We are about to go on a journey… A journey into a time gone by. Think picturesque rural english countryside with a slightly darker more gritty edge. It’s a little less “Pride and Prejudice” and a little more “Great Expectations”.
Eleanor and Stephen are both complete bookworms so a wedding with a theme that pulled inspiration from classic literature suited them perfectly. Let’s get this Dickensian glamour-fest on the road then.
Tumbledown Faded Elegance
We found Thrumpton Hall the same accidental, meant-to-be way that the rest of the wedding fell into place. We’d been looking at another venue, it was nice, but not very…us. We were with Stephen’s parents and I think we all felt we wanted a bit more adventure, so I suggested that Thrumpton wasn’t far away, perhaps we could have a drive past, just to nose. It really wasn’t what we expected, to get there we went through the most perfect and picturesque village and drove down a little track with beautiful brick arches over.
The tumbledown, faded elegance was just perfect, Stephen and I couldn’t help but want to get out and look at the little lake at the front of the house. At that moment a lady came out and asked if she could help us, we were mortified! We didn’t realise someone actually lived there! However, Miranda was wonderfully welcoming and interrupted her Sunday to show us round. As we went round the house, Stephen and I just fell in love, we wanted somewhere where we could have the venue for the whole day and feel a little like the lord and lady of the manor and, being bibliophiles, it absolutely HAD to have a library. Thrumpton was more than we could ever have hoped for.
I really wasn’t sure what hair and makeup I wanted for the wedding, and after one total disaster of a trial (all victory rolls and clown makeup, so inappropriate) I was more confused than ever. I was also running out of time. Luckily I found Elizabeth Peat, her current take on the vintage look gave me hope and at the trial she got straight to business and constructed a wonderful look for me when all I’d really given her was “Downton Abbey running through the woods”. I couldn’t recommend her more, during the morning getting ready she kept my maids and me to a strict running time, calming us down and making sure I was ok. An utter star! In addition to Liz’s wonderful work, I bought Chanel Illuminating Powder and a Chanel lipstick, the powder has an amazing shimmer!
I had a dress shopping trip that ended in disappointment, including one shop that wouldn’t let me try a single dress on (So curvy girls buy dresses by just looking at them do they? Hmmm.) After that I knew I had to go back to the drawing board, I hadn’t seen anything even approaching what I wanted. I didn’t want a “fat girl dress” all rouching and spangles and cover ups. I wanted something dramatic and old looking, something with acres of tulle and lace dripping off it, something stunning. Then, flicking through blogs to try and find a dress maker who could conjure my dream dress I found it! Already designed and made and beautiful! So, off to Birmingham I went, to the Couture Company for my perfect Miss Havisham dress. The first fitting I was just shell shocked, I hadn’t realised one dress could make you feel so… much! I cried all the way home I was so happy. I cried again, seeing Stephen’s face as I walked down the aisle. It was completely worth it.
For footwear I went with boots. It was February, in the middle of the countryside, it felt right, plus I didn’t want heels as I’m quite tall and don’t wear them the rest of the time. I replaced the laces with ribbons to make them more “weddingy”!
The Grand Tiara I got at a wedding fair from the wonderful Sheena Holland. I searched high and low for jewellery to match it, before realising the antique pearl necklace Stephen had given me for my 30th matched like a dream.
I wanted the maids to look more like house party guests in our grand party, so I got the bridesmaid dresses from Etsy, it was a bit of a committee decision and pretty much the only one of my suggestions my 15 year old sister would accept! I sourced real furs through Ebay.
Stephen’s suit was from Asos, and so inexpensive that the groomsmen were able to get the same suit so they could all be in matching tweed! Brogues and ties from Etsy finished the look. They all looked very dashing sipping their whiskies in the evening!
Green, Ivory & Peach
We didn’t really have a set colour scheme, we just wanted it to be things we liked, however, my favourite colour is green so for things where colour was important we went with greens, ivories and hints of peach. Our original idea was to have taxidermy, but unfortunately our budget just couldn’t stretch to that, instead we got antlers from the deer farm down the road from my parents and my father leant us Frank, the family deer skull. We got skull candles to edge it out a bit, Steve’s a huge metal fan and neither of us are particularly twee, we wanted to show that. We also brought bits and pieces from home, including Emily the bust and Hugo the owl, so it felt like a bit of us on the top table.
