Girl crush, girl crush! Oh my goodness, today’s bride, Claudia is utterly gorgeous, and what amazing fashion choices she made – an astonishing Stephanie Allin wedding gown adorned with blue flowers, followed by a party dress to dance the night away in, not to mention some spectacular jewellery. She made a speech too (a smashing-the-glass-ceiling bride if ever there was one!) and I could literally write pages about Claudia’s creative talents alone… She’s definitely one clever and very accomplished woman.
But full credit to her dashing groom, Edward, too… Claudia was working as a doctor in Africa for much of their engagement so Edward spent many a weekend wedding planning and venue-hunting with Claudia’s mum. Hat’s off, Edward!
Details-wise, I can’t kick off with anything but that glorious chuppah… The groom’s father cut branches off a tree in his Norfolk garden where the couple got engaged and together with Edward built the chuppah in his back garden. The delightful Liz from Blue Sky Flowers worked her magic on the chuppah structure with the most sensational blooms, and for the canopy, one of Claudia’s friends assisted all the hens in decorating fabric ‘Stars of David’ on the hen weekend. The stars were then sewn on to a simple white tablecloth and it felt like the most wonderfully personalised starry sky.
What’s more the couple are now repurposing the chuppah poles as a gazebo in their garden and growing flowers up it in time for summer. Perfection!
What makes this wedding all the more special is that both families had known each other long before Claudia and Edward had ever got together. Oh, and as an aside, Claudia has a twin brother and identical twin sisters – how extraordinary is that?!) Claudia told me.
During the ceremony our Rabbi asked us to turn around to look at all our family and friends. It was overwhelming… To have so many people you love all there for you. Our families have been friends for 40 years and lots of people commented that they’ve never been to a wedding before where they love all the people under the chuppah – we are incredibly lucky and were completely surrounded by love all day.
There are lots more treats, surprises, advice, tips and just a wonderful account of a glorious day so if you can get five minutes with a cuppa to sit down and read Claudia’s wonderful words, as well as look at the stunning photography from Ria Mishaal, I promise you will get so much out of this wedding story.
With thanks to the lovely Alex from The Bijou Bride for submitting this very original Jewish wedding (and although heavily pregnant at the time, spot how ‘on theme’ Alex was in her beautiful blue and white ‘ceramics pattern’ maternity dress… I love you girl!)
Speaking of which, you’ll see Alex holding an umbrella over Claudia in one or two of the images. Claudia quite rightly says, “don’t stress about the weather – it poured with rain all day for us but we had so much fun no-one even noticed and if you’ve surrounded yourself with the right professionals they’ll make the reorganisation needed completely seamless. We walked around the grounds having our picture taken through the rain and you’d never know from the pictures!”
Spot on, Claudia… SPOT ON! Enjoy every last detail of this very special Jewish wedding.
how we met
Claudia, the Bride: Our families have been friends forever but somehow Ed and I didn’t meet until a few years ago. We hid our relationship from our mothers for the first few weeks because we thought they’d start planning our wedding after the first date! He took me to the Zetter Townhouse for cocktails, and we ended up in the games room playing Jenga until they closed. When Edward walked me home, we narrowly missed my brother who I lived with at the time who got home minutes later. He took me for a picnic two days later and cooked me dinner after a set of night shifts later that week and the rest was history!
I’m a doctor and had always planned to work abroad for a year and Ed was unwavering in his support for me doing this even though he couldn’t come with. He proposed in our favourite place in Norfolk just days before I left the country to work in Zanzibar. He didn’t realise he’d signed himself up to months of Sunday lunches with my mum planning and Saturday expeditions to wedding venues!
Choosing to get married in an English country garden in Oxfordshire
We got married in the gardens of Adwell House in Oxfordshire. We knew we wanted an English country garden and a marquee company suggested this private venue to us – we were their third ever public wedding. I was working in Africa so Ed spent many saturdays venue hunting with my parents and emailing me photos an Skype-ing me to discuss. This one was perfect – I agreed to it months before seeing it myself!
We had a marquee for the reception and had planned to get married in the walled garden. In the lead-up to the wedding the weather forecast changed almost hourly. On the Thursday we had to decide and knew we couldn’t take the risk. Ben from our marquee company, Joseph Benjamin Marquees, put up a transparent marquee roof over the garden and it actually looked brilliant – like a huge outdoor conservatory.
A blue and white colour scheme… and a fabulous wedding planner
We chose blue and white and wanted an oriental ceramics pattern to run through the styling. We got some of the way through planning before realising that we’d need someone to co-ordinate the day as we were bringing all the suppliers in ourselves. I loved Alex’s blog, The Bijou Bride, and rang her up – and loved her immediately. She came on board and helped keep us organised in the run up and was a superstar on the day!
