A Vintage-Inspired Edinburgh Wedding With Swing Dance & A Cereal Cake

There are so many things we love about Jemma & Phil’s wedding – the romantic old church their Humanist ceremony took place in, all the greenery, Jemma’s incredible dress, their reception venue (the Dissection Room at Summerhall in Edinburgh) – the list goes on and on! From the Filipino traditions they incorporated into their ceremony to the cereal wedding cake to their swing first dance, the day reflected the two of them beautifully. Who wouldn’t want to join this party….

How did you two meet?

We met in a pub in Balham, called The Bedford, where swing dance classes were being offered and coincidentally, we had both made a New Year’s resolution to learn to swing dance. We first laid eyes on each other as the room rotated partners. After a first circuit of the room learning the basics, there was a short break, during which time I came bounding over to Phil saying “I’m going to be your friend”.

After two years of our relationship, for my 30th birthday, Phil got in touch with my best friend Lauren and planned a holiday to visit her in the Maldives to celebrate. On the second night of our holiday, Phil asked me if would come out on the decking of the villa to share a glass of wine and watch the sunset. Whilst watching the clouds and sporadic rain drops (no sunset, typical!), Phil asked if I would like to dance. He had brought our favourite swing song to play; the one that we had always danced together to (Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen – the Janet Siegel version – our first dance at our wedding too!). Whilst we were dancing, Phil spun me around while he was on his knee (a fairly common swing move), but instead of getting up and continuing to dance he stayed on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes.

We were inspired by…

Phil’s family and my mother are Catholic but neither of us are particularly religious, so we felt that having the ceremony in an old church but with a Humanist celebrant was a great way to incorporate our backgrounds and our shared values. During the ceremony we followed some Filipino traditions (as Phil’s mother is Filipino) by draping a yugal over the shoulders of both of us to symbolise everlasting fidelity, and pinned my veil to Phil’s shoulders to signify the clothing of two individuals as one.

We live together in London and are influenced by the east London creative industry styles (although neither of us work in it!). We wanted a reception venue that was quirky and that we could completely dress ourselves, but we definitely underestimated the effort required. Ultimately we ended up dressing everything; from astroturfing the bar area to covering the entire ceiling in fake ivy and fairy lights (it took 20 of our friends and family nearly 10 hours to do everything the day before the wedding!). The most important thing was that we wanted a space that meant everyone could have fun in. So we designed our entire reception around dancing (which is important to both of us, it’s how we met!) but added lots of fun touches throughout like popcorn and prosecco at the ceremony, Irn-Bru and sweets on the coaches, the photo booth in the old industrial elevator at the reception, having pies for the wedding breakfast, having a glitter make-up artist to make sure everyone got into the mood, and providing glow-sticks for everyone at the end of the night.

We also asked everyone on the invite what their favourite song to dance to was so that we could incorporate it into the playlist after the band had left.
 We hand-printed all of the place names onto brown luggage tags. We also used brown beer bottles (which Phil very much enjoyed drinking the contents of) painted with rose gold spray-paint as the centre-pieces on each table. And favours included east London trendy black rim glasses (as we both wear thick-rim glasses) along with some Scottish whisky. We also filled all of the display cabinets in the Dissection Room with a ‘story’ of our relationship. And had some giant light-up DANCE letters just in case anyone didn’t get the hint!

Neither of us are massively into flowers but we both knew that we wanted a lot of greenery and foliage, and for it to be quite rustic and not too formal. We had seen another wedding in Summerhall (on WFIL) that had placed trees in the Dissection Room and we totally loved that idea so wanted to make sure that the florist we chose was on board with a slightly more quirky/adventurous idea. Narcissus repeatedly come up in Scottish wedding blogs and totally understood what we wanted to achieve, even describing our crawling foliage ideas as ethereal… They were happy to move the trees (and all the other foliage) from Seton Collegiate Church and set it all up again at Summerhall.
 For the bouquet, I had seen a picture of one on a wedding blog that I wanted to copy with pastel colours and a lot of greenery and a large loose rustic/informal shape. The bridesmaids were initially just going to carry foliage but Narcissus recommended some white flowers to brighten it up a little. We loved all of the flowers, buttonholes and arrangements that they provided.

Tell us about your venues…

We chose to get married at a beautiful Historic Scotland site called Seton Collegiate Church on the outskirts of Edinburgh. We had originally planned to get married in London (where we live) and had paid a deposit on a ceremony venue we really liked because of its old, slightly dishevelled appearance. It had the potential to be dressed how we wanted it to – as we had some strong ideas about design and appearance from all the wedding blogs we had been researching – but we really struggled to find a reception venue that we loved and didn’t cost the earth.

