Strategy Consultant Olivia married Asset Manager Ali on 21st August 2021 at Hampton Court Castle in Herefordshire.
The couple wanted a big party in a fabulous location with all our friends and family close.
Photography by Love My Dress recommended supplier fave, Heather Shuker of Eclection Photography.
Beauty & Accessories
I looked at a few make-up artists, but ultimately wanted to look myself on the day. Lauren and Alice are great friends, and have done my make-up for years for big events when we’ve got ready together, so I asked them to do it. That made it even more fun and relaxing on the morning of the wedding as we could joke around.
My hair stylist was Tabitha MacCurrach-Paine.
I chose not to wear a veil as I didn’t want to detract from the back of the dress
I wore a Baby’s-breath Pearl Hair Piece, TiaraByYara. My shoes were Jimmy Choo’s ‘Viola 110’ Swarovski tassle heels, which I wore on the Friday and then Gucci Marmont sandals and Gucci Ace Trainers (for dancing in) on the Saturday.
And finally, I wore a lace leaf wedding garter from Britten, with my new initials in blue on the inside. The leaves matched our top table flower arrangement.
After a bit (a lot) of Pinterest searching, I found that Angelica Bridal in Islington stocked my dream dress by designer Helena Kolan. Given I was choosing during the pandemic, Gemma from Angelica (who was incredibly helpful) sent some options to my house.
The Helena Kolan dress was the first one I tried on in a Zoom with all my family, and we all fell in love (my Dad was particularly enamoured which was surprising but lovely). I tried on two other dresses from Liz Martinez, and then did a separate home appointment with three Berta dresses, but it was the Helena Kolan one that felt right for me and the Castle.; the applique flowers added some romance, and I loved the low back with a full skirt and bit of a train to match the large venue.
We had just about enough time to do my measurements (I had to do these at home) and create a couture version, so I asked to make the back even lower and added some applique flowers to the straps to soften them.
The Suits & The Engagement
Ali and his groomsmen wore Morning Suits, again to pay homage to the traditional Castle venue (Ali’s always been a traditionalist at heart). On the Friday we chose a more smart casual feel with most men wearing suits or blazers and smart trousers. Ali wore a pale blue Hugo Boss summer suit, white collared shirt and no tie.
We met back in 2008 when we were both at different universities and in other relationships, but It wasn’t until 2018 that we finally got together. We had a pretty short engagement, having got engaged at the Ice Hotel in Sweden in December 2020.
Given everything going on with covid, we thought it would be worth planning the wedding for summer 2021 when rates were likely to be low (I checked my company’s covid forecasting models), and putting contingencies in to move it if we needed to. We felt incredibly lucky and grateful that this plan worked out, as we realise how many people have had to change their dates!
My father walked me down the aisle to Pachobel’s Cannon in D Major, played by The Bellini Strings.
Ali’s long-standing family friend Christopher Lawrence was our celebrant – we loved how personal it was to have someone close to Ali, and how warm and funny Chris was.
We asked Ali’s cousin Louisa Laughton-Scott, and our great friend Arthur Downing to choose their own readings. Louisa wrote a beautiful poem for us, ‘Give us Time’, and Arthur chose an extract from Dolly Alderton’s book, ‘Everything I Know About Love’, which perfectly summed us up as a couple.
I wanted to design my own ring to make it a bit different, so we went to Hatton Garden together and picked out a Radiant Diamond centre stone, and two pear drops for either side. We then chose Ali’s Gold wedding band (a nod to the traditional again), and my diamond wedding band from the same shop – these are both engraved on the inside with HC Castle 21.08.21.
We wanted to have a big old sing-along, so chose the Hymn ‘Jerusalem’ and then ‘Sweet Caroline’ to close off the ceremony. It was one of our favourite moments of the day – hearing everyone belting out those songs and seeing them have fun all squeezed together in the chapel.
Photography & Film
Our photographer was Heather Shuker of Eclection Photography, who had photographed Olivia’s Maid of Honour’s wedding. We loved her photos and the way she interacted with us on the day.
She was personal, fun, and softly directive to get some great compositions.
Importantly, posing for photos wasn’t a burden on the day, and Heather got lots of candid happy snaps that we love.
Our videographer was Richard Leng.
I wanted all my bridesmaids to feel the most beautiful versions of themselves, so gave them a broad colour scheme of any type of green and asked them to choose themselves.
Interestingly they all converged on a forest/racing dark green (I thought some of them would go for sage), but I loved the variation in the dresses and that two of them wore jumpsuits.
The Venue & Reception
We loved the idea of a Castle venue as somewhere grand but romantic, and particularly one that could sleep many of our family and closest friends. We got engaged in December 2020, and soon after were plunged into lockdown again so I used the first two weeks of January 2021 to do some serious wedding planning.
We narrowed it down to thre venues, and fell in love with Hampton Court Castle and Sarah (who is the wedding planner) over a virtual-tour.
The main draw was that it was going to be our Castle for the whole weekend, and we would never be in the same room twice so our guests would be taken on a journey.
