October 26th 2015, Featured
Covent Garden Hotel and Happenstance Wedding
I don’t really know where to start with this one. Matt and Owain’s wedding was hands down one of the most joyous celebrations I’ve ever been a part of. The energy when I arrived in the morning, the intimate ceremony at The Covent Garden Hotel, their music infused blessing at The Actors Church, the lively Routemaster bus journeys across London, a buzzing reception and THE MOST emotional speeches EVER all came together to make a day that was full of love. Alice and I spent most of it grinning (or crying a bit). There were so many moments that stand out at their Covent Garden Hotel and Happenstance Wedding.
Matt and Owain spent so much time thinking about every little details, so that, in their own words, the day was not only a celebration of their relationship but a reflection of it. Do scroll down to the bottom to read about the day in Matt and Owain’s own words. They write about it eloquently and in glorious detail.
We met on the 7th of September, 2007 at The Royal Academy Of Music and have been together since the 20th OF SEPTEMBER, 2007! It was very much a case of love at first sight (insert vomit emoji).
We got engaged on the 21st of May, 2010 on the Carousel in Central Park, New York. Owain surprised Matt with a trip to the Big Apple whilst Matt was performing in Sweeney Todd. Matt proposed back to Owain on the streets of Paris a month later during a surprise visit, when Owain was performing Les Miserables at the Chatalet Theatre.
We gave each other matching Tiffany & Co. rings…. Grey Titanium for Matt, Black Titanium for Owain (to match the hair and eyes of course!) and were literally invited for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” upon our return to London by the Bond Street store.
The Venues / Locations
The Ceremony – The Covent Garden Hotel, Monmouth Street
Having already decided we wanted to be blessed at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, we wanted to find somewhere nearby to have our ceremony. Having browsed Camden Council’s website, we came across The Covent Garden Hotel. Having been here on a date a few years ago, we definitely wanted to view it. We were greeted by Moses, who showed us the 3 possible rooms in which we could get married. What struck us, apart from the unique decor and elegance of the hotel, was the warmth of the staff. Not an ounce of ‘corporate’ in sight, but a feeling of being at home (a very luxurious home at that!) We fell in love with the Drawing Room, a room that wouldn’t look out of place at Downton Abbey, which adjoined to the Tiffany’s Library…. sold. They showed us examples of their guest rooms as well, each individually designed, and suddenly we had a clear vision of our Wedding day. On the top floor, the stunning Terrace Suite overlooking the rooftops of C ovent Garden, as well its adjoining Deluxe Room, would become preparation headquarters on the big day, as well as where we would spend our first night as a married couple. Dealing with the hotel over the months of preparation was a breeze; Monica at reception who allowed us to show numerous friends and family around the hotel, Hannah (our Events Planner from Firmdale Hotels) who provided us with the best tasting known to man, as well as every member of staff we encountered, bookended our big day in a sublime fashion.
The Blessing St. Paul’s (The Actors’ Church), Covent Garden
We always knew this beautiful church would play a part in our big day. Having attended concerts and charity fundraisers here over the years, the church not only represented the vibrancy of the theatre community, but also a sanctuary away from all the madness of central London right in the heart of Covent Garden. Meeting the Reverend, Simon Grigg, was a wonderful experience. Over a cup of a tea and a biscuit, we discussed why we wanted to get married, and why being blessed at a church was so important to us. He showed us an example of the wording we could use in our Blessing, which struck so many chords with us, particularly the asking of the congregation if they would support our commitment in the years to come. Having 180 people say “We Do” on the day was a sensation we’ll never forget. St. Paul’s prides itself on its inclusivity, and with Simon at the helm, we instantly felt at home and became regular attendees of Sunday and mid-week mass. We even baked some Swiss Rolls for their charity coffee morning, such is the strong community feel of the church.
