Today you lucky readers get not one but two lovely grooms who together organised an incredibly entertaining (think confetti canons, swing band, full-on Shirley Bassey wedding entrance) and glamorous black tie wedding in the heart of London’s West End. Their story is full of phenomenal detail, useful tips, fabulous eye-candy and impeccable style.
Andrew, originally from Australia, is an Operations Director for a boutique London creative agency, and Elliott is a Client Relationship Manager for a global investment manager. They met in Melbourne, whilst Elliott was traveling for work, and the rest, as they say, is history.
With their wedding being very much a joint planning effort (and boy was there a lot of planning), the account of their double groom w-day is recounted in both their words:
AN EXCUSE TO THROW THE BEST PARTY WE COULD IMAGINE
Andrew + Elliott: As well as being a celebration of our Civil Partnership we always wanted our day to be a celebration for our friends and an excuse to throw the best party that we could imagine. For a venue, we imagined a lavish stately home [with Andrew being from Australia, he had always had the grand notion to have a lavish party in a stately home or palace (somewhere older than the 225 years of his colonised country)], but in keeping with the idea of it being a party for friends we were also adamant that we wanted a Central London location so that guests didn’t need to plan accommodation or travel. Free from needing to marry in a “place of worship” we also wanted the ceremony and reception in the same venue so that there was one less travel logistic for our guests and us.
The problem we faced with a lot of the Central London properties available was that they were either sterile, were just another banqueting room in a grand hotel or were private member clubs with dominating décor that would stop any chance of us adding our own personal touches. We started with a list of over 30 properties that could accommodate 100 guests. We researched via the web and various venue guides and then shortlisted around half a dozen that seemed to meet most of our requirements.
Off we trotted to spec out the various venues on the shortlist after work or on weekends. Several we wrote-off without even entering the building, others were excluded because of silly charges and inflexible terms and conditions. One, in particular, we rather liked but we didn’t gel with the event planner – her creativity extended only as far as suggesting neon pink lighting because this was a gay event! We were becoming slightly worried that our expectations were too high. We started to reconsider the stately home alternative. We unconsidered it again and armed with a bottle of wine we sat down and spent another evening reconsidering venues that we had previously ruled out (thinking we should at least go and inspect them as we were only reliant on photos from the web). A late addition was One Marylebone, which a good friend of ours had recommended.
WOWED BY ONE MARYLEBONE
We went to see One Marylebone one wintery evening after a stressful day at work, and apart from being wowed by the beauty of the building we immediately hit it off with Alicia, their fabulous event planner. We’d barely taken our coats off and already her suggestions were filling us with inspiration. We knew there and then that One Marylebone was the right venue – as an event space it was new enough that we would be original, as a venue it is awe inspiring and needs little additional decoration and, above all, we knew Alicia would make our day into what we wanted it to be!
Once we’d had a good look around, we also knew that One Marylebone was able to provide for a formal ceremony followed by a much more spectacular party afterwards. We chose to have the ceremony in the East Gallery on the first floor, a long narrow white room with elegant crystal chandeliers, followed by the reception on the ground floor in the Soane Hall – the jewel of One Marylebone; the heavily ornate knave of the building. With such different atmospheres in the two spaces we felt that our guests would expect a simple and classic reception in keeping with the ceremony, and we could then have a real wow factor when the doors were opened to reveal the stunning hall downstairs. One Marylebone provided a blank enough canvas that still ticked our criteria of elegance and luxury (Andrew loved the parquet floors and large windows and white walls for the ceremony, Elliott loved the ornate knave with its gold gilding and mosaic flooring, a massively high ceilinged room) that would allow us to add our personal touches and create our dream venue.
We didn’t want to show our excitement to Alicia in case it affected our negotiations, and we were at first slightly concerned that the venue had a policy of only using their preferred suppliers (we saw £ symbols flash before our very eyes), but after a couple of visits, just to be sure, and a sit down with Alicia to go through everything that was in our heads, we knew that she was the right person to make it all come together; poor Alicia, sitting there listening to our excited dribble, both of us often speaking over each other as we brainstormed everything!
For a long time we have both bought suits at William Hunt in Saville Row – despite the address and celebrity following, he’s by far not the most expensive tailor there (and certainly not in the sale!); what we like best about William Hunt is John, the in-house manager and tailor, who will not let you leave the shop without ensuring an absolutely perfect fit of your suit. That said, we never went out to only buy from William Hunt it just happened that having spent two days visiting every tailor in London they happened to have exactly what we wanted.
