On Sunday 28 March 2010, I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Claridges, for 'Absolutely Beautiful Weddings', a brand new, designer-led event to hit the UK wedding exhibition scene.
Targeting the bigger-budget bride, Absolutely Beautiful Weddings is the result of a collaboration of some of the most creative minds, and, I have to say, nicest people working in the wedding industry.
Claridges was an excellent choice of venue for this event; it’s stunning and original art-deco interior beautifully reflected the vintage focus of many of the designers exhibiting on the day. The Ball Room had been set up in the style of a formal wedding reception to offer visitors a flavour of how Claridges could look on their wedding day (I hear several wedding venue bookings were made on the day from visiting Brides-to-be).
All Photographs Copyright (c) 2010, Love My Dress UK Wedding Blog
The image on top left, is, (from left to right) Rachel Attwell of Luella's Boudoir, Lisa Harris of Magpie Vintage & Emmy Scarterfield being interviewed by Wedding TV.
Click to enlarge images…
The exhibitors occupied two other smaller, but equally as lavish rooms; The French Salon, which boasted a striking mural of a dancing couple and, The Drawing Room, within which hung the most opulent and impressive chandelier.
Upon arrival, guests were presented with a goody bag comprising £50 worth of treats (lots of discounts available for purchase made on the day), and a glass of champagne – and for those who couldn’t drink alcohol, delicious alternatives such as apple, raspberry and lychee puree were available.
From the off, I tried to step into the mindset of a Bride to Be, and approached each stand with an inquisitive mind; was I made to feel welcome at reception? Was it easy to find what I wanted? Did the exhibition meet my expectations? Were the exhibitors welcoming and helpful, and, did their displays appeal to my Bridal buying needs? Would I recommend the event? Would I go again? Would I have purchased anything on the day itself?
I’m pleased to state that on all accounts, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
I also spent time chatting with other visitors and obtaining feedback; one Bride-to-be told me she’d have liked to have seen a Bridal Lingerie exhibitor. Another mentioned it would have been nice to have had the opportunity for a make-up demo, though she thought the Makeup Artist in residence on the day, Kaz Fernando, was “incredible”.
What I loved most about this event was it’s intimate and entirely non-intimidating atmosphere. Two visiting Brides-to-be sat relaxed into a Chesterfield sofa, facing each other and giggling over their glasses of bubbly, their knees drawn up comfortably on to their pugh – Friday night girly-gossip-night-in style. I approached the girls and we chatted for a short while. They told me they had half expected the event to have been a little stuffy, even a little snobby perhaps, but that they were both delighted to have found that on the contrary, it was nothing like that at all, and that the exhibitors were friendly, approachable and down to earth; “we’ve really really enjoyed ourselves – and the free champagne! We've got lots of fab ideas to take away…". That’s the thing you see; whilst The Absolutely Beautiful Weddings team are designer-led and on the whole, offer something to the ‘bigger budget bride’, they are far from a snobby or intimidating bunch. Having seen them work together, I would describe them as one big family, who enjoy fun and banter, who bounce of each others energy and who are extremely supportive of one another. I witnessed lots of camaraderie in the morning as the exhibitors set up; laughter abound all-round as Tenors Un-Limited arrived and teased the females in the rooms with their vocal warm-ups.
The Accessory Designers…
Magpie Vintage happily lent out their ridiculously gorgeous designs to those ladies present, including, a very lucky me. One American tourist staying at the hotel stopped me in the powder room to ask me where I got my ‘stunning jewellery’ from – such was her eye-popping delight at all the sparkle that adorned my neck (a collection of purely original vintage pieces that had been sourced from all over the world and lovingly reconstructed into statement piece necklace. And yes, I really did feel like a million dollars that day).
