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Sarah & Stephen’s Wedding Playlist
Processional: Pachelbel’s Canon, on church organ
Recessional: Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, on church organ
Drinks Reception: mixture, including the Game of Thrones theme, string trio
“The first dance was my favourite part – I was just so, so happy! The band absolutely nailed it... better than Tom Odell himself! Absolutely brilliant.”
“Throwing confetti outside church was great fun!”
Get more music and song ideas for your classic wedding playlist here...
Manchester-based Solicitor Sarah initially connected online with Stephen, a Senior Mechanical Engineer, before arranging to meet in April 2015. Sarah laughs as she recalls their shaky first encounter, “He thought I wasn’t interested in him because we’re just so different – he’s very quiet and I was talking to fill the gaps – but we pulled it back over a second glass of wine!”
Their passion for penguins sparked while dating, and their nicknames were born. Sarah explains, “When we first met, the John Lewis Christmas advert with the penguins, Monty and Mabel, had recently been out. The premise is that they spend a long time finding each other, and we joked that we’re like the penguins... I started to call him Monty and he started to call me Mabel!” Our happy pair played tribute to their beflippered alter-egos at their wedding, with plenty of aviary antics throughout the day.
Following their engagement in July 2016, they set the date for 9 September 2017.
“Our style was very classic elegant, with a grey and cream colour-scheme, it was just very traditional, and we didn’t depart from that too much. It was really important to both of us, that everyone had a good time. We wanted to make sure that everyone felt comfortable and everyone was talking about it afterwards saying what a great night it was! It was about enjoying every moment, because everyone said that it goes so quickly... and it really does.”
“We didn’t have children at our wedding because we wanted the adults to just have a good time. It was a bit of a controversial decision, but actually the parents all said they were glad to have a night off as a couple again.”
Living locally to the venue, Sarah’s mum helped them find their perfect photographer for the big day, David Paul Photography. “We wanted a mixture of posed shots and candid photographs of people dancing, those moments that you kind of miss.”
Photography is essentially painting with light, so think about that and be aware that it changes throughout the day and for each venue, depending on the light in each space. Consider the season and time of day when planning your wedding too – if you’re having a winter wedding, an early ceremony will give your photographer a chance of getting some great shots before the light starts to fade.
Trust in your photographer; allowing them to do their job and be creative will result in great images. They will be well versed in which shots to get, but if you have something particularly sentimental or unique that you’d like photographed, be sure to let them know.
If your photographer offers an engagement shoot as part of the package – take it! They are a great opportunity to practice in front of the camera and to get to know your photographer before the wedding day. You’ll also be able to find out how they photograph, and you’ll get some cute shots of the two of you to display on your walls or at your wedding.
Sarah and Stephen were wed in Pulford’s Saint Mary’s Church, on the English-Welsh border, with their celebrations taking place just across the road at the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa.
“I used to work at the Grosvenor Pulford when I was 18, so knew I wanted to get married there. I always thought it was really beautiful so I took Stephen to have a look. They have beautiful Chinese-style gardens at the back, so from a photography perspective I knew it would be great. And there’s a separate wedding entrance and private spaces, so you don’t feel like you’re in a public hotel.”
1. Make friends with your wedding co-ordinator, they’re there to help you! They have all the tips and tricks to make your day perfect and unique to you both.
2. Don’t be afraid to know what you want. Sarah and Stephen had very clear ideas and, having a good brief, we were able to make their big day everything they wanted and more.
3. Relax, enjoy and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from your venue – that’s what we’re here for!
“The ceremony and the music was everything I’d hoped it would be. We walked out to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March; it’s just a classic. And we had bell ringers on the way out, so it was a really good atmosphere. Then throwing confetti outside the church was great fun – I’d recommend that to anyone!”
The Reception & Wedding Breakfast
“We had a string trio and they were absolutely amazing. They played a selection of music which we chose... a mixture of modern pieces and old classics, and they also learned the Game of Thrones theme for us, because we’re huge fans. Everyone loved it. My uncle even emailed me afterwards to say that was his highlight of the wedding!”
