A Bodleian Library Wedding for Erin in Bespoke Phillipa Lepley

Bride in a Phillipa Lepley lace wedding dress with long sleeves, exiting here wedding ceremony to a shower of confetti. Her groom wears tails by Eve and Ravenscroft. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.

Erin and Edwin’s wedding at the breathtakingly beautiful Bodleian Library was a perfect blend of historic grandeur and elegance.

This landmark English venue, with all its Gothic architecture, provided a striking backdrop for the couple’s summer celebration, which was planned to absolute perfection by Mrs T Weddings. The ceremony took place at Oriel College, Edwin’s alma mater, following which, guests enjoyed a drinks and canapés reception in the beautiful college quads. The evening reception at the Divinity School of the Bodleian Library was truly stunning. The venue’s intricate stonework and grand ceilings, enhanced by carefully selected florals by Sarah Harper Floral Design, created a truly head turning and memorable atmosphere.

Erin wore a bespoke gown by renowned couture designer, Phillipa Lepley, which showcased the kind of meticulous craftsmanship and timeless style that truly epitomised this wedding day.

Our love and thanks to Weddings By Nicola and Glen for sharing these beautiful photographs.

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Venue & Location

We chose Oriel College for our ceremony, as this is Edwin’s alma mater. Once we decided on an Oxford wedding, we knew it made sense to hold the ceremony there. Edwin has a lot of fond memories of Oriel and has maintained close ties to the College over the years, especially through his friendships made in his undergraduate days.

We never considered my alma mater (St Andrews in Scotland). Although a beautiful place, where we have been fortunate to attend many lovely weddings of friends, we did not want to hold our wedding so far away. 

Like all the old Oxford colleges, Oriel is gorgeous—with its intricately carved honey coloured stone, and gorgeous green lawned quadrangles.  The chapel itself has a warm and intimate feeling to it. It’s become a special place to both of us over the years.

One of the benefits of having our ceremony at Oriel was also making use of the quadrangles. Following our ceremony in the chapel, the neighbouring quads made the perfect setting for a drinks and canapes reception as well as a perfect spot for some formal photos. Our evening reception with dinner and dancing was held a few hours later (leaving lots of time for photos and to change clothes, as well as for guests to have a bit of down time before the party kicked off). 

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Bridal Beauty & Accessories

I also wore a veil designed by Phillipa Lepley. I looked at various styles with Phillipa to decide what would best complement the lace of my dress. In the end I went with a cathedral length veil with hand embroidered florals along the trim, made with silk and pearl beads. It is absolutely a work of art and I hope our daughter will love it one day as much as I did.

I ordered custom shoes from Emmy London. This meant that I could have the satin of my shoes match the exact shade of the lace on my dress. I also loved that on the underside of the Emmy shoes you can select a little crystal based on birthstones or wedding months. One of my shoes had my birthstone and the other shoe had Edwin’s birthstone.

While I chose block heels for support to wear with my wedding gown (as it was quite heavy with its many layers and lace), when it came time for dancing, I changed into a pair of classic Monolo Blahnik ‘Hangisi’ style heels in ivory. I wanted something fun and stylish to go with my sequin party dress!

I had a clutch handbag made at Anya Hindmarch, to hold my wedding speech as well as some touch up makeup, for the evening reception. It is an ivory satin clutch style bag with by married initials embroidered on the front. What really attracted me to Anya Hindmarch is that they offer a service where they can take a handwriting sample and include it replicated on your item. The inside of my clutch bag has a sample of writing taken from a letter my late grandmother wrote me—which says: “My darling Erin”. It also has something written from Edwin as well. He wrote “thirteenever”—an expression we started using as we were engaged on the 13th and our wedding date was also the 13th.

I used In Parlour for my wedding hair and makeup as well as for my mother and the bridesmaids. Rosie and Katie were the artists who did my hair and makeup specifically. They stuck around until we headed off for the evening reception, giving us all little touch ups before the formal photos (so helpful and necessary given it was 36 degrees!) and also to help remove my veil and fix my hair and makeup for the evening. 

I had two different hair accessories – one for the ceremony to be worn with my veil, and one for the evening reception once my veil was removed.