There is something about Magpie Vintage; The creative duo behind this brand, Lisa and Tania, are not only super, super lovely ladies, they also happen to know just exactly what they are doing, and impress on every level; from their ability to source some of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous original vintage pieces, to how they so beautifully display their creations, to the pretty boxed, ribboned packaging, to very high standard of customer service (and wonderfully positive happy customer feedback!). I’m a very big fan, but of course, any regular read of Love My Dress will know that already.
The Shoe Designer…
I swooned as per usual over Emmy Scarterfield’s amazing, amazing shoes. Emmy Scarterfield is, I have to say, one of the loveliest people ever!
Anyone that knows anything about shoes, will take one look at a pair of Emmy’s and know instantly that they have been produced by some of the worlds finest and most skilled craftsmen, such is the softness of the leather, the delicacy of the straps and subtlety of the pretty little sparkly crystal buckles. There are some amazing new colours in Emmy’s latest collection; I had my eyes set on a wonderful pair of silver, gold and purple strappy high-heels and an absolutely exquisite pair of courts in the most to-die-for duck egg blue colour. I could talk about Emmy all day long and dream about her shoes all night, and be a very happy lady indeed.
The Wedding Dress Designer…
It was such a pleasure to finally get to meet Sassi Holford properly. Sassi and Husband Martin and an amazing and impeccably dressed couple – and I love Sassi’s sense of humour, she made me feel welcome right away. Sassi had two beautiful models sashaying around for most of the time in her designs (they changed frequently into different dresses).
Now, I have to be honest, I’ve always been a die-hard Jenny Packham fan, and really didn’t think any other designer could come close (I am a huge fan of Jenny’s unstructured, floaty, grecian look), but really, having seen Sassi’s designs close up, I am now officially signed up as a fully fledged member of the Sassi Holford fan club. I’m married to a fashion Designer who has taught me a great deal about what represents a well constructed garment – made with love – and I can honestly say that Sassi ticks both these boxes with a big fat 10 out of 10 (do check out Sassi's brand new website – it's brilliant!).
One of Sassi’s mannequins sported a beautiful vintage inspired lace number (below left), which hand on heart, I honestly believed was some original heirloom piece just on show –– it was infact from Sassi’s latest collection.
All of Sassi’s dresses are produced at her H.Q., in England, by her own team of seamstresses. It would be so easy in this day and age to outsource production overseas, but Sassi, who is entirely self-taught at her profession and who has now been making fabulous frocks for 30 years, and who was commissioned in 2008 to produce the wedding gown for Autumn Kelly, for her marriage to Princess Anne’s son, Peter Phillips, has her feet very firmly planted in British Soil, and, I feel very proud of her for that.
The Cake Specialist…
I was very excited about meeting Amanda Baird, owner of the Utterly Sexy Cafe – and I wasn’t disappointed. Amanda is full of energy, exuberance and smiles. Her cakes are quite frankly the most amazing sugar creations I have ever seen. I truly mean that. Totally out of this world! “Oh yes, I made this all by myself. From the mix, to the bake – and I design and apply all the decoration myself” Amanda told me in a vary laid back/ matter of fact kind of way, as I stared at the most incredible pink, black (yes, black) and spring yellow coloured cakes. Quite incredible, I think you’ll agree!
Opposite Amanda’s cake displays sat a table full of canapés, which went down a storm with everyone on the day. And believe it or not, the tray of pink stuff below right is……Angel Delight! “I can’t believe it!’ Amanda told me smiling – ‘more and more Brides are asking for it at their wedding!”.
The Hair & Makeup Artist…
Kaz Fernando, who was the Makeup Artist on the recent Julia Boggio 1920’s inspired photoshoot at Claridges was exhibiting and provided two live demonstrations which attracted a lot of attention.
There was also a DIY table centre piece display provided by the Hayford and Rhodes Sisters, the fabulous results of which are below. I very much warmed to these floral loving siblings (there are 3 Sisters behind the business) and loved how they so effortlessly pulled together their exhibition displays. Peonies and roses all around, I was in floral scented heaven for most of the day.
