There is nothing I love more than hearing from a couple that WWW helped them to plan their day. This gorgeous pair cancelled their initial venue after reading the blog and plumped for a simple, low key, city wedding with 35 guests instead. It really is all about planning a day which makes you happy and suits you as a couple too.
WWW readers Jane and Ben chose to get married on the 3rd September 2015 at the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth followed by a reception at Lou Lou’s Brasserie in Southsea. The reception venue had a gorgeous Parisian vibe with authentic French cuisine for their nearest and dearest to enjoy. I just have to talk about Jane’s amazing pale green original 1960s dress, she looked amazing in it teamed with flowers in her hair. I really love the florals at their celebrations, which were in rich autumnal colours, just perfect for the season. Ben chose a pale grey suit which he matched with a stylish cravat and brogues, very dapper.
Sweet touches included the vintage autograph guest book with special quote, Charles Dickens book favours and a jazz pianist entertaining guests. Oh and did I mention the whole day was organised on a £3000 budget? Amazing.
Many thanks goes to Sarah London for sharing these stunning images.
THE PROPOSAL | The proposal took place on Christmas morning 2014. Ben excitedly presented me with a terribly wrapped rectangular gift. I opened it up to find a collection of gossip magazines and my face dropped a little, but so as not to seem ungrateful I smiled politely as these are a guilty pleasure of mine. As I got to the last magazine I spotted a bride on the front and I shrieked a little. Inside he had hidden a ring. I might be one of the few women who hate diamonds, so I was presented with a little old ring that fit perfectly, I then said yes and cried lots. So there I was with a very red face, in my pyjamas and the proud owner of a new–old ring. We were spending Christmas day with my step–Grandparents (between us we have a very small and eclectic family) and together we all cried, drunk far too much champagne, far too early in the morning and celebrated all day. Admittedly it wasn’t the most glamorous proposal; but it was intimate, funny, understated and just perfect. I’ll never forget Ben nervously uttering those few little words.
THE VISION | Being a lover of all things vintage and musty, I knew immediately I wanted the wedding to reflect this. Ben’s a lover of music, technology and all things modern but without wanting to sound like a spoiled brat he let me have my own way and vintage it was. A few things we both agreed on at the onset were that we wanted the wedding to be local, zero stress, wine–fuelled, and we also decided against picking traditional options just because they were tradition. Both of us knew that weddings could become more stressful than fun for the Bride and Groom, and the guests, and that was the last thing we wanted – slaves to ceremony. We knew instantly we wanted a simple ceremony, with very few words and for the emphasis to be on the revelry after.
I visited a grand total of two wedding fairs, one with Ben and the other with my Grandmother. As soon as we arrived we knew that all formalities were to be excluded from our wedding and that I was not going to be a traditional bride. I wanted to look like a bridesmaid, or as if I was hosting a rather ostentatious dinner party.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | Ben was a mature student studying English at this point so we knew that we needed to get married on a tiny budget and that we wanted to be married as soon as possible because the marriage was more important to us than the engagement. There was no grand announcement or engagement party; we just went about our business as usual.
We fit wedding planning around Ben’s university deadlines and my work schedule, occasionally taking to pubs to plan with an ale and a glass of Prosecco. We began looking at local venues in Southsea but with so many beautiful and quirky venues to choose from this quickly became a more difficult task than we had first anticipated.
We had preliminary booked a large private venue but worried about how stressful and costly it would be to fill it so after an evening of talks we cancelled this and went back to the drawing board. I can honestly say that I got a little swept up in planning a wedding that was steeped in tradition and so our planning came to a standstill very early on.
Enter mini breakdown.
Neither of us wanted a traditional wedding and had agreed on this at the onset but the wedding industry can be a little overwhelming and consuming at times. I actually found this website that same evening and stumbled across an intimate city wedding which I fell in love with. I showed it to Ben and he did too. And so that was it, the wedding was to be a small city affair.
We set the date of September 3rd 2015 and decided on a maximum guest list of 35 people. I immediately felt relieved and more excited about the whole planning process. We were very strict with our guest list and this meant that family or friends that we hadn’t seen in several years weren’t invited. Neither were partners of friends if we had never met them. This may sound rather unsympathetic but it allowed us to have a fun filled day with our absolute favourites and slightly abated my fear of walking down an aisle in front of a large group of people. Once we had decided on a intimate soiree the general planning process was very relaxed, rather last minute and extremely enjoyable.
