Our stunning bride Francesca is originally from Sardinia in Italy, where the couple met, so it was only fitting that they got married at the local town hall, followed by an intimate reception on a picturesque hilltop vineyard.
I love that both Italian & English traditions were embraced on their day, giving traditional English rolls to their Italian friends and vice versa. The ceremony was even carried out by their mutual friend who introduced them to one another, which must have been incredibly lovely and personal. I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Not only is this destination wedding full of emotion and love, it’s also bursting with inspiration and fabulous florals and frocks. There’s the most stunning array of mis-match coral bridesmaid dresses, a breathtaking Charlie Brear gown and delicate pink & white blooms put together by the bride herself.
American Bride Eileen has some seriously talented friends. Those amazing silver shoes she wears for the reception? Oh, just designed by a friend. The quirky menus printed on napkins? Oh just designed by ANOTHER amazing friend. The cute heart shaped confetti made from vintage books? Oh just lovingly hand cut by her family. Eileen is a lucky girl!
I love how she and Andy have incorporated UK and US themes into their day. The couple chose Stoke Place as their venue because of its grand American house feel, yet it definitely still retains a distinct air of British-ness. It really was the perfect place for them. This is a gorgeous wedding, so simple, elegant and timeless – and Eileen is so right, you don’t want your décor to upstage the actual love part!
Eileen The Bride: Our perfect venue was Stoke Place in Stoke Poges. I knew immediately as we approached the beautiful manor house that this was where I wanted to get married. I am American and the architecture reminded me of Estate houses found in the Southern United States and that made it special for me. We hired the venue for exclusive use which meant we could celebrate into the early hours and our family and friends could stay there with us. It was absolutely perfect. Michelle Mehmi was our wedding coordinator and she, along with the amazing staff made our day completely unforgettable.
I was inspired by an image from the 1960’s for my hairstyle and I wanted my make-up to be more on the natural side and not too overdone. I wanted to look like me! My hair and make-up were both done by a lovely girl named Sophie. She was found through the make-up artist agency called Beauty Call. It is a great source because they locate make-up and hair artists that are close to your wedding venue – complete with a free trial in a location convenient for you. They were also able to provide an assistant who did my bridesmaids hair. They looked fabulous!!! The majority of my make-up was Bobbi Brown. I love her make up as it’s not too heavy but lasts the entire day.
For my nails, I went with Potato Fields by Essie. It is a great nude natural colour with a tiny hint of pink. My manicure and pedicure were both done by Cowshed in London. I just love it and threw in a massage too so I’d be relaxed on the big day. My perfume was “Woman” by Marc Jacobs. The rollerball size he offers is perfect as its small enough to fit in a clutch and can be applied throughout the day as needed.
Beautiful Back Detail
My dress was the “Scarlet” design by Monique Lhullier. She is an American designer and I just loved how classic and timeless this lace design was. The front was simple and the “wow” factor was the cut out back. All wedding dresses that stick out in my mind from weddings past which I’ve attended – they have all had an amazing back detail so it was something on my radar early on in the shopping process.
I have to mention my husband’s amazing suit because he looked absolutely fantastic (I’m a bit biased). His suit and tie were from Spencer Hart and made me swoon when I saw him waiting for me at the end of the aisle. His look (along with our groomsmen) was completed with pocket squares from Burton.
I had so much fun shopping for all of the extra little pieces that would complete my look. Luckily my search began during the Diamond Jubilee festivities. I’ll explain. The Duchess of Cambridge was wearing a beautiful hat to the service of Thanksgiving being held at St. Pauls for her majesty, Queen Elizabeth. The rumours are true…we Americans love the Royals! I began my search to find where her hat was made in hopes that I could find the perfect milliner to make the birdcage veil that I envisioned for myself. That is how I found Jane Taylor. I reached out to her showroom and made an appointment to meet with her. She was absolutely lovely and made me the perfect veil to complete my look. I can’t decide which I loved more…the veil or the SHOES!
Elzio Ciuffardi, a dear friend of mine, designed my shoes for our wedding day and they were just perfect. In the months leading up, we collaborated on sketches, ideas and he produced the perfect design. He even threw in a 2nd pair completely bling’d out with silver glitter for the reception!! My earrings were diamonds purchased by Andy and given to me just as I finished getting ready. He gave them to my Maid of Honour to give me before I walked down the aisle. They were stunning.
