These days, many couples choose to have a smaller wedding and reception. Not only does this often save on cost, but with only the closest of friends and family sharing…
Written by Paula Jones Last updated: September 29, 2006
Louise and Simon
Croham Road Baptist Church, South Croydon
Oaks Farm Barn, Shirley, Surrey
How and when did you meet?
In the halls on the first day of Freshers week at university. Simon thought I was shy and quiet – I soon showed him I wasn’t when our halls had a fancy dress party. I was Barbie and made him wear a barbarian outfit and dragged him around the entire halls until 3 am!
How old are you both?
Where, when and how did he (or you!) propose?
Simon was living in Spain at the time, and planned a night away in London just before Christmas, which he said was a present from his parents – he even got me to bring up the bottle of champagne he’d got me for my 21st birthday! I didn’t suspect a thing! He took me to Trafalgar square where the fountains were all lit up and there were the Christmas tree and carol singers. He planned to drop down on one knee by the edge of the fountain, but I was too busy singing carols to be romantic and he didn’t get a chance! We got back to our hotel room and he couldn’t wait any longer. He told me to “shut up,” as he’d been trying to ask me to marry him for the last two hours! Then he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring I’d been lusting after for months, which he’d come back to England especially to get. Needless to say, I was speechless and I was crying so hard I could only nod instead of saying yes!
Did you have hen and stag celebrations? If so, what did you do?
I had two! I had a mad weekend in Brighton with nine of my best friends – we sunbathed all day and partied all night – complete with glittery slogan t-shirts, and I had a huge L-plate, bunny tail, veil and candy garter! We went to a 50′s diner, then Bamboogy’s in Brighton before collapsing on the beach as we were all so hot! My second hen-night was more subdued – a day at a health spa with my mum, my chief bridesmaid, Simon’s mum and Simon’s sister – a truly wonderful day! Simon and his friends went go-karting, and then went up to London for a curry and a night of bar-crawling!
How did your groom help with the wedding planning?
Simon was pretty involved actually – he let me choose things like the colour scheme, but we definitely chose the venue, the car and the honeymoon together – and he helped me come down to earth when my ideas (and our budget!) were running out of control! He was at home for the two weeks before the wedding, and he ended up making all our place cards and confetti cones!
Did you use confetti to plan your wedding? If so, how did the website help you?
We had a 2 1/2 year engagement, and I was on Confetti from the start! I remember proudly entering our planned wedding date into “My Confetti” and seeing 900 odd days to go! It proved invaluable for finding suppliers, getting recommendations from other brides, and also was a great way of venting my wedding madness in the message boards without annoying all my friends and my entire family!
Do you have a confetti web page?
Did you buy any confetti products for your wedding? If so, did you visit a store, buy online or by mail order?
I loved visiting the Tottenham Court Road store – it was so much fun looking around and getting ideas! I also liked shopping on the website – I bought tea-light holders, pink heart dragees and jelly beans for favours, cake boxes, table cameras and freeze-dried confetti.
Tell us about your outfit, and where you bought it
I visited well over 15 dress shops and nearly despaired until I found the one on the Confetti dress search! I phoned my local supplier immediately (Mamfii Bridal, a wonderful dress shop in Knaphill, near Woking in Surrey)and the minute I tried it on I had to have it! It was a Forget-Me-Not gown in rose-gold taffeta which suited me so much better than white. It had a beautifully embroidered bodice and an amazing train that could either be full length, or bustled up in quite an Edwardian style! I changed the bolero-button back for a lace-up which I adored – it was the most amazing outfit I’ve ever worn and it made me feel like a star!
you have bridesmaids? If so, who did you choose and what did they wear?
I had four bridesmaids. My oldest friend who I’ve known since I was four, my best friend from school, my best friend from uni and Simon’s sister – my four favourite girls! I found beautiful soft-gold tea-length dresses in Coast which I couldn’t afford, until Simon’s mum handed me a 20% off voucher and asked if I could use it for anything! I was up in London buying them like a shot! I customised them with vintage raspberry pink ribbon which I found in a haberdashery in Soho. I very, very luckily found gorgeous 50′s style shoes with diamante and pearl broaches which were a perfect match in BHS, and made “illusion” necklaces and drop earrings from pearls, and AB and ruby Swarovski crystal to tie all the colours together.
Who did your groom choose for his best man and ushers, and what did they wear?
Simon’s best man was his 18 year old brother, Tom, and he had three ushers – my two brothers and one of our closest friends from uni. They wore traditional morning suits with pinstriped trousers – Simon and Tom had embroidered gold silk waistcoats and everyone else had dove grey. Everyone had matching silk cravats in a dusky rose colour.
Did you have a civil or religious ceremony?
We had a religious ceremony.
Where did you hold your ceremony?
In Croham Road Baptist Church in South Croydon, which is where I have always attended. It’s not the most attractive building, but I was baptised there by the vicar who married us, and the ceremony was very personal and meaningful for us – plus a lot of the congregation turned up for the ceremony. It was lovely to feel so supported and loved.
Where did you hold your reception?
At Oaks Farm Barn in Shirley, Surrey. We fell in love with it the minute we saw it. It had amazing gardens where we set up a croquet lawn, a beautiful orangery and the barn itself, which was lovely and intimate – a really cozy, country-wedding atmosphere.
Did you have any special wedding transport?
We hired a gorgeous metallic baby-blue vintage Daimler – again something we just had to have! We had champagne in the back on the way to the reception and felt like royalty! We also hired a traditional routemaster bus for the guests which everyone loved riding in – many people said it was the highlight of their day!
