Good morning all! A very special wedding on the blog today as I went to school with the beautiful bride Anneka. I watched her leave school, meet her dream man, get engaged and then married. An absolute fairytale. Her day was everything she wanted, but she has written a very honest and open account of her planning, especially her dress shopping, which has called for a different layout than usual. She has written some excellent advice so please make sure you read or pass on to other brides currently planning. Anneka really is a true southern bell (hello cowboy boots!) at heart and I am so happy that she had her perfect wedding day.
Venue: After much searching, and losing my heart to another venue which was much too big, we settled on The Meet at Coldharbour Farm in Hatford, Oxfordshire. Although it doesn’t sound like the most inviting of places, it was beautiful. Even in March 2012 when we first saw it on a freezing grey day. It basically consisted of a courtyard with an arch at one end and was surrounded by buildings on 3 sides. 1 side held the barn, where we held our reception, 1 side was the arch and the 3rd side held the old cow shed, which we transformed into our bar/chill out area. Hayley, who owns The Meet and lives in the house behind, was fantastic. She was not only the owner but also chef extraordinaire! She’s also amazing with plants and the entire outside space looked amazeballs in summer haze!
Wedding photographer: We (read I) chose Nic (and Alex) from Lemonade Pictures to be our paparazzi. I’d actually seen Nic’s work when she was a second shooter at the afore-mentioned heartstrings venue. Her natural reportage style was exactly what we wanted and I actually stalked her twitter feed and blog for months before we finally met in person – almost a year before W-Day. When we finally met, it was like seeing an old friend and I knew we’d made the right choice. As part of our package, Nic included an engagement shoot in Oxford. Scheduled for April, I was hoping for the spring sunshine we’ve had in previous years – but no luck. It rained, my hair went limp and then frizzy but Nic got us through it with laughter and hot tea. When I finally saw our wedding photos, words cannot even begin to describe how I felt about them. In short, they were everything I wanted, and more, and I don’t think I can ever thank Nic and Alex enough.
Stationery: Our stationary was designed and created entirely by us. After spending waaaaay too many hours on Pinterest, we decided on a design and Rob used his Mac to create everything: Save the Date, Invitations, RSVPs, Maps & Useful Info and Menus. We then had to chop, stick and tie everything with twine – thank god for only having 50 people!
Flowers: I will hold my hands up here and say that a year ago, I knew nothing about flowers. In some ways I still don’t. What I did have was a vision. Greatly influenced by American wedding blogs (Southern Weddings & SMP in particular), I knew I wanted an elegant, rustic, charming, outdoor barnyard wedding and the flowers to match. Pink Peonies are my all-time favourite flower (just call me Blair Waldorf), however, the joys of being a teacher meant that getting married in peony season was a no-go, so after much soul searching I decided on sun bleached pastels for myself complete with rosemary and lavender (divine!) and white with silvery green foliage for my lovelies. I must have sent numerous emails and pictures to my florist, Fleur, and on the day, it was completely worth it. For the tables, we decided on a neutral palate of whites, creams, lavenders and a little yellow; whilst outside we simply put 6 white hydrangeas in wooden handmade crates. For the boutonnieres, we had a white rose wrapped in twine, whilst Rob added some gypsophilia to his.
Bride’s hair accessories/veil: I decided against a veil, but it was a hard decision and one I only finally made a couple of weeks before W-Day. In place, I had 2 pink flower hair clips, turquoise drop earrings from Etsy and gold and blue enamel bangles from Max & Chloe. Oh and my wedding present from Rob: a rose gold Michael Kors watch I’d had my eye on for over a year.
