Jessica and Chris’ wedding is just completely and utterly beautiful, bohemian and stylish all at the same time. If you’re signed up to our newsletter – you may recognise it, as it was one of the gorgeous real weddings in our previous issue. (You can sign up here – next issue will be hitting inboxes soon)!
The lovely couple live in London (on a narrow boat, no less) but wanted to get married in the county of Norfolk, which is full of gorgeous countryside. Their photographer, Tim Dunk, has captured some stunning shots of the wedding party walking from the church to the marquee, and the light and scenery is just incredible. In fact Tim has captured the whole day with such emotion, you really feel like you’re living every moment. This is totally my kind of wedding, all about family, fun and filled with details that were important to the couple.
Jessica The Bride: Just after we got engaged I was nowhere near ready to start shopping for dresses and things, but a best friend (Ellie) was moving to India and was desperate to go wedding dress shopping with me before the move. So 3 days after Chris’ proposal I found myself with 2 wedding dress appointments she’d made for me! First of all we went to a boutique with modern dresses and I felt silly in them all. I’m not one for dressing up much and I just didn’t feel like myself and the dresses were such insane amounts of money, and the staff snooty, saying you could try on a maximum of 3 dresses. I left feeling pretty exhausted by the whole thing, and not looking forward to the next appointment. Apart from anything else I wear a lot of colour, so seeing myself in all white was very odd!
Next we went to Elizabeth Avey in Greenwich, a vintage wedding dress shop – where Ellie had got her’s. Elizabeth was friendly and down to earth and let me pick about 25 dresses to try on. I had thought a 50s number might suit my figure, but I just didn’t feel as if I was wearing a wedding dress in them. The second dress I tried was 1930s Nottingham Lace, floor length dress which I chose. It fitted perfectly and needed no alterations, so felt like it was meant to be. The family of a lady who worked in the Nottingham Lace factory and had made the dress for her own wedding had sold to Elizabeth. Chris had bought me a vintage 1930s engagement ring from Hatton Gardens and I’d always wondered who’d owned it before. I loved the fact they were from the same era and that with the dress I knew its past. Although I didn’t feel ready, or as if I needed to buy the dress I panicked so much that someone else might buy it and I would spend the next 11 months looking for something similar. So 2 days later I invited my mum back for a second opinion, and we bought the dress for just £900, a fraction of the price of the others I’d tried on at the first shop. I also bought some Rachel Simpson shoes which were nicely in keeping with the dress.
In the shop Elizabeth Avey had put a veil on me which which had a train and I loved it, it didn’t have fabric to cover your face though which I wanted so I spent a month trying to find a similar one which had enough fabric to cover the face, with no luck. I was just about to commission someone to make me one when I noticed a photo at Chris’ parents house of his grandma and grandad getting married, she was wearing a beautiful veil just like the one I was imagining. I asked Chris’ mum if she knew whether it still existed – she ran up stairs and appeared with it in a plastic bag! I called his Grandma and asked if I could wear it and she was thrilled. I had it restored, to cover some moth holes and fraying (by the ladies at Gold Needle in North London) and we kept the whole thing a surprise for Chris. One of my magic moments was putting his grandma back under the veil 63 years later!
Everything else was left until a month or so before the wedding. The garter was made by a friend of my mother. The wellies were an old pair Chris had bought for me. It felt very cliché wearing them, but given the torrential rain the day before they proved essential for the walk back to the reception! Plus it helped me add some more colour to my outfit!
I don’t normally wear make-up so thought I ought to have it professionally done, but after the trial I didn’t feel like myself so opted to do my own instead (many nightmares followed where I dreamt I totally mucked it up, but in the end it was fine!)
My hair stylist was recommended by someone local, she was amazing – Amy from Le Chic hairdressers in Lowestoft. I just Pinned loads of classic 1920-40s dos to be in keeping with the dress at the trial she tried them all out until I found one I liked on me.
A few days before the wedding I still hadn’t found jewellery so my mum offered to bring some for me to try on on the morning of the wedding. I picked out some classic pearl earrings and the heart shaped silver necklace – she then told me that was the necklace my dad had bought her to wear on their wedding day – I was thrilled as it added to an outfit with so much history and so many stories.
Chris the Groom: The suit jacket and trousers were made by one of my friends and the waistcoat by another – both of whom are tailors on Saville Row. One day I was out helping my friend Sam by some cloth in a massive fabric warehouse in Hackney – when I spotted this blue poppy tooth check roll under a massive pile of offcuts. Sam bought a load and made a sample suit for a catwalk show. When I went round his studio another day and saw the sample I thought, that’s the one I want for my wedding – luckily it fitted perfectly. Luckily, also, there was enough fabric left for my other friend Jerome to make a waistcoat.
