‘You only get one wedding.’ Wise words from today’s Bride Hannah. And with that in mind, you absolutely MUST make sure that you have whatever your heart desires for that one special day.
If that means a giant Princess dress then do it, do it, do it! Hannah did – and I’m so glad. Her Princess gown is stunning and she looks truly Bridal – so radiant and beautiful.
I love her choice of floral Ted Baker bridesmaids dresses too, with the gorgeous flowers and the boys in blue – they add just the right amount of co-ordination to pull the wedding together perfectly without it looking over done.
A Taste Of Home
Hannah The Bride: Russ and I live in London, where we met, and as much as it’s my home I still long for the hot outdoor summers I had growing up in the American Southwest. While trawling through an American wedding blog I stumbled across the perfect venue: stunning walled gardens, an orangery (really the old swimming pool!) and the gorgeous light Vine Room. Grumping about it being in the wrong country I scrolled further and realised Northbrook Park was near Farnham.
A week later we went out to see it and, having finished the tour I booked a date before turning sheepishly to Russ and adding “and then we can discuss it and get back to you. . .” Luckily my enthusiasm and the thought of not having to visit any more venues convinced him!
Because you can’t marry outdoors in England, the next best bet was to bring the outdoors in. We married with sun streaming through the windows and dined surrounded by vines with the French doors thrown open to let in the warm lavender and rosemary scented breezes from the garden.
Just As I Imagined
I knew I wanted an updo and came across the perfect partly plaited style on these ex-polka dot pages! I went to my sister-in-law’s hairdresser for a trial where we chatted as her dogs wandered around. She had glanced at the photos and started twiddling while we talked. Moment later my hair was exactly what I’m imagined! On the day it was even better and my three maids looked marvellous too.
A Melon Scented Mess
As with so many brides, I imagined an idealised, perfected me ready to waltz down the aisle like a fashion plate, but after a few makeup trials I felt more like a clown than a model. After one trial when I came home smelling of melon and Russ tactfully tried to tell me that I looked horrendous, I gave up. No to the serums and bronzers and blushers and powders!
My usual look is a bare face with a bit of eyeliner so I just amplified that with Mac shadows and some YouTube help courtesy of Tanya Burr. I’m a huge fan of scent but didn’t want something different for the day as I wouldn’t feel like me so wore my staple Chanel Chance.
My wedding product tip is Bobbi Brown smudgeproof mascara – I promise you can cry all day and it won’t budge!
You Only Get One Wedding
I bought my Ellis Bridal dress in the Confetti And Lace boutique in Farnham; the shop assistants were so incredibly friendly, patient and helpful. I initially went into the boutique because of a pair of peep toe Benjamin Adams heels in the window but once through the door I saw the dress I’d dreamed of.
Having tried on everything from a fishtail (more flattering than you’d think) to a prom length (with peacock blue shoes, perfect!) I eventually returned to the dress that I’d had in mind since age five. It took an ultimatum from my sister-in-law (decisions are not what I do best) and a sustaining glass of champers then we marched back into the shop.
You only get one wedding, so princess it was. I liked that, although the dress was enormous, it had quite understated decoration which helped to balance it out. Although I’m sure there was more than one giggle at tiny me (5’2”) in a gigantic poof of a dress it made me happy!
Peep Toe Perfection
After a year looking for just the right peacock blue shoes, I gave up. When I did, I walked right past a pair of Benjamin Adams peep toe satin heels with Swarowski crystal decoration, placed like old fashioned shoe buckles across the toe and snapped them up.
I knew from the start that I wanted a veil and was delighted when my friend Rachael offered to lend me hers. Her wedding had been the most glorious happy sunny day so I was sure her veil would bring me luck!
There are no exciting tales of family heirlooms when it comes to my jewellery – my earrings were a last minute buy from John Lewis and the bracelets, from Fenwicks, added a touch of sparkle while more importantly being small enough for my wrists! I also wore a garter, hand stitched with a blue satin ribbon by my little brother.
