We are starting the week off with something massive. It’s the wedding of one of our Rock My Wedding Real Brides.
Shirley has been sharing her W-day journey for almost a year now and today we begin the very final chapter.
Images are all by the hugely talented Touch Photography.
No April Showers
So here we are, almost 4 months after our big day in April and I’m finally able to tell you all about it and show you some of our amazing images. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and had one of the very few dry days in April!
A Bride On Foot
We got married at Burnham Park. This is the village hall in Burnham, South Bucks where we live. In fact we only live about 200m from the venue and this played a major part in our decision to have our wedding there. It proved invaluable on the day as ‘runners’ were sent back to the house quite a few times to pick up extra things which were needed or forgotten! It also meant that I could walk from home to the venue saving money on transport but also making it really personal. We got stopped by a few locals who wanted to congratulate me and also say how nice it was to see a bride walking to her wedding.
Cream And Strapless
I got my dress from a second hand bridal store called Berkshire Brides. This was the first ‘shop’ I went to, and I really only went for a look and to get an idea of what suited me so it was a huge surprise that I walked out about an hour later with my dress in hand! The dress was something I didn’t want to spend too much money on which is probably the opposite of most brides but I just didn’t see the point of spending thousands on a dress that I’d wear once.
I desperately wanted to be a Jenny Packham bride but after trying on a couple of her slinky numbers and feeling like I would be walking down the aisle in my best nightie, I came to the conclusion that it really wasn’t me. After that, I tried on all different styles (big ones, mermaid ones, straps, strapless, huge great pouffy ones!) and very, very nearly settled on a Benjamin Roberts number until Vivienne whipped out a cream strapless Marianna Hardwick (an Australian designer) dress with a triumphant ‘aha’! I’m not a crier but I definitely welled up when I tried this dress on and I didn’t want to take it off, so I figured it was ‘the one’! It was more expensive than I would have liked but after its been cleaned, I’m going to take it back for Vivienne to sell again, so I will make some of the cost back and that makes it affordable overall.
Let’s Face The Music
As dance is a huge part of my life, I also bought a second, short, dress for the evening so I could dance properly. It came from Oasis and was gorgeous but the week before the wedding I heard on the grapevine that my former dance partner was planning on throwing me in the air for some big lifts (we used to compete in the aerials category!). I got really worried that I was going to flash my knickers at all our guests. It sounds ridiculous now but I got really stressed about it. So on Easter Sunday after some intensive googling, I ordered a cream playsuit from Designer Desirables.
I’d never ordered or even heard of them before and after a frantic few phone calls to chase up the ‘next day’ delivery, I got the playsuit on the Thursday – 2 days before the wedding! I nipped round to my local seamstress Sarah (who I had primed ready for last minute alterations as soon as I’d ordered the playsuit as I knew it would be too long for me) and she worked her magic on it – 24 hours later (and less than 24 hours before I’d actually wear it!), it was finished and I went back to collect it.
I was so glad that I’d gone to all this effort despite it being stressful as I loved the playsuit on the day – it was comfortable, I could dance and it was still bridal enough.
As this was a second marriage for both of us, I knew I didn’t want a veil for our informal village hall wedding but I had my eye out for a gorgeous headpiece. I’d fallen in love with the Jenny Packham Acacia II headpiece but in the end it was too silvery for my dress and skin colouring so it was back to the drawing board. Whilst wandering around the National Wedding Show last October, I came across Victoria Allinson and tried on a few headpieces.
Victoria and her mum were so helpful and patient, suggesting many different styles and looks but the one that suited me the most was a seed pearl headpiece that was much fuller than I’d have gone for myself so it just goes to show that you should try on everything! Victoria and her mum Jayne were brilliant throughout the whole process and made changes to the design so that my creation was unique and balanced perfectly with my dress. I even took my dress down to Victoria’s shop so I could try everything on together to make sure it all worked. Victoria also made me a matching necklace as well. I thought matching earrings would be pearl overload so I ended up wearing my cousin’s wife’s diamond earrings which looked perfect. I added some Primark bracelets that I already had at the last minute on the day.