Bride with long loos hair in makeup on the morning of her wedding. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.

For the ceremony, I wore my mother’s pearl and diamond necklace which was temporarily converted into a tiara for the day (this was done by Fortunes, the same Jeweler who made my engagement ring). This was my something borrowed. For the evening reception, I wore a custom headpiece designed by Christopher Thompson Royds. After several design sessions and fittings, Christopher made me the most incredible gold headpiece with maple leaves and roses (symbolic of our national heritages).

The perfume I wore on my wedding day was actually my wedding gift from my sister. We went to the perfumer Floris (located on Jermyn Street in London) and created a bespoke wedding day scent. It was such a fun gift! I went with Edwin and my sister, and we spent the afternoon drinking champagne and smelling every scent under the sun! I had wanted to blend certain scents that reminded me of special memories, and which created something entirely unique that would always make me think of my wedding day.

The best part is, once you design a scent with Floris, they keep your formula on their books, and you can always go back and order more! We named my scent the ‘August 13th’ for our wedding date. It is mainly a Jasmine wood base, with a hint of orange blossom and a dash of a specific type of rose. I now wear it only on special occasions and I always get very excited putting it on.

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Sarah of Sarah Harper Floral Design work was absolutely exquisite. The flowers were a really important element of our wedding to me. It was essential to the overall feel of the style of the day that we wanted.

I really wanted the flowers to be the standout element of our day. We wanted our wedding to be very floral heavy, but in a way that was tasteful and complimented the architecture of our venues. Everything was beautiful and was beyond what we expected or imagined it to be. 

Sarah used seasonal flowers and we chose a variety of these flowers based on our preferences and colour schemes, as well as favouring those with strong fragrance to add to he overall ambience. Some flower choices also had sentimental/symbolic meaning as well.

Elegant wedding bouquet of all white flowers tied with a cream silk ribbon. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.
Bride in a long sleeved lace wedding dress by Phillipa Lepley, carrying an all-white bridal bouquet. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.

The Dress

Phillipa Lepley

I wore a bespoke gown designed by Phillipa Lepley

I also wore a white sequin party dress for dancing by the brand Rotate.

The whole process was truly incredible. Over many months, I went in for a number of fittings, where my entire dress was made from scratch and to the exact fit of my body. At my original consultation I looked at various styles and fabrics and fell in love with the most luxurious lace I had ever seen. It was a guipure lace, and based on my description of my perfect dress, Phillipa designed me the most stunning wedding gown. The craftsmanship that went into every stage of creating this dress was truly remarkable.

The whole process was both fun and fascinating and I loved every minute of it. There is also something really special knowing my dress is entirely unique and no one has ever worn it except me. 

Bride walking down the stairs in a Phillipa Lepley wedding dress and veil. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.

I highly recommend this experience, although I entirely acknowledge that a bespoke service such as this is quite pricey and not within some bride’s budgets. I had quite a specific vision for my dress (both the style and the fit), and I knew that going bespoke was the only way to achieve this.

I was extremely happy with the final result and felt like this was absolutely the right choice for me. Having looked at other dresses in other boutiques, I know I would have not found what I was looking for anywhere else. I felt confident and beautiful on my wedding day, and every inch of my dress felt so special to me.  

I also wore a simpler sequin dress by Rotate for dancing. I knew my gown (with its several foot long train, heavy lace, and lots of layers) would be very heavy and would be tricky to dance in easily—even when bustled. I knew I would enjoy the dancing later in the evening much more if I changed into something simpler. It also meant I didn’t have to worry so much about my main wedding gown being stepped or spilled on and could let my hair down more freely.

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As my main wedding dress was a bespoke creation, I was able to customise every detail to my exact specifications and wishes. This meant attention to detail in a way I would not be able to find elsewhere. For example, I was able to include a special hidden pocket sewn into the petticoat to keep my something blue.

My something blue was a pair of light blue crystal earrings I wore on my first date with Edwin. Phillipa’s team sewed a special satin pouch securely into my petticoats with the earrings sewn into place inside, so I could have with me for good luck. In the same pocket, I also carried my other good luck charm—my wedding present from Edwin.

