Vow Magazine - issue 10

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VOW d o o r to yo u r h e a rt D e ce m b er 2 0 16 & Ja n ua ry 2 0 17


Door to your heart

December 2016 & January 2017 / Bath, Bristol & the West / No.10


SOUTH WEST LEADING STOCKIST Catherine Deane | Willowby | Mikaella | Benjamin Roberts 7 SILVER STREET | BRADFORD ON AVON | NR BATH | BA15 1JY 01225 867600 | www.flossyandwillow.uk


Charlie Brear

Naomi Neoh

Jesus Peiro

Anna Campbell

7A SILVER STREET BRADFORD ON AVON NR. BATH 01225 309309 www.perfectdaybridal.net

BA15 1JY


Picture by Siobhan Amy Photography; siobhanamyphotography.com

Vantage point The other day I was looking at buying a car – a sports car as it happens; yes, I’m having one in my series of crises – and instead of a picture of a warehouse full of motors, the specialist I was looking at had a helicopter-view tour of the place on the front page of his web site, like when you strap a camera to the neck of one of David Attenborough’s eagles, but with fewer arctic hares hopping through the snow far below. It was, of course, thanks to a drone – which got me to thinking about this latest edition to the wedding record repertoire (after the photographer, videographer and photo booth on most shopping lists at the moment, but definitely ‘on the up’, if you’ll forgive the phrase), and the new perspective on your big day that they offer. Yes, arty close-up shots still have their place – there’s one underlying these very words, after all – but for a sense of scale, place and context, having a drone around makes a lot of sense. From 400 feet up, a drone can see for maybe four miles in every direction, and catching the bride and groom as brightly-clad ants amidst the finery of a lush wedding venue is definitely a shot you want in your album. So is one of the whole wedding party looking up as a vast, happy mob – and from a more dramatic angle than any land-bound photographer could manage, short of climbing to the top of the church steeple. What made me think of all this? Well, okay – I met a friend of a friend who’s a drone pilot in my natural environment (the pub). But, also, it got thinking on how a fresh bit of tech can bring a new perspective to the whole business of a wedding. Which is what we try to do through Vow Magazine too, of course. Don’t you love it when a editor’s intro (just about) hangs together?

Matt Bielby, editor


36The day is over; time to get ready for the night…

have to be champagne…

14We’re in love with Lisa Elliott’s flowers

Big smiles, and even bigger boats…


It’s a corner of a garden that could be right out of Lord of the Rings

Vow M ag a zine MATT BIELBY Editor


MATT WILLIAMS Art Director STEVE HAWKINS Commercial Director steve.hawkins@mediaclash.co.uk

HELEN KEMBERY Deputy Advertising Manager helen.kembery@mediaclash.co.uk

Order of service 9 INVITATIONS

This issue, we’re all about the bespoke: handmade rings, unique shoes, and more. Plus! Fancy working in the wedding industry? We’ve found something that may just give you a leg up…



Land Rovers, dancing with your dress tucked into your Spanx, and superstar West End singers. We don’t know whose wedding we envy the most…


Team Vow enjoys a unique hen weekend proposition, thanks to Bath Boutique Stays.

We like grass. And we like water. Luckily, both this issue’s choice venues have each of our favourites covered, in style.



From the urban waterfront to country house hotels, we’ve got every sort of bridal style covered. Plus! Meet Clinton Lotter, one of the industry’s most exciting designers.

Sometimes the most fun place to be at a wedding is in the kids’ play area, getting your face painted and playing with the parachute. Just saying.

Production and Distribution Manager SARAH KINGSTON sarah.kingston@mediaclash.co.uk

Deputy Production Manager CHRISTINA WEST christina.west@mediaclash.co.uk

Marketing KATE AUTHERS @KAuthers

Chief Executive JANE INGHAM jane.ingham@mediaclash.co.uk

Vow Magazine, MediaClash, Circus Mews House, Circus Mews, Bath BA1 2PW 01225 475800 www.mediaclash.co.uk © All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without written permission of MediaClash. On the cover: dress by Clinton Lotter


As you stand under the arch for your photos, take a moment to contemplate what it all means. (Warning: you may be there for a couple of hours.) 6 | VOW

Printed on paper from a well-managed source. Ink are vegetable based; printer is certified to ISO 14001 environmental management



80 Not all the bubbles at a wedding


LATE AVAILABILITY WEDDINGS Book your wedding within the next 6 months and take advantage of our ‘whirlwind wedding offer’, with all inclusive packages starting from just £62.50 per person Contact the team for more details

A SH TO N CO U RT MA N SI O N ASHTON COURT E STAT E | L O N G A SH TO N | B R I STO L | B S4 1 9 J N | T E L : 0 1 1 7 9 6 3 3438 www2 . b r i st ol . gov. uk / nav / a sh t on- c ourt - m a nsi on


GRAY MATTERS There’s new ownership, but the same dedication to serving the needs of local brides, at the award-winning LINDA GRAY BRIDALWEAR in Gloucester Linda Gray Bridalwear is a well established player on the West Country bridal scene, recently taken over by Vivienne Lanceley following the departure of its eponymous founder. “I’ve been aware of the boutique for years,” says Vivienne, “and Linda always had a great rep, so we’ll follow closely in her footsteps.” Vivienne’s background is in fashion and design – indeed, she’s a qualified couture technician/designer – and bridal has always been part of her career. “Our small boutique will have all the fairytale style brides love,” she says, “and we want her to really enjoy her experience with us. We stock styles to suit most brides, from the dream princess look to the garden party.”

Though local brides are the mainstay, Linda Gray attracts women from further afield too – Vivienne names Herefordshire and the Cotswolds particularly – and the girls here love an unusual wedding. “No request can shock us,” Vivienne laughs. Dresses, from labels like Kenneth Winston, range from £699 to £1,500, but those on a budget will want to check the permanent rail of ex-samples at a reduced prices. “I would like to think that if either I or my daughters were getting married, we’d each be able to find a dress we loved,” Vivienne says, “though we all have completely different tastes.” lindagraybridal.co.uk VOW | 9

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Snap happy N I CK CH U RCH – w ed d i n g ph oto g r a ph er

MR. CHURCH Nick Church used to be a software engineer, and now brings similar levels of organisational rigour to a very different new career

Somerset snapper NICK CHURCH – his regular patch is Bristol, Bath, South Wales and around – switched from software engineering (with a side order of fine art photography) to shooting weddings recently, and feels he’s found his calling. After all, it’s in his name… “I already had experience as a landscape photographer,” Nick says, “and my first wedding was an evening event, planned

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as a gift for two friends. I thought I’d learn the ropes in a nice, no-pressure environment – but then ended up with a booking for another wedding earlier in the day too, so suddenly I was in at the deep end. The learning curve was nearvertical, but everyone – myself included – was amazed at the results, and I knew weddings were where I wanted to be.” So, Nick, how many weddings do you shoot a year now? My first year is nearly complete, and I have 30 weddings booked for 2017, and 18 so far for 2018. I will continue to take bookings, but want to ensure I stay fresh each time, so think a maximum of 40 a year will be about right for me.

How should couples chose a photographer? It’s important to go for a one who does work that you love – even if that means it’s not me! It’s hard when budgets are tight, but most photographers are flexible on what can be delivered or how long they’ll shoot for, and it’s better to get images you love of key parts of your day, rather than everything done but less memorable pictures. When I meet couples, they’re naturally checking me out – but I just try to make them laugh, and let my portfolio do the talking. What does a typical package cost? They’re all calculated scientifically – probably due to my software VOW | 11

I N V I TAT I O N S snap happy

How do you make sure you don’t miss any vital bits of the day? Planning is the key. Some elements are important to get right first time, such as when the couple first see each other during the ceremony. It is such a powerful moment, and it can never be recreated. I shoot with two cameras at all times too, which allows me to very quickly adapt to any situation. You must have shot in some fabulous locations…? Some venues are just beautiful, but I always like to create something a little different, giving my clients pictures that stand out from the crowd. I also love the challenge of shooting in more urban environments – these weddings are just as important to the couple, and can be just as photogenic with the right vision. One location I love, though, is Coombe Lodge in Blagdon, Somerset. It’s a beautiful 18th century mansion.


background! It’s all based on time spent shooting and editing, as I want to give very high quality with consistent value. My packages range from £750 for half a day, through to £1,600 for a superlong day, covering bridal preparations through to the evening event. I include a contemporary large album, as well as a professional online gallery, with all my packages, as I love the idea that couples will be able to look through something physical at the end.

What looks bad in photos? Very busy backgrounds can kill a shot. I once shot the cake being cut, only to realise later that there was a guest asleep in the background! It ruined the moment, and took a lot of Photoshopping to sort out. How about the weather? I quite like a bit of rain – ideally, a storm! It allows for a real sense of drama. Whatever the weather, I try to compose and edit images to make the best of a situation. If it’s not lovely evening golden sunshine, I’ll make the warmth and connections between the couple centrestage. Bright midday sun is actually the worst element to deal with in, as it can make heavy shadows on the face – and people sometimes have to squint. But there’s always a nice dappled shady spot that solves all that. Ever been trampled by children, or a rowdy crowd? I have four kids of my own, so love to connect with the children at a wedding

– when you have them on-side, the most stunning photos are possible. Once this went too far, though, and I had a miniature entourage following me around all day, ‘helping’ me press the buttons on my cameras. It was very funny, though – and, to be fair, one of the shots they took was a absolute belter, and went in the album! There must be a few standard shots that everybody wants. How do you deal with that sort of repetition? This can be an issue at venues that have ‘trademark’ shots, like in front of a set of ornate steps or a feature window. I will always find a different take, one that makes the most of that feature, but still allows the couple to have photos unique to them. I rarely set up the same shot for different couples – though, that said, I recently shot the bride and bridesmaids around those large illuminated L.O.V.E. letters you get. Everyone wants that one! How do you get stiff posers to loosen up? Many grooms are not big fans of having their photo taken, so I often use a long lens and get way back, then let him interact naturally with his bride. Their natural interactions can be really powerful, and have become something I’m known for. What kind of wedding photos annoy you? I have a rather big aversion to cheesy ‘humorous’ poses that do not reflect any part of the day. Yes, I love to capture humour in my pictures – but it should be natural. The couple swinging from a lamp-post is a shot I would banish to Room 101 if I could. nickchurchphotography.co.uk

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Flower power

HERE COMES THE BLOOM At LISA ELLIOTT FLORAL DESIGN they can do you flowers for any occasion – but their wedding offerings are sensational, and a trip to their pretty Clifton Village store is always an eyeopening inspiration

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Lisa Elliott’s had a flower shop in Bristol’s Clifton Village for over 15 years now, and considers herself a retail florist – “it’s a role that generally demands more varied skills and flower knowledge than specialising in wedding designs alone does,” she says. “The problem with just working on weddings is that it may not give you the technical ability you’d find in a fully trained retail florist, and wedding florists rarely have the luxury of such a huge array of flowers at their disposal on a daily basis. This gives me so much inspiration and choice, and means any prospective bride will get to see flowers they perhaps won’t have come across before. Indeed, I’ll happily buy in

lisa elliott

different varieties and colours for a bride to see, at no extra cost to her, knowing I can then display them in my shop. Basically, visiting my store is a wonderful opportunity to come and have a play.” So, Lisa, what’s on-trend? Roses, as always – they’re timeless, and just ooze romance – and there are gorgeous new varieties which would suit any theme. Fabulous ‘blousy’ garden blooms are hugely popular at the moment, and gypsophila – which had been considered very ’80s – is suddenly back in vogue. It’s an easy flower to work with, and en masse creates great impact at a reasonable cost. Another ’80s trend – the colour peach – is also back in fashion, although it now tends to be known as ‘coral’. For a more off the wall look, succulents plants are used a lot too. What about seasonal flowers? They’re the best, as not only can you ensure their availability and quality, but there’s nothing nicer on a crisp spring day than the simplicity of tulips, anemones or ranunculus. Summer then brings the loveliness of roses, peonies, hydrangeas and tall, splendid delphiniums, and richer tones and textures come through in autumn and winter, as well as the addition of berries and different foliages. Yes, most varieties are available all year round, but the cost of supplying them out of their natural season can be astronomical. And on the way out? I would mainly avoid certain flowers from a practical point of view: lilies can bruise very easily, for instance; a foliage called Asparagus Fern has very tiny thorns, which can cause problems; and mistletoe is not a good idea, as the berries are incredible sticky. Although hydrangeas and Lily of Valley are two of my favourites, I would avoid them as buttonholes, as they wilt rather quickly. How do you make sure your displays will photograph well? Receding colours, like dark purples and blues, tend to appear black in photographs. The popularity of black and white photography means a wider

range of tones and shades may be needed, to give greater definition. How involved do your couples get? Some will want to make every decision, while others will simply leave it up to me. Occasionally, brides and grooms will supply me with flowers lovingly grown in the family garden, sweet peas especially, and I’ve included cherished family heir looms, like brooches and rings, into the bridal bouquet. Very occasionally brides are so relaxed they just come into my shop on the morning of their wedding, selecting their flowers there and then. How much should we be spending? As a guide, the average cost of flowers

is said to be 5% of the overall cost of a wedding. The single most important floral element is, of course, the bride’s bouquet, because it’s seen so much, so that’s where to spend the money. Finally, tell us about a great wedding you’ve done lately. One was this summer, in Chew Valley. Gorgeous ‘David Austin’ roses were in abundance, as well as peonies, hydrangeas, lavender and herbs. And I created some fabulous designs: in the church, every windowsill, pew end and archway was adorned, and in the marquee the colour and scent of the flowers was simply breathtaking. lisa-elliott.co.uk VOW | 1 5

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But how does your bespoke piece happen? Diana takes us through the process, from start to finish.


