Hanami Dream announce winner of the wedding UK Blog Award 2019

Hanami Dream announce winner of the wedding UK Blog Award 2019

UK Blog Awards 2019

I was delighted to judge the wedding category in the UK Blog Awards 2019. In case you missed it, on Friday night I had the honour of announcing and announce the winner and highly commended blogs. 

Take a look on YouTube or read my speech below.

Wedding category announcement

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the announcement of the winner and highly commended wedding blogs of the UK Blog Awards 2019.

My name is Nicola Jackson from Hanami Dream – a wedding blog based in the beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds. And a very proud winner of the wedding UK Blog Awards 2018. I’m delighted to hand on the baton to the winner this year.



Eco friendly weddings

It’s a sad fact that, by their nature, weddings can be quite wasteful.

So it’s great to see more couples addressing this by choosing eco friendly options to reduce the impact that their wedding day has on the environment.

More and more couples are going greener, thinking seasonally, reducing paper usage, keeping it local, having a smaller more intimate day, offering alternative menu choices and making more diy elements themselves. They’re considering how they can reuse elements after the day by donating any wastage to those less fortunate, offsetting the carbon footprint and reducing costs.



Marriage laws

Changes in the law have also had an impact on the diversity of weddings taking place and weddings are becoming more and more personal.

So it’s great to see this evolution and diversity being mirrored in the blogging world –


Wedding blog finalists

I’ve really enjoyed reading the finalists’ in this year’s wedding category and seeing how they portray a modern stance on the world of weddings and addressing up to date alternatives to old traditions.

I love that the wedding genre overlaps many other categories too such as Eco, Law, Lifestyle, Fashion and Finance amongst others.

I encourage more wedding blogs to enter next year – it’s a great exposure and experience and a wonderful chance to show off your own niche.

The finalists this year have epitomised the diversity of the wedding industry, showing originality, a forward thinking conscience and how we can all start to make a difference. They are as personal and individual as the weddings they report on.

The finalist are:
Gay Wedding Blog
Magpie Wedding
Quirky Nuptials
Say I do on a budget
The Lovely Little Label
Unconventional Wedding
Wed in Central Park


Winners of the wedding category of the UK Blog Awards 2019

By the power vested in me by the UK Blog Awards, I now pronounce that the highly commended wedding blog is… Fierce Blooms
A wonderful personal voice showing authenticity, highly environmentally conscience and amazing story telling that paints a picture.

And it gives me great pleasure in announcing that the winner of the wedding category of the UK Blog Awards 2019 is…
Gay Wedding Blog
Not only a fantastic design with strong imagery but a clear purpose showing originality and diversity.

Huge congratulations to all the finalists and a very well done to the winners in this year’s UK Blog Awards.

Enjoy the celebrations.”




sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

wonderful wedding wares

Wedding trends in the Cotswolds

Wedding trends in the Cotswolds

Insight in to weddings

Looking at current wedding trends can provide valuable insight for those working in the wedding industry (such as venues, planners or suppliers) as well as couples wedding planning. Trends can give an idea of popular thinking, areas of growth, ways to save money and how to differentiate and personalise away from these common elements.

Wedding revenue

The wedding industry is a year round business, although it does have seasonal fluctuations with the main wedding season of April-October in the UK. It is currently worth around £10 billion each year in the UK and the market is refreshed 100% every year with new customers.

Value of weddings

Brexit could have a huge affect on prices including importing flowers and labour. Plus a possible recession could mean reduced wedding budgets as inflation rates increase.

A weak value of the British pound may mean that it is less likely for UK couples to travel aboard for a destination wedding. However it may make the UK an attractive destination wedding location for non UK couples. The recent royal weddings have also boosted the wedding industry and tourism. So wedding suppliers may be able to capitalise on these changes.

Number of weddings declining

Since 1972, the number of marriages in England and Wales has shown a steady decline. In 2012, the number of marriages in England and Wales increased by 5.3% on the previous year. However in 2013, the number of marriages in England and Wales decreased by 8.6% which was the first decline since 2009.

