Category: Uncategorized

TOOLS: CANVA

Canva logo

Tools: Canva

Graphic-design made easy

As a Virtual Assistant there will likely be a time that you will require or be required to do some design work.  This could be for yourself, for example, when you are setting up your business and are in need of a logo or ware wanting to promote your services.  It could also be when a client is looking at getting some extra social engagement or is in need of some marketing materials.

I think it is fair to say that many VAs are not necessarily design experts but this doesn’t meant that everything has to be outsourced to someone who is.  There are various tools out there that can help you produce the work yourself and here is some info on my preferred tool.

Canva is a free graphic-design tool website which is easy to use and perfect for non-designers and professionals alike. It uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to a large number of photographs, graphics, and fonts, some free and some with a small fee.  You can upload your own photos too.

It is easy to get started with a simple sign-up and they have templates if you are unsure where to start.  They also offer different template dimensions making it easy to choose the right size for its purpose – creating a design for Instagram? Or the perfect Pinterest graphic?  They have the preset dimensions ready to go.

And it isn’t just for social media.  Canva can be used for a range of design needs – book covers, menus, logos, postcards.  You can also upgrade to Canva For Work which then gives you some additional benefits including setting your logo and fonts.

It is super easy to use.  Give it a go!

 

Design work for Tools: Canva

This is not a paid promotion and the views are based on my own personal experience.

What do you think of Canva?  Do you have a preferred design tool?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

SEO For Beginners

SEO design image

SEO for Beginners

The basics of SEO to get you started

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has long been the hot topic on marketeers lips and with the increase in online media being the go to place for marketing the need for good SEO is not slowing down.  If anything, it is gaining traction in a big way and good SEO is seen as a necessity for anyone wanting their business or product to be visible on the web.  

Although SEO is so important, to some people it may still be a little elusive or confusing, so let’s dive in to the most simplistic way of getting to grips with SEO.

So, as the name suggests the purpose of SEO is to optimise how search engines (such as Google) view your content so that your website will appear higher in their rankings and, therefore, more likely to be seen by people who will then click on the link to your site.

The goal is to be on the first page of search results, ideally at the top of the first page.  The further down you are the less likely the searcher is to click on your link and most people don’t look beyond the first page.  There will usually be paid for links on a search engine results page which will push the non-paid for (AKA. organic) results down further on the page, making a higher ranking even more important.

SEO Meta Data

The way that your content is ranked by a search engine is by relevance – how relevant the content is to the search query that has been inputted – and by authority – this is how trustworthy/authoritative your content is. 

Authority is gained in a few ways.  Firstly, by making your website visible and accessible to web crawlers or spiders.  In a very simplistic way, you want your website to be well structured with no dead-ends (eg. Page Not Found) and content that is easily readable to bots.  A good example of this is pictures.  Bots cannot see images and this is where ‘Alt. Text’ comes in handy.  Here you write a short description of what can be seen in the image, keeping it relevant to your content. 
A good article on the basics of Alt. Text can be seen here.

You will also want to update your ‘Meta Description’.  This is the short description that comes under the title and link in a search result.  If you don’t update this yourself then the first line or two of the content will be shown instead. 

And don’t forget your keywords!  This is a word or short phrase that indicates what your content is about.  You will want to specify your keyword for each post/page and use it as often as possible without it interfering with the quality of the content.

Next, you will want to be continually adding content to your site.  This is why blogs are so popular!  Adding content shows the site is still in use and the information is likely to be up to date and, consequently, more relevant.  New content also gives you the chance to optimise on new topics.  The more relevant topics you have on your site the more likely it is for someone to have a search query closely linked to what you have written about and you can then be found.

The final step in gaining authority is by having your content linked on other websites.  This is called ‘Link Building‘.  The reason why this is important is because it is essentially an endorsement by an external source saying your content is good enough and relevant enough for them to want to share it with their own viewers.