NOTHING TOO CAMP OR CLICHÉD
We wanted to stand out from all our guests who would be in black tie and being, in some ways anyway, sticklers for etiquette there was no way we would wear morning suits when everyone else was in evening dress, nor did we want anything too camp or clichéd (so the Liberace-esque white suits were a definite no-no). This made outfit choosing somewhat tricky – try going into any tailor and asking for an evening suit that is neither black nor white and see if they show you anything that doesn’t look like one of Graham Norton’s cast-offs! We also compounded the problem as we wanted co-ordinating and matching suits but we did NOT want to be in the same suit…so now we needed to find two complementary evening suits that weren’t neutral colours, weren’t footballer’s wife glitzy and that we actually wanted to wear. By luck, William Hunt had just the suits we wanted and we didn’t even need them to be custom-made, just custom altered!
We ended up wearing very subtle satin jacquard suits; Andrew’s was a deep navy blue and Elliott’s a dark burgundy – both subtle enough to be almost black but bold enough to be different from everyone else in the photos. They also had William Hunt’s trademark vivid linings whenever the jacket swung open. To accessorise and finish the outfits we had matching black, matt satin, waistcoats and cravats made by Favourbrook, and we wore matching velvet slippers from Crockett & Jones on Jermyn Street. Elliott’s parents bought us matching white gold Bvlgari cufflinks as wedding gifts to just finish off and add some subtle bling to our outfits!
COLOUR SCHEME AND THE INVITATION DESIGN
Andrew’s favourite colour is Duck Egg Blue, so he naturally wanted to incorporate that somehow. We were also fortunate that Andrew works for a design agency and his bosses, being our close friends, offered as their wedding gift to us, to design all the collateral for the day. We left it with them to come back to us with recommendations after we showed them pictures of the venue and proposed flowers that we were looking into.
Our brief, in line with this being a black tie event, was simple, elegance with clean lines – nothing too fussy or overdone. This was a celebration for two men so we wanted something that was individual and hopefully reflected us (and thankfully they were the best people to understand that).
We looked through a couple of creative options and both agreed on a simple flower illustration that would be used as the anchor across all of the elements. We loved how the design incorporated our flowers, the design was bespoke to us and incorporated the blue we wanted, complemented with a touch of fuchsia for a bit of fun.
[Handy hint for anyone inviting overseas guests]: We were also lucky to be in Australia before the invites were sent out so whilst we were there we purchased international postage stamps and airmail stickers for the Australian invite replies.
We wanted to incorporate the invite design throughout other elements that would be used on the actual day. We produced collateral items to cover the seating plan, reserved seating cards, printed reading cards, order of service, place cards, menu cards and table numbers. In terms of the menu’s we also personalised each one with our guests name and the actual menu that they had chosen, based on dietary requirement feedback.
As a mixed religion couple we kept all religion out of our ceremony. Whilst we couldn’t mention religious wording in the ceremony due to Civil Partner requirements, we could include some traditional elements within the service, but we mutually decided that we’d keep it classic and simple.
VIOLIN & CELLO DUO
We’d had a fabulous recommendation from a friend to look at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. They offer up their highly skilled students for events, including weddings, and are a fraction of the price of professional musicians. As we’ve said, we wanted the ceremony to be the only formal part of the day, and we wanted that to have a very different vibe to the party itself, so felt classical music would be in keeping with that mood. We did spend some time selecting some classical tunes we liked, and then the Guildhall advised what could and couldn’t be played by the violin and cello duo we’d booked but, not being classical music buffs, we took their lead and walked down the aisle to ‘Duett’ by von Josef Haydn.
Between the ceremony and dinner we hosted a reception downstairs, just outside the main Soane Hall. Like most couples, we were out having our official photos taken whilst we left our guests to champagne and canapés. We mentioned that we were going for a bit of a wow factor so throughout the pre-dinner drinks we made sure the doors were kept carefully closed from prying eyes, so that when guests were eventually ushered in they would be blown away by the space. But, of course, we didn’t want the fun to stop there and we knew we needed a suitable song to make our entrance to kick-start the party.
THE ‘WOW’ WEDDING ENTRANCE
One night we had a brainwave and Shirley Bassey’s ‘Get The Party Started’ popped into our heads…we knew then that it would be the perfect song to start the party atmosphere, although there was some careful coordination required between the toastmaster, venue and lighting team to get the full ‘X-Factor’ entrance effect. As everyone sat down and the first beats of Shirley Bassey started we plunged the Hall from a neutral amber lighting to shocking neon blue and set white up-lighters spinning. As the beat of the music picked up the toastmaster welcomed us into the room, and thinking we would arrive to smiling faces, we were cheered and received a standing ovation, which was totally overwhelming.
