Clare and Mark
15/04/2006 – Hylands House, Chelmsford
Regiment Way Golf Club, Little Waltham, Essex
How and when did you meet?
We met at school, but weren’t really friends until the year we left school. We had mutual friends so we started hanging out together, and it went from there!
How old are you both?
Where, when and how did he (or you!) propose?
He actually proposed twice! The first time was in 1996 and we had been going out for about three months. We had a big heart to heart and declared our undying love for each other and decided to get secretly engaged. We only told a couple of close friends, and I think they thought we were mad! I had a gold ring which I wore on my engagement ring finger from that day until he bought me a proper one in 2002. The second proposal was the official one, at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2001. I don’t know how long he had been planning it, but we have a notice board in our kitchen and he wrote on it “Will you marry me in 2003?” At midnight he told me to go into the kitchen. I didn’t see the message at first so he had to practically point it out! Of course I said yes, and then we spend the next couple of hours phoning our friends and family.
Did you have hen and stag celebrations? If so, what did you do?
For my hen celebration I took eight friends to Newcastle. My bridesmaid lives there and I love the city. It was a brilliant decision. We combined shopping, eating and drinking over two days and had a fantastic time. The girls decided our theme should be black and white, the colours of Newcastle United football club. They dressed me up as you would expect for the main evening out. I wore a veil, a sash, and had a flashing wand. My favourite accessory was a special goodie bag containing sweets, games and dares. I successfully completed 22 out of 24 dares. Some were silly, some were rude! The boys spent a day in London. They played “urban golf” in Soho then they had dinner somewhere posh, then went to the Carwash nightclub. All the boys dressed in 70’s clothing and they looked hilarious!
How did your groom help with the wedding planning?
I didn’t actually let my groom do much! I found organising everything really enjoyable and he was happy to let me get on with things. Of course we discussed everything constantly, but I made all the phone calls and appointments. The most helpful thing he did was keep our best men and ushers in control!
Did you use confetti to plan your wedding? If so, how did the website help you?
I used confetti constantly. The table plan tool is great, and I kept my guest list up to date online too. It was great to ask and give advice on the forum, in fact I wish I had used it more in the beginning.
Did you buy any confetti products for your wedding? If so, did you visit a store, buy online or by mail order?
I used the confetti store to by table confetti. It was the only place I found selling it in chocolate brown, which was the colour/theme of our wedding. I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t sell it!
Tell us about your outfit, and where you bought it
My dress was from Bellissima Bridal in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex. It had a silk bodice with thousands of tiny crystal jewels sewn all over it. The skirt was tulle with loads of layers to make it really full, and also had jewels sewn into it so it sparkled in the light. I wore a tiara with crystal droplets and my veil also had tiny crystals on the bottom, which matched the dress. Because of the time of year I was worried about being cold so I bought a chocolate brown fur shrug which I definitely needed as it was very chilly on the day.
Did you have bridesmaids? If so, who did you choose and what did they wear?
I had one bridesmaid, my best friend of 17 years. We wanted her to wear chocolate brown, the same as the groom, best men and ushers. There wasn’t a great deal of choice in brown this time last year, but we found a beautiful dress in Monsoon which had matching shoes. It was perfect.
Who did your groom choose for his best man and ushers, and what did they wear?
Mark chose his brother and best friend to be best men. The three of them wore the same suit, a chocolate brown Jeff Banks suit from Debenhams. Mark wore a chocolate brown shirt and tie. The best men wore brown shirts with bright orange ties. Our ushers were my brother and two good friends. They wore their own black suits and we bought them brown shirts and gold ties so they looked the same. It worked really well and didn’t over stretch our very small budget.
Did you have a civil or religious ceremony?
A civil ceremony because we are not religious.
Where did you hold your ceremony?
The ceremony was at Hylands House in Chelmsford. It is an 18th century Grade 2 listed mansion in the grounds of Hylands Park, which holds many special memories for us as a couple.
Where did you hold your reception?
Our reception was held at Regiment Way Golf Club in Little Waltham, Essex. It was the perfect size and not as formal or large as Hylands House which is why we chose it. The staff was amazing, not at all pushy which we had found in other venues we had viewed.
Did you have any special wedding transport?
