Luxury and Celebrity Wedding Planner Vanessa Harness talks about planning a wedding with one of her all time heroines
If you have worked in the Harness & Co office for any time at all during 2019/2020, it won’t come as a surprise that Covid wasn’t the hottest topic of conversation, it was the 2021 wedding of Zoe & Akin, Zoe being the daughter of BBC TV historian and famous Cambridge Scholar Mary Beard!
As operations director for Harness & Co. I do not often get over involved in the actual planning of a wedding until I receive my instructions from the “Duchess” of weddings herself.. Vanessa, so with this one being such a hot topic I thought I would set about asking a few questions…
Vanessa, you have done a number of celeb weddings over your extensive career, why is this one so special to you?
I have done a number of celebrity weddings over the years, it comes with the territory of being a luxury planner, and most we can not ever share due to confidentiality agreements. But you are right this one is special to me because I am a massive History fan and have spent hours in the books and BBC programming of Mary Beard, she is somewhat of an idol of mine, it has to be said.
I've lost count of how many Tudor history books you have read so this comes as no surprise, how did you manage working with one of your heroes?
The first thing is, not to forget that the two most important people are my bride and groom, this is their day and being experienced working with celebrity’s despite being a hero, my wedding planning focus super power kicked in as normal.
When you plan a wedding with someone famous is there anything you have to do differently?
Sure, the first thing is to establish what we can disclose to suppliers during the initial planning stages. There are often other factors such as controlling information to the press, security and of course privacy, everyone has a right to enjoy their private life, we are all only human after all.
Tell us a little about the wedding itself?
This first and foremost was the wedding of Zoe & Akin, two of the most down to earth amazing lovely people you will ever meet. the wedding took place naturally at Newnham College, part of Cambridge University. This was an important element as Mary herself married Robin at Newnham some 30 years I believe earlier and with Mary also being a Professor at the University the setting was perfect.
The university Colleges are popular choices for weddings, why is that?
They are, partly because fo the simple beauty and history of their architecture and meaning, but also because many couples first meet at University, with some being from all parts of the world. For those couples going back to where their relationship began to get married is a key element of their day.
You tend to work with a lot of the University colleges most recently several weddings at Kings and Newnham, is there anything unusual about planning using the Cambridge colleges for weddings?
There is indeed Dom, as you well know but for the benefit of our readers, unlike a dedicated wedding venue, weddings at a University college are often only available to previous students or due to the nature of being an operating college have a few rules and regulations that the unprepared can fall foul of. The College teams are great to deal with and having a working relationship with them along with planning at the colleges many times I know all the oddities and boundaries plus also how far I can push them out of their comfort zone to achieve something extra special. This is why the colleges tend to recommend me as a preferred planner, simply because I know how they work and they also know they will get an exceptional wedding event every time..! In all Honesty I probably get away with more than most..!
Zoe & Akins Wedding, what did you design and plan?
We worked together, Myself, Zoe, Akin and Mary to decide what they wanted and we opted for a quintessentially english relaxed garden wedding in the grounds of Newnham under an open sided marquee. We used the Marquee for the ceremony and then while Zoe & Akin entertained their guests and had photos at the rooftop drinks reception we along with the fantastic Newnham team transformed the ceremony area into their amazing wedding breakfast.
What were the design Highlights of this wedding?
My vision focussed on making the stretch marquee and grounds appear seamless, we brought the outside in with some amazing florals and created very natural looking tree elements from the marquee poles. This was brought together for dining by ensuring our stationery, cutlery and even glassware all perfectly complimented the overall visual.
It was important to Zoe & Akin that the wedding was a family event with Children but they also wanted both their adult and child guests to enjoy themselves, how did you do this?
Absolutely we had a significant number of children and most of us at one time or another have witnessed a stressed parent trying to keep children quiet during a ceremony, something itself often very strange to a small child. We used a specialist event childcare company, to not just babysit but ensure the children would be entertained, looked after, be part of the day and yet allowing the mums and dads to enjoy the day, Zoe & Akin included.
Any upcoming celeb weddings you can share with us?
Shhhh… Oh OK, pardon the pun… My next Celeb wedding for Strictly Fans is for the amazing Craig Revel Horwood & Jonathon Myring and will be featured in either OK or Hello magazine, but thats all I can reveal so don’t ask..
On the Harness & Co. team for this wedding were:
Photography: Matt Badenoch – https://www.mattbadenoch.com/
Venue: Newnham College (Cambridge University) – https://newn.cam.ac.uk/conferences/weddings/
Flowers and Floristry: Ivey Amelia Florals – https://ivyameliaflorals.co.uk/
Stationery: Little Button Nose – http://www.littlebuttonnose.co.uk/
Wedding Childcare: Safe & Sound Events – https://safeandsoundevents.com/
Wedding Cake: Pretty Tasty – https://www.prettytasty.co.uk/
Wedding Hair: Kate Atalay Bespoke Hair – https://www.kateatalay.co.uk/
Wedding Makeup: Cambridge Make Up Artist – https://cambridgemakeupartist.com/
Marquee Hire: Fairytale Marquees – https://www.fairytalemarquees.co.uk/
Dinnerware Hire: CMA Hire – https://www.cma-event-hire.co.uk/