Squeal! Proud mom moment… yes, another one of my beautiful blogging brides is married! I’m so sad to say goodbye to lovely Clare, but also delighted to share her GORGEOUS Jew-ish wedding with you today…. and my goodness doesn’t she look gorgeous?!
Clare, a nursery school teacher, and Chris, a planning manager for a property developer in London (#onclouddeeks), started off their Smashing The Glass journey with a session with me as part of my wedding consultancy service. We worked together to to help bring her vision to life for what would eventually become her spring garden-themed day, and Clare reports that gained some incredible vendor recommendations from this session too – awww – that’s the best news!
Neither Clare nor Chris is Jewish, but the couple have Jewish family and opted to incorporate some traditions they found especially meaningful. I love the modernized, personal rewriting of the seven blessings their friends and family read to them (some of the blessings guests came up with are pretty hilarious!) and, of course, the magical birch chuppah with lanterns and candles strewn around the base.
Speaking of candles… the couple made liberal use of luxe scented candles throughout the day, which not only made their venue smell amazing but also made for wonderful memories: Clare reports that every time she smells, say, Jo Malone’s ‘wild fig and cassis’ (one of her picks), it immediately brings her back to the big day. Such a clever idea!
Photographer Catherine Carter and videographer Jeff Woods captured all the emotion – not to mention the fab creative touches – to perfection, and Clare looked beyond stunning in the exquisitely beaded fishtail-style Pronovias dress she purchased from STG Recommended Vendor The Wedding Club in South Kensington (where she had “the most amazing experience” – not that we’re surprised).
Okay, enough from us… take it away, Clare!
How We Met
Clare, the bride: We met in 2014 by swiping right!
Venue by Laura Ashley
We got married at The Manor Elstree, a beautiful country hotel in Hertfordshire that is owned by Laura Ashley. Being very true to the brand, it is a beautiful light and bright space which manages to be contemporary whilst still retaining some stunning original features of the building. It is understated and elegant with a touch of glam, which was very much the tone we wanted to create for the whole day!
The venue was also special as Chris took me there for dinner Valentine’s Day 2016, just four months before he proposed, and he told me that night that he had hoped one day we might get married there! For his parents it was a dream location – they had his sister’s 30th birthday there a few years back and fell in love with it, hoping one of their children would get married there.
What I also loved about the venue was that you felt like you were in the countryside, but it was still so accessible from London, and you can see some incredible views of the city from the grounds.
Glam Garden Party
In the early stages of planning our day we were keen to have a spring wedding, and this created a theme to a certain extent as I wanted lots of spring flowers, a soft color palette, and the feeling of being outside. I wanted to create a glamorous garden party vibe.
One of our very good friends (and Chris’s best man) said after the day that our wedding style was ‘country with a London vibe,’ and I think that sums it up well!
The black-tie dress code, and the venue itself, led to more of the glam feel that we wanted. Other than this the only ‘theme’ to the day was rose gold – lots of it!
We didn’t use a wedding planner, although I did meet with Karen as part of her wedding consultancy service in the early planning stages, to help bring the vision together, as well as get some great recommendations for suppliers. Otherwise all planning was done by me, with the help of my mother, Chris’s stepmother, and my wonderful team of bridesmaids.
What ‘Smashing The Glass’ Did For Us
Smashing The Glass was a constant source of inspiration throughout my planning journey. There were times I panicked and worried our day would not live up to the weddings I would see in blogs or magazines, but if there is one overriding feature of Smashing The Glass weddings, it is to worry only about making your day the way you really want it!
Following recommendation from STG, we went with Mara from Blush and Gold for our wedding invitations and order of ceremony booklets. We chose a grey invitation with rose gold calligraphy and rose gold belly bands to keep the invite and information card together. They looked amazing and Mara was so great to work with, and also worked so quickly to get them to us. They were a great price point and I would definitely use Mara again for any future occasions, and would highly recommend her.
Several friends commented on how elegant they looked, and some even to say they were the nicest they have received. This was so lovely to hear, as I felt the invitation would very much set the tone for the day to our guests.
