If there was one wedding for all of 2017 that I had to choose to write myself, it would be this very one. Why? Because the bride happens to be a friend, and respected Love My Dress colleague. She is Emma Marshall – the owner of Miss Bush Bridal boutique in Surrey – an individual with a sharp mind and savvy head for bridal – a brilliant business woman who is always always at least 100 steps ahead of the game. Emma was an early adopter of social media for business, and one of the first to champion wedding bloggers when they started gaining success in the 2009/10 period. Wedding bloggers weren’t ‘a thing’ prior to that, but Emma was one of a handful of people who spotted their potential very early on and chose to support and collaborate. And I’m forever glad she did. My friendship and work relationship with Emma that has flourished as a result, has taught me so much – not just about the business of weddings, but what’s at the heart of them too – and that, for me, is what really matters.
Last April, my husband and I, along with Emma and her partner Marshy, were on a business trip to Barcelona to support our mutual client, Jesus Peiro. It’s not the first time we’ve spent time together overseas – the year prior, we’d attended the bridal fashion shows in Barcelona for the first time and Emma had been most supportive – showing us around, introducing us to new contacts and spending time socialising too. It was a really lovely opportunity to get to know Emma’s long term boyfriend Marshy a little better and see how incredibly supportive he was of his partner and her business. After a long day of attending fashion shows and talking shop, the conversation turned focus suddenly and before we realised it, Emma and Marshy had let slip a delicious surprise to us both. They had secretly got married just weeks ago. A secret wedding! I was thrilled for my friend and for the next hour at least, we spent the time pouring over images on her iPhone, discussing her dress and shoes and talking about how it had all happened.
Photography by Nick Tucker
It’s not often you get the chance to share a wedding from the perspective of someone who has worked in the wedding industry for so long and understands it so intimately well. They say not to mix business with friendship, but this is one of those occasions that throws that theory right out the window. May I hand you over to my colleague and my friend Emma Marshall to tell you her honest, funny and heart-warming story.
“The Love My Dress questionnaire Annabel sent me starts ‘how did you meet?’ which is a good a place to try and compose my thoughts about Marshy and I getting married. In my day to day working life at Miss Bush I hear the most beautiful love stories. From childhood sweethearts tying the knot to improbable dating website matches getting hitched. Old friends getting off and getting on the matrimonial express. Sliding doors moments leading to whirlwind weddings. Be they raging page turners of love affairs across divides or the pleasantly unfolding narratives of stable professionals the stories keep coming. The characters change, the times change; mixed, blended, same sex, second time, legal, religious, pagan or puritanical, every story is like a sociology book with a love interest.”
“Our story, on paper, is unlikely to be a bestseller. Our first encounter was seedily fabulous and romantic in a Woking way. Marshy, who I now know had ardently admired me from afar, had gathered information on my movements for a particular Saturday night in the gloomy part of January. Apparently the date most people decide that they are getting divorced on is Jan 12th. The Saturday in questions was the 13th, also the weekend when you are supposed to be getting over your seasonal excesses. The weekend you should be putting your feet up with a detox tea.
At that point, however, just a few months after my Decree Absolute I was more interested in being a born again babe and going out on my kid-free weekends.”
Emma ran a 10k race the morning of her wedding
“Marshy tracked me down to the déclassé heart of Woking’s chain-pub strip, O’Neill’s. I wasn’t sure what to make of the chat up line ‘you seem clever…’, swiftly followed by the offer of some Ricky Gervais stand up tickets. Somehow Marshy’s earnestness and charm worked. I’m sure he hoodwinked me into believing his intentions to be honourable. At some point I ended up inviting him back to my house, along with mutual friends, for vintage champagne and Jack Daniels.”
“Thus began what was the first of many nights over the last decade where we have cranked up any available music, thrown all sorts of guilty pleasures into the mix (chiefly Rod Stewart, on that night) and indulge in terrible Mum and Dad dancing. I distinctly remember my friend saying to me, ‘why don’t you just go to bed with Marshy?'”
