Sinead The Bride: Our wedding was always going to be a relaxed affair with lots of fun thrown in and whichever venue we chose, it had to accommodate this. We are both chronic ditherers, so it felt reassuringly out of character when we had no doubts about booking the first and only reception venue we visited. Balham Bowls Club’s eclectic decor suits our personalities perfectly, and the ballroom upstairs was the ideal size and layout for our plans. Wandsworth Town Hall is a short drive from Balham, and we loved its gloriously kitsch Art Deco interior.
I didn’t want to want to look too ‘done up’ and the overall style I was going for was pretty laid back, so I did my own makeup on the day (accompanied by our cat, Ziggy!). I spent a year growing my hair so that I could wear it in a fishtail plait, and put together a Pinterest board of the styles I liked. I had a hairdresser called Toosdee come to my house on the morning of the wedding. She was super-quick so we were done in about 20 minutes!
The Bride’s Fashion
I wanted a simple, vintage style dress and I wanted it to be pink. I work for an online fashion retailer called Avenue 32 and we stock the Ready to Wear collection from a designer called Charlie Brear, who also happens to create beautiful, yet simple, wedding dresses. Not long after we got engaged, I went along to Charlie’s beautiful store and tried on a couple of dresses, however, they didn’t really feel like me.
Then one of the assistants came over, asked me a bunch of questions, scurried away and came back with a blush pink silk overdress. As soon as I tried it on, I knew that it was much more my style than anything else, so didn’t hesitate snapping it up. I needed a slip to go underneath the blush pink wedding dress and found the perfect ivory silk bias cut Amanda Wakeley slip, thanks to one of my good friends.
I wanted a simple ribbon belt, so I made one myself using an ivory ribbon and a beaded motif that I found online. Necklace and earrings were courtesy of my mum and I also went with a delicate hand bracelet from Heirloom Envy, which I found on Etsy. I wanted shoes that weren’t too high, would make a little statement and that I could wear again – I found the perfect pair from Tabitha Simmons.
Getting married in April, I hoped for a sunny day, but knew it would probably be cold, so my mum kindly offered to knit me a fluffy ivory cardigan. Apparently it was a nightmare to make as the wool was so fine – but the finished piece looked beautiful. I didn’t want a veil, so opted for a flower crown from Artisan Dried Flowers, with Lavender and Gypsophilia.
The Groom’s Fashion
I had read about a tailor in Chiswick called Adam Waite, who makes sharp suits and accessories in bold colours with a modish twist. James always wanted to get married in a blue suit so Adam Waite was the perfect choice. He teamed the 3-piece suit with a navy woollen tie by Adam Waite, floral shirt from Paul Smith and brown brogues from Loake.
My gift to James on the day was a vintage sapphire tie pin to complete the look. I snuck it into his jacket pocket with a little note for him to find when he was getting ready. He loved it!
We asked the four groomsmen to wear navy suits, and bought them each a sky blue tie (also from Adam Waite) to wear on the day, along with dried flower buttonholes which matched my flower crown.
We didn’t set out with a colour theme but based on our outfits, it evolved into pale pink, blue and ivory. We were lucky that Balham Bowls club doesn’t need much decorating as they have a great collection of antique props lining the walls of the venue, so we simply added to this with flowers, more vintage-style props and our own personal touches. One of James’s friends also made us some personalised bunting with our names in floral blues and pinks, which we hung at one end of the room.
The idea of carrying around a bunch of flowers all day didn’t really appeal to me. Instead I opted for a delicate wrist corsage, also from the Artisan Dried Flower Company. I prepared the flowers for the reception venue myself. I ordered some wholesale Hydrangeas and Gypsophilia online from Triangle Nursery, which were delivered a couple of days before and wallowed in our bath until needed.
I cut them down to size and painted what seemed like endless tin cans and jars and decorated them with hessian and lace bows. These were placed around the venue and used as vases. Special thanks to my mum and dad for eating nothing but pasta and jam for six months so that we’d have enough jars! At the time, I thought the flower prep would never end, but it looked great on the day and we definitely saved money doing it this way.
I’m usually a bit emotional at weddings, so I was too focussed on not crying to be nervous on the day. My mum and my friend Kate joined me in the car to the ceremony and it was a really lovely drive over.
I’ve never been keen on the idea of being ‘given away’ so James and I had planned to walk into the Grand Chamber together, accompanied by our gorgeous flower girls. I had a brief flutter of nerves when entering the room but once I was in it just felt so nice to just have all of our friends and family together in one place.
We had two readings, which were perfect: an excerpt from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (I’m love rabbits!); and The Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields.
Music is really important to us, so we wanted a quality band who looked and sounded great, as well as appealing to all the generations. We went with a rock ‘n’ roll group called The Flip Top Floozies and they were amazing! As soon as the first note struck up, absolutely everyone was on the dance floor and didn’t stop for the rest of the night.
For our first dance we chose Earth Angel by The Penguins as it was on the band’s set list and we liked the Back to the Future connection. After the band finished our friend (and professional DJ) Fergus De Witt kept the party going until the wee hours.
Having flowing drinks and great food was also really important to us and Balham Bowls Club had the perfect menu. We had champagne and canapés in the downstairs Presidential Suite first and the wedding breakfast included salmon roulade and ham hock terrine followed by fillet of beef or sea bass.
The meal was even better than expected and we had lots of compliments about it, so hats off to the BBC chef for his hard work! We also had a bake-off style homemade cake buffet table, which we decorated with flowers and blue bunting. Guests were encouraged to bring cakes, I baked three the day before and my friend Claire baked what seemed like an endless amount of treats – she was the hero of the day!
James also surprised me with a croquembouche (I had always wanted one), which was delivered straight to the venue – it was amazing.
We put photo booth props on the tables, and every guest was given a blue or pink striped candy bag filled with love hearts, a themed crossword (set by James), and ice-breaking quiz questions.
We’re both quite creative and work in digital, so we designed our own invites, table plan and website. We borrowed a vintage postbox from a friend, and bought lots of antique decorations on a trip to Norfolk.
We had our own pub blackboard, which James painstakingly personalised with chalk pens. Place names were simply labels on the candy bags and I created the table numbers with mini doilies and skewers.
We really wanted some great photos of the day, so early on I started my search for the perfect photographer. I wanted the photos to have a relaxed feel and to fit into the vintage look of the day. A friend on Facebook had got married and posted her photos, they were just the style I was looking for, so I tracked down the photographer, Harriet from Weddings Vintage. We didn’t meet before the day (she was coming down from Manchester), but she was so good – the perfect photographer: discreet yet captured all of the shots that we could have wanted. We couldn’t have been happier!
One other element that I had always wanted on my wedding day was to be driven to the venue in a Karma Kars. I had seen them at an event about 10 years ago and absolutely loved them! Sacha, our driver, was a dream to work with – he arrived early at my house in his white vintage ambassador’s car and regaled us with stories on our journey to the registry office and then onto the reception venue. He was also a big hit with the guests as they mingled outside the town hall.