Joanna the Bride: I wasn't someone who'd been thinking about weddings since childhood so I felt pretty overwhelmed when it came to us considering what ours might look like. Establishing what we didn't want seemed a better approach for us, particularly at the start, so we worked backwards from there. I decided pretty early on that I'd probably get my dress made. I looked at dresses in two shops; House of Fraser and David's Bridal. I didn't really want to go to either but was told I ought to at least try on some styles if I was having my dress made. In all honesty I don't think it really helped...I spent a lot of time doing online research to build up an idea of “my” dress. All I really knew was that I wanted to look like me on the day. It was a huge coincidence that the sister-in-law of the lady who made my engagement ring was a dressmaker. I didn't make enquiries with any other dressmakers and I didn't really ask to see examples of Elle's previous work - we just met for a coffee and chatted through my ideas and it all felt right. She was lovely; honest, thoughtful, and her attention to detail was spot on. She made me feel incredibly relaxed. It turns out Elle has also worked for some really big names but I only heard about that through her sister-in-law! I can't pinpoint when the leopard print element came into it. I think I'd mentioned it as a bit of a laugh initially after seeing some sequinned fabric. I then saw a beaded bridal top on a wedding blog which had a look of animal print about it and wondered if maybe the two could be combined. I went to Silk Society on Berwick Street and got chatting to one of the ladies there; Helena. She showed me the closet options to the beaded top but felt it was probably custom made fabric. My heart sank briefly, until she mentioned she did embroidery design and had a beading contact in India...thinking about it now there was so much scope for this being an absolute disaster story but I got a good vibe from Helena and it all just seemed like an okay thing to do. Within the next couple of days I'd sent her my ideas. Helena’s contact sent photos of the trial beading and we nailed down the design. We were sent a few progress photos so I felt pretty in the loop. The scariest bit was collecting the finished product and the twinge of panic as Helena opened the package. Elle then got to work on bringing it all together. My dress was actually separates; the beaded top and a whispy high waisted and high spilted skirt. I don't tend to wear heels so opted for a pair of electric blue and disco glitter peep toe flats. The only accessories I wore were my X and O earrings made by Katie Holt (who also made my engagement ring and our wedding bands). The all-round brilliant Frey-ja Barker did my makeup and the equally wonderful Paula Chilton did my hair. Both were such calming influences I couldn’t have felt in better hands.
Peter wears a suit five days a week so fancied a morning suit in order to feel a bit more “dressed up” for the occasion. He spent a lot of time looking for something with slim-fit tailoring and finally opted for Jack Bunneys in Barking. He didn't feel overly confident that his groomsmen would manage to wear suitable shoes/shirts/ties so we sorted those out for them too (shoes hired from Jack Bunneys, and Charles Tyrwhitt and Suit Supply for everything else). Peter had his waistcoat made - another service offered by Jack Bunneys. His accessories included a pocket-watch which belonged to his grandfather and some cufflinks from one of his best men.
I decided on black for the bridesmaids as Black is my maiden name. I was drawn to the dress we ended up choosing as soon as I saw it and thought the girls might like it too. The flower girl outfit took more time. A lot of people kept asking if I really wanted her in black too...I really did...and eventually found a dress on Nordstrom's website. It looked like it would tie in so well with the big BM dresses so we just ordered it and hoped for the best.
In terms of our wedding venue we wanted somewhere a bit unconventional with both character and history. Having been reduced to a shell during the Blitz, Asylum remains a “distressed” chapel; no longer a religious building but no less spiritual because of it. Our appreciation grew further still when one of our neighbours mentioned he used to go raving there when it was truly derelict. Tamar was a pleasure to deal with at Asylum – she was our coordinator and had everything in hand before and on the day. Peter and I were both keen to have quite an industrial feel to the reception and loved Shoreditch Studios as soon as we went for a viewing. Andrew and Dan were awesome throughout; easy-going but responsive and incredibly helpful. As Shoreditch Studios is technically a “blank canvas” venue the thought of hiring in tables, chairs, crockery, lighting, the bar, staff, security etc. (and the delivery/collection of it all) felt likely to be a real headache, not just to arrange but also on the day itself. The Wedding Arrangers were recommended by Shoreditch Studios so we met with Chris and instantly knew we needed him involved. Chris' experience in the hospitality industry is immense. He’s not only incredibly well connected but is also super organised, prepared for all eventualities and generally makes you feel like nothing’s too much trouble and there’s no such thing as a silly question.
