WWW readers Siân and Dan chose to marry on Friday 13th September 2013 at Islington Town Hall followed by a London pub reception at Victoria Stakes. They wanted a city style wedding, which was relaxed and intimate.
They had a memorable tube ride to their venue, bridesmaids in blue, super pretty blooms and thoughtful meaningful touches.
Siân donned the most gorgeous Candy Anthony polka dot dress and veil while Dan opted for a bespoke three piece suit with cravat and brogues. I just love the whole feel of this wedding day and know you will too.
Thanks so very much to the amazing Philippa James for sharing her photographs today.
THE PROPOSAL | We got engaged on a misty November morning whilst out walking on Hampstead Health. It’s such a beautiful place and somewhere we spend a lot of time, which made it really special. I would advise anyone being proposed to that the standard response to the man you love, kneeling in a puddle, holding out a beautiful ring is “yes” and not “are you joking?” but other than that it was perfect. The engagement ring is also something really special, not only had Dan had it perfectly sized to fit by sneaking a ring that I’d inherited from my nan out of my jewellery box, but because so much work had gone into it. Both Dan and his brother were given half of the eternity ring that his late father had given to his mum. Dan found a jeweller and together they modelled the other half and had this perfectly recreated to look like the original ring. It’s really nice to have a ring with such sentimental value and meaning.
THE VISION | We didn’t want to have a super traditional wedding and were keen to stay in London and have more of a ‘city style’ wedding. We wanted to take the formality out of the wedding occasion and focus on this being the start of our marriage, celebrating this with a big party. Something that was relaxed, chilled out, where everyone could feel comfortable and not under pressure to behave in a certain way – we just wanted everyone to have a good time and for us to be able to enjoy one of those rare moments when you can get all of your best friends and family together in one place.
We decided to get married in September and had always planned to have a Friday wedding. It meant we could be a drop-in event for so many of our friends and colleagues after work. When we spotted that there was a Friday 13th we thought we had to go for it. It was pretty tongue in cheek.
We had a very small wedding ceremony with only 30 guests, our very best friends and immediate family.
It was really hard making the decision to do this. We both come from huge families and to invite everyone to the full event would’ve meant a guest list of 90+ family members before we even got onto friends. As we were on such a tight budget we just couldn’t afford to do this. We have to say a huge thank you to our family for being so understanding about this, they were all really supportive and made the most of it when they joined us in the evening when we extended the party to about 150 people.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | We were really keen to pay for the wedding up-front and only spend what we could afford. We worked out a modest budget and a savings plan and made a lot of tactical choices to get the most for our money, and importantly avoid as much ‘wedding word’ upsell as possible. To do this we knew we had to be organised and would have to source and make a lot of things ourselves. We both work in the design industry, Dan is an interior designer and I’m a strategist, so we’re used to planning things in a tight timescale and were happy to get hands-on.
We took a lot of inspiration from blogs, magazines etc. and used this to design different elements of the day, we also saved a lot of money by creating out own invitations and save the dates and, controversially, sending these out digitally to avoid print costs.
Everyone says it but its key to keep spreadsheets to monitor what you’re spending and lots of lists to keep on top of what you’ve done and need to do. We found this kept it less stressful. We’d advise anyone to keep it as simple as possible and turn the planning into something you can enjoy. It’s amazing how many things you think are really important that don’t actually matter on the day and it is best to keep this in perspective.
THE VENUE | When we first met we used to part ways at Highbury and Islington tube station so Islington Town Hall was an obvious choice, it felt personal to us but it also lent itself to a more informal, intimate ceremony.
It’s a beautiful, interesting building too.
The Victoria Stakes, one of our local pubs in Crouch End, was the venue for the reception. It’s got a great atmosphere, does fantastic food and has a beautiful private room and covered garden area out the back – perfect for a big party (and in case of the typical English weather – and it did really rain in the evening!). We cannot thank them enough, their service was absolutely faultless, and they made everything so easy and kept it so laid-back. They also allowed us to create the menu with their staff, meaning our guests had a few options on what they wanted to eat for the day rather than a fixed menu.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | My dress was a Candy Anthony ivory dress with a 5-layer petticoat and white polka dot overlay with three-quarter length sleeves. The dress was so much fun to wear (I wanted to spin down the aisle!), brilliant to dance in and fitted the more informal, city wedding we wanted. As we didn’t really have a colour theme I decided to keep it simple and have matching white accessories. I had a matching short veil with a polka dot layer underneath. The veil was brilliant, minimal fuss (not too long), maximum impact (big height) and was easy to wear all day long. I also had the Candy Anthony sash belt with a bow and tails at the back. I wore simple white 50s style courts from Whistles, which were a bargain in the sale, a vintage white clutch and minimal jewellery – all I added was my grandma’s very simple silver wedding ring as she couldn’t be there with us.
