The Teeny Wedding Reveal!

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingI woke up on the morning of our wedding a bundle of nerves and excitement.

We were getting married just before midday, so there was lots to do. Matthew and my mom decorated our flat while Natasha from Pretty Me Vintage set my hair in pin curls and applied my makeup.

And then it was time to slip on my dress – oh, my dress! It was actually the first one I found, as I started browsing the interwebs the day after we got engaged. I looked at others but didn’t find anything else in my price range that I liked as much. It’s actually not a wedding dress. It cost £75 from Chi Chi London, so I got to feel really smug about finding such a bargain while feeling like a complete princess.

My giant bow veil is a custom piece from Crown & Glory and I wore gold glitter shoes from Golden Ponies.

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingWe got married in the art deco building of Wandsworth Town Hall. Sitting across from the registrar while our guests tittered away in the next room must have been the most nervous Matthew or I had ever felt. But then “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppet movie came on and everyone started to trickle in and I got swept away in all of it.

I was choking back sobs during Matthew’s vows and my hands shook like anything while I read my vows but our ceremony was absolutely one of my favourite parts of the whole day. It was tender, and honest, and real – full of laughter and happy tears.

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingThere were a lot of DIY elements in our wedding. Obviously this added extra work but not only did it save us money (our whole wedding cost around £2,000), it allowed us to create a day that felt 100% like us. We added lots of personalized touches, like pictures of us each growing up underneath our engagement photos.

I arranged most of our flowers myself from blooms that my mom and I bought at Mark’s & Spencer. I spread everything out on the kitchen floor and made bouquets in mason jars and mini milk bottles. It only took about an hour and we saved a lot of money going the DIY route. There were colourful blooms in every corner of our flat and garden!

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingBut for the most important arrangements, the buttonholes and my bouquet, I entrusted the job to Lara from Wild Renata Flowers. I’d met Lara at a market in east London and instantly connected with her friendly personality and eclectic floristry style. My main guidelines for the bouquet were colourful with peonies and lots of body. She brought my vision to life and created a stunning arrangement that I didn’t want to let go of all day.

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingHaving a garden party reception was not without its share of risks: what if it rained?! We were blessed with sunshine but just in case, we rented a marquee that we prettified with streamers, homemade bunting, and string lights from Blaze On. Even though it was sunny outside, the marquee blocked out most of the sunshine and these bauble lights created a warm glow that really added to the atmosphere. I highly recommend checking out their whole line, their handmade flower lights and paper lanterns are perfect for brightening up any space.

Most of the other decorations were from Ebay and Amazon. Tassels, tissue pom poms, and streamers created a festive look.

We didn’t have a theme per se, but just tried to keep things fun and colourful. Matthew loves board games and so I had the idea to have some simple games set out for people to play. We decided on Hungry, Hungry, Hippos; Connect Four; and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. At first I was worried they wouldn’t get played with but guests quickly made a beeline to play against one another. Luckily no permanent family feuds were formed but I will say that the Connect Four matches got particularly aggressive.

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingMatthew and I are both vegetarian, so it was important to us to have a meat-free day. We enlisted the help of Cashew Catering to come up with a menu that our non-veggie guests would also enjoy. Because our reception took place from mid-afternoon to early evening, we served a buffet of canapés that people could nibble on throughout the party. The food was everything we’d hoped for and we heard a few people were finally convinced that you don’t need meat to make a delicious meal.

Lily Vanilli made our cake (you can read my interview with her here). It was lemon sponge with white chocolate buttercream and decorated with red currants and flowers from her edible garden. It was as delicious as it sounds and just as beautiful as I’d hoped. Lily was amazing about working with our small budget but still creating exactly what we were looking for.

We had lots of other sweets out as well, which I think contributed to our fun, playful atmosphere. There were vegetarian gummies, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Yvonne & Guite sent me some their delicious caneles for our guests to enjoy. These little French delights are like sweet, pillowy pastry clouds. I’m totally hooked!

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingSarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingWe excused ourselves around 7:30pm and made our way to High Road House hotel for a one night minimoon.

