Helen Isabella & Jonathan's Victorian high tea wedding

April 5 |
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Photos by LJS Photography

The offbeat bride: Helen Isabella, Administrator & Singer

Her offbeat partner: Jonathan, Curator of firearms

Date and location of wedding: Ingatestone Hall, Essex, UK — October 15, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We did not have a huge budget, about half the UK average, so knew that we were going to do some of it ourselves. But we were happy with that as we didn't want to spend loads on things that just weren't important to us. We thought of ideas rather than a set theme: Tim Burton, Victoriana, Steampunk, Pirates, Halloween, Zombies, Alice in Wonderland, and high tea — so pretty mixed really!

The beautiful archway at Ingatestone Hall

We looked at conventional lists of what to do and decided which bits to cut back on. We decided to do all the décor, flowers, and cake ourselves. We got a bit despondent about venues as they either cost a fortune or wanted us to have their food which would end up costing us a lot.

Fish and Chips!

We both fell in love with with our venue right away, but I was sad as I knew we wouldn't be able to afford it. But they let us buy the supplies for the high tea, which made it more afforable. The venue staff really understood that we wanted to do things a little differently, including bringing in a jukebox, our friend making the beer (thanks Martin!), and having fish and chips delivered in the evening.

David, Lydia and Mum

The centrepieces were made from stacks of crockery, paper roses made from copies of Alice in Wonderland, and artificial flowers. We also added a crow (we both adore corvids) and a copper owl. The tables were based on couples and included Eric and Sookie from True Blood, Mina and Dracula, and Shaun and Ed from Shaun of the Dead.

Pip and I made and iced 5 dozen of these bad boys!

We did up the bar area with Halloween decorations and had a candy bar with toy aeroplanes for favours. The main hall was just so beautiful that the only decorations we added were some teapots with a few fresh flowers. I made the bouquets by making lollipop flowers and adding some brooches.

Trying to keep calm

My dress was made by an incredible husband and wife team, Lindsay and Lee from Angels Carrying Savage Weapons. I was petrified when I went there. I had tried on some white dresses and knew I wanted something different but was scared of costs. I took a load of different photos and ideas to Lindsay. We ended up chatting for ages over tea, and we had a lot of the same source books. We came up with an idea based on Mina's red dress in Dracula, but as a corset and skirt.

Getting down to business

Tell us about the ceremony: I started freaking out a bit before the ceremony. I had decided on the acoustic version of "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters and I don't like cutting songs in half, so we waited until the second chorus to start the girls walking. I made them dance with me beforehand. No one but a close friend, acting as an usher and Carol from the venue could see us and it made them crack up. We also made some overt gestures to our cleavage and it just broke the tension.

Just before I finally went down the aisle, I pretended to run away which almost made my bridesmaids freak out thinking I may have done it for real. Then I walked out and all our friends and family were there. I smiled but had to look down as though I might fall over or cry or both!

J&H Wedding Photo 0088Apparently I gave the crowd an evil look and cracked my knuckes when the registrar asked if anyone had any reason to object. Hell yeah I did! We had two readings including A Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton (Jon is huge into dinosaurs and it is a very sweet tale) and the anonymous poem, "Maybe," as we had both experienced some pretty bad relationships, and as soon as we found it we knew it was right for us.

Maybe…We are supposed to meet the wrong people before meeting the right one, so that when we finally meet the right person, we will know how to be grateful for that gift.
Maybe… it is true that we don't know what we have got until we lose it, but it is also true that we don't know what we have been missing until it arrives.
Maybe… the happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.
Maybe… the best kind of love is the kind you where you can sit on a sofa together, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had.
Maybe… you shouldn't go for looks; they can deceive. Don't go for wealth; even that fades away. Go for someone who makes you smile, because it takes only a smile to make a dark day seem bright.
Maybe… you should hope for enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, and enough hope to make you happy.
Maybe Love is not about finding the perfect person; it's about learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. When you do what you can, love will do what you can't.

Walking out to AC/DC

Our biggest challenge: From the get go we said we would not let other people, be they family or friends, no matter how close, change our vision. If we gave in, we might as well have eloped as we don't enjoy the main things that weddings entail. We know, however, that other people do like those things and come to expect them. There was some conflict, but we stood our ground.

I made this!We also didn't know what to do regarding photography. We didn't want a friend to take them as then it would become a job and they wouldn't enjoy themselves. We were worried about a professional not understanding our vision. A friend suggested someone who had done various types of photography and had just started to do weddings. On the day we did one hour maximum of staged photos, which we broke into two sessions, so we got to spend time with people.

My favorite moment: The vows! We wrote them ourselves, mixing up different ideas with our own. Saying your own vows isn't common here in the United Kingdom, but we made enquiries and we got the green light. Well, on everything but the word "guns." This upset my partner as he is a Curator of Firearms AND they let us have zombie references! But we made some minor changes and it worked well.

