Today’s bride Samantha is a writer and is this week set to launch her book, The High Street Bride’s Guide. Amazing!! So you can be sure that her wedding is a cracker of a day.
WWW readers Darren and Samantha married in November of last year at The Broadway Hotel, Hertfordshire. They kept their wedding within a £8,500 budget and created quite a few elements of the fun decor themselves.
They wanted their wedding to have a nod to movies and words to represent their careers with a retro feel. I adore the red and yellow colour scheme, with the bridesmaids looking wonderful in yellow dresses with red accessories.
Thanks so much to Terry Li Photography for sharing her fantastic images today.
The Proposal… Haha, I love our proposal story – so much went wrong! He ended up taking his coat to the loo halfway through our romantic lunch because the ring had fallen through a hole in his pocket into the lining; the meal I ordered turned out to be hotter than the sun so they had to get me another one; and the café a few doors down where he was planning to pop the question closed early for Christmas Eve!
In the end, though, it was simple and perfect: he walked me down the South Bank telling me all the things he loved about me, and then he got down on one knee in a puddle, got the ring out and asked me to marry him. I burst into tears and said of course I would, but he’d been so stressed out he blacked out – he had to ask me whether I’d said yes!
The Vision for the Day… I’m a writer and he’s a filmmaker – both the kind of crazy jobs you only do if you really love them – so we decided we wanted the day to be about what makes us tick: we went with a movies and words theme with a retro feel.
The Planning Process… We were engaged for a month shy of four years – we hadn’t planned it that way, but when we got engaged we were living with Darren’s parents, and neither of us exactly wanted him carrying me over the threshold of his childhood bedroom, sooo… Four years, three jobs and a business started up by Darren later, we were finally both doing what we loved and living in a two-bedroom flat, and we were finally in a position to make our big day happen!
We started with the venue, which we booked six months before the big day, since we’d had the guest list ready for ages. We’d had three-and-a-half years to research and play with ideas, but we hadn’t actually settled on a lot else before then. I bought my dress quite soon after – I’d known what I wanted since I saw The Rocketeer three years earlier – and then we did the invites, which set the colour scheme: mainly red and yellow with accents of turquoise and natural, papery brown. The rest went from there!
Budget… £8,500 total: £2,500 from our parents and £6,000 from us. For that we got to invite 100 people to everything – from the ‘I dos’ to the last dance – including canapés, half a bottle of wine each, a couple of glasses for the toasts, three-course meal, evening buffet, favours, popcorn machine, DJ… the whole shebang!
The Venue… When Darren suggested we get married at our local – The Broadway Hotel – I thought he was joking. It’s a really lovely, friendly place with great food, but I was hoping for something a bit spectacular for our wedding day. Then the manager guided us into a whole other part of the building that I’d never seen before: the ballroom with the two massive chandeliers they just happened to have hidden round the back! It was gorgeous, and the price point was perfect for us – we took it on the spot!
Finding the Dress… I did the whole ‘try on a designer dress at the flagship London store with your mum, his mum and all your bridesmaids’ thing, and yes, it was great fun, but then they wrote a number down on a little bit of paper that had three zeros on it, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
I found the dress I’d been describing to everyone who’d listen for the last four years at Coast. I know. I had to text photos of it to my mum and the 3G was terrible so I was standing there in the shop on my own hopping around waiting for her to reply! In the end I decided it was The One and I bought it and nervously gushed to the girl behind the counter while we waited for it to be steamed. I’m five foot tall so I had to take it to a seamstress to get rid of a lot of the train and make a bit of room for my hips anyway – while I was there I got her to remove the massive bow on the back and there it was, my dream dress.
The Dress + Accessories… The dress was the Hedvig from Coast with the bow at the back removed. I’m only five foot so on me the high neck fell like a cowl, which was what I’d always wanted, and the draped, open back fell to about midway down mine – not too high, not too low. It was simple white satin with a hidden corset to give it some structure. On the day I really did feel the most beautiful I’ve ever felt.
It was a simple, elegant dress, so I didn’t want to overpower it with a lot of statement stuff. I went with modern-meets-classic earrings: pearls on the end of long, dangly silver, with long, dangly silver backs to match. Then I added the shoes I was wearing when me and Darren met, hidden underneath the train so no-one else knew they were there – we did a play together at the Edinburgh fringe festival and my character had gone to a party dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. So yes, they were red, they were platforms, and they were glittery – my definition of footwear happiness!
Groom’s Attire… After talking to his ushers, who we asked to wear their own suits, we decided grey was the way to go. Darren has always loved River Island suits, and even though we tried loads of other places – Burton, Moss Bros, etc. – he gravitated back to the ones he knew were a great fit, were at a price point that meant he could have the waistcoat too, and had that little bit of extra detailing: black piping on the jacket.
