Today was a fairytale

Over the last few months, specifically since March, which is 6 months and completely rubbish, I’ve been really bad at blogging. There have been a couple of blog posts that I’ve been thinking about writing but never got round to. My last post was about preparing to run the London Marathon. That happened, back in April. We survived and ran the 26.2 miles in 6 hours. Pretty awful timing really. I was originally going to write a blog on what it is like running a marathon when you’re not a runner, but that’s going to have to wait for another day, because something even more exciting happened between now and then, which is that I got married!

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Obviously getting married is an incredibly special day for the couple themselves, but being a vicar has taught me that people do get married all the time. In fact, it’s a huge industry, and looking back it’s been really useful seeing how other people have done things, what worked, what didn’t, and specifically, where you can get the stuff you need. As much as I love Pinterest, it’s really not useful when you’re trying to find things firstly in the UK, but more specifically in Wales. There’s a load of stuff in London, but we initially really struggled to find local suppliers, which was something that was pretty important to us.
So to try and be helpful, I’m going to start from the beginning and try to include everything in case it can help someone else. Please leave a comment if something is useful or you’d like more information about anything!

We had a really long engagement, we got engaged on the 13th April 2014 (my 25th birthday), and then married on the 15th July 2016, so we ended up sending out two lots of invites- save the dates and the actual invites. The Save the Dates were from Snapfish- we ordered them online with some of our engagement shoots photos (more on our lovely photographers later), and they cost us about £30 for 40 cards. As we hadn’t worked out most of the wedding details yet they just had the date and the town on them, and we only sent them out to people who were absolute definites to invite, pretty much family and close friends. We’d looked at a few ideas before we went on the shoot so we had a few more ‘speciality’ shots in case we went down that route, for example:

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The wedding invites themselves were a bit more complicated. We sent them out in January 2016 but there were two different types. The easiest ones were the main invites, so for people who were invited to both the wedding and the reception. We decided to do those the easy way and ordered them from a company called Norma&Dorothy, which was a bit more pricey at around £300 for 50, but we decided on the exact wording that we wanted, we loved the design, and the team over there were really easy to work with. I must have about 30 emails going backwards and forwards until we were happy with everything! They came really quickly and looked awesome.

There were also a small handful of people coming to just the evening reception so I decided to try out my artistic side and make those myself. As with everything else, the first thing I did was go on Pinterest. There were so many really quirky and creative ideas for invites it was tricky deciding what to do. In the end I filtered them down by what I could actually get the materials for, and what wouldn’t take me forever or be too fiddly. In the end I came across an absolutely fantastic blog post from a blogger called Mrs Fancee, who not only provided really clear instructions but also downloadable fonts. The materials were really easy to come across and were actually all at Hobbycraft- not the cheapest place but really convenient. All I needed was brown craft card, a stamp and ink pad, paper lace doilies and ribbon. They were quite straightforward so came out looking pretty good and didn’t take too long to make.

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Once the invites were sorted we needed to work out the details of the wedding itself. Firstly was the date. We wanted it in the summer because the Welsh weather can be pretty unpredictable, but as I was half way through my curacy (training post) at the time, we decided that we would wait a little bit longer and get married in 2016 when I was due to finish, that way we would avoid any disruption to our parishes. We also wanted to have the wedding close to the end of the summer term so it wouldn’t be distracting for the children, but also mean that they had a bit of time left in school so it wouldn’t feel like we were going away for too long! We checked the terms dates and decided on the 15th July, a Friday to make life easier for our clergy friends, and with just another few days before the end of term. I asked for my Bishop’s permission- another peculiarity of the Church in Wales- and then we started looking at venues.

There were three that we were particularly interested in. We already decided we wanted to get married in Llantwit Major Church, which was where I was working, so needed somewhere near there, but neither of us wanted a hotel- we both wanted somewhere with a bit more character. We had a day out at Bryn Garw Country Park for Steve’s birthday, and had a look round there. It was beautiful and had lovely gardens which would have been fantastic for photos, but the inside wasn’t quite exciting enough if it was raining all day! The next place we looked was Llanerch Vineyard which had a lot of character, you could have their own wines with your meal, and they even had llamas in the vineyard! At the time though they were just starting out with weddings so there was a little bit too much DIY involved for sorting out catering and decoration.

