Royal Hospital Chelsea Wedding
Yes you read it right folks, today’s real wedding feature is a totally joyful and quirky celebration featuring scooters, Pixar’s Up and a ride on the London Tube! More of that to come…
WWW readers John and Rachel were married at Christ Church Mayfair before celebrating at the magnificent Royal Hospital Chelsea in London on the 4th May 2019. Both of these venues held strong personal connections to them and their ceremony in particular sounded really personal and meaningful to them both. Their transport between their venues was something really special, with the newly-weds hopping onto their scooters, balloons in hand, mid hail storm to catch the Tube. What a fun and memorable way to travel in style, both for them and the general public!
Their day had a really cute nod to the film Up, with the soundtrack playing in their ceremony, a balloon cake creation and balloons used throughout to brilliant effect. Look out for really gorgeous attire (John and Rachel both looked amazing and it’s great to see them both rocking their glasses too), multicolour blooms and the fun alternative confetti moment.
Kristian Leven Photography thank you ever so much for sharing your utterly brilliant captures of this very unique wedding day.
I turned up on what I thought was a very chilled date with a no-make-up-face, greasy-hair and a generally very bedraggled look…I was not expecting much of that day – I was certain John hadn’t yet got the go-ahead from my parents anyway. Posh brunch at The Beaumont Hotel downed, we headed over to Vashi in Selfridges to look at rings. You might call me out as an idiot here but I was 100% certain it was purely a business-like chat about style, sizing and stones for hopefully, a few of months down the line. John wanted some air, so we headed for Hyde Park but he was unusually quiet and I suddenly smelt a rat. The next thing I knew, he was starting to share a poem with me – a funny and clever reminisce of our recent adventures, that in our quirky fashion put me straight at ease…until he dropped the bombshell that he had indeed spoken to my parents (still in rhyme) and asked me if I would be his wife. I went from giddy laughter to stunned silence. It genuinely seemed like time had slowed down as I felt the weight of what I was agreeing to and soberly said yes!
The main thing we wanted from the wedding (apart from actually getting married!) was for the day to not be just about us. Instead, we wanted the day to be a joyful celebration that pointed “through” us to the infinitely greater marriage that we believe is still to come. The Bible uses marriage as a beautiful metaphor of how much Jesus loves us, so we wanted to paint that picture as creatively as we could by having the best party possible, involving friends and family and releasing some pent-up-creativity in the process!
The Planning Process
5 months between engagement and the wedding meant we had to make decisions quickly – if there was ever a simple option on the table, we would take it and move on. An example was that I would have loved home-baked granola bars distributed in matching baskets after the service but you know what, Sainsbury’s flapjack and some eBayed wicker baskets were just the ticket for less than a quarter of the stress.
We googled a few ‘things you will forget’ lists and chatted a lot about what we loved from weddings we have attended – and what dragged – and planned accordingly. While I did love seeing creative ideas on wedding blogs and Pinterest, I was keen to widen my inspiration beyond them as I feel one can accidentally end up with a cookie-cutter wedding. As someone working in the Arts, I have a big love for film, story and creating moments…and so the ‘Up’ (Disney Pixar) theme was born; John and I are very much like Carl and Ellie. And I flipping love balloons.
Our guiding principle on the budget was that we wanted to spend the money where it adds real value and resist the urge to just pay through the nose for stuff because that’s what everyone does. We also wanted to steer away from the idea that you can only get married when you have oodles of money and in the end, everything that was spent on the wedding and honeymoon totaled £15,000.
Now hear me out, this was several digits beyond our price range, but was the most amazing gift we could have imagined – made possible entirely because my Dad works (ferociously hard in such a season, I may add) at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. We are so grateful to have been able to extend that blessing to our friends and family. Anyway, it is well posh. And if you have the budget for it, I would recommend – it’s so picturesque.
We were also super grateful to be able to share our church building for the wedding itself. I‘d recently become part of the Christ Church Mayfair family and John had been for over a decade, so it was really special to get married there and they were really accommodating.