Sarah and Stephen also invited mind-blowing mind-reader, Mr Mind Play, to entertain at their drinks reception. Sarah describes his act, “You draw something on a card, obviously not showing him the card, but then just think about it. And then he would glance at you and tell you what you’d drawn. People had drawn really bizarre things, like a brown gargoyle, or a bright yellow banana... I don’t know how, but he always got it, and he was very specific! It was incredible!”
It would not have been the wedding that it was without them.
My focus is on enhancing your special occasion, and I would always advise finding an entertainer who cares about your big day and seems genuinely interested in making it perfect.
Wedding entertainment is a must if you want to create a tapestry of enjoyment for your guests. With such a long, busy day there will be moments of downtime that you didn’t foresee – entertainment can fill these gaps and ensure a positive atmosphere.
Ask your entertainers to perform during the photography element of your big day, as this is where you will potentially have a lot of guests standing round with very little to do. A strolling mix and mingle entertainer will keep your guests in good spirits while your photographer takes those all-important snapshots.
The type of entertainment that I provide creates a very powerful reaction which will leave your guests thinking about what they have just seen. This helps to stimulate the conversation as they try and work out how I was able to achieve the things they have just seen – especially good for connecting those guests who don’t know each other.
The Evening Party
The First Dance
Sarah and Stephen asked their party band, Resident Heroes, to learn Real Love for their first dance – a John Lennon song made famous in recent years by Tom Odell in John Lewis’ 2014 Christmas advert. Sarah admits to feeling apprehensive, “We obviously hadn’t heard the band play that song before. Tom Odell plays it on piano, and there’s no piano in the band so we wondered how they were going to do it – would they get it right? But honestly, it was better than Tom Odell himself, just brilliant, absolutely brilliant! They so exceeded our expectations, they did such a good job! I was so, so happy! And because it’s quite a slow one, they tailored it towards the end, making it more up-tempo so all our guests would join us on the dancefloor. Everyone was saying afterwards they absolutely nailed it, it was brilliant, it really, really was.”
They...exceeded our expectations... I was so, so happy!
The Party Band
Appropriately for their penguin-style party, Sarah and Stephen’s band gave them all happy feet... “Resident Heroes were just phenomenal! I think they were my favourite bit of the wedding. All my university friends were shouting encore, the dancefloor was packed, and they played a few extras for us, as well as staying later because my Dad’s speech ran over. They went completely above and beyond for us. We loved them so much... . In fact, they were so good that I really want to find another occasion so I can get them back! Fantastic!”
Sarah admits that they hadn’t even thought about entertainment in their initial plans, “We hadn’t budgeted for Mr Mind Play, the string trio or the band, but if we hadn’t had them, it would have been a disaster! My mum pushed us to have a band. I searched Alive Network’s website for all the artists that were available, and I really liked Resident Heroes; they had good reviews, there was just something about them I liked, so I listened to their audio on the website, and they sounded really great.
“I’m so glad I’d booked those things – it would not have been the wedding that it was without them. I’m really grateful that I took some time to explore that, because it would have been a huge mistake on my part to not have them. They absolutely took it to a different level.”
How to choose your band
Take a look at their online materials, watch and listen to them play. Look for something that makes them stand out – their performance style, repertoire, or some unique reviews from happy customers.
Customising your atmosphere
To create your perfect ambiance, many bands offer flexible performance options. Adding an acoustic set means we can warm your guests up gently during the early part of the evening… and if you want to dance, we can go dancey!
Choosing your songs
A good way of working is to look at your band’s repertoire online, and give them a list of your absolute favourites, definite no-nos, and the rest that you’re happy to fit in.
...& in what order?
It works best if your band can arrange the songs in an order that flows. An experienced band will know how to gauge and engage the audience, so giving them flexibility will mean they’re confident to perform whatever’s going down well – making your gig fantastic!
Your special first dance song
If you’re requesting a new song that’s not on your band’s repertoire, one to two months’ notice is ideal for most bands. It usually takes us a few weeks to fit learning a new song into our schedule, so don’t panic if you haven’t given your band six months’ notice!
