Fallen in love

” With both of us having such busy work schedules, stress levels were definitely rising. That’s when we made one of our best decisions: to employ a professional to help. Andrea Swift of Fabulous Day was truly wonderful; she looked after all the tricky details before the day her legendary “to-do” lists were perfect, but what made her completely invaluable was the fact that she worked with us to deliver the day we wanted”.

Our story starts when we fell in love – literally, as we met when we fell off our respective horses on a hack. Two years later, on our anniversary, Tony proposed (on one knee of course) in the beautiful Dorothy Clive Gardens in Staffordshire where we had strolled on our first date. We decided to get married one year later – April 10th was our target. A church wedding was always important to us and we wanted to get married at Christ Church, Little Drayton, Shropshire, near Fi’s childhood home where her father still lives and next door to her primary school. One slight complication was that the parish was having a new vicar so we could not confirm the date until September, but we pushed on with arrangements anyway. In the event, the new vicar, Father Hywell Snook, could not have been kinder. He helped us focus on what was really important, which was the vows we were making, and kept our feet on the ground over the months to come. He did not bat an eyelid at there being not one best man but two – and both female (Tony’s lovely daughters).

So with the church set, a venue for the reception was the next priority. We looked at Oakley Hall and immediately fell in love with it. For us it was a perfect location: a Queen Anne mansion set in stately parkland with an elegant main hall, and a light and airy ballroom. Unlike a hotel, you hire the Hall (it is actually a family home) and then are left to make the arrangements yourself.  For us this was also perfect as we had lots of ideas and it meant we were not restricted, although of course it does mean extra work. Keith from the Hall was very helpful and provided a list of possible caterers and other suppliers but we were actually free to use whoever we liked.  For us, music, food and wine were at the top of the list.  We decided that rather than a marquee, we would make full use of the magnificent main hall for dining but this meant limiting our numbers to around 100 adults.  A discussion with Graham Crawford of Crawford Marquees was very useful and Graham not only provided an awning outside as extra protection in the event of rain, but all the tables, chairs and dance floor.  He was also extremely helpful during set-up.  If larger numbers had been required, a marquee on the lawn would have been the perfect solution.

Having talked to various caterers, S and F Caterers stood out for us. Sally and Fiona were lovely people with a definite ‘can do’ attitude, and they came with excellent recommendations. The food was everything we had hoped for and more, with wonderful canapés, delicious wedding breakfast and a supper that ‘hit the spot’. The service was efficient, friendly and professional, and in fact everything about the catering was outstanding. We recommend them very highly – these ladies really know their business. A fantastic four tiered chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing and a cascade of chocolate flowers from Amerton Cakes, along with a chocolate fountain in the evening (from Chocolate Joy) served to satisfy the cravings of even the most avid chocoholic.

Next stop was the liquid refreshments for the day.  We were recommended Old School Wines at Stone, an independent wine merchant. The owners, Andrew and Clare Wilson, really know their stuff and have a fantastic selection of wines. Andrew educated us in wines for large parties and gave us extensive “homework” to choose the best wine, a difficult task that we had to share with friends. A big advantage of purchasing wines from Andrew is he will then provide “proper” fine glasses as part of the service. He also put us in touch with the excellent Jonny Corn, a sommelier who ran the drinks service all day. Jonny was fantastic and he and his team ensured that all our guests were superbly looked after throughout the day.

Choosing a photographer you like and trust is really important as this is the person who will record your memories. Luckily for us, this was a “no-brainer”. We had seen Ian Olsson’s work previously and, for us, he is simply the best. Even though he lives in Surrey he was happy to travel to Shropshire and the results were all we had hoped for and more: beautiful memories captured by a truly inspired professional.

By now it was Christmas and we were beginning to realise just how complex organising the wedding was proving to be. With both of us having such busy work schedules, stress levels were definitely rising. That’s when we made one of our best decisions: to employ a professional to help. Andrea Swift of Fabulous Day was truly wonderful; she looked after all the tricky details before the day and her legendary “to-do” lists were perfect, but what made her completely invaluable was the fact that she worked with us to deliver the day we wanted. On the day itself Andrea was discrete and incredibly efficient. We were completely unaware of what was happening in the background: everything from ensuring the amazing confetti line was in place for us to ensuring the bands set up on schedule. Everything went exactly to plan and having Andrea there to orchestrate the whole thing meant that we could relax and enjoy the day. Particularly for busy working folk, we would strongly suggest a wedding organiser and we cannot recommend Andrea more highly.

