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Top blog post in 2020 on Hanami Dream

Top blog post in 2020 on Hanami Dream

  1. Winner at the UK Blog Awards 2018!
  2. Top Spring 2020 colours from Pantone®
  3. Top Fall 2020 colours from Pantone® for autumn weddings
  4. Top Spring 2021 colours from Pantone®
  5. Top 13 local catering vans for weddings in the Cotswolds
  6. Wedding venue review: Bodleian Library
  7. Inspiration: wedding under new rules in Oxfordshire
  8. Wedding venue review: Ashmolean Museum
  9. Inspiration: african/english fusion garden wedding
  10. Wedding venue review: Caswell House
  11. Wedding venue review: Lapstone Barn
  12. Weddings through the decades: 1970s
  13. Get the bunting out!
  14. Wedding traditions: Don’t forget the silver sixpence in your shoe!
  15. Top local wedding transport suppliers in the Cotswolds – get me to the church on time!
  16. Celebrate your original wedding date
  17. Socially distanced hen party ideas
  18. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride
  19. 5 reasons tiny weddings rock
  20. A guide to eco-friendly wedding rings

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“Your work is invaluable to us”

“Your work is invaluable to us”

“Thank you very much for the work you have done investigating new business opportunities and advising on improvements to existing revenue activities at Cogges.

Your work has been extremely thorough and enabled us to make both immediate service and sales improvements and to consider the potential of new income streams for the future. 

Your work is invaluable to us, particularly as we now pick up the pieces of the Coronavirus season and look towards making ourselves more resilient to future disruptions.”

Chair of Trustees, Cogges Heritage Trust, September 2020 

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winner UK Blog Awards 2018

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Weddings in the news

Weddings in the news

I don’t think there’s been so many changes in the law around weddings in such a short amount of time. This year (and the unfortunate Covid-19 guest) has brought much anguish, speculation, comment and concern about weddings.

New guidelines

As restrictions have been eased or tightened, so have differing guidelines to ebb and flow in accordance with current conditions.

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography

Wedding receptions

The latest update is that from 15 August (a two week delay on the original plan) wedding receptions (such as a sit-down meal) will be permitted for up to 30 guests as long as they are in a COVID-19 secure venue.

Wedding receptions should not take place in a private home or gardens and should be undertaken in a safe, socially distanced way. Where possible guests should remain seated and have food or drinks brought to them at their tables, with outdoor table service preferable. Guests are encouraged to wear a face covering and utilise hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently throughout the celebrations. Venues will be recording names and contact details of guests for the NHS Test and Trace.

Dancing isn’t permitted. Music cannot be played at a high volume that would mean guests would need to raise their voices. When the couple are cutting the cake, the guests should maintain social distancing. Throwing confetti and the bouquet should be avoided. Plus giving cards or gifts should be minimised at the reception.

It is recommended that speeches should be given outside or in well ventilated area. And to avoid the speakers having to raise their voices, it is suggested to use amplification. Windows and doors should be opened as much as possible.

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography

Cut of vat

At the beginning of last month, the government announced that it would introduce a temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for certain supplies of hospitality, hotel and holiday accommodation.

This drop in VAT from 20% to 5% for six months came in to force from 15 July 2020 (until 12 January 2021) with the hope to boost consumer spending and that suppliers would pass on the reduction to customers.

There is nothing to force a business to cut its prices in line with any VAT cut so it remains to be seen if these will be passed on to the end user or help out the business.

The sector most relevant to the wedding industry will be the supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK.

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography

Review of wedding laws

Two big changes could be afoot concerning wedding laws in England.

1.Legal ceremonies

Last month, six couples took a case to the High Court in a bid to get legal recognition for humanist weddings in England and Wales.

Currently, humanist ceremonies are not recognised in law, so couples must also have a civil ceremony in addition, which this case says discriminates against them because of their beliefs. This differs to the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland where humanist ceremonies are legally recognised.

The outcome of the case saw High Court judge Mrs Justice Eady DBE decline to make a formal declaration that the Government is acting unlawfully at this time. But ruled that the Government is currently reviewing marriage law in this country.

