Today we have the rather lovely WWW readers Azara and Liam’s wedding to share with you. Taking place on the 23rd February 2018 at Southwood Hall in Norfolk, this gorgeously glam affair will have you lusting after a winter wedding.
Azara and Liam really wanted a wedding that was personal to them, and were willing to put everything into their DIY projects to make it happen. Go to town they did and I think you’re just going to love all the prettiness. You can really see all the love and thought that went into their day and it might just give you a boost if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the DIY.
As well as the wedding story, I just love Azara’s account of how she and Liam met, and the proposal story is just so precious. Enjoy!
I moved to Abu Dhabi in 2014 and met Liam on my very first night in the new city (he had just moved too and was going to be one of my new colleagues). We spent six months as the best of friends –we had dinner every night together and were inseparable. It was only when worked moved me to Dubai that Liam and I realised there was more to our friendship, although it didn’t come as a shock to our family and friends, they had realised we were more than friends before we did!
Liam’s proposal was magnificent and unbelievably thoughtful. Liam surprised me with a day off from work –I had no idea whatsoever where we were going. I just knew it was 220 miles from our home.
We drove down to Winchester, where Liam went to university -Winchester is particularly important to Liam and has played a key role. I had always wanted to visit it but as we lived in the Middle East, we hadn’t had the opportunity. As we arrived, Liam took me on a tour of Winchester. We had lunch by the river and it was brilliant weather (Liam had been monitoring the weather for months to pick the perfect weekend). We finished up with a walk up St Catherine’s Hill. At the top, as we looked over Winchester, Liam took me by both hands and spoke about our future and how he felt about me. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him – it was extremely romantic.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES
As soon as I put my dress on I knew it was the one – completely not what I wanted of course. It was my mum who found it. I had wanted a very simple dress with perhaps a bit of lace. I ended up with the absolute opposite.
The dress I chose was a Ronald Joyce from the Victoria Jane collection. It was a tulle ball gown with a beaded bodice and ¾ sleeves that sat on the tip of my shoulders and the most exquisite train.
I wore a cathedral length veil with lace detail that was also bought from the lovely Claire at the Bridal Suite. On the day, I wore a pair of drop crystal earing bought online from Jules Bridal Jewellery. My hairpiece was Jenny Packham No1 range and it just finished the look.
I bought my shoes before anything else! I am utterly shoe obsessed and as soon as I saw Badgley Mishka’s collection I knew nothing else would do. I said my vows wearing Gorgeous in Navy- It was my something blue and the detail on the shoes perfectly matched my bodice.
Also – something that many don’t talk about but my wedding scent! One of my bridesmaids bought me Love by Killian. It was beautiful and every time I wear the perfume, I am reminded of our amazing day, plus it was called Love.
I also wanted us all to feel special on the day so us girls (our mums, myself and my bridesmaids) had our makeup done by Melissa Abel and our hair by Laura Hughes. I had trials with them four weeks beforehand and they both were able to finalise the look I wanted to effortlessly – I think I just kept saying I just wanted us all to have a subtle glam look.
FINDING THE DRESS
Unlike many girls, the one thing I was dreading was dress shopping. I have always been uncomfortable with my weight and pre wedding diet the idea of trying on dresses made me want to be sick. However at the national wedding fair, my mum, mother in law and one of my beautiful bridesmaids bullied me into trying on a number of dresses – well once that was out of the way, I had the bug. We arranged a weekend in Manchester where one of my bridesmaids and my mum came to visit and we booked appointments back to back.
I purchased my beautiful dress from The Bridal Suite of Cheshire. Claire is out of this world and made me feel like a million dollars. She is so honest and transparent.
Claire specialises in discounted designer dresses so I bought the dress straight off the peg. She recommended I visit Deborah Bayan for all my alterations – Deborah managed to take the dress down 3 or 4 sizes and took it up by about a foot and a half for me (I lost a bit of weight and I am quite short), oh my did she make the dress mine – it fitted beautifully. Deborah and Claire were both beyond amazing and made me feel like a princess at every moment.
We quite quickly knew what sort of wedding we wanted – we wanted it to be pretty and reflect us and be a true insight into our love. It’s commonly known between our family and friends that Liam and I are a bit weird and so we wanted that to be reflected in our wedding but in a very pretty and delicate way. We also really wanted our wedding to be detailed focused – I love weddings where the couple have thought of every detail and its true reflection of them – that was key for us. As our ideas developed we really fell into the “vintage glam” theme.