Hair + Makeup
When it came to my hair, I knew I wanted it down. I never wear my hair up and Chris loves it down. However, whist I rock the flowing, messy look day to day, I wanted it to be a little sleeker for the day. My regular hairdresser was fortunately available to drive over to the hotel on the day to blow dry my hair, and I had some pinned up to create some volume for the veil to be placed into. Being a master blow-dryer, she also tamed the locks of some of the bridesmaids, my mother, and godmother.
For my makeup, as I like to wear lots of makeup generally I wanted to go with a glamorous look rather than ‘natural’, however after attending a Bobbi Brown class at Brides The Show last year, I began to think about how the photos may look in years to come!
Layla, who has been doing my eyebrows/nails/waxing for years did an amazing job with my makeup. It was glowy and fresh. For my eyes I had a beautiful warm pink, which was the closest to rose gold I could find! I also had lash extensions so my eyes would stand out! I went for my favourite Charlotte Tilbury nude lip as my standard go-to. I felt like the very best version of me on the day!
A Pronovias dress
On Karen’s recommendation, I purchased my dress from The Wedding Club in South Kensington, where I had the most amazing experience. I ended up with an atelier Pronovias dress, which I could not have been happier with.
I knew a fishtail style would most likely be my final choice but I had never planned to find a dress with so much detailing. The beading really took my breath away. On the day it received so many compliments, and I felt like a princess in it!
A Sparkling Veil
I wore a cathedral-length veil with tiny Swarovski crystals, which looked incredible as they caught the light and really worked with the dress, which was super glam and detailed.
For jewelry, I kept it simple as the dress really didn’t need embellishment. I wore a diamond and sapphire necklace of my mother’s, which had been a gift from my father some years ago. This was my something borrowed and blue!
I had some earrings on, also borrowed from my mum; however this was before I opened a gift of beautiful antique diamond earrings from Chris on the morning, which were quickly changed over!
I chose a wedding ring to coordinate with my engagement ring, so opted for a white gold band with diamonds. Chris has my dad’s ring, purchased in Hatton Garden in 1978 for my parents’ wedding. It was a lovely way to honor my father, and Chris really wanted a classic yellow gold wedding band, so it worked perfectly.
I was boring and wore some ivory, satin ballet shoes from ASOS. Sadly I have short husband problems (!) and as a tall girl, I decided to forego a beautiful pair of heels so that I would not tower above him! The other advantage was that the flats were incredibly comfortable and allowed for much dancing all night!
The handsome groom
Chris had two incredible outfits (I know – two, he was more high maintenance than me!), both from Tux Lux, who I could not recommend more highly to any grooms based in or near London. The first outfit was a navy three-piece lounge suit, which we also hired for his groomsmen to wear.
We had plans to get a really incredible pair of shoes for him, but other wedding items seemed to take over the budget towards the end so he settled for a lovely pair from Dune which actually looked really smart with the suit, and which he has worn to work ever since!
In the evening Chris changed into a beautiful navy tux with very slight pattern to it. He looked very handsome and really stood out against the sea of black tuxes.
I bought Chris some rose gold cufflinks with our date engraved on them, but unfortunately these got forgotten in the last-minute rush, so he did not actually wear them! I have just about forgiven him for this now, and at least they brighten up a work shirt!
Bridesmaids in Lavender
I had five bridesmaids, all incredible women I am extremely lucky to have in my life. There was never any doubt in my mind they would be there with me on the day! I also had my godmother, Katrina, as my ‘MOH’- it sounded better than ‘matron of honor’!
As her husband, Andy, was to give me away, I wanted a way to have them both feature closely on the day. They are like second parents to me, and having lost my father after years of illness, just eight months before the big day, they were a huge support during this time.
The five maids wore dresses in all different styles of their own choosing, in the same beautiful shade of dusky lavender. I was determined the bridesmaids would all look and feel fabulous, in a dress they loved, so giving them free reign on style was a part of this. They looked incredible and I was so pleased with the ‘mis-matched’ effect.
