Old Hollywood glamour is order of the day, Michelle and Ben wanted their wedding to be classic, vintage and timeless.
Michelle and Ben were married at the Star & Garter in Putney. I have serious hair envy this morning, for Michelle’s gorgeously glossy locks looked amazing alongside her red lips, HT Headwear feather hair piece and vintage dress with Jimmy Choo sparkle shoes. WOW. Ben chose a dashing grey Hugo Boss slim fit suit with a black tie for a classic look. I so love the pretty navy blue bridesmaid dresses too, the girls looked so lovely.
Michelle and Ben kept things simple yet personal, with timeless blooms, a cheese cake, cute yay flags, tea lights and lace bunting.
Thanks so much to the wonderful Elly Mac Photos for sharing her images with us today.
Names…. Michelle and Ben
Wedding Date…. 29th September 2012
The Proposal…. Ben had taken me to Paris as an early birthday present. We were in the hotel room, taking our time getting ready, drinking champagne and eating cheese (my two favourite things) when I declared to Ben that ‘life couldn’t get any better than this’. He’d been planning on asking me while we were out sightseeing, but took my happiness as a sign the time was right. Just before we left for dinner, he asked if I was ready to go. I said yes, I just need to grab my jacket, but he replied ‘Hmmm I don’t think you’re ready, something’s missing’. I was a bit surprised as Ben never really noticed my outfits or accessories, let alone mentioned what was missing! He took a box out of his rucksack and handed it to me. It was long, and quite big, so I assumed it was a necklace. I opened the box and was confused to see a hand-knitted (lovingly made by my bridesmaid, Emma) pea pod with two peas in there – they had faces, there was one boy pea and one girl pea. As I tried to figure out what it was Ben dropped to one knee, opened up the boy pea, which was a cleverly disguised ring box, and asked me to marry him! I actually kept the pea pod and on the morning of the wedding, surprised Ben with a pair of handmade silver pea pod cufflinks, slotted in the very pod that had held my engagement ring.
I was initially suspicious that Ben was taking me to Paris, and everyone I spoke to said ‘ooooh he’s going to propose!’, but he convinced me it was so we could spend some quality time together before my parents arrived from Australia for a visit, so he really threw me off the scent and I didn’t think any more of it. So it really was a surprise when he asked me. In fact, instead of saying ‘yes’, I think the first words out of my mouth were ‘really??’ I then proceeded to spend the whole night asking ‘is this really happening?!’ Although in hindsight he was acting a bit shady, so I think it was hovering in the back of my mind that he might pop the question. He asked both of my parents when we went to Australia for Christmas. He hadn’t bought a ring yet or decided when he would propose, but he wanted to ask them in person and didn’t know when he’d see them next. It really meant a lot to my parents and to me that he asked them first.
The Vision for the day…. I suppose the overall look was quite classic and vintage, we just wanted everything to look timeless.
The Planning process…. Was very relaxed and hands on, we did as much as we could ourselves.
Budget…. about 12,000
The Venue… The Ballroom in the Star & Garter in Putney on the Embankment
The Dress + Accessories….. Elizabeth Avey, a specialist vintage wedding dress shop in North London. It was the only shop I went to and I found my dress on my first visit.
It’s a Fred Perlberg Dance Original from the 1950s. I don’t think it was originally made as a wedding dress, more likely as an evening dress or ball gown, but I love knowing that someone else has worn it and had a fabulous time in it. It’s full-length, strapless, cream taffeta and quite fitted. I never wanted anything too big or traditional or weddingy, so that’s why I went for cream. It’s real old Hollywood and has a gorgeous ruffle detail and split. When I had it altered and taken up the seamstress took the front up and made the split a little longer, but left the back long to give it a little bit of a train. It ended up fitting perfectly!
