Hi! How has your Bank Holiday weekend been? Ours has been pretty busy, not least because yesterday, Adam and I celebrated our *other* first wedding anniversary! As you may have already read, we separated our actual wedding ceremony (a.k.a. ‘the legal bit’ or ‘part one’!) and our wedding reception (a.k.a. ‘the party’ or ‘part two’!) by a few weeks. We couldn’t have done as much as we did otherwise, and it was great to make the most of the whole event….and of course it’s been rather nice to stretch out our celebrations, one year on!
We went for an amazing meal last night to celebrate, at the Burlington at The Devonshire Arms, in nearby Bolton Abbey. It’s a beautifully luxurious restaurant with a Michelin Star and four AA rosettes, and is just as impressive as any Michelin Star restaurant we’ve been to in London, but with the added benefit of incredible Yorkshire ingredients and a stunning location. We went for the tasting menu, yumming up ten courses in total. I’ll be sure to write about it in more detail soon, but for now, back to wedding stuff!
As I warned, I thought I’d take the opportunity of our anniversary to finally share some of our wedding photos and details of what we got up to…..
Once we’d decided to do our reception separately from our ceremony, and knowing that we wanted to do something a bit different, and totally ‘us’, we began by looking for a venue that was a little out of the ordinary. And whilst it wasn’t the first thing we actually booked, from early on the strongest contender was the British Schools Museum in Hitchin. Before it became a museum, Adam had actually attended nursery there, before that his Mum was there as a pupil, and before *that* his Grandfather was a teacher there! As well as the close family connection, it also had the benefit of being right opposite where we lived at the time (invaluable when it came to the logistics)! That said, it isn’t actually a wedding or party venue, it has no kitchen and there were several other challenges that meant it wasn’t an easy choice. We knew though that it would be worth the effort, and would make for a truly unique event.
Having finally plucked up courage to book the place, we set about finding a caterer who would work there in a make-shift kitchen (actually a sort of ante-room / classroom that is mostly used for visiting schools’ lunch breaks), as well as all the other things that would turn it into a wedding venue. We worked closely with the museum’s Manager, the ever-patient Andy, to figure out ways to adapt what was there to our needs. There were some elements in the space that didn’t really work for us, but we couldn’t just plough in and do whatever we wanted, so we had to come up with some clever work-arounds to make it work. We also had some help from our dear friend Hannah, who helped to get some funding to spruce up the decorating where damp had affected the main room.
The room is mostly painted white, which made for a pretty good blank canvas, but there are wooden slats running round the walls to display educational boards and history presentations. We were able to have the boards taken down, but the wooden slats remained, so we made tens of metres of ribbon garland to hang from these, covering up the slats and adding some colour. The room is also pretty tall in the centre, so to make it a little cosier we created a sort of false ceiling….I always dreamed about having a confetti cannon at the party, but we couldn’t really decide when we’d use it, so we made a sort of permanent confetti burst by stitching up hundreds of pieces of coloured paper, which we then suspended across the width of the room.
Adam always wanted lots of warm white fairy lights as part of the decor, and had the idea to spiral them around all the columns, as well as wrap them into the ribbon garland around the walls. We went for a white LED dance floor which twinkled to match, and also draped lots of lights behind the bar where we hung our home made sign with our wedding slogan ‘an adventure begins’ made in maps and coloured paper. Along with the light-up bar, it all looked suitably shiny and sparkly!
We’d also made a bit of an emblem of a hot air balloon, using a drawing featuring one on our invitations, almost like a logo for us with a banner saying ‘an adventure begins across it’. So we decided to make some to decorate the room too, creating them from paper lanterns filled with fairy lights, pastel coloured ribbons and little baskets. We strung these up using fishing wire so that they looked like they were floating around the bar!
Having used lots of maps throughout, in line with our ‘adventure’ theme (on our invitations, Adam’s bow tie, the button holes etc.) we decorated lots of bit of furniture we collected with vintage maps. We didn’t want to use hired furniture (I have an unnatural hatred of hired banqueting chairs!), preferring things to be individual and to allow for lots of moving around, rather than a more traditional, formal sit-down affair. Most of the prettiest maps featured pastel colours, so this became our palette throughout, and I made pastel coloured pom-poms on sticks and paper windmill centre pieces in lieu of flowers (although I did pick a few from our garden and dotted them around in vintage vases).
We wanted to maintain a party atmosphere throughout our reception, with everyone included in everything. We have lots of friends who live far away, so it was important to us to see them all, and to give everyone a good chance to catch up with each other. Having a mostly-standing reception meant people weren’t restricted to one table, and could move about as they liked. We also planned lots of things to be going on around the room throughout the evening to keep everyone entertained….
We hired a juke box so that people could choose what they wanted to hear for the first half of the party. It looks just like a retro Wurlwitzer, but is fully electronic and holds thousands of songs, including every top ten single since the fifties! We had to have a few rules (mostly due to my dislike of Morrissey) but there was no squabbling, and it was a good talking point for our guests.
We also booked a great photo booth that I’d used lots before. Unfortunately it got held up in traffic, so arrived at the same time as our guests ( I was *not* a happy bunny that a supplier’s van was in view and they had to set up with our guests there!), but, the image quality is great, they put our logo on the prints (one for everyone in the photo, not just one per photo) there’s loads of room in there, AND there’s a disco ball and light up dance floor in it! The company brought along lots of props, and we made some of our own (the chalk board speech bubbles were very popular) and everyone had a great time messing around dressing up and posing like sillies!
