Simon and Sarah’s intimate and effortlessly cool big day is definitely one of my favourite weddings of 2013 and it’s not just because their ridiculously cute cat makes an appearance in it. Yes folks, I am a huge cat lover…but I digress.
Perhaps it’s because Simon and Sarah very nearly didn’t get married – I’ll let Sarah tell you the story in more detail in a mo – perhaps it’s the deep love and affection that these two have for each other. You can see it in their decision to get ready together on the morning of their wedding, in their smiling faces as they read through their vows in their taxi on the way to the ceremony and in their life-affirming kiss when they’re announced husband and wife.
Actually that kiss is definitely the best kiss I’ve seen on these pages all year.
There are braces and bow ties, a chic urban venue, beautiful flowers and a brass band! And then there’s a whole heap of love and laughter on top.
A Long Engagement
Sarah The Bride: Well to start with, I have to confess that we very nearly didn’t get married. Or at least we very nearly didn’t have a proper wedding. We’ve been together for ages (for twelve years to be precise), so we didn’t really feel the need to get married. Simon proposed after seven years because he wanted to make a grand gesture about his intent to spend the rest of his life with me. But after that we sort of lost interest in the idea. Organising a wedding seemed like a lot of hard work. So we just became one of those couples who were perpetually engaged.
But last year, something changed. Maybe it was because we were transitioning into the next phase of our life together. Maybe we were both bored at work. Or maybe it was because we saw the film ‘Five Year Engagement’ and it wasn’t very funny. Whatever it was, we finally started to feel like it was something we wanted to do.
So anyway, this prologue is a factor in pretty much all of the decisions discussed below.
Home Is Where The Heart Is
We’re both Australians living in London, but we never really thought about going back to have a wedding, where we might end up with something full of distant relatives and not very us. We entertained the idea of eloping in Las Vegas or New York, just the two of us. Then we realised – it had to be London. It’s our home, it’s where we’ve spent half our relationship, and we could share it with guests from Australia. We were really lucky that all of our immediate family and most of our dearest friends made it over.
For the actual venue within London – we looked at a lot. We wanted something interesting but where we could be comfortable. The trickiest factor was the size of our party. We saw some amazing venues, but knew that our party would be lost in the corner of some of the larger spaces. In the end 6 St. Chad’s Place was perfect for us. We could have a reception dinner for forty odd guests, and then invite forty more to join us for drinks later in the evening.
I knew I wanted a nod to 60s to complement my dress, but I don’t usually wear much make-up so wanted to feel like myself. Bianca Pereira from The Powderpuff Girls did a wonderful job – I looked way hotter than usual – and I got so many comments on the night.
I never shopped for a traditional wedding dress, and most of the time I wasn’t even shopping for a white dress. I kept an eye on various online vintage boutiques and would order in dresses I liked. After several fails I finally found my 60s dress on Etsy. The white lace felt like just enough of a nod to being a bride, but the length and style felt more me.
By comparison, Simon’s suit was a much more expensive and lengthy process. But he figured it would be an investment piece. Unfortunately, my hubby isn’t blessed with one of those physiques that suits off-the-rack. So he decided to get something tailor-made from The Cad and the Dandy. It took a few fittings to get right – partly because he lost a lot of weight – but in the end he looked very debonair.
One Million Tiny Decisions
Simon pointed out that weddings are so much work because you are having to make a million tiny decisions on things that you have never thought about in your life. So every little detail seems to take a disproportionate amount of time. We knew we wanted to use Amanda Mansell for our rings, but panicked about the design and spent too long discussing complicated two toned rings and things with patterns and inserts. Thankfully we realised at the last minute it wasn’t really us and went for something much simpler and she listened patiently throughout.
For my shoes, I knew I wanted colour, but the most important thing was that I would be able to walk in them at the end of the night. I spent a long time searching for low heels that didn’t look like something I’d wear to court, and ended up ordering from Chromatic Gallery in the US – with no refund on customs if they didn’t fit. Yes that’s how desperate I got. They fitted perfectly!
As for Simon’s gold flecked brogues from Justin Deakin, beautiful, but I doubt he’ll get as much wear out of them as his suit.
We Did It Our Way
Controversially, we didn’t have a wedding party, though we did ask our sisters to witness. We were asking our family and close friends to come all the way to London and we really didn’t want to have to ask them to organise things or stress out about outfits. We did ask three of our good friends to do readings at the ceremony, and also put the word out that anyone who wanted to make a speech at the reception was welcome to.
We didn’t start out with a look or colour scheme and we chopped and changed a bit. We knew we wanted something industrial and urban, and the venue did a lot of the work for us. The rest we wanted to be relaxed and fun. We cut stencils and used spray chalk to write on the pavement outside. There were several menu blackboards at the venue that we knew we couldn’t remove, so we printed our own blackboard style posters to cover them.
But the centre of the decor was the screen and projection. We knew we wanted to do something on the back wall, partly to distract from the large train decal. We ended up editing together a montage video of wedding scenes from various movies and TV shows. Everything from The Princess Bride to the A-Team. It was a great talking point.
The projector also meant we couldn’t resist adding some multimedia when Simon and I did our joint speech.
