Carmel and James had a beautiful Christmas wedding - we're talking fairy lights, cranberries and pearls adorning the fireplace, a mesmerising Christmas tree, black draping with twinkling lights, branches as centre-pieces dripping with lights and roses. Look out also for the bridesmaid who wore a jumpsuit - beyond gorgeous! Photography is by Charli Photography.
The Elvetham is a stunning, private owned estate in Hampshire, set in 35 acres of beautiful grounds. We are both born and raised in Britain, but now live and work in Hong Kong, and so the Elvetham, with its incredible history and an air of something quintessentially British, had for us the perfect feel of home for our wedding. At our initial viewing, we were already envisaging The Elvetham on a cool, crisp winter's day, adorned with Christmas golds and greens, candles and fairy lights, inviting us and our guests in with a roaring log fire. We knew it would set the scene for a magical day. The venue also had the option of erecting a marquee, which gave us a great idea for the reception!
We met at a Ceilidh (a traditional Gaelic party involving folk music and dancing), which is an annual black tie event held in Hong Kong, in October 2012. The night was drawing to a close, the music had stopped and I was on my way to the taxi rank, when I almost literally walked into James. We got chatting and the rest is… history!
James proposed in May 2013, when we were holidaying on the beautiful island of Taveuni in Fiji. I had been in a terrible mood when we arrived; I had come down with flu just in time for our holiday and the airline had lost my case in transit so all I had was the single sarong that the hotel had lent me. There wasn't even anything for me to buy; we were on a desert island! After several calls to the airlines, they finally located my luggage, which would be with me in a day or so. Elated by this news I popped open some champagne when I got back to our villa to celebrate the return of my case. James wisely decided to take advantage of my spontaneity (and finally my good mood!) and, against the background of the sun setting over the Pacific ocean, got down on one knee.
We got married 8 months later, Christmas the same year.
James and I come from different religious backgrounds (he is Christian and I am Jewish), and we arranged a civil ceremony that enabled us to tailor make our own vows. We gave this quite a lot of thought. We wanted them to be honest and meaningful, yet real and achievable. In addition to everything you would expect, we agreed to honour, respect, guide and protect each other, which we felt were really important promises to make to each other.
We knew very early on that we wanted a winter wedding back home in the UK and, when we decided on Christmas time, this set the tone for the whole day. The time of year provided us with a whole host of ideas that we felt we could use to make our wedding special – a black tie dress code (which served as a reminder of the night we met), the warm glow of candles, a roaring log fire, twinkling fairy lights, a twilight sky for the photographs. We fell in love with the idea of a sparkling, starlit marquee for the reception, which had massive wow factor. Because of the date of the wedding our aim was to combine the magical feel of Christmas with the glitz and glam that is typical of New Year's Eve.
To achieve our Christmas / New Year feel we went for candles (different shapes and sizes) and fairy lights in the ceremony room and the bar. We chose table centres that comprised a tall manzanita tree, with its branches wrapped in pale pink flowers and fairy lights, set atop a mirror board with gold votives and rose and gold table crystals. The tables looked utterly magical in the dim light of the star lit marquee.
Photography: Charli's brand is one of fine art storytelling, and she does just that. We found that her photographs captured the raw emotion of the day, from start to finish, while also carrying an air of vintage beauty and timeless elegance. She is also a pleasure to be around with and I knew from our initial conversations that she would be the right person to work with us on the day.
Dress: My dress was hand made by my mum's best friend, Revie Jourrou, who is a dress designer by trade. She worked tirelessly for six months to make every last detail completely perfect. My dress was made with a huge amount of love and care, which only made it extra special. My dress had a very impressive train so when the time came for dancing, I asked Revie (who was of course at the wedding) if she would cut it all off. And she did! She was visibly shaking at the time but it looked amazing, and cutting it all off also felt strangely exhilarating! I wanted something fitted but with a real wow factor. My dress was exactly that.
The bodice was snugly fitted right down to my hips, with a detail trim across the sweetheart neckline and teeny tiny hand sewn sequins all over, which you could only notice when the dress caught the light. But the train was the real feature; it was huge! The skirt was made of satin and we covered it with five separate wafer thin layers of silk tulle, which had the effect of melting snow. Truly incredible!
Flowers: Flower's By Becky. I wanted a simple and classic bouquet. I love flowers and the options are endless, but I especially love roses and tulips, so we went for a combination of these in white, ivory and blush pink, and added some paperwhites for giving it that full, neat, compact look. My bridesmaid carried a similar bouquet, only smaller and in ivory / white only, and I had corsages for all my attendants and our mum. James and the boys wore a single stem rose, all in white, save James whose was blush pink. Becky did a fantastic job.
Cake: By Henry's Kitchen. We went for three tiers: carrot, chocolate orange and fruit. Each layer was decorated differently, in keeping with the glitzy theme and rose and gold colour scheme. The cake was topped with a handmade green "Mr & Mrs Green" sign, and we tied this in with a green ribbon at the base. The cake stand was set under the starlit marquee and the stand reflected the ceiling, which looks amazing in the photos!
Our table plan was a personally designed Hong Kong monopoly board (produced by Nickey Khemchandani, BSD Code & Design Academy), bringing a piece of where we live and met to our big day.
Personalised chocolate coin favours, were a token of Christmas for our guests, while a magnificent fireworks display provide the sparkle you expect of New Year's Eve. We also brought our vodka jello shots during the party, which are something of a trade mark of Hong Kong nightlife!
And every so often, you would see a splash of the colour green, which was intended to reflect our married name. See the "cards" sign and handmade cake topper!
It's a rare moment that you have all your favourite people in one room, especially for us living 6000 miles from home. The day was truly overwhelming, and we both found ourselves overcome with emotion at times. James doesn't think he's ever been more nervous about anything than when he was waiting for me to walk down the aisle. Everything went to plan (mainly thanks to The Tale of Two!) but what I mainly remember throughout the day is the feeling of being so extremely lucky. James and I made sure that we took a few minutes out just the two of us, really just to take it all in, and I am so glad of that because the day disappeared in a flash!
Carmel's tips for bride's-to-be
Final words on the day:
Get a planner, and if not a planner, someone to co-ordinate on the day to make sure everyone is where they should be when they should be, and everything runs to time. The day goes quickly enough as it is and you have enough going on.
Remember that it won't all go to plan. Something, somehow will turn out differently and when it does, don't panic, just ride that wave because only you will know.
Don't stress over the last few hundred quid. Weddings are more expensive than you could ever have imagined and you find yourself bargaining at every turn. Do that, definitely, but try not to get stressed over the extra dollars that you find yourself coughing up for last minute. In the grand scheme of things, it's nothing, and you'll forget all of it on the day.
Take 20 minutes out with your husband (!) at some stage during the day to take it all in. The day is crazy and overwhelming; people have travelled far and wide for YOU, and there's so much going on. Steal a few moments just you and your hubs to soak it up and each other.
Venue: The Elvetham
Tablescapes: Flying Fox Events
Chair Hire: Bay Tree Events
Fireworks: Pyromania Fireworks
Bride’s shoes: Dune
Flowers: Flower's By Becky
Cake: By Henry's Kitchen
Table Plan: Nickey Khemchandani, BSD Code & Design Academy
Videographer: Alex Haynes of Wedding Memories
Planners: A Tale of Two
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