Sarah read Rock My Wedding every day for a year before marrying her boy Nathan at Wick Farm in Bath two months ago. That’s pretty dedicated, but I like to think that dedication pays off in the long run, and by the looks of it Sarah and Nathan had a fun filled wedding to be proud of, and one that they definitely did their way.
Our couple chose to have a September wedding because everybody knows that September is warm and sunny…
Our real bride Sarah says… WRONG!!!
…We had sun, we had wind, we had rain, we had everything all at once. We even had a rainbow. Did the weather matter at all on the day? Nope – not a jot.
Good job then that Catherine from Lily and Frank was on hand with her all-weather photographic kit bag of dreams…
No Bling Here.
My dress was designed by Stephanie Allin and is called Jacqueline. As soon as we got engaged I made my way to W H Smith and bought every wedding magazine they had on the shelf. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted for my dress but couldn’t quite articulate it. I can remember turning the page and seeing a feature wedding and thinking ‘oh that’s lovely’ and then moving on from it and forgetting about it. Fast forward a few months and I thought I’d tried on every dress in Bristol. My poor mother and bridesmaid Lucy sat there in despair as I came out from behind the curtain over and over again saying ‘NO!’. I once tried on 15 dresses in 45 minutes. I was having major ‘white out’. My last hope was at a bridal shop in Clifton called The Mews As soon as I walked in I spotted a range of dresses that I loved. They were all by Stephanie Allin. The dress from the magazine popped back into my mind and I asked if they had it. They didn’t, but I still had an amazing time in that shop and Gail, who runs it, is just lovely.
I couldn’t make their designer day with Stephanie, where I knew the dress would be, so I just said, sod it – lets go to Wales! The only thing I can say about Stephanie Allin is that she is like a fairy godmother. She is SO kind and gives you honest opinions about what will and won’t work. She doesn’t force anything on you and allows you to get excited and jump up and down in her shop… she even joins in! She was an absolute joy – she even offered to lend me some shoes from her shop when I couldn’t find any. How cool is that?! The dress didn’t have one bit of bling on it – as soon as I tried it on, I just knew – it sounds cheesy, but it really is that simple. It made me feel very safe and secure, with the corset that was made to measure and the lace detail on the capped sleeves and bodice was so pretty. I didn’t want to take it off.
My Fairy Godmother.
While I was at Stephanie Allin’s shop in the Mumbles I asked to try on some accessories for my hair as I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a simple cream rose, or have more of a tiara. I’d tried on an amazing hair piece in The Mews with Gail and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was more expensive than I’d hoped for, but when Stephanie said she stocked them, I knew I was in trouble! In true fairy godmother style, she whipped out a veil, popped the oh so beautiful pearl and crystal beauty on my head and we all promptly burst into tears. It was called Vintage Vine by Hermione Harbutt. I don’t ever wear earrings and was unsure of what to go for, but I picked up a pair of simple drop pearls from Hermione’s website and they were perfect.
Shoes That No-one Saw.
Now all my life I’ve wanted to be a shoe gal. Don’t get me wrong, I like shoes. They go on your feet and they stop them from getting cold and wet when it rains. And shoes always look lovely on other people. I always look at my small footed friends and think ‘Oh – I LOVE them’. Does this moment ever happen to me? Not reeeeeally, no. I put high heels on and I’m 6ft 3 and I feel a bit like a giraffe. I’m all arms and legs and I wobble and fall over. And my feet just hurt in high heels! I don’t know how people do it! So I started a search for wedding shoes. I lived on RMW for a whole year. I looked at Every.Single.Wedding that has graced the pages. All that happened was that I saw lots of shoes that looked great on other people but that I just knew if I attempted to wear I would look like the leaning tower of Pisa. PLUS – how expensive can a cream shoe BE? For the love of GOD – just because it’s a ‘wedding shoe’ – why do the retailers add a few zeros?!
