Rock My Wedding readers Carly & Simon both love the arts, particularly music and theatre. They reflected their shared passions with a Shakespeare themed wedding in old London town.
With a Justin Alexander gown, maids in Jenny Packham for Debenhams and photography by Dominique Bader this vintage inspired wedding is as beautiful as one of Will’s sonnets. I love the fact that Carly and Simon got up on stage to contribute a few lines in a play performed for their guests at the reception, check it out!
Carly The Bride: It was clear, pretty sharpish, that London was destined to be the location for our wedding. I’m from London and Simon’s lived in London longer than he has anywhere else so it’s very much our home, our stomping ground. On the hunt for venues, when I first stepped into St Etheldreda’s church I had a bit of wobbly moment, I knew straight away that this was where I’d like to marry Simon. It’s such a beautiful, atmospheric church – the oldest Catholic church in England, with an incredibly rich history – even Shakespeare has connections with the church. The area and the church itself has lots of ties to my family so it was really special being able to get married here.
We looked at a few options for our wedding reception and knew we didn’t want anything too grand or formal (we’re a bit scruffy round the edges); we wanted somewhere with character and a touch of style. Conway Hall, hiding quietly in a corner of a square in Bloomsbury and serendipitously a 10-minute walk from our church was everything we wanted. The hall opened in 1929 and it’s interior is largely untouched. With an elegant lobby, wood-panelled hall, balcony and stage (screaming out to be used) with a quote from Shakespeare above it – ‘To Thine Own Self be True’ – it just felt completely right.
Hair was a doddle, thanks to my hairdresser, Charlotte Russell, who’s been looking after not just my hair for years, but my mum and sister’s too. I feel comfortable and very ‘me’ with my bob so want to do anything different. Charlotte gave my bob the magic oomph it needed and created gentle and ever-so-pretty up-does for the bridesmaids. Charlotte was so calm and made me and everyone else feel so relaxed.
I didn’t feel quite so confident about make-up, so I called on the wonderful expert, Mel Kinsman. I found searching the web for a make-up artist quite overwhelming (it’s a hard thing to choose online) – so thankfully our photographer, Dominique, recommended me some of her contacts, who eventually led me to Mel. I was so pleased to find Mel and loved the finished result, a natural look with BIG eyes.
I found the whole dress choosing adventure quite nerve wracking. Having never really dreamed of getting married I didn’t really know where to start or have a clear idea of what I wanted. After a couple of shop visits I tried on a few in the very lovely Angelica Bridal in Islington and my sister, Kirsty, picked me one to try on last as a ‘wild card’ option. ‘Try it on for fun’, she said. Of course, the wild card option was The One. A beautiful, 50s-style lace and tulle T-length dress by Justin Alexander. I think it was clear how I felt as soon as I had it on as I had to spin around a few times and had a big fat grin on my face. The dress was so fun and easy to wear, plus it sparkled and I got to show a bit of leg!
So with a dress like that I needed some impressive shoes as they would most certainly be on show. Rising to the occasion was a pair of gunmetal shoes called Genny from Kurt Geiger – just right as I knew I didn’t want anything white and angelic. These studded, spiky shoes had the grit and sparkle I was after. Later in the even I did swap them for some silver Converse, much to Simon’s delight when he eventually spotted them and laughed his head off. The trainers came in very handy when pogo-ing to the band.
Finding the right head piece was a bit tricky. I decided a long veil wouldn’t quite work with the dress and then thought a bird cage veil might do the trick, but in the end I settled with a simple and soft feathery hairband from, amazingly, BHS. Just goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to spend over the odds because it’s your wedding day. Sweet and simple felt just right as the dress had a big enough voice of its own. I kept things very simple with jewellery, wore one of my own bracelets and borrowed a pearl bracelet from my mum as my something borrowed. I bought a brooch to add to the dress as I didn’t like the brooch it came with, the sparkle of the brooch ended up matching my shoes brilliantly.
The beautiful bridesmaids were my sister, Kirsty and my two school friends, Anna and Sinead. Their dresses were wonderful prom-style dresses by Jenny Packham for Debenhams. For the ushers (Simon’s brothers, Tom and David; cousin Andrew; and mates Kris and Eliot) and best man, John, the suits – plus ties & pocket squares – were also from Debenhams. Simon, quite coincidentally was originally thinking of going for a fifties suit so the ushers’ suits had a slight fifties’ vibe. A vague theme was forming without us really planning it. My sister and I went with Simon to Selfridges to help him choose his suit. Kirsty’s eye for style was a godsend, she was ultimately our wedding stylist, as she should be, working as a buyer in men’s fashion. Simon chose an incredibly dapper grey suit, with a green tweedy waistcoat, and pink shirt, all from Ted Baker. Topped off with a maroon kooky bow-tie from Austin Reed and Jeff Banks shoes. Quite the gentleman (although some guests thought he looked like Dr Who!).
We never set out to have a theme as such but certain things seemed to become prominent, our love for music and my love affairs with books and Shakespeare! Conway Hall didn’t need much dressing up as its features are interesting enough on their own. Simon and the ushers strung fairy lights up and dressed all the tables on the morning of the wedding (overseen by a couple of trusty girlfriends). Tables were simple and pretty, piles of old books – some of them nice and dusty – in the centre (many hired from Samantha at email@example.com) with scattered paper heart confetti, punched out of old books. That took some time…even my dad was involved in punching paper hearts. Each table was named after a Shakespeare play and had a copy of the particular play propped up on a bookstand. Guests were asked to write message in the book, so we now have a lovely collection of Shakespeare plays with messages written inside – numerous rude ones too! Inspired by RMW, we had a ‘table of pretty’, where we put pictures of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days, and more old books. You can never have too many books.