Bride’s hair /makeup: Although I am a make up junkie, it is a recent thing, and so I decided to get my make up done by a pro (should have asked Phoebe!). After much searching I came across Louise Conner (via Jodie Hazelwood) and she was perfect. We had a trial just before my hen do and we decided on a slight golden eye and fuschia lip. And then 2 months before I changed my mind. In the end, we went for a slightly smoky eye and natural lip. Which made me happy as it meant I got to go and buy lipstick. In actual fact I ended up with two from Estée Lauder as I couldn’t decide! Louise also covered part of the tattoo that runs down my spine. My make up lasted all day and I didn’t have to worry about it once – despite being on the edge of tears a few times. For my hair, I decided to do it myself, and I’m really glad I did. It was so calming having to concentrate on it and turned out perfect. Despite having never tried it before, I chose to do a fishtail plait. After Louise kindly showed me how, I practiced a handful of times and despite it never turning out right before, everything came together on the day.
Bride’s dress /shoes: My dress. Ah. In many ways, my dress shopping experience wasn’t what every girl dreams of. There was no crying, no champagne and only 2 actual shops. Way back when, before we were even engaged, I had fallen in love with a dress. Scarlet by Monique Lhullier. Quite possibly still the most gorgeous dress I have ever seen. And so, once engaged (Valentine’s Day 2012 = total shock), I set about looking for the next best thing, as I knew Scarlet was very much out of my price range. To complicate matters further, my parents were posted to Dayton, OH in May, so I felt like I had to find a dress by then. We went to one shop in Oxford in April. I tried on Jenny Packham (and promptly fell in lust); a Susanne Neville version of the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress – amazing, felt like a princess, but Oh My God heavy and so not appropriate; and then came Lusan Mandongus. A lace and tulle beauty whose name was Aeriel. I fell head over heels in love with her, despite her being £1000 over my budget. I loved her so much, if I ever renew my vows I will wear her. Shortly after, my parents left for the States and I stopped looking. The year mark came and went and soon enough it was October. Time was the National Wedding Show. My mother was back for a visit, so with one of my bridesmaids, Sam, in tow, off we went. Having never been to a wedding show before, I had no idea what to expect. There were a lot of princess dresses, which disheartened me, but in amongst all the diamante there were a few gems. A JP – unsurprisingly I loved it, and a ivory lace that I looked good in. But at the back of my mind Aeriel and Scarlet still lurked, so I bought nothing and once again stopped looking. By December, I was starting to panic, but I need not have feared. On a Christmas trip to see my parents, my mother and I went to the nearest David’s Bridal. It wasn’t the prettiest store and I tried on 4 dresses in total. One was pink, actually pink. I loved it – but I didn’t love the amount of skin on show – I am not a strapless girl (knew that already but do they listen?!), another had a corset back (my own personal pet hate) and then came the final two. One had a keyhole back, lace with a tulle bottom, sweetheart neckline with lace shoulders that did up at the back of the neck; the other pure lace over a satin slip, v neck and plunging back. I didn’t know which to choose. I tried the first one on again and suddenly it clicked and I knew. When I closed my eyes, that was the one I could see myself walking down the aisle in. As my maman put it, the second one would be perfect – if I was getting married at Downton. And that was it. No champagne, no tears. Just a big, happy smile and a weight lifted. I placed my order and was told that as dresses were made in Texas, it would be delivered to store on May 23rd – my 26th birthday – meant to be. 2 months later and my dress was ready – 3 months early! Wooo! It was shipped from the States and she was just as beautiful as I remembered – though she didn’t have a name. So after consultation with a certain Mrs Miller, I called her Eleanor and it was perfect. The only thing left to do was have her fitted. Luckily, there was a dressmaker around the corner from my school so I went to her and somehow between Dec 27th and May, I had lost a stone. Cue much pinning. But in the end she looked amazing and I felt amazing in her. In comparison to my dress, my shoes were the first thing I bought and it was probably the second easiest decision I made (after saying “yes!”). They were turquoise, 4 inch, peep toe heels from Debenhams for the princely sum of £36. I always knew I wanted shoes I could wear again and these were exactly what I was after (well, actually I wanted Carrie Bradshaw’s blue Manolos from the first film, but hey!)
