Anna and John married in the beautiful county of Cornwall, at the very distant end of the country, over looking the mighty Atlantic ocean, surrounded by close family and friends – the perfect wedding by my books.
I love how intimate and relaxed the whole affair seems to be, it’s more like a house party from a bygone era when City folk would escape to their country retreats for a weekend of debauchery. Except it’s wholesome and wonderful and there’s a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony.
Anna hunted down a sample of her dream Sassi Holford gown as she simply couldn’t justify spending the money on herself, when her and John had prioritised lots of other things for their big day. The lovely team at Sassi Holford were really accommodating and Anna deserves to have found her dream dress within her budget because she worked so hard for it!!
Anna was lucky enough to have a headpiece made by the lovely Holly Young – I’ve visited her studio and seen her work in the flesh, it really is gorgeous.
At this point the lady looked stricken, as she admitted that she hadn’t taken into account that the two pieces were priced separately. In total, they far exceeded my budget, and while she offered a small discount, I knew in my heart that I couldn’t justify the price, which was still way over budget. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t get carried away, as our priority was to ensure we had a wonderful time in Cornwall with our friends and family who had travelled so far – so food, drink and music had been assigned a hefty percentage of the budget!
About twenty bridal shops later, and after scouring online second sales for the Sassi gown, I decided to bite the bullet. I wrote to Sassi Holford directly, via her website, and asked if they ever offered samples for sale, or whether any of her other gowns might be more affordable for me. I knew this was a big ask but I felt so gutted to have been shown a gown that I thought was in my grasp and have it taken away. As luck would have it, the lovely Krishma from Sassi’s Kensington boutique, called me in response to my email. As if in a dream, she told me that she did have a sample that they would consider selling, if I could get to Kensington and try it. A week of soup and salad later, my sister-in-law, Lorna, and I entered the Kensington branch nervously to meet Krishma and see the dress. It fitted, and as it was a sample that was about to be replaced, she was willing to sell it to me for my budget, which was such a relief I had tears in my eyes!
My shoes were Mimi from Rachel Simpson, bought in Lilac Rose in Penryn, along with my veil. My headpiece was by Holly Young.
Sally Orchard did my makeup, which was a gift to me from my bridesmaid, Nish. Sally was really lovely and made us all feel comfortable and special on the day. Nish and I had also had a trial with a hairdresser in the March before the wedding, only to be badly let down by her three weeks before the big day! I asked Sally to recommend another hairdresser and she put me in touch with Sarah from Capella Cornwall, who fitted in a trial for me just days before the wedding, and who came on the day to do hair for me, my bridesmaids and Mum. I was really grateful to have found her and she created styles that suited each of us. It was through Sarah that I found Holly, who made my head piece.
John is very tall and often struggles to find suits and particularly waistcoats in the right proportions. My bridesmaid’s fiancé recommended a tailor in Colchester who could make bespoke suits for John and his best man, Marc, at a reasonable price. He chose a midnight blue, three piece, slim-fit and as a surprise to me on the day, had our initials and the date embroidered inside the sky blue lining of the jacket. John was also keen to have a good pair of British made shoes, and found some at a great reduction in the sale at the Barkers Factory outlet in Northampton. He topped it all off on the day with the Panama that I had brought him a previous summer in my Dad’s favourite store, Simpsons on Market Jew Street in Penzance.
Our venue was a rambling, listed, Edwardian arts and crafts style house, perched on the edge of a private cove in Cornwall. My father, Nick, was born and raised on the Scilly Isles, but had to move from there to Southampton with his mother when his father sadly died when Dad was still at school. He always vowed to return home and achieved that, with my Mum and Grandma in 2007. Since John and I fell in love, over 4 years ago, we have enjoyed many wonderful times in what is our favourite place in the UK. When John proposed on a Georgia beach in February last year, we both knew we wanted to marry in Cornwall, and to share the place we love with those that we love.
As neither of us grew up in Cornwall, we knew that a wedding there would require a choice of venue that could accommodate as many of our friends and extended family as possible. Many venues seemed too glossy, too pricey, too un-Cornish, and not very us. Then a friend told Mum of a private cove and an old house that could be hired in its entirety for weddings and holidays.
When my parents visited Prussia Cove in March last year, a call to me at work told me everything that I needed to know: ‘John will love it darling, you will need to tell your friends there are no en suites or heated towel rails but if they can cope with shabby rather than shabby chic, then it’s the perfect place’. We jumped at it, asking the owner to hold the only remaining week he had left for 2014, until we could get down there to see the house and the cove.
We arrived with my parents on a day where the rain was pouring so heavily down the car windows, we could barely see out, crawling slowly down the steep, uneven track to the house. John leaped out to run to the front door, and was lost immediately in the rain. 5 minutes later he returned; a kind man who had hired the house for his mother’s birthday, was happy for us to look around. He and his wife, heavily pregnant with twins, showed us into a magical, mysterious house, with twisting passageways, arranged over three floors down the cliff. We fell in love with it straight away, and saw that it was already filled with love, as children and family members moved happily in and around the rooms, commending it to us as the perfect place for a romantic, if unconventional wedding, where we would make what we wanted of the place and share it with those dearest to us.