A Stylish Wedding Party
Russ and I have been to a lot of weddings and one thing we’ve learned is that you cannot have too many ushers! The men all looked gorgeous in Austin Reed morning suits in a summery slate blue with sky blue silk cravats and pocket squares. Having had my way with everything else, Russ chose the suits and colours for the men. We decided that complementary colours would be better than matching – men in pink and yellow might have been a bit much!
First and foremost we wanted frocks that would be comfortable to dance and eat in (the important bits!) and that they bridesmaids could genuinely wear again. The flowers were going to be pink and yellow so the dresses needed to tie in with that bright summery look. We all thought a pattern would be nice and Ted Baker saved the day.
The dress came with a tan leather belt which was too informal so on the morning of the wedding my talented brother sewed bows from satin ribbon (from John Lewis) then attached them to a length of ribbon which he sewed round the girls as a belt. It brought out the bright colours of the dress and made them like ‘bridesmaidy’. On the fashion note, I should point out that he also designed and made the morning suit that he wore!
We just wanted a wedding that looked summery and relaxed. Although we didn’t start with a theme we moved towards a bookish look as the wedding got closer. The tables were all named after couples from some of our favourite books. Narrowing the list was harder than we though and there was a bit of disagreement over whether romance that ended in tragedy was appropriate, still, you can’t leave out Cathy and Heathcliff!
Each table had a copy of the relevant novel on it but from their own tables guests were playing “guess the other books”. I stocked up on supplies in Paperchase and created a tableplan that looked like the contents page of a book with a ribbon bookmarker down the centre. As a final bookish note we found an old typewriter in our local Oxfam the weekend before the wedding and set it out for people to type us a note on.
Rosemary For Remembrance
I cannot speak highly enough of Hazel at Eden Blooms and her wonderful team who work from the sweetest little shop in Farnham. She put together the most beautiful bright bouquets and gave me a hug of encouragement when she dropped them off. The antique roses were the best replacement for peonies which were out of season by the time of the wedding.
My bouquet was a riot of pinks and yellows but we decided to have similar flowers in all white for the girls so as not to clash with their dresses. My sister (one of my bridesmaids) and I also had a sprig of rosemary in our bouquets as it’s the symbol of remembrance. I asked Hazel to include it in memory of my youngest sister who passed away two years before but who, otherwise, would have joined us as a bridesmaid on our big day.
Full Of Laughter
Hands down our favourite part of the day was the ceremony. The registrars were proper jokers and kept everyone relaxed and laughing. Russ and I wanted readings that were heartfelt but not twee and spent ages reading each other love poems while trying not to snort with laughter, or looking for half remembered passages from much loved novels only to find they sounded ridiculous out of context.
We eventually chose two reading. Russ chose a short story or poem by the beat writer Richard Brautigan called “I was trying to describe you to someone” which my brother read out. I chose a contemporary poem called the “Wedding Poem” by Sophie Hannah whose work I had come across by reading one of her poems posted on the wall of the Royal Festival Hall the summer before. Her poems are witty and modern but with such genuine heart. Russ’s childhood friend Jenny read it beautifully for us.
The music at our wedding was also designed to ensure everyone relaxed and had a good time. I walked down the aisle to the Beach Boys “You’re So Good To Me” because Russ thought that the opening lines “you’re kinda small and you’re such a doll” were hilarious given my, ahem, diminutive stature. All the seats had a copy of “God Only Knows”; one of our ushers led the guests in singing it while we signed the register.
The singing continued when we made our way into dinner as, having firmly said no to all West Ham references in our wedding, I then secretly plotted with one of our ushers to have all the guests sing the fans’ song “I’m forever blowing bubbles” to Russ as we came in to dinner – complete with little bottles of bubbles to blow! The sight of his happy face in a cloud of bubbles was one of my favourite moments.
Rainy Night In Soho
Many years ago at our best man and bridesmaid’s wedding we danced away to the sounds of the Fabulations and, several glasses of fizz into the night I turned to Russ and said, one day we’ll have them at our wedding. . . and so we did! And they were as superb as when we first heard them with the lead singer Marion getting everyone out on the floor despite the lure of the gorgeous summer evening outside.