The last place we looked was Rosedew Farm which is just outside Llantwit Major. It’s a converted white washed barn based on a working farm, they supply the meat for the butchers in town, but also with converted cottages and lodges so that the majority of guests can stay on site. They now also have camping and glamping so even more people can fit in! When we first went to look they were also just starting out so you could choose whatever catering you wanted, which we loved so we could still choose the style of our meal; there was space out the back for extra things; kitchens were onsite; you could dress up the venue but it would have looked beautiful with no added extras; also because it was just down the road I could get there whenever I needed to sort stuff out. The benefits had clearly spread because the farm was completely booked at weekends for the next year, but fortunately the date we wanted was free, so we pretty much booked it on the spot!

The only other things we organised a long time in advance were the catering and the music, things that book up quickly! I was pretty keen on having live music rather than a DJ. My cousin Katy had a fantastic band at her wedding that played a lot of 1950’s style swing and rock songs, that was amazing because everyone knew them. Steve wasn’t keen on that idea, he wanted something a bit more modern, so when we came across a band called Coverland at a Wedding Fair, they were exactly what we were looking for. They did sing a variety of music, but with a lot of up to date tracks, they weren’t a massive band so fit well in the venue, they were nice lads, and really good. They were lovely to work with, really friendly, efficient, professional and reasonably priced! We hardly noticed when they were setting up and all our guests said how good they were. I would definitely recommend them to anyone!

The other thing we arranged early was the food, one of the most important things! Gaynor (the brilliant woman who runs Rosedew) recommended a few people to us, and the first one we looked at was the increasingly popular Hangfire Smokehouse. These are more people who have come a long way since we were first engaged! Hangfire use the meat from Rosedew Farm and turn it into American BBQ. They were initially just available through pop-ups at local pubs, then bought a shop in Llantwit Major where they did all their cooking, and recently published a cookbook and opened a restaurant in Barry which has since done incredibly well. We love the girls and we love their food, we go to their restaurant whenever we can and had their food for Christmas dinner last year! However, wedding catering isn’t their thing. Although they would have been fantastic, it’s just as well we didn’t go for them because there is no chance they would have had time by the time our wedding came round!

In the end our catering was done by the wonderful EJ Catering  EJ are based in Cardiff, have a wide range of menus, including some really interesting ones, including BBQ, Mediterranean and carving dishes; their desserts are delicious, and they even do drinks as well. They have a professional team who know exactly what they’re doing and can be really flexible with what you want. On the day they were so efficient, even when things went wrong in areas that had nothing to do with them they were on hand and did their absolute best to sort things out, because they actually do care about you having a good day. When we first planned the day we met with Emma who put our menu together, and then on the day we had Kate who liaised between us and the kitchen. Everything they did was perfect, the food was wonderful and the service went beyond being professional. If I were ever to need catering again I would definitely use them and recommend them to anyone else.

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There were of course plenty of other things that we had to buy in advance so they were ready in time. Probably one of the first we organised was my wedding dress. I went on a diet after we got engaged so as soon as I reached my goal weight I went dress shopping! I lost 3 stone with Weight Watchers, some of which I’ve put back on now, but I managed to keep it off for the whole time before the wedding. Cardiff has several wedding dress shops so that’s where I went- along with my Mum, and two of my bridesmaids. They did have slightly different opinions on what to get- one of the bridesmaids favouring a meringue dress. But in the end I went for a beautiful Lillian West dress from Laura May Bridal on Crwys Road in Cardiff. It was the most luxurious shop we went to, the staff were lovely and there was a good variety of really beautiful dresses. My Mum was kind enough to pay for my dress for me, and everything was really straightforward.

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To go with the dress I had a pair of custom shoes from Lace and Love. I’m not used to wearing heels so I decided to play it safe and get a pair of flats, but I also had them as my something blue, with a silver sixpence in there as well. They were completely unique and so easy to order. Plus, because they’re not specifically bridal shoes I can wear them again.

