Dancing In The Dark.


This is one of my favourite weddings of 2013 so far and this is because of three things: Music… Design… Photography.

Alex and Hayley’s festival themed day centred around the things they loved and it just so happens that I love those things too. As art school graduates they decided to create much of the stationery and decor themselves and as music lovers they decided that their wedding would emulate their favourite music festival “Secret Garden Party“. Their love of photography led them to Anna Clarkes doorstep… Good choice guys!


Hayley the Bride: Alex and I got married on Saturday 26 May 2012 at Plaxtol Church in Plaxtol (strangely enough!) which is a really beautiful village just outside of Sevenoaks in Kent. Alex grew up in the village which is not far from where we live so we thought it would be the perfect place to get married in front of our friends and family. Our reception was held a short drive away at Wise wedding venue. 

We met at art uni – I was studying photography and Alex was studying graphic design. We’re both quite creative and wanted this to come across in the decor and the general feel for the day.

Even before we got engaged we had spoken about having a festival style wedding. We love going to festivals and watching live music and Secret Garden Party festival (our favourite) is essentially what we had always spoken about recreating for our wedding one day. 

A Secret Garden Party

So as soon as we got engaged our mission was to find a venue that would give us the flexibility to recreate Secret Garden Party. We stumbled across Wise which is run by Sam Wise and immediately fell in love with it. Lakes, treehouses, swinging sofas and light installations – it ticked all the boxes for us and as a bonus we were able to use the venue on the Sunday to invite everyone back for a BBQ. 

Our wedding fell on the only weekend during the Spring that was blazing hot sunshine and I like to think that is down to my exceptional planning skills rather than luck!


The Deal Sealer

My dress was Goldie by Sottero Midgley and came from Bridal gowns at Jodi in Maidstone. I never really had an image of what I wanted my wedding dress to look like so I was a little apprehensive about being able to find one that I would be happy with. I knew that I didn’t want a big princess style dress – I wanted something a little more understated that still made me feel like a bride. One thing I was certain about was that I wanted a cathedral length veil and a long train. I booked a couple of appointments in my local town and dragged my mum and sister in law to be along with me. I must have tried on about 15-20 dresses across two different shops and all the dresses were nice but none of them made me feel amazing.

My dress ended up being the last one that I tried on (it gets really tiring trying on so many dresses!) and the resulting tears from me and my mum sealed the deal! I didn’t think I would go for anything with quite so much detail but I think when you try a dress on and you don’t want to take it off, that’s when you know it’s the right one!


A Bit Of Sparkle

I knew that I didn’t want to wear a tiara – they’re not really me – but I wanted something else so I found a beautiful headband on Etsy that had a bit of sparkle but was still subtle. My mum has some beautiful jewellery that she said I could chose from to wear on the day but I didn’t actually choose until about 10 minutes before we left the house! I wore her beautiful pearl necklace and bracelet set and my parents presented me with a lovely pair of Tiffany pearl earrings on the morning as a really lovely surprise.


Kitten Heels

Shoes were one of my biggest headaches! I have size 7/8 feet and I’m the same height as Alex. I was on the hunt for a small heel as I didn’t want to tower over Alex on the day. Most wedding shoes I found were ugly, expensive and had pointy toes which I didn’t want. Eventually (after searching just about every shop in existence) I found a lovely pair of nude sparkly open toe kitten heel shoes from Nine West.

I did my hair myself as well as my mums and my bridesmaids, I couldn’t justify the cost of getting a hairdresser for the day and as I’m usually the one to do everyone’s hair for nights out I didn’t mind. I had no idea how I was going to do my hair except that I knew I would curl it and I wanted it to look relaxed, the rest I made up on the morning! It had begun falling out by the end of the day but I didn’t mind. 

The only person in the world I trust to go anywhere near my face with make up is Lauren, my sister in law and one of my bridesmaids, she knows exactly what suits me, what look I wanted to go for and I was chuffed to bits with the end result. She was a superstar with not only doing my make up but my bridesmaids, my mums and her own on the morning. We ended up with a bit of a production line going for hair and make up!


