Expert Advice from My Wedding’s Dream Team

Got a question? Ask our panel of wedding industry pros for their expert advice!

Simply email your questions to our Dream Team.

Please note that responses may be used online, digitally on our social media pages or in the magazine!


If there’s a certain look I’m after for my hair and makeup, what’s the best way to get that message across to my beautician? Melissa, Cashmere

The best way to let your hair/make-up artist know what you want is to show them. Provide images of hairstyles and make-up that you like, or as close as you can find to what you want, and make sure you have a trial run before the big day!You might even find that after you have a trial, the look that you are after doesn’t actually work for you at all, so better to work this out all before the big day. Kerry Franks, The Boutique Bride

I am having a beautiful gown made especially for me, and want to preserve it for my daughter one day. What’s the best procedure to follow? Emily, Tauranga

After your big day, take your gown to a professional drycleaner with a recommendation from wedding gown designers, someone like Regal Drycleaners if you’re in Auckland. It’s important to ensure that your gown is checked for stains so these can be carefully removed while taking care of any beading or lace. Once the dress is clean and restored to its former beauty, it needs to be wrapped in acid-free and colour free tissue paper then placed in to a protective box. Keep it away from extreme heat or humidity and check the dress each year to ensure it hasn’t started to discolour. Lisa Robertson, Beautiful Events Ed: We’d also recommend Preens / Prestige Preservation

Is the updo more suitable for a wedding? My hair is pretty long, a few inches below shoulder, and I usually wear it loose. It’s fairly straight, with just the odd kink in it. I don’t usually style it much, but obviously want to look special on my big day, rather than the same as I do every other day of the year! Bridgette, Mt Albert

There is no rule that says a bride must have her hair up; remember, you still want to look like yourself on your wedding day, just a more polished version. If you are more comfortable with your hair down, then go for it. Your hairdresser can blow wave, curl, or straighten it into a style to work for you. One word of caution – if you’re having an outdoor wedding in a windy location your hair will bare the brunt of it, so I’d recommend finding a sheltered spot for the ceremony and photos, or opt for a half up, half down look. Kerry Franks, The Boutique Bride

I’d like a mix of black and white as well as colour photographs. Which are the best poses to have as black and white versions? And, if there’s a colour shot that I really like, can I request it as a black and white instead? Glenda, Pukekohe

Black and white prints are amazing and I have to say I’m really fond of rendering images to B&W. As far as a formula for a best pose, there really isn’t one. When choosing images to change to B&W, it’s normally an emotional response to the shot. Black and White can be amazing when the light is really dramatic and it removes the unwanted distraction of busy colour palettes and patterns. Black and White images are often really effective on candid moments during your day, giving your images a cool journalistic feel. Mix it up, change it out, be creative. Belinda Bradley, Smash Photography

Are pearls a suitable adornment for a bride and the rest of the bridal party? My gown is ivory with beaded pearls and the theme of the wedding is vintage. I’ve always loved pearls, both black and white ones, but am scared of overdoing it with the dress and then jewellery! Jasmine, Whangarei

I love pearls – they are so classic, elegant and romantic – I say go for it! The key thing is to make sure your overall look isn’t overdone. If you have quite a lot of detail with the pearl beading, particularly on the bodice, I would opt for a simple piece around your neck or glam it up by wearing gorgeous drop earrings and a bracelet. Work with the neckline of your dress and ensure everything works together. Most importantly, be memorable and have fun. Lisa Robertson, Beautiful Events

My parents and his don’t really see eye to eye. How can we organise the tables to still have a bridal table, but not have them in a slanging match by the end of the day? Annette, Westmere

This is a tricky one. You would hope that they could put their differences aside for one day and focus on the bigger picture which is your celebration, but when it comes to pure logistics keep things simple. One easy solution is to put their tables either side of the bridal table rather than in front. This way they are apart but still close to the bridal table. Trust your instincts but don’t let it drive you crazy. This is your day, so focus on each other and, after dinner, everyone will be up and mingling anyway. Lisa Robertson, Beautiful Events.