The Friday night would be wood-fired pizza and drinks in one of the outside courtyards with it’s own mini-pub, the Saturday morning in some Breakfast rooms, the Ceremony in another courtyard (or the on-site Chapel if it rained which it did), the Champagne reception in the Library and Gardens, the dinner and dancing in the Ballroom and Bar, then the Sunday breakfast in a totally new breakfast room.
Plus each of the bedrooms was unique and beautifully decorated (e.g. one had a secret ‘library door’ which you pushed to find a bathroom, many had ornate four poster-beds, one had beautifully preserved, 400 year old wallpaper in it. Others had fun stairways to en-suites).
Finally the gardens were breathtaking! There’s a large maze with a tower in the middle, and multiple other beautifully manicured sections of the garden.
Reception & Decor
We found our florists, Floral Roundabout, locally, who were great and knew the castle well. The palette was designed around the green of the bridesmaids, with textured bouquets and large white roses and hydrangeas.
We had a mixture of babysbreath and white roses for pew ends in case it rained (lucky we planned for that!), and then greenery with hydrangeas for the top table.
We wanted to create an enchanted castle feeling, with a bit of ‘wow factor’ beyond the flowers. So rented some large wisteria trees from EPH Creative to position on the centre of each table and a mossy base with candles. There is a beautiful 150 year old wisteria arch on the Castle grounds, so we wanted to bring that feeling inside.
The key difference though was the balloons from BubbleGum Balloons. They created a staircase with gold suspended balloons (just above the bar), and a suspended ceiling of rose gold, gold and white balloons in the ballroom. We took some of these balloons home and they’re still floating 6 months later!
We went to the Amalfi Coast in 2020 and loved it, and particularly the Limoncello, so we sourced some Staibano Amalfi Limoncello and decanted it into small glass bottles for our place names. Ali hand wrote all of the little cards so it was more personal, and we asked everyone to take a swig during the best man’s speech (we provided lemonade for children and those that didn’t want to drink).
As another personal touch, my other sister Camilla made the cake. It was based on a similar cake she had made herself over a decade earlier for her own wedding. It was fresh and a little different from a traditional wedding cake, bursting with many kilos of courgettes, carrots and oranges. She certainly got a good arm workout from all the grating and zesting!
The recipe originated from a lovely vegetable-based gluten free cook book she came across having serendipitously met the author’s mother shortly after being diagnosed as a celiac.
The high vegetable content keeps the cake moist. The cake is named ‘August wedding cake’ – very appropriate! The elderflower icing perfectly complemented the cake flavours, and we finished it off with fresh flowers.
All catering was provided by the in-house catering team at the castle.
My sister Imogen is such a talented artist (in her spare time!), and she’d offered to design and draw all of the invitations, menus, seating plan, and Order of Service.
Imogen wanted to capture our relationship journey and illustrate our love of life and joy of pushing ourselves to new experiences. When we first started dating, we took it in turns to plan a surprise ‘Alphabet Date’ – so ‘A is for Astronomy’ (going to an Astronomy exhibition in Greenwhich), or ‘B is for Bouncing’ (in a trampoline park in Barking).
Imogen illustrated all of our ‘love letters’, and we chose specific letters for each of our tables, many of which we’d enjoyed group dates with people sat on the tables so it was even more personal (e.g. T is for Treasure Hunt around London, or E is for Eastbourne walk). Imogen designed the rest of the stationary in same style, and drew the castle to create some beautiful embossed invitations, with illustrations of the order of the day.
As another personal touch, we created a cocktail list based off our siblings’ names, which Imogen (Gin) also illustrated. These included ‘Delightful Dom’, ‘Ginny Gin’, ‘Tantalising Tim’, ‘Roaring Rory’ and ‘Moreish Mills’.
Evening & Dancing
The band Truly Medley Deeply went to Cambridge University with me, and I’d loved dancing to their upbeat medleys for over a decade. They’ve done a few of our friends weddings too, and were able to provide a ‘Sax Man’ for the dancing. The choice was always a no-brainer for us, as we wanted everyone dancing until the early hours.
I have always wanted to be in a musical but don’t have the talent, so felt this was my time to shine! We chose ‘Song-A-Long’ from Eurovision, which includes ‘Believe’, ‘Ray of Light’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi’, and ‘I Gotta Feeling’, and went to Pineapple Dance Studios to figure out a dance routine.
We managed to rope in six bridesmaids and six groomsmen to join our dance troupe and practiced over Zoom and the night before in the Castle.
We weren’t sure if we’d pull it off but LOVED it, and had so much fun giggling practicing.
Words of Wedded Wisdom
Make a Google spreadsheet with budget, suppliers and to-do lists that you can share between both of you.
With everyone around us cancelling their big weddings, we really thought about whether we should do a large one or to stick to a much cheaper and smaller version. We’re so >happy we went ahead as it was genuinely the best day of our lives, and totally worth it to have everyone that we both love smiling and dancing in one room!
Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She has a passion for photography, walking, yoga, nature, and loves to support talented artists and creative businesses. In 2013, she became a published author. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters Eska and Leanora and menagerie of furry hounds. Annabel supports Philip in the running of the family flower farm at at Moonwind Flowers. She is also co-founder of What About Weddings.