Winter Wedding Ideas & Tips

Picture your dream wedding day, and it probably involves photographs by sunset, seasonal bouquets and an idyllic arch or gazebo set up on the beach. By the same token, the likelihood is that it doesn’t involve shivering guests, icy roads or the groom in a sou’wester and galoshes. 

Most people have their weddings in the summer, but winter weddings can be even more magical and romantic, despite the unpredictable weather. Getting married in the winter can be less expensive, allows for some enchanting photographs, and may give your friends and family another reason to travel home for Christmas. Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you feel the same.

So don’t get cold feet, now: it’s time for some winter wedding tips and practical ideas!

Room for Negotation 

The fact that winter is a less busy wedding season will work to your advantage when it comes to planning the most vital component of the day: the venue. True, the hospitality sector – hotels and restaurants – experiences a surge in business during the party season, but not for weddings or overnight stays, with most guests attending parties or other events there instead. This means that you’ll have more choice when it comes to choosing a venue, as hotels are more likely to negotiate on the price. Securing a favourable price and saving on your wedding venue will allow you to redistribute the cost towards something else, like winter-friendly accessories, food at the hotel or even the pièce de résistance: the grand honeymoon. 

Warming to the idea already, then? 

Weather or Not

The weather can be unpredictable at any time of year, but in the winter, it’s particularly important to plan ahead and minimise any potential disruption from cold or wet conditions. Aim for a venue that isn’t too far from the reception – maybe even at the same place, if possible – and organise transport for guests so that they can make the necessary journeys safely and swiftly. Think about which venues will suit the season, too: castles and marquees are lovely on a summer’s day, but on a winter’s evening, the setting may receive a cold reception!

Perhaps the best advice is to take out some wedding insurance. Wedding insurance ensures that you and your partner will be reimbursed if one of the pre-booked services you’ve arranged for your wedding (flowers, photography, music) needs to be cancelled due to the weather or something else.

Save that Date!

If you’re having your wedding around Christmas or New Year, you might be able to arrange it so that friends or family travelling home for Christmas will also be able to attend your wedding. But that season is also very busy so some guests may be already booked! It’s a good idea to send out your ‘Save the Date’ cards extra early for winter weddings, as it will give your guests plenty of time to make or extend their travel plans. People may also need to schedule time off work to attend your wedding – in what is a very hectic season for most sectors – so it’s polite, and mutually beneficial, to afford your guests a lot of notice. 

Start Early

A winter wedding is bound to be dark – that’s part of the charm – but it shouldn’t be grim! Since the days are shorter and the evenings are longer during the winter, it’s wise to set the time of your wedding a few hours earlier than is typical. This will ensure that you get the maximum amount of daylight for photos and greeting guests: you don’t want to be left out in the cold when it comes to capturing those precious memories. 

Dress for Success

With one eye on the weather forecast, and another eye on your phone or laptop, keep guests informed if the weather is shaping up to be predictably unpredictable. Kit out the wedding party with gloves, hats, or even warm boots, and a faux-fur cape for the bride, to keep everyone warm during any outside photographs. You can also circumvent most issues (and complaints) by organising a cart or basket of blankets outside the venue; meanwhile, a set of classy colour-coordinated umbrellas will protect your crew in the middle of a rogue shower. 

Food, Glorious Food

The food is possibly the most talked-about aspect of any wedding: if it’s sub-par, then you’re sure to hear about it! But the fact that you’re getting married in winter affords you certain seasonal options. Plump for warm, festive meals by serving rich meats and winter vegetables. Instead of a cold dessert, keep your guests feeling merry with some perennial holiday favourites, like mulled wine and Christmas pudding. 

Of course, if you really want the crème de la crème for your wedding, then a hot chocolate station or toasted marshmallow bar will give your guests ‘smore to love about your special day.

Outside In

The season can also help dictate your colour scheme. Take inspiration from traditional Christmas combinations, such as green and red or gold and silver, and use glitter or sequins to imitate the sheen of ice and snow. If you’re in love with the vistas at the venue you’ve chosen, you could even set up a clear tent or marquee, which would give you protected, unobstructed views of the scenery. Just remember to make sure the tent is properly heated! Ice sculptures or hanging snowflake ornaments will also mimic the feeling of being outside.

