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© 2019 Alex Sim-Wise

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Day Blog

June 28, 2018

I’ve been wanting to write this blog since waaaay before the wedding but thought I better wait for all of the pictures to come back first so you can see the day in all it’s glory. I am going to follow it up afterwards with some tips and advice that I learned along the way as wedding planning was definitely a learning process!

 

 

So, weddings…

 

In my 20s I was one of those shitty people who would (occasionally) get invited to weddings and then just never turn up (sorryyyy). I thought weddings were pointless and would tell people so, which is perhaps why I didn’t get invited to too many of them. I vaguely remember making one of my best friends cry on her (very civilised) hen do years ago with this kind of obnoxious behaviour so there is that. Basically I was a right miserable cunt who dated the kind of terrible emotionally abusive men who would make most of the Love Island inhabitants look soft. Added to that my experiences of weddings growing up were… not great… and coming from a separated family; largely very traumatic. Hence, probably, why I hid from weddings for so long. I just thought they weren’t for me and that it was something I would never do. The only wedding I had ever been vaguely interested in is when Kylie and Jason got married in Neighbours, and only then for the power song

 

Me in my 20s (I am dressed up as Cher in the Turn Back Time video):

 

 

So when my partner proposed and I realised that I might actually have to 'do a wedding', I had a bit of an oh shit moment. How on earth was I going to plan a wedding when they were something I knew absolutely nothing about!? Like literally, fuck all. Nada. I have been a bridesmaid twice. Both times I was a disinterested 13- or 14-year-old with a short curly ginger perm that made me look like a cocker spaniel. If the photos weren't traumatic enough, both times I spent half the day spewing so they aren’t pleasant memories. Obviously me and Sam had joked about getting married before, but our plans consisted of “hire a big hall and get Don Broco to play in it” which you know, was never going to happen.

 

WTF was I going to do!?

 

Well I did what most in my situation should probably do: I sat down with my fella and made a mental list with him of what we now call ‘wedding dumbshittery’, aka, all the things we didn’t personally like about weddings. It was a non-exhaustive list that included things like: cookie cutter hotel wedding packages, churches, Rolls Royce cars, stretchy nylon chair covers, rose gold, matching colour schemes, Moss Bros suits, stale buffets, large parts of the day where everyone is standing around not knowing what to do with themselves, Champagne, glitter, poems, self-written vows, covers bands, vol-a-vonts, neverending speeches, choreographed first dances, anything done with the aim to go viral, wedding videos that aren’t on VHS, wedding DJs, fireworks, bouquet throwing, that fucking wedding march song, vicars, violins, hymns, most wedding dresses, ugly pastel bridesmaid dresses, any form of reality TV involvement, his n hers champage flutes, wacky table plans, doughnut boards, anything Star Wars and… you get the the idea.* Having said that we discovered that we did like most wedding things that were either 1980s tacky or big fat gypsy wedding related, so make of that what you will...

 

*Sorry if elements of your wedding are in here BTW, it’s nothing personal. Everybody has different ideas of what a wedding is, depending on your interests/upbringing and you gotta do what’s right for you!

 

By working out what we didn’t want we came to the conclusion that we are definitely not very weddingsy people. But it didn’t mean that a wedding was impossible, just that ours would be a bit different. We decided on 3 core values for our wedding day, and they were that it should be:

 

  1. A positive, inclusive, fun experience for our 3-year-old daughter Evey

  2. Uncompromisingly weird and ‘us’

  3. A fucking good party

 

These were all values that we didn’t stray from. One of the very most important things for us was that everyone had a good time. We knew that we wanted to do something fun but also a bit weird and different and we found that the easiest way to do that was to separate between the daytime wedding ceremony (a family-friendly fun day for Evey with alpacas and other children) and the evening reception (something weird and not very family friendly). The daytime wedding ceremony was quite wholesome and almost bizarrely traditional - if by traditional I mean the kind of wedding that a Romanian gypsy might have by way of a Grimm’s fairytale, mixed with a hint of Victoriana. Which sounds massively pretentious when I read it back. LOL. But you'll see what I mean when you see the pictures below:

 

 

We were lucky in that I was making a decent income in the run up to the wedding so we had a bigger budget than we anticipated. Our family helped also but we didn’t want anybody to feel obligated so we covered about 60-75% of the costs ourselves (I say we, it was mostly me who paid for it with my magic boobs!) When looking at the budget together we decided that looking sharp for our pictures was the most important part of our budget (as we are mega shallow like that) so our outfits were our single biggest expense and we went all out.