This review could take in to consideration not just humanist but independent celebrants too. This would give couples the legal ceremony they want regardless of religion.

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography

2.Outdoor weddings

In addition, in 2019, the Law Commission began a two-year review into marriage law around outdoor weddings. In light of COVID-19 restrictions, this possible change in the law in 2021 could revolutionise the wedding season with outdoor celebrations.

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography

Royal wedding

Normally, I’d love covering the trends and insight from royal weddings. However the one this year, of Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in Windsor in July, was much more of a private ceremony than first planned and initially postponed.

It was the first royal wedding behind closed doors for 235 years due to the pandemic (which also helped to avoid the scandal surrounding the bride’s father). The royal wedding was attended by the Queen, with just 15 family and friends present making it possibly the cheapest royal wedding ever.

The biggest take away from this royal wedding was the element of sharing and reusing such as the wedding dress and accessories from the Queen and shoes that she had worn many times before. A proper ‘something borrowed’. Renting dresses, buying second hand or upcycling is certainly a growing trend to watch out for.

Plus an intimate ceremony means that you can splash out on certain areas as you aren’t spending as much on other things. For example with flower statements such as the arch that the royal couple had at their wedding.

Photography by Cat Stephens Photography


I’d love to hear if you’re having a wedding in the next few months and to hear how you’ve creatively dealt with the restrictions.

Images on this page taken by Cat Stephens Photography from Hanami Dream’s festival styled shoot at Cogges Manor Farm. See all the fabulous suppliers that were involved in this styled shoot.

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Paused not cancelled

Paused not cancelled

For me it feels like life is paused, especially in the wedding industry. I sometimes wonder if weddings have been forgotten.

postponed weddings

For so many couples, suppliers and venues the future still looks so uncertain. Plans have been adapted or postponed. Some making several revisions as restrictions ease and are then reintroduced.

wedding restrictions

There’s still so much to think about in the news and things can change quickly. Wedding receptions were due to be allowed from 1st August for up to 30 people (without live music, dancing, or buffets). But this wasn’t the case as the lockdown reductions were delayed by 2 weeks to 15th August at the earliest.
What will the governments review announce this weekend?

Since 8th August wedding guests have to wear face coverings in public indoor settings (such as places of worship) or any enclosed public space where there are people they do not normally meet.

change, adapt, evolve

Meanwhile, whilst on pause we need to evolve and change – personally as well as professionally. We need to do things differently when the play button is finally pressed.

At the moment it feels like it’s back to basics whilst we learn how to survive all over again. But in order to grow, improve and thrive, we need to firstly revise, rethink, reform and adjust.

According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.

Let’s rewrite wedding traditions

Lots of buzz words to prepare for the new norm. But basically it boils down to having the chance to do things differently.

I’d love to hear if you’re having a wedding in the next few months and to hear how you’ve creatively dealt with the restrictions.

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Celebrating 6 years of Hanami Dream

Celebrating 6 years of Hanami Dream

Fourth of July

What did you do this fourth of July? Did you celebrate the easing of lockdown due to corona virus (COVID-19) in most of England? Did you go off to the pub? Get a hair cut? Or tie the knot?

The fourth of July is often a day of celebration with Independence Day and local Alice Day. Plus it also marks the 6th birthday of Hanami Dream weddings and special occasions!

  • six years since my first styled shoot – the Alice in Wonderland shoot in 2014 started it all for Hanami Dream
  • six years since my first tweet – from my first tweet in 2014, to a combined social media network of nearly 7,000 followers
  • six years since my first blog post – now 387 blog posts later and a UK Blog Award in the trophy cabinet
  • six years of accolades – including being shortlisted in the West Oxfordshire Business Awards 2020
Photography by Farrow Photography

Photography by Farrow Photography

six years of celebrations

This year though my own celebrations are a bit more subdued. With over 100 days of lockdown under my belt, home schooling 3 children and supporting my husband, I’m quite exhausted.

Over the last few months I’ve felt anxious, over whelmed, and often found things quite hard going. On the other hand, I’ve also found it extremely rewarding and wonderful to see my children’s amazing work and to see them blossom, learn and grow. They seem to just take everything in their stride and it’s been nice to share more experiences with them.

