Imagine planning a wedding. Conceptualize the endless planning, organizing and scheduling. Consider having to deal with manic brides, obsessive mothers-in-law and budget-conscious fathers. Visualize balancing all of those elements in perfect harmony to make certain that that important day comes off with a hitching, but not a hitch.
Aoife Hanly, Wedding Coordinator at One Great George Street, took all that on 500 times.
Now, it looks like more Americans are looking for that extra dose of history and romance to add to their nuptials – using popular venues in London as their homebase. So, guys – pay attention.
To put the scope of Hanly’s influence into some sort of historic perspective, let’s play with the numbers. If you consider that Hanly managed 500 couples – 1,000 men and women (or some mix thereof), that means – if Hanly’s career scorecard was a Broadway musical – you could call it “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...and 493 Additional Happy Couples.”
To gain a more detailed perspective on what Hanly does for her venue – and how the special 500th wedding came together – we stopped her in the stately hallways of OGGS before she could arrange another bouquet or order up another cake.
“I would say approximately 240 of my weddings have been at OGGS over eight and a half years,” Hanly said. “There have been about 192 at Moor Park Golf Club, and the other 68 came together elsewhere, made up of friends, colleagues and family in the UK. I’ve also worked on weddings in the south of France, Tuscany and the USA.”
While some might think burnout (veritable “nuptial fatigue”) would’ve settled in by now, Hanly reports she still loves what she does.
“I really do still enjoy organizing weddings because each one is so different,” Hanly explained. “Every bride or groom wants to make his or her mark and leave a lasting impression on the guests. I enjoy the creative side of that – the food and wine pairing, table decor, the wedding cake design and all the beautiful flowers. The best part of my job is bringing it together from a simple theme and color scheme to a fabulous ‘wow factor’ wedding.”
Since OGGS prides itself on its inclusiveness, Hanly has the opportunity to plan ceremonies for unions of all backgrounds, cultures and orientations. Each event can present unique personalities and sensitivities.
“When you work with different cultures and orientations regularly, you learn what they expect of you and how you should communicate with them. You also become skilled in the art of pacifying family feuds and stressed out brides and grooms before the ceremony. You become the negotiator and the calming influence.”
All of the gowns, tuxedos, flowers and cakes only served to prep Hanly for putting the finishing touches on her 500th wedding – the happy union of Marina and Sadat – a Greek bride and an Indian groom.
“This was the first Greek/Indian partnership I dealt with, though I have had other fusion weddings, such as Persian and Indian, Australian and Irish, English and American, Hungarian and English, Nigerian and Italian. It’s actually more usual to have a mixed culture wedding.”
“There was a vintage theme with lace chair saches, intricate glass vases, beautiful pastel pink roses with hydrangea and plenty of pearls. Planning the 500th meant creating a choice menu for 230 people – with each course suited to the cultural needs of Greek, English and Indian guests.”
Hanly’s deft multicultural touch comes in especially handy as London becomes more of a draw for many international couples.
“We have many brides from New York,” she said. “We have had a bride and groom from San Francisco who were visiting London, walked past the venue and came in to enquire. That couple got married last June, and all their guests travelled over for the wedding.”
“We’ve had French, Chinese and Persian couples. Other foreign unions came to us from as far away as New Zealand, Nigeria and India. We have been able to accommodate all of their needs from scratch using our excellent in-house catering with Chef David Wilkinson.”
With wedding 500 already in the registry book, Hanly has moved on to planning entries up to 504 for the coming months. However, does she ever see herself settling in to plan wedding 1,000?
“Yes...If I can survive that long. I know OGGS will still be here.”
So, if you've got the money and the ambition, grab your girlfriend and wouldbe spouse and head to London.