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Hannah & Ash’s Wedding Playlist
Recessional: This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) by Natalie Cole (iPod)
“At the ceremony, actually saying those words to each other… that was just amazing. I loved the music on the way out of the ‘chapel’ – that was just so special… we were both so happy!
Ash’s uncles playing the first Mauritian sega song… it was like the coming together of our two cultures. Every single person was absolutely loving it!
The whole day – it was a party from beginning to end. It was just fab!”
A surpise proposal sets the scene for the no-holds-barred style of our couple, former work colleagues Hanna and Ash. The setting? Dubai’s Jumeirah Al Naseem private hotel beach, on a firework-lit New Year’s Eve.
“When all the fireworks went off, it was amazing,” says Hannah. “I felt so lucky and I started to cry. Ash put his arm around me and said ‘I wasn’t really sure if I was going to do this tonight, but it just feels right… will you be my wife?’ I burst into tears (more than I already was!) and I was hugging him, I couldn’t let go. We carried on watching the fireworks, and then after a minute he said, ‘So is that a yes?’ – I hadn’t answered! I of course said ‘yeah, yeah, it’s a yes!’”
The date was set for 16 September 2017, just a few months after their engagement.
“Our style was very simple, classic and elegant. We were thinking about everyone else a lot – we knew we’d have a great day if our friends and family had a great day. It was fun, fun and more fun!”
To capture it all, Hannah and Ash enlisted the talented eye of sharp shooter Simon Biffen Photography. “Simon’s a super star, he’s amazing. For all the pictures of me and Ash, he’s got us answering questions –like‘who’s the best driver?’and‘who does the most washing up?’– and having a laugh! It’s lovely because it means everything is very candid.”
Simon clearly enjoyed documenting Hannah and Ash’s magical memories. “Hannah knew my style and approach, so being asked to ‘just do what you do!’ was the best compliment.”
– Look at recent work, not just best portfolio shots, as you want to get a feel of how a photographer captures a whole day.
– Photographs will be the lasting memory of the day, but so too will be the experience you had while they were taken. Find a photographer you are comfortable around – they will be spending a large part of the day hanging out with you and your guests!
– Communication is key. There were a few great surprises in store at Hannah and Ash’s wedding, such as the singing waitresses and the Mauritian dancing in the evening. Having good pre-wedding communications meant I was in the right place at the right time to capture the action!
– Make sure your photographer has insurance and you sign a contract. All professional photographers should have this as standard, to protect both parties.
With less than eight months to go before their big day, Hannah moved fast to book their wedding venue. “Fortunately, a friend of ours is a wedding coordinator at Wrenbury Hall in Cheshire, and she suggested a new venue that could hold 200+ people, Merrydale Manor.
“When we went to see Merrydale, it was a building site. We had to climb on planks to get into what was going to be the function room... it needed a little work! But I fell in love instantly!’”
– When searching for the perfect venue, if it ‘feels right’ then it probably is! I think Hannah knew from the moment she entered the gates and drove up the driveway, that Merrydale Manor was the one – she even shed a tear!
– Make a list of what is important to you, view the venues, and meet the staff that you will be dealing with while you plan your wedding. Ask what’s included and not included in the venue price, as this can vary greatly.
– Take advice when it comes to planning timings for the day. Your venue / wedding coordinator has been through it many times before! They’ll have backup plans and know how to avoid the pitfalls.
Music was key to our couple’s ceremony, providing goosebumps in a good way! “Thankfully I wasn’t nervous – we were going to get married and that was cool!
“A good friend of mine, Becky, played The Glasgow Love Theme from Love Actually on piano. It’s a beautiful piece of music, it makes me feel so emotional… I always knew that would be the song I walked up the aisle to.
“It was all a bit of a blur! I remember thinking I just wanted to be at the front with Ash. I could see that he was really teary, and because he’s so into music, it had got him so emotional when I was walking in (he’s just never emotional, ever, ever, ever!). When I got to him, I gave him a massive hug – I was just so happy to see him!”
I always knew that would be the song I walked up the aisle to.
“We wanted readings that were unromanticised and real. Our ceremony was about a marriage which was going to be forever – even on the days when we didn’t want it to be forever! We had two beautiful readings: Love by Roy Croft and a non-religious extract from Whistling in the Dark from preacher Frederick Buechner, which I adapted a little.
“Becky played a mix of modern, romantic love songs on the piano, while we were signing the registers. Then we walked out to Natalie Cole, This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) – as soon as the registrar said ‘You may kiss the bride,’ the whole place filled with this really upbeat, fun music, which we then danced back down the aisle to, it was brill! It set the tone for the whole day.
