Category Archives: Personal Rambles

Being the Voice of a Revolution When the Revolution is Already Won

I started writing this article about a year ago. I found it in my drafts this morning, and although the context and reason for me starting to write it has moved on, actually a lot of the notes I’d made on the subject still made a lot of sense. So please forgive me if it feels a little muddled and disjointed, but I wanted to revisit the topic and finally publish it.

I started putting digital pen to digital paper when I received the below comment on an Instagram post:

“I’ve been following your blog for about 8 years now and it’s great to see a personal post from you again. I used to love your tips and perspective on things as much as the weddings you featured. Where that became less so I moved to following on Facebook and the group which have been equally as awesome but for very different reasons – such as community spirit and support. It’s become an entity in itself. I kind of miss the lead you took in your blog which led to this revolution in weddings. As much as I love the magazine, I don’t always have the kind of time I’d like to sit and read a physical product. Plus the last page is kinda final, whereas a blog is endless. Great for insomnia or staying up with kids who won’t sleep! I also understand that businesses are hard work and evolve and one person can only do so much. You’re doing an amazing job, and I’m proud to be an ‘official’ Rock n Roll bride after being featured in December.”

Her comment about being the lead in a revolution in weddings really made me smile and think back to 2008-2011 when I was just starting out, and how really, really UPSET and mad I was about everything I saw in the wedding industry! I was definitely a lot rantier back then (and it got me into trouble regularly – not that I really minded!) In a way I miss it, it was nice to have a mission, but also, it’s pretty amazing that something I’ve created has achieved what it set out to do.

There almost doesn’t NEED to be a revolution anymore because, for the most part, being an alternative bride is much more accepted. I’m regularly interviewed by newspapers about the ‘trend’ of alternative weddings (particularly so around the royal wedding because y’all Meagan is a woman of colour and did a speech don’t you know?) It makes me internally chuckle and feel happy that being a weirdo or an outsider no longer has such a stigma attached to it… but also eye roll really hard all at the same time!

So, what’s next? Do I just need to resign my post now? Have we done everything that needs to be to change the wedding industry? WELL, ACTUALLY NO.

Although so much of the industry has changed in the past decade, particularly stylistically (the huge variety of dress styles, lots more budget-friendly options, bride rocking tattoos being seen as less of an unusual thing) there is still a LOT that needs to change. And while I don’t really have the time, or inclination, to sit down and write blog post after blog post about all the things I see wrong in the wedding industry as much as I did in 2011, there are still issues I’m fighting against every day with the work that I do, particularly with the magazine.

For example, did you know that no mainstream wedding magazine in the UK has ever put a black model on their cover? Do you know that a lot of them still don’t feature same sex weddings? I’m sure you all see the bombardment of weight loss stuff surrounding weddings that still happens too. Even with the uprising of body positivity, the wedding industry is still light years behind, relentlessly pushing the fantasy of the fairytale wedding complete with the princess bride.

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Tattoo Regrets, Laser Removal and Learning to Love my Ink Again

Lisa Jane Photography

I was just going to share this on Instagram, but then I realised not only did I have quite a lot to say, but that I hadn’t sat down and written a proper article about anything other that weddings for a while so this felt like the perfect opportunity. I’ve been getting tattooed since I was – I think – 16 (yeah, not my finest hour) so I’ve had my fair share of good and bad experiences! Tattoos and Rock n Roll Bride tend to go hand in hand, in fact publishing photos of beautiful tattooed brides was really how I started this blog, so I thought you might be interested to hear about my personal journey.

While I have quite a few tattoos, I’m going to focus on my sleeve in this post, mainly because it’s the one I get asked about the most, it’s the most recognisable and it’s the one I’ve been working on the longest!

