hope some of my certainty has been transferred to them and given them the belief and conviction to move ahead with plans or to take a chance on ideas.

Nothing is supposed to stay the same, change is necessary, inevitable and nothing to be scared of. Change should be embraced.

And if you've got someone at your side to give you a little hug and to deliver that injection of support to get you through it, so much the better. Who knows how we might all be able to help each other?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Decisions, decisions...

via Pinterest
Something I never fail to appreciate about working for yourself, and working with people who more often than not work for themselves, is relative simplicity of making decisions.

Yes, yes, I know that sometimes we are all crippled with indecision, we slump helplessly over our laptops, not sure what to do or how to do it and sometimes we can keep ourselves awake into the wee small hours biting our nails and tearing our hair out trying to decide what to do.

But, all of those (minor) inconveniences aside, once we'd made the decision, we're able to get things going and my goodness, this is something to thank your lucky stars about every day.

This ability to make a decision and just get on with it is, in my humble opinion, one of the things that makes the wedding industry so special. It allows us to be creative, to get things moving, to strike up the band and dance to our own tune. We can set the pace and set the agenda. It's a huge privilege and it allows us to get things moving in a light-on-our-feet, speedy-minded way that is really rather special.

This was bought home to me so many times last week. Firstly, I had a lovely trip down to Bristol for the launch of Little Wedding Space. This pop-up, powered by Kirsten of Little Wedding Helper and photographer Ruth Garner is the perfect illustration of my point. Kirsten & Ruth had the idea for a wedding pop-up to showcase the work of a fabulous group of wedding suppliers and they just got on with it. From first tiny thought to opening night in the blink of an eye. No papers to present to the board, no endless e-mail trails between endless departments with everyone adding their two penceworth whether or not they understand what they're talking about and no interminable meetings full of bluster and other things beginning with b.

Maybe this is why some traditional businesses feel threatened by us agile little up-starts, maybe its something to do with the fact that we can speak our minds or that we don't have the 'rules' of big business to work around. Yes, sometimes being the accounts department, the marketing department, the receptionist, the officer manager and the cleaner can be tough but flipping heck, the benefits of being able to call the shots are huge and please please please never forget them.

We make the decisions, we get things moving, we can work with people we want to work with in ways that suit us. We get to hang out with wonderful people, we get to try new things and turn seemingly impossible plans into real things in the blink of an eye. We are professional but human at the same time. We haven't lost ourselves behind corporate facades and we can be silly, funny, kind and caring whilst still knocking out top-notch, amazing work.

The hours can be long, the annual leave allowance can be non-existent, there are no dress-down Fridays or bake-sales in reception. There's no safe salary or Christmas bonus but we have something far more valuable.

We have the ability to make our own decisions and go in our own direction. And my goodness, you can't put a price on that.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Corkscrew Thinkers & Brides The Show

Miss Bush at Brides The Show
Now, this post might start with a little bit of an indulgence as I ramble momentarily about military history but stay with me. I promise it's relevant.

Back in World War II when the intelligence war was at its peak, men (including Ian Fleming of James Bond fame) sat in the Admiralty trying to come up with a plan to fool Hitler into thinking that the Allies would attack Greece and Sardinia and not, as was actually planned, Sicily. What they came up with was the macabre but effective and brilliant plan of 'Operation Mincemeat' when the body of a dead vagrant was dressed as a Marine officer and floated ashore in Spain carrying apparently genuine documents tipping the Germans off about the landings. It worked like a dream.

But it worked because Churchill had given these men the courage to try something new by prizing 'corkscrew thinkers'. He didn't want ordinary, middle of the road plans that do what was expected in a predictable and formulaic way. He wanted creativity, a willingness to try new things and he wanted to take risks. Calculated, well planned and well thought out risks but risks nonetheless.

And, on Friday night at Brides The Show, there were corkscrew thinkers aplenty.

Those of you that follow me on twitter will have seen me trumpeting the jaw-droppingly gorgeous 'Boudicca' shoot that Miss Bush Bridal had put together for the show and their stand, next to the catwalk, was an extension of that. With hooded capes, striped bustles, stunning floristry from Bloomin'gayles and even specially commissioned scented candles all adding to the wow-factor.

There's no doubt that going hard on the warrior queen theme was a risk. It didn't play safe, it didn't go along with the cute bridal stereotypes but my goodness it paid off. The stand was packed, the brides loved it and the buzz and the feedback was amazing.

But the corkscrew thinking here worked for the same reason Operation Mincemeat worked all those years ago. It created a compelling story that you couldn't ignore. It was so brave, so ballsy and so bold that there was no way you could look away.

