If you are signed up to the Rock My Wedding newsletter (if you’re not you can sign up here) you will have already seen a sneak peek of this wedding. It’s a serious hug-fest and I love it. And you will too. I promise.
Chloe and Alex married on a glorious July day in 2012 and held their reception at Gate Street Barn after a ceremony at Holy Trinity Church.
Gate Street Barn was the only venue Chloe and Alex visited and they fell in love with it instantly. It’s not hard to see why. There is hop blossom hanging from the ceiling and fields full of French horn cows…all of whom are named after previous couples who have married at the barn. I know, very cool.
There’s just so much love going around at this wedding. Enjoy.
Chloe The Bride: Being only 5″2 I didn’t want anything too meringuesque and wanted something with a vintage style. I managed to secure an appointment at Jenny Packham. The 2012 collection had just arrived, it was there that I tried on the ‘Foxglove’ dress, that was when I knew I had found ‘the one’! With a 1920s style gown with sheer sleeves and sparkling embroidery, it was everything I had envisaged. By coincidence Jenny Packham was paying a store visit that day, and I was lucky enough to have a conversation with her about the dress and my wedding… I may have come across as slightly excitable!
Shoes, make-up, hair
Being a believer that less is more, I didn’t want to go too OTT whilst accessorising. I decided against a veil and settled for a vintage hair grip from a boutique in Farnham and some Jenny Packham earrings, matching the dress perfectly. It took a long time to find the perfect shoes, I wanted some height but didn’t want to be a hobbling bride, I also wanted shoes that looked vintage and matched the dress. Harriet Wilde’s shoes are gorgeous and I chose a 20’s style lace pair. I managed to last well into the night before kicking them off and dancing Joss Stone stylie.
After doing make-up for a few of my friends weddings I was confident enough to do my own, and felt that I didn’t want to look too different on the big day, however panic started to creep in and I decided to get a trial done at the MAC counter in House of Fraser. I wanted a fairly dewey natural look and was really pleased with the outcome. I revisited the counter on my wedding morning to have my make-over done. Being completely indecisive about my hair and having a couple of trials I decided to go with a messy side bun, this was done by Emma from Locks of Love who was brilliant and also did my mum’s hair on the day.
Girl After My Own Heart
Shortly after getting engaged I visited a wedding fair where I came across the lovely Bex, from Blush Florals. Her stall immediately caught my eye with it’s beautiful floral displays and vintage decorations. My mum and I visited Bex shortly after for a consultation and had great fun discussing all the bouquets and decoration. Besides the flowers Bex also provided rustic style bird cages, china wear, glassware for the sweet stall and wicker hearts for the church, this is a girl after my own heart! The flowers we had decided on consisted of peonies, cabbage roses, antique roses, lavender and some greenery. The morning of the wedding, Bex came to drop all the bouquets and button holes round to my parents house and my mother who had kept it together all morning couldn’t help but shed a tear at how gorgeous they were!
What A Hottie
Alex is the middle brother of three so it was only fair that he had two Best Men, he also had four ushers! Not to outdo him I had decided upon six bridesmaid and my three adorable (at times) nieces as the flowergirls. As brilliant as it was to have such a big wedding party it was a slight challenge when in came to dressing everyone! Luckily my sister was on hand and managed to source all three flowergirl dresses from Monsoon, matched with nude ballet shoes and flowers in their hair. The bridesmaid dresses were all from Coast. I had three bridesmaids in a pale sage colour and three in a champagne. We hadn’t been too keen to have a colour scheme and decided to use a lot of pastel colours that would tie in with the rustic, vintagey theme of the day and all the flowers. The bridesmaids teamed their dresses with nude heels and wore their hair down in loose curls with vintage roses in.
The Best Men and Ushers they hired suits from Moss Bross and we bought pastel coloured ties. Alex’s suit was made to measure from A Suit That Fits. He got to custom choose the fabric, linings, button holes etc. His tie was from Reiss and for his wedding gift I got him made some vintage map cufflinks, one with the location we had got engaged and the other of where we were getting married. He looked so handsome on the day, and I still can’t believe I’m married to such a hottie!
Shot By Diana
For our Photographer we chose the fabulous Joanna Brown. After researching many photographers online I couldn’t find one that stuck out to me, we didn’t want the photos to appear too modern or posed and as soon as I came across Jo’s website I instantly knew that we had to have her. Her style is so unique, capturing beautiful angles and details that hold a memory. She also owns a ‘Diana’ vintage camera which take the most beautiful soft focused stills. We booked her up as soon as we had the venue as I knew we wouldn’t find any one as perfect as Jo.
Being a massive cake lover, the cake was something I was happy to take full control of. Not being a fruit cake or marzipan fan, I decided on having the top tier as carrot, the middle as victoria sponge and the bottom as chocolate. I choose my friend Ellie who runs a cake business to make the cake, and she did the most beautiful cake ever, I couldn’t have been happier! So many guests after commented on how delicious it was too! The cake had pearls as decoration and fresh flowers on the top and first tier.
Baby I Love You
Alex is very into music and wanted a band from the start. We asked our friends band Rich Austin and the Maestros, who had also played a couple of our friends weddings. They were great and definitely got everyone on the dancefloor. Our first dance was ‘Baby I love you’, the Ramones version.
Packing A Punch
As a designer I took the decoration part of the wedding to heart. The pheasantry which sat next to the barn was filled with old fashioned glass bottles and jars with flowers. I also rented vintage teacups and scattered (not literally) these around containing marshmallows for the guests. Another feature of the pheasantry was the sweet stall. I bought sweet shop stripy paper bags and all guests could help themselves throughout the day to all our favourite old school sweets and chocolates, which were contained in beautiful old fashioned sweet jars and containers. I managed to find retro style popcorn boxes, which we filled up with popcorn in the evening for all the guests.
The evening also brought with it ‘Palmers Punch’ a lethal cocktail we enjoyed testing throughout the year! After searching for a vintage style glass drink dispenser I finally found one in John Lewis, along with red and white striped paper straws. We also had Jo Malone candles placed around the venue, which made everything smell amazing in the evening.
I spent many hours making up little cream card boxes with tissue paper containing heart chocolates for the girls and football chocolates for the boys, before passing over the task to my parents who made the remainder of them. I bought lots of ribbons for the boxes to be tied and luggage tags which had each guests name on. These doubled up as favours and names places. For the table plan, I found a large circular frame in a charity shop, I took out the centre, sanded, painted and replaced the backing with wallpaper, I found some small heart pegs and pegged a large luggage tag on the plan for each table. For the table names we choose to have each destination we were planning to visit on our American road trip honeymoon. I bought old 6″ vinyl records from ebay and made circular artwork for the centres using old vintage postcards from each destination. The records were displayed in small logs we had cut down and cut slits down the centres. I’m lucky enough to have a very talented graphic designer as one of my best friends…and bridesmaids. Polly created all the artwork for the menu’s, signage and the invites for me and they fitted in with the rustic, quirky vibe that we wanted for the day.
Your Day Your Way
If I could give any advice for future brides, it would be to not stress out about small details of the big day, but try to enjoy everything. Use your family and bridal party to help you out with bits and don’t do everything yourself. Try to make the day special and unique to you and your fiance and don’t get too stuck trying to please everyone else!
You know when someone has really put their blood sweat and tears (of joy obvs) into their big day because it shows. It shows in the small details, it shows in the smiles of pride on their faces and it shows in their guests faces. It also shines through in the photography.
Mary went to town on getting everything perfect for her wedding day, which included visiting one of my very own favourite fabric shops here in Birmingham. She has some seriously good ideas for you all to see and steal and I’m really happy to see a tea cup…it’s been a while.
Simon and Mary married on 14th September 2012 at Tythe barn, Bicester. A beautiful venue perfect for their vintage inspired day.
