We love it when couples don’t feel like they have to follow rules for wedding planning. You spend a lot of time planning this big day, so why not do it your way? That’s exactly what WWW readers Fran and Ben did on 6th July 2018, and I think you’re going to love the result.
Our pair knew that they wanted their wedding day to be a big party and not too traditional. They chose the Albert Hall in Manchester and it really does provide an epic backdrop to their modern and chic nuptials. Ignoring any doubts from family members, they really surprised their guests on the day with the impact of the venue and lots of special touches. Fran kept lots of things a secret from their nearest and dearest, and even Ben, which I think is such a fun idea.
I loved reading all about the little (and big) moments that happened during the day and make each wedding so special. Of course Fran and Ben’s brilliant photographer Katie Dervin was on hand, hiding in the wings, to capture each one, amazing! Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful images with us Katie.
Totally unexpected (the one thing I didn’t ever have to nag him about) on a beach in Thailand. It turns out my dad and a few friends knew it was happening. Given that we were away over New Year they were all expecting a call that night which never came. They thought he may have changed his mind or that for some crazy reason I said no. In actual fact we ended up at a super cheesy and very busy hotel dinner which he thought was far too cliché and knew I’d hate. So, three days later, walking down an empty beach to a tiny local rum bar he popped the question.
I work in PR so plan events day in day out but for the first time I had no client to please, no brand to make happy, this was an event I could do however I liked – some say I was let loose!
By this point Ben and I had been to many weddings and had a few things we knew we wanted to prioritise
- We wanted all of our friends and family there. That meant a big guest list
- It would be big party!
- Music was key
There would be no barn and no jam jars vases; those weddings are lovely but they are so not us.
We met in Manchester city centre, live here, work here and love it here. We wanted our wedding to reflect us so we knew it had to be in the city.
I also knew they’d be no white table cloths and no chair covers – I was on the hunt for something totally different to any wedding we’d been to before.
The Planning Process
We looked at a few hotels and wedding venues in the city but nothing was doing it for us. They were small, generic and traditional. Then someone mentioned the Albert Hall. The moment we walked in we knew it was the venue for us. It was huge, with stunning features but most of all it was unique and a total blank canvas (for my ever growing huge party vision).
When a family member commented ‘are you joking, this is so scruffy, this isn’t a wedding venue’, we knew even more so that it was the place for us. We wanted a wedding like no one had ever been to and I wanted to plan an event that would wow everyone – “Just you wait” I said.
More than we planned but it was worth every single penny.
Your Outfits & Accessories
I visited a few bridal shops in London and was so shocked at how formal and impersonal the service was. Some I felt like I was getting a hard sell, in another they didn’t actually speak to us during my appointment, they just left me to it.
When I walked into the Knutsford Wedding Gallery I knew it was the place I’d get my dress from. They welcomed my mum and I with open arms, they gave us champagne and they asked me all about the wedding and what sort of dress I wanted (finally dress shopping was living up to the movies). I told them of a designer I liked and they quite literally bought in my perfect dress. It was fitted, classic, backless liked I’d always pictured it would be and it was finished with gold sparkle (those that know me, know I love a sparkle!)
The make of the dress was St Patricks Bridal by Pronovias.
Shoes: Ever since I watched the Sex and City movie I knew I’d wear blue shoes on my wedding day. The plan was to get Carrie’s Manolo Blahnik’s, there was no doubt about it. That is until my mum, being the sensible one she is, pointed out that they were satin and if I split anything on them, I’d never be able to wear my £700 shoes again. Whilst I agreed to think about it, I popped in Office one Saturday on whim and saw in front of me the same court shoes I own in several different colours in the most perfect royal blue. It gets better, they were on sale for £30! I’ll buy them as a back-up I thought but then as other costs started to rack up as mum’s words played in my head I decided that they were the ones. I got so many compliments on them and no one could believe they were from a high street store!
