Category Archives: British Brides

Under the Spotlight – Wonderland Avenue

When I got engaged back in 2007, the first thing I started searching for (well, apart from the dress!) was a wedding photographer. Now back then there were no wedding blogs in the UK to guide me and the task was a very daunting one! I had no idea where to start and in the end I found our photographer’s in a wedding magazine.

But you know what? Not all great photographers can (or know how to) get into wedding magazines…especially maybe newer, more budget-friendly shooters. However fret not – nowadays you lucky brides have a plethora of blogs and online services devoted to showcasing new as well as established wedding photographic talent –  helping you find the perfect photographer to capture your day.

In my opinion, one of the best services  I’ve come across devoted to wedding photographer searches is the UK based, Wonderland Avenue. I’m totally convinced that your’e going to love their site and utterly adore what they have to offer. If you don’t find the perfect photographer for you here, I’ll eat my (pink) hat!

Photography Credit: Marianne Taylor Photography

Can you tell me a little about Wonderland Avenue? What is it you do?

Wonderland Avenue is a new website listing the very best UK wedding photographers, we wanted to go significantly beyond just providing another list of photographers and give brides a site where the photographers had been hand picked.  The idea is that engaged couples no longer have to trawl through the internet to find a great photographer but can access a quick, simple database of the UK’s finest. However Wonderland Avenue is more than just another wedding directory. We also post regular features on our members and we love to blog.

How did you come up with the idea and start Wonderland Avenue?

When we got engaged back in 2006, James, a commercial photographer, was sent off to ‘find the perfect wedding photographer’.  He thought a couple of hours on the web would do the trick but he was very wrong!!  It took months of scouring websites, magazines and directories to find a photographer who could offer what we were looking for, and just as we thought we had it cracked, he would stumble upon another… What we really needed was a site that brought brilliant photographers together and had already done all the research for us, so finding a wedding photographer could be as painless as possible.  And so Wonderland Avenue was born!

Photography Credit: Anna Hardy Photography

How did you come up with the name Wonderland Avenue?

We were conscious that we wanted to develop a name that reflected our aim of bringing something different to the wedding photography industry.  We had a few ideas floating around then James found himself shooting at a location in Los Angeles near a street called Wonderland Avenue and it just seemed perfect!

What areas do you cover & where are the majority of your photographers based?

Eventually we aim to cover the length & breath of the country & we already have photographers based as far north as Scotland & as far South as Cornwall, we will however restrict each region on our search menu to around 40 photographers, this will prevent brides from being overwhelmed with choice & enable us to concentrate our marketing efforts on a manageable amount of photographers.

We don’t currently have any plans to expand the website further than the UK but we do have some pretty exciting features to add to the site in the near future, keep your eye on the blog for details.

Photography Credit: Debs Ivelja Photography

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Olga & Jo’s Two Day Russian/British Fusion Wedding

Olga & Jo’s Rye wedding makes me super happy! I chatted to the bride all about it – their style ideas and how they integrated both their cultures, Russian and English, into their super cute wedding.

She explained, “As soon as Jo and I had moved to Brighton, we knew we wanted to mark our wedding day by celebrating it by the beach. It is a Russian tradition to celebrate a wedding over two days so that with family and friends, and their children, there can be one formal and one informal day. With my family being from Russia we wanted to keep to this tradition and felt an English seaside was perfect for catering for both days and the number of people who would be travelling far for the occasion.”

“Having searched unsuccessfully in Brighton for our perfect location, we stumbled across The Place At The Beach Hotel in Camber Sands which looked just right. Having visited the venue and seen the beach across the road, the accommodation for our families and friends and a spacious garden with a BBQ, we knew it had everything we wanted for our two days.”

“As a theme, we chose ‘mods against the rockers on the beach’, not only for our love of the 60’s style and music, but with the mods logo being red, blue and white, this perfectly symbolised the colours of Jo and I – the colours of the British and Russian flags. Having been influenced by rockabilly Brighton since we’d moved there, we had to add a bit of rock to our special day!”

“The marriage ceremony took place in the beautiful and historical Rye Town Hall. Following which guests were encouraged to walk around Rye’s old town centre headed towards the traditional London routemaster and our beautiful car Chevrolet Bel Air. Transported by bus, the party headed to the beach to enjoy the glorious weather and a picnic on the dunes. Guests ate blinis with caviar, oysters and scotch eggs, all accompanied by Pimms and beer from our friend’s brewery – Meantime. The delicious food was seasonal and locally sourced, highlighting what a special spot everyone was in. After the beach, everyone moved to the half-opened marquee, set up outside the hotel, where in accordance to Russian tradition there was a selection of platters for starters, and main courses, for guests to share and enjoy together. Of course lots of bottles of Russian vodka were on hand, and consumed, to toast the new bride and groom!”