How many guests did you invite to your wedding, and did you have a separate evening guest list?
We had 110 people and didn’t have any extra evening guests.
Did your reception have a particular theme in terms of colour or style?
Pink! It’s my favourite colour. We used it in all its shades from the most subtle pink in my dress, to the deepest raspberry pink in the bridesmaids’ sashes. Hearts and roses also featured heavily!
How did you incorporate this in to your table settings?
We had a beautiful vase of carousel roses in the middle of each table, which we’d scattered with pink iridescent heart confetti. We had raspberry pink tea-lights, and I made the place cards – pale pink luggage labels with iridescent heart decoration which were used as napkin rings. We had bay pink cameras on each table, and got some great photos out of them! Our table names were slightly different. We named each one after an important place in our relationship, but only explained each one on the individual table – it made people move around and struck up a lot of conversations!
Did you give your guests favours?
We didn’t have personal favours, instead we had little glass bowls on the tables filled with “Just Married” Love hearts, pink heart dragees and deep pink jelly beans. Everyone loved nibbling them – especially the jelly beans!
Describe your flowers (bouquets and table decorations). Who was your florist?
I used Flowers for Weddings, based in South Croydon. Catherine, the florist, did a wonderful job. I had a hand-tied bouquet of champagne, blush pink and carousel (pale pink with a deep raspberry edge) roses, and the bridesmaids had smaller bouquets of the carousel roses. The men all had carousel rose buttonholes, and the mums had blush-pink rose corsages.We had a beautiful top table arrangement of the same colour roses as my bouquet set against deep green foliage, and the tables had individual vases of carousel roses, which Catherine had tied so they could be given away at the end of the night.
What did you choose to have on your menu? Did you have an outside caterer or did your venue handle the catering?
We used our venue’s chosen caterer who did a fantastic job! We had Pimms and canapes when the guests arrived, and our wedding breakfast consisted of tomato, mozzarella and avocado salad, a choice of beef fillet on a toasted crouton with caramelised onions and red wine jus, or goats cheese and roasted vegetable tart for the main course, and chocolate truffle cake with caramelised oranges for pudding. The portions were huge and very yummy!
What did you choose for your wedding cake, and who made it?
I make wedding cakes as a hobby, so for my own I had to up the ante! It was massive, with 4 tiers – the top two fruit, the third white chocolate and passion fruit sponge, and the bottom chocolate and amaretto! It was decorated with 42 deep pink sugar roses that were layered between the tiers – it took me over 24 hours to make them all! The icing was cream, and dusted with a pink iridescent shimmer.
Did you have any entertainment during the day or evening?
We put a croquet lawn on for guests whilst they were drinking their Pimms, and in the evening we had a DJ. We used RaindanceUK from Croydon, and they were seriously good. Our dance floor was packed all night and I had a stitch from dancing for so long. I didn’t want to leave the dance floor as the songs were all so good!
Did you have a gift list? If so, who did you have your list with?
We had two lists – Heal’s and John Lewis. We found both very easy to use, and both had a wide range of gifts and prices.
Where did you spend your first night and honeymoon? Who did you book your honeymoon with?
We drove down to Brighton on our wedding night where we spent two nights in Hotel Du vin. We had an amazing room with a huge bed, roll-top bath and a walk-in shower. We’d been given complimentary champagne by the hotel too which was a bonus! We didn’t use a travel agent as we dislike package holidays. Instead we did it ourselves by searching on the Internet. We jetted off to Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s west coast for a week. We stayed in an amazing hotel that only had seven rooms! We had fantastic weather, and the food and cocktails were divine – almost as good as the incredible sunsets we saw every night!
What was your most memorable moment of the day?
Staring into Simon’s eyes as we said our vows to one another. It was an incredible experience and I felt like it was just the two of us in the church. I was so emotional. It was the happiest I’ve ever been. Also, the memories of us driving away from our reception – all our guests ran after the car and waved sparklers and shouted after us. It was an amazing way to end the night as we were on such a high!
Did you experience any ‘nightmare’ moments in the run up to your wedding or on the day?
Too many to count! My dad came out to me as a transvestite the day before we got engaged, and the whole period of our engagement has been set against the backdrop of me coming to terms with my dad, and his new partner who is also a transvestite. I’ve been through so many tears and tantrums as to whether my dad would give me away. Simon was amazing – always supporting without judging either me or my dad. In the end, my dad gave me away in full morning suit, before changing into more neutral clothing in the evening. He gave a speech too, in which he said “whatever happens Louise will always be my ‘little angel’ and I will always be her father” – that meant so much to me, and I’m glad that whilst the backdrop of a wedding caused problems, it forced me to get a closer, more understanding relationship with my dad.
Is there anything you would do differently, or any advice you would give to other brides?
I wouldn’t have done a single thing differently. We were adamant we’d do what we wanted and wouldn’t be swayed by pressure from parents, etc. We took our time, enjoyed the planning and made the most of being engaged, and definitely saw the fruits of our labours. The best advice I could give is: don’t sweat the small stuff! It rained on our day, we forgot to take the confetti cones to the church, my nose wouldn’t stop running throughout the ceremony and the registrar interrupted the singers whilst we were signing the register, but we were far too happy to care. Things that would have given me a heart attack in the run-up to the wedding were insignificant on the day as we were so happy. Nothing could ruin our buzz. It really was the best day of our lives!