From the moment I started reading Francesca’s wedding report, it took all of five seconds for me to warm to this beautiful, sassy, witty woman. This really is one of the loveliest, and most entertaining, wedding reports I’ve read to date, so if you can spare five minutes to sit and read Francesca’s words as well as look at the stunning photography by Christian and Erica Ward I promise you, you’ll be inspired.
I can’t resist giving you a little snippet… Here’s how Francesca broke the news to her Jewish mother that she was dating Andrew, a non-Jewish guy:
When I told my mother that I was dating someone non-Jewish (the first time it had happened) and that it was serious, I softened her up first: “he’s not Jewish… but he is a tall, handsome trilingual rocket scientist!”. She agreed that my cost/benefit analysis was sound.”
Yes, what you’re about to see and read is truly special. This is how to do a super cool, super chic, interfaith wedding that blends traditions to perfection and oozes personality by the bucketload.
There are so many things I love about this wedding that I’d be here until midnight listing them all, but I will say that the table numbers and signs are old law reports that Francesca hand-painted (she’s a barrister), the confetti cones are made out of the Financial Times (Andrew works in finance), there’s an ‘Alhambra disco’ (Francesca will explain that later), an Irish harpist, and a traditional hora, personalised iced biscuits for each guest, and the most incredible invitations that perfectly symbolise the fusion of Francesca and Andrew through the art of paper-cut!
On the fashion front, there are the most exquisite pair of Harriet Wilde shoes, a Carolina Herrera dress (with a story and half to it), and a groom in an Alexander McQueen blue velvet tux… Need I say anymore? Over to the gorgeous Francesca.
a library wedding venue in the heart of London
Francesca, the Bride: Our venue was the Senate House Library, on Russell Square, London. We chose it because it was a large, flexible space with beautiful original Art Deco architecture in the centre of town. It’s the central building of the University of London, with gorgeous private garden squares (where we did some of our photography), and the “Crush Hall” has been used as a film set (most notably in ‘Batman Begins’ where Bruce Wayne gatecrashes a masked ball). As we were having an interfaith wedding, we weren’t able to use a religious space and so we chose a “temple to knowledge” – a library – instead. I’m a bit of an intellectual snob. It’s a working building, usually full of students, and so we knew it would need quite a lot more work than a hotel setting: but we (well, I) were up for the challenge!
A Jewish Irish wedding with lots of individual details that were personal to us
We wanted the décor and feel of the day to reflect our personalities and interests. We definitely wanted a more intimate, special experience than the massive glitzy Jewish weddings I’d been to before – no purple uplights! No slightly dry kosher sushi! So, for example, the table numbers and signs were old law reports that I hand-painted (I’m a barrister) and the confetti cones we made out of the Financial Times (he works in finance). The style was a riff on London glamour with a Moorish twist: Andrew proposed to me in the gardens of the Alhambra in Spain (one of my favourite places) and so the name places were edible cookies in Arabesque geometric tile shapes. Colours ranged from dark red, to pink, creams and metallics. We wanted to surprise our guests, and so for the dancing we put up a red and gold mirrored marquee indoors – the “Alhambra disco”! We also had trees with fairy lights indoors, and lanterns floating above little café tables and chairs. It took me nearly two years to plan this wedding, and I’m proud to say that I did it pretty much all myself.
A brilliantly personal paper-cut wedding invitation
Our invitations were unique! The laser cut design was by the very talented paper-cut artist, Julene Harrison and incorporated lots of personal touches: a Star of David next to a gaelic harp, a mini-portrait of us standing in a London phone box with our postcode on it… even our little convertible nicknamed Luigi featured! The calligraphy was by our friend and polymath Edward Saperia.
On a side note: Andrew is Irish, but grew up in France. When I told my mother that I was dating someone non-Jewish (the first time it had happened) and that it was serious, I softened her up first: “he’s not Jewish… but he is a tall, handsome trilingual rocket scientist!”. She agreed that my cost/benefit analysis was sound.
hair + make up
My hair and makeup were by Pam Wrigley: she’s a consummate professional with loads of experience. I wanted my usual look but with added sophistication. She did a great job, and it all lasted the full day and night.
a Carolina Herrera dress
It wasn’t the first dress I bought, which was a fabulous ruched satin Pronovias frock from their sample sale: it looked amazing, but I couldn’t actually walk in it, let alone dance (these are things you don’t think about when you have 40 minutes to decide if you want 70% off).