It was as we were lounging in a rose-scented bath, clinking our champagne glasses (after the photographers had left), that I  finally relaxed for what felt like the first time in months.

A claw foot bathtub beside our king-sized bed, fluffy bath robes, breakfast in bed, and time just the two of us taking it all in were exactly what we needed after such a busy and exciting day.

Sarah & Matthew's Hackney Wedding Sarah & Matthew's Hackney Wedding Sarah & Matthew's Hackney WeddingThe wedding was so full of love and went by in a happy blur.

Planning a wedding, even a small ones, can be stressful and all-consuming. In the weeks leading up I had a few meltdowns and freak outs. But ultimately I stayed focused on what was really important to me: the beginning of our marriage.

Not everything went perfectly. I got motion sick on the way home from the ceremony and vomited in a carrier bag while laughing about what a “fairy tale bride” I made.

But this isn’t a fairy tale. It’s the start of our very real life together. Full of messiness and mistakes and laughter and fun.

And mixed in with all of the food and music and conversation, there were so many tiny, unexpected moments that I know I’ll remember the most. Like a young girl stopping with her mom while we were getting our picture taken to tell me I looked beautiful and then taking our photo with an iPhone.

We were so lucky to have Warren and Carmen from Luminis Photography capturing our special day, and Sarah from Insta Wedding who made the video below. It’s so incredible to have all of these special moments documented so that we can look back on them for the rest of our lives.

(Use this link if the embedded version is giving you grief).

Love always,
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Why Do You Have Those Big Holes In Your Ears?

Why Do You Have Those Big Holes In Your Ears?From love to sheer loathing, my tattoos definitely get mixed reactions. But what receives even more raised eyebrows are my stretched ears. “Why would you do that?” they ask, “You know they’ll never go back, right?” I try to allow my bemused smile speak for itself because ‘pick your battles,’ right?

I’ve been interested in body modification since I was 14. That was the year I got my first piercing: a vertical labret through the centre of my lip. During my teenaged years I had up to 13 piercings all at one time. Over time I took most of them out either because they were migrating or I no longer fancied them. But my stretched ears and nose ring remain.

Like tattoos, other forms of body modification allow us to literally design the skin we’re in. Like an extreme (and more permanent) form of style, they allow us to express our inner vision for ourselves.

A beautiful example of this is Grace Neutral. She calls herself a kawaii space princess and her tattooed purple eyes, pointed elf ears, and lunar scarification beautifully match this description.

While my body modifications seem a lot less extreme in comparison, they’ve still been an important form of self-expression for me since I was young.

UK Custom Plugs recently sent me three pairs of their beautiful earrings to try out and I’ve absolutely loved discovering their website. From the polished crystal pieces they sent me to tiny art prints for your ears, it’s absolutely chockablock with beautiful, affordable body jewellery.

From the skeptical to the genuinely curious, I get a lot of questions about my stretched ears. So I thought I’d answer all of these questions in one place for anyone who’s curious, while showing off my new jewels.

Why Do You Have Those Big Holes In Your Ears?How big are your ear gauges?
They’re 3/4″ or 20mm.

Do you plan to stretch them anymore?
No, I’ve toyed with the idea but I’m quite happy with the way they look and I love my little collection of earrings.

How long did it take you to get them that large?
I started stretching them when I was 14. I got them to 00 gauge (10mm) that year and then left them for quite a while. During my first year of university, when I was 19, I decided to stretch them again and I gradually made them bigger over the next few months.

How did you stretch your ears?
The first time I stretched my ears, I bought a bright pink, 8 gauge (3mm) tapered earring. I sat on my bed squeezing a pillow while my friend shoved it through the pinprick sized hole in your ear. Make no mistake, stretching your ears HURTS and that was a big first stretch. I stretched them more gradually after that, leaving plenty of time in between to allow my ears to heal completely. While in university, I used layers of electrical tape on an existing earring to more gently stretch the holes. When in doubt about these kinds of things, please consult a piercing professional. I’ve had friends completely split their ears from stretching too quickly, which is a bloody mess and never heals properly afterwards.

