Today’s bride and groom are currently living outside of the UK due to spouse visa restrictions which have caused them and their families a lot of heartache. Their wedding was bittersweet as their friends realised that they had to leave the country because they were getting married, which made it all the more important that their celebration was extra special.
Hilary and Mike proved that your big day doesn’t have to cost the earth in order to have the time of your lives. Full of original styling touches, hand made elements and bursts of bright colour, Hilary & Mike’s perfectly personal quirky wedding day reflects their individuality beautifully.
Images by Eleanor Woodruff Photography.
hilary says: Our engagement story is absolutely hilarious and, according to our friends, no one could botch it quite like we did. We were on holiday in Cap Ferret, France in June 2013, and Mike had been secretly planning this for ages… he’d organised the barbecue, the beach, and even the sunset, but when it came to the critical moment he realised he’d forgotten to buy a ring or phrase the question! So looking rather ill (“food poisoning”), he steered the conversation towards “What the Bible says about marriage…”, much to my bewilderment. He finally managed to ask, “So… how ’bout it then?” To be fair, I didn’t get the answering part right either – I laughed and thought he was joking, then sobered up and said yes, then cried and said no, then walked down to the other end of the beach to think about it, and finally came back half an hour later with a definite yes.
We got married on Saturday 12th July 2014. We chose Left Bank Leeds for our venue, ultimately for the price and the DIY aspect of the space – which meant that we could rent the building for the day and move furniture around in between the ceremony and the reception, saving us paying for two venues and worrying about transport in between! We had an incredible team of friends resetting the hall for us while guests had drinks and photos taken outside. That Left Bank is a beautiful old church building which was another plus point for us as Christians.
We didn’t really have a theme, unless you count “a tight budget” as one! When planning the wedding we were a little daunted by the perfect, fairytale weddings we were seeing everywhere – we’re the least “bridal” couple we know, and as you might have guessed from our engagement story, far from perfect. In the end we just went with what reflected our personality best and made us feel most comfortable, which meant lots of origami flowers in recycled wine bottles, tea lights in jam jars we’d collected all year, and haphazard splashes of bright colour everywhere. This actually made it the perfect wedding for us because it represented our crazy and pragmatic sides so much better.
We used royal blue as a backdrop to hold all the splashes of brighter colour together, and also because everyone in the bridal party looked good in it – a bigger consideration than you might think in mixed race marriages!
My dress was from BHS and tailored to size by the lovely Sophie Davies Tailoring. Being 4’11” dress shopping is difficult at the best of times, and I’d got to the point where I was trying on First Communion dresses when I found this one, in the most unlikely of places! It was everything I wanted – a beautiful muted colour from the creamy lace material and champagne lining, not wider than I am tall and with straps to alleviate my fears of a wardrobe malfunction. Sophie did some magic and made the dress fit like a glove, also shortening it (by about a foot) from the waist to save the lace hem – something that a different tailor I had originally gone to wouldn’t do. She is incredibly talented and I couldn’t recommend her highly enough.
My shoes were from New Look and specifically chosen to narrow the foot and a half in height difference between me and Mike! It meant that I had some difficulty walking downhill but it was a small price to pay.
Mike is 6’4″ and has different problems altogether when buying clothes. He swears by Marks and Spencer‘s suits, and would do no different for his wedding day. He wore a slim extra-long suit in charcoal grey, a blue-and-white dogtooth bowtie with matching pocket square and, to my chagrin, a pair of Arsenal cufflinks.
We were fortunate to find dresses for the bridesmaids in a style quite similar to my dress in New Look! I definitely wanted dresses that they could wear again, and this fit the bill perfectly, also surprisingly in a shape and colour that suits them all. The dresses originally came with brown belts but the girls swapped these out for white ribbons. They wore their own shoes and I loved how this added to all the colour on the day.