“That song choice was something we made months ago, because music is very important to us. I just think music is so atmospheric – with the right music, you can create any atmosphere you want. It was really important to get it right.”
With the right music, you can create any atmosphere you want.
The Reception & Wedding Breakfast
“Having a sax player at the drinks reception was really good fun. She played old school soul classics in the sunshine. Perfect!”
“We had two magicians during drinks and wedding breakfast. They were amazing – our guests were blown away! One of them (Matt Snowden) took a disposable camera around with him, and asked guests to take some pictures while he was doing his tricks. There are pictures of him with various guests, where he is wearing the guest’s tie completely unbeknownst to them – I’m talking fully tied around his neck! The stuff that they can do is just incredible.”
Matt says “Hannah and Ash booked me to entertain with magic and pickpocketing as the official photos were being taken. They had a great fun young-minded group of friends and family, so my job was very easy! I’d like to think I added a lot of laughter to their day and some exceptional memories.”
Although I amaze people with the magic I do, really, I am hoping to add fun to the occasion. Some applause and laughter in a room adds so much to the atmosphere.
– Magic includes everyone, brings people together and is a fantastic ice-breaker... it’s great if your wedding guests are a broad range of people, from excitable youngsters to older relatives that can hardly hear, English and non-english speakers, or don’t know each other.
– Ask your magician if he can personalise the performance. I usually ask the happy couple for a bit of inside info in advance, or to know if they’d like someone to be targeted for my pickpocketing watch or tie steal.
– The best magicians are the ones working most. Get a recommendation from someone that hired a magician for their wedding and considered them outstanding. Check that they’re regularly entertaining – you’ll know you’re in good hands if they have been re-booked! (I have been the resident magician at Manchester United for 18 years – and entertained at the same hotel for Christmas and NYE for 20 – I’d like to think it’s because I do an outstanding job and the venues get great feedback).
The Jazz Band
Hannah and Ash wanted their wedding breakfast full of sparkle and fizz – just like the champers! Pro jazz band Silk Swing City took care of the bubbly vibe.
“I honestly think that having Silk Swing City play for our wedding breakfast was one of the best decisions we made. I had this idea of the New York society weddings you see on TV and films. The atmosphere always looks great, and they’ve always got a jazz band! So a few weeks before the wedding, I booked them. Luckily they were available, because they were brilliant!
“I left it to the guys to make song choices; it was very much upbeat background jazz – all the classics that you’d recognize. It really was a fantastic atmosphere.”
Live music at a wedding breakfast can completely transform the atmosphere. When we’re booked for a wedding breakfast, we usually perform quieter sets so that your guests can happily hear each other talking – the vibe is very relaxed. Louder sets are usually reserved for when you want to dial your party up a notch and get the dancing started!
– At your breakfast, you’ll probably want your live music to take you up to the speeches and to start again after that, so consider the timings when booking your musicians. Remember, things do often over-run at weddings – your photos may take longer than you were expecting – so have a backup plan or speak to your musicians to see if there’s leeway for them to perform for a bit longer if needed.
– Some venues offer microphones for speeches, but if not, check in advance whether your band are happy for you to borrow their mics. If they have a vocalist, most bands will be fine with this, but it’s always worth checking beforehand.
“Apollo Groove performed their jazz set just as our desserts were being served, and the first waitress started to sing about 15 minutes into that. Everyone was gobsmacked! Nobody knew what was going on, and it was funny because everyone knows that I’m a control freak, and when the first waitress started to sing, I could see people looking at me, like, ‘Hannah is going to rugby tackle the mic out of her hand in a minute…!’ Only Ash and I knew!
“The singing waitresses were amazing! Everyone was up dancing in between the tables. My uncle even got on the stage with them! It set such a fantastic mood for the day, because everyone was already having so much fun – with the magicians and the sax player – but then just the idea that you’ve not even finished dessert yet, and the party’s started... it was fab!
“Even on the video, you still can’t tell how much fun we’re having – no video would do it justice. We had 15 minutes of singing and dancing, and then everyone just sat down and finished dessert... it was brilliant!”
It set such a fantastic mood for the day, because everyone was already having so much fun… it was fab!
The Evening Party
Our music-mad couple planned their whole wedding day to be a great party. Their evening reception was the cherry on the cake – with a surprise first dance, family anthems and even a family band and dance show!
The First Dance
“I asked Ash if he would pick a song that he felt summed up how he felt, because he isn’t super-emotional, but he knows so much about music; I knew he’d be able to pick the right song, but I didn’t want to know what it was until he played it.