As the saying goes—something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in your shoe. Edwin’s gift to me was an antique silver sixpence from the reign of Elizabeth I. As I couldn’t actually have this in my shoe, I kept it in the secret pocket in my dress along with my something blue earrings. 

Both my gown and veil are works of art and I cherish them like precious heirlooms. My hope is one day to pass them along to our future daughter (who is due to be born this September).   

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Our wedding invitations and save the dates were designed by Kinship Press and printed by Mount Street Printers. Our wedding invitations were made from a hand painted design created by Kinship Press. The artwork featured the famous door designed by Christopher Wren in the Divinity School of the Bodleian (where we held our evening reception), surrounded by flowers and other hidden sentimental symbols (including our initials and two little bees).

We chose the flowers based on their symbolic meaning and significance to us. We included our birth flowers (narcissus and sweet peas), thistles for having been engaged in Scotland, flowers representing love (roses, forget-me-nots, blossoms), oak leaves and maple leaves (representing England and Canada).

We also included lily of the valley (which is also a symbol of love and good luck), which coincidentally ended up being our son’s birth flower 9 months later (in May). Lastly, we included Irises, the flower of Florence, which was my grandmother’s name (and also the name we are giving our daughter who is due this September). We really love how, without knowing at the time, we included flowers that would represent the children we would go on to have after we were married. 

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Our save the dates also had a wreath of some of these same flowers in the design. Both designs turned out beautifully and we treasure them in our house like works of art.

Our on the day stationery were designed and printed by Dimitria Jordan. Dimitria produced our welcome sign, order of service, seating chart, table numbers, menus, bag tags for our wedding favours, as well as other miscellaneous signage providing information to guests.

Dimitria made also made us a beautiful hand drawn illustration of Oriel College (where we were holding the ceremony), which we included on our order of service. She also made us a bespoke bee design which we used throughout the on the day stationery.

Dimitria had also worked with the events team at the Bodleian in the past and had a stationery suite already designed for them with a little design of the Divinity School. We used this design for some of our evening reception stationery.

We had our nephew in a page boy outfit (ivory top with light blue knickerbockers) from Little Bevan. They were absolutely phenomenal as they provide a totally bespoke outfit based on the required measurements.

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We chose bridesmaid dresses from Needle and Thread. They were a delicate grey/blue with white embroidery. Full length with fluttery sleeves. There were two different styles of the dress—one with more embroidery down the body (which my two maids of honour wore), and another variation that had a more flowing simple skirt which the other four bridesmaids wore. 

We got custom dyed shoes from the Rainbow Club. It was great because we were able to dye the shoes almost exactly the same shade as the dresses (which were very hard to match with otherwise). I was told by the bridesmaids that these shoes were also very comfortable to wear! Each girl picked their own style of shoe so they could choose what was most comfortable for them (I personally hate when my feet hurt!).

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Edwin wore a morning suit, waistcoat, and tie from Favourbrook for the ceremony. For the ceremony, he wore cufflinks my mother gifted him which were once my grandfather’s – gold with blue toned opal. He also wore a Victorian stick pin I bought him as a wedding gift.


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The Ceremony

I was always very adamant I wanted to walk down the aisle by myself.

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We had Jewish wedding vows engraved in our wedding bands, Edwin stomped on a glass, and we had a symbolic Ketubah. 

We had our wedding bands made at Wartski. I knew of Wartski from admiring their fantastic antiques from attending various art fairs over the years. They are also famously known for making the wedding bands for many royal weddings. Wartski does not make any other jewelry aside from wedding bands, as most of their business revolves around their antiques, but their wedding band service is second to none. 

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What we loved about our experience at Wartski was how bespoke the experience felt. We had previously looked at some of the larger well known jewellery brands, but what set Wartski apart was the ability to customise our rings in ways the other jeweller would not offer, the personal nature of the experience, and the overall quality of the rings.

We had the very famous reading from Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. There is a reason it is well-loved. We also included a reading from the Song of Solomon as a nod to my Jewish heritage. And as the whole day was very traditionally English, we also brought in a few small Canadian elements to the day.

