Planning a wedding in a month isn’t for the faint-hearted couple, even more so from across the pond but Valerie and Dan managed to do just that for their Shoreditch wedding in April, and do it with style! Valerie’s sleek city style was suited to the classic ceremony at The Town Hall Hotel followed by a beautiful rooftop wedding reception at The Boundary as they enjoyed dinner with their guests by sunset.
AN ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK
Dan and I were both attending graduate school at the same university in Chicago (he was pursuing an MBA and I was in my first year of law school) and we met at a party for current and newly-admitted business school students. Needless to say I had no reason to be there, but having received an invite from a friend, I gave in to a student’s fondness for free food and, in between bites of appetizers, started chatting with a very dashing Englishman. After four years as a couple, spanning two more years in school and two years of long-distance, Dan proposed on a lovely beach in my home state of California. We celebrated with champagne and oysters that evening and made a home for ourselves in New York.
LONG DISTANCE PLANNING
You wouldn’t think looking at the photos that this wedding was planned in a month! This couple did so well bringing everything together and with such a short amount of time to plan it meant they had to be very decisive with a few compromises to be made.
We had many options in terms of where to host our wedding (I am from San Francisco, Dan is from London, we met in Chicago and we live in New York) and we were toying with a New York wedding for a while, but we decided to celebrate in London for family reasons. To further complicate matters, we planned everything from New York in one month! Our main goal was to gather as many friends and family as possible and create a fun and relaxed atmosphere, filled with a cool city vibe, great food and wonderful memories. It was madness to say the least, but the accelerated planning schedule forced us to focus on the big-ticket items and to not get caught up in the never-ending vortex that is the internet!
By having a wedding on such short notice, we also had to accept that some family and friends would not be able to make it. We plan on having a larger celebration in the near future, but we are incredibly grateful to everyone that made it to London who made the day so wonderful.
ONE SHOULDER WONDER
For any last-minute brides or for those planning from afar, online dress shopping can be a bit of a saviour. I love that Valerie’s style managed to be bridal but chic and sophisticated in her one shoulder fitted lace dress.
Given the limited time frame, I knew I could not go the traditional wedding dress route. I visited a couple of bridal shops with my sister and tried on some dresses, but none of them felt right. With two weeks to go, I ordered several dresses online that I thought would fit the style of the ceremony and reception venues to try on at home. I had my heart set on a certain dress, but as soon as I put on the Tadashi Shoji dress, I knew it was perfect – the silhouette was sleek and simple, but the lace overlay gave it just enough of a romantic touch to make it special.
Since the pattern on the lace was so intricate, I wanted to keep my accessories to a minimum – a headband, a ring gifted to me by my mother and sister and my friend’s diamond earrings (my something borrowed!) were just right.
Dan chose to wear his favorite three-piece suit from Ted Baker, paired with shoes from John Fluevog. He looked so handsome!
A couple of dear friends from the U.S. and I went to The Painted Lady, a Shoreditch beauty salon that was right around the corner from where we were staying at The Boundary. The staff were warm and welcoming and the ladies that did my hair and make-up were lovely. I initially wanted loose old-Hollywood waves, but my hair was not long enough to get the effect I wanted, so the stylist did her magic and I ended up with a vintage-inspired chignon that was very different from what I would normally choose, but it was very fun and matched the style of the dress perfectly.
As for make-up, I have always been a fan of playing up my eyes, so I asked for a subtle, smoky look to modernize the lace dress and the vintage hairstyle a bit. I loved the contrast and the make-up stayed put all day!
The Painted Lady is a London Bride favourite, a lovely friendly salon with very talented stylists, who certainly make you feel more fabulous than when you went in!
A CEREMONY WITH CLASSIC FLAIR & MEANING
With time not so much on their side, Valerie tapped into her supplier resource for any useful recommendations for their ceremony since they were struggling with availability, which led them to the perfect place.