Finally, my silk cashmere wrap that I had in case it got cold was from J.Crew. They are opening in London in September and already have a UK website. Their wedding collections and accessories for brides and bridal parties are FANTASTIC.
Classic And Fabulous
We were so lucky to have our closest friends stand witness as we got married. We had three bridesmaids and three groomsmen. My ladies wore J. Crew’s Lucienne dress in graphite grey. This fit perfectly into my colour palette which was muted pastels grounded in a mid-grey. I wanted something that looked shabby chic and their look to still be classic and fabulous in 15 years when we look back on the photos. I said before but J. Crew is fantastic for all things wedding! Their earrings were purchased by my wonderful sister-in-law in California (Hint to Brides: delegate, delegate, delegate)!!!
Clean Classic Palette
We wanted to create a fun atmosphere with a clean classic palette. We didn’t want anything too bold or bright that would upstage the event itself. As I mentioned above, we went with muted pastels and a mid-tone grey for our colour scheme also dropping in some brown that was picked up by the chairs as I didn’t want chair covers. I created a mood board early on in the process and went back to it several times in the planning process. I think I called it “Rustic Vintage Shabby Chic”. In hindsight, this name was a bit long but it highlighted what we wanted.
Executed To Perfection
Our flowers were executed to perfection by the amazing duo behind “Flourish and Green“. Liz Belton and Britt Dyer took my vision and ideas and produced the most beautiful floral designs for the bridal party bouquets, the groomsmen’s’ button holes, the back drop at our ceremony and for the centre pieces at dinner. My bouquet was a mixture of roses, spray roses hydrangeas and gypsophila. They wrapped gypsophila around the lights in the main dining room and filled large tea cups that Stoke Place had on display with our chosen flowers.
A mix of single blooms were placed into vintage bottles that I collected in the months leading up to the wedding and these were our centrepieces. I liked the rustic vintage feel of the individual bottles instead of a larger formal arrangement on the tables. It was a nice transition from the formality of the service into the party of the evening! I cannot recommend their work enough. The compliments we got on our flowers came all night. They were stunning.
Ear To Ear Smile
I loved every minute of our ceremony. My friends later told me that I looked like Toni Collette in “Muriel’s Wedding” with the smile ear to ear I had walking down the aisle. I thought I was going to come out of my skin I was so excited to marry my best friend!
Our ceremony was a non-religious affair and contained everything Andy and I wanted to make sure it had elements of the UK and the United States. It was important to me that my bridesmaids stood next to me and Andy’s groomsmen next to him as it would in the United States and the registrar was completely accommodating. My brother and Andy’s father both did the readings. We asked that they find a reading of their choice so we would hear it for the first time on our wedding day. This way, they had the freedom to find something that they thought fitting for us on our special day rather than just reading something we gave them. It made it very special. Andy and I wrote our own vows and this just made the commitment that much more powerful for us – they were our own words and promises being made to each other. It was very special and also allowed me to vow my support of Andy’s obsession with Peterborough United!
Music was performed by Michael Roulston. He played the “Portuguese Love Theme” from “Love Actually” as I walked down the aisle and sang “Annie’s Song” by John Denver during the ceremony. After we were declared husband and wife, we exited to Queen’s “You’re my Best friend”. It was joy all around! A perfect ceremony.
We had a cocktail reception after our ceremony. Everyone sipped signature cocktails, wine and beer while mingling prior to dinner. Michael Roulston and Tom Manzi of “Dapper Dudes” played jazz standards from Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald which put everyone in a festive mood. It set the perfect scene for the party that would follow and allowed us to use more of the beautiful rooms at Stoke Place. Our reception after dinner was a party plain and simple. After “Here there and everywhere” which was our first dance by the Beatles, we along with our guests danced into the early hours of the next morning to music provided by Mark Van Den Berg from Mighty Fine Entertainment.
Our cake was made by Jordana Rickson of Petit Gateau and included Red Velvet, Carrot Cake and the more traditional fruit cake for our guests. She worked from a swatch of lace on my dress to pipe detail onto the classic cake design. Her attention to detail on the sugar flowers was also spot on. We enjoyed our two visits to her studio to try flavours and design our dream cake for our guests.
