I do love a wedding that’s all about the party, and Matt & Owain’s theatrical, flamboyant Covent Garden affair is just that. Everyone is clearly having an absolute riot and it looks like one hell of a day! Beginning with fizz, friends and getting ready antics in the oh-so-chic Covent Garden Hotel, followed by a ceremony at St Paul’s Church, affectionately known as ‘the actors church’ due to it’s proximity to the West End, and finished off with copious drinks and wonderful food at The Happenstance, all accompanied by performances from Matt and Owain’s super talented friends – it looks like the best day ever, and the images from Laura at Babb Photo speak a thousand words!!!
Sunflowers used in weddings always make me smile, but I’ll look at them in a new light, following these words from Owain’s Dad – “As you start your new lives together, be like the sunflower – brave, bright and bold, keep your roots strong and your heads held high, always face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”. What a lovely sentiment to share with your son and his new husband on their wedding day.
The Boys: For two guys, deciding whether we wanted to match or have individual suits was a head scratcher. We decided to go with our gut instinct based on the suits that we’d see. El Ganso on Neal Street was one of the first places we ventured into; their Mediterranean style was perfect for us, and we found the suit we wanted.
Unfortunately, as the suit was a limited edition, they didn’t have our sizes, so we put El Ganso to bed and continued the search. The problem with looking for outfits once you’ve found the suit you want, is that nothing else quite cuts the cloth. Having searched the high street and the priciest boutiques of Bond Street to no avail, we went back to El Ganso a few weeks later to torture ourselves. The staff remembered us and jumped for joy, as the suit we wanted had been re-commissioned for a limited season!
The reason we loved this suit was because it was blue (very much on trend at the time), it was 100% wool, and fitted very well. As the shade of blue complemented both of our colourings, our gut told us that we wanted matching suits for us, the two best men, and the two ushers. The team worked tirelessly to get the six suits imported from Carnaby Street, Portugal, Italy, even having one pair of trousers made at El Ganso headquarters in Spain! Once the suits had arrived, they put us in touch with Jac Hui, a very talented tailor based in Soho. (Tel: 020 3624 1321) As the official tailor for El Ganso and Yves Saint Laurent, we were in very safe hands, and he tailored the suits perfectly, combining classic style with a modern London edge. The whole team at El Ganso were brilliant, making every fitting a riot of laughter and excitement, and they even joked that they’d all take the day off to come and see us get hitched. That’s the ‘El Ganso Spirit’.
To set ourselves apart from the Groomsmen, we decided to have crisp white shirts for ourselves, and white & blue check shirts for the boys. We got all the shirts from Hawes & Curtis on Jermyn Street, who offer excellent quality and great deals on multiple purchases. To further set ourselves apart from the boys, and being big fans of Gary Barlow and Dermot O’Leary’s style in their X Factor days, we liked the idea of having Horseshoe waistcoats. After meeting with our friend, who is the fashion editor for GQ online, our best option was to have them tailor-made. We found Andy & Tully in the Princes Arcade just off Jermyn Street, waistcoat makers extraordinaire. Tully was a joy to work with, and made us perfectly fitting linen waistcoats (wonderfully light for an August Wedding) that matched the blue of our suits, complete with our initials and Wedding date embroidered into the lining.
Austin Reed on Regent Street provided our shoes. We wanted brown brogues, which they had in abundance. And the Church’s brogues we ended up wearing were not only exquisitely stylish and traditionally British, they were incredibly comfortable. Top marks.
The Covent Garden Hotel
Having already decided we wanted to be blessed at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, we wanted to find somewhere nearby to have our ceremony. Having browsed Camden Council’s website, we came across The Covent Garden Hotel. Having been here on a date a few years ago, we definitely wanted to view it. We were greeted by Moses, who showed us the 3 possible rooms in which we could get married. What struck us, apart from the unique decor and elegance of the hotel, was the warmth of the staff. Not an ounce of ‘corporate’ in sight, but a feeling of being at home (a very luxurious home at that!) We fell in love with the Drawing Room, a room that wouldn’t look out of place at Downton Abbey, which adjoined to the Tiffany’s Library…sold.