“Have a look around,” says Diana. “Browse the different styles. And ask a few questions – we’ll be happy to help.”


“Now you’ll be shown through various metal options, and you’ll get a chance to try on a few sample bands to get a feel for the different metal tones.”


“The date of your big day looks lovely in roman numerals, etched across a partnership ring, for instance. What are those? Just a stack of two or three rings that are etched in alignment, so when placed together they match up perfectly. These can be worn by one person as a stack, or each partner can wear one.”


“There’s a trend for partnership rings to be made in different metals – one in white gold and one in yellow, perhaps. This has a striking effect, and is a great option if you each like different metals.”


ESPECIALLY FOR YOU At DIANA PORTER, the celebrated jewellery maker on Bristol’s Park Street, bespoke pieces are created in her workshops at the back of her store Though Diana Porter stocks the work of other designers too, core to her offer is her own personalised jewellery, from offthe-peg rings or cufflinks engraved with your own message to hand-etched and hand-finished pieces created just for you. (These take four-six weeks, so get your order in now for a New Year wedding!) “Another way that you can put your own creative flair into a piece is to have an unusual or sentimental stone set into 16 | VOW

it,” says Diana. “Sparkly white diamonds look fantastic, and we stock a vast range of sizes, but the ever-popular brown is another favourite, and ranges in shades from champagne to chocolate. Alternatively, try semiprecious alternatives, like sapphires, rubies and tourmaline. Coming in to select a stone is always fun.”

“I start by sketching the chosen wording on paper, creating a bespoke etch, then transfer it to a silver sample, which will be sent to the casters, where it will be made into your chosen precious metals.”


“The rings then return to our workshop. One of our team of skilled jewellers will clean and finish the ring, and we’ll add gold plating if your design requires it.”


“We have a vast range of stone options in store. Rose cut diamonds are hugely popular right now, for instance.”


“Now come to collect your ring. Each bespoke piece is special to us, not just to the recipient!” dianaporter.co.uk

MAKE YOUR HEN PARTY A MEMORABLE ONE. Dartington Hall combines medieval grandeur, natural beauty, exceptional food and comfortable accommodation, and our experienced team are committed to making your wedding the most special day of your lives. Our award-winning venue can host weddings of all shapes and sizes and is one of the few Devon venues offering outdoor civil ceremonies, which overlook our Grade II* listed gardens. We also welcome and cater for civil weddings.

Contact our experienced Wedding Coordinator on 01803 847145 or email bookings@dartingtonhall.com

Stylish accommodation in the heart of Bath, with relaxing spa packages and award winning restaurants and bars to sample. A perfect city for a perfect party.







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HAPPY FEET How do you become a celebrated shoe maker? For Bath-based Chantal Pilon – the name of her brand, CHANII B, comes from a nickname – it runs in the family… Canadian designer Chantal Pilon is from three generations of shoe retailer, starting with her British grandfather, who’d worked for Bata Shoes after the war, opening many shops in the UK, the Bahamas and, ultimately, Canada. 18 | VOW

When Chantal herself finished her fashion design studies on the other side of the Atlantic, she came to London’s Cordwainers College (a leather-working and shoemaking specialist, now merged with London College of Fashion) already well-versed in the special relationship between women and their shoes. “After Cordwainers, I was immediately snapped up by Clarks UK,” she says, “and was one of their main designers for five years. Then Kenneth Cole in New York hired me, and I spent another five years as his Senior VP designer, in charge of two teams of junior designers for three of his brands. When I left to freelance in the UK, consumers and shops kept asking for my own line, inspired by my


passion and attention to detail, and so Chanii B was born, aimed at women looking for something a little different.” Chantal’s customers constantly tell her they find most shoes too uncomfortable, or too boring – they’re often women who enjoy a designer like Vivienne Westwood, and love that the only place you can buy Chanii B in the UK is at her Bath store, in Milsom Place. Though the designs are often quite radical and punchy, Chantal takes extra care to ensure each is supremely comfortable and easy to wear. “They have extra cushions inside, and the soles are very flexible,” Chantal says, “and we use amazing, innovative leathers, often in metallic and iridescent foils with names like ‘rainbow unicorn hide’. These are my real passion. They pick up so many colours, and each time I come across a newly developed leather, I get excited about making shoes from it.” The current Chanii B range includes a number of styles – they have names like Fizz, Luca and Stylo – that use a cork footbed, offering extra cushioning and making them excellent wedding shoes (especially the versions with wider heels, which won’t sink into the grass). Other popular styles include Coco and Honey (light, flexible, hardwearing cowhide dress shoes, offering what Chantal describes as “a naked fit, with no seams to cut the foot”), that come in over 15 colours. “The design hides those bits of the foot we don’t like to see,” Chantal says, “and a few customers have them in almost every colour I’ve made!” Then, for boot lovers, there’s Mais Oui, a highly popular item in various edgy colour combinations, offering a soft fit, a vast range of sizes, and incredible laser-cut skins. “They’re a little bit of rock ’n’ roll,” Chantal says, “with a cool cuff fold-over to show off a second colour.” Designing each new shoe takes Chantal a few months gathering inspiration – art galleries are useful, she says, and travel – as well as getting together leathers, lasts, heels and pattern ideas. “The sketching is continuous for a few months,” she says, “then I visit our factories – all small, family-run places in Portugal – to plan them together. I always try to challenge

my factories to take a step outside of the average shoemaking process.” A prototype is made up, which Chatel quickly destroys – cutting it up, drawing on it, and making amends where needed – from which more are made, until the pattern is approved. Finally, details like colours and trim are added. As well as all her regular styles, Chanii B is geared up to make unique, one-off pairs, based on designs the customer and Chatal plan together. “For a special event, my women want something one of a kind,” Chantal says, “often based on an existing design, but other times completely unique.” For these unique shoes, all costs are paid up front, and Chanii charges according to how much

time it will take. Generally, though, it can be 6-12 weeks to get a bespoke version of a existing design made up, or 12-24 weeks for a shoe designed from scratch. Right now, for instance, Chantal finds many brides going for Victorian styles, but with a modern twist, such as extra-feminine lace or ruffles. La Lune and Luca – two of her cork footbed styles – have become especially popular for weddings, as they offer all day comfort and a reduced heel height. “Customers particularly like the fact that they can change the ribbon colour, so they’ll go with many other outfits, and have a great extended life after the wedding,” she says. chaniibshoes.com VOW | 1 9

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All that glitters

GOLD STANDARD Originally known as The Gold & Silver Studio, Bath’s THE GOLD AND PLATINUM STUDIO has been making bespoke wedding jewellery for well over 40 years…

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“The Studio was founded in 1970, and I was first employed here as company goldsmith by the previous owners, back in the 1990s,” says owner Mike Parsons. “When they retired in ’96, I bought the business. About ten years ago I renamed it, moving to larger, more central premises in Bath’s Northumberland Place. The Studio has always had its roots as a workshop-based business, though, and one that specialises in bespoke and one-off pieces.” These days there are six people here, with each craftsperson having their own specific style, and most of the jewellery they sell is handmade on site. “People come to us because they’re able to speak to the actual goldsmith

t h e g o l d & P l at i n u m S t u d i o

who’s going to be making their bespoke piece,” Mike says. “This ensures that nothing gets lost in translation.” Mike describes the style here as “classic but modern”, essentially timeless pieces with a tendency towards Art Deco or Art Nouveau. “Simplicity and practicality play a part,” he says, “as most people want pieces they can dress up or down.” Most of what they do here – as far as weddings are concerned, at least – are wedding rings. “As it’s such an important piece,” Mike says, “it’s essential to get it right. In its simplest form, a plain ladies’ 9ct gold wedding ring may cost as little as £200. In 18ct gold this ring would be about £400, in platinum £550, and a larger and wider gents’ wedding band may be around £800 in 18ct gold, or over £1,000 for platinum. Palladium is becoming a very popular choice, particularly for men’s rings – it has similar properties to platinum but is less heavy and less expensive – and a 5mm gents’ ring in this would be around £500. A couple could certainly get two handmade wedding rings for less than £1,000.” Of course, designs often need to be quite specific with ladies’ wedding rings, as they usually need to sit next to the existing engagement ring. “The width, depth and shape need to be perfect,

and fractions of a millimetre make all the difference,” Mike says. “The trend recently has been for antique-looking bands, sometimes using rose gold, pave set with diamonds and with mill grained edges, but we make more unusual wedding rings, too. One recent pair of matching rings featured intertwining dragons, for instance. “Also worth considering is how well a metal will wear. 18ct white gold, for instance, is usually rhodium-plated – which wears off relatively quickly, revealing a yellowish metal underneath. (Yes, they can always be re-plated, but it’s an inconvenience.) Unfortunately, not all jewellers make this clear. We’ve often found ourselves having to explain why an engagement ring, purchased elsewhere, has changed colour after only a few months. Another thing we make sure our clients realise is how difficult a wedding ring, set with diamonds all the way around, can be to resize. Yes, they look fantastic, but in the future you might have problems.” When thinking of the timeframe required, two months should allow for a pair of rings to be made. “Yes, it usually only takes three or four weeks,” Mike says, “but giving it plenty of time means it becomes one less thing to worry about.”