J&H Wedding Photo 0877Jonathan's vows:

Before this motley gathering of friends and family, I choose you, Helen Isabella, to be my wife, my friend, my lover, my companion, my hot water bottle, my sassy evil genius, and my equal.
I will care for and protect you, nurture you and support you. I will never walk out on you or go to bed angry. I will help you focus when your depression takes over and hold you when you feel you cant make it through.
I promise to keep you grounded and tell you when you've gone too far and adore everything about you. I promise to make you laugh through the tears, hold your hand always, and make you tea.
I promise to love you tirelessly through splendid times and trying times, regardless of how often you get distracted by something shiny.
You are the person I want by my side when I travel to new places and experience new things.
I give you my heart, my love, and my soul (although I dont actually believe in the existence of souls).
I love you as I have never loved anyone before.

Helen Isabella's vows:

Before this motley gathering of friends and family I choose you Jonathan to be my husband, my friend, my lover, my companion, my monkey, my sounding board for my evil-genius plans, and my equal.
I will care for and protect you, nurture you and support you. I will never walk out on you or go to bed angry. I will help you find your way when you feel lost and push you (gently) to reach your dreams.
I promise to help with your zombie apocalypse plans, encourage your strange interests, and adore everything about you. I promise to make you laugh through the tears, hold your hand always, and drink your tea whilst I bake cupcakes.
I promise to love you tirelessly through splendid times and trying times, regardless of how often you get distracted by something zombie-related.
You are the person I want by my side when I travel to new places and experience new things.
I give you my heart, my love, my soul… but not my shiny things.
I love you as I have never loved anyone before.

Exchange of rings:

Jonathan: I will love you when we are part of the trees and the stars
Helen: I will love you when we are daisies growing next to each other

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The Duel: We took two guns to the venue as I had the idea to do a duel from a piece of art I loved. However, they were replicas as firearms are not usually legal here in the UK.

J&H Wedding Photo 0397Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The centrepieces made me freak out. We decided on an Alice theme, so we bought lots of teapots and some vintage crockery. I decided to make paper roses to top them off, which I had never done before. I realised I needed to make seven for each of the six tables.

They each took so long, and I also had to make the bouquets and décor along with organising things, and it looked like it was never going to happen. Then one day I walked past a stall selling some gorgeous artificial gladiolis in reds and purples. So I bought them, and decided to use them amongst the roses.

My Vivienne Westwoods

Me and my bridal bitches!

My advice for Offbeat Brides: If you are doing things a bit differently, give advice to people attending in advance. We set up a free wedsite and gave advice on what to wear, a rough guide to the day, and what to expect and our FAQ outlining things like no kids/extra guests.

J&H Wedding Photo 1017

Ask questions. Just because the venue or vendor doesn't offer it doesn't mean it can't be done. Also, be open and honest with them. Say if you can't afford it and maybe they can do a deal. I checked in advance about using a jukebox at the venue, supplying our own beer, having a cream tea, and a fish and chip van in the evening. Everyone was happy because we were upfront with our ideas.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Oh I love this! They have some really great details and everything looked so fantastic!! Plus, her shoes are amazing!!

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    • Thank you so much, I loved my shoes. They are Vivienne Westwood and they are glittery!

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  2. Holy toledo. Beautiful!! Love your purple dress–absolutely stunning. What a fabulous day! :)

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  3. Oh My God that is beautiful! The UK is full of silly rules when it comes to weddings, our venue wasnt keen on any of our 'offbeat' ideas but i didnt complain too much as the place was GORGEOUS. Your vows are wonderful and the dress is the most amazing dress i have ever seen! Congratulations guys xxx

    1 agrees
  4. I Love the vows they are fantastic and so meaningful!

    3 agree
  5. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I love this wedding! The shot of you two in a duel is amazing! Congratulations!

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  6. I love so much about this wedding, but perhaps the thing I loves the most: THE GROOM'S PANTS. (And how they fit — YOWZA.)

    4 agree
  7. This is amazeballs! It's so nice to see venues local to me (and usually very WICd up!) used in such a beautifully offbeat way.

    And yeah, Ariel's not wrong about the grooms trousers! ;)

    1 agrees
    • Thanks so much. What does WICd mean? (Sorry if Im being thick)

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  8. wow, this wedding…where to start! the vows are amazing, the shoes OMG. the ring exchange got me all teary. all around amazing!

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  9. Thank you to everyone for your lovely comments about our wedding (and his package! The trousers are actually girls as couldnt find guys tight trousers we liked!)It was a fab day and I love my dress so much and as the fantastically talented Lindsay made it in layers I can wear it again in various ways, I even have matching bloomers!

    1 agrees
  10. WOW! Thank you for sharing this. I smiled the whole time I read this (even when in the midst of a major case of shoe envy). I can't decide what I liked best–it just kept getting better and better as I continued reading.

    2 agree
  11. Love this awesome British wedding – especially that blue and your wonderful, honest vows.

    1 agrees
  12. What a fabulous wedding!

    Obviously, having chosen a purple wedding dress myself, I love the dress!

    There are some really wonderful and unique touches. The teapot centrepiece idea is amazing.

    1 agrees

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