Holly and Charlie's big day just has such a lovely vibe, looking through the images really did make me smile. I think it's because it has a perfect balance of fun, family and love, the whole day was bathed in golden sunlight and everyone just looks so happy. I loved reading Holly's write up too, she's got a very dry sense of humour and it made me laugh. All in all, it's just a lovely feel good wedding for the middle of the week - I hope you enjoy it too.
The DressHolly The Bride: I had no idea where to start with the wedding dress. I’d imagined getting married in a meadow, peppered with daisies, by a small stream in sunshine – but never what I’d be wearing. I knew what I didn’t want (strapless, shiny fabric, big bouffy skirt, nor ‘skimming my bum so close as to show everyone what I’m working with’), but not what I did want. I got a couple of friends from work to shop with me on our lunch breaks, and we tried every shape and style. I ended up with three dress options - we called them ‘fun Holly’, ‘elegant Holly’ and ‘stylish Holly’. I took my sister to review the options, seeing all three of them in one day, and she immediately leapt for option no.2 – ‘Fun’. That dress was at Mirror Mirror Islington, and was one that the team suggested when I described the feel I wanted, and the kind of dresses I’d liked. I’d been against a strapless dress from the off, but when we put the lace jacket over the top, it was perfect. Stylish, elegant and fun. My sister described it as the dress that captured my soul – and I had to have it after that. The fact that I could have a daytime look with the jacket, and an evening look with just the dress, and that shoes would be a big part of the look, was icing on the cake.
The AccessoriesFor the day time, I wore the Jimmy Choo sandals that my sister had got married in – really simple, since the lace was pretty detailed, and had light catching sequins. My earrings and rings were about adding pops of colour – I wore my Grandmother’s engagement ring (handily the stones are blue and green, matching my colours perfectly), and small but bright earrings from Les Nereides. Finally, my sister and brother gifted me a bracelet on the day – so that got popped straight on my wrist. In the evening, the lace jacket came off, and the bright blue Fendi court shoes went on.
The GroomCharlie refused to let me get involved with the men’s fashion – which drove me crazy. He’s lucky enough to be good friends with a menswear designer, who took him off on a tour of London’s best tailors, and together they selected a suit from Alexander McQueen, and socks, tie and shirt from Turnbull and Asser – to Charlie’s delight, the same place where James Bond gets his shirts. Or would, if he were real...
The VenueWe started our search in London, but the more venues we looked at, the more I realised that I really, really wanted a garden location. So we switched the search to Cambridgeshire, where Charlie’s from, and where everything is lush, green and beautiful. We knew Longstowe Hall was the one as soon as we emerged from the ‘Great Hall’ in to the garden – two long borders full of beautiful flowers and a lush green lawn between led the eye down to a lake, and they had the option of marrying indoors or outdoors.
The DecorI spent months changing my mind on the colours for the wedding, ricocheting between a chic ‘all white’ look, or a more fun ‘colour pop’ approach. For a long time, I was going to have bright yellow chevron table runners, which gave a specific look and feel. That got forgotten when we found the bridesmaid dresses and ‘fun’ won. I finally set the colour scheme by choosing an image of a bouquet of wildflowers, and isolating the colours within it – ending up with four main colours – pink, blue and white. The size and dominance of ‘white’ in the marquee worried me – I’d seen images of other weddings on the internet where despite beautiful flower arrangements, they got drowned by the marquee itself. So as we weren’t allowed to attach lanterns to the ceiling (Longstowe rules) we used 3ft balloons floating above the tables to add pops of colour. We then used the flower budget to have multiple smaller vases of flowers – basically, putting colour everywhere. And the table runners became grey linen – to stop it turning in to a children’s party and bring back a bit of class... We had also hired light up letters, again, to help us break up the space in the marquee (and to light up the dancefloor). In the end, Longstowe rules meant they had to go in the entrance marquee – they looked incredible against the brick wall, but I wish I’d fought harder to get them inside the main marquee with us – a trick missed there.
