This time last year, I had just got married, on a frosty & cold February day, with no hint of spring round the corner.
When I picture us standing outside for the photos, I think of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ – ‘Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone’ – to describe the sensation of cold that really did feel like it was biting into the bone.
Later on, it began to snow, which made the evening especially magical (albeit rather tricky for our evening guests – some ended up walking miles home!)
It was slightly different from our original wedding plans – we were going to have a spring wedding in April, partly so I could plan the decor around my favourite flowers.
My dream wedding flowers had always been spring bulbs – hyacinths, narcissi, lilies of the valley, muscari – and forget-me-nots. Besides the seasonal plants, I also wanted white roses (because it isn’t a wedding without roses, in my opinion) and greenery.
The flowers would also have to be real scented flowers, not sterile hothouse arrangements, and I didn’t want anything too ‘weddingy’ – I had a horror of conveyor-belt weddings, and wanted something more bohemian (setting aside the fact that the ‘shabby chic’ and ‘DIY’ wedding style is just as much of a cliche these days, but heigh ho…)
Within weeks of getting engaged, I was already indulging my inner bridezilla and began playing around with the flowers in my garden and the contents of my crockery cupboard.
I had a stack of tea cups which my mother
dumped on me gave me a few years earlier, some favourite jugs, and a collection of rather funky beer bottles (St Peter’s Ale from Suffolk, my husband-to-be having willingly drunk the beer so I could keep the bottles!).
My yellow rose looked very dainty floating in a green and gold tea cup…
….and the green bottles were a perfect shape to hold stocks.
Neither of these, however pretty they were, fulfilled the brief of being spring flowers …and in any case, chance was about to play a surprising hand – I found out in August 2011 that I would be having a baby in April 2012, about the time we were meant to be getting married.
This led to a quick rehash of our plans, after deciding we wanted to go ahead with the wedding rather than defer it, and a date in February was set. I would be nearly 6 months pregnant, I wouldn’t be able to drink, but I was reconciled to having a winter wedding as I could, with a bit of luck, make use of early spring flowers after all.
To begin with, I thought February would be a perfect time of year for snowdrops, alongside the equally dainty grape hyacinths (muscari). I had an idea that they would look pretty ‘planted’ in tea cups on every table – but this sort of fiddly work is not really the sort of thing your average wedding florist would want to do, I suspect.
Here, my mother-in-law, a flower arranger at her church, heroically stepped in. She and her friends agreed to grow heaps of snowdrops and muscari for me, starting them off in greenhouses and utility rooms so that they would be ready to bloom on cue in February. At one point it appeared that an entire village in Suffolk was growing snowdrops just for me!
I scoured local charity shops and vintage fairs for (non-matching) cups and saucers, plus a huge bundle of lace doilies which required quite a tussle on eBay to secure. The picture below gives a pretty good idea of what they looked like on the day.
My mother-in-law also made some beautiful floral displays for the mantelpiece and side tables at our wedding venue, which left two major things to decide on – how to decorate the cake, and what to do for bouquets.
I had a vision of blue and white flowers cascading down the side of the cake, in a natural style, and I assumed it would be possible to create that look with real flowers. Apparently not – the sprays of flowers usually seen on wedding cakes are sugar paste. I was very disappointed as I wanted the real thing!
My mother-in-law again saved the day as she had a very pretty dolls tea-set and suggested we balance a cup and saucer on the top of the cake, and on each level, with flowers spilling out of them. It fitted in so well with my tea cup theme, and as I’m a lover (and collector) of dolls houses and miniatures it also felt very fitting.
The bouquet was made by a professional florist, along with button holes and posies for the flower girls – I had white roses, narcissi and hyacinths, so it smelt beautiful, and rosemary was added for greenery and its romantic associations (thinking of Ophelia in ‘Hamlet’ – ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance’ – OK, she does go mad, it’s not a happy ending, but it’s still romantic, right?)
(I have also just realised this meant I had a ‘Hyacinth Bouquet’ or should that be ‘Bucket’…ha ha ha…)
In my original spring wedding plans, I would have had a looser wild-looking bouquet (in the parlance of wedding blogs, looking like it had ‘just been gathered from a hedge that morning’…if I had a pound for the number of times I’ve read that phrase!), but the formal shape suited the dress better, to be honest – it’s not as if I wore a floating floor-length gauzy Pre-Raphaelite gown, after all.
The best part of my wedding flowers is that because the snowdrops and muscari were planted with bulbs intact in the cups, I was able to share some out among friends, which was a nice way of being able to thank people who’d helped, and give them a little piece of the wedding joy to keep alive.
We planted the rest in my old garden, now sadly lost to me, but we were given a planter of muscari as a wedding present, which are just getting green shoots again, and also received snowdrops and lilies of the valley as a first anniversary present.
Hopefully the snowdrops will flower again on our anniversary for years to come. And of course, I still have a box of tea cups and saucers under the stairs to remind me of the day…I just have to find a use for them somehow!
No self-respecting wedding blog would be complete without credits….so here are some of the people who helped make it so perfect:
Our wedding planner Andri, of Always Andri, helped us set up and decorate the venue, and basically ran the whole day. She actually lived round the corner from our old house which certainly made life easier in those last hectic weeks of planning!
She also recommended the florist for my gorgeous bouquet, Liz of Blue Sky Flowers, who did an amazing job on the buttonholes and posies too.
Our photographer was Yvonne Blume, another local find. When I saw the photos on her blog they included a wedding of a bride who had recently had a baby, and the pictures (including the newborn) were so lovely I did a little cry, so pregnancy hormones had a part to play in that decision, I suspect. Luckily my hormones were spot on in this case!
The wedding cake was made by Sweetie Pie in Twickenham – they also made vegan cupcakes for the evening as we had vegan guests, and a layer of the main cake was gluten free.
My dress was made by Minna. I had been in despair trying to find a maternity wedding dress that suited my height (or lack of) and shape, and found Minna on the wedding blog Love My Dress. As luck would have it, their studio was in Stockwell, so my trips to and fro for fittings were very easy.
Besides my mother-in-law and friends doing the flowers, my mother made our wedding favours – jars of redcurrant, blackcurrant and blackberry jelly, which got positive reviews from pretty much everyone. We’d quite like it if she made another 70 odd jars for us every year, please Mum…
Finally, I should mention the person who put up with months of my tea cup and snowdrop obsession, my husband Matt. None of it would have been possible without him, and his tolerance of my bridezilla tendencies is just one sign of his endless patience and good qualities. Mwah.