Proud Owner of a TEENAGER


I don’t remember my 13th birthday all that clearly but what I do know is that there was never as much fuss made as there is these days about turning in to and becoming a TEENAGER.

I had only been back from Sweden for just over six months and was still finding my feet in a new school. Memories of the day are sketchy, but I remember cards that said teenager and I remember a shopping trip to Darlington in the days to follow.

These days however it would seem we make more of a fuss.


It is very scary to think I am now officially the maker and owner of a teenager. He has gone from a little dot too a teenager in no time. Of course I am very proud of the young man that he is becoming, but the hormonal changes are kicking in and my little boy is rapidly turning in to a stereotypical teenage boy…..via that lovely hormonal rollercoaster we all have to ride.


To celebrate Regan’s birthday, as we do every year, we had a party. It means he gets to see his family and friends the day before his birthday, and it has become a welcomed tradition. This year he chose a trampoline park.

Regan was staying at his Dad’s the night before, and where we usually ship his friends to Aycliffe too one of there entertainment centres, I didn’t feel comfortable driving lots of teenagers that I didn’t know that far without the Birthday Boy. So to Regan’s delight we decided that Infinite Air was the place to go.


We all had a lovely time, with the exception of Penny (my only criticism is that there is nothing for the under 6’s to do, last year we went to ROF59 in Aycliffe and they have a similar, yet smaller, set up. They have a generous play area for those not old enough to bounce. that kept her more than entertained. Infinite Air would benefit from a toy corner) and with food from Pizza Hut and a cake from Sweet Tooth Delivery they all had a belly full of food.


When Caitlin turned 10 we had a day with her on her own up at Intu MetroCentre and Regan (along with Libby and Liam) asked if they could do the same for their birthdays. We of course obliged.

Regan was over the moon with the presents and money he got for his birthday and was very eager to go on a spending mission.


I have to say, something I have learned over the years, that going shopping on a weekend 6 weeks before Christmas is never the best idea, and the car park at Intu MetroCentre proved that, but we did get parked and headed straight over to Bella Italia for our Lunch.


We are massive Italian fans and having never been to Bella Italia before we were quite excited by the prospect.

We arrived and were guided to a booth that had been decorated with balloons and banners. It was a lovely touch that was very much appreciated (the balloons are still floating around the living room now).


Our waiter was fantastic and took our drinks orders straight away, he had a remarkable resemblance to a famous person but I am yet to put my finger on who it is…

Anyway, I digress, we had a good look over the Menu and decided on our starters and main courses.

While waiting for our food Mark went on a wander, I would describe the restaurant as modernly authentic. It has plenty of memorabilia, retro tables and the Italian flag colours run throughout. (It seems everywhere we go at the minute Mark is taking inspiration for how to decorate our living room and kitchen, and Bella Italia was no different. We are having green to go with our current Red or so I am told)

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Our starters arrived…..

Mark had….



Marzanini and plum tomatoes, rocket, red onion, garlic, basil and olive oil on ciabatta

“Fresh, light, lovely way to start a meal”

Regan had…



Pork & beef meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce with melted mozzarella and served with ciabatta

“Nicest and most tasty meatballs I have ever had”

and I had….

Insalata Caprese


Buffalo Bocconcini mozzarella, Marzanini tomatoes, rocket, fresh basil and olive oil

“Light, typically Italian Starter, very tasty and a perfect way to start a meal”

Not a complaint to be had. At this point our waiter moved on to other tables and we were introduced to our waitress, who was equally attentive. The wait for the main meals was not long and very soon we were tucking in…

Mark had…..

Paccheri Calabrese


Pasta tubes in a fiery tomato sauce, spicy ‘nduja sausage and pepperoni from Calabria, chicken, Luganica sausage, roasted red onion and green chilli, with cooling mascarpone

“Deliciously filling dish with a nice warming spice heat, that wasn’t overpowering”

Regan had……

Create your own pizza


Margherita with your choice of two toppings (Chicken and Pepperoni)

“I love a pizza, especially one I can pick the toppings on, this one was lovely”

And me….

