WWW readers Claire and Paul threw out the rule book and focused on having a ruddy good time at their wedding in September.
They wanted a nautical colourful pirate wedding. They had playful touches and details, such as the bucket and spade sweetie table and temporary tattoo favours. They also had piñatas instead of a first dance and a party atmosphere in the evening.
Claire looked so gorgeous in her Romantica tea length dress and yellow shoes with tattoo style shoe clips. Her maids donned blue Coast dresses and Paul found his blue suit in Paul Smith. Amazing.
Thanks so much to Marianne Chua for sharing her fantastic images with us today.
The Proposal… We met a long old time ago, and we were together 6 years before we were engaged. We met in June 2003. Originally, neither of us were going out that night- I had a friend down from London and Paul had a BBQ at his friend’s house. We were both planning on settling in for the night, but we both, separately, ended up going to Chaos- an indie / alternative nightclub on South Parade Pier (alas no more)- where we met on the dance floor. My friend Beth told me that a man was “looking at my arse”, so I danced up to him, tapped him on the nose with my fairy wand and told him I liked men in glasses. Ice broken, fate sealed! He maintains to this day that he wasn’t looking at my arse, but the damage had been done. And we were both quite drunk. I met Beth the day after and asked what Paul was like (I couldn’t remember on account of being too hammered). Her response was a solid “Meh”. Still, I persevered and we ended up moving in together just over a year later.
Paul proposed on Christmas Day 2008. We were sat on the living room floor in our PJs. He presented me with a large, heavy box. I tore off the paper- two bottles of champagne! I was so chuffed with the booze (BOOZE! A recurring theme in our relationship) that I didn’t even notice the ring box nestled between them. I fished it out and opened it to find a solitaire ring. I said “That looks like an engagement ring”. “Yep” he replied. There was an awkward silence. “Well?” he said. I replied “Do it properly then!”, so he got the ring out, popped the question and that was it. The champers was duly quaffed by midday and we had to eat cheese all day because I was too drunk to cook Christmas dinner. Well, I burnt a duck.
The Vision for the Day… Neither of us are soppy or particularly romantic. We have more of a matey, almost ‘bromance’-like relationship. I think that’s why we get on so well! We’re both very playful and childish and don’t take anything too seriously, and that wasn’t going to change for our wedding. So that was the main idea; something small and personal, just close friends and family, with a sense of fun and no particular direction or organisation.
We opted for a civil ceremony as we didn’t want to be making super-cringey declarations of love; we wanted to get the legals over with nice and swiftly so we could get on with the party and the rest of our lives together! Our main priorities were music, decent food and a solid amount of free booze. The whole nautical theme was born from a combination of our basic colour scheme (very scientifically picked by each selecting our favourite colour) and the fact that we met in Portsmouth, and we’ve both lived near the sea our whole lives and have Navy connections. Plus, I like pirates. They didn’t factor quite as much in the final plan as I would have liked, thanks to much veto-ing on Paul’s part, but the whole nautical thing was a good way of focusing our decision making; something we’re both hopeless at to be honest. If we liked it, but it didn’t fit with the theme; out it went! I became a bit of a theme-Nazi towards the end, but it did really help to focus and narrow down ideas and- more critically- expense! I would recommend it to other brides to be who find it hard to make decisions or who are on a limited budget. It’s amazing what creative ideas you can come up with on a budget, when you have a ‘brief’ in mind.
Budget… Our budget was approximately £7000. I think we came in a bit under.
The Venue… Portsmouth Registry Office for the ceremony and Rosie’s Vineyard for the reception Rosie’s Vineyard is a bit of a Southsea establishment; it’s a restaurant and wine bar. We hired the Conservatory at the rear of the restaurant. We were on a limited budget and we wanted a small, intimate wedding so we didn’t want to have the reception somewhere people would be rattling around in a huge space. The Conservatory was just the right size. Plus, we’d eaten at Rosie’s before and knew that the food was incredible (they didn’t let us down!) and they had a really good local word-of-mouth reputation for throwing a great wedding. The room also had wooden floors and slatted walls which gave it a rustic, beach-hut feel. It was spot on.