I did a hair and make-up trial under the persuasion of many friends but it just wasn’t me. A lot of hairdressers tend to straighten my naturally curly hair to style it and it always makes me feel like someone else! I also ended up caked in make-up, which I was advised would look great in photos, but I just felt awful in person. In the end I did my make-up myself after a tutorial at Mac. I would really advocate this kind of approach if you are confident enough to have a go. It meant we saved a lot of money, and what we did spend went into products that I could keep and continue to use for months afterwards.
I am very lucky and my younger sister Charlotte is, in my unbiased opinion, one of the best hairdressers around. She thinned my hair for me the night before the wedding so my curls would sit right and then on the day I could just leave it to dry naturally.
FINDING THE DRESS | Finding the dress was quite a relaxed process. Initially I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go for a full-length 20s/30s dress or a tea-length 50s one. I happened to get a last minute appointment at Candy Anthony one weekend when my mum was down in London so we decided to try a few out. I remember saying that I liked them all apart from the polka dot one but was luckily convinced by Rachael (one of their designers) to give it a try. I then went and tried out a lot of others with my brilliant bridesmaids Lisa and Liz but nothing matched up. That Candy Anthony dress was just so much fun and the quality was brilliant. The only problem was it was way out of our budget so I had to get creative.
I actually bought a slightly bigger version of the basic ivory shell dress; the 5-layer petticoat and the sash back bow belt second hand on eBay. It was a really funny process involving two big burly blokes from a courier company picking it up from a lady in Birmingham who insisted that they stayed and had a cup of tea and looked at her wedding photos. They then had to tell me her wedding story when they got to London. It was so sweet and despite their protests, you could tell they enjoyed it more than their usual furniture pick-ups! I then had the polka-dot overlay and veil made by Candy Anthony directly and then used our brilliant local seamstress to adjust the second-hand elements to make sure the whole thing sat together correctly. It was a brilliant way to cut the cost. I saved over £1000 by doing it like this and it meant I got an original Candy Anthony for less that a lot of the cheaper reproductions of their designs cost.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Finding clothes that fit Dan is always a bit of a challenge. At almost 6.5” he’s a big guy. It meant off the shelf wouldn’t really cut it but fully bespoke wasn’t in budget. We compromised with a 3-piece suit from Moss bespoke. This meant that the style and fit was tailored to Dan and that he could customise all the details – the navy cloth, the stitching, buttons etc. Dan then added a Peckham Rye cravat and matching handkerchief, he’s a huge cravat fan. Dan is very particular about his shoes and loves Trickers. We were lucky enough to find his classic brogues in the sale section at Asos. It is really worth shopping around and looking for things that you’ll want to use again after the event.
THE READINGS & MUSIC |We decided not to have any readings. We wanted a simple ceremony that was about the marriage itself and that didn’t go on for too long. We were really fortunate to have very relaxed registrars who were totally open to being a part of our day, and doing things the way we wanted. We couldn’t have asked for better.
We picked music with meaning, although it was tough as our music tastes are quite different.
Aisle: I walked down the aisle to Elvis: I can’t help falling in love with you. We picked this because Dan’s mum Lindsay has always told us she thought that Dan’s dad looked like Elvis when she first met him. They both loved Elvis. He sadly passed away the year before we got married so it was really special to be able to do something that had such significance to Dan and his family.
Registrar Signing: We had a selection of Vitamin String Quartet tracks ready for when guests arrived and the registrar signing. It was a great way to include some of our favourite songs that didn’t feel quite wedding appropriate in their original form! We picked: The Pixies ‘Where is My Mind?’; The Doors ‘Hello, I Love You’; Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’, 80’s classic ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’; Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Common People’ by Pulp.
Departure: We decided to walk out of the ceremony hall together with something that was a bit of fun and was on both of our playlists – Get Lucky by Daft Punk.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS |For a simple, small wedding we went a bit off brief when it came to bridesmaids and best men.
My good friend Lisa was our maid of honour or perhaps better put as ‘best woman’, she was amazing. Joined by my two younger sisters Charlotte and Frankie and my friend Liz. Liz has become an honorary 3rd younger sister to me since we met at work a few years ago. I cannot thank them all enough for being so supportive, generally amazing and also throwing me the most amazing hen-do in the world.
Bridesmaid dress shopping is hard. It’s really difficult to find one dress to suit all shapes especially when you’re on a budget. We had lots of ideas – different styles in a similar palette, changing elements for each individual etc. but in the end my sister Frankie found the dress at Topshop. We liked the colour and it felt ‘bridesmaidy’ and it meant we had enough budget to cover getting them tailored to fit. They all picked their own white shoes and accessories. Like me, they kept their hair natural. My sister Charlotte was a huge help with their hair and my mum’s, blow-drying all morning long!
Dan also ended up with 3 best men – Tom, Dom and Jim, who were fantastic. And my first boss, and our good friend, Robert offering to do a speech for us too.
