Charlotte and Jon were married early in the afternoon of Saturday 2nd July 2011 in Islington. Laura Babb was on lens duty, and captured the day with style.
This mornings bride Charlotte saw choosing the dress as a daunting prospect, but when you read about the dress she chose compared to how it looked on the day, you’ll start to understand the kind of vision she has. Daunted or not she wasn’t afraid to chop, change and adapt to make things just right. And the end result? The dress she always wanted. She need not have worried at all….
We wanted to keep as much of our wedding as we could local – so we married in our borough’s Town Hall (Islington), had the reception in a pub round the corner from where we live – the Tufnell Park Tavern, and sourced as many things as possible from local providers or folks we knew.
Neither of us wanted a church wedding, so the Town Hall’s Council Chamber offered us space, but also a really good balance of intimacy and formality: family and friends were able to sit pretty much all around us (thanks to its circular layout), while its architecture and decor (high domed ceilings, wooden panelling, and stained glass) gave everything gravitas without being overbearing.
My dress was from Fur Coat No Knickers. I found the idea of wedding dress shopping a bit daunting, I knew I wanted a vintage dress, and I knew I wanted knee-length and kind of 50s style sticky-out skirt, but that was about it. I wasn’t too bothered about whether it was white or ivory (or blue or green!)
The dress was the fourth one I tried on in the shop, and it was originally floor-length, but I knew that I wanted a knee-length dress with petticoats underneath, so with a lot of imagination and a huge amount of work from the team at FCNK it was transformed into what I wanted! The top of the dress is lace, the skirt is silk, and there’s an under dress as well as the petticoats. The neckline and back neckline (is there a word for that?!) were changed, the sleeves were changed, the waistline was changed – in the end it didn’t much resemble what it had been originally at all, other than the fabric. I love it.
I had an idea that I wanted to have blue as, for want of a better word, the ‘accent’ colour for my outfit. I definitely didn’t want white shoes I’d never wear again, and Jon was quite keen on a blue suit. So my dress had a navy blue velvet ribbon round the waist, and the petticoat had binding in navy blue and pale blue.
Pearls And Sparkles.
I didn’t want a veil – for similar reasons to wanting a short dress really. We got married in a registry office, and I would have felt overdressed wearing a long dress and veil. So I talked about it with FCNK and they came up with a brooch with pearls and sparkles on it that they sewed to a hair band, which was perfect.
I wore a single string of pearls that were my grandmother’s, and pearl earrings that Jon had given me (we’d both made secret visits to Hatton Garden before the wedding – I’d found him some cufflinks from the same shop, A.R. Ullman’s!). I also made a little clutch bag out of the off-cuts from my dress.
Searching For Navy.
I wore 3 inch heels, navy LK Bennett sling-back shoes with leather bows on the front. I spent months looking for navy shoes. Months and months. And none were ever really quite right. I’d seen the LK Bennett ones on the internet, but when I went shopping for shoes they didn’t have them in navy blue in any of the shops I went to around Oxford St, and they’d sold out on the internet. I tried not to get too stressed about it, and eventually found them on a random trip to Brent Cross. I can’t remember what I went there to buy, but I came out with my wedding shoes and pierced ears, neither of which were the intention.
I have short hair, so just had it blow dried (but much bigger and bouffier than normal) at my normal hairdressers, Easton Regal in Clerkenwell. We were staying in the Zetter hotel the night before and the night of the wedding, which is bang opposite the hairdresser, so it was all very convenient. We just ran across the road after breakfast…
Fresh From The Garden.
Posies for me and my sister, and buttonholes for Team Groom, came from La Belle Vie, a florist just up the road. Sam and Sarah did a great job – we spent some time investigating flowers, so had a fairly good idea about what kind of flowers we wanted and they did exactly what we asked for. Keeping with the blue theme we had delphiniums, plus stephanotis and lily of the valley. Team Groom had some sage and rosemary leaves in their buttonholes as well as white flowers.
