An English rose and a Ukrainian sunflower

Ukraine wedding blog feature (1)

This real wedding is bright, exciting and full of colour: from the vintage fire engine, Jezebel, to the striking sunflowers-which-are-better-than-sunflowers… it’s a stunner.

Manchester based Vickerstaff Photography submitted the wedding for our lovely little blog, and I was delighted to see a glorious day unfold through one fabulous image after another. There are some amazing shots here which I know you’ll love to bits. I do – these guys are really special.

When Ivanka sent me her wedding report explaining all the Ukrainian wedding traditions included in her day – well it was more than the icing on the cake. This is a very special wedding and I’m sure you’ll love it – and learn something too*

*I almost called it ‘101 things you didn’t know about weddings’.

Hope you love this one as much as I did. Over to beautiful bride Ivanka to tell you more.

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“We had a few themes throughout our wedding. I’m ethnically Ukrainian and grew up going to Ukrainian Catholic Church so there was no question that we would get married anywhere else! There are also plenty of Ukrainian traditions that I have seen going to other Ukrainian weddings (mostly in the UK and one in Ukraine) that I wanted to follow.

The reception venue was one of 95 I considered before I whittled it down to 15 possibles to go see in a whirlwind week 18 months before the day. With the original brief of a castle – the only one I could find was Peckforton, which was more than an hour drive from the church. So manor houses and great views were in the frame. My wild card was The Place because I really like the upper (champagne) bar from where you could look down on the main room. Ashley loved it so much that although it was 9th on the list, his mind was made up pretty quickly. The fact that it was originally called the “London Warehouse” just cemented the idea further.

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In some parts of Ukraine it is customary for the groom to pick up the bride from her parents house and receive a blessing. Following this they would go (usually on foot) to the groom’s parents’ house. However, Ashley’s parents’ house is in London and they are not Ukrainian so we left the second part out. So Ashley arrived with our friend Teddy and his best man James in a vintage Rover that Teddy had kindly volunteered for our transport. Ashley made it through the house and actually out the other side where I was sat in a picturesque scene on a bench under a tree. We had our blessing from my parents and then were on our way.

Meanwhile, the remaining groomsmen were picking up guests from The Place Hotel as it is 5 mins from Piccadilly train station where many of our Londoner guests were arriving. We hired a routemaster for their transport and provided a guide so everyone would understand what was going on!

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So Ashley and I arrived at the church together (as equals so the tradition says), the journey to church had been really fun, so we weren’t too nervous when we arrived. We walked into the church to the beginning of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, but it was only the first 40 seconds as the priests met us at the back of the church.

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We had two priests as one was born in England (hence could speak English with an English accent) and my parish priest (who was born in Ukraine) who had been in charge of the parish for the last decade or so. After confirming we were free to marry each other, the priest led us up the aisle to start things properly.

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There were so many great moments!

I really enjoyed the moment we did our vows because we had to kneel and there were two priests either side of us so we were quite enclosed (and cosy) and it felt like it was almost just us. Also my brother singing his reading (Letter from Paul to the Corinthians) was really awesome too.

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There is a lot of visual symbolism in the Ukrainian service. The usual rings and candles were present, but we also have embroidered cloths, crowns of myrtle and walking around a small altar (for our first marital steps).

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Following the ceremony, we signed the register with mine and Ashley’s sisters being the witnesses. The recessional was “Autumn” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons which seemed to fit well.

After church, we had some group shots outside and were really fortunate with the weather, which was warm but grey. We then headed on to The Place. The guests were having canapés and drinks in the atrium listening to the string quartet when we arrived and we walked the length of the atrium to the sound of “The arrival of the Queen of Sheba”.

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London was the second underlying theme of the wedding. Although I grew up in Manchester, I have now been in London for over 10 years – since I started university at Imperial College London where we met. We met during an outing of the Royal College of Science Motor Club which maintains a 1916 Dennis ‘N’ Type Fire Engine called Jezebel. Jezebel had a bit of a rough year in 2010-2011, she ran her bearing not just once, or twice, but three times. However, in true motor club style they managed to get her ready and up to Manchester in time! We also have to say a big thank you again to the Greater Manchester Fire Museum for putting Jez up for a couple of nights. Although she wasn’t our main transport as I was worried about getting black smudges on my ivory dress (very greasy lady!), we did have a quick ride around the block after church to make her feel part of the proceedings.

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The table plan had been placed in the atrium to give plenty of time for the guests to figure out what table they were on. Ashley had styled up a table plan to look like the London Underground Map with guests’ names as stations on the various lines. We were London Overground sticking to the orange theme.

In addition to orange, we had the theme of an English rose and a Ukrainian sunflower. It was like our logo. It was found on our save the date cards and video, on the invitations and then on the order of service and even our favours were a red rose and a yellow sunflower with an orange bow.