Often you will find that as a site becomes bigger and more well-known their content will be linked more often as it will be trusted content and easily found (due to their search ranking!).  In the beginning stages of a site, if you want people to link your work you have to put in the effort.  You will have to ask owners of other sites, network or find ways you can add your own link on a relevant topic into a comment section etc. without making it spammy.  No one likes spam and it will likely be deleted by admin.   

Working on a laptop
This is so interesting design

There are some other contributing factors to perfecting your Search Engine Optimisation as this page is just the basics of SEO to get you started.  If you want to look into more on the technical details there is a good article that you can read here.

The most important thing to remember is you should be writing engaging content that would be interesting to your audience.  The goal should be to captivate your audience and hopefully this will lead to them viewing more of your content or your business offering.  If you are selling something you want to get people buying, for example.  You want people who will continually refer back to your site as they like what you are producing and hopefully they will even spread the word.  Get the content down first and optimise later.  

And if you ever get stuck don’t forget there are people and tools out there that can help.  You can easily find professional blog writers or champions at SEO.  All you need to do is search…

 

What do you think?  Do you have any tips for good SEO?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

What is a Virtual Assistant

Courtnie Events - Office Space

What Is A Virtual Assistant?

And what could one do for you

Virtual Assistants have been around for many, many years and yet this concept is still not well known to a lot of people.  I have been asked many questions about what a VA does, what a VA can do or why would someone chose to have a VA.  These questions often seem to group Virtual Assistants into a singular, mythical being rather than seeing them as the individuals they are.  They can also be seen as having skill set yet unknown to man or there are questions on trust of the work being done or being done to a high standard, questions on the rates VAs charge or them being viewed/treated as an employee rather than the business owners that they are.

Here I will be going through, from my perspective, the answers that people may be looking for and shed some light on what a Virtual Assistant is and what one could do for you or your business.

Firstly, what is a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant is a person, often self-employed, who works remotely offering services that do not require a physical presence in a workplace.

Courtnie Events - Office Set up
Courtnie Events - Time is Precious

Who becomes a Virtual Assistant and why?

Virtual Assistants are predominantly female, although there are a growing number of males in this field.  Often people become VAs because they want to be their own boss and working remotely not only offers a good work/life balance, particularly for those with a family or due to personal circumstances, but it does also mean there is a broader scope for gaining clients and can, therefore, focus in on what they want to do and who they want to do business with.

Why do people hire VAs?

People hire VAs for a multitude of reasons – cost, space, flexibility, quality.  When hiring a VA you are cutting out a lot of overheads compared to an employee as  these are costs taken on by the VA, eg. office space, equipment, holiday pay etc.  You only take on a VA for the actual amount of work that is required and for as long as required – no need to pay for a full or part-time employee if there isn’t enough work to justify the expense.  It can be particularly hard to find someone willing to go into an office to do one or two hours work each day as their travel expenses may exceed this, for example.  You also aren’t constrained to people in your vicinity.  You have the scope of the world to find the best person for the job you need doing. 

 

What does a Virtual Assistant do?

What skills does a VA have?  These questions I have seen a lot where people have assumed all VAs do exactly the same thing.  It isn’t as cut and dry as that.  Each VA has their own skill set and may well specialise in something depending on their background or what they enjoy the most.  

In a broad sense VAs offer: office services, eg. work on a computer; customer service, eg. answering the phone; personal assistant services, eg. diary management; online services, eg. social media management.  The list is extensive -marketing, copy writing, proof reading, design, website creation, website management, book keeping and so on, but this isn’t to say all VAs can do all things.  Some will offer general services, some will be niche.  If you look you you can find a copywriter who specialises in construction or a virtual medical receptionist.  If you are looking for something in particular you should shop around until you find the best fit for you as they will be out there.

Courtnie Events - Social Media
Coutnie Events - Calendar

What schedules do Virtual Assistant work?

