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Luxury Mansion Wedding -  Royal Berkshire Hotel

Jill and Roger’s Modern Mansion Wedding

Our New Year blog features lilies, luxury and lovely surprises... And a couple so dedicated to a good party that they changed the date to bag their favourite party band. We approve! And if you're planning a second-time around wedding, you're going to feel especially inspired by Jill and Roger’s contemporary-classic styling and heartfelt celebrations.

Choosing the elegant setting of Baroque English mansion, the Royal Berkshire Hotel, Jill and Roger go for 100% guest involvement. Think Strictly-inspired first dances, a former Spitting Image caricaturist, and even a pair of wedding shoes that travelled the States! Thanks to photographer LaHu Studios who captures every lovely moment...

Get top tips, wedding entertainment ideas and contacts for all of the suppliers. Plus steal the style and Pin the inspo with our shareable shopping edit below. Planning sorted!

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Jill & Roger’s Wedding Playlist

Pre-ceremony: I Believe – Katherine Jenkins (with Andrea Bocelli)
The Prayer – Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion
I Believe In You – Il Divo & Celine Dion
Caruso – Lara Fabian

Processional: Sei Parte Ormai Di Me and Hasta Mi Final by Il Divo (iPod)

Signing of the Registers: All Of Me by John Legend, sung live by a soloist, personal friend, Nade Kerr

Recessional: A musical Joke – K.522-1V. Presto by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (aka The Horse Of The Year theme!), performed by Philharmonic Orchestra & Guido Cantelli (iPod)

Wedding Breakfast: a selection of classic Italian-style pop-opera and easy listening music, including albums like Closer by Josh Groban, Together by Giovanni Marradi, Breathless by Kenny G.

First Dance: Rod Stewart cover of Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately, followed by Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Favourite Moment

There were so many! Walking up the aisle… The MC got me really present, so I was really able to engage with the moment and the music. Being there in that moment and reading the vows to each other was my favourite bit. And just feeling really special – everything coming together.”

The Couple

London-based Jill and Roger were early online dating pioneers, meeting in 2003. After her initial caution, Jill eventually got hooked in to online dating pre-Roger. “I didn’t want anyone to identify me, so I hadn’t put my photograph on and I used a false name. I had a few replies but one of them was Roger and I thought, actually he looks quite nice! I sent him a message, and it just went from there. I was very lucky!”

Director of Finance for Sega, Roger and freelance Horse Assisted Coach, Jill took a few dates to fully warm up to each other. “We really clicked on our third date and thought ‘yes this could be going somewhere’. We went to a bar called Windows, on the borders of Mayfair, and we planned to have a drink there then go for a meal somewhere, but we just got chatting - we never went for the meal. We were so comfortable. It was a beautiful spot overlooking London, so we just stayed there all night!”

The Proposal

Roger’s surprise alfresco proposal left Jill speechless for their whole weekend away! She explains, “He’d taken me to a lovely restaurant in Venice, by one of the canals; it was a beautiful setting. They had these really big menus (much bigger than A4) which I was studying. I couldn’t see anything over the menu and I was so engrossed I didn’t realise what was going on behind it. Roger had arranged a big bottle of champagne, ready to pop the question, and was waiting patiently. By the time I put the menu down, we had an audience of waiters and other people lined up because they all knew what was going on. And then of course, he popped the question, I said yes straightaway, and then everyone was cheering!”

“Roger said I was really quiet for about 48 hours – I think it was such a shock; he said ‘I’ve never known you not to talk for that long!’ I just thought ‘OMG, we’re getting married!’”

Engaged in 2006, Jill laughingly admits they were in no rush to set a date, “It was a long engagement! We’d both been married before, and both have two children each, so we were just enjoying life together.” In March 2016, after Roger took some friendly prompting from a close friend who had assumed they were already wed (“Why haven’t you made an honest woman of her? We could do with a good wedding!”) their big day was set for 29 July 2017.

It was a long engagement … we were just enjoying life together.

The Style

Jill and Roger’s wedding style was modern classic, with a soft ivory, aubergine and silver colour scheme. “We wanted it to have an elegant, contemporary and minimalist feel.”