Luganica Rosmarino


Luganica sausage, Spianata salami, roasted red onion, mozzarella, Pecorino cheese and rosemary

“Mmmmmmm, pizza, a perfect marriage of toppings, perfectly thin and served beautifully”

At this point Regan started to get a tad apprehensive. Traditionally if someone is going to do grand gestures it is done over dessert. He was very nervous of what was planned, if anything, and took himself to the toilet.

Our lovely waitress came over to let me know that what ever he chose for pudding would have candles on it and “Happy Birthday” written on the plate. Perfect for the occasion!

When he returned we chose our desserts and awaited their arrival….

I had….

Shot Glass Desserts

A selection of favourite mini desserts

Salted Caramel Chocolate

Chocolate mousse with a salted caramel topping on a Bourbon biscuit crumb base


Creamy pannacotta with morello cherry sauce

Limoncello Tart

Layers of fluffy lemon mousse with shortbread pearls, topped with limoncello lemon curd and whipped cream

And Regan chose…..

Cookie Dough Lava Cake

Chocolate chip cookie cake with a melting chocolate middle, served warm with vanilla gelato and caramel sauce

Regan breathed a sigh of relief and filled up on dessert. We agreed to share and so we did.

OMG, I love a pudding and these did not fail to impress.

Bella Italia, like I said, is somewhere I have never visited before and I really have no idea why, especially when we have one on our doorsteps here in Durham. We will be returning in the future as we could not fault the dishes, flavours, staff or the environment. Perfect place to eat especially with family.


We said our goodbyes and wandered on for Regan’s spending spree. We visited so many shops and seemed to spend in each one. GAME for games and headset, LEGO for erm….LEGO, Hawkins Bazaar, Disney, Argos and Sports shops……

Closing time meant a stop to the shopping, (which continued the next day) but we had a good day and that is the most important thing. Creating memories and I can’t thank Bella Italia for being a part of that.


To learn more about Bella Italia you can visit the website or their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

Girly Day Shopping

I have so many posts in progress but none that I am happy with just yet.

Today it was time for a break and Libby, Penny and Myself went on an expedition to buy something arty and crafty for Libby to do. (Regan was off to his Dad’s for the day/night so a girly day seemed like a perfect idea)

Bit off the beaten track for us we ended up at the Metro Centre.

Now no trip out with the kids is complete without a trip to McDonald’s.

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There are days I wonder what I did to be blessed with such amazing children. They both sat good as gold and ate their happy meals, not that may not seem a big thing, and for Libby, no it is not, but to get Penny to sit still for more than five minutes is a hard task.

Next stop was The Range.


I have only been in a few times myself but have noted on both occasions that Libby and Mum would love the Arts and Crafts section. We spent a good 45 mins looking around what they had to offer.


If you have never been and like a reasonably priced place that sells a bit of everything then this is the place to be. I love a shop like this, one of those one stop shops, especially come Christmas, The Range will be perfect.

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So back to our treasures, Libby found a Princess set, at £1.99, you cant go wrong, she is loving colouring in at the minute and this is perfect. We also came home with two Finding Dory balls.

(Excuse the photo quality of the picture, will add one when we have built it up)



Their pet range is also impressive (camera on phone decided not to work so pics of that) but the zoo got a treat each too.

Next stop ASDA.


This month I was determined to get at least one the them al of their uniform sorted so that I did not have to rush around at the last minute looking for stuff in the right sizes. Its a nightmare that I am sure most of us have experienced at some point, if not most years.

Anyway, last year I bought the majority of stuff from ASDA and it has lasted Libby all year. So I thought I would see what they had to offer this year. I wasn’t disappointed.


Twin Pack of Sweatshirt Cardigans £6.00

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Frozen Sweatshirt Cardigan with Elsa detail £5.00

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Twin Pack Polo Shirt £3.00


Jersey Skirt £4.00


Frozen Jersey Dress with Elsa Detail £7.00


Jersey Pinafore Dress £6.00


Pleated Skirt £4.50


Boys Twin Pack Short Sleeved Shirts £5.00

Last year I purchased Libby’s blouses and polo shirts from ALDI, and for all people may avoid them they washed and washed and washed again. These also lasted her all year, so I bough her the pack of two blouses last week at a price of £1.99 for two.


After leaving the Metro Centre we called in at Team Valley and visited the Hobbycraft store.


Another first for Libby and she was completely taken aback by what they had to offer.

