How to get the most out of your wedding budget (and yes you do need a budget!)

Stripes has noted that planning a wedding can be stressful. Not only are you attempting to combine the taste and preferences of two individuals and their families, but you need to do it within a budget. Or for us mere mortals that seems to be the case. She notes that the pressure is increased as weddings have become more personalised and extravagant due to the rise of the Pinterest bride, budgets have seemingly shrunk in direct correlation. Brides of today want a fairytale showcase of a wedding but have barely enough money to cover a simple elopement. So what are you to do?

The budget. The b-word that nightmares are made off. Every bride dreads the talk, but it is more important than you think. Without a budget rampant spending will be on the order of the day, and with that debt and despair. You don’t want that as the start of your happy life together, so allow us to help. Stripes is convinced we have all the answers!

Naturally, you would want to get started with the more fun aspects of planning a wedding, such as venue hunting, choosing your dress or deciding on a theme, colour scheme and feel. Often, Brides get ahead of themselves, focusing on these aspects before figuring out what the facts and figures are. If you do not have a clear idea of what you have to spend, you are going to run into trouble later on. If you work out your budget first you are giving yourself the freedom to dream and choose, knowing that you can actually afford it. To work out that budget is actually much easier than you would think.

Why it is important to have a budget from the start:
• It gives you a solid starting point, giving you direction and a framework to work within
• It gives you a realistic idea to bring your expectations and the amount of detail that you can afford in line
• It will help you sift through quotes to create a short list of suppliers and to choose your final supplier
• It will make suppliers’ life easier as they will be able to suggest options they know will be affordable

So how do you work out your budget?

Of course, it would be nice to think about the things you would like to have and then attach a value to them, and that total is your budget. Unfortunately, in the real world it works the other way around (or should work the other way around). Here, you determine how much money your parents, your partner’s parents (if the parents can help at all) and you yourselves have to spend on a wedding. That total is what you have to budget with, and all of the services and items needed for the wedding needs to come out of that pool of money. This can be a very awkward conversation to have, but it is necessary and vitally important. If you don’t have the money now, is there any way that you can save money? Then you need to work out a timeline so that you know at which dates you are looking at.

After you have the round number that you can spend on your wedding, you need to consider a few things that have an impact on the prices and value of different services and products:

1. The season and time of year
Winter weddings are more affordable than summer weddings, weekday weddings more than weekend weddings, and Fridays more than Saturdays. There is also a marked difference in costs between a March and an October wedding, even though both technically fall in summer. If you have a tight budget, consider getting married on a Friday in May, or a Sunday in September, or a combination of a “cheaper” season with a “cheaper” day and a “cheaper” time of year. Before you even start to look at venues, know how adaptable you are willing to be, and have a few dates that you can give to get a comparative quote for the different dates.

2. Location
If we look at South Africa, getting married in the Western Cape is a lot more expensive than getting married in Gauteng. Having your nuptials in the Drakensberg will be more expensive than having it in a barn in the Freestate. Also take into consideration that you will have to pay suppliers to come out to remote locations, not even to mention the extra things you might have to hire in. And lastly, your guests – will your wedding cost them an arm and a leg in transport and accommodation?

3. Guests
Speaking of guests, the size of your dream wedding will have a direct impact on your budget. So if you have a small budget, to begin with, then plan to have a more intimate wedding. But a word of caution: just because you might have enough money in your budget to have a 300-guest wedding doesn’t mean you have to. Invite who you want to share the day with, your budget is a guideline, not a target.

Of course, you can only spend what you have (if you are being practical and smart about this), but determining how much you need is sometimes more difficult than finding options that fit in with the final budget. As a guideline, experts recommend the following percentages:
• Venue 10-15%
• Catering 20%
• Photographer 10-15%
• Flowers, décor and lighting 10-15%
• Bar 5%
• Stationery 2.5%
• Bridal couple and bridal party (clothes, presents, hair and makeup, accessories, etc.) 10-20%
• Entertainment or music 5%
• Wedding cake 2.5%
• 10-20% buffer for those last-minute forgotten details

The average wedding in South Africa costs about R80 000, so if we take that as our budget, the division would be as follows:


For all of those extra “luxuries”, you will have to work it into your budget either by spending less on certain categories or by increasing your budget in total. If you want a nicer venue, then you need a bigger budget. There is no sense in taking money away from another category unless you are 100% certain it won’t make a difference. If you really cannot increase your budget, then you need to work smart so that you need less money to attain the look and feel you want.

A few tips to make your budget stretch further:

1. Date and time
As mentioned before, opt for a winter or weekday wedding, or as another cost-saving option, have a morning wedding instead of an afternoon wedding.

2. Cut costs on your dress.
Look into renting instead of buying, or buying pre-loved. You could even consider buying an evening or ball gown instead of a traditional wedding dress.


3. Be smart when planning the menu.
Never skimp on the catering. Pay as much as you can afford to ensure your guests get good food – that is one of the 3 cornerstones that a successful wedding is built on (food, venue and photographer). If you have to cut costs, go for the buffet instead of plated, have a bread table instead of canapes, serve only 1 meat for the mains and leave out dessert if you have a wedding cake. But make sure that everything you do serve is out of this world, tasting great and looking perfect.

4. Choose your venue wisely.
Opt for a venue that includes as much as possible, from the furniture to décor, lightning, etc. Another great tip – choose a venue that allows you to bring in your own suppliers. Then you also have the option of doing a few things yourself or asking family and friends to help. If you really want an outdoor wedding, think of settling for either just the ceremony outside and the reception inside, or for a venue that has a roofed area as a plan B. If you have to all of a sudden hire in a marque you are looking at a major budget-killer, since you also have to think about flooring, lighting, and maybe even heating. For more tips on choosing your venue, read our post here.


5. Bar
Do not have an open bar. If you want to give the guests something more than just a glass of sparkling wine for the toasts, buy wine for on a wine table and have water or juice put on the tables. By having a wine table instead of placing individual bottles of wines on the tables themselves you guard against all those half-drunk bottles of wine that you end up throwing away. If you are bringing in your own sparkling wine, ask the venue to pour the toast at the bar and then bring the glasses out to the guests. This makes the bottles stretch that much further.

6. Guests
Invite only adults, except in the case of close family. Invite only those people whom you really really really want there. For more tips on your guest list, see our post here

7. Favours and those small details that nobody except you notices
Skip wedding favours, they cost money and very few guests actually take them home. The venue sweeps up branded keychains the next day. Keep your décor simple and elegant, all those small details you want to add just eats up your budget, and nobody really notices.


8. Get as many quotes as you possibly can
Get quotes from many different suppliers to compare, just remember to compare apples with apples. If for instance one caterer is a lot more expensive than another but as part of their price they include staff, the hiring of the crockery and cutlery, as well as delivery and setup they might not be that expensive after taking all the individual services into account. When looking at the prices and different suppliers, try to identify when are you paying for quality, and when are you paying for a name. For smaller budgets, I would recommend paying for quality and skipping the name.

9. Flowers
Choose local and seasonal blooms, and if possible opt for more greenery than actual flowers. The hottest new trend is foliage, so tap into that to make your flower budget go that much further.


10. Cake
If you are very concerned about your budget, there are a few options that you can consider, such as omitting the cake and serving dessert instead (usually already included in your wedding menu), having only a small dummy cake for the cake cutting ceremony and then giving the guests sheet cake cut into squares, having a cupcake cake that can also serve as the favours, or going for a non-traditional cake. If you choose a non-traditional cake, you can be as creative as you choose. Go for a cheese tower cake and serve it as part of your starter, or a brownie pile cake as part of dessert. We have done a wedding were the “cake” was made out of savoury pies, and that served as the starter. Another one where the cake was made out of rice crispy treat squares.


11. Hire a wedding planner
Although the upfront fee might seem steep, in the end, it is really worth it. Wedding planners know where to start looking for affordable options, they can negotiate better prices or add-ons. Make use of their connections and expertise.

Mistakes to avoid:

1. Forgetting to keep track of your spending
You need to record EVERY SINGLE THING that you spend money on. That means every single amount, no matter how small. Especially the small amounts – they quickly add up! Devise an easy to use system to keep track. Also, keep track of payment dates as late payments can be penalized.

2. Not asking enough questions
You need to make 100% sure that you are aware of all of the fees and charges, especially those that are hidden under the “if this then that” category of the quote, e.g. if it rains and we need to move the ceremony or reception, there is a surcharge; if you invite children then you need to pay for a babysitter; if you stay after 00h00 (even just to pack up) there are overtime charges for the staff as well as the venue. Ask about service fees, extra charges and other things you might be billed for. Trails are very seldom free, and all of those meetings you demand? They can also be charged.

3. Forgetting the small things
Underwear that works with your dress, special hairspray, straws for the welcome drinks, ribbon for the serviette rings, all of these seemingly small things can, in the end, break the bank. Remember that in some cases, tips and gratuities are expected, and must be budgeted for. Make sure that such expenses are part of one of your categories, and that you do not spend more than the allotted amount.

4. Not deciding what is most important to you
Identify three things that are non-negotiable to you. Maybe you love flowers, music and great food. Then you know those are the 3 things you do not want to skimp on. Also, identify the three things you are not at all bothered with, e.g. cake, invitations and draping. Those are the things that you can decrease the allocated budgets for, rather moving that “extra” money to your top 3 things.


By following these tips and avoiding the last few mistakes it is possible to stick to your budget, no matter how small, and still have the wedding of your dreams. If you have a very small budget, then read the post here for ideas on what to leave out to make your budget go that much further. And if you are really worried, get a professional to help.

How to create your guest list for your dream wedding: 10 must-have tips

How to create your guest list for your dream wedding: 10 must-have tips

The guest list. Many a happy couple have had their first, and biggest, wedding-related fight as a result of the dreaded guest list. Stripes has seen it all before, and she can guess it is not going to stop any time soon. Never in your life did you think that aunt Ellie whom you have not seen for 10 years will all of a sudden be the most popular family member, or that all of a sudden your uncle is persona non grata after pointing out that certain double standards are always set when it comes to who to invite, and who not to. And you kind of agree with him.

As couples’ budgets grow smaller, so have the wedding guest list also followed suit. In days gone past it was not unusual to have a wedding with 300 to 500 guests (I cannot imagine…) Everyone was invited, and everyone came. These days a big wedding is considered 100 to 150 guests, with smaller more intimate weddings being the flavour of the decade.

Stripes would strongly recommend that you work out your guest list before starting to search for a wedding venue. Can you imagine finding the venue of your dreams only to realise they can only accommodate 40 guests and you are inviting 120, or their minimum guest count is 100 and you only have 40 guests on the list? So first the list, then the venue. Remember you also need to keep in mind your budget, and the type of wedding you and your partner wants. Are you dreaming about a low key, intimate affair or more of a lavish party?
And she says there are a few other helpful tips that she will gladly give you!

So which groups are you considering when deciding whom to invite?
• Immediate family
Start with your parents, grandparents, siblings, their partners and their children. Then move down a step to add your aunts, uncles and cousins that you see regularly.
• Distant family
Family members that you keep in touch with, and would like to share the day with. But, if a friend trumps that family member, rather go with the friend.
• Friends
Start with your closest friends and then think about friends you speak to regularly, friends from your school years, university or college, neighbours that you are friends with or friends that you feel could be a great addition to your wedding guest list, i.e. that one friend who can get anyone on the dance floor, or who makes the best speeches.
• Work colleagues
Depending on how long you have worked for the company, how long you are still planning on working for them, as well as the relationship between yourself and them. You may want to invite your boss and a colleague or two, but that wholly depends on the situation and context.
• Plus ones
In certain cases adding plus ones can almost double your initial guest count. Practice how to be ruthless. You can even try the American phrase “no ring? No bring!” to imply that only friends who are engaged or married are allowed plus ones.
• Family friends/friends of the parents
This should be a very open and honest discussion between your partner and yourself and your sets of parents. Be upfront about what you can afford, as well as your vision for the day, and hope that they will understand.
• Children
Sometimes you have no option but to invite them. This should be one of the first things you and your partner decide on as it can dramatically change the planning and dynamics of the day. If you do choose to not invite kids, just remember there is a chance that some guests will not be able to make it because they do not have a babysitter.

Here are Stripes top tips for creating a wedding guest list:
Tip #1:
Don’t verbally invite guests. It often happens that you forget whether the specific person was on the A or B list, or actually invited at all. But now you have invited them, wrongly. This may cause disappointment, embarrassment or even resentment. Also, careful how you talk during this time. Saying things like “you will see at the wedding” might sound very innocent to you, but to an interested person that might sound like a confirmation that they will in actual fact be invited. On the other hand, guests might also try to invite themselves by saying this like “I cannot wait to be at the wedding”. For these situations, work out a firm yet friendly reply to make sure they understand that they are not invited. Something like “we would have loved to have a big wedding, but unfortunately budget and venue constraints are not allowing it”.

Tip #2:
Try and keep the division of guest numbers between the two families fair and equal. Or you can try the traditional split of 50% for the couple, and 25% for each set of parents. So for an 80 guest venue you get to invite 40, and each set of parents 20 each.

Tip #3:
Don’t forget to include children in your guest list numbers, if you are inviting them. Although some venues give discounts or special prices for kids younger than certain ages, you will only know that once you have chosen a venue so until then they are part of the numbers. If you choose to not invite kids, make sure your guests are made aware of this on the invitations.

Tip #4:
The wedding couple counts as guests too, so must be included in the guest count.

Tip #5:
When you have your short list of possible venues, remember to check for minimum numbers for specific venue and packages. This can have a major impact on your final budget.

Tip #6:
Your service providers must also be catered for, so they are also included in your guest list. That means your DJ, photographer, videographer, entertainment, etc. must all have a seat, and you pay for them as guests.

Tip #7:
Make sure that there is absolute clarity regarding who pays for what, and if the fact that they are contributing financially gives them say over the guest list. If this is going to be a problem you would rather want to know about it and sort it out in the beginning than later on when you have already paid deposits or made other arrangements.

