Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bohemian Pinterest-Worthy Weddings

There's nothing more grown up than receiving a wedding invitation through the post. This September, I had my very first experiences of that, as two close friends of mine tied the knot at two magical weddings.

     D'Mello - Pearson Wedding

     Ward - Tizzard Wedding

The last time I was at a wedding, I was a gawky monobrowed teenage bridesmaid at the Greek wedding of one of my cousins.  Now if you've never experienced a Greek wedding, you're missing out. Packed full of tradition, it's definitely a service you won't forget. Now with my Dad being one of 8 siblings, I've been to my fare share of Greek Weddings. My Aunt's on my Mum's side was the only British wedding I've experienced, and as a 7 year-old flower girl, I don't remember much. 

So when I received my invitations, I had no idea what to expect from the weddings of my generation. We see on a daily basis the weddings of the rich and famous, and eventually, they all start to blur into one dramatic, empty display of wealth rather than love. Who needs a Venetian boat convoy for God sake? 

However, you only need to go on Pinterest wedding boards to see that the wedding generation of today are leading a bohemian revolution. Now that sounds like I'm categorizing these weddings into one group, but that's the beauty of the word bohemian - it's the complete opposite of that.

Both the Pearsons and the Tizzards are stunning on the inside and out, and value the relationships they have with their friends and family more than anyone else I know. Of course I'm biased here, but my point is, these weddings showed me what it takes to make them one's you won't ever forget. Both of these weddings brought the love of the couple as well as the love they have for their guests to the forefront through personality and character. 

The D'Mello - Pearson Wedding

Set in the rural heritage site of Bromham Mill, nature was allowed to do it's magic on this gorgeous day. As me and the boyfriend walked through an arch in the ground's hedges, we were faced with an enormous Tipi. The surrounding area consisted of a photo booth and face-painting stations for the children which was such a nice touch. It's lovely as a guest at a wedding to feel like you can get involved in the memory making process. 

This was a wedding full of unique touches that made you go wow at every step. The groom's brother had designed a little branded logo for the wedding that featured on the invitations, order of service, bar and favours, whilst the bridal party, relatives and friends had all pulled together to make lampshade lighting displays and floral tokens that hung from the branches of the majestic tree underneath which the head table was placed. 

University friends worked the bar which was made out of a huge wooden crate, serving cocktails in jam jars, whilst dozens of relatives served up their homemade food in a marquee. 

Of course it's not just about the visuals when it comes to a wedding, but having a good time. With gorgeous rural surroundings, during the day we got to walk around the grounds and take in the scenery, but it was at night time when the fun really started. Speeches done, the tree lit up the grassy dance floor, and an acoustic band got everyone up with their own rendition of Clean Bandit's 'Rather Be. ' 

The night was rounded  off with a 'sparkling' farewell, as the bride and groom ran through an arch of sparklers held up by all the guests. 

The Ward - Tizzard Wedding

This was another rural wedding, set in the picturesque village of Elham in Kent. Driving through, it's literally like being in the Peak District.

 I would describe my friend Becca as a bohemian princess, so the style of her wedding wasn't much of a surprise to me, it was more the atmosphere that had everyone beaming from ear to ear. 

Again, everyone pulled together to create decorations in Becca's favourite colours - orange and purple - from the bride's bouquet to the detailing on the wedding cake. 

The view from the grounds of Elham Village hall was like something out of a Wordsworth poem and was a perfect natural setting for pictures with friends and family. It was just so lovely to see that whilst the bride and groom were having their pictures taken, all the guests were catching up and getting to know one another in the midst of this fairy tale setting. 

When it was time to eat, this atmosphere continued, with the food being on a bring and share basis. It gave everyone an opportunity to be involved in the wedding in some shape or form, whether you brought brownies or a salad, you were contributing, and that was such a good feeling to have. 

The tables were in long horizontal rows, which is a simple but really effective touch for a wedding with a lot of guests. There was such a huge community vibe, and with so many people making friends, the day was full of conversation and laughter. 

Again, the favors were really cute. As you can see from board in the picture above, they were little vials of sand from the beach where Jonny (groom) proposed, with a tag featuring a very apt Bible quote. 

When I think about what weddings are really about, I'm so grateful that my first grown-up wedding experiences were these two. It made me realise that wedding's aren't about pomp and circumstance, but getting everyone you invite to feel the love you're celebrating by being as involved in the celebration as possible, whether that means getting hands-on or by making it their own personal, memorable experience. 

Congratulations Gabrielle and Matt Pearson and Rebecca and Jonny Tizzard, you beautiful people. 


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Essential Tips and Advice from the Cosmopolitan Superblogger Masterclass

As promised in my previous post , I'm going to share with you some of the crucial tips and advice that I picked up whilst at the Cosmopolitan Superblogger Masterclass. Almost everyone at the event was quite new to blogging, just like myself, and I know there are a lot more of you out there. Sharing is caring and all that. 

Blog Housekeeping
·         Blogger vs Wordpress:  There was a lot of discussion about which is the best site to use when starting your blog, and although all members of the panel tried to remain impartial, it was obvious that Wordpress was held above Blogger in terms of  long-term choice, flexibility, and professionalism. There are also self-hosting options with Wordpress. However if you’re having no problems with Blogger right now and you are new to blogging, there’s no need to put yourself through the stress of moving elsewhere.
·         Online courses /books : With 30,000 blogs being created every day, guides, how-tos and instruction manuals on the subject are growing. Online courses and books are a good way of getting some expert know-how on blogging efficiently and turning your blog into a business.  Kat Williams from  Rock n Roll Bride blog is also currently running a Blogcademy : an event consisting of two-day workshops that travels all over the world. For those unable to attend, she also runs Blogcademy Home School : a series of videos packed full of essential blogging tips and advice.
·    Consistency: Being consistent in your posting is essential for a variety of reasons. Not only does it look professional, but for your readers, knowing when to look at your blog for new content helps them stay a regular reader, and encourages regularity for any new readers.  At the moment I’m trying to post at least two times a week, but am on the way to creating a schedule/timetable as to when particular posts will be posted and how often.
·         Blog Design – A lot of bloggers at the event were worrying that their blogs don’t look like top notch websites, but we were all reassured that the design is not as important as the content. At the end of the day, no amount of flashy tabs/ stunning fonts will make up for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors – Dribbble was recommended as a good sight for design inspiration. 

          How to Stand Out
·       Who are you: It’s all about you and your blog’s imagery.  Regardless of what your blog is about, you must treat it like a brand, and figure out how you’re going to represent yourself. Photography and the way you write have a large part to play in this. Develop your own voice and style. With so many bloggers at the moment, it’s easy to think ‘what’s the point.’ But there’s always room for new bloggers.  Figure out what makes you different /weird and run with it. This is something I personally have struggled with, so found this advice quite encouraging.
·       Social media: Use them to your full advantage. Instagram and Twitter are the best ways of presenting your image/ brand to the public. They should be a priority and are brilliant ways of attracting traffic to your blog. Followers on these sites are considered amongst your traffic by PR and brands.
·         Relationships with other bloggers: A lot can be gained by meeting other bloggers. Not only is it a support network, but you can learn from each other and motivate each other. Vicki  Fogwill (Social Media Manager of Next) recommended Next Blogger Network as a way to meet other bloggers and connect with Next.
·         Guest blogging: Can build an audience. If you guest post for a blog with a lot of followers, and someone likes what you had to contribute, chances are they’ll want to check you out.  Alltop.com was recommended as a directory for guest blogging.
·         Bloglovin: Someone asked if it was worth being involved in Bloglovin, to which Fleur de Force replied ‘Absolutely’. It is a very easy way to get into that blogging community and discover like-minded bloggers. Also, it’s an easy avenue for other bloggers to find you.  
·         Agencies: Having checked out some blogging agencies, this seems to be something for those more established blogs who are needing a helping hand managing all the opportunities that are knocking on their door, but it’s something worth keeping in mind for the future, and also something to aim towards. Fleur de Force recommended Gleam, which is also working with Zoella , The Beauty Crush and In The Frow.
·         Affiliates: Affiliate programmes are a little bit more accessible for those of you like me who are just starting out. It’s a great way of working with brands and making them aware of what you have to offer, whilst promoting them and bringing more traffic to your blog. Fleur recommended Etsy , Reward Style  and Shopsense.

Monetizing Your Blog
·         Advice: Joe Williams (Founder of Zen Optimise) recommended Problogger as a good site packed with tips and advice on how to monetize your blog. He also mentioned Copyblogger for those wanting copywriting advice.
·         Pinterest: – Apparently Pinterest can be monetized. No one at the Cosmo event went into detail about how to do this, so I did a little bit of research, and found thisstep-by-step article as to how to go about it.
·         Outreaching to Brands:– When contacting brands with an aim of earning money off of whatever post you do for them, make sure your emails are well constructed.  Be specific in identifying what the blog post is actually going to be about and from what angle you’ll look at their brand/ product from.  State if there is a particular product you want and why.
·     Receiving money/products in return? Make sure any links you put to the brand or product are ‘no follow.’ Google can get pretty touchy about these things apparently.  
·         Banner ads: – These make it obvious that you’re available for monetized content.
·         Google Adsense: A way of earning money on your blog through advertising.

·      Title tag: Joe Williams said it’s vital to pay attention to this area in order for your blog to be featured on Google. I may not be interpreting his advice correctly, as when it comes to this kind of thing I get very confused, and I’m not even sure if Blogger has the facilities to edit a title tag.  
·         Google Keyword Finder:  If you are using hashtags/keywords etc, this is a great place to find the ones that are gaining the most traffic/ are the most popular, so you know which ones to use when tagging your blog/ pictures.
·         Wordpress SEO Plugin: - This helps improve your SEO on all possible aspects. It takes care of technical optimization whilst also helping you to write better content. Yet another reason for considering Wordpress  over Blogger.

Career Paths
·         Journalism and PR:There is a lot of discussion online about careers blogging can lead to. This question was brought up at the event, and Kate Lucey (Digital Content Lead) mentioned how when looking through job applications for Cosmopolitan, it always helps if you have a blog. Blogging also always gives you a multitude of opportunities to interact with PR professionals.