Laura and Brian had so many things that made my heart sing. An outdoor ceremony over looking a lake, street food, a riot of colour, a sing along, the beautiful rural and rustic (but charming and quirky) venue that is West Lexham in Norfolk, margaritas, an awesome New Orleans jazz band and the goldenest of all golden light.
Oh and we got to play with a rowing boat too. In fact one of my fondest memories is Pete clambering over the boat Laura and Brian used, so that he could row a boat parked in front of it out of the way. He wasn’t that close to falling in…
Laura and Brian’s West Lexham wedding was an English summer personified. Here’s what they had to say about it:
Brian and I met through a music magazine that he helped set up and I wrote for. I went into the office one day, and bang! That was kind of it. We spent the summer hanging out and having fun, then decided to make things official when we were at Bestival together, while Brian was dressed as Beetlejuice and I was Lara Croft. That was September 2010… fast-forward to November 2014, and Brian proposed while we were on holiday in Sri Lanka, on a clifftop under a stormy sky. We decided we wanted to get married within the year, as we’d been together for quite a while already, and set about looking for a venue.
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We were looking for an informal, flexible, beautiful space that would let us bring our own alcohol (I am a food and drink journalist, so this was important) and would let the party run later than the usual 11pm curfew. Not only that, but we were looking for a place where a lot of our family and friends could stay for the weekend. West Lexham ticked all of those boxes, providing a magical setting for everyone to explore.
My dress and veil were from Fur Coat No Knickers – a friend had been to try dresses on there and suggested I should go and check them out, saying the girls there were a lot of fun. I loved their vintage-inspired aesthetic, and could quite happily have picked quite a few of their lovely frocks. It seemed to be fate when I found out that their dresses are also named after cocktails as well!
I eventually plumped for this beautiful gold/champagne-coloured number, with ivory satin overlaid by stunning gold lace on the bodice and gold tulle on the skirt. Neither mum nor I had ever really seen me as a white dress sort of girl, and this was a perfect compromise between tradition and self-expression. The FCNK original design for this dress is tea length, but when I came to try it on as a full-length gown at one fitting, there was no question that I’d be keeping it long.
As for accessories, I had a very simple veil, and low, simple Rachel Simpson shoes that were in keeping with the feel of the dress. To top it all off, I wore the gold locket that my Granddad gave to my Grandma on their wedding day in 1946.
Brian wore a custom-made suit from The Cad and The Dandy in a dark blue/green cloth that complemented his eyes, and a fabulous gold and blue tie. His shoes were some lovely tan-coloured Grenson brogues which offset the gold in his tie. He didn’t know about the shade of my dress, and landed upon his golden accents all on his own. Clever thing.
It took us a really long time to put our ceremony together, a surprising amount of time actually, but we’re glad that we put so much effort into it, because it was a really special and emotional part of the day.
We had decided early on that we wanted a humanist ceremony to bring a personal touch to it, and when we found Leigh, our celebrant, we knew that we’d be in safe hands with her.
She told our story, and we chose readings that were pertinent to our feelings for each other, but which also conveyed our joy at being alive and at the wonders of the world. We chose the lyrics of Nick Cave’s Into My Arms, and an extract from Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (‘every atom of you and every atom of me…’). Both readings brought me close to tears, and we had lots of our guests come up after and tell us how much one or both of the readings actually meant to them too, which was lovely.
We chose Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World for everyone to sing, accompanied by our friend Melissa Reiner on violin. Unfortunately it’s quite a difficult register for most people, so everyone’s singing actually sounded quite terrible, but in a really hilarious way! Despite this, we really enjoyed the group aspect of everyone joining together in such a celebratory song, and everyone looked so happy while they were singing.
Finally, we’d also decided to have a quaich ceremony, where our dads poured two different whiskies into the same cup to symbolise the union of our families, and from which Brian and I drank. As Brian’s Scottish, we wanted to give a nod to his heritage, and when we met we bonded over a love of whisky (amongst many other things), so why not?! Our mums had witnessed our legal marriage in a registry office beforehand, so this was our way of including the dads in something.
We chose travel as a general theme for the weekend, drawing on some of our favourite holidays to give the day a really personal feel. From this, we decided that we wanted a bright colour scheme, based around the Mexican papel picado flags – we went to Mexico three years ago and absolutely loved it.
My mum is really crafty and went decoration crazy, making our bright table runners by sourcing doilies through Freegle, dying them and sewing them together. She also made the amazing gigantic L & B piñatas, and decorated the tiles that we placed the candles on.
I made use of being ill this summer by folding all the origami place cards for the tables!
Because we had such an explosion of colour in the barn (the evening venue), I decided that I wanted to counterbalance this with simple white hydrangea arrangements on the tables, but with brighter, more rustic arrangements around the edges of the room and in the village hall, incorporating sunflowers, snapdragons, dahlias and more. My Aunty Sue and other relative Den are both brilliant flower arrangers, so I left them in charge of all these.
As for the bouquets and buttonholes, I found a cool company called Pick A Lily in Norwich, and requested white arrangements for everyone, apart from my bouquet. The buttonholes had white roses and blue thistles, nodding towards the England/Scotland union, while for the bridesmaids I hit upon the idea of giving them wrist corsages of white spray roses, which contrasted brilliantly with their turquoise dresses and tied in with mild 50s/60s vibe they had going on with their dresses and hair.
The Wedding Photography
Working in publishing, I place an awful lot of importance on visuals and photography. I stumbled across Laura’s work while I was browsing a few wedding blogs, and that was it – I knew that she was the photographer for us. I love the fun, personality and sheer joy that she manages to capture in her photos.
We found it very easy to work with Laura and Pete, she indulged in our whimsical ideas, and even had a few of her own, so we had a lot of fun having them both there with us on the day. And we absolutely love the preview photos that we’ve seen. Brian got overexcited and posted them on Facebook, and we’ve had quite a few ‘best wedding photos ever!’ comments from people, plus quite a few self-professed non-wedding people tell us that they’re a little bit obsessed with looking at the pictures from our day!
The First Dance
Thinking of You, Sister Sledge – we have so many happy memories with this song. We saw Nile Rodgers with Chic play at Bestival on the same day that we decided to make our summer of dating a more official, permanent relationship.
We booked a fantastic band called The Milestones for the evening, who came and played a rip-roaring disco and funk set. The musicians were all so exceptional that we’d all stop dancing to stand and marvel at a guitar or saxophone solo.
And we actually ended up booking an afternoon band called Doolally Tap on a whim the week before as well. We saw them playing in a nearby bar and knew they’d be perfect. They play New Orleans jazz, and wandered around the crowd singing to them, which really helped set the fun, laidback tone for the afternoon. They came and played What A Wonderful World for us again, and we danced by the swimming pool while the banjo player forgot the words. Magical.
The Words of Wisdom
We wouldn’t really have changed a thing, it was all so brilliant.
As for advice… if something doesn’t quite turn out as you’d imagined it would on the day, don’t sweat it – your guests won’t notice, as they’re more than likely not familiar with the minutiae of your wedding.
Get people involved! The more the merrier, guests love to feel they’re playing a part.
If yours is an outdoor venue, have two plans: one for good weather, and one for bad weather. We actually planned for three different scenarios!
Laura at Babb Photo // Fur Coat No Knickers //Cad and the Dandy // Rachel Simpson //
Grenson // Pick a Lily Flowers // West Lexham // The Courtyard Dairy // Florentina // David’s Bridal // The Milestones // Doolally Tap
West Lexham Wedding photography by Babb Photo.