I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for ages, but kept putting it off because my dear old 2012 MacBook Pro was just too slow… but hurrah, I have a new MacBook and I can open more than three tabs in Chrome again; yay!
We got married in 2016, and it was seriously the best day ever. Our wedding was blogged over at Adored Bride, but I’ve always wanted to write my own account of it all because from the day we got engaged, it was just the most glorious experience. I didn’t really find it stressful; I just loved every minute of it!
We got engaged on the 19th December 2014. I had just completed my first term as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher; a notoriously hard year in the teaching community) and Michael had booked us in for a fancy meal at the Panoramic restaurant in Liverpool to ‘celebrate my first term’. I had zero suspicions! So much so I’d been to the pub with all of my colleagues that afternoon to celebrate school finishing for Christmas, and was more than a little tipsy when I got home… oops! The Panoramic is a lovely restaurant on the top of a (small) skyscraper with, well, panoramic views of the city. Michael later told me he chose it because really he wanted to propose on the riverfront, but with it being December he knew I would moan loads about being cold… but it was important to him that we could see the river, where we live now (Liverpool) and where I grew up (Wirral) as all of those things are important to us. The cutie! We had both always said a public proposal would be too embarrassing for us both, which is why he booked our meal ridiculously late and proposed at 11pm at night – the restaurant was almost empty!
It was towards the end of our meal when he took out a tiny weeny Christmas present (he’d wrapped the ring box in Christmas wrapping paper) and instantly I knew what it was. I’m sad that my memories of this are blurry (part emotion, part copious amounts of free champagne) but he got down on one knee, asked me to marry him, and I wailed. I didn’t even say yes… I just wailed! I made the phone calls to our parents and my best friends – I remember my sister in law being so annoyed that I had woken her up until I told her why! We then were given all kinds of lovely treats and champagne by the restaurant and went out to all of Liverpool’s fanciest bars, with me flashing my ring and being all “WE JUST GOT ENGAGED!”. We both got quite drunk and bless Michael – he knew my ring may need resizing and had planned in a lovely day the next day, he’d found a jewellers in town to do it and planned for us to go for a lovely romantic walk around the Christmas markets, but I was far too hungover to even leave the house! Whoops.
Let the planning begin!
I’ll let you into a little secret… I already had a secret folder of inspiration on my Mac at this point! Being someone who likes pretty things and is into the aesthetics of life, I couldn’t help but notice certain colours or textures and think ooh, if I ever get married I’d like that! Michael and I had also already talked about where we would get married and the kind of wedding we’d like, and I can honestly say that as much as I was teased for it at the time, knowing all this already made the planning process so much easier and quicker! As soon as everywhere re-opened after Christmas we had booked it all… the ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall followed by reception at Oh Me Oh My. Every choice in our wedding had meaning, and that was one of my favourite parts about it all. We chose the Town Hall because not only is it an absolutely beautiful building that most people don’t really get to go into unless they attend a wedding or event there, it also was the place The Beatles waved at thousands of fans from when they came home to Liverpool. We wanted to wave off the famous balcony! We chose Oh Me Oh My because we specifically wanted a very chilled out wedding. Neither of us are very formal at all, and the idea of something stuffy and formal made us both feel quite itchy and uncomfortable. Oh Me Oh My is part of a group of local venues, and they started with a beautiful cafe called Leaf that opened near my place of work in my first proper job after uni. I had got to know the owner Natalie after eating many lunches and drinking countless cups of rosebud tea in there, she’s an awesome girl boss slowly taking over the city one breathtaking venue at a time. I just knew I wanted our wedding to be there… the architecture and decor is so stunning it barely needed any decoration, and their weddings are tailored for people exactly like us – people who want something super chilled and perhaps a little leftfield from the wedding norm. Their dedicated wedding Instagram is even called @bridechillas!
With the venues booked and the date set in early January, the fun stuff could begin. I already knew the general vibe and colours I wanted… Michael was happy with me to be in charge of everything aesthetic. He said it was a relief as he hates making decisions over stuff like that! I basically picked and organised everything, running things past him to check there was nothing he hated. It worked really well for us! I have always been an old soul and I knew I wanted lots of splashes of vintage throughout. I wanted things to feel wild, loose and free – and most of all we both wanted music to take centre stage. It’s an obvious choice given my background (music degree, in a signed band, music teacher) but music and gigs have been a big part of our relationship too.
