How to style a wedding the perfectly imperfect way

There is a school of thought which argues that Western ideals of beauty are based in symmetry and perfection, whilst in the East, aesthetic value can be found in the damaged or imperfect.  For this particular wedding day, we were asked to create florals for our perfectly named couple Emily and Emile, who wanted beauty conveyed in an utterly imperfect way!

Not only did our clients eschew typically ‘perfect’ flowers, they were also into the aesthetic of broken things. To clarify, Emily and Emile are great admirers of the ancient and very beautiful Japanese art of Kintsugi.

The inspiration:

Kintsugi, which literally means ‘golden joinery’, is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer which has been mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. Dating back to the 15th Century, it has evolved into an art form by which utterly unique and beautiful objects are created from once broken pieces.

In promoting repair as an intrinsic part of an object’s history, Kintsugi has become a metaphor and philosophy for life: for some it demonstrates human resilience and how we as people develop from negative experiences, taking the best from them and owning them, which in turn makes each of us who we are.

The brief:

And with this in mind, our challenge; should we choose to accept it, was to piece together a very relaxed look, with simple, unassuming flowers but in a very careful, impeccable way.  We would need to incorporate wild, rambling natural foliage into very formal and historic London buildings: St John’s Church in Notting Hill and Merchant Taylors Hall in the City.  Our clients wanted us to make everything look effortless and unaffected, whilst at the same time paying every attention to detail.

No problem, we accept!

We briefed the team that the look was to be disordered, but that we need to be meticulous about how we created it! We agreed to avoid using typical ‘flower-shop’ flowers –so no dahlia, tightly spiralled roses or trendy succulents – and turned our eye to using branches, foliage and simple, elegant flowers that could hold their own without shouting ‘everyone look at me!”. Through the usage of symbolic thistles and olive, our floral designs were to look very natural and gratifying.

The details:

September is the perfect time of year for wild looking late summer flowers.  Using a floral palette of white, along with touches of red and blue to complement the venue interiors, we incorporated masses of stunning eucalyptus with lots, and lots, of candlelight.

We worked with wedding planner extraordinaire Knot and Pop to create a beautiful look for the bridal party, ceremony and reception.  A loose and flowing bouquet for the bride was made from eucalyptus, dill, the most heavenly mix of garden roses and white scabiosa and astrantia, together with thistle, wild blackberries and twigs. The simple, delicate and timeless button holes for the gentlemen were made from the roses and thistle for Emile. With the cool tones of blue found in the thistle highlighting the stunning bridesmaids’ dresses and the tiles of the St John’s Church, the look for the ceremony was one of pure elegance.

The venue:

For Merchant Taylors’ Hall we created a feature entrance design to look as if it were growing around the formal grand stair-case. Simple white delphinium, hydrangeas, grass-like red sanguisorba, garden roses, blackberries, eucalyptus, olive and ruscus all combined to compliment this stunning historical hall.

The Parlour, with its 18th Century original Chinese wallpaper, was simply dressed with a rambling, but not over-the-top, mantel design of matching flowers which perfectly complimented the collection of elegant furniture.

The courtyard, a hidden gem within the City of London, was beautifully set with white dressed drinks tables tied with swags of foliage and dressed with a smattering of key flowers.  Later in the evening the courtyard became alive with the dancing, flickering flames and shadows from candles which combined to create an atmospheric and befittingly romantic space.

Rambling eucalyptus and olive garlands were laid along the stunning guest tables in the Great Hall, interspersed with blown roses, blue thistle and deep red juicy blackberries. The nodding seed-like heads of sanguisorba and scabiosa were entwined amongst lots and lots of candlesticks and perfectly set tapered candles.

No detail was missed from the perfectly positioned tables, the stunning dining chairs and exquisite place settings which were styled by Susie at Knot and Pop.  And as for that reference to the beautiful art of Kintsugi? Well, everything that Susie touched that day, definitely received a dusting of gold!

All stunning images courtesy of M&J Photography

How to be the coolest bride

How can you not be thought of as the coolest bride when your response to being asked if you have a preferred colour theme is:

Anything at all as long as it goes with my shoes.

In fact, how can you not be the coolest bride when you own an entire olive grove in Greece and yet you arrange to marry the love of your life in the coolest place in the borough of Southwark, South London.

