I met Stephen at work. It all started one evening at a London advertising agency, Stephen had finished work for the day and was in the bar downstairs. He decided to pop back up to his desk where I was being shown round the office. Our eyes met, we shook hands, said hi, and Stephen says he fell in love!
I started work a few weeks later where Stephen and I became close friends, never crossing the line, but flirting (a lot on his part!), having pretend meetings together just to sit and chat and get to know each other. It was all very innocent until one night 6 months later when, after an evening in the local pub, Stephen decided to walk me to a taxi and the rest as they say... is history! :-)
Our life since then has been incredible! I never known life or love like this actually happened. We just worked from day one and have continued to be a very close couple. We bought our flat together in Balham, South West London after just over a year together and we have now had five very happy years there through good times and bad - we have both lost our jobs (several times!) but always find strength, love and support in each other.
For 4 weeks over Christmas and New Year 2010/11, we were on an adventure of a lifetime exploring Australia. After spending Christmas with friends in Adelaide, a drive along the Great Ocean Road, and New Year's Eve on a boat in Sydney Harbour, we were making our way up the Sunshine Coast.
Unfortunately there where severe floods causing massive damage and destruction in the area; After being caught-up in the flooding, we managed to get an emergency ferry around the floods and made it out to the Whitsundays for some R&R. It was here, in the remoteness of Brampton Island, that Stephen asked the question!
On a beautiful day spent relaxing together with a swimming pool to ourselves, Stephen had arranged to pick up some Champagne so we could watch the sunset. It was in a little white pagoda, in the corner of a quiet tropical garden, with birds singing and kangaroos hopping past, that Stephen got down on one knee and asked the question... to which I replied, "Yes", but added the caveat, of "Forever". With Stephen still on one knee he placed the beautiful Wempe diamond ring on my finger - a perfect fit, which later became known as 'Rocky', commemorating the flood hit town of Rockhampton that played such a pivotal part in our Australian adventure.
I couldn't have chosen better myself! A round cut 1.2 Carrot diamond sitting on a bridge with 14 diamonds on the arms set in platinum.
I honestly thought I would go for a corset top with some sort of strap detail and a nice big full skirt for my wedding dress. I didn't want huge amounts of details i.e. bows, flowers, lace etc. But I did want some detail and a little sparkle & bling!
Looking for the perfect dress was painful.... I tried on 70 dresses from 7 different shops in Kent, London, Manchester and even France!
I thought I knew what I wanted and what would suit me but it turns out although all the dresses looked 'nice' they just didn't leave me with any great feeling. I think I half expected a big red arrow to come down from the skies and say 'this is the one' but it doesn't happen like that!
In the end my Mum and I went to Abigail's Bridal shop in Headcorn, a shop that I use to pass everyday while on the bus to school and would always stare in the windows wistfully, and although it's now a different bridal shop I knew I wanted to go there. On the day I chose 5 dresses and as they were being prepared my Mum and I had a little nose around the shop and saw a beautiful lace gown hanging up in another changing room, we asked to try it and the lady added it to my selection. When I first put Ali on it made me feel amazing, before I was trying on full skirts with lots of different detailing, it had genuinely never occurred to me to look at a slim fitting lace dress. Once I tried on Ali there was no going back, the gown made me feel just the way my now husband makes me feel; incredible!
I originally bought a pair of cheap but nice cream satin peep toe platform shoes from a shop on ebay for £25. I had decided by that time money needed to be saved and as I would never wear the shoes again why waste money on them. The shoes were nice enough but really uncomfortable so I had started to worry about them, I would wear them with socks whenever I was home alone just to wear them in, then a week before the wedding went and bought lots of compeed plasters etc.
My husband had other ideas though, so when it came to the morning of our wedding day I was presented with a Jimmy Choo box containing the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen. He had called my Mum and got her to measure the heel height of my bridal shoes and then went out and found the same heel height Jimmy Choos! They were so comfortable and so beautiful I now couldn't imagine ever having worn anything else. I wore them twice on Honeymoon and several times since at parties so I am definitely getting enough wear out of them!
I always wanted a Chapel veil as I think they are so elegant and beautiful - this is the only time you can ever wear a veil so why not! I originally liked the lace edged style but found it to be too heavy with my lace dress. I chose a diamanté detailed chapel veil and wore the blusher over my face for walking down the aisle - it was such a wonderful experience!
I also wore a pretty little tiara from Jon Richards, y sisters Swarovski earrings that she leant me and a beautiful bracelet from Alan Hannah. I really did feel like a princess!
My underwear was from ‘Rigby & Peller’, matching lace strapless bra and knickers - so expensive but so comfortable! I borrowed a silver beaded vintage clutch bag from a friend who had used it at her wedding last year. In the evening once I had removed my veil I had diamanté detailed grips added into my hair.
I wanted something classic and elegant for my hair and make-up. My hair doesn't stay in curls so an 'up do' was the only option. I had a practice with the hairdresser a couple of months before which was great as on the Wedding day we were in such a rush there was no time for trying different styles.
My friend did my make-up and we practiced several times, often with wine so was great fun! We went to Bobby Brown in John Lewis on Oxford St for a free consultation, which was fantastic for choosing the right colours and products. I bought everything - even new make up brushes and kept it for the day! It was great having a friend do my make-up as at that point I realised I was running really late so started to get really stressed but she helped me calm down and relax.
I wanted to girls to wear long dresses and preferably not strapless. I started having a look at the bridesmaid websites such as dessy.com but was disappointed with how much they cost, especially having four adult girls to dress. A friend suggested that I look on the high st. the summer before our wedding and especially in the sales. I was so pleased when I found a beautiful long raspberry dress in French Connection reduced from £185 each to £75, I went and bought one immediately as my sister just happened to be visiting from France so she could try it on, we loved it so I went online to order the rest and discovered the dress had been reduced to £45 each! In total I bought four dresses for just £180!