I’d had my heart set on a short, 50s prom dress, but when I tried them on I thought they looked really cute and fun, but not as special as I hoped my wedding dress would. I was about to leave the shop as my appointment time was nearly up, when I spotted the Fred Perlberg on the rack. It had just come in and hadn’t been sized or priced yet, but they let me try it on. As soon as I slipped it on I knew it was the dress for me. It made me feel tall, womanly (I’m very petite so this is a rare feeling!) and seriously glam… I didn’t want to take it off! My bridesmaid that was with me concurred that I had to buy it (after lecturing me on the way to the shop that this was purely a browsing session and should under no circumstances rush into buying anything) and I purchased it there and then.
I actually ended up having a second dress as well. I hadn’t planned to, but at our second dance lesson I realised there was no way I’d be able to do a waltz in a long dress, let alone all the spins and twirls! So I bought a 40s style wrap dress from Vivien of Holloway – it was short enough to dance in, showed off my sparkly shoes and the ruffle mirrored the detail on my ‘main’ dress – perfect!
Jewellery – The first thing I bought was some vintage Trifari jewellery from the 1950s. As soon as I saw it I fell in love with it and liked that it was from the same era as my dress. But when I showed my parents they remembered they had some of my Nana’s jewellery packed away and offered to send it over for me to try on. I said yes as I didn’t want to offend them, but then it arrived and it was stunning – original 1950s silver paste jewellery, a beautiful necklace and matching earrings set – and so sparkly. So I wore that and my mum wore the Trifari set I’d bought for myself.
Shoes – I’d always had my heart set on a pair of Jimmy Choos, and finally this seemed like an occasion I could justify buying them for. And after seeing my Nana’s gorgeous, sparkly jewellery I decided to go for a super sparkly pair of Choos! They were really comfy and I wore them for the entire day and night.
Headwear – I had really wanted a birdcage veil and spent countless hours searching online. But finding something that would go with my cream dress (everything is white!!) did prove difficult. I was then deciding between getting something made bespoke or just wearing a vintage hair clip when Elizabeth Avey (the shop I bought my dress from) had a summer sale. I ended up finding a gorgeous feather and diamante clip from HT headwear. The shade was perfect for my dress and it really added to the glam look. I ended finding a vintage marabou feather shrug in the same sale which completed the whole look. I got the clip and shrug at a fraction of the price I’d planned for so I stopped feeling guilty about the Choos!
Underwear – I really wanted to treat myself to some expensive, luxurious lingerie, but as my dress was quite fitted I couldn’t go for anything lacy or embellished, plus white underwear was showing through the cream fabric so I had to look for nude or cream. I looked everywhere and tried on loads of different bras, but nothing was right. Finally I found the best strapless bra in good old M&S – and it was on sale!
Groom’s attire… Hugo Boss. Ben had a really clear idea of what he wanted. Like me he didn’t want anything too weddingy and just wanted a really sharp, stylish suit. When we walked into the shop and the sales assistant asked what size Ben was, he grabbed a suit off the rack and held it up in front of Ben – it was exactly the type of suit he was after and it fit perfectly – so he bought it. It was very easy! It was a slim fit, grey suit. He wore it with a white shirt, thin black tie and pocket square. It was just a really smart, classic look. So handsome and happy and just really comfortable with himself.
The Readings + Music…. I walked down the aisle to Stand by Me by Ben E. King. We had two readings – My sister read an extract from Captain Correli’s Mandolin, about two trees growing roots underground and becoming one tree, which was beautiful. And Ben’s sister read ‘A Lovely Love Story’ by Edward Monkton which is about two dinosaurs falling in love – it was sweet and very funny!
For the signing of the registrar we played ‘What a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong and ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. We walked out of the room to our favourite Arcade Fire song ‘Wake up’, the song in so uplifting and all of our guests were waving the jingly flags we’d made which was awesome!
Beautiful bridesmaids… I had 3 – my sister and 2 of my best friends that have spent a lot of time with Ben and I. It was important to me that the bridal party was made up of people that know us as a couple.