They showed us examples of their guest rooms as well, each individually designed, and suddenly we had a clear vision of our Wedding day. On the top floor, the stunning Terrace Suite overlooking the rooftops of Covent Garden, as well its adjoining Deluxe Room, would become preparation headquarters on the big day, as well as where we would spend our first night as a married couple. Dealing with the hotel over the months of preparation was a breeze; Monica at reception who allowed us to show numerous friends and family around the hotel, Hannah (our Events Planner from Firmdale Hotels) who provided us with the best tasting known to man, as well as every member of staff we encountered, bookended our big day in sublime fashion.
We always knew St Paul’s would play a part in our big day. Having attended concerts and charity fundraisers here over the years, the church not only represented the vibrancy of the theatre community, but also a sanctuary away from all the madness of central London right in the heart of Covent Garden. Meeting the Reverend, Simon Grigg, was a wonderful experience. Over a cup of a tea and a biscuit, we discussed why we wanted to get married, and why being blessed at a church was so important to us. He showed us an example of the wording we could use in our Blessing, which struck so many chords with us, particularly the asking of the congregation if they would support our commitment in the years to come. Having 180 people say “We Do” on the day was a sensation we’ll never forget. St. Paul’s prides itself on its inclusivity, and with Simon at the helm, we instantly felt at home and became regular attendees of Sunday and mid-week mass. We even baked some Swiss Rolls for their charity coffee morning, such is the strong community feel of the church.
Finding a reception venue in London that can accommodate 180 guests proved quite tricky. We saw The Happenstance advertised online, gave them a call to arrange a viewing, and had a very good feeling. The events planner, Will Breteau, is a social ninja. He was the only person from any reception venue that we’d viewed who commenced the viewing by asking us about our relationship. A mojito later, he knew our story, and began to explain what The Happenstance could provide, which was pretty much anything and everything we wanted. The amazing location (across the road from St. Paul’s Cathedral) combined with the good-looking and friendly staff, the great food and innovative cocktails, the quirky yet stylish decor within the skeleton of an old bank, and Will’s can-do attitude sealed the deal. ‘Happenstance’ means “a happy coincidence”, and it really was the happiest of coincidences that we found them. As we were getting married on a Sunday, a roast was the obvious choice as a main course. Instead of a starter, we wanted canapés to represent meaningful locations, which the Head Chef tailor-made for us: Welsh Cawl, Black Country Faggots & Peas, New York Cheeseburgers, Parisian Smoked Salmon Bellinis, and London Fish & Chips. These were presented beautifully on the day, accompanied by plenty of Prosecco and Peroni to keep our guests in the mingling mood.
For dessert, we loved the idea of having an afternoon tea, which again the Head Chef tailor-made for us, and was a real hit with our guests. It meant that the whole meal became very communal, with plenty of banter between different friendship and family groups. A main selling-point of The Happenstance was their commitment to going the extra mile: they’re not about selling a pre-determined Wedding package, they’re about giving you the Wedding that you want. It’s what excites them. And it’s what they delivered in bucket loads. Their efficiency, their personality, and their style made it the party of the century, and we can’t wait to go back and see them all again.
Matt’s little sister, Natalie, is a professional artist. Asking her to make the artwork for our invitations was a no-brainer. We doodled on a piece of A4 paper the ideas we had, and she created something above and beyond what we’d asked. The idea of London-New York-Paris was a key factor, as well as the carousel, and she hand-painted a beautiful piece of art incorporating Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Chrysler Building overlooking a beautifully detailed carousel and a sea of sunflowers for our invitations. On the back, she painted a time line of the big day with little emojis to represent each section – a London Bus for the transport, a pair of brogues for the party etc. It made our guests very excited about the big day, and set the bar marvellously high!
