Chrystyna the Bride:
Our wedding planning started about an hour after Euan proposed on the Northumberland coast outside the beautiful ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. We went for a celebratory drink and ordered a delicious seafood platter. And there our first idea was born - we immediately decided that our wedding meal should include a sharing platter full of all our favourite food.
It didn’t take us long to find a wedding venue – my family is from Ukraine and have always been involved in the Ukrainian community here in the UK. We grew up attending the Ukrainian school, community centre and church local to us in West Yorkshire. The community centre is a beautiful stone building with a lovely big garden which appealed a lot to our vision of a summer wedding with lots of out-door time involved.
Decor and DIY
When it came to picking the décor, like most brides, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest
and looking at magazines. We both agreed we wanted a vintage village-fete feel, but with lots and lots of personal touches including aspects of Ukrainian tradition, our love of cycling. The problem was, we just loved so many things, we couldn’t narrow them down.
Luckily, we’re both very creative and practical, and my mum and dad were very keen to get involved and help out with projects – both collecting items and DIY. The various projects we gave them included collecting vintage crockery and tea pots, drilling holes in dozens of china plates to make our our cake stands for an afternoon-tea drinks reception, my mum helped cut out and sew hundreds of meters of bunting. We bought a rusty old tandem bike which Euan cleaned up and spray-painted, we bought some lovely oak boards which Euan, my dad and brothers helped to cut, sand and oil to make sharing platters, I enlisted my talented artist friend Allissa to replicate a bicycle painting I’d seen online with cut-out face holes for guests to take photos with. I spray painted dozens of jars and bottles for the flowers and painted some old bicycle wheels for the table plan which we themed on top cycling hill climbs we had both completed.
We had a long-ish engagement - 18 months, and I wasn’t planning to look for a dress until about 9 months before the wedding but about two months into our engagement I saw my absolute dream dress in a magazine. I was an absolutely stunning Inbal Dror
long-sleeved, backless lace dress. I traced the dress to single shop in London, but sadly it had a whopping price tag of over £6,000. Just ever so slightly out of my budget! It just so happened that during my search for the dress, I stumbled across someone selling that very same Inbal Dror beauty, in my size, for a fraction of the price. Even though it was still a long time to the wedding, I had to go and try it. I took two of my bridesmaids and it was love at first sight. The next weekend my mum came to visit and we did an obligatory tour of bridal shops just to make sure I tried some others on but there was no competition really.
Not long after we’d got engaged two of Euan’s sisters each offered me their veil to wear for the day. It was such a lovely gesture and one of them - a simple cathedral length veil with a lace edge matched the dress perfectly.
The outfit was finished off with some classic Jimmy Choos
and a simple long-drop silver necklace I had made at a local jewellers.
Euan the Groom:
I’ve never been a fan of the full top and tails and wanted a really nice suit that I felt comfortable in and could wear again. I tried on several over the months but none felt special enough so I ended up going to a tailor in Shoreditch called Beggars Run
where I had a royal blue, woolen, slim-fit three-piece suit made for me. I found a suit similar enough to match mine in John Lewis
and bought those for the ushers and father-of-the-bride. I matched the suits with yellow woven ties and socks and patterned pocket squares. I never knew I could care that much about the pattern on a pocket-square but after buying about 8 different samples I chose one from Turnbull and Asser
I commission lots of photography for work and therefore it was really important that I chose a really good photographer. We both hate posed photos and didn’t want to spend loads of time on our wedding day doing them so we wanted someone who was brilliant at capturing natural shots. Craig’s
photos stood out because he has a quirky vintage style, and also prefers documenting weddings as they happen, rather than lots of posed shots. He used a stunning old camera which creates these really soft-edged images. What’s more, on the day, he captured absolutely everything - every detail, every guest, every little moment.
The flowers were by my friend Sofia from Ivy Florist. I’ve known her my whole life and she’s incredibly stylish so I never had any doubt she’d nail the rustic, wildflower look I wanted. She didn’t disappoint at all - and in particular the incredible bridal wreath she made it which was the perfect nod to my Ukrainian heritage and the rustic feel of the wedding.