For favours, I was lucky to have napkins made by my friend Lisa Levis, designer of the brands “Ada Rose” and “Betty and Walter”. She is so talented and her napkins had her signature handwriting highlighting the menu for our guests. They came wrapped in twine with a simple tag with a thank you message from Andy and I. Shopper totes in guest rooms were made for out of town family and friends and were filled with welcome goodies from the UK and the United States. These were made by my friend Fiona Donegan, also a designer.
The Intrigue Of An Invite
Stationery was of great importance to me in the planning process. I love how an invitation gives a sense of what your day will be like for your guests. Mark Mildren at Little Black Box IMA was able to perfectly duplicate a lace design using a swatch from my dress. Invitations introduced the grey and pale pink from our colour palette. He was great because he had all of the contacts to design, print and send us a finished product ready to be sent to our guests. His designs were also one of a kind which I loved.
If you are looking for something unique and your own design, Mark and his team are fantastic. They also provided our table plan, individual guest table place cards and our wedding order of service booklets for guests. This way the lace from my dress would be a running theme throughout the day. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at DIY so I was relieved to have all of this executed to perfection by Mark and the Little Black Box team.
The one thing we did make…or should I say, my fiancé, his sister, mother and niece made…was our confetti. I had seen a photo of old books punched in tiny hearts and knew I wanted this for our wedding. I went to Paperchase and got some pale pink paper and then we purchased a book on the Southbank in London (for £2!!!) which would become our confetti. We went through about 4 heart hole-punchers trying to get enough for all 136 people attending! Our nieces and nephews were our “Masters and Maidens of Confetti” who enjoyed handing out tiny envelopes of our heart confetti to our guests. They were a huge help! We over estimated how much to make and we still find tiny hearts around our flat 6 months on from our wedding! I had hearts all in my hair the rest of the evening and Andy in his suit…but it just reminded us what a wonderful day filled with love we were having!
Food, Booze, Music And Photography
You don’t have to spend a fortune on your dress! Look for trunk shows, 2nd hand dresses. Focus that extra money on a honeymoon or some other area of importance. No one knows how much you did or didn’t spend…find something that makes you feel absolutely fabulous! Make sure you have enough to drink for your guests and amazing food followed by wonderful music. You want them to have a special experience and most importantly…tons of fun!
Invest in the photographer. Your wedding happens once. After you take off the dress and veil, sign all of your invoices and say goodbye to guests – you are left with memories and photographs that will remind you of how perfect the day was. We were very lucky to have a fantastic photographer, Eliza Claire, who took time to get to know us both and knew what story we wanted to tell on our special day. Her vintage technique in her photographs made for some absolutely beautiful prints which now hang all over our flat! It was important that she capture “moments” and not focus too much on posed images. She was fantastic.
Soak Up The Love
Take a moment together to walk away, be alone as a couple and take it all in. Soak in all of the love that surrounds you on your day. Everyone is right – it flies by – so enjoy a few moments of quiet. After we exchanged vows in the ceremony, we were able to sneak away to a room and look out at the back garden where our guests were gathering to throw confetti. It was very special to see all of these people who had travelled from near and as far away as Hong Kong and California to see us marry each other…so special. Things will go wrong. It might rain. Your dress might not fall perfectly once you start moving in it. The speeches may go on too long. Don’t stress ANY of this – no one will notice as much as you – just have fun and enjoy the ride of GETTING MARRIED!!
I love shooting weddings – to capture that moment in time, to think that they’ll be looking at these photos in years to come, maybe with their children or even grandchildren, that is incredibly special! I loved my wedding day, and woke up wanting to do it all over again, or to be a fly on the wall, watching it all unfold – all those parts that I’d missed in the excitement of the day – and that’s what I want to give my couples, a fly-on-the-wall view of their day, through my eyes.
My style is relaxed, fun and honest – I want couples to look back in the years to come and remember not just how they were on their wedding day, but how they felt – and I believe that the best way of capturing how someone feels is to get them to relax around you, to become friends, and to enjoy the process of having their photos taken. So many of my couples comment afterwards about how they didn’t expect to enjoy having their photos taken, but actually it was one of the most fun parts of their day. And their guests so often ask me how I know the bride and groom, assuming that we’ve been friends for years, because they’re so relaxed with me. This is the best compliment anyone could pay to my business!
