Do you know the wedding reading about the two dinosaurs who fall in love? I do — it’s one I’ve written in calligraphy many times and a firm favourite. There’s something beautiful about the simplicity of this love story — and I’m so proud to be sharing Donna and Paul’s wedding with you today because they used the lovely love story as a key theme for their wedding day.
I love weddings where the bride and groom think creatively. Whether it’s a handmade theme, or something different, artistic or alternative — creative weddings make my world go round. Today’s stunning bride and gorgeous groom are simply amazing. Their wedding theme stems from Paul’s childhood and from their very first Valentine’s day (not forgetting as far back as the Jurassic period, I guess!) — it’s a timeless tale of the most beautiful romance. I know you’ll love this and I’m sure you’ll take some great ideas from their wedding day to inspire your own — it’s all about creating a personalised wedding style and loving every minute of your day!
With huge congratulations to the wonderful Donna and Paul — and my heartfelt thanks for sharing a beautiful and inspiring wedding story. Thanks also to wedding photographer Belinda McCarthy for sharing her images of the day. I’ll leave you to enjoy them! Claire xxx
PS — isn’t this the best hug you’ve ever seen?!
Spending time together photographing new places is something that Paul and I really enjoy, so choosing a great photographer for our wedding was an important thing for us. Out of all the portfolios that we saw online Belinda’s really stood out as being distinctive, highly skilled and able to capture the mood and emotion of a wedding. She spent time with us before the wedding day to get to know us, taking an interest in our wedding plans and ideas, and also demonstrating how she’d direct us on the day, which helped put me at ease, as I can be self-conscious in front of a camera.
On the day, Belinda was brilliant – she was totally unobtrusive, but somehow managed to be in the right place to take beautiful shots that really capture the atmosphere of the wedding. We’ll be able to look through our album years from now, and remember how wonderful the day was, the fun we had with our family and friends, and how joyful it all felt.
We’re lucky to have creative friends who were willing to spend time filming at our wedding. Chris (who first introduced Paul and I) filmed the ceremony, speeches and first dance on an HD camcorder, while Woody and Stroudy are putting together a Super 8 film that they shot over the whole weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing the results!
My dad ‘gave me away’. He looked so proud and happy, and he made me feel proud too.
I walked down the aisle to ‘Waltz for Peppy’ by Ludovic Bource from the soundtrack to The Artist. Walking down the aisle is my favourite memory from the wedding. It’s hard to describe how wonderful it was to walk into the room with my dad, and see all my friends and family gathered there, and then to see my soon to be husband Paul waiting for me. I walked as slowly as I could to make the moment last longer. Paul never took his eyes off me.
Paul and I danced back down the aisle to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ by Morecambe and Wise. Paul didn’t stop dancing all day!
We had 5 tracks playing while the guests waited for me including the Jurassic Park theme tune and unforgettable by Nat King Cole — which was particularly important to Paul as he remembers it being his grandfather’s favourite song.
The wedding stationery:
Our favourite type of fossil is the ammonite. Paul has had a passion for them since he found his first one on a beach when he was 8, and later researched them at University. I’ve always liked them for the beauty of their spiral shape. We came up with a design of tumbling ammonites in the gemstone colours, and we used it to create our own stationery in Photoshop – save the dates, invitations, the table plan, menus, signage and booklets for our guests. It saved us some money, although it did mean that we got carried away tweaking every last detail.
We put the words of our readings in the booklets, one of which we wrote ourselves, and the other of which was the very appropriate ‘A Lovely Love Story’ by Edward Monkton. It’s about two dinosaurs falling in love, and I bought the book and little dinosaurs for Paul for our first Valentine’s day. We put quotes and pictures from the poem throughout the booklet, and the little dinosaurs were on our top table.
We also had a page in the booklet to describe what the colours represented.
The table names just had to be dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. We used old paintings of them for the table plan and table signs.
