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Ashley & Paul

In a world of ostentatious wedding design and endless imagery, we like to think RMW is a breath of fresh air. We feature weddings that are completely true to each couple, reflecting their tastes and personalities, rather than conforming to what a wedding ‘should’ look like. Ashley and Paul’s big day does this in spades and then some. They took a very relaxed approach to planning and let their suppliers have lots of creative control, Ashley sums up the result perfectly –

In the end, something we didn’t have full control over became fully perfect to us. It’s all verging rather close to some kind of moral or life lesson: that maybe the best weddings, and relationships, happen when you let go of total control, trust the people around you, and make room for a little bit of alchemy.

Enjoy this one beauties, and please savour every last word from Ashley, she writes with such flair and ease, it’s a joy to read her and Paul’s wedding report…

Our Wedding

Ashley The Bride: “Wait. You don’t have a Pinterest board?!”

In the months leading up to our wedding, we heard that refrain countless times. But our response was always the same, cheerful “Nope!” It seemed we just didn’t have the patience to ‘pin’ our perfect wedding, which meant we didn’t have many answers as we started to plan.

This is all we knew:

The wedding had to be in London
In the wintertime
And it had to have a free bar

Everything else was up for discussion.

One of the joys of planning a wedding sans-Pinterest is that it very much relies on you and your partner’s own taste and creativity. Failing that, it relies on the experts; the suppliers and friends whose hard work makes your wedding day a memorable experience for everyone.

Thankfully, we had some incredible suppliers and friends. After all, these people are the professionals. They do this stuff for their job, multiple times a year. And if Paul and I are lucky, we were hoping to do this whole getting-married-thing just the one time.

In truth, the planning was a real collective effort without one ‘singular vision’. By not pre-curating our day, we were able to develop deeper relationships with our suppliers who got to know us as individuals and as a couple. Rather than ask them to recreate things we had seen online, together we created something that allowed them creative license, but still felt authentic to Paul and I.

Of course, this approach does have a catch: it requires the bride and groom give up some degree of control, and that can be hard. We made the choice for pragmatic reasons (and of course we held veto power on some of the more important stuff) but the results really felt magical. Because we didn’t know precisely what my bouquet would look like, or exactly how the venue might be decorated, or what kind of music our friends would choose to play in the evening, much of it came as joyful mini-surprises throughout the day.

In the end, something we didn’t have full control over became fully perfect to us. It’s all verging rather close to some kind of moral or life lesson: that maybe the best weddings, and relationships, happen when you let go of total control, trust the people around you, and make room for a little bit of alchemy.

The Bride

In keeping with the unplanned theme above, I really didn’t know what kind of dress I wanted to wear. In fact, I had originally wanted to get married in a suit, but my mother quickly disavowed me of that idea (and I quote: “Ashley, you may not have been dreaming about this day your whole life, but I have. And in that dream, you’re wearing a dress.”)

So I went to The Mews Bridal in Notting Hill where my best friend and bridesmaid Jess had gotten her wedding gown the year before. My mum flew in from Canada, Paul’s mum took the train from Shropshire and after trying on just three dresses, it was a simple Delphine Manivet slip dress that won us all over. I paired it with mink-coloured suede pumps from Whistles, gold and diamond earrings from my grandma, and a vintage emerald and diamond ring my dad had bought for my mum in Malaysia shortly after I was born.

For the ceremony, I also wore a delicate lace Rime Arodaky top, and Jess lent me her beautiful chapel-length veil.

Once the speeches were over, I knew I would want to dance without fear of ripping the butter-soft silk gown, so I changed into a gold lamé HVN party frock, black sky-high heels and statement cocktail jewellery.

Our wedding was in November, which was the perfect excuse to buy the long white faux-fur Shrimps coat I had been coveting for months. Kind to animals and so much fun to wear. Highly recommended.

I won’t share what I wore for the wedding night, but let’s just say it did the trick.


Detail Images by Luis Calow

The Groom

Our friend Nathan Jones is an extremely talented, Savile Row-trained tailor, so it wasn’t hard for us to decide where Paul would find his threads. Drawing inspiration from the modernist fashion of the 1950s and 60s, Nathan designed a two-piece suit for Paul that was special enough for the occasion, and still felt truly timeless. He used dark blue Shetland wool (Paul has Shetland ancestry) that had depth and detail to it, and instructed Paul to get his white shirt at Emmett. Paul opted for a maroon tie and chestnut-coloured Russell & Bromley brogues to complete the wintry ensemble.