I had a fear that something would get spilled down my dress, don’t ask me why but I wanted a second outfit just in case. My bridesmaids were wearing tulle skirts so I went on the hunt for a matching one (which I ended up getting from eBay) and when hunting for the top I had in my head I found this on Topshop. I never intended to get this outfit in such a cost effective way but I had some lucky finds here. Whilst nothing got split on the dress it was SO hot on the wedding day and the train was quite heavy so after the evening guests arrived I changed in to what turned out to be a much more comfortable option.
The Albert Hall was once a Methodist church, today it’s a gig venue that hosts events for thousands of people. We loved the fact our guests could watch the ceremony from the balcony, the fact we’d get married on a stage and the ornate features like the stunning windows that contrasted with the more shabby gig venue features.
We also knew we wanted the whole thing to take place in one room. We’ve been to weddings where the dance floor is empty because the bar is in a separate room or where people congregate in side rooms. Going back to our vision of one big party we knew one big space was the best fit.
My fabulous brother in law stepped in when it came to the hair. I knew I wanted it off my face as I always play with it if it’s down (James agreed that I’d just mess up a down do for the photos) I’d seen a few ideas on Instagram but James did the rest. He put volume in with extensions, cut some shape around the front and gave it a wave to soften it. I absolutely loved it!
I am so fussy when it comes to make up and hate getting it done as everyone either makes me look like a drag queen or gets the colouring for my skin tone totally wrong. There’s quite literally one person ever that’s done my make up in a way I like so she was of course called in for the big day. I knew I’d made the right decision when she turned up to my trial with my exact foundation and bronzer. She also knows I can be super fussy and I felt comfortable telling her bits I wanted to tweak which to me was really important.
The Readings & Music
I came down the aisle to one of Ben and my favourite songs – Elbow, Beautiful Day. It was a surprise for him right up until the rehearsal when he caught a glimpse of my phone screen and recognised the album cover. I was so annoyed, I’d got so far!
The first reading was by my two sisters in law and it was something they wrote about us. On the day we met, we were out with a couple of friends and Ben started talking about Zodiac signs (he’s going to kill me for telling this story). We worked out that we were Air and Earth which are really compatible.
As the years went on this became a running joke as Air (me; fast paced, non-stop, doing 10 things at any one time) is said to give Earth (Ben; so laid back, often late, memory of a fish) a kick up the bum in day to day life whilst earth (the more rational Ben) is said to keep Air (unrealistic me) grounded. This was the essence of their reading; it was personal, charming and funny for everyone that knows us so well.
The second reading was by one of my best friends Tess. In the months leading up to the wedding I lost both my Grandma and Nana. Through pure coincidence and reasons personal to each of them, at their funeral the song “I Love You Because” by Jim Reaves was read or played. Upon reading the words Ben and I found them so perfectly fitting to our story and the perfect way to recognise two people we know would have loved to have been there.
During the signing of the register I surprised Ben by having one of my best friends, who is an amazing singer, sing another of our favourite songs – I can’t help falling in love with you. Jess sings so beautifully that we all normally end up in tears so his exact words when she stood up were ‘I’m going to kill you’ – said with a huge smile of course.
We walked out to Ella Eyre Best of My Love with everyone on their feet signing and clapping along.
Two of my cousins got married in the South of France and each had a roaming band. This wasn’t something we’d seen at a wedding before and we knew it’s what we had to have. We booked the amazing Herringbone Cocktail Club who delivered exactly the party we wanted. As everyone was finishing off dessert they roamed the tables and got everyone up dancing in minutes. From then, there was no sitting down.
They were so fab they even learnt a version of our first dance song – September by Earth, Wind and Fire. They started it slow then kicked in as everyone joined us on the dance floor.
I have been asked by so many of our guests who they were and how to book them. People haven’t stopped talking about them since, we literally didn’t stop dancing mainly because they were on the dance floor with us, right in it, playing songs all ages loved and mixing them together so well you never knew what was coming next – the garage half hour was the best surprise of the lot.
However, there’s two songs that will forever remind us of our big day…
Our wedding took place during the World Cup. England had just made the semi-finals and it was all anyone could talk about. Towards the end of the night when the dance floor was full the band said “we’ve not done this before but we’re going to have to give it a go”. The next thing I knew I was on someone shoulders in my wedding dress singing along to Its Coming Home! I can’t say it’s a part of the wedding I dreamed off since I was a little girl but it’s now a moment I’ll never forget.