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I couldn’t decide on what length of veil to go for- I originally wanted a cathedral train but also wanted my hair loose which wouldn’t support it, so realised that a shorter veil would be easier. My lovely bridesmaid Bethan offered to lend me the one that she wore for a wedding, which was a perfect length and had little gems in it so it glittered. It went really well with the dress and doubled up as my something borrowed.

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I was originally planning on wearing a pearl necklace I had bought in China when I was a child, but on the morning Steve sent me a beautiful Clogau necklace- a heart with a rose twisted around it, so I wore that instead. I also wore a bracelet that my parents had given me on my 18th Birthday.

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The bridesmaids dresses were a little more difficult. As one of my bridesmaids was my 10-year old stepdaughter, I wanted a style that would look good on all of them with differing body sizes. I also wanted something that they would be happy to wear themselves after the wedding so didn’t want anything too formal. After we threw around a few ideas, we eventually found some dresses from an online Vintage dresses supplier called Lindy Bop. We went for their ‘Sally May’ style, which matched the lace styling of my wedding dress, wasn’t too short, wasn’t too low cut, was the right colour and was a style to fit most people. We did have a slight issue with the sizing as the sizes were smaller than advertised, so we had to order a couple more and do some switching around. We also had to have my stepdaughters altered as the body was a bit too long for her. On the day they all looked perfect though. I asked the girls to pick their own shoes so they could choose what they would be most comfortable in, as long as they were the same colour. I bought Katy-Grace a pair of blue lace Toms which went perfectly but that she could still walk in!

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The other girly parts were of course the hair and make-up and flowers! I don’t usually wear make-up so I wanted somebody who would be able to make it look naturally but still cover up blemishes for photos. I eventually found a girl called Jess Mac who is based up in Brecon. I went up for a trial and she was absolutely perfect. I felt really good but not overdone, and she worked out a style of hair that was nice and loose but still felt under control. The girls had asked for up-do’s so she came and got them all looking the same while they did their own make-up, and did some soft curls and lip balm for Katy-Grace. Jess was also really useful in making sure all the girls bows were tied the same, and being an all-round calming presence.

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Flowers were something that we wanted to source locally. Partly because we believe in supporting our local communities, and partly because the less distance flowers have to travel the better! We used Pastures Green in Llantwit Major, where Joanne was really helpful and accommodating in helping me work out what I wanted- as I know nothing about flowers. She spent time looking at print out bouquets with me, worked out which flowers would work in the waterfall shape I wanted, and what wouldn’t look like I expected it to on the day! She also needed to point out which ones were actually fake flowers! She came and dropped them off right on time in the morning, and they looked wonderful- even if my stepson (the ring bearer) did object to wearing a buttonhole because ‘they’re too girly!’

One of the other major decisions we had to make was about our wedding rings. I didn’t think there would be too many options for these, but even within plain rings there is colour and thickness, and that’s before you move away from plain! One of the things I felt strongly about was that I wanted a fairtrade ring. These were quite difficult to come across in Wales so we had to look further afield. We found a company called Cred Jewellery who are based in Chichester, and have a brilliant selection of Fairtrade gold rings. I’d already decided I would prefer white gold to yellow, as it goes with my engagement ring, and I eventually found a ribbon twist style that fits around the stone in my engagement ring and has little diamonds around the front. Steve originally wanted to look elsewhere for his, but after we tried a supplier Bristol and their prices weren’t transparent or anywhere near what was advertised on their website, we went back to Cred and bought his from there as well. They came much quicker than expensive and I definitely feel it was worthwhile paying a bit extra for Fairtrade.

Another thing that was tricky to sort out was Steve and the boys suits. We wanted something a bit different, and decided on a grey tweed suit, but after we’d decided that we found it was quite difficult to actually source! After a while I found, through someone else’s blog, a company called Victor Valentine who are based near Southampton, but when we went to visit them they were probably a level above what we were after. Beautiful suits but more if you’re looking to buy a nice suit than hire for a one-day wedding! Eventually though, we noticed on Facebook that one of the local Swansea men’s wedding suppliers had started stocking tweed suits. Crush Menswear introduced a blue grey tweed suit that was exactly what we were looking for, and hire, including shoes, was a lot more affordable than Victor Valentine. We booked in and got everyone measured up, and that all sorted itself out as well!

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Another couple of people who need mentioning are people who contributed to the venue itself. When we were working out how to decorate the venue we quickly realised that the cost could go up very quickly if you were to buy everything you wanted. So we found another local company called Dear Florence who hire out rustic wedding decorations at reasonable prices so you can actually get everything you want, and have things that are normally hard to find. They are also really useful because they’ll put things up for you which is great when you want bunting on high ceilings! We hired vases, log slices, bunting, banners, chalkboards, sweet jars, table runners, lanterns, and easels. What could have cost us hundreds of pounds cost a fraction of that and was all put together for us.


The other thing we hired in was a tent for the children to play in from another (!) local company, Goodyhoo Glamping. Goodyhoo (Gwdihw) means owl in Welsh, and their bell tents have a cute, rustic feel to them. If we had been staying on site on our wedding night we probably would have hired their bridal tent, but instead we hired the Little Hoots tent for our younger guests. It was filled with toys and colouring and kept the little people (and some of the bigger people) entertained all evening.

But the reason we’re able to look back on all these wonderful people is because of our fantastic photographers, Nom and Malc at Mustard Yellow Photography. The benefit of having a couple, is that there was someone to be with both us in the morning, and make sure nothing was missed. They were at the front and back of church, inside and outside, all around the venues. They came out for our group meal the night before to get to know everyone. They were generally really friendly so everyone was so relaxed. Malcolm helped to sort out the men’s ties, while Naomi helped with my dress. We felt comfortable around them all day so they caught pictures of us looking natural, not with forced smiles all day. They were really good at getting through the arranged photos that we wanted without it taking all day! Definitely a pair to recommend to your friends and family! Because we’d had an engagement shoot with them as well we knew that their photos would be really good, and that they would do their best to help us feel at ease so that we actually wanted to smile, nothing was forced, they were a pleasure to have around during the day, and I think that came across in the final photos, which you can see for yourself throughout this blog. They took all these amazing photos and I really would recommend them to anyone else.

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Nom hanging out with my chief bridesmaid Amy at the end of the night

So that’s how it all came together, this is what it looked like:

Jess Mac got to the girls at about 6.30 in the morning- waaaayyyy too early, I didn’t realise my clock had that time. She worked through the girls hair before moving on to mine.

Meanwhile the boys had a nice relaxed morning, going out for breakfast, having haircuts, getting to church nice and early. The service was at 12.30- it was originally at 12 but I managed to get an extra half hour out of Steve when he realised how long it would take us to get ready. The boys were driven to church in a limo which was a gift from Rees Davies Funeral Home in Swansea, who Steve works with, and driven by Arthur at Brown’s Funeral Home in Llantwit Major, who I work with. The car was decorated with flowers and ribbon, and looked very smart!

Arthur then came back to collect the girls. By that time the flowers had arrived, I was in my dress, and my Dad had joined us. The bridesmaids and my Mum then left to go to the church in the limo, and my Dad and I went in Ed. Ed is our friend Alex Grace’s orange VW camper. Ed had been decorated with bunting as well and was in his element!


When we got to church our parking space had disappeared so there was a bit of quick thinking! I re-united with my bridesmaids and we went into the Galilee Chapel to wait for them to be ready. The night before Steve had decorated the church with more bunting, and one of the ladies from church had prepared some beautiful flower arrangements. We had a few photos in the Galilee and then my music started playing. I’d had so many options, I eventually decided to walk down to a piece called ‘Who is She?’ from the recent Disney Cinderella film, and composed by Patrick Doyle. It was the floaty-serene piece of music I was looking for, hasn’t been used by everyone else, and reminds me of the day every time I hear it.
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My Dad walked me down the aisle behind my stepdaughter and –son, my bridesmaids, chief bridesmaid, and my Godfather, who took the service. My plan was to walk nice and slowly and make the most of the music, but I found myself welling up and trying not to cry, so I didn’t walk as slowly as I was planning to! We sang our favourite worship songs in the service, from an order designed by our lovely friend Bethan Wigley.

 

My brother and our eldest stepson read the readings, my Godfather led the service and preached, and our friends Chris Bowler and Caz Ellis-Gowland prayed for us. It felt like it went so quickly I can hardly remember what happened! After the service we had refreshments, which people from church had brought, in the back of church so that we could talk to people, and while that was happening the bell ringers were ringing the bells for us. My friend Abi Marchant brought a cake for us to cut in church, and then we went for some photos.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t everything we were hoping for. Our two photo stops were Ogmore beach and castle. When we arrived it was raining and windy, so we got some very picturesque but windswept shots with the kids and then sent them back to warm up!

We then went on to the castle where it had eased off a bit and had a few more photos between the ruins and among the sheep. While all of this was happening people were arriving at the barns and having drinks and canapes, the drinks we’d bought at Bookers a couple of weeks before. When we were cold enough we headed back as well and met everyone there.

When we arrived we checked out the dining room. Dear Florence and EJ had helped to lay the tables up, and the place names were pebbles that I’d been collecting and had written people’s names on with quotes on the other side. I’d also ordered little children’s packs to keep the little ones entertained. The table plan I had made using an old photo from a charity shop, a map from eBay of Europe, the same font and card I’d used for the invites, pins and wool. Each table was based on a different country or place that we’ve visited so the map included them all. We had the top table as Clovelly, where we were engaged, which had fudge, Gran Canaria had sangria, Barcelona had mojitos, Amsterdam had stroopwaffles, Paris had macarons, Cardigan had welsh cakes, Moscow had raspberry vodka, London had gin and elderflower and Edinburgh had Baileys hot chocolate.

Before we sat down to eat we had some group photos that we’d wanted. We both prefer the more natural photos that were taken throughout the day, but there were a few groups of people we wanted to make sure we had. Our families were key, as well as my friends from university and our friends from college. There’s also a Simpson family tradition of having a whole family and a cousins picture at weddings. I have a collection that I’m adding to as each of us gets married, it’s interesting to see how we’ve all changed over the years!

 

After dinner we had formal speeches from my Dad, Steve, our eldest Ryan, Steve’s best man Ben and his groomsman Chris. They were all really lovely. Ryan was only 13 and really nervous, but spoke extremely confidently, reacting to people’s laughter and ad-libbing as he went along, speaking for the three children. He’s got a potential career in public speaking ahead of him! Chris is a judge and got into character for his speech, sentencing us to a life sentence. My brother Dan also came up with a surprise speech from him and his wife Anna. She is very artistic and had drawn a cartoon strip which they projected onto the wall and narrated as they went through, telling the story of my family’s reaction to our relationship, which was really funny.

We finished off the evening with some dancing, cake, sparklers and bacon sandwiches. Our first dance was I won’t give up by Jason Mraz and then the band kicked in for the rest of the evening. By that point I was quite tired and my dress was more structured than I’m used to so I wasn’t feeling great. We both went around chatting to a few people, but in hindsight there were loads of people we missed, which was a shame as there were so many people there we don’t see very often.

After a while I decided there was only one thing for it, and went to change into my pyjamas. We left the reception at about midnight, through an arch of sparklers, then my amazing bridesmaid Amy drove us to Heathrow, where we stayed the night before flying off on our honeymoon the day after- more on that later!

So there you have it, I can’t see how I could have possibly left anything out but I probably have. You can see now why it took me so long to get around to writing it, well done if you’ve managed to read it all the way to the bottom! Our wonderful friends and family have been really generous both with their time, helping to clear out the barn the day after the wedding when we had left, and also with their money- our wedding gifts enabled to have an amazing honeymoon. We had a fantastic day and it largely due to everyone who came to celebrate with us. If you’re reading this and want to know more about anything then please feel free to get in touch and I will do my best to answer any questions. Particularly any brides to be who are finding it a bit overwhelming, just take it a step at a time and remember that at the end of the day, it’s all about you and your husband. If something is important to you then prioritise it, but don’t waste your time trying to please everyone else or juggle opinions because you’ll never win. Just enjoy it. Don’t stress when things go wrong because inevitably something will. Our day was perfect even with the things that didn’t work out. Looking back you’ll remember the things that worked, not the things that didn’t quite come together. Good luck!

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