This is such a special, special wedding feature, and one I’ve been saving for a day like today. Please read it carefully, savour it and be reminded of the value of marriage and the true joy of weddings and love.
As you’ll probably know by now, we’re celebrating a beautiful blog make-over right now on Love My Dress, after unveiling a re-design we’re very proud of yesterday. It’s been four and a half years since I started blogging – thinking back to those first few weeks of sharing my passions with others online, I can vividly remember spending time scouring the internet to discover new talent. It was during these early days of Love My Dress that I stumbled upon beaded jewellery designer Clara Francis (you can see my original 2009 post here).
I remember being absolutely stunned by the level of detail in Clara’s delicately hand-beaded pieces of jewellery – each of them little works of art in their own right.
Photography Copyright (c) 2014, Rik Pennington
Clara connected with me last month through one of those ‘out of the blue’ emails – extracts from which I have permission to share with you this morning…
“Dear Annabel, I do hope you remember me. You featured my beaded jewellery right when you first started your blog – thank you so much, it has brought much business my way. Unfortunately I have been working very little over the past three years as my two year old daughter Maude died very suddenly and I’ve found it almost impossible to work for a long time up to now.”
“I am however feeling a lot stronger and am getting back into the world of work and am very close to launching a mini beaded bridal head dress collection, which was inspired by my own wedding, and not being able to find the kind of headdress I wanted for myself (fusspot!) or my bridesmaids.”
“Jason and I got married in January this year and Love my Dress was my number one destination for all things wedding planning. I LOVE it so much – I’m just so sad that I now have to peruse it in secret as my husband has caught me looking a couple of times and thinks I’m going mental/need to get over it/am already planning ‘wedding 2 with husband number 2!”
“I was so cynical about the whole wedding shebang, and despite calling in many favours from clever friends, with money flying out of my account in every direction, I just couldn’t believe that one single day would be worth all the fuss. I was so wrong! I know every bride thinks her wedding is incredible, but ours truly was the most magical, spiritual and ultimately life-affirming day of not only my life but I know many of our friends lives too.”
“Jason and I have had a chequered past! We met 24 years ago when I was working in the wardrobe department at the Young Vic Theatre and Jason was working there. We were together for 2 years then went our separate ways (although always remained friends). We then got back together 10 years ago, older but not necessarily wiser and had been engaged for 5 of those years before our wedding took place on 25th January this year.”
Some of you may recognise Jason by the way, he is a successful stage, film and television actor who has appeared in two of my favourite ever movies – Nativity and Danger In The Manger (you absolutely must see these films if you have children – or maybe if you don’t!).
“My plan was always to get married when I turned 40, when our daughters Bessie and Maude were old enough to be bridesmaids and remember it with us. But so sadly, this didn’t go according to plan. When our beautiful Maude died, our friends really were incredible. We have amazing friends and family and they carried Jason and myself though the wilderness and chaos of grief. For the first year, I was never alone as they made sure there was always somebody available if I wanted or needed it.”
“Jason and I have since gone on and have another child, Gilbert, who is now two and I love him to the core of his beautiful being.”
“After Gilbert’s birth, we felt we wanted to get married and celebrate our, I can’t think of a better word, ‘survival’. It sounds a little naff I guess, but that is truly what it felt like to both of us. We survived the storm – we will always be battered and bruised and there will always be a gaping hole in our family where our precious, most gentle Maude should be, but we wanted to celebrate our love and family and strength, and get all those people that had been there at her funeral, the most terrible day of our lives, to come to our wedding, the most joyous day of our lives. Our wedding was as joyous as her funeral was dreadful.”
“Our venue was Wiltons Music Hall. It was Wiltons or nowhere! It’s a completely magical place, otherworldly and a bit like a scene i Alice in Wonderland in that one minute you’re on a busy modern London street, then you go through a door and are transported into another time and place.”
“We had so many incredibly generous friends help us with our wedding including dear Victoria who did all my flowers and Ivana Nohel who created our invitations, signage, menus and table plan, amongst a million other things. My friends made 1000’s of teeny tiny pompoms too!
My veil was a gift from my friend Alice Shreeve who is one half of the uber-talented wedding dress designer duo Belle & Bunty. It was a last minute decision to wear a veil, so they had to work very quickly and I’m forever grateful as the veil totally made the whole outfit.”
“My friend Clare Frith helped me source my wedding dress. She is a supplier of the most divine vintage wedding dresses through her business Song Bird Vintage. I always knew I wanted a vintage Edwardian Dress – it always had to be that. I love the Edwardian Era, the shape and simplicity of their dresses, and have collected white Edwardian Lawn dresses for years. I have also always loved the film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, and have obsessed about the frocks since seeing that film when I was a little girl.
