Our Wedding Part 3: P-A-R-T-Y

So where were we? Ah yes, Paul and I were walking in to rapturous applause.

We’d had a magical, laughter-filled ceremony, we’d hugged and high-fived our guests in the orchard, we’d posed and nuzzled our way through a portrait shoot with Dominique, and now our guests were at their seats and on their feet to whoop, holler and welcome us in to the barn. A thrilling ten seconds, I have to say- and one of my favourite parts of the day.

All images by Dominique Bader unless otherwise stated.

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SPblog-0083I don’t have any images of the food as our photographer was enjoying a well-earned break after four hours of finger-clicking, but I can tell you that the food and service provided by Tatlers Catering was marvellous. As we chowed down on a Mediterranean-inspired feast of antipasti, roast beef and melanzane parmagiana, I took great pleasure in sitting back and watching everyone talking, supping wine, enjoying their food and generally having a lovely, relaxed time. I ate quite lightly- the adrenaline was keeping the hunger at bay- and was conscious to take a swig of water with every swig of wine. A total lush usually, I was determined NOT to get trollied on my wedding day. (And I succeeded- just!)

Despite toying with the idea of doing the speeches before dinner, or slotting them between courses, we stuck with tradition in the end and they went one after the other once the main course had been cleared (but before The Great Wedding Bake-Off). I won’t go in to details about the speeches as it’s pretty dull if you don’t know the people involved, but I loved all 45 minutes of them, from my Dad’s short and sweet intro to the Best Man’s showman-style conclusion. There was A LOT of laughter.


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I gave a little speech myself (I say little, I think I may have hogged the microphone for longer than anyone else- my bad), as I wanted to say a few personal thank yous and give a special mention to my beloved Gran who had died only 6 months prior and yet financed a large chunk of the wedding. But my favourite speech of all was Paul’s. Seventeen months of fretting and dread that boy put himself through, and yet he delivered the warmest, calmest, funniest speech of them all. I was a very proud wife.

Speeches done and evening guests already beginning to arrive, Paul and I were whisked off for our second portrait shoot/ nuzzling session with Dominique whilst our guests helped themselves to cake and coffee.  I loved this second shoot, and would recommend everyone doing a couple of photographic sessions where possible. Not only was the light completely different, but we were physically more relaxed, and if you zoom in on some of the images… just a little bit tipsy.  As we kissed and laughed and congratulated each other on our respective speeches and all-round brilliance, Dominique snapped away, but we were soon lured back to the barn (and our newly-arrived guests) to start some serious p-a-r-t-y-ing.

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And p-a-r-t-y, we did.  Laura and the team had re-arranged the barn again whilst our guests gorged on cake, and the set-up was very simple; on the lower level was the bar, band and dance floor (handy hint- if you want people to dance, put the bar and the dance-floor near to each other), and on the upper level was the seating area and the polaroid guestbook table. Out back, there was a fire pit with hay bales, blankets and s’mores, and the aptly-named Van Dough, a little retro Citroen van that came all the way from south-east London to serve the most amazing pizzas all night long. And they brought fairy lights with them and everything. Total stars.

party1 party2Our band were the phenomenal Flood The Floor, a five-piece of male musical hotness who were perhaps the biggest triumph of the whole evening. I’d always wanted a band rather than a DJ (there’s nothing quite like live music) so was absolutely delighted when Paul’s grandparents offered to buy us one as a wedding gift. A pleasure to deal with (and to look at, ahem), we started dancing during their sound check and didn’t finish until they started packing up at the end of the night. Random guests were called up on stage at various points to sing, dance and, erm, rap (that last one was my ‘contribution’), and I’ve lost count of the number of compliments we received about them in the hours/days/weeks after the wedding. So they kept getting overexcited and exceeding the noise limiter- who cares? All that happened was the lights temporarily went off, but with the music still playing we simply continued to dance under the LED-lit paper lanterns until the power was switched back on again.

Book them, and you will have one hell of a party. I can assure you.

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So as the sun went down the music played, the people danced, the pizzas were eaten, the drink flowed and fun times were had. You may remember The Great Guestbook Debate where I waxed lyrical about how much I wanted a polaroid picture guestbook, but wasn’t sure if I could go there financially. Well a couple of days later my scha-mayzing manager at the boutique came in to work with a Fuji Instax camera she’d dug out from her attic and I almost spontaneously combusted with gratitude. (No, seriously- it made my day.) I bought enough film for 60 pictures, a book, pens and photo corners from Paperchase, and the day before the wedding we mocked up a quick streamer background to add a flash of colour.

