I work with Gerard’s sister-in-law and met him through her, although we didn’t initially hit it off. Gerard came across as the wild younger brother and he thought I was too posh for him!
How old are you both?
Emma, 28 and Gerard now 29.
Where, when and how did he (or you!) propose?
I met Gerard for a drink after work when I broke up for the Christmas holidays in 2005. He popped out of the pub (in Birmingham’s jewellry quarter) to ‘take a phone call’ for a few minutes. When we left the pub shortly afterwards, he dragged me into the middle of the road onto a traffic island underneath the quarter’s famous clock tower and went down on one knee. I later found out that he was originally planning to take me on the Birmingham wheel to propose but the ring was being made by a family friend and it was ready later than he thought so the wheel was closed. Still, with all the passing cars beeping away it was a romantic and unforgettable proposal.
Did you have hen and stag celebrations? If so, what did you do?
I went to Liverpool for the weekend and spent a day at Chester races for my hen party. It was amazing and my bridesmaids and friends had made a huge effort to include special arrangements and personal touches for me. Gerard spent the weekend in Donegal with his stags being bullied at paintball and drinking lots of Guinness. We both had local more traditional stag and hen nights the week before our wedding at home in Birmingham.
How did your groom help with the wedding planning?
Gerard was very involved with the design aspects of our wedding including creating biographies and fact files for 20 football players for our tables and designing the table plan and table name cards. He also had a big input into our choice of venue and food and drink for our guests. He spent the Thursday before our wedding flying around doing last minute preparations (including buying my wedding present!) whilst I was being pampered at a spa so he did his fair share in the planning process!
Did you use Confetti to plan your wedding? If so, how did the website help you?
The discussion forums were invaluable in navigating the minefield that can be wedding planning for a novice and is also a great source for recommending local suppliers and brands. The best thing about using Confetti was making new friends who live close by, we have met up a few times to talk weddings (and other things occasionally!).
Did you buy any Confetti products for your wedding? If so, did you visit a store, buy online or by mail order?
I bought thank you cards, personalised ribbon and table confetti online and I also bought my guest name cards from the extremely handy Confetti shop in Birmingham when I realised it was something I had missed only 3 days before our wedding!
Tell us about your outfit, and where you bought it
I wore a ‘meringue’ wedding dress, much to everyone’s surprise (including my own!). My dress was Capri by Benjamin Roberts and I found it at a small, private bridalwear retailer in Worcester. Gatehouse Brides is run by a mother and daughter who are really down to earth and friendly, so my shopping experience was very informal and intimate, unlike my experiences in some larger chains. This suited me well and looking at my dress in our wedding pictures, I know it was exactly the right one for me.
Did you have bridesmaids? If so, who did you choose and what did they wear?
I had three adult bridesmaids, my sister, best friend and my brother’s girlfriend and amazingly they all chose the same dress to wear on the big day. The bridesmaid dress was ‘Donna’ by Emily Fox at Berketex Bride. They were great in the run up to the wedding and helped make my hen parties go with a real swing. On the day they did a great job of keeping me calm, getting me to church on time and generally being great ‘maids’. My two younger sisters Summer (8) and Poppy (4) were our flower girls and they wore ivory chiffon dresses from Adams, a bargain at only £35 each!
Who did your groom choose for his best man and ushers, and what did they wear?
Gerard had his brother John as his best man and he was fantastic. He planned the whole stag weekend with no input from Gerard and delivered a brilliant speech on the day. He chose his friends Jez, Paul, Jamie and Patrick as ushers and they were also great organising our guests for photographs and making sure everyone was in the right place at the right time. All of the men in our bridal party wore silver grey tail suits with ivory shirts, waistcoats and cravats, with crystal tie pins and cufflinks. They sported Aqua rose button holes and carried silver topped canes, which looked elegant and provided hours of fun throughout the day! Our head usher was Gerard’s godson Robert, aged nine. He did a fantastic job on the day and we were really proud of him.
Did you have a civil or religious ceremony?
We had a traditional Roman Catholic ceremony with mass at the church I’ve attended since I was a little girl. Unfortunately the parish priest was unwell leading up to our wedding but Father Anton who stepped in to conduct the service was great and really made his sermon applicable to the little he had learned about us in the few weeks prior to our marriage.
Where did you hold your ceremony?
At Olton Friary in Solihull.
Where did you hold your reception?
At West Midlands Golf Club in Barston, Solihull. Jeny, the coordinator there was an absolute God send. She ran around like wildfire on the day (and for several months leading up to it) to make sure everything was perfect and everyone commented on how fabulous she was.
Did you have any special wedding transport?
I travelled to the church with my Dad in an old Rolls Royce Landaulette and this took my husband and I from the ceremony to the reception. My bridesmaids and Mom travelled in an ivory Austin Princess limousine, that used to belong to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham!
How many guests did you invite to your wedding, and did you have a separate evening guest list?
We were joined by 197 guests to celebrate our marriage and were blessed that so many of our friends and relatives could be with us on the day. In the evening approximately 30 more friends and work colleagues joined us for the party.
Did your reception have a particular theme in terms of colour or style?
The wedding overall was a very traditional, English summer wedding with the focus on sharing our special day with lots of family and friends. We tried to include everyone and had lots of participation from friends and relatives in the service with Gerard’s cousins and my sister reading for us in church, Gerard’s godson Robert being head usher, Robert’s brother served the altar and my brother and Gerard’s cousin were our witnesses. We are both big football fans, although we support rival local teams and this formed the basis for a subtle football theme running through the entire event. Our invitations were based on our respective clubs, our table plan was a mock up of the Sky Sports news screen and our tables were named after previous Blues and Villa players. Our colours were neutral with pink as an accent for the flowers, bridesmaids and table linen.