Photography by Farrow Photography

six more years’ experience

Until mid March, I was enjoying providing marketing consultation to some local, independent wedding businesses in and around Witney.

But it does feels like there’s been lots of tricky decisions to tackle recently. For me, one of those has been to pause my marketing support for the time being and take a break from the business side of things due to continuing family commitments in the unprecedented circumstances.

Photography by Farrow Photography

six years of supporting couples with wedding planning

Where possible, I’m still blogging (there’s some great guest posts, wedding inspiration and other content in the pipeline to share). Otherwise, there’s one job where my focus needs to be right now. My time is dedicated to one thing. And that’s being a mother. I’ll review, regroup and reassess things over the next few months.

Photography by Farrow Photography

taking a breather

Sometimes we need to take a break, to reflect. Because taking a step back sometimes means we can regroup and plan our next route. A pause isn’t stopping but getting our breath. A minor hiatus. Let’s hope that the storm we are riding at the moment is followed by a rainbow.

Photograph by Farrow Photography

keeping it local

I love working with small, local, independent wedding business in and around Witney, Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. And now more than ever we need to keep it local. To think and buy locally and seasonally. And not only for weddings. Recently I’ve been so grateful for discovering new amazing local suppliers and companies diversifying to keep us all going.

Photography by Farrow Photography

work with Hanami Dream

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, or write a guest post. Together we can support the local wedding industry and inspire brides and grooms for their special day.

Happy birthday to Hanami Dream – let’s see what direction the future holds.

Photography by Farrow Photography

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“It is always a joy to partner with a talented blogger”

“It is always a joy to partner with a talented blogger”

“The Ashmolean Events team have been lucky enough to collaborate on several features on Nicola’s Hanami Dream wedding blog.

It is always a joy to be able to partner with a talented blogger that has a flair for capturing a couples’ wedding journey and tell the story of a venue, in a way that inspires couples for their special day.

I have been following Nicola’s blog for a while now, both as an event professional, and on a personal level from the perspective of a bride-to-be. I absolutely love how she collates her styled photoshoots to provide inspirational ideas for weddings themes, providing great tips and insights into wedding trends.

I particularly enjoy reading the features on wedding traditions – packed full of fun and interesting ideas on how people have celebrated, and put their own unique twist on rituals like the couples toast to the wedding getaway car!”

Events Manager, Ashmolean Museum – June 2020

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Stronger together

Stronger together


I’ve been quiet for a while. I haven’t really known what to say or do. Things are so hard to comprehend. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. And it’s pretty much unbelievable.

What a year! Brexit, floods, Caroline Flack, storms and now a pandemic virus. Events that are happening now are completely unprecedented and will change our lives forever.  I keep thinking about how strong my grandparents must have been to live through the war.

Brave little fish

I read a book to my youngest yesterday called ‘Swimmy’ by Leo Lionni (originally published in 1963) and the message really hit home to me. It is a beautiful children’s picture book about a brave little fish that is left all on his own after his school of fish are all eaten. He has to find his own way around the ocean, meeting lots of amazing other creatures on the way. He meets new friends but they are too scared to come out of hiding to explore the wonderful world around them. ‘Swimmy shows his friends how–with ingenuity and team work–they can overcome any danger.’

Be kind

I hope that one thing to come out of this horrible year is that everyone is just a little bit kinder to everyone. To support one another. To keep it local and to help those in our community. Everyone is going to be affected by this and we need to stick together. We need to be more like Swimmy.

Come together

It is encouraging to see how companies are thinking outside of the box and diversifying. Adapting. Getting creative. Seeing what opportunities are now available to them. Taking a change of direction.

Technology, virtual solutions and social media are resources that our grandparents didn’t have in the war. Yes, they can be dangerous tools if used in the wrong way, but they are also amazing to bring people together, keep them talking and help them not feel so alone or lost.

Wonderful wedding suppliers

The wedding industry is getting hit hard. Everyone’s business is being affected. It got me thinking about what I could do to help the wonderful local wedding suppliers near me.

Stronger (virtually) together

So I’m offering my blog as a vehicle to local wedding businesses whilst this crazy scene plays out.