I started it in 2010, when I was 26 (OMG these photos – haha!) Initially I was pretty happy with it (although after 18 hours of tattooing I was probably mostly just happy it was over!) but after a few months a lot of it really started to bother me. The red areas were too red (I really wanted them to be more pink) the girl’s face had no ink in it, so her skin was just my skin which made her look like a weird naked ghost, and the small cupcakes looked really amateur. I also wished it had more colours in it. I think it was a classic case of being a bit of a tattoo novice, being too nervous to speak up about what I really wanted (and didn’t want) and, in retrospect, not researching artists well enough. I don’t think the tattoo at this stage was in any way ‘bad’ but it didn’t turn out how I originally envisioned it.

London Tattoos

Eliza Claire Photography

In 2013 I decided I wanted to have it reworked. After doing a lot of internet research, and being met with many brick walls from tattooists who said they couldn’t  – or wouldn’t – help, I found Leah Moule. I visited her in Birmingham and we added some more colours and gems. She shaded in the girl’s face, changed the little hat from blue to teal and added my favourite part – the rainbow on my shoulder! I was so much happier!

Shell de Mar Photography

Made You Look Studio

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The Man I Married

How exactly do you condense ten years of marriage into a few simple sentences? The ups, the downs, the soul-crushing hard times and the heart-elevating incredible ones?

It’s almost impossible not to just reel off clichés about how he’s my rock, my reason for living, my soulmate and my best friend. But I’ve come to learn over the years that clichés are clichés because they’re true. All of them. And Gareth is all those things and so much more.

So, I’ll keep this short and sweet (for once!)

The man I married is strong, humble, smart, hard-working, generous, kind, intelligent beyond belief and so fucking handsome I can’t quite believe my luck.

The man I married looks at me most days with a combination of bemusement about my latest crazy idea, a subtle eye-roll at my desperation to get it off the ground RIGHT THIS SECOND and a glint in those baby blues that says “It’s a good job I think you’re pretty…”

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Transforming My Wedding Dress for Our 10 Year Anniversary

In four days Gareth and I will celebrate our TEN YEAR wedding anniversary. I can’t quite believe it! A DECADE.

With such a momentous milestone coming up, last year I started to think about ways we could celebrate. While moving over the summer, I pulled my wedding dress out of the back of my wardrobe to bring it over to the new house and I realised, bar a few photo shoots at the start of my blogging career (anyone remember these?!) it’s pretty much sat there, collecting dust and getting all moth-eaten, since then. It’s actually kinda sad when you think about it. You spend such a happy, important day in this dress and then it’s either sold on, trashed or, like mine, relegated to the back of a closet.

So, my dress wasn’t the most ‘out there’ wedding gown you will have ever seen and the fact I rocked some Converse was pretty fucking revolutionary (the pink veil photo was a shoot, I wish I’d been brave enough to add some colour to my actual wedding day look!) But when I was looking for a dress in 2007 the wedding industry was such a different place. In fact I don’t think I saw ANY dresses that weren’t strapless. I mean, I’m sure they existed, but without a resource like Rock n Roll Bride to guide me I had no idea where I’d even look for something more alternative.

My dress was by Sottero and Midgley, and if I’m totally honest, it was the first one I tried on that I didn’t absolutely hate. I asked the shop if we could replace the original baby pink sash with a black one which it caused quite a few raised eyebrows! How very edgy. Also, can you believe we had a monochrome themed wedding? Oh how things have changed!

So here I was, almost a decade later, planning for our big anniversary and wondering what we could do to mark the occasion. People ALWAYS ask me what we’d do differently if we were getting married now (hint: E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G) and so I thought it would be really amazing if I could rework my dress and turn it into the kind of gown I’d like to wear if I was a 2018 bride!

There was only one lady I wanted to help me with this project: Jo of The Couture Company, based in Birmingham. Now usually The Couture Company don’t upcycle other dresses, all their gowns are made to order, totally unique and made exactly to the bride’s ideas and specifications, BUT she’s a friend and so when I told her my idea she jumped at the chance to be involved! I went up to see her late last year with my dress in tow and we came up with a plan of attack.