And there was similar daring on display right around the show and I was so proud to be there. Proud to be part of an industry that's pushing itself and trying new things. Proud that we're no longer all pandering to the lowest common denominator and imagining  that brides all want to play it safe with identikit weddings.

Whether we're all getting more sophisticated, I don't know. I'm absolutely sure the blogs, Pinterest and social media are all playing a part in giving confidence and I know that brides, grooms and guests are becoming more used to seeing weddings that don't follow the church/buffet/disco pattern of old.

So, as brides are changing, suppliers have to change too. Doing what you've always done isn't going to cut the mustard any more and hoo-flipping-rah for that. Trying new things, spurring yourself on to be better and pushing the boundaries are why so many of us love the wedding industry. Creativity is to be embraced and routine shunned.

'Creativity' isn't using a different shade of pink. It comes with doing something that scares you and is actually a bit of a risk.

Because, as Churchill knew, great things can't happen when you just think in safe, straight lines.

Corkscrew thinking is the way to go.

p.s. if you've not watched the 'Boudicca' shoot behind-the-scenes video on Love My Dress - watch it now!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Goals & Your Fingertips...

via Pinterest
So yesterday, I spent the morning at my son's prospective senior school. He loved it, I loved it, it was such a hit even my step-daughter is now considering moving there for 'A' levels.

Aside from the location, the staff, the students and all the quirky fabulousness of this school by the river with more than a hint of Hogwarts about it, the Headmaster just rocks.

I know, I know, an odd thing to say about a head of school but his speech that opened the morning was really rather good. So good in fact that I found myself nodding along like a groupie at a cult meeting.

But, frankly, if you're going to worship at the altar of thoughts and ideas, you might as well make them good ones and these were gold. So gleamingly, gorgeously gold that I'm going to re-hash them here...

The first thing that really struck home was this Head's comment of "if you didn't feel a buzz about the place when you drove up the drive, then we're probably not for you." A bit of a ballsy comment but I loved it and the same is true of true of wedding businesses and clients. Like over-protective parents who visit endless numbers of schools in the hope of finding the perfect place for their dear darling off-spring, brides and grooms spend substantial amounts of time visiting venues, meeting suppliers and hunting for that perfect partnership. We know what this head knows - sometimes, you just don't click and do you know what? That's fine. We're not supposed to get on with everyone, we're not supposed to change ourselves, our pricing our offering or our style just to fit in with every client. If they don't 'get' us, that's ok.

Secondly, this Head doesn't just want to do a job, he wants to make a difference. He shared a story of a high achiever who got great grades in his GCSEs but was more than a little miffed not to be offered a place for 'A' levels. Why not I hear you cry? Because the school had tried to connect with him, tried to engage with him and nothing. So they didn't feel they were making a difference to this pupil and sent him off into the world to find another place that might. And we want this from our wedding clients too. We want to leave at the end of the day having made a difference. Who wants to slide through an average life adding nothing but average value? No, we want to make a difference and if we don't think we are or if we don't think we can, we should step away.

There was also talk of pushing yourself, of trying new things, of embracing new ideas and keeping your eye on the end game. Do you want to make more money, attract more clients, attract different clients, be more creative, diversify, expand or grow and sell? What is it that you want and does what you do help you take steps to get there?

But the thing that stuck in my head, the words that made my ears prick up in happiness and my soul sing a little with the beauty of the expression was the phrase...

"Your goals should be the ones you can just get hold of with the very tips of your fingers."

The visions in my head instantly had me reaching upwards to the shelf that's always just out of reach. You know, the shelf where the treats and the good stuff are always hidden. My fingertips can just touch something and I know it's great, I know I want it but it's just out of reach. All I have to do is figure out how to get there and what I need to do to just lever myself up that little bit more, to rise up and take it. No, I can't grab it straight away, I need to work a bit, strive a bit, try a bit and push myself more than a little bit. And then I'm there.

Because when you know what you're working for is worth it, and it's something you want above the average stuff on the shelf below, then reach up as far as you can and just get your fingertips on something wonderful.

Then don't let go.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Love Letter...

via Pinterest
To you,

I just wanted to write you this letter to let you know that I love you. Not just a little bit either. I find myself smiling when I think of you and without sounding incredibly dramatic, I can't imagine my life without you.

This week, you've taken me to some wonderful places. The Perfect Wedding Awards on Monday were fabulous - much fun with great people and seeing Laura Caudery, Annabel Beeforth, Lucy Ledger, Emma Case, Naomi Neoh among others pick up their well-deserved awards was a real treat. I can't thank you enough.