Michele was the only florist that didn’t flinch when we mentioned the antlers and taxidermy! After a short meeting and me emailing her a couple of pictures, I was amazed at what she created!! It turns out she’d been studying my pinterest board (seriously! How do people plan a wedding without pinterest!?) and it felt like the bouquets and table decorations had been pulled straight out of my brain and on to the tables. My one flower request was for Amnesia roses, their faded beauty was exactly what I wanted for our big day.
The Best Bit
The ceremony was hands down the best bit of the day, in such a cozy venue with a small number of guests, it felt incredibly intimate. We knew that only the people we loved were there to share in our special moment. Stephen and I each chose a reading, my choice was i carry your heart with me (I carry it in by E.E. Cummings and Stephen chose an excerpt from Union by Robert Fulghum. We wrote our own vows:
I promise to love you from now until forever
I will be your shelter in the storm
Your warmth in the cold
And in us, there will always be home
I will always be true to you, whatever comes.
I was crying from the start, but I think by the end of it, judging by the sniffles and amount of hankies out, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The Registrars were amazing as well, so lovely and warm and funny! And we got to sign our marriage certificate with a Batman pen! What more could you want?
Blinded By Love
We were on a very strict budget, so having a father that was obsessed with disco equipment came in very handy! He managed to set us up with everything we needed and Stephen and I had an amazing day sorting out the playlist!
Our first dance was Seek It by Richard Hawley, the lyrics are soppy and funny so it was the perfect choice.
The catering was provided by Thrumpton Hall and they were so accommodating, we got to choose whatever we wanted for the wedding breakfast, so Stephen and I chose our favourite foods! Confit Duck with white bean puree and a lemon oil to start, Steak and chips for mains and finishing with a beautiful Tarte Tatin! So delicious!
I think one of the best decisions I made was having a cocktail for the drinks reception, we chose an English Mule, which was full of elderflower, vodka and ginger beer, it was so delicious I stuck to them for the rest of the day, well…until the elderflower ran out!
For the evening supper, we had roast pork cobs which went down a treat! Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with popcorn, so we as a favour, we hired a popcorn machine and had bags printed especially, I made some flavourings to go on them.
A Touch Of DIY
Being a bit of a graphic designer in my job, I designed and printed the invites myself, it was fun, but also getting everything together was quite stressful! We kept having to go on emergency runs to John Lewis for ribbon! I decided on parchment envelopes from my favourite shop, Paperchase, and sealed them with green wax. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it!
Pick & Choose
My advice to any future brides is to carefully look through all the traditions and rituals, throw out what you don’t want and keep what you do. I wasn’t “given away”, I was accompanied down the aisle, we didn’t have a greeting line and we kept it small, but we had a beautiful intimate wedding with people we loved.
Also – thistles as button holes may look awesome but you will end up with a face full of prickles any time someone tries to hug you.
Stephen and I knew that we wanted vintage style photos and were really struggling to find someone local to Nottingham that had the reportage style we liked as well as a vintage feel. Then, in another meant-to-be moment, Thrumpton Hall posted a load of photos on their Facebook page from a shoot done by Lee Garland on their grounds in exactly the style we were looking for! They were gorgeous!
We went to see Lee, who turned out to live right next to the Hall, and ended up booking him and his utterly ingenious vintagebooth.me. The vintage photo booth was a huge success with the guests and has contributed to a lot of facebook profile pictures.
Really original and an absolutely stonking wedding… Eleanors Couture Company Miss Havisham inspired gown is seriously jaw dropping and Stephen with his Asos bargain? Seriously, that suit rocks and it is so cool that it’s budget price tag meant that all Stephens groomsmen could get kitted out in the same totes trendy tweed.
