Doesn’t Melanie look fabulous?! She’s a girl after our own hearts, wearing a shorter gown so she could party, and a little blue hat under her bird cage veil because she wanted too. And why not?! It’s your big day after all.
In fact this whole wedding is pretty much a case of Melanie and Alastair just doing exactly what they wanted to, which resulted in a fabulous dinner, followed by a raucous party, with a wedding ceremony thrown in for good measure. Melanie has Polish roots and apparently this is just good old fashioned Polish hospitality (!) Well I think it looks amazing and I’m sure you’ll agree…
Melanie The Bride: Al proposed to me in Paris on my favourite bridge (yes, the ones with the padlocks), overlooked by the Notre Dame. As soon as we started to plan we knew that we wanted our wedding to resemble a large dinner party which turns spontaneously into a raucous night out!
For that reason, I decided straight away that I wanted a short dress that I could move and dance in. I also knew that I did not want to spend a lot on it as that money was better spent elsewhere. I found the Oleg Cassini dress at David’s Bridal. I paired that with blue suede heels from Reiss. A friend of a friend’s is the milliner, Robyn Coles who very kindly adapted one of her designs to my colour scheme. She even went to Reiss to colour match the dye she was going to use to the shoes I had bought! Although wearing a blue hat is unconventional, I was adamant that the wedding was about me and Al and that our personalities should shine through. As the wedding took place in winter, I also had a vintage fur shrug bought from a seller at Spitalfields Market in London.
The Wedding Party
I had three bridesmaids who wore (and looked stunning in) dresses from Coast. We decided on the purple colour so that they did not blend in with the navy that the boys were wearing.
We all had our make-up and hair done on the morning in my bridal suite so that we could spend the time together, along with my Mum. The ladies from Lipstick and Curls did an amazing job at making us look our best and keeping us all calm.
We asked the three best men and the usher to dress in navy suits and they all looked very dapper! We accessorised their look with bow ties (less formal than ties and looked great undone in the evening) and pocket squares from Mrs Bow Tie.
Just as I was starting to panic at the fact that Al had not bought a suit yet, he was incredibly jammy to win a bespoke suit from A Suit That Fits in a twitter competition. That saved us a huge amount but more importantly Al felt and looked a million dollars! As part of his gift on the morning of the wedding, I had cufflinks made with a picture of his late father at around Al’s current age so that he could be, in as many ways as possible, remembered by us all on our day.
The Colour Scheme
The colour scheme was loosely based on an autumnal palette. We chose navy for the boys and I knew I was going to also wear blue. The flowers tied in the girls’ dresses to the scheme perfectly. What made our wedding more special than most was that we had so much input from friends and family. Al’s cousin is an artist and designed our invites. We used the designs to ‘brand’ the wedding – from the apple crate that offered the homemade meringue kisses to the vodka shot glasses.
Our florist is a good friend, Sarah, who is no longer a florist and is the busiest woman I know. Yet she found the time to prepare our flowers for the day which looked so unbelievably amazing! We opted for one big centrepiece on the head trestle table and small jars and vases on the other tables with candle light. Sarah even customised the bouquet and Al’s buttonhole with a lock and key to reflect where we got engaged. My mum dried the centrepiece and it now decorates the top of my parents’ drinks cabinet, still looking amazing. I also dried the wedding bouquet which is displayed in my favourite vase at home.
A friend also made the gorgeous wedding cake topper which comprised of the Eiffel Tower and the bridge that Al proposed to me on.
My brother led the proceedings from the outset and acted as a host/ comedian! It was so nice to have him play such a big part of the wedding.
We made our own table plan – a pin board turned into suitcase and hung little keys with paper luggage tags on them alphabetically so people could be directed to their seats. The guest favours were leather luggage tags which doubled up as table placements.
I am ridiculously lucky to have as one of my closest friends the very talented photographer, Emmie Scott. I was in two minds about agreeing to her request to photograph my wedding as she would have been another bridesmaid. However, I feel that perhaps we had an experience together just as good if not better on the day as she was recording it and spent more time with me than most of the wedding party! We are, of course, so happy with the pictures!
We were not intending on hiring a videographer but when asking our married friends for tips, we found that those that did not hire one felt it was their biggest regret and those that did hire one felt it was the best thing they did. When I came across Minty Slippers I got very excited! They edit the footage to music with the occasional voiceover from the day so you essentially get a short feature film. They offer different lengths of footage and we opted for approximately 7 minutes as thereafter, people might lose interest! But we also got the full footage of the ceremony and the speeches.