Katrina wore a beautiful steel grey floor-length dress with incredible beading detail. It looked amazing against the other softer colour and she looked fabulous!
All the dresses were from JJ’s House, after I had been recommended to give them a try. From the website I could see hundreds of dresses I loved and the prices were too good to miss. However, ordering online from China wasn’t what I had in mind, and I was concerned about quality and sizing.
I decided to give it a go and order a couple of the dresses, and I was so pleased when they arrived. The quality was excellent, the color was exactly what I wanted, and each of my girls were really pleased with her choices.
The sizing runs fairly true to expectation, and a couple of the dresses needed some alterations which we did in London. But you can also buy a made to measure dress for just £14 extra. We did this for two of the dresses and they fit perfectly, so well worth it.
Aside from adults in my bridal party, I also had our three nieces, whose stunning ivory dresses were also purchased from JJ’s House, with an added ribbon to match the adults. For our nephew, Jack, who was page boy, I found a cute waistcoat and trouser set from Not On The High Street, which had a silver grey bow tie that matched the groomsmen perfectly! The children definitely won lots of compliments on how cute they looked!
A Country Garden Chuppah
Having fallen in love with many floral chuppahs, I had a Pinterest board dedicated to them! It would have been a dream of mine to get married outdoors, but Chris was not overly keen on this, and the UK weather being so unpredictable I settled instead for bringing the outdoors in. This meant I wanted a chuppah that would incorporate tree branches, lots of greenery, and white spring blooms.
We used Creative Chuppahs, who are based in Edgware, to hire our chuppah structure. We chose the natural birch design. Our florists then created a simple yet stunning array of flowers with a country garden vibe. With lanterns and candles around the base, it felt very magical.
Ruth and Steve from Creative Chuppahs offered excellent service, and were great value for money. They were another supplier I would most definitely recommend.
A Unique Ceremony
The ceremony was incredibly important to us. We wanted something that would be personal to us and inclusive to all whilst still spiritual. With mixed religious backgrounds of our families, and Chris and I not being of a particular religion but having a sense of spirituality, we ended up incorporating a range of ideas and cultures.
We had Mark Townsend as our celebrant. After meeting Mark a couple of months before the big day, we were both so excited to have him on board. He really understood what we wanted to create.
Mark is not only a celebrant but also a magician, and this led to some incredible touches, some of which can be seen in our video and photos!
We included a version of the seven blessings, read by different friends, both our mums, and Chris’s dad. My mum found a modern interpretation of the seven blessings online, and she used this as a basis for seven blessings she wrote. Each reader then added their own personal touch. This led to some funny, touching blessings, including to wish us to always have a beautiful home with lots of rose gold, and a house full of children, all girls – just the way Chris wants it!
We had two readings, both of which were sourced by Mark and were very meaningful to us. These were read by Katrina and Chris’s stepfather.
We were also lucky to have a family friend who is an opera singer sing Delibes’ Flower Duet, which was such a beautiful touch.
The ceremony was incredibly unique and received so many comments from our guests, who felt it was unlike anything they had seen before. I tried to stay as present as I could throughout and take it all in; there was a wonderful atmosphere of love, and my mission to have a wedding inspired by a Richard Curtis movie definitely came true!
For ceremony music we had a string trio play as our guests were seated, and for the processional and recessional. The children entered first, followed by the maids, to Hallelujah.
For my entrance, they played Des’ree’s Kissing You. It is possibly one of the most romantic and emotional songs, and I had joked to Chris before the wedding that it would conjure up the illusion I was floating in with doves flying above me! (The budget didn’t stretch to this sadly…)
Chris of course had to make an entrance and he did so in his usual humorous style to ‘Prince Ali’ from Aladdin. It’s a favorite Disney movie of both of ours, but I can’t say my childhood dream to marry Aladdin didn’t influence this choice!
We got everybody standing up and singing mid-way through the ceremony and chose Nat King Cole L-O-V-E. Unfortunately there was a technical glitch with the speakers so the backing track was not always very audible, which led to us all realizing we were pretty awful singers! But it provided lots of humor and everybody got really into it!
