Poppy The Bride: We're both fairly laid-back people, so when we got engaged we knew that we wanted the wedding to feel like an intimate party with our best pals and close family, and for everyone to enjoy it and not get too wrapped up in any formalities. We started off being really anti-tradition but in the end a few snuck in, because we figured, if you can't do it on your wedding day when can you?! Thom and I are a bit obsessed with the 60's: the music, the fashion and the rebellious streak, so we knew that we wanted that to be included in the day somehow too. We are both lucky to have some very artistic family members and talented friends who helped provide lots of the parts of the day that made it so special, so it felt very personal to us.
We live in London but we're both from York, so naturally we plumped for our hometown as the place to get married. Living 200 miles away had its challenges, but it was lovely to get the train up and explore the city again properly. York being an ancient walled city, my hope for a contemporary venue had to be compromised, but when we walked into Grays Court we knew it was 'the one'. Sitting in the shadows of York Minster and surrounded by circular gardens and the City Walls, it felt like the perfect location and best mix of ancient and contemporary. Grays Court is owned and run by a family and that also really chimed with us: Rhiannon made every aspect of wedding planning feel like a breeze, which for two clueless wedding amateurs like us was a god-send. They also have really good taste, so the decor was a huge tick for us too! In the lead up and on the day Grays Court were superb. We had so many comments from friends and family about how excellent the staff were at keeping the day moving along in a non-intrusive way. As we lived so far away from the venue we knew we wouldn't be able to be totally DIY and set it all up ourselves, so it was fantastic that they handled that for us. We couldn't recommend them enough.
I didn't set out to buy two dresses, it just sort of happened...much to the disappointment of my wallet. I blame it on Hayley at Glory Days in York for being so god-damn talented. Her collection of vintage dresses is jaw-dropping and when she brought out a genuine 1960's Jane Birkin-esque crochet creation, I fell in love. It being see-through and also short, I thought I should probably try on a few more traditional ones, just to be safe. I was lucky to find the wonderful Andrea Bambridge in York who is a veteran of dealing with confused brides like myself. There I found a beautiful lacy Jesus Piero dress, which Andrea customised slightly to make it more off-shoulder, 'Bardot-style'. The dream shoe in my head just didn't seem to exist, until a few weeks before the wedding when I found a pair of nude patent block-heel slingbacks from trusty old Topshop. I had a Mac makeup lesson in London where they taught me how to do bold 60's eyes and nude lips, so I was able to do my makeup myself, with a bit of help from my sister Florence. My hair was styled by our very talented friend Jody Toner who works at Westrow in York.
Thom knew that the cut of Paul Smith suits fit him well, so that was the first place he wanted to try. Being the lucky-sod that he is, it was also the last place he needed to go! He wanted something a little bit 60's and narrowed it down to two grey-green coloured suits with a skinny black tie. With a little help from the fantastic French store assistant, Damian, he chose a window-pane check suit and had the trousers tailored to be a little slimmer. As we went to the till to pay, a gentleman tapped Thom on the shoulder to say hello, we turned around and it was the Sir Paul Smith himself who enthusiastically told us all about the construction of the suit and then signed us a postcard wishing us good luck on our wedding day! Thom completed the suit with black chelsea boots from Cheaney.
Everyone kept asking me what the colour scheme was and I don't think I ever had an answer! We took some inspiration from the bright colours of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club album cover, so my Mum and Godmother built an incredible 4 foot tall floral peace sign for us. My Mum also created a floral peace sign collage from vintage postcards which we then used on the order of service and our guest book. We wanted the sound of the sixties to permeate through our day and so as well as the music, we chose some of our favourite lyrics from the era (plus a few contemporary faves) for our wonderful friend Alice Chorley to handwrite on to the guests' place settings. We saw lots of people have fun working out what song they were from.
I was very lucky to find Sarah at Pink Ginger Flowers through my mum's friend, her creativity and untraditional bouquets really stood out. She helped us pick a mix of eucalyptus and dusky pink peonies, with touches of light blue from eryngo and clematis, and yellow from solidago. I ended up choosing posy-sized bouquets for the bridal party due to limited budget but I'm so glad I did as they looked brilliant and not too in-your-face. Sarah also built a huge 72ft table runner of foliage from eucalyptus and french ruscus, which looked incredible weaved around pillar candles on the table. We wanted one long table to eat at so that everyone felt included and like they were at a (very large) dinner party. My Dad's a sculptor and he finished off the table decoration by creating a cast of my and Thom's hands held together which sat in the centre.