What aftercare did you use to heal them?
I cleaned the area with saline solution and a Q-tip twice a day and when it had healed a little bit, used a gentle moisturiser once or twice a day.

Why Do You Have Those Big Holes In Your Ears?Will your ears ever go back to “normal”?
In short, no. If I took my earrings out permanently, they’d shrink back a little bit but never go back to “normal” or even to a pinprick. There are a couple of options if you don’t want to have stretched ears anymore. You can have them stitched back up or, less drastically, you can wear flesh coloured earrings. But I’m still really happy with mine.

If you got sick of your piercings, do you think you’ll outgrow your tattoos as well?
To be honest, there are days where, if I could, I would scrub of all of my tattoos and start over. Or I’d have completely bare skin for a while. And many tattooed people I’ve talked to have said the same. It’s like waking up one day, absolutely hating your hair, and wanting to shave your head. The feeling passes. And most days, I absolutely love them. If I had to have every piercing I’ve ever had for the rest of my life, I’d be okay with that. I still have the scars. It’s all part of my story.

Do you plan to get any more body modifications?
While I have plans to get many more tattoos (yes, I will be more or less covered), I don’t plan to explore any other body modifications. I’d never say never, but I don’t have plans for any. For a little while I’d toyed with the idea of pointed pixie ears and scarification, as I think they’re so beautiful. But ultimately I decided they didn’t completely match the vision I have of myself and when I was really honest, I realized I wasn’t up for the intensive healing process. Body modifications are a serious decision, so I’d advise anyone considering one to do a lot of research, consult with a professional, and give yourself lots of time to mull it over.

Thank you so much to UK Custom Plugs for the beautiful earrings. The quality is absolutely stunning and getting to wear little pieces of crystal in my ears feels extra magical. I even wore the rose quartz pair to my wedding and the amethyst and moonstone are in frequent rotation in my wardrobe.

Do you have any questions about body modifications? Do you have any yourself?

xoxo,
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Savvy Spender: Using a Cash Budget for Fun, Frivolity, & Freedom.

Savvy Spender: Using a Cash Budget for Fun, Frivolity, & Freedom.I used to swipe my debit card for almost all of my purchases.

That small piece of plastic made life easy. I didn’t have to worry about having enough cash or finding the right change.

Now I hardly ever use my debit card.

In my post on Living a Champagne Life on a Lemonade Budget, I mentioned that I pay cash for almost all of my day-to-day purchases.

My approach to managing my finances used to be avoid, avoid, avoid. I generally had enough to get by but I didn’t like looking at my bank balance and my savings only grew when I had a specific goal, so then I’d wipe it out in one fell swoop.

Studies have shown that we are more motivated by seeing our assets decrease physically (ie. in cash), versus looking at our bank balance or credit card statement.

Plus, limitation fosters creativity. Being realistic about our limited amount of money allows us to be really intentional with how we spend. We end up finding innovative solutions for getting what we want in less expensive ways.

Every week I take out a small amount of cash. I can use it however I want (although it has to feed me as well). If I want to blow it all on amazing dinner or a beautiful new dress, that’s fine. But when it’s gone, it’s gone and I go back to staying in and eating kitchen staples until the following week.

Using a cash budget is simple. I’ll walk you through deciding how much to use and how to make the most of this money.

Start by figuring out how much money you make each month.

If you work at a salaried job, figuring out your monthly income is pretty straightforward. If you work as a freelancer or get paid hourly, you might want to take an average of the past six months and work from that.

Then it’s time to get a clear picture of your monthly outgoings. For me, these include: rent, utilities, phone, travel, debt repayment, and business expenses. I also factor in saving (short-term, long-term, and emergency). I include buying groceries in my cash budget, so I don’t factor in food costs yet. You might decide to add a small around (say £50), to factor in a special pay day splurge and maybe another £100 to add extra wiggle room to your budget. You can track your spending with an app like Wally or Mint, and play with these numbers to find what feels right and works for your spending habits.

Savvy Spender: Using a Cash Budget for Fun, Frivolity, & Freedom.Add up your outgoings and subtract it from your monthly income.

