Spectacular! Spectacular! Masquerade Ball 2013

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And it is done.  The Ball has taken place, and what a night it was!

The last few days before the ball ( 27th April) were manic – i only had about a day and a half to get my dress sorted ( a separate post on that here..)  and deal with the last minute issues, problems, cancellations etc.

But all was sorted in time and by 1pm we were on the move, driving first to our hotel in Slough, even managing a short nap there, and then by 4 we were at the beautiful Heatherden Hall – a part of Pinewood Studios.

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outside, at 4 pm

Inside, the team from Corporate Events already laid up our oak dancefloor, covering the entire ballroom.

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flooring sorted!

We had a quick chat with Paul, our DJ on the day ( also from Corporate Events), about the music, preferences, set up etc –  and with the music working  we simply had to have a go on the dance floor ! we decided to go through our  tango routine, but the stress was making it more of a free style improvisation rather than our proper routine! At that point our photographer, Paul Mockford and his assistant Jason arrived – and without much ado filmed the thing! you can see it here

After that sneaky footage the boys got started on setting their photo studio in the Pools room, and we had a chat with the resident staff who was to care for us in the evening, headed by  the competent Ivona. after that all that was to do was getting ready. Sarah and Lizzie, providing the beauty saloon services, were ready at 5, and the ladies who secured their make up and hairstyling slots were arriving on time  – the rest of the guests were to start arriving at 6.

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Sarah and Lizzie hard at work…

By then I was already dresses, make up and hair sorted ( more or less) and helping other ladies to get dressed – the facilities were great as we had the whole of the Conservatory and the PIne room just for ladies.  during various lacing, arranging and pinning, i talked to our dance teacher, Charlotte Ewart, going through the last bits of information on the dances to be taught.

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getting ready… the atmosphere was great as everybody was helping everybody else:-)

The weather wasnt perfect – but luckily by 6 it has stopped raining and the guests started arriving on the red carpet. Soon the gardens, patio and the bar, where the welcome drinks were served,  were throbbing with people dressed in their finest..

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the bar…

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having fun on the patio

The gardens, with their bridges, sculptures and the labirinth-like hedges were a popular destination for strolling and taking photos…

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  Then, at 8 the dancing started. We begun with the traditional Polish dance, Polonaise – it is a promenade dance, easy to follow and it is still the dance that opens every Prom Ball in Poland..

I led with Chris , our musician ( Blast from the Past) and Lucas followed with Charlotte.   Our fears that people would be reluctant to dance were quickly dispelled –  the dancefloor was packed full as we processed to the polonaise from Eugene Onegin

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Lucas and Charlotte

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polonaise in full swing…

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leading with Chris

After the polonaise Charlotte  guided us through the Duke of Kent waltz, proper waltz hold and steps, aend even a few polkas. Polkas were a killer, leaving us completely breathless!  all to lovely live music from Sophie and Chris.

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a polka

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one of the waltzes…

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us having a go at a polka

some people preferred a more passive participation though, simply enjoying the view. Some took it very easy indeed!

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taking it easy to the next level…

 After the lesson the DJ took over and more waltzes, quicksteps, and more waltzes following for another hour. The dance floor emptied a bit as at the same time food was served and most folks made their way to the pools room to partake in the buffet.

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The food was delicious – alas so delicious that some people went to get seconds and thirds – and as a consequence a few folks  who were still dancing, us including arrived to see empty plates – or half full plates being carried back to the kitchen as people piled more food than they could eat… a bit of a lesson on human nature here, so the food issue is one to be seriously addressed in the future, if i decide to organize another ball. As it was, I was lucky enough to get a bite of a tiramisu Sarah managed to secure for me…

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At the same time the photography team had their hands full – people were having their photos taken, printed and mounted in one go!

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Paul Mockford at work!

After a few more waltzes ( lots of improvisation on our part – but there were a few good couples who could really whirl around!) music gradually changed to a more modern tracks, including music from Moulin Rouge  and a fully eclectic mix of rock, tango ( again, lots of improvisation  and silliness here on our part!) and other dance tunes. The Prince Charming theme went down a treat – many thanks to whoever requested it!  some gilrs chose to take the log skirts off and boogie around in shorter numbers, but the majority danced the night away in their finery!

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prince charming walk….

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girls having fun!

And so the evening continued – dancing, drinking, chatting in a relaxing manner.

As far ars the costumes are concerned – I was hugely impressed!  I must admit that I dreaded  seeing those cheap fancy dress rental pieces, but I shouldn’t have worried. tTe garments were absolutely divine, in most cased hand made by the participants or by few skillful costumiers present at the ball – Felicity Westmacott, Denise Piggin or Christina Dettmers to name just a few – and of course I had a hand in making a few of the costumes too…..:-) ( historical and bridal)

The range was astounding – from pure blown out fantasy, through fashion corsetry to authentic Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian or Tudor garments. Steampunk was very much in evidence as well – in short a true feast for the eyes!  just a few picture s here, more can be founf on fb – link here

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best hat ever!

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The fun ended at about 12.30 when the bar closed, and we saw the last of the guests off just after 1am…

Absolutely knackered, we made our way to the hotel when at last, hungry as we were, we shared a left over bagel… 🙂

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after party bagel… yum! and after paerty look, not so yum…

Altogether, a successful night, with the food issue to be addressed at any future events. Feedback so far was good, so  many thanks to all of you who contributed to the fantastic atmosphere at the ball – and thank you for those who let me use their photos…

another blog on the ball, written by one of the guests, can be found here

and if you fancy another ball – this year;s event is coming soon!  Check out our Victorian Ball

and some of the feedback received on our pages – many, many thanks for it, i was really down because the food situation, and the feebback received did raise my spirits a great deal!:

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Thank you for a truly spectacular evening! We all had a fantastic time! Really appreciate all the time and effort you went to to make it such an incredible event! ♥
great evaning Izabela! Thank you for all the hard work. It ran so smoothly, a testament to your great planning!

What a lovely night! I got to dance to The Sound of Music- Edelweiss and NIN- Closer all in one night… As always I am blown away by the talent that surrounded me. The dresses and coats, the skirts and corsets, waistcoats and pantaloons, each of them were beautifully constructed and many of them by the very people wearing them. It inspires me 🙂 Thanks to everyone who came for making it such a friendly evening, it was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you to the Prior Attire team for putting together a truly Spectacular! Spectacular! event 🙂

We are all amazing. What a beautiful evening.
Thank you Izabella for a great night, and thankyou to all for their fabulous costumes, makeup, masks and headpieces, I so enjoyed looking at all the creativity. As you might have guessed, the kit did get finished, and got some really nice comments from other guests.
We had a lovely evening. Thanks for all your work in putting together such a lovely event in a stunning venue!

My Big Fat Victorian Wedding – St. Audries Park, West Quantoxhead, Somerset. 17th October 2011

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 Our wedding day – well, where shall I start? So much was happening in the lead up to this day, and so much happened on the day!  We got engaged on the 1st January, in the midst of Scottish highlands, a few hours after midnight, and a day later most of the details were in place – apart from the venue. We knew precisely what we wanted – a venue with a character, able to accommodate the wedding party on the day, an also one that would allow us to do a post-ceremony hack on its premises – and the last bit proved to be a bit of a problem for many venues.

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Hunting on Quantocks – view from the hills towards the venue

One thing was obvious from the beginning – although we both currently reside in Bedford, it was Devon and Somerset, especially the Quantocks Hills that we both love and spend a lot of our time on holidays, running, riding and hunting, and it went without saying that this would be the place where we want to say our vows.

We had a look at a few venues in the area, but the moment we clasped our eyes on St. Audries, we knew this was it – a spectacular location, just off the Quantocks Hills, my favourite hunting grounds; a place full of character and charm with lovely interiors, luxurious rooms, all set within beautiful grounds. But could we ride there? One call and we were elated – no problems with horse riding on the grounds! In a few days’ time the date was set, the deposit paid and we had 9 months to get ready.

The day itself was – well, incredible.  Busy too, but since we like busy, it suited us very well.  I arrived a day earlier, and stayed at St. Audries for the night before the wedding – we actually booked the little cottage for my bridal party, but since the venue had a cancellation on that night, they very gracefully suggested that we stay in the main house, in our bedrooms, to avoid all the hassle of moving the next day.