There are some good 3 for 2 deals on at the minute which offer things to keep the kiddiwinkles busy over the holidays. We however cam away with some felt tips (£2), crayons (£1) and some paper (£1), (3 for 2) and a Barbie Sticker book (£3).




They had a range of activities on instore to keep the little ones busy but mine weren’t interested in anything other than spending money.

Last stop was Sainsbury’s, where we stopped and ended up going in to Argos and taking advantage of their 3 for 2 on all toys offer buying Lego and My Little Pony’s. (As well as some nibbles and wine for me 🙂 ).

Just a little one so I ould share my bargains…..again sorry for the picture quality as my camera fell out with me on the way home …..xxxxx

Budget Wedding

One drunken night a long, long time ago……..

Haha, well that’s how it started. Mark and I had both been engaged before and to be honest I don’t think either of us had seriously considered marriage properly. Well, he hadn’t and I had gone through the motions with my ex but never seriously considered it or committed to the idea.

Mark and I had the conversation when we first started seeing each other and discussed that marriage was a waste of time.

That however quickly changed, he started to talk about that if he ever was to do it then he would not want to have a massively formal affair, he wanted a big party and if he was ever to do it he would want a registry office and not a church. Now in my mind that was a lot of “ifs”.

I warmed to the idea and actually wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man. Making it official sounded like a possibility. I like the idea of a wedding late in the day, I would have liked a church but a registry office was more than acceptable because that meant we could do it the way we wanted, a party reception that was aimed at everyone, no formalities, fun for the kids and most importantly of all, I wanted it to be perfect with as little cost implication as possible.

I wont bore you with the background story, but if you are new to reading my blog or haven’t read that bit yet, here it is….Hubby and I

After our engagement party I started to plan. I put pen to paper and started writing lists and making notes. Working out how much we had to spend and what we wanted.

The date was set in February 2011 for April 2012, as you know however having read our story, we had to change that date. It was April and we changed the date for the December. (Hubby and I)

Mission “Panic” Planning commenced!!

Our budget was £2000.

Now that’s not a lot, not a lot at all in the grand scheme of weddings but here is how we did it……

It was always going to be a family party, heavily involving the kids. The reception I had planned was aimed at resolving any boredom they may face.

We arrived at the club for the reception and the kids went to find there seats and goody bags. It meant they could fill their faces while the adults got comfortable, mingled and got themselves a drink.

We did the speeches first. When everybody was there a glass was tapped and we sat down for the speeches (all along the kids still munching their way through goody bags).

Now in hindsight sweets and cake before the buffet maybe wasn’t the best idea, but it was a party so that’s allowed, right?

The buffet opened and everybody tucked in. Adults talked and the entertainer came out with balloon animals and dancing games for the kids, while the adults got on with their thing.

It worked…that is my point. The younger ones started to disperse about 8pm. We then had adult time with the older kids.

Anyway on with my costings 🙂

Item Cost Gift
Registry Office £300.00
Reception Venue £5.00
Invitations & Place Cards £75.00
Bridal Gown £160.00 £160.00
Bridesmaid Dresses £30.00
Grooms Outfit £55.00
Boys Outfits £180.00
Flowers £100.00 £100.00
Hairdresser £80.00
Cars £130.00
Wedding Party Gifts £50.00
Table Decorations £125.00 £25.00
Favours & Kids Goody Bags £60.00
Food £350.00 £250.00
Disco/Childrens Entertainment £120.00 £120.00
Glass Hire £40.00
Toasting Drinks £120.00 £120.00
Cake £280.00 £280.00
Photographs £0.00 £0.00
Rings £77.00
£2,337.00 £895.00 £1,442.00

Some of those things look a little hard to believe and yes, we came in over budget, but when all came to all we didn’t andhere is why:

The best suggestion I had made was would I like for people to pay for wedding items as a gift to us for our wedding. Genius idea. My Uncle and Aunt were the ones to suggest it. At the end of the day we had a home, we didn’t need anything and we said if people wanted to gift us, then money would be amazing, maybe for a holiday.

They came forward and said they would love to buy us our Wedding Cake as a wedding gift. We obviously jumped at the chance, it was an amazingly generous gift, very special and personal.

At the same time my Mum, My Dad and his partner and one of my other Aunts all stepped forward and said they would like to do the same.