Most importantly and above everything, we really wanted out guests to enjoy celebrating our love and have fun – there is nothing worse than a stuffy wedding (in my opinion). Having discussed our vision and agreed on the sort of wedding we wanted quite quickly, the next step for us was to work out when we wanted to get married. We fell in love with the romantic idea of a winter wedding, cosy and lit by candles. After that it all started to fall into place.
THE PLANNING PROCESS
I have read in a lot of blogs that planning is what you make it and I think that is undoubtedly accurate. I have seen some brides take it all in their stride and others became quite overwhelmed, there is of course a huge amount of pressure on this single day and you become utterly obsessed with the most minute details.
As soon as we got engaged (July 2016) we started planning, making, prepping and organising. We had 19 months and with a unique wedding in mind, we had lots of DIY to do. So, we all got stuck in. Our mums trawled charity shops for us, my mum made table runners and every waken moment outside of work was spent making things and of course reading various blogs and websites.
If I am very honest – I was not the laid-back bride. I become obsessed with the detail and spent most of my day thinking about how it all would look and feel.
I would rather not say but what I would say is having an off-peak wedding made a lot of things more affordable.
We knew straight away that we wanted a country wedding. I was brought up in Norfolk and had always wanted to get married there. Luckily, Liam had grown fond of Norfolk too. We loved the idea of a barn but we wanted a modern barn rather than a rustic one. We booked a weekend in Norwich and we viewed five – six venues across the two days.
Southwood Hall was the very last venue. As we drove up the long driveway and saw the most beautiful barn with a full front glass, we knew we had found our venue. The fact that there was accommodation on site so we could have up to 20 of our nearest and dearest there the day before was an absolute bonus. Southwood Hall is a mix of old and new – we had all the mod cons, lighting, heating and lots of glass windows which helped with the glam theme coupled with amazing traditional barn elements such as exposed brickwork and beams. There are even cows and sheep in the grounds.
Another huge sell for us was that Southwood Hall only use local produce. We are both massive foodies and the Southwood Hall menu comprised of locally grown veg and meat. It really was so lovely to be able to spoil our guests to such amazing food.
My stunning bridesmaids – what babes. I really didn’t want an entourage and so I asked two of my closest friends to stand by me on our special day. I really wanted the girls to be comfortable but also to have something quite classic. We found the bridesmaid dresses online and as there was only 2 left in the girl’s sizes left in the country we had to buy them online pretty sharpish. Luckily it all worked out. The dress was Rowena by Phase Eight in navy. The girls wore nude kitten heels and as part of their present we gave each of them a pair of navy and crystal stud earrings from Warren James and a delicate bracelet from Thomas Sabo. I found a beautiful delicate pearl and crystal vine hair piece online which the girls loved and completed their look. Their hair and makeup was done by Melissa Abel and Laura Hughes. The girls’ make up was quite delicate. We chose to put their hair half up and half down with loose curls which was perfect and allowed the back detail of their dress to be exposed (the belt fastened into a bow at the back) and perfectly contrasted my own hair style.
As I mentioned, we wanted a wedding that was beautiful and fun but not formal – as such we never entertained the idea of Liam wearing tails. We bought Liam, his groomsmen and his dad a navy tweed style three-piece suit from Slaters which he paired with a white double cuffed shirt from Charles Tyrwhitt and cuff links from TM Lewin. His tie was also from TM Lewin – it was a navy knit tie with white polka dots – I have to be honest, when he picked it out I was really unsure but credit to him, his vision was on point. As there was a slight superhero underlining theme to our wedding, his brother bought him superhero socks and boxers (which matched his button hole). Liam also had a scent – I sent over amongst his presents Creed Aventus which is his all-time favourite after shave.
As I said, we didn’t want everyone to be too formal but I really did want the boys to match. My two younger brothers were my ushers and they and my dad wore grey suits with a tie we bought them from TM Lewin, it was a baby pink tie with navy polka dots. All the boys also wore silver engraved cufflinks which we presented them with in the morning from Badger & Brown. Our boys looked brilliant.
I love flowers! I met with many florists and as soon as I met Katie at Pick a Lily we knew she was the one! We really wanted delicate flowers that were pretty and would suit our venue and vision. I am sure she won’t mind me saying but she also had to manage my expectations quite a lot – I wanted a lot more flowers than our budget would afford. Katie was great – my bouquet was outstanding and she was able to create a delicate wintery look.