After our ceremony, Edwin also stepped on a glass, as is customary in the Jewish tradition. We did this at the top of the stairs in the main quad before processing through as our friends and family threw rose petals on us.

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We also had a custom Ketubah made by an amazing artist and calligrapher based in New York. Ketubahs are traditional Jewish marriage contracts. While our Ketubah is not binding in any way (as we did not have a Jewish ceremony and is more just symbolic in nature), it was still a special element I felt strongly about including.

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We customised what we wanted written in our Ketubah (written in both Hebrew and English), and it reflects our vows and our promises to each other.

The design we chose for the Ketubah is a simple design, surrounded by a gold border (with special Hebrew quotes hidden in the border), along with a bespoke crest (a bee surrounded by a wreath of Oak leaves and Maple leaves tied together—a symbol of our English and Canadian backgrounds). When we signed the register in the ceremony, we also signed the Ketubah, and chose family members to be the witnesses on the document. 

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Nicola and Glen are the most fantastic photographers. They know how to capture the most perfect images, making them absolutely beautiful whilst also retaining the realness of the moment. Hiring them was the best investment we could have made in our wedding.

The day itself went by so quickly, so we love having these memories preserved in their photos to look back on and savor every moment of the day.

Bridesmaids wearing Needle and Thread dresses. Weddings by Nicola and Glen Photography

Choosing a wedding photographer is an important choice, as you are essentially entrusting them with the preservation of those precious memories. Nicola and Glen are absolute experts at what they do, and you cannot be in more safe or capable hands in that respect. 

After our son was born this past May, we asked them to take our first photos together as a family. We trust them above all others to capture these important moments in our lives as we know everything they photograph becomes precious treasures. We can’t wait to show our children, and hopefully one day our grandchildren, our beautiful photos from these special moments in our lives captured by Nicola and Glen.

How They Met

We met on bumble! It’s funny to think this is how we met, as neither of us were really dating app users. We were each other’s first date! We had a mutual friend in common who was in one of my photos, and this was the conversation starter between us. The rest is history!

Fast forward a little over two years later and we were engaged!

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August 2020, as the first wave of lockdown eased up, we took the opportunity to spend a few days in Scotland together—something we had talked about doing for a while. Over the years we had been dating, I had shared with Edwin many fond memories of my time living in Scotland for university. I was excited to show him some of my favourite places, and it was a welcome break after the months of lockdown we had just gone through.

We started our trip in Edinburgh, then up to Loch Lomond before finishing our holiday in St. Andrews, where I had gone to university. The last day of the trip, I showed Edwin all the main highlights around St. Andrews. It was a perfectly sunny day with blue skies—a rare occurrence in Scotland! We finished the day with a romantic dinner at one of my favourite restaurants (The Grange Inn), and an after dinner walk on the beach. It was there, just as the sun was setting, that Edwin went down on one knee. It was perfect! 

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He proposed with a ring we had designed together. It was made with stones once belonging to my grandmother and created by a jeweller my family has known and worked with for many years back in Toronto, Canada (Fortunes Fine Jewelers). The Jeweller, Michael, knew my late grandmother well, so there was an immensely sentimental aspect to the whole process. Despite designing the ring together, the proposal was still a total surprise to me. I was under the impression we had designed the ring and picked the stones for future use. Edwin was very careful to throw me off the scent and to try to make it as much of a surprise as possible!

The story of how the ring got from Canada to Scotland is also quite a tale. Apparently, the ring was sent from Canada via a special courier and meant to arrive the day before we left for Scotland. The package was held up however, and only arrived the day after we had already left. Edwin was enormously anxious about the whole thing, and I was totally unaware any of this was happening at the time! My sister saved the day by coming up to Edinburgh by train and delivering the ring in secret, before returning to London by train the same day! It was quite the journey on her part, involving much secrecy and careful planning that I was completely oblivious to!

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Constance Taylor from Mrs T Weddings is hands down the most talented wedding planner around. She has exquisite taste and incomparable knowledge of the industry, as well as an eye for every detail. Mrs. T and her team made our whole day seamless and took all the weight and stress off our shoulders. It was such a relief to have her with us on the big day as we knew everything was in very safe hands. I cannot stress enough how essential Mrs. T and her team were in making our wedding as perfect as it was. There aren’t enough words to express how grateful we are to her and her amazing team. 

