By Louise Baltruschat Hollis
Oh wow, what a wedding I have for you to read all about today. Fun times, check. Loving DIY touches, check. Sweet happy couple, check. Yes this lovely day has it all and more.
WWW readers Leah and Joseph were married on the 9th May 2015 in South East London, choosing Devonport House to hold their wedding party. They had many fishy references (see the proposal and hen do) and so stumbled upon a quirky Enchantment Under The Sea Dance theme which worked so well. I love the paper streamer back drops, the wild flower bouquets and the cute confetti alternative.
Leah wore a strapless lace number with chic pearls while Joseph donned a blue suit and floral tie with DIY button boutonnière. Perfect.
Thanks goes to the brilliant Big Bouquet Photography proving these images.
THE PROPOSAL | It happened on our 10th anniversary, while we were travelling in New Zealand. We had a fun day planned; exploring Napier during its annual art deco festival, treating ourselves to a big posh lunch and not camping but staying in a B&B along the seafront – complete luxury! It got to the evening and I wasn’t expecting it… I thought Joe would think it would be too obvious to propose on our 10th anniversary – and well I wasn’t sure if we would ever get married now anyway!
As we spent all our time together while travelling neither of us had time to write a card, so I went into our en suite (seriously better than camp-site facilities that we were used to at this point) and wrote my card and then Joe went in. I waited and waited…. I knew I was getting a green stone Maori design necklace we had found a few weeks before, so I could not work out what was taking so long! I was getting a little impatient – I was waiting to eat the yummy looking chocolate cake we’d bought and watch Back To The Future (which we had downloaded specially).
Eventually, Joseph reappeared, with the necklace and a few pieces of paper. The necklace is a fish hook design and my surname is Codd (or was then), so Joseph had written a sweet, funny poem called “How to Catch a Leah Codd” – ending with finding her favourite fish hook! (This began the unintentional fishy theme to our wedding!) So this was all very romantic and lovely, and I went to try on the necklace and look at it in the mirror. Joseph was kneeling on the bed, then made some silly suggestion that he needed to see it in the light so got me to stand in front of him. I was bending down, and then he proposed!! (On one knee by now and holding my hand.) I didn’t see it coming!!
We celebrated by finally eating the chocolate cake and watching Back To The Future! We chose my engagement ring the next day in a jewellers in Napier, and I got a second proposal on the beach!
THE VISION | A relaxed and fun day full of our favourite things and people. The main focus was for all the guests to enjoy themselves and not ever be too hungry or bored!
We got married in our home of South East London so we also wanted some London touches. I went to the church in a plain black cab – my cabbie was a lovely guy called Dave Davis, and very South East London he was too! And then we had a big red double decker bus take us and our guests to the reception venue.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | Fun, daunting, tough, exciting and worth it!
It was definitely fun at first; we were still away travelling and were coming up with some great ideas, remembering all our favourite things about other people’s weddings, and I was Pinteresting like mad! Then back in the UK and faced with reality, it all seemed a bit daunting and we had to let go of some things… No rum punch in the evening, and maybe people don’t really want a personalised tour of Lewisham on their way to the reception venue (but the bus was still a good idea to get them there from the church!).
It became tough trying to get everything sorted out as the weeks flashed by, and we had to make an extensive To Do list. But it was then exciting to see our spreadsheet turn green as we ticked things off, and as our flat filled with paper decorations and friends who came to help and chat about the day.
At times I think our families thought we were planning too many things and trying to keep too much control over everything. But in the end it was totally worth it, and all the close attention we had given seemed to create the feel we wanted. We had many compliments on how well the day went, the look of it, and how personal it was. There were little hiccups and we were running a little late at some points, but because we were clear in our heads what was happening and how we wanted the day to be, it meant that we could work round that and no one else knew!
That is, except for all our various helpers, who we kept in the know leading up to and throughout the day, when we needed them most! Because even though we did want to plan everything carefully ourselves, we also wanted to involve our family and friends as much as possible – so the closer it got to the day the more we relied on them. The idea was to plan things well enough so that we could get all that stress out of the way beforehand and make the day itself as relaxed and enjoyable as possible, for us and our guests. I think we managed to achieve that, and it was a great feeling on the day when everything seemed to come together as we’d hoped.
