Alex and Alyssa’s beautiful and thoughtfully considered August 2023 wedding was held at the Four Seasons Hampshire hotel in South East England.
Alex works in commercial property and Alyssa is a food stylist, food writer and recipe developer so cuisine and location was always going to be important for this stylish couple. To help them deliver their vision, they hired the services of wedding planner Ella Hartig, who pulled together a talented team of creative suppliers
This was a weekend wedding characterised by pure effortless elegance and a heartfelt desire by the couple to ensure every one of their guests had the most beautiful, fun and enjoyable time creating memories. The couple love hosting dinner parties and wanted their guests to feel like they were experiencing just that – a home away from home, filled with good people, food, fun, comfort, luxury and an escape to the beautiful landscape of the English countryside.
Photographer David Christopher has captured that sentiment beautifully in these images. Enjoy!
We were inspired to make our wedding day feel like we had flung open the doors to a countryside estate, pulled out all of the china and glassware to enjoy our favourite food and drinks with our favourite people and encouraged them to explore the grounds and experience something new with someone they had just met.
I grew up American but also hold Canadian citizenship. Alex grew up in Canada which is where we met. Our wedding weekend kicked off on Friday with a barbecue style evening in the garden of a traditional countryside English pub, The Hoddington Arms in Hampshire, United Kingdom.
We hosted our wedding ceremony and reception the next day, at the Four Seasons Hampshire. I grew up in the Colorado, Alex grew up in Montreal, we met at The University of Western Ontario and moved to London together six years ago. Because of this, we have family and friends around the world and we felt the most natural place to conduct our nuptials was in the place we currently call home.
We knew that over 80 percent of our guests would be traveling by airplane to attend our wedding and it was important to us that our venue was within about one hour of London’s international airports. We also wanted our venue to be able to accommodate all of our guests so that everyone could have a home base and get to know each other throughout the weekend.
After considering over 40 venues, the Four Seasons Hampshire being the first, and we couldn’t stop dreaming about the gorgeous gardens, apple tree filled orchard, and elegant yet homely feel the property emanated. From archery, tennis and clay pigeon shooting to lounging by the outdoor pool, we loved the idea of all of our guests participating in these actives and creating memories together. It was also a bonus as we are both Canadian, to celebrate our wedding at a Canadian hotel brand, set within the beautifully quaint countryside of the place we now call home.
To continue a homely feel for the weekend, we hosted a relaxed brunch for our guests on Sunday morning at the Four Seasons with the intention that everyone could head downstairs in their slippers and reminisce with us officially as Mr. and Mrs!
I designed my outfit for our rehearsal and welcome event and worked with Young British Designers, Sophie Pittom and Nikki Huston to create it. The lace bodice was hand sewn using Sophie Hallette lace which came from the ends of the reams of fabric from the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress that had been gifted to Sophie and the Young British Designers organisation. We added a hand stitched blue flower into the lace, a technique Sophie has made a name for herself in, on the back of the bodice which mirrored the position of my heart.
Working with Sophie and Nikki was incredibly special. They are both creative and talented and I was grateful they were able to bring my vision of a design to life to flawlessly.
Bridal Beauty & Accessories
Hair and makeup was styled by artist Lauren Irwin. I had my nails painted in the ‘She said Yes!’ shade – a colour I’d first spotted in a nail salon when living in New York City and saved for my Big Day.
I chose Manolo Blahnik’s Nadira style for my shoes, because I loved the way the asymmetrical embellishment both mirrored and complimented the one shoulder design of my dress.
Scent was an incredibly big part of wedding and it was important to me to have sensory experiences throughout our wedding weekend. For our wedding day I wore Diptyque’s Orphéon Eau de perfum.
I have always loved the Dyptique brand and this scent spoke to me for my wedding day the moment I smelled it. I love its warm masculine notes of tonka bean and cedar that are balanced by a feminine light sweetness of juniper berry.
I handmade and painted my veil with the same scroll border design our wonderful stationer, Brigitte Vitali had made for our wedding invitations.
For jewellery I borrowed David Yurman pearl studs in a diamond setting from my sister and wore a vintage diamond tennis bracelet which was a wedding and 30th birthday gift from Alex, via McKenna & Co.
My wedding day dress was designed by Suzanne Neville. I had always envisioned I would wear something with lace but after trying on several styles by several different designers, none of the lace designs and details felt like me.
