A Candlelit Wedding With A Bohemian Vintage Vibe
I have such a unique real wedding to share with you today, a candlelit wedding with a bohemian vintage vibe. Our lovely bride and groom took inspiration from the 20s and 30s, Paris and North Africa and everything they love, throwing it all together to create a mishmash, boho style, big day.
Their wedding photography is rather different too and lends the day a hauntingly ethereal glow. Love!
Amy and Christopher legally married last year but decided to also have a humanist ceremony that was officiated by Amy’s uncle! Read on for their wedding story.
Words by Amy.
I spent a year searching literally the entire country and most of France for a venue we could afford that allowed self catering (knowing that £3k for food wasn’t something we could consider).
After giving up on wedding venues I started looking at holiday rentals and by absolute chance came across North Cadbury Court, which at the time didn’t even have a website. We made the five hour trip to visit it, only having seen an outside photograph.
Knowing that the owner was willing to let us have the most wonderful deal- because the venue was completely run-down at this point – I was bracing myself to make the most of it whatever it looked like. By sheer luck, it was utterly magical, even before refurbishment.
The ballroom took our breath away, and we loved the homely feel of it as well as the freedom that we and our guests- who could all stay at the venue- had. It was truly perfect, such an amazingly lucky find, especially as we certainly couldn’t afford it if we were to book now!
I knew right from the beginning that I didn’t want a traditional poofy dress. I had put off looking for a dress for a long time because I always look really fat in dresses, but eventually plucked up the courage to visit The White Closet in Didsbury, who stocked Claire Pettibone- one of the only brands I’d seen which I didn’t hate!
I went in expecting to find a dress that, at best, looked just okay, but was really surprised when I felt lovely in quite a few of them! I’m not sure why I fell in love with Kristene, it simply felt perfect. Of course, I couldn’t afford it, but after that, no other dress seemed to come close. After an agonising few weeks I found and bought it on Gumtree, another lucky find!
I then spent the next ten months hating it, wanting to adjust it, thinking I looked fat in it, and every other possible worry. Thankfully, I fell in love with it again in the end, and was reassured on the day by everyone’s lovely comments about it!
Looking at it now, it seems beautiful again, and I adore the layers of scalloped and tasselled lace, and the delicate back which incidentally ended up matching my hair clips!
I made my own bouquet and floral arrangements. After a lot of deliberation I made it from peonies still in bud form, and roses. They were all dried in the oven to preserve them, as peonies aren’t in season in November and I actually really love the faded elegance of dried flowers.
Plus it allowed me to get the flowers sorted months in advance! I wanted the bouquet to look a little wild and bohemian, but still elegant. The flowers were a mix of the darkest maroon, and pale creams. I loved the dramatic contrast.
My shoes were Jen & Kim ivory shoes with original 30s shoe clips from Etsy. My bracelet was a 20s antique from an auction and my cuff my ‘something borrowed’ from my mum.
All the men involved wore whatever they wanted, including my uncle who officiated the ceremony and wore trainers!
I had loads of styling ideas for the ceremony, including everyone sitting in dilapidated rowing boats! In the end we kept it very simple, with mismatched chairs facing the most beautiful arched window, underneath which a Moroccan rug acted as an altar.
My dad walked me down the aisle whilst my sister sang Ave Maria. My little boy was going to but I didn’t want to end up dealing with a tantruming toddler half way down the aisle, so he walked with my sister, Sophie, and was actually brilliant in the end!
The ceremony was so wonderful and personal. When planning, I hardly even considered the ceremony itself and was more interested in the décor and my hair and other silly things, but of everything, the ceremony was what mattered most to me in the end, and it felt so magical.
We had a humanist ceremony that I wrote, officiated by my uncle, who’s Dutch and at one point he got so emotional that he switched to his native language and we had no idea what he was saying! We had three readings by my sister, Christopher’s brother, and our friend, Ben.
Then we read our own vows and said ‘we do’ to a set of promises. I didn’t think I’d get emotional but I ended up crying, and so did most of the guests! The venue had a large ceremony room but I’m so glad we went for the smaller, personal room, it was much more fitting for the ceremony!
In terms of cultural guidance, it was extremely important to us to have a wedding that was ‘us’, rather than a wedding for a wedding’s sake. We didn’t have anything that wasn’t important to us, which sounds silly as we had a lot of visual elements, but as we both work in the design industry that’s a passion for both of us!
We wanted a day that was relaxed and beautiful and felt more like a big family party, so there was nothing too posh. Keeping it very personal definitely made it that bit more special.
We had a wedding cinema, which I’d wanted to do ever since I began contemplating a reception at the Somerset House outdoor cinema. Our drinks reception was in the cinema room, and we played the seventies Great Gatsby on silent with jazz music in the background, which I felt was a lovely and unique atmosphere!