Mary The Bride: I bought the base of my dress from Honeypie Boutique. I then bought the polka dot overlay from the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham which my amazing dressmaker Beverley Mann used to create an overlay, sleeves, collar and my cute little bow belt on the front. The dress itself was taken from a pattern but also a certain degree of flair from my dressmaker and ideas in my head! I didn’t go dress shopping as I knew I wanted something completely individual and unique to me and it had to be 1950’s prom style because I love the glamour and the femininity of this period.
Meant To Be
I bought an original 1950’s birdcage pink veil from etsy, I knew as soon as I bought it that it was exactly right, the veil even had pink polka dots on it so it was meant to be! I wore freshwater pearl earrings which I also bought from etsy. My shoes were from shoe designer Harriet Wilde, they were simple and elegant Mary Jane ivory satin sling backs, they had high skinny heels and a hidden platform so they were comfy too. As my dress was quite detailed I wanted the shoes to be simple but classic, they fitted perfectly with everything.
I had my hair done by Gavin of Hensmans Northampton. They have been doing my hair for years and I have a great relationship with Gavin; there was definitely nobody else I felt more comfortable with doing my hair for the big day. I had a hair piece made for me which sat in a chignon which was very vintage 50’s/60’s style and it looked great with the veil too. My good friend Emma Shipley did mine, the bridesmaids and my mum’s makeup. I went for retro flicks and smoky eyes for both me and my girls, we also felt very glam with our lash extensions too! I kept my lips quite neutral and opted for a nude pink gloss.
Especially For Me
I am fortunate that I know so many talented people and my friend Caroline is also a qualified florist. She did an amazing job with my flowers. I had David Austin peach cabbage roses, blue thistle, pale blue hydrangea and peach spray roses with eucalyptus round the bottom for my bouquet. It was truly beautiful. The girls had similar bouquets but without the thistle and David Austin roses as these were especially for my bouquet. They were hand tied loosely with ivory tulle and pale blue tulle for the girls flowers. I had my table flowers displayed in vintage tea pots and the tutor holes were blue thistle and peach spray roses with a pink ribbon for the girls and pale blue for the boys. Caroline and myself found a brilliant idea online too for a gypsophila garland with paper birds hanging from it on ribbons, I loved this idea and knew it would be fabulous hanging from the barn doors as we were getting married outside I really fell in love with this idea and it really looked great the day. Finally my old wooden birdcage was my table planner which was transformed with birds, flowers, foliage and moss to look like a magical forest scene, absolutely brilliant!
The bridesmaid dresses were made from scratch by Beverley Mann from an original 1950’s dress pattern. I bought the material from the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham, again to tie in the polka dots they also wore dots but with a pale blue polka dot tulle overlay along with a pale blue bow belt on the front to mimic the one on my dress. They also had a 4 layered pale blue petticoat which again Beverley made from scratch. I made each of my girls a vintage wrist corsage from silk flowers, old beads, tulle and ribbon, each one was individual (I really wanted to restate the whole 1950s prom girl scene!). Their earrings were bought from etsy along with the pale blue bow comb that they wore in their hair. The boys suits came from a local company in Northampton called Suitors. Simon bought his pale grey lace up shoes from Dychurch Shoes in Northampton, they looked great with the suit and we knew as soon as we saw the shoes that they were the shoes he would wear with his wedding suit. I bought Simon an original 1950’s pocket watch from eBay a few months before the wedding which he wore on the day. I had it engraved on the back with a lyric from a very special song between us, I wanted him to have a keepsake for the day to remind him of me when he woke up that morning.
Too Cool For School
Our photographer was the very talented and too cool for school Matt Parry! We knew as soon as we saw Matt’s work online that he was exactly what we wanted to capture on our day; effortlessly cool, understated and most importantly no horrible posed photos of people looking uncomfortable. I think we achieved exactly what we wanted and we couldn’t be any happier with what Matt did for us. He made everyone feel at ease and made our day fun. Simon’s uncle kindly loaned us his vintage Aston for the afternoon where we had alot of fun driving around and generally larking around whilst Matt captured the moment, as a result we had some great photos, although on the way back the Aston broke down, still at least we got our pics!
A Special Mum
I always knew I wanted someone special to make our cake and we did just that by asking my mum to make them! Me and mum went on a vintage cupcake decorating course called My Pretty Cakes and learnt how to make roses, buttons, pearls and ribbons etc. We bought all the equipment and icing and my mum made sponge cupcakes with buttercream and fondant icing on top, decorated with an assortment of sugar paste hearts, buttons, roses and flowers. We felt very special that my mum had made such an amazing effort and the cakes looked fantastic!
A Love Letter
We knew straight away we wanted live music and we wanted the sort of music where everyone would want to get up and dance. We booked Accrington Stanley who are predominantly a Beatles band but they also played other 60’s songs. They went down a storm and everyone was up and dancing. Our first dance was an Oasis cover ‘wonderwall’ covered by Ryan Adams, we chose this version as Ryan has a great tone to his voice and he softens the song making it sound just lovely. There is a story behind our song; when me and Simon had not long known each other and were good friends, Simon expressed his feelings for me in a letter which he gave to me and in it, yes you guessed it he put ‘and after all…you’re my wonderwall’ as they say the rest is history.
Bird Theme and a lot of DIY
My name tags were tied onto vintage teacups which I had been collecting for over a year; inside the cups were our favours. I had our favour bags made by hand by a lovely lady called LesleyP on Folksy who knitted each one and tied with ribbon, they were just so cute! Inside he bags were chocolate mini eggs, I had a bird theme going on so thought, eggs, very appropriate! Plus they fitted perfectly in the bags inside the teacups.
I had paper Pom poms hanging in the trees outside, my garland hanging on the barn doors, paperbag lanterns lining the oath outside at night (which looked amazing all lit up!) and bunting by Bunting Queen inside the barn. I made photo props and had little frogs with tags round their neck reading ‘kiss me and wish’ on the tables. My friend made me some teacup candles which we all had on the tables. I made jamjar lanterns which were put outside at night. I made my bride and groom birdy cake toppers by purchasing a pattern online from etsy. I got a friend to print a wedding day planner and then I made a mount from vintage material and painted and distressed an old picture frame, this was so cheap but so effective, I also bought another old frame from a junk shop and transformed it by painting and distressing it with sand paper, then by tying on picture wire I could clip old black and white photos to this. I used this to attach old photos of our relatives who are no longer with us but we wanted them to feel part of our day.
My wedding was special because to me it was so personal. I put my blood, sweat and tears into the whole day, I spent months sourcing china, sewing, sticking and cutting, making so much of the personal details for the wedding myself made it feel so much more special and I felt a real sense of pride and achievement when I saw it all coming together. For anyone who has a creative touch or has creative friends, get them involved as it’s amazing how cheaply you can achieve such great ideas. Go online and source ideas then get down your charity shops and recycling warehouses as you will be amazed what you can find!
Julie and James had an epic wedding back in August.
Bikes, humongous florals, massive balloons, erm… A cellist, caricaturist, accordionist – a magician and a Beatles tribute band. And trust me – that is not the full lot, not by a long shot!
This vintage inspired summer garden wedding could so easily have been a wash out. It rained proper soak-you-to-the-skin rain pretty much all day but Julie and James just got on with it.
In fact after a while I think Julie actually began to like the rain. She assures me that the laughter in the water logged portrait shots is pure enjoyment, not the result of being driven mad by the driving rain. 🙂
James and I got married… Twice! First at the Old Marylebone Town Hall in London, with only a handful of people (thirteen to be exact, our closest family and friends) – this was our civil ceremony of course. It was a lovely day, the ceremony was sweet and short and we celebrated with a drinks and canapés at the Ritz Hotel.