You can View more of Eliza Claire’s stunning images over on her website and blog www.elizaclaire.com
Did anyone else just break into the chorus of The Troggs tune of the same name? No? oh, just me then.
Now, as much as I love a dose of classic elegance as per yesterdays dreamy Hydrangea-inspired affair, I can’t help but get swept away by anything ultra bohemian and a bit wild, especially in a floral sense. And especially when every last image is as dreamy and as magical as the first.
As with any inspiration shoot we feature – that’s exactly what it is, inspiration, take as much or as little from it as you please. Personally I am loving the paper chains (cheap, effective and a million options for matching in W-day colour schemes and themes) and the incorporation of slightly unusual blooms.
And don’t even get me started on the lashes. No I don’t expect anyone to walk down the aisle with a full set of Chrysanthemum-petal falsies (although you could if you wanted to…) but my, don’t they look pretty.
Oh and of course there are the layers and layers of ice-cream petticoats…. who wouldn’t want to float around in one of those all day?
All of the beautiful photography is courtesy of Eliza Claire.
Eliza Claire: The looks were designed by make up artist Carolanne Armstrong to inspire the use of flowers for something other than the traditional bouquets. We wanted to use flowers that may not be hugely in demand and create something stylish and unusual with a fantastical edge. Styling and wardrobe choices by Amy Plank of Miss Bush Bridal wear, floral design by Bloomingayles and hair by Christina Jessel. Our venue was the beautiful Fetcham Park in Surrey.
Gayle, Amy and Carolanne worked together to produce some looks which are a little out of the ordinary but still achievable. We referred to our first look as a flowery Kate Bush, an eccentric lady of the house floating around her manor being generally decadent.
The main feature of this look are the real Haydar Chrysanthemum petals around the eyes with additional bold spidery lashes, which came to resemble those nestled in the mini bouquet placed in her wild hair. This was made with papery butterflies, Minerva carnations and the same Chrysanthemums with accompanying wrist corsage.
We love the idea of this haphazardly thrown together outfit: Arran knit jumper tucked into a gorgeous silvery grey petticoat from Doris Designs, cream lacy tights, grey leg warmers and patent wedges. I was keen was keen to shoot in natural light, as the time of year that we did the shoot (early winter) gave the most beautiful soft, low light that lends itself perfectly to the fantastical, slightly magical, other-worldly edge.
Our model Jade has the most wonderful adaptable face, capable of looking baby faced, dreamy and positively feline, and here she’s a little bit flower fairy, a little bit geisha girl….
Jade’s bridal look, wearing ‘Adelfa’ by Rosa Clara at Miss Bush, features a soft violet eye, top and bottom lashes and pink stained lips. Her crown of succulents were Crassulas and Echevarias. This look is almost traditionally gothic and romantic with the succulent plants emerging from her casual curls. I shot this just as the sun was going down, and the light added more contrast and drama to the shoot.
Jade’s third look sees three Doris petticoats layered together, soft grey knit sweater, a handmade pom pom on her shoulder (by Amy), Rachel Simpson shoes and a beautiful head piece by Bloomingayles featuring some Dennis Boden foliage and luscious peach Avalanche roses. These images were shot after dark, using on-and-off-camera lighting to maintain a fresh look, but also highlight the beautiful floral arrangements and the movement of the petticoats.
Additional clothing shoes and accessories: Stylists own
So then I don’t know about you guys but this afternoon I fancy sitting around in many layers of peach tulle with my face made up a la Carolanne Armstrong (i.e. – HOT) whilst embarking on a spot of knitting.
Anyone else the proud owner of some flashy lashes? and if you are where do you wear them? I’d wear me some Chrysanthemums given half the chance but just not sure of an appropriate event…
Details details details…. this W-day is full of ’em. And they are beautiful. Officially the prettiest “cheese” cake I have ever seen and the marquee interior is something else, think giant butterfly motifs, chandeliers and an abundance of blousy blooms.
And if you are a small-and-cute dog fan then Polly’s pooch will make your heart melt.
