2018年03月26日

Should you have your wedding

A Cork couple feature in RTÉ’s new wedding planner show, based around the dilemma of whether to have the event in Ireland or abroad, writes Marjorie Brennan.


Don't Tell the Bride, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Say Yes to the Dress… the list of wedding-inspired reality TV shows goes on, demonstrating how nuptial celebrations and all the associated drama are a perennial source of fascination for audiences.


The latest addition to the genre is RTÉ’s My Big Day: Home or Away, a pilot one-off in which two top wedding planners compete against each other to bring one couple’s dream wedding to fruition. One planner arranges a wedding in Ireland, the other plans a ceremony further afield and the icing on the cake is witnessing the couple tying the knot at their dream location. The couple featured in the one-off show are Kate Browne and Peter Twomey, from Cork, who got engaged eight years ago and kept putting their wedding plans on the long finger.


Wedding planner Tara Fay says she was keen to get involved in the show as she saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate the wide range of skills required in her job.


“We see ourselves more as wedding producers. One of the most important skills required is listening, because it’s not about us, it’s about our client. It’s about asking the right questions, to know how to pull that information from them and to turn that into what they want. It’s not our wedding, it’s their wedding.”


Going up against Fay is Bruce Russell, a London-based wedding planner. Why does he think there is such a demand for reality wedding shows?


“I think it’s because weddings have become so personal, couples now have access to everything regarding design ideas and styling while years ago they were happy to go the traditional route. Now there are no limitations, if you want that Kardashian wedding but you don’t have the budget for it, someone out there somewhere will be able to create it for you.”


While Russell has organised countless weddings where money is no object, he also enjoys the challenge of sticking to a limited budget.


“It forces you to think outside the box and it’s about how you maximise things — you have to think not in terms of ‘you can’t have this’ but to look at options like ‘what if we do it this way?’ or ‘what’s important, can we DIY?’.”


Russell says while things do go wrong, staying calm is the key.


“Everything is about management beforehand so what when we get to the day, it’s a smooth process. There’s a few that come to mind where things went awry; we had a power outage at one and it didn’t come back until an hour before the couple came in, we were almost at the stage of having to relocate at an hour’s notice. That’s not the best


feeling, but from my perspective you have to be the calm and collected person because everyone is looking at you — if you start to panic everyone does.”


As anyone who has done it will testify, organising a wedding can be a very stressful experience. As such, one constant trope of wedding reality shows is the ‘Bridezilla’ having a meltdown. Russell has an empathetic take on the stereotype.


“Put yourself in the bride’s shoes — you’re the one person everyone is looking to for an opinion, a decision, everything falls on you. What I try to do is manage the process, the information, the decisions that need to be made. Communication is key so I try to avoid the bride getting to the bridezilla stage. If I’m doing my job right we don’t necessarily get there, but sometimes it’s a moment, you let them have it and take it from there.”


The bride in this case, Kate Browne, certainly doesn’t appear to be the Bridezilla type when we speak. In any case, she says there was so little for her to do that she didn’t get the opportunity to lose her head at any stage.


“It was fantastic, and I didn’t have to do anything at all. On the day, it hit me how lucky I was. All I had to do was just turn up. Everything was done. It was a real luxury to have a planner to the standard of Tara and Bruce.


“Everything was thought through down to the last detail. The kids were even taken away and looked after in the evening.”


Kate and her husband Peter Twomey are both self-employed — he is a dairy farmer and she runs a boutique, Vanilla, in Fermoy, Co Cork with her sister; they have three children, aged seven, four and three. Their busy lives and financial pressures meant their wedding plans kept being moved down their to-do list.


“I barely have time to have a shower, never mind plan a wedding,” Kate laughs. “Our house is small, and we had to build an extension every time we had a child. How could we spend so much money on just one day? It was never really a priority. Then we decided that all the kids are here now and we would focus on it. I told Peter that I did want to get married this year; even if it was just the two of us inside a registry office, we would have done it at some point.”


It seemed like fate when last year, Kate saw an ad looking for couples who would like someone to plan their wedding. She filled in an application form and things moved quickly after that. Peter wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea to begin with.


“She told me she was doing it and I said: ‘Yeah, yeah’, knowing it wouldn’t happen… then two days later, I was moving stuff out of the shed getting it ready for calving and she says ‘Are you around tomorrow after 11, there’s a fella from RTÉ coming down to film us’.”


Peter eventually came around to the idea, and in the end he was the one who came to the rescue when Kate got cold feet towards the end of filming.


“I got really nervous and said I don’t know if I really want to do this because it was my family involved as well,” she says.


“Peter said: ‘look the opportunity is here, let’s just take it’. I was the one who had instigated it but then I got scared when it became a reality, he pushed it forward so I suppose we balance each other out that way.”


The couple haven’t seen a final cut of the show; they plan to watch it as it airs with friends and family in a hotel in Cork.


“The TV thing is a bit strange alright and I am really nervous about it. You don’t know what way you’re going to be portrayed, how people are going to perceive you and how the editor will decide what to show,” says Kate.


While they are sworn to secrecy about which planner comes out on top, they agree the whole experience was a fantastic one.


“It would suit me down to the ground if no-one ever saw it but it was a fabulous experience,” says Peter.


“It was never going to be a bad scenario. As I kept saying, it was a real first-world problem: pick this fabulous place or this fabulous place. We had to do shag-all, just answer WhatsApp messages from the tractor or the kitchen, two or three phone calls or one or two meetings.”


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