I’ve always been a bit crazy for crazy golf, and knowing we’d like a bit of an outdoor activity for our guests, we thought that would be fun. We looked into hiring a set, but there wasn’t anything out there quite right for us, so we decided to make it ourselves to our own theme! We stretched green felt over wooden boards and made a simple skirting with wooden slats around the edges. Then we crafted our obstacles, which included a hot air balloon, ice cream cones and of course, the traditional windmill! I cut some laminated vintage maps into pennants and attached them to cane to make the flags, and a friend arranged for us to borrow putters from her husband who is a pro at the local golf course! We had some rain earlier in the day, so took the precaution of putting up some gazebos over it all, so we could still enjoy it…it all got a little grubby during the downpour, but it was still great fun (even though I was rather rubbish at it)….and a couple of our guests got VERY into it, refusing to settle for anything less than a hole in one!
I’ve always loved the tradition of having a box of cigars at a wedding, and whilst I enjoyed the thought of me in all my bridal togs puffing on a big cuban, it’s not really Adam’s bag, and we managed to come up with an alternative. We created a snuff bar (something you used to be able to hire until smoking laws changed) by buying up a load of tins of different flavoured snuff from the internet. We customised an old wooden cutlery canteen to house the tins, pulling out the sections and velvet lining, and re-lining it with vintage cigarette cards I’d collected. This we sat on top of a lovely old wooden trolley we found at Hitchin market, and added a vintage hand held mirror (for people to check they’ve not got snuff on their face!), a box of tissues which I covered in vintage maps, and a little sign to say how to use it all. It was a real lark watching people try the different flavours, and our snuff bar made for some of our favourite photos of the night!
We also swapped out a regular gift list for something different. We were conscious that it’s expensive enough to come to a wedding, with travel and accommodation to pay for, and there’s nothing we really *need*. We know though that people like to bring something, so we had the idea to ask for recipes in lieu of gifts…this was something that didn’t need to cost anything, but we knew we’d treasure. We plan to make up a book of all the recipes we received (lots of our guests put a load of thought and effort into them!), once we’re settled into our new house.
We skipped things like speeches (again with the not wanting to speak in front of a whole load of people, and because we didn’t personally feel the need) and formally cutting the cake, but we did give our guests a few little traditions….. Having robbed our friends of getting to see us formally hitched, and really getting into our ballroom and latin dance classes whilst we lived in Hitchin, we decided to do a proper ‘first dance’. We still didn’t want it to be too long though, and weren’t really comfortable with a slow dance, as is traditional. Instead we decided to use a very up-beat piece of music we both love, from an anime show we watched together called Cowboy Bebop. We had six private lessons with the wonderful couple who also taught our weekly class, and they choreographed a routine for us, using Modern Jive, foxtrot and samba moves. It was a great fun thing to do in the run up to the wedding reception, and I think we surprised people that we did a first dance at all, and that it was pretty fast and not typically romantic!
We also thought it would be nice to share some of the photos from the ceremony with our reception guests, and so had some printed and framed to decorate the piano at the venue. We also got a load made up into a retro view finder, which was good fun too!
I’ve always personally loved the tradition of throwing the bouquet…I’m not sure why…but I caught one a few years ago at a friend’s wedding and so it seemed only fair that I throw mine. However, mine was really a bit too dangerous to throw, as I’d made it from dozens of bone china floral brooches and it weighed a tonne! So, I made a ‘stunt’ bouquet from pastel coloured pompoms instead, and threw that in the safety of the playground outside the venue.
We also wanted to have a guest book to record messages from all our guests, but again wanting to do something different, we decided not to go with an actual book. We toyed with several ideas (signing a globe for example seemed a good idea because of our theme, and we had lots around, but in practise we thought this would be tricky!) but in the end Adam came up with a belter of an idea when we were out at the antiques market near our house….we spotted an old key cabinet from a hotel (which again, went rather well with our adventure theme) and Adam had the idea to hang lots of vintage keys inside, the labels to which could be used to write messages on! We spent ages collecting all the keys, and then cleaning them up and adding ribbon and labels, but it made for something a bit different and is also going to be a great reminder of the day when we hang it up on display in our new home!
Another tradition I personally love is the favours. I think it’s nice to give a small token of thanks to guests, and also offer them something to remember the day by. We wanted to have something in-keeping with our theme, and so made everyone a wooden and leather luggage tag decorated with a map of somewhere special to them. It was a lengthy process, but well worth the effort as they’re something people can use on their own adventures and think of our party at the same time!
We didn’t want to stop there though….I am a huge lover of party bags, and Adam is a mega tombola fan, so we decided to incorporate these too! We made up party bags in pastel colours, filled with the luggage tags, as well as old favourites like Rainbow Drops, popping candy, blowing bubbles, fortune telling fish and party poppers which we decorated with our logo. We also covered boxes of matches with our logo and the slogan ‘the perfect match’ as I’ve always had a thing for collecting branded match books wherever I go! We then attached a tombola ticket to each guest’s personalised party bag, including the counterpart ticket in with their invitation….they then had to match up their tickets with their ‘prize’ on the day to get their own party bag! It was just a bit of silly fun really, but we enjoyed making them and the contents seemed to go down well!
And that was the order of the day, really….lots of silliness and fun, catching up with people and enjoying their company. We felt fairly brave doing things that weren’t really traditional, but everything worked well for us and we felt that our guests enjoyed it just the same! We couldn’t have done it without lots of help from our family and friends, and we are forever grateful to our amazing photographer, Sharon, who was very much involved in the planning and also provided us with a great set of photos (including all those shown here) to remember it all by!
Now I just need to find an excuse to do it all again……!