Oh and there is a second dress. And some you-will-want-to-steal favour ideas.
I know. We are so spoiling you today people.
Spread The Love
Rob and I made Raspberry Jam with labels that said ‘spread the love’. We also gave each female guest a mini birdcage which holds a tealight – which doubled as table decorations! We wanted everyone to have a memory of our day and also a token of appreciation for coming to Frome to share our day with us.
A Running Theme
I spent months planning the decoration. I found a company that lines marquees with linings with enormous butterflies on, as well as providing stunning chandeliers that you don’t normally find in a marquee. Butterflies, and birds then became a running them throughout the décor.
Setting The Table
Each table had a grey tablecloth (in keeping with the colour scheme) covered with yellow butterfly confetti which Rob and I punched out ourselves. The flowers were presented in white washed ceramic plant pots and alternating place settings had small grey birdcages on them, with yellow ribbon.
Each place setting had a card on it which gave a fun and random fact about the person to their left and to their right, to break the ice.
We set up a DIY photobooth in the corner of the marquee with hats and moustaches on sticks. We provided a Polaroid camera as well as many disposable cameras for photos – and guests stuck their silly polaroids into our guestbook with a message – as we thought it was more fun. We also had a small newspaper tree that people hung luggage tag notes of advice and wishes for our marriage on.
We went with a cake made of wheels of cheese! We have always found wedding cake to be fairly uninspiring (they look gorgeous, but cost a fortune and don’t taste that amazing), but we both adore cheese and so decided what better than to get great wheels of the stuff, pile it up and call it a cake! We selected a variety of local Somerset cheeses and arranged them in a wedding cake style, and covered it in butterflies. We then served the cake at around 10pm when people were getting rather hungry! It went down a storm.
A Smashing Success
We had a DJ for the eveing as we have found bands can be really hit and miss. For the drinks reception we had a string quartet who alternated between classical and modern music.
Rob and I decided to take the opportunity of an impending first dance to learn to Lindy hop. We went to several group lessons and then some private lessons to choreograph a dance. We didn’t really have a specific song in mind, as like so many couples we know, we don’t really have ‘a song’, so we started thinking about artists we like, and listening to the lyrics of various songs until we found one that we felt both fit a Lindy hop, and reflected our feelings for each other. We settled on Michael Buble’s ‘Love.’ The dance was a smashing success!
The table plan was presented in an enormous empty antique gold picture frame – each table was stuck on to a separate piece of ribbon and suspended in the frame. We hung this from a tree in the garden. I made bunting signage out of burlap which was hung in various areas such as ‘guestbook’, ‘photobooth’, and ‘let them eat cheese’
We also made confetti cones our of old wallpaper samples, all the confetti was made from dried rose petals from my parents garden.
What Makes It Special
Our wedding was so special as that was the day we became Husband and Wife.
However, aside from that, what made is special is that we decided to do as much as possible in the way of preparation and decoration ourselves. Not only did it give our wedding a really personal touch, but it was also a great activity for us to do together in the run up to the wedding – it was something that we could share with our friends and family too, and so many loved ones got involved with cutting out birds, punching confetti, making place settings or stuffing confetti cones. You only get married once and I hated the idea of paying someone else to do the fun things that I could do myself. It was so much fun trawling various wedding websites to look for inspiration and trying out new crafts before deciding on what to do!
Equally, choosing to learn a new dance for our first dance was a great chance for us to spend some time together trying out something new that we really enjoyed – and we’ll have that dance routine for life.
Our biggest success, which I would recommend to anyone – was the fact cards. We made little cards for each place setting – which had a random and funny (but true!) fact about the person either side of them on, and we were told over and over again how brilliant it was to meet someone new and instantly have a hilarious conversation starter given to them. Many friends were made as a result.
As for advice – as a bride, I would tell any other bride-to-be to treasure the time spent planning your big day, don’t wish it away, enjoy the planning, enjoy the anticipation and the debates on colour schemes, flowers and table decorations, but equally don’t forget that its just a party – and the real fun starts the day after, when you are married to the man of your dreams!
Oh – and another thing – many, many women will ask you how much weight you lost from ‘the stress of the wedding’ or how much you plan to lose before the big day – IGNORE THEM!