I knew I wanted to wear gold stars in my hair and so beaded 5 three dimensional stars and sew’d them onto a hairband. I also wore my solid gold hare necklace which I made myself. It is my most special piece of jewellery as it’s the piece of jewellery that my daughter Maude loved the best. I also beaded myself a white three dimensional butterfly ring which is so real looking it appears that a butterfly has landed on your finger!”
“I found my boots online at Yoox – they were bronze but I really wanted gold glitter boots, so I gave them to my friend Tamara who is a genius with leather and she ‘gold glittered’ them for me. I’ve no idea how she did it but they were perfect! Tamara also tattooed the soles of the boots with our initials and the date of our wedding. I adore them and wear them all the time.”
“I had five little bridesmaids so bought the dresses in the sale the summer before from I Love Gorgeous. They were very simple white cotton and not hugely practical in the middle of winter, but looked so incredibly pretty. I bought each of the bridesmaids a pierot pink tulle shrug from Monsoon Shrug.
My daughter Bessie was ‘chief bridesmaid’ and therefore, in typical J-lo style, had a change of clothes during the day. She went from white cotton frock to gold sequin Diana Ross number in the evening.”
“Jason wore a suit from Chris Kerr. I made Jason a solid silver hare necklace which he opened on the morning of our wedding. He also wore my grandfathers cufflinks which were a gift to him from my 94 year old grandmother Hilde, who was in attendance at our wedding.”
“My friend Ivana lovingly crafted all of our wedding stationery for us – this included our invites, save the dates, table plan, menus, order of service, table names, signage around the venue – quite literally everything. She is a Creative Director and a fountain of ideas and constant inspiration to me. I left 95% of the design up to her and couldn’t have arranged the wedding without her. What a gal!”
“I made wedding favours for all the guests. All the women (around 80) received a beaded butterfly/flower ring or brooch. It was by far the biggest labour of love in the entire wedding preparation, but so worth it when I saw everyone immediately put them on. When the dancing started all I could see were butterflies fluttering around on everyones fingers! The men (70) all received laser-cut cufflinks that Jason and I designed together. One side featured a bird on and the other was a bee.”
“Our Photographer was Rik Pennington. I saw Rik’s work online and fell in love with it immediately. It is really special. He can find the smallest, seemingly most inconsequential moments and see such beauty in them. We couldn’t love our photos more.
Rik is so much more than a wedding photographer, he is a true artist. He has such sensitivity to his surroundings and has captured our day perfectly. Every special moment he caught is exactly as I remembered it yet I have absolutely no recollection of seeing him rushing about capturing images at all. He’s like a photographic ninja! There is no natural light in Wiltons and the colours and light he has incorporated into our photographs have the dreamy like quality of the day itself. Jason and I couldn’t recommend him highly enough.”
“It is almost impossible for me to pick a favourite moment from the whole day, because it was all utterly enchanting from start to finish. I loved the actual wedding ceremony but I think my absolute favourite bit was after the entertainments when my friend Tash pulled a screen down and played ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ – my favourite song, being sung by all our friends (all the ones that couldn’t be there too!).
The video had been cut together by an editor and had taken months of preparation, love and imagination. So much thought, time and effort had gone into it, it was completely overwhelming. I sob every time I watch it, which is a lot as the kids watch it over and over again at home!”
(Film by Terri at email@example.com)
“I beaded five little hairbands and sewed 8 beaded stars on each. I also beaded each of the bridesmaids a three-dimensional pink and white striped hot air balloon necklace. Inside each one, I wrote a little note for them. They will only get too see the note if the necklace were to unravel which I hope will never happen! It was A LOT of beading. My hands definitely ached after this!”
“My friend Nat and other friends too made gazillions of tulle and tissue paper pom-poms that were strung up all over the venue. They also made gold star garlands. It was a celestial feast falling down from the sky.We commissioned a Paper Moon Photo booth to be built so all our guests could have their photos take sitting on the moon (Paper Moon is my FAVOURITE film EVER) The moon itself was so beautifully lit it added to the general ambience of the space.The venue itself also put up fairy lights all over the place.”
“My mother gave me away and she was so happy to be asked. It had to be her. I walked down the aisle to ‘Moon River’, sung by Danny Williams – my favourite version of that song.”
