‘Tis the season to be jolly, and this candlelit Christmas wedding at Gray’s Inn London is certainly full of joy.
Cara & Huw fully embraced the festive season with seasonal wreaths and Christmas carols, and smiled the whole time making John Barwood Photography‘s job a delight. It helped that he knew most of the family, having already captured Cara’s sister Lorn’s wedding, that RMW were lucky enough to feature too.
So if you want to feel all warm and cosy inside, definitely take a moment to savour this beautiful Winter wedding.
I’ve actually been to Stanwell House Hotel lots of times before as it does a great lunch and afternoon tea, but I never even realised they did weddings. It has a beautiful conservatory in the middle which is where we had the ceremony. Even on the greyist of days it’s light and bright, and it was the closest we could get to an outdoor wedding without having to run the risk of getting wet if it rained. It also didn’t have any awful, typical gold and red type hotel carpets – which was my one rule when trying to select a venue!
My dress was from San Patrick and I bought it from Brides of Southampton. I was very lucky and found it during my first visit to a bridal shop. I went with my mum, my sister (maid of honour), my mother in law and my sister in law (who was also a bridesmaid). I knew I wanted something classic, slim fitting and lacy, but when I got there I found that a lot of the dresses I liked were quite out of my budget. After trying on a few dresses and not really liking any of them, the sale assistant suddenly realised that there was a dress that she thought might be perfect. She took ages getting it, and when she brought it into my changing room, I wasn’t really too keen. It was a creamy/ivory silk dress with a layer of lace on top. I thought it was a little too far down the cream colour scale for me, but I tried it on anyway. However…as soon as I saw myself in the mirror I knew it was ‘the one’.
Although it was about five sizes too big, I could tell it would fit beautifully. It was classic and elegant, yet still showed off my figure nicely (which I had been working hard for down the gym!). As soon as I came out and showed my family, I got confirmation that it was ‘the one’ because they all started crying!! And the best bit… it was on sale, reduced from £1050 to £400. I paid for it there and then!
Also, quick cleaning tip; I was told that all professional cleaners do it stick it in a duvet cover and put it in the washing machine under the ‘delicate’ cycle. So that’s exactly what I (nervously) did. My dress was filthy (it even had some gum stuck in the lace), but three delicate cycles later it’s spotless. That’s £140 saved.
The Full Effect
I always wanted to wear a veil for my wedding. I loved the fact that wearing a veil, people would see a hazy image of my face as I was walking down the aisle, but my husband-to-be would be the first person to see me properly as I removed the veil when I got to the top. I wanted him to get the full effect first! I didn’t realised how hard it would be to pick a veil though. It was literally my most stressful decision of the whole wedding process! You have to pick the colour, the length, the width, one or two tier, the gathering, the edging and what embellishments you might want and in what arrangement! In the end I opted for a nice simple floor length, two tiered ivory veil which I thought would compliment my dress the most.
I loved my jewellery. I bought it from Esty seller Sarah Walsh from somethingjeweled in Canada. I love browsing on Etsy and spent many an hour on it whilst wedding planning. I got a matching bracelet, necklace and earring set of classic ivory pearls with glamorous Swarovski rhinestone pavé accents!
I’m not actually a big shoe person. I was told from a couple of married friends that BHS do wedding shoes which are actually really comfortable. So I went for a simple pair of ivory kitten heels. And they were super comfortable… although they did get kicked off at about 11pm. The hotel found them the next morning – suffice to say they didn’t stay ivory – I’ve never seen such filthy shoes from just one wear!!
One of my sister’s best friends is a professional make-up artist, so she very kindly offered to do my make up on the day. I normally go for quite a light, natural look with my make-up, so Charlee kept this in mind, giving me a really pretty, English rose style look, which I loved.
I did have a bit of drama with my hair. About a month before the wedding the hair stylist I’d chosen contacted me to say her father had passed away and she wasn’t able to do my hair, which is completely understandable. So I had to find someone else at the last minute. My photographer recommended Annabel Hornsby who was a local hair stylist, who luckily was available. I wear my hair down pretty much all the time, so I knew I wanted to keep it like this on the day, but added some soft waves to it and pinned a little bit back so my veil had something to cling onto. The curls didn’t stay in all day which was a shame, but it’s not the end of the world.