Then we got married a second time two days later, at The Walled Garden at Cowdray in West Sussex, with over a hundred guests and an absolutely wonderful humanist ceremony – that was our ‘real wedding’ as we call it! The Walled Garden is a beautifully restored Tudor garden with two lovely function rooms, on the Cowdray estate, right next to the Cowdray Castle ruins. We were struggling a little to find a venue that was both beautiful and relaxed and when we visited The Walled Garden, we knew we had found the perfect place for the type of wedding we wanted. Despite the venue’s very strict regulations and the torrential rain, the day was everything we had hoped for.
It was really a weekend-long celebration, with a welcome dinner on the Friday evening (the day before the wedding) at The Duke of Cumberland, the loveliest country pub you have ever seen with a view of the hills, which won the “Pub of the year good food guide award”. On Sunday (the day after the wedding) we had a ‘farewell brunch/afternoon tea’ at the super cool Haymarket Hotel in London to which guests where driven all the way from West Sussex in a big red wedding bus. The Haymarket Hotel is an amazing venue, the food was delicious and the events team super helpful.
It was our plan from day one to make our wedding a weekend-long event because almost all our guests were coming over from all over the place. I am French and German from Paris, James is from Lancashire and we have been living in London for five years – as a result, our friends and family are really from all over the world! The great thing was that we got to have both a romantic countryside wedding in West Sussex followed by an ‘urban cool’ event at the Haymarket in London…
A Wedding Planner And Vintage Stylist
Because our wedding was really going to be three separate events, we made the decision early on to hire a wedding planner. We knew instantly we had found ‘the one’ when we met the very relaxed and super lovely Kate Fletcher, who has a passion for all things vintage! In fact she is a vintage stylist and runs Vintage Style Hire: if you are planning your wedding right now and looking for some vintage items to style your big day, I’m pretty sure Kate has whatever you’re looking for!
Kate was really amazing! Our wedding and all the planning that went into it was virtually stress-free. So much work goes into planning the biggest party of your life and I think we could easily have lost our minds without her help! Hiring a wedding planner is of course a big investment as most charge 10% of your wedding budget, but there is no doubt in our mind that it was worth every penny. Of course you still get to make all the decisions, it is still your day and your vision of it. In fact, saying that I really got into the whole wedding styling and planning would be an understatement and I really enjoyed it all! Knowing that Kate had it all under control, both while planning and on the day was such a relief. On the day, we were able to be guests at our own wedding without needing to worry about a thing, and that was really worth a lot to us. Thank you so much Kate!
For our Save The Dates, we did a bit of DIY: I asked my brother to take some pictures of us holding a blank piece of A4 paper and used fotoflexer (a free editing online software) to add the text. We got this printed at thepostcardcompany (who are one of the few companies doing square postcards). We also got a stamp made at englishstamp. On the back of each postcard, we glued a lovely small envelope and slipped a stamped piece of paper in it.
One of the first things James and I did after getting engaged was look for stationery. I have a passion for stationery – beautiful paper and cards make my head spin. It’s a potent genetic condition, which I inherited from my mum and means I MUST buy every lovely card I see (I have themed boxes of cards at home, yes that’s how bad it is). Anyway, all this to say that I take stationery pretty seriously. I was looking for something beautiful and different… That’s when I found Katharine at Papermonkeys through a Google search. Katharine is an illustrator and does the loveliest personalised wedding stationery you have ever seen!
Katharine illustrated every single one of our events – the pub welcome dinner, the wedding, the Beatles band, the Haymarket brunch. Our invitations really told the story of our wedding weekend. On the front of our invite, our beloved French Bulldog ‘Harvey The Frenchie’ is proudly peeking through the door of the Walled Garden, and on another drawing, our cat Oliver is snoozing on a vintage chair from Vintage Style Hire’s collection. My favourite part, however, is the illustration on which I am in a striped top complete with beret and a bike, a baguette under my arm and Bretzels in a basket (like I said, I am French and German!), next to James in wellington boots, with a tweed jacket, a big mug of tea in one hand and an umbrella in the other (obviously thet perfect English gentleman!). Katharine also illustrated a Thank You card on which we are wearing the same outfits we wore the day James proposed.
Every single guest commented on our invitations and I couldn’t keep count of how many said they were the nicest they had ever seen. We are going to have all this lovely artwork printed and framed and it will be such a wonderful keepsake of our wedding. I really can’t recommend Papermoneys enough!
In addition, Berinmade made some GORGEOUS wedding day stationery: calligraphy on mix and match florals for our table numbers, menus but also various signs such as a ‘Here comes the bride’ sign, ‘Smile to the Groom’, ‘Bar now open’, ‘Keep warm’ (we had pashminas available for our guests), ‘Singing in the rain’ (we had also ordered 70 umbrellas from jollybrolly) and more. Her work is stunning.
I first tried on a wedding dress by ‘accident’, just for fun, as I walked by a bridal store with my best friend shortly after getting engaged. When they asked me when the wedding was, I said I knew it was soooo far away but just thought I’d pop in and I was amazed to hear that 6 months to a year before the wedding day is the right time frame to be looking for a dress if it is made to order! So brides to be, it’s never to soon to start looking!
I knew I definitely didn’t want a big bridal dress. They can look beautiful and stunning but they’re just not ‘me’. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted: something ‘flowy’, simple but bridal, romantic, a little boho, not too white and most of all, lace. Lace, lace, lace, lace – I love it.
When I tried my 70’s inspired wedding dress at The Vintage Wedding Dress Company (where everyone was super friendly and helpful), I instantly knew I had found the one… It was all the things I described above but, above all, I completely felt like myself in it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw me, not me dressed up as a bride. I loved the thick lace and beautiful pattern and to make things even more perfect, I found out the lace was French. It was meant to be!
I wanted some short sleeves added and The Vintage Wedding Dress Company ordered some extra lace and Bridal Alterations in Clapham made the perfect sleeves. They are very talented and I can definitely recommend them.
I also bought a 1940s piano shawl from The Vintage Wedding Dress Company to go with the dress, as well as the gorgeous 1950s pearl and glass bracelet I wore on the wedding day. I loved the fact that it was unique and had a story.
Finding shoes was a challenge though! I am 177 cm tall and as result I unfortunately never wear heels as they make me look freakishly tall and I am hopeless at walking in them anyway… Finding pretty wedding flats was hard, unless I settled for a super simple pair of ballerinas. But I wanted something a little different because I wear simple ballerinas most days! That’s when I found Harriet Wilde’s lace pumps, complete with a heel covered in Swarovski crystals. (I actually met the lovely designer and she told me they are bringing out a black version soon, I’ll definitely get a pair as well!)
I thought about wearing a veil, they are so beautiful, but it just didn’t feel right for some reason. I simply wore a beautiful gypsophilia flower crown which our amazing florist, Sam from Violets and Velvet, created. Here is a tip if you are planning on wearing a flower crown: ask your florist to wire it with small loops so it can be fixed to your hair. Sam did this and my crown didn’t move an inch all day or night! I loved the fact that the crown was so ‘pure’ and simple and I’m really glad I listened to the little voice telling me that the veil wasn’t right for our wedding.
I found it quite difficult to find someone who could do both makeup and hair. I couldn’t find someone who could do a good blow dry for my hair type and I had two trials with two different people before meeting Antonia from Elle Au Naturel. She was really fantastic. Not only did she actually listen to what I wanted – a natural, ‘fresh faced’ look (I hardly wear any makeup in ‘real life’) for makeup and natural looking wavy hair – but she also knew how to do the perfect blow dry (which I don’t!!). Hair prep is everything, especially if you want to wear your hair down like I did… After the blow dry, she simply rollered it up to create a natural looking wave. With the help of her assistant, they also did our mums’ and bridesmaids’ hair and makeup and everyone looked gorgeous!