They achieved this with classic Italian-style pop-opera music, the stylish clean lines in Jill’s bouquet (with stunningly structural calla lillies, bear grass and aspidistra leaves), simple sophisticated touches, and a real family feel. “We wanted it to be really family orientated and we just wanted people there who were really meaningful to us.”

We wanted it to be really family orientated… we wanted people there who were really meaningful to us.

But how did Jill and Roger achieve such a relaxed family feel? “Involvement – all our guests had a part to play. My brothers did a reading. My mum and Roger’s sister were our witnesses, so they signed the register. Roger’s brother-in-law was best man. Roger’s nephews were ushers. Our three daughters between us were bridesmaids. My son gave me away. And then friends did the Thriller dance with us.”

Wait… back up… “Thriller dance”? Learn more about Roger and Jill’s amazing first dance mash up below…!

Photographer Lauren Hughes of LaHu Studios had the pleasure of capturing the naturally beautiful moments that made up Jill and Roger’s personal wedding style. Here are Lauren’s top tips:

from the photographer...

Top Tips

It’s vital that you both feel relaxed around your photographer, so always meet several and see who you feel a connection with, before deciding on one.
Allow around 2 hours between when the ceremony ends and when you sit down for speeches or for the wedding breakfast. This should give you plenty of time for photos and mingling with guests. Manage your guests’ expectations, by giving them a run-down of the day… pop the timing in the order of service or on a chalk board. This will mean everyone knows exactly where they need to be, how long they’ll be needed for photos, and when they’re being fed – then they can relax for the day!
Ask your photographer what backups they have in place. I have three cameras, each with two card slots that record simultaneously, and I backup the images to two hard drives, as well as a secure online source. I also have a group of professional female photographers in the wings, on the very unlikely chance that I cannot make the day.

Lauren Hughes, LuHu Studios

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The Setting

When it came to the venue, there was one top choice  the Royal Berkshire Hotel in Ascot. “It was the first venue we visited. As soon as we walked out we decided: ‘We want to get married there.’ It has the family feel we both wanted, a big mansion house, so homely and cosy. The staff were really polite and professional, but very relaxed.

“It’s a beautiful building and the grounds are stunning. The weather wasn’t perfect, but it was all under one roof, so we didn’t have to go outside at all. What’s lovely is the ceremony and reception room have windows all the way around, so you can still overlook the grounds – we always had a beautiful view.”

The hotel’s Wedding Coordinator, Colleen Creagh, has arranged many weddings at the Royal Berkshire. Colleen happily shares her handy hints for booking a venue:

from the venue...

Top Tips

Think about how you want your day to feel before viewing venues and only view those that will suit this.
Choose a venue you fall in love with at first sight. When you know it’s ‘the one’ you won’t question yourself. Make sure that you love the decor too, as you will be looking at your wedding photos forever.
Check out the food menu and make sure it suits the style of your day.
The day is yours so if there are any special touches you want, don’t be afraid to ask!

Colleen Creagh, Wedding Coordinator, Royal Berkshire Hotel, Exclusive Hotels and Venues

The Band

“After the venue, the band were the most important thing. Music really makes or breaks the evening, and I know that good bands get booked up early. So Dexter were one of the very first things we booked. We viewed lots of bands online, and I liked Alive Network because the website is so user-friendly. I loved that you could just click, and quickly view a profile on the band, with lots of demos. We spent hours and hours listening to bands, and we just kept coming back to Dexter, so we went for it!”

Jill and Roger loved singer Cat’s vocals, so much that they even changed the date of their wedding so she could perform for them! Their Entertainment Coordinator at Alive, Clara Michailidis explains:

“Jill initially enquired about Dexter for a different date, having already booked their wedding venue. But singer Cat wasn’t available - she was getting married herself! Jill and Roger decided to change their wedding date, rebooking their wedding venue for a date that Cat was available. One of the bonuses of booking far enough in advance was the flexibility that their venue could offer, so it worked out perfectly!”