Stephen really didn't want to wear tails (much to my Mothers disappointment). He really wanted a tailored three piece grey suit so started looking into ‘Savile Row’ tailors, but in the meantime found a slim fitting ‘Calvin Klein’ suit that fitted him perfectly. In the end we bought all the grooms-men the same suit so they all had matching suits that they kept as their thank you present.
I loved our flowers and our florist was wonderful! We spent a long time finding the right florist and discussing ideas with them to meet our budget. I produced a 20-slide power-point presentation on colours, flower types, designs and styles that I used with the florist. In the end we used a small local florist in Tenterden called Barry Jones who really could not have done a better job. When they delivered my bouquet I cried it was so perfect and just what I had dreamed of. The florist was a massive help on the day as we wanted to move a lot of the flowers from the church to the reception and they did it all, which took a lot of stress from us. I would highly recommend them to anyone, as I felt they really cared about our Wedding and producing the right flowers to match me and Stephen as well as our day.
We designed the invitations and all of the collateral for the day ourselves and then our friend very kindly art-worked it all.
The invitations were A5 portrait cards decorated with a simple ivory lace ribbon against the raspberry background. We used a line drawing on the church in the bottom right hand corner to finish it off. We invited 82 (81 on the day). We wanted to have people who know us and love us not just anyone and everyone we know.
On the morning of the big day I felt amazing. I got up at 7am with one of my bridesmaids, the sun was streaming through the curtains and the sky was brilliant blue. My parents live down the road from the B&B where I was so we popped down there as a surprise to have a cup of tea and a chat before the madness began. The morning was perfect, I had so much fun watching my bridesmaids get ready whilst sipping champagne and listening to music that I didn't get in the shower until almost 12pm when the wedding service started at 2pm! Stephen had arranged for his sister to give me presents from him every hour so I was totally spoilt and overwhelmed which all added to the excitement and enjoyment of the morning.
I travelled to the church in a beautiful Rolls Royce Silver Cloud Mk1and we got married at St Michael and All Angels Church, St. Michael's Tenterden Kent. The church was really important to us as it's where my mum and step-dad married 25 years before, also where I was Christened and the church of mine, my sisters and my brothers primary school.
The reception was at Lympne Castle, Kent. We really didn't want our reception at a hotel or golf club but struggled to find something suitable in a drivable distance from the church. As soon as we pulled up to Lympne Castle we knew it was the venue for us. The Castle is privately owned and isn't a hotel which was important as we wanted a fairly private affair. The Castle sits on the very edge of Romney Marsh therefore has the most amazing views over the English Channel and even on a clear day (which our wedding was) France!
The Castle needed very little decoration as is so beautiful but we wanted to continue the flowers from the church throughout the reception. We also wanted lots and lots of candles scattered around the place with rose petals and tea-lights. We bought all of the equipment from candelabra on confetti.com, candy-bar from ebay as well as collecting and borrowing as many different sized glass storm lanterns as possible.
The service was incredible. My very best bit of the day. The church was always going to be special as the vows are the most important part, but the whole service from start to finish was just wonderful. My step-dad is a professional organist so whilst my dad walked me down the aisle he played the organ.
The service itself really was better than I could have ever imagined; It gave me and Stephen time to take everything in, sing the hymns we had chosen, listen to our friends reading and enjoy our vows in front of our family and friends. Our sisters did the bidding prayer and my sister got a little teary which set me off!
It all went far too quickly but it was brilliant. The sun shone on the castle terrace and the day was so clear we could see France. The guests drank champagne while we had our pictures taken and a jazz band played gently.
We had two cakes! The first was a chocolate sponge, layered with dark chocolate ganache and orange liqueur. To save money we served this as our desert with fresh cream and Kentish raspberries, which the guests loved.
We didn't do favours, instead we spent a year sourcing pictures of us together with each of our guests then wrote a personal message on the back, this was cut out like a luggage tag and tied to the guests napkin as their place name. Stephen and I did each others in secret so we didn't know what the picture or message was from each other until we sat down at the Wedding breakfast.
We cut our chocolate wedding cake before the meal so we could eat it for our dessert, then cut the cheesecake before the speeches and this was served in the evening.
For the speeches my dad did a quick intro then my step-dad took the floor followed by Stephen and the best man - John Minnec who the Managing Director of the agency were we meet!
We had dance lessons but on the day we were running so late that I totally forgot most of the moves so Stephen led the way. We had a live 5 piece jazz band play the evening away finishing up with 'Perfect Day' where Stephen and I took to the floor once more while our family and friends gathered round us in a circle. It really was a perfect day!
‘What a wonderful world’ and ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole were the songs to our first dance. We had three dance lessons so we could move round the dance floor rather than just stand there for 4 minutes as it was a fairly long song.
We went with Peter Prior as our photographer. We spent a long time looking for the perfect photographer to get the right balance of quality, skill and creative talent. We fell in love with Peter's website and wasn't disappointed when we saw his portfolios. Peter was very easy to work with, friendly and professional making all the guests feel at ease.
The whole day I felt amazing, blessed, incredible, loved and very, very lucky! I would give anything to do it all again tomorrow. It truly was a perfect day!
My advice to any bride-to-be would be:
1 - Enjoy every single second from the days before to the opening of the cards and presents!
2 - Make sure someone has a list of the group photos you want captured, we missed out on all family shots as the time just slipped away!
3 - Get ready early - I was having such a wonderful morning with my girls watching them get ready and sipping champagne that I didn't get in the shower until mid-morning, as I didn't want to miss a thing!