On a trip to Edinburgh, where I’m from, my mother took us to see what she thought could be the ‘Edinburgh version’ of the ceremony venue we had booked. We took one look at Seton Collegiate and fell in love with it instantly. It was bigger, had more potential to fill with our ideas and design concepts, and it has beautiful grounds where we could host post-ceremony drinks; we could picture everything and more. We immediately decided to relocate our wedding up to Edinburgh because of it.

Finding a reception venue was a little more difficult… We knew we were going to have roughly 100 guests and we also knew that we were going to have a ceilidh: so we had to find somewhere with enough room and a big dancefloor! In London, we had planned a warehouse-style reception that would enable us to dress the venue the way we wanted to, and keep some of the uniqueness of the location. So we visited a few barns and rural locations but they didn’t have the urban feel we were looking for. After scouring lots of wedding blogs, we found Summerhall featured in a real wedding on We Fell In Love!  Because WFIL has showcased a few weddings at Summerhall we were able to imagine how we would dress the space and plan accordingly based on all the other ace weddings there. In particular, we were really keen on the Dissection Room as it was a blank canvas that looked big enough to have a large dance-floor, as well as having a break-out area near the bar for some of the other fun stuff we had planned (more on that later!) It was also a really unique and interesting venue that had a story to it… with the onsite brewery (Phil loves his craft beer) selling it even more. During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival it is fully booked out with shows so we took an available early summer date and started our proper wedding planning.

Sarah at Summerhall is the wedding planner we never hired, she really went above and beyond. Sarah was full of supplier recommendations but we were never limited to a preferred supplier list. Sarah did half the work for us in finding a caterer. She was also really helpful in sourcing furniture, taking deliveries, sorting out all the sound and lighting, liaising with the musicians and letting us store things at Summerhall. She also helped a huge amount on the day in keeping everything on schedule and dealing with staff.

How did you choose your photographer?

We were always in agreement about the style of photography we wanted on our wedding day. We wanted a documentary style photographer with a unique eye for capturing those fun moments. We scoured the Scottish wedding blogs for the style we wanted and when we realised that the few we did like were already booked up (panic!) we started asking if there was anyone they’d recommend. That’s when we were pointed in the direction of Alice The Camera.

Alice is based in London so hadn’t come up in our searches but when we did look at her work it definitely stood out. From the pre-wedding / engagement shoot to the wedding day, she put us both at ease in front of the camera and always managed to capture the mood just right – we love looking back at the big smiles on everyone’s faces during our wedding and that is down to her excellent work.

We are in love with your dress! Tell us more…

I tried on A LOT of dresses in Scotland and in London (over 50 dresses) and at one point thought I wanted a 1920s sheath dress, then an Audrey Hepburn style ball-gown, then a top and skirt combo; but nothing was quite right. There were elements of each style that I wanted to change, and some of them were just too expensive.

After months of searching, my mother found Freja Designer Dressmaking‘s website. At the appointment Mette and I sat down and collaboratively designed the dress together, making changes and tweaks along the way. After every design stage I went to Freja and continued the design process, so much so that the split in the side of the dress got higher and higher to the point where I thought Mette was going to have a heart-attack!
 I love my dress. Mette made the process of designing really enjoyable. She was fun, flexible and honest in her opinions.

I wore a Monica Vinader rose gold bracelet, 
my beaded hair comb was borrowed from a friend
 and my pearl necklace and earrings were from Etsy

My bridesmaids selected their own wedding dresses in pink/blush.

And what about Phil’s outfit?

Phil knew he wasn’t going to wear a kilt despite getting married in Scotland (he’s not Scottish and has never worn a kilt before!) but definitely wanted a hint to his Scottish wedding and bride. His tie and pocket-square were made of Modern Gunn tartan; and his buttonhole flowers were a thistle.

He has a bit of a vintage style when it comes to formalwear so wanted a tailored suit with some interesting detailing. Unfortunately, that is very expensive when sourced in London, so he found a tailor near Southampton that could make a bespoke suit (and waistcoat) at a much more affordable price. They do online ordering and delivery across the UK too!

Slow shuffle or big number?

We met at swing dancing, and did it together for about 3 years. So all of our friends and family had an expectation that we would swing dance for our first dance… (talk about pressure to perform). So that’s what we did! One of our favourite swing dance songs to dance together was Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (the Janet Siegel version) so that was what we danced to. We both had an outfit change before the dance so that we could dance properly (looser trousers and dancing shoes for Phil; and a shorter dress and plimsolls which I wore for the rest of the night so I could dance properly!) We didn’t stop smiling through our first dance and our friends fired some confetti cannons at the end, which felt amazing.

We always knew that we wanted a ceilidh. A lot of my friends are Scottish and we knew they would jump right in, but a lot of Phil’ friends are English and we thought they might be a bit wary of a ceilidh. So we knew that we wanted a ceilidh band that would be welcoming to beginners, and weren’t too Scottish in their song choices. We had been to a few of my friend’s weddings where the wedding band had mixed in modern song choices (e.g. Dashing White Sergeant with Sweat by Snoop Dogg and Breathe by Prodigy), so we decided that they were our first choice right from the start. That band is Bahookie. They were amazing. So many people told us that they had never been to a ceilidh before but that they loved every second of it. Some people literally never left the dancefloor. There was a lot of sweating!

Tell us something surprising about your day…

1) My vintage taxi broke down on the way to the ceremony! I ended up being 25 minutes late which made Phil a little more nervous than necessary on the day… We were always warned by the supplier that hiring a vintage car carried the risk that it might break down, so fortunately Ecosse Cars changed the car during the ceremony and we had a smooth ride to the reception in a classic Bentley, so we got two cars for the price of one!

2) I got changed into a 50s knee-length satin swing dress for our first dance, with some white plimsolls. The whole outfit cost less than £100. Although unplanned, I ended up keeping it on for the rest of the night, because I didn’t want to miss anything by getting changed again.

3) My diet (when Phil isn’t around) consists of cereal for dinner. So we insisted that our wedding cake had to be a cereal cake. Although we added a Victoria sponge cake as the bottom layer for the traditionalists.

4) Whilst we were walking around Summerhall Place during our wedding photoshoot we bumped into two dogs owned by small business owners at Summerhall. The two dogs were called Roo and Williams. Our newly wedded married name was Rew-Williamson! (which comes from my family tradition of the first-born male of each generation being called Rew, but as a woman, I don’t get to carry that tradition, so we added it to our new surname) We thought it was a good omen.

Any advice?

We made our choices based on what we thought would be a fun day for your guests. Our aim of the day was to have all our friends together in one place and to make sure that they were smiling throughout the whole day. So we made choices to ensure that that happened. Our advice would be to set your aim for the day and then every time you have to make a decision, go back to that aim and ask yourself if that decision will help you achieve it.

We’d also say to take risks and to tweak traditions to suit you. If it reflects you as a couple then even if it doesn’t work on the day, it still says something about you and your friends and family will love that.

Why Scotland?

All our friends and family are spread across the country so it was important to us to be able to get everyone together in a central location. We initially thought that would be London but because I am Scottish and because we thought Edinburgh would be a nicer weekend away for the majority of our friends (aside from the fact that everything touristy as well as weddingy is less expensive in Edinburgh compared to London!), then we thought that Scotland was definitely the right choice.

What’s the one truly unforgettable thing about your wedding day?

Sneaking back into the room and quietly standing at the edge of the dancefloor just to watch our friends and family having an awesome time (without us!)

How amazing does Jemma & Phil’s first dance?! Does anyone else feel tempted to sign up for swing dance lessons now?  x


VenuesSeton Collegiate Church, Longniddry & The Dissection Room, Summerhall, Edinburgh
PhotographerAlice The Camera

FloristNarcissus Flowers

Hair stylistHair Creations by Anna Wade

Make-up artist – 
Caroline Watt Make Up and Beauty

Wedding dress & veil
Freja Designer Dressmaking

ShoesJimmy Choo Lance (rose gold)
AccessoriesMonica Vinader rose gold bracelet, 
Beaded hair comb – borrowed from friend
, Pearl necklace & earrings – Etsy
Groom’s outfitVictor Valentine

Liggy’s Cake Company

CatererSaxby & Revell: A Couple of Cooks

Stationery – Designed by Phil (and his best man Dan, who is a graphic designer) and printed at Solopress

MusiciansCraig McMorrow and Bahookie

Additional suppliers – 
Vintage black taxi for the bride & groom (Ecosse Classic Cars) and vintage buses for the guests (Stagecoach Buses – Heritage Fleet)
. Photobooth by Blushbooth, DANCE letters from Doris Loves, tables & chairs from Wooden Bench Hire, and glitter make-up artist (for guests) by Little Pumpkins Face Painting

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