Yep, you heard me right – Today we have a two for one special offer like no other!
When Sarah and George married, two people from different cultures, both with their own unique set of influences, came together as one. Tempting then to draw on both of these cultures to create one single eclectic celebration.
That sounds pretty good to me, but Sarah and George had other ideas. I bet a lot of people thought they were crazy to consider two individual ceremonies on one day. Well they did it and then some.
Guy Collier was lucky enough to witness this feat of organisation. And such a unique day was deserving of the incredible images that he took so that Sarah and George can relive both their ceremonies time and time again.
Our wedding was on Sunday, July 31, 2011 at The Elvetham Hotel in the village of Hartley Wintney, Hampshire. It was a wedding with a difference – and therein was the challenge and months of hard work – as we wanted to include both English (the groom) and Indian (the bride) influences to reflect and respect the two different cultures that were coming together. Our civil ceremony was a very English country house themed morning with details reflecting vintage styling and our joint love of travel and books. The venue was also on the site that Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream was first performed and also had an oak tree planted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1591 – so the romantic history and ethereal feel also featured in the styling.
In the evening was the Hindu wedding ceremony including a change of styling, colours, outfits and additional guests – our reception guests were invited to attend the Hindu ceremony which added an extra element of inclusion for the people we loved but who we couldn’t fit in to the morning civil ceremony.
My civil ceremony dress was called Domenica by five times UK Bridal Designer of the Year Ian Stuart. It was the first dress I saw and adored and despite trying on many other styles at other wedding dress shops and pouring through many wedding fashion magazines, I returned to this dress at the helpful and magical London Bridal Couture in Pimlico, London. A white dress was never going to be the natural choice for me as I have olive Asian skin so the wonderful taupe, creams and rose gold hues of Domenica’s silk satin were perfect. The tight, embroidered strapless bust was overlaid with hand beaded lace and pearl detail. The bodice was tightly draped, flowing into an asymmetric skirt underpinned by a sweeping graduation of handmade flowers. Metallic lace overlayed the A-line skirt which fell into a cathedral train.
My veil was also metallic lace. I loved the detail, uniqueness and how not everyone would be able to pull off this statement dress, it was just very me.
For the Indian wedding ceremony, no shops in the UK cut the mustard so my mum and I made a trip to Bombay. Again, we visited many shops in the tight week we had, to shop for not only a wedding outfit but jewellery and sandals. I knew I didn’t want to go for the traditional red but something that would have my own personality and twist so in the end we went for a dark raspberry outfit of a blouse and flared skirt covered in embroidery and crystals.
White Gold And South Sea Pearl
My veil was originally a delicate metallic lace shawl. The shop attached a hair slide to one corner and created a veil of perfect length. My earrings were white gold, diamond and South Sea pearl, actually from our shopping trip to India, but very English vintage in style. As the earrings and dress were such a statement I did not want to lose their impact by wearing a necklace or bracelet so my neck and arms were bare.
For the Indian ceremony my headdress was again part of my outfit in the same colour and design – but a lot heavier and secured by concealed hat pins. I wore my mother’s set of yellow gold and diamond earrings and necklace. Bracelets in matching colours were stacked on both wrists and glass and metal accessories dangled over the centre of my forehead, in a hair pin and as a traditional little waist accessory hooked into my skirt.
Prada In Pink
I knew I wanted some once-in-a-lifetime pair of designer shoes and fell in love with some satin Prada heels in a wonderful soft pink colour – the colour of blushing. I also knew I didn’t want to tower over my fiancé so the height of under four inches was perfect for the civil ceremony. The Indian ceremony required bare feet so I just bought some blingy sandals covered in sparkly diamante-type stones.
Hair up was important for me as it suited the elegant, grown-up style of the civil ceremony dress but also I knew I wouldn’t have enough time between both events to change my hair for the Indian ceremony so it had to suit both events. As usual when I go to my hairdresser Claire Higgs at Essensuals I bring along a mood board of styles cut out from magazine pictures so she knows what I like and am aiming for. I did the same for my wedding hair and had a trial a few weeks before so we were all set on the big day. I can only describe it as Versailles chic which suited the dress perfectly.
