It’s a good job our intro’s aren’t done in sound bites because mine would be very high pitched and excited this morning. I’m not even sure you’d understand what I’d be saying I’m so giddy. There is so much to take in you really need to make sure you are sitting comfortably so you can appreciate every last detail of this multicultural wedding at Hengrave Hall, because it has ALL the WOW.
Make sure you look out for the indoor Wisteria Tree, the personalised monogram lighting, absolutely breathtaking blooms everywhere, stunning fashion, and a spectacular fireworks display, plus SO much more. Honestly it is all going to knock your socks off, you have been warned 😉
Sonia the Bride: Amr and I got engaged in August 2014 at the Jumeirah Hotel in London. After an incredible engagement party at Amr’s parents’ house in Suffolk we embarked on our wedding planning journey with numerous venue visits throughout the UK.
At the time, I was living in Kent, whilst Amr had connections to both London and Suffolk so we were keen to find a classically elegant and picturesque venue either in these areas or situated between them, with good connections to London and onsite accommodation.
In addition to this, one of the main criteria for us was finding a venue where we could incorporate our 3 cultures (Asian, Arabic and English) into the design and flow of our day.
The moment we passed through Hengrave Hall’s tall iron gates and along the tree lined drive towards the magnificent Tudor mansion we were sold!
Hengrave had absolutely everything we were looking for and more – an impressive façade, 27 luxurious bedrooms, picturesque grounds and stunning gardens, an elegant bridal suite, a groom’s room (complete with a flat screen TV and billiards table) for Amr and his boys, a license for fireworks and a flow that just made sense!
Hengrave was also easily accessible from London which helped our guests, many of whom had travelled from overseas.
For us, one of the most memorable parts of our wedding was all the thanks to the fact that there was onsite accommodation which meant that we could spend as much time with friends and family as possible, including breakfast the next day where we had the opportunity to reminisce about the previous day’s festivities.
On the venue side of things, I can’t mention Hengrave without saying a huge and heartfelt thank you to Hannah Bibby, Catriona Faiers, Shona Nash and the rest of the Hengrave team who were an absolute pleasure to deal with both in the lead up to our wedding and especially on the day itself.
The Wedding Planner
With our venue chosen, Amr’s mother very kindly and generously gifted us the services of a wedding planner to support us throughout the planning process.
Amr and I both have very busy jobs (Amr is a doctor and I’m a dentist) and as a result we knew we needed some support and guidance.
We only had to interview one planner because the moment we met her we knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was the right fit for us (we especially loved the fact that she had the perfect balance of classic, country and city) and our wedding.
Katrina Otter is one of the sweetest, most kind-hearted, efficient and organised people I know. Amr and I trusted Kat’s guidance and recommendations implicitly and we genuinely had so much fun at all of our planning sessions.
On the day, Kat and her assistant Kate were absolute super stars and it was such a re-assurance having her by my side.
One of the things that I’m most thankful for is that not only did I luck out and get a truly wonderful planner but I now have a lifelong friend as a result (even 6 months’ post wedding Kat and I still meet up regularly for dinner).
The Dress & Accessories
I visited several bridal boutiques before I finally found “the one” – the moment I tried it on I could picture myself wearing it and standing in the grounds of Hengrave.
Being Pakistani it was just as important to have another dress that reflected my culture. Growing up I’d always admired pictures of my mum in her wedding dress so it was an absolute honour to be able to wear her dress in the evening, which I accessorised with my Grandmothers wedding jewellery.
Once again, the flow of the day worked perfectly at Hengrave as after the reception I was able to change into my second dress for the Zaffa procession and evening celebrations.
Amr’s suit was from Reiss and to complement my evening outfit change, he wore a Sherwani which was custom made abroad.
Booking David Wickham (Modern Vintage Weddings) was one of the best decisions we made. We were immediately drawn to how different his style and approach was from the other photographers we looked at and we absolutely adore the end results.
On the day, David made us laugh, feel relaxed and was so much fun to be around. He also stayed until the end of the evening (we loved the fact that he was so flexible with timings and no. of hours) to capture our fireworks display.