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How I Started Rock n Roll Bride (AKA If I Can Do it, You Bloody Well Can Too!)

Photo by June Photography

One of the questions I’m asked the most often is “How did you start Rock n Roll Bride?” There’s a short version that I reel off without a second thought, but after reading this post by my friends at Bespoke Bride I was inspired to put digital pen to digital paper and write about it in much more detail. Maybe it will help you if you’re just starting out with your own business, or maybe it’ll be nothing more than a welcome distraction from that other thing you’re really supposed to be doing right now! Regardless I think it’ll be a fun exercise for me to journey back down memory lane for a bit.

Gareth proposed to me on April 12th 2007, exactly five years to the day since we started dating. Although I was never really the kind of person to ever think about her wedding (I knew Gareth was ‘the one’ but as a child of a messy divorce he’d told me many times he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to get married), I threw myself into wedding planning WHOLEHEARTEDLY. I have quite an obsessive personality and if I like something I REALLY REALLY like it… to the extreme!

I went out and bought every single wedding magazine and like many of you, I’m sure, immediately felt incredibly disappointed with what was on offer. I didn’t really like ANYTHING, but as it felt like something semi-traditional it was the only option, we started planning our wedding, inspired by what we saw. The thought that we didn’t have to get married in a fancy wedding venue, I didn’t have to wear a white dress and chair covers were something we could chuck out the proverbial window didn’t even cross my 24-year old mind.

A few months later, I was spending one of my many frantic Googling sessions looking for slightly cooler wedding stuff when I stumbled across some American wedding blogs: Ruffled, Green Wedding Shoes and the now defunct Eastside Bride, The Unbride and Snippet & Ink. They had all just started and they weren’t the big, glossy online publishers you see today. They were basic blog layouts with simple designs and were updated daily, being run by girls just like me who were also planning their weddings. Although not everything they shared was quite my style, the fact that these bloggers were updating their sites every day made them a constant source of inspiration. Plus, their ideas were definitely more palatable than what was being offered by Brides Magazine.

I was immediately hooked, checking in with my favourites every single day. After a few weeks, sometime around mid-October 2007, I decided I wanted in on the action and started my own wedding planning blog! With literally zero technical ability I managed to set up rocknrollbride.blogspot.co.uk (someone else now has that domain so if you visit it the stuff on there has nothing to do with me!) using some free blogging software and a design template. I can’t remember, or find, what I had as my ‘logo’ when I first launched, but after our wedding in April 2008, I took some of our wedding pictures, opened Photoshop and created the most god-awful blog header I’ve ever seen…

The name was inspired by our first meeting with our wedding photographers who said we were definitely the most ‘Rock n Roll’ couple they’d ever had! Looking back, we so weren’t that alternative (especially not compared to all the amazing couples and weddings I see now) but I’m grateful for that throwaway comment!

I blogged about everything and anything to do with weddings, posting multiple times a day. I was OBSESSED. I didn’t care (or realise) how rookie it was, or that the website was ugly as sin, or that my writing wasn’t great and was FULL of typos. I just wrote and uploaded and published on repeat for about eight months.

Oh, and I should probably mention at this point that I kept my online presence a total secret from everyone I knew in real life… yes even Gareth!

OK so fast forward to late 2008, and although by this point we were married, I still kept sharing wedding stuff (in secret) on the blog. The site had quite a loyal, if not small, following by this point. Remember this was before most social media (I had a personal Facebook but wasn’t yet using Twitter. Instagram and Pinterest didn’t even exist!) so I didn’t really know exactly how many readers I had, but I’d see the same names popping up in the blog comments.

Anyway, I heard about this thing called Google Analytics, something you could put on your site to see how many people were visiting it. And despite being completely technically inept, I attempted to install it myself and somehow, SOMEHOW, I deleted the whole fucking website. Yes, it was GONE, erased from the internet forever!!