For make-up I didn’t want anything I could do myself – I wanted exceptional skill and talent for make-up that would last two wedding ceremonies – and all the tears and as it turned out the humidity of a scorching summer’s day. Strictly Come Dancing make-up artist Francesca Neill was the girl for me. Again, we’d done a trial well before the wedding so I was confident she knew what I wanted.
Both women worked on my bridal party too – fresh and summery make-up with hair up and to the side for the bridesmaids.
English Blooms And Indian Garlands
I asked for quotes from a small handful of florists but the price, service, attitude and enthusiasm was right with my ultimate choice Sonning Flowers. With two different ceremonies and themes in mind, the civil morning event style was English country garden, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, natural and rustic so we went for main colours in my bouquet of aubergines, raspberries, plums and dark purples. These included Amnesia and Vendella roses, purple lisianthus, purple veronica, lilac freesias, sweet peas (my dad’s name for me) and eucalyptus foliage.
Purple hydrangea heads were tied to each ‘pew’ end with ribbon that matched the bridesmaids dresses and mixed flowers were placed in vintage vases, votives and pots on the top table with some receptacles set upon vintage books. Some of these had earlier been arranged on the civil ceremony table. Guest tables had silver goblets filled with similar blooms. The mantelpiece in the civil ceremony room also had arrangements.
My wish to have peonies was just out of season for my wedding which was a shame. The bridesmaids held Amnesia roses, lilac freesias and white double lisianthus. The groomsmen had Amnesia roses with a sprig of dried lavender for their buttonholes while the groom had a Vendella rose and lavender. My mother wore a sari so had small rosebuds attached to a hair slide instead of a buttonhole.
The colours also complemented the hue of my wedding dress and the outfits of my bridal party and the groomsmen. Sonning Flowers also made a posy for my cake topper in a style echoing my bouquet.
We challenged our florists for the evening ceremony as it was the first time they would make Indian wedding garlands. We decided to go for a single row of large, deep raspberry carnation heads tied with similar coloured ribbon. They did a great job and the photos looked stunning.
Simple And Classic
We bought outfits for our groomsmen and bridesmaids, as a sort of present too. And yes the colours were chosen to tie in with the colour scheme. The men wore light suits of mid-grey with purple ties while my bridesmaids wore flowing, one-shoulder, lilac purple maxi dresses. They chose their own shoes and accessories but the ladies were told to keep them simple and classic with strappy shoes in metallics to echo my veil and lace detail.
I was keen for my husband-to-be to have a made-to-measure suit and after visiting a few tailors in London, I’m so pleased we went for a Reiss bespoke suit through their flagship store in Regent’s Street, London. The helpful, kind and talented Henry Taylor guided us newbies through the exciting choices we had to make. My husband chose a dark grey/brown three-piece suit. Dark brown brogues and a white formal shirt also from Reiss set the outfit off perfectly. My father also ordered a bespoke two-piece suit from Reiss but in a plain, dark colour.
For the Hindu ceremony I chose for him an Indian wedding suit – traditional lose trousers with a long shirt – in a gorgeous cream silk with light embroidery bought during my trip to Bombay. His shoes were traditional wedding sandals in a complementing gold/cream.
An Eye For The Unusual
Being a journalist I wanted more of an editorial feel to my wedding photos rather than the usual soft focus drivel most wedding photographers pump out with their eyes shut. Wedding fairs were a good place to find this drivel so I abandoned that for searching on the internet. I came across Guy Collier’s blog which featured a pre-wedding shoot with another couple. The quality of his photos were pin sharp, he had an eye for the unusual and unique and most of all they were editorial/documentary in style.
