The official blog for Harlow Garland Weddings and Events. To search for posts or view all posts, head over to our library which is searchable and categorised! 

Choosing your Wedding Theme

A wedding theme as we've previously discussed, is not a necessity, the only thing you need to factor in is 'Rhonnie's rule of cohesion' (a rule our director speaks passionately about.) but if you will opt for a theme or you need help working to that rule of cohesion, we have put together a list to make sure you both choose the perfect theme that reflects you both. Right from the start, it is good to have an idea of what your wedding vision is. This can help with planning from the beginning and avoid any finer details issues.

The season

Knowing what season you want to be married in can help with the colour palettes, flowers and venue. If you have always dreamed of being married in the summer where guests can use umbrellas to shade from the sun, or in the winter where a large fire can warm the reception area for guests. Choosing the right season can have an effect on many things such as venue bookings and weather. Just like any part of the wedding, but organised is key.

The couple

Because the wedding is celebrating both the bride and groom, drawing on something that you both share can make your day even more special and individual. This could be anything from something simple like a favourite colour you both share, to your favourite restaurant or a hobby that you both love. Whatever it is, it can be incorporated through the table settings, props for photos, colours and even dresses and outfit.

The wedding venue

Venues can be seen as inspiration for other details of the wedding. Sometimes it is best to have the wedding venue decided before taking the next steps, it is easier to work with it rather than not. Similar to choosing a season, once a venue is chosen, the colours and additional features fall into place so they can compliment the venue.

Personal connection

Having a culture that is close to both your hearts, whether is be a religion, tradition, or even a language, drawing on that can be a powerful addition to the wedding. This can be drawn on anywhere, from the ceremony style and vows, to the type of food or outfits. Culture can be a visual impact such as colours and flowers too.


Once you have chosen, or even just thought of, a theme, research. Making sure you have the right food for the right theme, or the correct phrase from a religious reading can be vital on the day. You don’t want to look foolish for using the wrong details within the theme of your perfect day.

Handling Wedding Disasters Like a Pro - With or Without One

A bride’s most common fear is that disaster will strike on the big day – that something will go irreparably wrong and ruin the day, and this is where wedding planners come in, pre-empting challenges and solving problems as they happen to ensure that the day runs seamlessly and often without the bride even knowing anything went wrong.

We’ve had calls the morning of a wedding saying we need to change venues which means contacting the rain contingency (or finding one if we weren’t involved from the start), contacting and corralling guests, contacting vendors, physically moving set ups, altering timings if need be and a myriad of tiny details that can so easily be forgotten by the bridal couple in the fluster if they’re doing it alone.

We’ve had the Mother-of-the-bride walk in a door clearly labelled as ‘Do not open’ and blow the entire ceremony set-up clear across the room – marriage certificate pressed to the opposite window, rose petals scattered, candles snuffed, delicately detailed styling mussed, just moments before guests were about to enter – and yet the bride didn’t find out until months later when the mother confessed, because with the experience and calm of a planner, you’re able to relax and know it’ll all be taken care of. No guest saw the scene, and in ten minutes, the ceremony set up was back to the former glory of a short time earlier.

We deal with venue managers who micromanage and treat the wedding as a burden and great annoyance, we find replacement vendors when the booked ones cancel last minute (or forget!), we move entire locations when the weather is in a bad mood - disasters come in many forms and whether you have a wedding planner to deal with it for you or you’re doing it yourself, it’s all in how you approach the disaster that dictates how it’ll turn out.

The most recent example was this past weekend where we were asked only to provide day-of-coordination (our Wedding Day Angel package). In this instance, the bridal couple had confirmed all vendors the day before but after the cake had still not arrived at 1pm, we called the vendor to find out how far away it was. The vendor paused a moment and replied ‘It’s not today?’ - she'd written it down as the next week and the clients had indeed reconfirmed the day prior but hadn’t reminded her that it was for the enxt day.

What ensued was a frantic panic on the vendor’s part. She had two hours to deliver a cake that she hadn’t even begun to make and with her level of panic, we weren’t convinced that she could deliver a quality cake in this short of a time.

This is where it’s necessary to snap into Command Mode – we contacted local vendors and our own preferred vendors to see if anyone had what could pass as a three-tier wedding cake that could be decorated within two hours. This was our contingency.