The Reception – The Happenstance, St. Paul’s
Finding a reception venue in London that can accommodate 180 guests proved quite tricky. We saw The Happenstance advertised on hitched.com , gave them a call to arrange a viewing, and had a very good feeling. The events planner, Will Breteau, is a social ninja. He was the only person from any reception venue that we’d viewed who commenced the viewing by asking us about our relationship. A mojito later, he knew our story, and began to explain what The Happenstance could provide, which was pretty much anything and everything we wanted. The amazing location (across the road from St. Paul’s Cathedral) combined with the friendly staff, great food and innovative cocktails, the quirky yet stylish decor within the skeleton of an old bank, and Will’s can-do attitude sealed the deal. ‘Happenstance’ means “a happy coincidence”, and it really was the happiest of coincidences that we found them. As we were getting married on a Sunday, a roast was the obvious choice as a main course. Instead of a starter, we wanted canapés to represent meaningful locations, which the Head Chef tailor-made for us: Welsh Cawl, Black Country Faggots & Peas, New York Cheeseburgers, Parisian Smoked Salmon Bellinis, and London Fish & Chips. These were presented beautifully on the day, accompanied by plenty of Prosecco and Peroni to keep our guests in the mingling mood. For dessert, we loved the idea of having an afternoon tea, which again the Head Chef tailor-made for us, and was a real hit with our guests. It meant that the whole meal became very communal, with plenty of banter between different friendship and family groups. A main selling-point of The Happenstance was their commitment to going the extra mile: they’re not about selling a pre-determined Wedding package, they’re about giving you the Wedding that you want. It’s what excites them. And it’s what they delivered in buc ket loads. Their efficiency, their personality, and their style made it the party of the century, and we can’t wait to go back and see them all again.
For two guys, deciding whether we wanted to match or have individual suits was a head scratcher. We decided to go with our gut instinct based on the suits that we’d see. El Ganso on Neal Street was one of the first places we ventured into; their Mediterranean style was perfect for us, and we found the suit we wanted. Unfortunately, as the suit was a limited edition, they didn’t have our sizes, so we put El Ganso to bed and continued the search. The problem with looking for outfits once you’ve found the suit you want, is that nothing else quite cuts the cloth. Having searched the high street and the priciest boutiques of Bond Street to no avail, we went back to El Ganso a few weeks later to torture ourselves. The staff remembered us and jumped for joy, as the suit we wanted had been re-commissioned for a limited season!
The reason we loved this suit was because it was blue, it was 100% wool, and fitted very well. As the shade of blue complemented both of our colourings, our gut told us that we wanted matching suits for us, the 2 Best Men, and the 2 Ushers. The team worked tirelessly to get the 6 suits imported from Carnaby Street, Portugal, Italy, even having one pair of trousers made at El Ganso headquarters in Spain! Once the suits had arrived, they put us in touch with Jac Hui, a very talented tailor based in Soho. As the official tailor for El Ganso and Yves Saint Laurent, we were in very safe hands, and he tailored the suits perfectly, combining classic style with a modern London edge. The whole team at El Ganso were brilliant, making every fitting a riot of laughter and excitement, and they even joked that they’d all take the day off to come and see us get hitched. That’s the ‘El Ganso Spirit’.
To set ourselves apart from the Groomsmen, we decided to have crisp white shirts for ourselves, and white & blue check shirts for the boys. We got all the shirts from Hawes & Curtis on Jermyn Street, who offer excellent quality and great deals on multiple purchases. To further set ourselves apart from the boys, and being big fans of Gary Barlow and Dermot O’Leary’s style in their X Factor days, we liked the idea of having Horseshoe waistcoats. We found Andy & Tully in the Princes Arcade just off Jermyn Street, waistcoat makers extraordinaire. Tully was a joy to work with, and made us perfectly fitting linen waistcoats (wonderfully light for an August Wedding) that matched the blue of our suits, complete with our initials and Wedding date embroidered into the lining.
Austin Reed on Regent Street provided our shoes. We wanted brown brogues, which they had in abundance. And the Church’s brogues we ended up wearing were not only exquisitely stylish and traditionally British, they were incredibly comfortable. Top marks.
With 4 ridiculously beautiful Groomsmaids in their early twenties, this was a potential minefield. We were very lucky in that they were all almost identical in figure, so after a Pinterest hunt by Matt and a suggestion by Owain‘s mother, we looked into Coast’s multi-tie dresses (coincidentally, they both found the same dress!) They’re floor-length, which we wanted, and come in a variety of colours. The main selling-point was the fact that the girls could express their own individual style in the way they tied the dresses, complementing their figures appropriately whilst still maintaining a uniform look.
The boys’ ties were found at T.M.Lewin on Jermyn Street: blue ties that were slightly patterned with woven stripes, which complemented their check shirts brilliantly. We found our ties at Liberty’s of London: we pushed the boat out and got Yves Saint Laurent ties that were a perfect match for our suits. The boys’ woven navy/sky-blue cufflinks were from El Ganso, and our cufflinks were a Wedding gift from Matt – stunning Vintage Watch Movement Cufflinks in Rose and Yellow Gold (by Chee Designs), which nodded nicely to our fascination with time.
Sticking with the theme of ‘time’, Owain‘s wedding gift for Matt was a vintage Rolex watch from 1945, the year Matt’s father was born.
