I LOVE this morning’s wedding; it’s a little bit like your favourite cake. You have a slice but somehow it isn’t quite enough and you can’t help going back for more and then a little bit more after that…
Katie and Dylan’s wedding is so chockablock full of the most fantastic details that I urge you to grab a cuppa and really take your time going through the slider and the gallery. There are delicious blackcurranty hued bouquets and buttonholes inspired by Dylan’s beloved South Africa, the beautiful venue Ballymaloe in Ireland where the couple celebrated saying I do and the sweetest succulent themed table plan.
But one of the most striking (and one of my favourite) parts of this wedding has to be the amazing coffee bar that the pair created for their guests as a surprise complete with hanging letter light COFFEE sign, branded cups and delicious treats. It looks AMAZING!
The Bride’s Fashion
Katie The Bride: I’m pretty fussy when it comes to “getting dressed up”, I’m fairly certain about what suits my shape and the styles that I do and don’t like. So when we got engaged I have to admit I was a bit nervous that I’d never find the right thing for want of being too picky, but I did have a sort-of idea of the type of dress that I might like. I had set aside a day with my Mum and my sister, and I’d chosen a few boutiques who promised what I was looking for on their websites. We headed straight for the floaty, bohemian styles, but, like so many other RMW brides, and friends and family who had shared their experiences with me, that’s not what I went for at all!
My last appointment of the day was at the beautiful Miss Bush Bridal showroom in Ripley and when we decided those styles just weren’t working, Corinne who had been assisting me, pulled out a couple of fitted, lacier, beaded dresses which I looked at sceptically. She handed over the Maggie Sottero Verina Marie, a brand new arrival, and said “I’ve been listening to what you like and don’t like about all the others. Try this, I think you’re going to love it”. And love it I did! It fit like a glove, it felt light as air, and the beading and lace which I’d been wary of gave me that bohemian feel that I’d so sought after.
There was a lot going on on the dress, so I chose a simple veil but added a little bit more sparkle with some gold peep toes from Carvela (almost identical so some Jimmy Choos I’d been eyeballing, and such a bargain!). Some old small pearl earrings and a beautiful, delicate diamond pendant that Dylan designed himself (using the diamonds from his late Grandmother’s wedding ring), given to me on our wedding morning finished the look.
For hair and makeup I wanted soft and natural… I think they call it “you, but on your very best day”! I’m incredibly lucky that my wonderful cousin, Kate, is a professional makeup artist and does lots of weddings. When I was little I was her bridesmaid, so it meant so much to me that she could be part of my day too. We had one practice run, but on the day she absolutely nailed it – a relaxed up do went really well with the flower crown and I loved the pretty, fresh makeup. She did all of the bridesmaids and my mum beautifully too.
The Groom’s Fashion
Dylan is just as fussy as me! He wanted to have a suit tailor-made and really loved the experience he had at Reiss. He chose a lovely bespoke navy two-piece and added his own twist by having contrasting grey waist coat and maroon lining, which complimented the soft grey matching bow tie and pocket square from Mrs Bow Tie. He also added his own detailing – the stitching, the maroon lining, the buttons and our initials and date of our wedding on the inside lining – to make it perfectly his own. He looked amazing!
His shoes were the hardest thing to find because he desperately wanted comfort, but had a very specific style in mind. We finally found his brown Oxfords at Russell and Bromley. He was also set on getting a watch to be his wedding keepsake. We love the guys at the Nixon store off Carnaby Street, London, and Tobias was brilliant helping Dylan style up his perfect watch with a limited edition face.
For this, there was never any doubt. As soon as we got engaged we both knew immediately where we wanted to hold our reception. My family are from Cork, Ireland, and we’ve been going to Ballymaloe to eat in their fantastic restaurant on special family occasions for as long as I can remember. Dylan and I both love our food and wine, and we’ve been to Ballymaloe together many a time. The gorgeous country house, beautiful grounds and infamous chefs offered everything we wanted and more.
I cannot recommend Ballymaloe highly enough. We immediately hit it off with their in-house wedding coordinator, Leila Aldous, and we couldn’t have achieved what we did without her. Every little detail was taken care of by Leila, Hazel and the whole team, there was nothing we asked for that couldn’t be achieved some how.
