Emily and Hassan live in the Sudan, so being based away from home makes planning their wedding in six months all the more impressive.
They had an Islamic marriage ceremony last September in the basement of a bookshop, off Baker Street in London. How amazing does that sound?
Warm And Homely
We had been looking for a venue that would be warm and welcoming for the standard British weather of cold, grey skies and rain. We ended up with a completely unexpected summer’s day with clear blue skies and hot sunshine. We still can’t believe our luck. The beautiful house at Newick Park in East Sussex was perfect for us whatever the weather. It was warm and homely with light airy rooms leading onto beautiful grounds – I wanted to move in permanently.
Being in Sudan for most of the planning, I became ‘mildly’ obsessed with wedding blogs and picked up a lot of ideas… Which were then realised through the joy of online shopping and Amazon – you really can find anything on there… Hundreds of tiny pencils for £3… Flamingo straws for £2.50… As my parents well know – one day they couldn’t get into the house because there were so many delivery boxes blocking the front door.
My dress was the romantically named 2041 from Jesus Peiro at White Mischief in Henfield, West Sussex. I had been to several stores in London with pushy salespeople and tried on every type of dress under the sun (and who doesn’t love a Disney dress even if you know you aren’t EVER going to be walking down the aisle in it) but went back every time to the simple a-line shape.
White Mischief were endlessly helpful (and patient) as I re-tried the same dresses over and over and then still couldn’t decide so returned the next day with my mum for a second opinion. We ordered it there and then, and went straight to the pub next door to calm our nerves. Given that I flew out to Sudan the following week and didn’t come back until two and half weeks before the wedding they were amazing to book all my fittings and get the alterations done in that short time.
The heavy fabric and clean lines just showed how beautifully well made it was but the button down sash and the pleated draping of the skirt at the back added interest and, despite my insistence on NO bling, the sparkle brooch on the flower was just enough to make it special. I love that dress. I’m so sad to be selling it but it’s better to be making someone else happy than going yellow in my wardrobe.
I felt Like A Bride
I had been umming and ahhing about a veil for months. I went for it in the end and am so glad I did. I felt like a bride in it.
My bracelet was ‘borrowed’ from my grandmother (and previously worn by my mother at her wedding too) and then my earrings… I saw them in a jewellery shop in Tunbridge Wells and informed Hassan it was my Christmas present (I think he was relieved that he didn’t have to come up with a xmas present idea himself). I wasn’t sure if they would work with the dress or be too much, and had to wait until my first fitting 2 weeks before the wedding to try them out, but they rocked. I can’t stop wearing them now. I wore them down to the supermarket last weekend because I missed them.
I have a lovely new Cartier wedding band to match my engagement ring, which was picked up from Port Sudan market en route to Ethiopia, where Hassan proposed to me. It’s made from Sudanese gold from the Red Sea Hills (the same gold the pharaohs used!!) and glass ´diamonds´ and it means so much to me.
One of my big sisters works in the shoe industry and had some custom shoes made for me in Italy. They were a simple court shoe in cream snakeskin and very very high heels! I still don´t have the feeling back in one toe but it was worth it.
Messy But Not Crazy
I was thinking of doing my own hair but in the end decided to ask Hollie, my most fabulous hairdresser, so I wouldn’t have to worry about a bad hair day or it falling down halfway through the ceremony. I went in with my laptop to her salon, Hair Design, in Lingfield, and showed her a couple of pictures of my dress and some similar hair styles I’d seen and liked. I think I then waved my hands about a bit and said things like ‘scrunchy’ and ‘messy but not crazy’. Then she just put my hair together exactly how I asked but better. On the day itself, I ended up driving down to her salon in the village (and getting a parking fine in a FREE car park along the way) and she sorted my hair out as well as giving me 20 minutes of peace and calm on the most hectic of days.
Arabic Confetti Cones
We knew we wanted a relaxed spring flower style. Once we started looking, we found we had many many tea-sets in my mum´s house that had been handed down from my grandmother and great aunt (so many). We ordered flowers from a Dutch wholesaler who shipped them over with UPS a couple of days before the wedding and added in some grown from my mum’s garden, then my mum, my sister (and later my sister’s boyfriend was roped in as well) and I spent the day before the wedding arranging them into the teacups and teapots!
We used Avalanche, Sweet Avalanche, Akito and Vendela Roses with white freesia, anemones, white and pink tulips, misty blue Eustoma, white ranunculus, lily of the valley, narcissus, and pink Garcia spray roses. The bouquets were a combination of the roses with a sprig of lily of the valley because both my mother and my grandmother had lily of the valley in their wedding bouquets. The buttonholes were roses with lily of the valley. It was surprisingly relaxing and so enjoyable putting lots of beautiful things together!
My mum also made the confetti from rose petals from our garden… And later on by decapitating roses on sale from Aldi. It was surprisingly easy to do especially considering how expensive it is to buy. I made confetti cones from Arabic language newspapers we brought back from Sudan as Hassan used to buy peanuts outside his school gate when he was little which were packaged in cones like that.