For us, there was only one place for Wedding Rings: Tiffany & Co. Not only are the rings beautiful, but the whole experience of making a purchase here is a delight. They have an instinct for knowing what you want, even when you don’t, and are always ready to toast your happiness with a glass of champagne.
The Decor / Flowers
Ever since we started planning our wedding, we knew sunflowers were going to play an important part. As Owain‘s father said his speech: “As you start your new lives together, be like the sunflower – brave, bright and bold, keep your roots strong and you’re heads held high, always face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”. We chose The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers because we’ve walked passed it a million times and have always commented about how beautiful the shop is. Gillian and her team were absolutely lovely, always there with a pot of tea and vase-full of ideas, and the arrangements were beautiful. We had button holes for the Wedding party, bouquets for the 4 Groomsmaids, a big display that was moved from the Ceremony to the Blessing to the Reception, and individual stems that were displayed on the tables (placed in vintage milk bottles provided by The Happenstance, which was a lovely nod to Owain’s dairy farming heritage).
Matt’s sister, Natalie, is a professional artist. Asking her to make the artwork for our invitations was a no-brainer. We doodled on a piece of A4 paper the ideas we had, and she created something above and beyond what we’d asked. The idea of London-New York-Paris was a key factor, as well as the carousel, and she hand-painted a beautiful piece of art incorporating Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Chrysler Building overlooking a beautifully detailed carousel and a sea of sunflowers for our invitations. On the back, she painted a time line of the big day with little emojis to represent each section – a London Bus for the transport, a pair of brogues for the party etc. It made our guests very excited about the big day, and set the bar marvellously high!
Her artwork was so gorgeous, we had to use it for other decorative elements. Matt’s big brother, Jason, is a professional designer. He branded the wedding, using elements of Natalie’s artwork for the table plan, place cards, table numbers, canapé menus, even the background of the Photo Booth strips. He also designed our wedding favours; in the goodie bags, each guest received a miniature pot of Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir hand lotion (our favourite fragrance) with a personalised label, and a soundtrack to the day, for which he designed the CD label and the envelopes. Together, we managed to put our stamp all over the wedding, and created a day that was truly an extension of our relationship.
As Tiffany & Co. has played an important part in our story, we had the idea of making Tiffany & Co. style bags to hold our favours. We got in touch with Morplan, who specialise in making bags for companies. We bought accessory sized bags of the exact colour, and branded them with ‘ElsonWilliams & Co. Est. 2015’. As well as the hand lotion and soundtrack, each bag featured a vintage postcard from either London, Paris or New York (bought from Liberty) and either a Jack Daniels or Courvoisier miniature (our favourite tipple). We took the idea of a ‘favour bag’ to include all of our favourite things.
As table numbers we used photos os ourselves at set ages e.g. Table 1 – I Year Old etc. These were designed by Jason, and gave the guests a lot of laughs.
We had Tea-cup candles (created by Matt’s mother and Aunty Pat, and branded by Jason) to coincide with the afternoon tea we were having for dessert.
We included stacks of old books from our attics tied up with string. Each stack contained childhood favourites, and timeless classics that resonated with us, with a written quote displayed on the top from one of the books e.g. ” A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others….” L. Frank Baum.
We had miniature bronze statues (purchased on Amazon) of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Statue of Liberty scattered on the tea-cup saucers, and tied around the vintage milk bottles used to display the sunflowers on each table.
We had A vintage cast iron red Post Box provided by Bedecked. Perfect to store cards, and even came with a personalised card on the front.
Large ‘Light-Up Letters’ spelling ‘M&O’ provided by Goodwin & Goodwin. If there was an optimum way of stamping your wedding, this is it.
Matt’s Best Man runs an entertainment company specialising in entertainment and sound/lighting for events. Elegant Entertainment provided amazing equipment which made the already stylish Happenstance really shine in the evening. They even brought their own baby grand piano, which was put to very good use during the speeches.
A genuine carousel horse created by Ian Hunt (Uk Gallopers) and hand-painted by George Hebborn . They were both such a pleasure to work with, and George in particular personalised the horse beyond belief, incorporating the Tiffany & Co. blue, the blue of our suits, a London bus travelling across a Swarovski encrusted skyline, our engagement rings, as well as our names. It was the perfect photo opportunity for our guests, and now has pride of place in our Living Room!
The Ceremony and Blessing
We didn’t tailor-make our vows: we wanted to keep the ceremony as traditional as possible. Our wonderful Registrar, Barbara, from Camden Council took us through the different ceremonies, and we both had a connection to the ceremony entitled “What is Marriage?” due to its particular emphasis on friendship. Similarly for the Blessing, we kept to the wording that the Reverend Simon Grigg had suggested, as it struck the perfect balance between the significance of faith and social acceptance.
