Today’s loved-up couple gave their guests a taste of the big apple by theming their wedding around New York following their engagement in the city.
To help pull their American dream together John and Sohaila called on the skills of their friends and family, which resulted in some extra special touches being added along the way.
So in the words of Alicia Keys – let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York!
With images by Jon Bird Photography.
sohaila says: John proposed at Brooklyn Heights on 7th December 2014. Going to New York was my life ambition and I think he knew it was the best opportunity he was ever going to get! The day was perfect – the sun was shining, I had New York in front of me and even though it’s a popular tourist spot, in the moment he chose to get down on one knee there was no-one there! He was lucky I didn’t find the ring beforehand, which he’d kept in the hotel room safe all week!
We got married on the 21st March 2015. I was quite keen to get the ball rolling so we worked out how long we’d need to save up a decent budget and settled on March so that it gave people time to recover from Christmas (as we know weddings are expensive for guests too). We didn’t really think about the weather as in Lancaster it rains just as much in summer as it does any other time of year!
We got married at the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster. Since we moved to Lancaster we have loved this building and we couldn’t think of a more perfect wedding venue. Not only is it a stunning building but from its position (on the top of a big hill) you get amazing views over Lancaster, Morecambe and the Lake District. The venue is situated in Williamson Park which has some lovely areas – perfect for photos! For our reception we picked The View at the University of Cumbria.
As I have a bit of an obsession with New York and as that was where we got engaged I knew we had to have a bit of a NY theme. I didn’t want it OTT or tacky…so it was a ‘no’ to John’s suggestion of a life sized Statue of Liberty(!) but we did have: custom made skyline place cards, NYC landmark table names, Million Dollar Chocolate Bars for favours, NYC themed photo booth props and an American mailbox for the cards!
Our colour scheme was black, gold and pink. It came to me one day after hours of browsing Pinterest. I don’t think I came across anything that was exactly what I wanted – it was more of a combination of a few things.
I went for a mermaid shaped dress. I always thought that would be the style I’d go for but was prepared to end up with something completely different as everyone has said this is what happens! I tried on everything from skin tight fishtail dresses (how anyone manages to walk in these I do not know) to a big puffed out princess dress (I tried it on for a laugh but actually loved it). I found ‘the one’ in The Wedding Dress & Prom Dress Bridal Factory Outlet in Stockport. It was a lovely little shop with hundreds of beautiful dresses averaging around £500. I didn’t even dare step foot in an expensive boutique. I knew if I did I would more than likely find a dress I loved but I just couldn’t justify spending thousands on a dress I’d only wear once.
Neither of us are keen on the traditional morning suits so John went for a modern, grey two piece from Next. He wore this with a dark pink tie and pocket square to suit the colour scheme.
We were very relaxed when it came to the bridesmaids and groomsmen. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable and we were conscious of the fact that one style does not always look good on all!
The bridesmaids were asked to find pink/nude coloured dresses with lots of sparkle and groomsmen were simply asked to find a grey suit. We really liked the idea of mismatched outfits as I had seen a lot of examples of this (again on Pinterest) and thought it looked great. Luckily for us, all the outfits came together perfectly on the day – even though we had not seen them altogether beforehand! The bridesmaids dresses were from Debenhams, Miss Selfridge and Next.
On the wedding day Jen Ferguson Makeup made me, my mum and my bridesmaids feel beautiful by working her magic on us in the morning. The makeup was gorgeous and I don’t think I touched mine all day/night – it was great!
We live a couple of minutes away from our ceremony and reception venues so I could not justify spending £500-£600 on a nice car to take me up the road! Luckily my uncle is a private hire driver and kindly offered to dress up his shiny new Mercedes and be our chauffeur. As all our guests were travelling from West Yorkshire or further we opted to give them a helping hand when they got here by hiring a coach for the day. This was used to get guests from the hotel, to the ceremony, to the reception then back to the hotel at the end of the night. Everyone thought it was a great idea and we were really pleased with the service from Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire.
Our photographer was Jon Bird. We came across him on Facebook when one of our friends ‘liked’ his page. At the time he was only doing child shoots and hadn’t done any weddings but I liked the quality of the pics I saw so asked for a quote. As he was just getting into photography, the price was fantastic and we saw a lot of potential in his photos. Jon developed a lot over the following year and the photos he captured of our day completely blew us away. They were stunning. He made us feel so comfortable in front of the camera and that really showed in the photos. We would 100 per cent recommend Jon – and he’s only going to get better with time!
My bouquet was beautifully made by my mum out of pink and purple silk flowers with lots of pretty brooches in and amongst to add sparkle! I originally opted for silk flowers to save on costs – in the end it was pretty much the same price as real ones but better as I get to keep it!