Floral Fancies

The bouquets and button holes came from a wonderful florist in Tunbridge Wells called Style Workshop. The whole team were amazing and they interpreted exactly what we were after, we were so pleased. My bouquet had a mixture of my favourite flowers – daisies, ranunculus and peonies, the bridesmaid bouquets were white hydrangeas and the button holes were double lisianthus. 

We did the church flowers ourselves which was a lot of fun. Alex’s mum and Aunt did such a fab job. We went to Blooming Green, a pick your own flower farm just outside of Maidstone on the Thursday, and spent the morning at the church on the Friday decorating the windows and pew ends. 

We knew the marquee at the reception venue wouldn’t need many flowers so we bought 12 blue hydrangea pot plants from Ikea to use as the centre pieces.


In The Navy

Our colour scheme was navy blue, it’s such a classic and timeless colour and we found some great suits from Next that Alex and his two best men all bought. His ushers and the dads wore their own suits but we bought them all the same funky ties to bring it all together.

The bridesmaids dresses proved to be quite a headache! I had four bridesmaids, my twin sister Caroline, older sister Kelly, sister in law Lauren and one of my best friends Rosie. They all have very different body shapes so I knew that the same style of dress wasn’t going to suit all of them. I therefore tried looking for different style dresses in the same colour. 

I bought Kellys dress from Coast as soon as I saw it as I knew it would be tricky finding one that she would be comfortable in. I then set out to try and find three other dresses to match in colour but in a style to suit each of them. This proved to be too difficult so my good friend Lou came to the rescue, she works in Suzanne Neville‘s team making wedding dresses for a living and did such a fab job with the other dresses. We found three different designs that the girls were happy with and after spending a day in London searching through a million fabric shops, we found a nearly perfect match to the Coast dress we had already and all the girls looked great and felt comfortable in styles that suited them. 

It’s always a happy (but slightly stressful!) moment when one of your bridesmaids tells you she will be 8 months pregnant on your wedding day but we made it work!

Molly, my gorgeous 2 year old niece was my flower girl and she did such an amazing job and looked adorable in her monsoon dress.


My handsome Alex wore the same blue suit from Next as his two best men and he looked completely gorgeous. 

I felt so nervous walking down the aisle knowing everyone would be watching me but as soon as Alex turned around and I saw his reaction I completely relaxed and it genuinely felt like we were the only two people in the whole church. Saying our vows to each other felt amazing, it was my favourite part of the day and I felt so proud to be marrying such an amazing person, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face and I managed to hold back the tears I thought would be streaming from start to finish!


Team Clarke

Booking Anna was a no brainer. It was the first thing we booked and one of our best decisions. Photography is super important to us and we fell in love with Anna’s style immediately she was also really excited about our venue. Meeting her for our pre wedding shoot was like meeting up with an old friend and she made us both feel so relaxed (I hate having my picture taken!) her hubby Simon surely has to be the best second shooter, his totally inappropriate jokes really helped make us feel relaxed. 

A friend of ours is a video editor and so made us the most beautiful wedding video as our wedding gift. 


My wonderful sister offered to make our cake and she did a brilliant job, despite being 8 months pregnant at the time and having all that pressure (we were a little concerned it may bring on labour!) but she insisted she wanted to do it. We weren’t really that excited about the thought of having a cake until we discovered the naked cake! She also made the BEST chocolate cake pops which went down a storm. 


School Of Rock

We decided on having a band as we love live music. An old school friend (and ex bandmate) of Alex’s played with his band they were just brilliant and had everyone dancing from start to finish, they even had Alexs 91 year old grandma up and dancing until the end! Being a DJ, Alex couldn’t resist playing some music at the end of the evening!


