Good morning one and all! Right, I’m diving straight in to Part 2 of Our Wedding Story. Apologies for the two-week break- I think I got a bit sick of looking at my own face, and following the launch of the Utterly Wow website, the feature on Rock My Wedding, new enquiries and an upcoming client wedding this weekend I’ve been a bit of a busy bee! But I can’t leave you hanging with only Part 1 of a three-part story (plus I do love talking about it really) so I’m pressing on. Shall we?
A Blank Canvas
The Great Barn is a wonderful blank canvas venue. Obviously you have to like wood (there’s quite a lot of it) but it’s high ceilings, original beams and wonky bits lent itself to some really quite simple décor for the ceremony. I was going to town with colour and life for the reception, but for the part where we made our lifelong promises I wanted something a little more… raw. Regular readers will know of the many backdrop ideas I’d toyed with, but in the end (and largely because I was running out of time and money) I decided on a simple backdrop of festoon lighting. I hoped it would be romantic with a touch of theatricality, and, well, just look at that picture. It makes me want to jump in and say my vows all over again!
I chose antique-black stained chiavari chairs for a touch of old-school glamour, and lined the aisle chairs with a pop of flower power. (That pink feathery flower is called Astilbe- I LOVE it.)
As before, all images are by the wondrous Dominique Bader.
A Twinkly Blur
The ceremony itself was a twinkly, magical, laughter-filled blur. I walked in to the 80’s pop classic, ‘Only You’ (you know, the one that is being played in the final episode of The Office when Dawn returns to the party and kisses a heartbroken Tim). The version I chose was by a Canadian a capella group called Straight No Chaser, and despite weeks of struggling to choose and edit the damn song, my bridesmaids took off way before their cue and before I knew it I was down the aisle myself, having beamed at anyone and everyone along the way.
I remember reaching Paul and saying quite loudly, “Well, this is fun!” which wasn’t planned but made everyone laugh. And then Paul leant over, whispered he liked my dress and the ceremony began.
Looking back now, the whole experience is indescribable really. There were moments of sobriety and seriousness, and moments of pure joy and laughter. At times I was very aware that there were 97 people watching on, and at other times it felt like Paul and I were the only people in the room. We were in contact with each other the whole way, whether we were shoulder to shoulder, or holding hands, or arms around each other. Paul had been so anxious he’d get emotional but we both held it together thanks to lots of hand squeezes, eye contact and encouraging grins. Plus in the words of Darius, there was a lot of love in the room.
We only had one reading- a version of The Vow by Wendy Cope which I’d adapted for two voices so that my step-sisters could read it. You can read the original version here, but this is what my step-sisters said, taking a line each:
She cannot promise never to be angry.
He cannot promise always to be kind.
They know what they are taking on, our sweethearts; it’s only at the start that love is blind.
And yet she’s still the one he wants to be with
And he’s the one for her, of that she’s sure
She is his closest friend, his favourite person
He is her lover and the home she’s waited for
He cannot promise that he will deserve her from this day on. He hopes to pass that test.
She loves him and she wants to make him happy
They promise they will do their very best.
An emotional pair, they sobbed their way through (although their attempts to man up caused much amusement- I love the photo of the registrar in hysterics) and then we were asked to take centre-stage again to say our vows; an amalgamation of personal promises I’d found from across the internet, and which I felt had meaning to us without being too cheesy. They were:
“I, xxx, take you, xxx, to be my lawfully wedded husband/wife ~ In doing so, I promise to be your loving wife/husband ~ to cherish your love, intellect, and uniqueness ~ to support and inspire you ~ to delight in your happiness and comfort you in sorrow ~ to create with you a home which celebrates kindness, joy, good food and laughter ~ and I do all this unconditionally and without hesitation.”
The exchange of rings was quick and faultless, and before we knew it we were declared husband and wife. Cue a rather pregnant pause where the registrar didn’t invite us to kiss. I love the photos during this moment with me, arms outstretched saying, “Well kiss me then!”, Paul checking with the registrar that it was ok to kiss me, and finally… the kiss itself. Which was fab.