I had a textured bouquet tied with beautiful long white ribbons – my bouquet comprised of menthe roses, bombastic spray roses, white lilac, astrantia, thistles and anemones as well as eucalyptus and asparagus fern. Katie was also able to use white thistles on the boy’s button holes which showed up again the blue suits. She also placed a strip of comic book paper as the leaf behind the flower.
Katie created a wicker archway for us which offered a beautiful frame for our ceremony. We also littered the barn with beautiful cut glass bud vases filed with a mixture of foliage and flowers. It really added to our whole look and made such a difference.
THE READINGS & MUSIC
We found picking the music really hard! We don’t have a special song as such and the songs that mean something to us were really not wedding appropriate. Narrowing down all of our favourites was tricky. The one thing we did know was we wanted a violinist for our ceremony and champagne reception. I think a violinist sets such a beautiful tone to a wedding and once we heard Alison Sparrow, it was easy to firm up our decision.
I walked down the aisle to Turning Page by Sleeping at Last. We signed the register to Your Song by Elton John and Holocene by Bon Iver and we exited as man and wife to I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. All on the violin. Our first dance was very hard to pick – I had always wanted All My Life by KCI & Jo Jo however Liam was not keen. After 19 months of listening to every song we could think of we ended up having All My Life – happy wife happy life!
Our readings were slightly easier. My brothers read A Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton (a very cute and alternative reading about two dinosaurs – if you are looking for a funny non- cheesy reading, give it a shot) and Liam’s dad read The Importance of Good Golf Balls – Liam tweaked this reading to reflect us a bit more. Liam is a very keen golfer and it was a lovely way to make sure the groom is reflected in the ceremony.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR
So as I mentioned, we really wanted to focus on details. I cannot tell you how much time both Liam and I spent on wedding DIY. .
Southwood Hall is beautiful anyway so we didn’t need to do anything really to the actual venue although we did ask KWF to hang some fairy lights from the beams for us just to add to the twinkly effect. One of my friends had got married a few years ago and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow tons from her – she lent us loads of bud vases, tea light holders, signs, ladders and lots more!
Given we got married in February we really wanted the place to feel very romantic and cosy so we covered it in tea lights and candles of different forms. We had over 120 candles all over our venue from pillar candles in hurricane vases to candles in birdcages.
We lined our aisle with candles and sprinkled dried rose petals from Adam Apple Confetti (where we also bought our confetti). On the entrance to the aisle we decorated a wooden vintage ladder with vintage books, a light up LOVE sign, candles and bud vases on one side and on the other side we had three wooden apple crates that Liam sanded and painted, these held more candles and details. At the end of the aisle we had our beautiful archway and two standing candelabras which Katie our florist decorated. We made all of our wedding stationery ourselves which seemed like a great idea until we were half way through! We made our wedding invites, order of services, chair reservations, table plan, menus and table names.
We used an old bicycle wheel as our table plan which we sprayed with gold paint and made little tags with each table name on it which we hung off the wheel. We named each table a place where we had been in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We felt it was so important that the Middle East was reflected in our wedding somewhere. We made the table names by painting a small wooden board black and writing the names on in gold pen. For each of our guests, we found the worst photo we could of them (which I am not entirely sure we are forgiven for) and I made small place holders with wire. This was a great icebreaker as many of our guests didn’t know each other. My mum and I made our wedding favours by filling little hessian bags with Norfolk lavender and stamping our initials onto wooden hearts which we attached to the bag. It made the barn smell gorgeous!
My amazing mum made our table runners for each table which added a splash of colour and we hired silver candelabras from the Wedding Party.
We also had signs everywhere! We made them for our guest baskets in the bathrooms, for our dance floor and we quoted Winnie the Pooh as our welcome to our wedding sign. Dotted round the venue we had also made smaller signs with sayings about love and marriage – some were beautiful, some were funny.
I also decorated my getting ready venue – I recycled some of the details from my hen do (such as the Future Mrs Digan sign) and I made hangers for the girls and I. I also made us matching tops. I had bride on mine (of course) but we also had full pyjamas for the girls and t shirts for our mums, dads and brothers saying things like “mother of the bride” etc. Perhaps it was a bit over the top but I really wanted to enjoy the details of getting ready too.