Choose a party-friendly venue
It’s a good idea to check that the bar is in the same room as the band – it usually makes for a seamless night where you don’t need to remember to go into another room to catch the live music. And also check whether they implement a strict decibel policy – what’s perfect for the neighbours may not be conducive for the best night of your life.
Sarah and Stephen took inspiraton from the penguins in the heart-warming 2014 John Lewis Christmas advert, in details throughout their big day. “We wanted a very loose homage, so our first dance was Real Love, the song from the advert, and we had a penguin wedding cake topper, and our wedding favour sweet bags had penguins on, and we had a penguin fingerprint ‘guestbook’ picture, which we’ve framed.”
Specialising in discontinued lines, Jane Spittle from The Bridal Barn supplied Sarah’s stunning Lillian West gown at a fantastic price. Jane advises us not to be afraid of adding our own personal touches to a dress, “Sarah chose a gorgeous A-line beaded lace wedding gown, with a sweetheart neckline, and made it her own by adding the little straps.”
“Always remember if it isn’t quite perfect a little customisation can go a long way… that sparkly belt, trimmed veil, beads across the open back or shoulders – we have lots of fun trying different accessories, making a gown unique at The Bridal Barn!”
When dress shopping, always keep an open mind about style. Ladies so often have a certain look in mind, then, when trying on, they find it isn’t quite what they wanted. Not everyone finds ‘the one’ perfect gown, but you needn’t worry. Try as many styles as you can... you never know!
Don’t buy a dress that’s too small by a long way hoping to slim down into it, some do and manage but why put so much pressure on yourself! Better to go larger as they can be taken down in size usually by 2 sizes by a seamstress. A smaller dress can never usually be made larger.
Tempting as it is to keep trying on your beloved dress when it finally arrives, try not to handle it too much! Storing it hung up in your bridal bag in a cool place is best. Use acetate-free paper around any delicate beading, crystals, etc. and keep it out of sunlight.
On the day, it’s best to step into your dress so you keep your wedding hair and makeup (and dress!) perfect, and make sure whoever is dressing you knows how to lace you up or strap you in properly. I usually demonstrate how to do this when my brides are in the barn, and you can check out good old You Tube too.
You can start thinking about choosing a veil a few months before the wedding. Veils which are made to order usually take 2-3 weeks to arrive. Of course you can try veils on at the same time as purchasing your dress, but you may change your mind about wearing a veil, so we recommend leaving it until a little closer to the wedding.
It can be difficult choosing a veil when you cannot try your own dress on with it at the same time, but make sure to take along a photo of your dress, and this will make things a lot easier. Your consultant should be able to advise what kind of veil will suit your dress, as well as considering your own personal preference.
Consider details like colour, length of veil, and embellishments. Ask yourself what you would feel comfortable in and what will look best with your dress, but ultimately pick whatever speaks to you!
Your veil should arrive in a protective cover or box, to keep it clean and safe for the big day. Should there be any small creases however, you can steam the veil by holding an iron in front of it on the steam setting. Make sure to hold a pillowcase or towel between the veil and the iron just in case the iron spits anything out!
The Hair & Makeup
Salon One 20 created Sarah’s bridal look, with Samantha Vaughan styling her hair and Emily Watson on makeup. Samantha explains the process, “Sarah’s first consultation was at the salon, where we discussed prices, timings, venue, hair designs and styles for the bridesmaids. For her hair, we chose a down style with the sides pinned into a small design at the back which complimented the neck on her dress. Emily and I had a trial with Sarah and her mother, to make sure the designs were just right.”
When looking for a makeup artist and hair designer, you need someone who is professional, reliable, and good at scheduling their time. Booking a package though the same salon means you can relax, knowing that you’re working with true professionals.
