This is such a special wedding and an important reminder that love has no bounds. To quote the bride “Don’t let age or circumstances influence you”. This adorable couple fell in love, but waited 30 years to be reunited and say their vows at the sweetest ceremony by the beach.
The veranda of The Artists’ Beach House was the perfect spot to host their intimate wedding and celebrations, with the mis-match deck chairs and added floral garlands and buckets of blooms looking spectacular against the blue sky and natural elements.
Diana the Bride: knew I wanted something floaty, feminine and romantic – nothing too structured. Four months before our big day, Dennis and flew down to Devon to celebate my birthday and I took the chance to visit Days of Grace in Buddleigh Salterton. I started by trying on Edwardian and 1920s dresses but none felt right until Judy showed me a wonderful vintage-inspired, beaded, ivory dress by Jenny Packham. It fit perfectly, I knew if would be just right for our venue, and most importantly I felt a million dollars.
Time had run away with me and Dennis had been killing time in the small seaside village. But luckily he wasn’t grumpy – he’d been doing some vintage shopping of his own and had fallen in love with a 1954 MG sports car!
I spend each Winter working in Kerala and it was whilst I was there in the tropical sunshine that I started to research our wedding venue. I immediately thought about a beach wedding because the sea is so special to us both. We live in Norfolk, which whilst very beautiful, can be rather chilly in a north wind – even in summer! I also wanted somewhere that would be easy for our guests to get to so I was thinking South coast of England.
We both wanted somewhere where we could hold the legal part of the marriage ceremony as well as the celebration. The Artists’ Beach House came up on google and I loved it straight away – even though I’d never been to Whitstable!
Then the very next day a new business client arrived and told me she lives in Whitstable. I then spoke to Dennis in Norfolk, and he loved the photos on line. After our call he went to check on the vintage yacht his son-in-law was storing with us, and saw painted on her hull the word Whitstable…
So the Artists’ Beach House it had to be…
Dennis and I stayed in the house from Monday to Friday and celebrated our wedding on Wednesday at 12 noon, on the verandah overlooking the sea. It was so relaxed having exclusive use of the venue and not having to travel on the morning of our big day.
We made our entrance together, walking down the garden steps to Etta James singing ‘At Last’. Dennis and I first met nearly 30 years ago and when Etta sang the first words of the song we were very emotional. I didn’t realise at the time but we weren’t the only ones fighting back the tears as our guests turned to see us united at last.
I spend my Winters running my yoga centre in Kerala, South India – beside the Arabian Sea and I adore the sunshine and the heat. My main worry was that I’d spend my wedding day shivering! I’m a fip-flops and wellies kind of girl so I was also worried about finding elegant wedding footwear that wouldn’t cripple me.
I was so comfortable in my on-line purchase of Rainbow Club lacy satin shoes that I only took them off when we all went for a photo shoot on the beach. And we basked in tropical heat right up to 9 o’clock at night as the temperature soared into the high 20s.
My mum wasn’t well enough to join us on the day, but I wore her gold and pearl ring as my ‘something borrowed’. She was a silversmith and made the ring herself, so it was particularly special. My ‘something blue’ jewellery was blue topaz earrings and pendant from Webbs of Holt, Norfolk, who also supplied our wedding rings and my engagement ring. I felt I’d made new friends in Olly and Nick there, and the lovely Nancy even gave me a lucky ‘sixpence for my shoe”!
Thank God for the wonderful Andy who manages Jonathon Trumball in Norwich. Without his help and excellent styling sense I think Dennis would have got married in a pair of shorts and an old rugby shirt instead of Ralph Lauren. The patterned cuffs of his Eton Contemporary shirt were a great hit with everyone!
Décor, Theme & Flowers
The theme had to be seaside and our wonderful location did it all for us. The Artist House owner Katrina Brown has gathered together an eclectic collection of seaside themed décor – a perfect combination of vintage, romance and homeliness, which we enhanced with superb floral displays by Jane at Graham Greener.
I wanted soft mauves, pinks and ivories and Jane and her team made exquisite garlands of roses and seasonal flowers along the verandah rails, magical ribbons, hearts and doves and tiny bouquets of flowers hanging in little jam jars in the tamarind tree in the garden. She also created a wonderful arch of flowers under which we married. The whole thing had a real celebratory feel but was also very relaxed and natural.