David was very ably assisted by the equally wonderful and talented Photography by Bea and together they made the perfect team.
WE ARE // THE CLARKES (Anna & Simon) captured our day to a T and just like David and Bea, were a pleasure to be around.
Amr and I were over the moon when we saw our film and we also loved how amenable Anna and Simon were at making subtle changes to reflect our culture.
Proof of how much everyone loves our highlights film is that Amr’s mum still watches it every day and members of our family still mention it every time we see them.
We chose our florist Liz (Blue Sky Flowers) because of her relationship with Kat but also because she’s amazingly talented, we knew she’d be able to perfect our classic elegant brief and because she’s just so amazingly cool and down to earth. Kat, Liz and I met up on several occasions to brainstorm ideas and narrow down options, with the highlight being a very personal and memorable early morning visit to the New Covent garden Flower Market to choose our specific wedding flowers.
What Liz delivered on the day was perfection.
We also hired a show stopping wisteria tree from Twilight Trees which was one of our favourite things about our wedding and was a definite talking point amongst out guests.
Hair and Makeup
I booked Boe (Botias) because she was one of the first suppliers I started following on Instagram when I got engaged.
Boe completely lived up to and even exceeded my expectations – she made me feel comfortable, was a pleasure to be around on the day, listened and took on board my suggestions, gave me advice about my Asian veil (which even we didn’t know about), stayed for my outfit change and most importantly made me look like me!
The Food, Cake & Favours
Milsom Catering provided an exceptional menu and service, including an evening menu to reflect our Egyptian and Pakistani backgrounds.
Our wedding cake was a 4-tiered cake with flavoured layers of raspberry Eton mess, cookies and cream, lemon meringue and white chocolate. Vanilla Patisserie also provided extra cutting cakes to cover dietary requirements including lactose free vanilla and strawberry, chocolate and raspberry, vanilla and raspberry and plain chocolate for Amr.
Our favours were personalised chocolate covered Oreo’s (which were made to resemble a tiered wedding cake) from La di da Sweet Treats.
We had a bespoke monogram created for our stationery which was then incorporated into various elements of our day, including a projection above our dance floor (courtesy of Dreamwave Events who also provided outdoor lighting throughout the grounds of Hengrave).
Our entertainment started in the form of a harpist (The Cambridge Harpist). There wasn’t a song she couldn’t play so we incorporated a mix of harp classics with mainstream songs.
For the evening celebrations, we had an INCREDIBLE zaffa (Guy Schalom). Guy and the Baladi Blues Ensemble were another highlight of the day (especially for Amr who joined Guy on the tabla) with our guests remarking how they’d never heard a zaffa so unique before – even our non-Arabic friends have been saying how much they want to incorporate a zaffa procession into their wedding, all thanks to Guy!
In the evening, Fully Fused Fireworks provided an incredible display for our guests with surprise fountains as well!
The Table Plan
From the outset, Kat had told us that weddings are imperfectly perfect – well this imperfectly perfect came in the form of our table plan!
The first version of our beautiful mirrored table plan (with calligraphy by Gemma Milly) was shattered in numerous places (having been dropped on several occasions by a national (no names being mentioned) courier company).
The table plan arrived at Hengrave on the morning of the wedding to the horror of Kat and the Hengrave team. Amr and I were of course blissfully unaware of what was going on! This is where Kat and Hengrave were worth their weight in gold – Kat’s assistant Kate jumped straight into her car and drove to Ipswich to buy an exact replica mirror, Kat phoned Penny from The Little Lending Company, Penny immediately drove from Norfolk to Bury St Edmunds, Hengrave took over on the set-up of the wedding breakfast and a brand new mirrored table plan was whipped up in under three hours!
Our guests were completely unaware of what was going on and Kat surprisingly looked as a cool as a cucumber! To this day, the table plan hangs proudly in our bedroom.
My final piece of advice for anyone getting married is trust – if you’re hiring suppliers because you love their work then trust them, their skills and their advice because we did and as a result our wedding was everything we dreamt it would be.