It was a resounding success!

From the inside of one amazing guestbook. Images my own.

From the inside of one amazing guestbook. Images my own.

My brilliant bridesmaids spent a huge part of the evening spreading the word and getting the book filled (largely with pictures of themselves although they’re absolute corkers so I forgive them), and that night when Paul and I got back to our hotel room we sat on the bed opening all our cards and dissecting this immense creation of love, drunkeness and hilarity. I’ve gone through it at least twenty times since then and find something new to laugh at nearly every time.

Our wedding day was even more FUN, even more RELAXED, and even more FULL OF LOVE than I ever could have hoped for. Even now, more than three months later, there’s little I would change. In retrospect I wish that we had asked our photographer to stay for longer (although, as she’d just had a baby she probably wouldn’t have been too keen). Although you don’t want hours of dancing shots there are a few more elements I would have liked captured- the outside area once the sun had set and all the candles/lamps were lit, the queues for the pizza van and the consequent gorging, the polaroid guestbook table being utilised and abused, and the epic last dance (see below). Also, I don’t feel so strongly about it now, but in the immediate days after I wished we’d started proceedings just an hour earlier. We had to be off site by midnight (which Paul and I were actually fine about), but with dinner and speeches running a little over, the party didn’t really get in to full swing until 9pm which meant the evening did feel a little cut short.

Having said that, we went out on an absolute high… quite literally. We didn’t want a first dance, as Paul *hates* dancing and I *hate* shuffling awkwardly. But I knew we’d end up having a ‘last dance’ (Paul + alcohol = compliancy), and had asked Flood The Floor to learn Love Is In The Air from my favourite film of all time, Strictly Ballroom. As the music played our guests formed a circle around us, linking arms to sing and sway drunkenly whilst Paul and I shuffled and twirled in the middle. (Well, I twirled and Paul shuffled. ) My last prevailing memory is of being picked up and held aloft by a group of particularly strong guests to the sounds of “Sama’s in the air…!”.  As I said, pretty epic.

So that’s Our Wedding in a three-part report. It’s hard to believe that three months have passed and it’s freakin’ September already?! There are a couple more wedding posts to come, starting with a dissection of our Wedding Bar and the amounts of alcohol purchased and consumed, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with this- our last dance (with lift!) in all it’s drunken, shaky, technicolor glory…

Paul’s gonna kill me.

Sama xxx


California ‘Moon: The Highlights

Oh my, I have well and truly left my heart in California. What is there not to love about the most spectacular ocean views, permanently good weather, amazing food and free parking everywhere?! We started our jam-packed ten days in San Francisco (my new favourite city) before picking up our brand spanking new Ford Mustang and hitting the Pacific Coast Highway. Through Carmel, the Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Malibu and Los Angeles we went, ending in San Diego (my new second favourite city) where we very sadly flew home from on Friday. It was an awesome one-of-a-kind romantic adventure, folks. Here are my highlights…

All pictures are my own (can’t you tell?).

My New Favourite City


It’s just like The Killing… but sunny.

Before we left everyone kept telling us how much we’d love San Francisco. I was worried it may not live up to the hype but as soon as we got there it was true love. True love, I tell you. We were only there for two nights but in that time we squeezed in Union Square window shopping, a city bus tour, Alcatraz (amazing!), Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and the North Beach bar scene. This is a city with soul, sights and s**tloads to do, and I am already gagging to go back.

Just some of our San Francisco highlights

Just some of our San Francisco best bits.

Foodie Heaven


Californians know how to do food.

Oh gawd, the foooood! There was so much good food- and as massive foodies we knew that meal times were going to provide many of the trip highlights. From clam chowder in a bread bowl (San Fran-stylee) to jambalayas, fresh fish, beef tacos, sushi, pancake breakfasts, a mahoosive 48oz Porterhouse steak, and of course, a cheeky Jack-In-The-Box (roadside burger and fries- it had to be done), we were so well fed it’s a wonder we’ve not come home 4 stone heavier. I think our favourite meal though was on our second night in San Francisco. We’d consulted Trip Advisor and honed in on a little Italian seafood joint in North Beach called Sotto Mare. Here we were squeezed in at the bar overlooking the kitchen (the restaurant was packed) and feasted on what they call The Best Damn Crab Cioppino. And by jove it was. Crab, clams, mussels, shrimp and squid packed in to a bowl of spicy tomato-ey herby goodness with a few penne tubes thrown in and fresh bread to mop up. I’m literally salivating at the memory.