The Tootal scarf was a gift from Jessica, from the Fred Ferry Collection. The shirt is made by Ozwald Boateng and a gift from his chief designer. The brogue boots were a really old pair of favourites that were falling apart so I had them resoled by a friend who is a cobbler on a neighbouring boat (we live on a boat). The hat is from a charity shop. So the only thing I really had to buy was the knitted tie, which is from a great little company called Peckham Rye. I also had Sam make a Crombie style jacket which I wore in the evening – it was made out of a length of Harris Tweed I’d bought from the weaver on the Isle of Harris, whilst on holiday there with Jessica’s family (It was during this holiday the year before the wedding that I asked Jessica’s father for her hand in marriage)
We chose to get married in the village Chris grew up in. It is a gorgeous little village called Surlingham on the Norfolk Broads. This meant that we could get married in the pretty old church in the village and then all the congregation could walk back through the beautiful fields to Chris’ parents’ back garden. Chris was really keen to have the wedding there, as he said he’d always imagined getting married there since he was a little boy, plus this meant that everyone, including us, could camp (we bought a gorgeous little bell tent).
For the reception we had a marquee set in the meadow. The marquee was a bit of a surprise…we’d ordered a plain traditional canvas marquee, but it came with blue stripey sides – which luckily we loved as it brought more colour and made it look a bit unique. Excitingly the company hiring us the marquee had just started up and told us they had bought the marquee second hand from the Sandringham Estate – and that the queen used to judge giant vegetables in it!
We wanted to go for quite a relaxed, retro village fete feel, as neither of us are great with overly formal things. We did all the decoration ourselves and our friends (including our lovely photographer who was so helpful) joined in. There was quite a last minute rush the night before.
We wanted lots of colour, so purposefully didn’t set a colour theme. A quick way to do this was loads of huge colourful balloons. Chris created a contraption to string them high up inside the marquee. We had plain wooden chairs and hay bales to give it a dressed down look. Jessica’s cousin, who is a textiles designer (Rosy Appleton) made metres of beautiful handmade bunting, which brought it all together visually. In one corner of the marquee we made photo bunting including pictures of us together, pictures of each of us growing up, and pictures from friends’ and family’s and ancestors’ weddings – this made a lovely talking point!
Outside of the marquee was some more bunting borrowed from friends, fairy lights in the trees and guests’ tents everywhere…giving a sort of camping holiday or mini festival vibe. Chris’ dad had made the garden look so lovely that it didn’t need much decoration.
Chris’ mum had grown some of our favourite flowers – like sunflowers and cornflowers. So in the centre of each of the 15 round tables those were displayed. A few weeks before the wedding we were cleaning out the garage at Chris’ parents house and found a box of bottles and pots that Chris had dug up in the back garden when he was a kid. We thought it would be great to use these as vases…we counted them and there were 15 – so it was meant to be!
To get the rest of the flowers, for the church, the corsages, button holes, posies, Jessica’s headpiece and bouquet we went to the brilliant Pick-A-Lily in Norwich. We gave them pretty much free-reign just saying we wanted a natural wild flower look – as if we had just picked them – with a mixture of colours, shapes, sizes and textures. Leaving the rest to them was a great idea as it was such an amazing surprise to see what an fantastic job they’d done on the day!
We live on a little narrow boat so for our place settings we decided to have paper boats with a mast with the guest’s name on. Jessica is Youth Arts Manager in Croydon and some of the young people she works with helped her make these. They met in the youth club and worked in the art room for hours like a little production line, however, they loved the challenge and were so pleased to be part of the day in some way.
The table plan was made out of our favourite 7” records to represent the tables. We both used to DJ a lot and often together so our vinyl collection is very important to us!
The Wedding Party
Chris insisted on having 4 best boys instead of a best man, as he didn’t want to pick. As there were so many of them we decided it was much easier and less stressful for them to wear their own suits, just with matching button holes.
The bridesmaids dresses were a bit more complicated! The 3 bridesmaids (Jessica’s cousin, best friend and Chris’ sister) have very different styles and Jessica was desperate for them all to feel happy and comfortable. They decided after a while that everyone would like a circle skirt, which felt like a breakthrough – but then we had to find the fabric! Many months, fabric samples and group emails later we finally found one from John Lewis called ‘Botanical Gardens’ – which everyone loved. The mum of one of the best boys is a professional seamstress and she made the beautiful circle skirts. Then we just had to find a top…! Finally we found this beautiful silk dipdye top in the Whistles sale, at a steal of a price.
