Friday 30 September 2011

WIN! 50 Tickets to the Designer Wedding Show to give away!

Gird your loins. With its romantic, breathtaking and fashion-forward showcase of 140 of the wedding industry's finest, The Designer Wedding Show in London is a go-to for any bride or groom and their wedding party.

Taking place on the 7 - 9th October at Battersea Park, the event is a unique shortcut to the loveliest wedding gowns, accessories, flowers, millinery, cakes, jewellery, stationary, caterers, venues, gift lists, photography and more from a line-up of some 140 luxury companies.

Four couture bridal catwalk shows a day feature some of the leading wedding dress designers from Alice Temperley to Sassi Holford, Pronovias to Vera Wang, in addition to an all-new On the Sofa consultation salon with Bryony Toogood of Conde Nast Brides magazine. Restaurant areas feature a pop-up from Mosimann's and Peggy Porschen's pop-up cake parlour for a little taste of what rocked Kate Moss' wedding.

Win!! The Designer Wedding Show is pleased to offer two complimentary tickets to Quintessentially Weddings Blog readers for the first 50 people who contact us.

To take advantage of this fabulous offer, simply email [email protected] quoting ‘Quintessentially Weddings’ and your address in order to forward on tickets.

Visit for more details.
Tickets are £16 in advance and £18.50 on the door.

How to find the 'One' after the 'One'

Monique LHuillier's Poppy
Nothing quite prepares you for the hunt for the 'One'. Not the heartache, cunning and good fortune needed to find the man who becomes your fiance, but the heat rashes, tears of mothers shed and taxi habit you are likely to establish.

This is the other search for the 'One'. It is strangely relegated to a fond vagueness for many brides once they have stepped over the lintel into becoming a bride, recalled with a soft smile - which I now understand as a one of a blend of relief and knowing. But when you are knee-deep in mousseline, lace and corseted to the nines with a shop assistant cooing over your reflection, it certainly does not seem the most pleasant or fun way to while away a Saturday afternoon. In fact, it can descend into a dull agony, especially if, like me, you are trying to straddle the fine line between a high-fashion number and more romantic wedding sensibilities.

I also developed what became referred to as 'The Wedding Dress Shop Fear', defined as a nervous tremor, prickly flush across my decolletage and an existential sense of not really being there - and I am usually quite a collected sort, able to laugh off or man-up enough to realise when I am being daft.

But, on the 17th September 2011, I found my dress. It wasn't the dress I thought it was going to be, it wasn't the one that made mum cry and look very sweetly sheepish, but we all suddenly, just like that, I knew. Thunderstruck. As I tried to walk towards the window to mimic the walk down the aisle, its ivory duchesse silk train undulating behind me before catching the front skirt on the Manolo Blahniks the shop owned for precisely this sort of moment, making me stumble a little in way that reminded me I was still very much me, I realised I was a bride. Because that's the thing about a wedding dress, it is not just a dress, but a transformation, a realisation of yourself as a woman, as a bride. It should make you feel as good as your fiance does, but equally make you feel like the bride you want to be.

Elie Saab for Pronovias Laertes
So, dear readers, in the light of this, here is my Wedding Dress Hunt survival guide. And a small selection of the ones that got away.

Go forth, and hunt that dress out!

  • Create a dream wedding dress moodboard of images of elements you like from not only bridal magazines, but high fashion publications, portraits of your silverscreen icons, details from postcards and anything else that inspires you.
  • Research designers to establish who creates dresses that fit what you think of as 'your' style, but be prepared for the one you choose possibly being a wild card.
  • Begin looking at dresses at about a year - ten months before your wedding, and allow at least six months for gowns that take longer to craft or are imported.
  • A big warning - being new to all this I had no idea that the better bridal shops in London and other destination bridal shops across the country are usually fully booked at weekends for anything up to three months in advance. A Saturday appointment is like gold-dust. If you do the maths, this means that if you cannot get an appointment to even see a dress for three months, and it will then take six months to make the dress from this date, you are realistically looking at nine months, and risking not giving yourself enough time to compare dresses to do a full shop.

  • Rivini Claudia
  • Take your mother and a best friend who truly knows your style as touchstones - whilst your mum would probably revel in the experience of just you two searching for your gown, it helps to have a second opinion from a peer who can help encourage you to show your personality and temper any more traditional, staid ideas of how you should look that your mum may harbour.
  • It sounds simple, but ensure you have clean hair and wear it down if it's long. This gives more opportunity to play around with how a dress can be styled, scooping your hair up on your head with your hands or allowing it to soften a more polished dress with a little bit of undone beauty.
  • Allow yourself ample time to get around your appointments. As a rule of thumb, three appointments in a day is plenty. Even the hardiest of brides will struggle to cope with stretching arms above their head, wobbling into piles of silk and being hoicked, pinned and pulled for up to four hours.
  • Build in a coffee and lunch break - preferably with that essential cocktail or glass of wine to loosen you up.
  • Think carefully about your ceremony venue and the season you are getting married in (goosebumps never look good), and if you are marrying in a church or synagogue, any guidelines your denomination may have around bare shoulders, for example. 
  • Whilst there are no rules, look for a dress that 'matches' up to the size, mood and character of the place in which you'll get married. An airy meringue with lots of bosom that takes out half the guests as you sweep up the aisle of a tiny church might be perfect for your reception party, but it will be hard, hot work come the later hours of the evening, too.
  • Are you a dancer? If you want to prance around all evening in the arms of your new husband, you need a dress you can move in: fishtails gowns that hug the knees, narrow sheath dresses and voluminous dresses can all prove tricky. Larger dresses that have a crinoline or hoop that makes the skirt stand away from your legs are perfect for dancing, and trains can usually be bustled up with a discreet ribbon tie on the inside of the skirt to reduce the trip-hazard.
  • Alternatively, have a silver or ivory sparkling, feather trimmed mini-dress ready for the evening's party
  • Sometimes the thunderbolt does not strike, but try walking as if making your way up the aisle and the way the dress makes you feel, hugging or floating about you will suddenly make something click.
  • Don't judge a dress or a designer by the over-posed posturings of the models wearing them in the campaign shots - and do try a dress if a shop assistant has a hunch it might work - be as open-minded as possible as sometimes it helps to firm up what you are envisaging.
  • Vera Wang Gemma
  • If you are worried by falling in love with a simpler, more demure dress that seems to lack wow-factor, look to putting punch and personality in with a statement accessory or detail, such as crimson shoes, a glittering handbeaded embellishment or piles of exquisite vintage paste necklaces that glint around your neck. Some designers (Ian Stuart, Johanna Hehir, Phillpa Lepley) will happily look to tweak and add details to suit your wishes.
  • Textured skirts and a diaphanous, soft aesthetic  as well as muted pale pastel colours such as mint, duck egg, fawn and blush pink that are so hot right now bridge the gap between fashion and wedding romance - don't be afraid to try new fabrics and shapes.

I had firmly believed I was a full skirt, ballgown bride, but had my breath taken away by both a lace fishtail that hugged curves I didn't know I had, and the eventual winner: a spirited ivory duchesse silk number halfway between the original dress I had imagined (a Vivienne Westwood number later re-named 'Carrie' after it's starring appearance) and a finer, tighter, womanly and possibly seductive dress. I'm afraid I won't show you it here, but here is the original one that got away...
Vivienne Westwood Carrie

Lovely designers to try:

And the loveliest shops:
Browns Brides (London) for wonderfully kind, enthused service, beautiful gowns, and a chic boutique.
Clifton Brides (Bristol) for dreamy dresses, and delightfully caring assistants.
The White Closet (Manchester) for ethereal, vintage-inspired gowns and a sweet, quirky team.
Pronovias (London and concessions nationwide) for spectacular gowns at surprising price points and confident, kind service.
Blackburn Couture (London) for a blend of modern glamour and graceful gowns from a good range of distinctive designers - plus, the team are inspiring yet gentle.
Johanna Hehir (London) This was the place I felt most at home - beautiful gowns, beautiful service especially from Caroline who I felt understood me as a bride and my style instantaneously.
Luella's Boudoir (London) With a strong reputation and as the only stockist of Johanna Johnson dresses in the UK, this boutique is a go-to for bohemian and vintage referencing brides.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Eloping: Should I stay, or should I go?

Each week, the Quintessentially Weddings team helps solve your wedding questions...
‘I am dreading planning our wedding: my mum and our big families are putting pressure on me to hold an enormous, decadent wedding and to invite every last second cousin twice-removed. I know this sounds mean and ungrateful, but it is filling me with resentfulness. Frankly I just feel like running away with my fiancĂ© and having the intimate day we really want with just him and me – after all, that’s what it’s supposed to be about. He is nonplussed, and says he just wants to marry me, but I don’t want to risk casting us out from our respective families’ affections like some naughty children who’ve snuck off and scoffed the Christmas dinner or something so there’s nothing for anyone else to eat, or alternatively, not really enjoying our day because we've upset everyone’.
Katy, Manchester
Quintessentially Bride: Oh dear, it’s such a shame that the planning of weddings is so riddled with what one should and ought to do – it becomes almost a comedy of manners. As we get older too, the more weddings we are going to have been invited to (and likely enjoyed), and the greater a sense of ‘repaying’ the hospitality. Whilst eloping is admittedly a swoonfully romantic thing to do, and does refocus the wedding on you and your groom, do you really want to deal with the years of dirty looks and depreciating slurs, or upsetting those you probably love very much for the sake of a few people, the odd batty Auntie who won’t like your dress and demands you don’t want to succumb to? Hopefully, most of us only get married the once, and it is likely your mum just wants you to have the amazing day she feels you both deserve. It is likely born of love, rather than her being a mumzilla seems to be the opinion of the team here.
Eloping is admittedly making something of a comeback, but the other trend is towards more discretion and almost a ‘Secret’ wedding – Caleb Followill of the Kings of Leon wasn’t told when his wedding to model Lily Aldridge would be as she decided to keep it schtum, knowing he would tell the world, and then they would have to invite it! Perhaps it’s more a case of strategically refining your wedding so that it is still very much your day, and has intimate moments? But by being hospitable and making a few concessions to keep people happy, you will be amazed at how close you can get your wedding to being the stuff of your dreams.
You say your mum has put pressure on for you to hold a ‘decadent’ wedding, and whilst there is the matter of those that pay the piper calling the tune (are she and your father are paying?) perhaps you could gently explain that this does not fit with your personalities or wishes – that real luxury now is about time, good food, good company and the little things that make a big difference. Maybe you could allocate some specific jobs to her which she can make more ostentatious – sourcing the wine, for instance, or table plans, making the cake or choosing the floristry.
You could also look to meet her and your families halfway, by having an intimate ceremony (the bit that really matters) and then a more generous reception. Just make sure you set aside a few 10 minute slots for you and your new husband to be together on your own – a private glass of champagne in a room, perhaps, or take a little tour in your wedding car with just the two of you, the chauffeur and the stars.
If you have a dilemma for the Quintessentially Wedding team, email [email protected]
Whilst we are sorry we cannot respond personally to all dilemmas, we will attempt to bring together and highlight the most commonly arising or enlightening issues and guide you through your wedding woes, offering help with inspiration or ideas.

Monday 26 September 2011


Jimmy Choo have outdone themselves with their newest venture: Choos for Men. The handsome collection of classic lace-up Oxford shoes, ponyskin and velveteen loafers, polished nappa leather boots fit for a rock star blends Sixties playboy cool with Italian craftsmanship. How I would love my groom to sweep me off my feet in the leopard print loafers, please.

Mini Moons

Increasingly few of us have the money nor leave available from work to go on a three-week long blow-out, and it is the first night of married life that matters most. Spend your love sleepover in a seductive, simmeringly romantic bolthole such as one of these UK piles…

The Bath Arms, Horningsham, Wiltshire
      The Crown, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
      San Domenico House, London
      Durley House, London
      Babington House, Somerset

Daisy Jenks

I don’t need to say much about the lovely Daisy Jenks’ work, it does all the talking…


Cliff Barns
From L Plates to Pole dancing, and scantily clad bosoms to scaring the natives in previously sleepy beauties Prague and Amsterdam, hen and stag parties have got themselves a bad name. Rarely do you ever learn or take anything away from one of the increasingly lengthy romps, besides a dazed, vague recollection that shots of Port or Jagermeister are not a good idea and something to do with lamposts.

Thank goodness then for the burgeoning trend in offbeat, but stonkingly high-rolling hen and stag parties and venues offering riotous fun, luxury and the opportunity to edify your friendship group about one another as well as potentially a cool new hobby.
Cliff Barns is like Beyonce’s ‘Who Run the World’ gone luxe: learn to deer-stalk, shoot clay pigeons, give Robin Hood a run for his money with a spot of archery, (all whilst decked out in feathers and hunting gear, you realise, for a Vogueish take on the hunting party of yore) then collapse in a hot tub, and whip out the artisan cider whilst your own private chef cooks up a rock and roll banquet.
Menfolk who consider themselves something of a real GRRR man might quite like to explore Woodlands Ways’ survival schools, learning to build and light their own blazing campfire about which they can frolic, naked if the mood so takes them, navigate using the sun and stars, wield an axe, source and prepare their own foraged feast and purify water to drink. So, if the dreaded ‘for worse’ should happen, he’ll be prepared.
I also love:
Distillery tours, game shooting, deer and eagle stalking and highland walks at The Lovat in Loch Ness.
Eco-glamping at a Featherdown farm: breathtaking countryside, your own rusticluxe tent cum lodge, new hot tubs at Billingsmoor and manor Farm and champagne delivered to your tent door whilst you learn to smoke your food, or partake of a ‘forest schooling’ or cider orchard

Wild Flowers

It started with trees lining the aisle of Will and Catherine’s wedding, and has spilled over into a full-on love affair that speaks of all the very loveliest bits of green Englishness. Wildflowers and their symbolism are having a renaissance. As chivalric talismans of fidelity, ardour and hope as well as being charming, romantic and naturally beautiful many heavy heritage venues or contemporary spaces can be cunningly lightened with sweetly scented stocks, baby’s breath and cornflowers overflowing from cream enamel jugs or vintage glassware.
Work the pastoral prettiness into hair garlands for young bridesmaids for a romantic, bohemian touch.
Go to for more

Friday 23 September 2011


Tom Ford is clearly a man to whom beautiful things matter: his latest masterpiece is a full 130 product make-up and skincare collection. Whilst bridal beauty is traditionally all about a barely-thereism that is you, but with better genetics and sleep patterns, I secretly really admire a bride who is trailblazing enough to wear colour on her big day.
Given that usual photographic philosophy dictates that luminous pigment, shine and luscious intensity of colour works best on camera, when muted softly-spoken tones of nude, pink and taupe can wash faces out, it seems surprising that so many brides choose to eschew vibrant, radiant make-up. The photographs of your wedding day will last for the rest of your happily married lives, so why would you want to look a touch on the consumptive side? Consider Tom’s hyper-pigmented, luxuriously milled and iconic cosmetics a call to arms.

Personally, I want the entire collection ladled onto my face come wedding day, but if I had to edit, I would plump for the Private Blend Lipstick in Crimson Noir that blends classic grown-up allure with a dazzling sense of style.
Exclusive to Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols London now. At Tom Ford Private Blend Counters Nationwide from October 9.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Thyme Southrop Manor

Set among a bucolic panorama straight out of Thomas Hardy, Thyme Southrop is a place of immense prettiness, charm and captivation.
Little wonder, then, that Kate Moss chose this rural idyll for her summer’s wedding to rock and roller Jamie Hince. Restored with a lightness of touch that belies the barn’s 300 year old age, the honeyed stone and lovely Green Englishness of this place makes it a perfect country wedding spot - and one of my favourite country venues in the UK.
Whilst Kate surprised many with her nods to tradition, tender touches such as use of baby’s breath with abandon and generally quite conservative affair, this place really doesn’t need much prettifying. And in the end, love is a fairly simple thing.
Establish your wedding as distinct from that of her Mrs Hince with a woodland bar area, artisan ciders produced in nearby Somerset (, lace drapery from Fiona Leahy and Maypoles (but be watchful of mild strangulation incidents with little ones). Should you want some rollicking rock and roll action, invest in the services of Witchwood Rock School to occupy wannabes (
Thyme Southrop, Southrop, Gloucestershire GL7 3NX