Recent trends have been for deep blue sapphires – “in particular, antique style clusters and cushion cut gems,” Mike says – with many clients looking for something subtle and understated. 9ct gold is less yellow than 18ct, and is quite popular; rose gold too. And often with a hammered or textured finish. “Last summer a young couple from Finland visited The Studio,” Mike says. “They’d just got engaged, but had yet to find the ring. So they were overjoyed when they found, in our shop window, one that was almost perfect.” After trying the ring on, and discussing the changes they wanted with Mike, the pair commissioned a similar one with a larger diamond and narrower band – plus two matching wedding bands. Drawings were done and Mike set to work, mindful that the rings had to be finished for the upcoming engagement party, but when the couple found themselves unable to return to the UK to collect them, Mike decided to take a trip to Helsinki himself. So you gave the rings to them personally, did you? “Yes, in a restaurant over there – and, happily, they were exactly what they’d hoped for!” goldandplatinumstudio.co.uk

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New and notable

SESH MEET Kirsten Butler not only styles some of the West Country’s most stylish weddings as The Little Wedding Helper, but helps judge the Wedding Industry Awards, too

Award-winning stylist Kirsten Butler – also known as The Little Wedding Helper – has co-founded THE WEDDING SESSIONS, a workshop for industry pros and aspiring creatives alike… There’s a steep learning curve involved when planning a wedding, and this applies to wedding business owners as much as it does the bride and groom. After all, trends come and trends go; new services pop up and others disappear; and so many of us arrange our own

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weddings, find we liked it, then wonder if our new-found skills could be put to further use, through a bridal business of our own. Enter The Wedding Sessions, well known professional wedding stylist Kirsten Butler’s cleverly curated, highly supportative and endlessly inspirational sessions for wedding entrepreneurs. Covering such must-know topics as copywriting, pricing, and establishing your business, Kirsten and a raft of contributors offer a warm welcome to anyone thinking of entering the industry, where no aspiration is too big… So, what’s the thinking behind it? My friend Emma creates literacy legacies for brides and grooms at her web site, The Wedding Reporter, and we’ve both had the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented wedding suppliers in our time. I’ve been hosting ‘tweetups’ – informal events where wedding industry people can catch up – for a while now, and during these Emma and I would often get asked a plethora of questions, from whether we find running our own business isolating to what we think of the latest Facebook algorithm. It got us to thinking what a good idea it would be to pass on our collective knowledge and experience of the industry through more formal workshops. And who comes to them? We’ve held several Sessions so far, with a variety of speakers, and the people who

attend are pretty diverse too, though what they tend to have in common is an eagerness to learn, network, and make their own way in the wedding world. When we’re discussing topics like defining your ideal client, and optimising your social media, we see knowing smiles all around. The lovely thing is that, because of the supportive atmosphere, business partnerships are often born here, collaborations planned and friendships made. We’re keen. What do we get if we pop along? The first thing to say is that the experience doesn’t just finish when the day is over. Our attendees are able

to chatter afterwards through our Facebook support forums, and we’re always on hand to assist with followup questions. Everyone who attends gets a copy of The Wedding Bible, an invaluable resource full of information and guides to everything from creating a business plan to optimising social media, defining your target market to setting prices and attracting dream clients. So, when’s the next one? During 2017 we’ll be running sessions in Bristol, Cardiff, London, Devon and Cornwall; prices start from £150, and include course materials, little treats to take away, and a delicious lunch. theweddingsessions.co.uk VOW | 2 3

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The wedding planner

SAKS & THE CITY Bristol’s pampering options just got a little bit better…

FLOWER GIRLS If you’re in love with floral, you know where to come… This is the new Amy Mair Couture Collection, now exclusively available at Rachel Burgess Bridal Boutique in Penarth. Amy’s a Welsh designer, based in Cardiff, and brings a certain high end European haute couture feel to her bridal offering. Yes, her dresses are very feminine – but they’re often non-traditional, too. The Dove Collection is her second line of gowns (her debut Signature Collection appeared in 2014), and is particularly inspired by animals and plants. It consists of three dresses – Florence, Rowe and Amaris (which you see here) – and incorporates a variety of pretty elements like florals; stars and dots; and corded champagne French lace. rachelburgessbridalboutique.com; amymaircouture.co.uk

This is Saks Beauty on Bristol’s Park Street, a new salon opening this December with a big emphasis on wedding beauty. It’s headed up by owner Donna Downey – once of the finance industry, but now retrained in holistic health and beauty – and is geared not only towards bridal hair and makeup but, with spa services like massages on offer, would work well for hen weekends too. “We hope our customers will leave feeling refreshed, energised, and ready to take on the world,” Donna says. saks.co.uk/bristol

WYLDE TIMES Sapphires don’t just come in blue, you know… This Christmas, celebrated Bath and Bristol jeweller Nicholas Wylde – he has shops in Northumberland Place and The Mall, Clifton – is launching a new collection called Carousel, which combines coloured sapphires with striking circular designs in 18ct white or yellow gold. Each set contains a ring, earrings and a pendant, and is also available in silver, set with semi-precious stones; prices start at £250. Next year’s a big one for Nicholas, as he celebrates 30 years in business. nicholaswylde.com 2 4 | VOW

INDIAN SUMMERS The of winter their wayfor – who Likedepths Mrs and Mrs, are buton especially you said they’re already here? – so allow us a moment to dream. This here’s a honeymoon hotel in India, one of a dozen in the Oberoi group, from Agra to Jaipur, Mumbai to Udaipur. Amazing buildings and views come as standard; we think it might be worth getting married, just to have the excuse to book. Even better, if you pick some suites aimed at honeymooners, you get a bunch of special treats thrown in – like rose petal showers, a personal butler service, and even personalised monogrammed pillow cases! oberoihotels.com

S TA G S & H E N S new twists on your last night out

W o r d s b y k at e a u t h e r s

In the company of hens During the festive season, many brides are struck by wedding fever. But before all the heart-in-mouth moments and I do-ing, there’s a one-of-a-kind hen do to organise… 2 6 | VOW


e’re confident that Bath would walk away with all the silverware at the Hen Do Capital of the World Awards. It’s completely beautiful; there’s a worldrenowned natural thermal spa; and it’s small enough that even the most prosecco-fuelled parties can bar hop in six-inch stilettos. It’s just the researching bit – to find the perfect citycentre pad, and pastimes to ensure a memorable experience – that can become the bane of a bridesmaid’s life. So wouldn’t it be great if someone else came up with those in-the-know recommendations? Lucky for us, property specialists Bath Boutique Stays spotted a niche in the hen-do market, and decided to do just that. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram, and you’ll notice they’re at every Bath business launch going; they know local like few others, and often partner up with like-minded Bath indies to bring expectant hen parties the best that this world heritage city has to offer. You can take the stress-free option and book one of their three Roman Goddess spa packages – which all include a vintage tea party on arrival, a two-hour session at the Thermae Bath Spa and VIP entry to a

b at h b o u t i q u e s tay s


e then undo all of the good work, of course, by reapplying the warpaint for a night on the cobbles. Hot Bath Street’s location in the heart of the city – like all Bath Boutique Stays’ properties – means the main highlights and nightlife are easily walkable. We totter to super cool Burger & Lobster for platters of lobster and skinny chips, and sip on creative cocktails in the atmospheric vaulted surrounds of the downstairs Confessional bar. Waiter service makes ordering drinks a dream, while the surrounds feel wonderfully exclusive. The downside is that we were only ‘experiencing’ the one night, but fresh-from-the-oven goodies from Thoughtful Bread ease us gently back to work, and reality, the next morning. If you’re looking for the ultimate hen-do experience, booking with Bath Boutique Stays is a no-brainer. A weekend, Friday-Sunday, at 1 Hot Bath Street, starts at £1,495 (or it’s 50% off for a two-night stay Sunday-Thursday). Hen party packages start at £79 per person; bathboutiquestays.co.uk late-night bar – or task them with tailoring something a little more bespoke. We tested out the latter, turning up with a gaggle of girls to their 1 Hot Bath Street location on a sunny autumn morning. Location-wise, it’s super-central – next to the Gainsborough Bath Spa, no less – and sleeps 12, the place decked out in boutiquechic style: think velvet and leather furniture, gleaming surfaces, fancy lighting and distressed mirrors. The beds are made up with crisp linen, and we’re so close to the spa we can see it from the window. On arrival, we find the kitchen laid out with afternoon tea, from Mother Hen Catering. There’s a gorgeous autumnal display from the great Flowers by Passion too, and while it feels a little decadent to be drinking champagne at 10.30am, we soon get over it.


ossibly our favourite part of the day, though, is wallowing in the Thermae Bath Spa’s Cross Baths, the little sister spa to the more extensive facilities in the New Royal Bath next door. The beauty of this intimate open-air pool is that you can book it for small parties – up to 12 – and have it

Party purveyors Helping us pretend one of us was tying the knot… Vintage afternoon tea: Mother Hen Catering; motherhencatering.com FLOWERS: Passion; flowersbypassion.com Spa: Thermae Bath Spa; thermaebathspa.com Pamper: Real Beauty Spa Party; realbeautyspaparty.co.uk Dinner: Burger & Lobster; burgerandlobster.com Drinks: The Confessional; confessionalbar.co.uk Breakfast goodies: The Thoughtful Bread Company; thethoughtfulbreadcompany.com

VOW | 2 7


to yourselves. It’s rare to spend an hour and a half floating around on woggles, soaking up the sun and catching up on gossip, while being mesmerised by the natural thermal waters cascading from a poolside fountain, but it’s definitely an experience I’d like to repeat. Our afternoon entertainment arrives back at the property in the form of a positive pamper party, hosted by Sally Morton of Real Beauty Spa Party. We learn that expensive face creams and cleansers are largely a waste of money, and that coconut oil is the beauty hack for everything from make-up removing to cleansing, helping with healing scars, moisturising your knees, and plenty more besides. After gently removing our make-up with the stuff and steaming our faces, we make a face mask with natural Greek yoghurt, organic honey, as well as mashed avocado, spirulina powder and brown rice flour. We paint on the sticky green goo and apply cold green tea bags to our eyes – which are, apparently, way better than cucumber for reducing under-eye bags. We drink smoothies, exfoliate our feet, and do some meditative exercises in the living room. It’s all low key, informative and surprisingly good fun, and we all agree our skin feels amazing.

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THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE CLINTON LOTTER is an unusual designer in a number

of ways – and highly exclusive, with Carina Baverstock Couture one of the very few boutiques to stock him – yet his dresses have a truly timeless elegance. We had to meet him…

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THE BRIDE: clinton lotter

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the bride: Clinton lotter


ot many famous bridal gown designers, we’re willing to gamble, are ex-Air Force, but so it is with London based, South Africa born Clinton Lotter, a rising star of the scene now stocked by Carina Baverstock Couture in Bradford on Avon. “We’ve been watching Clinton for the last few years,” say Carina and her business parter, Lucy Hayward-Rodgers, “and have seen him dressing all the cool celebrities, like Amber Heard, Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss, so we’re delighted that we can now stock him. For us, he is like a young Bruce Oldfield, his hot, body-skimming cut and luxurious fabrics combining for uncomplicated impact. Today’s bride wants to be relaxed and sophisticated, yet sexy and different to all the brides who went before her, and what helps make Clinton so good at this is his use of sensual washed silk crepes – he really is second to none with this material – while his softer, embroidered dresses create romance, while remaining on trend. To our minds, his dresses are for the bride who wants to stand out from the crowd, dance without restriction, and be remembered.” Sounds good, but what does the man himself have to say?


ack in South Africa, Clinton had enrolled at a Fashion Academy straight after high school, but then was called up to the Air Force before he could begin – there was National Service in South Africa back in the day – and spent a year there, thoroughly enjoying it, as it goes. This was back in 1990, or thereabouts. “Of course, I was extremely nervous before going in,” Clinton says, “as my interests in life were hardly congruent with the machismo of military training. But actually, the experience taught me a great deal about discipline, commitment, reliability and tenacity, and now I look back at that time with great fondness.” Indeed, costume and fashion – and couture, in particular – had always captivated and inspired him, and he finally entered the fashion world to work on ready to wear seasonal collections – he won New Designer of the Year at South African Fashion Week with his second ever collection, back in 1998 – but soon found bridal really starting to fascinate him. He was continually being asked to create wedding gowns by the women in his circle, and – sooner or later – he had to give it a go. First up, though: Paris! “As part of the award, I got an all-expenses-paid placement at Chloe – Stella McCartney was head designer and Phoebe Phyllo her assistant back then, both brilliant designers and fantastic to work with – and I look back at that experience with almost disbelief that I was there,” he now says. “The whole experience was incredibly significant to me, and changed my work. The two collections I’d presented as a young designer were almost a little avant garde, but at Chloe I learned how important commercial appeal is. At least, if you want to be successful in the industry!” One area where Clinton can still let loose, though, is in his occasional film and TV work – contributions to Batman Begins and Tomb Raider stand out – which has come through London costume designers friends. “They’ve always been very supportive of my talent and, where possible, would enlist me to create special pieces required for various films,” he says, “and this continues to this day. My role in VOW | 3 3