In stepped Stephanie Allin, who put me in a pair of low kitten heels from her shop. She told me if I couldn’t find the pair online, she would lend them to me. Two hours later, I’d found them on eBay reduced from £140 to £30. Are they the most amazing, gorgeous shoes you’ve ever seen? Probably not. But I did wear them all day, and I did dance in them from the start to the end of the party. Plus – nobody saw them anyway – my dress covered them. Catherine from Lily and Frank made them look pretty by photographing them next to some orange berries – well done Catherine!
Booze For The Bride.
I found Carmen at the Bobbi Brown counter in Bristol. I was asking her for some tips, as I was going to be helping my friend do her wedding make-up. Carmen said the words that I dread ‘Do you want me to make you up?’ and I said yes. I hate having my make-up done at counters because I always look like a drag queen when they’re done. But Carmen did such an amazing job – she told me that she just wanted to make me look like me, but on a good day! I took down her number and told her if I ever got married, she would be first on my list of phone-calls. I tracked her down and she agreed. She was brilliant! My hairdresser Ben who ‘doesn’t do wedding hair’ thankfully agreed to do mine. He often makes fun of me for being too laid back about my hair and my wedding hair was no exception. Probably the only reason he agreed to do it was because he knew whatever he did, I’d go ‘yeah Ben, that’s fine’. So when I said to him ‘Just…you know…put it up’. He did. He’s brilliant. When we were running late because everybody had gotten stuck in traffic, I began to get very nervous and stressed. Ben simply shouted to nobody in particular ‘we need a gin and tonic for the Bride – make it large!’. It was like something out of a film! Catherine scrambled to the bar and came back with a big fat GnT. It worked for about ten minutes.
The only thing I knew that I wanted from my flowers, was that they had to be natural looking. I wanted them to look like they’d been picked from a field, so they had to be seasonal. Nathan and I arranged to meet up with Bella and Fifi to talk about my ideas. The conversation went a bit like this: ‘So, what’s the theme of the wedding’ ‘Ummm…there isn’t one really’ ‘What sort of flowers do you want?’ ‘Weddingy ones’ ‘What sort of colours?’ ‘Weddingy ones in cream jugs’ ‘Ookaaaay’. And that was it! I left them to it. They don’t use hot house flowers and only use locally sourced, locally grown blooms. They were just brilliant! They smelt amazing – they used lavender and sage alongside pretty pinks and purples and creams – see…weddingy colours!
Does This Come With A Hat?
Nathan was very adamant that he didn’t want to wear tails and look like a ‘penguin’. I remained silent and uncritical (ahem!) while he tried on lots of suits that he ummed and ahhhed about. Money was tight, so we couldn’t really afford to buy a flash new suit (I’d blown the budget on my dress!). A friend told us about a hire shop called tux and tails in Bristol which we visited. The man in the shop was very cunning and let Nathan try on lots of different types of suit – who knew there were so many? Eventually, he winked at me and said ‘I know you said you don’t want to wear tails, but would you just like to try one on?’ Nathan agreed, picked a navy blue jacket and trousers and as soon as he put it on, his chest stuck out more, his shoulders seemed broader, he stood up straight and said ‘Does this come with a hat?’ SOLD!
He decided that he wanted to wear a cream waist-coast and tie and that the groomsmen would wear lilac ties. The colour navy was fine, as there wasn’t really a colour theme. On my many visits to Mumbles, I found a shop called Oyster Gallery filled with goodies that I bought for the wedding, including a pair of cufflinks with little blue waves on – he loves surfing. He wore them on the day and they matched perfectly. It just so happened that my one bridesmaid also ended up in a gorgeous Navy dress from Coast. I told her to pick a dress that she loved and felt comfortable in and would wear again. She picked Navy. Ta daaa!
I’m So Sorry…
Nathan looked so handsome in his tails – he really knew how to work it! He’s very handsome anyway, but he seemed to just stand out that day. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. At various points in the day I’d lose sight of him, as invariably you talk to lots of friends and relatives. We’d keep catching each others eye – and my heart would skip a beat thinking ‘Crikey, that’s my husband!’