Having Alex on board gave us the chance to have all the creative input and make all the decisions but in the knowledge that it was all going to come together and she thought of lots of little things we would never have considered. We also had jäger bombs on the drinks menu but somehow managed to forget to buy Jägermeister so she did a last minute run the morning of the wedding which I didn’t know about until the next day!
I had an idea in my head and decided to design them myself. I used a graphic from a website called creativemarket.com which cost $3.99 to download and use in any way we wanted! Ed is a technology whizz so neatened up my design and we took the file on a USB to a local printer who printed them with the the gold foil effect – they looked stunning! I used leftover invitations to make the table plan as they were too pretty to waste.
Hair + make up
Pinterest was my go to – I knew I wanted a bright lip but otherwise simple make up and my hair up so it wouldn’t need to be fussed with during the day. Claire Nicole did the hair and make-up for my best friend and bridesmaid at her wedding a month earlier and we both booked her together. Getting ready was so much fun and I loved seeing Mum have her hair and make-up done.
A Stephanie Allin wedding dress adorned with blue flowers
I knew I wanted something different and had an idea that a dress with blue flowers would be unique. I went to various shops and didn’t find anything that stood out and thought I’d have something made. Mum and I decided last minute to go to the Brides sample sale at the Mandarin Oriental.
We walked in and Stephanie Allin had ‘Violet’ on a mannequin. Mum looked at me and we took it straight into the changing room to try on. It was perfect and the girls said they’d been waiting for a tall bride (I’m 5’10) to buy it as all the flowers were concentrated around the bottom and shortening it would ruin it. It was a one-off they’d made for a catwalk show, and whilst I did a quick run round the ballroom to make sure there was nothing else I loved, Mum managed to haggle the price even lower! One of the seamstresses at Stephanie Allin did the alterations for us as a private job. As beautiful as it is I’ll never wear it again and would love to sell it to someone wanting a unique and special dress – very happy to give my email to anyone interested!
I had a second dress from Self Portrait – I love dancing and I worried that a big dress would hold me back. I was right – so after our first dance I slipped into the catering area of the marquee and did a quick change and then didn’t leave the dancefloor all night!
Ed had bought me some stunning earrings for my birthday which were so beautiful I saved them for the wedding day. I wore his grandmother’s watch which he inherited – she was very special to him and I adored her too. They were my somethings old and new. Mum remembered she had an aquamarine bracelet and lent it to me for something borrowed and blue – and we realised it matched my engagement ring perfectly (which had once belonged to Ed’s other grandma!).
My wedding ring was made bespoke by Alex Monroe with tiny diamonds and gold leaves that matched the delicate leaves on my vintage engagement ring perfectly.
My dress was so embelllished that I decided against any hair accessories and went for the simplest veil I could find. I wanted it to be two-tier so that Ed could lower the veil over me during the badeken.
For the evening I had an amazing huge crystal necklace (I’m known for my love of statement jewellery!) which I put on with my second dress.
I’m very tall and the dress was long so I was always going to go flat – my gold flats from Boden look gorgeous and were incredibly comfortable.
The handsome groom
Ed looked amazing – he wanted to stand out too so had a navy-blue tux made for him. He found Tailor-Made, an amazing tailor that has a 3D body scanner. I went with him to the first fitting and it was almost perfect immediately. I loved that Ed had chosen a blue and white patterned lining and had our wedding date embroidered into it.
He had bought watches for his groomsmen and they all had matching blue and white striped straps. Ed’s parents have always called him Bear so I had some polar bear silver cuff links made for him by Tomfoolery.
I’ve got the world’s two best sisters who were my best women, my first cousin George who feels like my big sister and Ed’s sister, my newest sister! I’d asked them and gone to volunteer abroad. I then realised when looking through all my photos that I didn’t want to get married without my three best friends so asked them too, it was a very big but very fun wedding party! There’s so many hours of the wedding day before it actually begins, I recommend spending them with as many of your favourite people as possible! I shared my hotel room the night before with my twin brother so had him around as well which may not be conventional but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
My bridesmaids wore a dress from ASOS – I loved it, ordered 16 of them in varying sizes and lengths and the girls all came over for an evening and everyone managed to fit into one! It worked out perfectly that half of them chose pale blue and half dark blue which also gave my identical twin sisters a chance not to look identical on the day. I couldn’t believe what a success it was… eight of us going shopping together would have been chaos! As gifts I gave them each an initial pendant from Harry Rocks – an amazing jeweller who happens to be Ed’s cousin.
Rose my goddaughter wore a dress from Monsoon and I made her a flower crown from fake flowers. My little cousins Leo and Finlay wore pageboy outfits from Next and mini versions of the grooms party bow ties which came from Mrs Bow Tie.