How did you incorporate this in to your table settings?
The tables were laid with all ivory linen with a splash of colour in pink napkins and an informal arrangement of pink flowers set by our florist.
Did you give your guests favours?
We gave our guests favours of personalised ‘McAuley’ wonka bars in a pink wrapper and the lucky guests who found a golden ticket in his or her wonka bar won tickets to Cadbury world to tie in with that particular chocolate factory themed item.
Describe your flowers (bouquets and table decorations). Who was your florist?
I found our florist through a friend I met on the Confetti discussion forum and she was without a doubt our star supplier! She designed and created our bouquets, the button holes, table arrangements and corsages as well as decorating our cake with 60 individual Aqua roses! She dropped off flowers at Gerard’s parents, the hotel we were staying at and also went on to decorate our reception venue and was generally fantastic. I carried a bouquet of Aqua roses, pink hydrangeas, stocks, lizzianthus and other pink filler flowers and all of the other flowers used throughout the day used the same blooms. They look absolutely stunning on the pictures and brought a real splash of colour to our wedding.
What did you choose to have on your menu? Did you have an outside caterer or did your venue handle the catering?
Our venue handled all of the catering and the standard of food was extremely high, part of the reason we chose them for our reception. We served canapes on arrival and followed this with a 3-course seated meal of home-made game terrine served with sweet onion marmalade, roast sirloin of Irish beef with yorkshire puddings and roast vegetables, strawberries and vanilla ice cream in a brandy snap basket and finally coffee and chocolates to enjoy during the speeches.
What did you choose for your wedding cake, and who made it?
We ordered our wedding cakes from Crumbs! cakes as a friend used them for his wedding cake, which was a fabulous tower of chocolate truffles. We went for a 5 tier spectacular cake of chocolate fudge (top and bottom tier), victoria sponge, rich fruit and carrot tiers covered in milk chocolate cigarillos and designed in ‘floating’ tiers with Aqua rose heads in between. It looked amazing and it was all eaten, which I think is unusual for wedding cake. Luckily our venue coordinator saved the top tier for us to take home so we got a whole section of chocolate fudge cake to share between the two of us!
Did you have any entertainment during the day or evening?
We utilised our church choir during the service, which gave a great sound during hymns. We had a string trio playing during the drinks reception, which went down really well and provided lovely background music for our mingling part of the day. We played swing and rat pack tunes during the meal and then Gerard’s friends deejayed in the evening. They made sure the dancefloor was packed all night and everyone danced until 2am.
Did you have a gift list? If so, who did you have your list with?
We took a long time deciding whether to have a traditional gift list, ask for money or not bother at all! In the end we went for a traditional gift registry with John Lewis and were absolutely amazed at the generosity of our guests. We received every item that we put on the list and still have vouchers left over – we were overwhelmed.
Where did you spend your first night and honeymoon? Who did you book your honeymoon with?
We spent our first night in a hotel local to the wedding reception. The golf club has no accommodation and so I stayed at this hotel on the night before the wedding also, with my bridesmaids and my Mom. The honeymoon was a surprise as Gerard had planned it all with no input from me. In his speech he revealed that we would be travelling to Sri Lanka, a place I have always longed to visit, and we spent two fabulous weeks visiting cultural and religious sights, bathing in a river with elephants, meeting the friendly locals and soaking up the sun in luxurious hotels. It was wonderful.
What was your most memorable moment of the day?
I have two: the first when I arrived next to Gerard at the altar and he said ‘that dress is really big isn’t it, you look like Princess Diana’ (!) and then a much nicer one when we went for a little walk down to the lake during the evening when he said ‘are you enjoying yourself Mrs McAuley?’ – that was fab!
Did you experience any “nightmare” moments in the run up to your wedding or on the day?
Looking back there was nothing too big in terms of wedding planning, although at the time some things felt enormous! Little things went wrong like the postal strikes meaning our table plan and table names only arrived with us the day before, the polaroid films I’d ordered a month in advance didn’t arrive at all (and never have!), the suit hire company supplied the wrong coloured cravats and could only replace half of them in time… The biggest challenges were when Gerard’s uncle died 7 months before the wedding as he was a huge influence and it was hard going ahead without him being present and then a few weeks before the wedding we found out that Gerard’s Aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer and therefore could not travel to be with us. These things really put everything into context and we concentrated on having a celebration of our marriage with the people who are important to us.
Is there anything you would do differently, or any advice you would give to other brides?
I would definitely place less importance on the peripherals in the planning process (like hiring chairs to match the colour theme – I would rather have the £700 in my pocket now!) and give more attention to just enjoying being engaged. I thoroughly enjoyed things like choosing our wedding rings, selecting hymns and readings for the service and making our orders of service. Equally I was pleased that I sourced so many things direct from suppliers, even when the item was bespoke to us, it was nice to have it arrive ready to go rather than stress over too much ourselves. Finally, the biggest piece of advice I can give and was given is to really enjoy the day and not be nervous. I experienced a severe rush of nerves on entering the church and it lasted for the walk down the aisle until Father Anton spoke to welcome us, then I spent the rest of the day grinning idiotically and had the best time ever. All of our guests commented on how happy we looked and it set the tone for a relaxed and fun day with everyone we love there to share it with us.