I worked with Suzanne herself to create a bespoke version of her whimsical, one shoulder ‘Peony gown’. During my toile appointment, Suzanne effortlessly cut and reshaped the temporary fabric to fit onto me, a special contribution to the design process of my dress I will never forget.
We lowered the slit, elongated the train on the silk chiffon a-line skirt and shortened the structured bodice which we tailored along the back to have a subtle V shape that culminated in a covered button detail. There covered buttons were also something I had always imagined I would wear on my wedding day and this time, felt perfectly me.
We selected the specific placement of each flower and hand made petals in the end making my dress feel more like a piece of art than clothing.
The Suzanne Neville team was fantastic and incredibly accommodating when I needed to adjust all of my appointments due to our wedding date change because of the pandemic.
I absolutely loved getting to be a part of the design process and seeing my dress being built stitch by stitch. It is an experience I highly recommend to any bride who loves fashion and the design process!
For my Suzanne Neville Dress, we were getting married in the Walled Garden at the Four Seasons Hampshire and I was inspired for it to resemble the lightness of summer and flow like the elegant flowers effortlessly blooming throughout the space. The delicate silk chiffon made for the perfect material to immortalise that whimsical vision.
My inspiration for the bridesmaids dresses was a pastel watercolour painting that displayed both geometric and floral pattern. I wanted all of the girls to be in a mix of colours and dress cuts. Our wedding colours were periwinkle, pink and yellow and two girls wore each colour. The yellow dresses were from MacDuggal the periwinkle and pink were from JessaKae.
I was a debutante in Denver, Colorado where I grew up. During this special occasion, I carried a ‘Tussie Mussie’ for my flowers. To incorporate this experience from my youth, each bridesmaid each carried an antique Tussie Mussie as their floral bouquet, which I sourced from around the world.
A First Look
I was so excited to see Alex on our wedding day! We did a ‘First Look’, so we could take most of our photos before the ceremony which would allow for us to be able to enjoy our cocktail reception!
I also loved seeing all of the small details at this time; I had been dreaming of like the florals in the tussie mussie’s for all of my bridesmaids, our special candles flickering with their unique crackling wick and of course the coupe glasses.
We worked with McQueens Flowers. With my career as a Food Stylist, the beauty of food and ingredients is very important to me and I wanted to incorporate both flowers and other vegetation into our designs for the day.
For our ceremony we included cavolo nero kale, artichoke, cabbage and brassicas as well as the flowers British garden roses, alyssum, lavender, chrysanthemum, and taller stems of delphinium, gladioli and allium to frame us.
For bouquets, I chose flowering artichokes, blousy roses, sweet peas, butterfly ranunculus, delphinium, snapdragon, lavender and sweet alyssum.
I do not have a traditional family dynamic, so instead of walking down the aisle, where all of the guests must usually turn around to see the bride, I entered the ceremony from the opposite side of the garden and danced ‘up’ the aisle, facing towards all of the guests.
My sister danced with me as she held my dress train, Kate and Pippa style. We met Alex half way up the walk way and the he and I completed the walk up the aisle facing all of our guests together.
I picked the song ‘Walking in the Sun’ by PANG! as my entry song. It played during one of my favourite yoga classes during a visit to Canada, and both the lyrics and upbeat tone filled me with so much joy.
We were legally married at the Four Seasons Hampshire by a member of the Hampshire registry office in a private ceremony with our immediate family (parents and siblings only) before the blessing.
When thinking about who we wanted to conduct our ceremony blessing in front of all of our guests, there was a family friend of Alex’s who over the years, I have gotten to know well and instantly came to mind. When we asked him, he so excitedly accepted we knew we had made the perfect choice. He was so incredibly thoughtful and helped us put together the ceremony in a meaningful and beautiful way.
We both wrote our own vows and also both included the same excerpt from our legal ceremony which we adapted to suit us. A part of this reads ‘I promise to love you wholeheartedly and unconditionally, to always be there for you, to hold and protect you in good times and bad. To laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorry, to grow with you in love….’.
We chose ‘An Uncommon Love’. by American author Terah Cox as our blessing reading – it beautifully captures the spirit and joys of the type of love we wish for in our happy marriage. We also had ‘Us Two’, by A.A. Milne, as it celebrates both the excitement of being together and the adventures two friends share.
