Wedding Dress, David Fielden from Pan Pan Bridal in Edinburgh.
Alice the Bride: I love dressing up but I was disappointed when I didn’t find the wedding dress shopping experience as fun as I thought I would. I knew I wanted something very simple with clean lines, and I loved the idea of a dramatic 1930s silk satin feel a la Johanna Johnson.
Unfortunately, things like this really didn’t suit me and I needed something more structured.
I totally lucked out finding my dress when I popped into a bridal store when I was visiting my brother in Edinburgh, which happened to be right next to his house. The dress was like nothing I’d seen before – asymmetric with sharp lines but a flowing sail down the back.
My brother was rating the dresses based on Control, Style and Aggression (the classic Robot Wars criteria), and this one scored 8, 9 and 10.
It was a sample David Fielden dress, reduced to just £750. I definitely wasn’t planning to buy a dress that weekend, but with Leo, I just decided to go for it, and I’m so glad I did.
It took quite a lot of alteration by the talented Munever at Image (not to mention an adventurous trip down from Edinburgh to Kent then London then Italy), but it’s still the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. I felt so elegant wearing it on the day.
Headpiece and Flower Crown
I went to see Lou at Luna Bea in her studio in Clerkenwell after discovering her seriously cool headpieces on Instagram. She was even cooler in person and had a legendary dog called Otis. I tried on one of her pieces and she totally sold me on the concept of “Helen of Troy in LA” which became my theme. Basically Grecian and classical, but also modern with a bit of an edge.
I had always thought I would have a flower crown but abandoned the idea once I had my specially made Luna Bea piece. Really kindly, Nadia, my florist, made me one anyway. So that was really nice to wear into the evening for a bit more of a relaxed, boho feel. It was so pretty and smelled delicious.
I ordered some champagne strappy stilettos from L K Bennett, and at the last minute, some flat mule espadrilles which were white leather with little white and gold flowers on them. Thank god I got the flats! It was 34 degrees and way too hot to keep the heels on on the day!
I didn’t want lots of jewellery beyond my engagement ring, but I bought some simple stud earrings from Anthropologie. In the morning I received a present from Adam which was a delicate gold bracelet with an olive leaf on from Tiffany’s. It was very special - perfectly Tuscan and I loved wearing it.
The Groom’s Fashion & Accessories
Adam had a suit made by Beggar’s Run in East London. His parents very generously offered to pay for him to have one made which was great because he finds it tricky to fit pre-made suits, but it took him a while to find a tailor that suited his style. The colour of the suit was incredible – a really rich, light blue. He looked stunning on the day. We looked for ties together and I remember seeing this Paul Smith one that I liked but didn’t even bother suggesting it to him as I assumed it wouldn’t be something he would go for. Then he picked it out himself and it turned out to be a massive hit. Especially because it was like an abstract olive branch, so perfect for the surroundings. We both love skulls (and in fact have matching skull tattoos!) so he treated himself to a pair of Alexander McQueen skull socks and a silver skull ring from Crazy Pig in Covent Garden which read ‘memento mori’ – not quite, but nearly, ‘til death do us part’. Super romantic. I bought him Eight And Bob Cap D’Antibes perfume which he wore and now the smell reminds me so much of the day.
Tuscany Wedding Venue
We went on a little holiday to Tuscany in 2014 and discovered La Pieve Marsina completely by chance. It’s quite remote but quintessentially Tuscan and just breathtakingly beautiful. It’s everything that you would imagine Tuscany to be. La Pieve is an old hamlet so it’s made up of a number of different houses that have been tastefully restored into self catering apartments. If you’re anywhere near Siena ever, you should go.
We talked about how cool it would be to hire out the whole thing and just have our friends and family staying in each of the little houses, without thinking that three years later we would make that a reality. But when we got engaged in Iceland and talked about it concretely, we quickly agreed that we didn’t have any real affiliation as a couple to a particular place in England and after all, what’s not to love about Tuscany. So we made another trip there in 2016 to check that it was definitely what we wanted to do and that it would work as a wedding venue given that it wasn’t pre-set up to accommodate this. When we got there it was magical: exactly how we remembered, and it even had a little chapel (non consecrated) that we had forgotten about which we could use for the ceremony.
The owner, Gabriele, was an absolute dream. He was so helpful throughout the whole planning process, but especially on the day itself. The venue basically made the whole thing what it was, and we were so excited and pleased to be able to share this place that we had discovered and had become sacred to us with our closest friends and family.
