I’ll never forget the moment I spied my husband positively beaming as I walked towards him, my mum and dad on either arm, for our civil wedding ceremony at Hartsfield Manor three years ago. I hadn’t prepared myself for just how special the ceremony would be and it was filled with so many gorgeous moments.
Like the harpist playing my favourite spine-tingling song ‘Now We Are Free’ from the Gladiator movie for the aisle walk and reading out the beautiful vows we both wrote which moved every guest to tears. I adore seeing the heartfelt images of the couples we feature during their ceremonies and hearing about the inclusion of little touches to pay homage to their cultural backgrounds.
Film by Dream Colours
The couple featured here today, Emma and Amar (who both work in the dentistry field), celebrated with an intimate tea ceremony at Emma’s family home in Brockley, London on the 5th of February 2016. They then held a decadent party at The Old Finsbury Town Hall in London the following day. Prepare to be moved by their divine video by Dream Colours who was arranged with short notice and totally blew the couple away, so much so that this trailer has become Amar’s favourite memoir from the day.
Photography by Miki Photography
“I initially toyed with the idea of a jumpsuit, but dismissed this after seeing my mother’s cuttings of wedding dresses (without a trouser in sight!). During my search, I set my heart on another dress design, however it was not possible to be made in time for February. With only 3 months to go, and with everyone worried for me, I chose London-based designer, La Poésie, who was able to make the tight deadline. I wanted a dress that would be easy to dance in and adored ‘Stephanie’, as it was timeless, unstructured and made with gorgeous French silk and lace. Did it pass the dance test? The proof is in our photographs!”
Amar was gifted his royal-blue silk áo dài and wedding headpiece (khan dong), whilst Emma’s aunt commissioned the family seamstress in Vietnam to make her intricate emerald green lace áo dài.
The gorgeous bride added gold die-cut leather peep-toe heels from Anthropologie, her favourite Jo Malone scent – ‘Wood Sage and Sea Salt’ – and a stunning fresh flower hairpiece of white lisianthus and eucalyptus created by Nicky from Moggy Blooms. She then finished off her stunning look with the same pearl earrings that her sister wore on her wedding day.
“I am required to keep my hair-up for work, so decided to leave it down for the wedding. I wanted to avoid anything too ‘precious’ or ‘formal’, so I lightly curled my hair with hair straighteners (for both ceremonies). I usually wear little or no-make up – so my sister helped me apply a light Dior spray foundation, Topshop cream blusher and completed the look with liquid eyeliner flicks.”
“As it was a winter wedding, Amar wanted a suit which was warm and cosy, yet smart. He gravitated towards the wool plaid, two-piece suit from J.Crew. He accessorised with a fox-detailed tie, a birthday gift from myself earlier that year from Ted Baker, a pocket square from Reiss and wore his favourite, lived-in and well-loved shoes from Russell & Bromley, with bicycle printed socks from John Lewis.”
The stylish groomsmen wore their own suits, together with a tie from Reiss.
“The ‘tea ceremony’ involves a short formal service, where we demonstrate our respect and appreciation to our ancestors, parents, family members and additional guests. For my parents, this ceremony represents our union and marriage despite not being acknowledged by western law.”
“We wanted to remain faithful to the traditions of my ancestors, by wearing Vietnamese áo dài (long tunic worn over trousers). The event begins with the arrival of Amar’s family to my family home, baring decorated red gift trays, filled with offerings of exotic fruit, sweets, wine and jewellery. Each of the groomsmen are responsible for a tray, and upon their arrival, they present the gifts to my bridesmaids. Following the acceptance of the gifts, the girls invite the groom’s family into the home for the marriage to commence.”
“During the ceremony, incense sticks are lit for prayer, tea is served to our parents and guests, and we exchange vows and rings. The gift boxes filled with jewellery were presented by the Anita (groom’s mother) and each piece was placed on me for good fortune. Finally, we invite everyone to join us in sharing a celebratory feast of traditional Vietnamese food, which includes the food in the trays that were gifted by the groom’s family.”