In 2014, the number of marriages between opposite sex couples increased by 2.7% from 2013 but dipped again in 2015. There were also 4,850 marriages between same sex couples in 2014 and 6,493 in 2015. The introduction of marriages of same sex couples since 29 March 2014 showed an increase in marriages compared with separate civil ceremonies.

Average age increasing

By contrast the average age of marriages in England and Wales continues to rise overall year on year since the 1970s. Among opposite sex couples, more women than men married at ages under 30; on average, men tend to form relationships with women younger than themselves. Among same sex couples, more women than men married at ages under 50.

For marriages of opposite sex couples, the average age for men marrying in 2015 was 37.5 years, while for women it was 35.1 years. The average age at marriage for same sex couples in 2015 was slightly higher at 40.6 years for men and 37.0 years for women. An aging population means more older couples are marrying/remarrying aged 65 to 69.

Increase in ceremonies in civil approved venues

In 1995, the law was changed to allow marriages to be conducted in other civil approved venues (other than religious venue or a registry office). Now 40% of ceremonies are carried out in these type of venues. The number of civil approved venues continues to rise and more couples chose to marry in this type of premise.

Going forwards the type of ceremony in England and Wales could include legal outdoor ceremonies. There has been lots of talk around the government trying to help couples getting married to keep wedding costs down with a view to the end of austerity. This proposed change is already the case in Scotland where ceremonies can be legally held outdoors, not just by a religious leader or registrants but also for humanists to conduct legally binding ceremonies. 

Saturdays most popular day to get married

The weekend continues to be the most popular (and therefore most expensive) day of the week to get married. Whilst Wednesday is the least popular day. Couples are looking at alternative under utilised week day weddings to open up possibilities and potentially lower the cost of venue hire. However this would mean that guests would need to take time off work to attend.

August most popular month to get married

Whilst British weather isn’t guaranteed in summer months, it doesn’t stop August, July, September and May being the most popular months to get married in England and Wales.
January, February, November and March are least popular months to tie the knot. Winter and Christmas weddings are on the increase as are those near bank holidays and school holidays such as Easter and October half terms.

Number of couples cohabiting prior to marriage increasing

With the main market of the millennial generation getting married, the number of couples cohabiting prior to marriage continues to increase each year. With 87.7% of weddings of opposite sex couples in 2015 and 95.2% of wedding of same sex couples in 2015.

Average cost of wedding increasing

The average cost of a wedding is currently over £27,000 outside of London (with the average cost of a wedding in London over £38,000). An incredible 4% of weddings in the southeast cost more than £100,000. This often does not include the average cost of a honeymoon at £3,704.

Wedding budget costs have seen an outstanding 35% increase in the last 10 years. However there is an deeper distinction of wedding extremes with budgets being at very ends of the spectrum such as lavish celebrity style wedding versus diy weddings with more homemade elements.

Weddings in the Cotswolds

Located in a beautiful part of the UK with stunning lush countryside, an abundance of barns, manor houses, hotels and beautiful backdrops to tie the knot. It’s no wonder that every year 20,106 of couples getting married in England choose to say ‘I do’ in the Cotswolds, with 3,269 weddings in Oxfordshire each year.


sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

10 reasons guests will love your Cotswold wedding

10 reasons guests will love your Cotswold wedding

Wedding venues in the Cotswolds

Hanami Dream is based in West Oxfordshire and there are some truly beautiful wedding venues to choose from in the surrounding Cotswolds. Whether in a barn, a manor house, a marquee or a hotel, there are some amazing places to hold your wedding or special occasion. Take a look at the venues with wedding licences where you can get married in West Oxfordshire.

Places for your guests to visit in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is a relaxing escape from the big cities, with rolling hills, acres of lavender fields, historical towns, stately homes and picturesque, chocolate box villages with their honey coloured limestone buildings.

