3 SheerLuxe Brides Tell Us About Their Special Day

We're always on the hunt for stylish brides, so when three of our very own got married this summer, we had to tap them for their wedding tips. So here they are: Partnerships & Insights Manager Ali McLean, and Advertising Managers Sophie Kurzer and Chloe Hannant talking venues, dresses, lessons learnt and why it really is the best day of your life…

The Details

Ali: I got married at Cornwell Manor in Chipping Norton. I really wanted a quintessential English wedding – even though I’m Australian and I had lots of friends and family flying over. We had about 170 guests total.

Sophie: My husband and I got married at Sopwell House in St Albans in a traditional Jewish ceremony. My main concern was making it easy to get to, so many of our guests could make it. We had about 200 guests in the end which, if you can believe it, is actually quite small for a Jewish wedding!

Chloe: We were married in Rye in a special house that used to belong to my husband’s granny during the war. We wanted a very relaxed, English-style wedding. We rigged up a marquee in the garden to make it into one big party. We had 180 guests in the day, which rose to about 230 in the evening. We couldn’t get married legally on site, so we actually had a separate ceremony about three weeks before in Weybridge followed by a lunch at Beaverbrook.

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JOANNA BROWN

The Proposal

Ali: Jimmy and I actually got married for the first time about a month after he proposed. He asked me to marry him on a beach in Australia shortly before the pandemic (we’d known each other about a year at this point) and then we came back to London. I actually look back on it with such fond memories. My parents knew – don’t worry! – but we didn’t tell my wider family and friends because I wanted them to feel like the Cotswolds day was the ‘real’ thing. There was never supposed to be a three-year gap in between the two – thanks Covid.

Sophie: My husband and I met on a blind date in January 2020. We dated for about a year but talked about marriage quite a lot. In some ways I think I was expecting a proposal by July 2021, which was when Tommy proposed on holiday in Mallorca. It was a really romantic setting and he got down on one knee – it was very emotional.

Chloe: Okay, my proposal was much more casual! Right before the November 2020 lockdown, Will and I booked a trip to Devon – I had no idea he planned to propose there. But then the government shut everything down again, so we cancelled. Will still insisted on spending the week at home and the day after my birthday, I was very, very hungover. We made the world’s best roast dinner and that was when Will told me he had one final present for me – my ring. 

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The Ring

Ali: I’m still wearing the ring Jimmy proposed with, which was a decoy. He’s arranged an appointment with a jeweller friend of mine in Sydney to design the ‘real’ ring, but we haven’t made it back there to finalise the design. To be honest, I don’t mind. I’ve fallen in love with this ring, and it means so much to me now. 

Sophie: Ali that is not a ‘decoy’ ring – it came from Hatton Garden! If you want a decoy ring, let me tell you about my £10 ring from Argos. After the proposal, Tommy and I shopped for ‘real’ rings, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Eventually, I ended up with a ring that looked exactly like the decoy – only a little higher on the carat weight. It’s a simple gold band with a solitaire diamond. 

Chloe: My ring is quite different. There’s an antique jeweller called Cry For The Moon in Guildford and I always knew I wanted my ring to come from there. One day, when I was looking for something for my mum’s birthday, I came across this cluster-diamond ring. I sent a picture to Will (as a bit of a joke) without any idea he’d already gone and reserved it two weeks before. Sadly, it was too small and being antique, non-adjustable, so he went with another one, which is just as stunning.

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The Planning 

Ali: We originally planned to get married in June 2021 but ended up pushing things back to 2022 because of the pandemic. We really didn’t plan anything until the end of 2021 – we knew we had to wait until the Australian guests could fly – but a lot of our suppliers still ended up going into receivership. We lost a couple of deposits, but our venue was amazing – if you ever get married at Cornwell Manor, Charlotte who runs it, was invaluable to us.

Sophie: Because we got engaged in 2021, we didn’t have to endure too much of the Covid chaos. We set a date for mid 2022 and hoped for the best. Wedding insurance had pretty much evaporated by the time we got round to planning, so we just had to get on with it and hope the situation was calmer by then. 

