We got engaged on a skiing trip in Austria. I had an inkling he would propose at some point that year but I really didn’t think it was going to be that holiday - I had planned the trip so I definitely did not foresee him hijacking it. We were staying with some friends who have a chalet there, and on the journey out I couldn’t understand why he was holding his bag so tightly - he kept claiming to have a lot of cash in it. He had wanted to propose in the mountains, but got so nervous having the ring on him that he ended up doing it straight away, on night one - I was actually in the bath when he asked! I was like this hot lobster - my fingers were swollen and the ring wouldn’t go on - so the next day we took the ring skiing with us to get a proper engagement photo.
I got lucky - he proposed with his great-great-grandmother’s ring, and it’s really beautiful. It was originally set in platinum, so he had the stone polished and reset in yellow gold to make it more to my taste - I didn’t even know what I wanted before, but I love it. It’s an emerald in the middle with two diamonds either side.
The Early Stages
I’m a big kid and I love Christmas, so I always dreamt of a December wedding. We got engaged in February, and I decided to do it at the end of the following year. Since I’m in the wedding industry I had a good idea of what I wanted, so it got to a point where I realised I couldn’t wait that long. My mum told me I would bore everyone to death if I dragged the planning out until then! So I decided just to get on with it. By that point I only had 4 months left to do everything in.
I wanted to have the wedding the weekend before Christmas, but decided by that point everyone is partied out, and ready to go home to nest. Instead we chose the 1st of December to kick the month off with a bang.
I was dead set on having a marquee with long banqueting tables, rather than round ones. I really wanted a top table too; not one that included our parents, but a one-sided lay out with out best men and bridesmaids so we could see everyone during the speeches. I also wanted an uninterrupted view of us for the photographers! I wanted a relatively small wedding - 80 people was my ideal - but when it came down to actually adding up numbers, we ended up with 120. I drew the line there – otherwise you have to start looking for a bigger marquee and factor in higher costs.
I wanted to do it in the UK - for the Christmas vibe there’s nowhere better. Ollie is from a little village in Wiltshire that is quintessentially English - they have a village pub and it’s always festive. It was perfect.
I got in trouble when it came to budgeting - we obviously had a certain amount of money to spend, but I didn’t specifically allocate certain amounts for individual things, which didn’t go down well with my husband! My main thing was the decor - I’m the creative director of a brand, I’m very visual and very creative, so all I really cared about was that our guests would enter that marquee and go ‘wow’ - that was more of a priority to me than what I looked like.
The cake wasn’t a spending priority - it was great, but we just got a local guy to do it. I created my own invites too - I designed my own logo, painted them, and got them printed myself. I was happy to cut corners with that.
The theme for the wedding was swans and stars; there were swans on the invites, on the tables - everywhere. I figured they were Christmassy - think of seven swans a swimming - and I also like the fact that they mate for life, and create a heart when they intertwine their necks. So I nodded to that motif throughout.
I really thought I could do without a wedding planner; I’m in the wedding industry, I know people, it’s a waste of money. But then a friend of a friend messaged me saying she really wanted to be a wedding planner - she worked in events, had never done a wedding before and wanted to build a portfolio. So I thought, why not? I don’t know if I could have done it without her. Her name is Rosie - her company is called Rosie Green Events. She was amazing - apparently things went wrong on the day, but she never let me know and just dealt with it; everything ran smoothly thanks to her. Even if it’s just to have someone on the day coordinating everything, a planner really is essential.
My husband and his family are very religious, so I let them take charge of the ceremony. The only thing in the whole wedding he really cared about was the hymns; he went to boarding school so having a selection he loved was a big thing for him. His dad is a lay preacher, so it was a very traditional ceremony; we even included ‘honour and obey’, which I know a lot of people remove these days.
Because of the Christmas/Winter theme, I knew I wanted long sleeves and a high neck, and even before Megan Markle got married I wanted really clean lines and a simple aesthetic. I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere, so my bridal designer friend Andrea Hawkes offered to make it - I gave her my design and we started from there. I loved it, but the style was a bit limiting; I knew the sleeves and neckline would be a pain for dancing. That’s why I decided to change into a jumpsuit for the evening - I chose a white style from Seren London, via Mews of Notting Hill.
I wanted my hair slicked back, so I thought oversized earrings would be cool. I chose some cheap styles but my mum thought they were too gold and shiny, so last minute I came across an Australian designer called Nikki Witt on Instagram. She had crosses mixed with pearls which softened the look - that’s the only jewellery I wore. In the evening I went for a pearl-encrusted headband. I wanted boots to be comfortable and to go with the winter aesthetic, so chose a pair from Freya Rose; they were white with a celestial mother of pearl heel - covered in stars. Perfect for that swans and stars theme.
I don’t wear a lot of makeup - I look better with less. My close friend owns Blush & Blow salon in Parsons Green - she’s an amazing make-up artist and we use her for all our shoots, plus I always recommend her, so naturally I chose her for the big day. I wanted to look glossy and dewy, with a nude lip, and then for the evening a little more eye shadow, but still a natural finish. She knows I’m obsessed with being brown, so all I told her was to make me as bronzed as possible! I picked a special perfume - I’m a big Diptyque fan, so my mum, sister and I did a mother/daughter day out at the store in Notting Hill. L’ombre dans l’Eau stood out to me - not least of all because there’s a swan on the bottle.
