A Desert-Sunset Inspired Gown for a Stylish Seaside Wedding

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Do you like to be beside the seaside? I do, whatever the weather. Rain, shine, snow or wind, there’s nothing quite like getting out in the fresh air and stretching your gaze over the sea to the horizon. This is one of the reasons why I’m so in love with today’s wedding between Ben and Elly.

The couple married at Hastings’ venue St Mary in the Castle, a neo-classical deconsecrated church which is now an arts centre, on 15 July 2017. The venue was the perfect backdrop for them to arrange their relaxed celebrations and the couple wove in inspiration from a road trip holiday in the desert for a simplistic and modern, totally unique feel.

“I grew up in Hastings and Ben went to university in Brighton so being by the sea seemed a natural fit. As St Mary in the Castle is almost right on the beach it was perfect. We also felt it had the potential to combine the perfect dichotomy of an informal feel with a formal setting.”

Photography Rathergood Photography

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The couple also tried to use as many local suppliers as possible, and how lovely it is that they were inspired by both Love My Dress and Little Book for Brides whilst planning the day.

“One of our main (accidentally at the beginning, on purpose by the end) aims was to use independent and local vendors, like Dana Dallal BridalShimizu Flowers and St Mary in the Castle, to make the whole day feel very much like ours and support these businesses. By featuring our wedding on Love My Dress it feels like we are giving something back to those brilliant people who made our day so special.”

Elly, a teacher, and Ben, a supply chains manager, met whilst on a work-study placement in New York and ended up back together in London. Their wedding day was arranged for 21 months later. Elly’s unusual and totally beautiful gown, along with the uniqueness of the formal venue, was used as a starting point for the day’s colour scheme and decoration.

“I had always said I did not want a proposal ‘up high’ so Ben arranged an ironic date day that included climbing The Monument, the Sky Garden and cocktails at the Oxo Tower but then proposed at our very low-rise, local coffee and brunch place just around the corner from our flat in Wandsworth.”

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The wedding stationery by Jonathan Allot was the perfect introduction to the day with its modernistic design and beautiful colour scheme.

“The print and communication were really important us – it sets up the tone of the big day and helps guests have a great day. We came up with the idea of a triptych of St Mary in the Castle using the save the dates, invites and order of the days.”

“We worked closely with Jonathan to match the sunset colours of the dress in the print so everything worked together. Jonathan also drew our engagement picture which Ben commissioned to commemorate the day. We were drawn in Central Park by the Bethesda Fountain to make up for the fact we couldn’t be there instead of our local coffee shop!”

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The hair and make-up stylist, Grace Benson, created Elly’s soft and pretty natural look. She also doubled up as the face-painter during the evening celebrations; what a fantastic idea!

“Grace is so in demand I had to book her over a year in advance but it was so worth it. She made me feel so relaxed and focused on the big day even though there was mayhem around me. I loved the trial day when she took so much time over making sure she was happy and trying different things to see what worked. She was also our face painter for the evening and our guests loved her. Utterly professional and utterly gorgeous!”

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With such a striking gown, accessories were kept minimal. The chapel-length silk tulle veil from Ann-Marie Faulkner is a wonderful foil for the gown, and these metallic-edged Rachel Simpson shoes add a touch of vintage style. If you love this clean and classic design, you can see more on her Look Book page here, and visit her Little Book for Brides listing here.

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This incredible gown tinged with the sunset colours of yellow and orange is a bespoke design by Dana Dallal Bridal – a brilliant designer who Elly met at Most Curious Wedding Fair. If you haven’t heard about their upcoming fairs, then you can read our Love My Dress feature on them here; they are very highly recommended. It combines traditional bridal style with a modern twist; perfect for this couple’s quirky wedding.

“I had been looking at dresses with, or of, colour when researching my dress but nothing had quite stood out. I was about to stick with my original idea of a vintage-inspired gown but the moment I saw that colour print I knew that was my dress. I’d been torn between something structural or something romantic and this dress just had both in spades because of the mixture of satin and sheer georgette panelling. It was ethereal yet strong.”

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I love how the simple cut of the bodice is offset by the beautiful panelling of the skirt which reveals glimpses of colour as she moves. Dana worked closely with Elly to alter an existing pattern to suit her body perfectly, and the colour picks up the warmth of the bride’s hair too.

“The colour print on the dress is of a sunset which reminded us of desert skies from a road trip we’d done so the simplistic modernity of the dress style coupled with the surprising colour palette was completely reflected in the styling and colour scheme.”

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In keeping with the desert sunset theme, the bridesmaids wore soft, flowing gowns by TFNC London for ASOS in shades of warm yellow and pink whilst the adorable flowergirl had a structured John Lewis Heirloom Collection dress.

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The images of Elly and her maids preparing for the ceremony were captured by Peter Mould of Stage Snaps.

“Peter is a longtime family friend who usually works on theatre photography but made us his last wedding photography engagement. He was there to capture my preparation, behind the scenes shots, reportage shots of the guests and wide shots of the venue from the balcony during the ceremony.”

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Shimizu Flowers provided the lovely florals – the yellow billy buttons also bring out the colours of Ben’s bow tie – so clever.

“Mao at Shimizu has been my mum’s favourite florist for years because of her use of unusual blooms and beautiful arrangements. I wanted to reflect her modern and original dress in the flowers so Shimizu was the perfect choice. She used vintage carnations, thistles, yellow billy buttons and falling clematis on the bridal bouquet to create eclectic arrangements that brought the bridal party’s outfits to life.”