“Throughout the venue, the decorations were subtle with the hotel already suited to our English-Russian wedding beside the British seaside. Flowers were designed by my Mexican friend, a florist, who perfectly arranged the colourful table decorations in popcorn boxes with a corn on the cob sticking out of each arrangement as a feature. My wedding bouquet was made up of beautiful blue hydrangeas, red dahlias, white freesias and little red apples suggesting the autumn season on the horizon.Tables were named after English seaside towns, with the table plan revealed on a framed vintage map of the UK that had been bought in Brighton. The name places were marked by a collection of pebbles collected by Jo and me from Brighton Beach which each person’s name marked in English and Russian. As wedding favors we had rock sweets with personalised labels as a memento of our special day.”

“As speeches commenced, my English friend Lieran, who speaks perfect Russian helped to translate and then explain the silly, but highly amusing, games that guests played in keeping with the Russian tradition.

As the evening set in, the American style surf Bikini Beach Band commenced, playing some of the famous music from the 1950’s and 1960’s, getting everyone on their feet’s to dance. Anyone not on the dance floor was distracted by the nearby cardboard cutout of a seaside couple, with guests putting their heads through the holes in order to have a photo taken on Brighton Pier! The first dance was to the Beach Boys song “God only knows” and then the bride sang Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire” with her friend to surprise the groom. The party continued into the night with the famous 60’s hits played off vinyl records Jo and I collected over the years.
For those who weren’t tempted by the four flavors of homemade ice-cream, out came the cake, ordered from the very special Brighton cake shop – ChoccyWoccyDoodah, which was a rockabilly themed skull with the appropriate sign ‘Till death do us apart’.”

“The second day was a traditional English BBQ and afternoon tea party with garden games available like croquet, darts, giant domino, skittles and tumbling tower! So many factors of our wedding we found by chance but perfectly fitted Jo and I and what we wanted from our wedding. Every part was rooted in the traditions of both England and Russia and brought our Russian and English family and friends together to have fun throughout the weekend, even though for most of the day they couldn’t understand each other!”

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Olga & Jo’s Epic Brighton Engagement Shoot

I’ve got an epic double bubble of a feature today – Olga & Jo’s engagement session in Brighton, followed by their gorgeous Rye wedding later today.

The Russian couple wanted their pre-wedding shoot to take place in Brighton as it held special significance to their relationship. The pair moved to the beach resort town in April last year and a week later Jo proposed right on the beach! “My engagement ring was hand made by the family friend jeweller and it is made of platinum with rhodium plating to make it look dark and diamonds,” Olga told me. “We had my grandparents came to stay with us so we had a photo session together after having a breakfast at our favorite Bill’s cafe and store in Brighton. I was wearing the Eley Kishimoto skirt and top and Jo was wearing Folk cardigan.”

Don’t you just adore them? Be sure to pop back later this afternoon for their incredible wedding!!

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Amy & Jonathan’s Cute, Vintage, Village Hall Wedding

Amy & Jonathan were married in May, in a cute village hall wedding. The couple clearly put a lot of love, thought and detail into their wedding as you can see from the incredible reception images! The whole thing ties together so beautifully – the bunting, the sweets, the cake, the flowers, the mismatched tea cups…I just love it all!

The ceremony was held in Kington St Michael Church, Wiltshire and the reception that followed was at Kington St Michael Village Hall. “We tried to do as much as possible ourselves so the wedding would be as personal as possible,” explained the couple. “We had our wedding in church and then walked across the road to the village hall which we had decorated the day before with our family and friends. It made the day very personal and very different. We hung bunting that a friend had lent us, fairy lights, union jack flags etc and had jam jars of flowers on the tables. We made favours of jam and chutney that doubled as place names.”

“We tried to keep things fairly traditional but with our own spin on it and we tried not to be limited by what a wedding “should” be.  So many weddings seem like the same thing over and over but we wanted ours to stand out. We made summer berries gin for the toasts by adding raspberries, strawberries and blackberries to gin with sugar and letting it sit for four months. Then we removed the fruit and we had pink gin! I also made the cake topper after a visit to Hobbycraft!”

Amy wore a stunning vintage lace dress which she found on eBay. She added her own personal touches to it by adding a silk dress underneath made by Alison Miles.

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A Groovy Kinda Love – The 1960’s are BACK!

“The idea for a 60’s inspired shoot came about after I noticed we’re seeing lots and lots of vintage 1950’s style about and I figured it was about time the 1960’s gave it a run for its money,” explained photographer Shelly. “I had a vision of a pink bowler hat and from there, everything else fell into place.”

Shelly invited planner Kelly (of Boho Weddings) and Asher to model for her. “I knew I wanted mini dresses in a Mary Quant style and Debbie over at Danielle Lara Couture created these two especially for the shoot. When I went to collect them, I ended up picking up a couple of others at the same time – I just couldn’t help myself!”

Shelly commissioned Muscari Whites to created her an heirloom bouquet of  pre-loved and found objects. Their brief was “pink, quintessentially British and a bit nuts”.  The bouquet even has a little telephone box on it and a London Underground sign.

Pheigi & Kiichiro’s Japanese/Scottish Fusion Wedding

Just wow. Like seriously, wow.

That’s pretty much all I said for 5 minutes when Pheigi & Kiichiro’s Japanese/Scottish fusion wedding hit my inbox this week. I almost don’t know where to begin telling their epic wedding story, luckily for me the bride explained it a lot better than I ever could. The couple actually had two weddings – the first in Japan in July 2009 and the second (pictured) in Scotland in September 2010.

“My new Hubby and I actually got married in Japan (where we live) in 2009.  We went to the city office and signed lots of forms to update my alien registration card, change his official address and get hitched.  Which one of those forms was actually my marriage certificate I still don’t know.  I wore my mothers 1970’s full length purple embroidered waistcoat over my purple cord flares and after we went to the crazy Japanese arcade on our street and had photos taken in the hello kitty photo booth.  Much fun yet somewhat lacking in romance.  We thus decided to come home to Scotland and have another celebration with my family, which we did in September.  Planning my wedding from Japan was hard to say the least, especially as I wanted something a little different from the norm, and the whole thing became more of a disappointment as I spent hours trawling through ugly dresses, bland invites and over the top bling, until a good friend with similar problems directed me to your site.  From then on I visited your site nearly every other day to remind myself that there were options other than white wedding package A, B or C and so in turn I am sending you my wedding in hope that it may help other brides in the UK realise the same and give them a wee break from the monotony of the wedding industry.  I hope you like.”

“I came home to Scotland in 2009 to start looking for a wedding venue as I knew that it would be my only chance to see somewhere before I actually returned to get married. I wanted to have a rustic wedding in a barn or something similar but Kiichiro insisted that if he was bringing his family from Japan they were not going to sit in a barn.  He then threw down his one condition, that we get married in a Scottish castle.  Thus my Mother, two of my sisters and myself packed ourselves into a car and went on a road trip from Glasgow through Inverness and up into the highlands visiting every castle on our way.  The castles were GORGEOUS but most were way out of our budget and the ones we could afford were never quite right.  We returned to my sisters house in Ayr two days later more than a little dejected.  My eldest sister then suggested that we go and look at a castle a few miles down the road that I had never heard of so we all, rather grudgingly, got back into the car and drove the few miles to Blairquhan Castle.  As we turned on to the three mile drive my spirits lifted a little.  The river Irvine shaded by huge mossy trees was running alongside the road that was covered in confused pheasants (they obviously weren’t used to cars on their road) and at the end of the road the imposing face of Blairquhan showed itself.  This is no fairytale castle this is a big Scottish “don’t even think of attacking me” castle. Perfect.  Add to this the huge front lawn, boating pond complete with ducks and geese, walled garden and acres and acres of forest and we had the perfect venue.  They had even converted all the old stable buildings into holiday cottages so all my friends and family came for a wee three day break over the wedding weekend.”

Pheigi was decided underwhelmed by traditional wedding dresses so decided to make her perfect gown herself instead. “I went to try on wedding dresses with my best friend imagining we were going to have that movie moment where I would find “the dress” and we would both cry,” she told me. “We did cry…with laughter as I looked friggin’ ridiculous. Most of the dresses were as wide as I am tall making me look like a sequined taffeta square.”

“I am originally from the Isle of Lewis famous for its tweed and I am milliner who works almost exclusively with the lovely fabric so it made sense that my dress too would be woolen.  And so I set about making my brown and green steampunk-esque mermaid, corseted, bustled, leopard print lined wedding gown.  This was the first dress I have ever made and I couldn’t find a pattern I liked so I made it up as I went along.  I am sure a seamstress would have kittens if she looked closely but I was happy with how it turned out and on the wedding day outside in Scotland in September I was very happy to be wrapped up in tweed.  The fabric was woven for me by Callum Maclean of butt of Lewis textiles who was very helpful in offering me tweed and wool samples to make sure I got exactly what I was looking for.”

“My gold Celtic headband was my something old as it was the headband my eldest sister had made for us to wear as her bridesmaids.  I had originally decide that I wanted to wear a top hat but looking around I could find nothing I liked and those willing to make one for me were all very expensive so I decided to make my own.  Instead of a hat I went with an olive green birdcage veil with massive pheasant and peacock feathers which matched the colour of my tweed and my Mother’s outfit perfectly (I also made her a matching hat).  The lack of variety I encountered while searching for my wedding outfit frustrated me so much that I have spent the last year and a half teaching myself millinery and very recently opened a shop on etsy selling my tweed pillbox hats and alternative bridal veils.”

In honour of his wife’s Scottish heritage, Kiichiro wanted to wear a kilt. “Kiichiro decided early on that he wanted to wear a kilt so we sat down with a tartan sample book and to my delight he chose my family tartan (Ancient Macdonald of the Isles muted hunting) with a charcoal tweed waistcoat and jacket to match” continued the Pheigi. “We had the whole outfit made by Philip King in Aberdeen.   My sister Morag knitted his kilt socks.  His Brogues (shoes) came from ebay as did his amazing Tibetan goat sporran.  His plaid brooch was form pewtermill crafts.  His kilt pin was red deer antler as was his sgian dubh both from Comrie Crafts.”

The outdoor ceremony was a very meaningful one. Pheigi explained,  ” I do not belong to an organised faith and my husband is Buddhist, so the choice of Church, registry office or humanist ceremony didn’t really fit. We were already legally married so I decided to write the ceremony myself and my sister Eilidh acted as officiant on the day.  I based the ceremony on the Celtic Scottish tradition of hand fasting so we got married under a HUGE tree with our family and friends standing in a circle around us.  Instead of bridesmaids I had my 4 corners to represent the elements, my best friend and nephew read poems, my uncle gave us a blessing in Gaelic (my family’s mother tongue), my Aunt (married over 40 years) welcomed us to married life and held the broomstick for us to jump over and enter married life before we welcomed our guests with a dram from our wedding quaich. After the wedding we surprised our guests with a band of hairy drummers who led them from our tree to the walled garden of the castle where we played games and ate canapés while drinking sparkly on picnic blankets.  As it was cold I had set up a tea bar offering herbal and Japanese tea for people to keep warm.  We had a sit down meal in the castle where myself, my mother, the groom and the best man (who doesn’t speak English) gave speeches.  Our first dance was a swing dance to Hey sailor by the Detroit Cobras.  My friend officially opened the bar by reading a poem about the SS politician (the whisky filled boat that sank off the coast of Bara and led to the film Whisky galore).  We had a traditional Scottish Ceilidh then played with sky lanterns and sparklers.”

To keep thing personal, the couple wanted to DIY a lot of their reception details. “I did so much by myself and on the day it was a little heart breaking to see that most people don’t notice all the tiny details that you put in.  I noticed them however and it made my day better,” the bride continued. “Doing everything by yourself is hard work and can be really stressful.  The night before the wedding as I was trying to cover seats, make flowers, arrange tables and welcome my guests the word fun was far, far away. However my favorite memory of the day was a DIY moment.  At 6am on the morning of the wedding Kiichiro came and woke me up to go and decorate our wedding tree.  This tree was on a small lawn through a little piece of forest.  The branches were huge and came all the way down to sweep the floor making it feel like you were standing under a huge leafy umbrella.  It was so big that all our 80 guests could happily stand in a circle and still be enclosed in our green bubble.  We decorated it with ribbons, origami cranes on thread and candles hanging in jam jars.  At 6am as the mist was starting to lift off the grass and the sun was so low in the sky you had to squint I remember standing under my massive tree, ribbon in hand, and watching the sleepy faces of my sisters and mother wander out of the forest to help us.”

Finally, the bride summed up to me why their wedding was perfect for them. “I didn’t choose to have a different wedding.  I don’t want to be different for the sake of being different.  I just didn’t like any of the wedding stuff that was out there.  I found the whole wedding process to be disappointing and frustrating as I flipped through wedding magazines and websites and found absolutely nothing I liked.  The few things I did find I couldn’t afford.  It broke my heart.  Not for one second did I consider the white wedding just for ease.  In one way I had it very easy.  My family was awesome.  No one questioned any of my decisions.  No one made negative comments and during the day no one person (within my earshot) asked “what the f**k is going on?”.  Without their help there wouldn’t have been a wedding.”

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