Sarah at Rosie’s was great. She put up with endless email queries and the occasional bursts of paranoia from me, but she stayed cool and professional throughout. They did a fantastic job and were very tolerant of our (too loud) band. We were originally going to have a BBQ Brochette buffet, but we found we had a little more money in the budget than planned, so ended up having a 3 course sit down meal. This worked out better as- because the reception venue was so small- it may have been a bit tight with people going up and down to get food! We had baked camembert in filo pastry to start, free-range chicken breast in parma ham with mushroom risotto for the main course, and pecan pie and ice cream for dessert. In the evening we had hot canapés, which were EPIC. At one point I was on the dance floor by myself, wondering where everyone had gone. They were lurking in the kitchen eating the canapés as they literally came off the pass! We were worried we’d ordered too much food for the evening (canapés for 75, with 60 guests, 50 of whom had already eaten)…we didn’t need to worry! Virtually the whole lot got snaffled and any that weren’t eaten got taken home in doggy bags / boxes, although I did regret taking a container of chorizo things back to the hotel the next morning, when I woke up with a hangover… We also had a tonne of free wine on the tables. I wanted to make sure that everyone was suitably fed and watered as we are all big eaters and drinkers.
Finding the Dress… From the off, I was DREADING wedding dress shopping. I am such a screaming tomboy and I hate clothes shopping at the best of times. I had visions in my head of a lovely, vintage, plain Grecian style gown. I worked up the courage to make my first appointment and took the plunge with my friend, Rachel. It quickly became apparent that the sleek, Grecian thing wasn’t going to do it for me. I was initially freaked out because now I had NO idea what kind of dress I wanted but- actually- this realisation was quite liberating because I put my faith in the shop staff to find me something which would suit me better. It was the best decision I made. I didn’t try on a huge number of dresses to be honest. Due to my aforementioned loathing, I wanted to keep the dress shopping to a minimum. I visited three shops in total and tried on about 24 dresses in total. Getting in and out of wedding dresses is quite physically demanding. It should be an Olympic sport!
I bought my dress from Anya Bridal Couture in Droxford. The whole experience was a revelation. The shop itself is beautiful, set in a converted barn in the middle of the countryside. The ladies there were incredible, so professional and knowledgeable and the dresses were all beautiful. Because it looks very ‘posh’ from the outside, I was worried that the dresses would be out of my price-range, but they have something there for every budget. My dress was £750. From start to finish it was a thoroughly lovely experience and they used an in-house seamstress so even that part of the process was stress-free! My dress was from the Romantica range; the rather exotically monikered ‘Bali’ (ironic considering I thought I would be wearing it on a drizzly shingle beach)… It was a tea length dress, although they are becoming more and more popular these days and far less unusual or unique. I swore from the start that I didn’t want a tea-length dress, or lace, or sparkles. I ended up with the sparkliest, laciest tea-length dress in the shop. You never can tell! If there’s one thing I hate more than dress shopping, it’s shoe shopping (*hands back membership of womanhood*) Plus my selection was limited somewhat by having size 9 feet. I was quite lazy on this front and ordered my shoes from Anya Bridal too; they were Pink by Paradox ‘Sherbert’, but I knew from the start that I wanted them to be bright yellow…when the lady from Anya Bridal called to say they’d come in, she said “they are…VERY bright!”. I loved them. Shame they were ruined by my traipsing all over the shingle and running into the sea. Hint to other brides: spray your coloured shoes with waterproof sealant!
I had some fantastic tattoo-style shoe clips from Janine Basil which matched our nautical theme. It was a great way of stamping my personality on my wedding outfit; I wanted something non- traditional. My hairpiece was a gift from my friend- I tried it on with the dress in the shop and she bought it for me without me knowing, and presented me with it at the till.
Groom’s Attire… Paul’s best man, Nathan, lives in London and was quite insistent on taking up to Saville Row and giving him the full-works suit shopping experience. Nathan is a self-confessed sartorial genius, so I put my faith in him! The rest of the fellas all wore their own suits. We wanted it to look informal and not too ‘matchy-matchy’. Plus, we both loooooathe morning suits. (by Paul!) “My suit was Paul Smith, from the British Collection, a three piece suit called “The Abbey”, in royal blue with paisley lining to jacket and waistcoat back. Chosen after trawling around London with the help of my best man, into every suit shop we could find, looking for that elusive blue suit with just the right hue, not navy blue, not bright blue, but something with a certain vividness too it, which turned out to be a fairly tough task! It was actually the second shop we went into that day, and it wasn’t until we’d been to all the others that we came to the conclusion that it was the one. Of course it helped that the Summer sale had started, and with an additional discount code I got it for half its original £1000+ price! The key element was the colour, which was the hardest thing to find. It looks almost like a normal navy blue indoors, but becomes much brighter in daylight. Style wise I had originally wanted a more casual two-piece suit, but I’m glad I went for the three-piece in the end, as it gave a more formal style befitting a wedding suit. It also had grey buttons, which tied in perfectly with my grey suede shoes. For the material, The British Collection uses specialist bespoke fabrics woven at the Clissold Mill in Yorkshire, and both the extremely helpful Paul Smith staff and the tailor who did the adjustments commented on how nice the material was!”