Samantha’s Top Hair Products:
Emily’s Top Makeup Products:
MAC Pro Longwear Foundation, £27.50
MAC Great Brows, £22.50
Ted Baker Lipstick, £31.50
“The florist was Pixie Lillies – they were really good. When I went to see the florist (Mandy) with my mum, we explained our colour scheme and she actually put together a bouquet right in front of us, made some suggestions and added a touch of blue... it looked good so we went with it! We ended up with popcorn hydrangeas, roses, and gypsophila, and she did a really good job.
“The flowers were just so beautiful. In the church, we had them on the ends of the pews, and because the church has enormous windows, she made these huge garlands to go round them.”
You don’t need be an expert to choose your wedding flowers; your florist will be able to tell you the names of flowers and advise what colours and types of flowers work well together.
To help your florist visualize the type of bouquet you have in mind, provide pictures of bouquets you like and give them as much information as you can about your vision – the style and colour of flowers you’d like, any favourites, or certain flowers that have a sentimental meaning to you.
By creating a wedding mood board, you can see the theme forming for your special day, which is also helpful for your florist.
“We wanted old-fashioned, traditional wedding cars. The guy who was driving our classic car, and the company, were just amazing. Because the reception venue was so close to the church, we went for a drive round for a little bit after the ceremony, to give our guests time to go over to the venue. It was really lovely to have some time alone with Stephen.”
Long-established family company, Bespoked Wedding Cars provided the vintage transport. Owners, Jackie and Derek Brooks said: “We recommended one of our Beauford long wheel base fully convertible cars as the Bridal car and our Regent Landaulet 6 passenger Landaulet for the Bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride.”
We always recommend that clients go to view any cars that they’re thinking of booking for their special day. Most good car hire companies will happily arrange a time to suit you for a private viewing and consultation about your needs for the big day.
Choose a friendly and professional company with a reputation for excellence. If your hire company are members of the National Association of Wedding Car Professionals, you can be sure they adhere to the association’s code of conduct, with the highest operational standards and customer service. Ask for recommendations and always look at customer testimonials too.
The Penguin Touches
Aside from their aviary inspiration, Sarah and Stephen stayed classical in their wedding style, “We picked traditional centrepieces, fishbowls with candles in, so there was nothing really too outlandish. The venue helped a lot in creating that, they had some fairy lights that they’d put up around the walls, and mood lighting.”
What We Learned
Relax so you can enjoy…
“Don’t be nervous for the church. I was so nervous that it took away from my own experience and enjoyment. Remember that it’s your family and your loved ones! If I hadn’t been so nervous, I’d have enjoyed things before the church more.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff…
“Loads of little things went wrong that I was panicking over, but really it was nothing in the grand scheme of things.”
Video your first dance…
“With hindsight, I would have asked someone to film our first dance in full. We only managed to get the first 30 seconds that guests had filmed on their phones, but I wish we had a recording of the whole thing, especially because the band were so great... that’s my biggest regret.”
Enjoy every moment…
“I know it’s a cliche, but savour every moment. Before you know it, it’s over and you don’t get to do it again. I can’t believe how fast it went – I just blinked and it was over!”
The Magic Makers
Music, atmosphere and vibes of love and fun
Alive Network, UK-wide
Mix & Mingle Mind Reader, Mr Mind Play, exclusive to Alive Network
String Trios, available from Alive Network
Wedding Band, Resident Heroes, exclusive to Alive Network
Wedding DJs, available from Alive Network
David Paul Photography, Wrexham and surrounding counties
Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa, Cheshire
Dress: by Lillian West, available from The Bridal Barn, Staffordshire
Veil: by Richard Designs, available from Aristocrats of Chester, Cheshire
Accessories (earrings & necklace): Pandora, UK-wide
Hair and Beauty
Salon One 20, Wrexham
Samara James, UK-wide
Flowers and table décor
Pixie Lillies, Caergwrle
Special Moments Boutique, UK-wide
Cake Mania By Nicky, UK-wide
Wedding welcome banner
Babyobaidi Banners & Personalised Gifts, UK-wide
Personalised Fingerprint Guest ‘Book’ Print
Bespoked Wedding Cars, Cheshire, Flintshire, Wirral, Shropshire, Denbighshire, Anglesey, & North Wales
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