Sharing a birthday month with this morning’s beautiful bride Israa, as well as a love for Venice, meant that I felt an affinity with her as soon as I started reading about her amazing Spring wedding at Northbrook Park. But it was her practical, no-nonsense approach to her wedding day that really cemented things for me – in particular her remark ‘Just because you are doing something quickly, does not mean you have to compromise.’
Israa married Olivier at the exquisite Northbrook Park on a sunny Spring day surrounded by people they loved, planning her wedding in a record six weeks. Yep SIX weeks! Fate decreed that the only date that their chosen venue was free was the day they met the year before; how romantic is that! And it’s clear that Israa took the whole thing in her stride; the day is full of wonderful details and bucketloads of love; I just know you’ll adore it as much as I do!
Israa The Bride: Olivier proposed on my birthday in February 2014, on a Venetian bridge. We both knew we didn’t want a long engagement, and decided six months was the longest we’d want to wait. As luck would have it, on the weekend we flew back to London, there was a large wedding fair on at the Exhibition Centre at the end of our road. There were so many people there, with girls planning their weddings three years in advance! As we wanted to get married fairly quickly, I wandered around asking each of the venue stalls if they had anything free for 2014. The majority thought I was joking; those that didn’t looked at me in horror.
I was never one of those girls who’d planned their wedding decades in advance, but I knew I wanted an intimate private venue, so that made it easier to narrow down. I happened to stumble across a stall with a video showing a venue called Northbrook Park, a beautiful Grade II listed eighteenth century manor house. It was in Surrey, so not far for my friends and family to travel; it was on a beautiful private estate with onsite accommodation and a secluded honeymoon cottage included, and more importantly, it had some dates free for Spring 2014! I booked a viewing for the following weekend.
I’ve watched many a ‘Don’t tell the bride’, and I had seen brides say, ‘this is the one’ about venues, but I never realised it could actually happen. We walked into Northbrook Park a week later, and it really was the one. Beautiful architecture, stunning landscapes, a tranquil walled garden, and majestic peacocks. They had one date free – 21st April 2014 (Easter Monday) – the day we met the year before! But that was less than 7 weeks away. Was this serendipity or stupidity? It was the dream venue, our family and friends were free that day and I loved the idea of a challenge (let’s face it, if a boy could do it in three weeks on Don’t tell the bride, I could do it in six weeks, with a full time job as a hospital doctor and a week off to go skiing first, right?). We booked it 2 days later.
The Brides Fashion & Accessories
Having booked the venue, time was now of the essence. I needed to give six weeks notice to cancel my clinics at work, which meant I had no time to cancel anything in order to go wedding dress shopping! I had only one afternoon free that I could take off before I went skiing (the following week) to find the dress…
You don’t get the warmest of welcomes when trying to book a bridal shop appointment, once you’ve told them you have only one date free to view, and the wedding is in 6 weeks.
Thankfully I made an appointment at Pronovias on Bond Street, and despite being extremely busy, they fitted me in and were truly wonderful. Olivier is French and I knew he’d prefer me to have a more fitted wedding dress, so that meant all the more puffy-princess dresses were out. I wanted something understated and timeless. I tried seven beautiful dresses on. Whilst they were all amazing, only one (the 7th dress) made me feel like a bride. The Lambina dress was beautiful; I paired it with the lace jacket so it gave me a more demure look for the ceremony in the daytime, and I could take it off to show the beautiful sweetheart neck-line for a different evening look.
The Grooms Fashion
Olivier went for Hugo Boss from top to bottom (apart from his ‘groom’ labelled socks)!
Although it was all going to happen soon, compromising on the little details was not an option! I wanted the wedding to be elegant, timeless and understated. Dreamy romance I think the florist called it. I was Pinterest-ing like crazy and took the bits I liked, and tried to incorporate them into our wedding.
We’ve watched our family and friends get married and have children, and those children are now a part of our lives too. It was important for us to have children there and make it a real family-friendly event. We had 28 children at the wedding and hand on heart, I didn’t once regret that decision. We hired a brilliant children’s entertainer who provided a circus workshop. The children really loved it, and because they loved it, their parents loved it too. Providing a table of sweets was a huge hit!