It was supposed to be all timed and choreographed perfectly so that just as the song finished Andrew would sit down and Elliott would be passed a microphone for the Welcome Speech. Of course, things never quite go to plan and instead of all our guests remaining seated and politely clapping we were pulled from one person to another for congratulatory hugs and kisses. I remember the DJ looping the song for what felt like hours until we could eventually wrestle our way to our table!
For the rest of the party we’d picked a 6-piece swing band “The Big Swing” that we had found on the internet – it was a bit of a gamble going with someone we hadn’t heard live – but we’d heard enough demos and met them several times to be fairly confident. With so many bands being well outside our budget we figured it was worth the risk and, besides, we only had them booked for a couple of hours followed by a somewhat more conventional disco for everyone to let their hair down to. They were a good choice, playing lots of the conventional swing as well as swing remixes of many modern hit songs, and they could have played and kept the dance floor packed all night, everyone loved them.
COLOUR CHANGE LIGHTING
We used lights to have four colour changes to the room throughout the evening to reflect different elements, utilising oranges for the start of the evening, calming blue for dinner, sultry red for the band’s set and then pinks and neon blues for the evening disco.
This was a pretty easy decision for us. Elliott had made a big 30th birthday a few years back at what was the Great Eastern Hotel (now Andaz) and the hotel there had sent in a relatively budget photographer starting out his career. We loved the photos he took then and re-commissioned him to cover our wedding. This time he was a lot more established – Eye Imagine Photography – and came with his wife (also a photographer) so that armed with two cameras they could capture both formal and informal shots.
Andrew was adamant that he wanted ‘fly-on-the-wall’ shots, nothing too posed, no faces looking directly into the camera, and no weird angle shots…so he did spend some time briefing the photographer beforehand.
We’ve heard so many people disappointed with their wedding photos but we were absolutely thrilled – as well as all the classic and formal shots he also captured so many casual poses and took some amazing shots of us and our guests enjoying themselves. It was such a hard job choosing between so many good photos that we have ended up with two wedding albums – one is the official, classic, leather bound album, and the other a more casual photo-book that we put together ourselves and tells much more of the story of the day – we gave a copy to each of our parents as a keepsake. Of course when you look through everything you realise that there are some people that didn’t get photographed, but I guess that’s the challenge for any photographer and so in the informal photo-book we supplemented his photo’s with some that our friends had taken.
ELEGANCE AND CREATIVITY
One Marylebone has a list of recommended suppliers so that made it a lot easier to shortlist our options, plus with Alicia’s advice we were able to narrow them down to a handful that met our budget and aesthetic. You’ve probably gathered by now that we were very much focussed on the atmosphere of the night and that extended not just to lighting and flowers, but also to the food.
Some might say “style over substance” but we were keen that the food was as elegant and creatively presented as the rest of the event. We chose a caterer “Create” that we could work with to pull this off. The tasting was very important as some of the dishes we thought we would choose ended up being dismissed and it also gave us a chance to look at the different presentation options. In the end we kept mostly to classic white china letting the food on the plate speak for itself. Choosing crockery and cutlery is, funny enough, a difficult process. Then you have to choose the right fabric for the tablecloths and napkins. We did this bit at the end of our official tasting (the food was so yummy) that I think a couple glasses of wine (that was fun choosing also) made it rather painless.
DRAMATIC FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS
Our florist was, again, one of One Marylebone’s recommended suppliers – InWater. This was a really easy decision for us as we started by looking at all the websites from their supplier list prior, and more or less as soon as we clicked on InWater’s site we saw a version of the flowers we wanted. You see, before we’d got to this stage we had, of course, been talking about the venue – being a civil partnership we didn’t want to sacrifice our masculinity with “pretty” feminine arrangements, and we also knew that such a huge room needed dramatic floral arrangements but not something that stole away from the beauty of the room itself.
We’d agreed that the ideal would be some kind of tall arrangements, perhaps with a slightly ethereal quality, and there on the 2nd page of InWater’s website were these huge balls of gypsophila which said exactly that. We had an initial meeting at the venue with Robert, from InWater, and Daniel, from Bespoke Events – our lighting and production company – where we sat down and brainstormed how this would all come together. After we had all agreed on a direction they put together some designs and quotes for us to consider. We mentioned we didn’t want balls of flowers, but more of a cloud effect, hovering over each table. We were amazed as these huge over-the-top balls of gypsophila were a bargain (as Robert explained to us later, it’s a really cheap flower, often used as nothing more than a “filler” but on its own in a massive quantity, it is quite a talking piece).
About a month before Christmas we trotted off to InWater’s studios and there, nestled between mock-ups for various Bond Street boutiques Christmas windows, was our display sample. We were sold there and then, but it also helped that Daniel joined us as he brought a selection of different lighting so that we could play around with effects and colours as we wanted to use lighting to add the final flair to the night and, of course, this had to work with the flowers.