BUDGET | A rather small and sometimes challenging £3,000. We were determined not to get into debt for the sake of a single day. Albeit a rather important one.
THE VENUE | The ceremony was held in a small room at the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth, followed by a drinks reception at our apartment and a meal and party at Lou Lou’s French Brasserie in Southsea. Lou Lou’s was a no brainer for us hosting 40+ different gins, ha! It was important to us that local and independent suppliers were used and that very little travel was involved on the day.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | My dress was an original 1960’s green Lorrie Deb dress and the fifth and only one that I had collected that actually fit. Now I have a stash of green vintage evening dresses in my wardrobe. I think it cost me less than $45 and I couldn’t have loved it any more. My shoes were vintage Jacques Vert yellow kitten heels from eBay and my something blue was an antique silver and turquoise swallow brooch which my best friend had given to me and pinned to the inside of my dress. My bag was a surprise and given to me on the morning of the wedding by Ben, which I had found in a charity shop a few weeks previously. When I went back to purchase it it had gone, sneaky Ben! On reflection, I struggled to find anything ‘new’.
On the day I did my own make up (I wear very little and not very often) and had a few flowers pinned in my hair, which was a work of art created by the very talented Lucy Kirby of Tony Wood Hair in Southsea. Lucy came to our apartment on the morning and we giggled through it all. Zero stress and an absolute pleasure.
FINDING THE DRESS | Ben and I actually went dress shopping together. I tried on one white dress and knew straight away that I wanted to wear my favourite colour; green. Over the course of six months I had purchased numerous vintage and varied green evening dresses from assorted vintage and charity shops in and around Hampshire and Brighton, all dropped by the wayside when I found an American seller of the aforementioned dress on Etsy, who just so happened to have connections with the Hampshire area in which we live. I have the privilege of knowing the very generous and talented vintage author and Stylist Naomi Thompson who let me raid her vast collection of clothing and accessories. Although I didn’t find the dress I found the accessories and borrowed some vintage Bakelite jewellery from her personal collection that matched my dress just perfectly. Naomi kindly gave me guidance throughout the entire dress finding process and made a potentially very stressful situation a social and pleasant one. She was my go to Vintage counsellor and over the course of a few weeks she shared her knowledge and enthusiasm. I bombarded her with photos whilst out and about shopping and was given guidance and friendship in abundance. Naomi knew I had a phobia of anything bridal and helped me create my vintage bridesmaid vision.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Ben wore a cream tweed three piece Topman suit taken to a seamstress and tailored to fit. Ben picked his own cravat and brogues and his best man Neil was free to wear whatever he wanted. We deliberately decided against imposing a strict dress code.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | Our good friend Sarah kindly offered to be in charge of the music and it was an integral part of the ceremony.
I walked down the very small aisle to Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘My Heart and I Decided’. The lyrics were so very apt.
During the ceremony Ben’s cousin Sam read lyrics from the Johnny Cash song, ‘I walk the line’ after a last minute request from Ben. This definitely had a few people in tears.
Whilst we signed the register ‘Take Five’ by Dave Brubeck was played as it’s one of Ben’s favourite songs and on leaving the room as a married couple Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Les Fleurs’ was played in the background. It’s possibly my favourite song of all time and the one that Ben and I would play on repeat after a few glasses of wine in the early days of our relationship. Oh how we miss those hedonistic days.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I met my two beautiful bridesmaids when I first moved to Hampshire ten years ago. Our lives have taken us in very different directions but our friendship has always remained the same. My bridesmaid Hannah married a month before our ceremony and despite planning her own wedding was there whenever I needed her. I’d informed them both that despite loving them the most I just didn’t want to walk down an aisle and so didn’t feel the need for bridesmaids. They took this well but little did I know they were conspiring against me. My dear friend Franki reminded me often that if I didn’t want to have bridesmaids that was okay but that she would be wearing flowers in her hair and wearing an 1980’s bridesmaid dress whether I liked it or not. So it was better to be on board!
On a very serious note, I couldn’t have done it without them and they were both overwhelmed when I surprised them with bouquets on the morning and informed them they would in fact be walking down the very mini aisle with me. Franki was actually stuck abroad after missing a flight home the night before the wedding and made it back with only an hour or two to spare. They both wore simple yet chic cream fitted dresses they had chosen from Monsoon, nude heals and chose vintage handbags from my collection. They looked absolutely stunning. We had a perfectly relaxed morning sipping champagne and in the evening Hannah was straight at the bar ordering emergency tonic water when red wine was spilled down my dress.
