Suzanne and Graham tied the knot on the 12th July 2013 at the beautiful Hampton Court House in Surrey. It was important to them that they didn’t have a theme but to plan a party, keeping things simple yet fun.
I so love the colourful felt bouquets, afternoon tea and graphic stationery.
Suzanne found the most divine floral dress which she wore with wedge sandals while Graham donned a sharp blue suit. Perfect.
Thanks so much to the lovely Carla Thomas Photography for sharing her imagery today.
THE PROPOSAL | For Graham’s 40th I had arranged to whisk him away to South Africa on safari, as it was something he’d always wanted to do (and been jealous that I’d been lucky enough to do through work with the Kenya Tourist Board). I arranged the time off secretly with his boss, booked everything with some industry contacts and let him know just before we went having taken him to see the Lion King! Whilst we were enjoying a few days on a deserted beach in KwaZulu-Natal we stopped to watch a storm building in the distance. As the waves crashed around us and a rainbow appeared on the horizon Graham surprised himself I think as much as me by getting down on bended knee!
THE VISION | I’ve never been the kind of girl who’s dreamt of her big day so our biggest priority was to make everything as simple, and above all fun, as possible.
Another thing that was important for us was to have friends involved in bringing the day to life which was something we were really happy to be able to make happen.
Whenever people asked me what the theme was I couldn’t understand why ‘celebration’ wasn’t deemed enough but in the end I quite liked the concept of ‘floral fun’ which is pretty much what we went with!
THE PLANNING PROCESS | We’d been engaged for four years by the time we got married so we were pretty laid-back about it all. In fact, the impetus for getting on with it all came from a networking event three months beforehand. I’d not seen a lot of the people there for quite some time and spent most of the evening battling questions about whether we were married yet and why not. I got home that night, told Graham that I couldn’t face another inquisition and the next morning I got on the phone to the venue!
BUDGET | We were hugely fortunate that my dad and Graham’s parents both contributed towards the day but – being pretty thrifty by nature – the last thing we wanted to do was go overboard even on our wedding day. Our biggest focus was to ensure we had a great party and we knew we didn’t need to spend silly money to achieve that.
THE VENUE | A bit like when we bought our house, we actually only looked at one venue. We knew we wanted to keep it local, hold everything in one spot and ensure there was a link to our everyday life wherever we held it. A friend had been to a wedding at Hampton Court House and suggested we give it a look. It was exactly what we were after – an incredible reception hall for the wedding ceremony, enough room for our 120 guests, magical grounds, an impressive dining room plus a conservatory for dancing leading to the Mediterranean-esque patio area complete with palm trees. As soon as we saw the fairy lights in the conservatory we were sold!
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | Guipure Lace Dress by Hoss Intropia. Shoes were super practical (and ridiculously comfy) cream LK Bennett Ella Linen Open Toe Wedge Sandals. Bracelet borrowed from one of my ‘best women’ bridesmaid sorts.
FINDING THE DRESS | Whilst there were no photos of my parents’ wedding, I had it in my head that my mum – who sadly died a few years ago – was wearing a floral lace dress and, without even knowing how realistic it might be to find a dress like that, I knew that was what I wanted. I also knew that I didn’t want to spend time trying on wedding dresses or set foot in a bridal boutique, much to some of my friends’ dismay who were keen to play bride with me!
One day I happened to be walking along Regent Street on my way home from work and on the phone to Graham when I spotted a dress in a shop window. I told him I would have to call him back as I might have found my wedding dress.
Being a floral obsessive, I loved the daisy motif of the lace, its summery style, the super forgiving shape and the lack of required fittings! The fact that it also came from a Spanish brand, originally from Madrid like my mum, made it seem like it was meant to be. As did the fact that – working round the corner and having a special discount card for shops in the area – I got 15% off what was already a pretty good value dress!
