Ros and Alex mixed contemporary and vintage styling to perfection, and I adore the sleek modern venue they chose: The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). It’s an artistic and cultural centre on The Mall in London, just off Trafalgar Square, and is one of the capital’s most beautiful contemporary spaces. I am beyond excited to be blogging what I believe is the only Jewish wedding ever to have taken place there, and a totally jaw-dropping one at that.
Ros’s wedding report is one of the loveliest I’ve ever read so if you can get 5 minutes with a cuppa to sit and read Ros’s words as well as ogle over the stunning photography from Especially Amy I promise you will fall in love with this wedding story. Ros also gives some excellent money-saving tips at the end in her ‘advice to other brides’, as well as some super useful planning advice.
There’s lots to love but I am particularly taken with Ros’s beauty and style and the London theme details such as the London Underground map table plan, and miniature black cabs and double-decker buses on the tables.
Here is their story…
HOW WE MET
Ros, the Bride: We met at Bristol University in September 2002, as Fresher’s living in the same student halls. Our first date was breakfast at a greasy spoon cafe down the road! Alex popped the question in February 2011 at the boutique Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City before whisking me off for dinner and cocktails. We have always loved New York, so it was perfect. That night, the lights on the Empire State shone for us in the snow. After a lot of planning and juggling of dates, we married 18 months later.
A CONTEMPORARY LONDON VENUE
Alex and I were looking for a central London venue that was elegant, yet contemporary and a little bit different. We had viewed all sorts of places and found that few venues fitted the number of guests we wanted to invite – they were either too small (for less than 50) or enormous (suitable for 200+). We were looking for just enough space to have our ceremonies (Groom’s tisch, badeken, chuppah, yichud), dinner and evening reception all in the same venue so additional transport wouldn’t be needed.
The ICA’s capacity, its light beautiful rooms, stunning balcony views and private garden clinched it for us. Also, we knew the in-house caterer (Peyton & Byrne) had an excellent reputation and the quality of the food was important to us. We both enjoy London’s art scene, so getting married in the gallery felt fun and our guests still talk about what an original choice of venue it was.
BLUE, CORAL AND CREAM COLOUR SCHEME
We had a colour scheme of blues (sky blue, navy), coral and cream. We wanted it to look smart but fresh. The palette just came to me and suited both our tastes (bright enough for me, classic enough for him). I still haven’t seen a wedding colour scheme quite like it.
VINTAGE STYLING AND LONDON TOUCHES
Although we didn’t have a theme, we wanted nods to the vintage styling of the 50s/60s, which inspired clothes, stationery, cake and colours. We also had London touches here and there (stationery, table and room decorations, our seating plan).
We were looking for London-themed stationery and came across Hello Lucky’s city designs (illustrations, not too formal). We used their online templates to design and personalise our own ‘save the date’ cards, invitations, RSVP cards and menus. We chose the wording, layout, font and colours. We emailed a Hebrew quote to the company and they added it for us. Sadly Hello Lucky have now closed their personalised stationery service. I have a bit of a stationery fetish and still love what we had printed.
THE PERFECT DRESS FOR ME
My dress was a Justin Alexander design, purchased from wedding shop, Bell’Amoré. I had seen the dress online and just had to try it. I went to the National Wedding Show at Earls Court with my mum and mum-in-law (who were egging me on to try everything!) and made a beeline to the stalls that stocked Justin Alexander designs.
I met the Bell’Amoré ladies (Jo is just fantastic!), described the dress and made an appointment to visit their shop in Bexley Heath. Quite a way from North London, but the service was worth it. I knew I wanted a tea length dress and this design was not only a great length (a lot of tea dresses are quite short), but not too wide or puffy either. The lace and pearly beading is so intricate and beautiful. I was also looking for something I could move and dance in. I hadn’t ever believed there was “one” dress, but all I can say is that I felt fantastic in it (unlike other designs that just weren’t ‘me’) and once I tried it on, I didn’t want to take it off!
I wore an elbow length two-tier veil with cream satin edging from Angelica Bridal in Islington. I found vintage-inspired pearly earrings, necklace and hair grips online from Lovett & Co. I also found a delicate pair of short lace gloves from Vivien of Holloway.