Paul and I had already been wearing our ethical wedding bands as pseudo-engagement rings for many months, but it was on the wedding day that we finally got to put them on our left hands. They’re both inscribed with an acronym that stands for something Paul wrote in one of our first online dating exchanges: TFFTI (Thank F**k for the Internet). Science-nerd Paul’s ring also has a piece of genuine meteorite inlaid within it – the first time our jeweller had ever worked with space rock.

The Venues

I’m not ashamed to say I grew up watching FRIENDS (it may be problematic af now, but in the 90s, I had the Rachel haircut, was planning on moving to New York City to begin an acting career like Joey, and I clearly remember thinking “Wow, that church is pretty spectacular” in ‘The One with Ross’ Wedding’ where Ross and Emily hold their ill-fated marriage ceremony).

Asylum Chapel in Peckham isn’t that church, but it’s not far off. Bombed during WWII and never fully repaired, it’s a deconsecrated chapel that is breathtaking on its own, and needs very little intervention from the lucky couples who get to walk down its aisle each year.

Our reception was at Brixton East, the warehouse-meets-farmhouse with the same idiosyncratic charm as its owner, Andy.

Paul and I wanted to get married in London, the city where we met, fell in love and where we are now building our life together. With their unique layering of history, modernity and creativity, Asylum and Brixton East felt like the perfect reflections of our adopted city, and the perfect places to have our London wedding.

The Decor

We chose two venues that had so much personality, it would have felt rude to try to shoehorn in a colour scheme or other themed decor. We favoured the natural materials of both spaces (exposed brick, wood, stone and concrete), and asked suppliers to create work that would feel organic to them. Dita, our magnificent wedding coordinator, then made sure it all came together on the day.

There were three notable exceptions to our fairly hands-off approach.

Firstly, our very personal invitations were made by the London-based collage artist Marta Parszeniew. We took the leftover rehearsal dinner invites and turned them into name cards for each of the wedding guests using nothing more than a can of spray paint and an old fashioned label maker.

Secondly, inspired by an installation I saw at Switch Gallery at Tate Modern, Paul and I placed old screens and monitors on a disused staircase at Brixton East and played a supercut of some of pop culture’s greatest wedding (or romance) scenes on them – from The Graduate to The Godfather, The Simpsons to When Harry Met Sally, it was a personal touch created by two people who watch more films than anyone probably should.

And finally, we made a discreet and meaningful ‘Wish You Were Here’ wall, displaying photos of close family members and friends who have passed away.

The Flowers

A couple of years ago, Paul and I attended the wedding celebration of two of our dear friends, Kharunya and Tom. Once we heard the story behind their flowers (from WORM, run by two brilliant women who had just begun to build their own business from scratch in the basement of an antiques shop in North East London), we didn’t look any further. Without a colour scheme per se, we were happy for WORM to work in their signature style, using seasonal flowers and plenty of green foliage to transform each space in its own way.

For the ceremony, WORM created just a few vibrant, semi-wild arrangements which fit so well within the dramatic, crumbling stone and blue-hued Asylum venue. The standout piece for me was the large single urn sitting on a plinth at the top of the aisle.

For the reception, WORM fashioned dense, dark green rope-strung garlands, feature wall hangings and olive leaf and eucalyptus table runners, and dotted Brixton East with more semi-wild arrangements of varying sizes to add colour and interest.

The Wedding Party

Our wedding party was small: one brother each, plus our best friends Jess and Chris who are married to each other, and from whose top-notch wedding we pinched most of our supplier list.

We asked the men to wear dark suits and white shirts, and we bought each of them different ties we thought they might want to use again. Jess was allowed to wear whatever she liked. She chose a chic light pink velvet jumpsuit from Whistles, which she looked beautiful and comfortable in.

The Ceremony

Paul and I are nervous people who are prone to tears at the best of times, so we didn’t want to wait to see each other for the first time at the ceremony. Too much anticipation = high likelihood of waterworks. Instead, we hailed a black cab from The Ace Hotel and rode to Asylum together.

It was important to us that we each walked down the aisle with our mum and our dad by our side. We did the family processional to a tear-jerking solo piano version of ‘Somebody to Love’ by Queen, signed the register to ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ by Stevie Wonder and practically floated out of the chapel afterwards to ‘Don’t Stop’ by Fleetwood Mac. They’re all songs that people of all ages know and love, and that was a great way to ensure a bit of toe-tapping joy warmed the guests on that rather cold afternoon.

Incidentally, we had the same pianist from Jess and Chris’s wedding the year before (after all, why bother looking for someone else when we knew he was great).