THE FLOWERS | Lula Flack of Smell the Roses. This lady is quite simply a floral genius. Being a little flower obsessed I had being buying bunches of her flowers for a few months from a local mill in Hampshire but due to budget constraints I emailed her to see if she was able to create me a single bouquet. Not a lot of florists are willing to do this but she was. However, when my older brother kindly offered to pay for the floristry as a wedding gift I swiftly emailed her ramping up the order and ordering venue flowers, hair flowers and cake flowers too (thanks Paul!). We had several meetings and she was so excited by the whole wedding and not just the flowers that her joy was infectious. I had initially decided on pastel shades which was strange as I’m not particularly fond of pastel colours (I think this was in the early days when I was overwhelmed) and I also think Lula knew this as she picked up on the autumnal shades in the final dress I had taken to her workshop, the 1960’s one that actually fit!!
Colours aside, I had such faith in Lula’s talents that I left her to her own devices and when she hand delivered everything on the wedding morning I almost cried. Lula was not just a floral genius but incredibly kind too, she dressed both venues for us to ensure our day was as stress free as possible. I still purchase her flowers now but I don’t think I will ever forget the moment of beauty when they were delivered on the day. A true gem and I don’t think words do her talents justice!!
THE CAKE | I initially thought about making our own wedding cake which is madness as I can’t bake! So sticking with the local and independent foundations of our wedding we contacted Ben’s friend Sue Bailey who is a professional cake maker and owns an independent vegan baking company. Sue created us a two-tier naked elderflower and lemon cake that was utterly delicious. She was also a pleasure to speak with and very accommodating. A few days before the wedding, whilst sharing a pot of tea at her house, Ben (not being a sweet fan) decided he would like to have a two-tier savoury pie cake also. This was presented to my Grandfather on the day as he is the ultimate pie fan and was completely surprised! It sounded a little mad to begin with but Sue rose to the challenge and a two-tier pie cake was enjoyed by all.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | We didn’t want a photographer initially as we wanted a very informal wedding and our budget was tight but when we met for coffee on a whim we knew Sarah London had to be there and it was the best decision we made throughout the entire wedding planning process. Her photos are extraordinarily beautiful and she captured the intimate and relaxed feeling of the day. The little parcel we received with our wedding photos was personalised and so lovely I cried. Sarah spoilt us with her talent and personality and we gained a friend that day. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Whenever I’m feeling sad I open our little box and look back at our photos and discover moments we didn’t even know were being captured. Sarah brought along her Polaroid camera and that was the most amount of fun. We’ve since continued the tradition of capturing special moments with our very own Polaroid camera which was coincidentally a wedding gift from our good friend Isabelle. Sarah London is creative, insanely talented, and deals with drunken guests with both ease and grace. A true champion of the day!
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | As a collector of typewriters, using one felt only natural when creating our save the dates and wedding favours. I created the save the dates using vintage Charles Dickens cigarette cards and hand typed notes, tied together like a mini parcel with string. Being rather relaxed we sent them out a month or two before the wedding. The actual wedding invitations were truly a work of art. Now I’d like to take credit for these but they were hand drawn by the insanely talented illustrator behind the wedding company Paper Bear Lane, Lauren Hunt. Lauren and I went to college together and she emailed me one evening out of the blue (admittedly after a few glasses of wine) offering to create our wedding stationery. We met again for tea, cake and after hours of laughter and looking at her work I was officially in love. Lauren generously created 35 booklets drawn in sepia tone ink with a dip pen on cream paper that created a timeline for our wedding day, each part of the day being drawn out individually and bound together in a book. Words cannot do her talent and passion justice. And many of our guests were overwhelmed by their bespoke illustrations. This created a buzz of excitement about the day.
Our wedding favours were vintage Charles Dickens books sourced from eBay and tied together with a hand typed note saying how grateful and thankful we felt to be sharing the day with our friends and family. I spent evenings at my typewriter and Ben became very skilled with a wax seal.