On the wedding day, it started POURING DOWN with rain just as we were having our photos taken in the middle of a field without any umbrellas handy! Rain was literally dripping down my hair and, despite this, the waves held! Now if that’s not proof that Antonia is good, I don’t know what is!!!
Flowers Of My Dreams
I have to be honest, I don’t know the first thing about flowers! Roses and peonies are about the only two kinds I can recognise so I was really lucky to meet Violets and Velvet. She created the flowers of my dreams from a few photos I had shown her!
She literally created the most beautiful floral archway anyone had ever seen. I am told it was made of roses, peonies, hydrangeas, stocks, spray roses, amaranthus, dahlias, gypsophilia and garden foliage. All I know is that when I saw it I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous it was. Lucky us, we got to get married right under it!
The beautiful bridal and bridesmaids bouquets were pale pink roses, gypsophilia and lavender. We had mason jars filled with a loose posy of flowers placed on the chairs along the aisle for the ceremony. Sam also created five stunning large stone urns to go on each window sill of the reception room, filled with peonies, hydrangea, buplerum, dahlia, spray roses, blooms, delphiniums, snapdragons stocks and garden foliage.
We had two bikes at the venue used as props and she filled one of the bike’s basket with a stunning arrangement of flowers, similar to the ones used for the archway.
Then there were all the bud vases everywhere at the venue, on various little tables and corners. These were filled with lisianthus, spray roses, roses, hydrangea in pale pinks and chalky whites.
Sam’s flowers were all so beautiful that I am seriously considering learning to spell their names without googling them!
Ethereal and Spiritual
James and I were worried that only having a ceremony at the town hall would feel rushed and lack in spirituality. We are both atheists and thus would not get married at church, but we still wanted our wedding ceremony to be beautiful, romantic, ethereal, spiritual and ritualistic. We feel it is the most important part of the day and really wanted it to be magical so, early on, we looked into humanist ceremonies.
This means having a legally binding ceremony at the town hall and a symbolic ceremony with a humanist celebrant. In France, religious weddings are not legally binding and couples always must have a civil ceremony first, no matter what. So the idea of having two ceremonies seemed very normal to me and, while James thought it was little strange at first, he immediately liked the idea of having a humanist ceremony that would correspond to who we are.
If any of you readers are considering doing this but feel a little worried that it might not feel ‘real’ to get married a ‘second time’, trust me when I tell you that it feels very real, intense and beautiful. It was our favourite part of the whole day. If you are not religious either, what will matter to you is making a public commitment in front of the people you love.
We had originally planned on having the ceremony outside, in the beautiful garden. That was very important to me and so when it became clear that it was impossible because of the weather, I was super disappointed at first. But actually, I think we needed the rain and the ceremony to be taking place inside the Walled Garden’s beautiful courtyard room to create a more intimate atmosphere. Our wedding planner and stylist Kate styled the room in the most beautiful way imaginable (in fact the venue’s owner said it had never looked more beautiful), using a vintage desk from her Vintage Style Hire collection as a backdrop and a lot of beautiful candles. Sam, our florist, arranged some amazingly gorgeous flowers on the desk and her floral archway, which was just above, was simply literally breathtakingly beautiful. The room looked so gorgeous, thank you so much Kate and Sam.
The acoustics in the room were great. In fact, we had two moments during the ceremony where we were just listening to our wonderful cellist Lizzy May play – it was incredibly beautiful. Our ceremony was a truly beautiful moment that brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. We both laughed and cried (as did our guests), and we also reflected and took it all in. We are so grateful to our celebrant for having made it happen. It was magical. We will never ever forget it. Thank you Katie.
Every single guest commented on the ceremony throughout the entire evening and the next day, and still to this day, it is the first thing people tell me when talking about the wedding. Several people said they had never seen such a genuine, romantic, beautiful and original ceremony. We owe it all to our beautiful true love and to our wonderful celebrant.
Love And Fertility
For favours, we followed the beautiful tradition of giving each guest some sugar-coated almonds that symbolise eternal love and fertility, from French chocolatier Jeff de Bruges. They have a whole range of containers you can choose from as well as ribbon that is personalised. Of course, what we didn’t realise is that, in England, some say that the number of almonds you give each guest symbolises the number of children you are going to have… Had we known, we might not have included nine almonds in each favour!! But hey, the more the merrier!
James wore a navy blue, fully hand-stitched made-to-measure suit from Cad & the Dandy on Saville Row. He looked stunning and it was so great that I was not the only one looking forward to wearing something really really special. He had several fitting appointments and the whole team at Cad & the Dandy were really great. His shirt was also made to measure there, and he wore an elegant silver grey tie and simple white rose and lavender buttonhole. He looked amazing!!!
We had best men and bridesmaids, as well as witnesses (a French tradition). The men all wore their own navy blue suit and white shirt and James got them beautiful silver grey ties from Ralph Lauren as a present, as well as socks and vintage cufflinks which we found on markets in Brick Lane and Hampstead.
The bridesmaids wore lovely white dresses from Coast as well as a silk pale pink pashmina. I really love the mismatched bridemaids look but I felt that it works best with more than two bridemaids so we decided to go for a simple all white look. They both wore their hair up and looked gorgeous. I also got them bags from Alphabet Bags, although rather than going for the ones that say ‘Bridemaids’ I couldn’t resist getting the ‘Drama Queen’ and ‘Nerd’ ones as it describes them both perfectly!! (Love you girls 😉 I also got ‘Mother of the Bride’ and ‘of the Groom’ bags and all mums and bridemaids got a silk kimono robe to get ready in on the morning of the wedding day, which I gave to them in the cute bags. I got myself the ‘Just Married’ bag, which, by the way, is the perfect honeymoon beach bag…
Spontaneous And Natural
The amazing Lisa Devlin photographed our wedding. Lisa is the friendliest person ever and, along with her second shooter Kat, they were really amazing to work with! We loved Lisa’s spontaneous, natural style and could not be more pleased with the photos. The day was a bit of a challenge really, as we were SUPER unlucky with the weather. It only rained two hours the whole day, and that was during our ‘garden party’ and photos! Lisa had just told us that ‘touch wood’ she’d never had to shoot in the pouring rain… Well there is always a first and our wedding was it!
It rained SO MUCH it was crazy and we were stuck in the middle of a field. I think everyone was afraid I would burst into tears, but I couldn’t stop laughing, the situation was so unlucky and surreal! There we were with our bikes styled with ‘Just Married’ signs ready to take photos I really wanted, and within 5 minutes we were drenched! The best men ran back to the venue to get the matching umbrellas we had of course forgotten to take with us, everyone was soaking wet, the bridesmaids dresses were starting to get see through, my dress and ballerinas were full of mud… We’ll never forget that shoot! There is that one photo on which I’m laughing, one of my bridesmaids is looking at me hoping it’s a sincere laugh and not that of a mad bride loosing her mind and my other bridesmaid is looking at the camera clearly thinking ‘Oh my God!’ – I laugh every time I look at this photo as it summarises the situation so well! Lisa and Kat were amazing, working under the pouring rain and getting that shoot done no matter what! Just before dinner, the sun came out for a bit, creating a lovely ‘after rain’ evening light and some really beautiful ‘romantic’ photos. And then of course there are the amazing ‘rainbow’ photos! In short Lisa was amazing! We absolutely love our photos and it is wonderful to relive the day every time we look at them. Thank you so much Lisa!
Natasha Stanbridge, our videographer from My Film, was equally amazing. Natasha was so laid back and cool, making us feel super relaxed. She is incredibly friendly and her and her second shooter Alex were fabulous. They also put up with the rain, Natasha had wrapped a pashmina around her camera and was shooting pretending not to be soaking wet! We are so glad we have an amazingly beautiful video of our wedding. I know some people hesitate about getting a videographer, feeling that photos are enough, but a video really brings something different and unique. It brings the memories back to life, literally. Natasha edited the video in ‘super8 style’ and we absolutely love every single minute of it. We chose the song ‘I’m a believer’ to go with the video because it is ‘our song’ (a few months after we started seeing each other, James recorded himself playing the guitar and singing this song ) Thank you so much Natasha!
