Today’s real wedding comes with two separate, but equally valid, trigger warnings: the first is that it’s incredibly beautiful, and may result in you filling up your living room with Bubblegum Balloons, because they’re just so pretty. The second is that Olivia and Paul’s Jewish wedding day is deeply moving, and you may wish to grab a box of tissues before you read on.
OK (we’re reaching for the first tissue here), how many childhood sweethearts actually make it to their big day? We’re guessing not that many, which makes Olivia and Paul truly special. The loved-up pair have been together since they were 14 years old. 14 years later, they finally said ‘I do’, which we think is just amazing. To have grown up together and still be just as in love half a lifetime later is something else.
Olivia and Paul were also dealt a devastating blow with the loss of Paul’s mother, Debra, a few months before the wedding. There are no words for the impact of losing someone so loved, and honoring her memory was a huge and vitally important part of the day. Debra managed to be part of the preparations, and had even visited the venue, which was so important to the couple.
And what a venue! We have been waiting to feature an Aynhoe Park wedding in forever! A private residence in Oxfordshire filled with stuffed animals, quirky artwork, sculptures, and an array of curiosities, we are more than obsessed with it for a wedding venue!
We also love the Bubblegum Balloons adorning the ceiling, and the sprawling, whimsical floral arrangements throughout (including that chuppah!! WOW!!) to the romantic candlelight clusters.
The entertainment was also varied, from wonderful musical acts to a snakeskin-clad contortionist and burlesque dancer respectively. There was not a moment of the day that was not utterly unique and special – doing it their way and then some.
Speaking of which, Olivia looked every bit the bridal beauty in her absolutely stunning Yolan Cris gown – absolutely awe-inspiring stuff and, as they say, total goals.
Not one, but TWO of our beloved Recommended Vendors were a part of this gorgeous wedding, with chazan Jonny Mosesson gracing the ceremony with his beautiful voice and fabulous videographers, Imaginarium Cinematography, capturing the most sweet and gorgeous wedding video.
We’ve gone on long enough – it’s time for Olivia to take over and take in those exceptional images from the wonderful Chiko Photography.
Get ready to fall in love and steal a million ideas, because we guarantee that’s how this is going to go.
How we met
Olivia, the bride: We met through one of my best friends when we were just 13/14. She invited me to a party at Paul’s house and we became really friendly.
We starting going out not long after and never looked back so 14 years later our wedding was a long time coming for our family and friends!
A quirky venue
We got married at Aynhoe Park in Oxford. When we got engaged, my friend told me she’d seen photos of it and that it was very quirky and completely up my street.
I’m really into authentic/vintage vs contemporary, especially when it comes to décor, and both being animal lovers, we thought it looked awesome but only when we saw it in person could we truly appreciate how amazing it was. It ticked all of the boxes!
Doing things our way
Our parents wanted the day to be about us and they were happy for us to prioritize our guests before anyone else, so we decided to have something quite intimate with just the right amount of people, and I think this made it really special.
The general feel of the day was quite casual and the theme was leaning towards nature, which kind of went with the whole animal theme, already so prominent. We went with pastel and autumnal-type colors and they worked really well together – why sacrifice one when you can have both?
With the wedding not being the most traditional, it was difficult to involve all our family and friends as much as we wanted to. Paul had quite a few ushers and we asked a our closest family members and friends to stay over at the house too, given that it was ours for the entire evening!
It was so much fun with there being very few goodbyes at end of the night. We stayed up partying until gone 4am, and it wasn’t long before we all sat down to an amazing breakfast together held by the venue.
Paperless Post invitations
We used Paperless Post – I’m a bit of a control freak and this way I had full control! I liked the idea of being environmentally friendly, along with the fact it is definitely less formal. It was a really practical way for everyone to reply easily and for us to keep track of the guests.
I still put time into making it tie in with something that fitted the theme of the day and I tried to make it a little bit bespoke with some of the extra bits you can add to them.