Style Over Comfort
I chose Monsoon shoes half price in the sale almost a year before the wedding. I had worn them around the house a little bit, but I never thought about wearing them for 6-8 hours to see how I’d cope! Boy do I wish I had!! By 5.30pm my feet were in agony and every step was an effort while we were having our portrait shots done. I really wanted to take them off but I knew if I did, then I’d never put them back on again and I needed them for our first dance so that my dress wasn’t dragging on the floor.
I persevered but the next day my feet were so swollen that I could hardly get my softest ballet pumps on and it took 2-3 days before my feet were back to normal. I love the way the shoes look in the pictures but I wish I’d gone for something lower and more comfortable! In the evening, I wore my battered but trusty dance shoes which were like putting on slippers.
My bridesmaids wore dresses by Oasis in a beautiful turquoise blue. I wanted something that they loved but that they would wear again. It was a challenge to find something that would work for a 13yo and a 22yo but we managed it after getting the dresses altered by my seamstress. We looked at hundreds of shoes for them but nothing was the right colour or fit, so I ended up buying cream ones from New Look and matching their flowers to the shoes. I let them choose what jewellery they wanted to wear of their own, and also let them have free reign over their hair and makeup.
I felt Like Me
My hair was done by my usual hairdresser, Lisa. After a couple of trials of curls and waves, I ended up with a ‘pouffier’ version of my usual straight hairstyle. I was worried that this wasn’t bridal enough, but actually I was glad in the end because I looked and felt like me. While Lisa was doing my hair, her colleague Daniel did the girls and my best friend Liz’s hair. As well as doing a great job, he was apparently hysterically funny and had everyone giggling all morning.
For my makeup, I knew I’d need someone to do it for me as I’m not very talented in that area but after a disastrous trial at MAC, I was seriously disheartened. Fortunately my friend Pippa offered to do mine and the girls makeup. She used to work in film & TV doing makeup on set, and is now a freelance makeup artist so I knew I was in good hands. She gave me a natural fresh look with slightly more defined eyes – again I wanted to look like me so I didn’t want anything too heavy or thick. She made the girls and Liz look gorgeous too, so everyone was happy and as Pippa was also a guest at the wedding, she was on hand all day long to offer lipstick touch ups. She even repainted 2 of my nails while I was in the car talking to the registrar 10 mins before the ceremony!
For our flowers, I’d fallen in love with the concept of flower balls which were contemporary and different to the normal flowers seen at weddings but the quotes I’d had were astronomical. So I decided to do them myself with the help of Liz and her step daughter who used to work in a florist. I ordered carnations en-masse from Nursery Fresh who were really helpful. Carnations get a bit of a bad press as an old fashioned flower but I thought they were a good alternative to peonies which were out of season, plus they were much cheaper and last for ages. If you’re doing your own flowers it can be a great way of saving money but don’t underestimate how much time it may take to prepare the flowers! We had to trim the stems, put them in water, fluff about 2000 carnations individually, sometimes more than once, to get the heads to open up, then trim to required length before they could be used in the flower balls!
It took 3 of us 2 days to do this immediately before the wedding. It was quite nice sitting in the sun chatting as we fluffed but not so much fun when it started to rain! And then we ran out of flower heads on the Thursday evening so I started driving around local flower shops trying to buy/source more carnations in the right colours. In the second shop I went to which was called Daisy Janes, the owner Jane was trying to help me when I just burst into tears with the stress of it all. She was absolutely fantastic, and ended up taking me herself to the flower market early on the Friday morning, letting me choose whatever I needed on her wholesale account, all so that I could finish off these flower balls!
The bouquets came from another local florist but they were expensive and much smaller than I was expecting so I ended up wishing that I’d ordered them from Jane. I got our vows printed on some orange ribbon by a local company which the florist then used to wrap the stems of the roses in. The buttonholes were cream roses to match the bridesmaids bouquets, except for Rog who wore an orange rose buttonhole to match my bouquet.
Suited And Booted
For the guys, we originally were going to have them wear their own suits but it turned out that everyone had a different colour – blue, grey, black, pinstriped! I couldn’t see how this was going to work, so we looked into hiring but that was so expensive that we decided to buy them all suits. We looked at lots of different high street retailers but ended up getting them from good old Marks and Spencer armed with a combination of a 25% off sale, buy 1 get 1 half price and a fistful of voucher codes. We couldn’t get everything in the right size at first, but Marks and Spencer were brilliant and told us to buy them anyway so that we could secure the discount, and then rang us as the right sizes came back into stock and exchanged at the original sale price even though they were now back to full price. That’s great service!