The FlowersWe worked with the wonderful Clare Robinson on flowers – to be honest, she did all the hard work. I showed her my Pinterest boards, rambled on about daisies, hydrangeas, no pastels and a ‘bringing the garden inside’ approach, told her my budget and then left it all to her. The result was incredible – the bouquets, the table arrangements, the cake decoration. It was both exactly what I wanted, and more incredible than I’d imagined. The flowers got as many comments and compliments as my dress.
The Wedding PartyThe plan initially was to have the bridesmaids in mismatched outfits, with ‘something’ pulling them together. That all fell apart when we went shopping and two of three immediately fell in love with the same skirt/top outfit from Coast. Obviously, as bridesmaids do, they dutifully put the outfit down and tried on whatever else I asked them to, claiming “we’ll wear whatever you want us to”, but the skirt /top combo was perfect – it was floaty, but modern. Pretty, but chic. I had some tricky discussions with bridesmaid number three to get her to wear it - the only really stressful part of the wedding planning. Having dealt with that negotiation, I ran out of steam and asked them all to sort their own shoes out. A small nod to the initial mismatched plan. They all asked repeatedly how I wanted their hair, make up and jewellery, but given that they were grown women, I really wanted them to look like themselves, so they each pulled together their own looks on the day. The boys were a lot easier – one shopping trip, to M&S for blue suits. Again, we asked them to source their own shoes and shirts, and the best man looked after the ties for us.
The CeremonyWe asked the registrars for a relaxed tone, as they were really setting the tone for the full day, and everything flowed from there. We had passages on love from my favourite books (Jane Eyre & The Princess Bride) as readings – my 6 year old nephew stood in for my sister on one of them as she lost her voice – his perfect reading of a passage from The Princess Bride reduced everyone to tears. We played Al Green while we signed the register, and the dancing started early. And we wrote our own vows – it was a lovely personal touch to a very emotional ceremony.
The FoodCharlie’s a real foody, so this was one area where we couldn’t skimp. We had Capers, who are the resident caterers at Longstowe – handily they are also incredible. Once guests were seated, we gave them the choice between Sea Bass and Chicken as a main course, which was a really lovely touch. And the triple deserts (crème caramel, passion friut and raspberry meringue, sticky toffee pudding) went down a real treat. For me, a real indulgence was having an incredible naked cake from Tom’s Cakes (well known as the best in Cambridge), as well as a cheese stack. We used these as both a decorative element, and as the evening buffet.
The PhotographyWe found Warren at Howell Jones Photography after an extensive internet search, and as a recommendation from another photographer. We loved that he treated weddings as a documentary, with emphasis on captured moments, rather than formal set ups. Warren was brilliant on the day, starting early and staying late, and so relaxed – he was an honorary member of the wedding party, and I think, did more than his fair share of babysitting the flower girl. And the images are beautiful.
Personal TouchesWe added a cigar bar to go with the coffees, which went down fantastically well. I initially wanted to do it as a surprise for Charlie, but ended up telling him so that he could join in the fun planning. The words ‘cigar bar’ were pretty intimidating, as were the multitude of storage instructions that you’ll find on the internet (humidor?!) We chose two boxes of Cuban cigars – 50 in total for 80 guests, and created our own matchboxes with our initials, our ‘wedding logo’ from our invite, and the date on. The cigars created some really great photos, and the matchboxes turned out to be the ‘must have’ take home item...and I thought people weren’t interested in favours! Instead of a guest book, we bought a couple of Fujifilm cameras (more reliable than the old polaroids, and the film is cheaper & develops quicker), and asked people to take photos, and leave them for us. It worked incredibly well, leaving us with about 150 images, which really capture the day, and have a really different tone to the ones we got from Warren, our official photographer. Definitely a good idea.
Bride: Cymbeline | Boutique: Mirror Mirror | Engagement Ring: Hannah Martin | Wedding Ring: Van Buskirk Jewellery | Earring: Les Nereides | White Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Blue Shoes: Fendi | Groom: Alexander McQueen | Florist: Clare Robinson | Venue: Longstowe Hall | Cake: Tom's Cakes | Catering: Capers Catering | Bridesmaids: Coast | Groomsmen: M&S | Entertainment: Cambridge Jazz Co | Evening Entertainment: Pro Event Hire | Balloons: Party People