Before we had even signed Gen Chapman from Miss Gen Photography to be our amazing photographer she responded with a recommendation for the Town Hall Hotel. After viewing the space online and getting in touch with the extremely helpful events team, we booked the Secretary’s Room. We finally had a chance to tour the space the day before the actual ceremony and we were so pleased with how lovely the Town Hall Hotel is. It is full of classic flair and we could not believe our luck that it was available! The staff were also kind enough to offer us use of the incredible De Montfort Suite before the ceremony to take some photos and relax with glasses of champagne before the whirlwind of activities began.
Dan’s best friend from university agreed to be our “master of ceremonies” and his message about love, friendship and marriage struck the perfect balance between humour and the importance of the moment. He brought a warmth to the ceremony that everyone, especially Dan and I, really appreciated.
It’s always a favourite of mine when the couple take time to personalise their vows. It’s not an easy thing to do, and so many things may get in the way of doing them, but as Valerie found out, taking time out on the day itself to write them meant they were incredibly meaningful and so reflective of her feelings at the time.
There is something very powerful about the act of voicing your commitment to another person in front of friends and family, so Dan and I wrote our own vows. During the month of planning I kept thinking that I need to start a draft of my vows, but something that required my immediate attention always got in the way. After a few of those moments, I decided to let my penchant for re-writes go and told myself that I would just write them in the days leading up to the ceremony. I woke up early the day of and had an hour or two to myself with a notebook. Normally, I would have been panic-stricken at the thought of only having two hours to write vows, but I was excited by the idea that everything that I wrote in those hours would be a genuine reflection of my feelings on the day of the wedding.
Valerie and Dan chose some really lovely and meaningful song choices for the ceremony. I chose “Hold You in My Arms” by Ray LaMontagne for our entrance song. Dan sent me a Ray LaMontagne CD while I was in Washington D.C. for an internship in the first few months of our relationship. Hearing his songs reminds me of those moments when we were first starting to get to know each other and they always make me smile. Dan chose “You’ve got a friend in me” by Randy Newman. In the end, marriage is about friendship and enjoying each other’s company through thick and thin.
I adore lush flower arrangements with emerald green leaves and dark, romantic blooms and Andrew from Taylor Made Floral Design delivered exactly what I had envisioned. The two arrangements provided a lively, tropical counterpoint to the classic and simple décor of the ceremony room and my bouquet was so lovely! The bouquet was loosely gathered and contained ferns, peach and cream peonies and burgundy calla lilies.
I must admit I rooftops are a firm favourite of mine, and I can just picture the magical ambience above London’s skyline with sunset and twinkling lights whilst enjoying a beautiful dinner.
The food and beverages were very important to us and finding a cool reception venue that offered delicious in-house catering was one of the first items on our to-do list. We zeroed in on The Boundary Hotel Rooftop because it provides amazing views of London and having enjoyed a birthday dinner there a couple of years before, we knew it had the stylish vibe we were looking for. The sunset on the rooftop amid the twinkling bistro lights was magical.
I admire Valerie’s approach to choosing a wedding photographer, so well described and of course she chose well as Gen captured the day beautifully.
Choosing a photographer is one of the most important decisions you can make when planning a wedding since you need them to convince yourself that such a whirlwind day actually happened. Beautifully-shot photos that translate emotions to images, reveal secret moments and cement wonderful memories are treasures and we were so fortunate to find Gen from Miss Gen Photography.
I knew that I did not want photography that was posed and stilted and Gen’s portfolio attests to her commitment to an organic style that documents events as they happen. She was very sweet and knew how to slip in and out of the crowd to find and capture those little moments that you would not have otherwise known were happening. I would recommend her to anyone. Our photos are amazing – I only wish I had more wall space in my New York apartment to hang them up!
As a perpetual over-thinker, this experience really taught me to focus on the things that matter and to not to get too caught up in what is “right”, “traditional” or how you think your decisions will be viewed by other people. If a certain aspect of a wedding is important to you as a couple, then by all means, but if not, leave it be. As lovely as Pinterest-inspired napkins may seem, a wedding is about celebrating the act of two people coming together, for which you need a ceremony and as many of your favourite people as possible…everything else is icing on the cake!
Huge thanks to Valerie for her wonderful words on their wedding, and to photographer Gen Chapman for sharing the beautiful moments.