Clare the Bride: Having both grown up not far from each other and having never met, our paths eventually crossed on the (sticky) dance floor of an infamous London club in 2010. Five years, four jobs and three houses later, we got engaged during a two-week trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where Frank’s parents live.
I think the dress was one of the first things I started to research, as I had quite a clear idea of the look I wanted. Boy, how wrong I was about my body shape! Having visited many stores across London, I found what I thought was the perfect dress while browsing the website of Carina Baverstock Couture. Bradford-on-Avon, where the store is located, isn’t too far from where my parents live, so my mother and I made an appointment to try on said dress. I really wasn’t prepared for how much it didn’t suit me and it was only after owners Carina and Lucy broke the news that my 5ft2in frame didn’t quite work in something made for someone with at least 5 inches on me, that I realised I had been trying on completely the wrong dress all this time. They skillfully picked an alternative gown, Stuart Parvin’s ‘Songbird’ (something I never would have chosen if left to my own devices) and asked me to try it on. Needless to say, as soon as I stepped in front of the mirror, I knew it was perfect for me. Carina and Lucy had known exactly what would look amazing on me and weren’t afraid to say it – if only they could accompany me on every shopping trip!
I had some alterations made to the sleeves and added a blush silk ribbon at the waist. I accessorised with a vintage 1950’s faux-pearl trimmed veil from Susannah’s in Bath, a bespoke rose-gold and pearl headpiece from Joanna Reed Bridal on Etsy and a pair of Aquazzura ‘Wild Thing’ sandals (plus a pair of Zara slip-on trainers for the dance floor!). On the day, I wore a ring that belonged to my maternal grandmother, a bracelet that had belonged to my paternal grandmother (both my something old), a pearl bracelet given to me the night before by my parents as a wedding gift, matching pearl earrings given to me the morning of the wedding by Frank (both my something new) and two garters (one on each leg!) – the first was my mother’s (my something blue) and the second was one I had given to one of my bridesmaids on her wedding day (my something borrowed).
My hair (and that of my four bridesmaids and two flower girls) was done by the wonderful Tanya King and my make up by the equally wonderful Ausra Ruksene, both of whom were booked through Kristina Gasperas. I had a trial a month or so before the wedding, which was such a great idea, as it made the morning run smoother and meant I was completely relaxed. I was still late, of course – there were eight women to get ready after all!
For quite some time we deliberated between a kilt (both Frank and I are half Scottish), a suit, a morning suit, or a tuxedo, only settling on the latter a few months before the wedding – There’s nothing like leaving it to the last minute! We set to work trying to find a tux on the high street, but since it was something that Frank would keep and wear again, we decided to have one made for him by ‘A Suit that Fits’. He wore his school colour braces, a black bow tie and shoes by Loake.
I knew that I wanted my bridesmaids to wear something they felt comfortable in and so my only instruction was to stick to a neutral colour palette of creams, greys and blush pinks. My sister was probably the trickiest to sort out, as she lives in Singapore and we were restricted to FaceTime trying-on sessions. In the end, we ordered her dress online from BHLDN, a risk that paid off thanks to the amazing Ali Kerteszova, at Carina Baverstock Couture who helped with some minor alterations in the weeks before the wedding. The three other bridesmaids bought their dresses on the high street and the flower girls wore dresses, cardigans and ballet pumps from Monsoon.
The ushers all wore black tie and each accessorised with either their school colour braces (the same as Frank), or a floral pair from John Lewis (for those that he wasn’t at school with), each given as a gift from Frank on the day of the wedding.
Our initial idea to get married at my parent’s home in Berkshire came slightly unstuck once they put it up for sale (eek!). However, as a result, we found the perfect venue having decided that London was actually the ideal location for us: it is the city in which we have both lived for 10 years, the city where we met. And so our search began. I knew of Brunswick House in Vauxhall from my time working at Christie’s Auction House (our warehouse was on the same road) and since I have a passion for antiques and historic buildings, it was a match made in heaven for me. I thought Frank would take a little more convincing, but as soon as we stepped through the door (having only seen two other venues), he was sold. Jo Auger (Head of Events) and her team were brilliant throughout the whole process – always calm and relaxed, we really had nothing to worry about. Even when I left Jo with instructions for the distribution of 10 boxes of menus, favours, cameras, ribbons, tablecloths, bathroom products, and decorations the day before the wedding, she remained unflappable and when we arrived on the day, everything looked beautiful and was exactly what I had envisaged. Frank is half Ethiopian and on top of all our other demands, the bar staff agreed to serve our own brand of Ethiopian coffee at the end of supper – something which I know left smiles on the faces of our Ethiopian guests and for that we were extremely grateful.
Frank is Roman Catholic and I am Church of England and so choosing a church for our ceremony was a source of anxiety for us. However, we eventually settled on the church next to our house, St John’s in Notting Hill, with the vicar very kindly agreeing to share the service with the priest from our local Catholic church, St Francis of Assisi, which was wonderful not only for us but also for our families.
