The Bride wore Marchesa for Pronovias for her Classy Black Tie Wedding at Cowdray House with Arabic Cultural Influences

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On the 13th of April 2023, Interior Designer Ameena and Strategic Sales Executive Mike exchanged their vows at the enchanting Cowdrey House in the picturesque town of Midhurst, West Sussex.

The couple’s love story was commemorated with a truly sublime and effortlessly elegant black-tie celebration at the centre of which was a moving and heartfelt ceremony lead by our darling friend and Humanist Celebrant, Zena Birch.

Ameena looked divine in an ethereal lace Marchesa for Pronovias gown, with her loose and flowing hair adorned by a beautiful opal headpiece and capturing every precious and fun moment was the exceptionally talented Marta Ilardo, whose images I hope you enjoy and are as inspired by as ourselves. Enjoy!

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The Venue

We knew we wanted a private space just for us. Being an interior designer, I would say I am a little picky. We felt that Cowdray House ticked so many boxes—it was grand but homely, and the grounds were stunning.

We also wanted enough rooms for our family and bridal party to stay. Everything was beautifully done. We felt it would be the perfect place for a celebration.

The Dress

My dress was Marchesa for Pronovias, which I discovered at the Bridal Path Boutique. Selina and her amazing team @bridalpathaltrincham were incredible from start to finish. They selected my exquisite dress, after hearing my likes, dislikes, they got it so perfect, it felt like it was truly plucked from a fairytale and they guided me every step of the way.

For me I was looking for something elegant, romantic, unique but also something I felt comfortable in – with a whimsical sleeve. I got it all.

My bridesmaids wore Dessy full length dresses in black – I asked my bridemaids to choose the styles they liked and thought they would feel comfortable. The gowns were ordered via Bridal Path.

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Bridal Beauty & Accessories

Yes. It was made bespoke – as I wanted a single flat piece (not gathered similar to a mantilla) but with a laced edge – that worked/ matched with the dress.  

My shoes were Loeffler Randall in powder blue, for my ‘something blue’. I also wore an opal headpiece from Bridal Path.

My perfume was Ameena: Christian  Dior Belle De Jour- mike had bought it for me for as a birthday gift a few years before and I loved it. So it had to be that one.
Mike: Tom Ford Noir Eau de parfum.

My jewellery were borrowed items, I wore my Mums – teardrop diamond pendant necklace and diamond tennis bracelet and my sister’s mother of pearl teardrop earrings she wore to her wedding that were from a vintage dealer in Dubai.

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Our ceremony was led by Humanist Celebrant, Zena Birch. Zena was amazing from start to finish. We knew our day was about us, and Zena’s ceremony magnified that, made it so personal and carried all of our guests on the journey of our story to that moment.

We wrote our own vows, following the same structure to stay aligned. We also had four readings. Mike’s mum Jacqui read ‘How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog’, by Taylor Mali and my sister Joanne read the following beautiful words;

Of all the emotions we experience, none are as broad and rich, as crucial, or as powerful as love.

And while there are countless ways we love, the word ‘love’ is a shape-shifter. A singular word with one thousand and one meanings. It’s represented momentary delight, passing affection and deep devotion. But how can one word capture the pure vastness of the most sacred human emotion?

While there’s no language in the world that truly has enough words to describe love, our father’s tongue does a pretty good job. The following reading pays homage to the vast spectrum of love, expressed in a way that only the Arabic language can.

From The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

‘Hubb’ is love.
‘ishq’ is love that entwines two people together,
‘shaghaf’ is love that nests in the chambers of the heart,
‘heyam’ is love that wanders the earth,
‘tyah’ is love in which you lose yourself,
‘walah’ is love that carries sorrow within it,
‘sababeh’ is love that exudes from your pores,
‘hawa’ is love that shares its name with ‘air’ and with ‘falling’,
‘gharam’ is love that is willing to pay the price.

Ameena and Mike, there any many ways we can love and be loved, so I’ll end with only this. May your marriage be one of the greatest love stories ever lived.

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Photography & Videography

Our photographer was Marta Ilardo. We loved Marta’s photography style; all the atmosphere and editorial sophistication, that we thought would tie in so well with our day. Her response to our enquiry made us so excited and she wanted to jump on a call with us straight away to have a chat (this doesnt happen all the time but made huge difference to us).

Marta’s process was so simple, and reassuring – prior to the wedding we had a zoom to go over the timeline, and there was a very helpful form that we filled out so Marta had all the critical information for the big day.
On the day – Marta was great, she just did her thing and honestly I felt like I barely saw her but that is a testament to how she blends into the party and gets the best shots.