The hunt for the dress started in earnest in January. A chance trip to Any Occasion in Tunbridge Wells with Fi’s future sister in law found Fi trying on a designer wedding dress by Linea Raffaelli (while Tony and his brother were in the pub of course!). It was a very unusual colour, a gorgeous dark red silk taffeta shot with blue, and very flattering to Fi’s pale complexion.  To complement it, Fi chose the dramatic contrast of an off-white bolero, with silk roses of the same fabric as the dress, and knew immediately that the outfit was ‘The One’.  How many brides can say they tried on only one wedding dress!

The ‘best men’, Tony’s daughters, looked stunning in bespoke dark grey long dresses with ivory boleros; our two younger bridesmaids wore simple ivory dresses from Monsoon and for our teenage bridesmaid, an on-trend short, ivory Yuki dress.

Sourcing the men’s clothing was just as easy; we went to J & J Designs in Newcastle under Lyme and found an outstandingly friendly, helpful and skilled service, willing to make adjustments at the very last minute!

Our next thoughts were flowers. Conceptually, we knew what we wanted but needed a good creative florist. This was not straightforward but when we met Alison O’Mara in Stone she immediately impressed us with her ideas (Alison also teaches floristry at her dedicated floristry school in Stone). On the day she decked the Hall with beautifully crafted floral garlands and arrangements that were very much admired. The buttonholes and the corsages for the ‘best men’ were superb, and the bridesmaids’ bouquets of dark red tulips and roses were stunning; they made a fabulous contrast with their ivory dresses whilst toning with the bride’s dark red dress. The bride’s bouquet of white and green parrot tulips, green hellebores, ivory and dark red roses, with a touch of blue eryngium to complement the blue tones in the dress, had the feel of a Dutch ‘old master’ still-life painting and looked perfect with the dark red of the wedding dress.

For Fi, hair and makeup were a priority by now. Fi’s hair was coloured and styled beautifully by Chris Andrew and his team at Dezign Room of Stone. There must be a very special mention for Fi’s make-up artist, the wonderful Elayne Moore. As a more mature bride, Fi felt she needed some make-up but didn’t want to look unnatural, and Elayne got the balance just right. She did a superb job on the ‘best men’, making them even more beautiful, and she also did an outstanding job on the pretty young bridesmaids, emphasising their fresh looks and at the same time making them feel very special. The girls’ make-up lasted all day with only a lipstick touch-up in the evening, and we were all delighted.  Elayne was so much more than just a make-up artist, however, calming all our nerves, dealing with mascara and eye make-up crises, and helping the bride get ready right up until she left.  Elayne Moore is truly wonderful and we highly recommend her.

As we had guests travelling long distances, we organised a block-booking at a local hotel and so transport was required. Routemaster Buses of Crewe provided classic buses to get our guests to the church and on to the reception, and the bright-red, double-decker, London bus started the day in style. For us, a Rolls, and a Daimler for the bridesmaids from Silverline Cars provided elegant, luxurious and comfortable transport.

Music is a very important factor for us. Right from the start we knew we wanted an operatic aria as we signed the register in church. We also needed some entertainment in the Ballroom for an hour in the evening whilst the main Hall was transformed from dining room to dance floor. A friend suggested Helen Blake as a soloist and what a find she was! Helen and her accompanists Andrew and John Burr added more than a touch of magic to the day. Her performance of “Oh mio babbino caro” and “Panis Angelicus” left not a dry eye in the church, whilst her evening recital of songs from the shows and jazz hits struck just the right chord. She left us and our guests with truly fantastic memories and her performances were real highlights of the day.

Lucy Cadman’s beautiful tenor saxophone set the perfect relaxed mood as our guests arrived at Oakley Hall in glorious warm spring sunshine for bubbles and canapés. After the wedding breakfast and Helen Blake’s recital, we moved back into the now transformed main Hall for an hour of ‘Strictly Ballroom’ under the musical direction of The Good Time Combo. The real highlight, however, was the dancing demonstration by Bryl Berry and his team of instructors Louise, Danni and Zoey from Shaftsbury Dance, which delivered a real “wow” factor to our guests. We were delighted that many of our guests took to the dance floor afterwards to have a go themselves. Bryl and his team had worked with us over a period of many weeks before the big day to choreograph not one but two “first dances”, which we managed to perform to generous applause!

And then to the main band – and what a band they were! We came across The Collection at a wedding fair at the NEC. They are fronted by Keavy Lynch, a former member of B*witched with several number-one hits to her credit. The band was truly professional and was happy to learn one of our favourite songs for the evening. We danced the night away to the fantastic music, with a disco provided by the band filling the last half hour. The dance floor was packed all night, right up until the last song, Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ …

So that was it – a truly fabulous day which has left us so many wonderful memories, all made possible by the fantastic team of people we had working with us!

Suppliers list for Fallen in Love

  • Coordinator – Fabulous Day – 07985 829590
  • Venue – Oakley Hall – 01630 653472

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