Tip #8:
Create your dream list, with everyone you would really want to invite on it. Add everyone your partner would want to invite, as well as the parents. Doesn’t matter if this list is super long, you will use it as a reference later on. From here, start to trim your guest list down to the desired number. This dream list helps with 2 things: 1. If you have cancellations and need to fill seats, you have a quick reference list to help determine your B list and 2. If you, later on, feel like you want to invite someone, check if they were on the dream list, to begin with. If not, then why would you want to add them now? Reality check! Don’t know where to start to cut the dream list? Devise some rules and use them to determine the final guest list. A few examples of rules you can use:
• Rule 1: If neither of you has spoken to or met them or heard their name before, don’t invite them.
• Rule 2: Not crazy about inviting children to your party? Don’t feel bad about having an adults-only wedding.
• Rule 3: If neither of you has spoken to them in three years and they’re not related to you, don’t invite them.
• Rule 4: If there’s anyone who’s on the list because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe because you were invited to their wedding or they’re friends with lots of people who are invited), don’t invite them.

Tip #9:
And on that note – have an A and a B list. The A list is those people you cannot imagine not sharing your wedding with. They receive the first round of invitations. As the RSVPs come in if you have “regrets” you can invite people from the B list to full up space. A very handy tip here – send out your A list invites 10 weeks in advance as opposed to the usual 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding. That gives you enough time to still send out the B list invites at a respectable date, so those guests will never know that they were “second best”.

Tip #10:
Remember your budget! The easiest way to decide on the number of guests to invite is to work out how much you can afford to invite. The more people you invite, the more expensive it becomes. To work out your budget available for the guests, your venue should take up roughly 10% of your total budget, and the catering roughly 25%. But remember, other factors will also increase in price if the guest list goes up; things like hiring, décor, flowers, serving staff, etc.

Who should you not invite?
1. Friends you have not spoken to in years
You might have been besties in primary school, but since then have not had any meaningful contact. Don’t invite them.

2. Estranged or MIA family members
If you have no bond, then do not feel bad not inviting them.

3. Work friends
Unless they are true heart friends, don’t feel obliged.

4. Returning-the-favour wedding invites
Just because they invited you doesn’t mean you have to invite them. Full stop.

5. Neighbours
Again, if they aren’t heart friends, don’t invite them.

6. Friends who always misbehave
That one friend who is banned from a long list of places, who always end up passed out somewhere or leaves without paying their bill. Don’t invite them. If you have to invite them, then have a serious talk with them before the big day.

7. The offspring of family and friends
Unless they are a part of your life, then don’t feel pressured to invite them.

8. Plus-ones you have never met
Remember – no ring, no bring?

Stripes says you must just remember that it is your big day and that you should have the last say. Only invite people who will share your joy and love. If they will not, then don’t allow them to be there. She also says good luck…

Secrets, tips and must-haves to make your next picnic the most magical one yet

Is there anything more romantic than a picnic? I will venture a guess – not really. Stripes agrees, she has seen the number of picnics booked in the name of love and romance.

I don’t know what it is, but the whole idea of taking a basket full of delicious things to eat, out into the great outdoors, where you battle the elements in order to eat in relative peace, seems to rank somewhere at the top of the “most romantic things to do” list. I myself am a lover of picnics, not because of the food or the idea, but because when you do attempt a picnic with your loved one the settings and surroundings automatically force you to connect. There is nothing else to do except eat and talk. You can lie on your back and watch the clouds, or listen to the birds. Then eat and talk. Glorious. For most, the fun starts there – with the unveiling and unpacking of the goodies. But for us, the picnic-planners and picnic-packers, there is a lot of work to be done before this special event can take place. The success of your picnic rests on the panache with which you pack, and two undisputed tips – steer clear of any store-bought food, and be well prepared.

Picnics should be about comfort, ease, and joy. Nobody wants to use all of their energy carrying heavy baskets full of china and silverware, to a site that is km far, to sit on chairs (that you also had to carry) passing around cucumber sandwiches as a first course. Or worse, take out the carefully prepared food only to find everything is wilted, limp, or spoilt. For any picnic, there are a few must-have items, without which you will struggle, or even simply fail.

Something to pack the food in

A basket, or a dedicated picnic rucksack, works the best. You do not need anything special, whatever you choose must simply meet the following requirements:

  • Light enough to carry, even when packed full of goodies
  • Keep your cutlery and crockery safe, and clean
  • Keep the food and beverages cold and safe
  • Be able to house the dirty and empty things once you are done, without leaking juices onto the car seat

If you need 2 pieces in order to meet these requirements, then so be it. Maybe you will use a basket or rucksack to carry the cutlery, crockery and glassware, and a cool box for the food and drinks. Or you have a basket that is big enough for everything, plus insulated so it will keep the food cold. Just find something that will be practical and useful.  A few tips: a full cooler stays colder for longer, so ensure that it’s filled with about 75% food and the rest ice. If you don’t have enough food to fill it to ¾, then add more ice. Place ice at the bottom, followed by the heavier foods. Fill in with the lighter items. Pack the cooler directly from the refrigerator, and preferably use ice packs or slabs of ice. Another hack – freeze water in empty milk bottles and use instead of ice packs. And of course, once there always place the cooler in shade and not in direct sun. When packing your basket or another container, start with the items you will need last. Place them in first, e.g. the cutlery and crockery, the condiments, insect repellent, etc. Then follow with the perishable items and things you need as part of the setup. The last thing you place in your basket is your picnic blanket since that is the first thing you will need once you reach the picnic site.

Equipment

Make a list of the food that you are planning to serve, as well as the drinks, and determine what you will need in order to serve this menu. E.g. if you are drinking wine, ensure you pack a wine opener for the corkscrew. Bread, then pack a breadknife and breadboard. Cheese, you will most probably need a sharp knife, so pack one carefully. Don’t forget a cloth (you can pack a wet cloth in a lunch box or glass jar, making cleaning up a breeze) or napkins, and salt and pepper. If you will make use of a table, covered with a table cloth, remember to pack in weighted clips to hold the table cloth down. And remember something that you can use to collect all the trash. You must leave the picnic spot in a better condition than what you found it in – trash free.

For cutlery and crockery, we would recommend going the low waste, single-use-plastic-free route. Opt for bamboo or paper plates, bamboo or compostable knives and forks, and glasses that can be re-used. Avoid anything that is made from plastic or polystyrene that you will have to throw away after use. Metal is another option. For napkins, we recommend cloth, and empty containers and rubbish can be placed in the (hopefully) empty cool box for sorting and disposing of at home.

Food safety

A cool box, or ice packs, are essential to make sure that your food remains cold and safe for eating. Keep your cool box or insulated basket closed, only opening once you want to eat, and eat immediately once you have reached your destination in order to keep the food out of the temperature danger zone. Keep sauces separately, only adding them once you want to eat. Pack hand sanitizer or have another way of cleaning hands before eating.  If you are travelling or walking particularly far and don’t have adequate cooling options, avoid using mayonnaise or dairy products in your food.

Special touches

A blanket, cushions if you can carry them, an umbrella for shade if you won’t be under trees, and insect repellent are just a few of those things that you might not think of, but that is needed to make the picnic special. To ensure there is something cold to drink, freeze water in bottles. The frozen bottles can be used as ice packs, and once defrosted you have cold water to refresh yourself and your company.

The food

As important as the setting might be, the highlight of the show remains the food. When planning your picnic menu, you need to keep in mind it needs to be food that can be transported, that can be served at room temperature, won’t spoil in a cool box with only ice packs, can keep (so you don’t have to make it and serve it immediately), fall in the taste of your company, and provide a balanced meal. Here you have the choice of either going for finger food – smaller dishes and bites that don’t require cutlery and crockery to eat, or more traditional dishes, where you do need a plate and knife and fork in order to enjoy. A few dishes are iconically associated with picnics, such as Scotch eggs, chicken drumsticks, sandwiches, potato salad and quiche. Guaranteed crowd-pleasers, but definitely not the only options out there.