Colour scheme: Decor and Set Up
We didn’t really want a theme beyond the Tuscany thing, which basically boiled down to lots of olive leaves, church candles and a dress code of “Tuscan chic”! We put candles absolutely everywhere to try and create a Baz Luhrmann Rome and Juliet vibe. While we were having photos done, our friends decorated the pool with over a hundred tea lights just as the sun was going down.
I designed the invitations, order of service and menus in quite a traditional style. Instead of borders, they had quotes at from Kerouac and Johnny Cash respectively. We bought little gold rubber animals from Etsy for the table name cards which went down a treat! We didn’t have wedding favours but I think nearly everyone kept their animal as a reminder of the day.
We also made welcome packages for our guests in each one of the apartments with goodies like Essie nail polish, face masks, little bottles of Chianti and olive oil, and glow sticks for the party. We made sure there were plenty of hand-held fans available for the guests – I had wanted these for the glamour more than anything, but it turned out on the day they were pretty much indispensable because it was so hot. (On a side note, when it’s too hot for a hand-held fan, resort to the cool button on a Dyson hairdryer).
It was quite hard to set things up in advance because there wasn’t a whole team of staff at the venue as you might typically get, so we did quite a lot ourselves.
Adam was an absolute star, and his family bought and cooked all the food for 20 people the night before the wedding which we really appreciated. My brother did a fab job on the BBQ and loads of people helped out with ferrying drinks around the place etc.
On the day itself though, when everyone was getting ready, our wedding planner/celebrant/ general right-hand woman Rachael was brilliant. We couldn’t have done it without her. She did everything from setting up the chapel to coordinating the suppliers to keeping the Mums calm to making sure my youngest brother washed his hair! Just what was needed so we didn’t have to worry about anything and could just focus on enjoying it. She was really good at putting us (and everyone) at ease, which was important because we didn’t want it to feel like we were getting married by a stranger.
Flowers: Bouquet, Button Holes and Floral Wedding Arch
Nadia from Stiatti Fiori did our flowers and we were so impressed. Adam is not really one to notice flowers but he was raving about them. She really made the whole thing into an event. I asked for simple whites and greens; roses, olive leaves and eucalyptus etc., with a bright blue long-stemmed delphinium bouquet for me, which I thought would be a bit different. I didn’t want lots of different flowers or colours, just literally the delphiniums. On the day, Nadia turned up with two beautiful bouquets for me to choose from. She turned the one that I didn’t choose into confetti for the guests which was a bonus.
In addition to the bridesmaid flowers and the buttonholes, Nadia created incredible arrangements for the chapel and the dining table at the restaurant. They ended up being focused around light blues and peach which wasn’t quite what I’d expected but it was an absolutely beautiful combination.
At the last minute, we decided to splash out on a flower arch around the chapel door, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. The whole door frame was covered in dripping blue delphiniums – relaxed, summery and highly photogenic! The other thing was that all the bouquets and arrangements smelled amazing. I don’t know what Nadia put in them but it was a deep, herby smell like sage which stayed in the air the whole weekend, even after the wedding. Truly evocative of mid-summer.
I couldn’t recommend Nadia highly enough. She was brilliant to work with and really cared about what she was producing for us.
Bridesmaids Dresses from Whistles
None of my bridesmaids were living in the UK throughout the period of wedding planning, which meant choosing dresses was a bit tricky. I knew I wanted white but had originally intended to go for something a bit more broderie and boho than the Whistles dresses we ended up with. That was the one dress they all loved though, and once I had my dress I knew it would go really well in being a bit more structured and formal. Luckily they fitted, and I paired them with gold block heel sandals (which turned out to be a lot more sensible than my shoes!) and olive leaf crowns. Sadly one of them wasn’t able to make it on the day, but the other two looked sensational. They have both been my best friends for years and years so getting to spend the whole weekend with them after a long time of being apart was lovely. They kept me calm in the morning and made sure I didn’t go overboard on the prosecco (and, most importantly, that I wasn’t late!) I bought them raw gemstone earrings from Borcik to say a little thank you for everything, which they wore on the day.
The florist made simple olive button holes for Adam, his Dad and his brother, which was a sweet symbol that united them. My three brothers dressed like the mafia in sharp suits and shades – one of them sporting a peacock feather. I was very proud of them.
