It was the venue that did it. As soon as Sasha and Artiom drove up the drive and saw Cliveden House, they knew they had finally found their wedding venue.
The beautiful sandy stone of the house looks over the most perfectly manicured grounds. Row upon row of gleaming windows and etched stone makes an immediate impression on anyone who sees it. Originally built-in 1666, this is a piece of British history. It has been the home to royals, aristocrats and people of great political influence. The ornate architecture is set amongst preened gardens, rolling all the way down to the river Thames and is a gem within Britain’s stately homes.
“As soon as we saw it we knew this was the place,” explained Sasha. “The whole atmosphere and look of Cliveden House was perfect – quintessentially English and luxurious. We hired the entire building and were told we would have the run of the place, making it the perfect venue for our three-day wedding celebrations. Initially we had considered getting married in Europe – possibly the South of France or Spain, but we opted for a UK wedding as soon as we saw Cliveden House. Nothing else came close.”
With such a passion for their UK venue, you may assume that this couple were getting married on home turf, but you’d be wrong. Sasha hails from Ukraine while her husband Artiom is from Belarus. Their guests flew in from all over the world for their three-day extravaganza, which is why the pair knew they had to make their wedding so special.
“Our friends and family had made such a huge effort to join us that we really wanted to give them an experience to remember,” said Sasha. “In fact, our whole wedding was about the guest experience, from the special personalised welcome letters we drafted for each guest in Russian and English, to the food and the wine we took such care over choosing, we wanted our guests to share in our joy and feel exceptionally well looked after. It was a luxurious and decadent celebration, with our guests at the heart of it all.”
Sasha and Artiom had met aged just 16, but it wasn’t until a few years later, when both at university, that they became a couple. “We both had braces and terrible hair when we first met,” laughed Sasha. “Nothing happened on that occasion – or the next, a year later. It wasn’t until we were both Fresher’s at the London School of Economics that our relationship blossomed.”
Sasha and Artiom became good friends, playing tennis together regularly, rain or shine. Tennis matches turned to cinema trips and lingering coffees in cafes. They knew they had to be together when they realised they were both “desperately miserable” whenever it was time to say goodbye.
The couple’s three year relationship became their forever story when Artiom whisked Sasha off to Edinburgh for a surprise proposal. “I thought we were there to celebrate our third anniversary,” explained Sasha. “I am always the one planning our trips and holidays, so when Artiom suggested I give up the control it felt strange. I had no idea what was coming!”
Artiom didn’t disappoint. He had arranged for the pair stay in the newly restored Caledonian Hotel, before a sumptuous dinner at the Michelin starred Martin Wishart restaurant. When the proposal came at the end of the meal, Sasha was so surprised she could barely speak – holding out her hand with silent, joyful shock, as Artiom slipped the ring on her finger.
It took a week for the engagement to sink in, before Sasha sprang into action and started making wedding plans. “I chose my dress after many fittings – a stunning Vera Wang – the very same design that Carrie famously wears in Sex and The City. We had the venue… and obviously I had my groom, but nothing much else!” Sasha recalled. “In the end, Penelope at Tigerlily Weddings was crucial and fundamental in helping us choose all the other details of our wedding. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the second best decision I made after saying ‘Yes’ to Artiom was to hire Penelope!”
The stage was set, with the stunning location, dress and couple. But every other part of the day was still to be arranged. “Food is really important to us and many of our guests were real foodies,” said Sasha. “The head chef had prepared a real culinary experience for our guests, serving Brixham White Crab, Apple and Mango Salad, followed by Salisbury Plain Venison Carpaccio and Roasted Organic Pine Nuts and Rocket Salad. For the main course we had a pan-friend Plymouth Sea Bass Nicoise, Piquillo Pepper and Mussels, followed by a Roasted West Country Spring Lamb Loin, Provencal Ratatouille Tart, Aubergine Caviar and Lavender Mayonnaise, with an intense Vanilla Crème Brulee and Raspberry Sorbet for dessert.
“We had spent a long time with Cliveden’s Head Sommelier choosing the perfect wines to accompany each course. To echo our fondness of travel, the wines were from a selection of different geographies: Italy, Chile, France, Spain and Austria.”
The luxurious feast merely set the tone for the rest of the main celebrations on the Saturday (the party had already begun the day before, with a relaxed buffet evening meal and drinks on the terrace). With a magnificent firework display shown against the backdrop of Elton John’s Circle of Life, cocktails in the library and dancing throughout the night, the partying culminated at 6am the following morning, with sandwiches served while the wedding party watched the sunrise.
“From the time of the ceremony at 4.30pm, right through to 10.30pm when we had the firework display, we had planned something for our guests every five to ten minutes,” explained Sasha. “We had slots of entertainment, so they were never left unattended. All the interludes were filled with beautiful renditions of swing and lounge classics from the great Piano DJ. We had slideshows showing our journey as a couple, music from The Urban Soul Orchestra, Swinging Little Big Band, DJ Matt Maurice, speeches, a shisha lounge on the terrace – everything. The time flew by in a haze of joy!”
The couple shied away from an overall theme for their celebration, opting instead for a simple monochrome scheme to complement the traditional décor of Cliveden House. “We had many personal touches, with cocktail stirrers imprinted with the monogram of our initials, the frosting on the wedding cake replicating the ruffles on my dress and the table names referencing the cities we had visited on our Cuban road trip. We put together special hampers for our guests as favours and – of course – we wrote our own personal vows for the ceremony.”
With so many intricate elements combining to make such a spectacular celebration, is it possible to pick just one highlight? “It has to be Artiom’s speech,” smiles Sasha. “He started by describing me as the girl who is hard to surprise. Then, all of a sudden, music came on, he put on a pair of wayfarers and a Yankees cap and started rapping about we met. He went on to tell our entire love story in song. As if that wasn’t enough, the chorus was in Ukrainian – my native language – a language which Artiom doesn’t speak!”
You’ll be hard pressed to beat a moment like that. Congratulations Artiom and Sasha – what a celebration, and what a couple.
Sasha & Artioms Little Black Book
Venue Cliveden House
Wedding Planning & Design By Penelope Cullen Tigerlily weddings
Photography By Mark Bothwell
Flowers By Wilabout Flowers
Catering by Executive Chef Carlos Martinez Cliveden House
Sommelier Guillaume Gorichon Cliveden House
Band 1 Urban Soul Orchestra
Band 2 Swinging Little Big Band
DJ Matt Maurice
Piano Piano DJ
Singing Waiters Soprano Bella
Fireworks Shell Shocked
Brides Wedding Dress By Vera Wang
Brides Wedding Shoes By Freya Rose
Brides Evening Dress By Sassi Holford
Groom’s Suit By Tom Ford
Brides Make up By Maddie Austin
Brides Hair By Elbie Van Eden
Invites and wedding stationery By Love Raspberry Blossom
Wedding Cake & Dessert Bar By Abigail Bloom Cake Company
Wedding Cheese Cake By Neal’s Yard Dairy
Sound, Stage & Lighting By Matt Maurice
Furniture Hire By Great Hire
Shisha Lounge Canopy By Tops Marquees
Shisha By Shisha Heaven
Words By Molly Forbes