We served our cake as dessert so for us this was pretty important. We had four tiers – a carrot cake, lemon cake, chocolate cake and sponge. We were recommended Mandy Clarke and she was brilliant – I emailed her a lot about the cake and she was so patient with me. She delicately piped a vintage lace design and pearl separators. She also created individual flowers for our bottom tier. It was beautiful.
Mandy also made us four little beautiful cupcakes which we presented to Liam’s grandma who celebrated her birthday on our wedding day.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER AND VIDEOGRAPHER
We had a crew for the day! We had Emily Tyler as our photographer and Mike Savory as our videographer. Both were amazing.
We booked Emily in November 2016 and she rapidly became one of my go to people. We really wanted our photos to be candid – we didn’t want staged, airbrush photos that in time to come didn’t tell the story of our day. Emily’s style is so honest and relaxed. She captured some of the most intimate looks Liam and I gave each other and the true emotion of the day. Nothing fake, posed or airbrushed!
We decided on a videographer quite last minute. We only booked Mike in January 2018 although he has fondly (I hope anyway) nicknamed me his stalker as I was bombarding him with calls and emails from mid-2017. Again, Mike is a very natural videographer and is excellent at capturing the most obscure moments. For anyone teetering on the idea of a videographer, my advice is book one! Your photos will be displayed in your house forever and will always remind you of your special day. However, so much is going on on your wedding day, it’s really hard to remember every special moment – we have looked back at our video and relived the whole thing, moments we had missed and forgotten. It’s really special. When we chose both Emily and Mike, of course their style was important but actually one of their biggest sells was their personality. Both are as eccentric as us and were a pleasure to have. Many people forget that your photographer and videographer are there with you all day – it is so important to have people you feel comfortable with. Our photos and videos are mind blowing and so natural.
We really wanted a fly and flop – we both like the sun and given we were keen to jet straight off and we got married in February we ended up picking two weeks all-inclusive at the Seaside Suits in Riviera Maya, Mexico. When we booked this we had no idea that Liam would end up accepting a new job in Singapore which he started in January. I stayed back to sort the wedding out and so two weeks together on a beach following getting married after five weeks apart was just phenomenal and an amazing start to married life.
This is a really tough one – the whole day is amazing and sometimes it feels like trying to hold water in cupped hands trying to remember everything.
I think the one moment that I will never forget is seeing Liam’s face as I walked down the aisle. I was so calm all morning and only got nervous as I waited to walk in. As I turned the corner (and nearly got blown away) I saw Liam’s face and wanted to run towards him – Liam never cries but he was crying and looked elated.
Our best man’s speech will also probably go down in history – he did such a great job. I was on Take Me Out many years ago and Jonny’s speech was Take Liam Out where he used embarrassing stories of Liam as each contestant and I had to leave my light on or turn it off – so clever!
Actually, one last moment I will not forget is my bridesmaids running into the bedroom at the crack of dawn screaming you’re getting married today and proceeding to jump on the bed around my mum and I!
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES
Don’t be afraid to get bogged down in the detail – a lot of people laughed and judged us for being so obsessed with the details. We made 120 invites (each were 4 pieced of card tied in ribbon and we made envelope liners too), we sat for hours putting things together and arrived at the barn with two full cars filled with our mismatched decorations. I wouldn’t change any of it. Your wedding should reflect what you want – remember your wedding your way. Surround yourselves with suppliers and friends that understand your vision and most importantly you get on with.
Often I hear girls / brides saying my wedding. As soon as you put a ring on, the focus really does turn to the girl. You end up coordinating most things and very much leading the way on decision making. Plus, everyone faffs over you, you are literally the one they are waiting for on the big day. But don’t forget your groom. Liam made every decision with me and really got creative. When you are saving for a wedding and you can’t go out as much you have to find new ways to have “date night” – some of ours was us putting on music and making different bits for our wedding together. There are stressful periods of course and you won’t always see eye to eye but make sure you both get to enjoy wedding planning and don’t forget that you are getting married not just having a wedding.
Finally and most importantly ENJOY EVERY MINUTE. It’s such a cliché piece of advice but you only get to choose your florist once, or choose your venue once. Make of it what you wish but enjoy it and don’t get stressed – be systematic and make lists!
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Pick a Lily
Well the planning and hard work on the DIY certainly paid off! Thank you Azara and Liam for sharing your gorgeous day with us all. Rachel x