In our humble opinion, Kate will always be one of our coolest brides for two very important reasons:

  • She wanted to have an informal and relaxed wedding where people felt comfortable, did not have far to travel and, most importantly of all, had fun.
  • She and her husband George chose to host their wedding in ‘our manor’ of Peckham, London. The place where dreams are made (no seriously, they really are….)

After all, SE15 is where both Alan and I each bought our first flats.  This gritty, vibrant, varied and culturally mixed London district is the place we know so well. Well before the sun was up, we would drive through it’s (virtually) silent streets on our way to the flower market. On rare days off as we would relax on the glorious Rye and on many a night we would sit in one of it’s local pubs (the Only Fools and Horses kind we hasten to add) and discuss all of our dreams (and nightmares!) as we found our place within the wonderful world of floral design.

For Alan and I, for Kate and George, and for thousands of other people ‘in the know’, Peckham is in all likelihood THE coolest place on earth.

Kate and George decided to hold their ceremony at the stunning Asylum, Caroline Gardens Chapel because they had grown up in South East London and had heard good things about the chapel from their friends.

Asylum was also ideal because it was within walking distance of their reception venue; The Ivy House, London’s first co-operatively owned pub.  In the end, in keeping with their care-free, cheerful and cool-as-cats ceremony, Kate and George decided to keep their guests company in between locations as they all caught the good old P12 bus!

When it came to designing the overall look and feel of the wedding, Kate didn’t want to be too prescriptive. Instead, we were simply asked to work with the stunning interior of the chapel, to channel that beautiful blue shoe colour and to give a nod to their Greek olive grove. This proved to be an inspirational brief – especially when we were allowed to run riot with the glorious array of flowers available in the month of July.  A combination of delphinium, sweet peas, peonies, hydrangeas and plenty of candles were just begging to be used.

For Kate’s bouquet, a loose style of roses, olive foliage, sweet peas, delphinium, nigella and lavender were combined to compliment her French designed Rime Arodaky dress.  This stunningly cute, short dress was the perfect choice for her wedding day.

As I didn’t want a long dress it was incredibly hard to find anything in this country. When I saw this designer and found their ‘Civil Collection’ I was blown away, I had to buy it online…. a bit of a gamble but I was so glad when it arrived… it  just about fitted after a couple of extra classes in the gym!

As for those beautiful shoes? Kate found them in Office and their dream dusty pale blue hue served as the ideal inspiration from which to design her bridal bouquet. Kate searched in vain for this perfect pair of heels and told us how;

I looked everywhere from Jimmy Choo to New Look but didn’t feel the glittery glamorous typical bridal heels were very ‘me’.

The end result was a stunning bride, a beautiful venue and a wonderful day that the happy couple was able to share with their family and friends.

So what is the secret to being a cool, calm and collected bride? We decided to just come out and ask her.

Would you consider yourself a relaxed bride?

Not beforehand! However the day passed by seamlessly and I was able to spend quality time with friends and family even though I was nervous leading up to it.

What would you advise other brides about keeping your cool?

Don’t get swept away in it all, it is one day and you get immense pressure from family members and friends for it to be ‘perfect’ but just stay calm, don’t let it take over.

I wish I had asked for more help from people and never feel shy to ask brides that have recently done it. I am already helping two close friends who are planning their weddings for next year. If you don’t know anyone that is recently married ask a friend of a friend as it’s really helpful to speak to someone who has just done it.

If you were offering any advice to a bride when planning wedding flowers what would it be?

Make sure you feel comfortable with your florist.  Planning wedding flowers wasn’t our strongest point. You were able to identify what we wanted by talking to us and understanding our likes and dislikes. This was done in a couple of informal meetings a few months beforehand, which made it really easy. Being able to speak with people so knowledgeable inspired us in to choosing what we wanted.

What stands out for you when you look back on the day?

I am not just saying this because it’s your company, I think the flowers were the best bit! When I got to the chapel and saw them light up the room, it really blew me away.  Everyone I see is still commenting on how incredible they were.

(did we mention she was cool?!)

All images by the wonderful Andrea Dutton Photography



A night at the museum: the best wedding invitation we ever received

When our friends at the Museum of London contacted us the other day we had no idea we would be presented with such an exciting invitation;

Since you love London so, so much, and you know your thing about weddings, we wondered whether you would like to be involved in talk we are hosting with our Curator Beatrice Behlen, V&A curator Edwina Ehrman,  bridal designer Kate Halfpenny and author Kate Thompson…. and could you present floral designs inspired by weddings from the 1930s and 40s?

Our response?

Erm…give us a millisecond to think about that…YES PLEASE!

Just a slight obsession

Receiving such a prestigious invitation from the Museum of London is always a cause for celebration but this particular occasion has special meaning for me. From a young age, I have been besotted with the style influences of the 1930s and 40s; in fact my Mum has often stated that I had watched almost every black and white film from the era by the time I was 12!

Combine my ardent 1930s and 40s obsession with Alan’s wealth of social history knowledge and passion for family history research, and this Museum of London invitation served as the perfect opportunity for both of us to showcase our personal passions.

Glamorous Night at the Museum Caroline Ball

After some careful planning, we decided that our flowers would adorn the stage and that Alan would deliver a presentation regarding iconic wedding floral trends from the era.

Our inspiration

The inspiration for our floral designs would be two women. Firstly, we would pay homage to Alan’s grandmother who married in Leicester in 1943 whilst carrying a beautiful bouquet of big, blousy full and rounded grown Chrysanthemums cut from her neighbour’s garden.

Secondly, we would celebrate the style influences of one of the greatest florists of all time, Constance Spry. This first lady of florists opened her first shop in 1934 in London’s South Audley Street. An amazingly talented and determined person, Constance Spry was a pivotal figure within the field of floristry who led the revolution from stiff, formal arrangements to all manner of looser, wilder, more imaginative and exciting styles.

Glamorous Night at the Museum Vintage Flowers

Glamorous Night at the Museum Flower Closeup

Glamorous Night at the Museum Constance Spry Inspired

With these inspirations in mind, our aim was to create large and glamorous designs that would highlight the shapes and silhouettes of home grown individual garden style flowers. Foxgloves, peonies, delphinium, viburnum, stocks, cowparsley and roses.

Glamorous Night at the Museum Alan Simpson

Glamorous Night at the Museum Demo Table

We adored the elaborate yet elegant styles of the 1930s and 40s and really wanted to focus on the idea that friends, relatives and neighbours would come together to contribute flowers, food, skills and time that would make not just a memorable family wedding but a large, glamorous community event.

Eastenders – Probably the best storytellers in the country!

After meticulously planning, preparing and transporting our floral designs to the Museum of London, we entered a fascinating and very nostalgic world. Not only did we hear from experts on East London in the 1930s and 40s, the wedding costumes of the time but we also heard from real-life East End brides and their families who taught us that, even in times of great hardship in the 1930s and 40s, East End weddings were vital, vibrant and very glamorous occasions!

These massive celebrations  brought entire communities together where everyone could forget their troubles and take part in a happy, broader event; dancing the night away until the beer ran out!

Glamorous Night at the Museum Wedding Panel

Glamorous Night at the Museum Flower Demo

Throughout the 1930s and 40s, the East End of London was an area famous for its skilled dress makers, dapper residents and well turned-out partygoers. Weekly trips to the cinema were seen as a regular source of glamour and inspiration and many of the dresses worn at these joyous occasions have been donated to the Museum of London and the V&A.

These expertly crafted (and often absolutely tiny) garments represent a defining moment in British social history but they also mean so much more. These beautiful dresses are interwoven with the stories of the people who made them, the fortunate few who wore them and the generations to whom they were handed on. Over the years these garments have adapted and evolved along the way; telling a story of many exciting, engaging and intriguing East End journeys.

Glamorous Night at the Museum Stage

Glamorous Night at the Museum Sackler Hall Screen

Glamorous Night at the Museum Wedding Dress

Glamorous Night at the Museum Rehearsal

We were told the most wonderful of stories of weddings from the era and we were able to witness the immense impact that these weddings still had on the whole family today.

Glamorous Night at the Museum 1940s Actress

But it wasn’t only stories of the past, we were also reassured that the style and sentiment of the 1930s and 40s is experiencing a revival as more couples begin to embrace their weddings as a celebration of the role of the wider family and community as a whole. As Kate Halfpenny aptly put it;

Weddings are becoming as important as they used to be, it is more about the entire family becoming involved and creativity being prioritised again.

A sentiment that we will be sure to share with our future brides!