Some flowers will be out of season by the time winter comes, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise: roses, tulips, hydrangeas, eucalyptus and waxflower can combine to make a stunning bridal bouquet. If you don’t have access to a fireplace, then candles and lanterns will lend the venue more character, style and warmth than normal electrical lighting.

Winter weddings are full of personality and romance, and we hope that, having read this article, you have no objections! A lot of preparation IS required, but that’s true of any wedding, no matter when it’s held. So, are you ready to start planning, or are you ready to set a date? Let us know your thoughts and plans in the comments below!

How to Make the Best Corporate Christmas Cards for Your Business

Although the amount of mail generated by the UK has slowed in recent years, sales of greeting cards, and specifically Christmas cards, show few signs of decline. The British public spent more than £1.7 billion on Christmas cards in 2017, according to the Greeting Card Association, and while ecards have become a popular way of spreading festive cheer, the long-standing tradition of the humble Christmas card has yet to wane. Indeed, it’s a custom that can be traced back to the nineteenth century, when civil servant Henry Cole printed the first batch of commercial Christmas cards in 1843. The idea of sending Christmas cards gained popularity throughout the Victorian era, eventually extending to companies and businesses, who sent Christmas cards to generate goodwill and promote their brand. 

Fast-forward to 2019, however, and while business Christmas cards are still sent, they are quite often discarded. How can you ensure that your own company’s cards will be remembered, and maybe even kept, just like Disney’s? If you’re responsible for the company Christmas cards this year, don’t be anxious: this is our festive guide to producing something truly special for the most important people in your company and industry. So fold that card, seal that envelope and lick that stamp: the best corporate cards will be yours this Christmas! 

‘Tis the Reason

Let’s face it: ecards are much more economical, but it’s hard to beat the tangible satisfaction of receiving hand-delivered, personalised cards. Overall, the benefits of sending them outweigh the costs and cons, as corporate cards can be a creative way of promoting your brand and boosting staff morale. But before you post a single card, you need to outline YOUR reasons for making business Christmas cards; what exactly are you trying to achieve? Establishing a goal will help to shape the design of your card and influence the direction your Christmas card campaign will take. 

The reasons for sending company Christmas cards are abundant, and your cards may satisfy more than one of the following goals. For example, corporate cards are not always recognised for what they are: a marketing endeavour which seeks to improve one’s perception of the brand or company. While it may come across as overly desperate or tacky to include a specific reference to your business’s success or a recent achievement, you can at least include your logo or colour scheme to remind the recipient of who’s responsible for the exquisite card! Holiday cards can also help to strengthen relationships between employers and employees, companies and clients: while a simple card might not work ‘magic’ per se, it’s an opportunity to thank some of your trusted partners and colleagues for their work and custom. 

At its most basic, a Christmas card is a time-honoured tradition, and many businesses make a point of sending them every year. If you do the same, it will help to mark your company as an established, reliable enterprise, with experience in the industry and respect for old customs.

Who Who Who!

Now that you’ve committed to sending corporate Christmas cards, it’s time to set yourself some parameters. While it’s tempting to order more cards than you need, it’s more effective to plan exactly who will be getting a card this year. Draw up a list of the most vital people in your contact list, beginning with your on-site employees and colleagues, and calculate how many cards you will require. Then consult any lists you have of your off-site associates, and make sure that their addresses are up to date. If you’re unsure, contact them and ask them to confirm their details; this might even allow you to signal, ahead of time, that you plan to send a card, allowing them to return the favour. This will open up a chain of communication that could have dwindled in the past but which may prove useful in the future, and to do so in a fun, informal way.

With this in mind, you may want to extend your contact list to all and sundry, in the hope that this will rekindle custom or ignite interest in your wares. However, it’ll probably come across as disingenuous to send cards to clients about whom you know little. Instead, send the cards to more viable prospects, and ideally, directly to the employee with whom you have had the most interaction. This will ensure that your card is handled with more respect and care – rather than sending it to the company director, who may hardly know you! Beware, too, of the cut-off point for Christmas post. Don’t procrastinate: leave enough time to design, write and proof the card, rather than having it come down to the wire. Some companies and offices might close early for Christmas, in fact, and it would be polite to allow them time to respond, should they wish to send you a card in return! 

