Planning a wedding can go one of two ways. You can either let your creative side run wild, soaking up the opportunity to create something personal, unique and joyful, or you can get frazzled as the enormity of your task stands before you.
The couple we’re introducing to you today were determined not to be intimidated by the notion of planning their wedding, despite a minor panic the day after the proposal.
Laura and Andrew’s story starts back in early 2011, when they were both approached by a mutual friend to curate an art project. Separately, they’d already turned down the offer a few times but eventually relented. Funnily enough, they found a new spark of interest for the project after meeting each other!
“Meeting new people these days can be quite hard,” muses Laura. “So it was really lovely to meet Andrew in such a natural way and let the relationship progress organically. It was like a traditional three months of courting really.”
The proposal came a year and a half after the couple began their relationship. A trip to Toronto provided the perfect opportunity, as Andrew suggested they make it a bit more interesting by getting a train to New York. Along the route was a city Andrew had visited – and loved – before. And so, Hudson became the destination of the proposal.
“From the romantic B&B to the perfect restaurant with a courtyard filled with plants and candlelight, he had it all covered and I didn’t have an inkling!” laughs Laura.
“We began the evening with martinis, then dinner with wine. By the time we’d finished we were alone in the courtyard. Andrew proposed with a beautiful Annina Vogel swallow necklace and explained that in Victorian tradition the swallow represents the idea that no matter how far you travel, love will always be waiting for you at home. It was particularly pertinent, because I’d been travelling a lot for work at the time.”
Andrew presented Laura with a ring – the very same family heirloom that his grandfather had proposed to his grandmother with. Despite Laura never wearing rings – and Andrew having no idea of her size – it fit perfectly.
And then came the panic.
Standing on the platform the next morning, Laura was hit by the enormity of planning such an important day. “I started freaking out a bit to be honest. The idea of a formal dinner, a cheesy band… none of that seemed right. So I had a clear notion of what I didn’t want, but not much of an idea of what I did want.”
It was at this moment that the wedding began to take shape, explains Laura. “Andrew helped me to reframe the wedding in my mind. I started to look at it in the same way as I view my professional projects (I write narratives for new exhibitions in museums and cultural heritage sites) and it seemed logical to turn these skills to writing our own narrative.”
The couple decided the wedding should represent their interests, values and love for each other, a decision which helped focus their plans. They started tackling the job together, throwing themselves into their research. “We were a complete double-act,” explains Laura. “And, in fact, coming through it all together and seeing it work was incredible, because it showed that as well as being a couple who love each other, we work perfectly as a partnership – and that is a great way to begin married life.”
Choosing the date was easy – Laura and Andrew chose a spring wedding for the weather and a bank holiday weekend so their friends could relax knowing there was no work the next day (Jewish weddings traditionally take place on a Sunday).
The photography, band, caterer and florist were also easy decisions, as the couple used people that Andrew’s family had worked with before at other events.
Then came the venue – and that part proved tricky. “We wanted somewhere that would house the large number of guests but also easily cater for the ceremony and reception. And it had to ‘feel right’ and represent our taste too.”
Research led Laura and Andrew to discover the former Victorian fish market, Old Billingsgate, beside the Thames. The couple knew instantly that it would work. “We both work with historic buildings (Andrew is an architect) so the place instantly felt promising,” explains Laura. “It is beautiful, but not in a palatial way. Plus, it was big enough for the ceremony and reception to happen in the same place.”
“We later found out the conversion of Old Billingsgate from a fish market to a venue was Andrew’s boss’ first architectural project. He even still had some of his original architectural drawings for our invitations.”
In a break from tradition, the couple chose to invite their guests to a reception before the main ceremony, so they could enjoy canapés and music in the sunshine on the terrace.
“The experience of our guests on the day was key to the way we planned the whole event,” explains Laura. “We didn’t want people to get bored hanging around. We regularly host large dinner parties and we wanted it to feel very much like that, but on a bigger scale.”
After a private ceremony with just their families, the couple joined the festival atmosphere on the terraced area, taking care to avoid each other before the main ceremony.
The guests then moved naturally to the focal point of the ceremony: the Chuppah, the marriage canopy that Andrew had designed himself. “Standing under the Chuppah together felt like the climax of all the preparation,” smiles Laura.
“It’s supposed to be a sacred space and a representation of the home. Andrew had worked to design a symbolic structure decorated with Stephanotis and Jasmine that we could use on the day and then reconfigure as part of our marital home later on. Seeing it for the first time in its completed state will be an enduring memory for us both.”
The event co-ordinator – Avi Schlagman – proved to be invaluable on the day, as he managed the timing of the next phase of the event perfectly. “We used draping to create separate spaces in Old Billingsgate,” recalls Laura. “As soon as the ceremony was over, the draping fell open to reveal dinner for our guests in another part of the venue. The music started and the energy stayed vibrant throughout.”
The dinner turned out to be a triumph in entertaining, as the couple recreated their famous dinner parties on a larger scale, using the same centre pieces as those in their home (glass yoghurt pots with tealights, among pots of herbs) and the same type of food (large centrally-placed sharing plates with mixed mezze starters and tasty salads with the main).
Threaded through the celebrations was a leaf pattern taken from the couple’s kitchen table – a table which was the scene of many happy family memories for Andrew growing up. In an inspired touch, the couple had gobo filters made of the pattern to project within the venue, creating a sense of continuity.
In keeping with Andrew and Laura’s ethos to minimise waste, they chose recycled paper bags to give to guests so they could take the centrepieces and floral decorations home with them. Touches like these made the event highly personal, leaving their guests stunned at the level of intricate planning and love put into the event.
“Our guests’ reactions meant so much to us,” smiles Laura. “Our day was planned completely around them, so to see how they responded was very important.”
If you take one thing from Laura and Andrew’s wedding, see that this feat of planning needn’t be stressful. “We enjoyed every moment of it,” laughs Laura. “It was part of the excitement and anticipation of our day. And we did it together, every step of the way.”
Andrew and Laura’s Little Black Book
Wedding Film: Reel Weddings
Location: Old Billingsgate, Londo
Favours: Design by Project Nook Graphic Design, Printing by Downey
Event co-ordinator: Avi Schlagman
Catering: Celia Clyne Banqueting
Flowers: Stephen Roberts
Wedding Cake: Cakes by Hilary (Hilary employs people who are supported by Langdon, a charity that Andrew and Laura patronize).
Music: She’Koyokh for the reception and Avi Haim’s Sun Band for the evening
Words: Molly Forbes Tigerlily