The Best Damn Crab Cioppino

Happiness is…

… Santa Monica beach. Even though we decided to stay in West Hollywood, we spent the afternoon of our full day in LA in Santa Monica. I’d been looking forward to this excursion as I had imagined sun, sea and life… and it didn’t disappoint. Paul commented that he’d never seen such joy on my face as we cycled the three miles to Venice Beach Pier and back.


We cycled, we sunbathed, we people watched, we played on the numerous gymnasiums along the beach (for the record, I can hang from rings upside down, Paul can’t), we I ate ice-cream on the pier… ’twas a truly glorious afternoon.


I’d decided I was going to play the honeymoon card as much as possible in the hope of getting an upgrade here or there. Whilst our dreams of a move to first class on the plane were scuppered at check-in (the lady took my extreme friendliness as reason to be suspicious and I later got ‘taken aside’ to be thoroughly searched right before we boarded- cheers), a couple of hotels took the hint, and we received our first hotel upgrade at the Ventana Inn & Spa in the Big Sur. Seeing as even the cheapest room was our ‘splash-out’ of the whole trip, this was quite a coup, let me tell you.

The view from our room, sorry, suite.

The view from our room, sorry, suite.

The Ventana is by far the nicest hotel Paul and I have ever and probably will ever stay in. More a set of luxury eco lodgings than a hotel, they pull out all the stops to ensure you have a serene, beautiful, romantic time. Think ocean and mountain views, guided walks, morning yoga sessions, two beautiful pools (one ‘clothing-optional’!), Japanese mud baths, staff at your beck and call, fire pits and outdoor dining… we were only there for one night but it was very special.


A Road Trip To Remember

Of course, we weren’t walking to all these fabulous places. Our ‘ride’ for the trip was a Ford Mustang Convertible, and driving along the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down was just as thrilling as I hoped it would be. Although opting for GPS over an actual map was probably the less romantic option, it made the whole drive so easy and we got to enjoy some of the most spectacular views instead, with minimal arguments! (I said ‘minimal’, not ‘no’ ;))

The beautiful Bixby Bridge.

The iconic Bixby Bridge.

Our motor.

Our motor for the week.

If I could go back and do it all again I would probably make some minor changes to the itinerary. As we kicked off in such style with San Francisco and the Big Sur, our enthusiasm was stalled in Santa Barbara which we found just a bit bland. (And full of young Americans getting wasted!) And although I knew San Diego was going to have LOADS to offer, we were a bit tired by the end of our trip and probably didn’t use our time there effectively. So perhaps in retrospect we should have done an extra night in San Francisco (we loved it so), cut out Santa Barbara altogether (although we had some fab food there), stayed in Santa Monica instead of West Hollywood and done three nights in San Diego instead of two… but that’s just me being picky. As life experiences go it was a phenomenal, epic, romantic trip and one that EVERYONE should do at some point.

California, we’ll be back.

An evening stroll in Santa Barbara; Hollywood; our hotel view of San Diego Bay; a noble goat at San Diego Zoo; sushi at Nobu

An evening stroll in Santa Barbara; Hollywood; our hotel view of San Diego Bay; enjoying a noble goat at San Diego Zoo; sushi at Nobu

So tell me, who else is planning a California honeymoon?? You will LOVE it! Would love to hear from you if so…

Sama xxx




Our Wedding Part 2: I Dos and Festoons

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.


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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.

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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.

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Meaningful Words

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.”

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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!)

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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??

Sama xxx

Our Wedding Part 1: Here Come The Girls

Good morning one and all. And welcome to a slightly new look Utter Blog! The Utterly Wow website is coming along thick and fast ready for an official launch, and as such I had a little play around with themes this morning to give the blog a bit of a face lift too. More developments coming very soon.

But in the meantime… fancy a wedding story?

I’ve ummed and ahhed with how best to approach this, but in the end have decided to break the day down in to four different parts: getting ready and the beautifying of ourselves, the ceremony and venue, wedding breakfast and reception details, and finally the evening shenanigans and that all-important drinks purchase analysis. Shall we begin?

The Pre-Preparations

We’d spend the Thursday and Friday setting up the venue. There was so much to do; festoon lights had to go up, paper lanterns had to be hung, furniture had to be received and mountains of alcohol had to be unloaded. Not to mention the sweeping, washing of floors, sign erecting, bar positioning, plant pot hanging, flower arranging, and a last-minute panic to order a heater, it was so FRICKIN COLD. And wet. My oh my, the rain did fall those two days.