Her artwork was so gorgeous, we had to use it for other decorative elements. Matt’s big brother, Jason, is a professional designer. He branded the wedding, using elements of Natalie’s artwork for the table plan, place cards, table numbers, canapé menus, even the background of the Photo Booth strips. It was great because he could use elements of the artwork in very clever ways, for example, on the place cards to indicate which meal each guest was expecting (Red Bus – Beef, Brogues – Chicken, Wedding Rings – Vegetarian). He also designed our wedding favours; in the goodie bags, each guest received a miniature pot of Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir hand lotion (our favourite fragrance) with a personalised label, and a soundtrack to the day, for which he designed the CD label and the envelopes. Together, we managed to put our stamp all over the wedding, and created a day that was truly an extension of our relationship.
As Tiffany & Co. has played an important part in our story, we had the idea of making Tiffany & Co. style bags to hold our favours. We got in touch with Morplan, who specialise in making bags for companies. We bought accessory sized bags of the exact colour, and branded them with ‘ElsonWilliams & Co. Est. 2015’. As well as the hand lotion and soundtrack, each bag featured a vintage postcard from either London, Paris or New York (bought from Liberty) and either a Jack Daniels or Courvoisier miniature (our favourite tipple). We took the idea of a ‘favour bag’ to include all of our favourite things.
As table numbers we used photos os ourselves at set ages e.g. Table 1 – I Year Old etc. These were designed by Jason, and gave the guests a lot of laughs. Tea-cup candles, created by Matt’s mother and Aunty Pat, and branded by Jason, coincided with the afternoon tea we were having for dessert.
We had stacks of old books from our attics tied up with string. Each stack contained childhood favourites, and timeless classics that resonated with us, with a written quote displayed on the top from one of the books e.g. “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others…” L. Frank Baum.
Miniature bronze statues (purchased on Amazon) of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Statue of Liberty scattered on the tea-cup saucers, and tied around the vintage milk bottles used to display the sunflowers on each table. We also had a vintage cast iron red Post Box provided by Bedecked. Perfect to store cards, and even came with a personalised card on the front.
Large ‘Light-Up Letters’ spelling ‘M&O’ provided by Goodwin & Goodwin. If there was an optimum way of stamping your wedding, this is it.
Matt’s Best Man runs an entertainment company specialising in entertainment and sound/lighting for events. Elegant Entertainment provided amazing equipment which made the already stylish Happenstance really shine in the evening. They even brought their own baby grand piano, which was put to very good use during the speeches.
A genuine carousel horse created by Ian Hunt (UK Gallopers) and hand-painted by George Hebborn. They were both such a pleasure to work with, and George in particular personalised the horse beyond belief, incorporating the Tiffany & Co. blue, the blue of our suits, a London bus travelling across a Swarovski encrusted skyline, our engagement rings, as well as our names. It was the perfect photo opportunity for our guests, and now has pride of place in our Living Room!
Ever since we started planning our wedding, we knew sunflowers were going to play an important part. As Owain’s father put it in his speech: “As you start your new lives together, be like the sunflower – brave, bright and bold, keep your roots strong and your heads held high, always face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”. We chose The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers because we’ve walked passed it a million times and have always commented about how beautiful the shop is. Gillian and her team were absolutely lovely, always there with a pot of tea and vase-full of ideas, and the arrangements were beautiful. We had button holes for the Wedding party, bouquets for the 4 Groomsmaids, a big display that was moved from the Ceremony to the Blessing to the Reception, and individual stems that were displayed on the tables (placed in vintage milk bottles provided by The Happenstance, which was a lovely nod to Owain’s dairy farming heritage).
The Wedding Party
With four ridiculously beautiful Groomsmaids in their early twenties, this was a potential minefield. We were very lucky in that they were all almost identical in figure, so after a Pinterest hunt by Matt and a suggestion by Owain’s mother, we looked into Coast’s multi-tie dresses (coincidentally, they both found the same dress!) They’re floor-length, which we wanted, and come in a variety of colours. The main selling-point was the fact that the girls could express their own individual style in the way they tied the dresses, complementing their figures appropriately whilst still maintaining a uniform look. The colour we went with, known as ‘Blush’, complemented their varying skin tones and hair colours, and provided an understated canvas that on one hand complemented their natural beauty whilst not overshadowing the boys. We got their shoes from Kurt Geiger: nude court shoes, with a beautifully edgy heel detailed with pearls and sparkle. Even though you couldn’t see the shoes, they provided a great surprise when the girls lifted their dresses to walk the cobbles of London.