The venue for our legal ceremony was The Council House in Malvern. John was in charge of booking this, and we were both stunned when we went for a visit (and cheeky afternoon tea) and saw that it wasn’t a council house as per popular imagination, but instead a gorgeous listed building with its own park. After the very intimate little ceremony (just us and two friends; our lovely photographer Alexa Loy Dent and her husband) we adjourned to the Blue Bird Cafe and Tea Rooms for a proper full on gluten free English breakfast, and a cream tea, AND cakes! We don’t do things by halves…
Our real wedding was held in our garden in Birmingham on the 16th June 2012 (our five year anniversary!), followed by a delicious meal at The Kitchen Garden Cafe in King’s Heath. Having already covered the legal requirements we were free to do exactly what we wanted, which included writing the ceremony ourselves and having one of John’s best friends be our celebrant. (He’d never done anything like this before, and did such a fabulous job. He did forget the “please be seated” part, but everyone being mainly British they stood out of politeness through the whole ceremony!) We looked at fancy venues, but felt that our day should be a reflection of who we are, and also be easy for everyone we loved to attend. The Kitchen Garden Cafe is our regular haunt for long and lazy weekend lunches, and we love the relaxed vibe, awesome menu, and unusual decor.
Our marquee was from Reg at Smart Party Marquees; he had the whole thing up and down again in the blink of an eye, and the marquee was completely waterproof but still very airy, which considering we’ve just had the wettest June on record was no mean feat.
My dress was created by Jo at The Couture Company. I’m going to have to restrain myself, because I could write a whole essay on how superlatively good Jo is at what she does. When I first went dress shopping I didn’t have the best experience. I was on a lot of morphine (not recreationally I hasten to add), I was in a wheelchair, and also dealing with some low level chemotherapy which was really sapping my energy. I was also about a stone and a half lighter, and must be one of the few brides out there who was pleased to gain wedding weight as it meant I was getting healthier! Take note ladies; weight loss doesn’t always look good, it can look downright scary. My mom and I were at a big wedding show, and to be frank, I really struggled. Some people were lovely and I was grateful for their consideration, however some people were determined to see me as that poor little bride in the wheelchair and condescend accordingly. I was told that I was “brave” more than once (the brave thing I was doing at the time was struggling out of one of their flouncy monstrosities), and even told that I was “lucky that you’re still getting married”. We did end up putting down a (thankfully small) deposit on a dress from one of the nicer stalls, but it wasn’t what I really wanted as it was a white strapless full length affair with ruffles, and the main reason for choosing it was that it looked good in the wheelchair.
I’d been looking at Jo’s website since the engagement, but never thought I’d be able to afford a custom made dress. My parents had already promised to help us with the wedding costs, and now my mom went that step further by buying me my perfect wedding dress. It turned out to be nowhere near as expensive as I’d thought (I think one custom place I’d asked had come back with a quote over the £5k mark, which simply terrified me!), but it wouldn’t have been possible without my mom’s generosity for which I am so thankful.
I knew a full length dress wouldn’t suit the relaxed and garden-based day we were planning, but I also wanted something in an elegant style that would cover my knees, and in a bright cheerful colour. John had declared a previously un-alluded to fondness for “swishy skirts, and, um, 50s stuff, you know, with the, um, net? Is it called net underneath?”, so I wanted to include that, but I wanted a dropped waistline too. I also had ideas on the necessity of straps, sweetheart necklines, lace overlay to avoid being too décolleté, buttons, flower details, belts, oh, and I wanted it to look as elegant and un-fussy as possible.
Jo simply said “right” (although her eyebrow may have twitched), set to work, and created something magical that accomplished all of the above. The dress suited me and the day perfectly, and John loved it!
For the legal ceremony the week before I went super relaxed, in a stretch lace dress from ASOS that was a complete bargain at under £50, and a belt I made myself out of some gold and red ribbon on the Thursday night.
For the legal ceremony I decided to wear a sparkly tiara because how often do you ever get to? I wear it now for baking, weight lifting, and being Earth’s ambassador to the outer galaxies. (OK, I made the last one up. I do wear it weight lifting though.) I ordered a veil from Etsy in a colour to match the dress, and wore an old favourite pair of earrings. My shoes were sparkly gold from Dune, and the bag was another Etsy find.
For the real wedding my planned hairdo wouldn’t allow a tiara, so instead I had some vintage rhinestone and pearl hair pins, supplemented with some additional sparkly pearl pins bought the night before. (From Claire’s Accessories for under £5, but shush, I think they look pricier than that.) Jo also made me a large lace flower that matched the dress, after my mom and I disagreed over whether a 3ft tall hat shaped like a spoon head with plumes of feathers and sequin roses was appropriate. In retrospect, yes, the flower was a better option. I always knew I wanted a veil, mainly because I’m a massive graphic novel and superhero geek and always knew it would have to be a veil or a cape to feel all swooshy and super in. Like the hat versus flower decision, I’m glad I went with the veil!