So it is no wonder many couples choose to say ‘I do’ in this area of outstanding natural beauty. Your guests may have travelled far and wide for your big day so may wish to stay overnight (or longer). After the wedding, here are some places that your guests may wish to visit in and around Witney to make a proper get away of their trip (and five of them you can get married at too!) As featured on travel blog Twenty Six O Two.

1. Historical Witney

Witney is famous for 3 Bs: blankets, bread and beer. The major one of these is it’s woollen mills and blanket industry. Blankets were first made here in AD969 and there was a working blanket factory until 2002. There are old woollen mills around the town (although most are converted to offices or flats now).

A walking tour of the town takes in most of the relevant locations such as the Market Place, The Blanket Hall, Weavers Cottages, The Buttercross, Corn Exchange (where you can have a civil wedding ceremony) and the River Windrush (which would have provided clean water for cloth making and was a good stream to power the mills). Witney and District Museum is worth a visit for history buffs and there are awesome monthly pie nights held at The Blanket Hall.

Witney also has a history of brewing since 1841 and the Wychwood Brewery is sited here brewing the legendary Hobgoblin beer and offers guided tours and tastings.

2. Cogges Manor Farm

Cogges Manor Farm is a local museum and farm attraction which puts on lots of events throughout the year. It is a haven and wonderful place to escape with the children.

More than just a farm museum, it was a set location for a lot of the interior shots of Downtown Abbey, as well as featuring as the childhood home of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in the film Colette, released in 2019 and starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West.

With beautiful grounds, animals and a manor house, it also has two stunning seventeenth century barns which provide a wonderful setting for weddings and celebrations.


Photography by Squib Photography
3. Witney Shops & free parking

Witney boasts a great number of unique and independent retailers (like Rapture and the Old Pill Factory) as well as some major big hitters (such as M&S, Debenhams, Next, Fat Face and White Stuff). With two main shopping areas at either end of the High Street, people flock to shop in Witney. Even more so as the parking is free throughout the town.

4. The Leys

At the bottom of the High Street, is Church Green which is great to sit and take a rest from shopping. Or just the other side of St Mary’s Church is The Leys, a spacious recreational ground.

The Leys makes a great day out with the kids, complete with amazing park equipment, a splash park, crazy golf and toilets. You can take a picnic or eat at The Coffee Shed. During the summer months it is used as the perfect place to host Witney carnival and numerous music concerts.


5. Ducklington Lake

Witney Lake (known locally as Duck or Ducklington Lake) is a picturesque spot for a leisurely walk just a short way from the town centre.

Good for relaxing walks, bird watching, fishing or feeding the ducks, it is exactly a mile to go around the lake. If you fancy a slightly longer walk you can go across fields towards the neighbouring village of Ducklington, home of the elusive Fritillary flower.

6. Old Swan & Minster Mill

Not far out of Witney is Minster Lovell, an idyllic and remote Oxfordshire village. You can walk to the Minster ruins from Witney if you’re feeling spritely. Where you could reward yourself with a refreshing drink at the Old Swan and Minster Mill, or better still enjoy their spa facilities to completely unwind. A 5-star country inn set on the River Windrush surrounded by 65 acres of Cotswold wildflower meadows and riverside gardens. This is a destination to get away from the hectic, crowded city to a stunning and tranquil setting.


Photography by Farrow Photography

7. Crocodiles of the World

A short drive towards Brize Norton, will bring you to the UK’s only crocodile zoo, Crocodiles of the World. There are over 150 crocodiles there from 15 different species including crocodiles, alligators and caimans, as well as other reptiles.

Feeding time is always exciting to watch and the knowledgeable staff give really in depth and interesting talks at different times of the day, plus you might even get the chance to hold a baby croc.

8. Cotswold Wildlife Park

There are so many reasons to visit the nearby town of Burford including the immense garden centre, its medieval bridge, old stone houses and attractive frontage. Burford is quite rightly called one of the most picturesque towns in England and just simply walking around the town can happily wile away an afternoon.

In addition, Cotswold Wildlife Park (just outside of Burford) is well worth a visit with so many amazing animals to see including lions, giraffes (where you can go on to a platform to be face to face with them), rhinos (and even a baby rhino), zebras, penguins, birds, reptiles, primates, as well as a farmyard, train and adventure playground.