Whether you're using a planner or you're doing it yourself, it's important to:

  • Always have a contact other than the bride for issues (usually the MC or Maid of Honour) – if you present an issue to the bride herself, she’s going to panic and until the issue is resolved (and likely for long after), she’s going to be a big ball of stress, unable to focus on relaxing and enjoying the day. Make sure you have a contact person to act as a proxy for major decisions.

  • Never go to the bride or contact person without options – Going to the bride or contact person with the issue but no solutions isn’t helpful – it puts them in to the aforementioned ball of stress mode and leaves them in a place to manage it. In this particular example, we had three options:

  • A three-tiered cake from a local vendor that could be decorated and delivered before guests arrived for x price although not in the same flavour as the original cake.
  • A dummy cake that can be made to look like the cake for the ceremonial cutting but with individual tier cakes for serving for x price.
  • Having faith that the original cake maker would follow through with the provisio that we didn’t believe that given her state of panic, that the cake would a.) arrive on time and b.) arrive in a state befitting a wedding.

We called the MC (our contact person) and presented the options and she chose to stay with the original cake maker. At this point, it becomes about managing the problem rather than the contingency solution. We were calling for regular updates, asking her point blank if she would be able to deliver because if a vendor is unable to deliver, it’s better for their business to say so and make a recommendation of someone who can rather than deliver a subpar product or service.

The cake was finally delivered at 5:30pm but what arrived was what we had feared – the cake which had been delivered without a box and without restraints had slipped in the car on the drive over leaving the bottom tier half destroyed. The cake maker seemed on the verge of a total breakdown and so it was over to us to manage the situation, manage the cake maker’s stress levels ad engage the venue staff to assist with operation cake repair.

The kitchen whipped up some icing glue and the cakemaker reshaped the tier into a round, filling the centre with straws to keep it together and support the weight of the upper tiers. White buttercream icing was made up and applied and the flowers and greenery were added strategically to hide any flaws. The bottom tier of the cake was mostly inedible but since there was a dessert buffet and two other tiers, there was plenty to go around. The cake was used for the ceremonial cutting where the middle tier was cut for safety and then quickly taken away to be cut and served. After the cake was served, the MC saw our before and after images and was astounded at the dramatic transformation and in how we were able to save the day.

The cake maker, MC and kitchen staff were amazed at our sense of calm and the way we took command of the situation, remarking on it repeatedly but our real test is the bride’s reaction and in this instance, she not only didn’t notice the difference but actually commented on how beautiful the cake looked when it was brought out (on time we might add).


Don’t panic – nothing is ever truly a disaster – nothing is ever so far gone that it can’t be fixed. Every problem has a solution. Don’t get upset – if you’re all worked up, you’re not going to be able to think clearly and you’re not going to be able to produce an adequate result. As long as you’re able to maintain a clear head with a focus on what needs to be done rather than the gravity of the situation, you’ll be able to see clearly enough to the solution.


If you’re doing it yourself, make sure that you:

  • Have a contact person for all vendors that isn’t yourselves
  • Educate your contact person on what to do in a situation where decisions need to be made and what the big priorities are – if your photographer is the big priority, what is the contingency? Versus whether the bride really cares if her cake is banana salted caramel or black forest chocolate inside – this really helps with those last minute switches
  • Make a contingency! Contact additional vendors even once you’ve booked to check their availability and to have them in mind in case the worst happens
  • Reconfirm, reconfirm, reconfirm! Make sure you reconfirm all of your vendors at most one week out from the big day (more if it’s a destination wedding) and reconfirm all details including the type of product / service, the elements of it, the times they’re required, the cost and contingency
  • Read your contract before signing – make sure your vendor contracts have a contingency built in – if the photographer gets sick and can’t make your wedding, is there someone else to take over? Have you seen their work? Do you want them to take over if need be? What is the refund or return procedure? How are you protected if they don’t come through?
  • Get a Wedding WOF – this is a package that some planners offer (see ours here) to review your full wedding plan and identify gaps or issues that we spot or think may arise. This is perfect for those doing it all themselves because it lends a fresh pair of very knowledgeable and experienced eyes to the planning process and reassures you that you’ve not left anything out.