Over the last few weeks, thanks to you, I've been part of some great projects, taken trips to almost every county in the south of England and have pages full in my diary from here until past Christmas. There's always lots to look forward to with you around - life is never quiet, never dull and certainly never the same.

I'll be honest, sometimes you're tricky to manage. You demand a lot of my time and, when I love you so much, it can be hard to leave you be for a little while. But, as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder and, after a weekend without you, I'm yearning to get back to you on a Monday morning.

But, all that said, I know I'm so lucky to have you. You allow me to be creative, responsible, decisive and independent. Because of you, I can be myself and I don't have to play games, pretend to agree when I don't or go along with things that just don't make me happy. You allow me time for the school run, you don't care what I wear when I'm sat behind my laptop but you love me to get dressed up and have some fun. With you, I can feel that I'm making a difference, however small, and that my efforts aren't unappreciated. Not many people have one like you. My goodness, you're good to me.

So, I just wanted to tell you that I love you. You're more than a job. You're part of me.

Lots of love,
Me xx

p.s. You might like to see this pic of Laura, Annabel & I at the Perfect Wedding Awards - I hope you love it as much as I do...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Emily Quinton's Makelight Photography Workshop - Review

So, yesterday saw me up, out and on a train to London bright and early. With cameras in one bag and lots of homemade cake in another, I was off to Emily Quinton's Makelight Photography Workshop.

I was so looking forward to this day (and had been for months since reserving my place months ago!). I, like most of us, have been increasingly snap happy with my camera phone and although I have a pretty nice D-SLR, I have frankly very little idea what all the settings, dials and buttons do. Could Emily explain, assist and cajole me into better photography?

Oh yes, she could. Emily, someone I know of through the wedding world, has a very beautiful Instagram feed with a strong style, a consistent look and all sorts of pretty to swoon over. And, she happily spent the day sharing secrets, tips, information and more that inspired and cleared away the fog that had long settled over my understanding of imagery.

As with most days like this, another highlight was meeting all of the other people on the workshop too and a nicer bunch of women you couldn't hope to meet. All with differing aims, lives, businesses and experiences, we were soon all laughing, sharing, gossiping and just having a great day. You know it's all been worthwhile when you're badgering the workshop leader to plan a follow-up day soon. I admit to waking up this morning, seeing clouds and thinking "oh, what excellent light!" Emily's words have definitely sunk in!

So yesterday was fabulous and my 'proper' camera is now sat next to me on my desk rather than being tucked away. I'm hoping I'll keep experimenting, keep trying new things and I'm going to be far more critical with my images. And, I solemnly promise to no just solely rely on my iPhone, never use flash and plan ahead!

But for me, one of the things I really took from yesterday was the importance of continuing to learn. It's very easy to sit behind your laptop or at your desk, beavering away at everything and keeping your mind closed to the prospect of educating yourself. When you work on your own, it's also really easy to get stuck in one way of thinking, one way of doing things and whilst these things keep on working for you, what are you missing? What else is out there that might just set your world alight? How will you know if you never get out there? Those little ruts that we keep ourselves in can be comforting but when you poke your head over the edge, the view is rather wonderful.

So, thank you Emily, not only for the wisdom, kindness and fun of yesterday but also for encouraging me to keep learning.

Here are a few of the images that I took yesterday - not edited at all, just completely 'as they were'. If anyone has any more recommendations of workshops or similar, I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

You Know What? You've Changed...

This week has been rather revealing.

When I was a teenager, I wasn't the girlie girl. When everyone else was learning how to apply their make-up and paint their nails, I was watching Formula 1 and stomping about in boots and camouflage gear at my local Air Cadet squadron. In my early twenties, I ditched the boots, went to work, dressed up, loved it and found my feminine side (it wasn't a total transformation - the hair was still super short!). I had a few failed and very splodgy attempts at painting my nails which all ended badly, messily and with my nails remaining plain and embarrassingly naked. So, for over a decade (yes, I'm that old), I've limited my varnishing efforts to my toes where any blobs and blemishes aren't so noticeable.

However, over the last few weeks, I've been gazing covetously at a parade of perfectly painted fingernails at meetings and photo-shoots and was inspired to pick up my little pot of 'Double Decker Red' and face down my fingernail nemesis.

And, do you know something? I managed a very acceptable manicure. I got carried away. I bought more colours and am now altering the hue of my fingers every couple of days. I love it - it's some me time, it makes me smile and I'm getting a bit better with every swish of the brush.

Because, I'm not the same person I was in my twenties and earlier. I still love Formula 1 but I can now walk in high heels, be trusted with a set of keys, cook a roast dinner, book my car into a garage and manage hundreds of little things I couldn't back in my youth.