The Readings + Music… I was writing an article for You & Your Wedding about alternatives to wedding ceremony traditions when I realised what I wanted to walk down the aisle to: Hoppípolla by Sigur Rós. It’s such a beautiful, hopeful song, with a bit of drama to it too – I was an actress growing up and I felt like it would be fun to wait for the music to build and then make a proper entrance! I didn’t expect that on the day I’d be walking in breathing through my mouth trying not to cry!
We walked out to I’m Alive by Michael Franti. We first heard it only a few weeks before the big day but the minute it came on in our little study I started dancing – it was just so happy and celebratory, it felt exactly like a wedding should do!
Our first dance was to Gimme Some Lovin’ – we both love Notting Hill and Darren has always been a massive fan of The Blues Brothers, and the song is in both movies. We went with the version from The Blues Brothers – the perfect tempo for a fun dance! On the day we just made it up: we were whispering to each other: “Get ready, I’m gonna spin you…” “Oooh, oooh, in a minute, get ready to dip me!”
The readings were a short speech from Les Mis, which began: “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving,” – I’d read it at my aunt’s wedding and the words really resonated – and then The Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton. I loved the contrast between the serious, meaningful reading and the quirky, random-but-so-true one. It was so important choosing the right people to read them too: Becky can deliver a serious speech with poignancy and Sharmila has this really natural humour that you need to pull off a piece about dinosaurs!
Beautiful Bridesmaids… Our wedding was in November, but we really wanted it to be bright and fun and not wintry and sombre. That’s where the bridesmaids came in: they all wore bright yellow dresses with bright red shoes and red roses. I know it sounds insane – I got more than my fair share of funny looks when I explained it to people – but I knew it would work, and look, it does! It was the riskiest part of the day and I’m still getting compliments for it – people asking how I managed to pull together five yellow dresses, all different shapes for differently shaped bridesmaids.
I let them all choose their own dresses because the most important thing to me was for them to look and feel totally happy and confident – the dresses just had to be any non-luminous shade of yellow and roughly knee-length. The cowl neck was from Oasis, the halter and long-sleeved were from Banana Republic, and the other two were from eBay. The fact that the colour combination was so standout meant they couldn’t be mistaken for anyone other than bridesmaids, and the matching bouquets pulled the whole look together.
The Flowers… We kept them minimal, because we knew how quickly the price could tot up. There were florists who tried to advise me to have a huge, expensive bridal bouquet, but the one we went with understood that I’m basically a hobbit and therefore only needed a posy of the same size as the bridesmaids’.
We used my posy to decorate the table during the register-signing photos, and for the reception tables we collected a combination of coffee jars, pasta sauce jars and these beautiful big bottles of French pink lemonade that we washed out and gave to our florist to fill with little yellow flowerheads that looked like pom poms, red carnations and eucalyptus. As part of the wordy aspect of the theme, we added a trio of books to each table centre, tied with a turquoise ribbon.
The Cake… One of our bridesmaids, Ros, made the wedding cake as her present to us. It was three tiers decorated with white ribbons and white chocolate – we’re not big fans of icing – and topped with a cake topper that was in line with our wordy theme: it quotes the lyrics ‘We’re Lovers and We’re Losers’ from our favourite Frank Turner song, because we call each other losers when we get too cheesy. Like I’m starting to now…
Your Photographer… Okay, not to gush, but I actually can’t recommend Terry from Terry Li Photography enough. Working at You & Your Wedding I got a really clear idea of the kind of dreamy, romantic style I wanted for the photos, and she so perfectly pulled it off.
She was amazing: before the day she came up to check out the venue and she thought to ask me about any family politics she should be sensitive to, then on the day she was great – there was a lot to think about with my parents being divorced and a member of the wedding party having social phobia, but she even managed to put them at their ease!
We went for mostly reportage shots, and when we got the pictures back I couldn’t believe all the places she’d been without us seeing her – she was so unobtrusive, and professional but friendly – I mean I still can’t quite work out how she managed to get both of our faces during the ceremony without us even noticing her!
The Details + Decor… I’m really proud of our invites – they were a team effort! We agreed on the colour scheme for the day, then I wrote the words and Darren designed the layout using the colours we’d talked about. I hoped they’d tell our little love story in a funny, self-deprecating way, and judging by all the texts we got when they landed on people’s doormats, they did the trick!
