Celebrating 5 years of Hanami Dream!

Celebrating 5 years of Hanami Dream!

What a day for celebration the fourth of July is: Independence Day, Alice Day and also the 5th birthday of Hanami Dream weddings and special occasions!

five years since my first styled shoot

Yes, July marks five years since I published my first styled photo shoot under the umbrella of Hanami Dream. After that Alice in Wonderland shoot in 2014, came the Wizard of Oz, followed in 2016 by a Wind in the Willows wedding. The following year saw the addition of 3 more styled bridal shoots: a modern Edwardian Secret Garden themed wedding, a real break from tradition with a Festival style wedding and also a lovely winter Journey to the Centre of the Earth themed wedding. I love working with amazing local suppliers!

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography

five years since my first tweet

From my first tweet in 2014, to a steadily increasing readership (and social media following) with around 1,600 unique page views a month on average. Plus a combined social media network of over 5,500 followers and ongoing promotion and networking means this is ever growing.

five years since my first blog post

It’s crazy to think how much has evolved over the past five years; now 367 blog posts later and winner at the Event and Wedding category at the UK Blog Awards last year.

five years of accolades

I have had my styled shoots published in print and featured in Your Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wedding magazine and Your Glos & Wilts Wedding magazine. Plus, an article I wrote on 2019 wedding styling trends was published in Your Berks, Buck & Oxon Wedding magazine.

I was 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.
And Hanami Dream featured in the local press covering the role of judge in the UK Blog Awards 2019.

five years more credentials

I’m really pleased with my honoured collection of accolades, which include #QueenOf Wedding Inspiration by The Royal Connection, the #SmartSocial award from Marketme, #BrightPig’s Business of the Week, WOW Winner picked by Jacqueline Gold CBE. As well as winning Theo Paphitis’s #SBS (Small Business Sunday).

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 making me a Certified Wedding and Event Planner.

Over the last year, I’ve been pleased to be nomiated in the Foxy Deer Awards and the Cotswold Awards.

five years of supporting couples with wedding planning

I launched #UKWedLunch nearly 3 years ago, as well as being a guest host on #BrideHour and this year I was the wedding judge at the UK Blog Awards 2019.

I was also pleased to see the entries for a #WonderfulWeddingWares Instagram challenge this May.

five more years’ experience

As well as writing an award winning wedding blog, I’m also a wedding marketing specialist, with 18 years experience in a number of industries.

As well as providing inspiration to brides and grooms in the Cotswolds, I’ve continued to combine my previous 13 years of marketing experience, with my local knowledge, in the scope of the wedding industry. I provide marketing consultation to some local, independent wedding businesses in and around Witney, Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds where I’ve been affectionately titled the Wedding Inspector – a bit like the Alex Polizzi of the local wedding industry!

work with Hanami Dream

It has certainly been a busy year already and it is excitedly looking good for the remainder of 2019.

I’m looking forward to working with more local wedding professionals, services and venues #keepitlocal. And I can’t wait to produce more styled photo shoots and have more opportunities to collaborate with local suppliers.

Please get in touch if you’d like to advertise on the blog, submit your own wedding details, would like to collaborate on a shoot, write a guest post or need some marketing advice and guidance. Together we can build the local wedding industry and inspire brides and grooms for their special day.

Happy birthday to Hanami Dream – now where is the cake?!

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Keeping your wedding guests well watered

Keeping your wedding guests well watered

With World Gin Day this weekend, my thoughts go to wedding drinks.

Keeping your wedding guests well fed, watered and entertained is key to a really happy wedding day. Get this right and you’re on to a winner.

Remember everyone loves free things! If you can’t afford to pay for the bar all night then perhaps welcome drinks and some with the meal will be a nice gesture.

Here’s a quick guide to getting the drinks right for your wedding day.

1. Drink seasonally – if the weather is hot then you’ll need to make sure you’ve got plenty of cool drinks including non alcoholic beverages and possibly extra ice too. And vice versa, if it’s cold then consider offering a hot toddy, mulled wine or a hot chocolate to warm up your guests.

2. Service – if your guests are serving themselves then they may pour more than a bar tender. However they may drink less depending on the time of your wedding or on a weekday. So allow more or less accordingly.

3. Bar – the main alcohols to stock a basic wedding bar include: gin, vodka, rum, tequila, whisky, beer, wine, and champagne. And make sure you have a good selection of soft drinks, mixers and non alcoholic options too.