We always said that we would dance to something completely unexpected for our first dance and we chose Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen – a song we both love. A friend sang a slowed down version of the song while another friend played acoustic guitar. We had been dreading the thought of awkwardly having to shuffle around a dance floor for our first dance and we felt extremely self-conscious!

After our first dance, Alex ran off and reappeared with his guitar standing behind the microphone! He then surprised me by singing and playing Paradise by Coldplay for my dance with my Dad. One of the highlights of the evening.


Thank You

A lot of people choose to not give favours in order to save money but I think it’s one of the most important things. We had guests travelling from as from as far as Hong Kong so the least we could do was to say “thank you” in a unique way. We chose to have festival style wrist bands made up which went down really well and some guests are still wearing them nearly 4 months later!

Alex is a graphic designer and I do lots of sewing so we were really excited at the thought of getting creative and combining our ideas with the decor. From the start we decided we would do as much as we could ourselves not only to save money but to also make our wedding unique to us. Alex created a brand for us which we carried through on everything from save the date cards to the festival wristbands. We wanted our wedding to reflect us and we hope we achieved that.

So many people commented on the design details and Alex has now expanded his business to offer the same wedding branding for other couples getting married.


Some Top Tips

I read somewhere that when planning your wedding you should choose one word to describe what you want your wedding to be and you’re not allowed to pick “perfect”. We chose “fun” and every decision we made we tried to keep that in mind from the entertainment, to the food and the decoration. 

We made our wedding completely unique by doing as much of it ourselves and using all our talented family and friends to help. The little details do make a huge difference.

When it comes to shopping for dresses, open your mind to all styles and designs, you may be pleasantly surprised. 

If you go for a lace up design, allow plenty of time on the morning to get into it, at least half an hour! Get one of your bridesmaids to film the lady in the shop lacing you up so you have a good reference point on the day of the wedding.

Get your mum/bridesmaid to carry an emergency sewing kit with them, really helps with any last minute issues!

Also get someone to carry a pack of polos and a bottle of water, all the nerves will give you a really dry mouth!

Urban Decay does a great product called ‘dew me’ you spray it over the top of your make up and it keeps your make up in place all day. It really really worked.


Click here & view all images from this wedding

Venue: Wise
Dress: Sottero Midgley
Boutique: Bridal gowns at Jodi
Bouquets & Buttonholes: Style Workshop
Flowers: Blooming Green
Photogapher: Anna Clarke Photography
Stationery & Decor: Alex Griffith

Some great advice from Hayley at the end there covering the really big issues (like dresses) down to the little details (like carry a pack of polos). Love it.

I am always a sucker for a wedding that has been branded… And graphic designer groom Alex did a top job with the stationery and decor… The logo used throughout really helps to pull all of the design elements together. I particularly love the bespoke branded bunting and the festival style wristbands are perfect – It was a great idea to use them to inject a bit of colour into the place settings.

Really wishing that I had managed to get some Glastonbury tickets now… Maybe I’ll check out Secret Garden Party instead…


Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

11 thoughts on “Dancing In The Dark.

  1. What a fabulous wedding! We’ve also chosen ‘fun’ as our key word for the day, and I’m loving the brilliant tips around polos, sewing kits and taking a video of being ‘laced’ into the dress – perfect!!

  2. love the festival style, love the wristbands, love love love the sofas – HOW DID YOU DO THAT?! love that you did your hair yourself, love the homemade touches. If I had had more time for my wedding I think it would have looked a lot like this 🙂

  3. Swinging sofas, naked cakes and pink cars are ringing all my bells this morning. ALL of them! Love this wedding – particularly the gorgeous shot of Hayley with her veil billowing out behind her – top work Mrs Clarke!

  4. Such a fantastic piece of advice, to have a key word that you stick to through all of your wedding planning. I bet that is such a help when you’re in the middle of all your decision making. And they certainly did it… how much fun does this wedding look, especially the sofas on strings!

  5. Thanks for all your lovely comments about our wedding – we certainly had a lot of fun that day and Anna and Simon did such a fab job of the photos xx

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