Yet come 5pm on the Friday I was ready to down tools and surrender myself to serendipity. The forecast was bright for the next day, our family and friends were en route, and a large glass of white wine was calling me at the pub we had all arranged to spend the evening at.  The festivities had officially begun.

Paul and I had made the unusual decision to stay together that Friday night, as we historically sleep well when we’re together. This only partially came true. Whilst we passed out very quickly, I awoke at 3am to find Paul heavy breathing over the toilet bowl, and those last few hours were spent holding hands and dozing through nerves and the first jitters of excitement. However, all concerns about lack of sleep were eradicated when we saw the beams of sunlight trying to bust their way through the shutters at around 7am. It was an absolutely glorious day and the relief we both felt was pretty immense. It was going to be a good day.

All images by the sublime Dominique Bader unless otherwise stated.

A Morning Of Calm

Waters End Farm- our beautiful wedding accommodation

Despite our beautiful surroundings and welcoming host, Jill, Waters End Farm had ZERO phone signal. And I mean zero. Nada. Diddly flipping squat. Which would have been fine as by this point I was happy to relinquish control to my coordinator, Laura, and our trusted suppliers over at the venue, but the B&B was also particularly hard to find… and we had to receive a lot of important visitors that morning.

We were expecting the arrival of best man and bridesmaids at 9.30am, so when it was approaching 9.50am with no sign of them, I decided a phone call from the owner’s landline was probably advisable. Thankfully, just as we were making our way to the main house, the car pulled up to the sounds of hysterical laughter from within. Turns out I was quite a sight in my ‘carefully thought out’ outfit of denim shorts, pyjama top, bed head and facial scowl. I think the exact quote made by the best man was, “That’s going to need a lot of work”. Cheers Al.

My bridesmaids bustled in with their bags, dresses and morning treats (a random selection of bread rolls, bananas and cider), and after a kiss and a hand squeeze from Paul, the boys left with their stuff to go and get ready elsewhere. Moments after, my Mum arrived to drop off Cass, our hair stylist and all-round Getting Ready Guru, and also the bouquets courtesy of Bloomin’gayles, at which I promptly burst in to tears, they were that beautiful.

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Those few hours are already a hazy memory but I know I enjoyed them immensely. My maids had put together a surprise CD of ‘Sama Choons’ which we had on in the background, and whilst we took it in turns to have our hair styled, I segwayed seamlessly between taking swigs of champagne, exclaiming delightfully, ‘Look at the sun!’, congratulating Cass on her amazing hair skills, and answering questions about seating plans and schedules. Dominique and her husband, Samuel, turned up just before midday and started snapping away, at which point the morning preparations were in full swing.

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Just Give Me Hair

As I was having my hair down, I was keen for the girls to all have up-dos, and as long as they were big, tousled, and incorporated some sort of plait, I was happy to let Cass weave her magic. Absolutely nothing fazed her- from a big old bun to a J-Lo inspired chignon, I was so delighted with what she created.

As for me, regular readers will know about Operation Get Good Hair and my eternal quest for luscious locks. Cass gave them to me, with a mixture of clip-in and glued-in extensions that gave me the kind of volume (and a smidgen of extra length) that I’ve always dreamed of. With some big old waves put in and my ‘something old’ on my head (the flower garland my Mum wore on her wedding day, given a new lease of life by Crown and Glory), I was ready to go.

Well, almost. My face needed some serious work first!

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I’m actually pretty confident doing my own make-up, and in preparation for The Day I Had To Look The Best, I’d had three different make-up counter trials and ended up buying half of Bobbi Brown. The ‘look’ I wanted to create was a stronger, longer-lasting version of what I usually wear for a night out: the only thing stopping me was the Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner that I’d bought, and for the life of me couldn’t get to grips with. Liquid liner I can apply in a matter of seconds; gel eyeliner with separate eyeliner brush… Disaster.

Things turned very serious when it came to eyeliner application time as I was concentrating so hard, but magically it went on like a dream. Well, if we’re being really picky, the angle at which the line flicked on one eye was totally different to the other- but it was good enough for me!

And for anyone interested in a breakdown of the exact products I used, I’ve done you a little picture and product list. You can thank me later.

Image by me.

Image by me.