Pasta salad is perfect for picnics – usually hearty, they hold up well. If you want to pack a leafy salad, don’t dress the salad until you are going to eat it. For layered salads, always start with the heaviest ingredients at the bottom, working up towards the lighter ones like the lettuce. Other salad ideas include Middle Eastern couscous salad, a Greek orzo salad, or even a lighter-carb sweet potato salad. Adding vegetable dishes or bites can be a bit trickier as they usually do not handle the heat and transport that well. But there are options, such as zucchini fritters with minted tzatziki dip, pumpkin fritters, or chargrilled veg skewers.

Our favourite menu for a picnic? A selection of cheeses, cold meats, pates and spreads, olives, roasted peppers, gherkins, hummus, crudites and other meze bites, with fresh bread and real butter. Nothing fancy, just good produce that you can pair and add to make a wonderful meal. Social food.

A nice tip? Pack fruit, nuts and biltong for extra snacks along the way, especially if you are travelling with kids and the journey might take longer than you planned.

To end, chocolate brownies are always a winner. Other ideas: cheesecake in a jar, cookies, traditional scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, or a coconut loaf cake.

For drinks, anything that can successfully be kept cold can work. Ice tea is super refreshing on a hot summer’s day, lemonade or ginger beer (both homemade of course) being another stellar option. And for the grownups, sparkling wine or a chilled white or rose wine is wonderful. Just remember your glasses, and pack enough ice! You can also pack in sangria or spritzers, or pre-mixed G&Ts with the cucumber or lemon slices packed separately. Whatever says sun, outside, and great company. Our best hack to ensure your drinks remain cold (other than freezing them) is: chill as usual, then decant into a flask. That same flask to keep your coffee hot on road trips will keep your drinks nice and cold.

When packing the food, ensure the containers that you are using are leak proof. Place everything in the fridge to chill, and only pack them into your cool box at the last minute. Top with ice packs to ensure safe transportation.

The entertainment

  • Make getting to the picnic a scavenger hunt. Leave clues or a “treasure” map for your family to find their way to the picnic destination.
  • Bring along a board game, boules, a rugby ball, or a Frisbee for some outdoor fun. If kids will be joining you, try to pick a spot with a playground nearby.
  • Plan a hike and bring the picnic with you. Stop when you get hungry or find a scenic spot to eat.
  • Set the mood with a sunset picnic. If it’s allowed, bring a few votive candles and a small bouquet of flowers to add to the ambience.

Those are our top tips for making a magical picnic. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we hope you implement them for a romantic night out. And if you are worried about your skill in the kitchen, or simply do not have the time to cook and plan, you can always order your picnic from us!

Stripes is wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day, but even more, that you will feel the love the whole year round!

How do you choose a wedding venue that is just right, and budget friendly?

Stripes has noticed how time seems to fly – she said almost desperately the other day that we are already halfway through engagement season! Engagement season normally kicks off as the last corporate year-end party finishes and runs through up until Ester. 3 months of loving bliss, hearts and chirping birds everywhere. She just loves this time. Directly after engagement season, we get the second busiest time of the year – hunting season. That time when all newly engaged couples start looking for a venue, just to realise one of 4 things:

  1. Budget – either they have not thought of the costs at all, or they realise that their budget will never stretch far enough to cover their dream wedding
  2. Time – all of the popular venues are already fully booked, or only have less desirable dates available. Or they do have a date available, at a good price, but it’s in 3 weeks’ time and that is simply not enough time to pull together all your plans.
  3. Family – either they are too far away, so you know you will most likely have to celebrate your special day without all of them there or they are too close, sticking their noses in everywhere.
  4. Dreams – you dreamt too big, or you never even thought of your wedding and now you need to answer all these difficult questions like the feel and colour and cake flavours

Planning a wedding is tough, and takes many hours and days of hard work. We always say that the first wedding you plan is seldom a 100% success, so why practice on your own. But if you have the guts, patience and support to attempt to plan your own wedding, at least allow us to help in this small way.

We believe that the success of a wedding lies in 3 things:

  1. The food. Guests will always judge a wedding according to the food. Good food = good wedding. Bad food = disaster. Spend as much as you can on the food, and ensure you get a reputable caterer with enough experience. If the venue does the food, insist on a tasting to ensure you are happy with the quality. Ask the tough questions regarding quantity, ingredients, serving style, and more.
  2. The photos. In the end, they are all that you will have left to remember the day. Spend on your photographer.
  3. Happy guests. We know it is your special day, and should theoretically revolve around you and your partner, but unfortunately, that is not completely how it works. If you wanted to celebrate it alone you would have eloped, and sharing your joy comes with a bit of responsibility. You have to ensure your guests are comfortable, and that includes being warm (or cool in summer), dry, fed, hydrated and entertained. That is where your venue comes in. Choosing the right venue can help you ensure the happiness of your guests, which in turn will contribute to your enjoyment of the day.

The venue is a big deal. So how do you chose the right one? That is a difficult question, and almost everybody (especially the “experts” such as us 😉 has their own opinion. More than half of them will most likely not agree with us. But according to us, your venue needs to meet the following requirements:

  1. It needs to be affordable.

You cannot spend your entire budget, or even most of it, on the venue. The “experts” recommend spending only 10% of your budget on your venue. Of course, there are exceptions, and we will discuss one such an exception a bit later on.

  1. It needs to be accessible.

That includes transport and accommodation. If you plan on having a destination wedding you need to ensure that there is enough accommodation available for your guests. Assist in arranging transport by giving guests the relevant booking information, or ask the venue if they can negotiate a special price with a transport company.

  1. It needs to be flexible.

Do they only allow certain service providers, or are you only allowed certain themes? How adaptable are they to changes in for instance the weather, or guest list. If they are doing the food, can they provide special dietary requirements if needed? Also, life happens and things change – how will they handle changes such as postponements, or even cancellations. Before you book, always first read their policies on handling these and other situations.

  1. How customisable is the venue?

How much of the venue can you change to ensure your guests feel as if they are at your wedding, and not at just another generic one? Things you might want to customize: the menu, the seating plan, the program, service providers, colours, décor, drinks, etc. And will there be costs associated with these changes?

  1. They need to be transparent and upfront about all costs.

You don’t want any surprises. Before deciding on a final venue, make 100% sure you know what is included and exactly what the specifications are. Sometimes it is even more important to find out what is not included or allowed since these restrictions usually have a monetary “punishment” attached to breaking the rules. Ask as many questions as you need, and if they become iffy or funny about answering I would seriously reconsider booking them.

  1. It needs to be suitable.

Can the venue accommodate your probable group size, do they have a minimum and maximum guest count, will the venue be comfortable in the season that you which to get married in, is there a plan B if plan A fails. Also, are they available on the dates that you are considering?

  1. What is included.

This is, in our opinion, the most important point to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of venues. Remember we said your venue should be no more than 10% of your entire budget? Well, that percentage can change depending on how big the venue’s package is. E.g. if only the venue, stick to the 10% “rule”, but if the package includes the food, or drinks such as the welcoming drink or even sparkling wine for a toast, or a bridal suite, the percentage changes.