 

In a lot of ways your wedding photos are how you are remembered within your family for years to come, long after you have passed on, so we wanted to make sure our wedding photo game was strong. For our photographer we picked Joanne at Enchanted Brides who took most of the pictures on this page and she is absolutely incredible - I cannot recommend her enough. Not only is her work just out-of-this-world, she is super nice and easy to work with. The first preview pic we got back from her made me cry it was so good. She was fully on board with all our odd ideas (unsmiling Victorian portraits anyone?!) and really appreciated all the tiny details.

 

 

Some tiny details:

 

My dress I had custom-made along with my daughter’s dress, in Austria by Thomas Kirchgrabner at Lena Hoschek Atelier, which was… brilliant and actually not as much of a nightmare as I thought it would be as I got the exact dress that I wanted and a couple of holidays to Vienna out of it (noice). Here is THE dress:

 

My mum, being a ginormous Eurovision fan, was suitably impressed that Thomas dresses and is good friends with Conchita Wurst so that was her sold on the dress! Although I would have still bought it if she wasn't keen. It has always been a dream of mine to own a couture dress and the dress itself is so beautiful and unusual that there was no way that I would have found it anywhere else (trust me, I tried!). My dress was one of the first things I found while planning our wedding and I found it after I followed Lena Hoschek (via Idda Van Munster) on Instagram. A couple of days after my partner proposed there was a live streamed Lena Hoschek catwalk show from Berlin and I was like "hmmm... I wonder if she has a good wedding dress!?" and guess what, she did!

I spent months saving for it as I wanted to make sure I had enough money to buy it so that my Mum didn’t feel like she had to. It is no exaggeration to say that I planned the whole day around my dress. As soon as I saw it the gypsy fairytale aesthetic of the day just fell into place and while it was expensive, it is all handmade and it really made the whole day what it was. To me it was the next best thing from having a family heirloom as it incorporated all the things about my family that I love - my mum’s love of travel (particularly to Eastern Europe) and my grandmother’s dressmaking skills as she used to hand sew European national costumes for my Mum when my Mum was a teenager and entering dance competitions - costumes that I would dress up in when I was growing up. 

This, BTW, is kind of where the bridesmaids in dirndls came from. Alongside growing up with my Mum's costumes I am a massive fan of Ellen Von Unwerth and her Heimat book and just think dirndls look incredible. I even considered wearing a dirndl as a wedding dress but the bridal ones are too plain. Dirndls are so colourful, feminine and unique and I thought they would be a good way to allow the bridesmaids to express their personalities and be different from one another. Also they are something you can get pretty cheaply vintage/secondhand so there were no ridiculous costs involved. Some of the dirndls were traditional German ones (bought in Stuttgart and online) some were vintage or borrowed and Aimee's traditional dress (dark red one) is actually mine and is from Lena Hoschek Tradition. I loved the way that the dresses looked all together and how everyone looked like themselves. It was really important to me that my bridesmaids looked good and felt comfortable in what they were wearing, especially Aimee as she was 6 months pregnant at the time (you can't really tell!) Oh and I LOVED having Von as my goth bridesmaid for the Disney villain vibes, that was pure DREAMZ. She even had a black bouquet!

 

 

All of the bridesmaids stayed at Yarner House the night before and we all got ready together. I didn't hire a hair or makeup artist in the end as my younger sister is really good at doing plaits and we are all pretty good at doing our own makeup. I took the money that I would have spent on a makeup artist and treated myself to some nice bits from Dior and wore their Diorskin Forever foundation, concealer and Rouge Dior lipstick in 999 Matte.

 

Sam had a choice in that he could either go for a custom-made designer outfit with high street accessories (like me - my jewellery was from Etsy/Zara and my shoes were from Irregular Choice) or a high-street suit with designer accessories. He chose the latter and picked a suit from Zara and all of his accessories (tie, watch, shoes, pocket square... even his wedding ring) from Gucci. From the beginning he wanted a pink suit and to look like “a bit of a bastard” (his words) and I thought he looked very handsome, bearing in mind that Sam usually wears tracksuits! The trick to making his suit look extra good is we found a local tailor to alter his suit and shirt so that they fitted perfectly, so thank you Mr Q in Torquay! The mismatched coordination between Sam and his Groomsmen was actually a bit of a happy accident (we didn't plan it) and I think their suits looked really brilliant together - a perfect compliment to the bridesmaids.