So, I went to my new husband, who by the way is a computer genius (yet I was even too embarrassed to tell him that I was writing about weddings online) and told him I had this blog… about weddings… and that I’d kinda accidentally deleted it. TO THIS DAY Gareth has no idea how I managed to do this, and although at the time I was so gutted that all my work had gone (HA!) it was actually one of the best things that could have happened. It forced me to start again and re-evaluate what and why I was doing it. Like, if I was really into this whole wedding thing, and I wanted to keep writing about them, the website had to have a purpose. I was no longer a bride so it couldn’t just be a personal diary anymore, it had to be useful to people, it had to offer something different to the other wedding blogs I was reading. He helped me register rocknrollbride.com and start using a much better blogging platform called WordPress. I started it up again in January 2009.

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Instagram, Facebook & Blogging: The Future of Rock n Roll Bride

It feels like actual forever since I’ve sat down and had a proper chat with you guys on my blog. Of course I keep up to date with you all on Instagram and Facebook (particularly in our ever-growing private Facebook group, we now have nearly 13,000 members!) but this space has been a little neglected on the old personal content side.

I’ve read a few articles from some of my favourite bloggers recently on this same topic: Blogging vs social media, and their feelings towards how things are shifting. They all say that they really want to commit to blogging more, that they love their blogs so much, but that it’s now a much harder medium to keep on top of and get engagement on. I remember when I used to write a personal blog post and it would receive hundreds of comments. Now things are pretty good if they get like 5! Whereas on Instagram my posts still get a lot of traction because its quick and easy for people to hit “like” or leave a short comment.

I’ve always said that, in business, putting all your eggs in one social media basket is really risky. Yes, Instagram is where it’s at right now, but what if they screw with the algorithm so much that no-one sees your posts unless you pay (they are owned by Facebook now after all)? I still think it’s really important to have your own platform, like a website or blog, that you completely own, in case things all go tits up over on the IG.

I’m not gonna lie, it can be a bit disheartening that it’s so damn difficult to get people to actually click over and read a blog post you’ve spent a long time on. People are all about staying on Facebook or liking things on Instagram, but ask them to click a link to read a longer article away from their favourite platform and it’s like tumbleweed. What is that about? Are we just getting so damn lazy online that unless the content is right there in our face we can’t be arsed to make the effort to click a link to read it? The answer is yes by the way, yes we are.

This morning I did a poll on my Instagram Stories to ask how many of my followers actually ever visited the blog, and I was genuinely chuffed to see that 65% of them did regularly click though (I’ve seen results from other bloggers that were much more depressingly low!) However, unsurprisingly only 24% of them said they regularly visited the blog off their own backs. They needed prompting (with a social media post) and they’d click through if the content sounded interesting to them. I remember a few years ago I literally used to bookmark my favourite blogs and visit them every single day to see their updates. Those days are long gone my friends!

I also asked people to DM me with their general thoughts on blogs, specifically if they ever read them or just prefer social media content and the results were actually really encouraging and interesting too.

A lot of people said that although they prefer social media (in this case Instagram) on a daily basis, if they are looking for specific advice, information or recommendations, they will turn to a blog. Others said they they don’t have the time or ability to keep up to date with blogs regularly (RIP Google Reader) but that when they see something that sounds interesting on social media they will click through.

Of course there were also lots of people saying they don’t ever read my blog, or that they prefer just seeing a few highlights on Instagram (these people are missing out IMHO!) and a few said they just follow me for my personal style (or cats!) because they’re not getting married at all! That is the really great thing about Instagram though, it can open you up to a while new audience who would never have found you otherwise. These kinds of people would literally never have been searching for wedding content online, because they’re not engaged, but if they ever do plan to get married, where are they gonna turn? Well, to their favourite blue haired cat-obsessive Instagrammer I suppose (haha!) This is one of the main reasons why I keep my Instagram a mix of personal photos and updates AND blog post links/ wedding images. I know not everyone is interested in both, but the personal content is appealing to a larger proportion of people, and it encourages people to (hopefully!) stick around after they get married too.

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