“He chose Stevie Wonder’s For Once In My Life. It was perfect and I was absolutely over the moon! You can see me walking onto the dancefloor, a bit unsure, because I didn’t recognise the first few bars, and then after it kicked in, I was super happy!”
The Party Band
“My family have always had great parties, where music’s been central to the party. There are a couple of songs that we always play as the last songs of the night, so we had to have them. Deacon Blue’s Dignity is a bit of an anthem – the band actually learned Dignity for us – and Hit The Road Jack (Ray Charles) is just an absolute tune; it gets everyone up on the dancefloor!”
– Have your party band start a little later than you think. There is often the worry that having too much time between the end of the meal and the dancing starting will feel like a gap. In reality, most couples want a chance to talk to everyone after the meal has finished. Give yourself time to chill before getting into the first dance and whirling around on the dance-floor for the rest of the evening.
– That said, do go straight into the first band set after the first dance. Some people like to do the first dance and then perhaps go off and cut the cake. Make the most of having everyone around the dancefloor. If we can kick straight into our first set once you’ve finished the first dance, chances are, everyone will be on the dancefloor from that minute onwards and for the rest of the night!
Between sets, everyone was treated to a very special and totally infectious performance, courtesy of the Ramrachia family.
“Ash’s uncles play in a Mauritian sega band. Sega music is really cool, it’s almost like tropical island, dance-hall music. The first sega song that Ash’s uncles picked was a classic party-wedding song, and every single person was absolutely loving it! It was like the coming together of our two cultures, so I loved that.
“We both really wanted them to play, but I was nervous how it would work (because I’m a control freak!) but Sera from Apollo Groove took the reins, and it just went seamlessly from one thing to the next – I didn’t need to do anything. All night, we had live music and we just switched from one thing to the next. And Ash’s sister and cousins did a Mauritian dance, wearing the traditional outfits. We had no idea what they were going to do, and they were really, really good!”
As well as images, Hannah and Ash wanted their very own wedding video keepsake. Jon Anelli from Manchester-based Red Seats, who’s passionate about filming weddings, was only too happy to oblige.
Here Jon shares his tips on how to choose a videographer for your big day...
– Find a match with the footage you like and a videographer you’ll be happy to spend the day with. It’s essential that you like their work, so don’t just go for recommendations. Look at their ‘About Me’ page. You’re inviting a stranger into your wedding, so it’s important that you get along with them… and they get along with you! Whether you’re after a quiet professional or a videographer with a bubbly personality, choose someone who will match with you, and who’ll put you at ease.
– The biggest thing to ask is what they offer in terms of coverage. Many videographers charge differently – some per hour, and some according to the end product / films you want. Some will shoot the ceremony and speeches only, and some will shoot a full film. Make sure what they offer matches your expectations. My films are cinematic, documentary-style featurettes of about 20 mins, which are cut very stylistically and are narrative-driven. It’s about understanding what you will get at the end.
– Information and communication is key. If there are things you really want shots of, make sure you let your videographer know. It can be complicated and stressful if you don’t know what’s happening, and when. Hannah and Ashley were really good at giving me information about the day.
A girl after our own heart, Hannah chose not one, but two beautiful dresses for her big day! One full dress for the ceremony, and a lighter fit-and-flare dress for the evening reception.
Hannah describes her stunning Pronovias day dress, which was provided by Eternity Bridal Wear, “I’ve always been madly in love with Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dresses… that very classic old school Hollywood glamour, and I just wanted something timeless I could look back on in 50 years. It was plain, but it was still a ‘wow’ dress because it was so big. It was much bigger than I actually realised in the shop!”
She paired her day dress with a delicate trailing bridal veil, hand-stitched in Italy, also from Eternity Bridal Wear.
Hannah’s gorgeous evening gown was designed by Mon Cheri for glamour, comfort and fun. “I was really pleased to be able to have something that was a bit more me – it was lower at the front, it was cut quite low at the back, and it was light. It needed to be brought in around the middle but we didn’t do it, because I wanted to eat and drink and enjoy myself... I’d rather it was a little bit too loose than me feel uncomfortable.”
I’ve always been madly in love with… that very classic old school Hollywood glamour… I wanted something timeless.
– Before setting foot in a boutique, do your research on what designers you like, and check that your boutique stocks those designers’ dresses.
– Cherrypick your favourite 5 styles of dress, and if possible, have a firm favourite. This will give your stockist a good idea of your tastes, so they can guide you in your search.