Mike had two best men – his brother Andrew and his best friend Mike. Andrew has an amazing waistcoat and bowtie with multi-coloured frogs on a hot pink background which we absolutely wanted him to wear, and we brightened Mike’s wardrobe up with a colourful polka-dotted bowtie. Our ushers (unfortunately not photographed as they were moving furniture) wore royal blue ties with elephants. The blokes that did make the photos were my “Ugly Bridesmaids”, my housemates without whom a lot of the wedding would not be possible. They could wear whatever they wanted.
We didn’t hire any transport, we were each driven to the venue by our friends/family. Mike’s driver made a detour for petrol on the way to the venue!
Our wedding was photographed by the amazing Eleanor Woodruff Photography. Ellie had photographed another wedding at which Mike was best man, and we were drawn by the amount of personality she captured in those photos and how genuine she made the day look. Ellie took the time to meet up before the big day to find out more about us, scout out the venue, and go over a list of family photos. Being far more experienced with weddings than we were she also had many handy organisational tips for the day! The photos of our day are full of character and absolutely perfect, we cannot thank her enough for what a great job she’s done.
My bridal bouquet was made by my friend Liv, whose origami skills know no bounds. She’d layered so many papers, textures, and beads – it was more beautiful than I could have imagined.
We didn’t have any real flowers on the day because I was paranoid about hayfever and sneezing my way down the aisle (I opted to trip down it in my 6-inch heels instead). I had the idea to do origami flowers and folded some of them to begin with, but the vast majority of it was down to an amazing team of friends and family who folded away for several hours the day before the wedding. We also had plenty of balloons and colourful bunting for a fun touch, home-made confetti and fairy lights around the hall. The table settings were my favourite – each table had a white tablecloth, a royal blue runner, multi-coloured napkins, candles and a wine bottle-full of colourful origami flowers.
Mike’s Uncle Keith made the cake based on a picture that we’d shown him on Google. Everyone agreed that he needed a career change from train driving! The cake had three tiers covered in white icing, each made by a different family member and iced by Uncle Keith. He also stuck on individual pieces of edible confetti to form a cascading effect down the side and tied royal blue ribbons around each tier – if anything it looked better than the original that inspired us! The cake was topped by a champagne glass filled with more edible confetti, and engraved with our names and the date of our wedding.
Following our DIY-origami theme, we had DIY spring rolls for our first course, a great conversation starter for our guests who didn’t know each other! We also had bring-and-share salad and desserts, which turned out to be a great idea as there was an incredible variety of food to choose from. Our main was a hog roast provided by Boss Hog Yorkshire. There was SO MUCH food and everyone was well and truly stuffed.
Left Bank Leeds provided the drinks: beers and soft drinks from Samuel Smiths Brewery, a local company, and a selection of Fairtrade wines.
It made no sense to us to hire a band when several of our friends are musicians, so we organised an open mic for entertainment during the meal. Our friends absolutely did not disappoint and we had such a good evening, with everything from classical violin to 5-piece band. After the meal we pushed the tables aside for a ceilidh, with music from Ermine Street Band. Everyone loves a good ceilidh, and there was plenty of screaming, shouting and laughing.
Our vast height difference does not lend itself well to dancing, so we opted to do a “first duet” instead. We sang the song “Without You” by AJ Rafael, a song which I sang to Mike on Skype while we were long-distance, and made him cry. Mike was on guitar and I played piano.
For our honeymoon we went on a cooking holiday in the Loire Valley in France. This was a real treat for us as we’re nuts about French food. We were the only guests at the B&B as we went mid-week, and Lesley went out of her way to make things especially lovely for us! We enjoyed every moment of it and would totally recommend it to anyone else looking for a more hands-on holiday.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be that a spectacular wedding doesn’t have to cost the earth – we managed to source most of our decorations from eBay and Amazon, or supermarkets and discount shops like Home Bargains. High street stores also turned up some pretty surprising and budget-friendly clothing finds for the wedding party! Putting a bit of elbow grease and creativity into the preparations also helped cut costs, and we’re grateful for all the incredible friends we had around to lend us a DIY-hand. Finally, don’t worry too much about having to put on a spectacular show to impress the guests – they turned up to celebrate “us” in all our quirkiness and loved how much the wedding reflected our wacky personalities!
the big picture