How did you first meet?
We met in our local town; neither of us had intended to be in that place at that time! He was out celebrating a friend’s wedding blessing, and I was supposed to have gone on a night out elsewhere. A mutual friend got us talking, and when he stole the flower I had in my hair and put it on himself, I knew he’d make me laugh.
We had attended the same high school, although he was a year older than I was. I remembered him from school but he didn’t remember me!
When and where was your first date?
Our first official date was to the cinema, to watch what turned out to be a terrible horror film. I was late, which was to set the standard for the whole of our relationship – I’m notoriously late for everything except work.
We laughed our way through what was supposed to be a scary movie, and again, I liked that he could make me laugh so easily. It felt like we’d known each other for years.
What is your favourite memory of dating?
Our first holiday together was a skiing holiday to France at Christmas, when we’d been together less than six months. We’d completed a day-long course of ski lessons for beginners at a local indoor ski centre beforehand, but I was a little apprehensive about heading down a mountain.
On our first proper skiing outing, I managed to bring the entire ski lift to a standstill by falling over as I got on, with an audience of experienced skiers laughing at me. That should’ve told me I was too clumsy for skiing!
The next day, we took the wrong ski lift up the mountain onto a run that was far out of my ability range. I proceeded to have a bit of a panic attack as I realised we had to ski back down.
While I was reckoning up the cost of mountain rescue, Paul stayed cool, calm and collected and guided me slowly down the mountain. It was then I think I realised he was really pretty special, and that if he could see me like that (hyperventilating with tears filling up my ski goggles) and still like me, then maybe we could be for keeps. He later admitted that he was reckoning up the cost of mountain-rescue too as he doubted he could get me down!
Tell us about the proposal – how did it happen?
When we’d been together almost two years, we booked to go to Italy on a five night holiday, in 2011. We both loved Italian food so we were both really excited! It honestly never even crossed my mind that I’d be coming home engaged, although it had apparently crossed everyone else’s (as I found out when I got back!).
We stayed in Milan for two nights, then got the train and boat up to Bellagio on Lake Como. We had an amazing time, and one morning we decided to go on a walk around some of the beautiful towns and countryside around our part of the lake.
We were following a little map, and I took a slight detour when I spotted a secluded tiny boat-dock looking out over the lake. I wandered down, but Paul stopped on the way down and was really hanging back. I thought he was taking pictures, but shouted to him to come and have a look at the breathtaking scenery.
He came down and told me to close my eyes. When I opened them a moment later, he was down on one knee! He said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and would I marry him? I went all dizzy and I think I shouted ‘Of course!’ Then I remembered that’s not what you’re supposed to say and changed it to ‘YES!’ I didn’t want to leave the place where it happened, as it was an utterly perfect moment and setting. We hope to visit that little spot again someday.
Paul wanted us to choose a ring together, as he said he was afraid he’d get it wrong, because I love my jewellery and wanted something slightly different. We stopped off in Bergamo on our trip home and were just walking down the street towards the bus station when we happened to wander past a jeweler’s. There it was in the window, my beautiful engagement ring!
We chose not to tell anyone (apart from my very best friend, because I had to tell someone!) until we got home, which turned a usually dull journey back home into a very exciting one indeed.
Tell us about your wedding venue
Once we decided to marry in August 2012, we set about looking for a wedding venue. We weren’t sure what we wanted, but both liked the idea of a wedding barn for some reason!
We found a few different venues on the internet and Sandhole Oak Barn was the third venue we visited one Saturday morning in May. As soon as we walked in, it took my breath away and I started to get all teary! Paul agreed that it was perfect but was the sensible voice of reason and said we should continue looking just to get a better idea. I reluctantly agreed with a view to booking Sandhole Oak Barn as soon as possible!
I loved the light and airy feel of the room, the mellow beams, the rural setting, the outside areas, and of course, the beautiful lake. If someone could’ve plucked my perfect wedding venue picture out of my brain and made it real, it would’ve looked exactly like Sandhole Oak Barn.
On our way home, with me driving, Paul wrote ‘I want it’ on the front cover of Sandhole’s brochure and quietly showed me as I drove. That was it; we waited until Monday and sent our deposit off. We booked in May 2011 for August 2012.
Where did you find your wedding dress?
My mum made me a few appointments in Preston for one Saturday. I had no intention of buying anything, but just wanted to get a better idea of which styles and designers I liked.
