A Charlie Brear Dress, Jamaican Food, Steel Pan Drums + Exotic Flowers for a Colourful, Caribbean Inspired Wedding

In nearly three years of writing for Love My Dress, I’ve never, ever spotted someone I know on our pages…until now.

When I opened this file of beautiful images from Lucy Little Photography, I was delighted to see who the beautiful bride was. Hannah and I used to work together in London a few years ago, so I couldn’t wait to find out more about her wedding. Hannah, a business developer for Expedia and Doug, an electrician, hosted a summery celebration for their friends and family at Birling Manor near Eastbourne, East Sussex on 4 August.

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With elements inspired by Australia, where they met and the Caribbean, where they love to take holidays together, the day was a riot of rich, lush green foliage, tropical flowers and a dreamy Charlie Brear gown.

The couple returned to Hannah’s childhood roots for their wedding celebration, and Birling Manor held a special place in the bride’s heart as her father played cricket at next-door East Dean cricket club when she was growing up.

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Its flexible spaces were ideal for a riotous, fun-filled day, with plenty of space for their rum bar, steel pan drums, bake off table and silent disco.

Hannah and Doug asked Hummingbird Video to film their day, and the result is this happy film, full of memories and laughter.

The bride asked both her mum and her dad to accompany her to her dress appointment with Charlie Brear, and fell in love with the endless options offered by the exquisite separates and accessories. Hannah settled on a light coral, sequinned evening dress and added a sheer and floaty, chiffon over-layer.

I remember seeing her choice on her Instagram feed after her wedding, and I’ve fallen head over heels this subtly-shimmering look once again.

“These guys were amazing for my first fitting which my mum and dad wanted to both join me for – largely as mum makes him watch ‘Say Yes To The Dress’.”

“It was a great experience as they had so much choice in terms of unusual elegant dresses and cool separates you can use to build an outfit up or down in terms of adding belts and over-lace and sequin elements. India, my advisor, was really helpful. I went back for their charity sample sale and ended up saving a lot.”

“I chose this dress as it was backless and fitted with my relaxed Caribbean vibe. I loved the coral element and the fact that I could remove the chiffon layer for the evening to transform the dress.”

“I loved that it still had a short train and felt like a wedding dress but represented our unusual day.”

“We wanted to ensure that our relaxed and unique day was inspired by where we met (Australia) and where we love to go regularly on holiday (the Caribbean) so brought in fun nods to both places in terms of the food – Lamingtons, Aussie sweets and meat pies as a midnight snack alongside jerk chicken canapés and mini Jamaican patties – and drink – with a rum bar with bottles from across the islands.”

Worn with a long, flowing veil by Seni Dey, which arrived in the nick of time on the wedding day itself, the rest of her accessories complemented her antique opal engagement ring, from The Lanes in Brighton.

“I wore opal and diamond earrings from my mum bought in Australia years back and a Les Néréides necklace borrowed from sister.”

Funky, strappy sandals came from Dune London and she wore her hair in relaxed, boho waves styled by Sam from Make up by Jodie, who also applied her fresh, dewy make-up. Exotic flowers, put together by Rachel Grimes Flowers, were woven through a casual plait for a gorgeous splash of colour.

The bride travelled to the Manor in a gorgeous little tuk tuk, then walked down the aisle accompanied by her dad, her bridesmaids and her flowergirl.

“I chose Doug’s own song, ‘Don’t Have To Be Alone’, which was a big surprise for him.”

The non-religious ceremony was led by East Sussex County Council, and the couple personalised their own vows by ending each one with ‘Love you, mate’.

“We had readings from Doug’s favourite children’s book ‘The Quangle Wangle’s Hat’ by Edward Lear and an extract from my grandad Bill Butler’s book, ‘Riddles Of The Yojok Rocks’. Both are personal favourites and a great way to involve Grandad Bill who died before I was born.”