I didn’t want things to match too much, but I knew I wanted lace, wild flowers and dusky cornflower blue to be the main themes. I wanted nods to vintage but for it to not be too contrived. I wanted things to be rustic, handmade and even a little rough around the edges. I as a person am not very polished or groomed, and I wanted our wedding to reflect that.
Which brings me on to my last section of this blog before it becomes a PhD thesis… my dress! I felt pretty self conscious about looking for a wedding dress. Mainly because of my personal sense of style, and where I fit in when I live in a place full of very glamourous girls! Liverpool is well known for its glamour… the Scouse brows, the curly blows, the girls at the races. It does also have a thriving indie scene which I was very much a part of when I was younger (feels so cringe to write that in my 30s but it’s true!) and as someone who likes corduroy, the 60s, having a fringe and Alexa Chung; it can be hard sometimes to find places that cater to my style. I didn’t want a big princess-y wedding dress, and I felt like I would look really out of place going to these very fancy wedding boutiques in a pinafore and trainers. I know most of that is in my own head and people of all shapes, sizes, styles and tastes must go in – but I felt really self conscious about it! So, the research began into local bridal boutiques that would suit my style. Lots more have opened since we got married, but back then the go to place for brides like me was The White Closet. They only had their Didsbury boutique then but there is now one on Rodney Street – they have since changed ownership, so whilst the vibe of the Didsbury one is the same, the Rodney Street one is a little less ‘cool’.
I wouldn’t change my dress for the world, but if I were getting married now I think I would either go down the bespoke route, or get something not designer. The whole ‘everything doesn’t have to be designer or from a wedding supplier’ thing was just creeping in back then, and now there is so much awesome wedding stuff stocked all over the high street you wouldn’t have to go near a boutique if you didn’t want to.
I knew I wanted a Charlotte Balbier dress, because I just adored the lace she used and the vintage vibe of them. Everybody assumed I would have a 50s style lace tea dress, but despite not wanting to look princess-y I did want to look and feel like a bride – and I wore dresses similar to that regularly. Charlotte Balbier has since left her company so again, the feel and vibe of the brand has changed a bit, but when I got my dress it perfectly fitted what I wanted.
My Mum and I decided to go to The White Closet in Didsbury during Februrary half term (18 months before we got married) just for fun and for a little nose at what was out there. I knew it was too early to choose anything, but we fancied a fun day out! My biggest piece of advice to anyone getting married is to milk these days; you only get a few of them. Make a big deal of them! Shower every day in prosecco and find a reason to go for lunch somewhere lovely, dress up nicely and make it an occassion. We scheduled two separate days to take my niece and nephew out and buy their wedding outfits, took them both for afternoon tea separately and made it a day out each time (we being me, my mum, mother in law and sister in law). Those days were priceless!
So, after a gorgeous lunch and a wander around beautiful Didsbury, we headed in. I had my heart set on ‘The Charlotte’, which was the dress Charlotte Balbier designed for her own wedding:
And oh my gosh, I couldn’t sleep the night before trying it on! I knew it was The One! I’ve always loved bows and even have a tattoo of one (my married name contains the word bow too!), it was a nod to Kate Middleton’s wedding dress that lots of us fell in love with… the buttons, the lace, the everything! I loved that it was big and full but not too pouffy. She was perfect.
The boutique had her all ready for me to try on and I couldn’t wait! This was it!
Aaaaand… she looked ridiculous on me! They always say that you come away with something completely different than what you had in your head… that’s not true for me, but I definitely learned quickly that I was too small for a big dress. It completely and totally swamped me, and I looked like a toilet roll holder! I’m quite small and petite (even more so back then pre my IVF weight gain!) and was 5’4″ and a size 8, and I quickly realised that anything with a skirt that big just looked stupid on me. Also the girls in the shop reminded me we were having an August wedding and I would get super hot in the layers and layers of fabric.