Clara, Jill’s Entertainment Coordinator
www.alivenetwork.com

Jill happily enthuses about their choice of band, “They were fantastic, and really lovely people to work with, very down to earth. I’d definitely have them again if ever I have another do.”

Dexter’s frontwoman Cat shares her insider tips for picking your own perfect wedding band:

from the band...

After they’d booked us, Jill and Roger came all the way to Staffordshire to watch us perform – it was our only public event prior to their big day, and a real honour that they made the trip. They were the last couple standing that night!

Top Tips

If you’re a music lover and your party band is what your evening reception is geared around, it’s really, really important to ask your venue if they have any sound limiters or restrictions before signing on the dotted line. It can have a big impact on the sound and ambience of your band.
We all like different types of music, styles and genres, so go for a party band that can offer you that versatility and variety to ensure everyone can have a boogie. A band with a wide repertoire can be flexible, pick up on your guests’ mood and tastes and switch to that, keeping everyone dancing!
Don’t forget your dancing shoes and your air guitars! Your band can do the rest!

Cat, Singer, Dexter

View Dexter’s Profile

If you like Dexter, you might also like...

Music really makes or breaks the evening, and I know that good bands get booked up early. Dexter were one of the very first things we booked.

Find out more about Jill and Roger’s flash mob first dance and evening party here.

The Details

The Invitations

Jill cleverly designed their own stationery in their wedding colourway with help from Vistaprint, and glamorous assistant, Roger! “I used a template from Vistaprint, I found silver metallic folders on eBay, and I bought some lovely aubergine ribbon. For the wedding breakfast, we made a menu card. I customised the invitations, putting little diamantes on… Roger and I sat there for a whole weekend, sticking all these diamantes on – we were sick of the sight of them! But loads of people commented on how lovely they were. They looked really elegant, without the price tag.”

The Dress

After unsuccessfully visiting a few different boutiques (“I just didn’t get that ‘wow’”), Jill found a high couture dressmaker, Nortier Shallow. They were happy to create her one-off wedding dress, taking inspiration from a couple of gowns that Jill liked.

"The dressmakers were brilliant, I’d recommend them to anybody – they’re very talented and really lovely people to work with. 25 metres of fabric went into the skirt alone – it was amazing! And from a photograph, they managed to actually work out how to design the dress… it was just incredible. It was totally bespoke, and it felt amazing!”

the dress… was just incredible… and it felt amazing!

Ben from Nortier Shallow describes the dream dress, “Jill knew she wanted a luxury fabric with some form of 3D detailing towards the bottom but keeping the design very chic. We settled on a beautiful silk taffeta in a warm ivory, with large petal detailing through the skirt. The last addition was a set of crystal buttons down the back seam to give the dress some sparkle.”

from the dress designer...

Top Tips

Remember what’s important to you with your dress – don’t buy based on what someone else wants you to wear.

When looking online, keep in mind your own body shape rather than the model wearing the dress. Remember those photos will have been edited, so manage your expectations carefully.

 

Remember there will always be compromises to be made. For example, it’s harder to define the waist in a very low backed dress. Off-the-shoulder dresses will restrict movement, a dress that’s tight in the hips will be harder to sit in. Work out what’s important to you and make decisions accordingly. Practicalities shouldn’t define your dress too much, but that’s a call you must make for yourself.

 

Don’t look at Pinterest once you’ve placed your deposit. Inevitably you will find you start to doubt your choice.

 

If your dress is likely to crease or if you have a corset back wedding dress, consider booking a dresser for the morning of your wedding. Quite a few seamstresses and boutiques offer this service and it can help maintain a calm atmosphere on the morning for you and your bridesmaids.

Ben Shallow, Designer and Co-Owner, Nortier Shallow

The Shoes

Jill’s special Badgley Mischka W-day shoes were much sought-after by the lady in question, travelling thousands of miles before meeting their new owner! “I got them from the States. I’d seen them online and I just fell in love. But they were a discontinued line, and I couldn’t get my size in the UK – I just couldn’t find a pair I liked as much as those. Thankfully, Roger’s boss was more than happy to bring them back from the States for me. I had them delivered to the US office, but he was travelling around and of course they were in a sealed box, so he hadn’t even seen the shoes. After the ceremony he said to me ‘I’ve got to see these shoes – they’ve been half way around the States with me!’ They were worth it… ‘thank-you!’”