I was 45 minutes late. Unforgivable, I know. But he was as cool as a cucumber. He simply shrugged when people asked him if he was ok and said ‘She’s coming’. When I walked down the aisle I mouthed to him ‘I’m so sorry!’ and he just laughed. The music was very moving (The opening few minutes of Karl Jenkins, Benedictus) and by the time I got alongside him, he was crying. So I told him to man up. It made everybody laugh and from that moment on, all through saying our vows, we looked into each others eyes and didn’t cry once. He is my rock. I thank my lucky stars that I found him when I did. He’s a big, hairy, smelly and sometimes quite disgusting man who wears far too much lycra. But I love him with every part of my being and I meant every word that I said to him.
I found Catherine from Lily and Frank on RMW. We’d met up with a few photographers and just weren’t sure about them. Nothing seemed to blow us away. I loved Catherine’s post of a couple who had pictures taken in a library that was featured on RMW and asked to meet up with her. I just liked her straight away. She is so easy going and friendly. I felt like I’d known her for ages when we met for our pre-wedding shoot. She pulled out her big flashy camera and Nathan and I both sharply inhaled and retreated backwards in horror. Within five minutes we were both laughing and posing as if it came naturally to us. She coped with the strange weather perfectly on our wedding day. She didn’t shout at anybody, she didn’t impose on anything – she was a trooper. At one point I told her to stop and just sit down and eat something! We had loads of positive comments about her. I can’t recommend her enough. And her pictures are bloomin marvellous.
A Home Made Masterpiece.
My mum immediately volunteered to make the cake. Having never made a wedding cake and only ever attempted Christmas cakes with the typical ‘snow scene’ on them, she went through eight months of hell making it. She kept calling me asking me about the colour of the icing and what kind of flowers to put on it and what I thought of this, that and the other. I knew it would all come good in the end. Nathan loves marzipan and fruit cake so much that I lost the argument about having different types of cake. With the help of my dad and my mum’s friend Pat and her husband and several bottles of red wine, they made hundreds of flower petals from icing and stuck them all together and decorated and iced and what can I say – the cake was a masterpiece! It’s delicious and I’m still eating it with cups of tea. I still pick off the marzipan though.
I admit it. I stole my friend’s wedding band. Hannah and Kevin had found the most amazing band, but they were unable to perform at their wedding due to a prior engagement. She told me about them, and I went to hear them and thought they were great. I couldn’t not book them! The Ten Pound Suit Band are unlike any other band I’ve heard of. It is impossible to hear them and not want to dance. They play covers of tracks ranging from Dolly Parton to The Prodigy and do it in a swing-billy, blues way. They were a huge amount of fun and everybody loved them.
Pencil Full Of Lead.
We are not a lovey dovey couple. We tried to practice dancing to a few slow tracks and it just felt ridiculous and alien to us. We don’t even have a ‘song’. We just didn’t feel comfortable doing it. So we picked a song that we always dance around the kitchen to whilst cooking dinner and drinking wine. We danced to Pencil Full of Lead by Paolo Nutini. The Ten Pound Suit Band played it brilliantly and with the help of a one hour lesson we’d had a few weeks earlier, we did a few spins and then pulled everyone on the dance floor. We loved it. In fact, we loved it so much, we’ve booked dance classes together!
Carving A Niche.
I battled with my mum over favours. I knew that I didn’t want anything traditional, like bloody sugared almonds – no no NO! I also knew that I wanted to have a sweetie table – I know its ‘old news’ and that everyone does it nowadays, but I really love sweets and once I saw it on RMW I was determined that we’d have it. Nathan’s Dad is a whiz at carving wood and he very kindly offered to carve wooden hearts for all the guests and engrave their names on each one. Everyone loved them and took them away with them. I love to think of all of the hearts sitting on bookshelves or mantle pieces and that when people look at them, they are reminded of our day.