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the venue the day before – simply sumptous in its autumnal array!

I arrived before my bridesmaids (having left my husband to be with friends near Tiverton) and enjoyed a leisurely walk around the house – and a last minute sewing session in the bridal changing room. As a professional costumier, I made my own wedding dress (based on 1883 Victorian fashions) and made my mother’s, and bridesmaid’s  outfits too – altogether 5 Victorian toilettes.

Once the bridesmaids arrived (a bit intimidated by the large, quiet house), we got changed and went out for a dinner in a nearby pub. As a hen night theme we chose ‘brides in different cultures’, so, as a result,  we caused a bit of a stir at the pub – not every day do they have girls dressed as Indian, Pakistani, Russian and Chinese brides coming over for a meal and a laugh!

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The Indian bride

After the meal, we retired back to the house, carried out the last preparations (pressing the skirts, last minute stitching, etc) and then slept the night away in our lavish bedrooms.  I must admit that I did sneak in outside, and went for a walk around – and practiced my walking down the aisle in the magical, lantern-lit orangery.

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The Orangery

The wedding day dawned fine – and even if it was overcast, the moods were dramatically improved by a St. Audries breakfast – their croissants are amazing!  The first guests started arriving, so breakfast was a jolly affair in the company of friends, and I even managed to work in a quick game of table football against a good friend and ex-boyfriend as it happens – and I won ( I suspect he let me win, the gentleman he is…)

Breakfast out of the way, moods soaring – time to kit up and get to the meet; we had arranged with the Quantocks Stag Hunt to host a wedding hunt-meet at the nearby Staple Farm. All geared up, I met my future husband at the meet, all beaming and looking very smart in his new hunting gear. The turnout was excellent, and for my part of the family, who travelled all the way from Poland, it was an amazing experience – there is no more hunting there, so being at a proper meet was a real treat.

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me at the meet, on Punchy

Once the port was drunk and snacks consumed, I left my matron of honour to get things organized and to make sure all the quests are established in their respective bedrooms. As it turned out, she didn’t have much to do and the house manager on the day had all things firmly in hand and dealt with everything admirably well – when it turned out that we had one guest extra, a spare bedroom for him was found in minutes. And so, when Lucas and I, together with our hunting guests were riding on the Quantocks, the other guests were relaxed in the house, enjoying walks, drinks and canapés.

In the meantime, the hunt was going well. I have hunted more or less regularly over the last few years, but for Lucas it was the first time – but as you’ll see from the pictures, he was enjoying it immensely.

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Lucas on Ryan, looking, as always, very smug.

Everything was going fine, until about 1.30. This was the time when we planned to leave the hunting to go on without us – we would call for the lorry to pick us up, so that both we and the horses could have a wash and change for the ceremony.

Alas, when we reached for our phones it turned out there was no reception. Not a bar, nothing, zero, nada.  And we were miles and miles away, in the middle of nowhere. There was only one thing left to do: ride in the direction of St. Audries in hope that we could stumble either on a patch of reception where one of us could use the phone, or upon some hunt-followers who would be able to give us a lift.

After about half an hour, we struck lucky – we came across the hunt staff in a 4×4. They got on the horses, we got into the 4×4 – and we were on our way.

As a consequence, we were about an hour behind schedule.  I had about half an hour to make sure the bridesmaids, my mother, etc, were all kitted up, then to have a short bath (made even shorter through the discovery that Jacuzzi and bath foam work surprisingly well together…) and then to get changed myself.

By the time I got to the changing room (leaving Lucas on the floor of our bridal suite, stitching a button back onto his breeches…), the photographer and the videographer were waiting, eager to start shooting the preparation of the bride.

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getting ready

 

 

 

 

I dare say they were disappointed, as the whole preparation lasted about 10 minutes. Petticoats and corset on, two hot rollers on. Wipe any mud from hunting, realize that the makeup I did in the morning was still OK, just needed a touch of powder. Rollers out, hair in the bun, clip on the extensions and style them – 2 minutes work.

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getting ready

Then on went the bustles, skirts, overskirts, train, corset covers and bodice. The tiara and the veil were the last.