Enterainment is a big topic because we always said that our top priority was for our guests to have fun after the more ‘serious bit’, the ceremony… We were lucky enough to work with amazing people.
There was Lizzy May, the cellist, who performed during the ceremony and during the garden party. (She was meant to put on her super cool ‘electric cello’ show but unfortunately could not do it because of the terrible rain…)
During the garden party we also had George Williams, a caricaturist and the wonderful Mark Shortland, a magician whom guests could not stop talking about after seeing his amazing tricks!
During dinner, Fifi the French accordionist from Oh La La music played and got all the guests to sing along in French no matter what their nationality. She was really great!
During the party, we had an open bar and hired a mixologist to make cocktails and we had a tribute Beatles band, the Counterfeit Beatles. They were really fantastic! We had a hard time deciding what type of band to get for our party (we’re not into ‘modern music’ preferring vintage tunes) and kept saying ‘If we could have the Beatles…’ and then we realised that there were some really cool Beatles tribute bands out there. We saw the Counterfeit Beatles perform in London and they were amazing so when our wedding day came, we knew the party would be great. They had everyone dancing until the last minute. The French and German guests loved it as it was ‘so British’ and all the Brits were super excited to have ‘the Beatles’ live for the first time. It was brilliant.
A Secret Dance
Our first dance had, of course, to be a Beatles song. We chose ‘Do you want to know a secret’, just because we love it! We took some dancing lessons as we are both terrible and thanks to Doug at the First Dance Company, we had a lot of fun practising and managed not to freeze when all eyes turned to us on the evening of the big day!
Last but not least, the day after the wedding, for our ‘farewell brunch’, vintage vocalist Simon Partridge sang wonderful tunes at the Haymarket Hotel. He was so elegant and just perfect for this urban, stylish venue.
We love the ‘vintage style’. It isn’t just something we did for our wedding, our flat is decorated this way (especially when it’s tidy!!) and so there was no doubt about the feel we were hoping to achieve on our day. Now of course, one problem is having all the elements necessary to create, for example, an outdoor seating area and all the bits and bobs that bring the whole style together. It would be a ridiculous investment to buy all these things so we were super happy when we found out about Vintage Style Hire who, as the name indicates, hire out vintage styling props – from perfume bottles and crates to sofas and bikes. Their collection is quite extensive and the best part is that Kate, the owner, is just so passionate about what she does that she is bound to inspire you!
I think the most important piece of advice would be: be really meticulous and organised when you plan the wedding but a few days before the wedding, just LET GO. Never mind if you dress gets dirty or if it pours down with rain, it won’t matter, you are marrying the love of your life. It is truly the best feeling in the world to know you are married. To be honest, I thought it wouldn’t change much as James and I have been living together for so long, nor had been dreaming of the day I would get married since I was a little girl, but to my amazement, it does make a huge difference! It just feels amazing to look at your partner and see your husband or wife. Knowing that you both have committed to love and support each other for the rest of your lives, with all your heart, in front of all the people you love is the most wonderful feeling in the world. And your wedding day will be the best day of your lives….so far!
As for the ‘wedding blues curse’ – it’s not true what they say! The end of your wedding is the beginning of a new chapter in which you are more together than ever and it is wonderful! So enjoy planning and just remember, if it rains on your wedding day, think of the French who say “Mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux!” (a rainy wedding means a happy marriage!)
Avid Tennis fans Rebecca And David married in June 2012 – right in the middle of Wimbledon and only four months after they got engaged. They reflected their passion for tennis with an english garden party style affair – think Pimms, croquet on the lawn and afternoon tea.
They married at Narborough Hall Gardens in Norfolk, a beautiful Grade II listed building in the depths of the Norfolk countryside. Rebecca explained that Narborough Hall encapsulated everything they wanted from a venue: Elegance, sophistication, the most gorgeous english country setting and… Tennis courts.
The Spanish designer, Pronovias, designed my dress. Pronovias are known for their beautiful lace and the dress that I chose was made from the most gorgeous vintage lace in a fishtail style. Additionally, I had the whole dress beaded with hundreds of iridescent beads, which gave the most gorgeous shimmer! Funnily enough, parts of the dress were very similar to my grandmother’s dress who got married in 1935.
Even before going wedding dress shopping I knew that I wanted a timeless, elegant lace dress. With that in mind my best friend and I went to the Pronovias store on New Bond Street. Each appointment lasts an hour and right at the end of the appointment (and after trying on 5 other dresses!) I saw a dress hanging up on the rail that I hadn’t noticed before. Although we had run out of time, I quickly unchanged, put the dress on and knew it was the one. I didn’t even leave the fitting room!
A Bit Of Bling
I’m not big on ‘bling’ but as it was for a very special occasion I went to see Gillian Million in Teddington. We spent an hour in her showroom going through the most amazing jewellery, talking about my style, what I liked and getting ideas for what I wanted for the big day. In the end we decided on a beautiful pearl headpiece with matching bracelet and earrings, which went perfectly with my dress. For my neck, Gillian designed the most beautiful Art Deco necklace. She also designed hairclips for my bridesmaids, each different but taking in elements from my jewellery. Gillian makes everything bespoke so you know that no one else will have the same, which is a really lovely touch.
My veil was also from Pronovias. At first I was going to go for a shorter veil but in the end I plumped for a full cathedral length veil with beading at the edging for the dramatic effect!
The last accessory I had was a garter from JL Weddings from Etsy. It came over from the US and was made from gorgeous, reclaimed lace.
Take A Walk On the Wilde Side
My shoes were actually the first thing I bought, even before the dress! I met Harriet Wilde at the Designer Wedding Show in Battersea and fell in love with her peep-toe Marcie shoe. They were a fairly low heel (I am 5’9 so would be a giant in anything too high!) with a gorgeous lace trim on the heel and a net corsage on the front. Unbelievably, they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned!
I’m not a hair-up kind of girl so I knew that for the wedding I wanted to have my hair down! I met up with Louise Walsh in Norwich and together we decided on loose curls for a relaxed but glam look with my Gillian Million headpiece. For my make-up I wanted a sun-kissed, natural look with red lips! I love the 1940’s style and while I didn’t want to go all out, I wanted to nod to that era in a little way!
I actually had several florists! I love flowers, which was one of the reasons we picked Narborough Hall as it has award-winning gardens with a stunning array of the most beautiful flowers you will ever see. This fitted in perfectly with the look I was going for – an elegant, sophisticated take on the English country garden. For the barn area of the venue we went for a more rustic-chic look to keep in with the surroundings. The flower arrangements around the venue came from the gardens of Narborough Hall whilst the button-holes, corsages and bouquets came from Arcade Florist in Great Yarmouth. The flowers we used were avalanche roses, hydrangeas (which are my absolute favourite flowers), eucalyptus, bouvardia and gypsophila. We chose flowers that had a delicate scent, which left the most gorgeous smell when we walked past! For the table centrepieces we hired beautiful silver candelabras and antique rose bowls from La Belle Amour and Starlings florists provided the hydrangeas and green fashion roses which Joanne, the owner of Narborough Hall, made in to the most stunning arrangements I have ever seen.
To keep in with our elegance theme, we went for black tie for the groomsmen – there’s nothing more stylish than a man in black tie! As the groomsmen were travelling over from New Zealand and Australia we decided to hire their suits from Moss Bros.
The bridesmaid’s dresses were designed and made by my mum in gorgeous champagne silk. We wanted different styles to reflect the different personalities of the girls but kept the colour scheme the same to bring it all together. They were absolutely stunning!