I love flowers in their natural habitat…but the costs can be astronomical adding ‘wedding’ in front of ‘flowers’. Sadly, to keep us within our wedding budget, flowers en masse had to go. But we often found that being constrained by a smaller budget made us more creative, and subbing in balloons was an example of that. We so valued Moodi from Balloons Corner (balloonscorner.business.site) helping us realise our ‘Up’ theming to a tee with the biggest balloons he had! This also birthed the idea of streamers and paper aeroplanes for our welcome to the party as confetti can be mad money.
Your Outfits & Accessories
I had real reservations about dropping a bomb on a dress I was only going to wear once. I was reflecting on a piece of advice that was given that said ‘in a year people will only remember whether it was long or short’. So, I wanted to find something fun and ‘me’, but without immediately throwing money at the problem. An underlying reason was also that I was keen to not needlessly create landfill or waste resources on something I was perfectly happy to have second-hand, so I kept a keen eye out on eBay. After some time, having still not found the right dress, I took two pals to David’s Bridal in Westfield, where we found a pretty strong winner. My friends cried, the sales assistants massaged my ego, and I said I would ‘think about it’. I genuinely meant that; I knew it looked decent but there were so many hidden costs it was getting astronomical and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment…but with less than 3 months to go till the big day, I was definitely feeling the pressure.
That very night, searching online, I saw essentially the same dress going for £105 on eBay that someone hadn’t worn but had been pressured to buy ‘in the moment’ and later changed her mind. The pictures looked like they’d been taken on a dashcam from the noughties, but it gave me hope…I went for it, thinking I could always sell it on if it truly was a turkey. I shlepped out to East London, met the vendor in an ASDA carpark, and was THRILLED to pieces with it. It was essentially a big poofy dress, I felt like a Disney Princess and the world was good. I was able to get it tailored by a local seamstress and thoroughly enjoyed parading it on public transport on the day.
Another surprising win from eBay – £8 New Look platforms meant I wasn’t going to be tottering around all day on a tiny heel and, importantly, could balance on my push scooter through the streets of London. They would be hidden under the dress anyway so I could cover my feet in plasters as a hot day in any footwear would likely give me blisters – I can report my toes survived!
The Readings & Music
Alongside the main reading of Psalm 103 from the Bible, we had two shorter pieces taken from the book of Revelation – we absolutely love these little gems, since they pull back the curtain on the picture we believe marriage to be. We really wanted our little celebration to be a foretaste of the Great Wedding pictured there. For the music in the ceremony, we had a six-piece band leading us in the church building as we belted out modern hymns and banging old classics with circa 200 voices. I walked down the aisle to the theme from ‘Up’, which I highly recommend stealing the idea of, if yah like yah Disney, and we walked back out to a rowdy Irish number from the Getty’s – ‘Magnificent, Marvelous, Matchless Love’. Our friend Ed gave us an epic welcome to the party by piping us across Figure Court in the beautiful grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
John and I both lead sung worship for our church family so we had some mates come join us in a song that Ed kicked us off to as it was to the tune of Auld Lang Syne for all our evening guests. Our first dance was riotous fun – we did a Ceroc routine with some help from David Addis. We had danced to ‘‘Somewhere Beyond the Sea’ from Finding Nemo at our first ever Ceroc class together and it was ‘a moment’ for us connecting back then, so this was an easy instant decision! David Addis bravely took us on as two keen but fairly clueless sometimes-Cerocers and trusted us to learn some lifts in a school canteen one evening shortly before the wedding…good job sir – you made us look like we knew what we were doing?!
My florist and I worked on the colours, textures and scent with a hand-tied bouquet of all the theme colours, and the bridesmaids with smaller bunches of just their single colour flower accented against some lovely blue hydrangeas (they were nearly a disaster but hurrah they worked – they can be a tricky flower to put a lot of hope in, ye be warned!) For a pop of colour and variety of textures we went with crimson roses, beautiful orange snapdragons and yellow craspedia. I really wanted the bouquets to have the scent of rosemary (symbol of remembrance) and filled with white tulips (symbol of forgiveness) in all the bouquets.
