What I wish I’d known before planning my wedding: 10 tips from a baffled bride-to-be

Happy Monday!

The excitement is building, and butterflies flicker in my stomach when I think about it…it’s now just 85 days until Ben and I tie the knot!!!

Ben and I at Palm Beach Lighthouse

Ben and I at Palm Beach Lighthouse

It seems that we’ve had a slightly longer engagement than other couples we know, which has been great for us as we were able to take it slow with the planning elements, but then again we both work well under pressure so I’m sure we would have made it work either way.

The fact of the matter is, weddings are very personal and no one can tell you how big your wedding should be, who should or shouldn’t be invited or where to go on honeymoon (although many people *will* try to help—which may also make it more confusing for you!) so it’s important that you make your own choices that make you and your partner happy.

With this in mind, I thought it may be useful to impart some of my own wisdom (if you can call it that), as I near the final stages of the planning process…

1. Create a simple budget and checklist as SOON as you start planning

wedding-002

I have been extremely lucky in that my fiance Ben is super organised and excels at excel! Ben created a multi-tab spreadsheet right at the start, which had formulae to calculate our total cost based on how many attending guests we had.

Now, if you’re not proficient creating your own, the good news is the internet is absolutely full of free downloadable budget spreadsheets that you can use as a starting point and customise as you need to….You can find some great examples here.

In one tab of our wedding super-spreadsheet we also had a month-by-month checklist which has been an absolute LIFESAVER! Yes, I am behind on a few things but at least I am aware of it (and getting married on a Tuesday means certain things have been much easier to organise) and can’t forget anything! You can find an example here, but there are many more online that are easy to find on Google.

2. If you have overseas guests, give them as much notice as possible

Interactive-global-map-of-all-the-Planes-in-the-air-2

This is partly from my experience on the other side, being an expat from the UK living in Sydney, Australia. I pretty much let people know as soon as we got engaged, at least those closest to me – when we intended to get married and indicated if they could make it I would love them to be there. This was so important for us as we chose a date that was a. close to Christmas and b. Sydney is one of—if not THE—farthest and most expensive destination for Brits to visit. However, Ben and I are planning life about a year in advance, including any trips back to the UK or anywhere else – so we’ve missed out on a few friends weddings because we weren’t given enough notice ourselves. It doesn’t even need to be formal (I just sent informal Facebook messages) but once you know the date, make a list and go from there.

3. Don’t be afraid to break traditions

Breaking-Wedding-Traditions1

This is a big one. Families are complicated and there are a lot of things and people to consider. Each of us has our own family dynamic. Let me stress here, ultimately it’s up to you on the choices you make BUT let’s not forget we want to focus on the happy day, celebration of your love here and not make anyone feel uncomfortable.

You don’t have to have a maid of honour and one best man (I don’t have one and Ben has three best men!) – and table plans, speeches etc don’t need to be how they used to be back in the day. We live in 2015. We can do what we want and it’s totally acceptable. It’s also the norm now to ask for cash or a contribution to your honeymoon instead of gifts. Do your research, and think about what’s going to work well for your particular situation.

READ: 8 Wedding rules that can be broken

4. Try on dresses before you lock in your bridal style

gypsies2_1882855i

I did not grow up with any idea of what my wedding day would be like, not a single thing! And even if I did, it’s highly unlikely I would have guessed I would be marrying an Aussie in Sydney, Australia with 25 UK friends and family members coming all the way over to witness it! Dresses were stressing me out—I decided I hated all wedding dresses and I had a Pinterest board full of what I thought I loved—bohemian, Grecian, hold the sparkles.

When I finally tried on a selection of dresses, guess what? I felt and looked my best in the exact opposite to what I liked in pictures. Your body shape will determine what looks best on you, so head to the bridal store with an open mind, but have your budget locked in. Another tip – don’t even try on dresses out of your price range – I didn’t (thank goodness) and have heard of this ending in tears or a huge credit card bill. I knew when I found the one. And funnily enough it was the first dress I tried on! The shop assistant obviously knew what would work on me.

5. Pinterest is your friend

pinterest-logo

Flowers, cake, dress, bridesmaid dresses, hair pieces, hair styles..even dog outfits. Pinterest has it all. If you don’t already use Pinterest, it’s basically an image based social network. You create ‘boards’ where you can search a huge database of images relating to pretty much anything you can think of, and virtually ‘pin’ them to your boards for inspiration.

I used Pinterest to actually see how colours and styles work together, as well as finding inspiration for hair styles. It’s also collaborative, so I have been working with my friend who is making my cake—she can pin suggestions to me, and I can show her what I like. This saves us a lot of time which is great as we live far apart.