The Toastmaster

“As part of the wedding package we had an MC, and he was fantastic. The MC, the photographer and the band in particular, those were the three things that stood out for guests.”

“What was lovely, while I was waiting outside the ceremony room – while the bridal party were all going up the aisle – he pulled me to one side and he said ‘Just take this moment to stop and breathe and take it all in. Enjoy your moment.’ That was really good advice, because he got me really present, and that made a huge difference… I did enjoy it!”

from the toastmaster...

The presence of an experienced and qualified toastmaster adds a certain special ‘something’ to an event, but there’s also an important practical side too. The guests need to know where they have to be at what time, and the top table speakers often need a touch of guidance on making their speeches. A toastmaster represents a prudent outlay for such a considerable and tangible benefit.

Nigel Worsfold, Toastmaster
Toastmasters available through Alive Network

The Ceremony

Second-time around for both of them, Jill and Roger opted for a relaxed civil ceremony, and Jill laughingly admits she had a hard act to follow for her processional entrance. “The bridesmaids and ushers came down in pairs to Il Divo Sei Parte Ormai Di Me, followed by my little granddaughter Livvy, who was our flower girl… she was star of the show! I couldn’t actually see her walking up the aisle, but all I heard was ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, and I thought ‘Oh no, I’ve got to follow that now!’

“I walked in to another Il Divo track, Hasta Mi Final. It’s just so magical when it happens! I felt amazing, like royalty on the red carpet, it’s indescribable really. It was lovely.

“Walking up the aisle was my favourite musical moment. I felt really present, and that’s when you think ‘it’s really happening now... This is it’, so it was quite emotional. And seeing Roger there at the other end… the music brought it all together perfectly.

“We both spent a long time picking the music, so that it would create the kind of ambiance and feeling that we wanted. Those two tracks are very dramatic, with the Italian feel, but we didn’t want full blown opera, we wanted it to be a bit more contemporary, elegant and stylish.

“We didn’t know who the registrar was going to be but she was so lovely and made it really personal, and I think that exceeded my expectations.

“My brothers did a reading, Union by Robert Fulghum. While we were signing the register, one of our friends, Nade, sang All Of Me by John Legend. She was as nervous as anything, but she did an amazing job. It was meaningful and personal, and just as we wanted. Our flower girl, Livvy, came and sat on our laps then – it was very relaxed and informal. She was playing and throwing confetti on Roger’s hair… she was so beautiful on the day and she loved it. Moments like that were just lovely.”

For the recessional, Jill and Roger chose a lively track to reflect equestrian Jill’s passion  and sense of humour! “We had a fun Mozart tune, the theme to the Horse Of The Year Show – everyone just burst out laughing!” However, they resisted the temptation to gallop down the aisle together...!

“I wasn’t nervous at all. I was a lot more relaxed for the whole thing – whether it was because we’re older, I guess more life experience... I just took it more in my stride. If I remember when I first got married, I was so hellbent on everything being perfect… it felt like life or death! Whereas this time, my attitude was ‘if something goes wrong, it goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world’. We were surrounded by friends and family...people that meant so much to us. If anything went wrong, they’d understand, so the pressure wasn’t really there.”

We both spent a long time picking the music… so that it would create the kind of ambiance and feeling that we wanted.

The Reception & Wedding Breakfast

A selection of their favourite albums formed the basis of Jill and Rogers background ambiance, including Josh Groban and pianist Giovanni Marradi.

They kept the mood fun with interactive favours, as Jill explains, “Matching the invitations, we put a little silver pearlized wallet at each guest’s place setting. We put a lottery ticket in each one and we found some Wisdom Cards from eBay, which went down a storm. They got people interacting at the tables. They filled in their cards and then posted them in our post box. As well as more silly things, the cards asked questions like ‘what advice would you give to the bride and groom, dos and don’ts, what must you always do, what must you never do’ – silly questions like that. So that was lovely because we’ve got all of those to keep. Others had to do things like draw the person sitting opposite. Everyone loved it! It created such a good atmosphere  it was a real ice-breaker.