  1. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base- moisturiser and primer
  2. Clarins Skin Illusion Foundation in Nude- the most flawless but natural foundation I found. And smells great!
  3. Benefit Erase Paste- I’ve talked about how much I like this product before
  4. Bobbi Brown Blush: Slopes- a warm pink with a hint of coral
  5. Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick: Nectar- a shimmery highlighter with a hint of colour to go right at the top of the cheekbones
  6. Bobbi Brown Eyeshadow in Champagne Quartz- to go over the whole lid
  7. Bobbi Brown Eyeshadow in Bone– for the inner corners of the eye and to highlight under the eyebrow
  8. Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner: Black Ink- a bugger to apply but once it’s on, it’s on
  9. Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Eyeliner Brush- I bought a cheaper alternative first and then had to go back and buy this. It goes hand in hand with the eyeliner really
  10. Ruby & Millie Eyebrow Trio- to define the eyebrows, even if you’re a brunette!
  11. No.7 Lip Pencil in Caramel- to define but also fill in the whole lip. It gives the lipstick something to hold on to.
  12. Bobbi Brown Lip Colour in Italian Rose- I was sold by the name! A burnt pinky red colour that made me feel like Sophia Loren.

The Wedding Dress of Dreams

I wrote at some length about the search for The Dress. I don’t believe in The One when it comes to wedding dresses; I think that there are several we could all pick and feel sensational in. But the one that made me feel the most like I should wear it  for my wedding day was Chantilly by Claire Pettibone, purchased, of course, from Blackburn Bridal Couture where I work.

It’s a soft, fluid fishtail, covered in chantilly lace and intricate beadwork, and it has the most exquisite back I’ve ever laid eyes on. I was very excited to wear it.

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Unfortunately it seems my bridesmaid, Nicola, wasn’t so keen, as, mid dress-going-on, she decided to get some of the beaded lace caught in the bracelet I’d just given her as a wedding gift. And when I say caught, I mean secured. That bad boy was not coming off.

Let’s picture the scene. There’s me, butt naked except for my massive beige M&S pants, arms in the air with my dress halfway over my head and trying desperately to keep my freshly made-up face away from the fabric, whilst the entire bridal party (that’s my three bridesmaids, hair stylist and photographer) try to gently prise the stubborn thread out of the bracelet’s clasp. I’m getting hotter and hotter by the minute, and whilst I’m trying to see the funny side of things, I really just want to get the whole bloody thing off me.

This is a tasteful, actually quite beautiful version of what you could imagine was going on…

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…and this is the in-your-face, not so beautiful version of what was actually going on, courtesy of my finding-the-whole-thing-hilarious bridesmaid, Sarah:

Image by bridesmaid Sarah

Image by bridesmaid Sarah

Of course, the thread eventually came free and the dress eventually went on. And after much relieved laughter, beauty touch ups and a final hair boost, I was ready.

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By this point it was around 1.45pm and the ceremony was at 2.30pm. Dominique left for the venue, and the rest of us waited for my Dad to arrive, alternating between titillating in front of the mirror, packing up bits and last-minute toilet stops. I think the most surreal moment of the whole day was when my Dad pulled up and we all piled in to his car; Cass making sure my hair and dress got in ok before passing me this enormous, gorgeous bouquet, and then me turning round to look at my three bridesmaids in the backseat, a masse of coral and pink loveliness and bubbling excitement. The weight of what was happening hit me like a brick wall at this point, and on the journey there I swung wildly between shrieks of “Oh my god, I’m getting MARRIED!”, and contemplative silence. It was happening, folks.

Next time, I’ll tell you all about our twinkly, joyful ceremony, but for now I’ll leave you with the ‘finished’ shots of me and my favourite girls. Huge thanks to Dominique Bader for taking the most beautiful images I could have ever asked for, Cassandra Rizzuto for her amazing hair skills, and Bloomin’gayles for the blooms that surpassed all my expectations.

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See you at the barn…

Sama xxx

Mini-Mooning, Clichés & The Post-Wedding Blues

Well good morning to you, my lovely little readership- how are we all? I’m feeling every so spritely having had some good news from Dominique Bader, my sha-mazing wedding photographer. A certain photographic package shall be arriving TODAY which means the wedding blog posts shall begin with aplomb next week! Whoop!

But I couldn’t let this week go without saying hello, filling you in on the last couple of weeks and sharing a few of my post-wedding reflections. Are you ready? Let’s go.

A Very Mini Moon

With a DIY wedding (which means a take down of epic proportions), my beloved Canadian family over for the wedding, and a much-anticipated Californian honeymoon adventure booked for the end of July, Paul and I were never going to venture far for our mini-moon. We’d done A LOT of driving over the wedding week, so we wanted somewhere not too far away; a place to unwind, enjoy some nice food and just be together.