The best advice that Stripes can give? Pick a venue that includes as much as possible, because getting all of those items and paying for them individually not only adds up but also leaves a lot of boxes for you to tick. If the venue offers these things, it becomes their responsibility to deliver. You also have the peace of mind knowing that the suppliers that the venue has chosen as part of the package most likely have worked there before, making them knowledgeable and reliable.

I don’t know if you have noticed but we have not mentioned style or look or feel as one of the recommended considerations for choosing the right venue. The reason for this is sometimes we stare ourselves blind against what we think we need and ignore everything else. Meanwhile, there might be something better out there. Also, the venue is only the backdrop and even though you want something spectacular, you should also want to avoid debt and discomfort. So by keeping our 7 points front of mind, you will be able to choose the most beautiful venue that meets those requirements. No breaking the bank. Remember, you can make almost any venue look magical, and bring in your own look and feel with a few smart touches. Themes can be changed or slightly adapted to suit the venue. A good photographer can make your venue look amazing. Pair that with good food and happy guests and you have the makings of the perfect wedding, regardless of the venue.

Those are our top tips for choosing the right venue. If you have something to add, or a question, please feel free to comment!

And to all the newly-engaged couples, Stripes says, happy hunting.

Bridal shower games

Bridal showers, also known as kitchen teas, is that one get-together that Stripes really dislike. She says if you want to start a war, put ladies from 2 different families and friends who all feel they are the BEST friend together in a room, armed with mimosas and toilet paper. Sooner rather than later something ugly starts to rear its head, and if not contained it will break free and take over. Her solution? Play games. But not the run of the mill, same old same old games. Be creative to get the guests interacting. That way they will be too busy to nitpick and pick fights.

Here are Stripes’ suggestions for actual-fun games to play at a bridal shower:

  1. Bingo gift game

Download and print our blank bingo cards. Give one to each guest, then have them fill in the blank blocks with the wedding gifts they think the bride will receive. Then when the bride starts to open her gifts, guests mark off their bingo card as gifts are opened. The centre block with a heart is a free space. The first guest to get five in a row wins the game.

Bingo gift game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Romantic movie quotes

Download and print the game worksheet. On it, there are quotes from popular romantic movies. Give each guest a worksheet and have them fill out as many movie titles as they recognize and know. The highest number of correct answers wins. If this is too difficult, you can make 2 columns – one with the quote and in random order, the other one with movie titles. Guests then have to match column 1 with column 2. (On our sheet, the answers are: Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, Moulin Rouge, Notting Hill, Casablanca, in that order)

Romantic movie quote game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Name that tune

Create a playlist of 12 love songs. Hand out a game page to each guest, then play a snippet of each song. The guests must guess who sang it. To make it even more difficult, they can give the title of the song as well. Guest with the most correct answers wins.

Name that tune game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Bride and groom trivia

Print the trivia page, then give the guests a set amount of time to write down their answers. As easy as that!

Bride and groom trivia game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Hitched or not

Download and print the list of celebrity couples. Give each guest one, and ask them to guess whether the couple is married or not. Guest with the most correct answers wins.

Hithed or not game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Wedding catchphrases

In this Charade-like game, guests must divide into teams, each team getting a pack of catch-phrase cards. The teams take turns to draw a card and then act out the word or catchphrase on the card. The rest of the team must guess. Normal charade rules apply. Download our catch-phrase cards here.

Catch phrase game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Favourite memories

Guests write their favourite memory with the bride on the memory card, which the bride then reads out loud to see if she can guess who wrote the memory.

Favourite memory game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. What’s in the bag – pay attention

Take a bag and fill it with items that the bride might need to pack for her honeymoon. You need 15 to 20 items to make it work. Give each guest a piece of paper. In front of the guests, take out each item one at a time and show it to the guests, replacing it bag into the bag once shown. After all the items have been shown, give the guests one minute to write down as many items as they can remember. Most correct answers win. Give the bag to the bride as your gift to her.

  1. Drawing game

This is a twist on Pictionary. Download and print the game board and word cards. You will need whiteboards or poster boards, something to stand them on, markers and dice. Follow the instructions on the game board, and enjoy!

Drawing game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. He said/she said

Interview the bride and groom in advance, asking them a series of questions in order to generate the quotes needed for the list. Download and print the game card, writing in your quotes of choice. Copy as many as you need, then hand them out to guests. They must decide whether the bride or groom said the applicable quote. Most correct answers win.

He said she said game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Who did what

Similar to the game above, this time you make a list of random, generic or very specific statements or acts and guests simply decide who did the specific thing. From who said “I love you” first to who is a better cook. Most correct answers wins.

  1. Bridal details

For this fun game, ask the bride to leave the room, then pass out the game sheets. Guests must try to answer the questions to the best of their abilities, most correct answers wins.

Bridal details game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Find the guest

A great icebreaker, this game is sure to get the guests interacting. Basically, you give guests a few prompts and they must find a guest who fits the scenario or description. A few examples:

Find the guest who:

  • Has been married ten years or longer
  • Speaks a foreign language
  • Has won $50 or more in the last 12 months
  • Has more than three kids
  • Is wearing blue shoes
  • Has more than three pets
  • Vacationed within the last three months
  1. Celebrity wives

Make a list of famous celebrity wives, then write each name on a single card. As guests arrive they must pick a card from the pile, then tape that card to their forehead without peeking. Other guests must then describe who she is until she guesses her celeb – and act like that celeb for the rest of the party.

  1. What’s in your cell phone: the wedding edition

For this game, the guests will whip out their phones for a cellular scavenger hunt. The ladies will search their phones and get points for each item that they can find. For example, one to five points for things like:

  • A selfie
  • A video
  • A text from the bride-to-be
  • Having a screen saver of a person
  • A photo of the bride-to-be

Or even more points for:

  • A battery life of more than 50%
  • Having zero unread emails
  • Having the wedding date saved in your calendar
  • A photo of the bridal shower

What’s on your phone game, Laughing Chefs bridal shower games

  1. Pen a poem

Grab a blank sheet of paper and ask a guest to write a single line of a romantic poem dedicated to the couple. Then fold the paper over, hiding the guest’s phrase, and pass the paper to another guest with the same instructions. Make your way through all the guests, then, in your best dramatic stage voice, read the (disjointed) poem the brides’ guests have dedicated to her great love.

  1. Bridal scattergories

With cute wedding-related prompts like “honeymoon locations” and “something blue,” it’s a clever way to entertain guests during party gaps. There are four lettered rounds (“L,” “O,” “V,” and “E”) with points awarded for creativity, originality and length — the winner has to earn the most points!

  1. Cake decorating contest

Give each guest a mini cake or a cupcake, with all the needed supplies, and ask them to decorate it in the style and colour that they think the wedding will be. The bride judges who win.

Any fun games that you would like to add?

22 things to trim from your wedding to streamline your budget

Stripes has seen her fair share of weddings, and the number one thing she will always comment on is the obscene amount that people are willing to spend on one single day. And although Laughing Chefs tries to see every budget as a guideline and not a target, some of the budgets that we have come into contact with have been sky high.