THE BRIDE: clinton lotter

these projects is always to work within the costume designer’s brief, of course – and to be sympathetic to the whims of the actors, and the role of their characters in the story. It all feeds into my bridal work, as each new film project will teach me new methods and techniques.” Tell us what you like about bridal couture, Clinton. I think that, by my third bridal collection a signature style, which had been developing naturally, became clear. Minimal, elegant and modern are how I described it back then, and though I’ve continued to pursue this basic feel, I’m now enjoying exploring other ideas and silhouettes too. What about your most recent collections? The new one is called La Vie en Rose, and with this one I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone, introducing some colour. The 1930s and 1940s have always appealed to me as far as women’s fashions are concerned, but I wanted to create some fuller silhouettes this time around too, and design my own beading and embroidery. And I’ve developed a love of lace – from France, Italy and Nottingham – so incorporating that was a real joy this year. What are the most important aspects to get right on a wedding dress? Oh, silhouette is key. It’s the most important factor. A dress has to complement the bride’s frame, not jar with it. Necklines, shoulders and drape are, of course, important too, and she also has to feel completely natural and unencumbered when wearing the gown. At the end of the day, though, less is more. There are too many manufactured labels out there that only produce gowns with the obligatory sparkle belt or diamanté encrusted bodices. Oh, they have their place in the industry, but I don’t feel any tendency to do that myself. When designing dresses, do you have a muse in mind? To be honest, I like a collection that can appeal to more that one body type. The woman I design for is someone who appreciates style over substance, and for whom elegance takes precedence over trend details. Within that, though, she could be conservative or adventurous, and my styles could appeal to either sensibility.

was a popular strapless silk crepe bias gown, with tailored crepe belt and a ruffle down the centre back. From the second collection, Katherine – with a corded French lace high neck front and a scalloped low back – was a hit, and I’m currently redeveloping this style. From the same year, Clara, which had a deep V-neck front and back beaded tulle/lace, was very popular too. And then there was Tallulah from the third collection, which was an embroidered tulle bateau neck fishtail gown, with a low back and a fluted sleeve. It’s often hard to say why certain styles are more popular than others, but I think the fact that those were all quite classic dresses – but made from very modern, very luxurious fabrics – really helped. How much of the actual dressmaking do you do yourself? All of it! From designing to draping, from pattern-construction to stitching, and all the hand-finishing – although at times, when needed, I do enlist my trusted freelance seamstresses. This means that I’m working sevenday weeks most of the time, and I don’t really have a social life – but I’m committed to what I do. I see it as par for the course when building a brand.

The woman I design for, though, is someone who appreciates style over substance, and for whom elegance takes precedence over trend details

Of all your dresses, which have been the biggest hits? There have been various best-sellers. Garbo from the first collection 3 4 | VOW

What’s your working process? I’m always looking at what fabrics are on the market. I often fall in love with a particular lace, or luxurious silk, and its design, fibre content and so on will influence the end design of the dress. Beyond that, I start with sketches. I’ll work on new ideas for weeks, just putting everything down on paper. Then I assess them all together, until I'm happy with a short edit that I feel is true to what I’m feeling. I’m not very concept driven in my design process, and if any idea jumps out at me as being too gimmicky or trendy, it doesn’t make the final edit.

What do you think about colour in wedding gowns? I am very intrigued by colour, to be honest. Blush pink seems to be here to stay, and I’d like to explore dove grey in the future. As for other different ways to approach bridal, I find separates intriguing. Whenever I’m doing skirts and tops, I think, ‘Well, why not jackets and trousers as well?’ The industry is so big now, there’s room for all sorts of approaches – and not all women are into pretty gowns. When I think of the musicians, athletes, and women in the military that I’ve worked with, I like the idea of tailored jackets being included as part of their bridal looks. clintonlotter.com; carinabcouture.com

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6-7 Market Street, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1LH Open: Tuesday - Saturday 10-5pm or by appointment!

the n

night of W O R D S b y W e n d y Ly n e

Ph oto g r a ph y by M a r i e M a n

Friends Ella Hawkey and Annabella Brayne remind us that evening and daytime looks are not the same, through sensual hair and makeup with the wedding night in mind‌

the Bride: the night of


nnabella Brayne of By Annabella, the Bristolbased make-up outfit, is talking about the differences between day and night makeup. “Daylight is normally bright, so you’d need something soft and pared down, natural and fresh,” she says, “but evening makeup can be more striking and intense. The idea is to create drama.” And this sensual bridal boudoir shoot – a collaboration between Annabella and hair specialist Ella Hawkey, with the internationally renowned Marie Man on camera duties – is certainly dramatic, with a sultry autumnal feel. Annabella wants women can be a little adventurous and daring when it comes to their makeup – “it’s such a fun and empowering tool,” she says, “which can always be mixed up, and is so easily removed!” Turns out, she has a particular fondness for dewy skin. “It’s my absolute favourite,” she says, “and why? Because it looks so youthful, fresh and luminous and, for me, really gives dimension to a face. I love using creamy highlighting products to create this look, with MAC pearl highlighter or clear lip gloss pressed onto the higher parts of the cheeks, cupid’s bow, and down the bridge of the nose. And you can use these products on the body, too, which catch the light beautifully for a shoot.” With a sexy shoot like this, many off the everyday rules go


or the rest of the shoot, Bradford on Avon’s Carina Baverstock Couture stepped in with some gorgeous Jenny Packham slips, while vintage corsets came courtesy of Emma at Elegantly Waisted. “These helped me to choose my colour pallet when it came to makeup,” Annabella says, “and I used nudes, camels, and sage greens, all very soft colours but easy to mould into an autumn look. I wanted it to seem rich and earthly, with depth and texture, so I chose burnt oranges, browns and greens with a metallic edge.” And away from the boudoir, Ella has a number exciting weddings coming up, including one of a seriously cool musician she’s known for years – “she’s set for mega stardom, and has just been signed,” she says – with a bold, contemporary, laid back style; meanwhile, another bride, who lives in Chicago, is flying her out to Bordeaux for her big day. “I’m doing the hair for most of her bridal party, so that is going to be a fun morning! She’s making some bold choices, like a dress with pockets – genius! – and vermillion lips and contrasting balayage in her hair. Honestly, it’s a dream to work with such beautiful but individual women. That’s when the magic happens – and I just sit back, and think about how much I love my job.”

it’s much more enjoyable to work with women who are keen to step outside the box... the undone hair styling used here could definitely be interpreted for a contemporary bride

out of the window, so Annabella is happy to pair strong eyes with stronger lips, when normally it would be one of the other. “It’s a very different brief to daytime wedding makeup,” she explains, “where the bride usually wants to look natural and fresh.” And for hair to go with, Ella wanted to create the feeling that everything was tumbling down out of a hair-up style. “You know,” Ella says, “like how the blushing bride looks at ‘the end of the night’ – if you know what I mean?” Actually, we think it’s Vow that’s blushing at this point, not the bride. “Gone are the days when all brides chose the same styles,” she goes on. “Many of my recent clients have been deliberately bucking the trends, and it’s much more enjoyable to work with women who are keen to step outside the box. The tones, depth and ‘undone’ hair styling used here could definitely be interpreted for a contemporary bride.” 3 8 | VOW

night is not for sleep Getting jiggy with it were… Hair: Ella Hawkey; atelierclifton.co.uk Makeup: By Annabella; byannabella.co.uk Models: April Blue (aprilblue @aprilbluemodel); Rheia

Roberts Budworth Lingerie: Jenny Packham at Carina Baverstock Couture;

carinabcouture.com CORSETS: Elegantly Waited;

elegantlywaistedvintage.com Photography: Marie Man Photography; marieman.com

The South West’s Premier Wedding Exhibition

Sunday 15th January 2017 11am to 3pm The Bristol Marriott Royal, College Green Professionally choreographed fashion shows 12pm & 2pm A variety of wedding Suppliers, Services & Experts / Live Entertainment

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• w i d c o m b e •

A relaxed and informal environment for your perfect wedding reception We are a ‘package-free zone’ and as such we will work close with you to plan your own individual and bespoke event. Our emphasis is always on great food and our prices offer fantastic value for weddings, without compromising at all on quality. In the summer our walled courtyard garden is filled with roses, passion flowers and vines making it the ideal setting for drinks and canapés. Inside, it is light and airy by day or cosy and candlelit at night, the perfect neutral backdrop for your choice of decoration. We can host a sit down meal for up to 60 guests and a standing/seated party for up to 100.

Please contact us for more information

The White Hart | Widcombe | Bath | BA2 6AA T 01225 338053 | www.whitehartbath.co.uk


r e t a w VOW | 4 5


yne dy l ner n e gar by w h S t D u r WOR y by r aph g o t Pho

e h t n


t n o r o

ra ther fo re soft e g o t t he ge pliers dockside, w endly p u s l i o and fr f Brist own on the , o t t e s e o Ah ot d e on m ng sho nyielding ir s “a lifetim i d d e l w u e s and r mod flower -by wish ou s”… s s passer nd happine a of love

VOW | 41

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pictures by ruth garner

suzanne neville (opening spread); suzanne laure neville de sagazan (opening (opposite) spread); laure de sagazan (opposite)

VOW | 3 5

t h e B r i d e : o n t h e w at e r f r o n t


sambard Kingdom Brunel’s 19th century steamship ss Great Britain is not only a cool wedding venue in its own right, but one of the centrepieces of Bristol’s Harbourside, and so it inevitably features in this waterfront shoot. All well and good, but the team behind this celebration of maritime Bristol – well known wedding-orientated businesses based close to here, and led by Laura McFadden of Bristol Bridal Boutique, the sample and pre-loved wedding dress outfit – wanted to spread the love, too. Hence the various historic cranes, warehouses and tall ships you see, as well as the colourful little terraced houses on the city’s hills. This is a celebration of love, sure, but of place too. “The feel of the day was very informal,” Laura says. “Which is also, of course, very Bristol. And anyway, working with models acting as newlyweds demands plenty of laughs, so the atmosphere becomes relaxed enough to be convincing, and Katie and Daniel here were amazing – and complete pros. By the second part of the shoot they’d became at ease receiving all the ‘Congratulations!’ from passers by, thanking each one with a smile!” That sort of interaction is both the fun and the danger when doing such things in public, of course – but you have little choice when central Bristol is your backdrop. “The other worry was that the weather wasn’t playing ball at the beginning, but after a few drops of rain it decided to behave itself,” Laura says, with a shiver. “After that, things started to dry off. And thank goodness for that, as you really have no wet weather alternative when being outdoors is the very theme of your shoot.” The guys started with some edgier, moodier shots, but as the day went on, says Laura, “both photographer Ruth Garner and I found ourself saying ‘More teeth, more teeth!’ as we realised we wanted smiles and laughing too, giving a more informal feel.” Ruth and Laura have worked with each other a few times now, and feel very at ease putting ideas forward and bouncing off each other. “I’ve always thought what a crucial skill this is in a wedding photographer,” says Laura. “That, and the ability to make your couple feel at ease – and Ruth has perfected both.”


ther local businesses got involved, too. Laura runs Bristol Bridal Boutique from her home in Southville, which is a stone’s throw from Ivory Flowers on North Street (and not much further from the Harbourside itself), and even before they got to know each other in the industry, she would buy flowers from Xanthe there. And then there’s David Minns, the cool tailor from Bristol’s Brown in Town, who she met at the Chosen Wedding Fair a couple of years ago. “We hit it off,” Laura says, “as, indeed, did his wife and I, who I bonded with over the craziness of raising two small children while trying to start a business. When you first meet David you inevitably notice how stylish he is, and I’m excited for the day my husband Sam walks into his studio for a suit.” Groom Daniel’s suit was made bespoke for him by David, of course, who asks, “What could be more Brown in Town than a modern take on the traditional double breasted suit, with its origins in naval uniform? Think of a captain’s blazer, or a pea coat – both double breasted – and, in this instance, the style of suit made for a respectful nod to our location, the ss Great Britain, too. 4 4 | VOW