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I was so excited to see the groom’s mustard yellow, patterned Le Colonel Moutarde bow tie taking centre stage. It looks super against his Beggar’s Run suit. The best men wore Moss Bros suits, and both Le Colonel Moutarde and Moss Bros are members of our Little Book of Brides wedding directory.

“James and Rob were Ben’s best men and wore Moss Bros with pink pocket squares. We decided to match the informality we were aiming for in the overall day in that they didn’t wear ties. It also drew focus to Ben’s bow tie.”

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St Mary in the Castle, with its tall ceilings and balconies, provides almost a theatrical backdrop for the wedding ceremony. The bride walked down to the stage on the arm of her father, to a live rendition of Emile Sande’s ‘Where I Sleep’ performed by friends of the couple, Shakira and Andy.”

“During the service, the bride’s godfather read ‘Just a New York Poem’ by Nikki Giovanni, chosen to reflect the couple’s feelings about the city and for each other whilst they were there together. Another reading, ‘He’s Not Perfect’ by Bob Marley, was chosen by Ben to ‘make sure Elly was aware’.

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“We decided to focus on the venue first so that everything else would fit with the feel of it and not seem out of place. St Mary in the Castle is a deconsecrated church so it has that gravitas but also it’s so well-loved that it does not feel stuffy which is the exact vibe we wanted for the wedding.

The team there were really flexible and we were able to bring our own style to the venue too. We hired in the chairs, used vintage furniture and tablecloths and worked with a professional lighting technician to add personality to the whole day.”

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The rings they exchanged were crafted by family friend and jewellery Julie Tucker-Williams.

“My circular antique engagement ring was a tricky one but Julie matched the gold in a tapped metal which reflected the diamond facets; once again mixing vintage with uber-modern to create something entirely original.”

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More live music from Andy kept the guests entertained whilst the newly-weds signed the register. It’s clear that the couple had a clear vision of what they wanted their day to be, and their suppliers really did deliver.

“Andy mashed up a few of our favourite songs, which was quite a task considering we asked for McFly, Elton John and Artful Dodger to be combined.”

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We have Rathergood Photography to thank for these beautiful photographs, which capture the relaxed approach of Ben and Elly so well. I really like those of the newly-weds strolling down the picturesque streets of Hastings; they look like such happy memories.

“Matt was recommended to us and we could not recommend him highly enough! He listened so carefully to what we wanted (i.e. no cheesy shots please!) and planned everything meticulously from the engagement shoot until the big day as well as making everyone feel relaxed and look gorgeous. He focused on us on the day but his detailed shots were just as beautiful.”

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Marrying and celebrating in the same place, the couple used careful lighting design and props to  add atmosphere throughout the day. I love the addition of golden confetti for a real celebratory feel.

“Jonathan Richardson, a lighting designer who worked on the London Olympics and just a little Royal wedding, helped us create the mood of the different stages of the day through the festoon lighting and cued in the confetti canons for the big end to our ceremony.  The synchronised confetti canons with ‘You’ve Got the Love’ playing when we were officially married by the registrar was pretty magic and it was perfect comic timing so that was cool!”

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After the ceremony, the venue staff did an amazing job in transforming the floor into a dining space for the wedding breakfast, adding beautiful succulent centrepieces from Shimizu made quirky with toy dinosaurs spray-painted gold. For another touch of theatre and to encourage a relaxed atmosphere, the couple chose a barbecue from Fab Food For You.

“Jacquie and the team were fantastic from start to finish. Jacquie took it in her stride that our venue didn’t have a kitchen and her team put on a BBQ under the portico outside. At the tables there was family-style sharing of the BBQ meat and vegetables as well as a range of salads. Our guests were so complimentary about the food and Jacquie came up with a brilliant idea to have our guests be the chefs and bartenders on each table which everyone loved and which brought everyone together – exactly what we were after.”

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Instead of a traditional cake, Elly and Ben opted for big traybakes to share – giving more time for dancing and fun. The evening entertainment was face-painting and live music from The Cover Up Band.

“Our first dance was ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ (the Marvin and Tammi version) because we wanted something that was uplifting as well as meaningful. The slow romantic song was during the ceremony; now was the time to dance!”

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Words of Wedded Wisdom

“Look for your venue first. That will dictate so much about your day, from the style to the obvious things like how many guests you can have. Also reserve your date with the venue first and then book the registrar. We did it the other way round and almost missed a registrar: luckily we wanted a late ceremony.”

“Get used to the fact that what you think you want isn’t what you’ll end up with but keep the crazy ideas because they’re the ones that’ll be the best. The same goes for traditions: keep the ones you like, ditch the ones you think are silly or a waste of money/time.”

“Be organised but delegate to your bridal party or family when you can – they want to help.”

“Make a mood board. You’ll never be able to ‘see’ the wedding until the actual day but putting images together really helped us form a picture of what it might look like and also by showing our families helped keep them involved with what we had planned.”

“Everyone says it’ll go fast. It does, and use every second to smile, love and laugh. Make sure you have loads of photos of friends and family dancing like wild things to laugh at forever!”

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your day Elly and Ben, so thank you so much for sharing it with us today. It’s been so refreshing to see a completely individual wedding, and such a different and beautiful gown with its sunset colours. Thank you so much Rathergood Photography for your stunning work.

Have a lovely day, everyone.

Ele xx


Credits & Thanks

Eleanor Crossland

Eleanor Crossland View all Eleanor's articles

Ele lives in the Lincolnshire countryside, close to the beautiful coast. A qualified Pilates teacher, she loves fitness, yoga, Pilates and has a healthy addiction to baking, writing and travel.

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