6. Expect the unexpected

It’s important to be flexible and willing to compromise on the less important parts of planning your wedding. Things will come up, people will not be able to attend (And I believe we might encounter this nearer the time) but you have to go with the flow. Wet weather backup is an absolute must! We almost forgot about this, assuming it’s going to be 25 degrees and sunny in Sydney in December (which it might be, we hope it is, but there’s a good chance it could rain) and it ended up taking quite a few weeks and stress to formulate a suitable backup plan.

Nothing is certain, but as long as you are your fiance are there on the day and there to make this special commitment to each other, I think anything unexpected CAN be dealt with.

7. Do you get dress codes?

dress-code-suits2

I don’t! Or at least I didn’t. Ours ended up as “daytime semi-formal”, but I came up with several custom dress codes that I thought were obvious. Luckily I have a few friends with plenty of event-organising experience who assured me people need an official dress code otherwise their interpretation could completely miss the mark. I will add that even my “official” dress code ended up with a few confused emails, so I made sure to contact all guests with the link above just to clear up any confusion. I really don’t want anyone in jeans at our wedding, and I heard at least one or two were considering it.

8. Online RSVPs are awesome

Have you heard of rsvpify.com? We went against advice given to us of supplying stamped envelopes with return cards and integrated an RSVP form into our wedding website. The brilliant thing about this app is that once people have submitted their response, you can use a drag-and-drop feature in to your table plan and move people about quickly and easily. We tried printing everyone’s names out and placing them on to tables, but this ended up as 120 scrunched up pieces of paper in the bin.

9. …As is weddingpaperdivas.com

I did so much research on wedding invitations and had about 20 quotes made for us. I was shocked to say the least about how much these can cost, especially if you have letterpress or foil invites, which was what we wanted. I then stumbled across Wedding Paper Divas—a US based company that has everything you could ever want printed for your wedding: save the dates, place names, menus, and everything in-between. We had some wonderful high quality foil invites printed and shipped from the US for about half of what it would have cost here in Australia. This company is highly recommended by me!

10. HAVE FUN!

having-fun

There are moments where one or both of us has been feeling the pressure, or stress about making the right decision. One of the best things about our relationship is I think we’re really good at balancing each other out, so we remind each other of what’s important on a regular basis, and then it goes back to being fun again. Yesterday we had Spotify open and drank a few beers while organising songs for our ceremony and reception. We laughed, cried and it was really fun…I think that is what planning your wedding should be like! So my last piece of advice is: stay grounded, remember what’s important to you and your fiancé…and have fun!

Happy wedding planning!

Coco xo

5 important lessons I learned from a running injury

Hello!

It’s taken me a while to get here, but I’ve finally written a new post for the blog – on my 28th birthday!

I will be honest…I have had a few challenges over the past few months, and I think it made me feel a bit down. However, I feel like I have come out the other side, and things are starting to improve again!

If at first you don't succeed...

If at first you don’t succeed…

I was training at full throttle for the Gold Coast Airport marathon (which is this weekend in fact!) and unfortunately right at the start of May I got injured. I couldn’t run for a few weeks and subsequently fell too far behind on my training and had to pull out.

I enjoyed taking a few weeks off from training properly, and it gave me a chance to reflect on what I should have done differently. I did find that I felt worse about myself and life in general when I did less exercise though, which is a big motivator for me to get back into it.

A few things I learned from my injury:

  1. If you try and compensate for missing periods of training, you will likely overtrain and get injured!
  2. One session of cross training per week is not enough.
  3. If you get injured mid-run, STOP immediately.
  4. Swimming is your friend during knee/foot injury – low impact, relaxing and a great way to start the day.
  5. If you stop training, don’t continue eating the same as you were before (I have gained about 3kg/6-7lbs).

I have started running a few times a week, just short distances of 5-6km to let my body get used to it again. And we’ve moved to Manly, living right by the beach so it’s quite nice getting outdoors and seeing the sunrise while I run.

Tomorrow I have an assessment with a new personal trainer who I will be working with for the next 6 months to prepare for the wedding! It’s only 5 months and 3 weeks until the big day now so I have to get cracking. And I think the added strength training will help me become a better runner. I will do a marathon, eventually. But I’m going to take it slow and train properly.

We’re still going up to the Gold Coast this weekend…we had already booked our flights and hotel so we’re off to visit some theme parks and have fun.

Despite a few setbacks over the past few months, I am genuinely feeling a lot more positive and happy – I didn’t think I would but it just took some patience and reflection…

I’ll try not to leave it so long next time and post an update on my training!

