Wow doesn’t Marie look beautiful?!? Her slinky Jenny Packham dress is divine and I love how she’s worn three individual hair accessories from Gillian Million as one statement piece – such a stylish Bride.
Our cool couple chose Sri Lanka as the destination for their big day, a brave choice, being so far away from the UK, but as the place they got engaged, it holds a special place in both of their hearts. And luckily, they have friends who live there who could help out. And luckily for us, Gary aka photographer Marshal Gray, agreed to fly out for their wedding – his photography is just stunning and like always, he has captured the day with a true sartorial edge. Some of these shots could be taken from a glossy magazine…and I know you’re just going to love the vintage travel theme, with pretty accents of gold sequin thrown in for good measure!!
Our biggest decision initially was where to get married. We did consider some options in the UK but we couldn’t really think of anywhere that reflected what we imagined our wedding would be like. We have always really wanted to have a destination wedding in Sri Lanka but hated the idea of an uptight ‘function room’ wedding where we would have minimal input in planning and decor. We wanted somewhere informal, which we could put our stamp on, and that had an ‘indoor outdoor’ feel, typical of colonial houses in Sri Lanka.
As we were in Sri Lanka when we got engaged, we spent our last few days there visiting villas and hotels trying to find a place that ticked all the boxes. It was difficult trying to decide how big or small the venue needed to be as at that point we didn’t really know how many guests we could expect as 99% of our guests would need to make the trip to Sri Lanka from the UK or elsewhere in the World. Era Beach was on my list of places that I wanted to check out after conducting a quick internet search. As soon as we walked in we immediately felt like it was the perfect foundation for our wedding.
It was really important to us that Father Freddy Denman, a long-standing family friend, who married my parents and also christened me, would be able to marry us. We were so excited when he agreed to come to Sri Lanka with us and also when we got permission from the clergy in Sri Lanka to let him lead the service! The ceremony was held in All Saints Church which is in Galle Fort and about 20 mins drive away from Era Beach.
We also really wanted our friend Evy to sing at the ceremony so we were so excited when she said she would! She sang and played La Vie en Rose on her ukulele during the signing of the register. It was beautiful.
We weren’t really bothered about vintage cars and as I love tuk-tuks we had a procession of 40 to take us and all our guests back to the reception after the service. We decorated all of them with personalised balloons. My dad was horrified at the thought of it and tried to put his foot down on this idea but everyone survived and we hope most people enjoyed the ride!
The Flowers & Decor
We didn’t intend to have a theme and I wasn’t really fussed about colour schemes as I didn’t want anything too rigid or uniformed. But I do love sparkle and was really drawn to anything metallic! If we were to put a label on our wedding vision, which gradually evolved, I think we’d describe it as ‘faded elegance’ or ‘colonial glamour’. We also ended up tying in a little bit of a
￼colonial travel theme as we love to travel and also with a destination wedding it seemed appropriate.
I bought sequinned table runners to bring some bling to the tables and rented some gold charger plates. I also bought a load of feathers and gold paint and spent a couple of afternoons painting the tips to add a bit of low-cost extra glamour to the tables and dotted some around the venue in pots. Our favours were loose Ceylon Tea contained in colonial-era style wooden boxes with various Sri Lankan tea estates depicted on them. We set up a mini photo booth/guest book with a polaroid camera and a vintage suitcase we found on eBay.
Again, with the flowers, I didn’t really have anything specific in mind but I definitely didn’t want to import flowers which was what all of the florists we met with before we found Jeran wanted to do! I really wanted something simple and incorporating local flowers but with the heat there was a limited selection of what would last through the day. We were so lucky to stumble across Jeran, who manages The Orchidist in Colombo. We were actually the first wedding they had ever done. He immediately understood what we were looking for and with his team created some beautiful arrangements. The bridesmaids all had lotus flower bouquets. I had orchids for mine and we used orchids for the buttonholes too. We chose a combination of orchids and hydrangeas for the church and reception arrangements. I was also really keen to have lots of candles and lanterns so Jeran had them all made and painted gold. He also sourced our hanging ball lighting and our coconut torches for the reception.
Decorations proved to be surprisingly expensive in Sri Lanka so I bought lots of smaller items in the UK – like floating candles for the pool and hanging lights for the trees. I also bought fans to be handed out at the church to help people keep cool!
I always imagined I’d wear a sari for my wedding but when it came down to it I was worried I would regret missing my only (hopefully) opportunity to wear a wedding dress. I didn’t really know what I wanted, except that I wanted lots of bling as I’m a bit of a magpie. I’m only 5 foot so my biggest concern was finding something that didn’t dwarf me. I went to quite a few bridal boutiques and also a few bespoke dressmakers as I quite liked the idea of having something unique, but in the end I was too worried about not knowing what it would really look like till it was too late to change my mind! I tried what felt like a hundred dresses but eventually figured out that what I hated were dresses with too much structure – the idea of me moving but my dress staying still. I loved the soft and fluid dresses with lots of texture. I kept coming back to images of Jenny Packham dresses but was sure they wouldn’t suit me and also assumed they would be way out of my budget. Eventually I just made an appointment. I never had a ‘this is the one’ moment during the dress hunt. In fact I also found 2 other dresses, completely different, by two different designers which I couldn’t decide between and in the end it was my shoes that decided for me! I had already found my dream shoes – t bar crystal embellished Sergio Rossi sandals and I felt like ‘Ruby’ was the perfect match for them. I also felt that it was the most fun and glamorous of the three dresses, which was more in line with the vibe we were hoping for.
