Bridal Separates by Karen Willis Holmes for ‘Classic with a Modern Twist’ Wedding

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I’m a very proud Australian. I get all the patriotic feels when we win gold at the Olympics. I eat vegemite, celebrate Australia Day … and I’ve perfected how to do a ‘Tim Tam Slam’ with a hot cup of coffee so impressively I could win the National Tim Tam Slam Championships.

So when I discovered the Karen Willis Holmes brand – and a part of our growing Little Book for Brides community – was born and bred in the land Down Under, my sense of pride grew even stronger. I completely get why lovely bride Olivia chose her stunning bridal separates, as you’ll shortly see in these joy-filled images by AE Wedding Photography. Groom Kevin, roofer in a family business, and Olivia, who works as a project manager at an international NGO, fell in love with their beautiful venue upon first sight – Northbrook Park in Farnham, Surrey – and tied the knot on Sunday the 9th of October 2016. Olivia found this very blog a huge source of inspiration for her chosen attire and to be brave to go ahead with bright and bold choices for the ‘classic with a modern twist’ styling.

“Love My Dress gave me endless inspiration for how I wanted our day to look and the types of dress that appealed to me and features weddings that felt personal and achievable for my budget, whilst also being ahead of the trends and edgy. Love My Dress cares about the brides they write about and I felt that when I read real wedding features. I was endlessly inspired by the edgy brides who bucked the standard bridal/wedding looks and it made me feel braver to go against the grain. I knew I wanted classic with a modern twist, so I decided on black and white stripes, lots of gold and then flashes of pink and bright orange.”

Images by AE Wedding Photography

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A fan of dresses that are plain with structural elements, the ‘sport luxe’ look, Olivia donned Karen Willis Holmes bridal separates – the ‘Frankie’ skirt and the ‘Mabel’ top – that weren’t meant to be styled together, but looked perfect as a combination. This contemporary designer – see the LBFB directory listing here – was discovered via another treasured member of the Little Book, Rachel Ash Bridalwear in Warwickshire.Rachel Ash Bridalwear (view their member listing here) were featuring KWH dresses as a trunk show for one week and my sister managed to secure us an appointment as soon as I got back from Ibiza. This boutique is fairly new to the industry, but it feels like they have been doing it for years. They shut the shop for an appointment and chocolate and Prosecco are in plentiful supply. I never felt rushed and they have a keen eye for fashion and trends, which was important to me, I wanted to feel like ‘me’ in the dress, but still be elegant and timeless.”

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“I never had ‘the one’ moment and was doubting my dress choice for pretty much my entire engagement. But the closer it got to the wedding and the more fittings I had I realised it was perfect. I love a boogie so it was important that I could dance and party hard without being restricted. I felt comfortable eating, dancing and drinking in the dress, so it worked out well. My seamstress Katrina embroidered our initials and wedding date on the waistband of my skirt. It makes my dress even more unique and personal. She said no other bride had asked her to do this and she loved being able to give me an added extra.”

Olivia added a fabulous pair of Valentino ‘Rockstuds’ heels, her sister’s veil as her ‘something borrowed’, a pair of pearl and diamante earrings (found on her hen do in Portugal for 3 Euros!) and a statement gold headpiece. Wow, just wow!

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“I had a clear picture of the type of headpiece I wanted. I loved the baroque style that Dolce and Gabbana went for in 2012; the models wore statement headbands and I wanted a headpiece that made a statement and was gold. However, this was easier said than done. I was surprised at how expensive headpieces could be for brides, but finally stumbled across Ani Bürech – a Spanish wedding accessory designer whose pieces are handmade, totally original and fantastic value for money. I picked the ‘June’ headpiece. Everyone loved it and I think it worked very well with how simple the rest of my outfit was.”

“Kev and I met in Benidorm (not the most romantic of places!). I was on a hen do and he was on a stag do – after meeting in a bar and talking for only half an hour we parted ways. I didn’t think much of it, but fast forward two weeks and I am travelling down to meet him in London. Our first date was easy, exciting and full of laughter. And the rest they say is history. Kev and I have lived together for over 6 years and have a shared love for family, travelling and food.”