Fortunately our week in June held fair and we enjoyed a week with our friends and loved ones, sharing with them all that we love about magical Cornwall: Pasties, cream teas, wind swept cliffs, beaches and of course our wedding day!
John’s sister, Lorna, is a London-based designer and was also planning her own wedding at the same time as us, so we were able to share a lot of planning and creating and she was wonderful in helping us create a vision that would lift the slightly rugged looking dining hall at Prussia Cove into a beautiful place for a wedding breakfast. We decided on a rustic seaside theme incorporating the colours of the sea, pale blues, greens and whites.
It was important to us to have local, seasonal flowers, particularly because my Dad’s parents had run a nursery on St. Mary’s when he was a boy. Mum found Joi Werndly at Flowers by Clowance, and she when she arrived at Prussia Cove on the day of the wedding, the flowers were even more beautiful than I had imagined. We were lucky to be able to enjoy them after the day, as the jugs, jam jars and bouquets were all around the house for the week.
I desperately wanted to get married outside in the walled garden, and my prayers for a dry day were answered, with just a few spots of rain immediately before the ceremony. Walking out of the house above the garden, and turning the corner to the gate was such a special moment, as my Dad and I looked out at the Cornish sea and knew it was the perfect place.
We had three readings, from three close friends; Cornish Cliffs by John Betjeman, as a tribute to my Dad and his family, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, a book which my Dad bought me as a graduation gift, and Yes I’ll Marry You My Dear by Pam Ayres, to make everyone smile.
As the ceremony came to an end, I was expecting to hear the playlist of New Orleans music that John and I had put together to walk out to and for during the champagne and canapés. I was amazed and so happy to hear a live band start up and discover that John had arranged a New Orleans jazz band to play as a surprise to me.
We had speeches after the meal. My Dad left not a dry eye in the house, with kind words about me and John, as well as sharing special memories of friends and family. John’s speech was funny and touching and thanked all the people who had made our day possible. It was then left to the best man, Marc, to lead us all out of the dining hall into the drawing room of the main house, for an hilarious photo presentation, accompanied by his own witty songs, of his memories of John; they have been friends since they were at primary school in Coventry, and I was crying with laughter at the pictures and stories he shared.
It was important to us to have locally sourced, seasonal food, and for it not to be too formal. Pencoose Pantry were recommended to us as having catered the venue before and when we met Nicola and William in their Cornish home for a tasting, we knew that their relaxed but professional approach was right for us, and their food was tasty, colourful and seasonal. They served canapés and champagne in the walled garden after the ceremony, while we had photos, and Nicola made sure that we didn’t miss out on baby scones, bruschetta and mini sandwiches, bringing a tray down the steps to the beach for us to enjoy with our champagne while posing!
For the wedding breakfast, we opted for a barbecue, including scallops in their shells, mackerel, chicken and steak, as well as Cornish new potatoes, salads with edible flowers, and William’s home made bread. I had been unsure about pudding before the tasting but when John, Marc and I sampled William’s summer pudding, served with meringue and clotted cream, I knew we had to have it!
Given the nature of the venue, there isn’t a bar, so we needed to figure that out ourselves for the evening. Fortunately I happened to ask on a trip to the pub in the local village (the Falmouth Packet) whether they knew anyone who could run a bar, and Nathan behind the bar was happy to oblige. He was incredibly flexible, serving our own drinks, including ale from one of our favourite Penzance pubs (the Crown) and local lager that he had sourced, even leaving the beer taps set up so that it was available for the guys to enjoy before and after the big day. There was plenty of wine flowing and we chose a range of spirits, having asked everyone to let us know their favourite drink on our RSVP cards.
For evening food, we chose pasties (of course!) from my parents’ local butcher, Ian Lentern in Penzance , which were a handy snack to grab on the dancefloor! Pencoose also sourced local cheese and set this out for the evening, alongside the cakes we had chosen in place of a formal wedding cake, from The Honeypot in Penzance. Kathy from The Honeypot was really helpful when we popped in there to discuss options and we chose our favourite, coffee and walnut, as well as double chocolate, carrot cake, and a gluten-free French chocolate cake. We’ve recently been back on a trip to my parents’ and it’s lovely to be able to pop in and have a bit of the same cake we enjoyed for our wedding.
Pui, our photographer was wonderful, taking pictures from the morning until the dancing was well under way, and doing exactly what we hoped, which was to capture the spirit of the day in an unobtrusive, informal style. The photographs captured so many special moments that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen or perhaps remembered. They are simply beautiful. Pui really understood how to make the best of the unusual location and the photos to us evoke everything that Cornish cliff-top wedding meant to us.
Negotiate, create and bargain hunt – we saved money in many areas by simply asking if a better price was available, or whether they could offer an alternative option for our budget. We made decorations, reused things from John’s sister’s wedding, and my dress was a sample. Decide what it is important for you to spend money on – for us it was accommodation at the venue, food, drink and music.
Everyone says it but take time on the day to take it all in. It amazed us how much fun the day was, how relaxed we felt, and how quickly it all passed!