BUDGET | Beg, borrow, and make (never steal!).
Look for sales! I think two stories sum up our approach to the budget, the story of the Bridesmaid dresses and of Joseph’s suit (which you can read in those sections!).
Also, get crafty! Pompoms are so simple to make, so if you want to save money and you have time, definitely make your own. Sometimes DIY can actually cost you more and it definitely costs you time, but I think simple things like pompoms or paper streamer curtains are worth the time and they were cheaper to make – both these crafts transformed a plain conference room into a wedding party!
We also saved money through not hiring a DJ, but just hiring the disco equipment and making our own playlists. After shopping around we got a good deal for £350 including set-up, rather than paying another £200 possibly for a DJ. But I’ll talk more about this in the music section…
THE VENUE | After talking about where we should go – maybe somewhere pretty in Kent or Suffolk – I realised that the only place I could imagine getting married was St John’s Church in East Dulwich. My Godfather was vicar of this church when I was a child, and having spent a lot of my childhood with Barry I have very happy memories of being there. So that meant we were definitely keeping things local, where we grew up in South East London, but we still wanted a reception venue with a nice green space. We soon agreed that if we wanted a pretty place in South East London and somewhere familiar to us, it had to be Greenwich.
However, at this point we were still in New Zealand (with just over a year to go to our chosen date), so we sent my Dad off on a scouting mission to find a reception venue in Greenwich. He found Devonport House, the perfect location right by the park, and not as budget busting as other venues nearby. We had actually overlooked it ourselves when searching online, which shows how important it is to go and see venues for yourselves. As it turned out, one of the best things about DH for us was the freedom we were given to use and adapt the space as we wanted. With a little imagination it was possible to incorporate nearly all the ideas we’d had and come up with some new ones too – such as throwing my bouquet from the balcony into the courtyard!
We had lots of compliments on our venues – so well done Barry and Dad, and thank you for organising them while we were away!
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | I kept things very traditional in the end (see finding the dress section!). With the dress I bought a pearl-like bead encrusted belt, which had a wavy pattern (unintentional sea reference). I wore a chapel length veil – I had quite a long stone floor aisle to walk down and I thought it would look beautiful, which it did, and when it got gusty outside it looked rather dramatic! I found a bargain of a little hair comb with pearl-like and glass beads for my hair, so when the veil came off, I still had something in my hair.
I wanted to wear pearls, and my mum had a pearl necklace I could use which was very old, that a neighbour had left to her (she also left me her collection of teddy bears). However, they were a little discoloured, so my mum surprised me with an early 30th birthday present of my own pearl necklace, which looked stunning and was just the right length.
I also bought a £12 short dress for dancing in the evening, which I paired with the belt I wore with my wedding dress and some silver sequinned ballet pumps. My husband the next day said “I thought you were going to get changed in the evening?” – SERIOUSLY! So, in his eyes at least, it wasn’t too drastically different a change…
FINDING THE DRESS | This made me very nervous. I do not like being fussed over and the thought of women buzzing around and dressing me up terrified me! I’m also not the biggest fan of being in my underwear with a stranger – who is?! One shop I went to I was trapped in a small cubical with the dresser, trying to keep my dignity when getting out of one dress that almost took my knickers with it!! But this was a sample, buy off the hanger shop – so I think they were worried you would destroy the dress. Generally the shop assistant lets you step into the dress, pull over it yourself and then they would do it up – much more dignified!
By accident my mum and I ended up going to David’s Bridal, after there was nothing in the high street wedding collections in Westfield Stratford. We went into a gleaming palace of dresses and were totally entranced. I almost bought a huge princess dress which was a dusky pink colour, and we were discussing how to change the whole colour scheme without raising Joseph’s suspicions. But in the end the first dress I picked out, an ivory coloured one, was just perfect. I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “When I am showing my wedding photos to my grandchildren, what do I want to see?”. The big colourful one was of its time, it made me think of looking at brides from the 80s with their huge sleeves! The one I chose I think is timeless, suited the style of our day and I felt like me in it – perfect!