My shoes were by Harriet Wilde, an independent British shoe designer. I chose Ruth’s 1950s-inspired design, ‘Ella’ (without the embellishment that they would usually come with) a satin peep toe, ivory colour, with a platform and 4 inch heel. I loved visiting Ruth’s studio (Harriet Wilde is the name of her grandmother) and spending time trying her different styles. Thankfully, her designs come in half sizes for the perfect fit; not all wedding shoe brands offer this. They are the most comfortable heeled shoes I have ever bought and I danced all night! I intend to dye them and wear them again with an evening dress.
HAIR + MAKE-UP
I knew the hair and make-up look that I was after, 1950/60s-inspired…classic eyeliner and beehive a la Audrey Hepburn. Natasha Hall, aka Pretty Me Vintage, was the only stylist I had a hair and make-up trial with and I booked her straight away, after having a fun trial at Natasha’s vintage-styled home. On the day, Natasha and her assistant styled me, mum and four bridesmaids. We all looked gorgeous and it was so much fun to see everyone in rollers! I did my own nails with Chanel’s limited edition peachy polish, ‘June’.
THE GORGEOUS GROOM
My handsome groom wore a navy suit and waistcoat tailored by Reiss, sky blue tie (which the other groomsmen wore too) and white dress shirt. His kippah was suede in a royal blue, and his buttonhole reflected my bouquet. He also had a pair of Paul Smith ‘pin-up girl’ cufflinks.
He has always looked fantastic in a suit, but looked every inch ‘Mad Men’. Our badeken was the first time we saw each other after a week apart, all dressed up – it was a special moment.
I chose four bridesmaids (my sister and 3 close friends). They wore lace ¾ length sleeved dresses in navy blue from Whistles, pearly earrings, and nude patent platform courts from good-old Marks & Spencer (again, half sizes!). My gifts to them where name necklaces from Tatty Devine.
We asked friends to each read one of the Sheva Brachot out in English, after our Cantor had sung it all. Our Ketubah was designed and printed by Ketubah Kraft: it has the traditional Aramaic text on one half and a contemporary, alternative wording in English on the other. My sister read out the English wording as part of our chuppah ceremony. My bridesmaid read out an extract from Eric Fromm’s ‘The Art of Loving’. I wrote a short handout for our friends and family who aren’t familiar with Jewish tradition or Hebrew, so they could follow and find their own meaning in our wedding ceremony. I will never forget our ceremony, it was so moving, spiritual and intimate.
We hired a simple white chuppah, with ribbon ties; the corners and front were decorated with silk flowers similar to those in my bouquet. No one could tell the difference!
MUSIC FOR THE CEREMONY
We all walked down the aisle to a beautiful acoustic version of Erev Shel Shoshanim. I circled my groom to Eshet Chayil, and Dodi Li was played as we signed our marriage certificate.
FABULOUS FLOWERS IN CORALS, CREAMS AND BLUES
My fabulous florist was Rachael Roberts at Vanilla Rose. I had a colour palette in mind: corals, creams and hints of blue and I wanted it to look fresh and natural, including roses. I met with Rachael twice, shared photos and ideas and we decided on a hand tied bouquet of Avalanche and Marie Jane roses, with dark blue hydrangea, blue delphiniums, cream veronica, cream lisianthus and eucalyptus, tied with ivory ribbon. My bridesmaid’s flowers were smaller versions of my bouquet, and table decorations were similar arrangements in glass bubble bowls. I absolutely loved the flowers, they were stunning.
We had blue, peach and cream paper pom-poms which we hung from the ceilings to decorate the venue, from PaperPoms.co.uk. My dad and bridemaids had great fun assembling them the day before. I bought pillar candles from Ikea and little London toys from eBay to decorate the main room’s mantelpiece. I also bought dinky little London black cabs and red double-decker buses to decorate tables (also from eBay).
OUR FANTASTIC PHOTOGRAPHER
Amy Murrell of Especially Amy was our photographer. After a lot of research, Amy was the only photographer that we chose to meet for coffee. We chatted, looked through her portfolio again and then booked her! We loved her unobtrusive and contemporary style. We knew we didn’t want lots of fussy, formal photos. Instead, we wanted natural shots, capturing key moments and emotions. Amy is creative, honest (about what will and won’t work at the venue) and extremely professional – she also has a great sense of humour! What was particularly helpful on the day was how she kept to timings, particularly for group shots: she had authority without being bossy. Our photos are wonderful and many guests have asked after Amy’s contact details to pass on to friends and relatives, as they were so impressed with her.