So it's odd that a few of those "I can't do that..." limiting beliefs stick with us and continue to cripple us for a long time past their sell by date. Now, my life wouldn't have stalled seriously if I hasn't managed to coat my nail in a gorgeous coat of 'Coralicious' last night but the thing is, these limiting beliefs aren't often as innocent.

How many of us say to ourselves "I can't do that..." about things relating to our businesses? How many opportunities have we let slip by because we "can't do that"? I bet it's a lot of us.

But, the thing is, we're telling ourselves the wrong thing. Instead of "I can't do that...", we should be saying "I've not been able to do that before". Then we should absolutely get up and give it another try. Don't simply turn things away or shake your head sadly because "you can't do that" without seeing if you can. Try doing the thing you think is beyond you. Give it a go, give it your best shot. But, it's that voice in your head isn't it? The one that shouts so loudly at you not to bother because you've never done this before so surely it's pointless to even try now, right? Right?

Wrong. So wrong, it's almost off the scale of wrongness. Because do you know what? You've changed...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Papergirls PR Masterclass - I'm Still Buzzing!

Welcome to The Papergirls PR Masterclass!
Just before I went on holiday, my phone rang and the really rather fabulous Abigail Warner was on the line, asking if I'd like to co-host The Papergirls PR Masterclass that was held at Cockpit Arts, London, on Thursday 5th September.

Now, I never need asking twice to try something new, work with great people and get out and about so of course, my answer to Abigail was "oh yes please!"

So, last Thursday found me playing commuter and heading to London in the sunshine for the workshop, clutching goodies, handouts, notes and more. And, it was a brilliant day with Abigail and fellow Papergirl, Lucy Ledger, gathering a great group of women together.

Firstly, Cockpit Arts is a great venue. Just walking to the light, cool room we'd be in for the day, you walk past all these amazing little workshops, full of designers, artists, craftspeople and creative geniuses. Frankly, I could have spent all day peeping through windows and seeing what was going on.

However, let's get down to the business at hand because we covered lots of ground. We talked PR basics, practicalities, ideas, case studies and peppered the conversation with tips, examples and lots of insider information. We discussed strategy, media outlets, hooks, research, social media, business stakeholders, events, new releases, pitches, toolkits, images and One Direction (yes, really!). It was great and, as someone who only got a D in GCSE Art, I was totally inspired (and slightly frustrated at my own inability to even draw a tree) by being around the wonderful designers and creatives that attended the day.

Abigail & Lucy had also invited some brilliant guest speakers for the afternoon session including Charley from London Bride and Helen from Cutture to give their take on business. So much to take in and so much to take away - I'm absolutely in awe of the things people achieve, the risks they take that pay off and the deep love that others have for their businesses. How can you not be fired up after such a great big injection of passion?

And do you know why workshops and sessions like this are, I think, quite essential sometimes? Well, aside from topping you up with ideas, getting you out from your own little business bubble and opening you up to different ideas and possibilities, you should never stop learning. Imagining that you know everything there is to know and you are perfect, infallible and so flipping wonderful that you can't possibly pick up anything new from anyone, is fatal.

But, happily, my Thursday was full of learning and brain-opening revelations and, judging by some of the messages I've received from those who were there since, I think everyone who attended took lots away from this wonderful day...

"Thank you so much for your time, knowledge and kindness. I learned so much!" 
Suzanne from Pretty Wild Design

"Thank you for today Tamryn. You were so inspiring and informative." 
Tamsin from Studio Seed

"Lovely to meet you today. Feeling very inspired... you've galvanised me into action!" 
Jo from Lovehair

Thanks so much to Abigail & Lucy for inviting me to be part of the day. I loved every minute of it. Can't wait to be a Papergirl again xx

Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Candid Newsflash!

Well, I'm back from holiday and have returned to my desk to the lovely news that I've been granted Member status of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations - whoop whoop and a big hurrah! Just call me Tamryn Lawrence MCIPR from now on...

The CIPR has various grades of membership and, should you wish, you can find out more about the experience required for the different levels here.

Anyway, we're very proud and really rather chuffed that Candid Apple is going from strength to strength - look out for lots of more fabulous newsflashes over the coming months because there's plenty of wonderful news to come...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Trouble? What Trouble?

via Pinterest
Today is the 101st anniversary of the birth of the legendary, fabulous and butter-loving cooking heroine that is Julia Child. If you're not familiar with her story, I literally go down on my hands and knees to implore you to read her wonderful My Life In France. Even if you're not a foodie, Julia's love of life, her tenacity and her passion ooze out of the pages like cream from an eclair - as a book, it's a treat beyond compare.