It was such a great surprise to get a preview gallery the next day, which was amazing and so nice to see after all the excitement of the day. Our full gallery is full to the brim with amazing shots, we are still trying to decide on a shortlist for our photo album there’s just so many amazing moments captured.

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We hired videographer Agne Harris Films. Agne was a dream – she had filmed my sister’s wedding nearly ten years earlier and we loved her style and were so happy she was able to film our day too.

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How They Met

We met on a Bumble in 2017, had fun, travelled, sipped Pina Coladas – and the rest is history. Mike proposed in Paris in February 2022, just before valentines day – it was such an amazing surprise.

He planned everything so well (and this was his ‘Plan B’, after covid thwarted his first plan to propose at the Christmas markets in Cologne!). The rest of our trip to Paris was a dream.

We put our ‘love-lock’ on the fence at the hilltop of Sacre Cour and had just over a year to plan our wedding. We picked spring for the beautiful colour, flowers, sunshine, cooler temperatures (Mike’s first criteria was to not have a summer wedding – he didn’t want to be hot in his suit!)

On our wedding day, Mike was basically channeling Bond, specifically, Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. His suit was from Suit Supply and his shoes were Loake Atkin. He also wore a pair of custom made family cufflinks and a watch that was an engagement gift from myself.

We had a clear vision from the outset – a celebration of us, our love and our future lives together, so it had to be personal. I’m an interior designer, so definitely detail orientated. Mike is the host and social king, so we wanted the day to be a representation of us; modern, romantic with an artistic edge, generous, a little bit decadent and with good helping of disco revelry. We wanted to enjoy every second and for our guests to have a ball.

In terms of styling or design cues, of course, the house, the grounds, and the time of year were all an inspiration to us. The house had a duality to it—grand yet homely, with a light and dark side. We chose the romantic terracotta Buck Hall for our ceremony and wedding breakfast, and the bright classic library and drawing rooms for cocktails. So, like the house, we wanted to express that juxtaposition: classic yet contemporary, romantic but fun. We aimed for timelessness in what we created, but most importantly, we wanted it to feel like us.

“I am half Iraqi, and weaving in some Arabic cultural influences were important to me and Mike; from our ceremony music by an Arab singer, to signature mocktails, evil eyes and date syrup favours, I wanted to ensure that part of my heritage was included on what may otherwise have seemed like a classic English wedding.”

The Bride

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Detail & Decor

Our floral designer was Flavia. We thought Flavia’s flowers were amazing, very similar in style to what we were looking for. We wanted unique flowers that were curated and modern, fitting for the grand setting of Buck Hall and within our budget.

We knew we needed interest, drama, and color that would complement Buck Hall instead of competing with it. Flavia made us feel confident about what we would receive, and the flowers on the day were absolutely stunning. They were honestly perfect.

We opted for Macroons instead of cake – as an ode to our proposal in Paris – they were from a local patisserie in London. Catering was provided by Eat The Street.

I designed the invitations, signage, menus for the day. It was fun coming up with style for the day.

For favours, we wanted something that represented a perfect blend of Mike and I, so opted for sauces, both sweet and spicy. Basra Date Syrup for my choice and Pineapple Scotch Bonnet for Mike’s. We couldn’t buy miniatures so we had to make up the pots and labels ourselves. There was also a decorative glass evil eye my sister sourced from Dubai.

Evening & Dancing

& Favourite Moments

Our entertainment was provided by Tailored Entertainment, through which we hired the Soul Motion band. They were amazing! Every loved them.

Our first dance was to ‘In the Midnight Hour, by Wilson Pickett. We’ve never had ‘a’ song so we spent time searching for the perfect song. We wanted something upbeat, soulful but with touching words and sentiment, that we knew we’d remember forever. Soul Motion performed it so well.   

It’s really hard to pick one particular favourite moment – the ceremony was just amazing and joyful, seeing everyone’s faces and Mike’s smile – it was really what we were there for. It was also such a lovely idea (from Zena) to keep the readings as a surprise. It was so nice to have a small part of the day we didn’t know everything about.

Words of Wedded Wisdom

Don’t settle, if something isn’t right or doesn’t feel right, keep looking you’ll find the right people and team, that will make it happen for you. Keep researching, you’ll get there, and it will be so so worth it!

It’s really about you two – so just remember to keep your loves, likes and wishes at the forefront of what you do and decide on. Hopefully your once in a lifetime celebration needs to be true to you both.

We wish we had had a slightly longer cocktail hour or a few fewer formal photos, or even a longer day (haha). Unfortunately, I missed out on most of the cocktail hour, which we had spent so much time planning for—our bespoke cocktails and delicious canapés—it was a bit of a shame. Also, with so many guests and not enough time, I didn’t get much time to talk to everyone. People always say it’s a whirlwind and goes by in a flash, but it really does.

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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.