And in general I am just loving the love, you know?
Happy Friday you gorgeous lot.
Big Spreading The Love
P.S Have I mentioned how there is a full on who-is-the-best-at-D.I.Y-posts competition going on at RMW HQ between Vix and Adam? No? Well there is. And it’s Adam’s turn this afternoon. And not wanting to make his head any bigger or anything but…. this one is more than a little bit genius.
There are lots of colour schemes I really like. Lots. And there are a couple of colour schemes I absolutely ADORE, cool grey and sunshine yellow being one. Especially when combined with beautiful blooms and a whole heap of perfectly executed home-spun details.
And you can’t beat a generous dose of feminine fashion, flawless make-up and a show-stoppping headpiece, bride Polly looks outrageously lovely.
Polly and Rob were married in Polly’s local church in Frome with a reception in Polly’s parent’s back garden, all of the gorgeous images are courtesy of Eliza Claire.
A Glamorous Up-Do
I decided to put my hair in an up do, as I have very fine, poker straight, shoulder length hair which wouldn’t have looked very bridal if I had left it down. (and my headpiece was definitely meant to be put in an updo too!) I wanted my make up to look very fresh and clean – and also to make me look like me – the last thing I wanted was to look totally different and the groom not recognise me! Julie, a friend of the families helped with the hair and makeup of myself and the bridesmaids.
A Grecian Influence
I had a beautiful Grecian style headpiece by Harriet Head that I found at the National Wedding Show at Olympia. I wanted to avoid the tiara look as I felt it was a bit too traditional and a little too generic – I wanted something people hadn’t seen before! I also opted for a full, floor length veil with pearls encrusted on it, as the base of my dress was quite plain and I wanted to add some interest. This was also bought at the National Wedding Show.
First Time Lucky
The dress was bought from House of Fraser Oxford Street bridal rooms, I am really tall so the drop waisted dress seemed perfect for me – the shop lady said barely anyone could pull the dress off as you have to be very tall to make it work! I had only gone into the House of Fraser bridal room on the off chance I might be able to try something on without an appointment, (as early on in my search I hadn’t realised how far in advance appointments needed to be booked!) and luckily they had one free – I hadn’t planned on finding it there but as soon as I put it on I knew there wouldn’t be any point looking elsewhere.
The Right Height
I wasn’t sure what height I wanted but the dress made the decision for me – being so tall, the dress was too short if I wore anything too high (not to mention I am rubbish at walking in anything tall, and stumbling along the aisle is not a good bridal look!) so I found some fantastic shoes in Dune – they were Ivory, open toe kitten heels with a knot of diamantes on the toe, super comfy and glam! (although a word of warning to other brides – the diamante’s catch on tulle and my dress caught on my shoes rather frequently)
Grey And Yellow
The colour scheme of the wedding was grey and yellow, so we bought all the bridesmaids pale grey dresses from Mori Lee. Each dress was the same fabric and colour, but totally different styles, as I wanted each bridesmaid to have a choice as to what style they wanted, whether it was strapless, halterneck etc. All the ushers were in Navy blue suits which we bought with pale grey ties, and bright yellow socks!
Peonies And Pastels
I ideally wanted peonies and English garden roses, but these weren’t the easiest flowers to get hold of in August, so I had a real mix! My bouquet was stuffed full of roses and other flowers with lots of texture – all in whites, creams and pastel pinks, yellows and apricot.
The bridesmaids each had their own bouquet of different white and cream flowers, as I wanted to avoid anything too matchy matchy. The buttonholes were yellow garden roses, and the table arrangements and church flowers were a mix of hydrangeas and English garden roses in pastels.
The Gorgeous Groom
Rob was in a navy blue suit, white and yellow striped tie, bright yellow socks and a slim fit white shirt. He looked utterly gorgeous. He was wearing Aqua de Gio aftershave and Kurt Geiger shoes…
An Admirable Portfolio
Eliza Claire, our photographer, has the most incredible portfolio – she has breathtaking landscape shots of brides and grooms – they are truly the most incredible panoramic shots and we knew instantly that we wanted to work with her. She is incredibly friendly and within minutes of meeting her we knew she understood exactly what we were looking to capture. We are thrilled with our pictures.