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The bridesmaids’ gorgeous gold dresses were from Biba at House of Fraser and they wore their own shoes and earrings and rings from H&M. Hair was by Lucianne Beauty with make-up by Emily Turner.

We flew to Ibiza in July 2015 with 18 other members of Kev’s family for his mum and dad’s 35th wedding anniversary. On day two, Kev proposed on the beach with the most beautiful ring, asking if I ‘fancied being Mrs Cayley?’. We spent the next week partying in Ibiza to celebrate. We both knew we wanted a short engagement, especially as Kev’s grandparents were in their 80s. We ended up being engaged for 15 months.”

“Kevin and I bought each other fragrance as our wedding presents. We love unusual scents and actually found them from the same place – L’artisan Parfumeur. Kevin wore ‘L-eau d’amber’ and I had ‘Nuit de Tubereuse’. Whenever we wear them it reminds us of our special day.”

Little Book for Brides member and supplier of stylish menswear, Moss Bros, was behind handsome Kevin’s tails suit – and he added shoes from Next, a shirt by Marks & Spencer, ASOS tie, and a tie clip from Broni&Bo. Kevin’s best men organised a very fun time for him in the lead up to the big day, as Olivia explains.

The wee flower girl and pageboy sported outfits from Marks & Spencer and the orange knitted bow tie was via Broni&Bo. I simply adore the flower girl’s matching gold headpiece and the pageboy’s teeny tiny suit.

“I found Joanne from Joanne Truby Floral Design on the Little Book for Brides directory created by Love My Dress. What a find! Joanne captured my vision ‘more is more’ perfectly and was so patient with the constant additions that I made as the planning progressed. I like such an array of flowers and foliage and Jo managed to incorporate pretty much everything. Peonies were my first choice, but being an October wedding they were out of season, so she found beautiful Yves Piaget Roses that worked just as well and smelt heavenly. I smiled from ear-to-ear when seeing my bouquet and when the doors opened to the ceremony room I could have cried. The mantelpiece design and the aisle looked better than I could have imagined.”

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“My wedding ring was made from gold left from my Nan’s jewellery after she died (this was my ‘something old’). This was melted down by A&A Jewellery in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter. Kevin’s palladium ring was also made here. My dad also commissioned the jewellers to make me a signet ring out of Welsh rose gold from my great uncle’s ring. He gave this to me the night before my wedding and I plan to get it engraved with my maiden initials; OJW.”

“My dad walked me down the aisle to ‘The Glasgow Love Theme’ featured in Love Actually. My friend from uni had heard it and suggested it and as soon as I heard it I knew it was perfect! Kevin and I wrote our vows together, we didn’t want them to be too long as Kev was conscious of ‘being too gushy’. I feel we captured what we are all about without it feeling like an overshare.”

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“I have always loved readings at other weddings because I feel they make the ceremony more personal. I found ‘He’s Not Perfect’ by Bob Marley and felt this summed up Kevin perfectly. It was a surprise for him and his family, as only his dad and me knew that this would be the first reading. It still makes me ‘well-up’. My sister then wrote a reading about our relationships over the years. It was very touching and thoughtful. Yet more tears! Finally my Auntie Jaqueline read ‘Untitled’ by Bee Rawlinson. We both like that this added a light-hearted element to the wedding and it had everyone laughing.” 

Josephine Witherford of Gorgeous George Designs created the couple’s stationery; capturing the style Olivia wanted by merging classic font, black and white stripes and travel from her brief. Jo also created the table plan of all the places the couple had travelled together.

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“One of the most important things to us was finding a way to include our loved ones who couldn’t be with us on the day. Many of our grandparents had passed away but we were extremely close to them. Kevin’s nan had given us an antique writing bureau when Kevin’s grandad passed away just before the wedding. I came up with the idea to use the bureau as a memory table with photos of all those who couldn’t be with us and a message that said:

Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard but always near. Still loved, still missed and very dear.

“Jo our florist decorated the bureau with a gorgeous arrangement of flowers and draping leaves. The table was positioned close to our top table. I wanted bright colours, as I had been to a number of weddings that used pastels. I have a love for bright orange, cerise pink and gold. I felt this complimented the black and white stripes that formed the theme for the decoration. My dad made us striped table runners and we had brightly coloured paper pom-poms hanging from the ceilings.”

