So we celebrated Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) at the beginning of this week. If you observed it, where did you spend it? I was with my husband’s family who live in Dulwich, South London where my husband was born and raised. The Jewish community of South London is really rather small and sadly very much dwindling these days with the majority of Jewish Londoners now residing north of the river. It’s therefore quite a treat to be blogging today’s wedding that took place at the South London Liberal Synagogue in Streatham (where Mr STG’s grandmother used to live!) followed by a glorious reception at Nonsuch Mansion.
There’s so much to love about this wedding. Prepare for bright pops of colour and a plethora of elegant details as well as homely touches like Brick Lane bagels (Ben’s dad was a Jewish East End guide and his walks would always take visitors to the famous Beigel Bake on Brick Lane). Prepare too for a wonderful melding of Jewish and Ghanaian traditions that just works so well!
And like all Smashing The Glass brides Bernice is one super cool dame. Not only does she have an incredible smile that lights up every photo, she also comes across as a really special person. I noticed in her wedding film at the end that she’s feeding a bottle to a baby whilst working that glorious Vera Wang wedding dress (something I’ve never seen a bride do unless the baby is her own!). She also told me the following in her wedding report:
I wanted the attention of the photos to be on our guests rather than us. You have very few opportunities to have all the special people in your life in one place at one time and I wanted to ensure it was documented.”
Come.. let’s take a look.
how we met
Ben’s version: To quote Rihanna, Bernice and I found love in a hopeless place – The Staffordshire County Showground to be precise. On Thursday 16th October 2008 at 6.30am she arrived at my office in Shepherds Bush to help me at an auction for the weekend. I immediately put her to work asking her to do 200 copies of the sale notices and staple them together. She was not impressed. Neither was she impressed with my music choice or my banter on the three hour journey to Stafford – in fact her response was to fall asleep. On the Saturday evening I finally persuaded her to take off her geek chic glasses so I could see her beautiful face – and at that point I knew I needed to peruse her. After much pestering we went for dinner and things developed from there.
Bernice’s version:Ben and I met at work. It wasn’t until I had to work with him at an auction we finally met. It was an early morning on a Thursday, I made my way to Park Royal to help Ben with his sale. I arrived at 6am and as soon as I got through the door he asked me to photocopy 200 copies of a document. I was not impressed at all! I decided I did not like being around him and proceed to ignore him on the journey to Stafford. He tried his hardest to talk to me about music but I just kept ignoring him and fell asleep. The next day he continually persisted to try and have a conversation with me. There were times at dinner I caught him staring at me and I was not too sure what was happening. On the final night after the sale, he decided to struck up another conversation with me and asked me to take off my glasses and then proceeded to say I had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. This eventually led to us having a date when we were back in London and then next thing I know we had been dating for seven years and finally decided to tie the knot.
Getting married at the South London Liberal Synagogue and Nonsuch Mansion in Surrey
Bernice, the Bride: From the very start we knew we wanted to have the ceremony at the South London Liberal Synagogue. It is where Ben’s parents were married and where his family attend Synagogue. It meant a lot to us to be married there. Not only that but we would be married under the same Chuppah as Ben’s parents. It was also important that we share our special day with friends, family and the community at SLLS.
In terms of the reception, that took us a while to find. We live in Sutton and one Sunday morning Ben asked me to go for a walk in the local park Nonsuch. We like our walks and I as I had never been, I said yes. The Park is 15 minutes away from our home and upon arriving I saw the mansion, known as Nonsuch Mansion, and knew that this was it. What was also nice is that Ben grew up with Nonsuch as his local park and as it is in London was convenient for a lot of friends and family. We both work in the antique industry and studied fine art history and the mansion – an 18th century building with beautiful modern touches – just ticked all the boxes.
a modern wedding that embraced Ghanaian and Jewish traditions
The theme of the wedding was a modern English romance incorporating Ghanaian and Jewish traditions. The colour scheme was champagne and purple together with a boost of spring colours.
hair + make up
Junior Green in Knightsbridge is my hair stylist. I have known Junior and Delroy for the last 10 years. They have always taken care of my hair and I could not think of anyone else to do my hair on the big day. I tend to wear my hair up on most days, but because my dress was strapless, I wanted my hair to fall down. I decided to go with a centre parting, with half up and half down and big loose wavy curls. I also got extensions to make the hair look fuller. To add more dimension and finish to the look and we embellished the hair with Jenny Packham diamante flower slides and a few spring flowers from my bouquet.
With regards to the makeup I went with the makeup artist Edee Beau. Finding a makeup artist for darker skin was quite a challenge and it took me a while to find Edee. However at my trial she made me look fabulous, flawless but natural – which is what I wanted for the day.