9. Eynsham Hall

The opposite way out of Witney, set in rural Oxfordshire lies Eynsham Hall which, despite its name, is actually in North Leigh (on the road between Witney and Woodstock) rather than in Eynsham itself. After driving through wooded areas, you come upon some impressive gates that lead the way to the estate. The half-a-mile, tree-lined, driveway escorts you until the Hall slowly comes in to view.

You can certainly spoil yourself at this country house hotel and enjoy a lavish afternoon tea at Eynsham Hall.

10. Blenheim Palace

You can’t come to this neck of the woods without a visit to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock. Birthplace of Winston Churchill, steeped in history with absolutely phenomenal grounds, palace tours, butterfly house, maze, miniature train and adventure playground. Not to mention all the events and shows that are put on throughout the year, as well as being able to get married in style here.


sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

“Thank you…for helping to put some clarity on what is otherwise a minefield”

“Thank you…for helping to put some clarity on what is otherwise a minefield”

“That’s a real insight. Thanks again – you’ve been such a massive help.

Thank you for meeting, sharing ideas and helping to put some clarity on what is otherwise a minefield for somebody like me.

Your time and effort really was appreciated!”

Ian Carlisle – March 2019

sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

Wedding marketing advice published

Wedding marketing advice published

Marketing article featured on Bride magazine

As well as writing an award winning wedding blog, I’m also a wedding marketing specialist, with 17 years experience in a number of industries.

During my career I’ve obtained my CIM Professional Diploma in Marketing and worked in various marketing roles for 13 years before starting my own business. I’ve also obtained my Diploma in Wedding and Event Planning with the UK Academy of Wedding & Event Planners.

Hanami Dream was founded in 2014, which combines my marketing skills and photo shoot experience along with my passion and knowledge of the wedding industry and local market. My marketing background gives me the insight and experience to help local wedding businesses with their marketing strategy and promotional plans.

So I’m proud to have one of my wedding marketing advice articles published on Bride magazine to help wedding suppliers to start and maintain a good company blog.

Keep an eye out for more posts where I share marketing advice for venues and wedding industry professionals from small, local, independent wedding businesses in and around Witney, Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. 



sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

Wedding traditions: Toasting the happy couple

Wedding traditions: Toasting the happy couple

There are many traditions, rituals and customs that people uphold and perform in connection with weddings. Some of these have now lost their relevance in modern society and sometimes we are not even sure why we undertake them. However we continue to perform them for fun, family tradition and superstition, especially as many of them have derived from efforts to bestow the happy couple with good luck.

After the ceremony, one of big focal points of the wedding reception is the speeches and toasts. Here’s a quick guide to toasting the happy couple on their wedding day.


Why do we make toasts at weddings?

Traditionally toasts were a way of checking your drink wasn’t poisoned. This custom harks back to the Middle Ages to check that you hadn’t been poisoned by your enemy. A small bit of wine was poured into each other’s glass, clinked so that the wine splashed into the other person’s glass, and then tasted. This is also why often the toast is joined by the phrase ‘to your health’.

Some say that the clink sound was to keep evil spirits at bay. And back in Elizabethan times, an actual bit of spiced toast was put in drinks to flavour it and to soak up the dregs (with the person being honoured receiving the saturated piece of toast).

Nowadays, a toast is used to express and share feelings in words at a special event.


Photography by Farrow Photography

Who makes a toast at weddings?

Traditionally, there are a number of speeches with each ending in a toast. The first of these is a welcome toast performed by the host (often the father of the bride) who concludes his speech by toasting the bride and groom.

The second speech is often by the groom, who finishes by toasting the bridesmaids and attendants. The best man replies on behalf of all the attendants and ends with a final toast to the bride and groom.

Photography by Thomas Phillips

Photography by Thomas Phillips


When do you make toasts at weddings?

Toasts generally follow after the speeches which brings the formal part of the wedding day to an end and is a signal for the informal part to begin.


