And a very good day to you, you lovely Tigerlily readers. We should tell you straight away that this beautiful story of love, friendship and fate shouldn’t be read in a public place as there’s every possibility that you’ll end up dabbing your eyes and doing delicate girlie sniffs because of this the kind of tale that gives you goosebumps.
Denise met Mafs over seven and a half years ago, set-up by her new flatmate Lisa and Lisa’s friend Tamzin who happens to be Mafs’ sister. Cue the music in an Irish pub and Mafs asked Denise to dance. “That made me blush and that’s when I knew something was happening,” says Denise.
Denise fell for the man who made her laugh but, heartbreakingly, not long afterwards her Dad passed away. “I know Dad and Mafs would have got on. They have so much in common, they share so many character traits. I decided to follow my heart with Mafs, not to waste precious time, and we moved in together six months after meeting.”
Mafs proposed to Denise in 2011 whilst they were on holiday in Kefalonia. Having got the ring through customs without Denise knowing anything, Mafs had planned to spend the week finding the best place to pop the question but couldn’t wait and the day after they landed, they found themselves having dinner in a cliff top restaurant with the moon rising slowly over the water and Mafs got down on one knee and asked Denise to marry him.
“Mafs had really done his research and had found Berganza in Hatton Garden who specialise in vintage and antique jewellery. He’d chosen me a 1950s diamond solitaire and I love that this ring has history. Engagement rings then weren’t pre-made and ‘off the shelf’ – someone chose this diamond and this setting. It’s very special.”
Back in Blighty and the wedding planning started in earnest and Lisa gave Denise a beautiful wedding planning book to help her organise her day. “Lisa got married in 2011 and her passing this to me was really special. She was a great source of advice and her day was so fantastic, we wanted something similar where everyone was relaxed, happy and friendly.”
After visiting a few venues, Lisa and Mafs decided on Clandon Park for their ceremony and reception. “Clandon just felt right. We knew we’d be taken care of, nothing was too much trouble and the people there were so nice. We wanted somewhere romantic but a little bit grander for the ceremony. It’s such an excellent setting and we could have the whole place to ourselves which was really important to us.”
On Mafs’ suggestion, Denise put together a moodboard to help her decide on colours “This was such a great idea. I just cut out all the images I liked from wedding magazines, without thinking too much about what I was choosing, and immediately, the colours and the look of the wedding came together. Sugar pink, pale grey and ivory. It’s a very soft, classic look, warm and friendly. I had decided that a lot of DIY wasn’t going to be realistic time wise and our venue so ornate anyway that it didn’t need much adding to it.”
“I went dress shopping with my Mum and Lisa and still feel a bit cheated! I found my dress in the first shop after trying on a few different styles. This one made my Mum cry.” Denise chose a stunning Paloma Blanca gown that fitted perfectly with the soft classic look. Wanting to do something for her Dad, Denise went on the hunt for a brooch that could hold a photo of him but finding the right piece proved to be a labour of love. Eventually, on a trip to Kingston Antiques Centre, Denise found not only the longed for brooch but also her beautiful vintage earrings, complete with blue stones.
The morning of the wedding proved to be a real emotional rollercoaster. “I was absolutely terrified on the morning of the wedding. It’s the most scared I’ve ever been and I felt so emotional. Then, everything started happening and I just got on with everything.” But however nervous Denise was feeling, Mafs was feeling much worse as his business was broken into the night before the wedding. “Our friends rallied round and dealt with everything so Mafs didn’t find out everything until the worst had been sorted out. We were going straight off on honeymoon after the wedding so we’re so lucky to have such wonderful friends.”
As Denise left home before the ceremony, she realised she didn’t have her ‘something borrowed’. “I had my old brooch, my new dress and my blue earrings but nothing borrowed. My Mum took her own bracelet off and put in on my wrist. It was a beautiful moment and truly something borrowed.”
“Having Mum walk me down the aisle was so fitting and I was feeling very emotional anyway but there was a moment when I looked up the aisle and saw Mafs. He looked right at me and I had to look away to stop myself bursting into tears.”
“The ceremony was just perfect. We’d chosen readings about friendship and everything the Registrar said was so meaningful. I remember standing in this beautiful room, Mafs at my side, all our closest friends and family with us and the windows were open, my veil was blowing in the breeze and looking out onto the beautiful gardens thinking how this was exactly what I imagined.”
After champagne, canapés and photos, the emotions kept on flowing during the speeches. Denise’s Mum spoke beautifully but it was Mafs’ speech that blew everyone away. Having written his notes slightly too small to read, he ditched his script and just spoke from the heart. He spoke about love and about friendship and told everyone in the room that they were there because they were special. “And this was when I cried.”
“The whole day was astounding. Everyone was emotional, everyone felt the love. It was the happy, friendly, amazing day I’d hoped for.”
But, it’s not over until it’s over and the last dance was a perfect ending. “Without us arranging it, the band chose ‘You’ve Got The Love’ as the last song of the night. This is such a special track to me because when my Dad was so ill, I was driving home late one night from the hospital and this was on the radio. It seemed to say everything I needed then. But when Mafs and I were dancing, I looked up and all the guests had moved away and were singing the song to us. It was mind-blowing.”
As for tips, Denise put together a timeline for the day and gave copies to everyone so everyone knew what was happening and when. Having the ceremony and reception in the same place helped build the atmosphere as all the guests could relax and cocoon themselves at Clandon.
But, at the end of the day, nothing really matters if you’ve got the love.
Denise and Mathews Little Black Book
Wedding Photography Caught The Light
Location Clandon Park
Favours The Cocoabean Company
Flowers Carole Martin
Cake Marks & Spencers
Music Sugar Shack through Live Music Management
Wedding gown Paloma Blanca from Love Me Do Brides
Bride’s Shoes Dune
Groom’s Suit Reiss
Hair & Make-up Sam Norman
Words by Tamaryn Lawrence Tigerlily