Somehow I have let that time go by without writing about the wedding. I wrote a post about the night before the night before my wedding, promising that it would be the only post I'd ever write about it. I was wary of being boring, of parading my wedding in front of everyone's faces as though they should care.
Since then, though, a couple of things have happened. Firstly- I had a truly lovely reaction to the one post I did write about the upcoming wedding, and a few readers did comment that they hoped I would write at least one post about the day. Secondly- I realised that I love reading about, hearing about, and seeing pictures of other people's weddings.
So here's your warning: this post is for a very specific type of person; one who enjoys hearing about other people's weddings. If that sounds boring to you, this post is not for you. Please return to scrolling and tagging (and let me know if you have any ideas about what I can write that will interest you! Always open to suggestions.)
Finally, I realised that since becoming a mum I have lost my ability to remember things. (I had a total freak out a few weeks ago about a family member's name. It just didn't look right on the card and I was terrified I'd send it and they'd wonder why on earth I'd got their name wrong. Mortifying.) So I thought that if it turns out I'm the only person who likes reading about weddings then at least I'll enjoy reading it back in the future, and hopefully it'll help me preserve some of the finer details that may eventually escape me.
Dale and I got married on Monday 26th June 2017. (I'm hoping he'll read this and perhaps use it as a reference for our anniversary. He's asked me at least three times if I have any idea why he's got the date booked off work this year.)
We were set on having a small, laidback, fun wedding that people didn't need to stress about and that really had very little feeling of formal about it.
I'm not the greatest with formal occasions, I'm not in any way fancy, I don't love a high heel and don't get me started on those teeny posh portions of food.
(Plus Dale hates a fascinator. He honestly feels passionately about very little, and I can only recall seeing him truly angry twice in our five years together. But mention a fascinator and smoke starts pumping out of his ears and his eyes roll back in his head. Seriously.)
When I explained to people that we were looking for a highly relaxed, easy going day without anything too fancy quite a few mentioned that we should have a look at West Street Vineyard in Coggeshall.
We saw it, we loved it, and I wish I could say we booked it here because that would flow beautifully. We didn't. It all seemed a bit too easy and we wondered whether we just loved it because it was the first one we'd seen. (Something I did when we were first looking at flats together and naming our baby. Fortunately Dale was there to rein me in. I more or less wailed 'Oh look, her name's Alex!' as the umbilical cord was cut. An Alex she is not.)
So we viewed a more posh place just to put our minds at ease. (And by we, I mean me and my friend Dumbo went and reported back to Dale.)
It was lovely, truly. And I do totally understand people having grand weddings in fancy pants places. We were shown around by the most immaculate human being I have ever met. Her name was Juliet. She spoke in hushed tones as she showed us the honeymoon suite, and in a suitably romantic voice the rest of the way around. Pressed skirt suit. Blonde hair in a perfect knot at the nape of her neck. Perfectly applied lipstick that didn't budge as she sipped her tea. I was ready to book it just so that I could say that she planned my wedding. I know it would have been perfect if she had.
But there was no flexibility.
There were three packages. You chose one. Juliet put it on for you.
Whereas the dream at West Street was that they're not a wedding venue. They're a vineyard. And they happen to hold weddings. There are no packages, no pre-set plans.
Whatever you want.
My little dream.
The Morning of the Big Day
On the morning of the wedding I woke up at 7am, feeling like I'd had seventeen coffees and a couple of gins, and cleaned the entire flat. No idea why. It wasn't on any of the itineraries that I'd printed and stuck up in every room. It's what I do when I'm jittery, I suppose.
My mum had stayed the night before and my friends arrived at 10am. (They threw confetti over me and shouted congratulations as I opened the door. Sounds like a little thing but it was so magical.) Much to my delight the sun was out with its fascinator already sparkling on its bright little head, so we all walked over to Bill's where we sat outside for breakfast (that's my favourite restaurant, not one of the characters in my life), and they gave us a courtesy bottle of prosecco to say congratulations. (Again, a little thing. But those little sprinkles of magic really do make a difference.)
I had my makeup done by Carla from TeamGlam. She had done my makeup when I was a bridesmaid for Minnie Mouse and I knew I could have absolute faith that if I woke up looking tired/having a bad skin day/had chicken pox she would make me look the absolute best I possibly could. She's nothing short of a miracle worker and she's just so nice. (At one point she was on her hands and knees under my dress doing my shoes up. I'm fairly sure that's not in her job description. She's just amazing. I vaguely recall her painting my mum's nails as well. I may have made that bit up.)
