Melanie and Gareth said their 'I do's in a slick city celebration, filled with rustic charm
We wanted a big country wedding but after having done some alarming research into the cost of our dream locations we realized it wasn’t going to be possible. So we decided to stay in London and to try to bring that country charm to the city.
Our aim was a glamourous and quintessentially English wedding, in a grand setting, with a vintage afternoon tea service and fish & chips to soak up the booze. All on a budget. In one of the most expensive cities in the world… Tall order!
Our first date was a picnic on Hampstead Heath (Tinder date!) so we wanted to try and capture some of that spirit, two years, almost to the day, after we met.
Given the unpredictable nature of English summers, we chose to stay indoors with the option to have cocktails outside if the weather allowed – which thankfully it did. Having our couple’s shoot on Hampstead Heath really added to the country element, and to stand in my wedding dress on the spot we first met was very special.
If I had to give our theme a name it would be shabby chic/vintage glamour. We were on a very tight budget so I spent months scouring eBay for good wedding bundles, which saved us a lot of money. I painted jars glittery gold and glued white lace round the rim.
We used those as vases, with miniature bucket style ivory tea lights. We had tables of eight with ivory table cloths and rose gold sequined table runners, which I cut myself – that’s where the shabby part comes in. The table runners really gave the room a glamorous touch.
Apart from the location, which is a five-minute walk from where we had our first date, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in London. It’s no longer a functioning church as it was taken over by squatters for years until St Stephen’s Trust raised funds from local residents to rescue it.
It’s now a Grade I-listed building, with a wedding license. We wanted the drama of a church wedding, but as neither of us are religious, St Stephen's fit the bill perfectly.
We wanted to create a fest for the eyes but for our guests to feel relaxed, and despite the slightly daunting setting, we wanted it to feel intimate. There is a grand piano in the venue, which our friend Brian played as I walked down the isle. It was very much all hands on deck in the run-up, so people felt involved in the day.
The venue’s over-riding colour is gold, and St Stephens is so grandiose that it would have been pointless to try and compete with it. We chose colours to compliment it: rose golds, metallics and ivory. The pillars are wrapped in fairy lights which added to the dream-like feel for me.
I picked a srapless ballgown by Sassi Holford. I loved the classic, timeless princess shape - we didn’t want to look back at our wedding photos and laugh at how dated our outfits were. Hopefully we have managed to get that right, but only time will tell!
I actually found my dress on eBay! I bought it for a fraction of the original cost and it arrived totally scrunched up in a bin-liner. It took a lot of time, alterations and dieting for it to fit me, but by the final fitting it was my dream dress. My shoes were glittery satin sandals by Rainbow Club.
My bouquet featured pale pink English roses, lavender, sweet peas, marjoram, and eucalyptus. I gave Nina who did our flowers free reign. The only thing I was adamant about was the pale pink roses, and that it be wrapped in white lace all the way down, so the stems wouldn’t catch the dress. Nina couldn’t have got it more right. Not only was it the perfect colours, size and weight but it also smelt like absolute heaven!
Gareth wore a Savoy Taylor’s Guild blue three-piece suit with a pink trim, Charles Tyrwhitt shirt and pink tie; his shoes were gorgeous burgundy Kurt Geiger brogues.
Getting my bridesmaids (who usually mostly wear black) to agree to wear pastels was probably the most difficult part of this whole wedding process. It came together exactly how I wanted it eventually and they looked beautiful, but I must say it wasn’t without conflict! They all had smaller versions of my bouquets, and I bought them rose gold bridesmaid necklaces to wear on the day.
I think our choice of food made the day for everyone I think. Vintage afternoon tea followed by a fish & chip van in the evening. I think friends and family who had travelled from abroad particularly enjoyed that very British experience. The vintage china and hand-made cakes, scones, sandwiches and tea were a great touch, specially after the afternoon cocktails.
We chose the Rainbow Cake from the Hummingbird Bakery, with white cream cheese frosting and had a Lego cake-topper made of us. My sister made us a number of takes, so we had a whole cake table, not just the one.
We chose to name the tables after places we’ve visited together, and sourced vintage 1950s-style holiday postcards of Venice, Nice, Lisbon, Paris, Prague and so on, which we put in the table name holders. This was one of my favourite touches.
Without a doubt my favourite part was running away for an hour to get our photos taken on Hampstead Heath. A little bit of calm before the storm, knowing that we were husband and wife, and that the fun bit was to come.
Steal their style!
Photographer: Sam Riley Venue: St Stephens, Hampstead Heath Florist: Nina Blythe-Owen Dress: Sassi Holford Bridesmaid dresses: ASOS and Miss Selfridge Cake: Hummingbird Bakery Catering: Vintage Style Teas and The Frying Squad