So it seems appropriate to use a quote from the great Ms Child to illustrate today's point and my goodness, this is a corker of a quote.

Because, in the style of her incredible Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, this is absolutely spot on and she's right - nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.

This is why countless numbers of brides spend hours planning, crafting and arranging their wedding day. Yes, it might be easy to scoff at the seemingly excessive and obsessive effort but when it turns out well, really, what's to regret?

So, unsurprisingly, the same is true of our business endeavours. We can spend hours crafting plans, designing details, checking actions off lists and arranging (and attending) meetings, catch-ups and get-togethers. We can work long, odd or downright crazy hours. But, it's worth it in the end. It's worth it because we're heading in our own direction, we're steering our own ship towards our destination and my goodness, we're doing it our way.

Over the last few weeks, I have got in touch or met up with and fallen a little bit in love with some really amazing women. They're smart, strong, savvy people putting in effort beyond imagining and it's been flipping wonderful to spend time with them all. They all have projects on the go, ideas in mind and plans afoot that make them work harder and drive them forwards. Because, as Julia said and as we all know, nothing's too much trouble when it's going to be worth it.

And perhaps that's the lesson here. We can drive ourselves on and achieve amazing things when what we're aiming for is something we know to be right and wonderful. Like a bride planning her wedding to the man she loves, we need to check that our goals are the ones that really inspire us, that they're the ones that fire us up with belief and light us up in a way that can't be ignored.

Because, as the great Julia also said... "Life itself is the proper binge" so ditch half measures, restraint and moderation and just go for it. It'll be worth it in the end.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Be A Bit Brave...

via Pinterest
A short post for a Sunday evening (who wants to concentrate too much tonight?) but I wanted to just share this little story and the quote on this image seems so appropriate.

When I started my wedding planning business a whole decade ago, I guess I was a little bit brave. I took that leap, I plunged on in and I didn't sink. Yes, sometimes the water was a bit choppy but I met marvellous people, I went to fabulous places and I got to do things I never thought I would do. Did I think I'd end up on TV? No. Did I think I'd win awards, publish books and be asked to be godparent to one of my bride's children? No. But I went with it, tried new things, pushed myself and it all paid off.

Sometimes, you just have to be brave.

But last night, I met up with a truly fabulous wedding professional. I've wanted to meet her for ages, I love her style, her personality and I was so excited to finally get together. And I wasn't disappointed - she was amazing, everything I thought she would be and more.

We were talking, chatting, about weddings, business and everything else and then, from her bag, she produces a copy of one of my old company brochures from 2007.

And this, she said, was what gave her the courage to believe in her business idea. If I was doing it, she could too.

I cannot begin to describe how this made me feel. Honoured, humble, happy and proud. So flipping proud that I'd given someone else a little boost of bravery that set them off on the road to something amazing. It's a remarkable feeling, something so incredibly special, something I want to bottle and keep forever.

So be brave. You'll never regret it.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

How Many Sides have You Got?

One of my 'sides' - fundraiser for Hounds For Heroes
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is finding out more about the people I work with and the people that I come into contact with. Yes, we all usually have weddings as a large part of our make-up but there's more to us all than that.

Hobbies, interests, passions, likes - they all come together to make us, well, us and it's always really interesting to see these wonderful wedding professionals as multi-dimensional, multi-faceted people that have so much more experience and knowledge than is often seen and we bring all of this to our work life too. We don't switch off between places - what we learn in one part of our life comes with us to another. All experiences, good and bad stay with us. So it's important to get a grip of this. How can you hope to get the best out of people when you only know a tiny part of what makes them tick?

It's quite often the things that sit behind the work facade that provide the depth to the person. Yes, we love our jobs and we're passionate about them but they're not 'the whole us'. There's more to be seen, there's more to find out and there's more to understand.

So, have a think - what do you bring to your work party? What comes with you to work from the rest of your life? What experiences have you had that might be holding you back? What are your private 'best bits' that could be used to get your professional life moving? What do you have that sets you apart from everyone else?

Because ultimately, that's what we're looking for - those oh-so special bits of you that no-one else has. You're always going to have competitors (and imitators too if you're unlucky/so good that people can't help but copy) but what no-one else can ever have is your unique mix of life experiences and your approach to your life. And I mean your whole life, not just work, not just your non-work life, the whole crazy, special mix. This is why 'behind the scenes' tweets are so popular and why personal snapshots and insights into our wider lives work so well with clients - because we show ourselves as real people, not simply as wedding automatons.