A VA will work any schedule of their choosing.  As long as the work given to them by the client is completed by the due date a VA can choose exactly when they focus in on this work to get it done.  If a client requires a VA to work specific hours then this would have to be agreed ahead of work commencement. For example, it is reasonable for a client to ask for a VA to work 10 hours a week split across five days or to ask the VA to be available at a specific time each day for a meeting.  Anything along these lines would be discussed in the enquiry stages.    

A VA could work a couple of hours a week up to, well, as many hours as they can fit into a week.  As their own boss they decide how much work they wish to take on.

How much does a VA get paid?

A VA will price their services at what their time is worth, to put it simply.  Their skills, knowledge and experience will all play a role in deciding how much they will charge.  If a VA has quite a niche skill set you can expect to see higher cost to reflect this.  It is quite similar to hiring an employee in this sense.

They will, of course, have to factor in their running costs and this is often something that can be overlooked by potential clients.  They have to pay for their own equipment, electricity, the space they work, insurance etc. If you are a business owner think of all the costs that go into making your business run.  A lot of these costs will be the same for a VA.

Courtnie Events - Pay invoice on phone
Courtnie Events - Laptop, work hard anywhere

How can you trust a VA to do the work or do it to a high enough standard?

This question is one I find to to be quite insulting if I’m honest, but it is one that does get asked or at least thought of.  If you consider hiring a VA in the same manner as you would hire a regular employee into a business the answer is the same.  You take on someone to do a job believing that they will do what they are being paid for – this stands regardless of their location.  It is always possible to hire someone who will then not meet the standards the business seems fit, but in the case of a VA it is often their own business that is on the line.  A VA often gains clients through word of mouth, so it is important for each job to be completed successfully and to have happy clients so they will then go on to spread the positive word or to retain the VA for repeat/ongoing work.  If a VA is bad at what they do or don’t do the work etc. then they simply won’t get any clients and they won’t be working as a VA for very long at all.

What can a VA do for you?

A VA can do pretty much anything you require.  You can always find one who is willing to take on big or small tasks, long or short hours and contracts.  They can support you in areas in which you have little or no expertise, they can advise you and they can help you to gain back some of your precious time.  

It is important to remember that a VA is a business owner, not an employee, and should be treated as one.  You can create great working relationships by remembering this detail.

Outsourcing to a VA is something that can be highly beneficial to you and if you are already thinking of getting one it may be time for you to take the plunge.

Courtnie Events - For Hire

What do you think about hiring a VA?  If your a VA, what is your perspective?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Planning A Wedding In Six Months

Courtnie Events - Wedding Sign

Planning A Wedding In Six Months

A simple guide to get you on track for your upcoming wedding

Planning a wedding is incredibly exciting and incredibly stressful.  It can easily take over your life and become overwhelming but with a little help on what to do and where to start, it can be much more manageable.  Although most couples will spend one or two years planning their wedding, this is not always the case.  For varying reasons couples may need to or choose to get hitched much sooner after getting engaged.   This list will guide you in planning your wedding in only six months.

SIX MONTHS TO GO

 – Agree on a budget that both you and your partner are happy with and create a checklist.  This will keep you organised and serve as a reminder so nothing is forgotten.

 – Write down your guest list.  Start with close friends and family and take it from there.

 – Select a few dates.  You want to make sure you have options available to you as at short notice you may find the venue you want/the  officiant/family members are unavailable.

 – Choose a venue and catering.  At short notice it would be a good idea to consider a venue that can provide multiple services.  For example, a hotel would have accommodation, venue and catering covered or, if you won’t have many out of town guests, a restaurant can be a great idea.  Don’t forget to consider ceremony options.

FIVE MONTHS TO GO

 – Book all suppliers.  Eg, photographer, officiant, florist, cake, band, transport.   Don’t forget about hair and make-up. Make a list and tick them off as soon as you have confirmation.

 – Choose wedding outfits.  You’ll need to think about a wedding dress, groom’s and ushers’ suits and bridesmaid dresses.  Don’t forget about accessories too.  Shoes, jewellery and find your something old, new, borrowed and blue!