For the recessional, we went traditional and had Handel’s The Arrival Of The Queen of Sheba. I heard this at a wedding as a child and always wanted to walk down the aisle to it. Chris also has been known to jokingly call me the Queen of Sheba, so this secured the choice. It is such a joyful piece of music that was a great end for everybody to walk out to.
White Spring Flowers and Candles
I am so lucky that my friend/’maid Isobel and her sister Gabrielle are talented floral and event stylists, running House of Dove together. They styled the whole venue, ensuring all the personal touches were executed perfectly.
For flowers I wanted all of my favorites and they included roses, peonies, and hydrangea, among other beautiful, white blooms. There was lots of eucalyptus and greenery to give the fresh, spring look I wanted to create. The venue has some stunning fireplaces, which were decorated beautifully with huge arrangements. In the bar area, each small table had a single stem vase with a peony or rose, along with many candles.
I chose Jo Malone ‘wood sage and sea salt’ and ‘wild fig and cassis’ candles to scent the venue. It was a wonderful, woody fragrance that added to the garden vibe. We also used The White Company ‘cassis’ candles for the bar area to add a warm, heady fragrance which made the whole place smell incredible. The scents will forever take me back to the day, which is such a lovely memory to have.
Chris’s stepmother also assisted in floral design, creating the sweet centrepieces for each table, incorporating roses in white and the beautiful dusky lavender colour of the bridesmaid dresses. She also came up with the idea to entwine ivy and fairy lights around the top of the wood panelled walls in the bar and dance floor area, which looked stunning, particularly at night time.
My bouquet was created by my godparents’ good friend from The Gorgeous Flower Company. She brought my bouquet dreams to life! It featured the same white peonies and roses, and some beautiful roses in the same color as the bridesmaids’.
Our photographer was the hugely talented Catherine Carter. Having seen the photos she did for a friend’s wedding, I felt confident in her work. Catherine was amazing to work with, and put us all at ease. The images are stunning and we cannot wait to create photo books and put up some of our favorites on the walls in our new house!
For our video we went with Jeff Woods. I had seen his work, having viewed the wedding trailer of a friend on Facebook, and I knew that when we got married, we HAD to have Jeff! Booking him was one of the first things we did after getting engaged and we could not be happier.
We have a lovely trailer which gives a taste of the day in just a few minutes, plus an incredible feature movie of the day.
Jeff’s style is very unique, bouncing back and forth between different events of the day, set beautifully to music. He was able to conjure up the essence of our day beautifully.
Jeff works predominantly on recommendations so is not as prominent as some of the other videographers I looked into on social media etc. but I would strongly urge anybody planning their wedding to get in touch with him. Jeff has done loads of Jewish weddings and I can vouch for the fabulous coverage of bar mitzvahs too…! I would happily share the full movie of our day with anybody who is interested in checking out his work!
Having a wedding cake was never a big deal for me, and we decided to skip the ‘cutting of the cake’. However, sweet treats were a must, so we had a dessert table throughout the evening. This included delicious vegan cupcakes from Ms Cupcake in South London, as well as macarons, brownies, and as many candies and treats as I could find that suited our muted color palette.
I had been toying with ordering several cakes but in the end scrapped this idea. However my mum organized a lovely semi-naked cake, decorated beautifully with white flowers. Given the lack of cutting the cake, many of our guests held off enjoying this until much later into the night when our mums finally cut a piece and encouraged others to enjoy!
Sky Full of Stars
Our string trio played during our drinks reception, which provided the perfect backdrop to everybody enjoying their Pimms or Prosecco on the terrace and lawn areas. Lawn games like croquet and boules were set up as well as the venue’s giant chess board, which entertained guests during the drinks and canapes.
We had an amazing DJ and band in the evening, who perfectly executed my strict instructions for no ‘wedding cheese’! Many guests have commented on how great both were, and how enjoyable it was to be on the dance floor.