 Ready in about 5 minutes, with all the bridal party waiting. Success! Image

 The house organization was impeccable – all the quests were already in the orangery, seated. My father was waiting, as was the registrar, for a short chat beforehand, and off we went. My most profound memory from these moments was that I simply couldn’t stop grinning. Try as I might, the grin was there, glued onto my face and no attempts of serene grace and charm would remove the thing.  Oh well, could have been tears I suppose, so happy to contend myself with the grin.

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walking down the aisle

Off we walked, myself screened from the inquisitive glances of the guests by a huge bridal umbrella. At the orangery, the bridesmaids went in first, to the funky tune of: ‘Here Come the Girls’ getting lots of laughs from everybody. My turn.

Still trying for serene, (and failing miserably), in I walked on my stepfather’s arm, to the tune of ‘Annie’s Song’ – a surprise for Lucas, as I knew it has a special sentimental value for him – I knew he would be touched, and as I later learnt he was – his words, blinking the tears away, were simple, short and to the point. (‘Cow’, he said to his father…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbZfK1dJIjM

The ceremony was simple, straightforward and joyous, with two humorous readings by me and my matron of honour, with Lucas’ reading providing a deeper and more serious note to sustain some gravity of the occasion.

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the grin firmly in place

 Again, please note – the grin was still there. But by that time Lucas was grinning nonstop too, so it was fine.

  The ceremony over, we walked out to the shower of real rose petal confetti , hunter’s horn blazing and a rather unorthodox choice of music (‘Everybody was Kung Fu fighting’ – since we met at our Kung Fu club in Bedford, and still train there, it was only appropriate to incorporate the theme into the day somewhere). We were greeted and congratulated by a friend of ours who is also a professional chimney sweep – in her full regalia, it is considered to be very lucky to pass good wishes to the newlyweds.

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walking out – into the sunshine!

Outside, the weather improved – we actually had some warm rays of sunshine peeping thorough the orangery windows during the ceremony, and when we were outside we had both sun and clouds,; good conditions for some excellent photos – so Phil from Lensmonkey Photography was hard at work trying to get a few nice poses out of us.

video from the ceremony – here

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MInutes into the wedlock, both looking smug…

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circulating in style, Ryan and Punchy on their best behaviour too!

We walked over to the main entrance, where our horses were waiting for us. Punchy, a lovely thoroughbred I rode earlier on was all cleaned up and ready for Lucas, and Ryan, was all kitted up with a side saddle and a decorative cloth (to protect the skirts) for me.

I removed my train, got on, helped by my side-saddle instructor and a friend Becca who also got me a lovely antique side-saddle hunting whip as my first bridal present! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K08FLBD8eAU

We walked the horses around, chatting with the guests and family, and trying to calm down the owner of the horses – (since the horse I was supposed to ride aside had suffered an injury two weeks earlier, we opted for one of the local horses and that was only his second time aside).

After a few minutes of circulating, we cantered away for a few minutes alone. After the first mad gallop we slowed down to trot, then walked and rode side by side  amidst the beautiful grounds of St. Audries, with the deer from the fenced off park looking at us curiously – our first hack out as a husband and wife,  very romantic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42_BYRSGNi4

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and off we go, leaving quietly, before breaking into a nice canter outside!

 

Once we got back, it was time for chucking my lovely bouquet at some hopeful lasses. The main hall and the staircase of the venue provided a perfect location for that, and it was my cousin from Warsaw who was fortunate enough to secure the bouquet – though only ‘by the skin of her teeth’ as the saying goes, since the thing almost landed on my Matron of honour’s hat…

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bouquet on its way, just slipping through Eleanor’s fingers…

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Happy Kasia with her catch

 

A quick change before dinner – I swapped the afternoon bodice of my outfit for the evening one, and bustled-up the train so that it was easier to walk and to dance in, and Lucas changed his buckskin breeches and riding boots into proper Victorian trousers and more sensible shoes.  A few more photos in the lovely library, chatting to family and friends and shortly it was time to get to the dining room.

A quick note – this is usually a traditional time of accepting presents etc – but we opted for the convenience of a ‘Buy Our Honeymoon’ service, so our guests gad already given us the best gift of all – the chance to spend our honeymoon in a lovely location, doing the things we enjoy.

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more wedded bliss!