 – Send out ‘save the dates’ to make sure  your guests put the date in their calendar.  The official invitations will be sent closer to the time.

Courtnie Events - Planner pad
Plan a Wedding in 6 months

 FOUR MONTHS TO GO

 – Buy the wedding ringsIf you have a ring that is being passed down in your family it would be good to make sure it fits or have it adjusted if needed.

 – Send out Invitations.  Make sure you include an RSVP so you can get confirmation of numbers.

 – Organise your rehearsal dinner if you will be having one. 

 – Decide on the wedding favours that will be given to each guest on their place setting.

THREE MONTHS TO GO

 – Plan your honeymoon if you will be going soon after the wedding.

 – Select a wedding breakfast menu with your venue or caterer. You should also meet with your cake baker to select your wedding cake flavours.

 – Create your song lists.  You will likely want different playlists for each part of the day.  Pre/post-ceremony, during the meal, the evening, for example.

 – Have a hair and make-up trial.  This is one of the things you won’t want to leave until the last minute.  

TWO MONTHS TO GO

 – Create a seating chart and get your name cards ready.  By this point you should have your final numbers .

 – Buy gifts for your wedding party.  It is usually traditional to buy flowers for the mums and a little something for the bridesmaids and ushers.

 – Go through all the legalities.  You’ll need to make an appointment with your local council, give notice etc.  You can read more on this here.

ONE MONTH TO GO

 – Confirm all bookings.  You will want to call each and every supplier to re-confirm all details are correct, make sure timings are agreed, all payments have been made etc.

 – Get married and enjoy the day you have worked so hard putting together!

 

Creating a list in the beginning should help you to keep things running smoothly but remember to keep referring back to it and updating it if you think of new additions that you have previously missed.

Happy planning!

What do you think about planning a wedding in six months?  Would you rather have longer to plan or keep it short and sweet?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Why Is Social Media Important For Businesses?

Courtnie Events - Social Media

Why Is Social Media Important?

And how to make your business be better at it

Most people think of social media as apps on their smartphone or tablet, but the truth is, this communication tool began with computers.  This misconception stems from the fact that most social media users access their tools via apps.  In fact, social media is a series of websites and applications which allows people to share content quickly, efficiently and in real-time.

Having the option to share photos, opinions, events, etc. in real-time has changed the way we live and it is also changing the way we do business.  Many companies who engage with social media as part of their marketing strategy will have seen some pretty good results.  But the key to social media success is to give it the same consideration you do with all your marketing. 

Over time social media marketing has become highly competitive and it has become easy to spend a large amount of money on a campaign that give you little or no return on your investment.  Social media marketing is comparable to competing for space in a newspaper years ago and since the attention span on social media is relatively short, it is much harder to get the attention of customers than it was with a newspaper ad.  In addition to this, ad headlines and copy are much harder to write on social media platforms.

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make on social media is to open up an account with every platform they think is relevant and then leave them with no activity.  It seems social media users are put off by companies who open accounts and do not engage, so the reality is, it is better to not have a social media icon on your website if you are not going to actively engage it.

Another terrible mistake a business can make is to use social media with the focus being on what their company wants to say rather than what the customer wants to hear or see.  The goal should be to provide content that is relevant to your customer and engages them, hopefully to the point that they want to share your post to others.  A great idea is to involve them in a dialogue. Ask for their opinions. 

One more thing to consider is that the most commonly shared content on social media will have an image.  Think of the popularity of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.  People like looking at pictures as these catch the eye and are easy to digest quickly.  Having a picture will dramatically increase your chances someone will share it with their network which is free advertising.  And what business does not want free advertising!

Put yourself in the position of the customer.  As a consumer what would you want to see?  What would engage you?  What would encourage you to share with your network?  If you can think like the customer and you put yourself in their shoes you will have a much better chance of producing content and interacting with them in a way that will result in a positive outcome.