“Reader, I did. I put out on what was, technically, not even a first date. Don’t for a moment imagine that this was a pointy toed, filmic experience. Through my haze I still remember him being appalled at my ‘floor-drobe’ and unmade bed. The details are sketchy, the morning after awkward, but without being asked, he brought me tea in bed. I know it sounds a really tiny point and perhaps I am overlooking the sleazy facts and my questionable morals but I had just come through a painful break up. I had met one or two wildly, wonderfully flawed men but a small of act of kind attentiveness had evaded them all. A subsequent pub lunch that, for once, I didn’t have to pick up the bill for sealed it.”
“I was a chain smoking, single mother of three with a weeks worth of pants on my bedroom floor and my self esteem had taken some battering at my own hands and at the hands of others. The first few hours with Marshy set the tone for our relationship which still endures. Sexy – (yep I know you don’t want to hear that about the over 40s let alone the over 50s), kind, funny – but more than that, we are a team. It is the only relationship of my entire life with anyone that feels like a ‘partnership’.”
“I once wondered whether Marshy and I are soul mates but that sounds way too serious and spiritual. We would list ‘shopping’ as one of our hobbies – if a soul mate is someone whose presence has never grated on you, who you have never argued with, who you don’t play mind games with then, possibly, yes. If it is someone who being with forever doesn’t seem long enough when you only met at 40, again yes.”
“Marshy dropped a surprise proposal into his 50th Birthday Party celebrations and, despite my best efforts for the night to be all about him, and, as we had all our close friends and family there, it inevitably became something of an engagement party. In lieu of another engagement party we decided to have an engagement shoot, the soul searching and agonising about can be read in a previous piece for Love My Dress.
As ‘mature’ as Marshy and I are, not prone to giddiness and having been together at the time of the engagement shoot nearly nine years, it still seemed deeply romantic and I briefly looked into organising one of those Registry Office weddings where you drag strangers off the street to be witnesses. Two things stopped me. The first, my poor organisational skills; the lack of grasp that you actually need to fill in forms, apply for a license, find your Decree Absolute, not just get on the champagne and stagger in, bottle in hand, Vegas style. The second – dire consequence of eloping would be facing the wrath of my Mum and my kids who may well have never forgiven us.”
“The engagement shoot was in Brighton, based at the Artists Residence, and it came on the back of a 9 month, fitness and weight loss programme. I had diligently stuck to and embraced a healthy, clean eating, and supervised fitness plan. For the first time in a very, very long time I was able to find a few hours a week for myself.”
“I recently read a blog post by former Love My Dress writer Franky, who has been severely ill this year, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.’ This echoes something designer Suzanne Neville said to me in passing about the Mother of Brides that choose her dresses who seem impossibly glamorous – ‘they look after themselves.’”
“I had been over a healthy weight, medicated and unfit. My change was not about vanity or about societal pressure (grey hair and no fillers can illustrate that.) It was about having time to run, stretch and start a meal by chopping some fresh ingredients.”
“I loved the engagement shoot, the extreme weather and shopping. Aside from that I got to meet photographer Nick Tucker, who has been instrumental not only in creating images for me – there is also something of his indie spirit, creativity and social conscience which has spilled into our latest Miss Bush shoot. Together Nick, Marshy and I achieved personally what we wanted to do which was not just to celebrate our engagement but create an aesthetic for a late 40’s/early 50s couple that wasn’t off the front of a Saga brochure or airbrushed and filler-ed to the max.”
“Not wanting to lose touch with this new found fitness shortly after the engagement shoot I entered Marshy and I into the Brighton Marathon Weekend 10k race as a fitness goal and booked us into the same hotel. I don’t know how or why the conversation started but at some point I sent an email to Brighton and Hove Council asking if they had any space in their Register Office for the 17th April, the day of our race and the Marathon. They did.”
“It seemed somehow like a brilliant opportunity to recreate the spirit of the engagement shoot/elopement idea that we loved so much but with the absolute minimum immediate family, and it was to be a secret. Could the key people all be available? Was Nick available? Could Carolanne Armstrong do my makeup? It all sort of fell into place.”