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Joseph’s suit was found in M&S (on sale!); it was a summer suit and we were approaching Christmas, so it had been discontinued… We found the jacket and the trousers in the right size, but could we find a waistcoat? No. We rang up customer services, there was one left in the whole country and that was in their Chester store. Could they post it to us? No. Could they send it to another store? No. Could they hold it for us? Yes. (Phew!) Luckily, my Auntie Theresa lives in Birkenhead and didn’t mind a little shopping trip to Chester! In the end this determination meant we got exactly the suit we wanted, while also saving some money!
THE READINGS & MUSIC | The readings took a while to settle on. We chose a bible reading we liked quite quickly, about love, from a selection of popular ones given to us by the church. But we also wanted a non-religious reading; one that wasn’t overly soppy or romantic, something that we knew or at least written by an author we both like, and with some personal significance to our own relationship. It was a tricky task!
Our bible reading was Song of Solomon 8: 6-7, and eventually we chose a poem by Margaret Atwood called Habitation, which were both read by family members.
For the music in the church we were lucky to have two excellent musicians! We had the church organist play the traditional Wedding March by Mendelssohn for my entrance and Widor’s Toccata for our procession – which Joseph’s Mum and Dad had at their wedding and was a very uplifting piece to walk out to. For music while we signed the register, we were able to call upon Joseph’s youngest brother Dominic, who had just passed his Grade 8 Piano exam. He played two seemingly very different pieces but managed to make one flow seamlessly into the other.
My favourite Disney film is The Little Mermaid, and after my hen where I was dressed as a fish with a sash saying “Bentham to be… but a Codd forever!” it seemed like I could continue the fishy theme and have Part of Your World in my wedding. Dominic then went into one of his grade 8 pieces, which was the beautiful Prelude from Suite Bergamasque by Debussy. I quite liked the idea of people who might not know Dominic’s skill on the piano thinking “aww, what a sweet Disney tune he is playing”, and then he suddenly shocks them with a grand difficult classical piece! Anyway, it all worked a treat! As it turned out, he made Part Of Your World sound equally moving – it was a surprise for my bridesmaids and they were all blubbing!
Our evening party music is a whole other matter, and was one of the most fun things for us to prepare and look forward to! We do like our music, so almost as soon as we got engaged we started trawling through our entire collection (conveniently stored on our tablet) to create our ultimate wedding disco playlist! While still in New Zealand it was something to do in the down time from travelling and talk about on long journeys in the car.
Having spent a lot of time putting it all together (and testing it!) and having sorted out the disco equipment, we still needed to make sure we could actually make it all work properly without a DJ (i.e. just plugging in our tablet and pressing play), which was a bit of a worry… We split the disco playlist up into four sections (after our warm-up hour!), allowing us to organise the music for the right time of the evening; but we also wanted to play each section on shuffle so we could enjoy not knowing the exact song order.
Joseph found a music app called Poweramp, which could be set to play through all the playlists in order but shuffle the songs within each playlist. It also levelled out the volume and overlapped the tracks, so the music played smoothly. In the end all our ‘music usher’ had to do was press play for the first dance and the entire five hour disco worked perfectly! Our guests enjoyed it too![Extra Tips: for any songs we wanted played together, we mixed them into one track using a free editing programme called Audacity; and to let us choose the first and last songs of each section we just played them as separate one-track playlists, like bookends.]
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I had four bridesmaids, my two longest serving friends, Emma and Rachel, and two of Joseph’s sisters, Annabelle and Clare. Having four bridesmaids was a great help; between them they planned an amazing and creative hen party, helped to make the 100 pompoms, helped to source the vintage teacups for each guest, handwrote all our signs, created and delivered the after dinner quiz, and each of them supported me throughout and looked absolutely beautiful on the day.