The bridal party were really pleased with the outfits, we wanted something which was in keeping with the bridal dress, but without looking like a vintage pastiche!
Both our mothers did a reading each which was really nice. Jessica’s 3 best friends from school did a joint reading from Song of Solomon – which they had each had at their own weddings. Chris’ sister created us a bespoke version of The Owl and the Pusseycat, all about us, and using all of Chris’ favourite song lyrics. There was barely a dry eye in the house! The order of service was designed by Chris’ cousin to match the invites which she also designed, consisting of hand-drawn colour pictures on brown card. For music in the church we chose our favourite hymns from when we were younger, and the congregation sung their hearts out!
At the end of the service we played Sweet and Dandy by Toots and The Maytals as we both love reggae! It was such a happy moment as we jigged down the aisle. Then the village bell ringers rung the bells, which was a perfect way to finish off the service. We had thought of the service just as a formality, but in fact it was one of our favourite bits – our Vicar was hilarious and everyone was laughing and clapping and stamping their feet throughout the service!
On the walk from the church our talented friend Alex Barrow played the accordion to accompany us all through the village fields. We had 4 speeches: all the usuals plus one from Jessica. It felt wrong just to sit there and be spoken about! Then our friend Eddie Piller who is an amazing northern soul DJ and founded Acid Jazz records DJ’d. Chris and I had met 6 years earlier at Barden’s Boudoir in East London where 2 of our friends were in the same skiffle band, The Severed Limb. They agreed to play and it was so so perfect and apt to have them there playing at our wedding. They are amazing! Neighbours who’d heard their music from their gardens were asking Chris’ parents for weeks afterwards who it was playing!
We had a dressing up box, which Jessica’s bridesmaid Gabby had put together, which made the evening perfectly surreal! We finished off the evening DJing our favourite records together.
For food our main criteria was hot sharing style food in the middle of tables. So we we went for Lebanese, with a tagine of lamb and one of veg on each table with varied accompaniments. We had rum punch and Pimms and homemade elderflower cordial in big Kilner jars for people to help themselves to as well as wine on the tables. We also sourced 3 massive barrels of local ale from the village pub.
For the cakes we asked 15 friends to make a cake each. This meant we had 2 long cake tables full of amazing personalised cakes, all of which were so tasty and beautiful. They included a friend who is a gardener making chocolate mouse in plant pots with marzipan worms and sprigs of mint leaves, a cake that looked like our white cat Gwylo, and our friend Halla Groves Raines, who is an amazing stage designer, used her miniature set designing skills to make a mini Starcross (our boat) and Jessica and Chris to top her cake. It summed up the experience of the whole wedding, where everyone was involved and mucking in doing it all on a bit of a shoestring. It felt as if we were all doing this thing together, not just them watching us get married, as though it was their day too!
For midnight snacks we had sausage or hallumi baps – some salty stodge which I think everyone was grateful for after all the drinking and dancing.
This is the thing Jessica was desperate to get right, it’s the memories you are left with. We fussed for ages, and got a bit overwhelmed with choice from google searches. We found it hard to find someone who’s style we both liked, a lot were either dull or pretentious. Then a friend recommended Tim Dunk, and we were sold! We both loved his stuff, it was all so natural and yet creative. We kept our fingers crossed that he could do our date and were so relieved when he wrote back to say yes.
He came to take some ‘engagement’ pictures of us on our boat a few months before the big day and we were even more pleased when we realised what a genuinely lovely guy he was too. It really helped to get on with him – it allowed us to be ourselves and natural in front of the camera.
The day before the wedding he helped decorate the marquee and got to know all our friends and family too which meant they were relaxed with him as well.
Since our wedding so many of our friends have spoken to Tim about him shooting their weddings. We can’t wait to see him again at the next friend’s wedding in July, which he will be photographing. We loved the shots from him, we used them on our thank you cards and got a beautiful album of made too. We are so glad we held out and got it right, so many of your memories are held in the photos and it is a blessing to have such beautiful photos to remember our special day by!
Photography by Tim Dunk Photography
- Dress Elizabeth Avey
- Bridesmaids Theresa Andrews
- Groom The Dapper Sam
- DJ Eddie Pillar
- Band The Severed Limb
- Shoes Rachel Simpson
- Veil Vintage – restored by Gold Needle
- Florist Pick-a-Lily Flowers
- Ceremony Venue St Marys Church
- Marquee Hire McNaughton Marquees
- Bunting Rosy Appleton Woven
- Table Setting Croyden Youth Arts
- Catering Purple Plum
- Stationery Paris Print & Design