A Vera Wang wedding dress… very much ‘the one’!
I purchased my dress in New York from Vera Wang. I wanted to move in my dress but accentuate my figure so I went with the Harper dress. It’s a strapless gown with architectural constructed art deco bustier which framed my upper body in a modern way. The slight A-line bottom was perfect which meant I could move. I loved the detail in the seaming – but most importantly I fell in love with the back of the dress which was very much in line with the theme and Nonsuch. I tried on many dresses in my journey to find the right dress and when I tried this one, I actually did the running man dance as, like my husband and the venue, I knew this was the one!
accessories and shoes
My veil was from Vera Wang. I went for a short veil because of all the details in the back of the dress. I am not a big fan of necklaces so went with a jewelled sash from Vera Wang which brought new dimensions to my figure and dress. Because I had a lot going on in the middle of the dress, I decided to go for drop down pearl earrings which I found by chance in a shop in Kingston, London.
I struggle in heels but felt I needed a bit of height on the day. So I went with a 4 inch No. 1 Jenny Packham designer court shoes in ivory with beautiful diamante display on the trim and buckle detail on the side. This went perfectly with the ivory colours of the dress and was extremely comfortable on the day.
I had six bridesmaids and they wore dresses from an African designer in Ghana called Christie Brown. I wanted to feature hints of my home culture in the wedding. The dresses were made of lace and satin in a champagne colour which tied with the theme.
an invitation designed by the groom
The invitation was designed by Ben (with help from his colleague Richard!) It was really nice to have him on board and he spent days designing our beautiful invites. It was printed on a heavy cream paper with gold foiling for the writing and a gold foil Adinkra symbol of the moon and the star (which symbolises love, faithfulness and harmony). The back of the invite had a drawing by Mike Thomas of the route from the Synagogue to Nonsuch – and an image of the Routemaster which transported our guests.
To give the synagogue a little more colour we decorated the railings outside with paper tassels. Inside the synagogue hall we decorated it with paper pom poms from Juliet at Paperpoms.
The handsome groom
Ben wore an ‘airforce’ blue suit from Austin Reed, a waist coat from Marks & Spencer and champagne coloured tie and pocket square. He finished the look with a pair of tan leather Church’s brogues and handmade silver initial cufflinks – handmade in Ghana. He bought each best man and the groomsman and set of cufflinks with their initials.
Our ceremony had three rabbi’s. Rabbi Janet – our rabbi at SLLS who officiated the majority of the service. Rabbi Danny Rich – a close friend of Ben’s family who married us; and Rabbi Harry Jacobi who married Ben’s mum and dad in 1975 and said the final benediction. We also had Cantor Gershon Silins who sang beautifully throughout the ceremony. And we left to the singing of the synagogue choir, conducted by Vince Daly.
We also had close friends and family doing various readings throughout the ceremony and we felt privileged that they were able to do so.
In terms of our favourite part of the ceremony there were many – our reading together, using our Kiddush cup as the wedding cup, the perfectly timed ‘Oh oh’ of our 2 year old nephew Noah when Rabbi Janet explained about the breaking of the glass that “just as the glass can never be the same again your lives will never be quiet the same” – but the final wedding benediction by Harry was very special.
We left the design of the chuppah to Louise Freedman, a close family friend and president of the synagogue. The chuppah canopy had not been used for quite a few years – but it was the very same one Ben’s mum and dad had been married beneath. The posts were decorated with spring flowers in baskets.
Our wedding bands were created by my dear sister Lisa who is a jeweller (Charlton & Lola). We loved the intimate idea of it all, especially since she’s known Ben since the beginning. She created beautiful rings filled with depth.
Ella from Byrd and Spry was the fabulous florist. I wanted colour and I was really impressed by the vibrancy of the flowers she used on the day. They were incredible!
My bridal bouquet was centred around loose round shapes which include peonies, poppies, lilac, trailing jasmine and orange flowers all tied together with African fabric I got from Ghana. For the table centres we went with round rainbow centrepieces in silver footed bowls and candelabras set against mirror bases with candles. At the entrance to Nonsuch we chose two large scale colourful urn arrangements and the buttonholes were made of poppies with lavender, rosemary and herbs.
after the ceremony
Ben’s mum has catered for many many Simchas and she prepared the food for after the ceremony. The food was served from a windowless french wardrobe and two ladders with suspended planks to make shelving. These were decorated with vintage bottles and rustic flowers. We also organised a traditional London red bus – to be precise the very last Routemaster that was in public service RM2217 – to transport guests from the synagogue to Nonsuch. The bus was special to Ben as it was the 159 which used to run every day past his grandmother’s flat in Brixton. We also ensured that the bus had a plentiful supply of champagne….
