Sabina and Saleem June 1999 - How did you meet? We met in the Summer of 1996, when she was over here on a holiday, she came back and we…
Written by Paula Jones Last updated: August 9, 2006
photos by Artisan Photography
We originally met as teenagers on the Internet, way back in 1997. We became pen pals and wrote letters for two years before meeting face-to-face in 1999. We began dating that same year, after I came to the UK as a university exchange student at the University of Reading. Following my return to the USA, we continued our relationship long-distance for the next 5 years.
Pete proposed on December 27, 2003. He’d come to the US to visit me after Christmas and we decided to spend a Saturday afternoon wandering around a historic town doing a bit of wine tasting and antique browsing. At one point, we found ourselves in a very quaint gazebo admiring the view of the Mississippi River, when he suddenly pulled out a little box-shaped present. My hands were shaking as I opened the box to reveal an absolutely gorgeous emerald-cut diamond solitaire. At that moment, Pete dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him.
Sort of – Pete had a proper stag do several months before the wedding. He and seven friends went for an activity weekend of clay pigeon shooting, go-carting and drinking. I, on the other hand, attempted to have a hen night with my bridesmaids two days before the wedding. We dressed up, had cocktails in our hotel room and headed out for dinner. However, all the ‘stags’ in our group decided to crash our little hen party. As a result, we had a brilliant hen/stag do in the hotel into the wee hours of the night. I’d highly recommend it.
Unfortunately, as Pete was in England and I was in the US, he wasn’t able to do much. He provided moral support over the phone though, which was very much appreciated. My mother and I did most of the actual planning.
Absolutely – aside from being completely addicted to the message boards, which are fantastic for getting great advice and planning tips. I also found the articles to be a really helpful resource on English wedding traditions and customs. As an American marrying an Englishman, there were endless cultural differences that needed to be addressed.
In addition to ordering our guestbook from the web site, we also visited the London store where we purchased a car ribbon, mini chocolates and table confetti. For me, Confetti was great because I could get items not available in the States.
I wore a white silk satin strapless mermaid dress by Demetrios. I purchased the dress from a bridal shop on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
Yes, I had three adult bridesmaids. They wore long, satin strapless A-line gowns in lilac, with matching wraps. I had one American bridesmaid and two English ones. My American bridesmaid and I went to university together and she is my best friend in the States. One of my English bridesmaids is from London and we met during my year at Reading University. My third bridesmaid is my new English sister-in-law.
Pete actually had two friends who shared the role of best man. He also had his brother as a groomsman. We had three ushers – my brother, my nephew and Pete’s nephew.
Zion Lutheran Church in Bethalto, Illinois.
The Commons at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois.
Yes, we had a 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith for ourselves and a modern 10-person limousine for our wedding party.
We invited approximately 200 guests to the entire day. Evening receptions are unusual at American weddings.
Our main colours for the wedding were lilac, silver and white. Although we did not have a set theme, we did try to convey an ‘English country garden’ in terms of style and flowers.
Each round table was covered with a floor-length lilac tablecloth. The centrepiece was a flower arrangement set in a silver vase. Frosted votives surrounded the centerpiece and the table was dusted with irridescent confetti and rose petals.
Yes, each place setting had a mini chocolate. We also gave out personalised CDs of our favorite romantic songs.
My bouquet was a cascade of lilac and white roses, freesias, lavender and ivy. The bridesmaids’ bouquets were composed of similar flowers, but on a smaller scale. The reception flowers included pink and lilac roses, hydrangeas, freesias and ivy.
Three very talented family friends worked together on our flowers.
We had Caesar salad, roasted pork with new potatoes, carmelised carrots and green beans with almonds. Drinks included a welcome drink of Bucks fizz, red and white wine with dinner and Champagne for the toast. Our venue provided all of our catering.
Our wedding cake was actually a 5-layer cheesecake. It had alternating layers of double chocolate, plain and white chocolate raspberry. We also had a small traditional English fruit cake that Pete’s mum baked for us.
We had a string quartet at the wedding and a DJ at the reception.
Yes, we had five. We had three American lists in a range of prices. In the UK, we had lists with Next and John Lewis.
We spent our wedding night at the Beall Mansion in Alton, Illinois and our honeymoon in Barbados. We booked our trip ourselves, but we relied heavily on Tripadvisor.com.
We incorporated a piano-only version of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ into our ceremony. It played over the church’s sound system just before we said our vows and it truly sounded as if Chris Martin was in the room playing for us. It was such a touching moment that even the best men shed a few tears.
The week of the wedding was total chaos. With 13 British guests flying in, six trips to the airport AND dealing with 100+ degree heat – it was a challenge to say the least!
Delegate, delegate, delegate! I tried to do absolutely everything myself and was a nervous wreck the week of the wedding. My advice to other soon-to-be brides is to ask for help. Maybe no one else can do it as well as you can, but you can’t do it all by yourself either.