Chris put us in touch with our caterer, Moo Jevons, describing her as a top-notch chef in the early stages of starting out on her own. We liked the sound of supporting someone like that (plus it saved a bit on the £ front). We went for a tasting and looked no further; Moo’s food is off the scale. Our menu consisted of a wonderfully vivid selection of canapés, a starter of cheese and onion tart with roasted tomatoes, lasagne and a winter salad for main, and a selection of cakes and a cheese tower for dessert. I’ve since been told the sausage rolls Moo made for the evening food were mind-blowing and Chris also sourced us an equally impressive batch of empanadas. The only thing I wish I could change is having foolishly not made time to eat any of the evening food :’(
We only met with one photographer; Heather Shuker. She’d been recommended by Chris when we first met and on hearing she'd done numerous weddings at both Asylum and Shoreditch Studios, we followed up with her immediately after our meeting. Time is limited when you've got two venues and a winter wedding so we recognised we needed someone who knew where the good shots were and how/when the light works. It turned out Heather lived very close to us so we went to her house for our first meeting and ended up staying for two and a half hours (chatting more about food and travel than wedding stuff; which suited me and Peter very nicely!) Heather made us feel incredibly comfortable and like we'd known her for years. On the wedding day she was outstanding. We were keen to have fewer formal group shots and more "capturing the fun” photos and I think this worked well with Heather’s style/preference too. She managed our horde of guests with ease and was great at telling people where to go, what to do and when to do it. She was more than our photographer on the day - she kept things moving, particularly at Asylum. It was actually really nice knowing Heather was so on it and I could just go with the flow. She’s since been listed as one of Rangefinder Magazine’s 30 (global) Rising Stars!
We went for neutral flowers and foliage for Asylum so as not to distract from the beauty of the building but decided a bit of colour might work well for the bouquets and button holes. Neither Peter nor I have any idea about flowers so Sian’s love and enthusiasm for all things flora was hugely appreciated. It was the perfect partnership and we pretty much left her to it from there! The decor in both venues consisted of nothing but Sian's wonderful arrangements, candles and jam jars. The only other addition to Shoreditch Studios were the placemats I'd found in Anthropologie and bulk bought a couple of weeks after we got engaged (!) Sian drew inspiration from these for our table arrangements.
We wanted to focus more on music than decorations at Asylum so prioritised arranging a string trio. Peter found Niche; a group who offer both classical and modern renditions. They'll also learn special requests if you give them enough notice. They played The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony as my walking down the aisle song, a classical piece from Master & Commander for the signing of the register, and A-ha's Take on Me as mine and Peter’s walking out song. Niche were really lovely to deal with, and so accommodating and super professional. Our evening band - Blue Juice - were also fantastic and filled the dance floor right from the first song. Their set was wonderfully eclectic, covering a range of decades and genres from Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al and The Coral, to Blackstreet’s No Diggity and the Jungle Book’s I’m the King of the Swingers. Incorporating a photobooth into the day was another of our key priorities. Our guests loved it and had a queue going for most of the night. Mighty Booth’s booths are well decked out and inside feels a bit like entering a parallel dimension (accompanied by a multitude of hats and props). The package also included an extra set of prints and a photo album for us which we decided to double-up as our guestbook...it didn’t turn out to be one we could really share with the family but it certainly provided lots of laughs after the day.