“Rather than having a guestbook, we put a Jenga block at each place setting, and the MC asked everybody to sign one or put silly messages on them. We’ve got that as a lovely memento… rather than a guestbook that probably would sit in the cupboard and gather dust! The Jenga will no doubt be coming out at Christmas!”

The Caricaturist

Jill and Roger chose an award-winning creative caricaturist, with Spitting Image and Headcases credentials, to entertain their guests into the evening.

“Mark circulated asking people if they wanted their pictures done – some were individuals, some were couples together. We felt that a caricaturist would add to the entertainment. We had really good feedback; it was a lovely, fun thing to do.”

from the caricaturist...

While caricature work is an extremely skillful craft, it’s all about wit and individualism, so a sense of humour is essential. As a professional artist, I really enjoy the humour of caricature work… my work is always playful, and you and your guests will love to keep the artwork as a memento of a fun-filled day.
Having such a short time to scrutinise and appraise a person’s features, and capture their facial essence and expression is a real challenge. Generally, I look for an overall shape to the head and hair: is it square, oblong, diamond shaped etc. Of course, if one is presented with a bouffant quiff, ears like the F.A. Cup and a profile you can open bottles with, so much the better!

Top Tip

If you’re having a big wedding, and want all of your guests to have a caricature keepsake, I recommend you book a professional caricaturist for longer than the minimum two hours. This will mean your artist is more likely to be able to get around all your celebrants.

Mark Reeve, Caricaturist

View Mark Reeve's Profile

If you like Mark Reeve, then you might also like...

The Balloon Release

“After the speeches, we managed to get outside to do a balloon release in memory of loved ones… so it was almost like they were still part of the day.

We bought clear balloons with feathers inside, with the name of the person and a little message, like ‘always in our hearts’. So that was a lovely way to remember them.

I asked people who were closest, in advance because I wanted family and friends to be involved in releasing their loved one’s balloon. My mum released my Dad’s balloon. I had lovely feedback; everyone said it was so thoughtful and such a lovely thing to do.”

from the balloon supplier...

Top Tips

It’s always heartfelt making remembrance balloons but this is such a beautiful way of still including those we have loved and lost in one of the most important days of our lives.
Remembrance balloons hold great sentimental value so be certain that the wording is unique to you. Choose your style of writing and ask for an email proof. Jill and Roger chose their own personal messages for each balloon and took a moment with their guests to remember those who could not be there.
Always check out websites and social media for reviews on the company you are dealing with.
Be aware that there are a large variety of balloons to choose from. Be sure to confirm the floating time of your chosen balloons – no one wants deflated balloons on such a special occasion.

Livia Goddard, Balloon Creator & Events Manager, Balloons with Love

The Cheese Tower Cake

As well as a traditional wedding cake, our happy couple chose a cheese tower to top off their buffet. Their cheesemonger, Jen Grimstone-Jones, from The Pangbourne Cheese Shop has plenty of wedding insider advice for all you cheese lovers out there:

from the cheesemonger...

Top Tips

If you’re looking to have a cheese wedding tower, visit a cheesemonger for your cheeses rather than buying a generic tower off the shelf. It’s your big day and so the tower should include cheeses that you’ve tried!

 

We ask couples to give us an idea of their budget and guest numbers so we can recommend how much cheese they will need, and we construct the tower with their help.

 

Some retailers won’t let you have any soft cheeses in your tower but it’s always possible to put them in; Jill and Roger had one of our local softs (the Waterloo) and it worked brilliantly. There is no set combination and everything is achievable! If a cheese won’t fit into a tower you can still include it in your selection. When the tower is deconstructed for eating, the extra cheese(s) can be added into the mix.

 

You can ask your florist or caterer to decorate the tower, as the theme will then match the rest of your wedding.