“We were running the 10k at 9am, I booked the Registry Office for 3pm and reserved Al Fresco for dinner at 6.30pm, Nick and Carolanne were hired and my family nabbed the last couple of rooms at the Artists Residence and the handful of rooms still available across the town.”
“At various points, I thought about hiring a planner as the day was so absolutely unplanned. I did feel quite anxious that we hadn’t actually seen the Registry Office and when we went on the day before the wedding to see where it was the weather was miserable and there was a protest march and rally assembling. As much as photographer Nick loves a gritty, urban backdrop – this just looked miserable. I didn’t know how any logistics would work as the entire town was subject to massive Marathon Weekend road closures and everyone was staying in different places. There was no way we could get cars near the place and with an octogenarian MOB, my Dad being treated for pancreatic cancer and family and in several hotels the lack of thought was starting to seem foolhardy.”
“If our plan of having a blessing and a big reception ever comes off – don’t hold your breath – I will certainly get a planner. Far from being an American style indulgence only if you are having a 6 figure wedding, it is like having a creative PA. Sure it’s a luxury, a wedding is. Much like a cleaner or someone to do your ironing without which my home would be a fetid swamp of hard water encrusted taps, shower screens made of calcium deposits and creased balls of mouldy fabric would have to suffice as clothes. Whether you are inviting 20 or 100 people to dinner or for a weekend away the idea of having a professional host/PA/creative visionary on your team is a great idea.
Plus, they always know the best suppliers so will, much like me with in my role at Miss Bush, want their portfolio to look good so there will be no giant martini glasses of floating Gerberas and warm fizz unless irony is your game!”
“The knowledge of the wedding was kept so limited that I actually felt awful keeping it a secret. After a week, my long term colleague and talented hair stylist, Sharon Roberts, was brought into the team too – not because, as my sister said ‘you don’t want your family’s bad hair ruining the shoot’, but because of her on-the-day planning skills. After about two weeks I also told and invited my colleague Corinne who has worked alongside me for 12 years and is, in reality, like an extra family member. I also shared everything with my colleague Leah, who is the architect of all things design and digital for Miss Bush. Leah actually eloped so she shares my secret/small wedding world.”
“Leah organised some stationery and a cool website to invite the guests. The absolute majority of them didn’t use it because they are extreme Luddites but it felt fun to have at least one design detail. Marshy loves all kinds of vintage, in fact on the Sunday of the shameful weekend of our first non-date, he suggested watching Hearbeat and The Antiques Roadshow. I thought he was joking… Knowing he loves all the images from the Festival of Britain I got Leah to create images using that as an inspiration point along with Nick’s engagement photos. As I have tried on enough wedding dresses to know I look shocking in ivory I picked a blue grey colour for my wedding dress and so the graphics tied in a little with that.”
“As The Chapel is my own personal wedding playground, I didn’t really feel the need to have any of the details that most brides want. Effectively I ‘do’ weddings weekly. Every event we do we try to break new ground with ideas and themes – each photo shoot is accompanied by fervent research. There were no hair trials, no makeup plans, no colour schemes, no transport, no hen do, no stag do, no speeches.”
“Despite this, the dress was going to be a ‘thing’, of course!”
“Having spent 25 years of my life working in a wedding boutique how could it not? I basically love 1950’s Dior-esque dresses so I created a pin board based on that silhouette. I was also mindful that the cheap and cheerful 50s style wedding dress was not what I was after. I have seen far more wedding dresses and have far more opinions than is good for one woman, so very consciously, I wanted something as yet ‘unseen’.”
“Initially I kept putting a Valentino dress into my Matches online shopping basket and removing it again. It was short, quite Mod-ish, Quant inspired. Simply, my legs are too white and too Celtic for bare legs and a short dress. I also kept thinking ‘what if I trip up in the race down the aisle and get grazed legs!’”
“My mood board had lots of sheer dresses, hi-low hems and couture gowns from Zuhair Murad. When I went to meet designer, friend and long time supplier to Miss Bush Suzanne Neville to discuss dresses, Suzanne had a one-off roll of blue/grey tulle with snaking 3D appliqué flowers. A dress design emerged and was produced over two or three visits.”
