A Tea-Length Gown For A Charming Seaside Wedding in Whitstable

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What have you lovelies got planned for this weekend? I’m heading down to Dover to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of my great-aunt, and I really can’t wait to see all my family there.

It feels really apt that today’s beauty of a seaside wedding was held in Kent. Nancy and Joseph have asked us to dedicate this feature to Joseph’s mum Kitty, who sadly passed away in March 2017. I invite you to sit back and drink in these beautiful photographs.

Nancy and Joseph married on 23 September 2017 in a civil ceremony on the veranda of The Beacon House, Whitstable, Kent, overlooking the calm September sea. Nancy is a council worker for the London Borough of Enfield and Joe is an Archives and Records Manager. They met at the University of Kent, Canterbury and visited Whitstable often; the seafront became something of a favourite, special spot for the pair. The Beacon House is a really delightful venue, lending itself perfectly to the theme of ‘vintage seaside’ and their relaxed, intimate nuptials.  It’s lovely to hear that our blog gave Nancy ideas for her wedding day.

“I love Love My Dress and above all, I love the visual inspiration you get from it. I was quite determined to enjoy looking at other people’s weddings but to think about our own in a ‘standalone way’. It was important to be inspired but not to directly copy.”

Photography Wild Rose Photography

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Nancy’s bridal style fits in with her inspiration perfectly – a mid-length tea gown with a statement beaded neckline by designer Brighton Belle, which she chose at Cutting Edge Brides.

“This wasn’t my original choice of dress and I decided upon it quite last minute. I knew that I always wanted there to be a lace element to the dress but heavier lace dresses washed out my pale skin and didn’t suit me. When I found this dress, I loved its length and the soft and sheer lace design. In particular I liked the jewel and pearl neckline which had an almost necklace-look effect. The button-down and appliqué lace back design of the dress was also really beautiful. It was actually a very comfortable dress which was important to me. My nan had a shorter dress for her wedding and I loved the idea that you could see her shoes, because they are often covered with longer dresses. My nan’s style, whilst different to my own, is always something that I like to look back on and admire.”

The full, floating skirt shows off her choice of T-bar high-heeled shoes from Benjamin Adams so well, and I love the vintage 1920s feel that they add to her look. More era-inspired beauty came from her pearl and green glass bracelet and pearl, diamond and white gold earrings, all from Triggs Jewellers in Enfield.

Instead of a veil, Nancy opted to dress her hair with a fresh flower headpiece by her florist Jane at Graham Greener.

“From the beginning, I always wanted real flowers in my hair in a half-crown style. I wanted my hair to be up and it was important that my hair was tidy but not too tight and formal.”

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“My favourite colour is green and I love pearls, so I knew I wanted both of those things in my wedding jewellery. My gold heart ring was my mum’s ring as a child, that my nan later wore on her pinkie finger. When my nan passed away, my mum gave it to me and I have worn it ever since. I missed my nan in particular on my wedding day and so it was nice to keep that piece of her with me.”

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Robert Mitchell Hairdressing styled her blonde hair into this pretty, woven updo whilst Lucy Jayne Makeup Artist applied her discreet, pretty make-up.

Her wedding scent was Miss Dior, a last-minute purchase the week before the wedding.

“My fragrance was something that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to in the lead up to the wedding and then it occurred to me a week before that it would be nice to choose a special fragrance for the big day. I always think smells are one of the greatest things to evoke special memories and I like fresh and subtle scents that make you feel amazing. I came across this new Dior perfume on display in the store and loved it.”

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Matching the shorter-style of her gown, Nancy’s bridesmaid wore a deep teal lace column dress from Coast, paired with New Look shoes and a chic cardi from Monsoon. She also wore fresh flowers in her hair and accessorised with a floral necklace made at local Whitstable craft shop Hut No.13.

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“We met whilst both studying History. Nancy got the last available place on a particular module so we very nearly didn’t meet. We decided together that we wanted to get married and got engaged on 13 June 2016 in a part of Snowdonia, Wales called ‘The Fairy Glen’. It was raining and nobody else was there but it was great. We were engaged for a year and three months before we got married.”

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Joe’s light grey three-piece suit was bought at House of Fraser, and he added his own vintage-inspired style with a floral Mrs Bowtie tie, a lapel pin from NotOnTheHighStreet and Samuel Windsor shoes. I really like the cute, ditsy print of the tie – what a lovely way to continue the vintage floral theme.

