Rachel and Niall married in May 2012 at St Edmunds Church, Southampton. The reception was held at Rotherwick Village Hall.
Anyone having dress wobbles will be reassured by Rachels opening paragraphs, with a combination of self belief and a boutique sourced on the Love Lust List that went above and beyond – Rachel got the dress she wanted and the fit that she deserved.
Photography today is by Andrew JR Squires.
I Thought I Was Going Mad
In the beginning I was adamant I would have a short dress but was open to suggestion and trying most things on although I did have quite a closed idea of what I didn’t think would suit my shape. I loved lacey fitted numbers but just had in my head that you needed to be tall and skinny to pull this off until one lovely shop assistant forced me into such a dress. This wasn’t the one but certainly opened my mind to trying more things. My shopping assistants (bridesmaids and trusted advisor!) all preferred the longer dresses and when I tried on Essence everybody said yes – that was that.
I must confess that I didn’t purchase the dress in the shop where I found it because after some internet searching I found it significantly reduced simply because the shop had decided not to stock the designer any longer and therefore didn’t want to keep the dresses on. A bit cheeky but we had to watch the purse strings and I would encourage people to look around as I did find significant variation in pricing.
It would be nice to say ‘and that was the dress done’ but other people may find it reassuring to hear that I then spent the next six months obsessing that I had made the wrong decision. I convinced myself I didn’t even like the dress and spent every day looking at something more pretty on these very pages. A short dress was also very much on my mind. What made matters worse was that I lost a bit of weight and the dress needed taking in quite a lot – I never actually tried on a version of the dress that fitted me and so my vision of what it should look like was based on the model – all pinned and perfect! When it came to the alterations it seemed the seamstress didn’t quite share my opinion of what the shape of the dress was. From the waist up and the length she got right – but from my hips I felt it just hung like a sack and should have been more fitted – she just insisted I shouldn’t base things on the airbrushed model. I cried. I didn’t like it. I was sure it wasn’t meant to look this way – my mum could literally grab 5 inches of material on the small of my back. They said I looked amazing. I thought I was going mad.
So I found my way to the RMW pages browsing the Love Lust List. I decided I needed a second opinion and it was the best decision I made. Sam from Mamfii Bridal saw me that week – the week before my wedding – to do a fitting – amazing generosity given my dress wasn’t bought here. The boutique is beautiful, Sam was amazing, reassured me that I wasn’t going mad, I was completely right and preceded to pin the dress to the shape it was meant to be – requiring inches of material to be chopped. It instantly looked better. The alterations were then turned round in a small number of days and cost less than the bad ones! I cannot stress the importance of good alterations and sticking to your guns. I would also urge anyone to go to Mamfii to find their dress – it is sublime and Sam is a hero.
I also found a short cream lacey number that I changed into once the party really got going 😉
My friend Katie is amazing with all things craft. Not only did she make our invitations and table plan but she hand crafted my hair slides. Having seen something similar for hundreds of pounds she created a better version for a fraction of the price.
I decided to keep my jewllery simple and sentimental. I wore a necklace that I wear everyday which was the first piece of jewellery Niall bought for me. I wore the bracelet that my parents bought me for my 18th. A veil wasn’t for me though I did come close. I just felt there was so much detail on the dress that it was almost hiding it so I let the dress do the talking.
Shoes oh I love shoes. I spent three months in New York just before the wedding and shoes were my Manhattan mission. I settled on a pair of skyscraping Badgley Mischka’s that were just lush. They were so comfortable and I lasted until 4am in them!
Looking Good All Day
I spent a small fortune on Bobbi Brown products and then had a friend apply all of our make-up on the morning. My hair was also done by a friend – I decided I wanted it up pretty early on as I wasn’t convinced it could be down and look good all day.
We are very lucky that my auntie is a florist and prepared the bouquets and buttonholes for us. She also ordered all of the flowers for the venue – we were after a ‘just been to the garden and picked a bunch’ look. We had lots of gyp, lizzyanthums and wax flowers – again inspired by these pages.
The lady who does the church flowers is also a good friend and prepared flowers with a similar theme for the church as a wedding present.
Hit the Highstreet
We bought the bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen’s suits. None of us really liked the traditional bridesmaid look, having a bit of an aversion to shiny material, and we wanted to keep things fairly relaxed to fit with the general theme. So in the end we went high street and found some lovely dresses in Warehouse. The boys all wore yummy three piece suits from Ben Sherman at Debenhams.
He Smelt Good
Niall wore a three piece Ben Sherman suit and looked awesome. I don’t remember too much about walking up the aisle but I’m told I marched pretty quickly! I remember being excited to get to Niall and give him a cheeky kiss and squeeze his hand. Not only did he look amazing but he smelt so good – fragrance is so important!
We loved Andy’s portfolio and when we met him we got on so well. He was relaxed and seemed to understand what we were after. I was very fussy about what photo’s I liked so there weren’t too many choices of photographer but being relatively new to the industry at that point Andy was also a bit cheaper than some other people we considered which helped!
My friend Jen makes awesome cakes so there was only ever one choice. Neither of us like wedding cake so that wasn’t an option. We went for a three tier Victoria Sponge with fresh berries – it was immense! We also had a cake table filled up by my lovely family and friends – with everything from cupcakes and chocolate cake to apple pie and scones. People helped themselves to cake after lunch in place of us serving a dessert.