Moral to the story is, if you have someone who can make and do, and has a hobby or interest you can use or someone who you aren’t afraid to suggest it too help, ask away. It will save them the hassle of having to think of a gift and they will be over the moon to know they have played a huge part in your day.

Registry Office

This was a cost we couldn’t get down, we wanted to get married on a Saturday and we wanted to have a prime time of day. So we paid the premium for that.

However, if you are reading this and you are prepared to marry on a week day or a Sunday, there is a strong chance that you will be able to get this a lot cheaper.

It is certainly cheaper to get married in the actual registry office than getting a registrar to attend a venue for you.

Reception Venue

£5.00?? Yes indeedy £5.00. How? I here you shout…well…

There is a lot to be said for your local Working Mens Club. It may not be your ideal, tranquil posh hotel but for our purposes it was perfect. The concert hall was massive, the décor was dated but we could work with it. For £5.00 I wasn’t going to complain. We had to join as members and that was the £5.00 charge.

We had the  run of the place, we would have to set up and arrange the tables but in the grand scheme of things that was nothing.

Invitations and Place cards

These proved to be a bit of a nightmare and cost me more than they should have. I had ordered them for the original date and then had to reorder for the new date. However, I wanted simple and they were of postcard size with a decoupage balloon on, in my wedding colours, Ebay is an amazing source for saving money on wedding items. They came, handmade, at such a reasonable cost. They were very pretty.


I was adamant that I wasn’t having place settings. However as time went on and people started with the “you don’t wanna sit such and such with that one”, I was talked in to doing one.

One Sunday morning turned in to one Sunday afternoon, that turned into tears, screaming and giving up on life.

But finally after 6 hours of jiggling, moving and shouting at Mark for his lack if interest in the whole thing it was done.

The cards came from the lady who had made the invitations and I decorated them with diamontes that I bought cheaply on eBay. So that we could identify who needed a goody bag and no champagne flute I put a ladybird on the kids ones.

Bridal Gown

One word…..CHINA…..we all dream of an amazing dress.

I spent weeks hunting for the “right” dress. I went to all the shops in Darlington, Durham, and ended up in Chester le Street. I still didn’t find one that I could class as the one. I had an idea of what I wanted and searched the net.

Finally I found one that was similar to one that I had tried on and liked when I went shopping with my Mum.

Now the dresses from China are not exactly the same. However, if you find the right maker they will do their best for you.

It is important to check like you do on Ebay, seller ratings, quality and feedback but this extra work will save you a fortune.

The site I used was I found the dress I wanted mine based on and sent one of the makers a message. I could have it in any colour I wanted and measured to my exact measurements.

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It came out at cost of £140.00 as I needed a plus size dress.

This was bought for me, so I saved here.

It took four weeks and arrived in a very small parcel but on opening they quality was fantastic. The fabric was a very heavy satin (as I would have imagined it to be), the beading was all done by hand and there was plenty of fabric should I have needed it taking in or out. Only issue was that it was a little too long but nothing an extra inch on my shoes couldn’t fix.

My shoes came from Ebay at a cost of £20.00.

Bridesmaid Dresses

You guessed it…Ebay. The minute we had our date in place I started to watch for dresses on Ebay. I knew I wanted two black adult gowns and three little people dresses. I wasn’t bothered if they weren’t the same, just similar in style. The same with the little ones dresses I wanted them to be the same colour. I was more concerned that the bridesmaids had a dress to suit their personality rather than them all match.

Post Prom season is a prime time to pick up a bargain. I got three adult dresses, black, for the grand total of £10. They were all Debenhams dresses that had been worn once but were in perfect condition.


The little girls dresses cam in a brand total of £20.00. I had one in mind for Libby, and managed to get it for £10.00. The other two dresses came in at £1.50 each. One Debenhams dress and two BHS dresses. The rest of the £30.00 went on shrugs for the little ones.


The adult bridesmaids wanted to get their own shoes and the little peoples ballet pumps came from Primark in the summer sale for £3 each.

Groom and Boys Outfits

We had Mark to buy for, his best man, one usher and three boys.

They all wanted to be the same.

I had bought Mark and his brother trousers from Jacamo, as the only thing we could agree on was black bottoms. Now I say this and really you need the back story on the colour scheme.