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“We chose The Beacon House because we met in Canterbury and regularly visited Whitstable, and continued to after our studies. During one of many walks along the seafront, we saw a wedding taking place there. It looked so fun, informal and relaxed and we decided if we were to ever get married it would be there, right in front of the sea. We wanted a place that we could go back to and visit and possibly celebrate anniversaries.”

“Our main inspiration was a vintage seaside theme. As the house is so charming on its own, we really styled everything around that. We like looking at images of ‘days gone by’ and the old-fashioned way of doing things. We were mostly inspired by the feeling we wanted to create for the wedding i.e. getting married at home, with a small group of closest friends and family, in front of the sea and as relaxed and informal as possible.”

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The flowers for this seaside wedding by Jane at Graham Greener are incredibly gorgeous; I just love the look of the ribbon and flower ‘curtain’ which prettied up the ceiling of the white-painted veranda, and the pastel colours and romantic style look gorgeous against the pale sands and milky blue of the sea.

“We wanted to have lots of lilacs, pinks, creams, foliage, yellow and blue for the flowers. These included pink roses, crespidia, freesia, wax flower, thistles and green bell. For the bouquet, I wanted an ‘informal country garden’ style so that it looked natural and not too pronounced but soft and feminine. The flowers were an important part of the day for us and Jane did a wonderful job with decorating our venue. She dotted small jars of mixed flowers around and made a beautiful flower wreath garland over the arch to the entrance of the house, which was a real focal point.”

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Talking about styling, the beautiful wooden Beacon House needed little decoration, just some bits and bobs to personalise the decking and the New England-style interiors.

“We collected and purchased lots of bits and pieces in the lead up to the wedding including bunting, vintage style table clothes, my paternal nan’s suitcase, tea cups, chalk boards, confetti, baskets, candles etc. We are both huge fans of Liberty of London and so wanted to have a few key decorative items in their print, including some bunting and hanging pom poms.”

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“The venue was heavily decorated by flowers and ribbons on the dance floor which looked really effective. We also wanted the venue to come alive at night, with festoons, fairy lights and candles. A lot of the décor was already part of the venue and we rearranged it.”

“I’d like to give a special mention to my mum and dad who worked so hard with myself and Joseph to get the day together and Joe’s dad for providing us with support and guidance.”

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The September weather was perfectly calm, enabling the couple to say their vows outside on the veranda. The bride’s father Mark walked her down the aisle to the soundtrack of the film ‘Cider House Rules’, overlooking the beautiful tranquil sea.

“We wanted to keep our vows as simple and uncomplicated as possible. We chose vows that focused on what we really think marriage is about – love, friendship, kindness and support.”

“We had one reading at our wedding – ‘A Lovely Love Story’ by Edward Monkton – read beautifully by Joseph’s brother Matt. We were initially trying to find something suitable from Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ but it didn’t really fit. When we came across ‘A Lovely Love Story’ we liked that it wasn’t too serious but still sentimental and full of love.”

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“The dinosaur’s character descriptions also made us laugh and they were uncannily close to some of our own character traits. In particular, we liked how the story ended ‘Let us all be dinosaurs and lovely other dinosaurs together. For the sun is warm. And the world is a beautiful place.’ This couldn’t have fit better with how we feel about each other and the day itself. It was a sunny day and it really felt like the world was a beautiful place to be.”

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Nancy and Joseph visited Anthony W. Pierce Jewellers in Canterbury for the engagement ring and to choose their wedding bands.

“Nancy’s engagement ring was from this jeweller and so we wanted to get our wedding rings from the same place. We always liked the idea of getting our rings from a jeweller in Canterbury, the place we met. The staff at A. W. Pierce are experts and really helped us in choosing the style of ring that we both wanted.”

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After the service, there was time for the newly-weds to spend time with each other on the secluded beach and have their photographer Rebecca at Wild Rose Photography capture some beautiful portrait shots. Rebecca has an eye for light-filled, romantic composition, and she’s really caught the happiness of Nancy and Joseph.

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“We came across Rebecca’s website and loved her informal, natural and documentary style of photography. It was important for us to not have overly-staged photographs and it was even more important for us to feel comfortable with our photographer and we both did, right from the beginning.”

“She was easy-going, professional and it felt like having a friend with us at our wedding. Rebecca put us both at ease and we are so pleased with the results of her work. Everybody commented on her lovely nature, keenness to do a good job and fit in with everything.”

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“Our photographer described us as beaming like ‘Cheshire cats’ all day and that is really how we felt. When we look back on the photographs, we are reminded of the sheer happiness we felt and wish so much, we could go back and do it all again. We wanted to have photographs that captured how we felt and they really did.”

