REAL WEDDING - Tying the Knot in Notting Hill - captured by Ellie Gillard Photography at Sunbeam Studios
30th March 2018
My husband and I met and now live 3,000 miles away from our native west London in the Middle East, but we knew as soon as we got engaged that the only place it would feel right saying our vows would be where our hearts will always be – in London Town.
Notting Hill is our favourite part of London so we narrowed our search down to that area. While we adore the atmosphere and architecture of old churches, we aren’t particularly religious; Sunbeam Studios provided a perfect alternative – it is a beautiful Grade II listed Edwardian building full of character and history. It is a former Talbot car garage but now operates as a photography studio. It offers a choice of rooms for the ceremony and then reception, plus a gorgeous little garden. Oh and a massive disco ball! We wanted a laid-back, London feel. Our criteria was everything under one roof, a blank canvas space… and the option to bring our own booze! Sunbeam delivered on all counts.
The Green Details
Our venue Sunbeam Studios uses 100% renewable electricity and 100% green gas. It offers Belu water with 100% of profits going to WaterAid, and prioritises sustainability across its catering. It also donates waste products from its shoots to local schools; recycles set building materials; and puts its kitchen waste into its wormery, which in turn helps fertilise its garden which is planted specifically to help sustain the bee population.
The Guest List
We had around 110 guests. Most of our friends still live in London which was a main reason we chose the venue we did - we didn’t want guests to be put out financially or logistically. But we did have a few friends come from Dubai, Spain, Shropshire and Cumbria.
We did have a budget and we pretty much stuck to it – until I decided I wasn’t happy with my wedding dress so bought a new one a week before the wedding… then ended up wearing both of them!
Our rule of thumb was to splash out only on the things which we felt were important to our guests’ enjoyment, then we were more conservative with the bits we thought people probably wouldn’t notice or remember anyway.
Living in Dubai we don’t see our friends as much as we would like so we wanted them to really enjoy them being part of our day. I had seven bridesmaids who, along with my family, stayed in the Rosewood hotel in Holborn the night before the wedding. We all got ready together in the morning which was a pricey, but priceless experience.
Beyond that, we kept things simple and personal. I really tried to resist falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole. My sister-in-law is a florist and pretty thrifty, and organized trays of succulents and candles.
The décor and details were quite pared back. Our favours were Portobello Road gin miniatures distilled just around the corner from our venue. Instead of a wedding cake we challenged our guests to a Bake Off, which my sister- and mother-in-law judged. It got pretty competitive, but everyone got a prize!
We wanted a relaxed look and feel, with nothing too ‘matchy’. Our loose theme was neutrals and metallics, but mainly it was about our favourite people feeling and looking great. I would never have wanted to force my bridesmaids into dresses that they didn’t feel nice in just to fit my agenda – They all chose their own dresses which I saw for the first time on the wedding morning. I have an unusually good looking and stylish set of friends and they all looked incredible!
Dan and his best man Ryan got their three-piece maroon suits tailor made.
I wore a simple satin off-the-shoulder mermaid dress which I bought off-the-peg in Dubai the week before the wedding for the ceremony. In the evening I changed into a lace, long-sleeved two-piece which I’d had made at Blackburn Bridal in Blackheath. I changed my mind about wearing it on the day last minute as it was quite ‘trendy’ - I thought the 50-year-old me might be a little regretful about a cropped top wedding outfit but I probably should have just gone for it!
Our canapés were some of our favourite dishes in miniature – sausages and honey mustard, Yorkshire puddings and roast beef, and bruschetta. We had goat’s cheese and beetroot salad starters, the main course was filet steak and creamy mash, and desert was the “Bake Off cakes”, followed by our cheese ‘cake’ and crackers. We livened people up after the meal with espresso martinis and then brought pizzas out at 10pm.
Our theme was ‘stuff we like’. It didn’t go too much beyond that!
Tips for Other Couples Planning Their Wedding
- Excel formulas are your friend
- Don’t include traditions or elements that you don’t feel are ‘you’ - these days there are no rules
- Ask for help – your friends will be honored to be part of your day
- Enjoy the planning – make ‘events’ of milestones and celebrate ticking things off
- As soon as the planning starts to feel tedious, have a break
- Keep each other at the heart of all your plans
- Spend more time than you might have anticipated on the ceremony – this was probably my favourite part of the day because it was so personal. The vows are so important. You need to mean them with all your heart!
- Our day would have felt incomplete if some of our friends or family weren’t there. Don’t plump for the location at the expense of your guests’ attendance.
It was 32 degrees on our wedding day so we pushed the dinner back an hour to enjoy our garden drinks a little longer and held off on our couple photo shoot until the evening – post-wedding breakfast and post a fair bit of champagne! We were relaxed and a little disheveled and the photos are all the better for it. The light was golden and the air was still and warm. People were walking past and giving their good wishes. That hour encapsulated everything we wanted from a London wedding.
Ellie Gillard shot a friend’s wedding, also in London. We wanted reportage style – not too many staged shots. Ellie is an expert in this style of photography, not to mention the loveliest person. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
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