We chose a little portion of the south coast, which had us visiting Rye, Hastings and Camber Sands in the space of twenty four hours.  First stop was Rye, a pretty little harbour town that I’ve always wanted to visit but doesn’t have an awful lot going on. We wandered and window shopped and lunched at the quirkily decorated Ship Inn, before hopping back in the car and taking the scenic route to Hastings.

Our bed for the night was at the Zanzibar Hotel in St Leonards On Sea, a short(ish) walk from Hastings along the seafront.  A boutique hotel made up of 8 ‘themed’ rooms, I’ve admired it from afar for a little while. Booking last-minute proved to be a good idea, as we got a great deal on one of their best rooms, Antarctica, which was large, white, had a fantastic sea view and a, erm, ‘spa shower’ which also housed a sauna, steam room, massage jets and ‘therapy light’ (read: disco light). It was a novelty, at best, but I don’t think we’ll be investing in one when we win the lottery. The room, however, was beautiful.


Antarctica? Or just a tastefully decorated white room? Either way we liked it.


A glorious sea view, despite the miserable weather.


The spa-come-shower.

That Thursday afternoon was pretty miserable weather-wise, so we decided to save Hastings Town for the following morning and instead spent a VERY lazy couple of hours in our room. Something which we rarely do and which was, quite frankly, utter bliss. In the evening we put our glad rags on, and despite the offer of eating at the hotel’s very well-rated restaurant, Pier Nine, we were tempted instead by a new addition to Hastings, and the current number-one ranked restaurant on Trip Advisor, the Two Bulls Steakhouse.

Holy piece of cow on a plate- they know how to cook steak. It was our mini-moon so obviously we went straight to the most expensive cuts on the menu; the 12oz Chateaubriand fillet for me and the whopping 17oz Porterhouse T-bone for Paul. Both were delicious (mine was better), and we even squeezed in a little white and dark chocolate pot at the end. We spent the rest of the evening canoodling in a candle-lit bar and talking about how great our wedding was whilst getting steadily inebriated. Standard.


Breakfast in bed- now that’s what I’m talking about.

The next morning we nursed hangovers with a breakfast feast in bed before having a proper wander round Hastings during the day. I actually really liked Hastings. I’m sure many consider it a poorer man’s Rye but I loved the buzzier atmosphere and quirky shops. It was a glorious day and once again, after the adrenaline of the wedding weekend, we were quite happy just to sit on the beach and chill.

Oh, and we nearly sat on a starfish.

A nearly squished, but very alive starfish.

A nearly squished, but very alive starfish.


Canoodling on Camber Sands.

Canoodling on Camber Sands.

Last stop was Camber Sands- a slight detour on our journey home but as the sun was shining it would have been rude not to. We ate fish and chips and sat in the dunes and people watched and canoodled a bit more, until it was time to get home and feed our cat.

All in all, it was a pretty perfect twenty-four hours with my newly-aquired husband. I think I’ll keep him.

The Post-Wedding Blues

The ‘post-wedding blues’ are seen by many as a bit of a cliché; a light-hearted mockery of the bridezillas of the world who, having nothing left to plan/control, fall in to a mild state of depression. Those that fall victim to the PWB are sad and wedding-obsessed and clearly have nothing better going on with their lives…

Erm. Well… that would be me then.


The post-wedding blues hit me quite hard and quite immediately. I’m talking about it like they’re a thing of the past and they nearly are, I think, but I’m not entirely out of the woods yet.

I loved EVERY SECOND of wedding planning;  even the stressful/time-consuming bits like table linen gate. In fact I thrived on the stressful/time-consuming bits because they gave me a challenge I had to conquer. Finding the solution was going to be so satisfying. With wedding planning, the planning beast inside of me was released and creative control was mine. And the best part of all? Having money to spend. We were so incredibly lucky to have a fairly decent budget (around £15k) thanks mainly to very generous family members, and for me, having been skint for ever it was such a novelty to be able to buy things! But it’s back to window shopping now, and ‘being careful’, and counting the days ’til payday. So not fun.

And then there’s the excitement, the anticipation. Seventeen months of getting flutters of eager delight that make you clap your hands in glee and exclaim “Oh my god, I can’t WAIT!”. What can’t I wait for now? In all honesty, nothing. There are things I look forward to, of course… I’m massively looking forward to our honeymoon, to turning 30 (any excuse to throw a party), to having children, to all the many wonderful life experiences that lie ahead for Paul and I. But nothing as mind-numbingly, hand clappingly, butterfly inducingly thrilling as a wedding day.