Unpopular opinion – I just don’t understand the idea of having your mates trooping behind you wearing the same shaped dress when they are all different shaped people. Either the colour or the shape will be unflattering to at least one poor lass! You can also end up creating waste as they are unlikely to wear it again as they often look too ‘bridesmaidsy’…each to their own on this, but I asked my gals to wear something blue and I sorted their shoes and hairpieces. They were given accent accessories of a beautiful paper flower comb, flats or heels (from New Look etc) and their accent colour flowers in their bouquets (matching the groomsmen’s bow ties and pocket squares), to just give a pop of colour against the sea of blue. We ended up with a beautiful array of outfits everyone was happy wearing – including a maternity dress and a jumpsuit – and I loved the final casual look of mismatched blue.
I went for a make-up trial but I just didn’t feel like myself when they troweled it on. So, I roguishly and possibly dangerously decided to do my own makeup, generally using Bodyshop products. I was really happy with the result and believe I looked and felt like myself on the day.
I didn’t want to be running back and forth to a hairdressers on the morning of the wedding and losing time I could be sleeping (priorities) so opted for a family friend, Bev, to pop by the house with all her gear for me and the bridesmaids – she did a great job on all our tresses!
The Flower Crown & Paper Flowers
All made amazingly by my cousin in Ireland, “Creations By Suzanne”. She even did an all blue flower-comb for the mother of the bride! Ledge. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how many people noticed this fine detailing on the day but it made me so happy when it came together to have the accent colours picked out in the bouquets, combs and shoes! A note on ‘living’ flower crowns – they can be a right pain! They have a high chance of going quite badly wrong on the day. I would recommend having something so key to your ‘look’ on the day be a tried and tweakable paper piece that won’t get destroyed by weather, (cut scene to us in a hail storm. In MAY.) hugs from overzealous relatives or wilting in the heat leaving you with essentially some weeds pulling at your hair. Just a thought.
We went all out on John’s suit so it will do him for life. He needs a particularly slim fit, or else he looks like a coat hanger…We tried Hugo Boss with little success but found a sale-price GEM in Pal Zileri, an Italian boutique inside Harvey Nicks. We definitely couldn’t have afforded it at full price and have made great use, wearing it with delight to every wedding since! Similar to the bridesmaids’ situation we asked the groomsmen to wear a suit they felt comfortable in and we provided the bow ties and pocket squares (also provided by “Creations By Suzanne” – she’s incredible!). I love the look we ended up with, casual, fun – and didn’t cost the earth!
The Details & Décor
Would definitely recommend Moodi who provided our balloons as he made them up to great effect and there was a report of one staying up at a friends house for weeks after! One thing we were keen to avoid was fake-looking-ivy. Ivy was a big theme of our wedding greenery as it symbolises faithfulness, so I bought a few bulk packs from Triangle Nursery, who were super helpful on the phone advising how to not kill it before the wedding! This was a massive job to sort, trim, wash and dry the day before the wedding in my parent’s basement so do beware that while it was cheap – and I would totally do it again – this level of faff might not be everyone’s cup of tea! Some battery-powered fairy lights off eBay, sticky dots from Poundland, tiny pegs and a cheap garden arch from Amazon to make our guest book were all we ended up buying for decor. To be honest, the place was so grand we didn’t want to detract from it with too much else!
The design of our Invites, Orders Of Service and Thank-yous has been one of my favourite parts of the creative side of this thing!
Without these fellas (Jubel Beer) putting their heads together and taking a big risk to make new fun flavoured beers, we would have missed out sharing it with our guests! We’d also give a huge shout out for using Aldi wine, you’ll be shocked at how good it is and this will bring your costs down considerably.
A LOVELY magician (Owen Daughtery) creating much wonder and amazement at his magic tricks in the church building following the ceremony, he’s good fun and if you want someone to keep your guests well-entertained he’s a great option to consider.
We decided to give ourselves a bit of ‘decompression time’ and not dash straight off to the nearest airport – and we would highly recommend staying in a fancy hotel you never otherwise would be able to justify! We loved our two-night stay at The Rookery with breakfast in a 4-poster-bed!