The tables were completely different…we’d settled on the idea of live, potted herbs (rather than cut flowers) on the tables. Jon’s mum is a fantastic gardener, and she excelled herself – there were plants growing in pots at their house for months before the wedding, and the terracotta pots and various green hues looked brilliant. However, that wasn’t the end of it. Beyond the original request, we’d largely left decor up to her, and I arrived at the reception to discover an incredible array of greenery and flowers.
We didn’t have the most formal of weddings, so we didn’t really have a bridal party as such. My sister was my bridesmaid. Or best-sister as I like to refer to her. She found her Eucalyptus dress on a trip home to Oxford – it was a white halterneck with a blue floral pattern on it, so a good match for my dress. She wore navy skyscrapers from Monsoon.
Jon also had a best-sister and she wore a navy blue dress from John Rocha. Team groom was a mixed group of about 12, so there was no uniform, but they all had a buttonhole so they could recognise each other.
Jon went suit shopping with his dad and found what he wanted after a trawl up and down Jermyn Street. True to form (although perhaps surprisingly for somebody who claims not to like shopping) he did actually drag his Dad into pretty much every shop on the street by the sounds of it. He finally settled on a navy blue three-piece suit from DAKS, which he wore with a white shirt, light yellow tie and matching yellow socks. He’s a pretty natty dresser much of the time, so has lots of smart shoes. He wanted to go for something fairly traditional (which probably surprised those people who are more used to seeing him in his utilikilt or an elaborate fancy dress costume).
A Friend Behind The Lens
As a friend, Laura Babb had already given us some really good advice about things to bear in mind when thinking about what we wanted from our wedding photos. We had seen some photos she’d taken (informally) at our mutual friends’ wedding, which we thought were great. We also had a look at the photos on her website to get a better idea of the style she uses, and we thought Laura’s approach would be ideal for our day: we wanted photos that would remind us of the day and how much we enjoyed it. By this point it was (pending Laura’s OK) a done deal from our side, but we also knew that since neither of us is particularly comfortable in front of a camera, having someone we would be relaxed with was fairly important.
My Mate Marmite
Call us porkers, but we had two cakes.
One was a fairly conventional (but beautifully done), three-tiered Madeira cake, iced in white by The Sugar Smith, with navy ribbons and sporting a logo that we’d used as a recurrent theme through the invites to place settings.
The other cake was a Marmite cake (OK, it was a massive chocolate mud cake, shaped and iced as a giant jar of Marmite but with our own wording). By way of explanation…
… Jon proposed to me on Primrose Hill over a late-night picnic of cheese and Marmite sandwiches. This was the culmination of a day of ‘revisiting previous dates’ that he’d organised as a surprise, including our second date, which had involved eating cheese and Marmite sandwiches up Primrose Hill. I hadn’t twigged at all that he was going to pop the question, even though we’d been to look at rings in Brighton a few weeks earlier. It turned out that he’d been back to Brighton on a secret mission to buy a ring I’d got a bit obsessed by, and then told me it had been sold (to someone else so I supposed), so I thought I’d probably be waiting for ages.
Anyway, we both really, really like Marmite. And we have a friend with a growing reputation for fantastically fashioned cakes, so we had our giant personalised paean to Marmite, lovingly and painstakingly crafted by our mate Gurvinder Phull – he’s awesome.
All That Jazz.
We had a jazz quartet playing in the pub garden during the afternoon because, luckily, it was actually a sunny day. Jazz Band Alvin Roy had put together a crack squad! He’s a friend of my dad’s (in fact, he was there at my dad’s recommendation), and he’d actually played in the pub a few decades earlier (when it had a bit of a reputation in London’s jazz world), so hopefully it was a nice return visit for him.
We had speeches before the main meal so that we could get everyone sitting down and the speechmakers didn’t have to wait too long before getting stuck into the wine! We’d worked out the menu with a lot of help from the pub, and the food was fantastic. We had barbecued lamb, fish and lots of different salads. The kitchen team at the pub did a great job and front of house managed to co-ordinate feeding a lot of people very well, and everyone commented on how brilliant the food was.
