Almost one-third of Brits choosing winter weddings

Just under one-third of British couples are choosing to get married in winter, as opposed to waiting for the warmer spring or summer months.

Figures pulled together from UK registry offices and the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that increasingly, Britons are choosing to save money this way.

What’s more, it can help reduce any stress with regards to how the unpredictable British weather will perform, as it will reduce guests’ expectations of what the day will be like. That’s according to comments by Belinda Hanks, the editor of ‘Confetti’ magazine. She told Telegraph.co.uk: “A lot of people are coming around to the fact that even if you book a wedding in the summer, the weather in Britain is not guaranteed to be good.”

She went on to claim that brides and grooms-to-be can save “thousands of pounds” by opting to get married during the cooler season, stating that budgets can be slashed by as much as a quarter.

“With the economy the way it is, couples are realising that if they go for a winter wedding, they can get a much better deal,” she added. This could leave couples with more money to spend on their favourite wedding reception venue, or perhaps securing the caterer they want.

Not only can couples allocate their budget to the things they really want by having a winter wedding, they can also make it a really fantastic occasion. Shape.com focused on the real benefits of these weddings; such as being able to serve “hearty comfort food” that can really warm guests up before they head back out into the cold.

Aretha Franklin to wed at 69

Soul legend Aretha Franklin has gotten engaged at the age of 69.

The singer revealed that she will wed her long-time lover William Wilkerson in the summer, although they were yet to make a final decision on their wedding reception venue.

Despite the couple only announcing the happy news yesterday, rumours surrounding other elements of their nuptials are already running wild. The Sun has reported that the couple are planning to write their own vows.

A spokesperson for the singer told OK Magazine: “The Queen of Soul brought in the New Year right by talking marriage with long-time friend and confidant William ‘Willie’ Wilkerson. Ms. Franklin is considering Donna Karan, Valentino and the queen of wedding dresses, Vera Wang, to design her gown.”

Mr Wilkerson will become the third man to marry Franklin.  She was married to her former manager Ted White for eight years during the 1960s, before wedding actor Glynn Turman in 1978.   

The announcement comes after what was a mixed year for the couple in 2011. Franklin managed to lose six stones last year but it was also rumoured that she had to battle with pancreatic cancer. Despite this alleged health scare, the singer recently claimed to be feeling fitter than ever.

Rochelle Wiseman and Marvin Humes to marry within weeks

News of their engagement only broke on Saturday, but Rochelle Wiseman and Marvin Humes are opting for an incredibly speedy marriage, according to Mail Online.

The pair, both well known for their pop bands, The Saturdays and JLS, say that the big day will happen in a mere ten weeks time. Neither wanted to have a lengthy engagement, according to a source and are planning a big party to celebrate the news.

Speaking to the Daily Star, an insider said that the young lovers “didn’t waste any time in thinking about dates” – even though a wedding venue and wedding reception venue have yet to be revealed.

“After deciding they wanted to be married by summer, they then thought it would be a good idea to coincide the big day with their two birthdays on March 18 and March 21,” said the informant.

The spy added: “Rochelle has been telling her pals how excited she is and that she loves the birthday idea. She thinks combining the events will make it the most amazing three-way celebration ever.”

Humes popped the question to The Saturdays bandmate whilst on holiday in the Caribbean on New Year’s Eve. Posting a picture of the event online, Rochelle broke news of the engagement with a picture of her fiancé and herself, posing with a £45,000 diamond ring in the shape of a heart.

Over-65s represent missed market opportunity

Two-thirds of the hospitality sector is missing out on the ever-growing over-65s market.

New research from Barclays Corporate, cited by Big Hospitality, has found that a staggering 62 per cent of senior executives across the hospitality industry don’t provide services, event spaces or programmes for an older audience.

Perhaps surprisingly, the same poll discovered that older persons contribute massively to the sector, as 160 businesses were found to net 28 per cent of their average yearly income from the over-65s market.