Why? She always wants to know. Why would people spend so much on one day, just so that they can start their lives together in debt? Or with parents who have to struggle because they spent everything on the wedding. Even if you have enough money, not even endless piles can justify spending money on those things that most people are not even aware of. Never mind the mindless forking out of cash, you are also contributing to a consumption-driven culture, waste, and unachievable expectations of every budget bride out there.

Every girl (and boys – they are not excluded) dreams of her big day. She wants everything to be perfect, from the dress right down to the serviette rings. And that costs money. If you do not have a lot to go around to start with, Stripes has compiled a list of 22 things that you can leave out, without your guests even noticing. Not only will this save you money, but also countless hours of research, sourcing, making, and worrying. Although there are a lot of things she can add, she decided it was too early in the year to write a lengthy article so she decided to stick to these 22 points.

Stripes says, the rule of thumb is to decide what you want to remember from your wedding day, together with what is the most important to you. Then allocate more budget to these things, taking away budget from things that are not that important to you. But, she says, remember that food is usually the measuring stick used by guests to label a wedding as having been good or bad, and in the end, you only have your photos to remember the day by. So spend more on your food and photographer, and less on those details that most guests never pay attention to, such as;

22 Things you can trim from your wedding, without your guests noticing:

  1. Go paperless

Lately, there has been a shift towards digital in every plane of life, so why not extend it to your invitations? Send out your save the dates, or pre-wedding invitations, via email or a chat service such as Whatsapp or WeChat. If you really want to go the printed route, stick to simple yet elegant designs, normal paper or cardstock, and no embellishments, foil work or other details that cost an arm and leg and usually end up in the trash afterwards. You can also invite everyone digitally, and then print a few elaborate and beautiful invitations for your grandparents, and one that you can keep as a memento.

  1. Skip the open bar

Instead of having an open bar, with a set limit or without, rather opt for a wine bar or pre-order a select amount of drinks that are then served throughout the night. If these drinks run out, or guests would like something else, they can buy for themselves from the cash bar. A wine bar is a wonderful option – a number of bottles are placed on a table, together with glasses. Guests then help themselves. What makes this option, even more, cost-effective is because guests are pouring from one central point you don’t end up with a bunch of open, half-drunk bottles of wine that you can do nothing with.

  1. Use what you already have

Incorporate items that you already own into your décor. Doing this saves money, but also ensures that your stamp of individuality is on your wedding. Items that you might already own: glass jars for flowers, beautiful shawls or pashminas for tablecloths, old books, etc. Also, get a list of décor items that are included in your venue hire, or if not included get the prices. It can work out cheaper hiring in from them since you avoid transport costs.

  1. Get married off-season, or on a weekday

For brilliant cost savings, consider getting married in the winter months, or if you want a summer wedding, on a Friday or even a Sunday. You can also look at a mid-week wedding. Some venues offer as much as 20% off for weekday or Sunday weddings, and usually 10% off for Friday weddings. Stripes know that Laughing Chefs has nice specials for the winter months.

  1. Learn how to wedding plan

If you really want to be hands-on, the best cost-saving advice that Stripes can give you would be to take a course in wedding planning. There are numerous workshops and courses out there, and although usually directed at individuals who would like to make wedding planning their career, you can learn a thing or two applicable to your own wedding. Stripes says she has heard rumours of exciting things to come at Laughing Chefs but will keep you updated.

  1. Bulk out your bouquet with cheaper options

With flowers, the biggest expense is not the physical blooms but rather the labour involved in buying, transporting, and arranging the blooms. Pick your flowers carefully, then add elements that are cheaper but that will add flair and drama, or make the bouquet softer/dreamy/etc. For example, berries, feathers, foliage, bulbs, etc.

  1. Serve a signature drink

Serve a custom-designed cocktail or signature drink instead of a full bar.

  1. Candles instead of flowers

Using large pillar candles as your centrepiece not only increases the elegance and flair, it also decreases the costs. You can hire refillable candles at a fraction of the cost of flowers, and candlelight creates the most beautiful ambience.

  1. Change the serving style of the food

French service or plated is your most expensive options, followed closely by waiter service of finger foods or canapes. The most cost-effective serving style is family-style, where the waiters’ place bowls of food on the tables and guests help themselves. The misconception is that buffet is cheap, but if you do a nice buffet and you do it well, it can work out more than plated food! Be honest and upfront with your caterer to ensure you stay within budget.

  1. Limit your guest list

Invite only people who play a part in your life. Skip the plus-ones, and forget the guilt-invites. Decide on the number of guests that your budget will comfortably cover and stick to that number. If you have a lot of friends or even family that didn’t make the cut but with whom you still want to celebrate consider throwing an after-the-fact party and invite them all.

  1. Champagne is for toasts only

Get only enough bottles to allow for one glass per person. Ask the venue or caterer to pour the champagne at the bar or in the kitchen then serve to the guests. This way you ensure everyone gets, with little wastage.

  1. Consider a Wedding Breakfast or Brunch

Breakfasts, brunches, and afternoon teas are usually more affordable than evening receptions: They’re shorter, the fare is lighter, and guests tend to consume less alcohol early in the day.

  1. Go all-inclusive

Find a venue that includes a list of things in their packages. Some listed items might seem pointless to you, such as specifying that they have toilets for men and women, but once there you will be grateful. If the venue includes décor, see where you can tweak your theme to incorporate those items, even if it might mean having to change your colour palette slightly.

  1. Change the style of the wedding

The less formal the party, the more affordable it will be. Instead of a full, sit-down dinner, opt for a brunch reception or more laid-back cocktail-style meal. Choose a venue with a low-key vibe, like a barn or farm, which lends itself perfectly to a simpler, more relaxed celebration with fewer bells and whistles.

  1. Bouton-ette your bridesmaids

Instead of costly and elaborate bouquets for your bridesmaids, rather opt for a single bloom pinned to their dresses boutonniere style. Not only will you save money, but you will also allow your wedding party to make a statement.

  1. Elaborate decor and expensive place settings

Don’t feel guilty about skipping things like place cards, fancy aisle runners, chair covers, or little handwritten menus or signs. Guests will either not notice that you went with the plain or basic instead of the more expensive option, or they will notice but not care. Instead, choose a venue that is beautiful as it is, and lends itself well to the chosen look.

  1. Make cake the dessert course

Stripes has seen scary things, such as almost an entire wedding cake being thrown away because guests just never got round to eating it. They were too busy nibbling on the dessert buffet. To stop this from happening, or at least minimise your risk, serve your wedding cake either as the sole dessert course, or paired with one other dessert. This kind of forces guests to have cake, and eat it too. Just make sure your wedding cake is actually nice and edible!

  1. Wedding coordinator

Hire a wedding coordinator to save you time and money. Most brides think that hiring a wedding coordinator will break their budget, but it’s a little-known fact that wedding coordinators can actually save you money after you get all the discounts and perks they have arranged with partner vendors. But use caution when selecting a planner: Anyone can call herself a “wedding planner.” Look for someone who is certified or have a proven track record. Phone past clients if you want 100% peace of mind.

  1. Order two cakes instead of one

Cake one – the beautiful one decorated according to your theme and colour palette. Cake two – a simple sheet cake in the same flavour as the main cake, which is cut up and served from the kitchens. Guests will never know, and you save pockets of money! If you want to be adventurous or have a large guest list, you can even do a few flavours of sheet cake.