I had also sourced an empty vintage autograph book that I wanted to use as guest book and a few days before the wedding I found it had been inscribed with the words ‘Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you’ in 1955. This has since become one of my favourite quotations and was hidden in the middle of the book. Our guests loved this and I love to pick it up from time to time and reread some of their messages. I call it a little blessing and we genuinely feel privileged to own it.
We were determined to make sure the natural beauty of the wedding and reception venues were front and centre. Very little was needed to accentuate their beauty. We had sole use of The Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum which is a beautiful town house situated in an unspoilt Victorian street right in the centre of Portsmouth, complete with regency lampposts and cobbled stones. I felt that traditional white wedding chair covers would spoil the splendour of the ceremony room so a week before the wedding I came up with the rather crafty idea of sourcing 13 mismatched musty chairs. My friends thought I was mad but Ben was encouraging – that’s probably one of the reasons why I married him. Our guests actually took some of the chairs home with them. Hardly any decoration was needed – spare the flowers and chairs – and we let the intimate little space speak for itself. The furniture, ceramics and period features faithfully recreated the regency style of the 19th century. It truly felt like an exclusive affair, which is exactly what we wanted. My Grandfather kindly gave me away and I felt brave enough to walk down the extremely small aisle knowing my bridesmaids were by my side.
Being able to walk from our apartment to the reception venue afforded us precious time together. We arrived alone and had a glass of champagne before our guests followed. Those minutes alone as a newly married couple were few yet dear. We picked Lou Lou’s Brasserie because the traditional décor transports you from the centre of an English city to a Parisian side street in an instant. A small restaurant complete with aged wooden panelling, slate tables, mismatched chairs, antique fixtures and fittings, and the kind of atmosphere that only history can create. Our guests enjoyed numerous champagne toasts and an authentic French three-course meal, with directly imported French produce. The food was to die for and carried on our wedding theme of an elaborate dinner party with friends. All it took was a sprinkling of flowers across the mismatched tables to complete the décor. It was during dinner that the speeches were given by my Grandfather, Ben, his best man Neil and then a rather impromptu and drunken speech by my beautiful giggling bridesmaids. There were tears and laughter in abundance. After dinner the cake was cut and everyone table-hopped and enjoyed music and wine until the early hours. Ben is fortunate to know an insanely talented jazz pianist and composer called Christian Smith who kindly offered to play throughout the evening until it was time to stumble back to our apartment for the ‘after party’, ha! Lou Lou’s did extremely well to put up with our very merry revellers.
THE HONEYMOON | One day…
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Gosh there are so many but here are a few…
Unfortunately Ben’s father passed away before we could inform him of our engagement but on the day we made sure to take a few minutes aside with our eclectic family and raise a glass to him. Unbeknownst to us Sarah London had captured this moment and the pictures are some of our favourites.
After saying our vows we turned around and saw the faces of our friends and family gathered together to witness that crucial moment. It was incredible and when I think of that moment I actually get goosebumps. We felt truly blessed.
When I was walking from our apartment to Lou Lou’s Brasserie with my Grandfather and Sarah London a little old lady stopped me and said I looked beautiful, she also asked if I was a bridesmaid which made my day as I had never wanted to look bridal. We chuckled together and merrily walked off, thank you nameless lady for making us all laugh.
We decided to do save money by having my Grandfather drive me and my bridesmaids to the ceremony venue, he was giving me away so this made sense and I fondly remember sitting in the back of his Zafira swigging champagne with my best ones with butterflies in my stomach. Bliss!!
It was also our friend Darren’s birthday so after dinner a piece of cake with a candle was brought out and we all sang happy birthday terribly. His face was priceless.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | As found in our guestbook, ‘Keep your face always towards the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you’. That’s the best advice we could give. On a less whimsical note, make sure, above all else, you don’t find yourself becoming anxious or unhappy planning what is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life. Oh, and maybe wear your favourite colour but don’t cry if your dress gets covered in red wine. It makes for wonderful memories.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photography | Sarah London
Ceremony Venue | Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum
Reception Venue | Lou Lou’s Brasserie
Stationery | Paper Bear Lane
Flowers | Smell the Roses
Cake | Purely Scrumptious
Bride’s dress | PlanetMarsVintage
Groom’s suit | Topman
Bridesmaid’s dresses | Monsoon
Styling and Accessories | Naomi Thompson
Music | Christian Smith
Just so special.
Jane and Ben, thank you so both so much for sharing your wedding story here today xo Lou