I absolutely LOVED my flowers! Our whole yellow colour scheme was based upon the little round yellow ‘billy ball’ (or Craspedia) flowers that we found whilst searching online for wedding ideas. They’re such fantastic, unusual little flowers we knew we wanted to use them. So we took these as a base and built the whole wedding scheme around them.
My bouquet was a pretty and informal hand-tied bouquet in whites and yellows of roses, ranunculus, craspedia, freesia, lissianthus, astilbe and chamomile. My bridesmaids had a more simple, organic looking bouquet made mainly from chamomile and craspedia. Our table centres were made from small wooden window boxes, painted white and filled with chamomile, craspedia and a weird little leaf plant which we were told was called ‘rabbits ears’ (because they were so soft and fluffy and a similar shape!). Our florist was Tash from Natasha Thomas Flowers and she did such a brilliant job. She was the only florist we met with, but we liked her straight away and had full faith that she had understood what we wanted.
Nothing Tooo Fussy
Our bridesmaid dresses were from Coast. I knew I didn’t want a proper ‘bridesmaid’ type dress. I really wanted the three girls (my best friend, sister and sister-in-law) to just wear really pretty, knee length dresses. I didn’t want anything shiny, unflattering or too fussy. We did have a bit of trouble finding them (since it was the middle of winter when we started looking), but as soon as we saw the Coast dresses we knew they were the ones. They all looked amazing in them, which is quite something because not everyone (myself included) can pull off yellow! We teamed them up with some fantastic gold glittery heels from Lipsy.
The Best Man, Usher and my Dad all wore the same suit as Tom. A gorgeous grey set of tails from Cameron Ross. Tom spent the week before the wedding (nothing like leaving it to the last minute!!) hunting down some yellow cravats and handkerchiefs which would match the pale, primrose yellow of the bridesmaid dresses. Luckily he found some in our local Moss Bros store.
Yellow And white
We did initially think about getting Tom a fitted suit for the day, as he thought tails might be a bit too stuffy and formal. But once he started looking he realised that a lot of tails are now so well made they don’t have to swamp you! His suit was really lovely – it had a really nice texture/grain to it, and all the boys looked so handsome. I hadn’t seen it before the big day as I wanted it to be a surprise. The yellow and white shirt really went well with the grey. He looked gorgeous.
Relaxed And Intimate
We found our photographer – Lisa Dawn, whilst searching for wedding venues online. I saw Stanwell House Hotel did weddings, but they didn’t really have a lot of images of their weddings on their website. So I did a quick Google search and found a wedding there that Lisa had photographed the previous year. Her photos of that wedding were actually what made us pick that venue. She really captured the relaxed, intimate, sunny feel that we were after from a venue. So we knew she’d do a great job if we had our wedding there. We did meet up with them first – they were the only photographers we met with. Her and her husband Scott are a really lovely couple. They were a real help in the lead up to the wedding day, and during the day were able to capture all the key moments without being intrusive. I’m so glad we went with them as our photos have turned out perfectly! I can’t stop looking at them!
As soon as I started researching weddings online (RMW was bookmarked very early on and I spent hours and hours looking through all the past weddings), I realised that I wanted a cake and sweet table rather than a traditional tiered wedding cake. So I went about sourcing cake stands and glass jars – all in white ideally. I made a large batch of yellow macaroons, but my wonderful sister-in-law made the other cakes and cup cakes (which tasted just as amazing as they looked). I also went to Makro and stocked up on white bon-bons, fried egg and banana sweets (the only ones I could find that matched my yellow and white colour scheme!).
Upbeat And Happy
We had a friend of Tom’s play the ukulele as our guests arrived, during the ceremony and during the reception drinks. We both love the upbeat, happy sound of a uke and it matched the vibe of what we wanted from our day. I walked down the aisle to Here Comes The Sun which is a song we both love and I can’t help but beam every time I hear it now. Especially since our wedding day was the first sunny day we’d had in about a month!