My engagement ring is a round solitaire set in platinum. I wanted something geometric that would compliment it. My ring was made in eternity style set with asscher cut diamonds in platinum and Alex chose a 3.5 mm platinum band to match. Our rings were made by a family friend who unfortunately does not have a website or social media to share.
Our photographer was David Christopher. After interviewing three other photographers, we fell in love with David’s work and his editorial, non-traditional wedding photography style.
His images are like flipping through the pages of a glossy fashion magazine and we loved the way he effortlessly captured both people and ambiance.
David was high energy and a blast to work with from day one. He was gracious with our needs to rearrange our wedding date, due to the pandemic, and thoughtful with my detail oriented approach to capturing our day.
How They Met
We met at Western University during the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority new member welcome party hosted by Alex’s fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha. I was celebrating my new membership in the organisation and our paths crossed during the evening. We both remember introducing ourselves that night and spending a good portion of the evening chatting about everything from sailing to growing up in Montreal and Colorado, and what made us choose Western. Unbeknownst to Alex, it was during this conversation that I said to myself, ‘Alright, that’s it! He is THE ONE’ – without exactly knowing why!
Alex was in his fourth year and I was in my fiarst, and our friend groups had minimal overlap outside of these sorority and fraternity parties. It wasn’t until April the following spring when I would send a tweet that would alter the course of our relationship; I had just been offered an Au Pair position in Quebec and wanted Alex’s advice on living and staying there. Since I didn’t have Alex’s phone number and I didn’t have a Facebook account, I resorted to tweeting him.
Alex was highly encouraging of the opportunity and reassured me. With my move to Alex’s hometown, we would end up seeing each other often that summer, and this resulted in us hanging out on weekends.
Our friendship grew closer throughout that summer and by the time I returned to Montreal the following year, we were making plans to see each other whenever Alex was back in town.
Alex’s work brought him to Montreal several times and during August long weekend, I convinced him we should attend a music festival together. We would share our first kiss that Friday evening and the rest of the summer was filled with dates in the Old Port sipping Tom Collins cocktails.
I returned back to Western University for the school year, unsure if I wanted to have an older, long distance boyfriend during my final university years. But we kept in touch through the Fall and saw each other a couple times, making the short drive down the 401 for Homecoming or a long weekend in Toronto.
Our budding romance was furthered on Thanksgiving weekend. I wouldn’t be returning home as Canadian thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday for my family back in the US and so Alex decided this would be a good opportunity for the two of us to spend some more time together. He suggested a trip to Niagara wine region and we quickly made plans for a weekend getaway on the Lake.
His mom remembers thinking there must have been a special girl to keep Alex from coming home for Thanksgiving that year (something for which she has since forgiven me for!).
We spent a great weekend together, drinking wine, getting caught in a rain storm more than once, and being asked if we were on our honeymoon.
It wasn’t long after this weekend that Alex asked me to be his girlfriend and we would begin what would be a three year long-distance relationship, filled at first with trains and late night bus rides between London, Ontario and Toronto and then flights from Billy Bishop to Newark Airport.
After a year in New York, I tired of the concrete jungle and 4:45 am alarms on Mondays and decided to make the move to Toronto, moving in with Alex to start the next chapter of our lives together. We have been together ever since, first in Toronto and now London continuing to travel and make memories together.
Alex proposed in August 2019 in Lake Como, Italy. The garden where Alex proposed was filled with Alyssum, the flower after which I am named.
We hired vintage door frames from Virginia’s Vintage Hire, in the periwinkle blue colour that matched our day perfectly which we later repurposed to hang our escort cards from. For the dining room we brought in a couch, coffee table and plush chair set to create a ‘soft seating’ area off the dance floor.
For the cocktail reception we hired in a white washed wooden bar and 20ft long harvest table for the charcuterie and canapés
Brigitte Vitali did all our stationery for us. From the bespoke design of our wedding crest, envelope liner, the watercolour imagery and scroll design to our wax seals. Her beautiful artistry was such an important part of our day.
Our bespoke wedding crest we designed and used on our invitations as well as on the candles and pillow decor throughout our wedding, incorporates a unicorn head from the Cunningham Scottish family crest to symbolise the groom which sits in a bed of Alyssum flowers to symbolise the bride.
The interlocking A’s are both of our initials which also sweep into C’s, signifying Alex’s last name and the name transition I made in marriage.
We hired coloured linens and water glasses to transfer our wedding colours into our dinning room.