I am a Newcastle United fan, which reading earlier posts I am sure you have figured out by now. Mark however is a Liverpool fan. My dreams of a wedding scheme have always been Black and White. In fact I wanted a black dress but was told in no uncertain terms NO. So when I said I wanted to have our scheme as black and white, I was told not unless I can have red.

Colour scheme sorted.

I went ahead and bought the men red ties and that left me with the shirts to buy. In the meantime I had managed to get hold of the boys trousers (back to school trousers from ASDA), shoes (back to school), and had hunted down matching shirt and tie sets on Ebay that were from Debenhams. They were black shirts with a black and white checked ties.


When Mark saw these he was quite taken with them so I ordered them all black shirts (again from Jacamo) and checked ties from that place I used a lot (I bet they wish they were on commission the amount of times I have mentioned and am about to mention some more :D)

Sorted, they all sorted their own shoes.


One of the items that was bought for us as a gift.

My Dad’s partner was a florist by trade. We had a chat and because we were getting married in December it was going to be hard and expensive to source the flowers I wanted.

We visited a faux flower warehouse and I was overwhelmed by what choice there was out there. I chose what I wanted and they were bought and made up.



Hairdresser & Nails

This was somewhere I was prepared to pay the full price.

At the time I was sporting a bald head and a wig. I sourced a local hairdresser that could confidently work with wigs and she did an amazing job with putting it in to an “up do”.

She also put up Mark’s sisters hair (my big bridesmaid), my Mum’s hair and the two older bridesmaids hair.


I felt amazing although the wig lasted until the first dance and was place on the best mans head for safe keeping for the rest of the night.

My Nails were a gift to me from Mark’s Mum. She was learning how to do them at an evening class and offered to them as a gift to me.


Now each to their own, but I wasn’t that bothered about arriving in a big flash wedding car. Not my thing, we wanted understated and that’s the direction we went in.

Don’t get me wrong I did price the cars up but I wasn’t prepared to pay £800+ on three cars that we had the use of for a couple of hours.

I looked in to a few local taxi companies and did a few journeys with each. I picked one that had smartly presented drivers, the cars were spotless and they were nice looking cars.

We booked two 8 seaters (One for Mark and the boys and One for my Bridesmaids) and a car for me and my Mum. £130.00…sorted!

Wedding Party Gifts

I didn’t have the money to go over the top.

I wanted something simple.

Ebay again ….I bought the big bridesmaids a hand bag that matched their dresses.

The little bridesmaids a lovely little Bridesmaid necklace.

Marks and Spencer’s for an orchid each for my Mum and my Dads partner.

The men folk quite simply were gifted with beer. All gifts were warmly received.

Table Decorations

So I am all for pretty but in this case I had to take in to consideration the venue. The ceilings are high and the room is big. I could have gone all chic but I decided that a simple option was balloons. On the table there would be a table cloth, petals, the toast glasses (the club did not have flutes, so we had to source these) and three bottles of Cava.





The balloons were sourced from a local company at a very reasonable charge. The petals, gloss paper table clothes, plates and  cutlery all came from Ebay, at a small cost in comparison to high street prices.

The chair covers were owned by a friend of my Dad’s partner and the topiary trees were from her front doors. We added some organza and some £1 lights from the Poundshop.

Favours & Kids Goody Bags

You guessed it :D….I ordered red and black favour bags at a small cost, they were coming from China and arrived with in 14 days. For filling them I went to Tesco and bought their Value Mints. For 120 guests I bought 20 bags of mints and there was more than enough.

The cost of the favours was bumped up by the “Goody Bags” I did for the kids.


Having been to many weddings, I always feel for the parents with the kids that are clearly bored and create a scene for them during the lengthy Meet and Greet and Speech parts. So I thought a bag with some treats in would do the trick. In each bag (which I bought from The Card Factory in the Christmas offers they do) was a cupcake, a “fruit shoot” type drink, a selection of sweets, a bag of crisps and a couple of colouring pages and pencils. All relatively low in cost but it worked a treat.


Now any of my friends will tell you that I do not give the reigns of cooking over to anyone else very lightly. Especially when it comes to party food.

I was adamant that I wanted to make stuff and despite promising I would keep out…..I didn’t.