For the evening entertainment we found a band online called Beats Working. We knew we wanted a band rather than a DJ, and wanted a group that would cover the kind of music we liked, plus tracks that would get people dancing. Beats Working had a good website and we felt that they matched what we were after. We hadn’t seen them perform, nor were they recommended, so it was a bit of a leap of faith booking them. But they were great. The dance floor was packed all night long, and they even played our first dance live which was a lovely touch.
Elvis Has Left The Building
Tom and I didn’t already have a song which was special to us, so this took a bit of time to pick. In the end we just went through the list of songs the band already had on their website and picked the first one we both agreed on!! Not very romantic, but it wasn’t really something that was an important part of the day for us. We went for The Wonder of You by Elvis, which was a lovely song and the band performed it beautifully (I admit I did have a tear or two half way through!).
Lucky In Love
We bought scratch cards as favours and placed them in clear envelopes with a shiny new penny and homemade stickers saying ‘Tom and Victoria, Lucky in Love’ on them. Our top table did quite well in terms of winnings – I actually won the most – £10! (which my sister-in-law actually stole from me… I must get that back from her!!).
A Photo Guest Book
I spent hours and hours sewing metres and metres of yellow and white bunting. It was such hard work, but it was so worth it. We hung it from the beams in the conservatory and it really made the room look even more beautiful.
We also had about 80 long burning tealights in glass voltives which I printed ‘Mr & Mrs Chapman, 19th May 2012’ onto clear stickers and stuck them on. We had them on the tables during the wedding breakfast then moved some into the conservatory in the evening, which along with some fairy lights (bought from the local pound shop that morning) looked fantastic.
Our tables were named after some of the many nicknames Tom has for me. Some of them were better than others – the people on the Beautiful Princess Victoria table faired better than the people on the Butt-Munch table!!
We also bought a couple of Polaroid style cameras and asked everyone to take a photo of themselves and stick it in our guest book along with a little message. We had asked people to do this early on before the got too inebriated… but some of the messages and photos we have towards the end of the book are hilarious!!
A Good Feeling
Go with your gut. We only met with one venue, one photographer and one florist (and didn’t even meet with any bands, we just found one online). We liked them all so what’s the point in wasting time seeing more. If you get a good feeling just go with it.
I would also tell brides to be as organised as possible. I had everything planning on spreadsheets and did as much as I could in advance. You never know what’s round the corner, so it pays to be organised. The week before the wedding was actually the worse of my life (I’m honestly not being dramatic!). My dad got a chest infection which took a turn for the worse and on the Wednesday (three days before the big day) was rushed into hospital. After spending some time with him on Thursday morning I took my Mum out for lunch… where she proceeded to pass out cold (just what I needed!!). An ambulance was called and eventually gave her the all clear, but it was still extremely stressful and worrying.
My Dad ended up staying in hospital for two weeks. But the doctors at Southampton General were fantastic. We were told on the day before that he could go to the wedding as long as we got him back at a decent time. So my brother picked him up at 1pm and brought him to the hotel where he got changed into his tails. We weren’t even sure if he’d have the strength to walk me down the aisle, but I think the adrenaline and joy worked its magic, and although it was slow, wobbly and rather tearful, he walked me all the way up the aisle. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. My wonderful brother then took him back to hospital after the food, but before the speeches. So I didn’t get my Father of the Bride speech… but does that matter? Not one bit. The thing I’ve realised about wedding is that it’s not the traditions you follow or the big white dress that makes it special, it’s looking out and enjoying the fact that every face you see is someone you love and care about. And they’re all there to celebrate you and your husband making these very special promises to each other. I felt like I was in such a bubble all day long – if there were any problems or issues, I certainly didn’t notice them. I’ve never felt so special and so happy in all my life. I wish every day could be my wedding day. From start to finish I had such a great time.
So my two bits of advice are:
1. the more organised you are, the less likely things are to go wrong, and
2. if they do go wrong, don’t worry about it. As long as your fiancé is standing there at the top of the aisle (with the registrar!), then that’s all that matters.
Really loving the yellow colour scheme, so fresh and bright. A ray of sunshine to perk up this dreary October.
Rock My Wedding readers Victoria and Tom did a great job planning and executing their big day, and it just goes to show that your gut feelings can often be a reliable guide in choosing what is right for you.