Trying to find “the one”
We went to Dan Kerr in Preston and I tried on about six different dresses in all different styles and materials, and I liked all but one! I was worried how I would start to choose between them. I liked all five of them equally, and while this was good, I also thought that I wouldn’t have ‘The One’ moment that people talk about. I’ve always been a bit cynical about that; I wasn’t sure there was really such a thing as ‘The One’, as far as dresses went, but while I could have happily worn any of those five dresses on my wedding day, none of them stood out for me above the others.
My mum and I went on to our next appointment, to ‘One And Only’ bridal boutique just a few doors down from Dan Kerr (owned by the same company I think) and there she was. My beautiful wedding dress was on the mannequin in the window display of the shop.
Jenny Packham wedding dress
I just stopped in the street and made a noise like, ‘ahhhhhhh’ and my mum said ‘that’s it!’ We both knew straight away that I’d found my dress, or she’d found me, and that was that.
It was Papillon by Jenny Packham, a straight style, based around the design of a butterfly. It has silk layers underneath with a tulle overlay covered with beading, crystals and sequins. I’ve never seen anything sparkle more! I think I was drawn not only to the pure beauty of it, but also that it reminded me of a 1920s/ 30s style; an era which I’ve always loved and wanted to emulate.
When I first put the sample dress on I immediately pictured myself walking down the aisle and it made me want to cry. Just like with our wedding venue, it was like someone had taken the perfect dress out of my subconscious and made it reality. I loved every inch of it and felt like I’d just stepped out of a golden-age Hollywood movie.
At £2400, it was more than I ever thought I’d pay for a wedding dress and I actually left the shop after the first time I’d tried it on and had a real head-in-my-hands-dilemma moment in a nearby coffee shop over what to do. I must’ve looked like I’d had bad news instead of good!
My mum had kindly offered to buy my dress for me, and while I worried over the cost of my dream dress, she stood firm and insisted it was the dress for me. So we went back. I tried it once again and had another excited prance around, and the deposit was paid by the end of the day.
What accessories did you wear on the day?
I got the Jenny Packham Cascata hairband headpiece, which I adored because it matched the sparkle of the dress perfectly. I also bought a two-tier fingertip veil scattered with crystals from the same bridal boutique. I didn’t end up wearing this on the day, as I decided a bandeau net veil complimented the style of the dress more.
I looked high and low for shoes, and when I found out that Emmy had collaborated with Jenny Packham to create a range of beautiful vintage-style shoes, I wanted them so much! But I had to draw a budgetary line somewhere and I simply couldn’t justify spending that amount of money on shoes. Instead, I found a pair of gorgeous silver T-bar shoes with crystal embellishment by Faith at Debenhams, and at £55 they were ideal!
Due to the slinky design of my dress, I could only really wear a nude seamless thong underneath. I found the perfect one in M&S for £5! I couldn’t wear a bra with the dress, so had some pads sewn into it to add a bit of ooomph up front.
Old, new, borrowed and blue
I did have something old, new, borrowed and blue, but forgot most of them on the morning of my wedding! I had to nip back after the wedding breakfast to put my new garter on, which had a blue bow. I had an old silver brooch that my mum gave to me, to put on the stem of my bouquet but I forgot that too! And I borrowed a 1920s silver sixpence, which I dutifully remembered to put into my shoe, but only because I sorted that out the day before.
My mum and stepdad bought me a beautiful Swarovski butterfly bracelet. My dad bought me a gorgeous tiny butterfly and crystal pendant and Paul bought me sparkly ‘Bo Peep’ earrings by Stephanie Browne.
What did Paul wear?
Paul’s mum and dad’s friends run a suit hire shop, The Wedding Place in Bryn, so all the suits came from there. We went together initially, and after he’d tried on a few different options, we both agreed on classic black tails to tie in with our classic theme. Paul went for a silver cravat and waistcoat, while the others had a champagne colour. He looked incredibly dapper and handsome, like a real gentleman!
Tell us about your bridesmaids
I had Stef, my best friend, as my matron of honour, and Amie, one of my closest friends as my other ‘adult’ bridesmaid. I also had my 14-year-old niece Lauren, who flew in from New Zealand with my sister (Lauren’s mum) and her dad, and Paul’s 10-year-old niece Alicia.