The Wedding Party
We were both pretty laid back about our wedding party. We ditched the term 'bridesmaids' and instead my best women with me on the day. Since they are all very stylish women with their own tastes I felt it was only right they picked what they wanted to wear. Not having a set colour scheme meant they could be a bit creative, and looking back now I'm so pleased I didn't dictate it, as they looked so unique: my sisters also changed into silky bomber jackets in the evening which I loved! Similarly the groomsmen wore what they wanted too, just with the same button hole flowers.
We hadn't got round to hiring a wedding car, but on the morning my Dad surprised us by turning up in a (Herbie) VW Beetle!
As Thom was getting ready, he received 15 minute weather updates from the venue due to the forecasted heavy rain, but as the clouds parted and sun came out the Grays Court team sprung into action to set up the ceremony outside in the garden and under the summer house. I walked down the aisle with my Dad, to an acoustic version of the wedding march on guitar performed by my Mum's partner Steve. Steve also played an acoustic version of The Beatles Something, once we were married, which was pretty emotional! We had two readings - one read by my Mum from my and Thom's favourite Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage ('I am very bothered...') and the other, Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, read by our wonderful friend Flora who has shared a love of literature with me for many many years. As both of us could talk the hind legs off a donkey, we knew that we'd both want to do speeches at our wedding and it was also important to us that we moved away from tradition and had women speaking too. In the end we had six speeches at dinner, which could have turned out to be overkill, but each one was incredible and there were many belly-laughs, and many tears. A highlight was Thom's 91 year old Grandmother, Mollie finishing a love poem that her late husband had written for her. Not a dry eye in the room!
I work in the music industry, so you'd think that choosing a band and DJ was the easy bit, but it was actually incredibly daunting and there was so much choice, so we were pleased when we were recommended Wedding Jam through the venue, as that whittled it down for us and meant that we found our perfect soul band - Andy Williams Band and DJ Paul McGuire. Both of them pulled together the best mix of 60's soul and 70's disco as well as some modern bangers. There were a lot of shoes removed and dancing on tables happening, which tells you a lot about how good they were. I surprised Thom and the guests by singing Etta James's At Last in the evening (thank you Andy Williams for being a brilliant piano back-up). It had felt like a great idea until I came to do it and was by then simultaneously drunk and scared-to-death. I managed to finish it, despite forgetting one verse...I have my Soul and Jazz singing group at City Academy in Soho to thank, who I secretly practiced with for 8 weeks, and who gave me so much moral support in the lead up!
We wanted an seasonal Yorkshire feast, and Grays Court built us a menu based on locally-sourced and traditional Yorkshire food encompassing all of that. Canapés were mini Yorkshire puddings and pikelets. For starters we had Nidderdale trout and samphire, or roasted artichokes. Mains were local spring lamb with Sand Hutton asparagus or goats cheese hash browns. We picked nostalgic family-inspired puddings: traditional parkin with rhubarb ice cream and gooseberry fool with lavender meringues and cream. The evening buffet was our favourite food: pies. One guest admitted to drunkenly eating 6 of them (you know who you are). Sadly, neither of us could eat much on the day as we were so full of adrenalin and excitement. I'm not sure what to suggest to future couples on this problem apart from to try and stuff your face with breakfast in the morning! Oh, and go easy on the fizz. We're beyond blessed that our best friend Sylvia is an actual 'Meringue Girl', so we were given one of their rainbow meringue crates and Sylvia also worked with Fondant Fox to bake our wedding cake which was literally (I do not exaggerate) the best cake I have ever eaten.
Last but by no means least - Samuel Docker! What a man. When we set out to find a photographer, we knew we wanted someone who would capture real moments, and would find humour and laughter in the little things and not over-do it with staged-sentiment. Sam is that man. When we discovered his portfolio I actually cried at other people's weddings, which is embarrassing to admit, but that's how good he is! We met up with him for a pint a few months before the big day and he just felt like our pal. On the day he did not stop running around to find the perfect shot and staying later than planned to capture the madness of the dance floor. Everyone loved him and it was like he was part of the family by the end of the night. The photographs he took were amazing, he's so talented, and we haven't really stopped looking at them. He really contributed to the day being incredible for us and he hope to keep in touch with him.
On the day, all you care about is marrying the person that you love in front of all the people that you love, and all the little details become less important. So enjoy it! - Don't sweat the small stuff - Do use trello for planning - Don't worry if you feel like a disorganised bride, it turns out alright in the end - Do remember to take a change of clothes to the wedding venue for the next day or you will have to do a walk of shame the next morning through the streets of York in your wedding dress with bare feet and last night's makeup...