This particular one is in a Prince of Wales check, the colour and pattern of which were hand-selected by Daniel personally, and it looks classically elegant on him. Of course, a wedding is never about the groom – no, no, no! – but a well turned out chap will do little to detract from his bride, as an ill turned out groom might.” Good point, but few grooms would get much of a look in when standing next to a bride as radiant as Katie here, who looks particularly fine in her warpaint from makeup artist Naomi Lake. Naomi does all sorts of work, from commercial to fashion, “but bridal holds a special place in my heart,” she says. “I think it’s because it’s part of such a big turning point in a woman’s life, and the pictures from her big day will be something she and her family will be looking at for years to come. For this shoot, I wanted to create something a little more whimsical and theatrical than normal, while still having a bridal feel. I used plum tones on the lips in an gentle ombré, playing with matte and gloss textures. For the eyes, I shaded with a deeper matte shadow topped with a beautiful pop of cool metallic gold, focussing the look whilst complementing the gorgeous flower crown.” Speaking of which, also helping out was Amanda from Bridezillas, the accessories shop. “She holds a treasure trove of pretty for any bride putting together a look,” Laura says, “and I especially like that she sells Eliza Jane Howell wedding gowns, as she’s one of my favourite designers.” That said, the dress today is one of Laura’s own offerings, this one a Suzanne Neville number called Forever, and made from beautiful silk georgette and structured on the bodice, with a sumptuous yet understated train. “One of the things I really like about this one was how it made for a brilliant blank canvas, which I could style in all sorts of ways,” Lauren says. “It worked so well with our flower crown and bouquet from Ivory Flowers, for instance, and I used a vintageinspired brooch called Delphinium to accent the bow on the side of the dress, as well as the Larissa bracelet and a stunning ivory Swarovski crystal pearl and crystal back necklace with matching earrings, all from Bridezillas. Finally, later in the day we put Katie in a lace jacket by Emma Hunt, the London wedding dress designer, too – hey, it is autumn, after all!”

the shipping forecast Listening out for weather reports for Lundy et al… Dress and organisation: Bristol Bridal Boutique;

bristolbridalboutique.co.uk Photography: Ruth Garner Photography;

ruthgarnerphotography.com Flowers: Ivory Flowers; ivory flowers.co.uk Groom’s suit: Brown in Town; brownintown.co.uk Accessories: Bridezillas; bridezillas.biz Makeup: Naomi Lake; naomi-lake.com

BRISTOL BRIDAL BOUTIQUE Sample & preloved designer wedding dresses We take beautiful sample and preloved wedding dresses from the best designers in the business, such as Suzanne Neville, Stewart Parvin, Ritva Westenius, Caroline Castigliano and more, and offer them to you at up to 50% off. Maybe the dress of your dreams could be a reality...

www.bristolbridalboutique.co.uk 07939 598 489

Linda Gray Bridalwear

Gloucester’s Multi Award winning Bridal Boutique Affordable Luxury & Exceptional Customer service Westgate Retail Park, The Island, Gloucester, GL1 2RU 01452 418880 • Linda Gray Bridalwear Gloucester


Words by

cl arissa picot

The Mews has gone far beyond just being one of the West Country’s most celebrated bridal boutiques. There’s an increasing French flavour to it, and a new overseas offshoot – with, just possibly, more to come. And there are candles to blow out too…

3 0 | VOW


the ‘new bridal generation’ – with its 24-hour access to the internet – is certainly incredibly well-informed,” says Gail, “and tends to know instinctively what they want before they even begin shopping now

“Oh, very much so,” says Gail. “The rise of social media has made a huge difference, of course, but we’ve widened the range of designers we carry too. There are a number from Paris, in particular, that we now stock, and they’ve brought a huge breath of fresh air into the industry.” Indeed, and we’ll be talking more about them in due course. There’s also, of course, been the unstoppable rise of the internet, which has had a huge impact on most industries, and has certainly changed bridal forever. “Well, the ‘new bridal generation’ – with its 24-hour access to the internet – is certainly incredibly well-informed,” says Gail, “and tends to know instinctively what they want before they even begin shopping now. They have their Pinterest boards crammed with colour swatches, pictures of dresses, and ideas about floral decorations, favours, candles and styling, and we can’t ignore that. It just means we’ve got to up our game, too.” VOW | 47

All dresses at The Mews: blonde model wears Donatelle Godart, brunette model wears Laure de Sagazan


ridal boutiques change over the years as the market does, of course – or as their owners gain new interests, or become intrigued by new approaches – but few have done so quite as radically as The Mews of Bristol’s Clifton, and now rather further afield too. They’re currently celebrating their ten year anniversary, and although they’ve always been a top-end outfit – that much, at least, hasn’t changed – with rather higher levels of ambition than most wedding dress retailers, that has never seemed so clear as it does right now. From their stock to their locations, their horizons seem remarkably wide – and they’re getting wider. “The Mews began in a quaint little mews house in the heart Bristol – hence the name – back in 2007,” says founder Gail Crispin. “We started with a pretty enviable selection of high end designers – the likes of Suzanne Neville, Amanda Wakeley, Stephanie Allin, Blue and Raimon Bundo – which we chose because they’re fashion forward, yet used very luxurious fabrics and still had a timeless elegance to their work. And that seems like part of our DNA – we’re more fashion-forward than many bridal boutiques.” Back in 2007, of course, the wedding industry was in a very different place…

the mews


nd up their game they’ve done in a number of ways. These days, The Mews isn’t just in Clifton, after all, but in London too. The shop there is in cool, pretty Notting Hill – just a stone’s throw from Portobello Road, in fact – and has been in business since February 2014, and it’s here that the French designers have made the biggest impact, though there’s a growing capsule collection of their work available in the Bristol store too. “Both cities have the same desire for fashion forward trends,” Gail says, “but the sleek sophistication of the French collections – they tend to be quite bohemian, but with a rock ’n’ roll edge – have had a special impact in Notting Hill. They’ll all exclusive to us, and

as fashion has got increasingly personal, so what women want on their wedding day has had to keep up. These days, your wedding dress needs to reflect your personality

beautifully handmade using plenty of delicate French Calais lace and fluid silks.” And for Gail’s daughter, Lauren, who runs the business with her, the similarities between the Clifton and Notting Hill boutiques run even deeper. “The French designers are definitely part of the overall brand of The Mews,” she says, “and although The Mews Clifton does attract a lot of brides who love our brilliant British designers, we’re seeing more and more go Parisian there too, particularly attracted by the work of Laure de Sagazan or Rime Arodaky. Our Notting Hill boutique is purely Parisian, though, and every bride we see there is looking for a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.” This, of course, all ties in with the increasing influence of the wider fashion world on wedding dress styles. “Brides these days simply don’t want to blend in and be generic,” Lauren Crispin reckons, “and as fashion has got increasingly personal, so what women want on their wedding day has had to keep up. These days, your wedding dress needs to reflect your personality, your style and your identity – to us, that’s basically ‘fashion’. All said, we’re very happy that the wedding world has had a little shake up.” ne of the key words in that last sentence was actually ‘world’, for from 2017 The Mews isn’t just going to be restricted to its two premium UK locations, but will be moving across the Atlantic too. After all, the guys have been testing the waters over the last couple of years with a number

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ut let’s leave the West Side, and come back to the West Country, where – despite the NY excitement – the Clifton boutique actually has one of Gail and Lauren’s most exciting stories to tell. This, after all, is where the story began, and is the store that’s seen the most change over the last decade – and which is changing the most now. “2017 will be our biggest year yet,” Lauren says, “and not only because of New York opening. We’re now seeing the Clifton boutique, which normally draws in brides looking for a more traditional style, starting to serve an increasing number who desire the boho style of our Parisian designers too. Because of that, amongst other things, we’re actually looking forward to announcing a new Parisian designer joining The Mews soon.” The guys will also be opening a new online store – not for dresses, but for the smaller items every bride needs, like accessories and headpieces, as well as honeymoon outfits and beachwear – which should be ready to go early next year. And, beyond that, Gail and Lauren would also love to open a fourth and final boutique – in Sydney, Australia. Since the testingthe-water-with-pop-ups idea worked so well in New York, Lauren’s already planning a few there for later in 2017. Incredible times for The Mews, then – and somewhere amongst all this there’s still a birthday party to organise, too. So what is it that’s working so well for them, do they think? Lauren pauses for a moment. “I think it’s that we’re fashion forward, yes, and that we have such a good, dedicated team here – I’m only as good as the people behind me, after all! But mostly, I think, it’s that our boutiques aim to be very relaxed and personal, and we respond to each individual bride who walks through our doors. We try to be a consultative as possible, really helping girls choose what will naturally work best for them.” themewsclifton.co.uk themewsnottinghill.co.uk themewsnewyork.com VOW | 49

All dresses at The Mews: blonde model wears Donatelle Godart, brunette model wears Laure de Sagazan

of pop-up shops in Manhattan – and successfully so, as it turns out. Seems that tough, savvy New Yorkers buy into the chic, relaxed French take on romance as much as the rest of us. “Each American pop-up proved to be as popular as the last,” Lauren says, “and with the confidence that has given us, we’ve now actually decided to open up full time there, launching a third boutique in New York. We’ve always been in love with the city, and opening over there has long been a dream of ours. It was the sheer number of US brides that we’ve had flying over to visit us in our UK studios that first led us to start to think it might be possible, and it was definitely the appeal of our French designers that was driving this. The basic raison d'être of the Manhattan studio, then, is to bring French bridal couture stateside.” The new Mews New York is in a loft studio in Chelsea, a West Side Manhattan neighbourhood full of art galleries, high end boutiques, and with a big LGBT population. It’s bordered by Hell’s Kitchen, the Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village, and, says Lauren, “when you step outside our studio, you are immediately in the shadow of the Empire State Building.”





At at beautiful Arts & Crafts estate, our bride and groom cosy up with posh poultry, and dream of the summer to come…


oombe Trenchard is a Arts & Crafts-style Edwardian estate in Devon, sitting cradled within Dartmoor’s epic, windswept landscapes, yet offering a tranquil haven – and the perfect wedding venue. There’s a real charm to this place, and endless cool features, from the stream and sweeping lawns to an Italian terrace where marquees can be sighted with views from the Mediterraneanstyle columns across to Brent Tor. Somehow we’re both in romantic Southern Europe and rugged Northern Europe at the same time. “The focus of this shoot was on the beautifully refurbished coach house they have here,” says Tracy Edwards, Managing Director at Blue Fizz Events, the north Devon wedding and event planners, who sorted everything. “It’s a great location, with bar areas, a dance floor, and a snug, complete with sofas, easy chairs and an entrance area with fire pits on either side. It’s really versatile, and the theme for this shoot was particularly inspired by its gardens, which are open to the public during the week – but, of course, closed off for your wedding. Peacocks wander freely through the grounds, and we loved how approachable they are. This was all beautifully captured by McKenzie Brown Photography, who, I find, bring an abundance of energy and passion to anything they touch.”


racy was keen to focus on the green-on-green effect you often get in an English country garden, and imagined an informal yet decadent banquet on the lawn, using rustic furniture, delicate vintage crockery and vintage champagne saucers, all of which were supplied by Combe Trenchard. “I wanted florals everywhere,” Tracy says, “so we also had edible floating flowers – which we got from The Flower VOW | 5 1

com be tr en ch ar d

Mill in Cornwall – floating in the champagne, and I created handmade napkins from a vintage fabric, then used blades of greenery as the napkin rings. The Flower Mill also bought the show-stopping floral displays, as well as the head piece we used. Basically, it was a riot of fresh colours throughout.” For the bride, two dresses were brought along by Christine Trewinnard, the Cornwall-based wedding and occasion dress designer, with an enviable celebrity clientele. “One had a full skirt and gentle green silk bodice, giving it a classic feel,” says Tracy, “and we also had a tiered column dress. Both would have been perfect in any setting, but certainly suited the concept of this shoot. The hair was a celebration of curls, entwined with an asymmetric flower crown which provided a vibrant palette for the face, which we gave a dewy summer bloom.” The groom, meanwhile, wore a blue linen jacket and striped tie from Samuel Daw and Co of Barnstaple – a local institution since 1874 – and this made for a contemporary summer look, but with clear classic origins, while the cakes, thanks to Sugar Mamas of Tavistock, had classic iced tiers at their hearts, but then were adorned with natural blooms. “Then, on top of that, we had detailed and intricate handmade iced flowers and vines,” Tracy says, “which really worked against the dark greens of the garden.” A final beautiful touch came from Knots and Kisses, Nikki Ward’s Torquay-based stationery company, who created a suite to complement the whole scheme, and then finished everything with rustic twine. All in all, a fresh take on the perfect summer garden wedding – and a jolt of sunshine to dream about that feels just right as we plough through winter’s depths.