Champagne coupe glasses and gold cutlery | Journey to the Centre of the Earth | modern ethereal winter styled bridal shoot by Hanami Dream | agate | marble | airplants | tulle | pale blue | gold | Oxleaze Barn | Gloucestershire | October 2017 | Photography by Squib Photography www.squibphotography.co.uk

What do you use to make toasts at weddings?

Traditionally a different drink is served for the speeches at a wedding. Guests have their glasses charged and ready to take a sip after each toast. This can be with champagne, sparkling wine or Prosecco. Alternatives for drinks to accompany the toasts could include a shot for each toast, a signature cocktail, sparkling elderflower or have your guests choose their own drink.

Photography by Squib Photography

How do you make toasts at weddings?

Originally a toast would be raising your cup as a drink offering to the god(s). This translates now with an arm outstretched with a glass in your hand and saying either: please be upstanding, please raise your glasses, or join me in toasting. Followed by a sentence for everyone else to repeat like ‘to the bride and groom’, ‘to the happy couple, ‘to your health’ or something else as equally poignant.


Photography by Farrow Photography

Whichever customs and traditions you decide to incorporate into your big day, Hanami Dream wish you health, wealth, happiness and all the very best in your married life.

Take a break from tradition with this handy guide to modern alternatives to personalise your wedding.

sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

Inspiration: bright contemporary museum wedding

Inspiration: bright contemporary museum wedding

Modern museum wedding 

For some absolute wedding goals, take at look at these images from a recent photo shoot at the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology in Oxford. The photos are picture perfect, with a modern and bright, walking work of art vibe to showcase this stand out classic wedding venue. 

Ashmolean Museum wedding venue

This venue is a beautiful hidden gem of a wedding venue. From the outside you don’t know the expanse of options that are available inside The Ashmolean Museum. It provides a truly wonderful labyrinth of options to hold a wedding or special occasion. See my wedding venue review of the Ashmolean Museum.

Decadent décor

The Ashmolean Museum gives you maximum impact with minimal effort, as the backdrop of this venue needs no help in packing a punch – the wow factor is there for you already! This is a venue which is quiet, personal and intimate, yet very much on the grand scale.

There are many options and different ways you could use a combination of the galleries for all the elements of your wedding day. Each one has it’s own character, atmosphere and capacity that can be suited to your number of guests and requirements. This shoot has images taken in: the Grand Forecourt; Ceramics Gallery; Randolph Sculpture Gallery; Grand Staircase; and the European Art Gallery.

Contemporary bridal wear

This wedding photo shoot shows modern Charlie Brear outfits including a Carson Jumpsuit; separates in the form of a Luna top and skirt; plus a low V, effortlessly cool, boho Nyika Dress.

You’ll be a living statue and your own work of art on your wedding day at this venue.

Fun florals

The stunning flowers in the bouquet, crown and arm cuff made a real statement alongside the cool architecture and simple white outfits with: Red Snaps, Astilbe Gloria, Avignon Blooms, Red Euphorbia, Brown Lisianthus, Protea, Cafe Mocca Rose, Hot Pink Lace Rose, Parvifolia, Red Robin, Mimosa and Long Ruscus.

The bright and colourful florals made this the Ashmolean and their amazing technicolour dream wedding venue.

images credits:

Venue | Ashmolean Museum | https://www.ashmolean.org/weddings
Photography | Matthew Pattimore Photography | https://www.matthewpattimorephotography.com/
Hair & make up | Rachael Capocci | https://www.rachaelcapocci.com/
Dresses | Ellie Sanderson | https://elliesanderson.co.uk/
Flowers | Flowers by Kirsty | https://www.flowersbykirsty.com/
Planner | Stacey Puffer | https://www.instagram.com/staceypuffer_weddingplanner/
Model | Andrea Taverni

As featured in OX Weddings Winter 2019 edition | http://oxweddings.co.uk/the-magazine/

sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

“You have such sound advice and always willing to share and guide”

“You have such sound advice and always willing to share and guide”

“Thank you from the Bride’s mother too!