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The Reception

The day after we became engaged, we immediately put in the request to book the Bodleian for our evening reception.

It wasn’t a tough decision to make—or even much of a discussion for that matter—we just knew this was the perfect place! Whenever we had spoken about the idea of getting married, the Bodleian had always been the place we imagined we would hold our reception.

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We had always agreed there wasn’t a single room in the world more perfect or more gorgeous that the Bodleian’s Divinity School, and we always knew this is where we wanted our wedding reception to be held. One of the finest examples of gothic perpendicular style, the ceiling of the Divinity School in the Bodleian is absolutely breathtaking. The building is truly a work of art and we couldn’t think of anywhere more perfect to have our wedding. 

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Similar to our earlier events at Oriel, we were also fortunate to make use of the quadrangles in the Bodleian as well. They made a great space for a canape and drinks reception, as well as for an outdoor seating space and bar.

We were restricted as to what we could bring into the space as both Oriel College and the Bodleian are historic buildings. We mainly relied on the beauty of these building’s architecture as they are, enhanced by the beautiful flowers supplied by Sarah Harper.

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The Bodleian, in particular, has strict rules relating to height restriction and open flames (for example, we had to include LED candles in our candelabras). Not only are these rules meant to protect the building and the intricate stonework of the Divinity School, but also to safeguard the Bodleian’s impressive and precious collections stored in the library itself. No one wants to be responsible to lighting an original copy of the Magna Carta or one of Shakespeare’s first folios ablaze! Let alone on their wedding day!

The main vision we had was to create a fairytale like quality to space by mixing the gothic architecture with luxurious florals and gold accents. We used a mix of pink, blue and white flowers, and green foliage (and carried this colour scheme through the rest of our décor). We also were careful to choose florals with strong fragrance (such as tuberose and jasmine) which smelled even stronger in the heatwave we experienced that weekend, helping to create the most amazing heady atmosphere. Whenever I smell tuberose now, I think of our wedding!

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We also wanted to blend elements of our different backgrounds into various details on the day. While Edwin comes from a traditional English and Anglican background, I originally came from Canada and grew up in a Jewish background. Neither of us are strongly religious, but it was important for us to honour both our heritages in a way that felt appropriate to us. 

Although we had an Anglican wedding ceremony, we tried to also bring in some Jewish elements to the day. 

For example, we had part of the Hebrew wedding vows (written in English) engraved on the inside of our wedding bands. Mine says ‘I am my beloved’s’ and his says ‘And my beloved is mine’. These vows come from the Song of Solomon. We therefore also chose some of our readings and choral pieces from similar Old Testament sources as well as the Song of Solomon.

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Our goodie bags included Home County Co. We love this brand as they make candles and home scents based off each county in the UK. We chose their ‘Oxfordshire’ scent (which is green tea and lime), as we felt this was most appropriate for our Oxford wedding (and also where we now live).

We worked with them to design a bespoke label for our candles which included our name and wedding date. We love going over to our friends’ houses and finding our wedding candles in their homes. Our friends and family really loved these candles and it’s really special for us to also have them in our own home and be reminded of our special day. We also included some Fortnum and Mason’s Wedding Breakfast tea as well as some Maple candies brought over from Canada.

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The goodie bags were completed with a little blush bag tag with a thank you message, and our little custom bee designed by Dimitria.

Fen of MonAnnie Cakes, who also designed our cake, is also an extremely proficient with pastry and deserts. She designed us the most adorable biscuits to provide each of our guests at their place settings. The biscuit was a heart with pastel flowers, as well as our initials and two little bees.

A theme that also ran through our stationery and décor was bumblebees. Bees are a little family emblem that we adopted—it began as a sort of play on words as our last name starts with the letter ‘B’. 

Fen is a true artist. The cake she made for us was absolutely beautiful. After a few consultations, she created a design for us that was rich in symbolism and reflected who we are as a couple in a truly gorgeous way (for example, the cake featured our wedding date in roman numerals, our family emblem of the bee, as well as a mix of roses, maple leaves, oak leaves and trilliums—representing our national and regional flowers). Fen’s sugar flowers looked so realistic; one would think a florist had supplied them!