The buffet was paid for by both of my parents. We decided on a buffet as it fell in to the casual approach we wanted and again it meant that the children did not have to be pinned down and the same for adults.

My Dad’s partner called in favours and her friend made two lovely big poached Salmon, she made roast meats and they ordered in pies, quiches, cooked cold meats and Roast Potatoes from a local butchers.

I went to Iceland and spent £80 on their party foods and then when and bought stuff for sandwiches.

The night before my wedding I spent until 2am cooking, and truly was in my happy place, well that’s until the alarm went off at 6 am for my soon to be Mum in law to come and do my nails.


(This wasn’t all of it, there were boxes all along the seat at the back too)

The buffet as you can see was huge, and there was loads left over. (I am a firm believer in left overs, if there is food left over then people were full, an empty buffet means people may have gone away hungry and I can not be dealing with that on my conscience)

The Entertainment

For me getting married was about making it a family affair. We wanted a big family party where children were made to feel as much part of the day as we were.

There are a lot of children between mine and Marks family and I believe on the day we had 26 children there.

I called around a few disco’s and children’s entertainers and found a guy who’s friend was a very popular children’s entertainer in the town we lived. He wasn’t booked on the date we wanted and said he would normally go to weddings etc. with his mate to help out with the disco. If we wanted him to keep the kids entertained for an hour or so then he would happily do it for a few pints. Deal!


So we had a disco and a kids entertainer for £120.00.

***Tip*** When sending emails to people for quotes always make sure to mention other things you are looking for, in our case in paid off several times over

Glass Hire

Your local supermarket. That simple, they charge you a standard fee per glass. Half of that was refunded when I returned the glasses and any breakages were charged at £1 per broken glass. Simple, 120 flutes in the bag for £40. (You are asking how many breakages there were, the answer would be two)

There is always the option of plastic glasses that can be spruced up if you  have the time. Here is an example of the ones I did for my Sister in Laws Wedding.




Toasting Drinks

Trusty old supermarket again, we waited until one of the supermarkets had the “Buy 6 bottles and get 5% off” promotion offer on. Then went and bought 24 bottles. Three per table and three to hide under my table 😀 .


My Aunty and Uncle offered to buy this for us.

She asked me to find what I wanted and get in touch with our regular cake lady to make it for us.

I chose a Chocolate base, a victoria sponge middle and a lemon sponge on top.


Now the cake I chose was very specific and on the day it arrived with pink flowers instead of red, the cake lady was sent away promptly to go and fetch some food colouring(paint). It also wasnt as delicate as the photo I had shown her. Saying that it was a fabulous cake and very pretty, and tasted amazing.


I mentioned before that my other Aunt offered up her services as a Wedding Gift to us and that was the photographs.

She is a very keen photographer and her work is fantastic. (I have done a review of her daughters artwork E.Bulman)

Anyway, I didn’t want many formal pictures, the shots I wanted were natural, doing it this way meant that she could enjoy the day as much as the rest of us and just wander round with a camera to her hearts content.

The pictures were fantastic and came as a wedding gift.

So last but not least and almost forgotten as it was nearly forgotten when it happened…

The Rings

A week before we got married I was going through a checklist to see that I had done and got everything we needed.

I got to the rings ticky box and thought…..ohhhhh ****.

Instantly I did a search on Ebay for Mark one that he liked, with the option of next day delivery. Sorted it came in at £59.99.

Mine, I would like to say was all singing and dancing, but I couldn’t bear the idea of wearing hundreds of pounds worth of jewels on a finger and decided to go with the £17.99 band from Argos.

It did the job and still does, I actually replaced it a few weeks after the wedding and hated the one I replaced it with so I took it back. The one I wear is the one that got given to me on that special day and that’s that.

So concludes my wedding on a budget.

I have since then done wedding favours for a few other people.

All the items, with the exception of the contents of the boxes are ebay sourced….Maybe these will add extra inspiration.

In the case of my sister in laws wedding, I made towers of large favour boxes as the table centres and the favours. They were filled with a bag of pink and white sweets.





These ones were for a friend who simply didn’t have the time left to do the tiny details.

She bought the boxes, sweets and purple inserts and I put them together for her.






A pretty, enjoyable and memorable day will always be possible without the big cost.