We then decorated the tables using gemstone chips and little plastic dinosaurs. We collected the dinosaurs, and also old bottles at car boot sales, charity shops, and flea markets. Best man Aaron (who is a lecturer of Palaeontology) took great care to arrange them by their taxonomy — though I doubt many of the guests noticed! The old bottles of varying heights were put in the centre of each table with coloured ribbons around them, and filled with bright red, yellow and purple flowers.
The place names were painted onto pebbles which we had collected a few weeks earlier from the beach at Lyme Regis where we got engaged. We used a custom made rubber stamp to stamp an ammonite onto the back of each pebble.
The wedding flowers were by Pauline Heron and Coral Gardiner. I chose red, yellow and purple flowers to match the bridesmaids and add colour to the tables. I nearly cried when the bouquets arrived – they were so beautiful, and I think that was the moment that it became real to me that it was my wedding day.
Wedding venue: Priston Mill
The Tythe Barn at Priston Mill, near Bath (http://www.pristonmill.co.uk)
We were looking for a large venue as we’ve got big families, and also somewhere that would be a blank canvas, that we could decorate in a way that would express our personalities, and the interests that brought us together. We didn’t realise until we’d booked the venue, but it also has a large ammonite in the barn wall, and another one in the garden, which fit perfectly with our theme!
Another reason we chose the venue was the great service. We’d heard how good it was, and they were genuinely interested in our plans when we went to view it. They didn’t disappoint on the day either. They were professional, efficient, and nothing was too much trouble for Event Manager, Davy, and the rest of the team. The ceremony started around an hour late due to transport problems, but Davy got the day back on track smoothly, without us feeling rushed, and we were able to relax, knowing that everything was being taken care of.
I had two wedding dresses:
My bridal gown has no label, so I don’t know the designer. I bought it from Elegant Gowns in Birmingham. It was customised for me by Just Sew Bridal Alterations, and had a beaded ammonite embellishment from Deborah Marie Bridal.
My evening dress is by Art Couture, and I bought it from Preloved. I’m 5 feet tall and quite petite, so I imagined myself in a simple, understated dress, but had no idea what style would suit me, so on the spur of the moment my mum, sister and cousin took me to try some dresses on. The first dress I tried on was a big ‘statement’ dress… but I loved it! If fit perfectly, made my mum cry, and just felt right. I tried on lots of other dresses, but nothing suited me so well.
It did need a few changes to make it more me though. I had some layers of netting removed, the train shortened, a modesty panel added, swapped the spaghetti straps for fan shaped chiffon cap sleeves, and added a small beaded ammonite.
There was still one problem though – I couldn’t dance in my dress. The search was on for a second dress, and with 5 weeks to go, and an exhausted budget, I still hadn’t found one. Finally I spotted a beautiful 50’s inspired dress on the Preloved website. It was perfect for dancing, as it didn’t restrict me at all, and I loved the way the skirt flowed as we danced.
My veil was from Deborah Marie Bridal – a bespoke design using fabric and beads from my bridal gown, and including an ammonite motif matching that on the dress.
I had two pairs of shoes too: during the day I wore satin platform shoes from Belle by Paradox London. Deborah Marie Bridal added satin roses to the shoes, to match those on the bridesmaids’ shoes. In the evening I wore white shoes from Katz Ballet & Dance Shoes.
My ‘something old’ was my necklace with an ammonite pendant – so millions of years old! My ‘something borrowed’ was a wedding ring belonging to a dear aunty, who passed away some years ago.
My ‘something blue’ was the ribbon on my garter. On the morning of the wedding Paul gave me a jewelry box with a little trilobite fossil pendant inside, and I sewed this onto my garter too.
Make up and hair:
Hair stylist: Becks Simpson – Thairapy
Becks did a fantastic job on my usually stubborn, unstyleable hair, as well as styling some of my bridesmaids’ hair and my mum’s hair, helping with my make-up, and taking the phone to talk to a coach driver about our transport problems! She was amazing! I did my own make-up with help from Becks and my bridesmaid Ruth.