Feeling like my best self
I still wanted to look like me, so that I didn’t look back one day and regret it. I usually only wear my hair up at work, so I knew I wanted it mostly down. I decided to have some of the front pulled back, to keep it out the way, and so I went for two fishtail plaits going back and meeting in the middle with my little pearl and leaf accessory to finish it off. My hairdresser, Susie, did this for me. She’s been doing my hair since I was little, and I didn’t want anyone else to do it!
I’m not huge on makeup. I knew I wanted to go natural, but to feel like an airbrushed version of myself, so I had quite soft eyeshadow and a subtle blush.
My lips were done in a more intense version of the shade they are, and then finished with my most sacred makeup bag item – Elizabeth Arden Lip tint in plum. I used Louise Shooman Stone and she was amazing. It lasted all through the night.
A boho dream dress
I went to a few shops before I found “the one”. As we got to know Ellie, our wedding planner, we realised we had similar taste in lots of aspects and she told me I should go to London Bride Couture in Pimlico.
There were a few brands there that I liked already and lots of styles I wanted to try on. It was a really nice experience. As we were leaving, my sister pointed at a dress on a mannequin in the window and said “that’s so you”. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, I think I was just taken aback by the sea of ivory surrounding me! I tried it on and instantly fell in love!
It was a Yolan Cris number, so it had a bit of a vintage feel with an edge. For the first time, I felt like a bride.
The dress was ivory lace with golden thread embroidery, handmade with a V neckline and tight waist. It was perfect for me and the fabric was just gorgeous, with the right amount everything, including little subtle nude flowers dotted around it. There wasn’t too much sparkle, but a touch to catch the light nicely.
I swapped the wide straps for a shoe string to soften the neckline and add a little bit of a boho feel – why not? I knew I wanted ivory, as it’s much softer on me than pure white, but I wasn’t overly fond of something that was one solid color, so all the subtle detail really worked for me.
Olive leaf accessories
Because my dress was quite detailed and textured, I wanted a really simple sheer, floor-length veil with no detail, not even a finish around the edges, as I didn’t want to take anything away from my dress.
I made a wedding hair board on Pinterest called “Beloved Barnets”! Everything I pinned had the same vibe, which included a plait and incorporated some kind of gold olive leaf or pearl detail to go with my dress.
I ended up wearing a cluster of pearls on a gold wire with a couple of olive leaves, and it was the perfect accessory to complete my hair ‘do.
Comfy and chic YSL heels
I was tempted to wear trainers, as I live in them, but once I found out the Yves Saint Laurent had been voted the comfiest heel by Vogue a few years running, I thought it had to be them.
I wore the YSL Classic tribute 75 sandal in nude powder leather to match some of the detail on my dress. I wanted something I’d be able to throw on with boyfriend jeans and a nice strap top later on. They had so many shades of nude, so it was easy and they lived up to the reputation, the comfiest heels I’ve owned by far!
The handsome groom
Originally when we discussed it and Paul wasn’t sure what he wanted to wear, I suggested a bottle green suit – it’s my favourite color. I thought it would be fitting with the venue and the flowers and generally suit him really well, but he looked at me like I was joking, so I settled for the couples to all be in bottle green instead and they looked lovely!
Paul found his suit just weeks before the wedding, which is quite typical of his casual approach to things. It was from SuitSupply. The fabric was a subtle bird’s eye weave, slim fit with a two-button front. It was light, making it perfect for a summer wedding. He paired it with a crisp, white shirt, a black tie and classic black lace-up shoes. He looked very handsome, and the minute I saw him, I couldn’t stop smiling – even thinking about it now makes me smile!
A very special maid of honor
I decided not to have any bridesmaids, but my sister was my maid of honor and she was pregnant at the time, due to have the baby less than a month after the big day.
Because we were so unsure with how she would feel and what she would want to wear, we decided to have her dress made, and that way we could stretch the design right out. I gave her free reign especially with the dress code being lounge suits I felt really laid back about it, and the last thing I wanted was to choose something that she wouldn’t want to wear.
We are very similar but we also like completely different things, and I just wanted her to love it.
After a bit of trial and error, she decided to go with a champagne, fitted knee-length number in satin with beading from the bottom dispersing up. It featured two matching sheer floor-length pieces of fabric at the sides, which also incorporated the beading from the bottom dispersing up.