This represents an estimated £25 billion worth of the industry’s income, notes Eat Out Magazine. It is a figure that is surely due to rise as the number of people aged over 65 is expected to increase by a further 1.4 million within the next five years.

“This lack of tangible engagement with a generation that has, for decades, shaped what leisure is in the UK should be something of a wake-up call for the sector,” comments Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays Corporate.

Mr Saul said that there was no need for a “major overhaul” within the sector; rather, some operations should be more focused and tailored toward an older market. Such age-specific offerings could include easy access to function venues, targeted deals and offers, or direct marketing campaigns for example.

Mr Saul added that “it would be a mistake to overlook the opportunities this healthier ageing population presents” – considering how the demographic is set to explode over the coming decade.

Secret London venue for Kate Middleton's 30th bash

Kate Middleton will be sipping on cocktails at an 80s-themed birthday bash in a secret location for her 30th, according to insider reports.

Mail Online revealed that the Duchess of Cambridge’s cunning party-planning sister Pippa – and brother-in-law Harry – are set to throw the birthday party at an as yet unspecified venue.

However, early invites heavily suggest that the event could take place at one of the many party venues London has to offer. This theory is backed up by some very convincing tittle-tattle.

Marie Claire, amongst others, has revealed that Kate and her husband Prince William are due to attend the movie premiere of Stephen Spielberg’s new flick ‘War Horse’ on the eve of her birthday, suggesting a London venue is more than likely to be on the cards.

According to a royal source close to Prince William’s wife, the do – which is also rumoured to feature a karaoke system – will be one of the last opportunities Kate has to let her hair down.

“In many ways, this is going to be Kate’s last chance to let go like she did back in the old days when she and William first met,” the source told Grazia magazine.

The spy added that the birthday has been planned for months and that dozens of people close to the couple are involved. Guests to the party have been issued ‘save the date’ cards for January 9th as a form of secret invite for the bash.

“Given the people organising it, you can be sure it will be brilliant,” concluded the insider.

New app highlights accessible venues in London

A free iPhone app is to change the way those with accessibility needs negotiate the London’s numerous event spaces and attractions.

Specialised for those with mobility needs, such as disabled persons, or parents with young children, the smartphone application provides detailed accessibility information for over 30,000 venues in the capital.

Among the listings are art galleries, pubs, hotels, museums, shops, restaurants and London 2012 Olympic venues, reports Breaking Travel News. After downloading the app, or visiting the developer’s website InclusiveLondon.com, city visitors can write reviews on the usefulness and accuracy of the information.

Commenting in Mitie.com press release, the deputy Mayor of London, Richard Barnes said the the project will prove to be “a valuable resource for people visiting the capital.”

He encouraged more businesses to supply their own information to the database in order to improve access for visitors to the city. It would be particularly prudent and perhaps even financially beneficial to do so before the Olympic Games, added a colleague.

Grant Kennedy, managing director of the national access register, Direct Enquiries added: “All organisations are looking to maximise footfall and revenue opportunities and opening their doors to people with specific access requirements will go a long way to achieving maximum growth.”

Corporate travel buyers to be frugal in 2012

Minimising corporate costs is the most important concern for three quarters of travel buyers in 2012, Air and Business Travel News reports.

Buyers, when quizzed by organisers of the Business Travel Show, said that they were particularly fearful over the introduction of a new emissions scheme for flyers on top of an eight per cent rise in air passenger duty.

The overwhelming majority (73 per cent) said that managing the cost of all aspects of travel booking would be the hardest part of their job in 2012. This means considering the cost of everything from a hotel to booking the right conference space.

“As we head into a year of economic uncertainty and increasing hotel, fuel and ancillary fees, such as APD, it’s no surprise that buyers are worried about keeping costs down,” comments David Chapple, event director of the Business Travel Show.

Other top issues facing the industry include maintaining good business around the Olympics, the economy and the rise in travel alternatives, added IncentiveTravel.co.uk.

Trying to dodge excessive costs where possible, a third of those polled said they were going to make their bookings ahead and shop around for the best deals.