Stationery and little touches were quite important to us, we both enjoyed being creative with design and fonts. For the tableplan, I covered cardboard with pages from an old Penguin classic – Mrs Dalloway – and stuck each ‘cast list’ on top. Tables were named after a different Shakespeare play and each guest was a character from the play. Individual place names were stamped by hand on the back of book postcards. We designed the menus ourselves, agonising one evening over font choices.
Our favours were CDs with some of our favourite tunes on, including the song Simon wrote and sang to me when he proposed. His band – Flavatown – had hilariously recorded it specially. I found the idea for the vinyl-look CDs on RMW and our friend, and creative genius, Neil Stevens from Crayon Fire, designed the CD artwork, as well as our invitations – a very special wedding gift. Another friend, Rob, painted us a tree which everyone could stamp their thumbprints on to.
Our glorious blooms were provided by the incredibly lovely, Ruth Freeman of Gingerlily. I was keen on anemones from the start as they were my Nan’s favourite flower and my mum had them in her bouquet at her wedding, so it was meant to be. The anemones looked striking, particularly the white ones with the bridesmaid dresses. Ruth did a beautiful job on the bouquets, buttonholes and table displays. The table flowers were a lovely surprise as I didn’t know quite what to expect, I just knew Ruth was going to choose what was best and in season at the flower market that day. I wanted an unfussy, pretty and natural look and really adored Ruth’s choices of flowers, herbs and foliages. Ruth also filled one of my Nan’s old vases with more lovely blooms, which sat on the ‘table of pretty’.
There was something incredibly calming about walking into St Etheldreda, seeing everyone’s smiling faces and then seeing Simon waiting for me. I don’t think I stopped smiling, from the priest’s opening words about bumblebees to when I put Simon’s ring on the wrong finger, to Simon’s accidental comedy trip on the way out. It felt like the start of something new even though we’ve been together for thirteen years. We had one bible reading and a second reading from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Everyone sung their hearts out, the trumpeter trumpeted and the sun actually shone in April.
celebration and party we really wanted to throw, plus we managed to surprise everyone with a short play. Just as everyone had sat down, some ‘cleaners’ arrived on stage insisting they were booked in to clean the hall. They were actors cunningly disguised as cleaners who went on to perform the hilarious Pyramus and Thisbe, the play-within-a-play from Act 5, Scene 1, at the end of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Simon and I had a few lines to contribute too and we’d asked a friend to secretly jump up and be Puck at the end. Surprises all round. We really wanted to make people smile and I think we succeeded.
Our first dance was a bit of a mash-up, Two Become One by the Spice Girls, quickly moving in to Girl From Mars by Ash, which started all the dancing and the twirling. Live music was a must for our shindig so we hired a brilliant three-piece band, called Happy Daze from Function Central They rocked the hall, got everyone dancing and played some absolute classics – thoroughly recommend them. Simon and his band Flavatown, also graced the stage at the end for some boozy tunes and noise. Our friend Matt took some fun photobooth-style pictures for us in the evening, so we’ve got lots of comedy pictures of friends and family.
Choosing Ginger Jar to be our caterer was one of the best wedding decisions we made. Jenny at Ginger Jar was brilliant to work with, full of creative ideas, invaluable advice, patient with all our questions and able to work within our budget, as well as having to work in a particularly small and basic kitchen! Most importantly, the food was delicious and we received so many compliments on the menu. Starter was slow-roast belly of pork with black pudding, caramelised apples and baby leaves; main was posh shepherd’s pie – confit shoulder of lamb with salsa verde, potato galette and glazed summer vegetables; and dessert was Sticky Toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce. Jenny also played a huge part in making the wedding play happen, as she recommended her brilliant actor boyfriend James, and he assembled a fantastic bunch of actors, in quite a short space of time, to perform Shakespeare for us.
The cake was courtesy of Marks and Spencers and we jazzed it up with some help from Ruth’s flowers and Lego versions of ourselves, complete with lego guitar amp and a stage. Sadly, we were having too much fun and forgot to cut it! Oops. We chose our favourite cheeses for the evening from La Fromagerie in Highbury. Wine and bubbly came from Majestic, beer and soft drinks from a well known supermarket, and the spirits were collected from trips through various airport duty free lounges.
We saw Dominique Bader’s photographs on RMW and immediately fell for her timeless, elegant and stylish pictures. Dominique took such beautiful pictures that we will always treasure and she really captured the essence of the day – the laughter and fun. We felt so at ease with Dominique and it was a pleasure to have her photographing our wedding. Everyone should book Dominique for their special day! Thank you, Dominique.
If things get stressful, just hold on to the easiest, simplest part of the whole wedding madness – you’re marrying the person you love, your best friend. When decisions making got tricky or I couldn’t face thinking about money and budgets, Simon was great at reminding me how amazing it was that we’re were organising this big party for all our friends and getting to celebrate the years we’ve already had together and the years we have to come. Do exactly what you want on your day, don’t feel you have to follow any rules or traditions. And savour every minute in your beautiful dress!
Advice from Simon: I recommend choosing a DIY venue. Although it’s a bit more work on the day in setting up we used a load of our friends to help with this. The venue also put no corkage on drinks and Ginger Jar were happy to accommodate serving our own booze for the evening. Along with the DIY decorations, this saved us a lot of money and meant we could maximise our budget in other areas, the food being the principal one. I like my food!