But that is the self-indulgent side of me talking. I think/hope/know that once we have our wedding photos we will be able to see our day for what it was; a day. A wonderful, important, magical, sunny, technicolour day- the best of our lives, in fact- but just a day. I know that there is so much more to come! Starting with the launch of Utterly Wow, a super-dooper wedding to coordinate in July, and then, of course, The Honeymoon Of Dreams.

The Wedding Cliché

Weddings really are one big cliché , aren’t they? When I first got engaged I was so determined NOT to be a cliché. I didn’t want an ‘average wedding’, I didn’t want to be a bridezilla; I most certainly did not want to get the post-wedding blues! But hey, s**t happens. Looking back, our wedding was far from average (well we think so anyway) but there were still some clichés/superstitions/common wedding perceptions that rang very true. Hear ye, hear ye…

  • Finding The One– Being a bridal consultant I know for a fact that The One doesn’t actually exist. It’s not about finding the one dress out of all the bridal shops in all of the land that is destined to be yours; it’s about finding the one that makes you feel fluttery and special and puts a big fat smile on your face… and then stopping. Before you find The Next One.  My circumstances were different as I was always going to get my dress from my boutique, and I had a very generous boss which meant budget wasn’t such a priority… but I still knew the moment I put my dress on. I pretended I didn’t know for the sake of having that last appointment with my Mum and all three of my bridesmaids, but I knew. And it felt good.
  • Last minute weight loss– All bloody year I ‘watched what I ate’, and tried the 5:2 Diet, and joined a gym and then beat myself up when I didn’t go… and I weighed exactly the same at my first dress fitting as I did when I got engaged. But then in that last week, the magic happened. Was it stress? Did I lose my appetite? A little bit of both perhaps. All I know is that I dropped what felt like 3 or 4lbs in that last week, and my stomach was the flattest it’s ever been on my wedding day. It’s now the fattest it’s ever been as I can’t seem to stop eating post-wedding, but we’ll move swiftly on from that one…
  • The pre-wedding cold– Maybe this had something to do with the weight loss but the week before the wedding I got a stonking cold. It magically lifted by the wedding day.
  • The weather- I tried to be so cool about the weather. I deliberately picked a spring wedding so that we wouldn’t rely on it being a sunny day. I told myself that whatever the weather, we would have a wonderful time. And then I started praying for sun. And checking the weather app every five minutes. And unravelling all my coolness in one fell swoop. It was FREEZING  the week of our wedding; we’re talking barely double figures at the end of May. And as we set up on the Thursday and Friday it rained solidly for 48 hours. But lo and behold the sun came out on the Saturday morning and hung around all day- perhaps the most welcome cliché of all 🙂
  • The Best Day Of Our Lives– It really was. ‘Nuff said.

Honeymoon Help!

Finally, I just have a little appeal for those who have been or know California well. We have our last two stops to book accommodation for and I’m struggling. Los Angeles and San Diego, two nights each… where do we stay?? In LA we will mainly be spending our full day exploring the many famous beaches I think, rather than heading inland to do touristy things. Therefore I would like to find lodging in Santa Monica, but my, it’s expensive. Would anyone recommend otherwise? West Hollywood perhaps?

And then I really don’t know very much about San Diego. On our full day I should think it will be mainly beach-based- with perhaps a little explore of Coronado. But in the evenings we’d like to head downtown to explore the city properly, so I’m thinking perhaps we should stay in the Gaslamp Quarter? Or maybe Little Italy?

Our budget is roughly $200 per night, excluding taxes. It looks like you get more for your money in San Diego and we would quite like to finish our trip somewhere a bit special… but that would leave less budget for LA which makes finding decent accommodation pretty tricky.

All recommendations gratefully received!

Well that’s it from me. It’s good to be back, and I look forward to boring you stupid with wedding tales from next week. If there’s anything in particular that you would like a full report of then please do let me know! I’ve already had requests for a breakdown of alcohol bought and used, and a lowdown on what make-up I went for in the end, but if there’s anything else you would like me to focus on then do shout. I really don’t want to milk this wedding for ever (just a couple of weeks will do ;)) so speak now or forever hold your peace…

‘Til next time!

Sama xxx

Best. Day. Ever.

Ok, so I’ve been sat here staring at my computer screen for too many minutes now, wondering how to start the first post-wedding blog post that basically says:

We got married on Saturday and it was, quite simply, the most AMAZING day of our lives.

Oh wait, that does it! Actually no, without exclamation marks I don’t think it comes across strongly enough…

We got MARRIED on Saturday and it was, quite simply, THE MOST AMAAAAAAAAAAYZING DAY OF OUR LIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s better.

