Looking for some wedding inspiration? I had a quick chat with Karen Clarke about her wedding, and how she waived tradition to create her perfect day, from scenic countryside, to city lights.
Tell me a little about your wedding?
Our wedding was a little bit different from the ‘typical’ wedding day – if there is such a thing these days! We had a small civil ceremony with just our immediate families which was 19 people. The ceremony was in Edenmore Country Club in Magheralin and reception was in the Ivory Restaurant in Belfast. After the ceremony and a few photos, the bridal party headed to Belfast where we had our own private area of the Ivory for a sit down meal. That evening, we had 120 guests join us for the reception, drinks and dancing! Neither of us are very traditional so we didn’t have a top table, first dance, speeches etc. It just isn’t us. Our day was planned so that there was no expectation or obvious ‘gap’ where these things were missed and everyone wondered when they were happening – no one noticed!
How long after your engagement did you begin to plan your big day?
A few days! We both knew we didn’t want a long engagement so we had to move quickly to secure the suppliers and venues for dates in 2018. We got engaged on 29 th December 2017 and were married on 27th September 2018. I work in events so I had the advantage of using that experience to pull everything together to make sure we found the right date and right suppliers. I had all of the major elements in place before the end of January 2018 including my dress.
What wedding vendors/suppliers did you use and why?
Edenmore Country Club: We wanted a venue close to home as we didn’t want our guests to spend a large part of the day travelling between home and then our two venues. Edenmore also kindly let us use their grounds for photography. We had further photography in Belfast City Centre when we went to the Ivory so we had the best of both worlds – countryside and city.
The Ivory: We aren’t really into typical wedding venues and wanted something that contemporary that didn’t look too ‘wedding-y’. The venue lends itself perfectly to this style and requires little or no dressing. Good food was a high priority for us and having eaten there previously and a few times after booking the wedding, we were delighted with the menu choices for the dinner and reception. We received so many compliments on the venue, staff and food.
Maid by Sinead Bridal Make Up: As Sinead is a really good friend of mine and had done my make up on previous occasions, I had absolutely no doubt that she was the one I wanted to get my ready on my wedding morning. Thankfully, she was available on my date and I never once had to worry about my make up, I had and still have, complete trust in her. As someone who loves make up but doesn’t wear a lot of it generally, it was important that my look was polished and natural. I was so confident that she would make me look my best, I wasn’t even bothered about a trial! Although Sinead insisted and was able to recommend colours to compliment my autumn wedding. She convinced me to go very natural around the eyes with a strong lip and she was so right. My makeup set off so well against my dress and flowers and was perfect for the time of year. The makeup never budged all day and I felt amazing. Plus, the craic we had that morning was brilliant!
One Fine Day Photography: As our wedding wasn’t typical or traditional and I had been to so many weddings where the bride and groom spent hours getting photographs taken and missing out on so much of their day with their guests, I just never understood this. You only need so many photos! Yes of course, they will be lifetime memories of your day but you can never get that time again with your family and friends so we needed a photographer that would capture all the moments of our day without us posing for hours on end. When we met Rich, we were convinced he was the one to photograph our wedding. He completely got where we were coming from with the different style of wedding, he has such a passion for his work and is so easy going. He was an absolute dream to work with and when you only have a small wedding, it’s easy for the photographer to stick out like a sore thumb and clicking away making people feel awkward but this was not the case. I honestly couldn’t tell you where he was most of the day. He captured all the perfect moments and told the story of our day so perfectly. He blends in so well all day but especially on the wedding morning, everyone felt so comfortable chatting to him which obviously makes for more relaxed photos. In the whole time Rich was with us, we were away from our guests for less than an hour. The rest of the day was spent making memories with our family and friends, which was beautifully captured by Rich and we hardly knew anything about it.
HoneyBee Blooms: Emma was recommended to me and once I got chatting to her, I instantly felt like she got my style. I was not disappointed. My bouquet and hair flowers were amazing, I just loved them as soon as I seen them. She has such great attention to detail and I honestly couldn’t believe she put together my bouquet from a few Pinterest pictures I had sent her. She was able to interpret my random thoughts on flowers and produce something so beautiful. Emma runs a small local business so I was delighted to be able to support her by asking her to produce my wedding flowers.
Any pieces of advice you could offer a bride when planning her own wedding?
One of the first pieces of advice would be to be decisive. For practically every main element of our wedding, I went with the first of everything – first ceremony venue, first reception venue, first photographer etc. We were planning a short engagement and like most people these days, work full time and I didn’t want to spend endless weekends making and running to appointments. (I never had a single dress appointment!)
Make sure your supplier is right for you. There are many, many talented wedding professionals out there and it can be a minefield to navigate. I would advise meeting the main suppliers and getting to know them, or at least communicate via text or email. Bear in mind, this person will be an integral part of the biggest day of your life and you want to be comfortable and confident with them. This is especially important for your photographer/videographer and wedding morning suppliers.
Be honest with suppliers. Don’t be afraid to tell potential suppliers that they are not right for you, if you are not feeling it. This is your wedding and you need to have confidence in these people (and you’re paying them!). Believe me, they will appreciate this honesty as they also will not want to take your booking and not be able to match your expectations.
Dare to be different. Don’t feel that you have to do what everyone else does. My absolute pet hate is when people say ‘because that’s what you do at weddings’. Not at ours! We didn’t have the church wedding and sit down 3 course meal for 120 guests, it’s not us. We did raise a few eyebrows, some people just had never been to or thought you could have a wedding that didn’t follow the normal tradition and they just didn’t get it. However, most of these people said afterwards it opened their eyes to what a wedding could be and that you don’t always have to follow the crowd.
Tips for a stress-free wedding morning?
As we were very non traditional, we spent the night before the wedding together at home and had a lovely breakfast the next morning followed by a nice walk. We both felt this would be a great way to start our big day just the two of us. I really enjoyed my wedding morning, the craic was great and everything ran to plan. I was lucky that my family and friends with me that morning aren’t stressful people so that didn’t rub off on me. Of course, there is a lot going through your head – timings etc but give yourself plenty of time and don’t be afraid to take yourself off to the bathroom for a deep breath. Lastly, drink lots of water and go easy of the fizz as you will want to remember this forever.
Most memorable moment of your wedding day?
Too many to choose! I probably should say during the ceremony when I married the love of my life! Obviously that too but one thing that really still stands out was when we first arrived in the Ivory, I got my first glimpse of the venue set up just as I’d planned, it was the first time I seen my cake and both things honestly took my breath away. I think that was when it felt the most real for me. We were then able to welcome our families and see their reactions as they walked into the room, with the floor to ceiling windows, beautiful table setting, personalised drinks reception and gifts for the parents. I remember sitting back during our dinner and taking a breath to appreciate that those closest to us were sitting around us, the food and drink was flowing and so was the craic! We had a small wedding because we wanted to remember as many details as possible and we are so lucky we do.