THE FLOWERS |We had originally intended to create our own flowers for the day but fell in love with the flower arrangements by Matt at The Urban Flower Company, our local florist in Crouch End and decided to take some of the pressure off.
The bouquets, buttonholes and table decorations included white roses, clematis, asclepsia, green bell and dark astrantia. The flowers were beautiful and the smell was amazing because most of the arrangements also used fresh herbs. We provided all the bottles and jars for our flowers. We predominantly used old pharmaceutical and chemistry bottles, which we found in second-hand shops and lots of jam jars to add some variety in the height.
One word of caution – be careful when ordering. We forgot that my Dad has terrible hay fever and his buttonhole really triggered this off!
THE CAKE |We’d originally intended to have a ‘cheese’ cake. But our evening snack menu featured heavily of our favourite foods – cheese and charcuterie. We decided that we’d add to the evening bounty with mini-cupcakes from Crumbs and Doilies.
To make these a bit more personal we had a set of bespoke cake toppers created by Happy Yumi. Nash was wonderful she helped us pick some key themes from our life together and handmade all 150 individual toppers. They were a great way to involve the key members of our wedding party and have a bit of fun.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER |Initially we thought about getting a friend to take photos to cut back on our budget. Wedding photography is expensive but a piece of advice we were given, and that we’d definitely pass on, is that the day goes so quickly that you really will want something to look back on and remember it all by. But, if you’re going to invest in it it’s essential it really captures the day and the people as naturally as possible. When we saw some of Phillipa’s photos online we just felt we had to go for it. They’re the kind of photos you really will look back on in years to come and cherish. They aren’t the typical cardboard cutout, posed wedding shots you see so often, they’re really personal.
We cannot begin to express how many guests complimented Philippa on the day for how she was and how she got involved, and that was before we even saw the pics. Since they went up on her blog we’ve been inundated with so many compliments from guests, their friends, our colleagues – everyone! She was a great addition to our wedding. Not only is she a great photographer but also she managed to fit into our small wedding perfectly, she was just like another guest. She managed to deliver photos that we love – really alternative, natural and just us.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR |The reception venue already looked fantastic and the flowers were so brilliant that so we didn’t want to go over-the-top on extra decorations. Especially as we couldn’t get into the venue until late on the morning of the wedding, which meant me and my bridesmaids having to do a quick rush decoration job and then having only an hour to get ready for the ceremony!
Our favours doubled as our place settings. The favours were ‘Slivivovitza and Shades’. Slivivovitza is a plum brandy that is made in Montenegro where Dan’s dad’s family all hail from. It’s strong to say the least so we threw in the shades because you normally need these to hide the Slivivovitza’s effects! To set the tables we decanted the Slivivovitza into old-fashioned amber pharmacy bottles that we sourced online. We then used our old typewriter and postage tags to create place settings. These used guest’s nicknames, a reminder of their menu choices and the history behind the drink inside.
The card box was an old artists materials case that we picked up in St.Ives and was so lovely we could keep using it for other things afterwards. We also used bunting in the outside area to make the most of the high glass roof and put together a quick DIY photo booth with a mini-polaroid for a bit of fun. My cousins are the undisputed kings of beer pong so together with my sisters they made us some bespoke wedding beer-pong tables so we could have a tournament at the reception, which was just brilliant.
THE HONEYMOON |We kept our honeymoon pretty simple. It was an important time to rest, relax and recover from the wedding! We went to Kotor in Montenegro where we could spend time together but also easily travel to visit Dan’s extended family who couldn’t travel over for the wedding itself. It is without question one of the most beautiful places in the world. The scenery is fantastic. You don’t need to stay in a 5* Bali resort to have a 5* honeymoon.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS & ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | We were given a bit of brilliant advice by one of our friends – to make sure we had a bit of time out together during the day. You can spend so much time playing ‘host’ (which is obviously great) but you can end up not seeing as much of each other as you’d expect. We maximised the half an hour it took to get between Islington Town Hall and our reception venue in Crouch End by getting the tube and the bus together while everyone else sped off in cabs to get the drinks reception started. This has to be one of the most memorable parts of the day. We met so many people from all walks of life who were keen to pass on their congratulations and advice for married life. The standout highlight had to be bumping into a Rastafarian poet on the W7 who recited us, and the whole bus packed full of school kids, a poem called ‘married bliss’. It was brilliant!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Ceremony | Islington Town Hall
Reception | Victoria Stakes
Photography | Philippa James Photography
Flowers | Urban Flower Company
Cakes | Crumbs and Doilies
Cake Toppers | Happi Yumi
Hair | The Tier Hairdressing
Dress | Candy Anthony
Alterations |My Tailor Crouch End
Rings | R H Wilkins
Such a wonderful wedding day.
Thanks so much to Siân and Dan for sharing their beautiful story with us today XOXO Lou