We met and it was clear we were on the same wavelength and he was easy to get along with – really important. We too booked a pre-wedding shoot – in eclectic, buzzing Portobello so were able to get used to being snapped and also had some wonderful keepsakes pre-man-and-wife.
We also had videomakers Allora Visuals to record our day who were recommended by Guy.
Elegant And Tasty
I was very keen to have a cake that reflected the elegant, country house feel of the venue and styling of the day and also had accents from my dress. But also important was for the cake to taste really good – too often wedding cakes looks impressive on the outside but taste dry or just average. After some trial and error with some suppliers’ samples and pricing, I was impressed with Catherine Scott. During the detailed consultation our final four-tier cake was based on one of her existing designs I absolutely loved – called Isabel – but with personal touches like icing of the same hue as my wedding dress – a warm ivory rather than the usual white, one of the tiers had lace-like piping to match my veil’s design and there was a G&S monogram piped onto the front of the top tier. The top tier was coffee flavour, the next carrot with cream cheese buttercream, then chocolate and finally lemon Madeira.
Hey Mr DJ
We had one of the DJs recommended by the venue but made sure they knew what we did and did not like to be played in the evening and provided them with a sample playlist as a guide. They did a great job.
Double O Heaven
My fiancé is an avid James Bond fan so for our first dance he chose We Have All The Time in the World by Louis Armstrong, used on the soundtrack to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It was perfect.
We are both voracious bookworms so sourced vintage classics of roughly the same size and appearance from a second hand bookshop in Eastbourne. We tried as much as possible to find books that had some significance or connection with a particular guest. We then wrote individual dedications inside each book to each guest. They were a triumph and were much more personal than the usual box of sweets.
Continuing with the vintage books and travel theme we sourced a large 1940’s suitcase from Camden Market and a small vintage case from a local vintage shop. We also visited a postcard fair and bought several vintage cards showing places around the world. I also bought a vintage-style sheet of wrapping paper showing a map of the world from a shop in Dublin during my hen do – I knew it would come in handy later. I then styled the large case with the map and old postcards as the table plan guests would see as they went into the wedding breakfast. Each table’s details were hand typed with a vintage typewriter we bought online on paper luggage tags hung from various places on the suitcase. The luggage tag idea was echoed on the wedding breakfast tables with place names typed on tiny vintage travel labels from online stationery shop Katy n June tied with string on each napkin.
The smaller case was displayed open, lined loosely with pretty tissue paper, backed with photos of the bride and groom and used as a place for putting gift cards. Our vintage typewriter and paper were placed next to the case for people to type messages and pop in the small case.
For the evening Hindu ceremony, our mandap, or stage, was set up by an outside company and then decorated in the traditional way by the bridal party on direction by my mum. A garland from India was also hung above the entrance door.
To have one successful wedding is hard enough work but to have two triumphant weddings of such different atmosphere, styling and organisational elements on the same day was a true achievement.
We also made sure we involved those closest to us somewhere along the line during either ceremony. This included friends and family doing readings during the civil ceremony – a Shakespeare sonnet and a poem by Sir Philip Sidney – and others getting involved in rituals during the Hindu ceremony; it’s wonderful – the Hindu ceremony had such opportunities for both men and women, single and married.
I am a details person and my advice would be that attention to this is key. Also, stay firm in your decisions – it’s your day after all, think of your guests’ comforts and enjoy being the star of the show!
Venue The Elvetham Hotel
Dress Ian Stuart
Flowers – Sonning Flowers
Make-up Francesca Neill
Photography Guy Collier
Videography Allora Visuals
Cake Catherine Scott
I don’t know how they did it! It is like looking at two completely different days.
Ok, the new benchmark has been set – I want to see someone having three ceremonies now, three dresses… Maybe three cakes? Now you’re talking!
I’m loving Georges bespoke Reiss, and Sarah – how beautiful is that dress? Which one I hear you cry… Ummm both. Obviously.
Anyone here an Ian Stuart Bride?