“My bridesmaid’s were amazing and made what would have been a very stressful situation fun, yet productive. All the girls were respectful of my tight deadline, so volunteered to wear matching dresses from the No. 1 Jenny Packham collection – the ‘Olivia’ design.”
“A family friend created the pewter-coloured satin áo dài, which the girls wore for the tea ceremony. And I gifted each of my bridesmaid’s a Jo Malone perfume from the range.”
“I was introduced to Amar by a mutual friend, whilst looking for a house share in Oxford. After a year of friendship, we shared our first date, where Amar organised a food tour in Edinburgh followed by a hike up Arthur’s Seat. We both share a love for the outdoors, and after 5 months of dating we hiked in Nepal to the base of Everest and I supported Amar during his third Iron Man triathlon.”
After a year and a half together, Amar proposed on an afternoon in July, whilst rowing on the Serpentine. We nearly capsized (as he got down on one knee) presenting a vintage-inspired ring from Rust Jewellery. I was so overwhelmed with surprise and emotion, that I never actually answered ‘yes!’. However when safely back on land, we mutually agreed on a short engagement.”
Nicky Kestler from Moggy Blooms prepared Emma’s incredible wild bouquet arrangement with seasonal roses, eucalyptus, thistle, lisianthus and daisies. Nicky also created twenty unique floral tea cups (made from the bride’s own vintage collection) for the centre pieces, which were gifted to a guest from each table – and Emma included decorative vintage lampshades to compliment the tea cups.
And the bride and her sister spent a wet early morning before the wedding selecting flowers from the Covent Garden Market, which bridesmaid Lizzie used to create the gorgeous complimenting bouquets for the girls.
Emma was accompanied down the aisle by her father, maid of honour (her sister Wendy) and her bridesmaids to an acoustic cover of ‘Wonderwall.’ They wanted to personalise the ceremony by writing their own vows and asked for close friends Liz, Risha and Maj to each prepare a reading for our ceremony.
“Amar recited his vows to me, which he completed with our secret hand-shake. I wrote a poem, which I was almost unable to finish, overcome by tears, which also provoked floods of them amongst our guests.”
“Maj selected a reading from the book ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ by Dr. Seuss, which proved humorous yet was a deliberate remark on the several mountains we have climbed together; and those which we have yet to conquer. Coincidentally, we summited Mount Kilimanjaro during our honeymoon in Tanzania.”
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.
KID, YOU’LL MOVE OUNTAINS!
So…be your nameBuxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Vn Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
“Peter Shatwell, the brother of a close friend, is an incredible pianist and able to recite the works of Ludovico Einaudi, so we insisted that he play for us during our ceremony. He is a physics student at Imperial, so kindly offered his time between his studies. He played our favourite pieces ‘I giorni’ and ‘Nuvole Bianche’ during the signing of our register and reception drinks.”
London Wedding Photographer Mick Shah of Miki Studios also photographed Emma’s sister’s wedding and hence the bride knew she was onto a winner with his style and ability to relax the camera-shy couple.
“Amar and I are both camera shy, so Mick reassured us that he would capture the day in a reportage-style. If you lack the confidence and worried about being the centre of attention then I would highly recommend Mick, as he was brilliant at easing away any awkwardness with his humour and personality.”
Emma designed the stationery herself and in the five months leading up to the wedding, most evenings and weekends were spent making the invitations, wedding signs, chalk boards, menus, seating plan and the place names. Look at the incredible seating plan with calligraphy writing – it’s absolutely stunning!
“I wanted a stained glass window and searched at car boot sales and reclamation yards. I was lucky enough to find one with enough glass panels in a gorgeous colour. We now have it displayed in our home.”
Amar and Emma felt the ‘Grand Hall’ of the Town Hall required very little décor, and intentionally decided to keep things simple, to avoid a detracting from the original features such as the Clerkenwell Angels.
“We are both foodies and had high expectations of the food we wanted to serve. As the town hall was a dry hire, we spent weeks collecting quotes and meeting caterers. Paul of Warburtons Catering won us over, after tasting a delicious sample menu from his little café in Hackney and he created a superb three-course meal, as well as an evening spread of cheese and nibbles.”