Dress shopping for the maids was a bit difficult as they were all in different parts of Australia and I was in London – thank goodness for the internet! We did a lot of chatting over facebook and sent each other lots of pictures, but finding a time they could all meet up and go shopping was proving difficult. I’d originally suggested a neutral or pale colour as we didn’t have a colour theme, but then I saw a gorgeous navy blue long, one shouldered dress online – I sent a picture to the girls and they all loved it! It was from Forever New (an Australian high street shop) and we all agreed it was lovely so once they could all try it on and find it in their size they went ahead and got them. I just really wanted them to be happy and comfortable on the day and luckily the style suited all of them and they all looked gorgeous. They all wore different silver sparkly shoes and crystal art deco styles style earrings and a bracelet. I think they looked beautiful!
The Flowers… The venue recommended a wonderful florist called Catherine Whitrow (her company is called Decorations for Celebrations) who lived nearby so that was especially handy. She did the bouquets, buttonholes and table centres. She added pearls to all of the flowers in the table centres and added tealights and smaller flower heads around the main arrangement – it looked beautiful. For the top table she trailed ivy and candles along it and had a main arrangement in the centre and 2 empty vases either side – my bridesmaids and I put our bouquets in those vases, which was a good way to save money and gave us somewhere to display our flowers! Catherine encouraged us to tell our guests to take the flowers home at the end of the night and people were really chuffed to be able to take an arrangement with them.
The Cake… Our venue actually has its own cheese room (this was pretty much the deciding factor for us booking it!) so they made a cake of 5 wheels of cheese, including stilton and goats cheese. They decorated it with fruit, flowers and ribbon so it looked like a proper cake and not just a pile of cheese. We then served it with bread, quince paste, fruit, crackers, chutney and port for the evening buffet. Everyone loved it and there was even some leftover for us to take home!
Your Photographer…. Our photographer was Elly Mac Photos, an amazing documentary photographer with an impeccable eye and amazing timing, she had a wonderful creative vision for the photographs and we absolutely love them, we could not recommend her highly enough. Her approach to wedding photograph may appear unorthodox but it is so effective. She is incredibly calming and unassuming. She also provided a fantastic photobooth set up for us. We had a polaroid camera with lots of props and a scrapbook for people to stick their pictures in. Everyone absolutely loved it and at one point there was a queue! The scrapbook is now one of our favourite mementos from the day. On the day we were lucky enough to have principle photographer, Elly, photograph us, along with an associate photographer.
The Details + Decor…. The Ballroom is already a beautiful space with ornate plasterwork and chandeliers, so we didn’t want to add too much and detract from the lovely decor. We did add some lace bunting across the stage and bar area and our florist did the rest of the decorations – She gave the room a really lovely, warm glow with lots of tea lights, pillar candles in vases and ivy along all of the windowsills.
My very talented bridesmaid Emma runs her own graphic design business (icklem.com) and she very kindly designed our Save the Dates and invitations. Ben and I then did all the printing and assembling (there was a lot of lace and doilies to be stuck on!) ourselves. I designed our order of service, table numbers and table plan. Ben and I also made the cheer flags for our guests to wave during the ceremony and for place cards we hand-stamped (letter by letter!) people’s names on doilies. So we made everything ourselves! It was a labour of love and at times I wished we’d just bought everything, but it looked amazing and we got the exact look we wanted by doing everything ourselves. We had mini jars of chutney with a personalised label tha said ‘Spread the Love’ as favours. They also had our names, the date of our wedding, and a thank you for celebrating with us. We thought they were the perfect accompaniment to our cake of cheese! We bought them from a place called Old Manor Products (http://www.oldmanorproducts.co.uk/weddingfavours.html) and they provided a selection of homemade chutneys in different flavours. We also had baskets of flip flops for the ladies to change into – they definitely came in handy on the dancefloor later in the evening and I think people really appreciated them.
