A very warm welcome to Carl and Jack today who are sharing their non traditional South London wedding with us, held at The Asylum Chapel on the 3rd August 2019. Following their unique ceremony location they boarded London buses to take their guests on a tour of the city, complete with packed lunches! They then arrived at The East Dulwich Tavern for their pub wedding reception; think amazing food and a personalised wedding playlist. Yes!
I am over the moon to be sharing these beautiful images by WWW fave and Supplier Love member Fiona Kelly Photography. It’s always so important when choosing your wedding photographer to get along and it sounds as though Carl, Jack and Fiona had a great relationship together. It’s no wonder these images are so fantastic!
Finally I must just rave about how cool Carl and Jack looked in their check suits and converse, what style.
We actually got engaged twice.
Being an Egyptologist, Carl first proposed to Jack atop the western peak of the Qubbet el-Hawa in Egypt in December 2012. Overlooking the Nile’s first cataract and suffering from severe vertigo and fatigue, how could Jack refuse?! We celebrated with McDonalds in Aswan that evening. However, in the interest of equality and fairness Carl preferred that Jack also ask him when the time was right.
Fast-forward five years to October 2017 and Jack finally popped the question – in a car park on the outskirts of Bologna. In fairness, it was supposed to have scenic views over the city, but those were closed and we’d trekked three miles up a mountain; it would have been a waste otherwise.
From then, Jack turned full groom-zilla and we finally got married in August 2019!
We wanted something a little different, typically ‘London-flavoured’, and non-traditional. A lot of our guests expected more traditional things, and we decided that we wanted to surprise them a little.
The Planning Process
Living in London meant that we planned far ahead… we thought. Turns out that even two years isn’t as long as you’d think. In fact, much of the planning happens at the start and end of the process, the middle is a lot of filler and expectation management. We really enjoyed the planning process though and made sure that we discussed everything with our suppliers who all helped us plan the wedding we really wanted. We even wrote a blog about it afterwards.
Being a typical Northerner, Carl really wanted a small budget wedding, preferring to spend the money instead on moving to a new house (which happened just two days after the big day). Jack, on the other hand, preferred something more accommodating which meant our guests could actually eat!
Thankfully, the combination of both approaches meant that we didn’t over stretch and had the full weekend including everything for around £12,000. It was more than we had wanted to spend, but we don’t regret any of it and will cherish the memories forever.
The Asylum is a unique venue and the moment we visited on one of their regular open evenings, we just knew it was perfect for us. It had all the decorative trappings that a chapel wedding would provide, but with the distressed (tastefully we should add) look and crumbling paint. Being a fan of history and ruins in general, the story of the Asylum, its neglect and then resurrection by Maverick Projects, really appealed.
The East Dulwich Tavern (EDT) came recommended on so many of the south London wedding blogs we read and when we visited them for lunch (just to check the food was up to our family’s high standards) we couldn’t refuse. Their rates are so affordable, and the staff are friendly and accommodating. They were so helpful in letting us stamp our own mark on our reception.
The Readings & Music
We decided we didn’t want anything traditional so spent a lot of time looking for texts, which were personal to us. Carl is a huge fan of Kylie Minogue and decided on a section of her song ‘Come Into My World’ as the first reading. Our friend Michaela wasn’t too happy initially, but after removing the repetition of ‘come’ and giving her a lot of time to practise so that it didn’t read like a song, she gladly obliged. In fact, during her reading, we all had to avoid looking at each other because we knew we would all laugh if we caught eyes. For the second reading, Jack chose a song from the Disney film ‘Pocahontas’. Jack is a Disney geek so there was no way it wouldn’t be involved in the wedding day. The song he chose was called ‘If I Never Knew You’, which has such beautiful words. Our friend Kim did the reading and after she had finished, there was a collective “Awwww” from all the guests.
Our playlist for the whole day (including ceremony, buses, and reception) was limited to female vocalists only. We’re both fans of the great divas and have been surrounded by strong women our whole lives, it made sense to show our respect by omitting any lead male vocals from the playlist. When we left the EDT that night, Gina and her team commented on how much fun the playlist had been, so we have no regrets.