A beautiful ketubah
Our ketubah was expensive but I absolutely fell in love with it and had it made in the USA. When it arrived it was worth every penny and our rabbi said it was so beautiful he almost didn’t want to sign it in case he ruined it!
We wanted the chuppah to be as personal as possible. Ed’s dad cut branches off a tree in his garden in Norfolk where we got engaged and together with my Dad, built the chuppah in our back garden! I have some amazing photos of the building stages… We’re repurposing the chuppah poles as a gazebo in our garden and trying to grow flowers up it now.
One of my best friends is very creative and helped all my hens decorate fabric stars of David on my hen weekend. She then attached these all to a simple white tablecloth which we were married under. It was like a starry sky but made with love and varying degrees of artistic ability!
The flowers were done by our florist-extraordinaire, Liz from Blue Sky Flowers. Alex had introduced us and I knew I wanted to work with her from our first meeting. I gave her a picture of what I wanted and left her to run with it. Walking down the aisle I was so nervous I forgot to look at the flowers, but after the ceremony I saw they were absolutely stunning!
Our ceremony was incredibly special. We chose the music very carefully and my brother sang whilst I walked down the aisle and during the ceremony. We wrote our wedding booklets very carefully with explanations for all the non-jewish guests. Our rabbi, David Mitchell from WLS has known Ed since he was a student and also knows my whole family – he married my first cousin and her husband the summer before and makes his ceremonies incredibly personal. He really spent time with us and had us over to his house to get to know us as a couple which shone through our ceremony.
We decided to have our family involved with the Sheva Brachot. David read them in Hebrew and then our parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins came and read the translations as well as giving us their own blessings. Dad even write a short poem! We felt this was more personal than choosing readings.
During the ceremony Rabbi David asked us to turn around to look at all our family and friends. It was overwhelming – to have so many people you love all there for you. Our families have been friends for 40 years and lots of people commented that they’ve never been to a wedding before where they love all the people under the chuppah – we are incredibly lucky and were completely surrounded by love all day.
Having my twin brother sing through the ceremony was incredibly special for me, he’s a huge talent and we’re extremely close. Phil was also our MC and introduced each of the speeches with a few funny lines and a carefully selected theme song for each of us – he’d co-ordinated with the band and it was the perfect warm up.
Music for the ceremony
We walked down the aisle to L’cha Dodi but sung to the tune of All of Me by John Legend. My brother Phil sang with Maya and it was beautiful. We walked out to Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson which felt like our wedding theme tune and we both love Motown and soul music.
Liz from Blue Sky Flowers did all our flowers – she is a genius, amazing fun and huge talent. She understands what we wanted from the first meeting and ran with my crazy idea to have hanging flowers along the length of the marquee. She developed my idea and built the most stunning installation – it was breathtaking!
I wanted simple white roses which were lovely, my bridesmaids had beautiful corsages and my flower girl, my goddaughter Rose had a flower wand which went down a treat! She told us ‘I’m the only princess here today’!
In the last few weeks I worried that everything was a bit too blue and white so we decided to introduce some splashes of pink which I think brightened up the day. The tables had a mixture of tall and short arrangements but with a country garden feeling and simple blue and white or clear glass vases. I’d sourced gold cutlery and hand printed blue and white napkins after realising hiring/buying patterned napkins or tablecloths was extortionate and we didn’t want the overall look to be too fussy.
Our fabulous photographer
We found Ria Mishaal Photography in the nicest possible way. We’d been living on different continents for almost a year so when I got home, Ed took me away to the Cotswolds for the weekend. We sat in the lounge of Barnsley House and were flicking through the wedding albums there when Ed looked through one Ria had shot and commented on how beautiful her pictures were. We checked out her website and loved her style and when we met her we knew she was perfect. She is an incredible talent, an absolutely lovely person and was a pleasure to be around. If there’s going to be someone in the room when you’re getting ready with your loved ones you have to be happy to have them there too! Jake, her husband, was her second shooter and was also a total professional and we cannot stop looking at the beautiful pictures they took for us.
fortune cookie favours that were also escort cards for the guests..
With 225 guests I wanted people to have a fun way of seeing which table they were sat on without having to queue for ages to get to the table plan. We ordered 225 different flavour fortune cookies (salted caramel and banana were out of this world) and I hand wrote stickers to go on each one with the guest’s name and their table name. When we had some last minute table plan changes I had to stay up all night finding all the right boxes and rewriting the stickers!
A wonderful lemon drizzle cake made by one of our bridesmaids…
My bridesmaid Claire is a super baker and our cake was her wedding gift to us. She was incredible – she went out and bought the biggest cake tins she could find and spent weeks practising and timing how long different size sponges need to cook. She made us a four tier lemon drizzle cake and decorated it with edible flowers – it looked and tasted amazing! It all disappeared though so she’s going to have to make us another on for our first anniversary.