The table plan and table centres were all inspired by the movie part of the theme: we named each table after a film or TV programme we love – ours was Firefly – then Darren created all the posters with inspiration from things we’d seen online. We went for a minimalist feel for all the posters to tie them all together, and we used smaller pictures of each one on the table plan instead of table numbers.
We made our own bags of confetti, which turned out to be hard work! We’re not very crafty people usually, but I’d been inspired by You & Your Wedding and Brides and I wanted to add a personal touch to the ceremony. We bought glassine bags and I punched a heart in the right-hand corner of each one, strung it with what was meant to be a paper price tag on a string that I wrote ‘throw me’ on, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-style, and then I added little brass white rabbits to each string too. Darren punched the red and yellow confetti hearts and stars from tissue paper – it took him ages, but he did an amazing job and I think the confetti looks really great in the pictures!
I handmade everyone’s place names: I wrote their names on red and yellow strips of card and secured red and yellow retro-style movie tickets to the backs with tiny wooden pegs.
We went for red toffee apples as favours. They were cheaper than alternatives like cupcakes, they fit in with the season – our wedding was in November – and they even went with the colour scheme, being red.
The manned popcorn machine we had was more affordable than a lot of others because, even though it arrived before the reception as part of the décor, it was only operated from six until nine, meaning we didn’t spend so much on staffing.
One of the bigger things we’re so glad we budgeted for was the illuminated ‘Love’ sign – it really gave a Hollywood feel to the day, and it was enough of a focus that we didn’t need extra flowers to decorate the room for the ceremony.
The Honeymoon… We haven’t been on our honeymoon yet – it’s what we asked for contributions to as our wedding present. We’re off to Iceland this year, hopefully to see the Northern Lights and go whale-watching!
Memorable Moments… My favourite part of the day was the ceremony. I’d been so stressed out about everything going well and everyone having a good time I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to enjoy it, but as soon as the music started and my dad started walking me down the aisle, I wanted to cry! It had been so long getting there – four years of saving and waiting – and as soon as I got to Darren I grabbed his hand and I knew we’d made it, and we were finally going to be husband and wife after all that time.
A strange but lovely moment that I’ll never forget was just after the formal photos of me and Darren. We had them taken outside the venue, and a woman came over and gave me a card. I thought she must have been a friend of Darren’s family who I hadn’t met yet, but when I opened it I realised she was a total stranger who’d just been walking past and seen us! Inside she’d written: ‘To the bride and groom, you warmed my heart on a cold day.’
Advice for Other Couples… Don’t feel pressured to spend a lot on your dress. People will step on it while you’re dancing and you might well spill something on it while you’re eating – take formal photos before the wedding breakfast! – but all that’s going to be a lot less heartbreaking if you didn’t uninvite 20 people to pay for it!
Remember music for during the meal. You don’t have to hire a live jazz band or a string quartet – just make up a CD with about an hour-and-a-half of music, or go with less than that and play it a couple of times. It’s not a big deal if you forget, but it’s a nice backgrounder when people are chatting and eating.
There will be some people you don’t talk to as much as you feel like you should have, but they’ll understand. Weddings are crazy-busy and most people won’t mind if the bride and groom don’t have ample time to spend with them. Just do your best to say something to everyone if you can, and give a little extra time to people who’ve travelled a long way or had to make complicated arrangements to be there.
Don’t worry about it. Any of it. The ceremony will feel special, no matter how stressed you’ve been about the day. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t practised a first dance – just make it up as you go along, and if you run out of moves, stop and invite your friends to join in (that’s what we did!). And everyone will have a great time. They’re there to be part of the day you got married because they care so much about you, and you’ve invited them because you care so much about them – just being there for something that important is enough.
Credit Where Credit is Due…
Photographer | Terry Li from Terry Li Photography
Venue | The Broadway Hotel, Letchworth
Dress | Coast
Seamstress | Amron’s School of Sewing
Accessories | earrings from lovethelinks at notonthehighstreet.com
Groom’s attire | River Island suit, shoes and accessories
Rings | Ernest Jones
Flowers |Aspidistra Letchworth
‘Love’ sign | Vowed & Amazed
Toffee apple favours | Blueberry Hill Cakes, who unfortunately appear to have closed!
Cake topper | MissSarahCake at Etsy
Utterly gorgeous! And don’t forget to check out Samantha’s new book The High Street Bride’s Guide on Amazon :-)
Thanks so much to Darren and Samantha for sharing their lovely wedding story with us today XOXO Lou
Tags: Coast Wedding Dress, Hertfordshire Wedding, Real Weddings, Red Wedding Ideas, Retro Wedding Ideas, River Island Groom, Terry Li Photography, The Broadway Hotel, Vowed & Amazed, Yellow Wedding Ideas
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