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“I was lucky enough to have witnessed the work of Rachel and Austen from AE Wedding Photography multiple times before at both my sister and friends’ weddings. Their talent is exceptional, but more than that, they are the additional guests you want to have at your wedding. I booked them as soon as we got back from Ibiza, before we had a date or venue!”

All of our guests still comment on how great they were; funny and engaging. Photos were a very important element of the day to me, but I was conscious that Kevin dislikes being the centre of attention and posing for photos. Austen and Rachel made him feel comfortable and he soon got into it – by the end of the day he had his own ‘blue steel’ model look down!”

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I would have loved being a guest at Kevin and Olivia’s wedding, with Tapenade providing delicious cuisine and drinks galore for everyone to enjoy.

“We met Eve Bradford at the tasting event and wow, she knows her stuff! Eve made us feel completely at ease from day one, suggesting ideas and listening to all our requirements and wants. The canapés were non-stop and super-tasty and the drink flowed all day. We had a number of ‘fragile and tender’ guests the next day who said they never reach the bottom of their glass before it was topped up. Brilliant service and food! Tapenade also managed our free bar – we supplied the drink, but they chilled and served it all day. This saved us a considerable amount of money and meant our guests could have a ‘knees up’ on us.”

“We used our cake as the dessert at our wedding breakfast, meaning enough cake was needed to feed 135 people. I don’t think my sister quite realised what she had got herself into when she agreed to make our wedding cake(s). She made a range of delicious flavours; two salted caramel creations, a Nutella and hazelnut, a lemon drizzle and a Victoria sponge. She experimented with designs constantly in the run up to the wedding, meaning we benefitted from lots of ‘trial’ cakes!”

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“Kevin had two key requirements for the day, a free bar and great music. Our DJ Mark of London and Surrey DJ was recommended by friends and got the party started. Mark has a clever system whereby you can send a list of must have songs and any you want to avoid online, before the day. It helped him learn about our taste in music and the dance floor was packed all night. Kevin chose the first dance track of ‘The Wonder of You’ by Elvis Presley.”

“For the whole day you are on cloud nine – people had told me this before, but it is hard to imagine it beforehand. And they were right, every part of your day feels like a dream. But if I had to single out a particular moment it would be walking into the ceremony room and seeing Kevin. It was also fantastic to see all of our friends and family staring back at me with such happiness. I felt very loved and very happy.”

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Words of Wedded Wisdom

“I am an organised person and quickly created a spreadsheet to track the wedding budget and manage the guest list. This helped with so many moving parts to planning a wedding and I think it was integral to helping us come in at £26,000 – not far away from what we had budgeted for. The spreadsheet has become quite infamous, being passed to various friends who have since got engaged.

Trust your gut. People have endless opinions about weddings, especially those close to you! However, I would advise you to stick with what you believe in; at times I faltered from what I really wanted, only to regret this and then fret about it afterwards, leading me to change it later on.”

Most brides wouldn’t have bright orange napkins, black and white table runners, maps and multi-coloured flowers. The majority of people looked concerned when I initially relayed this to them when asked the standard ‘what is your colour scheme?’. But I knew it could work and I am so glad I went away from the accepted blush pink and navy.

I love that Love My Dress has a section about genuine concerns for brides in the ‘From the Heart’ section – it helped to ease my nerves hearing about the issues that other brides had or were dealing with. You may have thought of this, but I think it would be brilliant to do an annual event. I would have paid to see Love My Dress (team, ideas, suppliers) in real life!”

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What a brilliant idea Olivia! How about it Annabel – fancy one big shindig?! Golly gosh I’ve so loved sharing your utterly lovely wedding Olivia and Kevin and sending a huge cheers to AE Wedding Photography for these divine memories of their happy day.

I urge you to take a look at our Karen Willis Holmes style files to view the latest chic and contemporary styles – and I’ll leave you with the couple’s very sweet video created by Alium Studios (password is Williams123).

Vimeo link here

Love Jo -xo-

Credits & Thanks

Jo Singletary

Jo Singletary View all Jo's articles

Jo hails from and lives in sunny Australia, is currently working towards her dream of being a career coach and a few of her favourite things are watching the sunrise over the ocean, morning walks on the beach, butterflies, and supporting the guide dogs charity.

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