Looks Like Christmas

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the card is what it will actually look like: the presentation will attract the most attention and comments from your recipients. If you’d rather not labour too much over the design, you could commission a professional artist to create something for you. There are numerous designers on social media that you can enlist to create a corporate card for you, taking much of the pressure off you and your team. Another option, and a particularly fun one, could be to have a competition within your company to design the best card, or maybe even a calendar! Using their drawing, photography or Photoshop skills, you can assign your employees the task of trying to produce the best card; you could even split the staff into teams so that the task is more manageable and enjoyable. The prize could be something like a Christmas hamper, or an increased bonus: something that will help to rally the troops around one festive goal. 

Printing photos on your card is a particularly popular idea. Set one day aside for your employees to come in wearing costumes, or Christmas jumpers, and take a group photo of everyone in full regalia! One of the other things a photo Christmas card can do is to convey an impression of what it’s like to work at your company, and if the staff look like they’re having fun or the work environment looks pleasant, it may well help your brand. Think about the industry in which you work, too. If you’re a magazine, store or website, you’ll want something fun and uplifting; on the other hand, if you’re a law firm or medical organisation, you should opt for an understated and professional look. 

Festive Reading

The final component of the perfect company Christmas card is the message. Your greeting will emphasise the strong connections you have forged with your colleagues and clients throughout the year, and because of this, you should avoid printing a generic message on each card. The act of handwriting is, in our digital age, almost a lost art, which is why it will add a personal, old-school touch when you sign your own name or include a unique note. It needn’t be long – you’ll probably have hundreds of these to write – but even the shortest salutation will display warmth and attentiveness.

Of course, if you’re going to write individual messages, be sure there’s someone around to monitor them in some way! Be careful of using humour, for example, because something that’s funny to you might not be to others. A message that looks forward to the New Year, or which thanks the recipient for their time that year, is perfect: it’s positive and encouraging, while still making some allusion to your business connection. Obviously, check the spelling and grammar of your card to make sure that it sounds articulate and professional, and you’re almost done!

With these questions answered, you’re now prepared to print and produce your card. The most important thing is, once again, to start early: it’ll take time to design, print and write high-quality Christmas cards, aside from the time they’ll spend in transit. The process is time-consuming, but that’s exactly why it’s worthwhile: you’ll show your customers and staff that, even when it comes to the humble holiday card, your business goes the extra mile.

Why You Should Play Board Games and Tabletop Games

Did you know that board games and tabletop games have their origins in ancient Egypt? Almost 3,000 years ago, in the Middle Kingdom and Early Dynastic periods of Egyptian history, people played board games like Mehen, which used lion and lioness-shaped counters and marbles. The most popular board game was Senet, a draughts-like game which involved moving pieces from one end of the board to the other. Meanwhile, dice games were played in ancient Greece and Rome, and our Western version of chess has its origins in the East, in games like xiangqi and shogi, which are still played today. From mahjong to Monopoly, board, card, and tabletop games have a long and storied history.

In the 21st century, gaming has become synonymous with computer and video games. But, as the above examples show, the best board games predate, quite significantly, online, PC and console gaming. For board games to have endured this long demonstrates their health and educational benefits, as well as the fun, convivial atmosphere associated with playing some of your favourite games. In the article below, we’re going to elaborate on some of the virtues of board games and explain why they’ve enjoyed a resurgence as of late. With autumn drawing in and the nights getting colder, it’s time to pick up 2 cards, collect £200 when you pass GO, and discover if it really was Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick…

They’re Good For You 

Every board, card, and tabletop game has a set of rules, directions and win conditions, yet these rules are not typically visible at all times throughout the game. Players are expected to absorb, memorise and manipulate these rules and victory conditions in order to participate and succeed at the game, and this requires critical thinking and good memory skills. Board games are particularly good for children’s cognitive development, as they help to foster motor, maths and communication skills. Drawing pictures, rolling dice, and building towers helps to refine kids’ hand-eye coordination, and calculating scores, penalties or Monopoly money helps them to practise some basic arithmetic.

Board games also reinforce more sophisticated skills. Your reasoning and problem-solving abilities are tested by games that ask you to deduce answers or eliminate possibilities with logic (as in Guess Who, or Cluedo). Most significantly, many tabletop games, like Dungeons & Dragons, inspire you to create your own narrative and are therefore a way of unlocking your creative and storytelling potential. In these long-form games, players must invent characters, choosing their weapons and abilities, and ultimately adopting the persona of that character in subsequent sessions of the game. In particular, the ‘Dungeon Master’, the organiser and narrator of the game, must design a scenario that the other players will enjoy, making it a social, imaginative experience. A smaller, more localised example is that of Rory’s Story Cubes, a game designed by Belfast-based Rory O’Connor. In this game, players must roll a set of dice with pictures on them – they could be animals, characters or activities – and then invent a story incorporating those elements. This is a fun way of relieving both boredom and writer’s block, and there’s even a Batman version!  

