Jemima & Andy’s Wedding
With a local church ceremony and a back garden reception, Jemima and Andy show us how an intimate family wedding should be done. Turning the bride’s parents’ beautiful spring garden into a venue, our couple made sure to weave their personalities and passions into every detail of their literary-inspired wedding.
We got married at St Nicholas Church in Remenham, just outside Henley-on-Thames where I grew up. It’s a beautiful church and it’s where my older sisters both got married and my little nephew was christened, so it has a lot of meaning for my family.
Oh, the dress! It’s conventional, I know, but I’ve always known I’d want to do the big-white-wedding thing and that finding the perfect dress was an important part of it. Second only to finding the perfect groom!
I didn’t really know what I wanted to go for, but it didn’t take me long. I went with my mum and didn’t tell anyone else about it. In fact the first time my sisters and my bridesmaids saw the dress was on the day with me in it!
I found the dress in the second shop we went to, a boutique in Lancaster Gate called Wedding Atelier, run by the most wonderful woman, Svetlana, who was brilliant and helpful and kind in every way. I quickly narrowed it down to three dresses – all completely different.
After three hours of deliberation, ‘the dress’ I decided on was by Justin Alexander. It was probably the most traditional option, but it had big beaded lace appliqué detailing over the top which really made it stand out. It was strapless with a little bolero jacket, which meant I had a more traditional conservative look for the church, and more of a party dress for the evening. Win-win! I also wore a floor-length veil with tiny beads on it. I loved the veil and really didn’t want to take it off!
THE BRIDAL PARTY
I had an indulgent number of bridesmaids (six!) and I probably thought more about their dresses than my own! I wanted them all to stand out as bridesmaids, but I didn’t want them wearing identical outfits.
I chose different styles of dresses all made in the same material and colour, which meant all my bridesmaids wore something they had chosen themselves and will hopefully be able to wear again.
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The most fun to dress were my two little nephews. I think putting little boys in morning suits is a bit wrong and they always look stiff and uncomfortable. Our choice of page-boy outfits was more relaxed with bow ties and braces – and I think they both looked seriously cute!
This was the biggest worry for me in the run-up. My sisters both had similar weddings – i.e. they had a marquee in our parents’ garden. My eldest sister and her husband went for quite a traditional, country-wedding feel with bunting and wagon-wheel lighting. My second sister had a middle-eastern theme with a beautiful Bedouin tent lining and Moroccan lamps. So I wanted to find something that would make our wedding different to both of theirs.
Andy, my parents and I spent a long time researching paper lanterns. We strung up hundreds in the days before the wedding and put a little LED light in each one. On the morning of the wedding, the marquee man went up and down ladders turning on the LEDs, which looked amazing in the evening when the lights went down.
For the tables, Andy and I spent a lot of time on Pinterest seeking inspiration. We sourced hundreds of lovely old books from a second-hand sale and spent months searching charity shops and car boot fairs for silver candle holders and jugs for flowers! The tables when they were all set up, with hessian table runners down the centre, looked great.
The other thing that Andy and I wanted was a gin bar! Again, Pinterest came to the rescue, and we found some big wooden barrels and covered a bar top with hessian to make a rustic-looking barrel bar. Add 12 bottles of gin and a 72-pint barrel of local ale and I think we were on to a winner!
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I said three tiers. Andy said seven. We settled on five – that is still a lot of cake! We made the cakes ourselves, which I would only recommend if you’re willing to eat a lot of practice cakes to get it right! We had a fruit cake at the bottom, then carrot, lemon, chocolate and banana cakes, and another little fruit cake on the top.
My sister Kate is an incredibly talented illustrator and I asked her about a year before the wedding if she would illustrate our cake for us. I’m not sure if she regretted saying yes because she spent two full days before the wedding in my parents’ garage carefully painting beautiful intricate designs around each layer. It was amazing!
Dotted through the design were little images that were personal to us – a stack of books because I work in publishing; a bowl of spaghetti as Andy manages an Italian restaurant; the Ponte Vecchio in Florence where we went on one of our first holidays; a bottle of gin… because we drink a lot of it! The list goes on.
My mum is the flower expert so I wasn’t worried about the flowers at all. In fact the best flowers were in the garden and my parents spent a year planning what plants would be flowering at exactly the right time. They got it spot on.
On the Wednesday before the wedding, Andy, my mum, and I got up at 4am and went to the flower market near Heathrow. It was beautiful walking around all these stacks of amazing-smelling flowers as the sun was coming up outside. We went for colours that were quite vintage in feel, rather than anything too bright. Dusky pinks, creams and lilacs – and lots of greenery to set it off.
My mum and a team of helpful family and friends did all the flowers for the church and the marquee. The only thing that didn’t quite go to plan was my bouquet. My bouquet, along with the flowers for the bridesmaids, was in the garage where they’d all been made up. We were leaving in a bit of a hurry before the wedding and I was passed what I assumed was my bouquet and thought nothing more of it. I didn’t even notice they were dripping water everywhere.
After the ceremony and all the photos, when we were back at the reception, my mum told me the flowers I was holding were actually a bunch that had been intended for the caterers and my beautifully wrapped and presented bouquet was still in the garage – and about a third of the size! Now, when I look back at the photos, I can’t help laughing when I see how ridiculously massive my flowers were! It’s a miracle no one was hurt when I threw it!
A lot of people will tell you repeatedly that it doesn’t matter if it rains on your wedding day. They are wrong. It actually completely sucks if it rains. The week before the wedding I was obsessively checking the weather forecast, which went from white cloud, to grey cloud, to black cloud with rain, to black cloud with rain and lightning, as the week progressed!
When I woke up on Saturday morning to absolutely torrential rain and a leaking marquee, I do have to confess I had a little weep and went back to bed (until my sister brought me a glass of Prosecco and told me to stop being silly). However, we were lucky. Beyond lucky. The forecasters got it wrong (not unheard of) and we had no rain in the afternoon. The sun even came out for the hour we were having drinks outside and the rain stayed away until we were all safely inside the marquee!
THE FIRST DANCE
Oh god, I was dreading the first dance! Neither Andy nor I are especially into music and we never had a song that was “our song”. One day – probably when we were bickering about something trivial – Andy joked that we should dance to ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ by Fine Young Cannibals… so we did! Two of my friends are in an AMAZING band (Tomorrow’s Forecast) and they played the first set – including the first dance. Luckily that meant we could tweak the lyrics!
While neither of us is especially into music, we both love dancing and we wanted to get everyone up and dancing as much as possible. Having a live band was brilliant as it got people on the dance floor straight away and they didn’t leave for the rest of the night!
Has to be standing at the front of the aisle and feeling happy and excited and like I couldn’t stop smiling. I spent the week before the wedding and the whole morning waiting to feel nervous or stressed or over-emotional, because that’s how I thought all brides felt… but it never came! I just loved every minute of it.
PEARL OF WISDOM
Spend the money on a really good photographer and don’t waste time having hundreds of posed photos – they won’t be the ones you love most. We used Allister Freeman who was fantastic. I love his photography style and he really captured what was special and wonderful about the day – all the little things that you don’t want to forget: getting ready in my brother-in-law’s big baggy shirt and having to get my sister to do my eye-liner (in twenty-six years I have never understood eyeliner or how to apply it), cringing at the best man’s speech and throwing some serious shapes on the dance floor!
SHOP JEMIMA & ANDY’S WEDDING LOOK