The Asylum in London always gives me goosebumps. It's so atmospheric and the ceremony pictures are always bursting with emotion. You can't not love its broken down character & beauty. The altar in particular, whether it is adorned with church candles as it is at Hayley & Josh's wedding, or fairy lights as we've seen in the past, it always looks absolutely stunning and makes a great focal point for the I do's. Hayley and Josh hired the Dorito's Mariachi band, which I can fully vouch for as being the ultimate party starters as I've been lucky enough to attend a wedding where they have performed. I can fully imagine the riot of fun everybody had during their sets and I am a little bit jealous I didn't get to party with them at their Westminster Boating Base reception. Everybody is full of smiles and look truly beautiful. Especially bride Hayley in her lace Rembo 'Clara' gown. With all the details, fun & emotion captured by RMW fave Frances Sales, who Hayley & Josh found through these very pages. If your looking for more fabulous suppliers you should definitely check out our hand picked wedding directory The List where you will also find Hayley & Josh's cake baker Little Bear Cakery. Told you we only have THE BEST.

The Venue

Hayley the Bride: The thought of going wedding-dress shopping filled me with a degree of dread, but I was persuaded, while visiting my mum, to also visit Broughton’s Bridals in Yorkshire. The lady at the boutique listened carefully to the litany of things I didn’t want and, ten minutes later, emerged with the beautifully simple Rembo ‘Clara’ gown. It was an ex-sample, and in my size, so I snapped it up at a bargain price! To finish off the look, I wanted simple yet stylish accessories. I spotted a delicate bracelet and pair of gold hoops at Alex Monroe, and found a vintage-style hair clasp for a ridiculously reasonable sum on Etsy. The final shoe decision was more agonising, sometimes literally: flats were essential, but I only found my Nine West sandals two days before the wedding.

Groom's Attire

Josh has only ever worn black suits (and one linen item that was banned by me a long time ago). He wanted something summery and striking and found this blue, lightweight suit in a short but determined foray round Selfridges. He also treated himself to a pair of Oliver Sweeney brogues, because he believes them to be the most comfortable proper shoes in existence.

The Venue

Having undergone many fabulous voyages for other peoples’ weddings, we knew we wanted to get married in London, our home. We’d seen Asylum online, and as soon as we walked in we knew it was for us: dark, ecclesiastical-but-not-religious and crumbling around the edges somewhat… Finding a reception venue was more tricky given the surprising number of people it turned out we knew: seating 150 for dinner seemed to necessitate an entire conference centre, but eventually Google led us to the Westminster Boating Base. We both love the river, and Josh used to be a rowing coach, so it seemed to fit. Cherie, at the venue, was an unmitigated legend – let’s just say she makes things happen.


Asylum is so beautiful it needed nothing doing to it, other than the candles and lighting they provided. At the Boating Base, we also let things be, set off by fairy lights provided by the venue and tealights on tables. The personal touches really came on our tables. I am a crafty beast, so I handmade the place-settings (finished off with rosemary and lavender by our florist), as well as the personalised ‘Penguin’ books that worked as both table numbers and guest books. We put out felt-tips so people could scrawl away. The idea is to look at one book per year on our anniversary – we’re slightly trepidatious about what we might discover! We also burned CDs for our favours, containing songs from the day and some other favourites.


Flowers were probably even further down my list of interests than wedding dresses. Google led us to Jennifer Pinder, who, at the time, lived only a few streets away. Although we might have picked her out of convenience, we knew we’d made the right decision when she guided us through the process, including setting us some homework to look up a list of seasonal flowers and find out which we liked. She totally understood us, and the relaxed woodland-style table-settings were a nod to our love of the countryside. Jenn also created an amazing floral ‘waterfall’ on the stairs.

The Wedding Party Fashion

A quick browse online led us to bridesmaid dresses by Monsoon, which handily had both the beaded maxis for the adult bridesmaids, and a sort-of-matching little dress for Isabella, Josh’s sister. The groomsmen (and my male bridesmaids – or bridesfolk) were kitted out in grey hired suits from Austin Reed, which resulted in a degree of chaos when they went into administration.


We knew we wanted our ceremony to be filled with music. I walked down the aisle to ‘Peaches’ by The Stranglers, which did a good job of setting the tone for the day! Josh’s brother, Theo, read ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’, but our other entertainments were all musical. Bridesfolk John is an expert pianist, so he, along with friends Olly and Rich, led the congregation in singing ‘Stand by Me’. Two other buddies also sang while we signed the register. To wrap things up, everyone joined us in a rousing rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ (complete with secret harmonies and descant practised by me and some of her close allies) after the I had been kissed.


As music lovers, we wanted a band for our reception, and when we found out about The Mariachis we more or less quivered with joy: they play covers of popular songs in a Mexican style, including ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ and have featured on an advert for Doritos crisps. They performed a set before and after dinner, then the party continued into the night with the Boating Base’s own DJ, who read the room brilliantly. You know it’s been a good party when the night ends with a packed dancefloor chanting ‘One more song!’.


We’ve both been the victim of ‘squeaky chicken’ at weddings, and were determined to avoid it and its allies. I discovered that Ottolenghi do catering, and as this was The Place That Made Josh Like Salad, we knew it had to be the way forward. They provided outstanding canapes for after the ceremony, and then a dinner of bruschetta, followed by beef or salmon with lots of lovely veg – ideal for a summer’s evening. Pudding was our wedding cake, made by Clare from the Little Bear Cakery. We’d tasted her delights at a wedding of friends, and went for a naked cake as it seemed to sit with the simplicity of the day. We opted for chocolate and lemon flavours, served with berries and cream. After the meal, family friends provided a selection of cheeses and ham, and we also put together sweet-jars of our favourite snacks – Mini Cheddars, Clubs and Bounties, for those who are into detail.


We found Frances on Rock My Wedding, after looking at other weddings at Asylum. We liked the natural ease of her pictures, and her no-nonsense FAQs! We both feel a degree of awkwardness and horror when having our photo taken, but she expertly helped us through our ‘engagement shoot’, something we would never have done had it not been included in her deal, but which meant that we were really comfortable with her on the day.

Final Thoughts

One of our favourite parts of the day was the buses between venues. We made a ‘sing-along’ playlist for the ride and served prosecco (top tip: do a booze cruise to Calais (before going to France becomes impossible…)), which essentially turned the buses into mobile karaoke machines. Not only that, but because there was a minimum rental time on the hire, we also used them to transport out-of-town guests from their hotel to the ceremony, and I to the wedding. (standing at a bus stop in your wedding dress is highly recommended, by the way…) Our advice is to provide good music, food and booze, and the rest will just happen! RMW Reader Survey
Lorna Shaw

Written by Lorna Shaw

Dress Designer: Rembo - Clara | Bridal Boutique: Broughton's Bridal | Jewellery: Alex Monroe | Bridal Shoes: Nine West | Grooms Shoes: Oliver Sweeney | Bridesmaid Dresses: Monsoon | Groom/Groomsmen: Canali | Venue: The Asylum | Westminster Boating Base | Florist: Jennifer Pinder | Caterer: Ottolenghi | Ashburton Delicatessen | Cake: Little Bear Cakery | Entertainment: Mariachi Mexteca | Transport: Routemaster Hire

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