Paul’s suit was from Jeff Banks Bespoke. He didn’t want to dress too formally, or feel like a character from Charles Dickens or a 1920s politician! “I wanted to dress fairly contemporarily, and I even considered not wearing any neckwear at all. Initially I opted for a bespoke three-piece grey cashmere suit by Jeff Banks with a simple straight tie. However, after attending a friend’s wedding I decided that a more traditional ivory waistcoat, and coffee coloured cravat would feel more special — and so I ordered these for all of my groomsmen.
It was great to have a bespoke suit. I wanted to look my best on our wedding day, and being made-to-measure, it was also comfortable to wear.”
Paul wore ammonite cufflinks that matched my ammonite pendant, and a badge that said ‘head boy’. He also had a change of outfit for the evening. He took off his jacket, tie and waistcoat to reveal his red braces, changed his shoes to a pair of striking red and black patent wingtip dance shoes, donned a trilby, and swept me off my feet!
I won’t say who provided the groomsmen’s suits as the order was messed up, causing much stress in the week before the wedding, and it still wasn’t right on the day although they all looked wonderful in the end.
We had a welcome table near the entrance, which was decorated with a welcome sign, more flowers in old bottles, more dinosaurs — including a cool T-Rex given by Best Man Steve, pre-wedding presents from friends – knitted rabbits and an elephant trinket box (bought for me because I love elephants), and a box made by my granddad when he was at school, that people could leave their cards in. We lined the box with paper and used the ammonite rubber stamp to decorate it with ammonites in the 5 gemstone colours.
Things for children:
We had a lot of children at the wedding, so we bought some dinosaur balloons, bottles of bubbles, colouring books and a big inflatable dinosaur. It was great seeing the kids having fun with them – especially the little ones dancing with the inflatable, which was as big as them!
We thought the plastic dinosaurs on the tables would go down well with the kids, but actually it was the adults who seemed to be having the most fun – having dinosaur battles, using them as wine glass adornments, hair accessories, and even ear decorations!
We set up a photobooth on the balcony with a backdrop made from a sheet with big ammonites painted on it, and a vintage case full of fun props – wigs, hats, flowers, an inflatable globe, an empty picture frame and more dinosaurs. We used Paul’s SLR camera attached to a Polaroid Pogo sticker printer. This meant that people could stick the photo into our guestbook with a message, which is a great momento, and we also have all of the photos on a memory card. Everyone really got into the fun of it, and we have some hilarious photos!
Other decorations and things:
We made satin bunting in the gemstone colours and hired coloured uplighters (from Reveries — http://www.reveriesevents.co.uk) for the back wall where the dance floor was.
We used string, and some tiny pegs, to hold up photographs of our friends and family — including guests who could not make it, or were no longer with us.
With the weather forecast looking terrible shortly before the wedding, we hurriedly bought two big ivory umbrellas. We were glad to have them, as it hardly stopped raining for the whole day!
A surprise addition was the red Star Wars light sabre that Paul got one of his best men to hide under the cake table. As everyone gathered to watch us cut the cake, Paul picked up the light sabre to cut it with. The look on people’s faces was priceless!
Our wedding cake was by Jenny Wenny Cakes. We are fortunate to have an extremely talented cake artist as a friend. Jenny travelled from California, laden with giant cake pans, to attend our wedding and make our wedding cake.
Paul and I were inspired after attending a screening of the 1925 silent film ‘The Lost World’. We had a crazy idea for our cake to be a flat-topped mountain like Mount Roraima in South America, with us (the bride and groom) on top, fending off dinosaurs with an Indiana Jones style whip and flaming torch.
Jenny rose to the challenge and created our mountain complete with waterfall using a delicious two-tiered cake — carrot cake with cranberries, raisins and walnuts, and also vanilla cake with vanilla cream and raspberries.
The cake toppers were made by Fernanda Rodriguez (again based in California). The diorama was completed with dinosaur models, sourced by Paul and best Man Aaron on a fun trip around the toy stores of Bristol.
As if that wasn’t enough, Jenny made us an ammonite shaped groom’s cake with yummy chocolate mud and chocolate ganache, and some cute vegan cupcakes topped with ammonites.
I love bold colours, and had the idea of having each of my five bridesmaids in a different colour corresponding to different gemstones – coral red, amethyst, onyx, amber and turquoise.