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So in Ukrainian weddings the guests get seated and the parents of the bride and groom as well as the Ukrainian toastmasters (carefully chosen friends of the bride’s parents) all greet the bridal party at the door. There is a small ceremony to welcome us into the community. We were greeted with gifts of bread, honey, salt and vodka. Bread represents nature’s bounty, salt is seen a necessity of life, and honey and vodka are for prosperity. Basically we rip off a bit of bread, dip it into the honey and salt and take a bite (separately!) and then take a sip of vodka. The rest gets thrown over our shoulders for luck.

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My mother binds our together with an embroidered cloth and, with Ashley’s mother, leads us to the top table. This signifies that like the couple the two families are joined together. As we go, we have to walk under the Ukrainian bread cake “korovai”.

The “korovai” is an elaborately decorated traditional Ukrainian wedding bread that symbolizes community. It is traditionally baked by many happily married women from the bride’s village as an expression of support and approval for newlyweds. The “korovai” is adorned with ornaments of baked dough: two doves to represent the couple, and other birds to represent family and friends. In the centre of the korovai is a “hiltse”, or tree of life, signifying life, fertility and the building of a new nest. The entire arrangement is surrounded with a wreath of periwinkle, a symbol of love and purity. Flowers traditionally found in Ukraine, we had poppies, cornflowers and sunflowers, also colourful ribbons and ears of wheat.

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We also had a traditional white English wedding cake. It was London themed, with black ‘silhouettes’ of famous London buildings on it and a token bit of orange on a zebra crossing. It also had an amazingly accurate topper. We had to send lots of photos to the lady who made it so the little clay figures had the same outfits as us to amazing detail. Best of all it’s now displayed proudly in my front room and a beautiful reminder.

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My wedding dress Essense of Australia (D1053). My necklace is from Ayedo, my shoes from BHS (bargain!), I wore pearl earrings from my mum (borrowed and old). My something blue was the ‘I Do’ diamante stickers on the bottom of my shoes.

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During the meal, a Ukrainian tradition goes that should you find that your wine just isn’t sweet enough, you must hit your wine glass with your cutlery and shout bitter or “heer-ke” in Ukrainian. At this point, Ashley and I were obligated to sweeten the wine by kissing each other. I feel we probably should have warned the string quartet about this as the first time it happened they were most surprised!

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Following the meal, we had the three English traditional speeches. My dad warmed up the crowd and even did a dual language speech. Ashley (an accomplished speaker who has spoken in the Royal Albert Hall and even spoken before Boris Johnson) did a fabulous job and gave me a very wobbly lip! But I survived and the best man did his utmost to make me blush with his beautiful words. (He ended up putting up his copy of the speech on his blog – )

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Ashley wore mid grey morning tails from Best Man Hire ( – who were very lovely – and Greater Manchester Fire Service cufflinks!

Following the speeches, we had a Ukrainian receiving line. It is traditionally the chance for all the guests to give their best wishes, congratulations and any presents to the bride and groom. Everyone files past clinks their glasses in toast and kisses almost every person in the bridal party. To add to the merriment of the process, the top table was actually really wide which meant that both guest and wedding party had to lean along way over in an act of fearlessness hoping that the other will lean in toward them!

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Everyone relaxed for a bit then, apart from the groom, who was getting concerned about his dancing debut. Our first dance was to “Can’t take my eyes off you” as performed by Muse and we did a choreographed foxtrot. It didn’t really go to plan. Ashley stood on a table decoration and was convinced he was standing on my dress and started panicking. I was having trouble taking steps backwards as I had a lot of netting in my dress all bushelled up and was worried that I might stand on my own dress and fall over. However, no one noticed a jot! We did some spins and some promenades, but the big crowd pleaser was definitely the dip when everyone cheered.

The next bit of excitement in the proceedings was a cabaret by “Podilya”, a Ukrainian dance group in which I danced long ago. Bright costumes and impressive moves wowed and entertained us and all the guests.

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The moment that stands out for Ashley was at the end of the evening – at 1.30am, when all the survivors encircled us as we danced. He really enjoyed having all our friends around us at the end.

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Immediately following the dancing we had the changing of the veil ‘ceremony’. In Ukraine, girls used to wear flowers and ribbons in their hair when they went out, as a signal that they were not taken. Married ladies wear headscarves. So the groom’s mother removes the bride’s veil and replaces it with a headscarf to show that the bride is now “a wife” and that she accepts her into their family. This happens whilst I sit on the groom’s knee. Meanwhile, the female guests form a large circle around us and sing amusing Ukrainian songs. I had fun translating the words to Ashley who speaks very few words in Ukrainian. Following a few songs, the bride dances with all the single girls and puts her veil in their hair. To save time, I danced with my bridesmaids and my sister and Ashley’s sister.

The guests gradually dispersed leaving the remaining tearing up the dance floor. The music played until 1.30pm. Ashley did a little impromptu thank you speech and we then ascended up the glass elevator to our penthouse apartment after a thoroughly full and amazing day.

