You’ll be forgiven for thinking we’ve whisked you off to an Eastern destination as The Italian Villa in Poole, Dorset has the most majestic Japanese gardens. Making an absolutely stunning backdrop for portraits by Peppermint Love Photography.
Plus how amazing is Bride Nicola’s Suzanne Neville Heather gown. She looks every bit the classic bride in her princess gown. Accessorising with the loveliest of headpieces and veils too. But when the bride owns her own boutique with all the inside bridal knowledge you expect nothing less than jaw dropping results.
Not only is this wedding an extravaganza of pretty, it is also heart wrenchingly romantic and sentimental too. Filled with gorgeous decor, blooms and references to loved ones past and present making every detail even more perfect, and amazing.
Nicola The Bride: We got married on 10th September 2016. This was an incredibly important date and it was chosen for a very special reason. It was also my parent’s Golden wedding anniversary. We both love Autumn and when we got engaged over two years ago and realised the date fell on a Saturday in the season and month that we wanted to go for anyway it all seemed so perfect. It was ideal that they should pass over the marital baton to us after 50 fabulous years together.
We made a whole weekend of celebrations which began on the Thursday. The bridal party got ready at The Priory Hotel and the wedding took place at The Lady St. Mary Church in Wareham. The guests then took a routemaster London bus to board a private boat where we all travelled along the River Frome to The Italian Villa at Compton Acres where the reception took place.
We first met 15 years ago. We lived in the same village and Josh was a waiter at the local pub. I am a bit older than him and I took the initiative and invited him out on a date. As you can imagine he was a little less mature back then and needless to say we only went out twice! Flash forward ten years from then and I happened to pop back to the village pub and by pure chance Josh was there celebrating his parents wedding anniversary. This time round he asked me out for a date and as they say “the rest is history”
Josh knows that I love Italy and he planned a surprise trip to Venice. When we arrived, he hired a private taxi boat to take us to our hotel on the Grand Canal where as soon as we arrived a gondolier passed by singing o sole mio. Before owning my bridal boutique I have been an actress for the past 12 years and my icon is Audrey Hepburn and Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is our song. On our second night he asked me to get dressed up and he took me to the Teatro La Fenice where he hired out the theatre for an hour and took me up to the Royal Box where he played Moon River and proposed with the most stunning Victorian diamond solitaire.
Well……this part was easy I picked my dresses from my own boutique. I am proud to say I own a multi award winning bridal boutique called George James Bridal which has now been established for two and a half years and I had such a wonderful array of options from my amazing designers. I must confess I was spoilt for choice and most people thought I might struggle but I always knew what I wanted. I love a ball gown shape as for me it epitomises the traditional bride and I am all about fabric and tailoring. Suzanne Neville gowns have all of this in abundance and so I chose Heather which had a silk organza skirt and a lace bodice with a Bardot neckline. I must say I was very lucky and naughty and had a second dress to dance the night away in. In the evening I changed into a gorgeous tea length dress style 8800 from Justin Alexander. My parents are ballroom and Latin American dance teachers and so the first dance was a special father/daughter dance where he handed me over to Josh where we danced to Moon River.
Josh had never been keen on the traditional formal top hat and tails attire although he loves a well cut suit. We both liked the idea of keeping the feel to the day Italian inspired so he opted for a classic, tailored three piece black dinner suit. All the groomsmen wore the same suits purchased from Claytons Menswear and wore Oyster ties and matching pocket squares. They also all had matching button holes from our amazing florist Jennifer Poynter.
Wedding Theme and Details
We didn’t really want to have a ‘theme’ as such but it inevitably happens in order to create cohesion for the day. What was most important for us was that we did and had things that we loved and that all our guests would find representative of us. We both have special places in the world and have travelled together so with this a slight travel inspired feel tied all the elements of the wedding together. The guests all had travel documents as their invites that included passports, boat and bus boarding passes and travel money (that was later used as free vouchers for the photo booth) which also had to get stamped to allow passage onto the various modes of transport.
The guests boarded a red London double decker bus and made their way to the church where the very ‘English’ part of the wedding took place. We had an incredible gospel choir during the service and then made our way to the boat. The next part was meant to have an Irish flavour as we had a fiddler on the boat and then when we arrived at The Italian Villa we had an accordionist to set the mood along with an authentic Italian ice cream tricycle that came all the way from our hometown of Bedford. The gardens at Compton Acres are so stunning that they set the tone immediately but this was enhanced by the incredibly floristry. I had asked Jen for sumptuous, decadent centre pieces with the light fittings draped in ivy and grapes to create the faded grandeur which is indicative of Italy and she really captured this mood. This followed through to the cake, card table and other decorations throughout the venue including mini limoncello bottles as favours.
One thing that was the most important was to have very special tributes to my nephew who tragically passed away from cancer three years ago. The whole colour choice for the day was inspired by him as his favourite colours were orange and green, so with this in mind and considering it was Autumn it was perfect to use burnt oranges and soft pinks, golds and warm greens. As it was my parents golden wedding anniversary we also wanted to link in all of these lovely golden hues as well. My sister had his pictures printed on the ring pillow as he would have been our page boy and the songs picked in the church were some of his favourites. I had all my loved ones pictures in my bouquet and when we arrived at The Italian Villa there was a special table set up with an arrival cocktail called George’s Marvellous Medicine which was a bright green vodka drink. There were large 3 ft balloons surrounding his picture that were released by the family in the evening. On the cake we had a little lego brick wall tucked away again as a tribute to him.
So really the theme of the day was inspired by family as that really is the most important thing to us and what will make the day so memorable.
My mother had a beautiful oyster dress, matching coat and hat from Anne Firbank. I had four ‘official’ bridesmaids’ who were two of best friends and two nieces. One was a childhood friend who I have known since I was 9 and the other a dear friend who I met during a panto season nearly ten years ago. I have two sisters and each of their daughters were my also my bridesmaids. My two sisters also managed to wangle themselves in to the bridal party!! I say this very fondly as they are very important to me. I am one of the three and loving referred to as the ‘mistake’, “the best mistake my dad ever made” according to his speech but not planned nonetheless and my sisters are both much older than me. However, I wanted them to be a special part too so they had dresses that were in the colour scheme but slightly different. The colours were more or less blush and oyster and were from Mori Lee.
I teemed my first dress with a classic single tier train length veil from Nieve Couture and a roman inspired vintage tiara called Valkirie from Ivory and Co. My evening dress had a stunning belt from Lily Bella sewn on to add a bit of sparkle and I wore some head jewellery with a change of hair do from Richard Designs.
Ceremony & Events
We have a small family who are incredibly close and when we walked into the church I gave my dad a squeeze and told him I loved him and as our atmospheric entrance music played (Beethoven’s Five Secrets by The Piano Guys) I looked straight ahead to Josh and my heart just filled with more joy and excitement with every step I took towards him. It had rained in the morning and somehow it made the church even more magical and intimate and we felt like we were in our own special world. We both say how we will never forget the second when we first looked at each other as it really was the best moment of our lives.
For the past 12 years I have worked professionally as an actress and I am very lucky to have several friends who are performers. In the church we had a wonderful gospel choir called ‘Inspire’ who performed before I arrived and during the signing of the register and then two of my actress friends read beautifully for us. One reading was from Captain Corellis Mandolin and the other was a very quirky but touching and meaningful reading called ‘How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog’ by Taylor Mali.
For the boat ride we had an incredible fiddler playing sea shanti/Irish folk music. (Josh’s family are half Irish so this was a little tribute to them also)
When we arrived at The Italian Villa we had an accordionist playing traditional Italian tunes. During the wedding breakfast we had a fabulous pianist and then a live band called SugarKube for the evening.
My parents are former Ballroom and Latin American world champions so we were very lucky to have the current world champions perform a special cabaret for us.
My father and I had a very special dance where he then handed me over to Josh and we danced a choreographed waltz to Moon River which is the song he proposed to me to in Venice.
We then taught all the guests a group sequence dance to ‘Love is in the Air’ from Strictly Ballroom.
We had an Italian themed photo booth with props and finally in tribute to my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary we played the original cine film footage form their wedding.
Our cake was made by the talented Helen Whelan at Sweetness and Delight. It was and ivory five tier cake with one layer of fruit cake and two raspberry and white chocolate and two lemon curd and butter icing. Two tiers had delicate lace icing and it had hand crafted sugar icing flowers and grapes that matched the flowers in the bouquet. The special touch was a lego brick wall at the back of the cake which was another tribute to little George.
We provided rustic canapes on the boat which included mini Cornish pasties and when the guests arrived at The Italian Villa we had an ice cream tricycle that came all the way from our favourite Italian restaurant in Bedford. For the meal there was artisan breads to begin with roasted garlic and oils then there was a choice of a trio of Scottish salmon or new forest mushrooms with cep veloute. The main course was either seabass or Purbeck steak and ale pie and the pudding was a sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream ice cream and handmade vanilla custard.
My Something Blue
I had a beautiful garter that my mum gave me on the morning of the wedding that also had my something old on it which was my nan’s wedding ring which was hand sewn onto the lace.
Best Buy & Highlights
As corny as it sounds I really don’t have an answer for this question as everything that we chose for the wedding was perfect for us but I did also buy a special hydrangea which was one of the flowers in my bouquet and it was called King George and we had this panted in memory of George in the grounds of Compton Acres.
Gosh, there are almost too many to recollect. Celebrating my parents golden anniversary in the morning and having my mum put me in my dress and my dad seeing me for the first time was so special.
The incredible entertainment throughout the day was fantastic and created such different atmospheres and we had a fabulous performance from the world ballroom and Latin American dance champions.
The sensational food, fun and frolics and excellent service from the brilliant team at The Italian Villa made the reception so much fun and we had a goosebump moment that no one will ever forget when one of George’s balloons just took to the skies with its weight still attached.
The sun suddenly appeared with a shaft of light and it floated off during our family picture as everyone cried out “It’s George!”
However, without question the highlight was saying our vows in Church. Wedding planning is wonderful and we had a glorious day but what is important is making the commitment to the person you love and I will always treasure the very special moment as we both said “I do”.