I also didn’t want to go overboard with the costs and tried to think of ways to incorporate things I liked on a budget. I loved the idea of a photo-booth. Instead I bought a large gilded frame from a car boot sale, and bought some little signs (e.g. He put a ring on it, I’m sexy and I know it, Team bride and Team groom), left them on a table with my old camera, and totally loved the pictures people had taken! Instead of favours we had sparklers – lots more fun, a great photo opportunity and no one needs to clutter their house with your wedding trinkets! A win win situation! I had them personalised with little sparkler cards that I’d bought on ebay.
I’d also seen lots of baskets of slippers on Pinterest, with signs that said, ‘Dancing shoes for tired feet.’ I thought it was a great idea. I bought a few baskets, lots of white flip flops from Primark for £1 each (don’t forget to get different sizes) and put them in pretty organza bags. They were well received too!
All the table names, place cards and signage were made online and delivered within a few days – It was a good way of keeping the signage the same and keep the costs down.
Northbrook Park comes with its own recommended ‘friends of Northbrook’ and Eden Blooms is one of the recommended florists. I called Hazel Shaw, the owner of Eden Blooms – possibly the nicest and kindest people on the planet! I went for creams and pinks and a tiny bit of lilac to help bring together a timeless romance feel. Flowers included Hydrangeas, Peonies and Roses. I liked the idea of willow branches with roses and tea lights as centerpieces to help bring the lovely twinkly-light effect at night time. Hazel gave me the number for lots of other people I needed – the caterers, the videographer, the DJ… She was a life saver!
The Wedding Party Fashion
The flower girls had dresses fromMonsoon. The page boys outfits were from BHS. The boys were excited anyway, but were even more excited when we gave them ID badges with their photo, name and role on (ring security/ flower-girl security).
We had a string quarter called Estilo for the ceremony. They were amazing. They played: Bach Concerto for Two Violins and Schostakovich Romance from the Gadfly as the guests arrived, then Pachelbel – Canon in D for the bridal entrance, JS Bach - Air on G String – during the signing of the register, Elgar - Chanson de Matin, Handel - Departure of the Queen of Sheeba and Hornpipe from The Water Music by Handel for our departure.
For the drinks reception they moved outside to the garden and played lots of brilliant tunes, like classic bond theme tunes, Queen, The Beatles, Coldplay – really anything you wanted. Everybody loved them! For the evening we had a DJ playing 70’s disco classics!
Fusion catering were amazing, not just because they cancelled their Easter holiday leave at the last minute to cater our wedding, and not even because they provided one of the best wedding breakfasts we’d ever tasted (and we’ve been to a lot of weddings), but because they were so warm-hearted and genuinely kind, and they were totally involved and wanted it to be a great success!
We decided that we were more concerned about the actual food than the wedding cake and opted to have a box bought wedding cake from M&S. Between Fusion the Caterers and Eden Bloom the florist, the cake looked a million dollars. No one guessed it was less than £100 from M&S!
We had the lovely Katharine Peachey as our photographer. She came highly recommended by lots of my friends, and rightly so! It can be a bit overwhelming having cameras on you for the whole day, but I can honestly say we didn’t even notice her – she was silently capturing the day brilliantly!
We used the recommended videographer – Unique wedding productions. Again really lovely people who melted into the background whilst quietly capturing the day!
Just because you are doing something quickly, does not mean you have compromise. In fact, other than the date (I’d have definitely wanted it to be on a weekend so my family and friends with children could have stayed for longer in the evening, but I loved that it was on the day we’d met), there wasn’t anything else I’d change! If you are doing it on a tight schedule though, you have to decide what’s important to you and focus on that. We wanted a great family-orientated wedding. The love in the room was tangible. Don’t get caught up in the craziness of it all, stay focused on the bigger picture. After all, will anyone really remember if the napkins are folded or rolled?
Photography by Peachey Photography
- Dress Lambina by Pronovias
- Veil Pronovias
- Earrings Acacia Pearl Bridal Earrings by Olivier Laudus
- Shoes Gold Abel Glitter Pumps by Jimmy Choo
- Make-up Artist Sally Bahri
- Groom’s Fashion Hugo Boss
- Venue Northbrook Park, Surrey
- Catering Fusion Catering
- Florist Eden Blooms
- Cake Marks and Spencer
- String Quartet Estilo
- Evening Entertainment Firebird Events
- Toastmaster Robert The Toastmaster
- Children’s Entertainment Larger Than Life
- Videographer Unique Wedding Productions