Take the amount that’s leftover and divide it by 4.5 to determine your weekly cash budget.

For me, this ends up being £100. Which tells me how much I can afford to spend each week.

But what I’d recommend doing, is cutting this amount down a bit. I give myself a cash budget of £80 a week.

This gives me some wiggle room if I want to make small online purchases, if unexpected expenses come up, or if I want to allow it to roll over so I can make a slightly bigger purchase at the end of the month.

You might decide to lump your food and discretionary expenses into one cash budget, like I do. Or you can split it into two. It just depends on what feels good to you. If you decide to go with the latter, just use different compartments in your wallet for your two cash budgets, or buy two change purses to keep them separate.

If I have cash left over at the end of the week, I just take out less the following week. I can use the windfall to buy a special treat at the end of the month or, preferably, whack it into my savings.

If I were to consistently be having money left over from my cash budget week after week, I’d consider reducing it and saving more each month. It’ll all add up to a fabulous holiday eventually!

Living on a cash budget definitely does not mean having to go without any fun or luxury. In fact, I’ve found quite the opposite. My money goes further now and I feel more secure always knowing how much I have.

Using a cash budget means that I never get part way through the month and feel absolutely skint. I always know that I have enough money in the bank to live modestly but comfortably. And if I spend too zealously one week, I never have to wait more than a few days for a little top up.

Savvy Spender: Using a Cash Budget for Fun, Frivolity, & Freedom.Here are a few tips to stretch your cash budget further:

  • Plan your meals for the week.
    If you plan a few dishes to make throughout the week and buy groceries according to those recipes, you’ll buy less food because it won’t be going to waste. Try to choose dishes that use some of the same fresh ingredients so you don’t have to buy as many items.
  • Keep your kitchen stocked with staples.
    Keeping your kitchen stocked with the essentials, like spices and canned goods, that you use regularly means that you’ll mostly just have to buy fresh ingredients throughout the week. Many cookbooks coming with a shopping list of kitchen staples that their recipes rely upon, so if you know that you want to follow a certain “diet” (and I don’t mean that in a restrictive, calorie counting kind of way), use that as your guide.
  • Make your own.
    Making your own fancy coffee, fresh juice, or lush pastry will always be the more budget-friendly option. £5 here and £5 there will eat away at your cash budget in no time but a little homemade savvy will stretch your money a lot further.
  • Get comfortable saying no.
    It can be uncomfortable to decline an invite for financial reasons but the more we all avoid talking about money issues, the more they stay mired in shame and embarrassment. It’s okay to mention that you can’t afford a lavish dinner right now, so politely decline or suggest a budget-friendly alternative.
  • Make your own fun.
    Bringing a bottle of wine to the park or inviting your friends over for a pot luck can be just as fun as a night out on the town. Add a few DIY frills to make the occasion feel extra special, while staying within your means.

Check out my tips for Living a Champagne Life on a Lemonade Budget for even more tips.

None of this is rocket science but when we practice being savvier with our spending, it becomes easier and easier to stretch a dollar while still having a lot of fun.

Women face a lot of pressure to spend. From expensive skin care products and the latest fashion trends to expensive nights out and premium super foods, it can feel like living the good life inherently costs a lot of money.

And, as women, we face different financial issues than men. More and more, women are the primary breadwinner’s in our families. We’re juggling more expenses and taking on different responsibilities, but we aren’t always learning the financial literacy to make the transition easier. Statistically, women are likely to earn less than their male counterparts and most of us growing up thinking it’s wrong to ask for what we want, so we don’t negotiate for pay rises as often. Legal & General is appealing to women to consider the financial role they play by taking out life insurance. With premiums as low as £6, per month this is a small expense to add to your outgoings.

Using a cash budget has been the most successful method I’ve tried for overcoming my own financial hurdles. It’s left me feeling more abundant and more secure. And I always seem to have enough for little treats here and there.

How do you manage your money? Do you think you’ll give using a cash budget a try?

With love,
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This post was sponsored by Legal & General and was written in accordance with my disclosure policy. All opinions are my own.

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