  • Please let me know if you’d like to place a free banner advert on the blog.
  • Or whilst your work load is possibly reduced, maybe you’d like to write a guest blog giving top tips from your part of the wedding industry – this would get shared across all my social media.
  • Or you’d like to submit a real wedding or styled shoot that you’ve been involved in.
  • Or perhaps you’d like to be involved in my next shoot (the April one has been postponed) and could start thinking about what you could produce.
  • Or you need help with virtual marketing, ideas on how to diversify or adapt to the current environment, or any other suggestions that you think I may be able to help you.

On hold

Wedding planning will (and should) still go on – it’ll be good to look forward to an amazing celebration when all of this is passed. 


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2019 Review of the year

2019 Review of the year

I hope you had a wonderful 2019. The end of the year is a great time to reflect and look back on achievements. I’ve really enjoyed another year and celebrated 5 years of Hanami Dream weddings and special occasions in 2019.

Highlights of 2019

The highlight of the year was being a judge at the UK Blog Awards 2019, making it in to the local press as a result, and working alongside fellow judges of the UK Blog Awards.

I also was pleased to have more of my work published both marketing related articles and also wedding styling trends in Your Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wedding magazine.

And I held an Instagram challenge in May.

Wedding blog

My focus has continued on developing the blog commercially, as well as providing inspiration to brides and grooms in the Cotswolds.

Wedding tips

The blog has featured posts on different elements of wedding planning:

Wedding inspiration

As well as some submitted real wedding inspiration:

Wedding trends

I always love writing trend posts such as:

Wedding venues

And I continue my local wedding venue reviews:

Photography by Nicola & Glen

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Plus the blog has featured some wonderful guest posts from local wedding professionals (with top tips and an insight in to different elements of wedding planning from their area of the wedding industry):

See all the top posts of 2019.

Marketing support

I’ve continued to provide marketing consultation to some local, independent wedding businesses in and around Witney, Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. It’s great to combine my marketing experience, with my local knowledge, in the scope of the wedding industry.

Some of my clients have included a fantastic florist, a couple of wedding venues, a vintage Rolls Royce hire company, and other couples and suppliers:

I’m delighted to have enquiries for different aspects of the business including business development and consultancy, and it’s great to receive lovely testimonials from happy couples and suppliers I’ve worked with in 2019.

Now is also a great time to look forward to the brand new year ahead. I’ve lots of plans afoot including focusing the blog on supporting and promoting 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. Plus watch this space for my wedding fairs with a difference coming soon.

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.

Many thanks for your support in 2019 and here’s to an exciting and very Happy New Year!

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Top blog post in 2019 on Hanami Dream

Top blog post in 2019 on Hanami Dream


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Pantone® announce the Color of the Year 2020

Pantone® announce the Color of the Year 2020

Pantone® have picked a soothing and refreshing blue as their colour of the year for 2020. Don’t feel blue! You’ve got ‘Classic Blue’ to get you through the first year of the new decade.

Classic Blue

Funnily enough blue was my hot tip for the Pantone Colour of the year in 2020 – take a look at my review of the Spring/Summer 2020 colours. And Classic Blue sits perfectly in the beautiful seascape of colours to embrace next year.

As Pantone® Vice President Laurie Pressman said, it is “a timeless and enduring blue hue, timeless in its simplicity … Classic Blue is calming and confident. It mixes well with shades across the color spectrum and serves as an anchor on its own.”

It is “a reassuring presence instilling calm, confidence and connection”. … “It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on.”

Calming influence

The emphasis on a bold primary colour feels like a big back to basics statement and a strong, emotive and versatile colour.

Classic Blue (also known as Pantone® 19-4052) feels like a good palette cleansing colour after the vibrancy of Living Coral in 2019. Perhaps a safe choice, hopefully not political but beautifully calming in a sea of constant change and uncertainty at the moment.

It is natural, neutral and nautical.

2020 weddings

Classic Blue is exactly what it says on the tin. Classic. A core basic colour and a stylish accompaniment to any vibrant pop of colour. I look forward to seeing couples incorporating Classic Blue into their wedding colour schemes in 2020.


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