GROOM’S ATTIRE | We both liked the idea of a blue suit, though – despite the hot weather – Graham also decided he wanted to wear a waistcoat. After a lot of careful searching, we found the perfect shade of blue that we thought managed to be both smart but happy. In other news, the suit (Racing Green, from Debenhams) was a great fit. I then found a brilliantly colourful tie in Austin Reed which seemed to fit the playful mood perfectly, plus emerald green ties for the two best men and purple ties for the ushers.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | My brother – a one-time chorister at St Paul’s cathedral – played DJ extraordinaire throughout the day and, being a slight control freak, I produced a list of every song I wanted played at every occasion, from while our guests were waiting and signing the register to during the outdoor reception and, of course, the disco. His job was to kindly download them, create multiple playlists and get the timing spot on which he achieved perfectly.
As for the readings, our lovely friend who had inadvertently introduced us over 9 years beforehand had recently had a baby and – with her husband working that weekend – wasn’t able to join us. However, she very kindly prerecorded her reading – the lyrics to “Bring me sunshine” (the other half is a massive Morecambe & Wise fan) and it was fabulous to have her with us on the day.
The other two readings were “A Lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton which an old Uni chum turned primary school teacher read beautifully and “I like you” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg which was read by the double act husband and wife combo of two great friends of ours and conveyed our childlike relationship perfectly!
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | Two of my closest school friends – Ali, who I’ve known since I was 9, and Fran, since 11 – very kindly agreed to be part of Team Suz!
My husband’s nieces and nephew were the only three children so our nieces Rebecca (then 8) and Abigail (13) performed the role of flower girls beautifully, leaving Tom (15) to be one of the ushers.
THE FLOWERS | I have a bit of a childlike obsession with colourful felt flowers so I thought it would be fun to have a felt bouquet that I could then also keep forever.
My school friend Suze is super creative and rose to the challenge of making all the bouquets, buttonholes and hair clips out of felt! She did the most stunning job possible and DEFINITELY needs to go into business in future, given the enormous number of compliments we received about them throughout the day!
They’ve got pride of place in a vase in our living room so I now get to admire them every single day, which is lovely. And, as she made the mini-bouquets and hairclips for Team Suz plus the buttonholes for Team GB, they all have something to remember the day by too!
As for the table flowers, Team Suz bridesmaid Fran and her mum very kindly scoured the local plant centres the day before to buy lots of marguerite plants and pot them in the silver buckets we’d bought from good old Tiger.
THE CAKE | We had decided to have an afternoon tea instead of a normal meal so, rather than bother with a wedding cake as I’m not a big fan of the “cutting” tradition, we were super lucky as one of our lovely friends, Katie kindly volunteered to make us a cake as a present. Being so extraordinarily capable she quickly adapted to our plans and, instead, made all the delicious cakes, scones and biscuits for our afternoon tea – she really is wonder woman.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | It was important to us to be surrounded by people we loved on the day and we were incredibly lucky that another school chum – Carla Thomas – is the most amazing photographer. Even though we hadn’t seen each other for more years than we cared to remember, the powers of Facebook had meant we’d been in touch for a while and when we caught up on the engagement shoot it really was like we’d only just seen each other recently! We laughed the way through that day and the giggles continued throughout the wedding, ensuring we were perfectly at ease and the pictures never felt remotely like a chore.
HEN NIGHTS | I must say that hen nights are the best excuse to get people together and, as you get older and people have so many other commitments, it’s essential to take advantage of having a great reason to gather everyone together! So, with that in mind and having decided I’d prefer to get excited with my individual groups of friends rather than one big event that I might feel uncomfortable at, I had five of them!
A group of 7 of us from school went to Marseilles for a phenomenal weekend away staying in the most amazing house we’d found on Airbnb.
11 Uni friends headed to the surreal House in the Clouds in Suffolk for an amazing weekend break.
5 of us spent a lovely weekend glamping at my friend’s farm – Swallowtail Hill in East Sussex – and then making the wedding bunting over a mild hangover.