Mr Chapple added: “Cost has been the overriding issue facing business travel since we entered recession, but there is good news on the horizon – the market is looking much healthier and, though buyers are being cautious, this survey also shows that one quarter of budgets are on the increase.”

Drew Barrymore to be married

Famed actress, Drew Barrymore is to be married to her partner Will Kopelman, according to a source close to the couple.

Msn.com revealed the news, stating that 34-year-old Kopelman proposed to his girlfriend during the festive season – although the exact date remains unknown. Despite never having officially stated they are together, the relationship between Kopelman and the ‘ET’ actress is well-known.

The pair began dating back in February 2011 and the groom-to-be presented Barrymore with a “colourless radiant-cut diamond”, according to People.com. The pair are reportedly “very happy together”, the source in question said.

Another insider on the situation hinted at this engagement in October 2011, stating that the bride-to-be was “yearning to get married and have kids”. They went on to add: “He’s [Kopelman] is madly in love and knows she’s The One.”

Although not much has been revealed about the couple’s ceremony or wedding reception venue, given Barrymore’s many fans throughout the world, it is likely their every move will be watched; with fans potentially taking inspiration for their own weddings.

It isn’t Barrymore’s first walk up the aisle, however. Back in 1994, the then 19-year-old Barrymore married Jeremy Thomas, a 31-year-old bar owner. After filing for divorce, she felt really to wed again in July 2011, marrying fellow actor Tom Green. This too was short-lived, with Green filing for divorce some six months later.

Hopefully this marriage will stick for Barrymore, whose films include ‘Never Been Kissed’ and ‘Going the Distance’.

Bumper crop of visitors in 2012 thanks to Facebook friends

London’s event spaces could be full to the brim if Britons help promote the nation using a new social media toolkit from VisitBritain.

The national tourism agency is targeting the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market of internet users. It’s encouraging them to use digital posters, e-cards and a Facebook application to sell Britain to those based overseas.

Users are able to personalise their greetings in the ‘Share Your GREAT Britain’ campaign and they even stand to win prizes in an online draw. Additionally, international invitees could win return flights to the UK from their home country.

“This is an innovative and personal way of encouraging more visitors to the UK and comes at a time when we want to ensure Britain is top of everyone’s holiday wishlist,” tourism minister John Penrose declared on VisitBritain.com.

His colleague, Sandie Dawe (VisitBritain’s chief executive) explained that this latest campaign formed part of a comprehensive four-year plan designed to promote Britain around the globe.

It started with the successful launch of a series of films endorsed by celebrities, who extended their own personal invitation to foreign tourists.

Speaking about the latest drive, Ms Dawe said: “2012 is the year to be in Britain – with a raft of new festivals, exhibitions and events marking the Diamond Jubilee, celebrations of Shakespeare and Dickens and the hosting of the Olympic Games.”

London Mayor to open Chinese New Year festivities

The mayor of London Boris Johnson will open the celebrations for Chinese New Year in London’s West End on January 29th, reports Event Magazine.

The programme of festivities, organised by the London Chinatown Chinese Association, will include the New Year’s parade – which travels through Chinatown and into Trafalgar Square for midday.

It also gives event spaces in London the opportunity to deck out their business with Chinese New Year-themed paraphernalia to tie in with the event.

According to london.gov.uk, “a specially decorated London Chinatown will host cultural stalls, food and lion dance displays. Shaftesbury Avenue will meanwhile become ‘Hong Kong in London Chinatown’ with a stage featuring performances by local Chinese artists.”

Boris Johnson will speak at the opening ceremony with Lord Mayor of Westminster, councillor Susie Burbridge and Chinese ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming.

Johnson commented on the event: “I am delighted once again to be supporting London’s Chinese New Year celebrations, which bring wonderfully energising colour and noise onto the streets of central London.

“In 2012 the eyes of the world will be on the capital and, with the Year of the Dragon’s themes of passion, ambition and success, I can think of no better way to help kick off a year of amazing highlights,” he added.