If you have a planner: You’re in a better position than if you’re doing it alone because they will have the right experience, the industry knowledge and contacts as well as the temperament needed to handle high-stress situations but there is a proviso – make sure you choose the right one.

There are a lot of ‘pop-up wedding planners’ around at the moment – people who have planned their own wedding which went off without a hitch who have started their own business because their own wedding was fun to plan but they often don’t have the temperament, and certainly not the knowledge and experience required to handle these kind of situations.

We posted here on choosing your planner – it’s important that you choose someone who you feel can confidently handle anything you throw at them, who isn’t easily shaken and who can take command of a situation (without commanding you).

Read more here for our tips on choosing a planner.

Remember, we also have our free wedding advice service, 'Ask Rhonnie' which we blogged about here where you can write in or call in your wedding planning questions and freakouts to our director, Rhonnie and have them answered either directly or through a blog post to get educated answers from her 16 years of knowledge and experience in the industry.

Ask your questions or send through your planning dramas here!

The Big Day

Welcome to 2016! With wedding season now upon us, many of you brides-to-be out there will be fretting about the timing of the big day and how everything fits together. Below, we've outlined a sample timeline based on a 3pm ceremony.

Use this as a guide and adjust the times accordingly to suit your big day's festivities.

For the Ladies

7:30 Wake up. Eat a substantial breakfast, shower and put on a button-up shirt to prevent spoiling your hair or makeup. If your gown is strapless, don’t wear a bra.

9:00 Hair. Time your hair trial or allow for an hour each person, depending on the number of hairstylist plus any travel time needed.

11:00 Makeup. Allow 40 minutes for the Bride and each of the Bridesmaids. Flowers should be picked up or dropped off at some point in the morning by someone outside of the bridal party.
12:30 Lunch. Remember to eat as you may not have a chance to during the rest of the afternoon.

1:00 Dress. Once hair and makeup is done, the Bridesmaids should put their dresses on before helping the Bride into her gown.

1:45 Photos. With parents and Bridesmaids

2:20 Bride, her attendants and parents depart for ceremony (based on venue being 30mins away)

2:50 Bride, her attendant and parents arrive at ceremony

For the Gentlemen

9:00 Wake up. Shower, shave. Eat a substantial breakfast.

12:30 Lunch. Remember you may not have a chance to eat the rest of the afternoon

1:50 Depart for ceremony venue

2:20 Arrive at ceremony venue to greet guests and check everything is in order

The Wedding

3:00 Ceremony. Your celebrant should be able to give you an indication of how long this will take, usually about 20-30 minutes. Allow an extra 15 for unexpected delays.

3:45 Mingle with guests and have photos with family members.

4:15 Wedding party photos.

5:45 Reception. Bride and Groom arrive

6:00 Dinner and speeches – before or directly after entree

8:30 Cutting the cake

9:00 First dance

12:00 Bride and Groom depart

Why Hire a Planner and How to Choose One

Why Hire a Planner?

With an average minimum cost of around $30,000 - $35,000 to get married in New Zealand, you want to make sure that you’re really realising your dream wedding, so that the memories aren’t eclipsed by the cost.

Of course there are ways to cut costs by going DIY, but these also usually add stress – i.e. needing to find all of the materials and actually sit down and make 150 or so favours or finding people to clean up after the wedding you’ve held at your family home. A planner will have insights about vendors and relationships that undoubtedly offer benefits to you, the Bride and Groom, saving you money in the long run.

Maybe, it’s not even a matter of finance. You could be a busy working couple who simply doesn’t have the 250 or so hours or so spare that it takes to plan a wedding, or perhaps it’s that you live in New Zealand but want to marry overseas or conversely, you live overseas and wish to marry here in New Zealand, in which case, the local knowledge of an experienced planner is a godsend.

By hiring a wedding planner to take care of the details and liaise with vendors, you’re able to have your vision preserved and eliminate the stress and heartache of compromise. Everything will be ready for your arrival and immersion in this special moment of your lives together.

How to Choose Your Wedding Planner

It seems these days that wedding planners are popping up everywhere in the form of any woman who has planned her own wedding and has decided that serves as enough experience to turn it into a business and while the very occasional exception can be made, the majority of these are not capable of providing the right level of service or to get the kind of supplier discounts one can only obtain through establishing long-term relationships with vendors.