Pudding was cake and strawberries and cream. Later in the evening we had Melton pork pies and chicken and ham pies from Jon’s neck of the wood (loosely speaking) and cheese from Cheeses in Muswell Hill (a fantastic shop run by Vanessa, the really lovely cheese-expert). Our friends Gerred and Hannah (who run the Smashed Up Soiree nights in London) did the honours on the wheels of steel, with all the kit, and roping in a few other willing friends for the occasional guest slot…
Last Minute Choice.
We picked our first dance song the morning before our wedding, so you couldn’t really say it was a significant tune! We hadn’t had time for dance lessons or anything – I had an idea that we should learn to foxtrot but it didn’t happen, so our A-frame shuffle was to I Melt With You by Nouvelle Vague.
We did spend a lot of time choosing the music for the ceremony, though. We spent a lot of time listening to classical music, but we had to make sure that there were no religious references so it was quite difficult. Jon’s got a bit of a thing about traditional English music, so in the end we had Ralph Vaughan Williams ‘Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis’ before the ceremony. We got really stuck on the entrance music (not wanting to be too clichéd or grandiose – at one point Jon had his mind set on a brass band), but eventually inspiration hit and we got Gerred to edit an excerpt from the theme from The Princess Bride. We both rate Labi Siffre very highly, and played ‘Watch Me’ whilst we signed the register, and we walked out to Movin’ on Up by Primal Scream – a nice blend of triumphant and celebratory.
Flavours For Favours.
The herb pots from the tables doubled up as ‘favours’, which seemed to go down really well: when Jon told everyone they could help themselves there was an audible gasp from the guests – and we’ve had loads of messages since from people telling us about how the plants are doing and what they’re cooking with them!
We arrived after the wedding to find that a hit squad had decked out the place with flowers, balloons, and the table settings. Jon and his dad had made a board to display wedding photos of our parents and grandparents. Finding pictures of my grandparents was pretty difficult as both sets got married in wartime, however we did find an original menu from my paternal grandparents’ wedding in 1917 (featuring such culinary delights as glazed tongue and a clear soup of an unknown flavour).
Jon and his dad also put together the boards for the seating plans – with diagrams of where the tables were traced by me (I did have a bit of input!). After coming up with all sorts of silly ideas, we decided to name them after characters in The Princess Bride. It was quite revealing to see who got the references to Vizzini, Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen (hopefully they didn’t take it personally) – and the kids seemed quite oblivious to the Dread Pirate Roberts sign on their table!
A Team Effort.
The best thing about the day was getting married, which was brilliant! I couldn’t stop grinning like a loon the whole way through the ceremony, even (especially?) when Jon was having a prolonged lip tremble. The only-just-runner-up thing was seeing so many family and friends all together in one place and all (seeming to and hopefully) having a good time.
I think the most frequently repeated comment we’ve had on our day was that it was very “us” – which we’ll take as a compliment! We had tried very hard to put the emphasis on our guests (the people who one way or another, over the course of our lives had all contributed to making the day possible), to source as much as we could locally or from known smaller suppliers (who consistently proved that bigger isn’t necessarily best), and matching the formality of the ceremony with a fun celebration.
Our families and friends rallied round and took on some of the jobs and generally made our lives much easier. We will always be grateful to them for that!
If we had a few bits of advice to pass on to anybody else (we have!), it would be to say: work out really early on what’s sacred to you, fence that off and make sure it happens, and you can work around everything else. If you can do it early, just get it done. Be prepared to make little changes as the whole day’s plans evolve. And relax and enjoy – each other, your guests, the day, and the memories.
ceremony Islington Town Hall Council Chamber
Reception Tufnell Park Tavern
Dress Fur Coat No Knickers
Shoes L K Bennett
Photographer Laura Babb
Marmite Cake Gurvinder Phull
Traditional Cake The Sugar Smith
Jazz Band Alvin Roy
Dj’s Gerred and Hannah
Being a bit of a foody chef type (only in the comfort of my own home mind!) I think it’s really cool when couples opt for herbs in place of more traditional floral choices. The tables had a really homely rustic feel with brown paper and terracotta, and the fact that the guests could help themselves tied in well with Charlotte and Jon’s ethical approach – nothing was wasted.
A really clever and thoughtful idea.