It really helped that Jane had decorated the Artists’ Beach House so many times before. She and her husband Marco even turned up the day before the wedding with a marquee for our guests when we realized how hot it was going to be.
Sally Laker at ‘Sally4Cakes’ came up trumps when I asked her to make our wedding cake as three stripy beach huts – with bride and groom languishing on deckchairs. I had a moment of panic the day before the wedding, when I realized the marzipan bride had yellow hair. I was in the middle of my make up trial and some quick thinking from make-up artist Sophie Higginson saved the day. I think it must be the first time she’s ever had to use brown eye-shadow as ‘hair dye’ for a marzipan bride.
We felt truly blessed that the Kent Ceremonies team sent us Andrea to conduct our ceremony. She quelled our nerves and made the whole thing so easy, relaxed and happy. Jonathan the registrar was a darling too – and to Dennis’s delight had been born and raised in his home city – Norwich.
During the ceremony we both were only aware of each other and the meaning of the vows and promises we were making – nothing and no one else existed. As I looked at my new husband I could feel the words of Etta James had come true: my heart was wrapped up in clover and there I was in heaven because he was mine at last.
Food and Drink
We followed our ceremony with a Mediterranean-style buffet made and served by husband-and-wife Deborah and John from Pumpkin Caterers. We chose them because they not only produce absolutely yummy food, they also listened to what we wanted and they and their staff are real professionals – taking all the anxiety away from us on the day.
Dennis has worked in the drinks industry for the past 15 years, so he sourced all the drinks for the daytime – and we made some homemade organic lemonade as we wanted alternatives to alcohol that weren’t full of sugar. I think we had an intuition that it was going to be a really hot day.
Dennis’s own brewery Woodfordes of Norfolk supplied real ale. In the evening had a meal at The Oxford, which was exactly the right size for us to have exclusive use, and where Claire, Jack and the team served delicious locally-sourced produce, specialising in fish and seafood.
The great gods of photography were smiling on us when Sarah-Jane Ethan agreed to cover our wedding. The images she takes are so natural and happy but also have a wonderful dreamy and romantic quality to them – which is exactly how we remember our amazing and special day. SJ, as she likes to be known, is such a sweetheart and a romantic at heart. She somehow has the ability to join in with all the fun so that everyone loved her. Our guests all thought she was an old friend of mine, although we’d only met that morning! Yet, at the same time she seems to have the gift of invisibility – and to this day Dennis swears that when he came upstairs to the bedroom to collect me to make our entrance together, I was the only one in the room – he was astonished when he saw SJ’s photo capturing his expression as he looked at his bride for the first time.
Friends and Family
We didn’t have bridesmaids or a best man but instead asked our sisters Lorna and Sue to be our witnesses; friends Karen to be ring bearer, and Rosy to hand out the real petal confetti. My cousin Graham did our first reading and Dennis’s sister Sue lent us her hand-made bunting.
Special mention must go to my friend Sevda who cut and styled our hair the day before and on the day itself, and to Karen (aka Morgan Kendall) who surprised us just a couple of days after the wedding with a YouTube wedding video she’d put together herself.
Be open to magic happening and you will have the best day of your life.
Don’t let age or circumstances influence you – it’s your day so wear what makes you feel wonderful, have the kind of ceremony that is meaningful to you, buy in as much help as you can afford; use only suppliers who are very professional and it helps if it’s an unusual venue, as ours was, if they’ve worked there before. Invite only people you truly love to share it with you.
And maybe the most important of all – don’t forget to order the weather!
Photography by Sarah-Jane Ethan Photography
- Dress Designer & Boutique Days of Grace Vintage
- Jewellery Webbs Jewellers
- Makeup Sophie Higginson
- Bridal Shoes Rainbow Club at John Lewis
- Venue The Artists’ Beach House, Whitstable, Kent
- Florist Graham Greener
- Caterer Pumpkin
- Cake Sally 4 Cakes
- Evening Caterer The Oxford Whistable
- Confetti Confetti Direct
- Grooms Suit Jonathan Trumbull