PEACOCK PALACE Risking a little peck were… Venue: Coombe Trenchard; coombetrenchard.co.uk Photography: McKenzie Brown;

mackenzie-brown.com Shoot styling and direction: Blue Fizz Events; bluefizzevents.co.uk Table styling: Blue Fizz Events; bluefizzevents.co.uk Bridal wear: Christine Trewinnard; christinerrewinnard.co.uk Groomswear: Samuel Daw & Co; samdaw.co.uk Hair and makeup: The Event Studios; theeventstudios.co.uk Flowers: The Flower Mill; theflowermillcornwall.co.uk Cake: Sugar Mamas; sugarmamas.co.uk Stationery: Knots & Kisses; knotsandkisses.co.uk Models: Lauren Falconer and Jim Cadogan

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s n w o D with e v o l d n a l r a M l u a P Words by

l a c o l s it s n o t f i l C y k n a w s s ’ l o t s i r B f o p , o m r a w s i e Up at the t m o c l e w e h t e r e h w , s e id r institution Clifton B l-priced, and the cuts are fine the dresses w el

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the Bride: clifton brides


The designers they carry at Clifton Brides are very much along the timeless and classical lines – “we tend to avoid current trends and high glitz, in the main,” says Michaela – with the quality of the cut of crucial importance. “We’re currently loving designs by Mikaella, a Canadian company that we know well, as we worked with them on their sister label some years back,” she says. “It’s nice to have them back in store, and our brides love their gowns, as they’re stylish and modern, yet really well priced, coming in at around £1,300. Another big hit is Alan Hannah, a British designer who we love for his more glamorous, edgy designs. He’s also incredibly open-minded and versatile, and will change pretty much anything we – or a bride – asks him to.” As with many of the really successful bridal shops, Clifton Brides doesn’t just cater to the local market, but has brides visit from far and wide – “we’ve sold to Americans, Polish, Chinese, Swiss, French and, of course, so many brides who once lived in Bristol, but now come to see us from London or wherever,” says Michaela – with a particular ‘type’ difficult to discern. “It’s true that we get plenty of 5 6 | VOW

lawyers, doctors, teachers and the like,” she says, “but I guess the only thing that they really all have in common is that they like our classic, elegant approach.” Remember that Mikaella price point, but the way? Well, it seems to be right in the sweet spot for Clifton Brides customers – their new dresses to order almost always come between £1,000 and £2,000, although bargain hunters can do very well here trying out the off-the-peg sample dresses, which are usually at some very tempting discounts. (Think nearer £600-£800.) Within the last couple of years, Michaela has had three of her own friends come to her for their dresses – best pal Claire, then her sister, then her sister in law – and, thank goodness, all seemed extremely happy with their choices. Though Michaela has been happily married for 20 years – “he’s a patient man,” she laughs – she says that if she was to renew her vows, she’d probably be humming and hawing between wearing Alan Hannah’s Sorrento dress, or the 2061 number from Mikaella. “Yes, they’re very different looks, I suppose,” she says, considering them both, “but they both show very well what we do, with their wonderfully clean, simple lines.” cliftonbrides.co.uk

Previous page: dress by Alan Hannah; this page: (left) Sorrento dress by Alan Hannah, (right) style 2061 by Mikaella

ne of the West Country’s wedding mainstays, Clifton Brides is right at the top of Whiteladies Road in Bristol, overlooking the famous Clifton Downs, and is pretty much a fixture and fitting of the local bridal scene – after all, they first moved here from Weston super Mare, where the company was established, over 20 years ago. That was back in 1993, and since then they’ve earned many accolades, not least in The Wedding Industry Awards, where they were South West Bridal Retailer regional finalists in 2015, won the same thing in 2016, and are up for it again in 2017. “One of the lovely things about being up here at the top of Whiteladies is that we’re treated to the changing seasons,” says Michaela Gair, who runs it. “It’s so much better than being stuck in some shopping precinct, where every day has the same view.” Michaela’s mum was a seamstress, and Michaela herself worked for Next for a short time – hey, it made sense; she knew she loved fashion – but found herself getting particularly thrilled when a couple of family weddings took place. Suddenly the world seemed awash with satin and lace, and she knew what she wanted to do. “It was just so exciting,” she now says, “so mum and I began what became Clifton Brides. This was right back in 1989, with me at a tender age of 17. My love of bridal has continued to evolve over the years, though, and – as one wise supplier said, many years ago – ‘you’re either in bridal for a few months, or it’s in your blood forever.’ I think it’s in my blood forever.” Part of what Michaela loves is how sociable the whole business is, and she’s found herself a guest at many a wedding over the years, with numerous brides she’s worked with becoming firm friends. “There are so many highs in this business – although it’s a core part of the job, feeling such a part of each bride’s special day is a real privilege, for instance – but inevitably there will be some lows, too,” she says. “After all, we’ve seen out two recessions! And when mum finally retired, at age 71, it definitely demanded a period of readjustment from me. After all, we’d got so used to each other’s little ways over the years that it was very strange when she wasn’t around, day in, day out.”


Pitch Up and Play Bespoke childcare at weddings A big occasion can be stressful enough without having to worry about keeping your younger guests entertained too. Let us take some of those concerns away and throw your mini VIPs their very own party so that you can truly enjoy yours. Made up of highly qualiďŹ ed and super fun staff, we create the perfect package for all of your childcare requirements including pop-up creches, in-room babysitting and pop-in nannies. hello@pitchupandplay.co.uk


Ph oto g r a ph y by TH E R E SA FU R E Y


Everybody loves a classic English country garden wedding, and here’s a particularly beautiful one, thanks Cotswold stylist Kate Cullen, and the guys at the rather glorious Barnsley House near Cirencester 5 4 | VOW

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he inspiration for a wedding design can come from many places, of course, but the quintessential English country garden has always a favourite of stylist Kate Cullen, the Tetbury-based wedding specialist who goes out of her way to promote local artisan wedding suppliers. And nestled nearby in the beautiful Cotswolds, not far from Cirencester, she found the perfect such gardens at Barnsley House, the fully-staffed country house hotel with its own dedicated spa, private cinema, and both an on-site restaurant and a village pub. “It’s the ideal romantic backdrop,” Kate says, “with knot gardens, a laburnum walk, and endless ornamental fruit and vegetable plots. Statues abound here, and the grounds are just picture perfect. Rosemary Verey – the internationally renowned garden designer – used to live here, and designed the gardens back in the 1950s, and for this shoot we honoured her and her husband through some romantic stationery designs we had made by Cheltenham’s Emerald Paper Design, featuring English roses.” The other suppliers involved were also very eager to get with the theme. “Another thing we wanted to capture was the idea of English afternoon tea,” Kate says, “so we had a cake and English desserts of Eton Mess and scones from The Vanilla Pod Bakery, another Cheltenham outfit, as well as a loose leaf tea station and, of course, some garden-inspired cocktails from Somerset cocktail specialists The Wren’s Nest, perfect for a summer evening reception. The dominant floral overtones were reflected in the watercolour print of the dress that I actually painted myself, and was designed by E&W Bridal Couture of Cardiff, but we kept plenty of more traditional English wedding elements too – like with chic accessories by Victoria Millésime, the online store, and Blossom shoes from Emmy London. The hair and makeup were kept natural and elegant by Jennifer's Dressing Table too, creating the perfect English Rose look.” Also involved were Bramble & Wild, the Frome florists, who provided some heavenly florals that were not only gorgeous in terms of their colour and their scent, but which also provided unstructured beauty in pastel shades. “And, of course, no English wedding breakfast is complete without antique tableware,” says Kate, “and we got ours from Tricia Prince’s Cotswolds Vintage Party Hire, which were all pearl handled cutlery and floral china.” The final person we have to thank, of course, is photographer Theresa Furey, who perfectly captured the gorgeous light and softness that an English garden has to offer. “Her work is truly lovely,” Kate says, “and really evokes that sense of timeless beauty that the best historic gardens always seem to provide.”

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suzanne neville (opening spread); suzanne laure neville de sagazan (opening (opposite) spread); laure de sagazan (opposite)

FLOWERS IN BLOOM Sniffing the petals were‌ Stylist and organiser: Kate Cullen; katecullen.co.uk Silk table linens and ribbons: Kate Cullen;

katecullen.co.uk Photography: Theresa Furey; theresafurey.com Florist: Bramble & Wild; brambleandwild.co.uk Location: Barnsley House; barnsleyhouse.com Hair and makeup: Jennifer's Dressing Table;

jennifersdressingtable.co.uk Accessories: Victoria Millesime; victoriamillesime.co.uk Stationery: Emerald Paper Design; emeraldpaperdesign.com Cakes: Vanilla Pod; vanillapodbakery.com Dress: E&W Bridal Couture; eandwcouture.co.uk Tableware: Cotswolds Vintage Party Hire; cotswoldsvintagepartyhire.co.uk Cocktails: The Wren’s Nest; the-wrens-nest.co.uk Shoes: Emmy London; emmylondon.com Model: Laura

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GoldHandmade & Platinum Studio and Bespoke Jewellery

We specialise in bespoke and perfectly matched engagement and wedding rings. Hand made with love at our Bath studio and workshop. 19 Northumberland Place, Bath BA1 5AR I Tel: 01225 462 300 www.goldandplatinumstudio.co.uk I Email: mike@goldandplatinumstudio.co.uk


Megan Kerr & Jonny Hughes


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Picture by Liberty Pearl Photography

Dancing the night away

e’ve all seen First Dates, right? Some couples work, some don’t, but we’ve yet to see a pair walk out because they think the restaurant’s rubbish. (Why would they? Well, perhaps the food’s no good. Or perhaps the staff are more interested in philosophising or flirting with each other than making for a romantic atmosphere. Just saying.) Yet that’s exactly what what Meg and Jonny did on their initial gettogether, walking out of the planned Chinese restaurant after five minutes, in favour of a superior Indian nearby. The guys had met at work – traditional! – back in 2011, and Jonny proposed on their two year anniversary at a hotel in Cheltenham. They were engaged for another two years, planning from the outset to get married on that very same date, and so giving them plenty of time to plan.


