“I know Claridge’s better than the team at the hotel!” says peerless wedding planner Mark Niemierko who once adorned Althorp House with a monumental floral archway, for an alfresco wedding in the grounds.
Cliveden, Blenheim Palace and The Savoy have all been backdrops for Niemierko’s master plans, which span from flying in Barry Manilow and a flamboyance of flamingos, to agonising over the more domestic minutiae. “I’ll spend days choosing the right linen and deciding if that chair works with that flower!” he declares.
Clientele including society, minor royalty, hedge funders and lawyers pay upwards of £250,000 for the bespoke service.
And while Kensington Palace is amongst the iconic locations Niemierko’s worked his magic on, for him: “Lancaster House is far more regal. You go through the drive of Clarence House, so there’s the red tape of photo ID, but Obama did a speech in the garden, and The Crown use it as the interior for Buckingham Palace,” says Niemierko, referring to the BAFTA winning Netflix series.
Niemierko is more wedding savvy than Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor combined. But in light of new government guidelines allowing just 30 people to attend, does Niemierko do small weddings? “I’ve done a wedding at the Mayfair Library followed by a beautiful dinner for 17 in the Egyptian Gallery at the British Museum. It was like Night at the Museum!”
Marvellous! Here are his tips for tying the knot in a pandemic…
You must have a photographer. Ideally a videographer as well. It’s the memory – it’s what you’re going to look back at in 50 years. Every child wants to look at their mum and dad, or grandparents’ wedding photos. Don’t try to reduce numbers by trusting a friend to do it. You want photos you’ll love looking back on – and you want your friends to enjoy the day.
The Sound of Music
Since collective singing is a no go, get a string quartet to write bespoke music for you, or have them record music for you especially. If you can’t have them in the church or venue because of numbers, you could zoom them in live. I’m not a fan of screens at weddings because they make it look like a corporate event, so if possible, build it into the design of the room, rather than having a TV screen on legs. The guidelines allow one singer, so you could book a soloist, or a friend could sing – that’s lovely, because it has real meaning.
Invite people who are dear to you. This is so personal – there might be people in your life who mean far more to you than a relative you barely see, so go with your heart. Don’t worry about politics. For plus-ones, make it “no ring, can’t bring” and don’t invite people to your wedding just because you went to theirs. Before you finalise the list, ring round and find out whether each guest is comfortable coming in the current circumstances. Everyone is responding differently to the pandemic and there are many people who are shielding.
Over 70s are advised to stay home, so if there’s someone elderly who’s dear to you, consider live streaming the wedding. Test the wifi first, particularly in rural locations because you don’t want, “oh the WiFi’s broken, just hold that moment!” Otherwise, a good videography company can make a beautiful video. You could have a website made saying: “Save the date for next year and we’ll have big a celebration!” with the video, so it doubles up as an invite to something further.
If you’ve invited 150 people and you need to cut your guest list, email is key. You can’t call everyone individually. Call people who are super close, or send a personal message, saying, “look, we’re about to send a blind copy email to everyone…” Don’t do it by post because you’ve got to be speedy. People should be understanding of the situation. Nobody should be offended by this. Some people will be, but cutting numbers isn’t your decision – there are bigger things going on!
Embrace the fact that you’re getting married in a pandemic. Have masks made for all your guests in the colour of your wedding – if you’re doing invitations, send them out with those, but have spares as back-up. Venues are encouraged to mark 2 metre distances on the floor – have this done in your colours, with your monogram. Hands should be washed before and after exchanging rings, so have sanitiser in a chic little crystal decanter and get a photo of it next to the rings, on a cushion. Every wedding has a story and this is a great story.
Back to Basics
If you’re struggling to cut down your guest list, you could postpone the whole thing. But if you need that piece of paper because it makes life easier for buying a house, or getting a joint bank account, or having babies, cut it right down to one witness each. That way, no one is offended at having not made the cut. Book a registry office, which isn’t expensive, then have a big party next year. Send out a picture from the day as a keepsake, and combine that with an invitation to celebrate next summer.
Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here.