6 dragon boat chums and I headed into town for a wild night enjoying one of London Zoo’s ‘Zoo lates’ nights.
My fabulous neighbours treated me to a local night out, with dinner at Las Iguanas followed by an obligatory late-night viewing of Bridesmaids!
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR |Bunting was home-made (during one of the hen weekends with assorted colourful material that I’d bought online and which an interior designer neighbour had kindly donated).
The design for the table plan was kindly done by a great designer friend of ours who I’ve known since my first job.
Graham and I designed, printed and assembled our sunflower seed favours-come-place-settings at home (with a little help from my brother Jonathan in the days leading up to the big day!)
Graham made the speech bubbles and the photo backdrop plus the “I do” and “We did” signs which used the pattern we’d created at home for our emailed invites.
THE HONEYMOON | As things worked out, I decided to leave my job the week before the wedding which gave us a very exciting last-minute opportunity to go on an extended honeymoon! Rather than the five days kayaking and camping in Sweden we’d originally intended to do (something we’ve done a few times before and loved) we decided instead to head east and spend 3.5 weeks exploring Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, including 10 days diving around Komodo. Just incredible.
We were hugely fortunate in that I have always worked in the travel industry so my friend Sharon who is now a travel agent kindly helped me organise the flights, accommodation and general logistics – she really was a godsend. A couple of friends who I used to work at a hotel company with also very generously gave our nights in Bangkok and Bali as wedding gifts and another friend of ours – who runs a luxury liveaboard company called Worldwide Dive and Sail – gave us the most incredible last-minute deal for our diving adventure.
As Sharon used to say to me “oh Suzanne, you have left it so incredibly late…” but she achieved miracles and – even though we planned the whole thing five days before we left and I only got confirmation that the flights were booked as I headed to the wedding venue with my dad in the taxi – she did the most incredible job of being patient yet super creative in coming up with the most breathtaking locations.
It’s amazing how much you can achieve in such little time if you really put your mind to it and we genuinely had the most fantastic time away.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | My friend Joy arriving from Holland just as me and the girls were gearing ourselves up for the big entrance! We sent her in and everyone inside were left assuming I’d been my usual tardy self as a song was played for a second time to disguise the slight delay. When people came up to me later saying “how typical of you to be late” I had to point out I had in fact arrived half an hour early for once in my life!
Seeing everyone get to mingle while having fun playing the over-sized games of Jenga, Twister and challenging each other at the coconut shy before informal picnics enjoying the fish and chips was brilliant. The whole atmosphere was very us which is exactly what we wanted.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | It’s easy for so much of the planning to become a chore but don’t work with suppliers who make it all the more so. We set out with the intention of planning a great party and the first caterer we were speaking with kept making our lives more difficult, forever throwing up obstacles and silly prices. Eventually, once we realised she was making us dread our big day, we gave her the boot and were lucky enough that our search led us to the most friendly, dedicated, flexible and efficient caterers possible. Nothing was too much trouble for Sandra and Eamonn and as soon as they were on board we could get excited again.
They played such a big part in our day, really went out of their way to help set up the venue and were brilliant company into the bargain! They also provided lots of extra bunting to decorate the room plus brilliant vintage accessories, all the outdoor games plus the typewriter that we used instead of a guest book. I think even to this day our guests assume we’d organised all these amazing little touches!
It was also important to us that we put our own stamp on the occasion and didn’t just follow traditions unthinkingly so I guess it’s important to step back and think about what’s important to you both – and what isn’t.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Cake | The Bakewell Tart – [email protected]
Venue | Hampton Court House
Photographer | Carla Thomas Photo
Dance lesson | One Step Productions
Travel agent | Travel Counsellors
Honeymoon dive trip | Siren Fleet
Thanks so so much to Suzanne and Graham for sharing their super lovely story today XOXO Lou