Your Outfits & Accessories
Despite ordering suits months before the wedding, they handled the order so badly that we decided to cancel them just a week before the ceremony. It was a real risk and we ended up buying the only suits that fit us from Next! But we were so happy with the way it turned out. We didn’t look as coordinated as we could have done, but that added to the charm and bespoke look of the day.
Carl’s sister wore a dress from Debenhams off the shelf and Liam, Jack’s brother, was the only one actually wearing the suit originally hired for him. He was the only one of us wearing something he didn’t like. The lesson here was that we shouldn’t have done what we thought was the ‘proper thing to do’ and have stuck to our initial thoughts of having something a little more unique, though still very much affordable. The Next suits are only slightly more than we would have paid to hire and we get to keep them!
The most surprising thing for everyone was that all the boys wore trainers all day and Emma wore trainers after the ceremony. We knew it would be a long day and decided that white low tops converse were the right way to go. Despite the long day, none of us were moaning about our feet hurting and we think it looked great – best idea we had.
The Wedding Party
We didn’t really have traditional Groomsmen or Bridesmaids. Being a same-sex wedding, we decided to mix things up a little. Our siblings instead performed all of the supporting roles for the day and were by our sides throughout the event.
Make sure that you hire a photographer that can capture those special moments as they unfold without ever being conspicuous themselves. We were so pleased with the work that Fiona Kelly did for us. She combined the wedding day package with an engagement shoot in Kew Gardens a year before the wedding. Because of this, we were more comfortable in front of the camera and knew how she worked – and she knew our little quirks too. When she sent us our photographs in a beautiful little box, on a recycled wood usb, with some chocolates and a scented candle and a small selection of her favourite shots, we gathered our family around and went through them all (all 1300 of them!). It brought everything back to life and reminded us of the amazing day we had. They will always be there to remind us and provide happy memories. Hire a photographer that knows what you want from the day, talk with them throughout so that they know who and what you want photographs of. Most of all, make sure you’re all smiling!
The two venues we chose were so perfectly decorated already that we decided to keep any further decoration very minimal in order to show of the buildings themselves. We met with Jem from Floral Jems at a quirky Filipino Ice Cream café in Soho (Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream) and had a great chat over ube treats about what buttonholes and centre pieces we wanted. We only had four buttonholes (for the two grooms and our two siblings) and two large arrangements to stand at either side of the chapel altar area. Jem helped us pick some beautiful blue eryngium, with succulents, and eucalyptus set off with some bright white wax flowers set into large ceramic white jars. The buttonholes were a miniature version of them. The two arrangements were so beautiful that our friends carried them over to the reception to decorate the buffet table there too!
We’re both fans of plants and find gardens and flowers calming. So we decided that we would give each guests a succulent as a favour. They could take it home and watch it grow, just like our relationship. We laid these out surrounding the cake which was a four-tiered semi-nude cake by Bea’s of Bloomsbury, which was decorated with sugar-crafted succulents. In June they had invited us for a tasting session which we’d had to take our niece along to. They were super accommodating and, when our six-year-old niece decided to admit that she did not like cake halfway through the first mouthful, they found alternatives to keep her happy. Our other guests, on the other hand, loved the cake and the fact that each tier had been personally chosen by Jack based on flavours we knew they liked.
The Details & Décor
After the ceremony we invited our guests to enjoy soft drinks and snacks on the portico of the chapel. This allowed Fiona time to fit in some couple shots back inside the chapel and some more formal family photos and a large group shot after the confetti was thrown. Snacks included some traditional Filipino bites made by Adobros; a supper club run in New Cross which we had both attended with a friend the year before the wedding. Mark did a great job to prepare them and get them to us fresh the day before.
For the journey between ceremony and reception, we hired two London routemaster buses to take all our guests on a scenic tour of central London. We were concerned that the Prudential bike ride would cause some problems, but Retro Bus Hire made sure that an alternative route was ready and we still got to stop at Tower Bridge for a couples shoot and get all the way up to Parliament Square and then down through Vauxhall back to Dulwich. For the journey, we gave guests a packed lunch which they chose before leaving the Asylum. Our family had prepared this all the day before and meant that our guests were never left hungry.