We were very lucky to be able to enlist the help of the church choir and so we had four beautiful singers for our service – they sang Barcarolle, by Jacques Offenbach as I entered the church, Handle’s Hallelujah Chorus as Frank and I went out (a slightly tongue-in-cheek reference to our seven years together and one that induced amusement from both the music director and our guests alike). They sang Pie Jesu and Panis Angelicus as we signed the register and accompanied our three hymns: I Vow to thee my Country, Guide me oh thou Great Redeemer (for my Welsh grandfather who due to illness couldn’t be with us) and He Who Would Valiant Be. We had two readings, 1 Corinthians 13, read by Frank’s cousin and A Red, Red Rose, by Robert Burns (a nod to our Scottish relatives), read by one of our friends.
Colour and Decor
With a creative background, I knew that the styling and decoration would be one of the most enjoyable parts of wedding planning and one I’m glad I threw myself into. Although I had a strong vision of the look I wanted, I didn’t really have a specific colour scheme in mind but found that I was drawn to more neutral colours as soon as I started manically pinning to my newly-created Pinterest board. What developed was more of an organic, rather than conscious decision to use a palette of ivory, rose gold, blush and soft greys.Instead of a seating plan, I decided to challenge our guests to find their favour before they entered the dining room. Parcels of Ethiopian coffee and jars of Ethiopian incense (kindly brought over by my mother-in-law) were laid out on a table outside the dining room, each one tied with ribbon, with the table number written on the back of each name tag.
The flower choices were very much based around these colours, with some pops of pale pink among the loose greenery and ivory wild and blousy flowers. Scarlet & Violet was our local florist where we used to live and so seemed a natural choice – I knew that their elegant and relaxed aesthetic was exactly what I wanted, as I didn’t want anything too formal or traditional. Vic was brilliant and interpreted my vision flawlessly – the flowers were gorgeous and attracted a plethora of compliments both during the wedding and since.
As well as the floral arrangements on the tables, which included a stem of alternating greenery tied with a blush ribbon around each menu, I also made ivory muslin table runners, which I tied at the end with the same ribbon.
Whilst in the throes of wedding planning, I decided to also launch a business with one of my bridesmaids – madness I know, but it was something that had been in the planning for quite some time. Kenzie & Kai is a textile design business, but since we had all the materials at hand with which to create stationery, it was natural for us to try our hand at paper, rather than cloth and so we printed all of my stationery ourselves. Our invites, order of service, menus, place settings and signage were all screen-printed onto hand-made paper in our studio, which was not only amazingly fun, but has led us to develop a new arm of the business. The final design was based on the flowers used in my bouquet, with a different flower hand drawn and printed on the back of each order of service and invitation. I have one of each framed and on the wall in our living room as a pretty reminder of the day.
Photographer and Videographer
The photography was one of the most important decisions for us, as we knew it would serve as a permanent reminder of the day for years to come. We also knew that we wanted a film of the wedding so that we would be able to capture the things that photos can’t, particularly the speeches. We’re so glad we found Mckinley Rodgers and Story Catchers (the videography arm of their business), as Pen and Cam couldn’t have been a better fit for us. Their natural, relaxed and often funny photography style really appealed to us, as we didn’t want anything staged and were keen to capture those non-wedding-y moments: hats flying off, a bride with the giggles, or a flower girl having a meltdown, and they didn’t disappoint. They were an absolute joy to work with and were a delightful addition to our wedding day, making both our guests and us feel at ease in front of the camera. We adore our photos and have watched the film at least every weekend since our wedding! If I had one piece of advice, it would be to try and squeeze a videographer into the budget if you can, as it really is worth it.
We also had disposable cameras on every table and a polaroid guest book – both of which I’m so glad we did, as discovering what our guests had shot through the night (and as the drinks flowed) was really fun – it’s safe to say that most of them shouldn’t give up their day job!
The wedding cake was one of the easiest decisions we made. One of our friend’s sisters has a cake business, Wild Cherry Bakery, and she was always our first and only choice. Frank and I are not bakers by any stretch of the imagination and so could only be guided by our taste buds. Luckily Nicola offered us a tasting and not being able to decide what we wanted, only what we didn’t want (fruit cake), she suggested three cakes, each a different flavour. We settled on lemon with a lemon curd centre, red velvet, and carrot. Needless to say, they looked (Nicola decorated each one with gold leaf and greenery) and tasted divine. Nicola went the extra mile and very kindly made us a whole extra cake, just in case of any accidents, and as a result, we had enough left over to send out to guests after the wedding, which pleased my parents greatly!
Frank and I love a party, as do our families and friends and so, along with photography, music was a top priority. We wanted a live band, complete with brass section, that could play Motown, hip hop, drum and bass and some pop classics – a tall order for any gifted musician! Having listened to many, many examples of wedding bands online, I had almost given up my quest when I came across the Soul Brothers. I knew immediately that they were ‘the one’ and we booked them as soon as we had worked out the logistics of a slightly snug dance floor (housed in one room of the super-cool, speakeasy-esque basement of Brunswick House)! We managed to fit in the three singers, a trumpet and a sax, as well as their DJ – they were all absolutely incredible and the dance floor was packed to the brim all night. I’m desperate to go to another wedding where the Soul Brothers are performing – fortunately, they were such a hit with our guests that many of them have enquired after them for future weddings and events, so fingers crossed I’ll be hitting a Soul Brothers dance floor soon!