Relaxed And Fun.
I’m not a crafty person. I can only draw stick men. So when I walked into Hobbycraft for the first time I walked straight back out again. I struggled all along with this ‘theme’ business because I just didn’t know what to have as ours. I knew how I wanted the day to feel and that was it. We wanted it to reflect us as a couple. We wanted it to be relaxed and fun. We wanted people to like the food and to have a good time. When I saw the barn at Wick Farm, I knew it wouldn’t be hard to make it look amazing. I hired some bunting from Zoe at beautiful bunting and then set about trawling through various websites, including Cox & Cox, also NotOnTheHighStreet.com and The Wedding Of My Dreams who pretty much kitted me out with everything I needed!
I wrapped jam jars in hessian fabric and tied ribbons around them, I taped some other jam jars with a pretty sticky tape from Cox & Cox, I bought some willow branches and put them in a vase and asked people to write messages and tie them to the branches. I bought some really cheap candles from Asda and cut lengths of ribbon and fastened the ribbon around them with pins. I saw a table plan online that I liked the look of but couldn’t afford, so copied for about £15 with some string, luggage tags and a bit of wood from B&Q’s cut off section. Is it illegal to do that? Ssshh don’t tell anyone that bit! We set off eco-friendly Chinese lanterns, which nearly set the farmhouse alight because of the strong winds – ops
Made For Two.
My favourite thing was our tandem bicycle. We both like cycling (Nathan is bonkers about it) and we thought it would be a great idea to hire a tandem. We couldn’t find one that we liked, so we bought one on eBay and put some flowers on the front. It took three people to get me onto that bike in my wedding dress, but I’m so glad we did it! We had a stamp made from Etsy of a tandem which we used on our invitations and on various things like the sweets table. We had recently been to a wedding where each table had a set of questions to answer about the bride and groom. The winning table won a bottle of bubbly. It really was such a brilliant ice breaker for guests that didn’t know each other so we used it for our wedding. The bonus questions were random Welsh phrases that the guests had to decipher and attempt to say out loud (Nathan is Welsh). It was so much fun.
All About Us.
I think our day was special because it really was all about us. I had so many people telling me what they thought should happen – it became so confusing. Even though all the way through the organisation I was unsure about what I wanted and what kind of flowers to have and what the theme was and how all the décor would come together – my advise would be not to panic if you don’t have a theme. You don’t have to have a theme. Stick to your guns when it comes to the dreaded guest list. You do NOT have to invite people you don’t know. Use people that offer their help to you. I didn’t do this and about a week before the wedding I was a complete wreck. I’m lucky to have friends and family who stepped in and took on some of the jobs and responsibility on the day – don’t try and do everything yourself – you will have a meltdown moment. Mine was about tea-lights. It was not pretty.
Be prepared for the fact that little things will go wrong on the day – you can’t control everything and it really won’t matter. Nathan and I snuck off together for ten minutes and just talked about how excited we were and how much of a great time we were having. I loved those ten minutes. We then stood watching everyone dancing before being dragged onto the dance floor for the rest of the evening. My only other piece of advice would be to visit Rock My Wedding every day. It worked for me!
Big Tandem Love,
Venue Wick Farm
Photography Lily and Frank
Dress Stephanie Allin
Headpiece Hermione Harbutt
Flowers Bella and Fifi
Entertainment The Ten Pound Suit Band
A theme or a colour scheme can be good to focus your ideas and to help you make decisions. I am a person that suffers from what I call “blank canvas syndrome” – when you can literally do anything, you end up doing nothing – because you can’t make a decision. Once I have a few constraints in place, like a colour scheme or a key idea – something concrete then I’m off like a rocket.
Of course we are all different, Sarah and Nathan worried from time to time that they didn’t have a theme but they were able to make choices and decisions easily enough and soon enough everything was falling into place. Who needs a rule book? Oh, and it turns out John Lennon was wrong – “All you need is Love”…
No John, all you need is love and a tandem.