I felt bad about buying two dresses, but the Herrera was a work of art: layers of floaty silk tulle, and tiny mother of pearl petals cascading down the front. It was light, and swishy and I felt like Cinderella at the ball. Andrea at Browns Bride added cap sleeves and made it fit like a glove. She also came and helped lace me into it on the morning of the wedding.
I donated the first dress to the Wedding Wishing Well, a charity which organises weddings for terminally ill people.
the veil, the tiara and jewels
I love jewellery, and do a tiny bit of dealing in antique diamonds as a hobby so this was always going to be an important element! I wore a Jenny Packham side tiara with diamante and pearls, and a handmade silk veil by Jean Gallagher at As You Like It.
I wore sapphire and diamond earrings that were a wedding present from Andrew (something blue and new), a pearl necklace and clasp of my own design, my engagement ring (from the brilliant Ingle & Rhode – I cannot recommend them more completely) and a platinum and diamond dress watch that belonged to my great-great aunt Dora (something old). She is famed in my family for her beauty and grace, and I was given the watch by my grandmother (who is now 94) for the wedding. I also wore an Irish gold ring made by Andrew’s late grandfather (something borrowed).
two pairs of shoes!
I wore shimmery low wedges from Jimmy Choo for the dancing, and the most incredible ornate heels for the ceremony by Harriet Wilde. They were plain silk in the front, but the heels were covered in climbing sakura cherry blossom which matched the detailing on the dress to perfection.
The handsome groom
Andrew wore a dark blue velvet tuxedo from Alexander McQueen. He looked absurdly handsome. He was also wearing some mother of pearl and sapphire cufflinks (from Mille Perle on the Burlington Arcade, and my wedding day present to him) and union jack socks (which all of the groomsmen also wore, except for the best man, who was in a kilt). His shirt was made-to-measure from Hackett. His bowtie was from Seigo on Madison Avenue.
six bridesmaids and a man of honour!
My bridesmaids wore matching diamante and pearl handbands from Anthropologie, except for the maid of honour who wore a Jenny Packham floral headpiece. The maids also had mixed/matched dresses from Twobirds in pale pink or merlot. Those with pale pink dresses carried dark red peonies and roses, and the girls in merlot had pale pink roses and peonies. I let them choose their own shoes! I took a pretty military attitude to the dresses: just me, the Twobirds sample sale, and my specially sharpened elbows. Rob, my man of honour, wore a tux with a merlot cummerbund and bow-tie. Two of the bridesmaids flew in from New York!
An interfaith Jewish Irish wedding ceremony
The amazing, fantabulous Zena Birch – a humanist celebrant – wrote our ceremony. She made it so personal and moving. We wrote our own vows, including my promise to always call an ambulance whenever Andrew stubbed his toe (the howls of pain!) We incorporated Irish and Jewish tradition: I walked down the aisle to She moved through the fair played by Irish harpist Stephanie West, and we lit a Unity candle.
My father came up and read the seven blessings and gave us the cup of wine (we were greatly assisted in this by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the chief rabbi of the Reform movement). Our siblings all did readings. Andrew smashed a glass with aplomb! And our friend, the extremely talented Fiona Mackay, sang I’m in love with a wonderful guy from South Pacific.
In keeping with the slight Mediterranean feel, we covered our chuppah with bougainvillea and jasmine.
Our florist was the lovely Elizabeth Marsh. We tried to use local London suppliers whenever possible. My bouquet was a wild and rambling mix of roses, peonies, jasmine and foliage. The confetti was dried bougainvillea. The table centres were explosions of eucalyptus, stock and gladioli.
our fabulous photographers
Our photographers were the husband and wife team Christian and Erica Ward. We really liked that they were discreet and didn’t get in the way of the day. They shot our film exclusively on real old-fashioned film, which we chose because it meant that every shot was more considered and thoughtful and there was something magic about that.
a table for two
We had our own little table for two for the dinner, which was a great idea: we actually ate and got to speak to each other! People came to talk to us, rather than the other way round!
an astonishing wedding cake
Our cake was five tiers of frilled amazingness, layers of chocolate and carrot cake, and made by the lovely Chris at Tuck Box Cakes. It had icing flowers on the top, and ruffles, and gold detailing, and little kissing bears at the top that had also sat on my older sister’s wedding cake 15 years before. It was huge and delicious, and we froze the remainder and then had it at our first anniversary party a year later!