I didn’t realise how much of a task it would be to find five matching dresses in the right shades! In the end, I had the satin dresses made from a pattern, by 3 different seamstresses in different parts of the UK, and then added fabric roses made by Deborah Marie Bridal.
It was worth it though – my bridesmaids all looked gorgeous, and the dresses added a welcome splash of colour on a rainy day.
I bought the bridesmaids’ shoes on eBay and got them dyed in the various colours to match the bridesmaids dresses.
The Paper Moon Band: Paul and I had been learning swing dancing together, and first heard the fantastic Paper Moon Band at a dance festival in Bristol. Booking the band for our wedding was one of the best decisions we made. It’s something we’ll always remember, and one of the things our guests have commented on most as something they’ll remember too.
DJ: Our friend Jason has DJ’d for other friends weddings and parties, and always plays great music that gets people on the dance floor, so we didn’t consider anyone else. It was great to see everyone having fun, dancing the night away.
Donna: Personalising our wedding made it even more special. Paul and I spent a lot of time together planning, talking about what was important to us, and coming up with ideas and designs together. We made a great team. It was also great to get so many of our friends and family involved. Our parents, siblings and friends helped source details for the decorations, and find accessories for me and the bridesmaids and flowergirls. In the last couple of weeks before the wedding we had a steady stream of volunteers arriving to help make bunting, paint name places and the photobooth backdrop, decorate vintage cases, clean old bottles, sort plastic dinosaurs etc, etc. We’d never have got it all done without them!
It was wonderful to see all our ideas coming together, and to have those details on our wedding day. Not everything went to plan, but we didn’t let anything of those little things spoil our day, and I think that that’s my main advice to any Bride to Be – enjoy your day no matter what. In the end what really made the day incredible was me and Paul getting married, how much love we have for each other, and having the most fantastic celebration with the people we love.
One other little tip – We left the top table in between courses to visit each of the other tables. The day goes by at such a pace, that you don’t get as much time with everyone as you’d like, but at least this way we were able to chat to every one of our guests before the meal was over.
Paul: Be sure to get everything out of the way before the wedding day. I spent much of the morning frantically trying to get the music together on CDs, transfer my speech to cue cards (before Aaron suggested I just put it on his iPad!), and sort a few other things out. I would have preferred to spend the time with my friends and family relaxing before the event.
On the wedding day itself take some time out with your bride and disappear for a few minutes alone. The day flies by so quickly and you’ll be pleased that you took some time to reflect on the fantastic day you’ll be having.
We didn’t plan to have a particular theme. We just wanted our wedding day to reflect our personalities, and the things we’re both interested in, and that we enjoy doing together – geology (including fossils and dinosaurs), photography, dancing, nature, travel and adventure. We wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere — we never wanted the event to be overly formal. Most of all we wanted the wedding to be celebratory, and for us and our guests to have fun.
Paul’s dad drove me and my dad to Priston Mill. He even wore a chauffeurs hat. It was lovely to have Paul’s dad with us, while we negotiated fords and oncoming tractors on the country lanes leading to Priston Mill and my husband to be, who was waiting patiently for us to arrive. I was so excited and happy, and I gripped my dad’s hand the whole way.
Our wedding favours were chocolate ammonites from Chocorassics in Uplyme, They moulded the chocolates using a real ammonite which had been found in Lyme Regis on the beach where Paul proposed to me.
Our first dance track was ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Shon’ which we chose because it was good to dance. It has different paced sections — from really fast to slow. When we first met we were so bad at dancing together, that we trod all over each other’s toes. It took me a while to convince Paul, but in January we started to learn swing dancing at Swing Dance Bristol. We were hooked almost immediately. Dancing became something fun to do together, and almost an obsession — and we’ll definitely carry on going dancing now we’re back from honeymoon. One of the best things about swing dancing was that we learnt to improvise rather than learning a routine, which meant that our first dance was all about our connection with each other, and we just did whichever moves felt right at the time. It was the most perfect dance we’d had together, and was just exhilarating.