Ever thought about having a Game of Thrones themed wedding? Or having a bunny rabbit carry the rings down the aisle?
After 12 years working as a wedding planner at Knowsley Hall, Jason White has seen it all. Jason, who is from St Helens, is the events manager at the stately home.
But despite the hall looking like a modern-day Downton Abbey, brides and grooms-to-be ask for some surprising things to happen at their weddings.
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The 31-year-old stumbled into a career in wedding planning completely by accident. He said he had “no clue” what to do in college and got a job as a glass collector at Knowsley Hall after going to a job fair.
He has worked his way up the ranks during his time at the hall and has planned hundreds of weddings. He is now getting ready to plan his own wedding next year and says it will be hard to stop planning on the day itself.
Speaking to the ECHO, Jason shared what he’s learned from 12 years of dealing with brides, grooms and unusual wedding requests: from cakes made out of Lego to celebrity guests visiting the luxurious Merseyside venue.
What’s been your favorite wedding you’ve planned?
“My favorite one was where we had a surprise for the bride and groom. They planned to have a Gary Barlow impersonator performing at their wedding – but actually we managed to get Gary Barlow himself.
“Only four or five of us knew what was actually going on and we couldn’t even tell the staff. So the Gary Barlow impersonator came on and we all had earpieces to communicate with each other – it was all very MI5.
“We had certain access routes and passageways so he wouldn’t be seen and so the game wasn’t given away. Gary Barlow bursts through the door during a song and performed at the wedding.
“The couple were just in awe and the bride was crying. It was such a special moment and they were huge Gary Barlow fans so it really made their wedding.”
How long does it take to plan each wedding?
“The whole process takes around two or three years from start to finish. This gives me enough time to build up trust with clients and for them to get to know me and vice versa.
“They fill in a bunch of forms and I give them my card so they can ask me questions. Then maybe six months before the wedding it gets a bit more intense.
“The couple come in for meetings and to try food and we discuss the order of the day. We just aim to project what they want into real life.
“I’d say we plan around 60 to 70 weddings a year. We don’t want to just become a wedding factory so we try to limit it so each one is really special.”
What are some of the more unusual things people ask for?
“We’re a stately home so a lot of people want black tie events with champagne and canapes. But we do get some more unusual requests too.
“We’ve had quite a few themed weddings – like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and even a Halloween wedding. Someone wanted Bongo Drums, which you wouldn’t necessarily put together with a stately home.
“One couple had a bunny rabbit deliver their rings and it went down the aisle in a pram. It was so well looked after and more of a guest than anyone else.
“They just absolutely adored their pet rabbit and wanted it to be at the wedding. I had to get them to repeat what they said when they first asked for it though.
“I’ve often been caught off guard by what people want but there’s nothing I’d ever say no to. You obviously just accommodate what the couple wants and try your best to make it happen.”
What about any unusual outfits?
“The Halloween wedding had a red wedding dress. There was another spider webs that had on for a Nightmare Before Christmas-themed wedding.
“We had pumpkins in the front of the hall. The theme was an amazing achievement and it worked really well.”
And any bizarre choices for cakes?
“Traditional wedding cakes are out of the window at the moment. People are looking to have Kinder Bueno cakes rather than a traditional fruit cake.
“Something else that’s popular is 50/50 cakes where each half is different. For example, we had one with a traditional half with the bride and groom on the front and, when it was flipped around, the other half was a Lego cake.
“There’s also a lot of requests for alternatives to cakes. Some people want a cheese tower instead of a cake and others want cupcakes instead of a big wedding cake.”
Have you ever had a disaster on the big day?
“One morning I was running the wedding and there was a crash on the motorway. The florist, the chair cover company and the cake company were on that motorway.
“We got the word from the florist that the traffic wasn’t moving. The ceremony was due to start at 2pm.
“We jumped into action. We got out all our chair covers to use as a backup and were going to jump in our cars to drive down to Marks & Spencer to find the most beautiful bouquet of flowers we could because we couldn’t let the bride walk down the aisle without one.
“We didn’t tell the bride any of this. It was such a close call but everyone just about managed to get there on time.
“We held the wedding back by a few minutes and just managed to get everything out with the bride, who was completely unaware. So there was no crying and no tears and the bride didn’t even know anything was wrong.”
Have you ever had a bridezilla?
“You do occasionally get difficult brides but that just comes from the stress of the day. They come from strong backgrounds and find it difficult to give control over to someone else to plan the day.
“It’s a really difficult thing to do and I work hard to reassure them. I tell them that whatever happens on the day happens and that they should try to enjoy every single second.
“Groomzillas are more common these days. They try to plan their weddings around the football and want to leave to watch the game.”
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
“It’s always a happy occasion and always different. I like being on my feet too.
“It’s about people and making them happy because it’s a day that’s going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. Recently we had a wedding with a surprise horse and carriage and the bride was so surprised she started crying. And I started crying too because I knew all about it.
“It’s the appreciation you get and the thank you cards and emails afterwards. It just means the world and makes you so excited to plan the next one. I still speak to some of the couples now.”
How about your least favorite?
“The hours are long but if you’re committed and love what you do, which I do, then it outweighs it. You have to give it 100% all of the time so that it doesn’t fall flat.
“It’s stressful at times. There’s hard work and long hours but it all pays off in the end.”
What’s popular at the moment compared to 12 years ago?
“When I started, weddings had very large numbers. They seem to have shrunk in size because it’s common for people to just have their closest friends and families present.
“The dress sense has also changed – it was very formal 12 years ago. Now brides and grooms like to wear a range of colours. The traditional white isn’t always a pure white anymore.
“People like an off-white or an ivory. The trains are getting bigger as well.
“Traditionally the bride has been in control but the grooms are more interested in the planning now, which is really nice for them to both show how much they care and love each other.
“Obviously there’s many more same-sex couples too. The work is so much more varied and it makes it even more exciting.”
What traits do you need to become a wedding planner?
“You’ve definitely got to be understanding and approachable. You have to have good direction as well because the couple don’t know how the process works and you need to guide them every step of the way.
“You have to build a good relationship with them so being warm, welcoming and trustworthy gets you far.”
What would you say to anyone wanting to become a wedding planner?
“The work is really unpredictable because weddings can be big or small and people want such different things.
“I didn’t have any qualifications and fell into it completely by accident. But just start from the bottom, show you’re passionate and ask lots of questions! You can start thinking about it at any age.”