My dad bought my earrings for me, a pair of Stephanie Brown teardrop pearls, and they were just perfect. Very impressive considering he hadn’t seen the dress! I also had on my bouquet a brooch that’s been passed down from my great grandmother. Our grandparents have all passed, so this was a lovely way to feel that they were still with us.
Shoes, wow, there’s a story. I mentioned earlier that I’ve spent some time in a wheelchair, and in fact our wedding was put off by a year because of complications arising from my condition. I have rheumatoid arthritis, for which the best 60 second description ever can be found here. I’ve made leaps and bounds in my progress since diagnosis two years ago, but whilst planning the day we had no idea how physically mobile I would be. John has been my most constant support, cheerleader, and peaceful refuge since diagnosis, and he encouraged me to just feel comfortable with what I was able to do and wear.
I pretty much live in my Converse and Doc Martens because I can fit my custom made inserts into them. I wanted to wear heels for a bit of the day, but I have to admit that even if I was in perfect health I’ve never been much of a heels lady, preferring bopping about the dance floor like a windup toy! The search for a walkable pair of heels to compliment the colour of the dress and flowers was starting to consume my life like a big shoe-based monster, when I found some yellow heels at Pied a Tierre. They matched wonderfully, were that little pop of colour I wanted, and most importantly for me, they were the most comfortable heels I’ve ever tried on. My dad walked me down the aisle, not because of any old-fashioned ideas about “giving me away”, but because it was a lovely thing to do and meant that I had a strong arm to lean on so that I could wear the heels. After which, I changed into my brand new blue Converse and danced the rest of the day away!
As the legal ceremony was very relaxed I did my own hair and make up, which proved to be a huge challenge when nervous (and having forgotten half of my kit), although John insists I looked lovely. Despite eating his own moustache out of nervousness, he looked lovely too…
One of the main tips I picked up from reading wedding blogs before the wedding was to hire a professional who knows how to do makeup for camera unless you were super confident about doing it yourself. As I’ve never really mastered more than the basics I took heed of this advice. Helen Kalli was brilliant; she understood the look I wanted better than I did, gently steered me away from the more outlandish ideas I had (purple eye shadow would not have worked), and on the morning created the most subtle but wonderful and different looks for myself, my mom, and my sister. After a trial with her in London I even wore two different looks home, one on each side of my face, to decide which I liked better with the dress! I did get some strange looks on the train…
My hair, and my mom’s, was done by my wonderful hairdresser Andrew from Saks in Birmingham. It was so difficult to decide what to do with my long hair, but much as I usually love the surfer look, I knew that a properly done up do would last all day and night in any weather, and give me one less thing to fiddle about with. (Lucky I did go for this too, as on the day it was very wet and extremely windy!)
Flowers very nearly caused me to have a bridal melt down of the type I’d laughingly assumed I never would when I started planning. We were working to a tight budget, so that meant lots of DIY. We made the invitations, table plan, all the decorations, and even all of the garden food and evening desserts ourselves, and having looked at florist’s prices, knew that we needed to arrange those ourselves too. However, although I am completely confident with baking, chocolatiering, and general arts and crafts, I know NOTHING about flowers other than how to arrange them nicely. I had a clear idea of what I wanted, but went mad with the frustration of not being able to articulate it due to my complete ineptitude in recognising and naming flowers.
My mom stepped in, gathered my fragmented thoughts and rather inane witterings, and with the world’s worst brief ever from me sourced all the flowers from a nursery in Holland called Triangle Nursery, had them delivered to the house, and made up all the bouquets, centrepieces, and garden decorations herself. She absolutely nailed it, and I still don’t even know what all the flowers are called…
Maids And Men
We don’t really hold with the division of the sexes into maids and men, as we both have friendships that cross the gender lines it seemed silly to create an artificial divide on the day. To that end we had four ushers of both genders and a celebrant, my sister was my best woman, and John had a best man. The wedding colours were blue, yellow and purple, which we reflected in the decorations, the ties, and all the little details like buttonholes, but we weren’t restrictive with what people should wear. We really wanted people to enjoy being a part of the day, and feel comfortable in what they were wearing, which judging by the dance moves pulled later we clearly achieved!