 

It’s always useful to have little guide by your cheeses (like little slate markers) explaining which is which and if there are any allergens that might be present.

 

It usually works well for your guests to help themselves from a cheese table as not everyone will like all the cheeses. Ask your caterer to put aside a plate of cheese for you to enjoy, as often your guests will demolish the cheese before you’ve managed to have any.

Jen Grimstone-Jones, Cheesemonger, The Pangbourne Cheese Shop

The Evening Party

Jill and Roger had a thrilling first dance that Strictly would be proud of…

“We did our first dance to Rod Stuart’s version of Have I Told You Lately. Our dance was perfect. We learned how to do a rhumba, and it was nice because one of my friends (who dances and is a real Strictly Come Dancing fan) actually recognised that we were doing a rhumba!

Jill giggles as she recalls their first dance mashup, “I came across these YouTube clips where the wedding parties were doing Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The idea was we were going to do a slow dance to a love song first, and then do a bit of a mashup into Thriller. But our children didn’t want to do it with us – they all said ‘we’re not embarrassing ourselves!’ So we asked a group of friends to do it with us, and they were all up for it. We had about half a dozen lessons with a dance teacher. You can imagine, there’s ten of us and we’ve all got two left feet – we had such a laugh!

“Our wedding band Dexter mixed the tracks for us, but on the night, the dance all went horribly wrong! After my dance with Roger, there was no way I was going to be able to do Thriller in my high stilettos and heavy wedding dress. I tried to kick my shoes off as our friends were coming on the dancefloor, but one of my shoes got stuck and I couldn’t get it off, so I missed the cue to start the dance. And, of course, once you don’t start on time, it’s so hard then to pick it up, so we kind of just did our own thing and made a bit of a laugh of it. The still shots are so funny because, where we should be synchronised, we’re all doing different things – it just looks hilarious!”

“To energise things later in the evening, I ordered some light up glow toys – like foam sticks, punk rocker head bands, bunny ears, and silly things – and it was a real party atmosphere on the dancefloor! Even the band were putting them on!”

Dexter’s set was followed by a wedding DJ, and Jill, Roger and all their guests had the best silly fun, partying the night away into their happily ever afters. #legends

What We Learned

Keep it you…
Be true to yourself, have what you want, and don’t be influenced or swayed by anyone else. It’s your day, your once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully!) moment, so be true to yourself. Have your day how you’d like it to be… that’s meaningful to you.

Make meaningful memories…
Rather than getting caught up in everything being perfect, be present, enjoy it and remember it. Of course, it’s lovely to have all the photographs, but your memories are inside of you. I just look back on the day with such wonderful, amazing memories and I know that they’ll always last.

Just do it…!
I recommend getting married – absolutely, even though we took a while getting there! It’s just such a magical feeling – you can’t describe it.

The Magic Makers

Music, atmosphere and vibes of love and fun
Alive Network, UK-wide
Toastmaster, Nigel Worsfold
Caricaturist, Mark Reeve
Band, Dexter
Wedding DJ

Photographer
LaHu Studios, Basingstoke and UK-wide

Venue
The Royal Berkshire Hotel, Ascot

Bride’s attire
Dress: Nortier Shallow, Basingstoke
Shoes: ‘Jeannie’ by Badgley Mischka, USA
Accessories: Pandora from The Jewellery Box/Jewellery By Nasira, Datchet, Berkshire

Groom’s attire
Three-piece suit: Oliver’s, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Makeup artist
Lora Papez, Surrey and UK-wide

Wedding rings
John Wyatt Jewellery, London

Flowers and table décor
Seventh Heaven Events, Datchet, Berkshire

Stationery
Home-made with assistance from Vistaprint and eBay

Guest book
Wooden Jenga Blocks, available UK-wide from retailers such as Not On The High Street and Ginger Ray

Remembrance balloons
Balloons With Love, Bracknell, Berkshire

Wedding cake
Marks & Spencer, UK-wide

Wedding cheese tower
The Pangbourne Cheese Shop, Pangbourne, Berkshire

Evening party glow toys
The Glow Company, UK-wide

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