“We had our friend Rupert Morris who is a Humanist Minister perform the service. We wanted him to do this as he had previously performed our daughter Maude’s funeral. We felt our marriage and her death were so inextricably linked.
Our friend Ian read a Pablo Neruda poem ‘Sonnet XVII’ and another friend Kate sang The Beach Boys ‘God only Knows’. The same people had also read and sung at Maude’s funeral. We wanted our wedding service to be a celebration of our love and survival through the worst ordeal that life can throw at you. We wanted our wedding to be as joyous as Maude’s funeral was sorrowful.”
“Our 2 year old son Gilbert was the ring bearer and I saw a Liberace-esque black velvet jacket with teeny white stars on in the Bonpoint sale shop in Bicester Village. It was ridiculously expensive but had to get it for him because it was the BEST JACKET EVER! I’m going to frame it!
We bought our rings from a wholesaler in Hatton Garden and had them engraved there too (one of the perks of being in the trade!) We didn’t want anything fancy, just a plain platinum band.”
“Another incredibly talented friend Victoria did all our flowers for us. Victoria has such impeccable taste and I know virtually nothing about flowers so left it all in her very capable hands. Another friend of mine Amy had been collecting little cut glass vases for us and had accumulated over 100. I explained to Victoria a rough idea of what I had in mind and showed her some of the golds and dusky pink swatches I’d gone for. She then visited our venue and that was that. I know every bride probably says this but they were the most incredible bouquets I have ever seen – she made Wiltons Hall come alive!”
“As we have lots of friends who are actors, singers and performers, we got them to do the entertainment. I allocated my friend Mark Fleischmann as ‘Entertinments Manager’. Everything he organised was a big surprise to us on the day. He arranged a quiz for each table (all about Jason and I). People wrote and performed songs too! My friend and playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz wrote an incredible poem and Bessie, our daughter, wrote a little speech as did Freddie, my stepson, who is Jason’s eldest son. My Dad even played the spoons – it brought the house down! My brother is a DJ and so he DJ’d in the evening. He was amazing, everyone was going nuts on the dance floor.”
“We had the best most tastiest cake in the entire world (and I have eaten LOTS of cake). It was the ‘Curly Wurly Cake’ from Konditor and Cook. We ordered a three tiered one plus lots extra for all our guests. My gorgeous friend Nat Needle felted us the cake topper. I was a Hare and Jason was a Fox! She had matched the outfits they were wearing exactly to ours – incredible!”
“Our first dance was to ‘The long and winding road’, by the Beatles as the song perfectly captures the strange, complex and ultimately epic journey the two of us had been on to finally arrive at this place – 24 years, 3 children, 1 bereavement later, with a roomful of our our most treasured friends and love.”
Words of Wedded Wisdom…
“It’s not about perfection – it’s only about love. The whole day should be about love. As long as you have each other and your most beloved friends and family there to share it with you – nothing else really matters. Oh, and however disorganised you think things may be, and boy was i disorganised, it just somehow all magically seems to come together in the end. I sent out my invites literally two weeks before the day itself. How absolutely rubbish is that?’
Taking our wedding day as a whole, there is absolutely nothing I would change. Nothing. It was a truly glorious day.”
I live to share stories like this one, in the hope they inspire others – perhaps to think more positively or be reminded of the true purpose of their own wedding. I am so incredibly touched that Clara wrote to me about her experience and inspired beyond words to see these glorious photographs, radiating with love and joy – testament not only to a truly brilliant wedding photographer, but of course to how love can help you survive the most horrendous challenges in life.
Clara and Jason – thank you for entrusting me to share your beautiful story. So much love to you both.
Because there is so much happening this week with the re-launch, and because of the nature of this real wedding feature, there will be just one post today. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable rushing to replace this wedding from the top spot by lunch time, it needs a little more love and attention than that. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the beautiful, spiritual and celestial inspired wedding of Clara and Jason as much as I have.
R.I.P little Maude.
Love Annabel xx
Photographer – Rik Pennington
Venue – Wiltons Music Hall
Wedding Dress – Song Bird Vintage
Veil – Belle & Bunty
Headpiece – Clara Francis
Gold Boots – Yoox (customised)
Accessories – Clara Francis
Grooms Suit – Chris Kerr
Bridesmaids – I Love Gorgeous + Monsoon Shrug + Accessories by Clara Francis
Page Boys – Jacket via Bonpoint
Flowers – Victoria Flowers
Cake – Konditor and Cook
Transport – White London Cab
Entertainment – Various! (+ see video)
Rings – Hatton Garden
Catering Bliss Catering
Stationery – Ivana Nohel
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