I had two dresses sorted before Christmas, thank you ASOS! Then I needed two more that had to go with the strapless, sapphire blue ones. I went searching and found the perfect dress in the Coast sale in Debenhams. There was one left… hmm. I asked the shop assistant if there were any left in any other Coasts in London. This dress was exclusively for Coast in Debenhams… It was not in any other London Debenhams store! My mum and I eventually tracked one down in Lakeside but it had some damage… I took a chance, put it on hold and one Saturday morning I found myself outside Zone 6 (my oyster card wouldn’t work at the train station, but the ticket man was very understanding!). It was only a little tear and my mum made it look as good as new. It also meant that a dress that normally cost well over £60 was around £15 – bargain!
THE FLOWERS | One day after work my mum met me at a little café and flower shop down the road from my family home in Hither Green, called You Don’t Bring Me Flowers. We had a lovely cup of tea and a yummy piece of cake and spoke to the owner, Lynn, about flowers. I knew the colours I wanted, and some of the flowers that I liked but I wanted the flowers to be in season, so I trusted Lynn to put together something seasonal and beautiful. I knew she was the right woman for the job when she said “they’ll look like you have just run through a meadow gathering the flowers” – perfect! My Nan wanted me to have myrtle in my bouquet, as apparently all royal brides have this (!!). She had myrtle growing in her garden and took a few sprigs round to Lynn in time for her to incorporate it into my bouquet.
I planned early on to make some buttonholes out of buttons (from my Nan’s collection) for the groom, best man and my dad, which I did. But with a few weeks to go we decided we also still wanted button holes for Joe’s Dad, brothers and my brother. So Lynn made up some pretty gypsophila buttonholes for them, which matched the spring meadow look of the bouquets.
THE CAKE | A lovely family friend made our cake. We’ve seen many of her beautiful cakes, including for Joseph’s eldest brother’s wedding – and this was the first traditional wedding cake that I had ever really liked, so it was always a must to get Betty to make ours. She is also very skilled at making sugar flowers. I think we gave her a bit of a challenge making mini bouquets of daisies and forget-me-nots! But of course she met that challenge and more, making the cake I had in my head into a reality! Thank you Betty!!
As well as the traditional fruit cake, we had my favourite, carrot cake, and Joseph’s favourite, banana and coconut cake – all very delicious!
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | I found Emma and Ian at Big Bouquet, after reading about another wedding they photographed on Whimsical Wonderland Weddings. I loved the style of their photography and when I read about them on their website I knew we could get on – and we did!
We both felt comfortable with them at once, and then really appreciated the amount of time and attention they gave us leading up to the wedding. In fact we discussed our plans with them so much we ended up using them as our wedding experts, particularly when working out the timings.
On the day they were their lovely, helpful selves – even before the service Ian was giving the Bentham boys a hand with their buttonholes and Emma didn’t bat an eyelid when my dad came downstairs in his gym shorts!
They were utterly professional throughout, and so efficient and discreet that at times I completely forgot they were there. Getting the beautiful photos back was a very happy day; they capture so many special moments (even things we missed on the day!) and have the feel of a guest’s perspective. We look at them often and every time they make us smile and bring back a lot of happy memories.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | We had such a beautiful church it didn’t even need prettying up with flowers, so we saved money there. We did however need to think about confetti, as our church did not allow any – not even the biodegradable or natural flower petal stuff. As I sat pondering this one day while watching Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson version), I noticed in the film they use ribbons on sticks for the wedding at the end. “That’s it”, I thought! Problem solved! Big thank you to my Nan, for helping to design and overseeing the making of the sticks, and to my cousin Tom, Uncle Colin and Auntie Kim, for actually making them! They were cheap too; I bought a pack of 3 meter long bamboo sticks from Poundland and then tons of ribbon off the internet.