It just seemed natural to ask these people to help me on my big day. I wish I could have had my sisters too, but there would just have been too many bridesmaids, and I knew they would help me in different ways.
My bridesmaids were superstars – they rounded people up for photos, made sure bouquets were in place on the table for photos of signing the register/ cutting the cake, made sure no-one stood on my dress (and shouted at them if they did!) and looked absolutely beautiful in the process! My Matron of honour was amazing, and all while being five months pregnant!
Adult bridesmaids dresses
I found the perfect dresses for my adult bridesmaids online, on the New Look’s website, believe or not! They were gorgeous ‘Feather Beaded Dresses’ with a beaded and sequined Art Deco pattern on the front, a beaded empire line and a floaty skirt to the knee. The bonus was, they were only £50 each! It was meant to be .
Younger bridesmaids dresses
I found coordinating dresses for my two younger bridesmaids in the Next catalogue. I had to buy them a year before the wedding (as they wouldn’t have been around next season) so I had to take a bit of a chance on the sizes, with a 14 year old and a 10 year old both growing at a phenomenal rate!
Luckily, they fit perfectly a year later. They were a champagne colour with beading all over the front and a beautiful tulle skirt with a satin sash. They cost £40 each I think. The colour of these dresses really dictated my colour theme for the rest of the day, which was champagne, silver and ivory.
All my bridesmaids chose their own shoes. I didn’t mind what they had…as long as they were silver! I found the perfect hair accessories for my older bridemaids in Accessorise – a vintage style beaded clip with champagne feathers. The younger ones had a silver and crystal sparkly hairclip from Claire’s Accessories.
Tell us about the best man and groomsmen
Paul had his best friend Stu as best man and his close friend Phil and his two brothers Lee and Laurie as his groomsmen. He also had his two nephews, Luke who is 11, and William, who is four, as his mini-ushers / pageboys. They helped him to relax and enjoy his day! Plus any little jobs that needed doing, they were there. They wore black tails with champagne waistcoats and cravats.
Please tell us about your ceremony
Our ceremony was at 12pm, which we initially worried would be a little bit early and that people would have ‘gaps’ in the day later on. We needn’t have worried, as it all went so fast I was glad it was an earlier ceremony.
Readings and music
We had three readings, all of which were chosen especially for their beautiful words and were read by my sister Deborah, Paul’s nephew Luke, and my sister Kaytie. My dad walked me down the aisle, and I think he was almost as nervous as me!
We all lined up outside the barn, and were nervously bantering, then I heard the music start…and off we went! The bridesmaids went first, and soon it was my turn with my dad. Walking into that room on my dad’s arm, faced with the smiling faces of the people we love and care for, and then seeing Paul standing at the end of the aisle is a feeling that will stay with me forever. I walked in to ‘Come What May’ from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and we walked out to ‘Sweet Disposition’ by the Temper Trap.
How did you personalise your day?
Our theme ended up as a mix of 1920s Art Deco and 1940s Hollywood glamour but it was more by accident than anything else as I just picked out the things that I liked. I didn’t really want to be tied down to one theme.
My flowers were by Clare Thomson and were just what I wanted. She knew the exact colours I was looking for and came up trumps on the day. I had cream, gold, champagne and ivory roses, as they are my favourite flower.
We created the table centrepieces ourselves because we ideally wanted something we could keep afterwards. We bought silver candelabras and Crystal Globe tealight holders from The Range and paced them on mirror plates. I bought some crystal tealight holders and scatter crystals to go around them.
My mum, stepdad and I made all of our stationary including the save the dates, invitations, menus, place cards, order of the day, and thank you cards. It was a lot of work but I was delighted with them and really enjoyed making them. I owe my mum and stepdad a whole bunch for enabling all of those things to be handmade. I thought it made a big difference to how personal it all was.
Our cake was gorgeous. It was made by Andrea Lee and was a four-tiered cake. It had one layer of vanilla sponge, one layer of lemon and one layer of chocolate with a fake tier on top to add height. It had delicate iced butterflies flying around it in a spiral up to the top (they were wired to fly above the cake).
I only managed to eat one piece on the day, as it was so hectic, but it was delicious! I really wanted our wedding to be personal to us, so much that if I saw something on TV or in a magazine that someone had already had it put me off it! So I wasn’t at all interested in celeb weddings.