A DELICIOUS CAKE THAT PERFECTLY MATCHED OUR COLOUR SCHEME
Our wedding cake was by Jen Cooper at Jen’s Cakery. Jen and I sat down in her kitchen at home, talked through ideas and what I’d seen on her Flickr, then we drew a sketch. I chose a 3 tier vanilla sponge with lemon buttercream, with ivory icing, decorated with pearly details and wrapped in coral ribbon. Jen went to a lot of trouble to get the colour match of ribbon just right (the same colour as the nail polish I wore). I wanted the cake to suit the colour scheme, to look elegant and also be delicious – which it was! There wasn’t a crumb left!
A VINTAGE ACAPELLA GROUP… AND A DJ!
We had The Frockettes, a quirky acapella group, sing at our drinks reception and introduce us into the dining room. They sang old standards such as Keep Young And Beautiful and My Guy. Polly and her vintage singers were a huge hit with our guests.
We had a brilliant DJ, Matt Maurice, who took time to understand what kind of music we were after for the party. We made an example playlist and he even asked us for a list of songs that were absolute no-nos.
Our first dance was to You and Me by Wannadies. It’s fun and upbeat and we wanted guests to join us on the dance floor! It’s about the everyday of relationships, and we didn’t want anything slushy. We also had the typical Israeli dancing songs!
In an ideal world, we would have both liked a live band for the evening, but the prices seemed extraordinary.
ART POSTCARDS + A WEDDING POSTBOX, INSTEAD OF A TRADITIONAL GUEST BOOK
Instead of a traditional guest book we gave out art postcards from London galleries and asked guests to write us messages, draw pictures, anything they like… We got cartoons, poems, word searches! Everyone then put them in our wedding postbox. At some point I plan to put these in a frame to have on the wall at home.
A LONDON UNDERGROUND MAP TABLE PLAN
I made the table plan, by mounting a retro poster of London Underground and fixing luggage tags onto different tube lines which listed the guest names (tables were named after lines).
ADVICE TO OTHER BRIDES
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate wherever you can on prices. Suppliers are open to this, so ask! If they won’t give you discount, then what else can they include in the price?
- Plan ahead and look out for ‘holiday’ online deals e.g. we bought our stationery online at Christmas, Prosecco on bank holidays, sign up for e-newsletters and use those discount codes!
- Digital printing is much cheaper than letterpress stationery.
- It’s easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of research online and overwhelmed with quotes. Only contact your top 3 suppliers for quotes and then choose from them.
- I met every one of our major suppliers in person. Don’t forget that it’s not just the product you’re buying, but the service – ask yourself: are they the kind of person that you’d like involved in your big day, do I like working with them? If not, don’t book them!
- Be honest if you don’t like a dress you’re trying on. As Jo at Bell Amore, the shop I bought my dress from, said ‘Dresses don’t have feelings! Get it off quick and try on something else!’ Although you might have in mind a particular style of dress, be prepared that it may not suit your body shape. Experienced staff in wedding shops should be able to recommend styles to try on by listening to what you’re looking for and then advise what will be flattering for you. My idea of a slinky 1920s number went out the window, it just looked awful on me!
- I had particular flowers in mind and then discovered that as September is end of summer, a lot of the brighter ones are (of course) dying off. Fortunately Rachael sourced some for me, but a lesson learnt in bearing the season of your wedding in mind when making choices.
ROS + ALEX’S LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photographer – Especially Amy
Venue – The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts), London
Catering – Peyton & Byrne
Bride’s Dress – Justin Alexander from Bell’Amoré
Bride’s veil – Angelica Bridal
Brides’s Jewellery – Lovett & Co
Bride’s Gloves – Vivien of Holloway
Bride’s Shoes – Harriet Wilde
Hair + Make up – Pretty Me Vintage
Groom’s attire – Reiss
Groom’s cufflinks – Paul Smith
Bridesmaids’ dresses – Whistles
Bridesmaids’ shoes – Marks & Spencer
Bridesmaids’ gifts – Tatty Devine
Ketubah – Ketubah Kraft
Florals – Vanilla Rose
Wedding Cake – Jen’s Cakery
Entertainment – The Frockettes
DJ – Matt Maurice
Decor – PaperPoms.co.uk, Ikea and eBay
Invitations – Hello Lucky