The second was the last song of the night. Ben is a Mancunian through and through and therefore obviously an Oasis fan. There was no doubt about the fact we were ending with an Oasis tune but I agreed on the basis it was my favourite – Don’t Look Back in Anger. From the first word the entire wedding party formed a circle around us and were singing along (this is when Katie’s epic pictures were taken) then we were up on stage like the starts of our own gig whilst everyone was signing along with us. It was EPIC and made our wedding so much more than we ever imagined!
I’ve worked with the team at Frog Flowers once or twice before and there was no doubt about the fact they would be doing the wedding. Their designs are so modern and creative and we knew they were the perfect fit for our unusual venue. I simply gave them the brief of white, modern and wow and they did the rest!
The Details & Décor
Due to the stunning venue we didn’t have to do too much here. We had the fabulous flowers from Frog and mixed them with some large white orb balloons which we used to bring some height.
Behind the bars and around the venue they had big gig posters, so we switched these for white and gold foil signs with lyrics and quotes from some of our favourite songs. The two biggest ones had the lyrics on from our parents’ first dances at their weddings.
Bride’s mum and dad: You To Me Are Everything, The Real Thing
Grooms mum and dad: Your Song, Billy Paul
The white and gold foil theme ran through all the print including the order of service and menus
We wanted to add some fun to the dinner so we popped bags on the table with veils and those funny glasses and noes masks (which I joke look like ben in his glasses). They came with a note saying ‘you’ve had a picture with the bride and groom now have one as the bride and groom’. We have the most fun collage of pictures in a frame at home with pics of everyone wearing these.
We had long tables to create more of a party feel which also worked really well with the food….
We love our food and generally speaking hate wedding food – those dry chicken breasts with a couple of potatoes never fill you up. This is part of the reason we opted for the Albert Hall – they offered a fun picnic style menu which was made up of boards of food that went down the middle of the table for everyone to tuck into. We had a mezze to start then a joint of roast pork, a full salmon and mushroom wellington for main and then five different flavour cheesecakes for everyone to pick from for dessert (One of Ben’s only requests for the wedding). The head chef from the venue and bar manager we so helpful in helping us create the most delicious and fabulous looking menu and wine pairing.
To compliment the sharing menu we also made one person per table the chef and gave them a chef’s hat and apron for added comedy value and photo ops.
We didn’t have one. I got myself in such a flap thinking about what we wanted and when we’d cut it then I suddenly thought ‘ I don’t like cake, this isn’t a traditional wedding, why do we even need one’ and that was that.
I told Ben he could choose whatever he wanted for the suits – until he chose something I didn’t like. He likes to tell people this story so I figured I should admit it here! He did however choose the suits in the end once swayed in the right direction by yours truly. He knew from the offset he wanted a contrasting blazer. Again, he wanted something a bit different a not too traditional. He found the waistcoat and trousers in Ted Baker. The blazer came from Next. The tie, pocket square, socks and shirts were all TM Lewin.
I’d seen a few pics on Instagram of bridesmaids wearing tulle skirts and knew I wanted these. My bridesmaids are all stunning but they are different shapes, with different skin tones and different tastes. I wanted more than anything for them to like their outfits and be comfortable so I turned up to meet them one day with about 15 different skirts for them to try and the instructions that they could all have different ones if they wanted and we’d make it work. After trying on long and short, slimmer fitting and huge skirts they all picked the same one – turns out they’re not as different as I thought. They opted for the Needle and Thread maxi tulles. We went half grey and half pink to mix it up a little.
I figured finding a white top to go with the skirts would be easy – it wasn’t. They were either cheap and not very special or mega expensive. Finally though we found the perfect option in Coast.
We’d seen Katie’s pictures on Instagram and had then gone to a wedding of a friend and loved their pics not knowing they were Katie’s. When we found this out we booked her straight away.
