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Style, Weddings

Real Wedding:

Hannah and James

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Samantha Stonehouse

Internet dating pioneers, Hannah and James met on Match.com in 2007. They were each other’s first “Match date”, the rest, as they say, is history.

Here, Hannah shares some wedding day highlights and some valuable advice to couples who are in the midst of wedding planning.

“We had been together for about a year and had recently moved in together when James was offered a job in Seattle. We discussed our options and unfortunately without being married I couldn’t get a permit to work. Ideas of how we could make a long distance relationship work went back and forth for a while but in the end, one night while we were lying in bed discussing it, James said to me, “I suppose we could get married?”, and that’s exactly what we did!

Along with two friends as our witnesses at Ealing Town Hall and then off to the pub is how we ‘officially’ tied the knot. We didn’t tell anyone else and decided that we would carry on as if we weren’t married. Neither of us bothered with rings or name changes. We thought that if it lasted we would have a ‘proper wedding’ with all our friends and family when we returned to England. Six years later, I got my beautifully romantic proposal. I had just passed an exam, and to celebrate, James suggested we take a bottle of champagne to the top of the hill near our house and watch the sunset over the river. It was September and we were picking blackberries as walked up the hill. We popped a few in our champagne glasses and toasted my exam success, I turned away to admire the view and when I looked back James was on one knee with the most fabulous ring in his hand.

“Will you marry me...again?”

At our wedding, food and wine are the most important things to us. We decided  to have the wedding at a fantastic pub and restaurant near us in Berkshire: The Beehive. It just so happens that they have a great garden with a rotunda, so we had the ceremony there. My wonderful sister-in-law was our officiant, the ceremony was loosely based on a humanist one and we wrote our own vows. I am a strident feminist and think marriage is all a bit outdated, so I had to be comfortable with the words – already being legally married gave us great flexibility. I walked down the aisle to ‘Going to the Chapel’, by the Dixie Cups.

I got ready at our house with just my best friend Claire, who luckily is a hairdresser extraordinaire. I worked closely with our florist, Rachael, who is young and funky and knew exactly what I wanted. As food is so important to us, I wanted culinary herbs such as rosemary, mint and fennel tops in my bouquet, and only British-grown flowers. The men had rosemary in their button holes too (an excellent herb for memory).

After the wedding we had a champagne reception (with blackberries, as a nod to the proposal) in the pub, with seasonal British canapés of rabbit on toast, scotch eggs and crispy courgette with yoghurt. The tables were beautiful scrubbed wooden tables, with flowers in various jam jars and pots I been collecting from charity shops for months. The tables were laid simply with white tea lights and linen napkins, and our favours were little brown envelopes containing wildflower seeds for bees – perfectly fitting for our reception at The Beehive.

We sat down to a meal of crab salad with rosemary and sea salt sourdough toast, Confit duck with mash, green beans and jus, and lemon tart with honey granola and fresh blackberries. All courses had matching wine pairings – this is, after all, my job! The speeches were wonderful, with both of my dads, myself, my husband and the best men making speeches, followed by a cheese and port course, coffees and brandy.

At around 7pm a vintage London bus picked us all up to take us a mile down the road to White Waltham Airfield – a fantastic place, opened in 1928 and in operation during the war. We had decorated the old members’ club with giant pom-poms and fairy lights, and had a motown band ready for us all to dance the night away. Our first dance was Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding. 

Is there anything you would have done differently if you were to get married again?

We did have a chance to do it again - so no!

What piece of advice you can share with future wedded couples?

Remember that everyone is there to have a good time, support you and watch you both get married – your friends and family won’t notice or care if you muck up your vows or if it rains. Invite less people and be more generous with those you’ve invited. Your wedding day will still be one of the best days of your life no matter how you get there or if the day doesn’t run by your minute-by-minute plan.

Supplier contact list:

Photography: Kate Bek, Chicago, USA │ katebek.com

Venue and catering: The Beehive White Waltham │ thebeehivewhitewaltham.com

White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire │ wlac.co.uk

Flowers: Rachael Ashton, Wild Rose Florist │wildroseflorist.co.uk

Dress: Zimmerman from Net-a-Porter │ net-a-porter.com

Bridesmaids: Dresses by Monsoon │ uk.monsoon.co.uk

Hair / Make-up: Hair and make-up - Claire Austin, The Little Hair Co, Southbourne, Bournemouth│facebook.com/TheLittleHairCoSouthbourne

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