Happy posting!

Social Media Marketing - Business Infographic

What do you think?  Do you have any ‘dos and don’ts’ for businesses on social media?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Ways To Save On A Wedding

Courtnie Events - Wedding tables outside

Ways To Save On A Wedding

Looking for ideas on how you could cut back the cost of your wedding?

With weddings being notoriously expensive you may well be wanting to see where you can cut back on costs without making it look like you have cut corners.

It is important to remember to have the wedding you and your partner want, it doesn’t have to be like the weddings you see in magazines.  If you know what you want and don’t get swept up into the idea that bigger is better this will automatically save you money.  If you want a simple band don’t let people talk you into booking an 8-piece.

Work out what is important to you and what you don’t want to compromise on.  This may be the photographer, the cake or transport to and from the venue for your guests.  As long as you retain the things that you think are key to your wedding day you will be having too good a time to be thinking about anything else. 

With this said, there still may be ways that you could save on these key elements.  Websites like Groupon can be great places to find discounted rates on photographers, cakes and sometimes even venues.  Also, shop around.  Looking at the different options out there is sure to save you some money.

Courtnie Events - Until Debt Tears Us Apart

CALL IN FAVOURS
I’m sure you know a talented bunch of people that may be able to help you out in someway.  If you know a professional florist or someone who likes floristry as a hobby maybe they could donate some of their time.  Maybe someone has a nice car and wouldn’t mind driving you to your venue.  I know mothers’ of the bride/groom who have baked the wedding cakes and groomsmen who have helped setting up the AV.  People often like being asked to do things they’re good at and what better a time to ask than for your wedding.

BORROW
See what your friends, family and neighbours are willing and able to lend you for your wedding day.  Maybe you know someone who has a PA system who wouldn’t mind you using it for the day.  Or maybe someone has some decorations or candle holders you could borrow.  This could even be crockery, cutlery, cake knife or tables and chairs.  Anything you can borrow will be a saving.

DIY
See what you can DIY – you might be surprised.  This could be the invitations, favours, display table plan, name cards, decorations.  The list goes on.
Ask the bridal party to help out with any DIY wedding pieces you will be making.  Make it into a fun day/evening with wine and snacks.  Just remember not to take it too far with how much you are asking people to help with this kind of thing.  You do want everyone to still be excited about being a part of your wedding rather than it feeling like they have been asked for the free labour.

DON’T GO OVER THE TOP
As you start planning and going through ideas you will come across an endless amount of really cute ideas, but all the little things do start adding up.  Do you really want to pay for the groomsmen to have funky, matching socks for that one photo?  Are you sure you need to send out Save the Date cards?  Does anyone actually take home the favours?

Courtnie Events - Wedding Sign

OUTFITS AND RINGS
See if you can get an ex-display dress or a second-hand dress (there are specialist charity shops for this) with minor alterations nobody will know it isn’t a full price one.  Look into vintage shops too or websites like Etsy.  You don’t have to go for a traditional wedding dress from a bridal gown shop.  These are always at a premium price, but you can find beautiful non-traditional wedding dresses in so many different stores.  The same goes for suits wear one you already have, look into vintage/second-hand options or go for just the jacket or waistcoat and some trousers you already own rather than the full three piece.

For the wedding party, males and females, you could ask them to wear something of their own or you could look at getting their clothing in a sale.  Is it really important for the bridesmaids to have matching shoes?  Maybe not.

Rings don’t have to be big, flashy and expensive. Ask your family – there may well be a grandparent/great-grandparent’s ring floating about that they would be happy for you to have.  Another option is vintage/second-hand stores and websites.  You really can find some absolute beauties at a fraction of what you would expect to pay if you put in the time.

FOOD AND DRINK
If there is anyway you could do some or all of the catering yourself, or with the help of friends and family, you have the potential to save quite a lot.  Of course, this may not be possible depending on where you are going to host your reception, but it is certainly one to consider.  You could also think about having your wedding reception in a restaurant or private dining room within a restaurant.  You can often hire out these spaces with a minimum spend only (all food and drink you purchase with them would count towards that) and no hire fee for the space.  Plus you know the food would be pretty darn good.

Buffets rather than a seated meal is generally much more economical.  And don’t forget about food trucks.  There are so many that cater to events.

When it comes to booze it usually works out much cheaper if you can supply your own rather than going with what the venue supplies, and therefore, their prices.  Some venues will offer dry hire.  While some restaurants may have a corkage fee, some restaurants don’t have an alcohol licence and so you can bring your own. With some months of preparation you can get a decent collection of the drinks you wish to serve at your wedding while it is on special offer.  

With food and drink being one of, if not the most, expensive aspect to a wedding, it is good to ask your venue these questions before you sign anything so you can realistically work out the costs and see if that venue will work for your budget.

IF YOU ARE LUCKY
If you are lucky enough to live in a warm country with a stable climate (or even if you are just feeling lucky!) you could consider having your wedding reception outside.  You might know someone with a nice garden that you could host your reception in, you could opt for a park or such like.  There might be a restriction on the number of people you can have together in some public spaces, you you can easily check this with your council.  If you will be over this number it is usually quite easy to make the council aware of your intentions.

Having your wedding outside in a place that you don’t have to pay for will save you a hefty sum.  Not only would you not be paying for the venue, but you can put to good use all the saving tips on food and drink.

What other ways would you recommend to cut back on wedding costs?  Do you have any hints and tips from your own money saving wedding?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Valentine’s Competition

Valentine's Competition

Win a consultation with a professional Wedding Planner

Love was certainly in the air yesterday and we would like to keep the love going by sharing some with you too.

With Valentine’s Day being well known for romance, and even proposals, Courtnie Events is offering the chance for one lucky couple to win a consultation with a professional Wedding Planner worth £125.

Getting engaged is a very exciting time but it can be difficult to know where to start with planning your wedding and this is where we can help you.  Whether you just want to talk your ideas through and use your Wedding Planner as a sounding board or maybe you want to get an idea of where to start and what you should be considering, it is up to you.

To enter you must like and share the Courtnie Events Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/courtnieevents/]

Full terms & conditions can be seen here.

Courtnie Events - Valentines red hearts

How To Be A Better Events Planner

Courtnie Events - Colourful Calendar

How To Be A Better Events Planner

Some simple ways to be the best Events Planner you can be

Courtnie Events - Setting Up

We can always strive to be the best at what we do.  Regardless of how long you have been in the industry or if you are new to the events world, there is always room for improvement.  I know I certainly want to grasp any opportunity I can to do better, so here are the tips I hope will be helpful to you.

LOVE WHAT YOU DO
For me this is the most important factor.  If you love your job this will be reflected in how you go about doing things and it is clearly visible to clients too.  Events planning is know to be one of the top 10 stressful careers, so if you don’t enjoy it the long hours will get to you eventually and there is no sense in spending most of your waking hours doing something you don’t enjoy!

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
This is quite an obvious one, I’m sure.  The more experience you have the better you will become at what you do.  You’ll want to aim to work on a variety of events, whether paid or voluntary, big or small.  Also, it helps if you experience every role within an events team.  Since every event is different you will need to rely on your experience and judgement for many things.

GO TO EVENTS
Going to events as a guest can be fun but it can also be a good opportunity to see how others do things.  You can gain inspiration or maybe even find better methods.  You can also spot when things don’t work as well and note things to avoid.  Seeing things from a guest perspective can help you improve guest experience at your events.  These kinds of insights really are priceless and will take your events to the next level.

REFLECT ON YOUR EVENTS
It is important to have a post event de-brief so you can look back on how things went and where there is room for improvement.  Any feedback received, particularly negative, should be analysed in detail.  Even feedback that is somewhat mediocre deserves close attention.  By reflecting on your past events you are putting yourself in a better position for future events.  

FIND SOLUTIONS
Sometimes you may be thrown an idea that is a little out of the box and maybe out of your comfort zone.  Before shooting down an idea think about how you can make it work.  If it is something you have come across before that hasn’t worked well you can always use this experience to explain it to your client.  It is better to try and find a way to make it happen rather than instantly viewing it as a problem.  Sometimes compromise will be necessary but you’ll end up with happier clients if you can make their idea a reality.

Courtnie Events - Planner pad
Courtnie Events - Party Mess

LOOK AT IT ANOTHER WAY
One of the key things event planners should be doing is looking at events through a different perspective.  With so many types of people attending any one event you can’t take a blanket view on how things will work and run.  You should be considering each potential guest need.  E.g. VIP, media, wheelchair users.
It may also be wise to talk things through with your team members.  Pose questions about how you currently do things or how they think you should be doing things better and see what answers they come up with.  You may well be surprised.

LOOK TO OTHERS FOR INSPIRATION
There are so many knowledgeable people out there that you can learn from and the internet brings their knowledge right to you.  See what others in the industry have to say or what is trending, for example.  Attend seminars if you can and always keep learning.  Things are constantly changing and you have to change with them.  There will be new technologies that could make your work life much easier or you may come across a new method that changes the way you do things.

Are these tips are useful?  What are your top tips on being a better Events Planner?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Getting Married in England

Courtnie Events - Wedding Shoes

Getting Married in England

If you are planning on getting married in England here are some things you need to know.

Getting married is a very exciting time.  Once a proposal has been accepted it is time to start thinking about the big day and making it legal.  If you have never been married before than this is likely to be a topic you have no clue about and you may not even know where to start.

I spent five years working as an events planner in London during which time one of my specialities was weddings.  I had to gain or amend licences for ceremonies for more than one venue and in the process I had to learn the ins and outs of the legalities surrounding marriages.  

I would often have wedding couples asking a ton of questions on how it all works and here I hope to help you out by going through the important things you need to know about the legalities of getting married in England.

Let’s look at the steps you need to take for a non-religious wedding ceremony in England.

Courtnie Events - Engaged

First things first, congratulations!  You’re engaged!  Now what to do?

You probably want to think about where you want the ceremony to be held.

In England you can get married in a register office or you have your ceremony at a licenced venue.  In England, at the time of writing, you cannot legally get married anywhere you like eg. on a beach or in a temporary structure, like a marquee.  It has to be a fixed space that has been approved by the local council, at least for the official vows that is.

If you are set on having a ceremony in a particular place that is not an approved space why not consider doing the official part separately?  I have worked with wedding couples who have been to a register office with just the witnesses for the vows (only two witnesses are required to make it legal) and then had the big event in front of all their guests on their actual wedding day in a Humanist ceremony, for example.  

NEED TO KNOW

In England you can’t have a spontaneous wedding ceremony that is legally binding.  Each local council is slightly different, so you will need to look at your local council specifically, but as a general overview:

You must decide on where you will be having your ceremony first and foremost.  Once you have secured where you will be having the wedding ceremony you have to give notice to your local council.  For this you will need to book an appointment.  Notice is essentially a public declaration of your intention to marry and this is available to the public 28 days ahead of the date of the wedding.  Some council website state ‘you must contact the Register Office at least three months but no more than 12 months before you intend to marry’, so take this into consideration.

NOTE: You can only give notice at a register office if you have lived in the registration district for at least the past 7 days.

Courtnie Events - Wedding Button Hole
Courtnie Events - Champagne Toast

COSTS

Weddings are notoriously expensive, but the actual legal side of it doesn’t have to be very costly at all.  You will need to pay to give notice – this is currently £35 per person and the marriage certificate is £4 on the day of the event.  As far as the cost of the ceremony itself, this can vary considerably depending on day of the week, time and location but can be as low as £49, so you don’t have to break the bank.

If you or your partner are foreign nationals there may be differences in the details provided on this page.

For a general overview of what is required to get married you can check out the government website here but you will need to go to your local council website for specifics.

Wishing you a happily ever after…

Are you recently engaged?  Where will you hold your ceremony?
Let us know in the comments below.

Event Planning Basics

Courtnie Events - Gold lights

Event Planning Basics

What do you need to know about planning an event.

Planning events is fun!  Whether you are organising your own birthday party or you do it for a living it is exciting when you see all your hard work come together.

People tend to glamorise the idea of event management, but in reality, there is a lot of planning, organising, administration and time that goes into making an event happen.  Don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing job to have and I love it, but it isn’t all about the bit that everyone sees.  It is mostly about getting to that bit.

Being an event planner requires a lot of patience, organisation, time management, people skills, drive, determination amongst other things.  You have to be quite assertive and sometimes bossy – although the right kind of bossy, of course.  The key thing to remember is that you are often in charge of a day (or period of time) that is very important to someone or multiple people and that is something that has to be taken seriously.

While every event is unique there are some basic tips that will get you started on the right path and give you a good foundation for any type of event.

Courtnie Events - Gig
Courtnie Events - Calendar notepad

LISTS – Lists are incredibly important to me.  I create lists for everything.  As soon as you realise you have something to do, write it down.  Creating lists of things you have to do for a day or for a specific event will help make sure you remember everything.  Tick things off as you go along.  It is very satisfying seeing the lists go down.

SCHEDULE/TIMELINE – Work out the schedule for planning the event and the running of the day.  Think of all the key points you will need to reach and when that should be done.  An on the day timeline is also really helpful to keep things on track, particularly if there are many elements to the day.  A running order is also key if you have a team you are working with.  Once if it all written down this can then be distributed to the team so everyone knows what will be happening and when.

CALENDAR – Keep a calendar of everything you have to do including reminders of when you expect to hear back from people.  This is particularly helpful if you have multiple events going on or if you have many appointments ahead of the event.  I like to colour code mine to make it easier to see what I have going on at a glance.

WORK OUT YOUR BUDGET – This is one of the first things you should establish.  There isn’t much point starting with the planning if you don’t know how much money is available to spend.  If you start planning before a budget is set it can easily get out of hand.  Know how much can be afforded and try to stick to it.  If you are on a tight budget try to manage your expectations and work out cheaper alternatives or where money can be saved if needed.  Sometimes if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture you can see if there are certain things you would like to have but realistically don’t need.  Prioritising is key.

If you are really unsure where to start with your budget have a look round to see how much things cost.  Make a list of some of the most important things you need to make your event happen and try and get a general idea of what the costs for these are.  If everything is seeming too expensive see what alternatives there are out there.

Excel spreadsheets are excellent for keeping track of budgets and one of my favourite tools.

Courtnie Events - Until Debt Tears Us Apart
Courtnie Events - List

KEEP ORGANISED – Create folders of everything relating to your event.  Create email folders and keep all correspondence.  Any documentation you receive, eg. contracts, should be kept together.  All confirmations, contact info, etc. should all be kept  together and easy to find.

THE FINISHED PRODUCT – For the event itself you should have a document with every single detail listed.  All timings, contact information, what food and drink there will be including allergies and dietary requirements, what equipment is being supplied, table plans etc.  You never know when you will need something and having it all in the same place is a lifesaver.  If you know the who, what, when, where, how then you can make sure everything runs as it should and it will make it easier to know what to do if anything does go wrong.

EVERYTHING ELSE – There are many more details when it comes to event planning, of course, but this is where lists come back into it.  As long as you know what you have to do and when, you’ll be alright.  Try and make a comprehensive list as you go along so you can then go back through and tick everything off towards the big date.

What are your most important event planning basics?  Is there anything you think should be added?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.