We love wine and tasting menus. In lieu of a traditional three-course wedding meal, our dinner menu included a wine pairing with each course and a ‘Remise en bouche’ or ‘palate cleanser’. This was our way of incorporating both our love for elevated dinning, and the French culture of Montreal which is both the place where Alex grew up, and the place our relationship really bloomed, into the meal courses.
While living in the UK, we have celebrated birthdays and spent a lot of time in the Cotswolds. We burn the Cotswold’s Candle company No. 3 scent candle in our home. The special flickering wick and scent is such a notable part of our home and relationship while being based in the UK.
To make our wedding dinning room feel like an extension of our home, the candle burned throughout our wedding and, so that the memories associated with the scent of our celebration could continue with each guest back in their own homes, we gifted each guest a candle emulating ‘Nothing brings to life again, a forgotten memory like fragrance’ – Christopher Poindexter.
For our arrangements, along the tables we included vegetation including artichokes which symbolises hope and prosperity and courgettes (zucchini) which symbolise abundance and fertility.
It was important to me that everyone enjoyed champagne throughout our day from coupe glasses, rather than ordinary flutes! so we hired crystal coupe glassware from Options Great Hire (formerly ‘WhiteHouse Crockery’).
Our cake was by Violet Cakes. We both have a sweet tooth and its something we continue to fall in love with each other over. Although we both love chocolate and I have been known to bake for Alex’s yearly and complete gift list request of ‘chocolate birthday cake’, we wanted something light that would match our summer evening wedding.
My favourite cake flavour is lemon and after countless tastings, I spotted Claire Ptak’s work on Instagram after she had created the cake for the Royal Wedding.
Tasting both her famous lemon and elderflower and Amalfi lemon, we both loved the true lemon flavour and that it gave a nod to Italy, where we got engaged.
It was important to me that everyone enjoy a piece of our wedding cake and that wedding cake be served as the dessert course to end the guests meal. We chose a three tier cake and Violet Bakery for their design technique incorporating fresh florals from our florist as the detail.
Evening & Dancing
For our first dance we chose ‘Better Together’, by Jack Johnson. ‘It’s better together’ has been something we have said to each other since we started dating. When it came to choosing a song for this part of our day, it was the obvious tune!
During the dancing portion of the evening, instead of a bouquet toss, I performed an alternative ceremony where I welcomed each female guest, single or married, to hold a ribbon attached to a bouquet I held and danced in a circle with me.
With my eyes closed, I released ribbons one by one and the women holding the last remaining ribbon was passed on the bridal flowers.
Words of Wedded Wisdom
The day before we left to drive out Hampshire, I made the decision to have a backup dress that was short incase I felt my dress from the day was restricting my moves on the dance floor. I ordered from Miss Selfridge, to arrive the next morning before we left, a thin strap white silk dress with ostrich feather detail along the bottom that fell just above my knee.
It ended up making its debut for the last hour of the night and I was so glad to have it for that ‘just in case’ moment.
When I look back on our day, I am so happy we celebrated the evening before with all of our family and friends. This day that had all the excitement of the wedding in a relaxed atmosphere is something we will cherish forever and the memories of fun we had dancing on the top deck of the red double decker will stay with me for a lifetime.
On our wedding day we are so glad we wrote our own vows, stayed the whole night on the dance floor and stood up on a table and danced as hubby and wife. I love thinking back on getting up on the stage and singing my heart out with my sister, stopping at each moment and soaking in the joys of what was happening around us with our favourite people.
There will be things on the day that do not go as planned and not everything is in your control but it will still be perfect and no one will even notice. Just soak it all in and have the best time!
A Note From The Planner
It was such a joy seeing Alex and Alyssa’s day all finally come together so beautifully. They were blessed with such wonderful weather over the course of the weekend and guests really did get to see the best of British, from a quaint British pub for the welcome event to a more formal affair in the gorgeous garden at Four Season Hampshire on the wedding day itself. Alyssa has a great eye for detail so it was really fun working alongside her to bring this vision to life.
The beautiful colour palette worked perfectly and all the florals meant something to Alyssa which was really lovely. By tying in Alex and Alyssa wedding crest throughout the design of the day, from pillows, to candles, to stationery, and by focusing on things that really mattered to them as a couple such as food styling and bespoke personal touches, it really did feel like an authentic day celebrating them and their unique love story!
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