My hairdresser Jade at Rush in Chelmsford did my hair and my mum's (she did a super job as always), and my nails were done by Nail Envy Radlett (who also always does a super job and never charges me enough.)
We had Emma from In A Flash photography take our beautiful photos. Emma also kept a couple of participants in our wedding who shall not be named in check and for that I shall forever be grateful. She was a real voice for me (I'm a people pleaser and would have let all sorts happen but she was wonderful and made sure everything went my way)- what a star.
The details of my dress shall forever remain a secret but the style inspiration came from my wonderful day on Say Yes to the Dress. Highly recommend applying to go on it if you're looking for your wedding dress. Absolutely brilliant. (And sure, watch my episode. I've watched it now, I'm not embarrassed. My Essex accent is ever so slightly stronger than I had realised but otherwise it's quite a good watch.)
On my feet I wore flat sandals from Accessorize. They were a little dream. I like to think that if I was Beyoncé I'd still have worn those shoes. No chance of falling up the aisle (or during the conga) and I managed to keep them on all night.
The Wedding Party
We had such a small wedding that every single guest was a member of the wedding party. We chose to have no top table, no best man, no adult bridesmaids, no evening guests. There were fifty five of us altogether. Dale's five year old niece was a bridesmaid, and his nephews, aged seven and two, were the ring bearers. My brother Mowgli was an usher, Chip did a reading with Dale's sister, and my Dad and Uncle did speeches. Our mums were our witnesses.
Our theme was Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Having met in the UK pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World we wanted it to be British and Disney themed, so we decided to go for a mash up of the two stories. It was (of course) sophisticated, subtle Disney- I think sometimes when I say we had a Disney themed wedding people immediately picture a nightmare from Don't Tell The Bride. It wasn't. It was beautiful.
We were lucky enough to have the most incredible florist, Adele Hudgell, who just could not do enough for us and somehow, despite my distinct lack of knowledge about flowers and truly poor attempts at describing what I wanted, she had exactly the same vision of elegant, understated Disney, and she did the most amazing job.
(Apart from being an incredible florist, Adele is the actual and literal definition of loveliness. So much so, in fact, that when another friend was telling me about her wedding and said 'our florist is the nicest person I've ever met'- that's all she said, nothing about location, name, experience, nothing- I said 'no way have you got Adele?')
We did a lot of themed stuff ourselves (sweetie bag favours, table plan display, themed items to go on tables) but were lucky enough to bag two wonderful cake makers to make more of my imagination become reality. Sarah Underwood (who is also my best pal) did our Peter Pan cake, and Debbie at Dinkylicious Cakes made our Alice one. They were both delicious (we had our official honeymoon before the wedding so the majority of our post-wedding honeymoon was spent eating cake) and looked amazing.
The Big Moment
Having spent the entire journey from Chelmsford to Coggeshall taking selfies with my Dad and just unable to believe that the bride smiling back was me, we drove up and down the road quite a few times because, according to the venue our guests were not behaving (I never got to the bottom of what that meant but I did see two pals running up the road toward the vineyard on our third round trip so my guess is that what they meant by that is they're not all here.)
I had my getting out of the car photos and was ushered inside the restaurant and upstairs to confirm that I was definitely up for being Mrs Stark and that I really was 28 (took quite a lot of joy from the fact that the registrar just couldn't believe I was so old).
I feel quite choked up thinking about the next bit. Which is ridiculous because at the time I wasn't choked up at all.
My Dad and I practised walking around the room a bit (still convinced I was going to fall over) then the venue manager came in and told me it was time to go.
I should say here that there were so many maybes about this day. In my determination not to get caught up in the details that couldn't be controlled I had barely even dared to imagine everything going as it should.
I had really, really wanted our friend Gloria to sing as I walked down the aisle. She is easily the most talented singer I've ever met in real life and the thought of having someone as incredible as that at my wedding just seemed too good to be true.
But Dale asked. She said yes.
Then we had such a nightmare getting the correct equipment, getting the equipment insured...oh I can't even remember what else it was about now. I'm sure at some point they needed proof that my mum's dog was born in 2008 otherwise Gloria wasn't going to be allowed to sing.