The Brides Boudoir
It was so lovely to finally get to meet Tiffany Grant Riley, resident Wedding Planner at Luella's Boudoir, who was being ably supported in her exhibition stand duties by the lovely Charley Beard, of ‘London Bride’ blog fame. Tiffany is a total gem, a real sweet heart who I have chatted with on many occasions before having had the pleasure of meeting her. Luella's boudoir offer an amazing service via this talented Wedding Planner – for Tiff has a deep passion for researching the vintage eras that she is commissioned to plan weddings for on behalf of Luella's Boudoir (which can be anything from the 1920’s through to the 1970’s) and makes it her business to know about everything that will make any vintage inspired wedding event as authentic and visually impressive as possible.
That's the Luella's Boudoir stand below left (plus you get a glimpse of the fabulous goody bags there – on the shoulder of the lady in the pale blue top on the left), and to the right is Catherine Westwood, the Editor of Weddings Magazine, who sponsored the event – who is extremely lovely by the way…
Another wonderfully warm and friendly lady is Rachel Attwell, owner of Luella’s Boudoir – whose exhibition stand was uber chic and pretty, I spotted some saucy undies, chic Bridesmaids dresses and wonderfully pretty butterfly escort cards.
The Bridesmaids Dress Designer…
The display stand that really grabbed my heart was Nicki Macfarlane Bridesmaids. As Mother of a four year old little girl, I was really drawn to these so, so pretty little girls frocks. There are Bridesmaids dresses then there are Nicki Macfarlane Bridesmaids dresses; absolutely fabulous quality and pretty beyond words. I really was very impressed with the quality, design and general presentation of Nicki’s creations.
Unfortunately, Photographer of THE moment, Julia Boggio, could not make the event, but was represented by an incredibly able and super friendly team comprising Sonja, Marte and Marc. The Julia Boggio exhibition display was very impressive. Those of you unfamiliar with Julia’s ‘Vintage Boudoir’ photography need to get in the know now! You WILL want to book a photoshoot once you’ve seen what Julia is capable of! Brides could pick up sample CD’s of Julia’s work to enjoy at their leisure and some truly incredible wedding albums were available to browse through on the day, the quality of which was just outstanding.
Now I’m a big fan of hats and headpieces and anything that you can accessorise an outfit with, and as expected, Edwina Ibbotson’s stand really blew my mind. That's Edwina on the right below trying a hat for size on one Mother of the Bride…
Edwina caters for the Bride, Bridesmaid, Mother of the Bride and more, and has a truly wonderful and eclectic mix of designs. My absolute favourite is the creation in the centre of the photograph below – so evocative of the 1920’s fashion. I swooned over this for a very long time – each and every single bit of sparkle is carefully hand-sewn and can take days, sometimes weeks to complete…..
The stationer on the day was Chartula Studio, who offer a stunning selection of laser-cut and bespoke stationery, designed to wow and leave a wonderful impression with your guests about any impending wedding day celebrations.
Images below Copyright (c) 2010, Chartula
And last but not least, the Tenors Un-Limited boys had flown in from New York that morning, to serenade the Absolutely Beautiful Weddings guests. Now, three rather handsome boys crooning away may, or may not quite be your thing, but I can absolutely guarantee you that anyone booking this dashing trio to entertain their wedding day guests will not be disappointed. Singing a variety of songs clearly aimed at the females in attendance, Tenors Un-Limited were quickly able to engage a room full with their romantic, fun, and celebratory choral melodies. Go boys!
In all, I truly very much enjoyed myself at Absolutely Beautiful Weddings. I found the exhibitors attentive, helpful, friendly and I was left feeling the same way I imagine most of the other Brides to be visiting on the day felt too; well attended, well looked after and really, well, a little bit like a VIP. And who doesn’t want to feel that way when they are planning their wedding?
The Absolutely Beautiful Weddings team are planning on hosting two events a year, and a little bird tells me the next event is to be held in October. Better keep an eye out for news of that on Love My Dress, for I predict sell-out status again, for sure.