It was really unusual and she looked gorgeous. She was one of the last on the dance floor and I don’t think I saw her sit down all night, at one point I was worried all the dancing would bring on her labour!
A secret garden chuppah
I had a massive chuppah board on Pinterest and it was very clear on the style I had in mind. I really wanted our chuppah to be full of flowers, but was really keen on a softer ‘secret garden’ type of arch shape, for a more wistful feel.
Although the wedding was in June, my favourite season for colors is autumn, so we went with a less classic theme and all the arrangements had a natural and organic feel using shades of nudes, mustards, greens, plums, burgundies and corals. This was teamed with lots of textured foliage including silver eucalyptus, jasmine and fern trails along with dark green lush berried ivy.
It also included fluffy headed hydrangea, garden roses, delicately scented sweet peas, trailing amaranths and to top it off I was desperate to feature some mini daisies and feathers to add a bit of an edge!
Sharing the badeken with loved ones
We decided to have our badeken during the ceremony in front of all of our guests. I think if the wedding was bigger, and there were lots of people we weren’t close to, we probably would have chosen to do this more privately, however we were with all off our favourite people, and it was the best decision to share the moment with them.
It was such an intimate moment, but was captured by everyone we chose to share the day with and it felt so surreal – this was probably my favourite part of the ceremony.
As I walked into The Orangery and up the stairs, I was completely overwhelmed – everything around me was a blur until Paul walked down the aisle to meet me and all of a sudden I could focus on something and I was relaxed!
We laughed as he awkwardly placed the veil over me trying not to mess up my hair which sums us up and he whispered “you look incredible”, which gave me butterflies!
Somewhere Only We Know
During the procession, he sung Somewhere Only We Know. I felt like this was fitting for us being childhood sweethearts! I originally went to him with the Lily Allen version, as I just loved the song and the twinkly tone, but in the end, he made it his own and it was amazing. When I walked down the aisle he sang Snow Patrol Chasing Cars, as we’ve always loved this song.
Entourage were our band for the party, and they were insane! Both of my sisters had them for their weddings and Paul and I loved their vibe and knew we had to have them too.
For our first dance, they sang David Gray This Year’s Love – it’s from one of our favourite movies. We wanted something that we already loved and would still love in years to come as opposed to something currently in the charts. It was the Ed Sheeran version of this that really won me over!
My bouquet followed the loose, wistful theme of the chuppah, and included the clusters of natural pheasant feathers and daisies, which was what made is extra special.
The stems were bound with a band of natural sea grass string, and my sister, who was my maid of honour had given me a charm on a chain. It had two little vintage frames hanging, one holding a photo of my grandfather and the other with a photo of Paul’s mother, who we sadly lost just six months prior to the day. It was the perfect way to make me feel like they were beside me at such a special time.
My sister had a stunning bouquet similar to mine with the same flowers and feathers but in a smaller size and was more rounded rather than cascading.
Paul’s buttonhole was a little collection of natural and wildflowers grouped with an earl grey rose and finished with mini natural feather. All of the ushers had something similar but smaller and with key flowers to co-ordinate with my bouquet but each of them were different. They were all bound with a band of natural twine.
This theme was carried through the main entrance, tumbling down the bannister of the grand staircase, along the mantelpieces, the pew ends and a pool of it spilling down the entrance stairs in The Orangery where the ceremony was held. We also had candlelight dotted around each room to add a touch of sparkle.
These were provided by McQueen’s, who also supplied my sister’s wedding. They just completely got me and fulfilled the whole look and feel I was going for.
Our fabulous photographer…
We were recommended Chiko Photography and the photos we saw of his were amazing. When we went for our first meeting with him, he was fun and easy going, which was exactly what we wanted with Paul not being a massive fan of having his photo taken (although the photos prove otherwise!).
There was always going to be a period of time allocated for family must-have photos, but Chiko took on board that we didn’t wanted to be taken away from the day for too long, and we didn’t want too many formal photos, so he said he would focus on capturing the day, which sounded perfect for us, and he did just that!
