The Offbeat Bride: Polly, trainee mental health nurse
Her offbeat partner: Dave, in the Navy
Date and location of wedding: Plymouth Hoe and The Refectory Bar at the Plymouth Gin Distillery, Plymouth, UK — 06/05/2013
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
For legal and budget reasons, we had to get married on short notice. I wasn't working at the time, and we couldn't afford to have the wedding of our dreams at an idyllic venue with catering and a band and real live human people sharing our joy.
Dave wanted to get married in Vegas. I'm a swing dancer so I wanted a vintage theme with pretty food, teacups, a blues/jazz band, dancing, a pretty frock, and some victory rolls. I moved to the UK from Dubai to be with him a year ago and, even if we could afford to get weddinged “properly,” I would have struggled to assemble a guest list of my nearest and dearest, who are speckled across the globe. So we compromised… and improvised.
An electric blue '50s-inspired cocktail dress from a High Street retailer chose me and gave me the idea of incorporating a nautical feel to our day, with Dave being a sailor and us living in Plymouth.
Our intimate wedding began with a short, civil ceremony at the Plymouth Register Office, followed by a leisurely stroll along the Plymouth Hoe, where we read our vows in the elusive Great British sunshine overlooking the sea.
We continued down the cobble-stoned Barbican (famous district with quirky little shops, fish and chip places, and people out for a pint), to the historic Plymouth Gin Distillery for snazzy cocktails, a secretly ordered chocolate duck wedding cake, and a surprise first dance to our favourite song played on piano.
Tell us about the ceremony:
Coming from cultures with very different traditions, Dave and I have always felt strongly about following our own path and creating our own traditions. We weren't particularly bothered about being historically accurate with our attire as long as we felt like a million bucks on the day and our looks complemented each other.
Dave is not a suit/tux kinda guy so, much to his parents' horror, it was jeans and rolled sleeves for him all the way, smartened up with a waistcoat. It was important to me that he very much felt part of the planning process and that he felt comfortable in himself on the day. We are both last-minute people and, in true form, we found our two mandatory witnesses 45 minutes before the ceremony: an old shipmate of Dave's from the pub and a lady who closed her handbag shop on the Barbican to witness us getting hitched.
We were so lucky that our registrar was a lady with a smashing sense of humour and glam style. There was a funny moment when she fumbled pronouncing my complicated maiden name and made us all laugh. It was great that she picked up on our vibe and made a serious occasion match our personalities.
We had written our vows separately, and reading them was a very intimate moment. When Dave read his, he did the same thing he did the first time he “said” “I love you”: he held my hand on his heart without saying a word. This choked me up so much I've never been so grateful for waterproof mascara.
Tell us about your reception:
Even though we had no reception or guests, it felt like we were sharing our special day with all of Plymouth as we walked down the Hoe. We're a people-watchy couple, so this felt so authentic. People were congratulating us and stopping to take pictures. Some thought we were modelling in a photo shoot as we had a photographer following us around.
I had secretly ordered a little two-person chocolate brownie cake with a white chocolate duck topper from a local cafe/chocolatier. At home, we have a whole bookcase full of ducks collected over the years from our travels, and they have a special significance to us. The look on Dave's face was priceless when we saw it.
But nothing could top his reaction to hearing the pianist at the cocktail bar playing a familiar tune. Unbeknownst to him, what he thought was the bar's entertainment was actually a pianist who had volunteered to learn and come in to play our song (Train's “Hey Soul Sister”) so that we could have a real first dance, a tradition I felt so fortunate to be able to incorporate. Dave is not a dancer so the only way to have a dance was to bring out the big guns and ambush him by making him an offer he simply couldn't refuse.
What was your most important lesson learned?
We had three weeks to plan our little intimate wedding and to come to grips with the bureaucracy of English marriage law. I also underwent a short mourning period for the wedding of my dreams that was about to elude me. Thinking back on it now, it feels like all the uncertainty should have felt quite scary. But actually, there was something surprisingly liberating about just… going with it. With a bit of luck, a bit of planning, and the blessing of the good ol' unpredictable Great British weather, we ended up incorporating every single element that mattered to us, even if they all took on a bit of an unexpected form.
We just celebrated our second anniversary, and I am comforted by a feeling of acceptance of the wedding that didn't happen the way I imagined. I actually no longer care for that dream wedding. Our real wedding couldn't have been more genuine and true to ourselves. It's as if it had been written in our stars.
I enjoyed every step of the planning with Dave, concentrating on getting our little celebration “just right.” When we stripped away all the fanfare, what was left was the stuff that really mattered. I usually get stressed planning stuff, so I was surprised at how naturally things unfolded when I just LET things happen and let go of my preconceived checklist.
- Photographer: Michael Crowe
- Venue: The Refectory Bar
- Flowers: H. Watts Florist
- Cake: Chocaccino
- Polly's hair: Chameleons
- Polly's dress: Coast
- Polly's shoes: Irregular Choice
- Polly's veil and gloves: Vintage Styler
- Polly's bag: New Look
- Dave's shirt and jeans: Debenhams
- Dave's waistcoat: Burton Menswear
- Dave's peak cap: Vintage & Retro Plymouth
- Dave's shoes: Deichmann