“Our cake was entirely handmade by my very talented sister-in-law, Sangeetha Pelly. The semi-naked three-tier sponge cake consisting of lemon, Victoria and chocolate was covered in vanilla cream icing and decorated with fresh flowers. Having failed to grab a slice before it had all vanished, I was reliably informed by the guests that it was delicious.”
“Magician Adam Keisner performed sleight of hand and close-up magic during our reception. We welcomed 200 friends and family for our reception, so it was the perfect way of breaking the ice amongst our guests.”
“Adam was so dedicated that he stayed on for an extra hour, performing magic at the dining tables whilst our guests were being seated. He blew me away with a Rubix cube magic trick.”
“The wedding was always going to be all about our guests. The food had to be plentiful, the open bar had to be well stocked, and the entertainment rocking! As we had decided to take on the majority of the jobs ourselves, we left little contingency for tasks over running, and as a result we sacrificed valuable personal time on the day. There was little freedom for pampering, relaxation or reflection, and in retrospect, we should have delegated the time consuming tasks to the professionals, allowing ourselves the freedom to relax a little, enjoy a drink, and party like our guests.”
“As a nod to our interracial union, we mixed the traditional British with the exotic by selecting ‘Strawberry with Champagne’ and ‘Mango Chutney’ flavours for our personalised mini jam jar favours from Tiptree, Wilkin & Sons. The ‘E&A’ stamps to label for the jam jar lids were via Etsy.”
Festival Nights played folky covers and provided a funky festival vibe for the guests, who are still giving compliments to the bride and groom. The band played Vance Joy’s ‘Georgia’ for the first dance and finished the night with ‘Teenage Dirtbag’.
“The best moment for us was seeing everything come together on the day. Yes, we had things go wrong (the wrong chairs were put out, the table arrangements were incorrect etc) but these blips didn’t matter, as we had our nearest and dearest present to witness and celebrate the beginning of our lives together.”
Words of Wedded Wisdom
“If your budget allows, I would highly recommend considering a wedding planner, especially if you are planning a dry-hire. We were extremely hands-on and had physically and mentally prepared ourselves for our DIY wedding. The day flashes by in an instant and if you can spare yourselves the freedom to enjoy the day, rather than managing it, you will thank yourselves in the weeks following your day.”
“Despite it being hard work, we would not change the day one bit, but importantly we realised that if you miss out on enjoying your day, it is an experience that you will never be able to get back.”
Thank you lovely Emma and Amar for giving us a sneak peek into your most beautiful two-day celebrations. And a huge thank you to Mick from Miki Photography for snapping such delightful, heartfelt pics of the happy couple so they have oodles of memories to treasure.
For even more fabulous fusion weddings we’ve celebrated on this blog, see here.
Wishing you all a relaxing rest of Sunday lovely ones.
Love Jo -xo-
Credits & Thanks
- Photographer – Miki Studios
- Videographer – Dream Colours
- Venue – The Old Finsbury Town Hall, London
- Traditional 'áo dài' Attire – Via family seamstress in Vietnam (bride) + royal-blue silk and wedding headpiece 'khan dong' (gifted to the groom) + created by family friend (bridesmaids)
- Wedding Dress – 'Stephanie' by La Poésie from Heart Aflutter Bridal
- Shoes – Anthropologie
- Hairpiece – Fresh flowers by Moggy Blooms
- Jewellery – Pearl earrings (borrowed from the bride's sister)
- Perfume – Jo Malone 'Wood Sage and Sea Salt'
- Groom – J.Crew suit + Ted Baker tie + pocket square from Reiss + own Russell & Bromley shoes + socks via John Lewis
- Groomsmen – Own suits + tie from Reiss
- Bridesmaid's Dresses – No. 1 Jenny Packham
- Florist – Moggy Blooms
- Catering – Warburtons Catering
- Cake – By the bride's sister-in-law
- Entertainment – Pianist Peter Shatwell + Magician Adam Keisner + Festival Nights band
- Stationery – Handmade by the bride
- Favours – Mini jam jars via Tiptree, Wilkin & Sons + 'E&A' stamps via Etsy