The Readings + Music… We wanted a very simple, straightforward ceremony. Neither of us are great romantics, so we didn’t want any slushy declarations or flowery guff. This is predominantly why we chose Portsmouth Registry Office. It’s a lovely setting and several other members of my family have been married here, so it holds good memories, but the short and informal ceremony style suited our purpose. We didn’t have any readings.
We walked down the aisle to “Life’s a Happy Song” from the Muppets movie. We agonised for MONTHS over a tune to pick as we’re both quite into our music; we were in the pub one day, after a couple of pints, I suggested this and it was sorted! The lyrics are perfect and it’s childish and silly, like us.
My brother’s band played at the reception. They had formed just 6 months earlier with the sole purpose of playing at our wedding reception, after we were let down by our original band. They did an outstanding job. We were really keen on having a live band as we both enjoy going to gigs and a live band really adds something special to the atmosphere at a wedding. We created our own Spotify playlist for between the band’s sets and for later in the evening. We didn’t stop dancing all night. Everyone we’ve spoken to since said that they’d never seen a bride dance so much at a wedding. I literally couldn’t stop! I was so exhausted and sweaty by the end of the night, but I’d danced my socks off and had an incredible time.
Beautiful Bridesmaids… I chose my two sisters as my bridesmaids, and the eldest of the two- Becky- as my unofficial ‘Maid of Honour’…I don’t go much on titles! Plus, she’s not very honourable, and certainly NOT a maid. I’d had a bit of a recon mission in the shops in West Quay, Southampton prior to our big shopping day and picked out the blue dresses just as an example of the colour I liked. They tried them on and loved them! I thought it would be difficult as they both have very different body shapes, but the dress worked for both of them. We trawled around for a while trying to find alternatives, but kept coming back to these. So it was a pretty straightforward process. Their dresses were a bargain from Coast. I paid £250 for the two of them, using my NUS discount (win!). I specifically wanted them to buy dresses they felt they could wear again. They were quite contemporary, knee length, fitted dresses in a bright cobalt blue. Most importantly, they were made of a comfortable, stretchy, breathable fabric so they would be comfortable and cool.
They also wore accessories from Janine Basil; swallow hairclips to match the nautical / tattoo theme with the accessories. I also bought tiny anchor earrings from Punky Pins for them to wear…until I realised that my youngest sister doesn’t actually have pierced ears! Whoops. They also had THE most amazing shoes from Next- high platforms in black and white stripes with floral shoes- they didn’t really match the colour scheme or theme, but we all loved them so thought “Why the heck not?!”.
The Flowers… To be honest, I didn’t choose the flowers! I had an idea of the colour of flowers we wanted, but had no idea what we could use to get the effect (I know NOTHING about flowers). I knew that I wanted a small, hand- tied bouquet for me and the bridesmaids. The bouquets were exactly what we wanted. I’m glad that I didn’t exercise too much control over the flowers as it was a lovely surprise on the day. We had a very limited budget for flowers and Ultraviolet were very helpful and produced beautiful bouquets and buttonholes within our budget.
The Cake… We wanted our wedding cake to be a real centrepiece and to really reflect our theme. It was three tiers; the bottom tier was airbrushed to look like the sea, and the top two tiers looked like the sand on the beach. It was decorated with shells, beach huts and a bucket and spade. They also made us a custom cake stand from some reclaimed rope from a boatyard. My brief for the cake maker was that I wanted it to look more like a kid’s birthday cake than a wedding cake. We had a custom made cake topper; two crabs- one wearing a veil and one in a top hat! The bottom tier was traditional fruit cake. The middle tier was chocolate and Baileys, and the top tier was a lemon sponge. We almost completely forgot to cut the cake at all! My sister had to remind me half way through the reception. I think after that, people just helped themselves.
Your Photographer… Marianne was a dream. From the very start, I found her so approachable and down to earth, and I loved the pictures I had seen on her website. She is, quite literally, the nicest human being alive…and I don’t say that lightly! I had all kinds of paranoia about having my picture taken; Paul and I don’t have a single photo of us together because neither of us like being in photos. I spent a little while before the wedding on the seafront scouting potential locations for the photos which would be interesting and unique to allow her to work her artistic magic. I particularly like the shot of us in front of the big wheel, which Marianne (very bravely) actually laid on the floor to take! She even helped us clear the tables and set the room up for the evening (we were MASSIVELY behind schedule)- what more could you ask? When we saw the photos my mind was blown. I was looking through them with my sisters and they kept exclaiming, “How the hell did she get there? I didn’t even see her!”. She truly is a photo ninja. A very talented, friendly, lovely, energetic, inspiring ninja. I can’t recommend her enough. And she produces photos on retro Viewfinders! What more could you want?