They live in Exeter, and held both the ceremony and reception at Dartington Hall in nearby Totnes, with the Upper Gate House hosting the first part of the day, and The Great Hall the second. “I didn’t want to get married outside,” says Megan, “as I have a wasp phobia, but the Upper Gatehouse is lovely and understated, and responded brilliantly to the flower wall we’d got in to make it all feel a bit different. I used to come to Dartington as a child with my family, and had such fond memories of it that I knew it was the place I’d get married. We didn’t even look at other venues.”


eg got her dress – an Eliza Jane Howell number – from the Bridal Rooms of Wellswood in Torquay, after trying on “about 100” in many different shops. “I knew I didn’t want a huge number,” she says, “and this dress was a little bit different, and unlike any others I’d seen.” Accompanying makeup was by Genevieve Sathasivam, who she’d met at a wedding fair – “she did an amazing job making me and the bridesmaids look our best,” Meg says – while hair was by Kyrelle of Devon Wedding Hair. They had a couple of trials, working out exactly what Meg wanted, but “she put me at ease, and it turned out amazingly.” And for the groom? That old Vow favourite Ted Baker, this time a morning coat in dark grey, with a light grey waistcoat and a peach bow tie. Meg’s bridesmaids were three best friends she’s known for years – the Maid of Honour she went to Primary School with! – while Jonny roped in his brother, Tim, on his side of the aisle. The girls all got bridesmaid dresses ordered from a Chinese website they’d seen on Pinterest – “it was a bit of a risk, but they turned out to be absolutely gorgeous” – while Megan’s lovely bouquet of white roses and peach David Austin roses, with bits of dusty miller, came from nearer to home: a florist called Hollyhocks in Newton Abbot which, again, she’d found at a wedding fair. The bridesmaids got white rose bouquets, and similar blooms were used for the table centrepieces, while a huge heart of flowers hung in The Great Hall. Cake? It was a Kate Burt number – “so delicious, though I don’t actually remember eating it on the day,” says Meg – while photographer Amber from Liberty Pearl Photography captured it all perfectly. “If only, though, we’d hired a videographer to film the day, too,” Meg says. “That’s perhaps our only regret.” Indeed! And one thing that would have looked great on video is the day’s closing fireworks, which everyone gathered outside to ooh and ahh at. Pretty spectacular, but quite not as spectacular, says Jonny, “as the doors opening and me seeing Meg in her dress for the very first time.” Aww. Also sounding somewhat spectacular was Meg’s most embarrassing moment of the day – “I cringe at how drunk I was,” she says, “and at one point I had my dress tucked into my Spanx, dancing away” – but you know what? The wise videographer would have decided to turn a blind eye to that, we’re sure…

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meg & jonny

Dartington Hall makes for a lovely location, both inside and out. Plus: Look! She’s got their future in the palm of her hand PictureS by Liberty Pearl Photography

Marriage Guidance Who? Megan Kerr and Jonny Hughes When? 2 September 2016 Where? Dartington Hall, Devon; darlington.org Makeup: Genevieve Sathasivam; genevievesatha.co.uk Dress: Eliza Jane Howell at Bridal Rooms of Wellswood; bridalrooms.co.uk Bridesmaids’ dresses: DHgate (Chinese website); dhgate.com Cake: Kate Burt; kateburtcakes.co.uk Cheese tower: The West Country Cheese Co; westcountrycheese.co.uk Flower wall: Flourish; withaflourish.co.uk Love letters/easeL: Weddings by Claire; weddingbyclaire.com

Band: Absolutely Vintage Swing Band; warble-entertainment.com Fireworks: Firework Crazy; weddingfireworks.co.uk Florist: Hollyhocks; hollyhocks-shop.co.uk Groom attire: Ted Baker, hired from Moss Bros; moss.co.uk Hair: Kyrelle at Devon Wedding Hair; devonweddinghair.co.uk Photography and photo booth: Liberty Pearl Photography; libertypearlphotography.com Bride’s ring and shoes: Emmy London; emmylondon.com Invitations: 4 Love Polka Dots; 4lovepolkadots.com

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A song to remember James Hayden & Sam Harler


am Hayden-Harler – yes, the guys have now doublebarrelled their names – is actually a long-time wedding coordinator, and the guys’ company, Ever Ever After, is a unique husband-and-husband wedding planning team, so you’d expect this do to be fun and impressive, and it was. The chaps are from Gloucestershire and Kent originally, but now live in Crockenhill, a village in North Kent, and got engaged on their second anniversary as a couple, and married on their third. They’d met online in the summer of 2013, went for a few drinks at Henrys Bar in Bromley – “we ending up staying until closing time, without realising it” – and when James proposed to Sam it was in a secret garden at a hotel in Ashdown Forest. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? But perhaps less so when you realise it was with a Haribo ring… In the build-up there were two stag nights each, it seems – James had his in Bath (it revolved around a sort of Bake Off-style picnic), followed by afternoon tea and drinks in London, while Sam had a slumber party with friends, then a formal meal for his second stag. With the guys both loving candles – and, of course, keeping Sam’s day job in mind – sorting everything was easy: they just went crazy at Jo Malone, then put all their experience into play. “My years doing this really helped with the finer details,” Sam says. “For instance, as we’d first met at 8.04pm three year previously, our first dance had to take place at exactly the same time. And that meant the entire day had to be scheduled to lead up to that moment.” And it didn’t end there, with endless cool details thrown in, from handmade table confetti to a confetti canon being let off as they walked back up the aisle. “We also had our wedding ‘stitched’ live by Harriet from In Stitch You,” Sam says, “and because I’d been in this situation so many times before we didn’t panic when anything went wrong, and were able to rectify things without anybody knowing!”


he ceremony was held in The Orangery at Buxted Park Country House Hotel, set in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by 312 acres of woodland – when they visited it, it simply felt special (plus, the Grand Ballroom was big enough for all the guests they wanted to invite). The guys had visited Excel Wedding Fair, and there had found striking, bespoke suits by Jon Kruger London; for the ceremony’s women, handmade champagne-coloured dresses from Gemma Worringham of Beau Biends (a friend of James) worked with the royal blue of the suits they finally went for brilliantly. While James had both a best man – Graeme Savage, a friend of some 14 years who he’d first met while they were working together at Theatre Royal, Bath, on a pantomime – and a Maid of Honour (his best friend,

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Mags), Sam made do with just his sister on his side of the aisle. Also contributing: Graeme’s daughter Emily, the flower girl; Finlay the ring bearer; and Sam’s best friend, Jo, as bridesmaid. Keeping things personal, the guys didn’t really have any flowers – neither are big fans – beyond cream Vindella roses to be worn by the wedding party, and appearing around the ballroom fireplaces, while the cake was made by a friend’s mum, Jane. And yes, of course it was decorated with candles. Oh, and remember the In Stitch You lady? Well, she started work on her tapestry in the morning, and kept going until really late in the evening, capturing all the key moments in unusual fashion. As James has so many pals in the entertainment business, music mattered – and they had West End singer Tiffany Graves (she’s currently in The Producers) performing two songs during the ceremony, while the best man’s speech took the form of a pantomime number. “Every guest had to take part in a sing-a-long, which got them all involved and created so many laughs,” Sam says. “It was unlike any best man’s speech we’d seen or heard of before!”


What’s this? Could that be the guys below, checking that each table is laid out just so, like the wedding professionals that they are‌? PictureS by IMMI PHOTOGRAPHY

Marriage Guidance Who? James Hayden and Sam Harler When? 24 July 2016 Where? Buxted Park Country House Hotel, East Sussex; handpicked hotels. co.uk/buxtedpark Photographer: Immi Photography, Whitstable; immi-photography.com Videographer: The Wedding Catchers, Eastbourne; theweddingcatchers.com Venue decoration/flowers: Pollen, East Sussex; pollen4hire.co.uk Music: Camilli String Quartet, London; camillistringquarter.co.uk Singer: Tiffany Graves Disco and photobooth: Disco Fever, East Sussex; discofever.co.uk Hair and makeup: Karleigh Williams, London

Tapestry maker: Harriet Riddell, In Stitch You, Oxford; institchyou.co.uk Suits: Jon Kruger, London; jonkrugerhq.com Bridesmaid/MOH dresses: Gemma Worringham, Beau Biens, Bristol To get Sam and James to look after your wedding, contact Ever Ever After at evereverafter.co.uk

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The perks of being a flower arranger Kirsty King & Sam Wray 6 8 | VOW


hese two are currently from Frome – the pretty Somerset town called the “sixth coolest in Britain” by The Times last year – but their first meeting, some 13 years ago, sounds slightly less likely to get lifestyle journalists gushing: it was in a Sainsbury’s car park in Berkshire, followed by a trip to the cinema to see one of Nicolas Cage’s better films. Sam has pulled his finger out since then, however: he proposed to Kirsty on Italy’s glorious Amalfi Coast in the summer of 2014, and together they picked the pretty Cowparsley, the family-run Manor Farm on the edge of Taunton, for both ceremony and reception. The whole day had a sort of outdoorsy, rural village fete theme – it’s something Cowparsley excels at – with the look-and-feel anchored by the flowers, put together by Kirsty’s boss, Grace, from Bramble & Wild, the cool ‘floral emporium’ on Frome’s quirky Catherine Hill. (Yes, Kirsty’s day job is as a florist there.) “Our brief was to go bright and wild, allowing Grace to do everything she isn't allowed to do for other weddings,” Kirsty explains. “It kind of helped that she knows what I like, and that


By some miracle, it appears a couple of well-dressed doves landed right on the front of the guys’ Land Rover… PictureS by lisa dawn photograohy

I trust her completely. She used dahlias, daisies, piano roses, blackberries, delphiniums, viburnum, ferns, mint, rosemary and more. It was all very wild and natural. Sam's button hole included a piano rose and blackberries, both being really important to him, and we had two huge pedestals in urns at the end of the ‘aisle’. There were single stems in bottles hanging in the trees; jam jars and bottles on logs by the chairs in the ceremony area and dotted around the marquee; and a huge log with an asymmetric arrangement on top. The table centres were terracotta pots bursting with bright blooms.”


or the dress, though, she went further afield. “It’s from The Mews in Clifton, Bristol,” Kirsty says. “I swore I didn't want a wedding dress as such, but after searching for a quirky ‘non-wedding’ dress, with no luck, I thought I’d try The Mews, as a friend had previously used them. They suggested the French designer, Laure de Sagazan, because of her bohemian, relaxed style. As soon as it tried on the skirt/top combination I knew it was right for me. I also wanted something I VOW | 69


could wear again, and have worn the skirt on honeymoon – while the top looks great with jeans.” For the rest of her look, Kirsty turned to her hairdresser – Sophia, of Sophia's Hair Boutique – who’d had her grow it out for ages. “We worked on the colour together, but I pretty much left the style up to her,” she says. “I just said I wanted it up and a bit messy.” Jewellery was kept simple, make-up was handled by a pro – “I’m not really that good at it!” – and Kirsty never wears heels, so went for sandals instead. Opposite her, Sam paired a blue suit and pink Liberty print shirt, while added colour came from the contrasting suit, shirts and shoes of best man Allan Best. His wife was Maid of Honour too, while the other bridesmaids were two of her closest and oldest friends. With colour being such a big part of the day, they were all allowed to chose, Becky getting a green summer dress from Karen Millen, Tasha a red/orange number from Toast, and Hannah had a beautiful hand-made red/floral dress from Frome boutique Poot. It was apparently made from a pair of old curtains – very Frome! There were two wedding meals – the traditional breakfast, and then Pizzarova came along in the evening to top everyone up – and the cake, from The Bakemonger, was “visually unbelievable, and tasted even better.” They had a bonfire late on, as it started to get chilly, and everyone kept the party going back at the cottages they’d rented, some suffering more than others the following morning… As the venue has no marriage licence, they had one of their best pals deliver a sort of unofficial ceremony – “that was amazing, as it was so unique and personal” – while Sam and Allan had made doors to the aisle (yes, it was outside, but bear with us) with a quote on them that Sam had used when he proposed. That almost had Kirsty crying before the ceremony had even started. Marriage Guidance Who? Kirsty King and Sam Wray When? 29 August 2015 Where? Cowparsley, Taunton; cowparselyweddings.com Dress: Laure de Sagazan at The Mews, Bristol; themewsclifton.co.uk Photographer: Lisa Dawn Photography; lisadawn.co.uk Flowers: Bramble & Wild, Frome; brambleandwild.com Cake: The Bakemonger, Frome; thebakemonger.com 70 | VOW


Our vintage collection of props and accessories includes: Bespoke trestle tables made from reclaimed wooden doors, an eclectic collection of mis-match wooden folding chairs, a cider barrel bar, vintage crockery, and our 1920s bow top caravan – perfect for your wedding night.