Oddly the one song we relied on the iPod for was our first dance, the Pogues “Rainy Night in Soho”, in memory of the night so many years ago when we went for a drink after work and ended up talking for hours in a pub in Soho as the rain pelted down outside.
Taking Matters Into My Own Hands
Food is very important to us and a lot of our friends are veggies so we didn’t want the veggie main to be a huge let down (or risotto! So dull!). I didn’t get a great sense from the caterers that veggie was where their interests or skills lay so decided to take matters into my own hands.
I researched and tested recipes on Russ and eventually came up with a summery menu that would use seasonal ingredients, be easy to produce en masse and be tasty. On the day, my food showed up looking so unlike the recipe that I thought they’d swapped it for something else but the guests all said it was delicious and the meat eaters loved their lamb which was cooked to perfection.
We bought all our soft drinks, wine and fizz from Majestic who delivered it straight to the venue. As the caterers didn’t charge corkage, we were able to have nicer wines than we might have been able to afford had we bought them through a venue.
It All Got Scoffed
Cake is where my heart lies and all my friends are splendid and enthusiastic bakers so we decided to call in a few favours and replace desert with a cake table! The caterers provided berries and cream to accompany the spread. We had hazelnut cake with caffe latte cream, chocolate Guinness, rose and raspberry, Victoria sponge, carrot cake, pistachio, crunchy top lemon cake. . . it all got scoffed and there was none for the greedy bride to munch on the following morning with a cup of coffee.
A Very Practical Invite
Russ took on the invites – we wanted something that tied in with our relaxed summer theme, but on a tight budget. How many invites do you receive and think – that’s so pretty but what do I do with it after the wedding? Problem solved: have a tea towel invite! Practical, won’t get lost, can be used as a cape by small children…the benefits are endless.
We used the delightful Original Wedding Tea Towel Company and had a green and white garden scene. Each was bundled up with a little card with all the details of the day, tied with string and wrapped in brown packing paper. We included a stamped, addressed Penguin bookcover postcard as an RSVP and are planning to make an album with everyone’s replies. By leaving them blank it encouraged people to write us a proper message!
We spent ages poring over the postcards trying to decide which was best for whom and a few guests commented that they could tell we’d hand selected them.
Everyone Captured At Their Best
We looked at several photographers online before coming across a wedding that Amy of Especially Amy had shot on RMW. We both loved the casual feel of the photos and the way she captured everyone at their best – relaxed, smiling and oblivious to the camera. Even better, each wedding she shot looked individual rather than another set of the same thing with different faces.
Once we met her we were certain she was the perfect photographer for us. She was helpful and unruffled, blended in perfectly with the guests and had the ushers running to assist her in no time! Russ and I both have an uncanny ability to gurn when posed for a picture yet Amy turned out photo after perfect photo of us looking blissfully happy.
She caught all the little details of the day: Russ high fiving a baby, the first note of our ‘guest book’ and all the moments of people dancing and laughing that we might otherwise have missed. The combination or reportage and portraiture was just right; looking through our prints the day looked styled but also familiar. It all went by in such a blur that Russ joked I enjoyed the wedding more after I’d seen the photos than before! We still look through them regularly and grin.
Flip Flops At The Ready
My advice to brides? Make sure you’ve got a pair of spangly flip-flops with you; you will spend a lot more time on your feet at your own wedding than at other people’s. Even the best planned weddings have glitches so remember, that however your wedding goes, at the end of the day you’re married and that’s the important bit.
Bride’s Gown – Ellis at Confetti And Lace Farnham
Shoes – Benjamin Adams
Bridesmaids – Ted Baker
Groom and Groomsmen – Austin Reed
Florist – Hazel at Eden Blooms
Invites – The Original Wedding Tea Towel Company
Band – The Fabulations
Venue – Northbrook Park
Photography – Especially Amy
That cake table looks delicious – I can see why it got demolished!
The images are gorgeous too, excellent work again from Especially Amy.
And I’m sure you’ll agree – Hannah’s write up was a pleasure to read.
Lots of love,