We hired a white 1978 Karmann Cabriolet Beetle from a gentleman called Ashley Avis in Surrey. We used to own a beetle ourselves and we love the car so it had to be a beetle. I was very surprised to find that there aren’t very many available for hire in this part of the country.
How many guests did you invite to your wedding, and did you have a separate evening guest list?
We had 70 guests for the ceremony, and a further 40 joined us in the evening. It would have been great to have everyone with us all day but not possible due to our small budget.
Did your reception have a particular theme in terms of colour or style?
Our theme of chocolate brown, cream and orange was reflected in the whole day. For the reception specifically, we decorated the room with candles and fairy lights. We kept it very simple.
How did you incorporate this in to your table settings?
On each table we had chocolate brown table confetti scattered in the centre of the table, with a large cream candle as the centre piece.
Did you give your guests favours?
My good friend Jackie made our favours. We gave every guest a Kinder Egg wrapped in chocolate brown net tied with a large brown ribbon.
Describe your flowers (bouquets and table decorations). Who was your florist?
Our florist was my good friend, Helen. She created beautiful bouquets for me and my bridesmaid consisting of large cream roses with skimmia, rosemary and eucalyptus. We had one large table decoration which we used at the ceremony venue and then transported to the reception for use on our top table. This featured roses, orange gerberas, skimmia, eucalyptus and stocks. We also had a large floral display next to our cake.
What did you choose to have on your menu? Did you have an outside caterer or did your venue handle the catering?
The venue handled the catering, but we did have a huge choice of food. We opted for a prawn cocktail starter (my favourite!), then we had roast chicken with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. For pudding we had citrus cheesecake. Everyone commented, saying how delicious it all was. We were thrilled. My husband is a very fussy eater so the staff prepared a special meal for him of sausages, chips and beans!
What did you choose for your wedding cake, and who made it?
We definitely wanted a chocolate cake! We chose Karen’s Cakes in Waltham Abbey, Essex. She has a shop with many cakes on display so we could have a good look at her designs. We chose a three tiered chocolate cake with chocolate curls around the edges. My florist decorated it with cream roses. It was delicious and looked beautiful.
Did you have any entertainment during the day or evening?
No, we didn’t feel the need for it. I think it’s more relevant if you have a huge wedding where lots of guests don’t know each other or you need an ice breaker. We provided champagne for our guests immediately after the ceremony so hopefully they weren’t too bored during our photographs!
Did you have a gift list? If so, who did you have your list with?
Our gift list was with John Lewis. We chose our gifts four months before the wedding, and it was great fun. John Lewis are clearly experts at gift lists and we had excellent service from them.
Where did you spend your first night and honeymoon? Who did you book your honeymoon with?
Our first night was spent at the Riverside Inn in Chelmsford, a gorgeous 17th century pub with eight rooms above. We know the owners quite well so they looked after us brilliantly. We honeymooned at Sandals in Antigua, which was our present from my dad. We booked online with Virgin. It exceeded our expectations in every way. It was bliss.
What was your most memorable moment of the day?
This is a very difficult question to answer! There are so many wonderful things to choose from. When I was fully dressed, walking down the stairs at my mum’s house and seeing my step-dad’s face was fantastic. Our drive from Hylands House to Regiment Way was unforgettable too. It was absolutely freezing as we had the roof down. I wasn’t going to miss out on that, even if it had been raining! The owner of the car pulled over halfway there to put his huge coat around my shoulders. What a gentleman! The speeches were fantastic, especially Mark’s. Very emotional but also really funny.
Did you experience any ‘nightmare’ moments in the run up to your wedding or on the day?
We had booked a different car originally and they cancelled on us about four months before the wedding. I had such a nightmare finding the car in the first place, I never thought we would find another Cabriolet beetle. But of course it turned out fine. My only nightmare on the day was my hair. I had it curled at my hairdressers that morning, but by the time I got to Hylands House it was dropping out on one side. I was very worried about it, but it was beyond my control so I just tried to forget about it.
Is there anything you would do differently, or any advice you would give to other brides?
I would have taken curling tongs with me as an emergency item, and then I could have sorted out my hair! My only advice would be to try and drink it all in as much as you can. Every bride says it, but no matter how hard you try it still passes in a flash. I wish I had taken my own camera with me, because not many guests had cameras. We haven’t got many photos from the reception, which is a shame.