How did you guys meet?
We met when we were both living just outside of Barcelona, where we were working as English teachers and learning Spanish. We had mutual friends and met a party. Our first date was in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean. Date two was in the ancient walled city of Girona – now the setting for parts of Game of Thrones.
When we moved back to Britain, we lived at opposite ends of the country. We’d take long journeys across the Pennines to see each other on often unreliable trains and buses.
When we finished university, Jess went travelling and Owen studied in Holland. As soon as Jess returned from exploring the world, she moved in to Owen’s tiny (8m2) room in the Netherlands. After being apart for three months, we never really wanted to separate again.
Tell us about your proposal
In 2018, Owen planned a holiday to a mystery destination. It was a town called Annecy in the French Alps, famous for its canals and known as the “Venice of the Alps”. He had planned to hire a boat and propose in the middle of Lake Annecy. But disaster struck! All the boat hire locations were closed. So he popped the question on a jetty overlooking the lake instead.
Where did you get married and why did you choose your venue?
We knew we were going to have a small wedding, with about 40 guests, so we needed a venue that would look right for that amount of people and wouldn’t feel sparse.
We particularly loved the traditional idea of a church and village hall. It’s what a lot of people did in the past but don’t do so much now.
As an events organiser I knew we would want to do a lot of the wedding ourselves, so a village hall meant we could have a blank canvas to do exactly what we wanted to in terms of decoration, catering, entertainment and everything. It was really affordable, so we hired it for the day before and got all our friends round to decorate, as well as having the day after too to take it all down. Plus the money from our venue hire fees went back into the local community and upkeep of the village hall.
How did you Keep it Real?
Although the wedding seems quite traditional on the face of it, we tried to innovate and do things in our own style.
It was important for the wedding to feel relaxed. We wanted to be surrounded by our close friends, all having fun. We wanted to keep the traditions that we love but were happy to ditch the customs that we didn’t. We wanted to be well-fed, entertained and a little bit boozy, but we didn’t care about the fancy car or expensive champagne. We had traditional hymns in the service but we walked out of the church to Motown hits.
We’re both vegetarian and wanted to serve food that was special to us. We’ve holidayed in Greece, travelling from Thessaloniki to Athens by bus and train. As wonderful as the ancient monuments were, the food was the best thing. So we laid on veggie, Greek food… and lots of it!
Who was your photographer and how did you choose them?
We chose Sheffield wedding photographer Peakography – Colin is an incredible photographer and it’s one of the complements we get all the time of how great the photographs are. I think it’s really important having a great photographer as those photos become part of your memories of the day. We also had an engagement shoot with Colin at Crich Tramway Village among all the vintage trams, which was loads of fun. I would really recommend having an engagement shoot, to get to know your photographer and ease some of the pressure of posing for photographs on the day. Plus we printed and framed photos of us both, from childhood, with friends and from the engagement shoot and used them to decorate the venue.
Who helped you with wedding prep?
Our friends, Tom and Katie, made a selection of delicious canapés. It was a huge weight off our mind to entrust that to somebody else. They also handed them out to our hungry guests.
Usher Dav and his wife Hannah prepared Pimms to serve outside the church. It gave people something to do while waiting for photos to be taken. The church were perfectly happy for us to drink alcohol in the grounds. They even gave us a table to put the drinks dispenser on.
Owen’s mum and step-dad Nigel brought back lots of the alcohol from France. They go on holiday there lots and soon every trip became a booze cruise. Their car was full of luggage, wine and their cockapoo Malcolm for every return voyage. They also found lots of vintage white tablecloths at French antiques markets. Lots of people were involved in the wedding in some way or another. From sourcing the confetti to lighting fireworks to making sure that champagne glasses were topped up, we were really fortunate to have so many generous friends. A crack team of them even helped decorate the village hall. Equally important, they helped tidy up after!
Who walked you down the aisle?
My oldest friend Tom walked me down the aisle. We’ve known each other since primary school and then I ended up going to university with his now wife, where we became great friends too.
Which song played as you walked down the aisle?
Kissing You by Des’ree.
What was your first dance and why?
Our first dance was Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”. It’s lovely, uplifting and a little bit different. We didn’t want anything too slow and sad. It’s such a happy moment and we wanted a joyful song.
Tell me about your cake…
My friend Nicky from Secret Cake Club did our cake – she runs a lot of the pop up tea rooms at the vintage fairs I organise. It was lovely to have someone I know and trust do the cake. It was a two tier lemon drizzle cake and delicious!
How did you pick your stunning flowers?
Arbutus & Ivy did the bouquets, buttonholes, corsages and posies that went on the end of the pews in the church.
We saved money on having table centre pieces at the village hall by putting our bouquets and the posies from the church in vases on the tables. The faux flower garlands were all bought on ebay (and then sold afterwards)
Tell me about your hair and makeup…
Hair was by Harriet Harvey Hair who was incredible. I loved what she did with my hair and she was also a lovely person to have around when we were getting ready on the morning.