Jewish, Irish… and Brazilian music!
We had Irish jigs, and Colombian dances (from our second harpist, Diego Laverde-Rojas), a traditional hora – music from the The Fontanas who were very lively, and everyone had fun dancing to some Brazilian funk and soul. Our first dance was an oldie: Love is in the air.
The hora was sensational: half our guests had no idea what was happening, but it didn’t matter.
extra help on the day
We had an “on the day” decorations lady called Julie who was super helpful at pulling together things like hiring the café tables and chairs and physically moving things around on the day. Also Jez at the The Arabian Tent Company who put up the marquee, and built the chuppah, was just amazing.
Our Jewish Irish wedding in a nutshell
Having two years to plan our wedding allowed for the ideas to develop and change over time, and every detail was quite thought out: from trekking to Leytonstone to have the Save the Dates and then invitations printed with our design (which was made in Chicago by Julene, and then calligraphed on our kitchen table), to visiting at least four different florists before settling on Elizabeth. We also had a civil ceremony the day before at Camden Town Hall with our families, so I had to sort out two wedding outfits (Erdem dress, and sparkly Gina shoes in case you were wondering. My bouquet came from the lady who sells flowers by the tube, and I walked down the aisle to Phantom of the Opera… it was the “classical” option).
A lot of people travelled for the wedding. Family came from Ireland, Israel, France, Germany, and the United States. Most of the Irish had never met a Jewish person before, let alone go to wedding, so we made it as accessible as possible. Everyone loved the ceremony. I had been so focussed on the décor, and the detail, that it only really hit me that the ceremony was the best part while it was actually happening! I cried when I read my vows.
luxury wedding money-saving tips: a £100,000 wedding for less than half that cost
At all times, I was on the look out for a bargain or maximising value. We found our venue on eBay! We asked for olives to be served at the reception, and were quoted hundreds of pounds – and so, on the day, we had our favourite local Italian restaurant deliver several litres of their home marinated olives (for £30). I bought all of the other reception snacks at Selfridges Food Hall myself. Our wedding booth was entirely hand-made, all the props were from charity shops. Everything that could be from a sample sale, or just any sale, was from a sale. We all took black cabs as transport – including the bride and groom at the end of the night. We just walked out of the venue, and sauntered along Russell Square until we flagged down a cab to take us to The Ritz for our wedding night!
Having a full wedding for 125 people in central London is expensive. We probably had an £100,000 wedding for less than half that cost.
our wedding on super-8 film
We nearly didn’t have a film, but we are so glad that we asked Mark Brown to shoot our wedding on super-8 film: it’s the most wonderful memento of the day and makes us smile every time we see it.
Francesca & Andrew ‘s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography – Christian and Erica Ward
Super-8 film – Mark Brown
Venue – Senate House Library
Bride’s dress – Carolina Herrera from Browns Bride
Bride’s tiara – Jenny Packham
Bride’s veil – Jean Gallagher at As You Like It
Bride’s ceremony shoes – Harriet Wilde
Bride’s reception shoes – Jimmy Choo
Engagement ring – Ingle & Rhode
Groom’s tuxedo – Alexander McQueen
Groom’s shirt – Hackett
Groom’s cufflinks – Mille Perle
Bridesmaids – Twobirds
Flowers – Elizabeth Marsh
Invitations – Julene Harrison
Calligraphy – Edward Saperia
Hair + make up – Pam Wrigley
Entertainment – The Fontanas
Harpist – Diego Laverde-Rojas
Wedding Cake and iced biscuits – Tuck Box Cakes
Dance tent – The Arabian Tent Company
Wedding hotel – The Ritz