…and a monkey cake topper made by the bride!
I made little his and hers monkeys to top our wedding cake – Ed is a huge fan of all monkeys (he’d say simians!) and the first stop on our honeymoon was the orang utans in Borneo!
Our fabulous caterers
Our caterers were absolutely brilliant too. We’d had a disappointment with another caterer who we thought would be fab but the tasting was just a huge let down both on taste and presentation. Miranda and Maz at Carte Blanche had catered one of my best friend’s weddings the year before and from the first meeting we felt we were in safe hands. We went for the tasting with all our parents and the minute the first canapé came out we knew they were in another league! Everyone commented on how great the food was (and at a Jewish wedding people really take food seriously!) and the salted caramel chocolate brownies were the best I’ve ever had.
We had a delicious starter of beetroot carpaccio with mozzarella and a shot of minted pea soup. The main course was pink roast lamb or sea trout with roasted sweet potatoes and delicious Ottolenghi style salads, and we had mini dessert buffets of every table.
Soul Fiesta had played at a great friend’s wedding and we remembered how talented they were. My Dad is an enormous music fan and we took him to see them play live at the Dover St Jazz club. He wouldn’t leave the dancefloor so we knew they were the right fit. Not only were they brilliant on the night, they couldn’t have been more helpful in the lead up and lent us audio equipment for the ceremony. Charlie the band leader is one of the nicest people in the whole world and a brilliant problem solver!
They sang all the hora music live, did a brilliant female Otis cover and had the dancefloor filled all night with Motown and funk numbers. One of my favourite photos from the night is the band selfie Ed and I took with them at the end of the night…
It took us aged to choose our first dance song but found the perfect one – That’s how strong my love is by Otis Redding, our favourite musician of all time.
…and lots more creative details
I made the table plan from unused invitations and hung them in a huge gold frame which looked lovely and we named all the tables after Michelin starred chefs as we’re both massive foodies! We made little table name signs with details about the chef such as the name of their restaurant, signature dish etc. I did have some complaints as lots of my friends wanted to be on the Marcus Wareing table!
Our best man flew in with his fiancée from a round the world trip and made a fantastic speech – with various props he managed to tell the story of his friendship with Ed and had everyone in hysterics – I’d been nervous about that but it was a highlight of the day!
I think our families and friends were involved through every step of the wedding – from the cake to the chuppah. Our dads were brilliant chuppah-builders. Fabric printing the napkins took ages, Alex helped me do the first 100 and my heavily pregnant friend Sarah came to London from Wiltshire for the day to help me print the rest.
A DIY Photo booth
We didn’t have room in the budget for a photo booth so we made our own – by buying a photo printer and a remote on a cable, we set our digital camera up on a tripod and the whole thing cost us under £100 including 250 Polaroid prints. We were going to sell the printer again afterward but it’s a fun thing to have! We collected various fun fancy dress including the inflatable sumo outfit I’d had to wear on my hen and everyone got involved.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
I think that despite being really organised, there are always going to be a million jobs to do in the last few weeks. I took time off work which made it much less stressful and managed to fit in a lovely day with Mum where we went perfume shopping and had our eyebrows threaded – a moment of calm in the storm!
Accept all the help that’s offered – not only will it take the pressure off but people really love getting involved and when I made my speech and thanked everyone it made me so grateful for the amazing people we have in our lives! Making a speech was such a good decision – I nearly bottled it at the last minute but am so glad now that I got the chance to tell all the special people in my life how much they mean to me. If I was doing it again I might have spoken before dinner to get any nerves over with – surely as the bride you can dictate when you speak!
Finally, don’t stress about the weather – it poured with rain all day for us but we had so much fun no-one even noticed and if you’ve surrounded yourself with the right professionals they’ll make the reorganisation needed completely seamless. We walked around the grounds having our picture taken through the rain and you’d never know from the pictures!
Claudia & Edward’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography – Ria Mishaal Photography
Wedding Planner – Alexandra from The Bijou Bride
Venue –Adwell House
Flowers – Blue Sky Flowers
Catering – Carte Blanche
Bride’s dress – Stephanie Allin
Second dress – Self Portrait
Bride’s shoes – Boden
Groom’s suit – Tailor-Made
Groom’s shoes – Joseph Cheaney
Bridesmaids – ASOS
Bridesmaids’ gifts – Harry Rocks
Flower girl – Monsoon
Page boys – Next
Hair +Make Up – Claire Nicole
Band – Soul Fiesta
Marquee – Joseph Benjamin Marquees
Bride’s wedding ring – Alex Monroe
Videography – Rupert Ward Lewis
Bear cuff links – Tomfoolery
Favours – Cracking Cookies
Rabbi – David Mitchell from West London Synagogue