Natalie The Bride:
I knew from the start I wanted a 50's style vintage, calf length dress, a style I know works for my figure, red lips and a fur coat. Unfortunately most of the dresses I found in this style, whilst beautiful, were either too stuffy, simple or just didn't feel special enough, especially for the price. After trying countless dresses in as many different styles as possible (just to make sure) I felt the only option was to get a dress made, I never quite found the one! My mum found a dress maker (Gracie Designs by Grace Lamming
) and between us we designed the dress which was exactly as I wanted, calf length, 50's style in at the waist with Art Deco style embellishments on the back. l loved the fact that I was the only one who had it! We trawled haberdasheries to find the embellishments which were so much cheaper to buy as whole pieces than to have a dress maker sew the individual beads into a pattern.
A veil was always going to be too formal for me, but early on (before the dress) we found a gorgeous and simple birdcage from Ivory & Co.
which worked perfectly.
I found the perfect fur coat for a great price at Rokit in Covent Garden
With a short dress I wanted some show off shoes, and having used Pinterest as my bible found some gorgeous gold sparkly heels from BHLDN
, the bridal branch of my favourite shop Anthropologie
. The shipping cost more than the shoes and they were half a size too small, but I made them work!
I was advised by a good friend of mine to go and see Neil Birkett
for my wedding suit. He was an absolute gentleman and was able to create something incredibly special for me, each detail was considered and the whole experience of getting my suit made with him was a big highlight of the wedding preparations. All of the groomsmen had dark blue suits for the day and after some searching for ties in Jermyn Street in London, I was able to find some very reasonable silk ties for all of us in John Lewis
, which saved some money but also looked great. To mark the occasion I had some silver tie pins made with the Finnish Lion in a crest, they were beautifully engraved and added something subtle and unique to our attire. We also had white pocket squares showing about a centimeter from the chest pocket.
The venue was a beautiful banqueting hall on our favourite place in Helsinki, a small island called Suomenlinna, a 400yr old maritime fortress and UNESCO world heritage site. With beautiful arched ceilings and old wooden floorboards it had the perfect rustic charm and we could use our own caterers and suppliers which was really important as it gave us full control over the budget and we had freedom of choice. It would be an experience neither us nor the majority of our guests would have had to and as Alex was going to propose to me here it seemed like the perfect place, although it became a really hard decision to ask our family and friends to travel to Helsinki. Amazingly almost everyone we invited was able to make it, and with a freak day of blue skies and warm (ish) sun they were able to experience the beauty of Finland as we know it!
The invites, RSVP and info cards were beautifully designed by my graphic designer friend Adam Hayes, working with the travel theme of maps, luggage labels and postmarks.
The colour scheme was pale blue, gold and peach and in keeping with the interior of the building we wanted a very rustic and relaxed look. My mum made flag shaped bunting, burlap cutlery holders with 'welcome to Helsinki' luggage tags and ticking stripe table runners so we could still see beautiful old wooden tables. A Finnish family friend very generously donated us wooden tree slices for the tables which held the candles and flowers as well as larger slices to serve the food and some beautiful birch logs which we turned into an alter.
As we live in London we named the tables after our favourite high rise view points and bars (such as tower 42 where we got engaged) and the table plan was an old map of London that I had found online and adapted. I listed all the names on luggage tags and mapped them with string.
My favourite part, and it's seems so for the guests too, was that I printed a 'polaroid' of each guest using Instagram and used these instead of names for their place holders. Not easy to find photos for 120 guests but was worth it!
I found a fantastic Finnish wedding stylist who arranged the most perfect flowers for me based on a Pinterest photo I had become obsessed with! April is a tricky season for flowers as it's in between the winter and summer crop so depending on the weather either could have been available, I was lucky with both. My bouquet was unstructured and consisted of a mixture of peach David Austin roses, ranunculus, peonies and eucalyptus branches. We had a tight budget so the table arrangements were in small jars but with everything else on the tables was a perfect injection of colour. In between candles we had bunches of baby's breath up the stone staircase into the hall, and the stylist decorated our handmade wooden birch alter with the remaining eucalyptus branches.
The Wedding Party
The groomsmen had dark suits, pale gold ties and Alex had arranged through his dad, who is a silversmith, to have them each made a silver tie pin with the Finnish lion emblem.
As the bridesmaids were all ages and sizes I wanted them to be comfortable rather than matching so they each chose their own dress, from the high street, with the only criteria that they were in gold or pale neutral. I then bought them all a fur wrap from a seller on Etsy. As a thank you I bought them each a gold necklace with their initial.
We wanted to lengthen the ceremony as much as possible, people had come a long way after all so wanted it to last longer than 5 minutes! I walked in to a Fleet Foxes song, one of my favourites, and shortly after the introduction by the registrar we all sang 'It must be Love' by Madness. It took a long time to choose the right song, but it was brilliant, easy to sing with a perfect melody, every one sang their heart out and it totally lightened the mood and gave me and Alex a chance to relax and lose the nerves (and blow my nose from the entry tears!). We then had two readings one by my mum who read Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres and then Alex's dad Christopher read The Song of Love by Leonard Nemoy, both were very touching. We read our own vows, and then walked out to a song by Arcade Fire from the Her soundtrack called Photograph.
My brilliant brother worked out how to DIY a photobooth with his DLR camera and an instant mini photo printer, so with a few props and attaching a gold foil curtain to the wooden alter we had the perfect set up! He also arranged the beer pong and even printed our names on the ping pong balls! A highlight was a surprise by one of Alex's family members who organised the traditional kidnapping of the bride, I.e the ushers dressed in boiler suits picking me up off the dance floor and taking me away! The groom then has to prove his worth as a husband by doing a dance off with his best man and an arm wrestle with my dad!
To give our guests a taste of Finland we had traditional Finnish cuisine for canapes (Reindeer Tartare and Smoked Salmon) and starters (sharing platter of salmon, mustard herrings, beetroot,gherkins and rye bread) along with a shot of Koskenkorva Vodka whilst singing Helan Gar - a swedish song commonly sung as a toast typically for the first glass of spirit at a seated dinner - something often sung at a Stevens or Gough celebration!
The rest of the meal was British, the main was roasted sirloin beef with dauphinoise potatoes, and dessert was profiteroles filled with salted caramel mousse with a lingonbery coulis. We love cheese, so had a cheese tower instead of a cake, which our friends had bought for us from the UK, France and Finland.
We wanted a specific champagne served, from a small producer in France whom we had grown to love. It was no easy feat transporting 60 bottles from the UK to Finland, but amazingly all our friends and family helped us transport them in their luggage - a full wedding party contribution!
We were very keen to have Ben Wetherall
as our wedding photographer after seeing the photographs he had taken for some good of ours at their wedding. He is a very skilful photographer with a professional and friendly manner and really captured the key moments for us. Having only seen the venue the night before he selected the perfect places to take the photos.
He worked so hard all day and went above and beyond anything we could have expected.
After all the preparation and care that goes into a wedding, all you will have left will be the photographs as a record of this unique day, it is very important that they are the best they can be and Ben certainly delivered photographs we will treasure for life and show people with pride. We cannot thank him enough for his amazing work. BOOK HIM!