A Filled Floor
Niall DJ’s in his spare time, as do quite a few of his friends so music was really important to him and a standard wedding DJ was never going to do the trick. We set up the PA system – complete with smoke machine(!) and once the party got going the boys all took it turns to play some tunes – the dance floor was literally filled all night.
Niall also spent a lot of time beforehand making playlists of softer music which we played over lunch. Niall did a fantastic job with the church music too and one of our lasting memories will be walking out of the church having just got married to Elbow’s One Day Like This.
Short and Sweet
Our first dance was to The Maccabees – Toothpaste Kisses. Amazing song by a band close to our hearts and an added bonus of being extra short!
It may now be obvious but music is close to our hearts so our table names were our favourite bands and our favours were mix cd’s of our favourite songs. I was really pleased that almost everybody took the cd home and I have had numerous messages since the wedding to say people are playing it in their car and loving reliving the day.
The hall itself was very pretty and did not have much scope, or really need anything, to hang from the walls or ceilings etc. There were a lot of things we needed to have in the room so we made them into decorations – pretty areas which caught the eye. We had the cake table, the table plan and gift table, a table with photos of our parents and grandparents getting married, the bar, the cocktails etc and flowers everywhere!
On the tables we had jam jars tied with lace and twine with meadow flowers, and the table names were our favourite bands – with their album cover on top of an empty wine bottle. We also had lots of jugs and vases of flowers scattered around the hall and little lanterns that sparkled when it got dark.
I was quite conscious that the hall didn’t have any soft seating, as you would normally get in a hotel, as I thought the dining chairs might be a bit much for such a long time and the older guests. We managed to get hold of some sofas and armchairs from freecycle the day before and they worked perfectly.
Odd as it is to describe it as decoration one of my favourites things was the ladies toilets! Having settled on a village hall I expected this to be one of the things that we would have to compromise on but they were great – really big and spacious with lots of mirrors! I thought it was really important to make them even nicer so we had flowers, nice hand washes and hand creams and wicker baskets full of anything anyone could have needed – pain killers, plasters, hair grips, deodorant, mints, flip flops! You name it we had it – it was quite a fun thing to do and people seemed to really appreciate it.
Food for Thought
Nobody ever talks about the food – this was so important to us. When we started planning we decided the three important factors were good food, plenty of booze and great music. We were also very clear the day was going to be relaxed and not at all formal so we wanted the food to reflect this and we wanted to avoid people being hungry. After the church people boarded the buses and were provided with journey snacks in blue and pink stripy bags – Tunnock’s teacakes and Caramel bars to represent Niall’s Scottish contingent.
When we arrived at the hall we had Jam Tart Cocktails – in old American sugar shakers with stripy straws. The drinks all lined up looked fab as people walked in and were delicious. The glass jars were probably my most ridiculous wedding project – I found them whilst in New York for 50cents each and knew they would look great. 150 later though I had to persuade everybody who came to visit me to wrap them up in their pants and take them home for me!
We then sat down for lunch – we had a cold buffet which was already laid out on each table and guests helped themselves ‘family style’. We had cold meats, salmon, bread, cheese board and salad. Everybody then attacked the cake table and helped themselves to an array of dessert following which we had the speeches. In the evening we had a hog roast with all the trimmings which was delicious followed by ice creams. I cannot recommend our caterers Uptons of Bassett highly enough – they went far above the call of duty, helping with everything and anything they could and the food was out of this world.
We really wanted a relaxed day with happy guests and a full dance floor. We thought it was important to keep as much as we could in one room as this created the atmosphere. We didn’t have a lot of help from hired staff – only the 3 guys from the caterers so we needed to rely on hard work beforehand from our friends and family and they really stepped up – we couldn’t have done it without them. We didn’t have a formal bar – the drinks were kept in a chiller and moved out as they needed to be replenished and people just helped themselves which worked really well. I would encourage people to think outside of the box in terms of a venue as we got ours for a tiny fraction of the price of some more formal spots we had considered and I don’t feel it meant we compromised on anything – in fact it meant we had the extra cash to do things like have a free bar all day. The venue itself also acted as a relaxant – really setting the scene and getting everybody to have a great day.
We had been concerned about the venue being forty minutes form the church but this was fine – we kept people amused with journey snacks on the way and the journey home was amazing – the spontaneous sing a long was one of the best bits of the day.
One of the best things my bridesmaid forced me to do before the wedding was sit down and write down every little thing that was meant to happen, when and who was involved. Having other people know what should be going on enabled them to help as opposed to everything just being in my head! Everybody was fantastic leading up to the day and on the day itself – we couldn’t have done it without all the help we got. Once we finished prepping the hall on the Friday night I totally let go and relaxed and just concentrated on enjoying the day which was one of the best things I could have done – once you get to that point you need to just enjoy it.
Photographer – Andrew JR Squires
Boutique – Cariad Bride
Dress – Essence of Australia D1158
Shoes – Badgley Mischka
Maids – Warehouse
Groomsmen – Ben Sherman
Groom – Ben Sherman
Catering – Uptons of Bassett
Good food, plenty of booze and great music… I don’t think you can go far wrong with Rachel and Niall’s ethos.
It certainly looked like a party full of fun and with the attention they paid to the food, to the music they played and to getting the vibe just right made this big day an undeniable success.