“I had more than one crisis of confidence over the dress. It was too girly, too blue, too full, not sheer enough, out of my comfort zone, too like a wedding dress. You name it I had a full house of wedding dress anxieties which I plan to write about in a separate ‘how not to go mad and lose your shit over your wedding dress’ article.”
“However as I hope you can see from the images it looked pretty awesome, even if I was swearing I would buy a PVC Zara dress and wear that instead. Don’t ask!
Not many people have Suzanne Neville’s personal mobile number. If you did would you text her at 7am in the morning asking her to stop making your dress and make you another one in plain grey? No? You should try it – it’s like texting an ex when you are drunk…”
“Our florist was Rosie Orr, whose work is daily on show at The Chapel. A scrap of fabric for colour and a guideline that I didn’t want any green or white was about as much of a steer as she got. I had bouquets for Georgia, Lily and I and buttonholes and corsages for all. Now I think about it I don’t actually know what happened to the blooms but I am fairly certain they weren’t thrown at the singletons!”
“The headpiece was from the Queen and Miss Bush’s milliner of choice, Rachel Trevor Morgan. Mum, my daughter Georgia and I nipped up to her fantastically Dickensian studio and I was clearly going to have a pillbox hat, Jackie O/Elizabeth Taylor style floral number but no – they all looked wrong so I went for a custom-dyed, crazy bird extension of my Mohawk.”
“My shoes were Valentino Rockstuds, bought in a fit of pique when a weigh in at Slimming World didn’t go the way I wanted. They are quite ‘the’ wedding shoe and I have seen quite a few of my brides have them but I still wanted them! They were ridiculously comfortable and on show with my dipped hem. Marshy bought me the matching cuff for a surprise on the morning of the wedding. You see, this is why I love him. Gold spike studs from ASOS were the only other accessory.”
“On the day, photographer Nick met Marshy, Sharon’s husband Garry (who had run the race with us) and I at the 10k finish line and we ambled back down Brighton seafront and got an outside table for breakfast on the corner of Regency Square. As we sat in bright sunshine, still in our running kits, we had ring side seats to watch the superhuman, elite marathon runners pass by. Between the four of us we also finally managed to make an offline Spotify playlist on my iPhone so there would be some music in the Registry Office.
I know this seems off-the-scale casual but even then I forgot to send it ahead with the boys. After surgically removing the iPhone from my hand, Luke, Carolanne’s husband, had to sprint ahead of the bridal party to work out how to make this work in reality.”
“Marshy and I ambled into a shower, into our clothes and had a couple of drinks and checked on the beauty parlour Sharon and Carolanne had set up in the giant basement suite of the Artist Residence. Marshy, Garry and my boys then wandered down to Brighton sea front and met up with Marshy’s family, my Dad, my brother and their partners at The Old Ship Hotel for a couple of beers.”
“The girls team followed on, I being hurried by Sharon saying “Registrars won’t wait for you…” Nick stayed with us as we picked our way through tiny alleyways to avoid the sea breeze and the marathon crowds. At one point we ran into the boys and my sons made a human shield round Marshy so as we didn’t ‘see’ each other. As I had already shown Marshy the dress (more of that in the dress anxiety article, coming soon!) we had spent the previous night together and crossed the finishing line of the race hand in hand – it was kind of cute to preserve some wedding traditions.”
“Georgia, my daughter, had two bridesmaids dresses; the first was Vivienne Westwood, the second from Biba and some Topshop flats ‘inspired’ by the Rockstuds. Her hair pins were black spikes by Rachel Trevor Morgan.”
“Lily my niece was wearing smock dress from Ebay, white jacket and shoes from Zara and my sister got upgraded to a bridesmaids by virtue of Rosie Orr making me two bouquets. Rather than leave one behind it seemed sensible for her to carry it. Lisa’s dress was Orla Kiely.”
“Marshy’s suit was custom made by Gresham Blake and he nipped there the day before to get a new shirt and tie to go with it. He also treated himself to a trip to Cutter and Grinder for some pre wedding pampering.”
“No nerves, no dramas, the sun shone and we got married.”
“My son Harvey gave me away and my son William acted as best man. Both boys had off the peg suits from Debenhams.”
