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The Wedding Fixer Sarah Haywood - How I Made It: 'I am the world's worst wedding guest'
The star of W channel’s new series talks to BT TV about the art of wedding planning, coping with wedding stress and why you should never put her on your invite list.
"You are much better to give me a job to do than expect me to sit down eat a meal and be grateful. I just look for the problems… and I find them! I am the world’s worst wedding guest."
Sarah Haywood may be one of the world’s leading party and wedding planners, but you should probably think twice before adding her to your invite list for the big day.
"I am a woman of a certain age and luckily most of my friends are married off now," she admits with a frank candour that comes in very handy with her day job.
Haywood, who was ranked the No.1 wedding planner on the planet by Vogue USA two years running, believes that the art of wedding planning comes from understanding the simplicity at the heart of the event.
"Ultimately the day is really just about the people. All you’re planning is the backdrop for the day," she says.
"People need to be looked after, fed, watered, have a good dancer and you just need to let them know they’re invited because they’re special to you."
In Haywood's new W series The Wedding Fixer, the party planner is on a mission to save British couples from wedding nightmares, common pitfalls and family bust-ups.
Gordon Ramsay answers the prayers of dodgy restaurants and Supernanny does it for stressed out parents. Now, Sarah Haywood is here to help save the day for couples in crisis over their wedding day.
BT TV caught up with Haywood to find out how she became the No.1 person to call for anyone suffering wedding strains and discover the secret hints and tips for creating a wedding day to remember.
"I wanted to be a lollipop lady"
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lollipop lady. But sadly there wasn’t a course for that.
When I went to university I studied Classics and somehow I fell into TV journalism. I was a TV reporter early in my career. I wasn’t going to set the world on fire. I was no Kate Adie.
On the side I had been planning a few events for friends and people I knew and then I started writing about hospitality and wrote a book about planning weddings. And I suddenly realised I was making more money planning weddings.
I would like to say I've never looked back, but there have been some tricky periods in there.
But I learn one job at a time. I started out in my landing in my home in Oxfordshire. Now we have offices in Notting Hill and we run a multi-million pound business. But I literally built this up one event at a time.
I do know what real people do. I had a normal wedding with sausage and mash. So although I work with some extraordinary people, what I love about this show is that it's not about that.
The thread that runs through this programme is that everyone struggles over money. Everyone struggles balancing a budget, even my billionaire clients struggle balancing a budget, and everyone struggles with the expectations they are loaded with.
How to beat wedding stress
We allow it to be stressful. We have a lot of negative language around it. Bridezilla. Groomzilla. These are very negative terms. These are huge occasions and unfortunately every blog, every piece of social media, every magazine, everyone you meet tells you that this is going to be the most important day of your life and suddenly the whole thing becomes loaded with fraught incidents.
Anybody invested in the day can get stressed about it and has the right too. Wedding planning isn’t rocket science, but there’s an awful lot to do. That’s one of the major reasons people get stressed. Doing this show, I did wonder what people do without a wedding planner. Who has their back? Who looks after their everyday jobs? I don’t know how people do it. I have a renewed respect for the brides of Britain doing this all on their own with nobody helping.I don’t know how they do it.
Are weddings more outrageous now? I don’t know, but I think social media makes it seem so. In my local village hall in Oxfordshire I see lots of weddings and nothing about them seems extravagant. I think there are lots of ordinary weddings going on up and down the country. They’re just not the ones you see plastered on social media all the time.
3 Wedding Planning Golden Rules
1. Respect your in-laws
The wedding plan golden rule. Do not alienate anyone you might need in later life. Marriage is about respect and compromise. So is wedding planning.
Don’t alienate your mother-in-law in the build-up. Respect and compromise. You may read in a bridal magazine that it’s YOUR day, do what YOU want. But actually if people are financially contributing to making your wedding happen, there is an argument they might reasonably have a say in how that money is spent.
You need to get everyone on the same page and through respect and compromise everyone can get the day they want.
2. The invite list
I think when you’re putting a guest list together you need to think about the people who so far in your lives have helped you get to that day. Who are the people who have loved, supported and guided you. And who are the people who are going to support you in your new life, the next chapter. You should invite them too.
You don’t need to invite everyone you work with. Because they won’t be in your life forever. You may have to compromise on an aunt you’re not particularly close too. Because an aunt is still your mother’s sister and it might be important to your mother that she’s there. Fast-forward 40 years and imagine your child saying, I don’t want your sister at my wedding.
3. Plan, plan, plan
A really big mistake is that at the very beginning of the process, a couple get engaged, they set a date and then without any kind of research, decide what they want.
You wouldn’t go house shopping, go buy a car or a sofa without informing yourself what these things might cost. But what the Bridal Brain does is it goes through Pintrest and Instagram, finds something it loves, and says ‘that’s what I want’. If I did that with a car, I would have a Rolls Royce with white leather seats and a walnut dash interior. Unfortunately that’s beyond my budget.
But fortunately because I have some idea what cars cost, when I go car shopping, I don’t end up disappointed. Unless you are a Hollywood A-lister or a Premier League footballer, you don’t need to plan a dream day that works for them. You need to plan your dream day. Your values and your sense of style.
Watch The Wedding Fixer on W, BT TV channel 311/383 HD.
Catch up on BT TV on the BT Player, BT TV App or the UKTV Play app on your box.