I would have loved a big show band. However, our venue did not really have the space for this, and we also decided to focus the budget on other areas. However having a good band that would get everybody on the dance floor was important and The Jet Fighters did an outstanding job! Having a three-piece band meant we could still fit in our DJ and have enough dance floor space!
Chris’s stepmum had discussed dancing, and the hora with me at my bridal shower, some weeks before the day, and I had agreed it would be fun and just made a plea for chairs with arms, without thinking much of this again until the day.
Following our entrance to the evening reception, where we came down a grand staircase to confetti canons, which showered everything in gold confetti that looked like stars, we had our first dance to the appropriate Sky Full Of Stars. We chose this as we wanted an upbeat song that would get everyone on the dance floor. After this I had just turned to greet a guest before ‘Hava Nagila’ came on and much dancing ensued!
This balanced perfectly with our band, who had an upbeat and folksy style, and our DJ who, upon my in-laws’ instruction, played a great amount of dance music. I will always remember talking with some friends when I heard Swedish House Mafia’s Greyhound coming from the next room. I made a run for it, to find Chris’s dad, stepmum, and aunt and uncle raving on the dance floor and shouting out to me ‘This is our kind of music!’ A lot of dancing happened that night and I definitely ended up very sweaty and with a ripped and somewhat stained dress, but all in the name of fun!
Our main entertainment, however, came earlier in the day, during the wedding breakfast, where we used a company called The Three Waiters as a surprise act for our guests to enjoy. They acted as waiters, even contacting the venue ahead of time to get the correct uniform!
After the starter, the ‘head waiter’ came to a microphone to make an announcement, which began a twenty minute opera performance. I don’t think I smiled as wide or laughed as hard, and their voices were outstanding. They really involved our guests and everybody commented on the unique touch they brought to this part of the day. Keeping them a surprise was so hard, but so worth it on the day!
A Honeymoon in South Africa
We knew we would leave the honeymoon for later in the year, giving a break between the wedding and planning an epic trip. However, having unexpectedly bought a new house and undertaken a big renovation project to go with it, the honeymoon has been postponed until next spring! A safari in South Africa and beach time in Mauritius awaits! We did take a mini moon in Salzburg for a few days of downtime after the wedding, which was a much-needed break together!
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
My main advice to any brides to be would be to delegate! A couple days before the wedding I sent a mammoth email (in case you haven’t noticed I like to write. A lot!) to my bridesmaids, MOH, and mum. It included a full running of the day, everything I was hoping to happen and when, and certain jobs to be handed out to each. This helped so much and they were all absolute angels on the day, ensuring all ran smoothly.
I also sent a similar but less detailed version to Chris’s best man, who filtered down what needed to be known by the groomsmen and ensured that all ran smoothly with the getting ready for the boys on the day.
Also involving family and friends to do tasks. I had a friend who picked up and delivered the cupcakes, my in-laws and mother master-minding a lot of tasks, and another friend in charge of drinks and making sure they were topped up suitably! People want to help and be involved.
I was a definite stress head bride and barely ate or slept in the days leading up to the wedding, but being surrounded by those I loved whilst getting ready, having music on, the bubbles flowing (just make sure there’s water too!) and familiar people doing my hair and make up really helped. I also went for a brisk walk with my mum in the morning before breakfast, which really set me up for the day!
Clare & Chris’ little white book
Photography – Catherine Carter
Videography – Jeff Woods
Venue – Laura Ashley The Manor Elstree
Bride’s dress – Pronovias purchased at The Wedding Club
Bride’s shoes – ASOS
Bridesmaids – JJ’s House and Not On The High Street
Groom and groomsmen – Tux Lux and Dune
Flowers – House of Dove and The Gorgeous Flower Company
String trio – Ear Candy
Singer – Anna Loveday
Singing Waiters – The Three Waiters
Band – The Jet Fighters
Toastmaster – Michael Myers
Vegan Cupcakes – Ms Cupcake
Chuppah – Creative Chuppahs
Invitations – Blush and Gold
Scented candles – Jo Malone and The White Company
Celebrant – Mark Townsend