We asked the men to wear grey suits to match with John’s, and gave them all silk skinny ties; sunshine yellow for John, blue for my dad and the ushers, and bishop purple for our celebrant. I asked the ladies to wear anything they felt comfortable in and made them all buttonholes to mark them out as part of the wedding party. As my sister is a fashion designer over in China where she lives, she designed and made her own dress.
Cake And Beer
As I was getting a beautiful dress it seemed only fair that John should get a smart suit too! Despite being completely different shapes and sizes and having totally different tastes, my Dad, John, and the best man, also confusingly named Jon, went off suit shopping together. All they seemed to manage to locate when they went shopping together was cake and beer, for which I lay the blame entirely on my father, so the choosing took some time! John choose in the end a slim fit three piece suit from Red Herring, worn with a heavy white shirt and cufflinks I had made especially for him. Made by White Truffle, they are made of a vintage map of South Africa, matched with one of Birmingham. I choose these as I am from South Africa and John is from Birmingham, and also we were getting married in Birmingham and honeymooning in South Africa! His shoes were special dancing shoes from America, and I think he looked incredibly handsome on the day, and his dance moves were as usual completely unparalleled and unsurpassable. I also had Father of the Bride cufflinks made for my dad as a surprise.
We actually choose our photographer before anything else. Even before our engagement we’d both come across Steve Gerrard’s work separately and loved it. It was the luminous quality he gives his subjects that really made his work stand out. When we met him and told him our rather unusual plans he totally “got” the feel of the day, and after our engagement shoot photos came back we knew that we could relax into our day and leave the photo artistry to him.
It was a last minute decision to have a wedding video. We’d seen such cheesy montages, or just straight up eight to nine hour no-editing records of the day that we’d been completely put off and hadn’t even considered it. But then I clicked on a wedding video link (on RMW actually) and was mesmerised by the artistry, and the emotions it provoked. With a month to go until the wedding we’d left it really late to find someone whose work we’d love, but then we found Shutterbox with some last minute availability. (Also the world’s cutest cat, but that’s another story.) Lee and Dawn are such lovely people and the video is now a really important part of our memories.
Our legal ceremony was such a small intimate affair we thought we’d feel silly having “proper” photos taken of it. But that day was really important to us and we didn’t want it to pass with nothing to look back on other than arms-length camera phone photos. My good friend Alexa Loy Dent is a phenomenal photographer, and when she super-generously offered to join us for the day to be our witness and our photographer we jumped all over her offer before she even finished articulating it! We are so pleased that we did, as her photos capture perfectly the laid back feel of the day whilst still showing how special it was, and it’s clear to see how quickly we relaxed in front of the lens. She’s so talented at putting you at your ease you can’t help loosening up and smiling, and before you know it you have a whole album of beaming smiles and laughter to look back on. I love the detail shots she caught too, she made that £45 dress look like a million dollars!
As a semi-professional baker and chocolatier, and more importantly, someone who treasures feeding people I love, I wanted to make our wedding cakes and as much of the food as possible. I love catering for big parties and as perhaps something of a control freak, I couldn’t give away too much of the catering to other people. As someone with a gluten intolerance too, I’m more than aware of how revolting most “free from” store bought products are, and wasn’t about to inflict those sawdusty taste-free horrors on any guests! John has been, according to him, my official sous chef for the last five years, and together we made all the garden food and dessert table treats. (He made the chocolate brownies all by himself, if I don’t mention that he’ll be indignant.) The garden food was (in part);
Mini Moroccan Chicken Pies
Mini Beef, Mushroom and Ale Pies with Mustard Pastry
Double Chocolate Brownies
Multicoloured Vanilla Cupcakes
Lemon Curd Cupcakes
Nuts and Dried Fruit
White Chocolate Blondies
Pistachio Rose and Cardamom Brittle
Passionfruit and Coconut Tarts
And the dessert table included;
Lemon Cake (made by Judy Garrity)
Triple Chocolate Cake
Coconut Rum and Lime Cake with Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Mini Apple Spice Loaves with Ginger Honey Cream
Banana and Macadamia Loaves
Carrot Cake Squares
Dark Chocolate Cake Pops with a Liquid Sea Salted Caramel Centre
Mini Black Cherry Tarlets
Strawberry Shortcake Cakes
Mini Raspberry Jam Tartlets
Turkish Delight Tartlets with Pistachio
We didn’t want a cake cutting moment, so there was no need to have a large cake covered with fiddly sugarcraft, leaving us free to make taste combinations everyone would enjoy. For the food at the Kitchen Garden Cafe we had two courses of 8-9 plates each, all delicious, and ensuring that everyone would have at least one option of something they loved to eat. We also had a cheese cake from The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, as we love cheese!