The week before the wedding was incredibly difficult. The first thing that happened was that our band pulled out. We’d booked a band over a year before - a Ukrainian group who were flying in from Poland. They had a gig in London the night before the wedding and that was cancelled and so the band pulled out. After a stressful few days, we were fortunate enough to be able to book another Ukrainian band - this time only coming from Manchester!
The second disaster was far worse, my 91 year old grandfather - whom I’m incredibly close to, was taken seriously ill with pneumonia and was hospitalised and in a serious condition. We had several tearful conversations about what we should do if the worst happened. I visited him every day in the week before the wedding and he seemed to find the strength to hold on to get through the wedding. There was no way we weren’t going to see him on the day and so we changed the time of the wedding and contacted all our guests so that we could go and visit him in hospital after the ceremony. We arrived at the hospital and the nurses in his ward had all gathered - they were about as excited as our families! They told us he’d been looking forward to our visit all day. He had dressed up specially, even though he was in a bed with tubes and wires attached to him and he’d insisted my mum bring cake so he could give it to the other patients and nurses. There were a lot of tears - from most people there, and I’m so incredibly happy we got to do it. His presence was marked at the wedding in several ways too - we had photos of both our parents’ and grandparents’ wedding on display and our wedding card-box was actually the cardboard suitcase my grandparents used when they were first brought to England in 1945 as refugees, it still had their Displaced Person number written on it.
The ceremony took place in my families local Ukrainian church. As Euan isn’t Ukrainian, or Christened, it was really important to both of us that the ceremony was very personalised. We invited an English-speaking priest to support the local priest with the ceremony so it could be bilingual. We chose vows from the Book of Ruth because they were a nod to our mixed heritage ‘Wherever you go, I will go, where ever you stay, I will stay, Your people will be my people’. We also picked the bits of the ceremony we liked, and the ones we thought our guests (particularly the none-Ukrainians) would enjoy. These included our poor ushers having to hold traditional crowns above our heads for 20 mins - not an essential part of the ceremony, but highly entertaining.
My choir performed our entrance song - Elbow’s One Day Like This and the closing hymn. Our friend Will read a reading from Winnie the Pooh.
We wanted the reception to be lots of fun and feel like a village fete. We were very lucky that we had a beautiful day and could make full use of the outdoor space. We set up loads of garden games, an ice-cream cart, Euan and my brother brewed their own beers (I do home brew and Big day IPA), we had a ‘Pimp your own Pimms’ stand and canapes were served as afternoon tea on vintage cake stands.
Our catering was done by a fantastic local restaurant. We chose them because, having approached several wedding caterers, we were frustrated at the restrictions many of them placed on the menu choices. Paul and Lee on the other hand embraced with enthusiasm our ideas for a picnic-style starter served in baskets full of little jars (all our favourite pickles, chutneys, potted fish and meats, cheeses, bread and such), mains - Ukrainian style-BBQ served on sharing platters and a deconstructed Rhubarb Crumble for dessert (homage to the famous rhubarb-triangle local to where we were getting married)
Later in the evening we had fish finger sandwiches and chips served in paper bags. They were delicious and very popular with our guests!
After the meal all the guests were invited to take part in the Perepiy - essentially the opportunity to come and have a shot of vodka with the bride and groom and exchange greetings. With 200 guests to get through, we wisely opted to fill our own vodka bottle with water!
On of the key deciding factors for us as to the success of our wedding, aside from actually getting hitched, was that everyone had an amazing time. We therefore chose two really fun bands - one playing Ukrainian folk music and a second local group called Liberate who played a mix of Indie dancefloor classics.
We also ensure our guests were well supplied with alcohol. We spent months developing our own range of flavoured vodkas for a very-popular vodka bar and we also each created a cocktail each which guests could create for themselves (or personalize).
I managed to keep on Ukrainian tradition secret from Euan - the fact that there would be a kidnapping during the evening and the groom would be required to pay a ransom to get his wife back. On this occasion the ransom was to prove he could be part of a Ukrainian family by showing off his dance moves! The guests loved it and it warmed everyone up for the night ahead.
One of the many brilliant features of a Ukrainian wedding is the traditional dancing. All the guests get involved in Kolomeyka - where everyone dances in a circle and people take it in turns to show off their moves in the middle. It was incredibly popular with all guests - Ukrainian and British!