The girls picked out a few more for me to try from various different designers… Jesus Piero, Claire Pettibone and Jenny Packham. All of those designers were way out of budget for me, but I just wanted to get an idea of what I suited. I loved The White Closet because they are all about styling it; they had on hand loads of different types of sashes, belts, sleeves and accessories to help you build a look. I tried on a few dresses which were nice but didn’t make my heart sing. As it came to the end of my appointment, My stylist (who was also called Lucy) brought one out on a hanger and said it was maybe a bit of a wildcard but, I should try it. I looked at it, the Charlotte Balbier Lillie Mae, and thought it looked really ‘meh’ on the hanger, like nothing special. I put it on, expecting to think it would look equally ‘meh’ on me.
I had pretty much had my heart set on buttons down the back of the dress and long or 3/4 length sleeves, but Lucy showed me how much they could alter using their talented in-house seamstress. As soon as I put it on, I was like… wow… I look tall! The first thing that struck me was that the waist is ever so slightly dropped. so it made me look longer in the body. I’m thankfully blessed with a small nipped in waist and an hourglass figure, but I’m very short in the body, which means there’s not much distance between my waistline and shoulders and I can look quite dumpy in things that are high waisted. In the Lillie Mae, I looked in proportion! This had never happened before!
Her swishy chiffon skirt could be spread and fluffed out to look bigger, and also looked elegant and flowing when stood still. It turns out that all I needed was a bit of chiffon and an A line skirt, it looked pretty similar on me to how a puffier skirt would look on someone a bit taller. I struggled to walk and move about in the Charlotte, but the Lillie Mae swished with ease. I didn’t get emotional. and nobody cried. but both my Mum and I thought she might be the one!
We said to the girls we would go away and think about it, with it still being early in the planning process I wasn’t sure if I should be deciding so early… and then the girls in the shop dropped a bombshell on me. Lillie Mae was part of a collection that was about to be renewed, and the exact sample dress I’d tried on was due to go in a sample sale the next day for a fraction of the price. They suggested that I could buy the sample, they’d have it professionally cleaned for me, and then I could use the money I saved from my budget to get the bespoke alterations needed to make it my true dream dress. The sample itself was absolutely immacculate; not a spot of dirt or a thread pull in sight.
This really put the cat amongt the pigeons! The girls said to sleep on it, and if I decided I wanted it I could call them in the morning and they would put the dress away for me. My mum and I drove home and went for an emergency glass of wine to discuss it all. I was super worried that it was too early to be making a decision, and what if I saw something I liked more? Was I cheating myself out of more lovely dress trying on days out? My mum reminded me that I have such a strong sense of style and I’d known what kind of dress I wanted for years… this dress was pretty close, and could be perfect with some alterations. Plus the alterations would make it bespoke and unique to me; I wouldn’t see lots of other brides in the exact same dress. She was right, of course as mums often are!
So, the next day I called The White Closet and paid for my dress in full over the phone. And so began the exciting process of meeting with their very talented seamstress, and collecting inspiration for what would eventually become my dress! We decided not to put buttons all the way up the back as it would have compromised the shape of the whole bodice, and I grew to love the open back. The dress had some covered buttons already, so the seamstress added more on all the way down the dress. To emulate The Charlotte, she sewed on a beautiful silk Charlie Brear sash around the waist that I had tied in a gorgeous floppy bow at the base of my back. The cleverest thing was the sleeves… the original plan was to get more of the exact same lace from Charlotte Balbier to make me some lace 3/4 length sleeves, but this ended up not being possible. So instead, she created some chiffon sleeves from the chiffon she cut from the skirt (I’m short remember, quite a lot came off to make it the right length!) and used the lace from the cap sleeves and more covered buttons to make the most incredibly beautiful sleeves for me. I adored them, and it totally changed the look of my dress!
I will leave that there for now… and continue at a later date with how we planned Michael’s suit, aaaall the music, table settings and how we chose our suppliers. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and it’s not been too boring… I’m so glad I’ve done it, it’s been such a gorgeous trip down memory lane for me and I’m so glad I have the memories to look back on.