Ivanka’s wedding day advice

Get some confetti cannons – they’re amazing!! I got some custom coloured ones to fit our red, yellow and orange theme from

Also we decided to mingle with our guests between courses of the wedding breakfast. We were naturally served first which meant we had cleaned our plates before all of the guests had received their food. Whilst we ate I chatted to my dad and Ashley and Ashley chatted to my mum, but as soon as we finished we scooted over to a few tables to say hello and see how everyone was doing. It was really great to have a quick uninterrupted chat with so many of our guests.

Ok so maybe I can’t stick to just one bit of advice – but something that I can also recommend it to get so toasting glasses that are extra special for the bride and groom. We will be using ours (hopefully!) for our many anniversaries, so they really quickly conjure up great memories of the speeches and toasting one and all.

Recommended wedding suppliers (Manchester)

Cheshire wedding photographers Vickerstaff Photography – Jamie and Tory are great photographers, great people and a fantastic team. See their full blog post of Ivanka and Ashley’s wedding day.

Chris Darby – DJ

Oksana Leshko – flowers

Strelitzia – string quartet (even commissioned Sweet Home Alabama which was awesome)

Silk Wedding Videos – videographer – see Stacy and David’s wedding video right here on English Wedding blog

Confetti Master – confetti cannons!

Best Man Hire – Men’s Outfits

Richard’s cakes – (absolutely amazing taster box of cake!! With the most delicious fruit cake imaginable – even for those who don’t like fruit cake!)

Artlocke Designs – cake topper

Strictly Fun Dancing –

Greater Manchester Fire Museum

sunflower-brights-wedding-inspiration-boardMore? Oh go on then… there’s a gorgeous wedding inspiration board on facebook for you.

Claire xx

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Nikki
    8 years ago

    WOW! I love this, and the day has been captured beautifully. Thanks for sharing!

  • Paula
    8 years ago

    Lovely insight into a Ukranian style wedding!

  • Hayley
    8 years ago

    Beautiful pictures guys – you really capture the special moments 🙂

  • Great coverage and fantastic colurs, love the shot of the bride on the stairs.

  • Martin Pemberton
    8 years ago

    Great details and fantastic pictures. What a fantastic day

  • Jenny McAvoy
    8 years ago

    Those bridesmaid dresses are gorgeous and the Place Hotel looks fab 🙂

  • nicola
    8 years ago

    this is an absolutely breathtaking wedding. the photos are exquisite!

  • Alser
    8 years ago

    Love the look captured between bride and groom at the alter. Great Pictures!!!!

  • Sara
    8 years ago

    Great informative feature with beautiful photos, such vibrant colours, well done! It is so interesting to hear how other cultures celebrate marriage and how couples manage to blend those with English traditions too. I love how the groom came to pick up the bride and they travelled to the church together, that is fantastic. Actually being able to share the excitement with the person you are excited about marrying! Sx

  • wow such lovely comments thank you everyone!

    We had such a great time photographing the ceremony there were so many individual moments. Ivanka & Ashley’s decision to book The Place Hotel for me was the best ever! I was like a kid in a candy store it is such a great venue for photographs.

    Thank you everyone for your response to our photos and Claire for featuring Ivanka & Ashley’s wonderful day. 🙂

  • Beth McIlroy
    8 years ago

    These photo’s are so beautiful and dynamic – it looks like a fun and colourful wedding

  • Bryan
    8 years ago

    i love the little looks that Ivenka keeps giving, and the london theme works well. congratulations both and very well photographed Vickerstaff.

  • David Brown
    8 years ago

    As the father of the Groom I can say from first hand that the wedding was as brilliant as it looks in the photos. I hardly noticed Jamie but he managed to get some fantastic shots. The church was wonderful and the reception had so many opportunities for unique pictures that you just would not of been able to take at a normal English wedding. Ashley gave me a master copy of the photos. I have over 300 professional colour photos plus 200 I took with my Pentax K-m and those from other guests, so all in all about 700 photos. Slightly different from when I got married when all you got was an album. Although I knew the photographer so I have the negatives too :-).
    All in all a great day that we will be able to remember for years to come.

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Thank you everyone for your comments – and David, thank you for being the first father of the Groom to comment on my blog… you’ve just made my day! My parents have a couple of photographs of their wedding day, but I’ve just realised I don’t think they have an album! How times change.
      Thank you for your praise of Jamie Vickerstaff as well, everyone: I’ll make sure Vickerstaff Photography are a regular feature on English Wedding blog in 2012.
      Claire xx

  • Lots of big smiles at VP HQ today! Thank you everyone for all of your wonderful comments and David for taking the time to comment on the article as well; he very kindly left a comment on our blog when we first featured Ivanka and Ashley’s wedding last year so to take the time to leave a second comment on Claire’s fantastic blog is very touching indeed.

    We shall be walking with a little skip in our step today. 🙂

  • PatZ
    2 years ago

    I have a question. Where do you arrange to buy a korovai in London? My Ukrainian American daughter is getting married there soon and I’d love to have one for her reception. Can you make a recommendation?

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