Let us help you make your wedding unique and special E: info@bathvintagehire.co.uk // T: 07854 368541 www.bathvintagehire.co.uk //


Picture by EVOLVE

Swank hotels, sex y spaces & picturesque part y spots

The pleasure garden Tucked away above the Taunton Vale in Somerset is Hestercombe, an array of formal and landscaped gardens seemingly designed especially for a magical English country wedding


he great draw at Hestercombe – a country house estate not far from the M25 near Taunton – is, of course, the gardens, featuring three centuries of historic design covering over 50 acres. It’s these, plus assorted on-site buildings, you can hire for a wedding – they operate as an independent charity, all bookings helping towards their ongoing restoration and development – and between them they offer endless flexibility. “We can host weddings here to suit all tastes and sizes of party,” says their Jo Stevenson, “whether you want a three-course meal and a huge do for over 100 people, or just private dining for 20 of your dearest friends. We can make more unusual options, like woodland blessings, happen too.” Indeed, six areas here – both indoor and outdoor – are formally registered for weddings, blessings or non-traditional ceremonies. VOW | 7 3


“There’s the Georgian landscaped garden, with its woodland, lakes, temples and shade-dappled pathways,” says Jo. “Or there’s the Temple Arbour, high up in the landscaped garden, which is perfect for smaller, more intimate ceremonies. We’ve seen blessings by the cascade, too, which are really special – that’s perfect for anyone looking for a natural setting.” And there’s more, like the Edwardian Orangery – designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the great country house architect who was one of the principle creators of New Delhi, the Indian capital – with its delightfully classical feel. “You can spill out onto the lawns, and the beautifully manicured Victorian Terrace beyond, for your drinks reception,” Jo says, “looking out over the distant hills, and getting the feeling you’ve got the whole world to yourselves. The evening light across those gardens cannot be described – it’s so beautiful and peaceful.” There’s an experienced wedding coordinator here, Julie, who apparently gets on so well with everyone that couples often return to say hi, and show off the gardens to their new families. “We’re always getting people saying how friendly our team are, and how useful it was having our staff on hand to guide things along in a gentle way,” says Jo. “We make sure guests are in the right places at the right times, so the couple don’t have to worry about a thing.” Though the permanent buildings here can cater for 112 daytime guests – or 150 in the evening – there’s acres of space for marquees too, so you can increase capacity to your hearts’ content.


his is a place that prides itself on attention detail – “even a simple thing, like ensuring all the venues are beautifully candle lit, set, and ready from the moment the first guest appears, can make all the difference,” Jo says – yet it’s perfect for more individual, relaxed, and familyfocused events too. “We love seeing kids rolling down the lawn or playing under the trees, and grandmas and grandpas relaxing with a glass of wine,” Jo says, “and we often find guests lazing around on the grass, or dipping their toes into the rills and pools. It doesn’t take much decorating, either. Our Orangery, for example, is so naturally beautiful that adding just a small number of English flowers makes it look like a dream – though, of course, an over-the-top floral headdresses would fit just as perfectly too!” With so many options, picking a ‘typical’ price is no easy task, but, as a starting point, venue hire begins at £1,250. “Since you’ll have saved money on the decorations,” Jo reckons, “we’d suggest you push the boat out on the post-ceremony drinks and entertainment instead. Put on some lawn games,

74 | VOW


The gardens here are endless, and endlessly gorgeous, making this a perfect summer wedding venue – but there are enough indoor locations (and good spots for marquees) that it can be made pretty weather-proof, too Pictures by evolve

perhaps, or live music – jazz on the grass is always amazing, for instance.” In terms of photo opportunities, you’re spoilt for choice, but the Gertrude Jekyll-designed Edwardian gardens, in particular – with their views, rills, steps and decorative gateways – are a definite favourite, as is the cascade in the landscape gardens, hidden amongst the trees. “Jekyll was perhaps the greatest English garden designer, and here she created a great mix of classical features and more ethereal backdrops,” Jo says. “That’s what makes it so special.” Jo has strong ideas about what she’d do to tailor the venue to her needs, too. “If I was getting married here next year, I’d go for English cut flowers to create a fitting heritage feel, and would definitely allow lots of time for guests to spend in the gardens, perhaps creating a fete on the Orangery lawn, with bunting and games. For older kids, I might make them a personal explorer’s map, highlighting all the places to explore and play – happily, this would give the parents a bit of free time too! – and, for late evening entertainment, I’d deck out the courtyard by the Bampfylde Hall, our largest indoor venue, with lots of pretty lights to allow people to mingle inside and out.” Sound perfect to us! hestercombe.com VOW | 75

Photo by Suzie Davidson-Kelly

Exchange your Vows at The Holburne Museum RECEIVE 15% DISCOUNT on venue hire when you book your wedding or reception at the Holburne before 31 December 2016 Book online www.holburne.org/about-us/venue-hire/weddings and enter the code HOLBWEDDING in the ‘any other information’ field to receive your 15% discount For more information about our full range of wedding packages please contact Spencer Hancock s.hancock@holburne.org or call 01225 388560

Great Pulteney Street Bath BA2 4DB



The moat that rocked Ask a small child to draw a fairy tale castle, and there’s a good chance it will involve a moat. Welcome to Worcestershire’s glorious, water-surrounded Birtsmorton Court…


irtsmorton Court isn’t actually a castle – think more a Grade 1 listed manor house, still a private home and dating back to 1241 (that’s the reign of the pious, largely unpopular Henry III, folks) – but, yes, it is surrounded water. The only way to access it is across a footbridge, making this the perfect venue for an bride and groom still with a bit of child in them. Not that spectacular looks are the only thing Birtsmorton has to recommend it. This remains the owners’ everyday home, giving the venue a true family atmosphere. There are pretty gardens – one, hidden amongst formal topiary and filled with white roses and stocks, is beautifully intimate – and a veranda that juts

out over the water. Filled with wisteria and magnolia, this is the perfect venue for a drinks reception. Want more? Well, there’s a church on site, as well as a historic hall for civil ceremonies. For summer weddings Birtsmorton Court has an outside civil ceremony license, as well as a marquee for the wedding breakfast and a barn for the evening reception, so all bases are covered. As this isn’t a hotel, you have to hire the venue on an exclusive-use basis, perfect for up to 200 for a civil ceremony and 300 for a sit down meal. Sophie Knight, the wedding manager here, thinks flexibility is Birtsmorton’s real USP. “Plenty of couples opt to have their civil ceremony outside after VOW | 7 7


visiting us, without having considered it before,” she says, “and we’ve lots of great spaces to set up garden games, park an ice cream van, or to just enjoy the view. The only thing I wish people would stop doing is taking those beautiful photos of the Father of the Bride seeing his daughter in her dress for the first time – but only because I can’t handle it, and spend the next half hour choking back the tears!”


ophie is putting her money where her mouth is, and is actually getting married here herself next year. “Naturally, the venue search was pretty easy for me,” she laughs, “so the priorities have been making sure we have delicious food, plenty of drinks, a great band, and pretty flowers – as well as all the people I love most, of course!” As they don’t offers packages at Birtsmorton, it’s hard to say how much getting married there will set you back – each is costed in a bespoke way – but, says Sophie, there are plenty of little ways you can save money, “especially if the couple can be be flexible on the day of the week they choose.” One thing any wedding here is guaranteed are spectacular shots. “When a photographer visits, they spend the first 20 minutes walking around in awe, trying to decide which of the backdrops will suit them best,” says Sophie. “I love it when couples find hidden spots around the grounds that have never been used before – and, after over 10 years hosting weddings here, it’s amazing there are still places to be found.” Sophie particularly recommends getting a shot in front of the Malvern Hills as the sun sets after the wedding breakfast. “Generally, couples are much more relaxed by then, and it shows all over their faces,” she says. “And when a couple thoroughly enjoy themselves, so do their guests!” birtsmortoncourt.com 78 | VOW



Beautiful, historic, intimate and truly romantic… the perfect exclusive and secluded venue for your wedding, birthday party or any other celebration or occasion.

A stunning 14th Century Castle where dreams come true…

• Licensed for Civil Ceremonies • Self Arranged or use our experienced team • Blessing Services and Renewal of Vows in the 6th Century Chapel • Wonderful landscaped gardens and riverside setting • Bed and Breakfast Accommodation

Bickleigh, Near Tiverton, Devon EX16 8RP • Tel: 01884 855363 • Email: info@bickleighcastle.com



Pitch perfect “Childcare at weddings simply makes sense,” says Danielle Edwards of Pitch Up and Play, “because it’s a gift to everyone.” Interesting thought, so we decided to find out more…


ust think,” Danielle Edwards is saying. “No spoilt speeches, no posing for photos whilst blowing a runny nose, no food all over your dress, and nobody having to leave early for the babysitter.” She has a point of course, and booking her company, Pitch Up and Play, doesn’t mean the little ones will be out of sight, out of mind – well, not unless you want them to be. “We sometimes meet brides who would prefer not to have children attending at all,” says Danielle, “but they’re forced to, because they don’t want to cause offence. For them, wedding childcare is a fantastic compromise, as we can ensure the 8 0 | VOW

p i t c h u p a n d p l ay

Who, though, are the people who’ll be looking after your kids? Well, Danielle did a degree in education, then trained to be a primary school teacher but found the workload too extreme – “teachers are superheroes, and I bow down to them,” she says – so set up the business in 2014. “I just get to have fun with children,” she says, “but after some excellent business advice earlier this year, I streamlined our services and rebranded as Pitch Up and Play. We now only provide bespoke childcare for weddings, and this year has been our most exciting yet.” There are currently six staff, all fully security checked and a minimum of Level 3 qualified – they’re all teachers, teaching assistants, trainee teachers, and similar. “We don’t offer your typical plastic-looking mobile crèche service,” Danielle says, “but rather something chic and stylish, which often attracts wedding photographers, because they’re such a lovely focal point of the day. Our bell tent den alone works stunningly for any style of wedding, and we are currently increasing our stock of play tents, due to their popularity.” Pitch Up and Play operates across Bath, Bristol, Somerset and Wiltshire – there’s a small mileage fee for locations over 25 miles outside Bath – but soon hopes to cover the entire South West, and while costs vary hugely, there’s usually something to suit every budget. But the best bit? For Danielle, it’s how funny the children are. “There’s never a dull moment,” she says, “and I truly find kids hilarious.” pitchupandplay.co.uk VOW | 8 1

PictureS by paolo ferla

children are involved as little or as much as you like.” How so? Well, by providing brides with either wedding nannies, pop-up crèches or in-room babysitting. “Whatever is required to make your day run that little bit smoother,” Danielle says. “We can look after up to 30 children, between the ages of 1-12, at any wedding – and we follow OFSTED guidelines for staffing ratios, so they all receive the best possible care and attention.” Though the team can look after their smaller guests for as long as required, they’re typically booked post ceremony until the guests kick off their dancing shoes at midnight. “We can look after up to 30 children at any wedding between the ages of 1-12,” Danielle explains, “and, for longer crèches, we have a plan for the day which usually begins with some super-fun ice breakers, and then weave in age appropriate party games amongst the free flow play. And we always bring a huge basket of fancy dress, which goes down very well – especially when booked with our photo booth package.” There’s an arts and crafts table too – always popular – and for a recent autumn wedding the guys gave each of the children a chalk white munchkin pumpkin to decorate, then take home. “I love seeing the excitement and relief on the bride and groom’s faces when they see what we’ve done at their venue,” Danielle says, “and how happy and calm all the children are.” What else? Well, they often host nature trails or treasure hunts, or get in magicians, dancers or face-painters, all of which help kids burn off energy. The day often ends with a ‘DVD & Popcorn Night’, everyone snuggling up with cosy blankets, sumptuous throws and squishy cushions, then winding down. On occasion, we suspect, ‘Let It Go’ might be sung…

ARCH WAYS Pose beneath ’em, and get crushed by symbolism

Picture by Irene & Dave Graham (neumanngraham.co.uk); location Hamswell House; makeup by Nicola Jane Miller (nicolajane-makeupartist.com)

Traditions we love

Heaven is a place on earth There’s no denying that standing under a wedding arch looks good in the photos, and we’ve been doing it forever – helped, no doubt, by many UK venues having a handy arch as part of the fixtures and fittings, so it doesn’t need to be created using a king’s ransom of flowers. Not only does an arch look cool, there’s hefty symbolism associated with it, too. It’s basically a mini-house, a stand in for the new home you’ll make together. It both defines space and carries

weight, perhaps your support system of friends and family. It’s also a link between this world and heaven, as it draws the eye towards a higher reality. It’s also a doorway, leading into another life. da Vinci once wrote that “an arch is nothing else than a strength caused by two weaknesses… and as one withstands the downfall of the other, the two weaknesses are converted into a single strength.” Nice one, Leo! If that isn’t a marriage, we don’t know what is.

Next up: Brrr! It’s midwinter, so we’re wrapping up warm. Keep eyes peeled for Vow 11, from 20 January! 8 2 | VOW

52 Southside St, The Barbican, Plymouth PL1 2LB | 01752 228 451 | www.samcoxbridalwear.co.uk

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