Similarly to the surprise of the girls’ heels, we wanted the boys to have statement socks. We found these at El Ganso, who have a great range of stripy socks. Our socks were a pre-Wedding gift from Owain’s sister; beautiful silk socks from Vivienne Westwood that incorporated the blue of the suits with the yellow of the sunflowers.
The boys’ ties were found at T.M.Lewin on Jermyn Street: blue ties that were slightly patterned with woven stripes, which complemented their check shirts brilliantly. We found our ties at Liberty’s of London: we pushed the boat out and got Yves Saint Laurent ties that were a perfect match for our suits. The boys’ woven navy/sky-blue cufflinks were from El Ganso, and our cufflinks were a Wedding gift from Matt – stunning Vintage Watch Movement Cufflinks in Rose and Yellow Gold (by Chee Designs), which nodded nicely to our fascination with time.
Sticking with the theme of ‘time’, Owain’s wedding gift for Matt was a vintage Rolex watch from 1945, the year Matt’s father was born.
For us, there was only one place for Wedding Rings: Tiffany & Co. Not only are the rings beautiful, but the whole experience of making a purchase here is a delight. They have an instinct for knowing what you want, even when you don’t, and are always ready to toast your happiness with a glass of champagne.
As gifts for the 4 boys and 4 girls, we decided to follow the Tiffany & Co. path with silver tie-pins, and silver bracelets with pearls to match the dresses. Of course, we threw in a couple of tie-pins for ourselves as well!
We didn’t tailor-make our vows: we wanted to keep the ceremony as traditional as possible. Our wonderful Registrar, Barbara, from Camden Council took us through the different ceremonies, and we both had a connection to the ceremony entitled “What is Marriage?” due to its particular emphasis on friendship. Similarly for the Blessing, we kept to the wording that the Reverend Simon Grigg had suggested, as it struck the perfect balance between the significance of faith and social acceptance.
The Ceremony was very small and intimate, involving the Wedding party and immediate family. The Best Men were posted at separate doors, and as Matt’s sisters and father sang ‘Secret Love’, we entered: Matt through the Drawing Room doors, and Owain through the Tiffany’s Library. We met at the foot of the aisle, and walked together. As we signed the register, one of Matt’s best friends, Chloe-Jean (who incidentally is Matt’s Best Man’s wife) performed a medley of our favourite songs in her own unique style, which was wonderfully poignant.
The Blessing included all of our guests. With music and literature playing such important parts in our lives, we picked several pieces that either hold a special place in our hearts, or that really spoke to us. Similarly, we asked friends and relatives that have a special place in our hearts to deliver them. Early on we entrusted one of our best friends from The Royal Academy of Music, Peter White (now a successful West End musical director) with all of the music. We entered to Mama Cass’ ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’, performed by Fra Fee and Niamh Perry and accompanied by Peter on the guitar; the song resonates with us on so many levels, reflecting perfectly what it meant as for us to stand in front of our friends and family and the world and say “I do”.
Readings included the sonnet ‘How Do I Love Thee?’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (read by Chloe-Jean Grey), ‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sassoon (read by Katy Dean), ‘The Arrow and the Song’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (read by Holly Jones) and Pip’s Declaration of love from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ (read by Kate Scott). These readings were beautifully underscored by Peter with music from the film ‘Somewhere in Time’, Matt and his mother’s favourite film. Our biblical reading was ‘Song of Solomon, Chapter 2, Verses 10-13’ leading into the Wedding Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson (both read by Andrew McArthur).
Owain being a Welsh speaker, it was very important to include the Welsh language in the service. One of our best friends, Catrin Jones, sang her breathtaking take on the famous Welsh hymn ‘Calon Lan’ (accompanied by Peter on the guitar) which really plucked at the heart strings, be they Welsh or English. Owain’s sister read the poem ‘Mi Gerddaf Gyda Thi’ (‘I’ll Walk Beside You’ – a beautiful poem about staying by your partner’s side through the ages), which was sandwiched by Laura Tebbutt’s sensational rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’ (Matt’s favourite song).