Luxury wedding cake by MonAnnie Cakes - 3 tiers and realistic sugar flowers. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.

Her attention to detail and craftsmanship was truly astounding. I felt almost guilty cutting into it, it was just so beautiful!

Not only are Fen’s cakes beautiful, the quality of the cake itself is also delicious. Fen’s flavours are extremely creative and she was also very happy to work with us to create bespoke flavours. We chose three flavours, one for each tier. One flavour was strawberry and champagne, a flavour Fen had provided in our original sample box. Our other two flavours were ones we created with Fen. One was lemon and elderflower, and the other was rose and earl grey. 

Bride and groom cutting their luxury wedding cake by MonAnnie Cakes - 3 tiers and realistic sugar flowers. Photography by Weddings by Nicola & Glen.

We froze the remainder of our uneaten wedding cake to defrost and serve at our son’s christening (celebrated on our first wedding anniversary). A year later, and Fen’s cake was still absolutely delicious! 

Fen was also very kind and a real pleasure to work with. She was nice enough to prepare an additional sample box for us with the final flavours we settled on so that my mother could also have a chance to taste the cake when she was visiting the UK from Canada.

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Evening & Dancing

In the evening, Edwin changed into white tie also from Ede and Ravenscroft. In the evening Edwin wore gold cufflinks I bought him a few years prior as a Christmas gift. They are engraved with his initials (which are also now the same as my initials—we joke one cufflink has his initials and the other has mine!).

The final accessory Edwin wore for one very specific song on the dance floor was a pair of shrek ears… but that’s a story for another day!

We danced our first dance to ‘The Very Thought of You’ by Al Bowlly, followed by a second dance, ‘Midnight, the Stars and You’ also by Al Bowlly, which we invited our guests to participate in. We loved having all our friends and family join us on the dance floor immediately after our first dance. As our MC explained before our first dance that we would be doing it this way, it allowed the party to get started very enthusiastically without any awkwardness of who would get on the dance floor first.

Bodleian Library wedding with bride and groom on the dance floor. Weddings by Nicola and Glen Photography.

We always listened to Al Bowlly together at home, especially when we cooked together. Over the years these two songs became our favourites to listen to together.

We also had a ‘last dance’ which was ‘Love Me Tender’ by Elvis. A song that also held sentimental value to us when Edwin was deployed with the Army in our first year of dating. I had been given a great tip to choose a last song as a way to mark the end of the day and really savor the last moments of our wedding. This was great advice and I would encourage any bride to consider doing this!

In the evening, we were able to customise three bespoke wedding cocktails, thanks to The Cocktail Service:

  • The August 13th (very similar to a Hugo- elderflower, bubbles, vodka, citrus and mint)
  • The Transatlantic (not an actual transatlantic cocktail, but a mix of whiskey, maple and bitters—representing Canada and the UK)
  • The Pius Aurelius (named after our cat! We had to include him in some way! This was a gin gimlet—gin, lime, and sugar)
Bodleian Library Wedding with bride and groom on the dance floor. Weddings by Nicola and Glen Photography.

Bodleian Library Wedding with bride and groom on the dance floor with their guests. Weddings by Nicola and Glen Photography.

Words of Wedded Wisdom

I wish we hired our wedding planner earlier! There were some tricky elements to the planning we could have navigated in a less stressful (and more cost efficient) way if we had her onboard earlier.      

Remember what this day is about and try to make it your own. Infuse it in any way you can with personal elements that matter to you both. It is better to take your time and plan things in a way you will love looking back on and remembering in years to come, rather than rushing through it and not recognising yourself in any of the details.

I remember my grandparents telling me stories of their weddings, and I imagined myself in that position in years to come, telling my own grandchildren stories about our own wedding. I used this as a guide to determine what was important to us and what really mattered to us throughout the planning process. Needless to say, the result was adding many sentimental and personal elements throughout many of the details on the day.

It is something I love looking back on already and I now have so many little mementos and keepsakes from the day to cherish and one day pass on to our children and grandchildren.

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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.