– Avoid trying on too many styles, and don’t take too many people with you when you’re shopping – they will have their own opinions, and may confuse you. Choose a dress you love, for yourself, not to please anyone else… except perhaps your betrothed!
– The fitting is the most important part of the process, so have your alterations done by a fully qualified tailoress. At Eternity Bridal Wear, the fitter herself will measure you and pin your dress for alterations, meaning the dress will look totally amazing on you.
– Give yourself plenty of time. Start your search no later than 12 months before your wedding. This should easily give you enough time to find your dream dress and have it made, altered and fitted perfectly. Plus you’re seeing the latest designs at that point too.
“Mine were beautiful Ted Baker cream satin peep-toe shoes with a bow and three-inch heel. They perfectly matched the dress, so I was really happy with them.”
Hannah had two looks for her big day as makeup artist, Shane Burke explains, “For the day look we went with a natural golden eye to bring out Hannah’s piercing blue eyes. We paired this with a soft rose pink lip and blush to give that ‘love at first sight’ effect, along with glowing skin.
“For the evening, I dialled up Hannah’s look with a statement red lip and a smoked out brown liner to give her makeup more of a sophisticated yet playful edge.”
– Choose a makeup artist with good people skills, who’ll be calm, cool and collected on the day, and with energy that uplifts you, but keeps you relaxed.
– You really can’t do too much prep! Work with your artist to investigate looks, discuss, play about with ideas, and recap. I always recommend a trial if possible. It reassures you both.
– Do not follow trends! What might look great now may not in 10 years’ time (you know the photos I’m talking about...the ones of parents with blue eyeshadow!). You want the look to be timeless, which you can look back on and still adore.
– Your trial isn’t a good day to try ‘something new’. Being comfortable and confident is one of the most important things, so make sure you are wearing colours and a style which you know you feel comfortable in.
– I always apply a bride’s foundation about a third heavier than I usually would, to last the day and to stand all the photography.
Shane’s Top Products:
Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow, £38.50
Daytime look: Charlotte Tilbury Stoned Rose Lipstick, £24
Evening lips: Charlotte Tilbury Love Bite Lipstick, £24
For a self-confessed control freak, Hannah remained impressively calm when faced with a floral fiasco! “I forgot my bouquet, and didn’t realise until we were 5 minutes away from Merrydale Manor! My Dad was like, ‘Hannah we need to go back!’ but I said ‘Oh, it’s fine, I’ll borrow one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets.’ I just didn’t care!”
Manchester’s Verdure Floral Design also dressed Hannah and Ash’s wedding venue with light, fresh and silk flowers, creating a soft, romantic, fairytale feel. Adi Thomas explains the brief they were given.
“Hannah had a clear idea of the overall look and feel of how she wanted the floral décor: soft, romantic and elegant in shades of whites and creams with lots of foliage and muted gold accessories.”
– Meet face-to-face so you can talk through all the ideas and the best way of making them happen. Your florist should be a good listener, and have a portfolio of work for you to look through. Tell your florist about the flowers you like and don’t like – show them images of flowers, bouquets or displays that you like too. They’ll be able to tell you what varieties are going to be available around your date. If you have plenty of time before your wedding, anything you discuss in your first meeting isn’t set in stone – ideas can change or develop, and that’s cool.
– Give your florist information on the venue you’d like them to decorate. If they’re not familiar with your venue, viewing it will give them inspiration.
– Silk flowers are not something I use often, but when they’re mixed with real flowers and foliage, they look amazing. We chose an assortment of flowers in different sizes and textures to create a more relaxed feel, using hydrangeas, roses, spray roses, veronica, lisianthus, astrantia, delphiniums as well as asparagus fern foliage and ivy. We also decided to include some silk blossom trees dressed with real flowers and foliage around the base to add some drama in the room, as well as using some high-quality silks in dressing the beams in the ceremony room.
– There is no right or wrong when you’re choosing flowers for your wedding, remember it’s your day and you can have whatever you like. Your florist will advise the best way of realising your ideas.
Hannah and Ash had a fleet of wedding cars on their big day, including a white vintage mark 2 Jaguar from Classic Wedding Cars Cheshire and a sleek classic cream Daimler for the bridal party, from Broadoak of Manchester.
– Being able to contact your car company outside office hours can be very important, so always look for a company you can easily get in contact with at any time, with no ‘out of office’ messages.
– Look for a company that is experienced; there is no substitute for that on your wedding day.
– Most couples prefer the wedding car to stand out on its own merit, without lots of wedding decoration. Ours are usually decorated with a simple wedding ribbon.
Hannah and Ash’s classic, elegant style continued with a chic four-tiered wedding cake, in ivory, gold, and navy blue.