The ribbon sticks also matched my paper streamer curtains. I saw these used as backdrops for outdoor ceremonies on Pinterest, and was thinking they might be a good thing to have for our DIY photo booth. Then Emma and Ian came to see the venue and I was having a little whinge about the room… Ian suggested paper streamers – so that was it, I got to work! Not only did I use them as the backdrop to our photo booth, I also strategically hung them along the wall behind the top table, and behind the cake. It was simple and so effective, complimented by the pompoms, and helped to create an unexpected the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance theme!
Pompoms; simple and effective! More than anything else they completely transformed our reception room. I had to get them all made in plenty of time, and it did take quite a while to fluff out and put up all 100 the day before the wedding (even with our pompom ceiling plan!), but it was utterly worth it! I hope my army of pompom makers, fluffers and putter-uppers all agree! Thank-you!!
We were really pleased (and relieved) to see how well all the separate things we’d prepared seemed to work together. An important part of this was our colour scheme – of blue, turquoise, white and spashes of yellow (like daisies) – so it was quite loose but I think that made it easier to stick to. It helped join together practically all our decorations, outfits, flowers and more, giving a strong look and feel to the whole day.
While the simple streamers and pompoms were very effective for filling the big space of the room, we allowed ourselves to revel in a lot of details for our table decorations – where I think people appreciated all the little touches. We had chosen our favourite, music, film and TV to be our table names/themes back when we were in New Zealand. We also had the idea to have mp3 players on the tables so that guests could listen to the table they were on! I have a big collection of cuddly toys and so we thought instead of having flowers as centre pieces it would be funny to have my/our toys in the centre listening to the mp3s, to act as headphone stands! This made our guests laugh and made the room look like home! This might sound expensive but through a mixture of Poundland headphones and ebay mp3 players (and sd cards) it only cost around £5 per table – definitely worth it for listening to the entire Bowie catalogue or the complete Father Ted!
Joseph carefully designed and made all the table signs to the size of record single sleeves. My bridesmaid Rachel and I made all the name cards as flags to stick into the sweet treat wedding favours (‘bumblebees’, which I baked and was able to freeze a few weeks before). On the backs of all these name cards we stuck quotes from the table theme. But on each table one quote was incorrect and belonged to another table – this was then used in the after dinner quiz! We really enjoyed choosing all the quotes; The Smiths table possibly had the most inappropriate for a wedding but they made us laugh (and hopefully our guests too!).
During the evening party we also used the room’s overhead projector to show a slideshow of all our photos from our travels (taking the opportunity!), with some fun music images like record covers, etc. mixed in. This was a great backdrop for the dancefloor and meant that people who were eating or tired of dancing had some entertainment! (Thankfully they seemed to enjoy our photos!)
The disco lighting equipment we hired was quite a simple set-up of a glitterball and projected lights, with a black cloth DJ booth that we dressed with our own fairy lights (much cheaper than hiring a star cloth) – which all worked great! Powerhouse were really helpful all round in advising us on what equipment was best for the size of the room and what we wanted, so that we only hired as much as we needed. They also spent time showing us how to use everything, even if that was just turning the plugs on and off…
THE HONEYMOON | As we had not long returned from nine months of travelling, an extravagant honeymoon seemed a little silly! In fact we kept forgetting that we needed to actually book somewhere… but we knew that just coming straight back home to our Brockley flat and then back to work might be a bit of a downer! So with three weeks to go we were getting into a bit of a panic, but then luckily my Auntie Marie and Fran came to the rescue! They had recently bought a little converted barn in the Lake District (somewhere we had already wanted to go), and so as a wedding present they offered us the keys to their new family holiday cottage for a week – it was lovely!
It was the perfect relaxing escape after putting so much energy into the wedding, and driving through the fantastic scenery even gave us the chance to relive some of our New Zealand travels (and listen to some of our table theme MP3s!). We really enjoyed just chatting about our wedding day and unpicking everything we could remember. We were also able to bring our cards and presents with us, and so spent the first day opening them and reading all the kind messages – which was just overwhelming and brought back all the happy feelings of the day!
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Getting ready with my bridesmaids in the morning was special, and we had such a giggle. All four of them had helped me so much during the planning of the day, but we didn’t get together all five of us very often, as we didn’t all live near each other, and one was even cycling in South East Asia for three months! So it was fun being together, and we were all looking forward to the day ahead, and seeing all the hard work and effort we all put in pay off – it was quite exciting!