Chloe: We also felt 2021 was a bit ambitious given the pandemic. We set a date for 2022 and it meant we had so many more choices because we had a far longer lead time – our engagement ended up being about 19 months in the end. Lockdown was also really helpful because we had so much free time to research different options. I can be a bit of a control freak, but I love organising and putting things together, so I didn’t find any of it too stressful.

Sophie: I didn’t stress too much either, actually. Some people would have freaked out with only a year to plan, but I think it forced us to make quick decisions – definitely a good thing!

CHIKO PHOTOGRAPHY
JOANNA BROWN

The Fashion

Ali: So I’ve already mentioned that I’ve had more than one wedding… For the town hall in London, I wore a suit by Australian label Bec + Bridge. Then, for the second wedding, I wore a dress I co-designed with Emma Victoria Payne. I went to probably 10 or 20 different dress designers but couldn’t find anything I liked. All I knew was I didn’t want to look like everyone else and that it should be pink. It was very subtle, but the details were quite dramatic – I added the high neck quite last minute. For the evening I wore a minidress from Retrofête with some knee-high boots and for our pool party the next day I wore a dress by Cult Gaia

Chloe: Similarly, I wore a slip dress and a blazer by 12 Storeez for the legal Weybridge ceremony and I felt great in it. It was so fun having such a contrast between the two days. For the Rye day, I wore a top and skirt by The OWN Studio. I had it made in a specific fabric and extended the train. I even wore the top again on my honeymoon. I ripped off my veil before I even made it to the end of the aisle – it was way too windy! Then, for the evening I rented an ILTA dress from Hurr. My mum was quite against the idea, but I felt amazing in it. I wish I’d bought it, actually.

Sophie: For Jewish weddings, there are a couple of stipulations, including covered shoulders for the ceremony. Otherwise, my only requirement was that it was easy to dance in – traditional Israeli dancing is a big deal. It came from Morgan Davies in Islington and the designer was Alan Hannah. It was very simple, but I added an overlay to cover my arms and borrowed a double veil from a friend. Then the overlay came off for the reception and I added a belt. Now that the wedding’s over, I’m probably going to sell it via Gillian Million. About 90% of the dresses there are pre-loved.

Ali: Ooh, I might do that too. I’m definitely not going to wear it again – the corset is so structured, I fainted twice in the fittings!

Chloe: I’m keeping mine. But I am going to get the skirt altered, and then because they’re separates, I can wear them again.

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The Food

Ali: We brought in pretty much every single supplier – our venue was dry hire.

Sophie: Ours too.

Ali: It certainly added to the stress, but we brought in Barbecue Thirteen to cook the food on an open fire pit. Jimmy felt more strongly about the food than I did. We had a burrata salad to start, followed by grilled chicken with truffle mash and then meringues, berries and cream for dessert. My mother-in-law surprised us with our wedding cake, which was so sweet.

Sophie: Tommy was definitely more into the food at our wedding, too. We used Eat Me Events, which came highly recommended. We had a smoky beef with focaccia to start, roast chicken as the main and a half-baked white chocolate macadamia cookie with ice cream for dessert. Wedding cakes aren’t really a thing in Jewish weddings, so we skipped that.

Chloe: Both Will and I felt very strongly about the food. We’re big hosts as it is, and we wanted to replicate that feeling of people coming round to our house with lots of sharing platters. We used Bear Claw Catering who were amazing from start to finish. We had grilled garlic chicken and lamb with salsa verde and pomegranate for mains, with delicious sides of hasselback potatoes, butternut squash with maple syrup and beans. We also had a big cheese table, which my aunty put together as a wedding present. I didn’t want a cake initially, but we did a U-turn in place of formal desserts. My mum found a local company to make a five-tier white chocolate and raspberry cake which the caterers then cut up for everyone. We also served woodfired pizza as a late-night snack.

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The Favourite Memories

Ali: Because we were already legally married, we were able to be a bit more creative with our second ceremony. Jimmy's sister Lizzie was able to marry us, which was really special. We also danced back down the aisle, which was a bit spontaneous but it got everyone in the party mood.