Groom’s outfit/accessories/shoes: Choosing Rob’s suit was much easier than finding my dress. A trip to Next and Burton ruled out those, whilst a trip to John Lewis was successful – a grey two piece that fitted like a glove, with a white on white striped shirt (also John Lewis) and a teal tie from Debenhams. Rob’s shoes were another matter. To start with he didn’t know what he wanted. Then he spent weeks trying to find the perfect tan lace-ups, eventually found in Next. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, I also bought Rob some teal boxers which matched his tie, my shoes, earrings and bangles and stripy socks from Happy Feet.
Groomsmen’s outfits/accessories: Rob decided to just have his best man/friend, Howard and he was kitted out identically to Rob (though I can’t attest to the colour of his boxers!) In addition, we also gave my papa a pair of matching stripy socks, which he wore with his RAF uniform, despite it being non regulation!
Bridesmaids’/dresses/shoes/accessories: I thought we would have the same problem with bridesmaids dresses as we did with mine. I need not have worried. After much to-ing and fro-ing over email, 4 out of the 5 of us met at the Bullring in January. We agreed on looking for something, possibly, in the blue range. I will confess I never thought we would find something all 4 girls would like and was fully prepared to have them in 2 or more different dresses. As it turned out, the dress was chose was actually the 3 dress we picked up. In the Warehouse concession in Debenhams. On the hanger, it looked unremarkable, but on, it looked perfect. We tried on a couple of other dresses at the same time and agreed it was the best. We continued looking – Next, River Island, Lipsy – nothing. We went into Selfridge’s and there it was again. After a quick photo to our absent friend, we decided to buy them. With enough time left to go to the Champagne bar for a bottle! To go with them, the girls all decided to go for nude heels. They also decided on their hair and make up during a weekend at my house – although they were a few tweaks on the day. Accessories-wise, the girls decided on their own earrings and as a present I bought them all a personal necklace (with a letter) to say thank you: A Jamaican hummingbird for Becca, and places for the others – Wales for Rhi, Africa for Lucy and Fiji for Sam.
Décor/wedding details: Our ‘theme’ if we had one was Southern, relaxed, elegant, rustic barnyard charm. This meant having lavender instead of confetti in cones handmade from our favourite books (a programming book for R and the Famous Five for me), an outside ceremony, white chairs, hessian table runners, jars filled with candles and purple stones, flowers in corona bottles, keys for placecards, Rob’s Grandad’s wartime suitcase for cards and homely touches like having a first aid kit and deodorant in the ladies. I found it very hard to describe it to anyone but Pinterest was my saviour!
Catering/food/drink: As I said, Hayley was our chef. She created a fantastic menu for us of goats cheese and parma ham Bruschetta to start, followed by pie and chips for mains. Drinks wise we had Pimms and non alcoholic sangria to go along with the bubbles and my beautifully handmade flag stirrers and lavender striped straws.
Cake: Instead of having a wedding cake or dessert, we decided on a dessert table. It was filled with Victoria Sponge, lemon meringue pie, macarons, berry cheesecake, cupcakes and cheese galore.
DJ/entertainment: Initially I was dead set against having a DJ. In my mind an iPod and sound system were fine and I didn’t want some creepy old guy leeching over everyone and talking too much. Rob disagreed and eventually we had a conversation with Stephen from Oxfordshire Wedding Entertainment. In many ways it was like talking to one of my parents’ friends, which made me very happy, and the fact that he offered an all day service was the icing on our nonexistent cake. On the day, he set up ready for the guests arrival outside, spoke only when he needed to be an MC and in the evening the dance floor wasn’t empty from beginning to end.
Honeymoon Destination: 3 days in NYC followed by 9 days in Mexico. In NYC, we stayed at the Hudson on W 58th Street between 9th and 8th – 1 block south of Central Park and with, unsurprisingly, a view of the Hudson and a roof terrace. In Mexico we stayed at Secrets Maroma Beach. Both were unbelievably perfect and in my dreams I’m still there. If you’re looking to go to either place, I would highly recommend both.
Christ me Spede! 😉