The couple exchanged rings bought in Brighton’s The Lanes, before emerging into the summer sunshine and a cloud of confetti.

After the ceremony it was time to party, with music from a steel pan drums band, fun around the swimming pool and, for the newly-weds, some portrait shots on the sweeping East Sussex Downs.

“The confetti moment was unbeatable.”

Photographer Lucy Little was on hand to capture all the magic and colour of the day in her trademark, vibrant and modern style.

“Lucy is a dream to work with. She made our wedding even more fantastic by putting us completely at ease, bringing in an awesome second shooter and giving us the best memories of our big day. We loved her informal style and the pictures speak for themselves. She is amazing.”

The wedding breakfast was enjoyed under the open-sided, stretch marquee, with food provided by Urban Pantry, vintage catering van Coco Labelle and hand-rolled ice-cream from Chopperwhoppers.

Favours were little, cardboard Caribbean Chattel houses filled with rum fudge made by the bride’s sister Lydia whilst the fun, flamboyant cakes were created by the bride and groom’s mums.

The tone for the day was set by stationery designed by Doug, printed on Papier and for the rest of the styling, the couple worked with The Wedding Dolls.

“Joanne from The Wedding Dolls was amazing! We had an awesome stretch marquee from Stretch & Tents. The Wedding Dolls looked after this, sourcing relaxed furniture for by the pool and we had a bouncy castle.”

“The mums both made a cake. One was my childhood chocolate cake and Doug’s mum Ingrid made a fantastic, iced cake with lemon, pineapple and brandy butter elements and images from our holidays, with flowers and Aussie animals on.”

“We had steel pan drums and a dance hall channel for our silent disco. We wanted to have a non-religious ceremony but still with singing so guests sang the ‘Dad’s Army’ theme tune and a song from Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’.”

Before the silent disco kicked off, DJ Downstroke took to the decks, and there was also a first dance to the couple’s favourite song.

“JP Cooper’s ‘Little House’ is a special song for us.”

Words of Wedded Wisdom

Hannah: “Make sure you do things your way and don’t think something shouldn’t be part of your day as it isn’t traditional or it may raise eyebrows. If it will make you happy go for it – the day will be so much more memorable for all involved.”

“A free bar can also be much cheaper than you’d expect if you have a dry hire venue. Weddings are expensive for guests and free booze is always a winner if you can find a way!”

Doug: “Don’t cut costs on the photographer. It will be the best money you’ve spent as they catch the moments you forget or weren’t there to see.”

“Hiring a wedding planner not only takes the pressure off you but relieves a lot of stress which would normally be taken on by the parents.”

Hannah, it’s been wonderful to catch up with you again via your wedding. I loved seeing these photographs of you and Doug looking so happy, so congratulations and thank you so much for sharing them with us. As always, Lucy Little, it’s been a joy to feature your photographs on our pages so thank you and I hope you see more of work again very soon.

Ele xx


The three grown-up bridesmaids, Alex, Rachel and Lydia, looked fresh and elegant in mint green gowns from Hobbs worn with their own shoes and fresh floral crowns. The adorable little flowergirl, Hannah’s niece Elana, was in a matching Marks & Spencer dress whilst the pageboy was in a Moss Bros suit.

Whilst the bridal party got ready, Doug dressed in his own relaxed style, with pale trousers and a white shirt from Moss Bros, and a blue tweed jacket from Anthony Formal Wear. Check out that fun, fruity lining! His pale mint buttonhole and tie came courtesy of ASOS.

These glorious flowers are such a different idea for a wedding, and I adore the bright riot of tropical colours which florist Rachel Grimes created. Aren’t the bouquets just wonderful against the mint and coral of the gowns?

“Rachel was fab throughout the planning process and really pulled it out of the bag for our Caribbean and Australian theme. She is fun, thoughtful and puts in 100% effort finding out what you really want. Everyone couldn’t believe our tropical and Australian flowers and we were very proud of them. She has the best ideas and goes above and beyond!”





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.