“My two boys did readings, my daughter sang accompanied by her partner on guitar and we simply read the standard vows and giggled all the way though the very short ceremony”
“Initially we weren’t going to have any rings as we didn’t have the budget for our friend Jon Dibben to make them at that time, or indeed the notice. At some point he will get the gig but for the day, and for my son to have a box of rings to pretend to lose, we bought some £20 silver bands from Not On The High Street.”
“In the face of ‘no plan’ we wandered back to The Old Ship, picking our way through crowds, turning heads and getting the love and congratulations of strangers. Stepping over a child having a tantrum she was instantly silenced by her mother claiming I was Elsa from Frozen. Disney Princess was not really the look I was channelling, but hey if the crown fits…”
“My beautifiers Sharon Roberts and Carolanne Armstrong are both long time collaborators with Miss Bush and both are friends. They and their husbands therefore had the dubious honour of being among the six non-family members there!”
“The DIY drinks reception meant all the guests buying us champagne, the entertainment was a karaoke artist. The atmosphere was like the Pathe newsreel footage of daytrips and bank holiday outings.”
“Al Frescois one of those restaurants near the West Pier that looks like it should be bad because the location is so good. It is a great family run Italian bistro with unparalleled views and is a spectacular place to watch the sun go down. Again not having exclusive use meant strangers got drawn into our celebrations and then, as if the universe had some plan for the day, the elite marathon runners and winners turned up for dinner too.”
Eventually Nick reminded us that we may like some photos so we managed to get across the road to the beach grabbed some 99s and a ride in a carousel before meandering to the restaurant for dinner.”
“We picked Nick Tucker again for photography because I hate having my photo taken and he does have a fantastically slanted view of weddings and the images and narratives that are unfolding.”
“By about 9 o’clock I was exhausted; I actually don’t know how I would have managed a whole wedding day and reception. Probably by not getting up at 6am, walking a couple of miles to Preston Park, running a further 6 miles and being on my feet all day! I spent the first half of the night crashed out in my dress, then waking Marshy in the middle of the night to get me out of it!”
“It has taken me ages to get round to writing this, perhaps because the wedding is tiny. I can’t hide our story behind a show of popularity, youth and affluence. There’s no crowd of guests, just very up close and personal information about my family. The dazzling details that can and do detract from the essence of a wedding and the meaning of marriage are just not there.
If we do get to organise a Blessing and Reception, I know I would want it to be the ‘Greatest Show on Earth.’ Until then I will settle for the best husband on the planet.”
Words of Wedded Wisdom
I sat and fired off 10 tips, list style, after writing this and coming to some conclusions:-
- What you wear is important but once you’re dressed it doesn’t add to your happiness on the day
- Run a 10k in the morning to get rid of any nerves or stress
- Getting married changes how you view even a long term relationship
- It is very deflating not to have a honeymoon
- People are not that bothered whether you invite them to your wedding or not, genuine friends are just really pleased that you got married
- A small wedding still needs a big budget
- Book the professionals and let them get on with their job
- Organise a place for drinks and snacks after a wedding – letting guests buy their own pizza is quite bad form (see get a wedding planner!)
- Going insane over a wedding dress is not helpful
- I would like to have had a video too
Every single wedding we share on the blog is done so with love and each and every one of them are special in their own way, but there are certain weddings that stand out and represent everything that is at the heart of Love My Dress – this is one of them.
I hope that you’ve loved reading Emma and Marshy’s story as much as I have – I felt like I was there on the day reading it back to myself and enjoying these wonderful photographs.
Now, my job today is to nag Emma about that ‘don’t freak out about your wedding dress’ article!
Love Annabel x
Credits & Thanks
- Photographer - Nick Tucker
- Stayed at - The Artists residence
- Breakfast at - The Regency Restaurant
- Dinner at - Al Fresco
- Ceremony - Brighton Registry Office
- Dress - Suzanne Neville available at Miss Bush
- Shoes - Valentino Rock Studs
- Headpiece - Rachel Trevor Morgan
- Hair Stylist - Sharon Roberts
- Makeup Artist - Carolanne Armstrong