We teamed their dark navy suits with Thomas Nash burnt orange ties from Debenhams and I think the combination looked gorgeous. For my son, Ben, I got him some navy chino jeans and a turquoise, blue and orange check shirt from Next with some brown converse style boots (also from Next) which he declared were so comfortable it was like walking on air! It was important to me that he was dressed comfortably and wore something he would wear again rather than being constrained by the formality of a suit. He’s 7 and like all little boys, wants to run around which is exactly what he did (adding tackle slides to his repertoire in the evening when his friend arrived!)
Rog didn’t wear anything different from the rest of the guys – we decided that a bespoke suit was an unnecessary expense as he rarely wear suits for work and we thought the Marks and Spencer suits looked good on everyone.
Photography was our number one priority as Rog is a music photographer and so high quality final images were seriously important to us. We chose Ben from Touch Photography because we loved his mix of colour and black and white images, the contemporary reportage feel to his pictures and because Ben is such a lovely guy! Ben ended up doing a family photoshoot for us as well as our engagement and wedding pictures so we knew him pretty well by the time our wedding day arrived.
I hardly noticed Ben snapping away all day and he truly couldn’t do enough for us both, even driving us around the local area playing love songs on the radio and dropping us off at the pub for half an hour and then coming back to collect us later. Somehow he was still smiling at midnight! In the evening, one of the young photographers that Rog has been mentoring came to take some pictures in our photobooth – armed with some silly props that we’d made and others that we’d collected, he captured loads of hilarious images which our guests could then print out and stick in our guest book. If they wanted, they could also take a copy of any images home with them.
The Secret Of A Good Marriage
As well as our photo guest book, we also had a poster from Not On The High Street that people could colour and write messages on. I’d filled in the middle part to say ‘The secret of a good marriage is ….’ and then left the rest blank for our guests to complete. We got a variety of suggestions ranging from the loving to the ridiculous and it’s been fun to read all the comments. We’re going to get it framed and hung on the wall at home as a lovely reminder.
A Story Captured
Videography was also high on our list, and we chose the amazing Jeff Wood to record our day. I had fallen in love with the emotional story telling that comes across in all his wedding films, so we knew that we wanted him to film our day. We were not disappointed! Again, Jeff and his second camera man Aaron couldn’t do enough for us on the day and have done an amazing job on telling the story of our wedding day through the finished film.
Through Rog’s photography work, we knew an Acapella group called The Magnets. They have performed all over the world and you may recognise them from the ‘T-Mobile Welcome Home’ advert where they surprised passengers arriving at the airport. We thought it might be really fun to surprise our guests with an unexpected performance during our ceremony, and asked The Magnets if they could help us out. I’m sure they thought we were bonkers but they were up for the challenge and we planted them in between our guests on the day. None of our guests realised what was going on, and the look on everyone’s faces when they started singing part way through our first reading (my friend Chris who was doing the reading was in on the surprise!) was absolutely priceless. One of my favourite moments that Jeff captured was the looks on people’s faces during this part of the ceremony – we didn’t get to see many reactions until the film clip came through but it was all we had hoped for and was well worth keeping the secret for a whole year!
The Magnets also performed one of their own A-Z compilations during the signing of the register. These are songs by bands starting with the letters A through to Z and can be seen here. On the back of our ceremony program cards, we had spaces for our guests to write the answers to the name of the bands and this proved to be an amusing interlude while we were having photo’s taken!
We read out the answers during the speeches and presented the winner with a bottle of champagne and some chocolates. The Magnets also sang as we walked back down the aisle and entertained our guests as they were leaving the room. We can’t thank them enough for providing us with some unique entertainment, for going along with our crazy surprise and for squeezing us in between their Australian and UK tour dates. Thanks guys, we love you!!!
Venue – Burnham Park
Boutique – Berkshire Brides
Dress – Marianna Hardwick
Headpiece – Victoria Allinson
Maids – Oasis
Make-up – Pippa
Flowers – Nursery Fresh
Photography – Touch Photography
Entertainment – The Magnets
And that is where we leave it for now folks… But don’t worry – we won’t leave you hanging on for too long 😉