A Vague Pink Theme
We weren’t planning to be completely matching so asked the two Best Men to wear a grey suit if they had one and we ended up with various shades along with my Dad’s. We got them all some matching stripy Paul Smith socks and cufflinks, and the ties were varying shades of pink. I loved that some of our other friends and family knew we had a vague pink theme running through and wore pink ties as well.
My nieces wore white bridesmaid dresses from Pearce Fionda at Debenhams, which they promptly covered in all the badges and stickers we had made for the wedding. My younger sister was my only adult bridesmaid and we had a bit of a shopping drama involving buying several dresses and then returning them. In the end we found a fifties style dress with awesome underskirts, for a bargain in the North Lanes in Brighton, just the weekend before the wedding. She totally rocked that dress and it was so much more fun than some of the more traditional styles we had thought about. And it had pockets!
Hassan bought his charcoal grey suit, white shirt and a pale pink tie from Hugo Boss and wore his grandfather’s Omega watch that had also been handed down through his father and brother. He wore his own brown belt and normal dress shoes…Aapparently he just picked up the first pair of shoes he found in the cupboard when he was packing! Hassan is obsessed with diving, and sharks in particular, so my wedding gift to him was a pair of silver chunky shark cufflinks.
Relaxed And Confident
I was sitting on the rubbish internet connection in Sudan getting my daily fix of Rock My Wedding when I saw Dominique Bader’s engagement shoot with Ben and Charlotte. I made Hassan sift through her entire website and blog with me and, having fallen in love with her images, we booked her immediately. We’d been looking for a photographer for some time and it was one of the most important aspects for us – these would be our memories of the day.
We had our engagement shoot exactly one week before the wedding and the weather couldn’t have been more different – a proper windy March day. I had been quite nervous before the engagement shoot – I tend to just feel awkward and slightly embarrassed in front of the camera – but we met Dominique and Samuel and got to know them a little over a cup of tea and cake then braved the wind and cold to take some shots. We had so much fun with them. More importantly, we were relaxed and confident for our wedding day as we went into it knowing exactly what would happen, feeling comfortable about it, and totally trusting Dominique.
You can see our pictures so I don’t need to tell you how beautiful she made everything look. Everyone was busy enjoying themselves and drinking champagne in the sun and so many beautiful moments were caught, each more lovely than the last. Thank you Dominique and Samuel.
My mum made our beautiful wedding cake. On her own. A three tier cake with layers of rich fruit and cherry sponge, covered in pale pink icing and fresh roses for decoration. She iced it too. Oh, and many many cupcakes as well. We are so lucky. She’s amazing. She found a lot of useful cake related products from www.cakescookiesandcraftsshop.co.uk.
By our beautiful cake, we had photographs of our parents and grandparents cutting their own wedding cakes. My favourite one is of my grandparents – everyone is laughing so hard because they are pretending to cut a cardboard cake at their wartime wedding.
Baby Got Back
We had a photo booth in the evening from www.dreambooth.com because they are So. Much. Fun! They came with fancy dress and the booth itself was leopard print. That made me very happy, and it went down a storm with all our guests. Copies of the photos were then pasted in our guestbook and everyone wrote/drew/defaced in their own personal way. I just laugh and laugh when I look at that book.
During the drinks reception we had an iPod playlist though I’m not sure anyone heard it as we were all outside enjoying the sun. We had a dj from Brighton to provide the party in the evening. We were running late when we had our first dance, and time went so fast that we didn’t notice the dj kept playing after the planned stop time at midnight – for a good couple of hours… Oops! Highlights included the 90’s house section that had my cousins raging (I think the term ‘choon!’ was heard at some point), all generations dancing very enthusiastically to ‘baby got back’ towards the end of the night, and the best men doing the fatboyslim ‘praise him’ dance. We embraced the cheese.
Don’t Dip Me…
Our first song was Paul Weller’s “You Do Something To Me”. It’s a song we both loved when it first came out in the mid-nineties and one we now love to listen to together. I spent most of the first moments saying to Hassan “don´t dip me, don´t dip me, oh go on then, oh no no don´t dip me”.
I walked down the aisle to Sigur Ros ‘Staralfur’- one of my faves, we signed the register to ‘La fete au village’ by Amadou and Mariam, and we left to the strains of Finley Quaye ‘Your Love gets Sweeter’.
Hassan wanted to take the opportunity to be a rock star and play a few songs on his brother’s guitar before his speech (during which he made every single person in the room cry. Yes, I was sobbing again). He played a version of Outkasts ‘Hey Ya’, Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ and ‘You got the Love’ by The Source.