We were wed in our local town hall in Ealing. We chose the simplest room as we felt the saving on that would be better spent on the party (and booze!) I gave the best men the task of collecting the ‘LOVE’ balloons (they loved me for that) so we had some props at the ceremony. Other than that, we personalised the ceremony by carefully choosing the music and readings. Al’s mum read a beautiful piece that she had written just for the occasion.
We wanted the wedding to reflect our love for both travel and London. So we hired a vintage Routemaster bus to take us all to the evening venue and had chilled prosecco waiting for the guests on board.
We chose The Amadeus in West London for the reception as it offered a space which was essentially a blank canvas. We held our drinks receptions downstairs and ate/danced upstairs. As there were two halls, the festivities were not interrupted by the change from dining room to dance floor.
When we first arrived, the guests went downstairs for canapes and drinks whilst we had pictures taken outside. When we entered the venue, we were greeted by a Polish tradition. My mum welcomed us to married life with bread and salt and (of course) vodka in shot glasses. We had to down the vodka and throw the glasses behind us. It is said to be good luck for the glasses to smash, which thankfully they did.
In order to achieve our brief, we decided on long trestle tables so it felt like we were all eating from the same table. The food was hugely important to us as we both are foodies and Al is a great cook. So we wanted the food to be a reflection of our style. Luckily, Tasting Plates who we hired as caterers were on the list of suppliers recommended by the Amadeus. As soon as we read their bio, we knew they were perfect for the job. What they did for us on the day was incredible and we are so grateful to them. They not only prepared the best wedding breakfast I have ever eaten (ok, I am biased), they also project managed the day for no extra cost. On the day it was an immense relief and comfort to know that they had all the other suppliers’ details and that they were completely on the ball with timings etc. It was as if we had hired a wedding planner!
The food was extraordinary. Sourced mostly in Italy, we had amazing canapes downstairs with welcome drinks and then the dinner of lamb and vegetables was served on big platters on the tables, again tying into that feel of a huge informal dinner party.
In the evening, we had a large table out with the wedding cake (a gorgeous naked Victoria sponge decorated with fruit that was made by a past colleague), cake of cheese, terrines, Polish sausages, salads, chutneys, homemade meringues and cakes.
Being Polish, hospitality is a HUGE deal to me and my family. I cannot count the times that my mum asked me whether we would have enough food for everyone (given that I still have a fridge full of terrine and cheese, the answer was ‘yes’!)
We also supplied all of the alcohol for the evening including wine that was paired to the meal bought in bulk from Majestic Wine. (We especially enjoyed the tasting sessions in our local shop!) My dad’s speech was toasted with a shot of vodka, the evening reception guests were greeted with a traditional Polish martini made with Zubrowka vodka and apple juice and Tasting Plates thought to hire waiting staff who doubled up in the evening as mixologists for the cocktail bar.
Music was the other essential ingredient for us. We love our local The Aeronaut in Acton for the circus acts and music every weekend. We asked one of the acts that we had seen there, Laurence Owen, to perform at the wedding before the DJ came on. He mixes comedy with music. The first time we saw him perform, he sang about people that dressed as ‘sexy black cats’ at Halloween parties (he did not have much good to say for them given their lack of imagination) – guess what I was wearing when Al and I met…he customised the song for the wedding which raised a cheer.
DJ Luke was also found at The Aeronaut. He, very kindly, said to us at the end of the night that our wedding felt like one big after party (mission accomplished!) and I can tell you that much of that was down to him – we did not sit down from the first dance.
The first dance was Real Love by Clean Bandit/Jess Glynn. Luckily it was released on the Monday prior to the wedding so we were able to download it. The rest of the music was downloaded over the course of the year leading up to the wedding on Spotify playlists which was really helpful as we did not feel a blind panic as the date of the wedding approached.
You only do it once. And although the day is primarily about yourself, think of ways to personalise it for your wedding party and guests. I asked my Mum to stitch into my dad’s suit a personalised message on a patch that I bought from Sewhappygirls on Etsy; we ensured we had a birthday cake with candles to come out after the speeches for Al’s cousin, one of our witnesses, so that her birthday was celebrated; my gifts to the florist, photographer and helpers were scented candles of the same sent I was wearing that day. The groomsmen received a leather hipflask which was customised with a London skyline sketch that Al designed, their names and the date of the wedding and contained their favourite tipple (from HORD on Etsy).
If you also want to cater for the alcohol on your big day, check that your venue does not charge a large fee for corkage. Start to collect bottles of alcohol when passing through duty free or when supermarkets have promotions. It could save you a huge amount of money.
Check out your local music venues and pubs for great entertainers and DJs who do not carry the ‘wedding’ premium.