The Details + Decor… My friend, Penny, is a hairdresser and did my hair for me. I did some of my make-up myself and my little sister helped with the finishing touches. I felt it was really important to look as much like ‘me’ as possible, and I’ve never really bothered with styling my hair before, so I didn’t want anything overdone. I just had it tonged into ringlets, so it was a more polished version of my usual do. That went out the window once we hit the seafront though!
Our wedding favours were a little seaside themed goody bag containing rock and stick-on tattoos. I also included a pin from the Alzheimer’s society on behalf of my nan who couldn’t attend the wedding due to suffering from severe dementia. Paul was initially sceptical about the tattoos, but everyone put them on! They even formed little gangs with people who had the same tattoo. It was a great way to get people talking. I made all of the table decorations. The main centrepieces were Kilner jars and candles with sand, shells and seaweed to create a seaside scene. I made napkin rings which looked like life-preserver rings; I used curtain rings and red electrical tape! We also used some pebble candles from John Lewis and yellow vases from Ikea for our fake flowers. Even the yellow napkins were handmade by Paul’s Aunty Susan!
The Honeymoon… We went to Cayo Levantado in the Dominican Republic. We flew out 4 days after the wedding. We always wanted to go almost immediately afterwards. It was a full on, relaxation fest. We’d always bemoaned beach holidays as boring…but after the excitement and *little* bit of stress of organising the wedding, we wanted a holiday where we didn’t have to make ANY decisions about ANYTHING, apart from which cocktail to drink and where to sit on the beach. We went for two weeks, all-inclusive. Neither of us had every been on an all-inclusive holiday before, it was a revelation. I think we’re converted! The food and drink was incredible. The beaches were beautiful and the weather was scorching. Definitely a once in a lifetime holiday.
Memorable Moments… We didn’t have a first dance at our wedding. We had piñatas! The idea of shuffling around the dance floor like a couple of embarrassed teenagers in front of an audience left us cold, so we stuck on ‘Shipping Up to Boston’ by the Dropkick Murphys and smashed seven shades out of two piñatas. One was a pirate ship and the other was a monkey (Paul’s nickname is ‘monkey’ for some reason…). Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered the logistics of where the piñatas would be suspended from, so they ended up falling down after a few hearty thwhacks. This just helped the general sense of chaos and hysteria. It was certainly memorable! The piñatas were filled with confetti and sherbert pixie sticks which people picked up and ate afterwards. So we had a room full of drunk people on a massive sugar high! What could be better?
My other big highlights were the band- completely unbeknownst to me- learning ‘The Safety Dance’ and playing it in the middle of their set. It’s my favourite song and I had no idea they were going to play it! It was a kind of punked-up version too, which was awesome. I remember running around in big circles arm in arm with my dad, how I didn’t fall over I’ll never know. Paul also snuck THE ONLY SONG we’ve ever danced to together (Paul Anka’s swing cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”) into the mix so we had kind of an impromptu second (first?) dance; people naturally formed a ring around us. My mum was SOBBING. I mean, like, hysterically, to the point where she struggled to breathe. It was proper funny!
Advice for Other Couples… I really can’t say it enough, but really- don’t sweat the small stuff. We forgot our guest book, actually nearly forgot to cut the cake (!)…but it absolutely did not matter. I’d also say not to get too hung up on what you look like. A lot of brides get so paranoid about hair and makeup and their appearance on the day and, true, you’ll have a lot of pictures taken and sort of be the centre of attention, which sucks if you’re not into that sort of thing. But we went out into the wind which ruined my hair, walked on the shingle beach which ruined my shoes, I danced like a lunatic all night and sweated like a beast but EVERY SINGLE PERSON said that they’d never seen a couple having so much fun. And that’s what your wedding day should be all about. My favourite picture of the night is of me wearing a Jack Sparrow pirate hat (with built in dreadlocks), wearing Paul’s waistcoat, a bottle of beer in each hand, mascara and eyeliner all over my face and a fag hanging out of my mouth. THAT’S how every bride should look like at the end of her wedding day. If you still look perfect and pristine, you’re clearly not drunk enough! ; )
Credit Where Credit is Due…
Photographer | Marianne Chua
Wedding Dress | Anya Bridal Couture
Reception Venue | Rosie’s Vineyard
Cake | Fondantly Yours
Flowers | Ultraviolet Flowers
Band (I’ve got to plug them, it’s my bro!) | The Deadscene Revival
Accessories | Janine Basil
Car | Portsmouth Wedding Taxis
Hair / Makeup | Friends and family!
What a vibrant and fun day.
Thanks so much to Claire and Paul for sharing their brilliant wedding with us today XOXO Lou