We didn't know whether the ring bearers (Dale's nephews) would walk down the aisle or whether it would end up just being his niece. We didn't know whether we would be able to get married outside or if the weather would prevent us. We hadn't known until very last minute whether my dress would still fit me. We didn't know that my strict instructions for how to lay everything out would be clear enough, or even possible.
Then in this moment, as I rounded the corner, I felt like time stopped for a moment.
The sun was shining and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. In front of me were all our guests, and in front of them, was Gloria. Singing. She had this flower crown on her head and this gorgeous jumpsuit and she was singing the song I had picked out to walk down the aisle to the moment I had realised I would marry Dale one day. I was wearing my dress, and Dale was here looking all handsome in his suit, and his sister's three children were walking in front of me and I just felt the most incredible happiness.
I will never be able to believe how lucky we were to have all those uncontrollable things fall into place. It was probably the best moment of my life so far and definitely the best moment of the day.
To fit in with our British and Informal theme we skipped the starters and had sausage and mash for mains with sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
It was mainly just convenient that my favourite meal is British and Informal. Just like me.
At the ceremony we had provided party bags with sweets and crisps in (as well as Alice style giant playing cards with photo suggestions on them and little fans and bubbles- which were such a hit, highly recommend fans if you're getting married on a potentially hot day), and then later in the evening we had sweet potato fries and cake. So much super food.
As I mentioned above, Gloria sang during the ceremony.
I walked down the aisle to I Choose You by Sara Bareilles, we signed the register to Brighter than the Sun and Falling For You by Colbie Caillat, and we walked back up the aisle together to Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates. All sung beautifully by Gloria.
My brother and Dale's sister read a shorter, more wedding friendly version of Oh the Places You'll Go by Dr Seuss which is my absolute, number one favourite book ever, and just so fitting for every single adventure you'll ever go on.
During the reception drinks we had Dave Lucas from Drop Dead Caricatures wandering round drawing people (he was spot on with all of them. Even managed to get the cheekiness in my Grandad's eyes) and giant garden games from gardengameshireuk.com dotted about for people to play. Again, thank you sunshine, I'd have been devastated if we couldn't have used those. They were such a hit as well- I'd highly recommend them. I felt that I was taking a bit of a chance on those but a couple of people wrote in our guest book that they were the highlight of the day. We also had a photo booth set up (just a basket of mainly Peter and Alice themed clothing items and a big frame) which resulted in so much fun and lots of fab photos.
My entertainment highlight though was the secret singing waiters. I would love to tell you exactly what they did and how they did it but I won't talk about it at all because I'd hate to say anything that would mean you'd spot them if you were ever a guest at one of their events. All I'll say is that we hired Silver Service Singers, they were a big hit with every single guest from two year old Quinn to 92 year old Grandad Ed, and that it was worth booking them and keeping the secret just to see the look on my dad's face when he realised what was going on. Another life highlight there, I think.
They then stayed to do the first hour of music. (First dance: Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon because that's what was playing when I first knew I'd marry Dale. Plus it's just a great song.) After that first hour we just put our own playlist on which was perfect.
The party was downstairs in the basement of the vineyard which had been decorated with a light up dance floor, fairy lights in jars everywhere and big balloons dotted about; but the upstairs was still open with comfy chairs, and the balcony was strung with fairy lights too so a lot of our guests ended up sitting outside under blankets with big cups of tea, whilst others were downstairs dancing to Mr Brightside and other hits.
I was planning on doing another section here called 'magical moments'- there are just so many throughout the day that you don't plan and desperately don't want to forget. Two year old Quinn interrupting the 'I do' moment to give his uncle a packet of biscuits. My friend Minnie Mouse jumping out of her skin when the singing waiter started singing right behind her. My friend Simba just being such a hit in his kilt and his huge smile that people are still mentioning it now. My brother's girlfriend singing Let It Go into the microphone. The speeches. The moment that Dale and I just stopped and watched, and saw Mary-who-used-to-be-my-manager-in-education laughing and cheering Simba-who-I-worked-with-at-The-Lion-King to beat Julia-from-work at giant snakes and ladders. It was just everything I had wanted.
But honestly, the best thing about that day- besides the obvious (that I married the best human on the planet)- was having all those people that I love so much all together, at once, smiling for a whole day.