They’re an Alternative to Technology 

As we’ve said, many people associate gaming nowadays with video games and esports, and the popularity of these hobbies can’t be understated. However, if you’d like some respite from online gaming and 100-hour role-playing games, then it might be worth digging out a deck of cards or quiz questions for an old-school gaming experience. Video games CAN improve hand-eye coordination and reaction speed, like board games; but they’re also quite sedentary experiences and often require countless hours to complete. Playing a board game is a finite, contained act, with a definitive end in sight, and thus it’s easier to sneak in a full game when time is of the essence. 

Furthermore, with British adults spending, on average, 24 hours a week online, board games are a way of switching off, both figuratively and literally. Board games aren’t reliant on data, broadband speed, bandwidth, or an online subscription, meaning that a game can be played practically anywhere. Indeed, the tangible, tactile act of rolling dice or arranging counters seems rather unique in our digital age, where other forms of entertainment, like CDs and DVDs, are being replaced by their virtual equivalents. 

From a design perspective, it’s also easier to create your own board game, as they require less money and IT expertise to create! According to Quintin Smith, because prototypes are easy to make – you can create a mockup in your own kitchen – “when you buy a board game, what you take home and play is the original concept precisely as it was in the designer’s head.” Many board games have also received significant funding on Kickstarter, so the prospect of having people play your very own board game, someday, is not beyond the bounds of possibility. 

There’s Something For Everybody 

Games like Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Risk are still popular, but now, more than ever, card, board, and tabletop games are diverse, catering to multiple different tastes and audiences. Alongside the old favourites like Jenga and Yahtzee, some newer board games rival them in popularity. For example, Catan, a game in which you work to settle an island, is now so popular that it’s used in some US business meetings as an ice-breaking or team-building exercise. For those who like interactive, thrill-a-minute games, Hasbro continues to publish perennial Milton Bradley favourites like Buckaroo! and Mouse Trap, and the degree of luck involved in these older games only adds to the fun and spontaneity. 

Some of the biggest card games include Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Magic: The Gathering, each of which incorporates a collectible element. Players can trade cards with each other in order to expand their collection and create a personalised deck with which they can compete against other gamers. This makes the game an ongoing social experience, and people discuss tips and strategies even when not actively playing the game. There exist other card-related games that are more condensed and accessible, of course. In Boss Monster, players must build mazes and dungeons in order to trap and ensnare adventurers, and in Love Letter, players must compete to be the first to deliver a love letter to a princess. This latter game comes in multiple different variants, including a version based on The Hobbit

They’re a Social Experience 

Board games are, generally, a social experience. We tend to associate board games with childhood and with family; with a time when siblings, relatives and friends hadn’t moved away for work or uni. With Christmas coming up, it’s an ideal time to relive those days, and that post-dinner slump could be the perfect incentive to source your favourite games from childhood, whether it’s Operation, Pictionary or The Game of Life. Not only are they a relaxing way to spend your time – they’re not as stimulating as video games, so they’re quite therapeutic – but they require face-to-face communication. Players must work together, or against each other, and the competitive or collaborative experience can strengthen relationships, offering new insights into people’s personalities. 

In 2019, a growing number of people are embracing the nostalgia of the tabletop game. The UK now boasts a significant number of board game cafés, where, for a nominal fee, you have access to prodigious collections of obscure games – as well as food, drink and company. The upsurge in the amount of people rediscovering the joy of board games has meant that conventions are being held regularly, too: events devoted to board, card, and tabletop gaming are taking place all over the UK and Ireland. If you’re interested in learning more about the best board games, would like help tracking down a particular item, or even just want someone to play with, these gaming shows are a great place to start!

Well, it looks like the game is over, the results are in, and the winner is… board games! With the above benefits in mind, it’s your turn to continue this millennia-old tradition. Get some friends together, buy some drinks and snacks, and hunt down, once and for all, those missing Connect 4 counters. You’ve got nothing to lose!