Coco xoxo

2015 so far: sunshine, beaches & a PR

After a two month hiatus, I’m back!

I have had a busy few months – Ben & I went to New Zealand in December, and I unexpectedly had to return to the UK in January as unfortunately my grandmother passed away over Christmas.

I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to head back to England in September to spend some time with her, when she was almost fully aware, and able to recognise me. Dementia is an extremely difficult and upsetting illness for both the sufferer and the sufferer’s family. I would not wish it on anyone, but my grandma passed peacefully surrounded by family, which I am very thankful for.

Sarah-Nanny-Me

RIP Nanny Miriam, you were a very special lady who will be sorely missed.

On to some happier news from the past weekend, where I entered into my first 10K race for some time, as I begin to train for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July.

The Sun Run is a fairly challenging course, beginning at Dee Why Beach and ending at Manly Beach with a few hills along the way. There are two course distances – 7K and 10K – I entered into the latter with my father-in-law-to-be, Kim who is always up for a challenge.

Me & Kim before the race

Me & Kim before the race

The beautiful 10K coastal course is as follows:


10k

And with perfect conditions of 16-18 degrees and bright sunshine allowing optimum performance, I actually ended up running my fastest ever 10K at 55.40 – despite a serious lack of training! I was enjoying the scenery and keeping a faster than usual pace with the other runners which allowed me to maintain a 5.34/km average page vs my usual 5.50 or so.

It goes to show that (good weather,) attitude and determination make a huge difference. I was in a such a good mood – see the below pic at the start for proof of that!


happyrunner

I’m considering trying out some trail running next, as it really helps when you are absorbed in your surroundings rather than stopping at traffic lights every 5 minutes. I’ll keep you posted what happens with that!

My training schedule for the next 5 months looks something like this..

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.45.27 pm

However, I have some horrible blisters at the moment because my trainers have been rubbing, so I am going to spin and swim while they heal this week. And I think it might be time for a new pair.

I also need to incorporate some strength training into my schedule, so I think I will either add in some extra evening sessions or add some weights before or after my runs. Any advice would be appreciated, so please let me know in the comments 🙂

Until next time!

Coco xo

The importance of setting ‘unachievable’ goals

This week saw the start of the Aussie summer! And as it’s almost the end of the year, which got me reminiscing about the past twelve months.

It’s been an eventful 12 months full of good news, bad news and hard work, both in and out of the office. The past few weeks have been particularly intense, as I have been supporting my fiancé Ben with a 6 days a week training schedule – partly dragging him out of bed in the mornings, partly keeping temptations away from him.

Ben and I set ourselves the “unachievable” target of completing one half marathon in 2014. Well, as we near the end of this year Ben has completed three and I have completed two. So we exceeded our goal. And how great that feels!

Not content with completing Blackmore’s Half Marathon, four months ago Ben decided to sign up for one of the greatest challenges out there, the Ironman 70.3.

The Ironman 70.3 is a long distance triathlon organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). The “70.3” number refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race. It begins with a 1.9km swim, then a 90km cycle and finally a half marathon (21.1km) – one after the other with no breaks!

Well, after finding a 16-week, extremely ambitious training schedule, Ben signed up and the training began. The early mornings and anti-social weekends were a challenge, not to mention having to give up his McDonalds habit (read back on some of his thoughts on the experience here). But 16 weeks later, and a fair few kilograms lighter, the day finally arrived and last weekend we travelled to Penrith for the big race!

High spirits during the run

High spirits during the run

Ben was spectacular and we were all immensely proud of his finishing time, 6 hours and 6 minutes. That’s a huge feat – particularly in 35 degree heat – and a brilliant finishing time for a triathlon virgin! Not to mention he raised over $1500 for the Redkite charity which supports young people suffering from cancer and their families.

For those not quite ready for a solo 70.3, there is also a team option where one person takes part in each stage. I think this could be quite a fun taster, and we’ve discussed entering as a team next year. I think I could handle the run, and maybe the cycle but my swimming isn’t really up to scratch as the cut off is 1 hour and I think I’d need double that :).

Ben cycling

Ben cycling

Beyond the Ironman 70.3, or a half Ironman as it is otherwise known, there is a full Ironman, which is double (!) the distances of the 70.3. Ben has spoken about doing this event sometime in the future, but I think for now he needs to allow his feet to heal as he suffered from Plantar Fasciitis throughout his training, and despite multiple warnings from the physiotherapist, he decided to continue training. Not exactly advisable, but he is stubborn 🙂

The lesson learnt for 2014, is that you shouldn’t shy away from setting yourself a seemingly unachievable goal.