The Ceremony was very small and intimate, involving the Wedding party and immediate family. The Best Men were posted at separate doors, and as Matt’s sisters and father sang ‘Secret Love‘, we entered. We met at the foot of the aisle, and walked together. As we signed the register, one of Matt’s best friends, Chloe-Jean (who incidentally is Matt’s Best Man’s wife) performed a medley of our favourite songs in her own unique style, which was wonderfully poignant.
The Blessing included all of our guests. With music and literature playing such important parts in our lives, we picked several pieces that either hold a special place in our hearts, or that really spoke to us. Similarly, we asked friends and relatives that have a special place in our hearts to deliver them. Early on we entrusted one of our best friends from The Royal Academy of Music, Peter White (now a successful West End musical director) with all of the music. We entered to Mama Cass’ ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music‘, performed by Fra Fee and Niamh Perry and accompanied by Peter on the guitar; the song resonates with us on so many levels, reflecting perfectly what it meant as for us to stand in front of our friends and family and the world and say “I do”.
Readings included the sonnet ‘How Do I Love Thee?’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning , ‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sassoon, ‘The Arrow and the Song’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Pip’s Declaration of love from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’. These readings were beautifully underscored by Peter with music from the film ‘Somewhere in Time’, Matt and his mother’s favourite film. Our biblical reading was ‘Song of Solomon, Chapter 2, Verses 10-13’ leading into the Wedding Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Owain being a Welsh speaker, it was very important to include the Welsh language in the service. One of our best friends, Catrin Jones, sang her breathtaking take on the famous Welsh hymn ‘Calon Lan’ which really plucked at the heart strings. Owain‘s sister read the poem ‘Mi Gerddaf Gyda Thi’ (‘I’ll Walk Beside You’ – a beautiful poem about staying by your partner’s side through the ages), which was sandwiched by Laura Tebbutt’s sensational rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’.
A real highlight was closing the service with ‘The Friends From Home Choir’, made up of Owain‘s friends from South Wales and Matt’s friends from Wolverhampton (all of whom are doctors, accountants, teachers and other sensible professions!) They sang ‘I Will Follow Him’ from the film ‘Sister Act’, incorporating both English and Welsh verses, and really got the rafters ringing! An added bonus was these friends, who’ve known us throughout our lives, were sat in front of us throughout the service, giving encouraging smiles and taking cheeky photos.
Working with Laura and Alice was an absolute dream. We booked them because of their style of photography: different, spectacular, and editorial. Of course we wanted the traditional group shots with family and friends, but with 180 guests and a level of detail that we spent many sleepless nights perfecting, we wanted a wedding photographer that could capture the real essence of the day…. And boy, did these girls deliver. Whether it was relaxing us before the ceremony, or almost summersaulting backwards off the top deck of an open-top double-decker bus to get the perfect group shot, they were as much a part of the day as our guests, and that was very important to us – we wanted the whole team working on the day to enjoy it as much as we did, and have a personable touch. We knew from the moment we spoke to Laura on the phone that she was the one, and once we met her for a bottle of beer and a pre-Wedding chin wag, we were so excited that our big day was in such safe and talented hands.
The Words of Wisdom
Make it YOUR day. Our approach to the day was: We love each other, and we want to share that love with all of our friends and family. With this ethos in mind, we wanted the day to feel like an extension of our relationship; be it thematically, musically, aesthetically, even aromitherapically, we wanted our guests to get a true sense of “us”.
Top Tip would be: trust your instincts. When meeting with venues and suppliers, you’ll instantly get a real sense of who you’re dealing with. If they’re personable and make you feel that your day is going to be the best day in history, book them. And try and meet them in person beforehand: everyone from your Registrar to your photography and videography teams have such an integral role to play on your big day, so it’s worth making a game plan and discussing ideas beforehand so that you don’t have to think about it on the day itself.
Anything that we’d do differently? Turn back time and spend more time with individual guests. Which is impossible. But it gives you the perfect excuse to arrange post-wedding catch-ups.
And stay away from Brandy Sidecars.
The Covent Garden Hotel // St. Paul’s Church (The Actors’ Church) // The Happenstance // Murdock London // El Ganso // Tiffany & Co. // Church’s // Hawes & Curtis // Coast // Covent Garden Academy of Flowers // Churchmouse Cheeses // Natalie Elson // Jason Elson // Morplan // Ensignbus Company // Spatz Film // Goodwin & Goodwin // Bedecked // Ian Hunt // George Fairground Art Hebborn // Elegant Entertainment // Sapphire Soul