InWater created the cloud like shapes to the arrangements, intertwined silver wire to capture elements from the lighting, and mounted them on clear Perspex stands so that they looked suspended, and more importantly, didn’t obstruct guests view at the table, or around the whole room. The white petals really picked up the different room colours throughout the evening.
They also made us a corsage and lapel sets for the wedding party.
CONFETTI CANONS FIRING ACROSS THE DANCEFLOOR
We opened the dancing to Michael Buble’s ‘Hold On’. We had not really thought about a first dance, so when the band asked us we remembered this song as we both liked the lyrics and thought it was appropriate for us, and our relationship. Of course, we couldn’t miss another chance to add a little drama and excitement so we had the production team order in a series of confetti canons for us (the big TV-esque ones, not the little ones people hold) and around the first chorus, just before everyone else joined us, we had them fire an explosion of silver confetti across the dancefloor.
DISCO…. AND MORE CANONS!
After the band had finished we kicked off with a typical disco, playing a mix of funky modern classics…we didn’t have the energy to go through a catalogue and pick every song, so we let the production team choose on our behalf – after all, by now they had got to know us and our personalities. We also had two more confetti cannons fire; one during the band’s last song when everyone was up and starting the let their hair down (a lot of that was due to the alcohol we are sure) and then a final burst during the final song of the night – poor Alicia wasn’t happy about having to clear up all that confetti but it added a little fun to the dancing.
THANKING THE GUESTS WITH GIFTS AND LOTTERY SCRATCH CARDS
As a thank you to those involved on the day, we provided gifts with personalised notes. We also wanted to thank everyone that was able to celebrate our special day, so we provided everyone with a wedding favour envelope that consisted of a lottery scratch card and penny (yes we did polish every single one of them ourselves) with a little ditty inside:
Inside is a chance for us both to say,
‘Thank You’ for sharing in our special day.
ADVICE – SERIOUSLY CONSIDER HAVING A VIDEOGRAPHER
We probably have two big regrets from the day. The first is that we never had it video’d. We’d spent a while debating it beforehand but the excessive cost, and the fact that no one ever really wants to sit through a 3 hour wedding video, turned us off the idea but, with hindsight, the day was such a blur that we do wish we’d had it professionally taped so we could relive it. Some close friends did record a lot of the day’s highlights and we have an amazing 30-minute recording which they put together and edited for us, including a montage of the wedding photos, and it’s great to watch and short enough to enjoy – but we think the full blown professional version would have also been a nice momento.
ADVICE – FAMILY
Probably Elliott’s other regret is that Andrew’s family couldn’t be there on the day. It was simply too far to expect them to travel that distance for one day, and we had a big party in Australia a couple of months earlier for all his family and our friends, so we were able to celebrate with them but, again, with hindsight, I think we should have pushed (and if necessary paid for) some of his family to come over.
ADVICE – PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATION
We also had a spreadsheet that covered every single element of the big day. This also included contacts for each supplier and we gave ourselves deadlines to ensure elements were completed. We also prepared a detailed – pretty much minute by minute plan for the day which we shared with all the suppliers, the wedding planner and the production company and a scaled down plan that we gave to all key members of the wedding party, which we circulated a week prior, so everyone knew where they had to be, and at what time. We tried to meet up an hour before the ceremony started, but typically this didn’t happen as we were running late, but there was no stress as everyone knew what they were doing.
ADVICE – HAVE FUN!
We absolutely loved every moment of the planning, preparation and day itself…and although we may have had a few stressful moments we never felt worried, panicked or threatened to turn into bridezillas; in fact, so much so that we wondered why so many people end up that stressed. We said early on that despite whatever we planned, what happened on the day would happen and if something didn’t quite go to plan, then no one apart from us would know about it, so we were pretty relaxed about everything. I think having a great team of event planners around us really helped, as we trusted them to ensure everything went smoothly.
ANDREW + ELLIOTT’S LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Venue – One Marylebone
Photography – Eye Imagine Photography
Catering – Create
Lighting & Production – Bespoke Events
Classical Muscians – Guildhall School of Music
Band – The Big Swing
Grooms’ suits – William Hunt
Additional attire – Favourbrook, Crockett & Jones
Florals – InWater
Stationery – Lime Creative
Both the grooms look impeccably sophisticated and handsome. And what happiness radiating from the photos. I love their wedding advice too – don’t plan it like a wedding, plan it like a party! Thank you Andrew and Elliott for sharing the story of your very special wedding. If you want to read more from the pens of Andrew and Elliott, head over to their first-class lifestyle blog, Planet Elldrew.