Another of the (admittedly very few) DIY projects we did for the wedding came in the form of our orders of service, which doubled as confetti containers. We had our order of service turned into a stamp, which we then applied to 100 A5 string-tie, recyclable manila envelopes before stuffing them with organic confetti from Shropshire Petals. Weddings do a real number on the planet, so it was important for us to find ways to cut back on our environmental impact. This was one of those ways. We also donated all the IKEA fleece blankets – that we had laid on chairs in the chapel for guests to keep warm – to a charity working with refugees in Calais.

One of our favourite moments of the whole day were the two readings delivered at the ceremony by our friends Anne-Marie and Mayeni. There is a very special feeling when you read a piece of writing that you really connect with. That feeling is amplified even more when that piece of writing somehow manages to capture the depth and specificity of the love you share with your partner. And that feeling overwhelms you when the piece of writing is read aloud by one of your best friends, in front of all your other friends and family, on your wedding day.

The two pieces we chose were Habitation – a poem by Canadian writer and feminist Margaret Atwood – and a letter by Ann Druyan – science communicator and widow of Carl Sagan – who wrote this about her secular partnership: “We knew we were the beneficiaries of chance…that pure chance could be so generous and so kind…that we could find each other in the vastness of space and the immensity of time…”

Cue said waterworks.

The Entertainment

Entertainment was simple: a personalised pub quiz to fill some time and break the ice between table-mates before dinner, and our six coolest friends DJing the dance party that followed the speeches. But I’d like to posit that the speeches themselves were some of the feature entertainment. There may have been a lot of them (six), but that’s what you get in the fight for equality: a lot of people at the microphone. Paul was followed by my parents, then his parents, then my brother, then his brother and best man Chris, and then I delivered a speech of my own. A bride speaking at her own wedding is still such a bafflingly rare thing that the only advice I could find about how to write one was on a blog filed under ‘Unusual Weddings’. Not great for 2018, but at least it meant my speech was a bit of a novelty, and something we keep hearing guests talk about months later.

The Food

That was easy. Street food that would warm people’s souls and fill their tummies. The folks at Soul & Pepper put on a brilliant spread (50/50 vegetarian and meat chilli with rice, veggie sausages and baked beans and pickles on sticks), and the team at Crumble (who also did our veggie canapés) supplemented the meal with freshly-made cornbread and crisp salads.

For dessert, cake was never really an option – it was always going to be sweet pie. Sarah from Three.OneFour (best pie company name ever) made 16 pies in 8 different flavours, each catering to the varying dietary requirements of our guests (vegan, nut-free, gluten-free), and all an enormous hit.

At around 10pm, Margo & Rita’s taco truck pulled up outside for our guests to re-fuel before returning to the dancefloor.

The Photography

Our photographer Martin Beddall was the very first person we hired for our wedding. He did Jess and Chris’s wedding the year before, and we knew we had to have him come back for round two with our gang. Martin’s reportage style photography means no posed photos – and that suited the spontaneity of the day just fine. And while we don’t have 83 pictures of us standing against the same backdrop with each of our guests, we do have a photo of:
My brother, mum and grandma all stifling tears as they watch the ceremony
Paul and my grandma enthusiastically embracing
Me kissing Jess and Chris’s three-week-old daughter as confetti falls from my hair
My brother and I sharing a shot of maple whiskey (have I mentioned I’m Canadian?)

Martin captured some of the very best moments of the day, and of course those were always going to be the ones no one had planned for or scripted.

The Planner

Because so many family and friends were visiting from afar during our wedding week, we decided we would hire a wedding coordinator/planner to help with much of the ‘sharp end’ of the organisation and delivery on the day. But Dita Rosted is no ordinary wedding coordinator/planner. As you’ve now learned, Paul and I were pretty naive about what it took to plan a wedding. It was Dita who acted as our fairy godmother – offering gentle guidance, creative insight and endless patience in the face of our ignorance. She also sorted the serving staff and the bar, complete with signature cocktails, off-menu espresso martinis and a secret whiskey and cigar station. I can’t thank Dita enough for giving us the peace of mind to just relax and enjoy the wedding day – oh, and for the wine tasting night too. That was pretty great.

Advice

I’m a fourth-waver who doesn’t much like telling other women what to do, but allow me these two small suggestions: delete the Pinterest board and do your own speech. You won’t regret it.

Photography by Martin Beddall Photography
Author: Fern Godfrey
Fern spends most of her time dreaming about weddings and trying to convince her long-suffering boyfriend to propose. Lucky enough to live in sunny Cornwall, if you need her – you’ll find her at beach.

One thought on “Ashley & Paul

  1. The location is so inspiring! And all the decoration. As a wedding photographer as well, I have to say this reportage is truly emotional! Really very nice…and of course the story as well… 🙂

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