If I didn’t have Maids To Measure I probably would have just had my sister, but I own a bridesmaids dress company, so I decided to take a ‘the more the merrier’ approach. I have so many brides in the shop saying ‘I just want my bridesmaids to be happy, they can choose their own dress’, but that was not me. I had a really clear vision, so I told them exactly what they’d be wearing, how they’d be having their hair etc. I knew I wanted dark green to go with my engagement ring and the Christmas theme, so they ended up in an emerald-shade chiffon in our Holly style, which has a high neck so really complimented my look. I was also going to pay for all of them to have hair extensions so they could have the exactly same hairstyle as me! But I had nine bridesmaids, so it just wasn’t viable. Instead we styled their hair in an identical way, tied with green velvet, and they each carried a candle down the aisle instead of flowers. I had my nieces in white dresses with green velvet capes from Little Devon.
My husband wore a morning coat - it was a non-negotiable for him. The only thing I won on was ditching the hats! The groomsmen wore waistcoats in different pastel shades, and had little sprigs of mistletoe instead of traditional button holes.
I found two giant stone swans on Ebay which I used as a top table centre piece. I wanted flowers and greenery, but also oranges and pomegranates to create a really opulent feel, so I filled the swans with different fruits, then added green glass jars filled with candles that I found in Matalan, along with mini orange trees. When I told people my colour scheme they thought it sounded disgusting - it was pink, burgundy, dark green and orange - but it definitely worked to bring the Christmas theme together. I had my menu printed as a place mat for everyone, then my wedding favours were napkins embroidered with the logo I had designed. I tied them with the same green velvet ribbon I used for the bridesmaids’ hair.
I had my heart set on a navy tent with gold stars on the ceiling from a company called Raj Tent Marquees, but it was so expensive - over £20k. Their marquees are also more for summer - because it was winter, I needed a proper structure. I was still set on the navy look - I knew it would mean I didn’t need to dress the space further, plus ivory just didn’t feel Christmassy enough. My sister eventually found a company called Inside Outside Marquees, and they instantly reassured me - he had such a can-do attitude. They had a black marquee with lights in the ceiling which looked like stars, which was a great blank canvas; even the carpet was charcoal coloured. They were so good with tips for heating and other little details - we were going to have portaloos, but they made the point we didn’t want our guests traipsing through a field and he showed us how to incorporate them into the tent instead. In the end, we invited them to the wedding they were just such delightful people.
I wanted to serve really delicious comfort food - for me that meant mac n cheese! When I go to festivals that’s always the longest queue - everyone loves it, and it’s great for veggies too. Being very traditional, my husband’s family were set on a certain style of wedding banquet - they’re lovely, but serving their guests mac n cheese was one thing they weren’t prepared to do. I think he was picturing cheesy pasta slopped on a plate, so in the end we used smart ramekins and made it lobster mac n cheese to compromise. For starter we had a walnut and warm duck salad, and for pudding plum crumble with creme anglaise.
The entertainment was also really important to us; we knew the key to everyone having a good time was great music and extra surprise details. So we made this a key focus throughout; on arrival, everyone went into the church where mulled wine was being served and a choir were performing, then outside afterwards we had a brass band all dressed as Santa Claus. They led everyone to the village pub where we had drinks and nibbles and there was a Frank Sinatra tribute singer performing Christmas songs from that era. Then the Santas came back and got everyone outside the pub, and led a procession of all our guests up to the marquee. Each guest was given a flame torch, and the band were playing their brass instruments - it was amazing. Later, in between main course and pudding, I arranged a surprise for my husband. We have very different taste in music - I like head-banging house and dance, and he’s really old school; Dancing Queen is his favourite song. So as a wedding gift I had an Abba tribute band come in to get the party going - they did an hour set of all the classics, which everyone loved, and then when they were done a band called Light It Up took over. They play instruments that light up - there was a lot going on! I spent a lot on the entertainment.
The Follow Up
I was really happy to change my name - it was of course a non-negotiable for my traditional husband, but I wasn’t so attached to my maiden name that it was a problem. We went on a mini moon to Budapest - he surprised me with a trip there for the Christmas markets. We did a proper honeymoon in Bermuda in March - it was slightly off season, but was so beautiful and we loved it.
I wish we had gone on honeymoon the next day. I thought it would be nice to have a debrief, but I had to watch it all come down which was depressing. Also the next day I threw a brunch for all our guests, but it was an additional cost I probably didn’t need to spend.
Also, my florist ran away with my money ten days before the wedding. We managed to rectify it (we found a great back up florist who worked through the night to make it happen) but having wedding insurance made it significantly less stressful. So that’s my biggest bit of advice - take out insurance against the event!
Finally, someone had advised us to take five minutes together during the event to step back and watch everyone. I grabbed my new husband and just had a little moment together, which was so worth it - it all goes so quickly.
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