David joined the groomsmen wearing black tie. He looked the most gorgeous I have ever seen him – like a kiwi James Bond!
Our photographer was the ridiculously talented Katherine Ashdown. We didn’t actually meet Katherine until our engagement shoot (we are based in London rather than Norfolk) a few months before the wedding! But from seeing her incredible work online, chatting with her over the phone, I knew she was going to be perfect. Her shooting style is relaxed and fun and our photos have turned out so much better than we could ever had imagined. We even did a retro style tennis shoot in our wedding outfits, which had a hint of a Ralph Lauren vibe to it!
I also decided to hire a videographer. David didn’t know anything about it, it was part of his wedding gift from me! Needless to say he was quite surprised when the videographer turned up to film his cricket match on the morning of the wedding! After trawling through many websites and blogs I found Nick and Maria Bentley of Studio 1208. They are based in the north of England so we chatted via email and on the phone so they could get a sense of what we were like as a couple and what direction they would go with the film. Nick and Maria are two of the most incredible people I have ever met – funny, cool and so talented. The film they created for us is not only so, so beautiful but is produced like a Hollywood movie! It’s amazing to have a keepsake of our wedding day and we get to see all the details we wouldn’t have had the chance to see otherwise. We were completely lost for words.
Ribbon and String
My amazing mum made our wedding cake. We had 3 layers, each different flavours – raspberry sponge, chocolate and fruit cake. She decorated it herself with fresh hydrangeas, lace ribbon and strings of pearls to tie in with my dress. It was delicious!
Because we had guests travelling over from all over the world we wanted to entertain them with great music and lots of fun things to do. For music we had a string quartet that played before the ceremony and during our afternoon tea sit-down meal, which provided such a lovely atmosphere. I always wanted to walk down the aisle to Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ and I got to do it with the very talented Charlie Green signing. Charlie then sang Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ as we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife! She then sang throughout the afternoon, including a 1940’s set and a group sing-along on the lawn outside the hall with all our guests. It was magical! For the evening we hired a DJ who played some great tunes in the barn.
For our guest book, we had a Polaroid camera and asked people to take a funny picture of themselves, glue it in our book and write us a message. Some of the pictures were so creative and very funny!
And no English summer afternoon would be complete without croquet, so we hired a croquet set from the local Downham Market club, which our guests loved! In the early evening we had a vintage ice cream bicycle serving the most delicious ice cream ever! We also hired a caricaturist but unfortunately his car broke down en route so he never made it!
And of course, our guests could enjoy the breath-taking grounds at Narborough Hall and have a go on the rowing boat on the lake.
Lets Stay Together
Our first dance was Al Green’s ‘Lets Stay Together’. The words of the song felt very fitting for us and we wanted something we could really dance to! We decided to go all out and do a whole routine so David and I spent quite a lot of time on YouTube researching and working out our moves. We ended up only practicing 3 times before the wedding but surprisingly it went really well!
Our favours were a real family affair! Again, I wanted to keep the very English theme so my uncle and aunt made our secret family recipe of ‘Scrumptious Strawberry Jam’ and ‘Whisky Marmalade’. My mum bought the jam jars online and made the covers whilst Sam, my good friend who also happens to be a creative director (lucky me!) designed the labels. They went down a treat and some of our guests have tried to put in orders for more!
Elegant And Sophisticated
The general décor and theme for the day was an elegant, sophisticated English garden party – think Pimms on the lawn, croquet and afternoon tea! We also wanted a tennis theme throughout as both David and I are avid tennis fans so we named our tables after our favourite tennis players and sourced some vintage tennis racquets as decoration. Because the venue was so big, at first it was quite daunting to see how we could pull everything together but I was very lucky to have some amazing help. Being a creative director, Sam, was fantastic at designing all our stationery with a Union Jack and silver fern (for New Zealand) bunting theme. She made everything from our Order of Service to cocktail menus to personalised sweetie bags! My mum designed not only the bridesmaid dresses, but also the most fabulous table plan using lots of different photo frames and fixing them onto a huge framed board. The gorgeous Kelly at La Belle Amour provided us with the most beautiful hand made lace bunting for the marquee, along with the silver candelabras, vintage candle votives and antique rose bowls. We even ordered two heart trees to stand behind the top table!
For the barn area in the evening, we went for a rustic-chic look. We decorated the barn with ivy, willow branches, vintage tennis racquets, pictures of David and I from childhood right through to today, lots of fairy lights and silk lanterns. We used an old fashioned Welsh dresser in the barn as our sweet treats corner! We sourced vintage glass jars and decorated with lace and ribbon and mum even made a “Sweet Treats’ bunting. The sweets included some New Zealand favourites, Pinky and Buzz bars to name just a few!
Then outside the barn we hung fairy lights around the swimming pool and lit the fire pit to create a romantic but fun atmosphere!
Although this sounds a little cliché, what made out wedding unique was marrying David. Seeing him as I walked down the aisle with my dad is something I will never forget. It was, and probably always will be, the most special thing I will ever experience. Our wedding was also very ‘us’. It was both an expression of who we are as a couple but also of the love that we have for each other. The other thing that made our wedding so unique was the people. Having our friends and family all together in one place to celebrate David and I was just the most incredible feeling ever. My sister even wrote us a special poem called ‘Let Our Love be an Enigma’ which made the both of us cry during the ceremony! The main piece of advice I would give brides to be is relax, take it all in and cherish every moment. It is a memory that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Rebecca is from Norfolk originally and David is a Kiwi so they wanted to provide their guests with a quintessential English manor wedding… a la Downton Abbey. Well, I certainly think they succeeded.
The dress is perfect on Rebecca, David is “James Bonding” it up to the max and the maids and groomsmen all look stunningly turned out. I also love the nod to english sporting heritage, right down to the table names.
Chloe and Graham’s wedding is a D.I.Y Backgarden affair with some undeniably beautiful and well thought out touches.
Chloe’s dress is understated and simply perfect, the individual maids dresses are classy and, combined with the florals, provide the perfect balance between ‘elegant occasion’ and ‘PARTY TIME’.
I don’t want to give too much away before I hand you gorgeous lot over to Chloe for all the details… but I have to mention the poppy field. What a perfect backdrop for a set of couples shots that are big on love and big on drama.
My dress was the Agapan, by Delphine Manivet. My friends all said it was very “me” and I probably decided it was the one I wanted when I first saw it online. I did however have a few doubts leading up to the wedding as I only had a few, quite rushed, dress appointments and had only tried the Agapan once. We live in Singapore but I wanted to get the dress from the UK so I made a flying visit in January and then came back to Singapore to mull it all over.
My first fitting wasn’t until 2 weeks before the wedding so it was a bit nerve-wracking but I love it and am so glad I went with my gut feeling. I am hoping I can wear it again (although of course not to be married again!)
A Last Minute Decision
My veil was a last minute addition (5 minutes before leaving the house) and was borrowed from a family friend. I wasn’t going to wear one but when I tried one on in my final dress fitting, it just made me feel so much more like a bride. However I didn’t really want to spend so much money on the one from the shop – luckily, my mum mentioned it to a friend who happened to have one very similar.
I didn’t have time to try it with the dress before the actual day so it was a very last minute decision to actually wear it. I also had flowers in my hair – they had been a circlet for my sister but my hairdresser cut it in half… about 10 minutes before I left the house, just before the veil went on.
For jewellery I kept it simple with a Monica Vinader bracelet (I bought the same one for each of my bridesmaids) and my small diamond earrings that G bought me for Christmas a couple of years ago.
Skyscrapers With A Platform
My shoes were called Bridgette and were from Harriet Wilde. They were fab and went really well with the dress. I was a bit nervous as they were very high (and I don’t normally wear heels) but they were also very comfortable – I danced all night in them.