When I started to learn to walk again, a friend I work with invited me to attend one of his lindyhop dance classes to help with my balance. A few years on and we both love it, and wanted to share this with our guests. We also thought that as the class is run on partner rotation (every woman ends up dancing with every man), it would be a fun way to ensure we spoke to every guest, and mixed up the different groups. We warned people to wear dancing shoes, and after the ceremony pulled all the chairs back to make room for our teachers; Frankie and Martyn from JazzJiveSwing. They led everyone on a whistle-stop tour of the basic steps, and then let the music play loud and the chaos commence! I think the photos speak for themselves; everyone had so much fun and it certainly got everyone talking!
In the evening we were so lucky that our good friend Tom Jones (no, not THAT Tom Jones) was able to DJ for us. T-Bird was playing the night we met all those years ago in, ahem, Snobs nightclub in Birmingham, and he kept the dance floor so full it was a struggle to drag people off for photographs!
I Love You
We danced our first dance to I Love You (Yeah) by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. We loved this track because it was upbeat and bouncy, and that’s exactly the feel we wanted for the whole day. Frankie and Martyn helped us put together a lindy hop routine for our first dance, which led to lots of hilarious and bumping-into-the-furniture practise in our little lounge. I think how upbeat and happy the song is can best be evidenced by the fact that even after we’d practised our routine to it about 50 times, it still made us smile when the opening beats kicked in!
For favours John and I made some of our rather infamous all-butter vanilla fudge, which is a very popular Christmas gift too. I bought some miniature jam jars wholesale, and used washi tape to wrap round as decoration. (My mom ordered larger versions for the flowers, and my dad attempted washi taping them, but then decided to stick to larger more manly tasks after taking 20 minutes in the attempt and only managing to stick the tape to himself. He has fingers like sausages, with about the same dexterity.) I bought recycled card luggage tabs and wrapping ribbon to tie names onto the jars, and wrote a message to guests on the back. They were our place settings and our favours, and although the fudge is long gone people are still using the little jars.
We decided early on that we didn’t want a “theme” wedding. We love fancy dress parties, but wanted “a wedding” to be the main theme of our day. That said, I love graphic novels, John is a musician, and we both have an owl-rating system for parties that we thought we could work into the day. (Basically, the more owls, the better the party. It’s an Alan Partridge owl sanctuary thing.)
We made most of the decoration and all the invitations and stationery ourselves out of some basics like buttons, felt, washi tape, and vintage paper, combined in any number of ways. Buying just a few keys things in bulk really helped keep costs down, and we spent a bit more on little things we couldn’t make, like the ceramic “Welcome to our wedding” sign, owl place holders, champagne glasses, and wedding wands in place of confetti.
I made the buttonholes, with last minute sewing help from my sister, out of our bulk purchases and lace samples from my wedding dress (thanks Jo!). Eleanor’s partner James arrived from his flight from China and was put straight to work twisting owls and buttons onto wire to use in the flowers, clearly a great jet lag cure, whilst the best man was flinging felt and button flowers all over the marquee right up until the ceremony.
I photocopied some of my favourite wedding and romance scenes from graphic novels and stuck them to a giant pin board to make a table plan, and we used hearts cut out of old superhero postcards to decorate the table names, which were superhero and graphic novel romances. Preacher figured quite heavily, as did Watchmen. The insides of our wedding rings actually have “Nothing ever ends” as an inscription, which other geeks may appreciate!