A real highlight was closing the service with ‘The Friends From Home Choir’, made up of Owain’s friends from South Wales and Matt’s friends from Wolverhampton (all of whom are doctors, accountants, teachers and other sensible professions!) They sang ‘I Will Follow Him’ from the film ‘Sister Act’, incorporating both English and Welsh verses, and really got the rafters ringing! An added bonus was these friends, who’ve known us throughout our lives, were sat in front of us throughout the service, giving encouraging smiles and taking cheeky photos.
Sapphire Soul: a trio of West End leading ladies, who just so happen to be very close friends of ours. We would’ve booked them irregardless of our connection, as they are absolutely awesome. But having three close friends sing our 1st dance, as well as blow the roof off of The Happenstance was a real treat. Current floor-fillers, old-school anthems, even an RnB medley featuring two of our closest male friends smashing an Usher rap! Young, sassy, and absolutely sensational.
In terms of music for other sections of the day, we made our own playlists, ranging from jazz and swing for post-ceremony, to musical theatre for the bathrooms.
Working with Laura was an absolute dream. We booked her because of her style of photography: different, spectacular, and editorial. Of course we wanted the traditional group shots with family and friends, but with 180 guests and a level of detail that we spent many sleepless nights perfecting, we wanted a team that could capture the real essence of the day…and boy, did she deliver. Whether it was relaxing us before the ceremony, or almost summersaulting backwards off the top deck of an open-top double-decker bus to get the perfect group shot. We knew from the moment we spoke to Laura on the phone that she was the one, and once we met her for a bottle of beer and a pre-Wedding chin wag, we were so excited that our big day was in such safe and talented hands.
Our photographers and videographers were as much a part of the day as our guests, and that was very important to us – we wanted the whole team working on the day to enjoy it as much as we did, and have a personable touch. Tim and his team’s attention to detail was incredible – they really understood the essence of the day, and captured it with quality whilst remaining unobtrusive. As most married couples will tell you, the wedding day flies by so quickly, so having a videographer who can help you relive the magic is so important. Tim is not just some guy behind a camera – he’s an artist.
Make it YOUR day. Our approach to the day was: We love each other, and we want to share that love with all of our friends and family. With this ethos in mind, we wanted the day to feel like an extension of our relationship; be it thematically, musically, aesthetically, even aromitherapically, we wanted our guests to get a true sense of “us”.
Top Tip would be: trust your instincts. When meeting with venues and suppliers, you’ll instantly get a real sense of who you’re dealing with. If they’re personable and make you feel that your day is going to be the best day in history, book them. And try and meet them in person beforehand: everyone from your Registrar to your photography and videography teams have such an integral role to play on your big day, so it’s worth making a game plan and discussing ideas beforehand so that you don’t have to think about it on the day itself.
Anything that we’d do differently? Turn back time and spend more time with individual guests. Which is impossible. But it gives you the perfect excuse to arrange post-wedding catch-ups.
And stay away from Brandy Sidecars.
Photography by Babb Photo
- Ceremony Venue The Covent Garden Hotel
- Blessing Venue St Paul’s Church
- Reception Venue The Happenstance
- Grooming Murdock London
- Suits El Ganso
- Jewellery Tiffany
- Shoes Churches
- Shirts Hawes & Curtis
- Ties YSL at Liberty
- Groomsmaids Coast
- Shoes Kurt Geiger
- Flowers The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers
- Cheese The Churchmouse at Barbon
- Illustration Paint Pallet
- Stationery Design Shot on Site
- Favour Bags Morplan
- Candles & Hand Lotion Jo Malone
- Mini Liquor Bottles Just Miniatures
- CD Duplication Promodiscs
- Transport Ensignbus Hire
- Videography Spatz Film
- Light up Letters Goodwin & Goodwin
- Postbox Bedecked
- Carousel Horse Ian Hunt
- Painted by George Fairground Art
- Lights Elegant Entertainment
- Entertainment Sapphire Soul