A Natural Look
Hair and make-up was done by the lovely Daniel Palmer and his assistant Kim. I wanted to keep it fairly natural but left the rest in his capable hands.
White Cream And Green
For flowers we stuck to whites/creams and green. The bouquets and button holes were white roses with a bit of baby’s breath and ivy. The lovely Harriet from the Brighton Flower Company prepared all the bouquets, buttonholes and the circlets for the little flower-girls. We bought the flowers for the church ourselves, from a wholesaler in Brighton and some lovely local ladies arranged them in the Church and they were just perfect. Again, we used roses, baby’s breath, and lots of green.
In the marquee we used flowers and plants from the garden and lavendar from my mum’s garden – we put them in recycled glass jars with twine and raffia bows. My best friend and her mum came round the afternoon before and they sorted it most of the flowers out whilst I was getting my nails done! They even did some amazing arrangements around the marquee poles. It looked so beautiful and I was so surprised and grateful when I popped back into the marquee later that evening.
The groomsmen all wore navy blue suits and ties to compliment the bridesmaids dresses – which were a sort of goldy/champagne colour. Two of the bridesmaids dresses and the flower girls dresses were designed and made by my amazing mum.
G had a three piece suit made here in Singapore. It is beautiful – a great fit and an amazing deep navy. The lining is a lovely bluey/grey colour – to match his eyes.
Imaginative, Relaxed And Beautiful
We found Lisa Devlin after trawling the internet for local photographers. We loved her shots and the vibe of her website and got in contact straight away. Luckily she was available! Lisa and her assistant Liz were amazing on the day – great fun and very calming and unobtrusive. The shots she took are fab – imaginative, relaxed and beautiful – and we have an amazing set of photos to remember the day by.
A Sweet Alternative
We had a cake of different cheeses, provided by our fantastic caterers, Circa Events. I’ve always thought a sweet cake is a bit of a waste as not many people actually want cake after supper. It worked well for us as once the cheese was cut, it was laid out for the evening buffet.
We were lucky enough to have the amazing Alison David sing for us. She is a friend of one of the groomsmen and she was in the garden when everyone arrived, singing happy, soulful tunes whilst everyone had drinks. Arriving at the garden, to see all our friends and family, with the sun shining and Alison’s beautiful voice floating through the trees was magic. She then sung our first dance as well as some disco classics with our DJ, Mitch Matthews. Mitch was brilliant. He understood what we wanted straight away and the dance floor was full all night.
The First Dance
We chose “Loving You” by Minnie Ripperton, sung by Alison David. We didn’t really have a song that was significant to us AND suitable for a first dance. So we thought about the style of music we liked and the vibe we wanted and after listening to Loving You a few times, decided it was perfect.
Overgrown And Natural
The garden was the perfect natural decor. Dad and my step-mum did a great job of clearing out the “orchard” area which is lovely and wild, but we left it a little over-grown and very natural. We had strings of bulbs through the trees and lots of candles. The marquee was also a really lovely shape – we got it from Pukkah Tents Inside the marquee we kept it simple and a little rustic and carried on the theme of our invitations which were cream and slate grey with a birdcage motif, drawn by a family friend (Hester at Wedding In A Teacup did a great job of printing them for us).
So there were a few birdcages around and we had silver and glass tea light holders and my best friend and I made all the name cards from luggage tags, tied to a sprig of rosemary from the garden with some twine – they smelt amazing. My dad did a great job with the signs – he painted all of them on some old wood that he had been keeping. One thing we did splash out on though was a big vintage disco ball which we hung right over our table (we couldn’t get it over the dance floor but it was great where it was). I was qute sure I wanted one but it ended up being a bit of a hassle – Mitch found it and hired it for us and G ran around the day before buying extra extension leads – but I’m so glad we made the effort to get it set-up.
A Brilliant Party
We just wanted it to be a brilliant party, and it was. Good food, drinks, good music and all the people that are important to us. We kept most things fairly relaxed (or tried to – it is hard when there are so many things to think about!). Everyone told me that the day itself would fly by and it’s true, it did, and a lot of it is a blur. You want it to slow down but you just have to go with it and enjoy every single minute. Don’t rush anything – it goes fast enough.
My dress was by Ugo Zaldi and was from Blackburn Bridal Couture in Blackheath, London. When my attentions turned to “the dress” I found I had some really clear thoughts of what I would like which I didn’t expect – I really wanted to get married in a Roland Mouret/Victoria Beckham style shift dress. I love shift dresses and rarely wear anything full length (when I do I feel really uncomfortable and awkward) However I tried on a few non-wedding designer dresses and they just didn’t give the wow factor I thought I needed for the big day. So I abandoned that idea and threw myself into a traditional wedding dress search.
I tried on lots of dresses – some really beautiful ones but I always felt like the dress was wearing me rather than the other way round. I tried vintage 50s dresses which were short and fun to wear but made me feel “cute” rather than knockout. I then saw a modern short dress in a magazine and travelled down to Blackheath to find it – when I got there I found they only had it in a size 6 and it was backless (not good with my curves) but then Mandy from Blackburn Bridal whipped out a dress that was similar – BUT SO MUCH MORE AMAZING!
I loved it the minute I saw it on the hanger. I couldn’t believe it – it was exactly what I had imagined – a shift dress but with bling and sparkle to make it bridal. The shoulders were covered in pearls and sequins and quite structured in a Balmain style. I had got to that point in the wedding dress search when you wondered if anyone really did find “the one” or just got fed up trying on dresses that they went with the nicest option. It was unbelievable how the minute the dress was zipped up I was instantly transported to the feelings and emotions I would feel on the day – I could imagine walking into the town hall and how that would feel. “The One” really did exist!!
I had a hair band from Fenwick – I literally just popped in one day and picked it up. It was very simple with silver beading that matched the details on my dress. I thought I wanted a bird-cage veil (they look so cute) but they looked a bit bonkers on me. My necklace was a black pearl from Azendi. My bridesmaid Tash had a white pearl from Azendi – until the day itself we weren’t sure who was going to wear which! I wore my Grandmother’s three diamond engagement ring that my mum kindly lent to me – that was my something borrowed.
A Bit Of Lift
I got a bit stuck with shoes – as they were going to be on show it felt like an important choice. Also I’m a bit tall so didn’t want massive heels but I wanted a bit of lift. Me and Andrew are similar height (pah! Who am I kidding, I’m taller!) I found Harriet Wilde shoes online – her studio was literally round the corner from my house and I had a couple of lovely visits to get the shoes just right. I had her “Mable” shoe (peep toe ivory mid heel) customised with some pearl and blue stones added on.
A Calming Infulence
My hairdresser Rachel Warby has cut my hair for a decade and there was no contest when it came to who would do my hair on the day. Rachel is a very calming, wise influence in my life and I knew she would help make the morning as relaxed as it could be! Me and my bridesmaid Tash had a couple of hair trials with Rachel – to be honest the big curls were her idea and I thought they looked great. I did my makeup myself – me and Tash did have a Bobbi Brown session before the day and I used some of that with my own makeup. As it got closer to leaving on the morning and I was more shaky and nervous, Rachel took over the makeup and finished it off for me.
Blue And Orange
My florist was Pasi at Flor Unikon – but just as important was my auntie Anita who project managed all the flowers and decorations for me. I’ve never been that into flowers or design and was a bit baffled where to start – my aunt has a lovely eye for beautiful things and has done some flower arranging in the past so was ideal. She would take vague ideas from me and make them happen (and also make stuff happen that I had never even thought about!)
The colours for the wedding had been picked early on and were blue and yellow – we had a beautiful bird motif designed by my talented graphic designer friend Karen. When it came to flowers – Pasi suggested that blue and orange were better so we went with that for all the table centres, stands and room displays.
