Another beautiful wedding.. normally we focus on weddings and brides based in the UK and look to show UK wedding ideas, but saying that there are so many great tips and wedding ideas to be had from celebrations abroad that I had to include this one (and I adore the pics). Just because these shots might be from sunny California it doesn’t mean that you can’t create the same atmosphere and feeling in Cornwall or Devon!
I had six weeks to plan my wedding. My British fiancé was in London while I, an American, was doing 60-hour work weeks in LA. But the sooner we got married, the sooner we could live together without any hassles. Legal hassles, that is.
Thank god for my best friend, Conor. She was made redundant at the same time I got engaged and appointed herself as my wedding planner. She had a stack of bridal magazines and a bottle of chilled champagne ready to go about three seconds after she heard my news. The wedding would not have been what it was without her – she was my rock through the whole experience.
We wanted everything to be beautiful, simple, and comfortable. This, in my native Californian mind, translated to a beach wedding with “casual elegance”. The big plan was to have no plans and to let the event unfold organically. Risky, I know.
The Wedding Ceremony
The ceremony started on Butterfly Beach at 4pm. After a full day of being pampered and chauffeured around, I was ready for the show. My Father escorted me down the stretch of beach leading to the ceremony. The sensation of sand running through my bare feet was both comforting and euphoric. I felt the love and excitement from strangers sitting on the beach. A group of people whooped for me, and I whooped back. My Dad kept things real by telling me about a parking incident he had earlier in the day.
We arrived at the bamboo gazebo draped with gauzy tulle and orchids and the raspy roar of the ocean behind it. To make the scene even more disgustingly perfect, three dolphins circled in the water to wish us well. My Dad gave me a kiss and dropped me off at the gazebo to marry Dominic. As I’m scanned Dom’s face to see if he liked my outfit, I realized that I was looking at the face I would be looking at for the rest of my life.
Throughout the ceremony I was manic with tears and laughter. I felt confident and excited, while Dominic was endearingly speechless and nervous. Several times I thought, “I’m getting married. Like they do at friends’ weddings and in movies. I’m actually doing it right now.” It was surreal, for sure.
After the hectic post-wedding photo session, Dom and I hopped in a flashy BMV convertible (Dom’s splurge) and we whisked off to the reception with my veil trailing in the sunset.
The Wedding Party
Their itinerary for the reception was fairly loose. No speeches or first dances were planned, just a champagne toast and the cutting of the wedding cake. The flamenco guitarist we miraculously booked two weeks before the wedding was the perfect cohesive to our sunset cocktail hour, which turned into two because everyone was having too much fun. People were drinking loads. It made me so happy! As for me, Conor had given the staff strict instructions to keep my champagne glass topped up at all times, which also made me very happy.
As it happens at weddings, many people are meeting for the first time. This could provide for one of two outcomes: an awkward, slightly dull event or a lively, colorful one. So, it truly filled my entire being with joy when the latter outcome emerged. Hearing the excited chatter and seeing the beaming smiles of all our loved ones in a relaxed session of mingling was the ultimate wedding gift.
During the champagne toast, Dominic surprised me with a speech he had been secretly working on for the last month. Then Conor pops up with her own secret speech. Next, my sister reads a poem she wrote for Dom and I. At this point I am a teary, giggling mess, who I was convinced was the happiest person on the entire planet. To heighten my emotions to colossal levels, both our Mum’s say something for us. Finally, two of Dom’s mates close the unplanned speech portion of the reception. I couldn’t have dreamt of more heartfelt, genuine, funny speeches.
Dom and I are big music aficionados, so we didn’t want to hear a DJ’s rubbish music all night nor did we want to hire a band. Instead, a DJ friend of Dom’s made a four-hour wedding playlist for us based on both our musical tastes as well as any specific songs we wanted to include. There wasn’t a dance floor at our venue, as we didn’t expect any dancing. But the drinks were flowing, the music was kicking, and a dancefloor was born. Everyone from my 19-year old brother to my 75-year old Uncle Fred was having a good old time. Completely unplanned, Dom and I had our first dance as husband and wife to Sexy Cinderella by Lynden David Hall (and I couldn’t have planned a better first dance song).
More alternate approaches
There were many things we did unconventionally.
We didn’t have time for traditional printed invitations so Dominic created a groovy online invite, complete with maps, links for hotels/local transport, and location information.
We didn’t do bridesmaids or groomsmen. But getting ready with my best ladies while snacking on champagne and cheese in a Four Seasons oceanfront suite are some of my fondest memories from the Day. I had my bridesmaids, regardless of what dress they were wearing.
We passed on the wedding favors option (couldn’t be bothered). And instead of placecards, we assigned a table number to each guest allowing them arrange themselves at their designated table. Worked out fab! Zero confusion and it added to the laid-back atmosphere.
We abhorred the idea of posey-posey photos, so we commissioned my 19 year-old brother and his best friend, both talented budding photographers with professional grade equipment. We were thrilled with the quality and welcomed the fresh and unique perspective on wedding photographs.
We gave our wedding a skeleton and allowed it to evolve naturally. Our friends and family had our backs and that made both Dom and I incredibly happy and relaxed. Conor deftly handled all the details, like framing childhood photos Dom and I for the Welcome Table, yelling at the chair delivery guy for getting lost, and making sure people had transport from the ceremony to the reception. I would choose to have our wedding ten times over. It was, undoubtedly, the happiest day of my life.
Read my 5 top wedding tips from one bride to another for advice on help on making sure that you wedding runs smoothly and that it is all about you as a couple – the most important thing!