  1. Decrease the hours that you need a photographer for

Speed up the traditional or symbolic acts that you want to be filmed. Move the cake cutting, first dance, and bouquet toss to early in the night. Guests won’t necessarily work out why, but you will – by getting these things out of the way the photographer can leave early, thus cutting down on the per-hour costs.

  1. Change expensive bubbly for less expensive options

What is in a name? A few 00 after the R, that is what. The sad reality is that most wedding guests cannot tell a sparkling wine from an MCC, let alone a glass of champagne. And I can assure you, most of the time up to 80% of all guests do not drink dry bubbly. To stop them from wasting your expensive stuff, rather opt for less expensive sparkling wine, and choose the sweeter varieties instead of the dry.

  1. Wedding favours

While precious mason jars filled with homemade pastries and jams are now in vogue, they’re unnecessary expenses that your guests probably won’t even remember in the first place. If you want to send something home with them, get a few paper boxes and place them at the wedding cake. Guests can then take a slice home to enjoy later.

These are the 22 things that Stripes wishes she could say to almost every bride that comes through the door. Remember it is about your marriage, not your wedding. Oh, and money doesn’t grow on trees, spend it wisely.

Anything that you can add?

Easy Ways to Manage to Manage your Health During Wedding Planning

It’s no secret that wedding planning can be one of the most stressful times in a bride’s life. Between finding a venue, a caterer, and trying to decide on details as simple as what chairs to have at the reception, it can get very overwhelming. Being that there is no “maternity-leave” for wedding planning, lots of brides-to-be have plenty of other things to do and places to be in the months leading up to the wedding. It can be so difficult to manage all the things left to settle while living your life at the same time. Days seem to fly by and as you get closer to the wedding, and all the chaos can put a huge amount of stress on your health. With all the stuff that needs to be taken care of, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. The last thing you need when you’re trying to be the most healthy and productive you can be is to get sick or exhausted. These tips are simple little reminders to support your physical and mental health during the stress of wedding planning.

Make a List

The wedding planning process usually starts as early as possible because there is such a long list of things to decide on and ultimately arrange. One of the worst things you can do is to wait too long and end up bombarding yourself with an overwhelming amount of errands in the months before the wedding. This can add a crazy amount of unnecessary stress on top of the existing anxiety you’ve already built up. All this stress and anxiety can cause a lack of sleep, decreasing your energy levels and make you sick. One of the best ways to sustain your health and effectively manage your time and energy is to make a list. If you know nothing about wedding planning, do some research and create your list of things that need to get done before the big day. Find out what needs to be done now and what can be done later on. If you don’t know, talk to someone who knows, whether that be a friend who’s recently gotten married or a wedding planner. Look online and find out what’s going to work best for you. Even when you feel defeated, take a deep breath and remember that it will all get done eventually.

Budget

High on the list of stress-causers is money. Weddings are very expensive and there are clearly a lot of different things that need to be paid for. Preparing yourself for the amount of money you’re going to spend can decrease the amount of stress you feel when it comes time to pay the bill. Again, do your research and decide what you’re willing and able to spend, based on what things can potentially cost. Deciding what you can and will spend before you spend it can give you more comfort in knowing that running out of money is avoidable. Another good tip is to put a little money away in a jar or container every day so that you accumulate a bit of a safety net. Even if you don’t end up using the backup fund, you can easily use that money to get something a little more expensive than you weren’t able to afford before!

Sleep!

Though this might be a lot of people’s favourite thing to do, it seems to get pushed to the back burner when there are so many things going on. Don’t let sleep get bumped to the bottom of your list. When you don’t get enough sleep, you lose focus and concentration which will no doubt make running wedding errands even more difficult than it was before. It can also have a lot of physical effects on the bride-to-be like illness, dry skin, and cold sores. While lotion and cold sore medication are good solutions, avoid getting these by planning your activities throughout the day so you’re done with them at a decent hour and you can get a good night’s sleep. Set a goal every day for a time that you should settle down and sleep so that you’re fully energized the next morning.

Moderate Exercise

Working out can be an important part of a bride-to-be’s routine in the months leading up to her wedding. Every bride wants to look and feel their best for the big day. Finding time to meet wedding planners and explore venues along with going to the gym can get extremely difficult. Making a daily schedule in a planner along with the list of things you need to be done for the wedding will help you organize your thoughts and keep you from scrambling at the last second. Keep in mind also that it’s perfectly fine to exercise a bit less if you’re feeling burned out. Perform some low-intensity workouts so that when you get home from the gym you still have enough energy left to do some planning. Take a walk, do some yoga or any other of your favourite activities that won’t keep you from being productive the rest of the day. That way when you’re done, you can take on more of that to-do list.

Take a Break

This may be tough to swallow being that you already feel like you have so much to do with so little time. You might be feeling like you should be using any last dark hour of the night to be arranging any last detail that you can, but one of the best things you can do when all the tasks life throws at us happen at the same time is to take a break. Take a deep breath, sit for a minute, and do nothing but give your mind and body a rest. Take a day off from work, enjoy some personal time in which you have nowhere to be and nothing to do. You most likely need a recharge to give yourself a burst of energy that will make the next day productive.  

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy this time. Despite all the stress, planning a wedding should be a time to be creative, have fun, and spend time with your loved ones. Don’t hesitate to ask for help because there’s always someone around who’s been through it. And if you start to feel burned out, take a break and take care of yourself before you take care of anything else.

Stripes’ special wishes for you for 2019

2018 might have treated you well. It might have thrown you around a bit. Or you might have emerged (thankfully intact) on the other side battered and bruised. No matter how 2018 was, 2019 can always be better. Of course, that would be a good wish, but Stripes knows you expect more of her. And so her wishes for you for 2019 must be a bit more elaborate.

1. A year of celebrations
May 2019 be filled with victories, accomplishments and love that needs to be celebrated. Of course, reaching the weekend, or surviving a Monday, or not crying after a very difficult day are also successes, and we need to celebrate our successes. So open that bottle, pop the cork, prepare that special dish, or even better yet get someone else in to do it for you. Celebrate in style, and in comfort, in 2019. Stripes says “remember that Laughing Chefs does the best private cheffing around! Get them to do the work so you can enjoy the celebration”.


2. The knowledge that happiness comes from within
May 2019 be the year that you accomplish inner peace. Stripes wish that you will realise that only you can make yourself happy and that you do not need a lot to be happy. It is a feeling, not a thing. And if you find it difficult to reach inner peace and the happiness that comes from really knowing yourself and being in balance, she says you are welcome to come and spend some quiet time on De Oude Deck, overlooking the bushveld, or staring up at the mountain. Outer peace might just help you with your inner peace. Bring the family with, Laughing Chefs will cook for them and according to them, no dishes is as close to happiness as can be!


3. Rosy cheeks, and tables decorated in living coral
May 2019 exceed your expectations. Stripes predict that this year will be the year for growth and for strengthening. She says there is a reason that the colour of the year is Living Coral – this is the year for living! And if you are alive, you need to move to stay alive. If you don’t know where to go with your rosy cheeks and all, book a picnic with Laughing Chefs, sit under the trees and when you are really quiet, you might even hear them grow. And if pinkish-orange is your colour, remember to incorporate the colour of the year into your décor! Of course, when in doubt get the experts to do it for you. Again, Laughing Chefs.