I love the smokey eye makeup look and wear heavy eyeliner and dark eye shadow just about every day. Is this look suitable for a bride? My wedding will be in Spring! 
Denise, Albany

Absolutely! You want to feel and look your best on your wedding day so if a smokey eye makes you feel beautiful, then go for it! If you are having an outdoor wedding or a more casual “do”, team it up with a sheer coral lipstick and healthy, glowing skin. If your wedding is set to be a more sophisticated and glamorous event, then go for a cream or matt lipstick in pink or red, with soft contouring to define your cheek bones. You could always add a touch of bronze or gold to brighten your eyes and add some drama!
 Kerry Franks, The Boutique Bride

My guest list is getting out of control. How on earth do I get the numbers down without offending my partner, distant family and friends who are suddenly popping out of the woodwork?
 Alison, Wellington

Be honest and tell your partner how you feel. It’s important from the outset that you can be honest and not hide your feelings if something is bothering you. Guest lists are the most challenging to negotiate, so compromise and negotiation is crucial, particularly when trying to stay on budget. You will never be able to please everyone, so work with your partner – if he really wants some of these extra guests, then perhaps agree on a number you are both happy with. 
Lisa Robertson, Beautiful Events

I’ve ordered an enormous wedding cake with layers of different flavoured bases. Will this be enough? Or do I still need to plan for dessert on the menu if I’m watching my budget?
 Ann-Marie, Westhaven

Your cake sounds divine. If you are watching your budget and already have an entrée and main, your cake will likely be enough for your dessert. My one piece of advice is that there’s nothing worse than not having enough food, so if you’re worried add on the dessert or an accompaniment to the cake, such as ice-cream, cream or a berry coulis so it’s served to the guests as a dessert. Another idea is to include a cheeseboard for later in the evening – this can be served with tea and coffee.
 Lisa Robertson, Beautiful Events

Help! I’ve seen so many dresses that I now can’t make up my mind. I really want a little of this one and a little of that. If I have a dress made to my specifications, what sort of cost should I expect and how long will it take?
 Glenda, Torbay

It is really important to go back to basics. Start with what shape suits your figure, then what colour suits your complexion, and then add different elements. If you decide on a designer, they will guide you and provide ideas to achieve your overall look. Dressmakers can be less expensive at around $700 to $1,800, with a Couture Gown designer offering a more customised design at upwards of $2,000. Remember, the style and detail of the dress will be reflected in the price. Ensure you allow at least 4 months.
 Rebecca Iona

I’m not really a flower person, so am having a hard time deciding on bouquets, buttonholes etc. Is there a simple solution to this? Do I as the bride have to carry a bouquet? I’m also not keen on having my bridesmaids carrying bouquets. Is it wrong to have an entire bridal party without a flower in sight? If I must have flowers, can you suggest something plain, simple, unperfumed? Hoping you can suggest something else though!!! 
Melanie, Rotorua

There are no rules when it comes to weddings. If you are not a flower person, then why use flowers. It is your day to indulge all of your passions and lavish on your guests and bridal party all of the things that you value and enjoy. From a practical perspective, and from experience, bridesmaids prefer to have something to hold. You could try orient-inspired parasols or fans, or a sophisticated French chic parasol, or a simple clutch bag. For
non-fragrant, simple elegant flowers, long stemmed Calla lilies, bound minimally around the stems, or stunning Phalaenopsis orchid stems bound in ribbon.
 Heather Boswell, The Wedding Florist

I’ve found a photographer I like, but she’s asking for a large proportion of the money upfront. Is this normal? When are payments usually made, and what percentage? 
Annabel, Mt Eden

It is standard practice for photographers to require a Booking Deposit. This indicates equal commitment from yourselves and the photographer, safeguarding your date. There are no hard and fast rules as to percentages and instalments, but I would be wary of a booking deposit over 50% as it might suggest the money is more of a focus than the two of you! Deposits normally range from 20-40% of the total fee. Some photographers then require another instalment a few weeks prior to the wedding, with a final payment on collection of your package a few weeks after your wedding. 
Belinda Bradley, Smash Photography

I want to wear something on my head, but don’t fancy a traditional veil and I tend to think of fascinators more as racewear than bridalwear. I need inspiration! I have short hair, and want to dress it up for the occasion rather than looking like I do every other day of the year! Julie, Wellington

Short hair is fresh and chic. The great thing about short hair is you can really accentuate features like eyes and cheekbones. Even though you have short hair your options are endless, a headband can help create a distinctive style and can be accessorised with flowers, feathers, Swarovski crystals, brooches, rosettes, ribbons or lace. Hairpins with crystals or pearls and 2 or 3 rosettes grouped together can make a statement piece. You can also attach a birdcage to a headband or clip worn diagonally across the face and then tucked up after the ceremony. Check out my article on Head Candy published in the Summer 2010/11 issue for more ideas.  Lisa Hill, Beautiful Events