Waiting outside the church feeling very calm, but with my dad’s arm shaking – so I thought I better keep this together or we’ll all be in floods of tears! And then being happy to see Joe at the end of the aisle looking very smart and handsome!
The speeches – all funny and touching. My dad and the best man used the overhead projector to put up some funny photos of me and Joseph – which I will never forget but have forgiven! I also made a speech, and I recommend it to every bride, both because traditionally the bride doesn’t get a voice of her own (!) and I feel that sometimes there are not enough nice things said about the groom. Joseph deserved a lot of credit for putting our wedding together too.
Our first dance was really special to us (This Must be the Place – Talking Heads). When discussing the first dance in New Zealand we both discovered that separately this song reminds us of each other, and the thought that home is wherever the other is – blurgh, but true! So dancing to that was a happy moment, and then in general dancing the whole time with all our friends and family was just the best time EVER!
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | All the effort is worth it! Be brave and try to have the wedding you want, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else until they see it on the day. Trust your judgement, support each other and believe you can make it happen!
I will stop there, but here is some of Joseph’s good advice…
If you need to do things that break with tradition, don’t worry, this is often what makes your wedding more memorable and personal (and usually no one knows what they’re for anyway). For example, we don’t drink champagne, so we had a Fizzy Elderflower Toast instead for our speeches – it worked great! No one had ever heard of a ribbon stick either, but they turned out to be very popular!
Early on, take some time to imagine the day, come up with lots of ideas (plus collect them from anywhere!) and discuss what’s important to you – so that you can get a clear sense of what you really want, the look and feel, etc., before you’re faced with the reality of making it happen. That way even when you have to compromise later you’ll at least know what you’re aiming for and can adapt what you have to suit your vision (rather than the other way round) – it also helps to be flexible and come up with alternative ideas along the way. Things will never go exactly as you’ve planned, but if you get the important stuff right then you’ll be so happy on the day it won’t matter – and there’ll also be things to enjoy you weren’t expecting!
When actually planning the wedding try to do things in order of importance – such as how soon you need to book somewhere or confirm something. This will relieve your stress along the way as you’ll feel like you’re on top of the big things. Make sure you allow enough time for the smaller details too (especially if taking a craft-y approach) – these things can take longer than you expect, so aim to finish well before the day (we could have done with an extra week or two!). Also try to make a clear and realistic schedule for the day, with some leeway, and run through it all in your head so that you can imagine the smaller logistics – which start popping up closer to the day.
This is one reason you should try to involve friends and family in the planning as much as you can, as long as they are being helpful! People will want to help, and you can’t do everything on your own, but it’s up to you to tell them what’s going on. It gives them a chance to feel more part of the day too, while ensuring that things run smoothly for you. If you plan everything well enough you’ll be able to leave all the stress behind and everyone (including you and your helpers) will be able to relax and enjoy the day.
In amongst all your amazing ideas, try to imagine how your guests will feel on the day (or remember what other weddings were like for you) and make it easy for them to enjoy themselves – this will ensure maximum happiness all round! We gave everyone basic timings and info beforehand so they had a rough idea what to expect and could plan for the day too – we think knowing when you’re going to eat is particularly important! People can see when you’ve made an effort for them too, so they’ll respond positively to that even if something doesn’t go quite as planned – which takes the pressure off you on the day. Remember all your guests will have made a special effort to be there for you. We were overwhelmed by the love and attention people showed us, and most likely your guests will want to join in with the happiness of the day any chance you give them!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photography | Big Bouquet
Flowers | You Don’t Bring me Flowers
Venue | Devonport House
Disco equipment | Powerhouse
Music App | Poweramp
Wedding dress | David’s Bridal
Groom and Bestman suits | Marks and Spencer
Fantastic. Such a great celebration.
Leah and Joseph, thank you both SO much for sharing your wonderful story with us xo Lou
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