I was quite reluctant to spend lots of money on real flowers that would die in a few days so apart from the parents’ gifts we didn’t use any! All our flower arrangements and bouquets were beautifully arranged in silk flowers by my mum.
Events by Design UK supplied our floor length black table cloths and gold glitter runners along with white chair covers with black bows. They also provided all our beautiful gold, black and pink heart shaped balloons which we used to line the long corridor and to decorate the sweet table.
For centrepieces we used lovely birdcage tea light holders (which we bought from Matalan) and decorated with pink rose garlands from Sass & Belle.
The most standout piece of decor we had was the large light up ‘love’ letters supplied by Typical Type. They were definitely the main focal point and made some brilliant photos! We also hired a full length mirror from them (which also had light bulbs all around it) which looked fabulous and came in very handy!
As our reception venue wasn’t the hotel I opted to set up a toiletries table in the ladies with everything they could possibly need to freshen up! Deodorant, hairbrush, chewing gum, safety pins, wipes, hair spray, clips etc. We also put some in the men’s but it was a slightly smaller selection of – combs, hair gel, deodorant etc. It was well used and a lot of our female guests told me how grateful they were for it!
We set up the venue with the help of our bridesmaids, ushers and best man the night before the wedding. We had so much fun doing it and the sense of achievement was great. That is really when the excitement started – I couldn’t wait for our guests to see it!
Our beautiful wedding cake was made by my mum. After many taster sessions we decided on four flavours, one for each tier: red velvet with white chocolate filling, Victoria sponge, lemon and blueberry cake and orange cake with a raspberry meringue filling. It had the NY skyline on the bottom tier and was topped with handmade pink peonies made out of icing. I even found a cake topper replica of the famous New York ‘love’ sculpture on Etsy! My mum also added a touch for the groom – Yoda’s head sticking out of the back of the cake! He loved it.
After the ceremony our guests we served a variety of savoury and sweet canapés which we bought from M&S. These were served with my favourite sparkling Rose by Mondelli. For the wedding breakfast the guests chose from a variety of starters, mains and desserts which were served with a Chardonnay-Semillon white wine and also Barfefoot White Zinfandel Rose. In the evening guests were served a buffet of paninis, sausage/bacon sandwiches and a selection of cold snacks.
For entertainment we hired a DJ in the evening, booked through PartyU. We gave them a list of all the songs we definitely wanted playing and let the DJ fill in the gaps.
Robin Grenville-Evans (a cartoonist, known as ‘Evsie’) was present for the whole of the reception. I met him through work and was so impressed with his work we booked him for the wedding. The guests loved him. He also did a large portrait and me and John with a scroll effect on either side for our guests to write on. It looks great!
We also had a photo booth from Startrax Photo Booth Hire for three hours in the evening. The staff were great and our guests had loads of fun with the NY themed props we provided. Guests got a copy of their picture and we were handed an album at the end with a copy of each photo and also a CD with them all on. So much fun – definitely recommended!
On our special day it was also a special day for our niece (and flower girl) who turned three the same day! During the speeches, John got everyone to sing happy birthday to her and her face when her princess carriage cake got brought out was priceless.
It was also a special day for a second reason for my dad. He is Iranian and Iranian New Year happened to fall on the 21st March this year. We therefore set up a traditional ‘Haft Sin’ table for him which he really appreciated – especially as our Iranian family were unable to make it over to enjoy this day with us.
We would definitely recommend The View at the University of Cumbria as a venue for any party. On a daily basis the room is used as a canteen so when we went to view the place it was very hard to imagine how it could look dressed up!
The back wall of the room consists of floor to ceiling windows which provide a stunning view over Lancaster, Morecambe and the Lake District which is what really sold it to us. Once cleared, the room is a large, empty, black canvas which we could do what we wanted with. Although at times I regretted it as I struggled to try think of ways to decorate the vast empty room, in the end I am so glad we chose it as it allowed us to add so many personal touches. In the end the staff were fantastic, the room looked great, the food was delicious and the bar was well stocked – and cheap!
To avoid the Easter holidays we decided to book a delayed honeymoon which we are going on in April. New York (of course) then on to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. After the wedding we went off on a two-night minimoon to Edinburgh.
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to organise as much as you can by yourself. It’s such an achievement and apart from the odd bit of stress it’s so much fun to do! It also allows you include lots of personal touches which made it all more special to us. Also, take advantage of the skills and talents of family members and friends – you’ll save loads of money and most likely they will enjoy giving you a helping hand with your big day!