A wedding planner must be highly organised, preemptive to your needs, be able to listen to you and understand exactly what you want with the knowledge and experience to be able to achieve it.

If you meet with a planner who tries to run the show from the get-go leaving you feeling as if you aren't being listened to, tries to charge you upwards of $15,000 for a standard sized wedding or doesn't seem to you as if they have the experience or knowledge to execute your vision (or dream one up of their own), move on.

Your wedding planner - depending on the level of involvement you choose - is going to be your best friend and second in command for the duration of your wedding planning so it's imperative that you find a kinship with your planner that makes you feel at ease, open and listened to. Even with the highest level of full service clients wherein the wedding planner is effectively given free reign so that the bridal couple can simply show up on the day, the planner needs to demonstrate that they respect your budgetary limitations, that they've listened and understood what you envision and give you the feeling that everything can be trusted in their hands.

We've heard so many horror stories from suppliers (and even brides who have left their planners to come to us) about inexperienced wedding planners, especially those who have only planned their own wedding, charging huge amounts for very little input or strugling without the right experience or conversely, being so overbearing and taking over the show, leaving the bride-to-be more stressed than ever.

What to look for:

  • A professional portfolio of weddings - this can be online or in print - basically, you're just looking to see that they're not a one trick pony, that their style matches yours and that they have the experience and evidence of successful execution to be trusted with your wedding
  • Respect in the industry - have your other vendors heard of them? what is their reputation? - it's important that your planner has cultivated relationships with other industry vendors and media and that they're respected for their style, personality and ability.
  • Media coverage - if they're been in the business a while, they should have been featured in some form of media ie spreads in local bridal magazines
  • Website - their website is usually the first impression you have of them - is it professional? organised? do they have samples of their work?
  • 'Fit' - with you and the style of your wedding
  • Authority in the industry
  • Ideas - when you meet with them, they should listen to your ideas and excitedly or passionately come up with complementary ideas of their own.
  • Cost - this varies depending on the level of involvement but they should offer something for all budgets. In New Zealand, unless you're planning to marry overseas and need your wedding coordinated from NZ and including all flights and accommodation for the planner and her assistant, there's no way it should be costing you upwards of $15,000 which we've heard of all too often. $1,500-$2,500 for day of coordination or $4,000-7,000 for full service is more what you should look for on the high end.

For styling only, it'd be a lot cheaper, think around $30-50 per table for a standard ten table centrepiece display or more depending on your table configuration and ceremony styling - if you're looking to replicate Edward and Bella's 'Twilight' wedding ceremony right down to the petal and your stylist is also doing your flowers, that's where it gets costly - mainly in terms of the cost of flowers and the time constructing it all.

Your wedding planner should also be able to offer you a variety of industry discounts via their established relationships and have a concentrated focus on achieveing your vision on the lowest budget possible. While the wedding planners in America (especially those with TV shows) can charge upwards of $100,000 per wedding and encourage dramatic spending on behalf of the bridal couple, in New Zealand, it's unnecessary and wildly out of place. Make sure your planner respects your vision and your budget.

We know there are a lot of options out there and we've heard countless horror stories of brides choosing the wrong one so we wrote this post to help you separate the professionals from the others.

We'd love it if you'd consider Harlow Garland as your planners and stylists of choice, we've been planning and styling weddings for almost 16 years now and with the recent launch of our dedicated florals department, HGBlooms and the impending launch of our online store, we're better able to serve you across the board with a variety of industry discounts, incomparable service and established industry relationships.

At Harlow Garland, there are a wide range of packages to suit any couple, any budget and any style of wedding. After an initial, complimentary consultation where together we will review your vision for the day and lend you our ideas, Harlow Garland will work with you to develop a planning package that best suits your needs and budget.

Contact us now for a free consultation & embrace the experience and the knowledge of a seasoned wedding planner.


A bonus offer - we'll be advertising this offer later this week but we thought we'd let our readers in on it first - if you book a Wedding Day Angel (day-of-coordination) or Full Service package by the 18th of December 2015, you're in with the chance to win a package upgrade! That's up to $7,000 value if you book Wedding Day Angel, winning an upgrade to Full Service or up to $10,000 value if you book Full Service and win an upgrade to The Golden Ticket!