I didn’t really have a specific idea for my make-up, I just wanted to look like myself… just a really, really good version of myself! On the day though I ended up going for lots of dark lashes and bright red lipstick as it just felt right with the style of the dress. I’m normally scared of wearing lipstick but it matched my red nails and made me feel very glamourous! Luckily my cousin, Rosie Lee (http://www.rosie-lee.com/) is a very talented make-up artist and I was lucky enough to have her do my make-up on the day – she turned down other jobs to be able to do this for me and the bridesmaids so that was a lovely wedding present! I think she uses a mix of MAC, lancome and clinique. It was amazing to watch her mixing all of the colours and blending them all together – it’s like watching an artist about to start painting.
At the reception for the starter we had parma ham and melon, for the main we had chicken breast stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a white wine and cream sauce, and for dessert we had chocolate marscapone cheesecake. We had red and white wines served with the meal. Ben and I sat at a long ‘top table’ with our parents and the best man and maid of honour (his brother and my sister) and then we had 7 round tables for guests. Luckily a lot of guests already knew each other or had things in common so it was actually really quick and easy to do the seating plan. We had 74 guests for the whole day and night (although one person did come later as they couldn’t make it during the day) and didn’t have any separate evening guests. We don’t really believe in just inviting people to the evening party, as the most important part of the day is the ceremony and din’t see the point in asking someone to come after you’ve actually got married!
The Honeymoon…. Kuredu Island Resort in the Maldives. As my family had come over from Australia, we thought it was a bit rude to take off right away. So we spent some time in London with them, then went to the Lake District with my parents for a week. We went back to work for a couple of weeks before jetting off to paradise – it was definitely worth the wait!
Aside from lots of sunbathing and drinking cocktails we snorkelled with manta rays and turtles (and even some sharks!), played golf and had massages. Bliss! We had a honeymoon registry instead of a gift registry so our guests bought us things we could do on our trip, such as a sailing trip, canoeing and spa treatments.
Memorable moments… 1 Walking down the aisle and seeing Ben waiting for me – I wish I could just freeze that moment in time! 2 Ben’s speech, he called me all of his nicknames for me ‘little aussie bird’, ‘gorgeous’ and ‘foxy lady’, before finally calling me his wife. I found his speech notes on the table at the very end of the night and kept it. 3 Our first dance – we’d practised so much and were both so nervous about getting it just right, but we nailed it and it was so much fun.
Advice for other couples… Advice for the bride…Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and your partner for the day to be perfect. Inevitably things will go wrong or not completely according to plan, so don’t build it up to be the most perfect day of your life, but the beginning of your life together. Advice for the groom… Be patient with your bride. Humour her when she wants to research extravagent venues you can’t afford or can’t decide between two colours that look exactly the same to you. Let her talk things through with you and let her reach her own conclusions – she’ll eventually realise when she ‘s being unreasonable or OTT – just let her get it out of her system!
Our top budgeting tip would be… Prioritise the areas you want to spend the most money on (for us it was rings and photography, apart from the venue/reception) and areas you can be a bit more frugal, then if you overspend on a top priority, either cut out or spend less money on a lower priority. For example we overspent on our rings (ok, my ring) so we saved money by making our table numbers and customising a plain scrapbook for a guestbook, instead of buying ready made ones like originally planned.
Our top planning tip would be… It sounds simple, but lists, lots of lists! We had a long-term list with key deadlines, then short-term lists of what we need to buy, who we needed to pay, what we needed to make etc. Then in the final weeks we split everything up and had a list each of what we needed to do. It really helped having it all written down and was so satisfying crossing each thing off the list.
On the big day, don’t forget to… Enjoy it! Take a moment to look around at the wonderful person you’ve married, your family and friends having fun, and just soak it all up!
Credit where credit is due…
Elly Mac Photos www.ellymacphotos.com
Rosise Lee Make Up (http://www.rosie-lee.com/)
Graphic Designer (icklem.com)
Amazing!! Thanks so much to Michelle and Ben for sharing their beautiful day with us today, and for their brilliant advice XOXO Lou