We never wanted a sit-down dinner as this would have limited numbers. Jack’s has a large Filipino family and we wanted to make sure that as many could join for the day as possible. We had 110 people attend on the day and EDT prepared wine and soft drinks on arrival. Rather than loads of tables, a room at the back was set aside for a large buffet. Our guests enjoyed the food so much that many took some home for the next day!
Carl’s mum had decorated the venue with a small number of empty bottles with fairy lights and, alongside the already quirky décor of the EDT, this looked really fun (and meant that Carl’s mum got to drink plenty of booze in preparation for the day!).
We didn’t plan a honeymoon. We’d been saving to put down a mortgage deposit for years before the wedding and, as you’d expect, both the wedding and moving happened at exactly the same moment. Just two days after the wedding and after frantically packing up our lives in east London, we moved to our new home in Peterborough. We spent a few days unpacking before heading straight back to work.
We had hoped to save up and go on a honeymoon in 2019 – possibly Japan – but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have even longer to save up for that dream honeymoon now!
It is no doubt the same for anyone getting married, but you sleep very little the night before and wake up feeling a mixture of excitement and great apprehension. We stayed in the beautiful Half Moon Hotel in Herne Hill the night before (and night of) and both woke up feeling quite anxious. Thankfully the breakfast served at the Hotel gave us the energy we needed. We hadn’t written our wedding speeches in advance and this was probably the main reason we were stressed. We wrote most of the speeches on the buses from the ceremony to the reception venue and broke up several times in the morning before we’d even reached the Asylum. We look back and laugh now, but we would advise everyone to write their speeches at least the day before their wedding! Both Liam and Emma’s speeches were beautiful. That wonderful mix of humour with sincere advice, and a little embarrassment. We were humbled by everybody’s reactions on the day and how much love was shown to us both.
We asked our friend Marina to choreograph a simple routine for our first dance to ‘Love You I Do’ from the movie Dreamgirls – the lyrics were so pertinent, and it was a movie we both love. We were so nervous about doing it and it actually took us a few bottles of prosecco to even build up the confidence to rehearse it with Marina in Carl’s meeting room at work. On the day, after the pressure of the wedding speeches had gone, we actually couldn’t wait to do the dance. It was so fun and you could see from the reactions of the crowd that they were enjoying it – although Jack did spend most of it looking at Carl’s feet to make sure he got the steps right!
We were so pleased with Jenny, our officiant from Southwark Council. We specifically requested that we had a lady complete the ceremony. She delivered it with such sincerity and warmth and even looked quite emotional too. Everyone we have spoken to about the wedding has raved about her and how beautiful her words were and how engaging she was. In terms of suppliers, we were so impressed with our photographer Fiona and how she interacted with our family and friends – so many of them thought that she was actually a friend we had called a favour on. Our nephew Alfie had a bit of a grumpy day and refused to be in any of the family photos and Fiona made it her mission to make sure he was actually photographed and she actually managed – quite the achievement! Also, we must single out Liza from the Asylum Chapel who just completely went out of her way to ensure the ceremony and everything planned at the venue went ahead without a hitch – she even gave Carl’s sister a big hug to calm her nerves.
Advice For Other Couples
Much of the wedding day itself is a blur now, but we’re so pleased that we created an event that was specific to the two of us; we didn’t follow any rules or traditions. Don’t forget that this is your special day and you can do anything you like (within reason) to make it exactly what you want. You spend so much time worrying about what the guests will expect, but you can always surprise them like we did. If you want more tips, then check out our blog post for Fiona here.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
The Asylum Chapel
What a treat. I just love Carl and Jack’s South London wedding story, it looked like such a blast. We have even more LGBTQI+ weddings in our archives to inspire your wedding planning too.
Thanks so much to Carl and Jack for sharing their brilliant wedding story with us, I do hope you get to go on your honeymoon soon xo Lou