The venue has a high roof and we realised that some kind of ceiling installation could be dramatic and also make the space feel more intimate. I spent a long time looking into hanging mason jars and flowers and wondering how I would manage to do it on my own. I had no idea you can asks florists to help with this stuff! Melissa and Joce at JamJar Flowers talked it through with me and we ended up going for the trailing amaranth and ivy with the chinese lanterns. JamJar installed it all and it looked gorgeous.
Thoughts And Musings
We left thinking about the ceremony to rather late, and then started panicking about how we were going to fill the time. We had seen the ceremony as the bit to get out of the way before you can have a party. But as we started to write our vows and choose readings, we realised that we could make the ceremony personal and funny and something meaningful to us. We chose two readings – one was a comic short story about God’s girlfriend complaining that he is never available to hang out with her because he’s busy creating the universe. We also had two dear friends read out Darwin’s musings on whether he should marry, with one doing the pros and one doing the cons.
Our vows somehow became very special and sentimental, despite our best attempts to avoid romance and the references to wrinkles and annoying each other.
Breaking With Convention
We also broke convention by seeing each other before the ceremony. In fact, we didn’t bother hiring a hotel for Simon. We decided we wanted to wake up together, and have breakfast together before the craziness of the wedding took over. It felt right to us.
With that in mind, we chose to start the wedding day with champagne at Gilbert Scott in St Pancras. It seemed like a nice way to kick off the day and for our small wedding group to meet and mingle beforehand. The bar is just across the road from Camden Town Hall, which is about 10 minutes walk from St. Chads. We were pleased we wouldn’t have to organise any transport for the day, but then started to worry about the slightly awkward walk between venues. That’s what led us to the idea of a marching band. This was our real show stopper.
The Gold Diggers met us outside the bar and played us across the road and into the ceremony, switching from New Orleans jazz to the wedding March for our moment down the aisle. Then they played us down to the venue and during cocktail hour. It was so much fun and really set the tone for the day.
During dinner we switched to piano accompaniment with the brilliant Sam Foster who rearranged a playlist of our favorite pop songs as classical compositions. There was plenty of 80’s & 90’s nostalgia, as well as more modern stuff – like the ubiquitous ‘Get Lucky’.
After dinner we switched to a Spotify playlist rather than DJ – as we had totally exhausted our entertainment budget. Simon is not a keen dancer and put the kibosh on any notion of a first dance, and I had to agree with him that the idea of spending weeks in dance training on top of organising a wedding seemed like asking for trouble.
Our cake was from Lily Vanilli, where we go for our sweet fix on the weekends. She is open to anything and created a bannoffee flavoured cake for us.
In keeping with our London wedding, we decided to create a tea towel for our favours, using royal weddings as our inspiration. We got our portraits done by a couple of street artists at Piccadilly Circus. Simon put these into the union jack design and we had them printed. Now our faces are drying the dishes of our nearest and dearest.
Information Is Key
When we were thinking about our wedding invite, we realised that after twelve years together, the one thing we have is we have history. We decided we wanted to do an infographic, with stats about our relationship – things like how many friends have had babies since we got together. We uploaded the infographic invite to a website and later added our registry to the site.
We knew we wanted a honeymoon registry as we already have our flat set up. But we weren’t that keen on any of the existing honeymoon registries – either we couldn’t specify the gifts (we wanted someone to be able to buy as breakfast at a particular cafe, for example, rather than just giving us money), or they were kind of ugly. Simon ended up learning to code (yeah, that’s what control freaks we are) in order to design the registry the way we wanted it. We’ve since had so many friends ask us to do their registries that we’re planning to create a site where folk can do it themselves. So if you’re interested, please watch this space.
If In Doubt, Hire A Marching Band
There are lots of details you will obsess over, but it’s the moments people remember (eg. no one has mentioned my chalk stencils that took hours to make, but everyone has talked about the marching band). And remember to leave enough time for your vows and your speech – they ended up being our sweetest memories of the day.
And while the stress of the whole thing can get ridiculous, the process of organising a day that is about who you are as a couple can also be an amazing reminder of why you are truly meant to be together. Things went wrong for us, as they do for everyone, but when I saw the way Simon handled it, I was more in love with him than ever.
Despite all our best efforts to be nonchalant about the whole thing, it was a very special day.
Jon was so sweet and got such wonderful pictures on the day, both reportage and posed. Just like he told us beforehand, he was truly “like a ninja”. He was unintrusive, open to ideas, flexible and has a great eye for the emotional moments.
Venue – 6 St Chads Place
Gown – Etsy
Make-up – The Powderpuff Girls
Florist – JamJar Flowers
Groom – Cad And The Dandy
Brass Band – Gold Diggers Brass Band
Evening Entertaiment – Sam Foster Music
Rings – Amanda Mansell
Cake – Lily Vanilli
Photography – Jonathan Ong Photography
So folks what did you think? Jonathan captured the day perfectly wouldn’t you agree…
My favourite shot is the very last image – the epitome of ‘YES!! We did it!!’
All my love Lolly xxx
P.S. If you adore Australia-based Jonathan’s work as much as I do then you might be interested to know that he will be available for bookings in London next summer. Quick hop to it!