4. Drinks with the meal – roughly you can get 4 servings per bottle of wine (and 18 servings per bottle of liquor). Consider placing bottles of wine (and water) on the table for people to serve themselves during the meal.

5. Drinks with the toasts – allow 1 bottle for every 8 guests for the champagne toast and only pour half glasses (as most guests will just take sip and go back to their original drink).

6. Quick calculations – Here’s a quick sum to give you a rough number of drinks needed for your wedding = number of guests  x  1.5  x  number of hours of serving.


Photography by Farrow Photography


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Dealing with difficult wedding guests

Dealing with difficult wedding guests

There will probably be some tough decisions to make with your guest list. Ultimately, it all boils down to who you want in the room with you and how well do you want to know the people that are there.

After the guest list headaches, chasing RSVPs and endlessly revising the seating plan, there may be some issues to consider so you can avoid any dramas with tricky wedding attendees.

Here are my top 6 tips for dealing with difficult wedding guests.

1. Think about your guest list from the start. Be specific on the invitation to avoid unexpected plus ones. Have a plan if an unexpected guest arrives.

2. Brief your attendants. Perhaps give them on stand by with a secret code word to intervene with difficult guests. Think about any guests that may need to be kept a part (or away from the free bar!)

3. Seat difficult guests near the back or side at the reception. Consider seating divorced couples apart. Think about having a sweetheart table if your parents are not able to sit together on a traditional top table.

4. Ensure guests are kept well fed (it helps soaks up alcohol) to avoid drunken antics. Happy guests are less likely to be tetchy or bored.

5. Ask for any dietary requirements in advance. Make sure there’s no surprises on the day.

6. Keep the children entertained to stave off boredom. Consider outside or an additional room for them to play.

Photography by Farrow Photography



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Wedding venue review: Bodleian Library

Wedding venue review: Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library wedding venue

One of the things I love about our region is the complete diversity of the types of wedding venues available in and around the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire. With an abundance of barns, manor houses, hotels and beautiful backdrops to tie the knot.

It’s not often that I’m completely blown away by a venue the first time I see it, before it has been styled and dressed for an occasion. But this was certainly the case for the Bodleian Library – it wowed me at very first sight!

Stu Heppell Photography

Bodleian Library location

The dreaming spires of Oxford are a pull for many tourists and locals alike. Many crave the Oxford college look for a celebration but this isn’t always possible unless you’re part of the illusive alumni. However, you don’t have to be part of this elite to utilise this stunning space.

The Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe (dating back to 1488) and the largest in the UK. An extensive working reference library which is part of the University of Oxford.

Set in Oxford city centre with entrances from Broad Street, Catte Street and Radcliffe Square into the Old School Quadrangle of the Old Bodleian Library.

Goose & Berry | That Event Company | Fabulous Flowers

Breath taking ceiling

It’s rare that you find a venue that just speaks for itself and has the wow factor without any frills or accessories. This little beauty doesn’t need to be dolled up to the nines to look good – it has got the natural look down to a fine art. It is quintessentially English so it’s no wonder it’s been used to typify English culture in so many films.

The ceiling is breath taking. And whilst you may balk at some restrictions in other venues, here you can completely understand why balloons or candles would be a no-no (after all there is an extensive and renowned library just above your head!) You are paying for an amazing atmosphere here.

Photography by Nicola & Glen

Preferred suppliers

With this in mind, they specify that you use their preferred supplier for lighting as they know the ancient electrics inside out. And the Bodleian Library have partnered up with Oxford Fine Dining (who seem to be prolific in this area of the industry at the moment) for all your catering needs.

Aside from that, you have the chance to bring in your own florist, photographer and any other suppliers for your day. This venue is a dry hire so everything has to be brought in by suppliers – including the kitchen sink. However, there is an amazing experienced wedding coordinator to offer you guidance and support.

Dale Stephens Photography

Grand and intimate celebrations

There are three main areas that make up the rooms for hire. Firstly, the Divinity School (which can sit up to 120 people for your wedding breakfast) with its striking carved gothic ceiling and huge arched windows, making this the most impressive of the three. You could have your ceremony and reception in this room alone from 4pm.

Or you could use the adjacent Convocation House, with its court like appearance which was a 17th century meeting place for the debating society and still houses the chapel style seating for around 100 people. This could also be for ceremony and a more intimate seated dinner throughout the day.