By that time, I must admit that I was rather hungry – my last meal had been a snack at the meet so I, and no doubt many others, were very much looking forward to the anticipated feast.

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Faye and Julie

And a feast it was! We chose autumnal dishes from St Audries menu – choices of venison terrine, goat’s cheese, roast turkey, venison roast and then an apple crumble and cheesecake for dessert – and everything was absolutely phenomenal – to such an extent that a few meals destined for the couple who didn’t arrive disappeared even before the staff had a chance to enquire about those missing guests…

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 Speeches – with lots of humour and a bit of embarrassment (especially for my stepfather, bless him, when he started talking about my first boyfriend and I promptly  corrected him, that he was by no means the first, probably utterly destroying the poor man’s faith in my innocent youthful conduct…) Lucas’s best man was his father –  and that arrangement resulted in an unusual and a touching speech, very different from the standard ones. Lucas said a word, and I said a few too, (no way I was being excluded from the fun on my own wedding day!

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cutting the cake

Appetites sated, we cut the cake (a mouth-watering Autumn berry Pavlova, provided by the venue) and proceeded to the hall for the dancing part of the evening.

Our first dance was a Viennese waltz, danced to the ‘Voices of Spring’. Half way through the guests joined us (it was a very, very long tune…) and we all swayed away, as many of them had attended the dancing practice we organized for our guests a month earlier.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=ZGPOpa-e_MQ&feature=endscreen

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waltzing away

The Waltz was followed by the traditional Polish dance, the Polonaise – it is traditionally danced to open balls and proms and is a perfect way to get everybody onto the dance floor – it is a walking dance and no experience is needed as all you need to do is to follow the couple ahead.

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my parents joining in the waltz

The Polonaise had its desired effect and once on the dance floor people joined in the next few traditional tunes – we had a few slow waltzes, quickstep, another Viennese, and even a spirited polka.

The in-house DJ was great – I had prepared lists of songs and tunes that were to be played, and he didn’t mind it at all and was happy to get the list started in all the right moments.

The Victorian part of the evening ended at about 9, when a hot buffet and the wedding cake was served – the interlude was utilised by the costumed guests for removing corsets, bloomers and bustles and getting into more modern attire.

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the evening attire in s steamy cha cha!

  We started the second part of the evening with a steamy cha cha (danced to ‘Sway’) and after that some very eclectic music followed – Latin rhythms mixed with pop and rock tunes kept us on the dance floor till midnight – though not a lot of guests kept our pace – mostly due to the fact that the allure of the buffet and bar in the neighbouring rooms was too strong. Not surprisingly I must admit – the buffet was great and the Pavlova was a truly inspired choice – light and fruity but not too sweet, it worked perfectly!

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guests relaxing with some booze…

Just after midnight even we were getting tired. The whole party was wrapped up smoothly and we got to our lovely bridal suite amidst cheers and leery smiles.

Next morning breakfast was a lavish affair, with a growing demand for those already famous croissants J.  We said our goodbyes, packed up (many people were leaving with a generous dollop of the Pavlova cake – we took some too, and with the addition of more berries it made a lovely Eaton mess in the afternoon.

It was a sad moment, leaving the venue  after such a spectacular and unforgettable day – but we knew we would be back at some point, in the worst case I would be waving at it from the Quantocks during one of our hunting days there.

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my new husband with his new in-laws, the day after!

We did manage a nice walk on the hills that day, together with my parents, and then a quick visit to Dave and Ellen who were providing the horses and who also helped by arranging the wedding meet in the morning. We thanked them and the horses and were on our way, getting my parents to the airport.

 

We were due to leave on our honeymoon a few days later – but that’s a different post…. here  

And now, for the list of all those who made our day so special:

The venue – http://www.countryhouseweddings.co.uk/st-audries-park/

St Audries Park is a
wedding venue in Somerset run by
Country House Weddings

 

The photography http://www.lensmonkey.co.uk/

the outfits: www.priorengagement.co.uk.

flowers: http://www.eden-florist-taunton.co.uk/

wedding dance choreography and lessons: http://www.danceandfitness.co.uk/

More photos can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2812960732574.147527.1515469250&type=3

And if you want to know how the wedding dress was made, the link are here – Part1  and Part 2