Tell us about your wedding reception
For the wedding breakfast we had asparagus on a bed of baby leaves with quails eggs and a vinaigrette dressing to start. For the main course, we had chicken wrapped in Parma ham on parmesan mash with crisp summer veg or brie and vegetable tart with Chablis sauce for veggies. For dessert we had lemon tart with mascarpone cream. It was absolutely delicious and loads of people commented on how much they enjoyed the food – thanks Top Table!
Table layout and evening reception food
We had an oval top table seating me, Paul, our parents plus the best man and matron of honour. There were eight further tables for guests around the room. We had 81 guests in all for the wedding breakfast. For the evening we had about 140 people and a buffet. We served our wedding cake as part of it for a dessert.
My dad’s speech was very emotional. He threw in a few humorous bits too, but it was really touching and made quite a few people, male and female, fill up. The other speeches were mostly funny and embarrassing!
Our favours were little bottles of Jack Daniels for the men and ‘wedding day’ Yankee Candle samplers for the ladies. For the kids, I put together activity bags with all sorts of goodies in to keep them entertained.
Did you have a band or DJ?
We had James from Hipswing singing Ratpack songs as our intro to the evening. He started at the end of the wedding breakfast and sang as the day guests relaxed in the sunshine and as the evening guests began to arrive. We then had a disco from Hipswing for the evening entertainment.
Both were great, and I’d thoroughly recommend James as a singer as people commented on how good he was and how nice it was to have a crooner for a relaxed part of the day.
Tell us about the first dance
We had a song called ‘Wounded Bird’ by Charles and Eddie for our first dance. We both love the film ‘True Romance’. It was one of the first films that we watched together and it is played at a key moment in the film. It just seemed a natural choice.
A choreographed routine just wouldn’t have been ‘us’ at all; we preferred to clumsily sway slowly round the dancefloor as Paul tried to avoid standing on my dress! We used the time for a bit of a catch-up as the day had been so busy, I think we giggled through half of it.
Tell us your most memorable moment
I know everyone says it’s the most perfect day ever, but I can honestly say I never realised how true that was. Everything was perfect, I find it hard to pinpoint one moment that stands out more than any other. It just went like an absolute dream.
Based on your experience, give us some top tips…
Don’t be a bridezilla! Relax; enjoy the process of planning and finding things you like. Just remember what the day is actually all about –you and your fiancé telling each other how much you love one another in front of the most important people in the world to you both.
Don’t feel like you need to have everything you see – wedding fairs are great for initial ideas but I honestly only went to one and I’d soon had enough of seeing what other people thought I’d want and the hard sell. I wanted to use my own ideas as much as I could.
Ask your bride-to-be about the wedding plans now and again! She probably wants to feel like you’re interested and involved, but don’t be surprised or offended when she doesn’t agree with any suggestions you might make.
Remember that a wedding day is usually a big deal for girls, so let her go a little bit nuts!
For keeping to a budget
Excel spreadsheets! My hubby was the ‘money man’ when it came to the planning and kept track of our outgoings on a spreadsheet so that we always knew how much money we had left in the pot. We started saving early, and went without a few treats in the buildup but nothing drastic.
Again, don’t get drawn into the wedding fair mentality of thinking you have to have everything – you don’t – you will have to make some compromises but as long as you’re sensible then you should be able to find a good solution or alternative to most things. Remember that most companies specialising in wedding stuff know that they can charge a lot, so look around for other suppliers and have faith in your abilities to do and make things for yourself.
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
Do everything exactly the same. I wouldn’t change even the smallest detail.
Tell us about your honeymoon
We flew out to Las Vegas on the Sunday following our Friday wedding. We had both been before, but separately, and we had decided early on that it had to feature in our honeymoon.
We stayed there for four nights, saw shows, drank, sweated in the heat and tried to see as much as we possibly could! We spent one of our days there on a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, again, somewhere we had been before but not together. It was, as expected, breathtaking!
After that, we had a week to relax at an all-inclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It was just what we needed after the hectic week we’d just had. We did very little for a week, barely lifted a finger! Just swam, sunbathed, ate and relaxed…bliss!
After our paradise retreat, it was time to head onto the Big Apple. We stayed in New York for three nights, and again, tried to cram as much in as possible. It was yet another place we’d both been to before, so we’d already seen many of the sights, but there was still plenty to see and do! It was home after that, but was easily the most memorable and best holiday I’ve ever had.
Images courtesy of Mark R Williamson Photography ©