Better still, you could opt for a combination of the two options and mix and match the rooms you utilise.

There is a smaller Chancellor’s Court room next door which in the evening will act as a make shift kitchen for the caterers or a private entrance for your ceremony during the day.

A drinks reception would be idyllic outside in the Old School’s Quadrangle amidst the statues, whilst the bride and groom go off to have photos in the Duke Humfrey Library. A guided tour for 20 of your guests could also be arranged during your drinks reception.

Alexandra Jane Photography


This wedding venue is a magnificient blank canvas. Whilst it was certainly not built for weddings in the 13th century, it more than makes up for its slightly trickier organisation process with its unique charm and character. In spade fulls.

The ceiling alone is awesome and you’d be forgiven for just staring at the rafters for the duration of any event. It is not an exaggeration to say that this place is stunning.

Throw in a morning punting and a sighting of Morse and you’ll have fully submerged in a dreamy Oxford world.


Type of venue: historic building
Find out more: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/weddings
Location: The Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BG
Wedding season: year round
Guests: 100-120
Marquee option: n/a
Ceremony: licensed (in two rooms)
Venue hire: from £1800 (ceremony only) or £6550 for wedding reception. Bespoke packages available. 
Nearest church: University Church of St Mary the Virgin, The High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ
Wedding breakfast: packages with Oxford Fine Dining www.oxfordfinedining.co.uk
Accommodation: Old Bank Hotel nearby www.oldbank-hotel.co.uk
Wedding fairs: Wedding showcase 23rd February 2019 and throughout the year
Other things worth a mention: You may have spotted this venue is some pretty high profile films including Harry Potter and the recent ‘The Favourite’ starring Olivia Coleman who got an Oscar for best actress for her role.

Goose & Berry | That Event Company | Fabulous Flowers

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Join the #WonderfulWeddingWares Instagram challenge this May

Join the #WonderfulWeddingWares Instagram challenge this May

#WonderfulWeddingWares May 2019

Join the #WonderfulWeddingWares Instagram challenge this May with Hanami Dream!

What is #WonderfulWeddingWares?

This month long challenge is about making new contacts, finding new people to follow and discovering the amazing talent our region has to offer the wedding industry. It’s the little details that bring any event to life and a wedding is a culmination of many different beautiful and wonderful wedding wares from an array of amazing suppliers.

In this challenge there is a new wedding theme for each day of the month of May – simply post your photo to your Instagram feed along with the #WonderfulWeddingWares hashtag. There’s no need to take new photos to join in – you can choose to tag an existing image that you have already posted that you feel fits the theme well. And don’t worry if you don’t have an image for every day – just do the ones that fit your products.

Who is #WonderfulWeddingWares for?

This challenge is for any wedding supplier offering their products to couples getting married in the Cotswolds, UK such as: photographers, venues, stylists, stationery designers, florists, dress makers, favour producers, tableware renters, prop hire companies, jewellery designers, cake makers and anyone else who provides a place, product or service that make up a wonderful wedding day.

It’s a great opportunity to showcase your own wonderful wedding wares. Tell your friends and colleagues – let’s get as many involved as we can.

Just tag your posts with #WonderfulWeddingWares

When does #WonderfulWeddingWares start?

Get ready for the start on Wednesday 1st May 2019. I can’t wait for May – with two bank holidays and my birthday thrown in there too, plus it’ll be great to see the different ways you creative lot interpret each theme. I will also pick a selection of each theme from different suppliers to make mood boards to share on social media and my blog.

#WonderfulWeddingWares prompts

Here are the #WonderfulWeddingWares prompts for May 2019 (weekends and bank holidays in bold):

  1. Eco
  2. Circus/carnival
  3. Medieval
  4. Industrial
  5. Great Gatsby
  6. Red
  7. Pink
  8. Gold
  9. Yellow
  10. Chocolate
  11. Purple
  12. Blue
  13. Spring
  14. Summer
  15. Autumn
  16. Winter
  17. Rain
  18. Outdoors
  19. Nighttime
  20. White
  21. Black
  22. Pastel
  23. Green
  24. Bold colours
  25. Tartan
  26. Mismatched
  27. Sparkly
  28. Lace
  29. Paper
  30. Fruit
  31. Festival

Follow Hanami Dream, the creator of this challenge, on Instagram.




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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.”




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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.


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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.


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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.

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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/

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winner UK Blog Awards 2018

wonderful wedding wares