My parents, who were just brilliant throughout, offered their help with the marquee decorations. I sent them pictures of ideas I liked, and they sourced a load of pom poms, chair ties, and lanterns for us, and put them all up on the Friday too. I was banned from the marquee on Friday and so only saw it all when I walked down the aisle on Saturday, a lovely surprise!
My mom used vintage tea cups and china, kindly lent by a friend, for the table centrepieces at The Kitchen Garden Cafe, and jam jars hung from shepherd’s crooks for the marquee flowers.
My one big “bridezilla” madness moment, although it was a very extended moment, involved the aisle runner. I had the somewhat mad idea of writing out our favourite love poem to walk down the aisle on, thinking that it would be an auspicious start to married life. I really should have chosen a shorter poem, perhaps even a limerick. Instead, I ordered over 20 metres of white cotton and weighted cord, litres and litres of black fabric paint, and started a project that consumed our living room floor and most of our limited spare time for a month. The poem was Love’s Growth by John Donne, and I still love it and the sentiment it expresses despite how sore it made my knees! I think it was an auspicious start to married life after all, as John repeatedly looking at me with a sorrowful shake of the head and muttering “madness” under his breath before laughing and helping has somewhat set the tone!
(If anyone is interested in having a similar walk way runner hand painted and created, please get in touch. We’ve cut special sections out of ours and framed them, a lovely remembrance of the day. I can be reached on email via this link and can happily paint in different styles of calligraphy and on fabric of your choice.)
Every wedding, like every relationship, is unique to the people that are involved in it, so I hesitate to put ourselves forward as especially different. When we first got engaged we were determined not to get pulled into the trap of spending a fortune on a cookie-cutter day that we wouldn’t enjoy. Despite that, we very nearly did, as so many channels funnel you towards that when you start trying to plan. Luckily we recognised that certain things would make us feel fake and uncomfortable (strapless dress, morning suit, fancy castle/hotel, registrars we didn’t know, top table) and simply removing all of those things freed us to choose only things that we liked and could afford, and that would put us at our ease.
We wanted a day that would be full of fun and laughter with the people we love, but also recognise the seriousness and solemnity of the vows we were making. We couldn’t afford to spend a fortune on one day, so also needed to save up for the items we prioritised (lots of great food and drink, first choice photographer and videographer), and plan to do as much of the work ourselves as possible. Using blogs for DIY inspiration proved very useful, although I’d add the caveat that you don’t need to attempt every cool idea you see! (I had four favours planned at one point before John reminded me that this was simply crazy.)
Writing our own ceremony together as well as our vows made every word meaningful to us, and having a friend marry us kept us relaxed and calm on what could have been a very stressful occasion. Using a dance class to break the ice, as well as a tapas style dinner, ensured all the guests got to know each other; it’s hard to be stiffly formal and polite when you’re swinging someone around a marquee and asking them to pass the prawns! We had big wooden garden games for those that didn’t mind the drizzle (I know, in June) to play, and overall a relaxed and fun atmosphere. We also got rid of the traditional top table for dinner and asked my parents and John’s mom to host tables, freeing people to sit with their partners and families.
John is a musician, and he surprised me by composing and recording a beautiful piece of music for me to walk down the aisle to, which would have made me cry if I hadn’t been beaming too much!
Perhaps unusually, but I don’t think it should be, almost all our suppliers were West Midlands based. Photographer, videographer, venue, dance teachers, car hire, hair dresser, DJ, dress designer… All West Midlands and wonderful!
I suppose the final unusual thing would be our speeches; my mom and dad did a joint speech, as did John and I, and I don’t think many speeches involve a mime of dropping a paving slab onto a bird. Yup, probably just us…
Few things are more unwelcome than unasked for advice (with the possible exception of mosquitos), so these are just mine and our thoughts – and certainly not intended as a diatribe against anyone who believes differently!
• Remember that as a bride this is not “your” day, it’s yours and your fiancés, so make sure he’s fully involved and not just a prop! We worked on pretty much everything to do with the wedding together; from coming up with ideas all the way through to sewing felt flowers, and often ended up in fits of laughter over the most mundane tasks. Also, this day is important for your guests too, otherwise they wouldn’t be there, and some will have had to make real efforts to attend. So some consideration regarding their needs is important; you are the happy couple, but you are also the hosts (well, we were) and as a common courtesy that also comes with responsibilities. You don’t need to plan a day around what your Aunty Nora wants you to do, but you also shouldn’t leave loved ones standing about hungry and thirsty for hours whilst you pose for photos!
