Sunderland event planner creates one-stop-shop wedding directory

Gemma Jay looking at a wedding photo of her mum and dad.
Gemma Jay looking at a wedding photo of her mum and dad.
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A Sunderland woman has dedicated her new wedding business to the memory of her beloved parents.

Gemma Jay has created the Wedding Handbook, which brings together every type of service that soon-to-be-weds will need to plan their big day.

Malcolm and Beverley Hagan were killed when Malcolm suffered a heart attack while riding their motorcycle.

Malcolm and Beverley Hagan were killed when Malcolm suffered a heart attack while riding their motorcycle.

Event planner Gemma is dedicating the wedding ‘yellow pages’ to her parents Malcolm and Beverley Hagan, from South Hylton, who were tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in France in 2013, when Malcolm suffered a heart attack while they were riding.

She said: “Mum and dad were childhood sweethearts, who were very much in love and were married for 34 years. Dedicating the Wedding Handbook to them is a fitting tribute to their memories.

“Soon after their death I realised just how much in love they were and how important marriage was to them.

“That’s when I started doing market research and planning the Wedding Handbook. It’s taken two years to get me to this stage but now I’m ready to take it to the next level.

I love the idea of people gathering together to look at the book and plan their wedding, it’s so much more traditional and in keeping with the idea of marriage than making lists from the internet.

Gemma Jay

“I’ve put together the Wedding Handbook to give couples a real choice. Although there are online directories available, this is a hard-backed quality product that people can keep as part of their wedding memories.

“I love the idea of people gathering together to look at the book and plan their wedding, it’s so much more traditional and in keeping with the idea of marriage than making lists from the internet.”

Unlike other directories, there are no preferential choices meaning that anyone with a reputable wedding-related company can feature.

The first edition of the Wedding Handbook will feature businesses in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.

Gemma aims to take the idea nationwide in the new year, with different books for each part of the UK. She is also working on versions of the book for gay couples to plan same-sex weddings.

The Wedding Handbook features businesses supplying everything from bridal wear and wedding cakes to venues, transport and honeymoons.

Each page has a doodle section for keeping notes, plus sticky tabs to mark the pages and a memory stick where couples can store their favourite suppliers in one place.

Gemma trained in performing arts and dance and spent three months learning to be a stuntwoman in Australia, before returning to the UK to manage gyms and fitness clinics.

But she realised her forte was as an organiser and set up Visualized Event Specialists to manage corporate events, awards ceremonies and offer wedding planning services.

The wedding planning quickly took over and sowed the seeds of the Wedding Handbook.

Gemma said: “Most directories feature preferred suppliers, but the Wedding Handbook provides couples with a real choice to suit their budget.

“You could choose a photographer charging £200 or one charging £2,000 – it’s up to you.

“We do demand every advertiser is fully insured and that they meet the regulatory requirements for their sector, so for example, all caterers must meet the food hygiene regulations and anyone supplying electrical items must have a PAT (portable appliance testing) certificate.

“It’s about providing a quality service at a price to suit each couple, who can build up their own individual record of their wedding in their own unique book.”

Gemma plans to take the first edition of the Wedding Handbook to Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena Wedding Fair in January and sell the book in high street stores and supermarkets. Copies can also be ordered from www.weddinghandbook.co.uk.