Our wedding venue is at our local hall. I desperately need some sort of inspiration to turn it from a large cold hall into a welcoming room of beauty! Do you have any ideas for decoration please? Sam, Tokoroa

A great way to add some ambience and softness to the hall is with fairy lights. A backdrop of curtain lights with an organza overlay behind your head table would make a beautiful feature. Then icicle lights with warm white bulbs around the room will compliment this and add a little magic to the hall. If there are rafters in the hall, you could also use white paper lanterns with battery fairy lights inside to hang at different heights creating soft mood lighting.  Kristina Ecolana, La Lumiere

This is my second wedding and my fiancé’s first. I am very conscious that I don’t want to wear a white bridal gown but he’s insisting on a very traditional wedding. If I go along with his wishes, I’m afraid my friends and family will think I’m being a hypocrite. How do I compromise without upsetting my man or feeling insincere? Zee, Christchurch

Wearing white or even a traditional wedding gown for a second marriage is not taboo, I can assure you it definitely doesn’t make you a hypocrite. This day is just as important for you as it will be for your man. Prior to the Victorian era, a bride could be married in any colour. It was only when Queen Victoria married in 1840 that the tradition of white caught on. If you are concerned about white, try a traditional gown but opt for a champagne, ivory, pearl, eggshell or dusky pink tone. Whatever you decide on communication is the key to making sure you’re both happy on the day.  Lisa Hill, Beautiful Events

We are on a restricted budget for our wedding and so far have managed to keep within our price range. Our problem is the venue we have booked have chairs that give off a conference feel, not a wedding look. Do you have any suggestions on how to change the look of chairs? A friend suggested bows. I really don’t want a room full of bows and don’t have much spare cash to hire in other chairs! Sue, Tauranga

If you are really not happy with the chairs your venue has and can find it in your budget, I would suggest hiring white lycra chair covers. They will give a fitted, clean look to your room and transform those ‘conference’ chairs into wedding chairs. To keep things simple, and more cost effective, I suggest just sticking to the chair covers – don’t worry about bows – and do a straight DIY hire so you can arrange for friends and family to fit them for you. That way you save on the fitting fee that comes with having a company set them up for you. If you can’t afford this in your budget, then I suggest you leave them as they are. If you try to just add a bow or similar, you can end up making them even more prominent in your room. Instead remember that when you walk in to your reception all you will see is your happy smiling guests, and not the chairs they are sitting on.  Louise O’Sullivan, A Touch of Class Function Accessory Hire & Design Ltd

I’m having an issue when it comes to our wedding cake. My fiancés parents have offered to pay for our cake; however, they expect us to have fruit cake. I don’t like fruit cake and was planning on chocolate. Should I keep to the tradition to make my in-laws happy, or is having a different flavoured cake acceptable these days? Is there a compromise somewhere? Lisa, Mt Roskill

I often meet couples with this dilemma. For many of our parents’ generation a festive event, especially a wedding, cannot be complete without the traditional fruit cake – mostly baked by mum. Young couples, however, tend to prefer fancier flavour choices, like rich chocolate cake or a moist vanilla with dulce de leche cream. The good news is that the compromise is not just easy but also a nice one: in case of a tiered wedding cake, have the top tier(s) fruit and the other ones in the flavours that you love. I always encourage couples to choose a different flavour for each tier anyway, to suit all the different tastes of the guests. While there are always plenty of people who are diehard chocolate lovers, others might prefer a light citrus cake or a unique, roasted hazelnut one – and again, the elderly generation will surely appreciate the good old fruit cake. If you choose cupcakes or individual cakes, you can also have them in different flavours with the top, cutting cake being a fruit one. To make the mothers/mother in laws even happier, you can even ask them to bake that small top cake with their special fruit cake recipe. In the end, there is no competition to mum’s fruit cake baked with love! This they can make 3 months before the wedding and if the size (diameter and height) fits the requirements, there is no reason why your cake maker should not incorporate it into the whole cake and decorate it accordingly! All the best for your big day!  Judit Meron, Artisan Cakes

I love the idea of a black and white wedding, but my mother is having a complete hissy over the idea, claiming black is for funerals, not weddings … HELP!!! And when I say black and white, I mean not even a tinge of green or the odd red rose!Nicholene, Tauranga