Dylan and I met when we used to work together. We both felt that “special something” when we met, but we slowly bonded over coffee and lunch dates, and that’s become a firm fixture in our everyday lives. We love exploring London’s coffee shops and new restaurants, I suppose you could say it’s a hobby but really we just love great food! I now work for Jamie Oliver and Dylan has a successful graphic design business, so we both wanted our theme to be centred around that beautiful, casual coffee shop vibe where the decor is rustic but effortlessly styled and pulled together, and everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.
We didn’t really have a colour scheme but we wanted something bright and fun with loads of colour, wood and lights. We chose navy suits for the boys and a gorgeous soft grey for the girls, so this gave us a fairly neutral basis to build up loads of colour in the flowers which were bright pinks, purples, burnt oranges and greens. The bright colours worked with the natural browns and grey textures from our coffee shop look, and Dylan managed to carry all of this through our stationery which he meticulously designed himself. For our wedding favours we gave the girls a mini succulent in a cute terracotta pot and the boys got a small bag of ground Ballymaloe coffee to take home which also tied everything together nicely.
Our absolute FAVOURITE part of the whole decor was Dylan’s pride and joy project. We wanted to create a beautiful hanging light centrepiece to sit above our main table which was in the middle of the room with our guests’ tables all around it. Dylan found a stunning piece on Pinterest and it became his mission to create our own. He searched high and low through scrap yards, farms and even other people’s skips (the shame!) to find the perfect wood, and eventually we found an amazing old half-stable door. Dylan made friends with the groundsman at Ballymaloe and set about drilling holes into the door which allowed us to suspend it in the room with different sized squirrel lamps hanging through it. Once it was hung up, our florist Rachel draped more of our flowers and hanging greenery over the top and it looked so whimsical and lovely. We plan to bring it back to London and it’s going to become a feature light in our home – we love it!
I think I will forever be in awe of our flowers. It all started with the lovely South African protea. They’ve become really popular recently and come in all shapes and shade of pink, but Dylan is South African and we’ve both loved them since our first trip there together. We had to have the dark pink variety as our hero flower, they’re just so wild and striking. Other than that, we just wanted an abundance of wild colour, textures and nothing to “done” or polished.
When we met with Leila, herself a South African, we showed her our ideas and her eyes lit up. She put us in touch with the amazing Rachel at Ina McCarthy for Flowers and she got our vision completely. We had several meetings and she helped us chose loads of gorgeous flowers like the flame peonies and stocks so I knew it was going to be good, but when everything arrived on the day of the wedding I think I was speechless for a good 5 minutes. Everything was perfect, and better than we’d ever expected.
I went for an asymmetrical bouquet and flower crown to match the bridesmaids, who each had a small bouquet and full flower crown. Dylan and the boys had matching pinholes and we had some made up for the Dads and grandparents, with pretty wrist corsages for the Mums. Rachel filled the church with flowers and then brought loads back up to Ballymaloe to set up our tables and reception which was a great way to save money.
The Wedding Party Fashion
We looked at all different types of dresses for the girls who are all different shapes but we just couldn’t beat the gorgeous twobirds Bridesmaid multi-way dresses. The colour platinum was the perfect shade of cool grey, and each of the girls created their own style – they looked absolutely stunning. My niece wore a lovely lace white dress from Monsoon’s kids range.
For the groomsmen we hired everything from Debenhams which was really easy. They were kitted out in smart navy suits, a shade complementary to Dylan’s, and we found a great deal online for some black Oxford shoes. The boys had the same Mrs Bow Tie pocket squares and bow ties which matched the bridesmaids dresses and brought the whole look together whilst adding some fun personality.
Topped off with the girls flower crowns, and the boys buttonholes, I really wouldn’t change anything about what we chose and just loved how comfortable and happy our bridal party looked all day.
We chose to have a Catholic ceremony at the Star of the Sea church in Ballycotton, which overlooks the bay with the most stunning coastal backdrop. It’s notoriously windy up there which meant we couldn’t get any photos outside of the church, but the view is worth it and it did add some great drama with my veil!
We kept the ceremony simple and chose readings and hymns that were familiar to both of us or had a special meaning. Dylan’s grandparents have passed away but one day he found his grandmother’s old bible she had given him with a page corner turned and it was book-marking her favourite hymn and gospel reading. When we sang the hymn it was a really special moment and there is a beautiful photo of Dylan looking up to the sky – it was very emotional. We found the amazingly talented Lucy Kavanagh just by searching for wedding singers online, and wow, all of our guests said how beautifully she lead the music. Her voice is unreal. We decided to have something fun for our recessional and left the church to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony – I really loved that.