I walked down the aisle with my two bridesmaids to Jimmy Eat World’s ‘23’. It was a supercharged and emotional atmosphere, perhaps because it was so intimate and there were only 20 people there. We wrote the ceremony ourselves but kept it quite traditional. That was lucky because Adam wasn’t finding it the easiest to speak! We asked for the support of our friends and loved ones early on, which I felt deepened the bond we had with all of them. It really felt like something palpable was happening in that space, and that we were all sharing in the experience together.
We had three readings, all very different from each other. One of my brothers read the lyrics to Snow Patrol’s ‘If there’s a rocket tie me to it’ to open the ceremony. Adam’s mum read a section from Ovid’s ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, and his sister in law closed the service by reading Max Ehrmann’s ‘Desiderata’ which has a religious feel but is not actually religious – ‘therefore be at peace with God, whatever he may be to you’. It’s basically a set of instructions about how to live your life and be happy, which might sound quite didactic, but felt like a powerful way to start our lives together as husband and wife.
We gave everyone a hug after the ceremony to relieve some of the emotional tension and walked out of the chapel to Air Traffic’s ‘Shooting Star’. Some of my favourite pictures are from the bit just after this when it was just me and Adam for a couple of minutes and we could finally relax and just bask in the incredible thing we had just done. Then we got bombarded with confetti and prosecco, two of my favourite things.
After the meal at the restaurant, we drove back to La Pieve in a vintage Fiat bus (complete with classic Italian driver, Giuseppe, who was a great driver and very tolerant of our rowdiness). We were all singing our hearts out to the classics and it was so much fun. It was still really hot so we jumped in the pool as soon as we got back for a good few hours and drank cold beers. Somehow my hair and make up just about survived this, so afterwards Adam and I did a quick change back in wedding get up to have our photos done. This involved lots of running around as the sun went down. By the time we were finished, our friends had transformed the pool area into its nighttime mode so it was all sparkly, and we played games as the sun went down. My friend Ossie wrote a brilliant quiz which was ingenious. After that, the drinking got serious and the dancing started. We had speakers by the pool and danced under the stars. Nobody wanted to go to bed and a few people braved a midnight dip. Enough said.
The food was my second favourite bit of the whole wedding. It was provided by a local restaurant that again we had stumbled across by accident when we visited Tuscany for the first time. They do very traditional local cuisine with extremely fresh ingredients and it’s really good value. We desperately wanted them to make our wedding feast but being a genuinely local restaurant they don’t speak great English, so we were very grateful for the help Rachael (our wedding planner and celebrant) gave us in communicating with them and setting it all up. We feasted on antipasti, four different types of pasta, roast veal and beef tagliata. This was followed up with pannacotta, espresso and digestivo – but to be honest, at that stage I was struggling to fit anything in. The staff at the restaurant were really accommodating, welcoming and kind. I loved it so much I went back there again the next day. And I will definitely be back again someday!
I don’t need to say much about Livio because you can see it all from the photos. He is a genuine storyteller and artist. After we decided we might go for the Italy idea, he was the first supplier we booked. I found him online, thought his photos illustrated everything I aspired my wedding to be, and didn’t even look at any other photographers - just desperately tried to make contact with him on skype! Luckily he could accommodate us and so the vision started from there really. The photos capture the feel of the day and the story of it all, which is so much more than how things looked. One thing that was really special to us was having my Gran and Adam’s Dad there. They are both a bit older and had some health issues so there was a bit of a question mark over whether they would be able to fly out to be there (although both were absolutely determined to). The pictures of them are some of the most special - Livio has really caught both of them in their element and just loving life. My Gran has passed away now, making those pictures even more poignant. I am so grateful for them.
Everyone says this, but everything will turn out alright on the day. So all the things that you think may be major disasters will get sorted, everyone will come up trumps, and you don’t need to worry about it
Don’t feel like you have to go for a traditional wedding ‘venue’ offer – it’s not that difficult to add all the little bits you like together rather than go for a package, and it doesn’t have to cost that much
Go with your gut when you’re choosing stuff
Invest in a flower arch – they are beautiful and you will never have an opportunity to have one again
Get a (natural!) spray tan (even if it’s not a destination wedding)
Draw it out for as long as possible so that you actually get to talk to everyone – or cut the number of guests to enable this. Spend time with the people you hardly ever see and relish the fact that you get to share this experience with them
If in doubt, get more candles
Rosie Huntingdon Whitely does an amazing lipstick that goes with literally every skin tone (Lady Rose, sold at M&S)
Writing the ceremony might not be for everyone, but it is deeply meaningful and personal if you do.