In an industry where clients buy into people, into personalities they trust, don't you think it's really important to know who you are? Because until you know who you are, how can you even begin to standout?

Monday, 1 July 2013

My New Favourite Word...

Last Friday, my son's school held its annual Speech Day. I love Speech Day as it's a wonderful opportunity to see all the work the children have put in through the year, there are performances from the choirs and orchestras, the parents all dress up (ooo, get me!) and there's tea and cakes in the quad. But, undoubtedly, the main purpose of Speech Day is, well, the speeches.

Aside from children being given prizes, the Headmaster giving the highlights of the year and some of the 13 year old Leavers giving speeches, there's always a guest speaker, a head from another school and this year, the guest of honour was Thomas Garnier from Pangbourne College.

And his speech was fifteen minutes of fantastic.

Encouraging the children to 'live life like a Labrador puppy', he talked about the three qualities that make Labradors so great - they're curious, they spread joy and they're wholehearted.

Now, you might know I have a Labrador myself so this was bound to connect with me but it was that last word, wholehearted, that really struck a cord and is indeed, my new favourite word.

I am so happy to work with a group of fabulous wedding professionals, all of whom are completely wholehearted about what they do. They love their work and they are utterly committed to doing something special, something different, something amazing and they all do it wholeheartedly.

You see, we all want to see passion in others. We are enthused, motivated and inspired when we are in the company of people who love what they do and who throw themselves completely into their work, their hobbies or their projects.

By being wholehearted, not only do we act like lovely little radiators to others, warming them up and sharing our dedication and enjoyment with them but we allow ourselves to be happy. If you're secretly (or not so secretly) resenting what you're doing, it's pretty impossible to be happy with your lot. Yes, we've all got those ever-present things on the to-do list that we don't enjoy but it's important to keep an eye on the bigger picture and getting those tiny tasks off the list frees us to get on with the things that really push our buttons.

Look at the dictionary definition above. Aren't those all the things you'd want to see in your colleagues and aren't they also the things your clients want to see in you? Being wholehearted seems like a bit of a business imperative doesn't it?

We all need a little reminder every now and again of the things that are really important, the things that make us stand out and the things that make us us. And we need to remember, in the middle of wedding crazy season when the days are long and the working day seems longer, why we love what we do and why we're all really rather lucky to be able to do it. Let's throw ourselves into the opportunities of every day rather than dancing around on the sidelines, hoping to be picked for the team.

So perhaps wholehearted might be a word to remember for us all...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

16th June 2013 - The Week That Was

Firstly, happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there - hope you've all been suitably treated all day. Secondly, I am sure that days are no longer 24 hours long because there is no way that we can be at Sunday again.

But then, it's been a packed out week, a real tale of two halves - flat out work or out and about fun. And it's been a great week, lots has been achieved and lots of things that have been on my list for a while have been happily (and in some cases, smugly) ticked off. So, here's a little run-down of what's been going on here...

  • A 'happy anniversary' for Mr Apple & I - a day out with a little bit of history and, last night, a dinner for two at the rather beautiful Sir Charles Napier in Oxfordshire which might be my new favourite place.
  • Son's school Summer picnic - a day of fun, games, food & ice cream.
  • Trying to shake the grey weather with some summer weather clothes shopping whilst looking forward to our sunny summer getaway.
  • Talking to some lovely journalists about some great projects & features.
  • Writing writing writing. Lots.
  • Realising I probably enjoy filing and organising a little more than is good for me. Nothing like a well ordered client file to make me happy.
  • An invitation to a rather great summer party. Obviously said invitation came with an obligatory wardrobe crisis.
  • Having a bit of a re-invigoration of my office space. A tidy and a few nice new bits on order should all help - just need some better weather so my workroom is less fridge-esque and more warm & welcoming.
  • Indulging with some 'me' time - thanks to the Clarins Spa girls at John Lewis Reading.
  • Starting work with a beautiful new client.

Monday, 10 June 2013

10 Years On... Memories Of My First Wedding

Me, 10 Years Ago!
I truly can't believe that my first wedding was ten years ago. Ten years?! It seems like yesterday but, at the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago too. So much has changed for me since then that looking back at this almost feels like I'm squinting back at someone else.

For those of you that don't know the story, I was inspired to start my company, which I called 'TK on the Day' (catchy huh?!) after my own wedding which is, the biggest cliche going right? Oh dear. I didn't want to be a wedding planner, but I knew from my day and from doing a little research, that there was a gap in the market for what I called 'on the day co-ordination'. Which does partly explain/excuse the company name anyway.

