Clare & Alistair's tons of hearts and a classic bus wedding

By on Aug 16th
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Photos by Clare Andrew

The offbeat bride: Clare, Primary School Teacher

Her offbeat partner: Alistair, Mechanical Engineer

Date and location of wedding: Erasmus Darwin House, Lichfield, Staffordshire and Butler's Arms, Sutton, Coldfield — June 2, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Alistair and I made a huge list of what we didn't want for the wedding: bridesmaids, best man, wedding colours, a traditional dress, bridal fairs, and a crazy budget. We also didn't want a sit-down meal or a traditional first dance. A week after we got engaged, an acquaintance showed me a picture of a dress she was considering for her bridesmaid and I fell in love. I waited until two days after Christmas and bought it half price!

We began looking for interesting venues near our home that had a license to hold civil ceremonies. We visited Erasmus Darwin House in beautiful Lichfield, and knew it was exactly what we were looking for. We then asked our favourite local pub, the Butler's Arms to close on a Saturday night for our evening party.

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The logistics of the two locations and Alistair's obsession with anything with an engine led us to finding a classic bus. This proved to be the biggest challenge, as we accidentally chose the same weekend as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and old buses can only travel so far. We finally found a Leyland (a proud Northern bus), and all talk of rearranging the wedding for the bus was over!

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Our favours were lots of badges with messages: "Northerner in Exile," "I wish I was a Northerner," "I do love a good buffet," "I love you like the stars above, I do," "It'll be reet," "Brains of the outfit," and "A right rockin' wedding." There were also seed bombs and "Love Heart" sweets. We also had a photo booth where people wrote messages to us while wearing daft hats and a fingerprint guestbook.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Both of us have lost parents, so we wanted to remember them without being depressing, so Alistair entered the ceremony room and lit two candles. This was explained in the order of service, but not referred to again. As he did this, "The Book of Love" by Peter Gabriel played. It also enabled us to delay my entry so we got to hear the whole song.

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We had two readings: "Blessing for a Marriage" by James Dillet Freeman and "A Lovely Love Story" by Edward Monkton, and we wrote our own promises to each other. We left the ceremony to "One Day Like This" By Elbow, a Manchester band, which was the first band we saw together.

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Our biggest challenge: The biggest challenge was making decorations. I'm not especially artistic, but (with a huge thanks to Offbeat Bride) I came across lots of ideas I could adapt. I invited anyone creative I knew to my house to make epic amounts of heart garlands to hang up the stairs.

IMG_7295I had photo banners printed, using pictures Alistair had taken, to use for the invitations and to cover the whiteboard in the room where we were having afternoon tea, as it's normally a classroom. My mum was an absolute legend and made 40 metres of bunting. A week before the wedding, I decided we needed a real tree in the ceremony room, so my mum made love birds to sit in them. I used an old map of Shropshire (the county where we first met and Alistair proposed) to make origami heart decorations.

I made hearts out of wax crayon shavings and baking paper to hang on the windows, and our table confetti was made from a copy of The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. I love his travels. Alistair loves that he goes by train!

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My favorite moment: The bus collected us both from our house, and went around the corner to pick up the daytime guests from the pub, as there were only thirty. I made everyone a personalised badge to act as an ice breaker, while my brother handed out bus tickets and checked people off his list. The bus was a lovely way for everyone to share in the excitement of the journey. Upon arrival at the house, the guests had time to have a good look around and had chance to see all of our decorations, especially the amazing model railway Alistair had built.

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After the ceremony, we went outside to the Victorian herb garden for Buck's Fizz, bubbles, and photos. We then went upstairs for a traditional afternoon tea with sandwiches, cakes, scones with jam and cream, tea, and lemonade.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Alistair is a dreadful dancer and was certain he did not want a first dance, so we asked our music guys, The HMV Band, to play "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits as their first song, but we didn't dance. However, after a few drinks, these things change. They announced they'd learnt "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC just for Alistair. This fit in well with our policy of choosing great, but lyrically inappropriate songs, and we ended up dancing!

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? No problem was insurmountable. Most ideas could be done if you asked around, or thought about how to do it cheaper. I think that's why we didn't really have any disasters. Our policy of not using conventional wedding vendors meant we had incredible service from people who were really reliable and did their best for us. We weren't "just another wedding" to anyone.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!



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