After struggling to find a make up artist, we did our own make up. I’m quite fussy about my make up anyway!
Tell me about your catering. Was it done in-house or did you bring outside caterers in?
Greedy Greek are really well known in Sheffield as a great Greek restaurant and takeaway but not many people know they do catering too. Our Sheffield friends were really excited when they found out! They did a great spread of Greek vegetarian starters (hummus, pitta, Greek salad, stuffed vine leaves, falafel, olives, spinach and feta parcels), followed by moussaka and incredible lemon roast potatoes. The potatoes were so good many guests went to ask the caterers for the recipe afterwards!
Jess made lemon possets with shortbread biscuits for dessert.
We hired a vintage wood fired pizza van for our evening meal – The Artisan Pizza Company. They did four vegetarian pizzas, with the mushroom being a stand out favourite for most people.
How did you get everyone up on the dancefloor?
Our band was called Lunafall. They were a great band and played lots of hits that everyone enjoyed. We also had a very carefully curated playlist with all sorts of Motown, disco and pop party classics.
How did you choose to decorate your venue?
When we first created the invitations, we used a lemony backdrop, just because we liked the design. But everything started to match with that and before we knew it, we had a lemon-themed wedding.
This meant a yellow and green colour scheme. We had lots of nice natural, botanical colours in the bouquets and mirrored these in the decor.
We bought lots of fake wisteria and ivy garlands on the internet. We then strung them up near the ceiling of the venue. We added some real foliage (rosemary, ivy and sage) from Owen’s mum’s garden.
There was a little shelf running around the edge of the room. We put (electric) tealights in little glass cups around it, along with photos of our friends and family. We used the wedding bouquets as centrepieces. We had white linen table cloths that Owen’s mum had salvaged from antiques markets. Jess sewed a runner to go down the centre of the tables.
Did you give out wedding favours?
One of our favourite personal touches at the wedding were the crackers for each guest that served as place settings, favours and entertainment. We wrote personalised jokes and trivia questions for each cracker, and included toys and paper hats. Then the crackers were wrapped in lemon printed wrapping paper. We had all our friends and family collecting empty toilet rolls tubes for months, not knowing what they were for! That was definitely one of the wedding crafts that started off fun but by cracker #22 got quite laborious. It was worth it in the end though – they looked great and everyone loved the personalised jokes!
1. The moment Jess walked in to the church. Even from the front of the church, you could hear people’s happiness as she walked in. I was worried if I turned around, I’d cry with joy. I held it in (mostly).
2. The speeches. We planned so much of the wedding ourselves but the speeches were a bit of a mystery. We knew best man Dom had planned a big one. But there was also a mystery toast from James and Charissa in the bridal party.
3. The fireworks were fantastic. We bought them from a local wholesaler and trusted some pyromaniac (and experienced) friends with setting them off.
4. Best man Dom getting so drunk that he pulled off his shirt and ran around topless. Endless entertainment!
How much did you spend?
We spent around £8000. Since the wedding, Jess has also re-sold a lot of the decorations online. And we’ve still got leftover rum and vodka.
Any wedding advice or tips?
Our advice would be to ditch the things that don’t matter to you. Then you’ll have more money to spend on what’s important. Swap champagne for prosecco; ask your friends to contribute time or skills instead of buying you a gift; and remember eBay is your friend.
Although obviously I wanted to feel beautiful on my wedding day, spending such a high proportion of our fairly frugal wedding budget on a dress that only gets worn once seemed a little mad to me. I organise vintage fairs for a living, so wearing second hand clothing is no strange thing for me. After trying on around 30 dresses with no luck (or maybe 40 as my bridesmaids keep reminding me), I saw a photo of ‘the one’ on Pinterest.
I tracked down the name of the designer and dress and managed to find one for sale on a second hand website. My friend Kathy drove me from Chesterfield to Cumbria to see it, hoping it would be right. When we met the owner, I was really worried it was all a wasted journey because she looked so much smaller than me, but I tried it on and it fit like a glove. I didn’t even need any alterations! If that’s not destiny, I don’t know what is. The previous owner was happily married and selling the dress to go travelling with her husband; and I got my dream dress for less than half of what it would have cost new. Owen brewed his own batch of home-brewed beer. We called it “Hop the Question” and printed labels for the bottles. It was a lager with lemony notes!
Would you do anything differently?
I would say you have to be really clear with what you want from your suppliers and, if you’re doing a lot of the organising yourself, make sure you email them the week before to reiterate the key details.
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Photographer: Peakography | Bride’s dress designer: Willowby | Bride’s veil: ebay | Shoes: ASOS | Hair: Harriet Harvey Hair | Make up: Did own | Bridesmaids: Infinity dresses from Etsy | Groom’s suit: ASOS | Ushers:Florist: Arbutus & Ivy | Cake: Secret Cake Club Catering: Greedy Greek Deli |The Artisan Pizza Company | Entertainment: Luna Fall