I started the business on less than £100 and within the first week, after a few mentions on a wedding forum, I had bookings. It was slightly unbelievable. I hadn't expected interest this quickly so, when the first bride asked for a brochure, I had to write it pretty quickly. When she then wanted to book, I had to design the booking form pretty flipping quickly. It was all a bit of a shock.

Right from the word go, I felt very strongly that I had to be myself. I couldn't put on an act of fake sweetness or contrived fluffiness. That wasn't, isn't, me. I put everything together so it reflected me in the hope it would attract like-minded brides. And it did.

My first couple were lovely. Their wedding, in beautiful Haselmere was followed by a marquee reception at home. It was exceptionally hard work, possibly the hardest wedding I've ever worked by my goodness, did I enjoy it. I loved getting everything set up, liaising with suppliers, helping the guests, dealing with little issues  and most of all, I adored the challenge of it. The need to keep calm and carry on while underneath the in control exterior, I was a bundle of nerves. I knew I needed to look confident and be decisive, whatever happened. The years of leadership training in the Air Cadets really paid off here and I kept chanting in my head 'fake it until you make it', reminding myself that the guests would never know this was my first wedding unless I gave them cause to doubt me.

Now I've started writing this post, it strikes me just how much I can remember - I remember the bow on the gate to the house, the candle tablecentres, the black and white dancefloor, the huge vase of garden flowers with the table plan propped by it, the deaf guest who hurt his hand, the way the heat built up in the marquee, the bride's face when she arrived after the ceremony and lighting tealight after tealight as dusk fell.

The wedding day was one of the record-breakingly hot days of summer 2003. I was on my feet for more than 15 hours that day and when I drove home, my feet were so swollen, I couldn't change gear. I hadn't drunk enough, I'd barely eaten, I could hardly stand up and I spent much of the next day on the sofa. But, I'd done it and I'd done it well. The bride and groom e-mailed their thanks along with the photo they'd requested of me with them and they were thrilled and I was overjoyed.

The little fledgling business idea I'd had whilst on honeymoon was up and running. And I was running it.

My little baby had just taken its first steps.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

9th June 2013 - The Week That Was

My goodness me, here I am on a Sunday again. It's been a while since I wrote one of these posts and I've missed them but everything has been so busy busy busy here, it's unbelievable. I am loving my life at the moment - refreshed after a holiday, wonderful clients who make me smile every day and lots of other brilliant bits all combine to make me very very grateful. Plus, it's even been a bit warm and a bit sunny. The words 'falling into place' and 'everything' spring to mind.

So, without further ado, here's the week that was...

  • A brilliant day with my son at England v New Zealand cricket. I absolutely couldn't have asked for a better day.
  • Analysing a survey I'm managing for a client and being incredibly happy with the results.
  • An afternoon in the son watching Son play a great school cricket match.
  • Gundog training with my beautiful dog and feeling like things are starting to click.
  • The most amazing meeting in London with two inspiring, fantastic women and new projects on the horizon.
  • A trip to Winchester, great shopping and a lovely lunch.
  • Being inspired to revive an old book project, give it another go and being blown away by the response.
  • Son writing his first blog post and getting great feedback.
  • Sunny days in the garden, beavering away and peering vaguely at my laptop's screen but not caring because, finally, the sun is out!
  • A blog I wrote about a charity 60km walk I took part in being used by the organisers to promote next year's event.
  • Our local village carnival in the sunshine.
  • Remembering my Grandad on the 69th anniversary of D-Day and loving the DDay7 tweets.
  • Indulging my Mitford addiction by reading Diana's autobiography.
  • Feeling like the work I'm doing for clients is making a real difference for them.
  • A bit of 'me' time with some magazines and a cuppa. It's the simple things.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Thoughts On Holiday

We're feeling very refreshed at Candid Apple HQ on this sunny Monday morning as we're just back from a week of walking in the Lake District (also managed a sneaky trip to Holbeck Ghyll for some spa treatments and delicious food too so hurrah for that!)

Up until recently, I'd never quite appreciated the effect that holidays can have on you. I now look forward to them as much for the almost inevitable work-related epiphany as I do for the experience of going somewhere and doing something different for a week or so.

In the run-up to this break, I'd been flat out - projects, wonderful clients, writing work and home-life had been so busy there was no space for head-space. Don't get me wrong, I love being busy but sometimes, you need time-out to really be able to think clearly.

I know I am so lucky with my work. I have a flexibility, creativity and I get to work with some truly gorgeous people. I can, hand on heart, say I love what I do. And heaven knows, that's worth everything.