Cherry And Stawberry Pins
Both our families have been affected by cancer in the last years so it seemed natural to have a donation to Cancer Research as our favours, with some very cute cherry and strawberry pins I found in my local cancer research shop. Hassan’s favourite pin had ‘make today count’ on it. The place name tags were tied onto mini packets of love hearts and we had sugared almonds in teacups on some of the tables as a nod to tradition.
Hassan’s mum used her talents to put the key rings together for us so guests had something fun to take home on the day and as an ice breaker during the meal we made up a ‘wedding pub quiz’ with each table as a team. We made sure there was at least one question each guest could answer and had a ‘find the guest’ round. My sister announced the winners during coffee and (lame) prizes were handed out to the victors. Who cheated a lot, I might add.
Let’s Do It
I had dutifully read bridal magazines explaining how you need a theme but I couldn’t really think of one. I grasped at ‘pink’ for a while (hence the ties but it pretty much ended there) – we soon got bored and settled for a general mantra of “We thinks it’s fun, it makes us happy, so lets do it…”. Well, it worked for us…!
We had a piñata (officially for the kids…) because, well, any excuse to have a piñata. It was one of my favourite parts of the day standing in the sunshine and thwacking that cardboard donkey!
I had originally planned to have a sweetie bar but it didn’t seem to fit, plus I didn’t want to be seen hanging out by the sweetie bar all day scoffing. So we kept the sweets but just had loads of them dotted around the hotel in teacups and sugar bowls – which made surreptitious sweetie eating much easier.
We made giant pastel coloured pinwheels which lined the drive up to the hotel. They were an afterthought but looked amazing – totally worth my younger sister spending an afternoon taping them together! I made several photo collages which we framed and left lying around for people to pick up and find pictures of themselves and us.
We left some homemade blackboards and coloured chalk in both the bathrooms so people could write graffiti on them. At the end of the night the girl’s one was covered in drawings of flowers and lovely messages. The boy’s one was two sides of rudeness and insults.
I read about Senbazuru while researching our honeymoon to Japan. Senbazuru is a Japanese word meaning ‘1000 cranes’. The story is that the couple that folds 1000 origami cranes together will have a long, happy and successful marriage. The crane represents fidelity and longevity – it’s fabled to live 1000 years, and if an origami crane is folded for each year of its life it will grant a wish and bring you luck. The patience and concentration required to fold 1000 cranes is said to mirror the same needed for a successful marriage.
So Hassan and I folded our 1000 cranes (sitting in front of the telly – oops, not so arduous) and brought them over on the plane from Sudan in a plastic bag- it was interesting explaining that through the security checkpoints. We strung them up in the ceremony room in the morning before the ceremony and I was not expecting them to look as good as they did floating in the breeze with the sun streaming in through the open windows. They really were lovely and made the ceremony room more personal to us.
I made paper fortune cookies from origami paper, an idea and DIY found on www.oncewed.com in their favours section, for people to read their fortune. I had fun looking up obscure fortunes and sayings on the internet to use and we translated some random sayings from Arabic as well: “the ant that bites its own elbow can only blame itself”.
A Bit Of D.I.Y
We made up all the stationery ourselves – we just wanted something simple anyway – and then had it printed at a local photocopy shop! I found a free puzzle maker on www.discoveryeducation.com which makes up customised crosswords and word searches. We put these in our order of ceremony booklets, to entertain our guests while waiting for the ceremony to start, and then tied pencils to each booklet with ribbon.
Our wedding was about us and our family and friends. We both travel a lot in our lives and it was special to just have a day, with so many of the people we love to be with, altogether. We had so much fun and laughter all day long. Everyone who was there was important to us and that they were able to share our day with us was just brilliant.
If you read Rock My Wedding regularly, you notice the same advice coming back time and again from brides, and that’s because it’s true: The most difficult points will be the guest list and the seating plan; There will be at least one point where you will lose track of all reality about something really small – it’s ok. But it will happen. And it happens to all of us; Everyone will have an opinion, and sometimes you will need to compromise, but always remember it is your day; The day passes so fast – almost in a haze – I cannot explain how happy we are that we made finding an amazing photographer to catch those moments one of our priorities.
Hassan’s advice to all those grooms out there: It’s your day; do what you want – even if everyone tells you not to do it. And always say yes to your bride.
…though I can’t remember him always saying that to me!
Photographer – Dominique Bader
Dress – Jesus Peiro
Boutique – White Mischief
Groom – Hugo Boss
Photobooth – www.dreambooth.com
Bridesmaid Dresses – Pearce Fionda at Debenhams
Good groom advice there from Hassan – do what exactly what you want… Even if everyone tells you not to do it… Erm, Apart from if it’s the bride – in which case just say yes to whatever 😉
Seriously though – how cool is this wedding? I love the cranes, that is a perfect touch. All the little details and thought that went into this wedding must have made the guests feel so special… And you can tell that by looking through these photographs from Dominique Bader – check out all those smiles.
The flowers in the teapots… The groom having a little sing song… The piñata!! I so wish I’d been at this wedding – I’d have smacked that donkey up good.