We were unsure about whether or not to have a videographer right at the beginning, but seeing what was captured at my sister’s wedding and how special it was to watch, we decided to go for it, and it was so worth it.
We used Imaginarium Cinematography and we were so thrilled with the results – watched my trailer every day for at least the first two weeks, and I still watch it often and get the biggest surge of happiness when I do. It brings so much clarity and is proof that the day was as incredible as we felt it was.
Sweet cones and a buffet dinner
We decided not to have a cake as we saw this as more of a tradition, but there was nothing that either of us particularly wanted. We both have a sweet tooth, and so that’s exactly what we did – sweets! We had pick’n’mix sweet cones floating around towards the end of the evening and they went down a treat!
Adam Zeitlin provided the catering and the food was exceptional. I can only really go by the food tasting as it is true what they say – the bride and groom don’t really get to eat very much! But we loved it then and we had so many compliments on the day.
We decided to do a classy buffet-style dinner as oppose to a sit-down meal, so that everyone could mingle and enjoy the surroundings in more of a laid-back atmosphere. We’re both big foodies, so we had all sorts, from a sushi station and canapés to a mini burger bar, a carvery a satay station and all sorts of trimmings!
A contortionist, a burlesque dancer and much more
The venue itself provided natural entertainment with it being so extravagant and displaying something interesting around very corner – even the toilets are cool! Nevertheless we thought it would be fun to enhance this and we decided have a contortionist in a snakeskin outfit. She was fantastic and definitely got people intrigued being weird and wonderful.
We also decided to have a photo booth with a twist and have a live burlesque dancer mingling and posing with the guests.
We had two guitarists from Entourage singing during the reception and the violinist at the entrance as guests arrived – it was just the right amount at different points during the day.
Aynhoe opened up so much opportunity to have fun with the entertainment and we could have gone on and on but it was just the right amount to not spoil the broth!
We had Bubblegum Balloons come to add a little something extra and they looked fab.
We went for giant ivory balloons with long peach and bermuda sand tassel tails to go at entrance. Giant blush and ivory balloons were suspended in ceiling of The Orangery and ivory, peach, along with bermuda sand confetti-filled giant balloons.
They really did add something special and I still have one now, which my friend brought home for me as a souvenir!
When we went back to Aynhoe Park to visit for the second time, thankfully Paul’s mum Debra was able to join us. Being the animal lover she was and completely into her ornaments, she fell in love with every single bit of the house.
You aren’t really supposed to touch the décor as a rule of the house, but she perched over the famous white unicorn piece whilst we were waiting for our meeting and Paul happened to take a sneaky photo before she got caught.
Unfortunately, we lost Debra mid December but as the month of the wedding was approaching, we asked if we could have this photo blown up and sat alongside the unicorn in the entrance to welcome guests as they arrived.
Kindly, the venue agreed due to the circumstances and it really did look so beautiful and felt so special to us, not only knowing that she had been there before, that she was there in spirit on the day and that she well and truly approved.
Advice to couples planning their wedding
One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to do exactly what we wanted without looking into things too much: guestlist, invitations, timings etc. It all falls into place on the day, and even with a few little hiccups, they are usually only very minor and it is unlikely that anyone would notice so there is no point stressing about it!
Someone else told us to make sure that we took a few minutes during the evening to step back and soak in what was going on around us. This really was a memorable moment for us, so I would recommend any bride and groom to do the same.
Olivia & Paul’s little white book
Photographer – Chiko Photography
Videographer – Imaginarium Cinematography
Chazan – Jonny Mosesson
Wedding planner – Ellie Raefman
Venue – Aynhoe Park
Bride’s dress – Yolan Cris purchased at London Bride Couture
Bride’s shoes – Yves Saint Laurent
Groom’s attire – SuitSupply
Maid of Honour – Bourhan Basma Couture
Makeup – Elizabeth Arden
Flowers – McQueen’s
Catering – Adam Zeitlin
Musicians – Entourage
Entertainment – Pandora’s Box Performers
Balloons – Bubblegum Balloons