Our wedding car was a magnificent 1925 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Landaulette – the same one used in the filming of Mr. Selfridge. It was immaculately presented – as was the driver Ivan (Ivan Odds).
tables named after motorcycles
The tables were all named after motorcycles (Ben being a motorcycle specialist). They were all examples of his own bikes or his favourite bikes – complete with an image of each machine – the most important one being the BMW ‘top table’ as this was the bike he had inherited from his father a few months previously. His dad could not be there physically but we had a very important part of him on the table with us anyway.
Our wonderful wedding planner
We had done a lot of the basics before finding Louise Musgrave of Purely Events. We thought we could do it all – but I am so glad I listened to my mum and got a wedding planner. Louise offered us a partial planning package which to us was perfect – and seemed more like the full planning. Louise was superb. She was always available to chat and sort and organise matter – and we are extremely grateful to have her in our lives.
African card holder favours
Our favours were African card holders made in Ghana by Kua Designs. I wanted a useful and practical memento of the wedding that people could use everyday – either as a credit card or travel card holder. They were made in Ghana from Italian leather and African print that we had bought in the hustle and bustle of the Accra market.
Walker’s Nonsuch Toffees
Walker’s Nonsuch Toffees supplied us with bags of their delicious toffees for the reception (given we are the Walkers – and we were holding the ceremony at Nonsuch – we couldn’t have asked for better or more delicious sweets!!).
Our fabulous photographer and videographer
David from David Long Photography was suggested by our wedding planner Louise. I was not too sure at the time but when we met him he was so easy going that I immediately knew he would do a great job. We wanted a journalistic approach to the day and I wanted the attention of the photos to be on our guests rather than us. You have very few opportunities to have all the special people in your life in one place at one time and I wanted to ensure it was documented.
We also had a videographer – Simon from Wedding Film Studio. Ben didn’t want a videographer – but later admitted it was one of the best decisions I made. The video was worth every penny.
a naked cake that reflected both our tastes
I am not a big fan of icing and immediately knew I wanted a naked cake. I found SK Cakes online and thought her designs were beautiful. We had a meeting and her cakes not only looked terrific but also tasted delicious. We decided to go with a four tier cake – two tiers were red velvet, one was lemon, and one was vanilla. It was decorated with flowers from the florist and some fruit. Ben loves lemon and I love red velvet – so we combined the flavours which was perfect. The tiers were sealed together with the yummy goodness of buttercream…
African music + funk and soul
We had a DJ and a band. I wanted to ensure we had plenty of African music so we hired DJ Neptizzle. He got the party started with some Afro beats. Ben really wanted a band on the day. He loves his brass and really wanted an 8 piece band. We found A Singer and Some Dudes who played funk and soul into the night. They even accommodated Ben’s request for some Beastie Boys and Jimmy Smith. It was electrifying.
We also had a photo booth from The Photo Booth Guys – they brought with them props (hats, animal heads, signs, funny glasses) and it was a huge hit with the guests. The photos were used in the guest book – which is hilarious and fabulous in equal measures.
Brick Lane bagels
Ben’s dad was a Jewish East End guide – and his walks would always take visitors to the Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. In the evening guests were served bagels from the Beigel Bake filled with salt beef and mustard. Ben’s dad would have approved – as did all the guests!
advice to other brides and grooms
The day goes really quickly so enjoy every moment. Our wedding had so many different cultures it was a blast trying to figure out how to put all the details together. I could not have done it without Louise our wedding planner, and my trust in her allowed me to infuse my originality to the day.
Detail is important but try not to worry too much about the little things – they have a way of sorting themselves out.
Finally it’s your day so make the most of it and enjoy every moment.
Bernice & Ben’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography – David Long Photography
Videography – Wedding Film Studio
Ceremony venue – South London Liberal Synagogue
Reception venue – Nonsuch Mansion
Wedding planner – Louise Musgrave of Purely Events
Bride’s dress – Vera Wang
Bride’s veil – Vera Wang
Bride’s shoes – Jenny Packham
Groom –Austin Reed and Marks & Spencer
Groom’s shoes – Church’s
Bridesmaids – Christie Brown
Flowers – Byrd and Spry
Naked cake – SK Cakes
DJ – DJ Neptizzle.
Band – A Singer and Some Dudes
Hair – Junior Green
Make up – Edee Beau
Wedding rings – Charlton & Lola
Invitations – designed by the groom with illustration by Mike Thomas
Favours – Kua Designs
Bagels – Brick Lane Beigel Bake