Our brief was quite simple; no generic posed pictures, we hated those, the line ups of people standing awkwardly. We wanted relaxed, fun and candid. Katie got us straight away, she asked tonnes of questions, gave us some fab ideas and one the day we didn’t even noticed she was there snapping away capturing every single moment so perfectly!
The only issue is she took so many good pictures we’ve actually run out of space to display all the ones we like in the house!
The best thing we did was book Katie until the end of the wedding. Most of the time the photographer leaves shortly after the first dance. We knew they’d be so much we wanted to remember right up to the end of the night so we paid the extra and are so glad we did. Some of our favourite photos come from the last hour of the night where everyone is one the dance floor.
We booked this last minute and used a friend of a friend, a student studying film. As with the rest of the wedding we wanted something candid and informal. We also had a few things going on over the weekend so this was the perfect was to capture it all without a hefty price tag.
We went on a mini moon to Mallorca where we spent a week doing absolutely nothing – we were shattered. We’re off to South Africa in October for the big celebration – all recommendations and tips welcome!
- I’d spent months planning and bringing my vision to life but on the morning of the wedding I had to leave it to everyone else to set up for me (not easy for a control freak). As I turned the corner and walked into the room I was blown away – it was even better than I imagined.
- As I walked down the aisle all of our guests started clapping and cheering and Ben was on the stage with a huge smile on his face. My dad and I were waving at everyone, I had my bouquet in the air. It was so fun and in that first minute I knew the wedding was going to be the big party we’d dreamed of. (Katie got a picture of this).
- The speeches. Dad’s had everyone in stitches, Ben’s was brilliant and witty and I surprised everyone by doing one myself. “I’m not one to sit quietly and let everyone else do the talking and today will be no exception” was my opening line. It was so nice to stand up and say thank you to everyone I personally wanted to thank, to break another tradition and of course to have a dig at Dad and Ben who’d cracked a few jokes about me in their speeches.
- Being sat on someone’s shoulders in a wedding dress, signing along to ‘It’s Coming Home’. When I said I didn’t want a traditional wedding it’s not quite quite what I had in mind but being surrounded by all my friends and family quite clearly having the best time ever, It was amazing.
- Standing on the stage at the end of the wedding, taking it all in after the most epic day, stood there together, signing along to one of our favourite songs, surrounded by the 150 people who mean the most to us in the world – it doesn’t get much better than that
- After the wedding we had so many people say to us “you just looked so incredibly happy all day”. This meant a lot to us as ultimately it’s why we did it all in the first place, we make each other so happy that we want to spend the rest our lives partying together!
Advice For Other Couples
Do it your way. It’s your wedding, book what you want, do what you like, don’t do things because they’re the done thing and don’t do anything to make anyone else happy. Your wedding should reflect you and be exactly what you want it to be. Everyone will give you their opinion but believe us, when they see it all come together and they are stood there with you on your special day they’ll love it.
Keep things secret. We kept secrets from everyone, mainly because we wanted people to be surprised and wowed by all the things we planned. There was no one that knew everything that was happening (not even Ben). By not telling people things it also means they can’t give you their opinion ;)
Enjoy it! It’s true what they say, it’s the best day of your life. After all the planning and organising even the biggest of control freaks has to let go. I hired someone I knew and trusted to run the day for me so I could hand everything over and didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was the best decision I could have made. After the rehearsal the night before I clocked off, I handed over control and I just stepped back and enjoyed the best day ever.
Take a moment. Two good friends told me before the wedding to make sure Ben and I took a moment to take it all in. it was the best advice we could have got. Your wedding day goes at 100 miles an hour, blink and it’s gone. As our guests were coming into the room for dinner Ben and I when up to the balcony, sat down with a drink and watched them all come in. We talked about how amazing the ceremony was, how much we were already enjoying the day and took a moment to look at everyone and really appreciate the fact that the all the people we love the most in the world were in one room together having a great time and they were all there for us – it was an incredible feeling and it will only happen once in your life so make sure you take it all in! (Katie of course was hiding somewhere and got a picture of this moment too!)
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Needle & Thread
JP at James Roberts
What amazing memories and what a beautiful day you had. Thank you so much for sharing everything with us Fran and Ben. Rachel x