But my personal passion is writing. I just adore it. The whole process, whether it's scribbling in a notebook or typing furiously at my laptop makes me happy. And knowing what makes you happy is incredibly important - without understanding that, how can you ever feel satisfied? Surely you're just drifting some one experience to another without ever topping up your tanks of feel-good happiness, hoping beyond hope that happiness will just fall into your lap or that someone or something else will create it all for you and ta-da, you'll magically be happy.

It just doesn't work like that.

Being able to realise, in the moment, what makes your heart sing is, in my humble opinion, so incredibly important it should be taught in schools, it should be an essential part of the curriculum. Too many of us let exceptional moments slip by un-noticed because we're looking for the next thing in the hope that that will be 'it', the elusive experience that is the answer to everything. When you live like that, you get to the end of too many days and feel let down.

No, sometimes it's not easy to create little snippets of joy in the everyday rush but if you don't notice them or don't acknowledge them, you're going to spend a long time hunting for happiness when really, it can be all around you all the time.

Writing this post has made me happy. The fact my dog is by my feet as I type has made me smile. The view outside of blue skies and green grass makes me content. Yes, I have some challenges and things in my life that make me want to scream sometimes but do you know what - when it all gets too much, at least I know what to do to put myself in a good place.

And do you know what,buoyed by my holiday happiness, I might have started on book number three...

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Instantly & Individual - Instagram

Hello again you lovely readers and we know it's been a while since we last posted but my goodness, we've been as busy as bees, beavers and other industrious animals. Some wonderful new clients we might just be a bit in love with, writing projects, meetings, charity work and of course, we've been trying to have a bit of downtime somewhere in there too.

Anyway, we promise, hand on heart, not to leave you for so long again. But we wanted to just remind you that you can always find Candid Apple on Twitter and we're big fans of Instagram too where you can follow us too - Candid Apple. Go on, we'd love it if you did.

There's something so lovely about sharing images - an image can tell many tales and give a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at life. It's also quick and easy which probably explains why we've been using it so much recently!

Instagram works perfectly for everyone in the wedding industry. We all love a bit of the pretty or a glimpse at new, unusual or personal things. We're generally quite visual people with a strong sense of what we like and what appeals. We also love to share and to connect and we love to be ourselves. As full-on wedding season approaches, Instagram is a great way to stay connected with clients, to inspire them and to stay social without having to write blogs or tie yourself up in tweets.

So, if you've not been following us on Instagram, here's a little snapshot (see what we did there?!) of our last few weeks...

We use the 'Fancy Frame' app to create these images.
On the Hounds For Heroes walk for this great charity
There were new dogs in the family too
Out for a walk when visiting family in Sussex - love this view
Meetings in London always lead to the purchase of treats!
We really do love bluebells
The app from 'A Beautiful Mess' lets you pimp your pics!
A 60km walk for Hounds For Heroes - read more here

Sunday, 21 April 2013

21st April - The Week That Was

Firstly, huge apologies for not posting anything this week - I can't tell you how full the days have been but I promise normal service will be resumed next week when school is back in session and there's slightly less juggling to do to squeeze everything in. Anyway, here is, as usual, the round-up of my last seven days and fingers crossed for beautiful weather because I love the feeling that warmth, sun and summer days are just hiding around the corner.

  • My gorgeous Mum's birthday complete with gifts and afternoon tea under blue skies at the rather beautiful Danesfield House.
  • Having my first session with my dog and the fabulous trainer Sarah Miles. The blog post I wrote about it came from the heart - it was an amazing experience.
  • Meeting a truly lovely woman this week - someone I know I'm going to just love working with.
  • Writing writing writing - from real weddings for Love Scarlett through to summer holiday activities for families with their dogs!
  • Dinner with Mr Apple at one of our favourite places and loving the drive there in the evening sunlight.
  • Having my heart touched by the story of Shilton the dog, tied to a fence with horrid injuries and left to die. Happily within a few days of her story being mad public, enough money had been donated for Shilton to have her operation and for another dog at the animal sanctuary to have eye surgery too. Faith in human nature - restored.
  • Watching son at cricket coaching and being amazed by him. Bring on the matches (and the teas!).
  • Decamping to the garden and working there. What's not to love about that?
  • Planning a big piece of work and getting that wonderfully smiling feeling that swamps you when you're just so excited.
  • Indulging myself with re-reading an old favourite - 'Frenchman's Creek' by Daphne Du Maurier.
  • Having lots of incredible things to look forward to over the coming weeks and being happy to wake up every day.
I just love this pic of my son and I

20 degrees?! Can that really be right?!

She's smiling at me!