Jessie & Mark's fête fun, games, and baking wedding

Kisses by the river
Photos by Laura Babb

The offbeat bride: Jessie, Civil Servant

Her offbeat partner: Mark, Civil Servant

Date and location of wedding: Registry Office in Richmond and Avenue Halls in Kew, London, UK — 06/23/2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We made our wedding fit perfectly with its location in Kew village by throwing a midsummer fête. Not just a fête-themed wedding, but an actual fête! We enlisted family and friends to help make everything and every part of the day handcrafted.

Hanging tin-can flowers

Monster shooting gallery

Star Wars Lego…

We've lots of friends with children and wanted them all not just to be welcome, but to be at home and free to enjoy themselves. We built games for the kids and adults to play including the fabulous Lego Star Wars Han Solo and Princess Leia head-in-hole stands. Every table had a board game or two and it was great to see people making friends over a game!

How many sweets?

We made traditional fête games including a tombola, guess how many sweets in the jar, guess the name of the teddy and an odd-shaped vegetable, and a hat decorating competition. Best of all was our "Baking Ballot" which promised prizes to the best sweet and savoury entrant as voted for by the guests. What started as a crafty way to get free dessert turned into a massive but good-natured competition, and the cake table was an impressive display of the finest baking talents.

Cake & Lego cake-toppers

One of the best men, Anthony, and his wife Helena made most of the food, fresh and locally-sourced from their home in the Isle of Wight, producing an enormous buffet that fed us all for days afterwards. My bridesmaid and I made the wedding cake between us and topped it with LEGO bride and groom mini-figures.

Fun n Games for all

We created all the decorations ourselves, including metres and metres of mismatched bunting from scrap material, wreaths of ribbon and paper roses and hundreds of origami paper cranes. Tables were covered with sari material to keep everything brightly coloured, with odd vases collected from charity shops and tea-light holders made from jam jars covered in material and ribbon.

Card box

The card box was an old stationary box file lined with art nouveau paper. Mark's mum and I went to Covent Garden flower market to pick out the flowers and she put them together beautifully, including my bouquet filled with hydrangea, roses, and peonies.

Homemade jam

As favours, we made over a hundred jars of homemade jam and marmalade in all kinds of crazy flavours, from banana to lime and tequila.

All smiles at the ceremony

We're married!Tell us about the ceremony: Instead of getting my dad to give me away, we walked in together to signify that we were entering into an equal partnership, side-by-side. We included three comic readings including "Mashed Potato Love Poem," a childhood favourite by Sidney Hoddes, John Cooper Clarke's "I Want To Be Yours," and finished with the Winnie the Pooh poem "Us Two." Both our mums read our favourite poems from childhood, and we ensured that everyone in the party had a role to play, from a reading to handing over rings to being the witness.

Our biggest challenge: The most difficult part was getting the balance right between tradition and having the day how we wanted. We were keen to have a nod to what people expected from a wedding, including a white dress and a three-tiered cake, but we didn't want a lot of the formality that usually goes along with it. This means we had no seating plan, no proper speeches or toasts, and no first dance. We wanted the day to flow naturally and to let the guests be comfortable and free to wander and enjoy the games, the outside, and each other. Did it meet everyone's expectations of what a wedding should be? Probably not, but it was everything we wanted our wedding to be.

I now declare you…

My favorite moment: The ceremony was probably the most meaningful. The readings during the ceremony were beautiful, and hearing the music we'd chosen was incredibly moving. We entered the room to "If I Was Your Carpenter" by the Four Tops, played Ramones' "Baby I Love You" during the register signing, and left to REM's "Shiny Happy People," which certainly brought a smile to our faces!

Cake table

My funniest moment: Probably when my bridesmaid Lorna and I remembered about an hour into the reception that we hadn't finished decorating the cake and quickly throwing together the daisies and strawberries on top to complete it! That certainly raised a few eyebrows.

Guest book…

…postcards

My advice for Offbeat Brides: You can't go wrong kicking things off with ZZ Top. The first song at our reception was "Give Me All Your Lovin'!"

Overall, I think the more you infuse the day with yourselves, the more enjoyable it will be. Don't try to second guess too much what guests will and won't like. But on the other hand, don't be too selfish and don't forget that the wedding is there for your guests too. We put a lot of thought into making sure our wedding was in a location people could get to easily, and was filled with things that they would enjoy, space to relax, and ways to entertain the kids.

Made for each other

Jessie & Mark

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  1. Everything is so beautiful and there is so much love shining through in your great photos. The dress is wonderful! Congratulations.

  2. I had to laugh when I read you forgot to finish decorating your cake because it made me remember the one thing we forgot – to put on the veil! No one remembered, no one even mentioned it, and I didn't think of it until the next day. Too funny – I mean who'd think it would be necessary to write 'PUT ON VEIL' on your wedding day to-do list?

    • That damn to-do list! We had a few next day comments to the extent of "Oh crap, we forgot to (blank)!"… but the worst one was when I realized that I forgot my DRESS at home and exclaimed that "I'm an effing idiot!!!" Had to send my sister-in-law to get it. 🙁

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