My headpiece was made by Gillian Million - it was actually 3 pieces and designed to be worn as such, but my hairdresser and make-up artist Prabath, arranged it as one large piece for the ceremony, and then moved one of the smaller parts round to the back of my head once my veil was removed. Prabath was amazing! He was really fun and I also felt like he totally understood what I was looking for without having to tell him.
Ben finds it impossible to find suits that fit well as he’s so skinny. He knew he wanted a navy suit and also something relatively lightweight, knowing it was going to be about 30 degrees in Sri Lanka. After trying on quite a few suits and something always being not just quite right, he decided to have his suit and shirt made to measure at Tailor Made London. He wore brown leather brogues from Tod’s and his cufflinks were my wedding present to him – vintage maps – one of Gampaha (where we got engaged) and the other of Galle, (where we got married), with the dates engraved, respectively.
The Wedding Party
I preferred the idea of my bridesmaids being slightly different to one another whilst still having some consistency. Having worn a Twobirds dress myself as a bridesmaid a few years back, it was automatically the first place I thought of. Their dresses are so comfortable and look great on everyone. Between us we opted for a mixture of ‘rosewater’ and ‘slate’ with each of them tying their dresses in different ways. I bought some brooches to add a bit of vintage glam and also some sparkly hair clips.
Ben and I both agreed that suits are really personal and different styles suit different people etc so we really felt that it would be a waste of money to buy the groomsmen suits as thought that everyone would look and feel better in something that fit them well and they were comfortable in. Instead we asked the best men and ushers to all wear grey suits and we tied them all together with matching accessories. Ben and all the groomsmen wore ties and pocket handkerchiefs, also from Twobirds.
All the catering across the three days of wedding events was done by the Lighthouse Hotel. Chef Nihal came up with a fantastic menu totally inspired by traditional Sri Lankan food. My one requirement was that we had to have black pork curry which is my favourite! For starters we had seared tuna and avocado, followed by spiced pumpkin soup, then an ambarella sorbet. For mains, there was a choice of chicken, pork, vegetarian or prawn curry with an assortment of Sri Lankan vegetable curries and finally, dessert was a duo of coconut pudding and wattalapam – a traditional Sri Lankan dessert.
￼We actually wanted to serve love cake as our wedding cake, which is a traditional Sri Lankan cake made from cashews but is not iced so we also had a mini tiered ‘wedding cake’ to cut, which was gold, inspired by one I had seen in a magazine. We then also had love cake, which we wrapped as mini brown paper parcels tied with the gold jute string, which the bridesmaids then handed out during our drinks reception to all the guests to take home.
The photography was probably the one of, if not the most, important things for us, being one of the only things you get to keep after the wedding is over. We decided we would rather find our photographer in the UK as it wouldn’t have been easy to find what we were looking for in Sri Lanka. Neither of us wanted traditional style photos and we were really keen to find someone who would take photos we’d actually want to hang on our walls. I spent ages browsing through wedding photographers online and when I saw Gary’s work I thought it was amazing. Really cool images and no cheesy lineups. We were so excited when he agreed to come to Sri Lanka with us!
We made a playlist on Ben’s phone to play during dinner – a compilation of our favourite electro-swing tracks – which we thought complimented the vibe. Then after dinner we decided to opt for a DJ as opposed to a band as we were keen to just create a party atmosphere with all our favourite cheesy songs.
For our first dance, we ended up choosing a fairly unusual track – it was an electro swing version of Thrift Shop. It didn’t have any sentimental value but we both thought it was really funny! We never intended to have a choreographed ‘first dance’ but both of us couldn’t think of anything worse than schmoozing around the dance floor to a slow track. We werent really sure what we were going to do until a friend from work recommended contacting Nikki Santilli and she was amazing! She created us a really fun routine! We wanted to keep it as a surprise so we didn’t tell anybody that we were doing it. We ended up completely messing it up having never practiced in a floor length dress but it was still really fun and a good way to get the party started!
The other item that was super important to me was our stationery. I love stationery and am also obsessed with letterpress! In keeping with our colonial travel theme we had our save the date cards designed in the style of vintage travel posters and sent them as postcards. Sally, who designed them for us also made us real stamps to stick on them which were reproductions of original Ceylon stamps with King George on them!
Our invitations were custom made by Eva Slade with a hand illustrated design including landmarks in Galle and were printed in bronze metallic letterpress. We also had a hand drawn map insert. Our invitations were a bit of a splurge so we decided to make all of the remaining stationery items ourselves. We made our orders of service and menu cards using recycled brown paper and added some bling with metallic gold jute string. Our table names were places we’d been to together – I found postcards of 30s style travel posters to use on the tables and We made our seating plan by pinning hand written luggage tags onto a map. One of my best friends and bridesmaids – Sasha – is amazing at creative stuff so she was a godsend the night before the wedding when I was desperately trying to put everything together!
A Three Day Party
Our wedding was on the Friday but we kicked the wedding festivities off on the Wednesday with a drinks and dinner reception at our friends Stephen and Dina’s house inside Galle Fort. It was beautiful. It was the first time we had seen a lot of our guests and it was incredible walking in and seeing so many faces that we’re used to seeing only back in the UK. We had a live band and a traditional Sri Lankan buffet. The day after the wedding we hosted an all day beach brunch so people could chill and recover.
Photography by Marshal Gray
- Venue Era Beach
- Florist The Orchidist
- Bride Jenny Packham
- Sandals Sergio Rossi
- Headpiece Gillian Million
- Hair & Make Up Salon Kess
- Groom Tailor Made London
- Bridesmaids Twobirds
- Catering Lighthouse Hotel
- Cake Cake Factory
- Dance Teacher Hot Jazz Rag
- Stationery Design Goldfinch Design
- Invitations Eva Slade