We've seen many a gorgeous ceremony at the Asylum in Peckham London but not so many receptions, and I have to say it looks absolutely immense. As always the old chapel oozes character and I bet echoed all those fabulous speeches perfectly. The decor was kept quite minimal as lets face it you don't need much when you have the stain glass windows and character of the building to marvel at. Plus the light is always magical and brings a warm ambience to the celebrations. Now onto my favourite part of this city wedding and in my opinion the pièce de résistance, bride Rachael's exquisite Jacqueline Byrne dress. Oh my gosh have you seen the spaghetti strap back yet? Is so delicate, yep so sophisticated and sexy all at the same time. And I love that it follows through onto the sleeves as well. Plus her hair. So regal. What a stunner. The lovely Michael Newington Gray was on hand to capture all the love and fun for us to swoon over. Shall we get stuck in.

The Dress

Rachael the Bride: My exquisite dress was made by Jacqueline Byrne, who quite literally saved the day. On a friend’s recommendation I went to her a couple of weeks before the wedding with the dress I’d bought but was increasingly unsure about. Rather than reworking that, amazingly she started from scratch, taking the elements that I loved and working them into her own artistic vision. Though somewhat nerve-wrackingly last-minute, Jacqueline was someone I instantly trusted, and it turned out to be an exhilarating creative process – resulting in a unique dress I felt glorious in. My hair and makeup were both done at The Painted Lady, who nailed the subtle old-Hollywood glamour that I wanted.

Groom’s Attire

Luke’s three-piece suit was bespoke from Abaci in Frankfurt (where we were living in the run-up to the wedding), and was beautifully cut and detailed in a slim 1960s-style. I gave him a vintage tiepin and cufflinks as a gift on the day.

The Venue

Asylum was the only venue we viewed and we fell in love with it instantly. We knew we wanted somewhere quite bare and with great atmosphere - a place we could put our own stamp on, rather than buying an all-inclusive package. Asylum is also just a couple of miles from where we live, so it felt extra-special. For the evening entertainment we upped sticks to The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker pub in East London. We wanted somewhere relaxed and friendly that would let us be late and loud, would feed and water the guests, and would let us have the venue to ourselves. Sam the manager was super-helpful before, during and after – it was a great party.

Colour Scheme/Decor

We didn’t want to mask the incredible interior of Asylum at all, so decided to decorate using light – candles, festoon lighting around the sides of the venue, and an amazing fairy light curtain as a backdrop to our vows – and balloons in different shades floating above the guests. Other decorations included vintage books with ‘love’ in the title which I collected over the previous year, and a whole host of items that were a true labour of love by our families: my mum and brother handmade giant marquee initials for us, my bridesmaid spray-painted umpteen jam jars to hold tealights, and Luke’s family made the organic confetti cones. Gold featured heavily later on: Luke is half-Turkish, and traditionally gold is given at weddings. Our take on it was to invite guests to bring gold fancy dress items for the evening’s merriments.


We are exceptionally lucky to have Roma from Scarlet and Violet in the family, and she created my bouquet, the corsages and buttonholes, as well as bouquets and table flowers in vintage bottles and jars, all using fresh seasonal flowers. I loved the pretty, bohemian and totally gorgeous vibe.


The ceremony was always going to be the centrepiece and we thought very carefully about creating a special space for everyone, from the music before, during and after, to the readings. A particularly emotional moment was my bridesmaid Anna singing a surprise song for us – Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’. There was not a dry eye in the house.


We reserved the entertainment for the pub later. A friend of a friend put together a funk and soul outfit for us which went down very well indeed, with another friend DJing afterwards. We also created our own photo booth which resulted in some hilarious snaps, especially since a few enthusiastically embraced the gold-themed fancy dress invitation!


We didn’t want anything at all formal for the wedding breakfast, so the main meal was sharing platters – including chargrilled lamb and whole salt-baked sea trout – that were placed on long tables for people to help themselves to. I’m a vegetarian so we made sure there were lots of Ottolenghi-style dishes to tuck into, and we had six different desserts served on afternoon tea stands. Purple Grape had been recommended to us, and they totally understood what we wanted – even sourcing mismatched glassware, crockery and cutlery to continue the laidback vintage feel. We didn’t want a traditional iced cake, so instead we created a cheese-cheesecake-cake: three tiers, with a Bea’s of Bloomsbury red velvet cake on top, a Bea’s mango cheesecake in the middle, and a gluttonous amount of Neal’s Yard Dairy cheese on the bottom. Heaven.


Michael Newington Gray was just starting out in weddings when he was recommended to us by a mutual friend. We wanted a reportage-style photographer, nothing stuffy, and Michael grasped that straightaway. It also helped that he’s a lovely guy who made us feel very relaxed in front of the camera, and he captured some amazing moments of us, our family and friends.

Final Thoughts/Advice

Decide early on the things you really care about, and allow yourself to let go of the things that matter less to you – even if others think they’re important. Also, let yourself be surprised! It’s all too easy to plan everything down to the last detail – make room for the unexpected and for others to step in and show you how much they care.
Lorna Shaw

Written by Lorna Shaw

Dress Designer: Jacqueline Byrne | Makeup: The Painted Lady | Jewellery: Zoe and Morgan | Groom : Abaci | Venue: Asylum | The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker | Caterer: Purple Grape Catering | Florist: Scarlet & Violet | Transport: London Retro Bus Hire
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