All the arrangements were beautiful but the highlight for me was probably the spiral staircase which had autumn leaves, candles and Chinese lanterns sprinkled up the side. It looked stunning. Andrew had (surprisingly and unusually) pointed out some calla lilies and said he liked them so I was keen to incorporate them in some way. Again Pasi and Anita came up with some great ideas – my bouquet was made with calla lilies as was Andrew’s buttonhole.
I had two bridesmaids – Tash my best friend and Ffion, Andrew’s 11 year old niece. I was keen they both had dresses they loved and wanted to avoid being too bridezilla about their outfits. Tash had a blue shift dress from Coast with embellished shoulders that was a similar shape to my dress. Ffion also had a dress from Coast but hers was more floaty. She also had a little sequin bolero. Tash – ever frugal – had some shoes already that went with the dress – so we just got her a bag that matched and a few bits for her hair. Ffion had some lovely silver ballet flats. I bought both bridesmaids pearl jewellery as thank you presents.
For our boys – Andrew bought everyone a beautiful floral silk tie from Marc Wallace that was various shades of blue, yellow, green and red. It looked lovely on them and really tied the look together. Otherwise we just asked them to wear lounge suits in grey or blue with a white shirt – they all looked very handsome.
A Suit That Fits
Andrew’s suit was from A Suit That Fits and was amazing – grey pinstripe with a waistcoat with a lovely paisley pattern on the back. Paul Smith shoes completed the very handsome look. I had no involvement at all with what he was wearing – it was a complete (and very wonderful) surprise on the day.
That moment when you look into the room before you start the walk up the aisle is really incredible – and lived up to all my expectations. I heard the opening bars of Hoppipola by Sigur Ros, looked at my Dad, saw the sun streaming through the windows onto all our friends and family in the town hall and then him (my almost husband!) – gorgeous, handsome, happy (fit to burst). I look back and wonder how my brain managed to function and keep me walking…
Sensitive And Unobtrusive
Our events manager at Old Finsbury Town Hall pointed us in the direction of Clair Estelle. Enlisting Clair’s help was probably the most important and best decision we made throughout the entire wedding planning process. I cannot speak highly enough of her. She was not just a photographer, but a cheerleader, friend, supporter, organiser and extra bridesmaid and usher all in one. Having her there on the day was like having a super-fun guest who had known us for years following us all day.
Like many couples I would guess – we were trying to reduce the time we’d be off having photos done after the ceremony – and were sure we’d be keen to get back to our party. We both found that the photo session with Clair immediately after the ceremony was one of our highlights of the day. Clair was so sensitive and unobtrusive it felt like really special time together just the two of us as husband and wife. Clair was really supportive to me while we were getting ready and along with my amazing mum, bridesmaids and hairdresser, kept me calm and balanced all morning.
Clair’s whole approach is so refreshing compared to other photographers we met – she wants to understand as much as she can about you both and your relationship and this approach informs everything that she does. The photos of the day are beautiful as I’m sure you can see and we are so pleased we picked her.
My talented friends and family stepped in again on the cake – Ann, who lives over the road from my parents, is an expert cake maker and made us a beautiful cake. We both love my mum’s Christmas cake and look forward to it all year – so Ann took the recipe from my mum, made the cake and decorated it with sugar flowers in yellow and blue and strings of pearls to go with my dress. It was so delicious all three layers went on the night!
Hang The DJ
Andrew is very easy going and relaxed but his one strict requirement was no dj. We negotiated a playlist between us that had just about the right mix of Beyonce, obscure Welsh bands and everything in between… It seemed to be well received and the dance floor was full all night. Bacon rolls at 10pm seemed to re-energise the dancers! Musical highlights include a conga-style procession to Love Train that went the length of the Great Hall and enthusiastic participation to James’ Sit Down led by one of my new sister-in-laws.
A Box Of Promises
Andrew is hugely romantic and my birthday present last year was a box of promises that included me having the choice of our first dance song. We had discussed it a number of times without much joy – all the songs that meant something to us had something wrong with the lyrics or were impossible to dance to.
For Andrew to like it, it had to be a little obscure. In the end I kept coming back to one of my Dad’s favourite songs – The Luckiest by Ben Folds. The lyrics are beautiful, really meaningful and tied in nicely with one of our wedding readings, called “The Beauty of Love, by Anon”. There’s not much of a beat to it and I am the world’s worst dancer so we just had a bit of a chat, smooch and shuffle.
Each To Their Own
We didn’t have favours! I’m very much in the “Waste of time and money!!” camp… We’d got them dinner and free drink all day… What more did they want??!!! Each to their own though of course…
Above And Beyond
My aunt and my mum really ran with ideas for decorating the venue above and beyond the flowers. The loos were slightly “municipal” so my mum transformed them into a place of sanctuary with flowers, soaps, lotions, bird decorations, hand towels and so on. They were so lovely – my sister-in-law said they were her favourite bit of the day!
My aunt took my vague idea that a wish tree might be nice and transformed it into reality – by sending her partner into the woods to chop down a tree and spray painting it gold, to creating the brilliant idea of place settings that doubled as messages to leave on the tree. She made several table plans – one based on an alphabetical list of names (ingenious – many people commented how much easier it was to find their place that way!) and a more traditional one made up of vintage frames on a board covered with blue and gold fabric.
She created table runners with the material and covered 120 pipe cleaners with the same material to wrap around napkins and attach the name tags. She travelled to most TK Maxx stores in the south east of England in search of blue and gold vases. In short she was unbelievable.
A Lot To Worry About
The Planning was a bit a stressful if I’m honest… I feel terrible admitting that – it’s supposed to be the most exciting time of your life! I tried to accept myself and my reaction to it all – I am a worrier and with a wedding there’s lots of stuff you can worry about! I found it really helpful to get my friends and family involved in areas I had less opinions on so I didn’t have to add to my long list of stuff to do.
My bridesmaid Tash was fantastic and arranged lots of treats and timeouts for me in the run up to the day. It might be worth making one of your bridesmaids responsible for stuff like that in the run up if you are a worrier. Otherwise, just make sure you take time out and chill as much as you can. The day before the wedding I stayed out of all the organising – carting stuff to the venue, checking on various things etc. There are so many people around that were happy to help and I knew it would just make me worry – so I didn’t do it.
Everyone does have opinions on what you should do – it is your day but it’s very easy to be swayed – particularly by people whose opinions you respect. After the wedding my parents (who occasionally did have different ideas to us) said the day was amazing and they wouldn’t have changed a thing. It can be hard but try and remember those people with strong views now will have a fun and amazing day if you follow your heart and make the day work for you and your husband.
With our suppliers we asked ourselves: did we like them and have a connection with them? For us that worked amazingly well. Every single one of them played a blinder – and I would say – if you don’t get a good feeling from them, consider using someone else.
This may be obvious but both of us were blown away by the feeling of love and warmth on the day. Endless staring at lists and spreadsheets, invoices and plans did not prepare us for that. It’s hard to describe but you really are wrapped up in a bubble of love and happiness that we certainly had never felt before.
My Dad gave me a card on the morning of the wedding that said this would be the greatest day of my life so far – but not the greatest ever – and I would go on to have even bigger and better days in future. I found that reassuring and helpful in terms of not getting too worked up about the day and how it went and also that feeling of post-wedding blues you hear about. We had a great day, it was awesome but we’ll go on to do loads more cool stuff in future. I liked that message and it really helped me put things in perspective.
Yay! I have been waiting for a Ben Folds song to be used as a fisrt dance for about a zillion years – well done Nicola and Andrew, great choice!
It is probably reassuring for a lot of you to hear that Nicola found the wedding planning process to be very stressful. It is oh so true though that a problem shared is indeed a problem halved. So, just as Nicola suggests, if you can enlist the help and advice of friends and family as early in the planning stages as possible then you’ll start to find the whole experience much more manageable.