You can and will prove your expectations wrong. It’s a new mind-set. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary, stressful and hard work but believe me, the high you get from crossing the finish line of an event you never thought you could complete beats any other. And it’s not just the physical finish line after an event like this, I think the same principle can be applied to a challenge in any area of your life.

I’m feeling a bit anxious about attempting a full marathon next year, but that will be my ‘unachievable’ goal for 2015 🙂

We’re off to New Zealand over Christmas and New Year, travelling around the south island. So I’ll definitely have some adventures to report back on in the new year too (including a four day pack walk, staying in huts!).

Ironman!

Ironman!

And of course, many congratulations to Ben, you are my inspiration and I’m so incredibly proud of the strength of character you’ve shown over the past few weeks and months.

Coco xo

My first half marathon. And my inner struggle.

Hello!

I took a little break from blogging over the past few weeks. And what a few weeks it has been!

I entered the month of September feeling really off. I didn’t feel motivated at all which isn’t like me. I spent a few days thinking about why that could be, and realised I was longing to see my family back in England. My grandma has dementia, and recently entered a care home which has been a stressful experience for both my grandma and the rest of my family. I think it tipped me over the edge. I decided – at the last minute that I needed to go home for a week and be with them. I actually booked my flight one hour before I had to leave for the airport!

It was really exciting and I had a brilliant whirlwind visit – seeing my grandma and other family members plus my best friends was just the thing I needed and I came back feeling a lot happier for it! However, I do NOT recommend travelling 24 hours in both directions with only eight days there – it was about half the time I’d have liked but I feel so lucky I had the opportunity to do it. Sometimes you have to trust your gut instinct, because 99% of the time it can tell you what you want to know. Here’s a picture of me & my grandma enjoying a glass of sherry at the care home.

Me and Nanny

Me and Nanny

I even managed to keep up my running training while I was overseas. I actually think it reset my body clock as my jetlag was barely noticeable. I landed in London at 6AM, went home, put on my trainers and just ran. It was really therapeutic to run through the english countryside and I really felt “in the moment” as I absorbed my very different surroundings!

When I came back to Sydney it kind of worked the other way, I only felt jetlagged for one or two days. And then I had less than a week until the Blackmores Half Marathon.

I’m pleased to say we ran the whole 21.1KM this weekend with a time of 2.12 (aiming for sub 2.15 so we were pleased with this!) Here’s a picture of me during my sprint finish where I just beat Ben by 1 second. He was trying really hard to catch me, but you know I was determined 😉

The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon

The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon

The course is fantastic – there are similarities with the Sydney Harbour 10K – but you actually run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and through the Sydney CBD and Botanic Gardens which is a nice change. There were so many drinks stations and it was really well organised (except for a few strangely placed KM signs – it’s not that inspiring to see the 16KM mark at 13KM – so you think you only have 5KM to go, when in fact you have 8!). I’ll definitely be doing either the half or full marathon next year.

Course Maps

Course Maps

Not ready for marathoning? Well that’s the great thing about this event – there is a family fun run of 4KM and a 9KM “bridge run” for those who fancy something a bit shorter. It was nice to see whole families doing the fun run, and I hope that one day I can do stuff like that with my kids too.

Now I’m really contemplating what my next challenge will be, and I think whilst aiming for a quicker half marathon time is on the cards, I want to complete a full marathon. As positive as this blog is, I also want it to be real. And to be honest I struggle with all the things that go on in life and where I want to go with it all. I want to go out with friends – drink, socialise but I also really want to live a healthy lifestyle and achieve my fitness goals. It’s a bit of a constant battle in my head and my heart, but I know what the answer is and I’ve come to realise that I will have to make some sacrifices to be able to do the things I REALLY want to do in this life i.e. run a full marathon and keep a consistent training schedule where I am feeling my best. I know I’m not alone in this struggle being young and wanting to have fun – but I think it’s important to get your priorities straight and envisage your long term goals so you can make the right decisions in the short term.

That being said, you have to enjoy life so the occasional day/night off isn’t going to hurt. The other thing I realised from the half marathon is that life happens and no one is going to stick to their training schedule exactly, so you need to be flexible but committed. I like the fact that throughout my running “career” I’m learning all the time, I read as much as I can and always ask more experienced people for tips because they are the ones that know the truth!

I have my sights on the Cadbury Marathon in Hobart, Tasmania which is in January – only four months away but since we’re on a training roll I think it could be a good motivator to continue on this path. The registrations haven’t yet opened, so we’ll see. I cannot imagine doing a marathon, but then again I couldn’t even imagine running a half this time last year.

So – my advice is sign up for that race – 5KM, 10KM or whatever distance and just go for it. You only live once.

Coco xo