 

 

Evey of course had the cutest matching dress made with the same fabric/ribbons as mine and little Gucci shoes to match with Sam. I invited her best friend from gymnastics, Archie, to be a flower boy with her and he wore tiny lederhosen that were handmade by a Hungarian lady I found on Etsy. I found a lot of stuff on Etsy! After all, it is where me and Sam met! My biggest Etsy finds were probably Lucia Soto who designed our amazing wedding invites and also handpainted a watercolour portrait of us for the big day, and The Sleeping Flower Co who made the gorgeous dried/silk flower bouquets and flower crowns.

 

For the actual wedding ceremony we picked the first venue that we looked at which was Yarner House. It is a private family-owned house that has amazing views over Dartmoor and a stunning duck egg blue Scandinavian-style hall that we both fell in love with. As soon as we saw it in person we knew that it was the one and that it would make for some amazing pictures. My family and bridesmaids also stayed there over the weekend and it really was so lovely. Lily and her mother were so helpful, plus the light in the lounge/getting ready room was fantastic! Always an important factor! 

 

We decorated the hall with crochet blankets that I found in charity shops, a handmade shawl that I crocheted myself for the wedding, various hand-painted eggs that I brought back from the Easter markets in Austria, Russian Matrioska dolls from Amsterdam, Liberty print paper chains and fresh floral decorations by local florist Flowers by Judy housed in mismatched canal ware that was hand-painted by a lady I found online called Trina (Boat Foray). We also had an amazing lady called Martina Schwartz playing Beirut and Yann Tiersen songs on the accordion on the day and I went down the aisle to La Valse by Les Negresses Vertes.

But the real stars of the show were the alpacas who came from Bearhouse Alpacas in Sidbury. They were a real crowd favourite and were actually a lot friendlier than I thought they would be! Usually alpacas spit but they were very well behaved.

Why did we have alpacas you might ask? Well, why not!

Food we weren’t too fussed about so we just found somewhere that we knew was nice from eating there rather than paying a million pounds for some random overpriced wedding caterers. No-one ever goes to a wedding and comes home raving about the food. Ever. The place we chose was brilliant though - it’s an historic tearoom on Dartmoor that normally serves coach parties for massive cream teas and we were their first wedding. It definitely hit the spot although due to losing Evey at the wedding venue (she went off for a nap) we missed a lot of it. Nobody tells you this about your wedding day - you don’t actually get to see much of it (until the party).

 

 

The wedding reception we held at The Lucky 7 Club in Paignton, which was a bit of a find! Originally I wanted it at the Rainbow Hotel in Torquay which used to be the tackiest place on earth (think Fred & Rose West’s living room) until some soulless hotel group bought it and made it boring. We had almost given up hope of finding somewhere cool and just the right amount of tacky in Torbay until we got put in touch with a friendly bunch called Kinky & Quirky who put on burlesque nights in the area, who just so happened to have only just picked up the keys to their own club. When we first visited they had literally just gotten their hands on what seemed to be a completely untouched 1980s social club and we were like “yep, perfect. We’ll have it just like this”. Obviously they have done it up a bit and made it look ermazing since but the general ethos remains. If you live in the Torbay area you should definitely check out one of their nights! They made the evening run so smoothly and were just brilliant.

 

 

The evening reception was where we got to go full weird and take everyone out of their comfort zone and it was the part of the wedding that we were most looking forward to. A few years back, on one of our rare date nights after Evey was born, we went to Southampton to see our friends Death Do Us Part Danger Show perform. It was one of those nights where we were so focused on seeing our friends that we didn’t stop to think about what the other acts might be like, and it was then that we saw Joe Black host and Arran Shurvinton perform.