Sophie: It was similar for us: my brother is a rabbi, so he was able to conduct our ceremony, which made it even more personal. Also, it’s a Jewish tradition that the groom meets the bride halfway down the aisle to ‘check’ it’s the right bride. It was honestly my favourite bit of the entire wedding – we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other for five days beforehand, so it was very emotional. I also loved walking into our reception, and getting on with all the Jewish dancing!

Chloe: Our first dance was definitely one of my favourite parts. It happened quite late into the reception – about 9pm – so everyone was very keen to get on the dancefloor. Our band was amazing – Smooth Sailors – and we also asked our friends to put together 20-minute Spotify playlists. We gave them themes like ‘90s bangers’, ‘2009 Indie’ and ‘Guilty Pleasures’ to give them a steer. They all choreographed their own ‘entrances’ too, which was hilarious, and we did tequila toasts instead of champagne. Great idea. 

JOANNA BROWN
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The After-Thoughts

Ali: I kind of wish I’d relaxed a bit and spent a bit more money. I also made a speech – another of my favourite moments – but I wish I’d fully memorised it to give it more impact. It went off without a hitch but memorising it would have made a big difference.

Sophie: It’s controversial, but I would have probably paid more attention to the smaller details. A lot of brides will tell you not to sweat the small stuff, but I kind of feel the opposite. I was too relaxed with the dress, the flowers – all of it. I didn’t want to be stressed, so that I don’t regret, but looking back it’s so clear how ‘forever’ these decisions can be. 

Ali: Oh my god, you’ve nailed it. I feel exactly the same – it’s the smallest things that could have made the biggest difference to the overall experience. 

Sophie: I think in truth I felt quite overwhelmed. I’m not one of those people who’d really envisioned my wedding before it was happening, and we only had a year to plan, so I think I fell victim to being pressured into making certain decisions. 

Chloe: At the end of the planning process, you get to the point where you need to relax about the money side of things. When someone tells you something is now going to be £100 over budget, you have to go with it. 

Ali: I should have splurged on some of my last-minute ideas. I wish we had had a photobooth. It would have been so fun, and I stressed way too much over the formal family photos.

Chloe: My veil – that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise! I also wish I’d zhuzhed my hair properly afterwards. In some of my photos I think I look quite dishevelled!

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The Best Decisions

Chloe: An open bar. 

Sophie: Agreed.

Ali: Me too.

Chloe: I found Bower + Hawthorne about six months before the wedding via our caterers. It really dawned on me that we needed proper bartenders and a real cocktail menu for people to choose from. An open bar doesn’t need to be a free for all – there are ways to manage it to make it convivial and not horrendously expensive. 

Sophie: For me, doing a hair trial was a really good decision. 

Ali: Ugh, I wish I’d done that.

Sophie: I used Portraits Bridal which is an agency that sets you up with local hair and make-up artists. I used Emily for my hair, and she was amazing. Getting professional make-up done made a big difference to how long my look lasted, too – no one tells you how sweaty it gets! 

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The Final Tips

Sophie: Have an upfront conversation about finances early on. Both my family and Tommy’s wanted to contribute, so we sat everyone down to discuss it and work out what everyone would give. It meant we did have to compromise when our parents wanted to invite people to our wedding, but it felt fair given how much they were involved.

Ali: Guest lists are a funny thing to manage, especially when it comes to late RSVPs. I also had three people drop out on the day due to illness. Jimmy and I effectively split the guest list in two, and when people wanted to add people or plus ones, it was a question of finding a way to accommodate them or not, depending on where we were at with numbers. We were quite strict about having to know the plus-ones. 

Sophie: We also hired a wedding co-ordinator for the day, which was invaluable. A wedding planner isn’t necessary, but a co-ordinator just ensures everything runs smoothly on the day.

Chloe: My final tip is stick to your guns. Wedding planning is full of opinions, and it can cause unnecessary arguments. Remember, this is your day.


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