Despite the wind, Dylan, our photographers (more on them in a minute!) and I headed off to take some photos on those windy cliffs. Whilst we had a complete giggle managing the unruly veil, our guests headed to Ballymaloe and were greeted with champagne and canapés. The waiters also took round trays of half pints of Guinness for a fun Irish touch. We had a brilliant band from Dublin called The Bentley Boys booked for the evening, and when they offered to play some background music during the reception as well we opted for some easy jazz. It was perfect.
When The Bentley Boys took to the stage later on, they were equally as fantastic and took our guests through an amazing set of our favourite party tunes. There was even an attempt at a traditional Irish set dance in the middle, but with half of our guests in the know and the other totally baffled it was a bit of a shambles. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much watching it all though! The band supplied a DJ who took us into the early hours and Dylan and I were the last to leave the dance floor. It was the BEST.
Well. Where do I start with this. We chose Ballymaloe based on its reputation for amazing food and our friends had told us they were expecting great things. It’s safe to say all expectations were completely surpassed – it was fantastic! Everything was home grown or locally sourced with iconic Ballymaloe touches throughout.
There were some amazing personal touches. We asked the head chef if she could serve Bobotie (a delicious South African dish) at any point and she went away and practiced making it as the most delicious canapé. They all disappeared so fast! For our main meal we had watercress soup to start (which really surprised everyone, it’s so tasty!) followed by lobster en coquille and roast East Cork leg and rack of lamb served with spring onion gratin and seasonal vegetables.
For dessert, we invited everyone upstairs onto the mezzanine for a little surprise. We’d been working with Leila and Ballymaloe on our own special project, and we’d turned the upstairs area into our very own rustic coffee shop. Dylan made an iconic hanging letter light COFFEE sign and suspended it over a coffee bar which included a barista from Ballymaloe’s own coffee maker, Goldenbean Roastery, who got busy making our guests flat whites to order. We spent ages on the detail, stamping coffee cups, which were kindly donated by Freestate Coffee in London and selecting succulents for the barrel tables to add extra charm. Next to the coffee bar was a beautiful long table full of our favourite desserts minis, from pecan nut pie to lemon meringue fingers, strawberry tarts and chocolate brownies. It was the perfect way to round off dinner and we loved seeing the smiles on our guests faces.
Lastly, our cake. My mum is the best baker and loves a project, so she offered to make our cake along with my aunt who happens to be very talented at sugar work. We spent months testing layers of some of our favourite cakes, and covered it all in white chocolate ganache. My aunt decorated it with gorgeous little sugar flowers inspired by the bouquet and she topped it with some fantastic sugar protea which looked fab. We had a huge four tier cake…and the whole lot was eaten up! It was delicious.
What can I say. When friends of ours got married and shared their wedding photos, both Dylan and I knew that the laid back, alternative style of Kate Gray Photography was exactly what we wanted for our own. We got in touch and tentatively asked if they would possibly be free, and if they were, would they think of travelling to Ireland with us. What we got back was a resounding yes and an exchange of emails that filled both Dylan and I with so much excitement.
Dylan putting so much of his own personal work and design into our wedding meant that all the little details became hugely important to us, and we knew instantly that Kate and her husband Jon understood us and were just as excited about it as we were. They captured every single tiny detail perfectly. I know I’m biased, but I’ve never seen such a beautiful and emotional set of photos. Every time we look at them I live the day all over again and the way they’ve captured the fun and love amongst our guests is just unbeatable. After good food, the photography was our next most important thing to get right and we really can’t thank Kate and Jon enough. The only problem is we just don’t know where to start when it comes to getting some framed for our walls!
Photography by Kate Gray Photography
- Bride’s Gown ‘Verina Marie’ by Maggie Sottero
- Bridal Boutique Miss Bush Bridal
- Shoes Carvela
- Hair & Makeup Kate Goodman
- Florist Ina McCarthy
- Venue Ballymaloe House, Cork
- Bridesmaid Dresses Twobirds Bridesmaid
- Groom’s Suit Reiss
- Groom’s Shoes Russell & Bromley
- Stationery Dylan McNeilage
- Church Singer Lucy Kavanagh
- Band Bentley Boys Band