We were then going to plan Fantastic Mr Fox but it didn’t work due to problems with the projector, so we just played The Great Gatsby with sound, which worked out just as lovely, and it was a nice room for people to relax in.
Styling details in the drinks reception included an original 20s drinks trolley laden with tapas themed nibbles, large ornate screens, and of course our silent cinema screen!
The bridesmaid dresses from Jarlo were a compromise between the original 30s dresses I wanted and the quite modern ones they loved. I didn’t want them matching either but I think the shawl and kimono they wore made them that little bit different. Plus Hannah had pink hair so she stood out quite a bit!
In the reception room we had a table plan made from chess pieces, an Edwardian bath tub filled with ice and drinks (who needs a bar?!), a velvet tepee, an Edwardian deck chair and a rug, making a little lounge area, by which there was a platter of marshmallows and crumpets for toasting on the fire.
Place settings were made up of mismatched vintage cutlery, either a patterned glass or metal wine glass, and an antique ceramic or vintage silver plate. Some people had an antique handkerchief as a napkin but I got sick of collecting these half way through and so a lot of people just had napkins!
As wedding favours I made little lavender and lemon cupcakes for each person’s room but my mum was bringing them and got caught up in road works and didn’t arrive til long after everyone else, so I didn’t have time! I did make place settings by writing on mussel shells, though, which went down really well and most people took them home, does that count?
Our food was laid out as a buffet, in paper boxes I made, inspired by Parisian bakeries, and on numerous antique platters. We put lemonade and water in antique jugs, as well as beautiful samovars. On the tables, everything was intentionally mismatched.
I knew from the start we’d have to self cater. It was incredibly stressful but it worked out well, and very cheaply! My mum did the brunt of the work, though I made some of the desserts. We bought a few bits and bobs from M&S, Booths, and local farm shops.
On the day so many guests offered to help out in the kitchen, which was so kind and made it so much easier for my mum, so we were all so grateful for that! If I had had another £5k I may have gotten a caterer, it certainly would have made it less stressful… But then again knowing me I’d have probably gone and blown it on a carousel!
We also put a few paper food boxes on the tables, as well as hundreds of candles and a few vases. The finishing touch was four large ivory balloons by Pearl and Earl, which the children adored chasing around!
For our guest book we had an old dictionary- a little reference to my love of words- and asks guests to circle the word that best described us, or the day, and write a note in the margin. Looking through it brought tears, and it’s something we can always treasure.
The flowers on the tables weren’t a huge concern for me, as although I like them, I didn’t want and couldn’t afford anything elaborate. Plus in November, too many lowers could have been an overkill! In the end I was so stressed with the wedding morning setting up of the venue that I was just shoving the flowers at random into the vases, but I think it worked!
There were also dried rosebuds scattered about the tables, and s few vases containing dried (and hair-sprayed) dandelion clocks, which I loved.
We had a vinyl player and our record collection and invited our guests to DJ. A band would have been amazing but it wasn’t really an option. There was also a disco room but we didn’t choose to use it because shuffling everyone downstairs to a little room and expecting them to dance felt like a recipe for disaster! That said people did use it, especially the kids!
I wasn’t the slightest bit bothered about a cake and wasn’t going to budget for it, but my mother in law did think it was important. In the end I made my own, but on the journey it got broken and so we made do with a chocolate cake with a few flowers on top!
Amy, if you could impart any words of wisdom for future brides, what would you say?
I read a lot of these with brides saying don’t sweat the small stuff, but I really did! Even afterwards I was wondering if it ruined the day because my mum accidentally used some of the ugly platters from the venue kitchen instead of my antique silver ones- ridiculous I know!
So I’d say that if you are that sort of person, and/or if you’re doing everything yourself like we did, treat the wedding like a military operation, both before and on the day! You can not be too organised. Make lists. Make lists for every single person with the smallest of roles. Don’t depend on anything so flaky as a computer on the day, give yourself more time than you need…..
Apart from that, make sure your ceremony is personal. It’s what really matters on the day. Don’t go for a religious ceremony if it’s meaningless to you, for example. Your ceremony should reflect you as a couple and show truly how much marriage means to you. Also, don’t do ‘wedding stuff’ just because it’s the done thing.
A registry office ceremony and a roller disco reception is way more meaningful than going through the motions for the sake of it, when it isn’t what the couple wants. Go for what makes you happy and forget negative opinions about it, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Wow, wow, wow! What a truly unique day you had. Thank you so much for sharing with the WTW blog, I’m definitely inspired by all your very personal and creative touches!
So what do you think lovely brides-to-be? Didn’t Amy look stunning in her Claire Pettibone gown? Please do leave our gorgeous newly marrieds some big WTW love…
wedding credits | photographer: joanna gourley, michael watts- jones photography edited by andchris.co.uk | venue: north cadbury court | brides dress: claire pettibone | grooms jacket: manchester vintage fair | grooms toad tie: etsy | hair & make-up: bride | catering: brides mum