Made by award winning cake designers, the Manchester Cake Co., this colossal two footer wasn’t quite enough for their 200 guests. Cake decorator, Wendy Harrison introduces us to the genius idea of ‘kitchen’ cakes – which ensured no one missed out – and gives us her insider cake hacks for those of you feeding a big crowd!
– Ask friends and family for recommendations, visit cake makers so you can see them at work, and check out their reviews. Pick someone you feel truly cares about making your dream cake. I recommend having tasters if you are using a baker you have never tried before.
– Have an initial chat with your cake designer about the style of cake you want, and a few rough design elements. I usually finalise designs about 4 weeks before a wedding, just in case my couple has changed their minds.
– Your designer can recommend the amount of cake you need for the number of guests you’re inviting. At 24” tall, Hannah and Ash’s dramatic cake really made an impact. But they also had 3 ‘kitchen cakes’ which are a good way of keeping costs down when you’re feeding a big crowd – they can be the same flavour and covered in the same colour icing as your tiers, but with none of the detail… your guests will be none the wiser and you can make sure it feeds everyone!
The Little Touches
A gorgeous black and white table plan, with year-based tables – each with a photo of the happy couple, taken in that year – were just some of the lovely touches at Hannah and Ash’s wedding breakfast.
Hannah and Ash hired a red vintage post box from Beautiful Wedding Post Boxes. Owner, Mark Pickford, gives us the lowdown, with his top tips too, “Our vintage and Royal Mail replica post boxes add something unique to your wedding but most importantly give your guests the reassurance that their heartfelt cards and gifts are safe and secure.”
– Always choose a metal, lockable post box over a fiberglass version or cardboard post box. The generosity of guests shouldn’t be underestimated – more often than not our couples have received well into the £1000’s.
– Check the hire period. Most suppliers only offer a 3-day hire period. Anything after this can often incur a charge. An honest supplier won’t charge you for the extra day or so.
– The personalised front panel should be included in the price; always ask for a proof copy to read to avoid any embarrassing errors!
– Your post box supplier will often be local to you, so ask if you can view the post box before booking. Pictures are great but nothing’s better than physically seeing what you’re getting for your money. Any reputable business won’t have an issue with this.
What We Learned
Keep your eyes on the prize…
“Don’t sweat it. Don’t stress. All the way through planning your wedding, just remember that, actually the only important thing is that you get married.”
“You’ll enjoy your day and have a brilliant time if you don’t worry that your veil won’t stay in your hair or your bouquet’s at home on your kitchen counter! Just don’t worry, because no one cares! If the bride and groom are having a great day, everybody else will have a great day.”
Comfort over fashion…
“Wear comfy shoes! I was having so much fun, it didn’t even occur to me that my feet were sore!”
Get organised and get married early in the day…
“Book your registrar straight away… (I didn’t know there were only a certain number of registrars, and none of them will be available at 2 o’clock!), and get married as early on in the day as you can. It means more party, more drinks, you get around more guests, and can actually take some time. I wanted two hours of reception drinks just so that for two hours, I could walk around and be exactly where I needed to be.”
The Magic Makers
Music, atmosphere and vibes of love and fun
Alive Network, UK-wide
Pianists, available from Alive Network
Magician, Matt Snowden
Saxophonists, available from Alive Network
Band, Apollo Groove
World Music, available from Alive Network
Light up Love Letters, available from Alive Network
Light up Dancefloor, available from Alive Network
Magic Mirror Photo Booths, available from Alive Network
Red Seats, Manchester and UK-wide
Merrydale Manor, Cheshire
Daytime Dress: ‘Balder’ by Pronovias, from Eternity Bridal Wear, Warrington
Veil: by Pronovias, from Eternity Bridal Wear, Warrington
Evening Dress: ‘Mon Cheri’ by Bridal Factory Outlet, Stockport
Shoes: ‘Alifair’ by Ted Baker, UK-Wide
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: ‘Ebony Rose’ in Burgundy, from Bethany Hannah Bridal, Warrington
Three-piece suit: Hugo Boss, Manchester
STB Makeup, Manchester
Jane Alexandra Hairdressing, Cheadle
Cara Jewellers, Dubai
Flowers and table décor
Verdure Floral Design, Manchester
Event Equipment Ltd.UK-wide
Beautiful Wedding Post Boxes, Bury
Barrett’s Event Caterers, Cheadle Heath
Manchester Cake Company, UK-wide
Simon Dunn Chocolatier, UK-wide
De Vere Cranage Estate, Cheshire
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