You have such sound advice and always willing to share and guide.

Wishing you continued success for 2019 because it is MUCH deserved. “

Mother of the Bride – February 2019

sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

Wedding venue review: Millets Farm

Wedding venue review: Millets Farm

Millets Farm wedding venue

After a three year hiatus and some fantastic renovations, Millets Farm have reopened their Lakeview Suite to hold wedding receptions.

With amazing views of the lake, the farm on hand to entertain the whole family and a big versatile space, this is more than just a function room – this has wonderful charm and character.


Millets Farm location

I have visited Millets Farm many times as a parent and enjoyed the vast and ever growing facilities and attractions that it has on offer. We’ve enjoyed the maize maze, pick your own fruit, the garden centre, the new play barn and the delicious wares of the farm shop.

However I had never been upstairs, above the Farmhouse Kitchen, and seen the Lakeview Suite – a private space with it’s own access and outdoor balconies across some great views of the farm.

The restaurant building was built in 1990 but the Lakeview Suite has recently returned to weddings with a renovated, vaulted ceiling, wooden beams and panoramic views.


Spacious function room

It surprised me how much space this room has to offer. And the light pours in to the room. Don’t let one big open space be daunting as you can easily partition the room to act as different areas for your big day.

Plus it has a cosy bar and seating area to provide excellent places for guests to unwind and mingle.

The room hire includes 120 chairs plus round or trestle tables for your wedding reception. It is a great space to be able to decorate and make it your own.

Not only that but the whole space is remarkably quiet and peaceful even with it’s proximity to the farm and restaurant.

The facilities are great and this is brilliant value for money.


Catering partners

For one less thing to worry about organising, there is exclusive in house catering with some high quality food packages provided by catering partners, Oxford Farm Weddings. They create delicious, bespoke wedding menus at Millets Farm.

Plus look no further than the on site bakery for celebration cakes, whether that be a traditional wedding cake or perhaps a cake of cheese.


Far from just farm facitiies

Whilst this wedding venue isn’t currently licensed for ceremonies yet, it is something that they are seriously considering and is likely to be available in the not too distant future.

They also have plans for a beautiful pier by the lake to have your wedding photographs.

There’s also a boutique on site (Beauty within Millets) to get ready before the big day.


Millets Farm is a family run business and they have lovingly renovated this space – using the three year break to refine their wedding packages. Lakeview Suite at Millets Farm feels like it’s a new wedding venue on the scene because they’ve returned with a space that is a bit different than the rest.  It is great value for money, with great facilities, amazing food packages and beautiful views.

Type of venue:
function room
Find out more: https://milletsfarmcentre.com/what-s-here/for-weddings.html
Location: Lakeview Suite, Millets Farm Centre, Kingston Road, Frilford, Oxfordshire, OX13 5HB
Wedding season: year round
Guests: 120-150
Marquee option: n/a
Ceremony: not licensed (yet!)
Venue hire: from £2000
Nearest church: St John the Baptist, Abingdon Road, Kingston Bagpuize, OX13 5AY
Wedding breakfast: packages from £60pp with Oxford Farm Weddings
Accommodation: local hotels and b&bs
Wedding fairs: Wedding Open Day 26th January 2019
Other things worth a mention:  a great family day out

image credits:

Photography | Matthew Pattimore Photography | https://www.matthewpattimorephotography.com/
Flowers | Flowers by Kirsty | https://www.flowersbykirsty.com/
Styling & décor | My Taylor Made Wedding | https://www.mytaylormadewedding.co.uk/
Chair bows | Bowtique Chair Covers | http://bowtiquechaircovers.co.uk/





sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares

Wedding judge interview with the UK Blog Awards

Wedding judge interview with the UK Blog Awards

Proud to be the wedding judge for the UK Blog Awards 2019


Checkout my interview with the UK Blog Awards to see how I got started and what being a judge means to me.






sign up to receive the latest posts straight to your inbox

winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares