Hannah Drake

Our Wedding

4 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently at Our Wedding

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

Hindsight is always 20/20 and that’s especially true when you look back on your wedding, I think. When we were planning our wedding, it was really important to me that we didn’t pick things that were so trendy that we wouldn’t like them after being engaged for 15 months. We wanted a timeless element to our wedding so it would literally stand the test of time. Sure, a lot of our wedding was trendy (the blush pink colours, the mismatched bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen suits, the venue itself with its exposed brick and fairy lights), but those were things I could see myself liking in 25 or 50 years when I looked back on the day because those trendy elements themselves seemed somewhat timeless. We “cut corners” in appropriate places, for the most part, and I’m glad we did. We didn’t waste time and money on favours. We didn’t go big on centrepieces and instead just had two succulents or cacti from IKEA in little pots that were pink or grey. We still have most of the plants in our house, which means they’ve now lasted over a year and a half! We weren’t really fussed on a lot of the details that wouldn’t last and instead focused on the things that would leave a lasting impression on us and our guests. Still, there were a few logistical things I would do differently now that I have the gift of hindsight.

INVITE EVERYONE WE WANTED TO INVITE

No matter what your budget is, you’ll be restricted to a number of guests. It might be 50, it might be 300. And just like probably every couple, our guest list continued to grow throughout the wedding planning. I had read that you should expect 20 to 25 percent no’s from your guests, but our wedding got about 50 percent no’s due to two contributing factors that we could have predicted. Over half of our guest list was international and it was a Wednesday afternoon. All of our international guests had to make a choice on whether or not to fly halfway around the world and take a significant amount of time off work and our local guests had to decide if they wanted to take one or maybe two days off work in the middle of the week as well.

It was really nice having a small wedding in the end (75 guests), but there’s still a feeling of we should have just thrown all caution to the wind and invited everyone we even brainstormed without making any cuts. We might not have gotten more yes’s, but our goal was 100 or fewer anyway.

ORDER A SMALLER CAKE

Oh man, we thought we were being sooo clever ordering a cake for fewer people than we were expecting at the wedding. We already had a meat and cheese buffet for the evening, so why order either for exactly the right amount of people? I think we still only ate about a third of the bottom tier at the wedding, though, which means the venue just threw the rest away at the end of the night. We took our entire top tier home and saved a quarter of it for our first anniversary (it was really tall, so it was a lot of cake). But we absolutely could have gotten away with a cake half the size of the one we ended up with. It was gorgeous, but in the end it was a big waste.

To be fair, we would have happily taken the rest of the bottom tier home or even sent it home with guests, but it kind of just disappeared since it was being passed around on a platter.

REGISTER ANYWHERE BUT JOHN LEWIS

I’ll spare you the horrendously long story, but registering with John Lewis proved time and time again to be a huge mistake.

There were two main issues with John Lewis and the first was apparent straight away. They restrict how long your registry can be open more than anything I’ve ever seen. (Although I will concede that things might just be different in the UK than in the US.) Our registry was open for about two months, even with a request to extend it after our wedding. The reason they do it like that is they only make one delivery with all your gifts and purchasing a gift off a registry doesn’t remove it from inventory, so they can’t guarantee they would fulfil the purchases from your list. It’s certainly a far cry from Crate & Barrel and Target where my sister registered in 2012. We did all their Christmas and birthday shopping off their Crate & Barrel registry for a while since it stayed open a year after their wedding. And Target lets you purchase items left on your registry at a discount! (We actually opened a Target registry to see if they would ship internationally, but they don’t. So sadly, when we got an email saying we could purchase the remaining items at a discount, there was nothing on there.)

The second issue seemed like a fluke at first, but has been a continuous issue with all orders we’ve placed with John Lewis. We received a number of damaged or broken items, along with a few things with parts missing. It was an absolute nightmare to get replacements for those items. Some had been discontinued. Some of the replacements were sent to us damaged as well, like a replacement for a broken bowl that that was shipped in a bag! We spent hours on the phone with customer service (always being told something different) and at two different stores trying to replace the damaged items (again, always being told something different and being passed along to someone else to fix the problem). John Lewis was kind enough to gift us £50 to use with them as an apology from our seemingly never-ending headache, but that proved to be a headache in its own right when we paid for expedited shipping, guaranteed delivery before 10:00AM on a Friday. I didn’t get the package until I picked it up on Wednesday afternoon. In January, I ordered a pair of earrings from their website using another gift card and was unsurprisingly sent the wrong earrings. Three different customer service reps told me three different things about trying to remedy their mistake. It’s truly the worst experience I’ve ever had with orders and shipping, especially from a major retailer.

It’s a shame because we love the things we chose, but it was an absolute nightmare when we were in the thick of it.

HAVE A CEREMONY REHEARSAL

A rehearsal wasn’t included with our venue, though we were lucky to get access to the venue the day before to bring the decorations and set up a little bit. (I think they told us that starting with our wedding, they were booked with something every single day through mid-October!) However, I really could have used the practice, even if it wasn’t at the venue itself. I really wish we had practiced my walk down the aisle, my dad giving me away, how we would stand during the ceremony, and then the walk back up the aisle. It would have taken about 10 minutes, but it would have made me less nervous during the ceremony. Since we were already married and had already seen each other that day, it was really just a case of “I don’t know what to do with my hands” nerves.

PIN FOR LATER!

All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

Our Wedding Portraits

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

Well, my friends, it's the end of an era. It's the l a s t wedding recap post, only four months after our wedding. (I made an early decision that instead of bombarding you with recap posts, I'd space them between other content.) Since I've already blogged about the vendors (part one & part two), the details, getting ready, our ceremony, and our reception, I figured I'd wrap up by showing off the beautiful portraits captured by Brianne Haagenson, most of which I haven't previously posted on the blog.

Our ceremony started at 15:00, but we did a our first look at 13:00, which gave us plenty of time to do photos before the wedding. We got many of the portraits and all of the wedding party photos done before the wedding even started! The forecast all day said it would start raining right at 13:00, but it never did! We had literally picture-perfect overcast skies all afternoon, which provided even lighting for the photos. Hallejuah!

Our first look was in the beautiful courtyard at the venue, so we started with our photos there. There were so many reasons we loved the venue, but much of it was because of how beautiful it was on its own. We both loved the exposed brick and natural wood and it provided the most picturesque background for photos. I said this in my post about the venue itself, but so many of our friends got new profile photos after our wedding because the background was perfect for their next Instagram shot!

The venue is next to a field owned by someone else, but the owners have no problem with the happy couples using it for photos. After we finished our individual portraits, we grabbed the wedding party, who had been going over where to stand during the ceremony, and headed out to the grass.

We chose this photo as the cover of our wedding album.

My dear friend Tia has been such an amazing support for me in my time abroad and through the distance, it feels like we're closer than ever. She was a great friend for years before I moved and has been instrumental in my faith as a small group leader and a sister in Christ. We originally asked her to do a reading at our wedding, but then decided we wanted her to marry us. I FaceTimed with her one day and we spent about 55 minutes of the hour catching up and probably talking about Game of Thrones, but we both had intended to talk about the wedding on that call. She started to talk about the reading, but I interrupted her saying, "So we've decided we don't want you to do a reading." Her face immediately fell and she very graciously said, "Oh...okay..." I quickly exclaimed, "Because we want you to marry us!" She burst into tears, which was exactly what I was hoping. I know it was cruel, but truth be told, it was a very memorable moment for me. Ha! She did such a fantastic job and worked very hard to ensure our ceremony was beautiful, memorable, and exactly what we wanted.

I'm confident this will be forever my favourite photo of me and my mom.

My older sister Rachel served as my Matron of Honour. She did a wonderful job, offering me support and help throughout the planning, lending me her phone so I could do a meditation just before the ceremony, praying for our day and blessing my marriage, and giving a beautiful toast after dinner.

My sister Cady has been my babysitter, my mother-figure, my protector, my refuge, my Chipotle hook-up, my sister, and most importantly my friend. Because of our age difference, our relationship has taken many forms and I've treasured it all, but I'm most proud of our constant friendship.

If I'm being honest, there was a while I didn't think Sam would be a bridesmaid at my wedding. She's seven years younger and it used to be obvious. But over the last few years, she has matured beyond her years and become a wonderful friend. I don't think she even understands how much I lean on her and look up to her.

My childhood friend Julie has been through it all with me. We've known each other since elementary school and even though she was two years behind me in school, I'm the one who looks up to her. She an inspiration in all areas of life and it's safe to say when I grow up, I want to be Julie. 

Luke's twin sister Emily served as his Best Man. (She requested that still be her title at the wedding.) Despite tremendous nerves, she gave a lovely toast about my husband, where I learned what he thought of himself in school and even some knew facts about him! We were both so honoured she accepted Luke's request to stand up there with him and word on the street is she can hang with the guys. I'm so excited to have a new sister, and especially one on the same continent!

It's not my place to speak to Luke's relationship with his sister and these three guys, but the four of them have all been so warm and welcoming to me. They've been supportive and encouraging of our relationship and I have seen them all be incredible friends to my husband.

During the cocktail party, Brianne pulled us to finish our portraits since it wasn't looking good for golden hour photos. We took a few shots in the parking lot. (Yeah, seriously, this is the parking lot!) And also took advantage of the tree-lined winding road to the venue.

We picked this photo in black and white for our thank you cards. It went perfectly with rose gold foil lettering.

We did our family photos during the cocktail party in the courtyard. Even though there were cocktails and canapes going around, everyone was great and we were able to get them done quickly so we could get to the party. We're so grateful to our parents who helped make our special day happen and to our siblings for their love and support. It was a seamless merging of the two families and we couldn't be happier!

After we cut the cake, Brianne pulled us aside again to tell us that the clouds had broken and we were blessed with golden hour. I'm so happy we were able to get these shots because they're some of my favourite. Not only is the lighting a dream, but I love that they're more casual with Luke just in his waistcoat and my dress bustled in most of them.

I'm saving the best for last. It was the last of our portraits and it is undoubtedly our favourite photo from the wedding. This is the one we're going to have printed on a HUGE canvas. We just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Weddington Way (US)
Cake: Amerton Cakes (UK)
Cuff Links: Tesoro Jewelry (US)
DJ: Benny Smyth (UK)
My Dress: Allure Bridals via The Bridal Connection (CO)
Engagement Ring: ROX (UK)
Florist: Penny Johnson Flowers (UK)
Hair + Make Up: Sam Larson Hair (CO)
Paper Flowers: Lia Griffith (US)
Photo Booth: Peter Horrox (UK)
Photographer: Brianne Haagenson Photography (CO)
Ring Box: Amonie (AUS)
Robes: David's Bridal (US + UK)
My Shoes: Hobes (AUS)
Stationary: Minted (US)
Luke's Suit: Next (UK)
Venue (Catering & Alcohol): Shustoke Barn (UK)
Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories (UK)
My Wedding Band: Ernest Jones (UK)
Luke's Wedding Band: LuxuriaJewelers (US)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Some linked items are similar to what has been shown. Thank you for supporting my blog!

All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.

Our Reception

MarriageHannah DrakeComment

A lot of people have asked me what the difference is between an American wedding and a British wedding. One thing is that they often refer to the meal as the "wedding breakfast". I'm sure you've already guessed this comes from tradition when the ceremony was part of or immediately following mass. After, everyone would gather for a meal, but since the wedding party would fast before the ceremony, this was the first meal of the day...breaking...the fast. I was confused at the beginning stages of the wedding planning though, to be sure.

Another thing that's different about British weddings is it's more common to do a whole group shot with all of the wedding guests. The staff at our venue used this as a way of clearing everyone out of the main room to switch the room over from the ceremony to the reception, since everything was in one place. So immediately after walking down the aisle as husband and wife, we went upstairs for probably our only 5 minutes alone the whole day. They served us a glass of Pimm's while we waited for them to set everyone up for the photo.

After the photo, it was cocktail hour! We got really lucky for the weather and didn't have to use the back up plan for rain, which would be to keep everyone inside but not in the main hall so they could keep setting up for dinner. Instead, all of our guests mingled in the beautiful courtyard around the five olive trees. It was perfect. (The only downside was that they don't have speakers inside so you could barely hear the playlist we had spent so much time on.) Of course cocktail hour means more wedding photos, but since we had done photos after the first look, we only needed to do family portraits.

Our venue allowed us to switch out the first course of the meal, a salad, for canapes at no additional cost, so there were plenty of little bites going around the party. One waitress in particular was fantastic because she seemed to beeline straight for me every time she brought out a fresh plate. I really appreciated that! We mixed and mingled with our guests, sipped on more Pimm's, sneaked away for a few more bride and groom photos, and really enjoyed the afternoon.

Dinner was served at 5:00, so everyone took their seats while we waited to be introduced as the new Mr. and Mrs. Drake! For the menu, we chose to go with the roast chicken dinner, served family style with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. We knew everything was going to be delicious at the venue (who did the catering), so we opted for chicken, which was a bit cheaper than other options we might have liked better, like the duck or the steak, so we could spend a bit more in other parts of the budget. It was easily top three chicken of my life! (Sorry, nothing beats fried chicken and Chick-Fil-A sauce.) We also had a dessert served during dinner, which was a brownie and vanilla ice cream. Tom, who is dairy free, said the dairy free brownie was the best brownie he's ever had, so the same waitress who was serving me during cocktail hour brought him the recipe. She was fantastic!

For alcohol, we supplied the tables with a few bottles of red and white wine, in addition to Pimm's at the cocktail party and Prosecco for the toasts later. We ordered the max of everything, which was 1/2 bottle of wine per guest, 1 Pimm's per guest, and 1/4 bottle of Prosecco per guest. (I think that's correct.) The venue bought back any wine that was unopened at the end of the night, which I think was only 2 bottles! It worked out really well, in addition to having a cash bar for beer and cocktails. Some people did purchase drinks, but there was still plenty available to drink if they didn't want to spend the money. I feel like it was a good middle ground for us.

Dinner was schedule for two hours with toasts starting at 7:00. We asked my dad; Luke sister Emily, the best man; and my sister Rachel, the matron of honour to give toasts, in addition to Luke giving the final toast. Luke joked at the beginning of discussions about toasts that women don't speak at British weddings, AKA the maid of honour doesn't usually give a toast. I never considered that option though, I was going to make Rachel do it! All of them did such a great job despite some nerves for Emily and Rachel in particular. During dinner, I went to the bar to order a shot of whiskey for each of them to be brought out just before the toasts to help with some nerves. At Rachel's wedding, the best man and I had done a shot of vodka before our toasts and it definitely helped a bit. Anyway, all four toasts were funny and touching and absolutely lovely. 

Immediately after the toasts, we cut the cake. Somehow a bunch of people ended up missing it as I think the transition wasn't as well executed as some of the others in the day. We had agreed beforehand that we wouldn't do the smashing the cake in the face thing. I wasn't into the mess and since we had a red velvet cake, I definitely didn't want it on my dress. Well joke's on me because during the toasts, after they had cleared the table of everything, including napkins, I dribbled red wine down my chin onto my dress. Luckily Rachel had a few tissues in her pocket to save the day! Still, you can't even tell in our golden hour photos that Brianne pulled us for right after cutting the cake.

During all of this, the DJ, who came highly recommended by our venue, arrived to set up and the staff once again turned over the room for the party. We were introduced to the dance floor as everyone gathered around to watch our first dance. We should have practised just a bit because we weren't sure about what to do with our hands, which made for a bit of an awkward start. The DJ played the intro music from Strictly Come Dancing (the British show that inspired Dancing with the Stars), which was totally unexpected. At first, I worried he had totally messed up our chosen song!

The first dance was easily one of my favourite moments of the whole day. I totally forgot about everyone else being there and Luke and I danced and sang our song, I Don't Mind, to each other. I hope I never forget how perfect that moment was. I was a bit worried everyone would join in halfway through because some people had said that's pretty standard at UK weddings, but I wanted to have the whole floor to ourselves for the whole of the song. Somehow, it managed it work out that way, but I honestly don't know if I would have noticed if they had.

The father-daughter dance was up next, which is an American tradition that's starting to pick up a bit more here in the UK. I definitely wanted to do it and our DJ was happy to accommodate, saying he had done a few weddings which included one. I had the hardest time choosing a song that wasn't too cheesy or cliche or wasn't a country song written specifically for the father-daughter dance at weddings. Ultimately, I chose My Girl, which may be cliche, but The Temptations are also one of my favourite groups and I've loved that song for years. We skipped the mother-son dance, which I think Luke and his mum we're very okay with.

The rest of the evening was spent dancing, chatting, and taking photos in the photobooth. The whole reception went by so quickly, but it was so much fun! The DJ was absolutely fantastic and read the room really well. Even though a lot of people had to leave around 10:00 because they had work in the morning (remember we got wedded on a Wednesday), it was a lot of fun. The dance floor wasn't so packed that it was hot and sweaty, but it was still a lively party.

The kitchen staff cut up the bottom tier of our wedding cake into strips to be passed around on two platters. In hind sight, I wish I had asked them to start by cutting up half or three quarters of the bottom layer because I think a lot of it went uneaten. We also had a meat and cheese buffet and tea and coffee. We ordered enough of the buffet for about 75% of our guests and enough tea and coffee for about 50% of our guests, but I think we definitely could have gotten away with less on the buffet. People just didn't seem to be eating much, even though dinner was at 5:00 and the reception went until 12:00.

The party ended with the DJ playing our first dance song one more time, which I thought was really nice. It was fun to dance to again, this time with everyone. For the final song, he played Bump N Grind because two people had requested The Wobble, which he didn't have, and one responded with "well the bride wants a little bump and grind", which he took literally.

We didn't have an exit planned, which was fine by me. Instead, we just said bye to our guests and left with two of the groomsmen and the top tier of our cake who were giving us a lift home. Luke carried me across the threshold at our house, just like he did after our marriage.  

Bridesmaids' Dresses: Weddington Way (US)
Cake: Amerton Cakes (UK)
Cuff Links: Tesoro Jewelry (US)
DJ: Benny Smyth (UK)
My Dress: Allure Bridals via The Bridal Connection (CO)
Engagement Ring: ROX (UK)
Florist: Penny Johnson Flowers (UK)
Hair + Make Up: Sam Larson Hair (CO)
Paper Flowers: Lia Griffith (US)
Photo Booth: Peter Horrox (UK)
Photographer: Brianne Haagenson Photography (CO)
Ring Box: Amonie (AUS)
Robes: David's Bridal (US + UK)
My Shoes: Hobes (AUS)
Stationary: Minted (US)
Luke's Suit: Next (UK)
Venue (Catering & Alcohol): Shustoke Barn (UK)
Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories (UK)
My Wedding Band: Ernest Jones (UK)
Luke's Wedding Band: LuxuriaJewelers (US)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Some linked items are similar to what has been shown. Thank you for supporting my blog!

All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.