4. Loving friends and family
May 2019 be the year where you add to your friends and family. May your house be filled with joy and laughter, with sorrow and despair never crossing the threshold. Stripes says to watch out for Laughing Chef’s wedding packages at Oudehout Mountain Lodge – adding to a family can mean so many things. They also do baby showers, kitchen teas, christenings and engagement parties, making it easier than ever before to welcome and enlarge. She also wants to remind us of all the loyal customers who have become friends. There is something about celebrating life’s accomplishments that just brings you together, forging new bonds and giving new meaning to our lives. Stripes love seeing people enter as strangers and leave as friends.


5. More chocolate cake, less guilt
May 2019 allow you to realise that health and wealth cannot be measured by a bathroom scale, and you are worth much more than the numbers on that scale. Being a bit on the heavy side herself, Stripes knows that sometimes a big personality needs a bit more room to breathe. This year, do you. If you are happy then great! If you are not, do something about it. Stripes hope that Laughing Chefs, in collaboration with Oudehout Mountain Lodge and a few selected other people, will start their retreats so that she can also book in, relax, and breathe out. Maybe detox or stretch a bit too.


6. Less daydreaming, more hustling to make them come true
May 2019 be the year that you work smarter, not harder, to reach your dreams. If you can think it, you can do it. Stripes love daydreaming, but also realise that if she doesn’t do something about it she will never wake up in a better world. She loves seeing how Laughing Chefs grows and prospers, and wishes that 2019 will also be the year in which their wildest dreams come true. And Stripes’ biggest wish? A partner in crime, someone to share her day with, and hopefully her nights. She loves seeing the weddings that Laughing Chefs do, but it also makes her a bit sad. Hopefully, this will be the year that she gets to meet her Prince charming!

And those are the things that Stripes wishes for you for the year ahead. She also says that if you ever need reminding of how awesome you are, you know where to find her!

May 2019 be the most blessed year yet!

SOUTH AFRICAN APPROVED SIMPLE CHRISTMAS LUNCH MENU IDEAS

Since I was a little girl I always dreamt of a white Christmas. Not because I like the snow – it’s not bad, it’s just that I hate getting cold. I wanted a white Christmas because that is what you saw in the movies. Families huddled together around a tree, with the fireplace crackling in the background, drinking hot chocolate with little marshmallows in. Wearing those “ugly Christmas sweaters”. You see, I live in sunny and warm South Africa. Even in winter our temperatures seldom drop below 0C. And December in SA is HOT! From about mid-November, we are lucky to have a day where the maximum doesn’t hit the mid to high 30C, and most of the time we turn just below 40C. So our Christmases’ are sweltering hot. What upsets me the most about the whole temperature and lack of snow situation is that most South Africans want to serve the “traditional” Christmas lunch. I say “traditional” because it has never been a tradition here, it is something that people got from the movies. We do not serve stuffed turkey and glazed ham, with mashed potatoes etc. for Christmas lunch. And if you do, you shouldn’t. It’s hot! People want to have something that is lighter, more refreshing, and more South African. Seasonal, local, and fitting the climate. That is what a Christmas lunch should be. Add to that easy, effortless and quick and you have the beginnings of a winning menu. I am not saying that you shouldn’t eat turkey or ham, just that you shouldn’t blindly follow other countries or cultures’ traditions, make your own.

We like to keep it simple, with one starter (or a bread table), 2 meats, 2 salads and 1 side, and then followed with 1 dessert. What does your Christmas meal look like?

How to host a stress-free party (without breaking the bank or going insane)

We are at that time of the year when we flitter from one party to the next. Life is busy and hurried, and inevitably your turn comes around to hosting. But hosting does not come naturally to all, and even if it does, being tired and busy can take its toll. So when you have to host your family or friends or colleagues or whoever, use this quick guide to ensure you take the stress out of impress, and enjoy the party as much as the guests.

1. Simplify

The main purpose of this website – simplify your life. When hosting, make everything simple. Invite only as many people as you can comfortably host. The more people you have over, the harder it becomes to keep everyone happy. Work out the menu with dishes that you can prepare in advance, or that need minimal fuss before service. Use shortcuts if there are any – buy pastry instead of making, order in a cake if you don’t have time (or skills) to bake, etc. Even better, get caterers in to do it for you…

2. Have a budget

Have a budget and stick to it. Decide how you want to divide the budget – how much are you spending on food, on drinks, on flowers, etc.

3. Pick a suitable date and invite your guests well in advance

Pick a date that that will give you enough time to plan. If you normally only get off from work very late on a Friday, then rather opt for a Saturday. If Saturdays are just crazy, then go for a Sunday lunch. Long weekends, weekends with major sporting events, school exam times; all of these events can limit the number of guests who would be able to attend. Avoid conflicting dates and times.

4. Do as much as you can before the guests arrive (even the day before)

Clean the house, set the table, make the punch, chill the wine, prep the veggies. Do anything that will not spoil or go bad overnight. Try and get as much of the running around work done as possible.

5. Enlist help

We are not all great at everything. If you cannot cook to save your life, order in. If your taste in music makes people want to sleep instead of boogie, ask a friend. Delegating a few tasks to friends or family who offered is key – ask them to pick up the ice, for instance.

6. Decide on the bar menu

Decide what you will be offering, and what you want guests to bring themselves. If you are giving wine, make sure that it is chilled. Have a signature cocktail in mind? Plan it out and ensure all the ingredients are available and ready. Bonus tip: pick a cocktail that can be made in bulk, and served in a jug, e.g. margarita, mojitos, pina coladas, etc. Steer clear of drinks that must be made and served immediately such as martinis, sex on the beach and so forth. You do not have to offer a full bar, usually, juice, water, and wine are sufficient. Set up the bar area the day before. On the day, bring out the ice and cold drinks and voila! Done. Bonus bonus tip: don’t have enough fridge space to chill the drinks or enough freezer space for all the ice? Use your washing machine! Fill your washing machine with ice and chill the drinks in there. As the ice melts the machine will drain the water leaving you with no mess and no water to empty the next day.

7. Create a playlist

Music is essential to set the tone and mood of a party and is also a key way of getting your guests to relax and interact. If you do not own enough music to make a sufficient playlist, make use of a streaming service such as Spotify or Apple Music – often these services give you a period of use at no charge.

8. If kids are going to be attending, set up a dedicated area for them to play in

If you can keep the kids happy, you can keep the parents happy, and then you are another step closer to a no-stress event. The adults will be able to enjoy the party a lot more if they know their kids are occupied, fed, and taken care of. Have a plan B for when the kids become restless and bored, for example, have a movie ready to be played or some other activity.

9. Let the guests serve themselves

Have a bar area set up with all of the things your guests might need to help themselves. This way you do not have to play bartender all night. Same with the food – set up buffet-style so that guests can informally help themselves.

Planning a party can seem like a daunting task, but having a clear idea of what you need to do and when you have to do it by will keep you organized. If you are organized, you are calm and stress-free. And if you are stress-free then you can enjoy your party. When working out your own timeline, double the time that you think something will take, and add extra time in for those unexpected surprises. And remember to schedule enough time to get ready yourself. Some of the items that you need to keep track of:

• Planning and inviting

• Following up on RSVPs

• Shopping

• Prepping and cleaning

• Decorating