Black and white is very much accepted for weddings these days. We’ve worked with a number of clients over the past few years that have chosen this modern colour scheme and it’s always such an elegant look. If you’re worried about her opinion, maybe use black as the accent and have white as your base. A sea of crisp white table cloths and fitted white chair covers look stunning when paired with black table runners and napkins. Maybe soften the look and choose a gorgeous black and white flock pattern for your place cards, favours or even table runner. As we always say though, it’s your wedding, your day – whatever you choose, make sure it’s what you and your fiancé want. Louise O’Sullivan, A Touch of Class Function & Accessory Hire & Design

Is there a rule of thumb on how many tiers of a cake are required to serve specific numbers of guests? Grace, Whangarei

Traditionally this would have been a very viable calculation. Most wedding cakes today are based upon what type of look the couple want. When deciding upon cake size, and the number of layers these things need taking into consideration: Is the cake a part of dessert (cake portions are generally bigger); what is the flavour of the cake (fruit cake generally is cut to smaller portions than say a mud cake)? Chat to your cake designer and take this all into account. Thomas Thomas, Kapiti Cakes & Bakery

I know it’s traditional to buy little keepsakes for your bridal party. What is the norm when it comes to these gifts? I certainly can’t afford jewellery items for my bridesmaids! Jenny, Nelson

It’s interesting how wedding traditions have changed over the years. It used to be that the bride’s family shouldered the bulk of the financial responsibility for a wedding. When it comes to the bridesmaids, traditionally the bride’s family paid for the flowers and a gift. The bridesmaids themselves actually paid for their own wedding attire, including shoes and jewellery. This tradition has also changed and there’s no “right” answer to your question. It’s very helpful to decide who’ll be paying for what BEFORE you ask anyone to be a bridesmaid. That way everyone knows upfront what’s expected of them. The most important thing is to do what you can afford to do, and explain this to your bridesmaids as soon as you can.

If you’re paying for their dresses and shoes, it’s not unreasonable to ask them to buy their own jewellery – provided you’re not expecting them to spend a fortune on something they may never wear again – and it’s only fair your girls have some input into the style of the jewellery, so they can choose something they like and can wear again.

If you want to give your bridesmaids a gift, it’s quite common for the bride to buy the jewellery as the gift itself. You don’t need to spend a fortune – there are many affordable jewellery options today. A simple Swarovski pendant necklace can be found for under $35 and earrings for under $30. You might offer to split the cost of the jewellery with your bridesmaids – you could buy the pendant and they could buy the earrings.

Ultimately, I’m sure your bridesmaids don’t expect expensive jewellery items from you, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to pay more than you can afford. Sit down with your bridesmaids as soon as you can and discuss these options with them so you can come up with a solution that works for everyone. Michelle Goulevitch, Gorgeous Jewellery

Because finances are often tight and most couples have lived out of the parental home, I’m of the opinion a cash gift could be more practical than the age old practice of dinner sets or cutlery services. Firstly, is it appropriate to give money? Secondly, should it be hard, cold cash or is a cheque acceptable? And lastly, if a cheque, then who does one make it out to … the bride, the groom or the couple? Nancy, Hamilton

The modern couple will absolutely welcome a cash gift! Many couples have been living together and already have everything they need. Gone are the days when they need a lot of gifts to set up a home. Often couples will ask for contributions to a wishing well rather than a gift. Cash allows them to use the money for something they really want or need, or to help pay for their honeymoon. Cash is best for smaller amounts and a cheque for larger. Make sure that the gift is in a card, in a sealed envelope. This way they’ll know who to thank, and you know it’s secure until they get a chance to open it. You can make cheques out to either of the couple, or to cash. Lisa Hill, Beautiful Events

The groom’s mother has (to our disdain) expressed that she may not attend the wedding. We are still planning the wedding inclusive of her, i.e. buttonholes, hair & makeup and sending her formal invitation/photos of where the wedding will be – but I’m out of ideas how to further entice her to be an active part of this wedding, although she’ll definitely insist on a very traditional approach to the ceremony – what do u think? JT from Waitakere

Family can be hard! Sometimes a situation arises when the Mother of the Groom is feeling a bit left out of the planning and wedding process. If you haven’t already sent the formal invites, it would be a nice touch to include a handwritten note from you and another from your fiancé expressing how important she is to you and the day. If there is a planning aspect that you can pass on to her, or ask her input on, this will make her feel like she’s part of the day and the process. Don’t let the situation overshadow the celebration. If you try your hardest and she still won’t come around, celebrate your day, send a thank you card for any gift she sends, and make sure to send her some photos. Lisa Hill, Beautiful Events