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Local Whitstable business Pumpkin Caterers put on the wedding breakfast and then Nancy and Joseph got to cut their spectacular seaside cake, created by Sally4Cakes.

“We wanted the cake to be seaside-themed but with smaller details of what we love, including figures of Nancy’s beloved dogs (an Airedale and Lakeland terrier), beach fun, sandcastles. Rather than having figurines of us both, we decided to have two pairs of sugar paste flip-flops – one extra-large pair for Joseph and a smaller pair for Nancy.”

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“Our cake was two tiers with the bottom tier being a Victoria sponge with raspberry jam and chocolate ganache. The top tier was fruit cake. At the top of the cake we had a sugar-paste beach hut, which almost gave the appearance of a third tier. In terms of the colours of the cake, we wanted the details to be soft, pastel colours but the ribbon around each tier of the cake to be the same colour as The Beacon House.”

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In a further nod to the seaside, the couple’s wedding favours were handmade ceramic beach hut decorations and traditional rock.

“We wanted people to have a memento from this fantastic seaside town. They were painted in the colours of The Beacon House and were made locally by Carol from Seagulls & Flamingos along Harbour Street, Whitstable. We also handed out Whitstable Rock from another favourite Whitstable haunt, Sundae Sundae.”

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With the beautiful weather, the informal speeches were held outside on the veranda.

“The speeches were also fantastic and it was great to see everyone gather to listen to my dad, Joseph and Tom (the best man). They all wrote in different styles but captured everything so beautifully and with great humour.”

Ben Cartwright and his acoustic roaming band trio provided live al fresco music in the evening, a real highlight for the newly-weds.

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“We loved dancing to their music and it was great to let loose and have a blast.”

“We bought a CD for our car whilst on holiday together in Devon in 2014 and it became the soundtrack for our great trip. ‘Magic’ by Coldplay was on that CD and it reminds us of our favourite holiday, singing along together in our car, along Devon’s country roads. Even though the song isn’t strictly a love song, we love the lyrics, and when you love someone, it really is ‘magic’.”

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Words of Wedded Wisdom

Nancy has some fantastic and well thought-out advice for other brides-to-be. Thank you so much Nancy for taking the time to share your tips.

“Firstly, if you have a vision for where you would like to get married and the style of day you want, don’t compromise on this. We are so glad that we did not budge on our venue, even though it presented challenges that we would not have encountered in a more traditional venue. 

Figure out what is most important to you for your wedding from the beginning. We always knew we wanted a relaxed and informal wedding, with a feeling of ‘getting married at home’. Once you are clear on that, everything else can fit in.”

Everybody has an opinion about weddings and what you should and shouldn’t do – I had no experience whatsoever with planning a wedding but I took things at my own pace and took on board other’s opinions but listened to myself and Joseph first! Have conviction in your own ideas.

Bring the one person who you trust the most to your wedding dress fitting. I would honestly not bring any more than that, because for me it felt like a very private thing and something that I only felt comfortable doing with my mum. You want somebody who is going to tell you the truth and who understands you.”

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“If things go wrong (and they most likely will), you do just have to roll with it. Never lose sight of the fact that a wedding is one day and a marriage is forever. It is tempting to get caught up in the small details and as lovely as they are when they go well, they do not make or break the day.

Keep positive people around you. The last thing you need and want to hear are people moaning and telling you what might go wrong.

Pick a photographer who you feel comfortable with – they will be spending most of the day with you.

Trying as best as you can to stick to your budget is important but if something is special to you, it is worth a bit of extra money if you can.

Take some time to yourself where possible on the day to gather your feelings and be in the moment. It all moves so fast that taking a bit of time to yourself, even just to retouch your makeup, can be calming and helps you re-energise a bit.

All of things you fear that might or could happen i.e. I’m going to pass out, not get enough sleep the night before and be so tired, have an acne breakout, rip my dress etcetera tend to not come true. If they do, the adrenaline and spirit of the day keeps you going and all of the above is fixable.

Get some quality time in with your new husband on the day and remind each other of how much you love them.

How other people look in dresses and with certain hair styles, won’t necessarily be the right choice for you, so get inspiration from others but try not to be too disappointed if it doesn’t suit you. Something else will.”

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Rebecca of Wild Rose Photography, thank you so much for your beautiful work. It’s really put me in the spirit for my own trip to Kent this weekend. Many congratulations and thanks for Nancy and Joseph too for sharing your day, especially your advice on planning and how to enjoy the day itself. We really do value your insight.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend

Ele xx

Credits & Thanks


Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.

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