 

 

 

They were just so fucking good and unlike anything we had ever seen before! So when we came to decide on the entertainment for our wedding they were the first people we thought of and luckily they were available and accepted. Betty Machete we didn’t add until later on after I saw her perform at Torture Garden on my hen weekend and she was just so pleasant and lovely to correspond with… and as it turns out, is a big hit with firemen! Along with Arran who I think may have turned some of them… 

 

Our cake was really hard to find. The trend nowadays is for cylindrical cakes covered in Marvel characters and while that’s great and all, I really wanted a hardcore frilly old-fashioned royal iced monster… like the ones my old chainsmoking childminder Marion used to make for cash on the sly… but going around cake shops asking them to make me something “really old-fashioned and horrible” wasn’t getting me anywhere. Until I found a local cake decorator called Alison at St Mary’s Bakery in Preston who just got ‘it’. When we described what we wanted her eyes just lit up. She had to drag out some old pans from right at the back of her cupboard to find the horseshoe style we wanted but the cake she made was brilliant, it not only looked exactly how I imagined it but it tasted really good too!

 

 

After we cut the cake Sam made a short speech telling everyone how we met (a tale for another time...) and I introduced the first dance - which was a circle pit to 99 Red Balloons (the German version). By the end of the night I was in full death metal face paint and the bridemaids were dressed as Juggalos and we all had a brilliant time dancing to Kylie and Jason - Especially For You.

 

Probably one of the funnest parts of the night was the photo booth, which was a vintage monster called the 'Gatsby' that we hired from Booth Nineteen in Exeter. It was so fun looking through the pictures at the end of the night!

 

As you can see the tone of the day went a bit downhill...

 

Which leads me on to our wedding favours! We actually had 3 wedding favours in the end. Our favours for the daytime were fudge handmade by Sam’s Auntie Emma - that nobody got because I left it all in a bag under the table and forgot to take it to the cream tea reception which I am still absolutely livid about! It actually breaks my heart to think of the hard work that went into it so it is sitting in our freezer while I think of something good to do with it. The second favour was a sticker pack at the evening reception with artwork by Lucia Soto. And then if you made it to the end of the night you got given our ‘orrible favours (Fred and Rose West stickers and chocolates) that I had to go round about 3 different vendors to get as everyone was massively offended and thought I was mad. They are our anti-romantic icons - not because we like or condone them - but because they are two people who never should have met and (like most firemen) Sam has a horrible sense of humour and I am weirdly obsessed with serial killers.

 

I think one of the hardest things while planning the day was sourcing everything and trying to get across what I wanted from all the images and ideas I had in my head. Pinterest helped a lot. In fact, Pinterest helped loads. It also helped that I had really clear ideas on how everything should look and feel, right down to the pom poms on the alpacas (which were all handmade by me, my Mum and the bridesmaids!) I was super conscious of coming across as a ‘Bridezilla’ so if things weren’t right I spent a lot of time thinking about why and making sure when I got back to people that I was clear on what was and wasn’t working without offending them, which was actually quite hard for me as I can be quite blunt. I have ADHD so coherent communication isn’t one of of my strong points. As Sam says “if it’s not right, it’s wrong” which is true to some extent but only because my mind is so specific! I call it my Disney brain!

 

After all this time I finally understand why people get married. It's not so much about "true love" and cheesy gestures - Sam and I don't need to a wedding to prove how much we love each other - it's about celebrating family and having a day to look forward to where everyone can be joyful and happy. It is about fun and family and making your own traditions. I was kind of sad that there was nothing to pass on to me from my side, so I am keeping all the dresses, flowers, shoes (and photos!) as heirlooms to pass on. Even if Evey decides she doesn’t want them they are nice to have in the family and hopefully she will remember it as a lovely day. She keeps telling me that it was her wedding that day which I think is really sweet, because in a way it was.

 

What was unexpectedly lovely about the day was seeing everyone chip in together and how well everyone got along. It was so nice seeing friends who didn’t know each other make new friends on the day, which was something that happened on both our hen and stag also. It was also amazing to see my Nan there as she is not well and had a bit of an arduous 10 hour round trip with a carer to get to the wedding. I don’t think I could have had the wedding without her so I really appreciate the effort everyone went to to get her there as I know she had a lovely day and I loved her being there very much.

 

 

Anyway I’m going to go off and have a little cry now, but I will post a blog of tips and advice in the next few days for all you unweddingsy wedding people out there who are literally probably just shitting yourselves.

 

Sim xxx

 

p.s. I will leave you with our CLANGERS & BANGERS playlist which is the music we played at our wedding. It has some absolute CLASSICS.