Regarding the holiday, we actually had an ’emergency-moon’ that we booked the week before our wedding, as our original honeymoon in Sri Lanka had to be postponed due to the Easter Sunday terrorist attack. We earmarked two hours in a busy week to research and book a new holiday and ended up going for Marrakech. We had heard it was a fun place in an amazing country just a short flight away. Despite boarding the plane with two suitcases, a hotel booking, and zero plans, we had the adventure of a lifetime! We loved pottering about the souks, gobbling up exquisite tagines and throwing ourselves down extreme flumes in the nearby waterpark. We also managed a trek to the Atlas Mountains, a hot air balloon flight, and a mind-blowingly beautiful trip into the Sahara to spend a night under the stars before seeing the sunrise over the dunes. 10/10 folks.
What a JOY. Kristian made for a phenomenal addition to the wedding. He made the hattrick, having shot both my brother’s and my sister’s weddings beautifully. To this day I don’t know how he wasn’t in two places at once! He was also great on comms before and after the wedding, and on the day itself, he was great to be around. We recently got an album of our wedding photos, and they are truly priceless – a beautifully crafted and gorgeously edited collection of creative pieces.
We loved working with Jo Robbings (of jorobbings.co.uk); she was an absolute dream. Full disclosure – I’ve worked with her in the past to shoot weddings and so can vouch both personally and professionally for her brilliant filmmaking. She was there for the moments but also was absolutely not one of the obnoxious-types who can spoil the day by being in the way or shouting at you! She has an amazing skill of being able to create a film that reflects your personal vibe of the day and allows the themes to resonate and shape the highlights film. We cherish the video that captured so much of the emotion and the feel of the day that truly was a bespoke video experience! You can see a direct link to the highlights here.
I met Rachel (of rachelscakecraft.co.uk) at a book launch…we got chatting and she was up for making us a fun wedding cake! I jumped at the chance to support a small local business and she was exceptionally patient as we nailed down the Up-Pixar, non-fruit cake. We had three flavours in three tiers: chocolate, dairy-free lemon and carrot. We then had some kind friends and family make a few cakes including a classic fruit cake (thank you Mum!) and some vegan and gluten-free options. This worked really well for us and I encourage you to do ‘you’ when it comes to sweet treats etc! Instead of favours that get lost or left behind, we put that money into buying the tiny tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream you’d get at the theatre and making a sweet station – these went down a storm and were a wildly cheaper option than anything you could hire in.
That hail storm. Wowz. Being on a scooter in a wedding dress entangled in balloons while being pelted by hailstones has got to be up there as a right laugh. As is then hopping on the London underground together and enjoying the expressions of shock and joy from the general public! Such fun.
For us, walking back down the aisle super slowly and joyfully – we loved seeing and taking in everyone there to share that special part of the day with us.
We chose to do our own version of a first look, simply giving each other letters in the morning and taking a moment to be excited about the day together. Really special.
Advice For Other Couples
Our main bit of advice for engaged couples is that while you can spend hours and hours planning a day, it makes sense to invest equal if not more time planning for how you will thrive as a couple in the years of married life you’ll have together. We did the pre-marriage course at Holy Trinity Brompton and would highly recommend – while it’s based on Christian values, it’s great for people of all faiths and none, to facilitate deep chat before the wedding – and is currently free online during lockdown!
On the day, things will go wrong (cue hail storm at the exact moment we left the church on our push-scooters!). Decide before the day that you are going to let those things be an ‘oh well’ moment and let them wash past you – your future self will thank you for not getting stressed. Who knows – you might even end up with your favourite photo of the day being taken when things go awry (hailstorm snap, you’re up!).
Finally, I would suggest taking a few personal ‘snapshot memories’ – take a step back and just survey the happenings and enjoy seeing your nearest and dearest having a whale of a time celebrating your wedding!
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Kristian Leven Photography
Rachels Cake Craft
Holy Trinity Brompton
Paper Flower Accessories, Bow Ties & Pocket Squares
Wow wee! The honeymoon, the first dance, the sunset portraits; just magical.
John and Rachel I cannot thank you enough for sharing with us your totally dreamy Up themed day xo Lou