Married (and relieved) we sat down to sign the register whilst our brilliant and talented friends, Alice and Jeff, sang ‘You and I’ by Ingrid Michaelson (with an audience sing-a-long, I’ll have you know), and then we were announced back down the aisle to whoops and showers of confetti… minus the confetti. Unbeknownst to me the registrar had requested in her introductory speech that only bio-degradeable confetti was thrown. Ours was, but our guests didn’t know this. (Curses!)
We got showered in the stuff outside though, so it was all good.
A Fiesta Feel
Whilst we were kissed and hugged and photographed and handed drinks and congratulated, the barn was being speedily turned round by my coordinator, Laura, and the brilliant staff at Tatlers Catering. Just before guests were asked to take their seats for dinner I popped to the loo, and couldn’t resist poking my head inside the barn to see how it was looking.
To say I was blown away is a total understatement.
I know it sounds ridiculous but I can honestly say that this was one of my favourite moments of the day. Obviously I was overjoyed to finally be married to Paul but that was the easy part. I would have done that in my sleep or dressed as a giant banana if I’d had to. That’s not what I’d spent 17 months imagining, procrastinating, pinning, blogging and preparing for. The creative process had been my joie de vivre and seeing the barn set up for the reception- from the lanterns and festoons to the tables, centrepieces, signage and bar was ah-may-zing.
Remember table-linen-gate? In the end I bought a beigey/grey linen-look fabric from eBay which my clever and long-suffering Mum turned in to floor length table cloths. I don’t think we actually saved any money this way but they’re mine to keep now, and potentially hire out through Utterly Wow. (If you’re interested do get in touch for more information.) Then we had an array of runners in black and white stripes, gold sequins and orange shot silk, and the pimped-up jam jars, table numbers and flower arrangements were on wooden roundels in the centre. A selection of tealights, menu cards by Kate Ruth Romey and home-made ribbon napkin holders in an assortment of colours completed the look of the tables.
Let Them Eat Cake
Ahhh, the cakes. The Great Wedding Bake-Off was a roaring success, although it didn’t come without it’s faults (more on that later). Décor-wise, I’d asked my good friends Kat and Claire to make me a ‘Bake Off’ sign which was BEAUTS. Then I’d bought a big piece of pewter sequin fabric and left the actual cake-arranging to Laura and the catering staff. I’d asked guests to bring a cake stand or their fanciest plate, and with the addition of the ceremony flowers to the table the overall effect was an eclectic array of rustic, sparkly, heaving, cakey goodness.
What I hadn’t given any thought to (or rather, what I gave some thought to before struggling to find a solution and deciding to ‘wing it’) was how to judge The Great Wedding Bake-Off. There were well over 20 cakes, and with Paul and I being whisked off for our second portrait shoot after dinner and my appetite being non-existant that day, we were never going to be the taste-testers. I’d lovingly made rosettes as prizes and decided upon three categories (tastiest, prettiest and most creative), and what I should have done was made three ballot boxes and asked people to vote. What I actually did was decide that ballot boxes made things too competitive, had a mini drunken taste test to myself later on in the evening when most of the cakes were eaten, and then slyly handed out the rosettes at the end of the night to the people whose cakes I’d heard the most about. Not so slick.
On the one hand I still maintain that I didn’t want it to get too competitive… but on the other people had gone to such efforts it probably should have been taken a bit more seriously.
It did look frickin’ amazing though 🙂
At around 4.30pm ish Paul and I were announced in to the barn to a huge round of applause (and stomping of feet) and the wedding feast began, which is where I’m going to leave you for today I think. Next time I’ll talk briefly about the speeches before concluding with the evening shenanigans, final reflections and the lessons I learnt (including not to believe your husband when he tells you you’ve not bought enough alcohol).
I hope you enjoyed this post and for anyone getting married this weekend, have an amazing day!! I’ll be running around a hippy commune in Oxfordshire making sure Charlotte and John’s day is the best it can be. It’s gonna be epic!
Now does anyone want to hire some linen-look tablecloths??