• Remember that life outside the wedding exists, but be patient if others can’t see that. I did find it very frustrating to be constantly referred to as “the bride”, and have people only question me about wedding issues for months, to the point where I felt like standing on a chair and yelling out my other interests to sundry passersby to emphasise that my life was not on hold until I was married. However it was mainly people I didn’t know that well who were like this, and it’s an admittedly easy topic of conversation. Just steer the conversation round to other topics and don’t snap, they are trying to be nice and don’t know it’s the eighth time you’ve been asked “How long is it to the big day now?!” this morning. (And as feminists we both found it strange that I was asked this all the time, and seemed to have morphed in the popular imagination into “the bride”; a totally different entity to my normal self, whilst John was pretty much treated the same!)
• The biggest one I think would be to do something that reflects who you are instead of letting someone else define what “a wedding” is for you. It’s not a competition to have the “best” or best themed wedding! Whilst the obvious statement here is that you don’t have to have the traditional accoutrements to a wedding if you don’t want them, you also shouldn’t feel pressured to have unusual themes or activities if that’s just not who you are. I think we place a lot of pressure on ourselves to recreate awesome weddings that we’ve seen or read about, often with nowhere near the budget, or if we’re honest with ourselves the inclination. You’re both mad keen roller derby players and want to bring that into the day? Go for it! Love vintage cameras? Use them as table centrepieces! Want to reference your Polynesian heritage? Fantastic! But if you find yourself on the day wearing a Polynesian headdress, balancing a vintage camera on your shoulders whilst you roller-skate down the aisle thinking “what the hell, I’m French, I don’t even know how to load film, and frankly I prefer walking”, odds are you prioritised interesting themes over authenticity and missed a chance to do something more meaningful to you. Whoever you are, whether that’s tattooed punk rockers, steampunk enthusiasts, or a traditional top hat and tails type of couple, is special and interesting to each other and your loved ones, so be who you really are and enjoy it! When you look back at the day you’ll want to recognise yourselves.
• Be thankful, especially as loads of people will probably be helping you out, even if you had planned to do it all yourselves! We had an absolute plethora of mishaps, lots of planned stuff that didn’t happen, the weather seemed determined to turn against us, and there was even a disastrous hen do that ended in legal action! None of these things are worth discussing though, as what mattered on the day were the vows we were making and the lovely people who were there with us. And looking back on it, we and our guests had the most awesome time and wouldn’t change a single thing. We didn’t stop smiling all day, and still beam every time we think about it. Also, don’t fall into the trap of obsessing about what you could have done differently after the day. You could have worn a different dress/hair style/chosen a different venue/had better weather, but you didn’t, so let it go and don’t let that cloud your good memories.
• Enjoy the day! Don’t waste your time worrying about the little things (or even the big ones) that have gone “wrong”, or whether you got to your target size, or how windy and rainy it is, just enjoy yourselves with what has gone right. The top one of which should be that you’re about to start an awesome marriage!
Finally we would want to thank Dominic for the best musical ushering ever, Matt for his awesome celebranting, Jon for being a best man extraordinaire, Laura for acted out reading superbness, Gemma for ring bearing and booze, Eleanor and James for last minute decorating, Alison for reading through the eye pain, mom and dad Kilbey for all their generosity in time, finances and spirit, LeKeux events for the memorable car, Martyn and Frankie for teaching us all to get down in style, mum Garrity for the cake and flower advice, Alexa Loy Dent for being our witness and photographer, The Kitchen Garden Cafe for superlatively good food and atmosphere, T-Bird for keeping the dance floor packed, Jo from The Couture Company for creating a simply magical dress, Shutterbox for phenomenal filming, Gill for the second hen do, all our guests for celebrating with us, each other for being generally awesome(!), and Steve Gerrard for capturing it all!
What a story, what a set of pictures… Maybe one of our longest ever RMW features?
TOTALLY worth it though – A complete joy it was to put this love story together for you on this dingy cold December morning. And also totally worth it simply for me to see my old mate Andy get his belly out on the dance floor 🙂