Uttersons, it was perfection. As you may remember, it poured with rain all week in the lead-up, but as Paul and I woke up on Saturday (and I got to lean over and whisper ‘we’re getting married today’ as you know I wanted to), I saw these beams of beautiful sunlight filtering through the cracks in the shutters and I knew it was going to be a good day.  The sun stayed out for pretty much the whole day, and despite it definitely being a bit chilly the orchard looked just glorious. One of my strongest memories of the day is looking around and seeing everyone relaxing on the grass; sunglasses on, drink in hand, ribbons blowing in the breeze, with laughter and love filling the air. It was beautiful.

Teeny tiny things ‘went wrong’. There was a bit of trouble with the ceremony music meaning my bridesmaids and I walked in way too early, and Paul and I walked out to nothing but whoops and cheers (not a problem!). The heater that we’d hired last minute stopped working halfway through the day, and the band were so brilliant they kept blowing the power (minor details- it only took a simple switch to turn the party back on again.)  Oh, and looking back at a few photos we’ve seen I don’t think the up-lighters behind the bar were ever turned on.


Our ceremony was a twinkly, colourful, laughter-filled dream, the venue and setting went down a storm, the barn was turned around swiftly and looked SENSATIONAL (if I say so myself), Paul and I smooched all through our personal portraits, the food was delicious, the speeches were personal and funny, the band were BRILLIANT (we started dancing during their sound check and didn’t stop for four hours), the cake table was heaving, the pizza van was a hit, the polaroid guestbook got filled (and is our favourite memento of the whole day so far), and Paul and I got lifted up and carried round the dance floor during the final number of ‘Love Is In The Air’.

Best. Day. Ever.

I want to go in to sooooo much more detail. I want to tell you how much alcohol we got through (erm… and how much we didn’t- we way overbought). I want to tell you more about our brilliant suppliers. I want to tell you about the lovely morning I had getting ready with my bridesmaids and how the rest of the day panned out from my point of view…

…But not today. The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of de-rigging, packing up, loading, unloading, unpacking, sorting, taking things back and de-briefing/blowing our own trumpets with various friends and family. Tomorrow Paul and I are heading down to a beautiful little hotel near Hastings for a couple of days away, and then it’s back to work for me on Saturday.

I’m so sad it’s over, but so happy to have experienced a day like we did. Weddings rock.

And for those of you desperate to see some images from the day, our wonderful photographer, Dominique, has released a couple of sneak peeks which have already blown us away…

We can’t wait to see more!

Oodles of love,

Mrs H xxx


The Final Countdown: 1 Day!

Well I never. I’m getting married… TOMORROW. The last week has been pretty full on, with an even more hectic day ahead of me today, but here I am, my sleeping fiancé beside me, tip-tapping away on a miserable Friday morning to send you a very brief, but very necessary final update.

So how am I feeling? Excited? In spurts… as the festoon lighting started to go up yesterday and the barn came to life I may have jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a little girl. Calm? Yes, but my heart is definitely beating faster than it usually does. I feel like the slightest thing could tip me over the edge… Nervous? Only when I think about that bit before I walk down the aisle.  But you know the strongest feeling I’m experiencing at the moment? And I don’t think it’s what you’re expecting… Indifference.  Yes, tomorrow is the day that the last 17 months have been almost entirely dedicated to…and I’m a bit non-plus.

If I’m completely honest, I am disappointed by the weather. Despite booking a spring wedding because you can’t rely on the weather and therefore I won’t be disappointed… I didn’t expect to be booking a last-minute heater for the barn because it is EFFING FREEZING.  Today we make the decision whether to put up a marquee or not in case it’s pissing it down when people need to leave the barn for it to be turned around.  With March temperatures and a cloudy forecast, it’s not going to be quite the day I imagined…

…HOWEVER. That barn is going to be looking bloody beautiful. We have delicious food being served during the day and later in the evening, a brilliant band that will knock people’s socks off, enough alcohol to water an army, I get to spend the day wearing the most exquisite dress I have ever laid eyes on, and we will be surrounded- for the first and only time- by ALL of our favourite people. Oh my, it’s gonna be epic, bad weather or not!

Oh yeah, and at the end of it all I’m going to be married to the person who makes my world go round.

Uttersons, it has been a pleasure. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for being with me through this journey. For reading my ramblings, responding to my musings and sharing the blog with your friends. You have made the last 17 months that extra bit special and I can’t wait to share the images and details with you once it’s all over!

I’ll see you on the other side.

Sama xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx