Michelham Priory is another prime example of how blessed we are with amazing wedding venues in the South East of England. A former Augustine priory, this incredible venue dates back to 1229 AD and has England’s longest water filled moat. As a wedding venue it offers a stunning and large barn for your ceremony and reception with lots of natural light poring in, and beautiful grounds for your guests to enjoy.
Claire and Alex live in Canada, so all of our initial conversations were just email, and then we met for the first time when they visited the UK a few months before the wedding. I loved seeing their little influences of Canada in the wedding such as the grand entrance of the wedding party to the wedding breakfast, with the bridesmaids and groomsmen coming in to the room in pairs and then the bride and groom being the grand finale. This was clearly a close and fun group and their energy bounced around the room spreading smiles everywhere.
In some weddings, the speeches are shortened down to a few words of thanks, but for Claire and Alex’s wedding they were a main feature of the day. Claire’s dad’s speech was a nod to “This is your life” telling everyone about Claire. Alex gave a beautiful and emotional speech of thanks. The bridesmaids did an amazing version of Spice Girls “Wannabe”, and the 4 best men gave a great roasting of the groom whilst at the same time conveying what a great man he is, and how much they love him. They may have been the longest speeches I’ve witnessed but were also the best.
Here is a bit more about their wedding in their own words:
How did you meet, & how did you become engaged?
“Alex moved to Canada in 2011 for a 15-month work contract and we met on eHarmony a few months in. It was a cautious romance at first, given the uncertainty of geographic commitments. Over time, it was clear this was the real deal! Alex proposed in September 2014 on the balcony of their Distillery district apartment as the sun set with Moet on the table. Afterwards, he surprised me with a Cirque de Soleil steampunk spectacle under the big top down by Toronto’s pier. It was a perfect evening!”
How long did you take to plan your wedding?
“At first, Claire wanted to get married the next summer – less than a year away! Cooler heads prevailed and so we took 1 year, 10 months to enjoy being engaged, have fun with the process and give both our guests and ourselves lots of time to plan and budget!”
What made you choose your wedding venues and how did you decorate them?
” Claire grew up with her grandparent’s farm 5 minutes away so a rustic barn was perfect and they both love the old traditional architecture of England. Michelham Priory is such a spectacular venue and has such romanticism to it. Alex’s mom Susan knew of it and took Claire for a viewing. As soon as she saw the entryway, she was sold! The venue is so gorgeous on its own that little décor was needed – just a few personal touches and soft wild flowers to bring it to life. ”
What inspired you to style your day the way you did? E.g. a particular era, muse, colour etc. or were you guided by religious or cultural values and preferences?
“We wanted elegant, vintage and modern rustic. We both love blue, and pink and white flowers matched softly against the darker backdrop.”
How did you decide on your dress and accessories?
“When I first tried on my wedding dress, my first thought was that this my Oscar moment! I tried on many dresses afterwards to be sure (and to please Mom!) but it was always that one. I loved the modern yet vintage style reminiscent to old Hollywood glamour, especially with the custom, slinky straps added. For the veil, I wanted it simple yet long and romantic. For jewelery, I wore simple, classic gold and silver pieces given to me by my Oma.”
How did you decide on the outfits for the groom and groomsmen?
“Alex knew he wanted a rich, blue-coloured suit and searched for some time to find a tailor where he liked the quality of the fabric and their tailoring skills. He settled on Suitsupply based in Yorkville, Toronto. They tailored a made-to-measure three-piece suit. Alex picked a sky blue-coloured tie with large white polka dots to match. His best men wore blue suits and had white ties with sky blue polka dots, while the groomsmen wore grey suits.”
Who gave you away / walked you down the aisle? And did you walk down the aisle to a particular song?
“Claire’s dad walked her down the aisle and gave her away. Claire wanted to walk down to one of her favourites, the acoustic Everlong by Dave Grohl, at Alex’s suggestion, but it was a bit too melancholy for the grand entrance. Alex then suggested She’s a Rainbow by the Rolling Stones since it’s such a happy song and made him think of Claire immediately.”
Would you like to share anything about your vows? Did you tailor your own?
“We wrote our own vows and had no idea what each other were going to say until the ceremony! We both included thoughtful and light-hearted vows – after all, marriage is supposed to be fun! We both had similar themes – being best friends, making each other stronger while accepting us as we are, having fun and making life an adventure.”
Did you have any readings? If so, what were they and why did you choose them?
“We had two readings, Time Travellers by Terah Cox & Apache Blessing by Anonymous. Time travelers resonated with us both immediately because we are such big world adventurers. The Apache blessing also had a great message.”
Please describe your wedding breakfast and the reasons behind it?
“We loaded everyone up on savoury canapés beforehand and then served Beef Wellington with scalloped potatoes & green beans, then vanilla-raspberry crème brulée for dessert. The meal is one of Alex’s favourites and he loves to cook it. It also pays homage for Claire with childhood farm life & living in France as teenager on exchange. The alternate meal was a quinoa veggie salad and pear cake.”
Did you provide wedding favours? If so, please provide details or what and where you sourced them
“We are both big music lovers. We had been to a wedding where we had received a CD as a favour, and thought it was a great idea. After all, each song has a memory and we hoped the soundtrack would take our guests back to the big day!”
Please describe your cake and why you chose it?
“Claire LOVES cakes and chocolate cake with vanilla icing is her favourite. We wanted a simple cake so we chose just have natural flowers decorate each layer. It was delicious!!”
What was your first dance track and what did it mean to you?
“We danced to “Get up offa that thing” by James Brown. We were inspired watching a movie based on his life. Alex is a much better dancer than Claire, and we preferred to dance for fun than awkwardly slow dance in front of everyone. We just wanted to get the party started and thought this would be a great tune to get everyone on the dance floor!”
What was your favourite part of the day and why?
“Alex’s favourite part was watching Claire walk down the aisle, though she nearly raced down to him, she was so excited! Claire’ favourite part was the ceremony & vows, and having so many close friends and family all in one room together. It truly was such a special day.”
What led you to choose Parkershots as your photographer and please can you comment on their work? .
“We wanted a photographer who could capture sweeping shots of the couple as well as take intimate, in-the-moment candids of the guests. From a personality perspective, we wanted someone down-to-earth, flexible and fun. Claire had done a lot of online research and Parkershots was her favourite from the start. Nick’s portfolio is stunning and his romantic night shots of couples are incredible. Luckily, Nick was free and willing and so we locked him in right away. He has an amazing talent and we are so grateful we got to work with him.”
On reflection, is there anything you would have done differently with foresight?
“Even though the day wasn’t perfect (Claire had a nasty cold and a speaker blew during the dance for almost an hour!), we both were really happy with the day and wish it could have lasted longer or that we could live it over again!”
If you could impart any words of wisdom to a bride to be planning her marriage and wedding day, what would they be?
“It’s more about the marriage than the wedding. Only a few things truly matter in a wedding and you will only remember those few key details. It’s easy to get carried away in the décor and decisions, but often you will just remember the people and the moments – so enjoy it! It really does go by as quickly as everyone says.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“Nick was absolutely wonderful to work with! He made us feel so relaxed and comfortable and made sure everything flowed really well on the day. We especially loved his “Vanity Fair” set-up for the bridal party shots – his take on lighting and positioning was perfect! The photos he took truly capture the happiness and fun atmosphere of the people and the day. Thank you so much for everything Nick!!”
– Bride’s gown (Designer and boutique): Essence of Australia, Becker’s Bridal, Toronto
– Jewellery (Designer & Boutique) – bracelet heirlooms, earrings by JCrew
– Shoes – Badgley Mischka
– Veil / Headpiece – Becker’s Bridal, Toronto
– Perfume – Coco Mademoiselle, Bleu Chanel
– Hair Stylist – Louise Large
– Make-up Artist – Louise Large
– Florist – Susan Allan, mother of the groom
– Rings – Heirloom (Claire wedding ring), Susan Allan (Alex’s wedding band), Marquess Jewellers (engagement ring)
– Venue – Michelham Priory
– Cake Maker – All Shapes and Slices, Kent
– Caterer – Michelham Priory
– Bridesmaids Dresses – Love Vanilla Dew, Etsy
– Groom / Groomsmen suits – SuitSupply, Toronto
– Stationery – Vistaprint
– Entertainment – The Daggers (Brighton)
– Videographer – cousin Jordan Van Wyk
– Photographer – Parkershots
– Honeymoon – South East Asia – Bali, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong