TELL US THE STORY OF HOW YOU MET
Daniel and I like to think we have quite the little love story, but it certainly wasn’t without its challenges. We met at a houseparty, and to this day we both remember feeling something we hadn’t really felt before. A connection we couldn’t explain.
We continued to meet after the house party and found we fell for each other hard and fast, but there was a constant cloud hanging over us which was the fact that Daniel would finish his studies at university in a couple of months and had to return to Cuba. We tried to ignore the feelings we had knowing it couldn’t work out. A month after meeting I had a very serious health scare in hospital. It changed my perspective, I realised what was important, and convinced Daniel to move in – knowing he had to leave in 2 months.
When Daniel left the UK it was incredibly hard. We had immigration experts tell us to give up and that we couldn’t be together again. We ignored the odds and fought hard to be together, with many sleepless nights trying to find options. I flew to Cuba to spend some time with Daniel, since there was almost no internet there, and not being able to communicate with each other made it even more difficult. Eventually Daniel was able to come back to the UK on business for a British fashion magazine. We lived together for a further 6 months, and at the end Daniel proposed to me in the middle of Trafalgar Square, surprising me with all of my friends holding gold balloons spelling “Marry Me” in front of a huge crowd. It was an incredible moment we will never forget.
NOW ABOUT THE BIG DAY! WHAT WAS THE THEME AND INSPIRATION? HOW DID THE DAY LOOK LIKE? DID YOU STYLE IT YOURSELF?
It was really important to us that we had elements in the wedding that would combine our two cultures and languages. We had dreams of a beautiful traditional British style wedding but with some real twists to add in a surprising Cuban touch that the guests wouldn’t expect. We aimed for an elegant, sophisticated setting with a great emphasis on the small details. There was an underlying theme of navy and burgundy to tie in the colours of our two flags which were featured on the cake. For the British side of things we had a quintessentially British castle-feel venue and an elegant ceremony setting. We brought in the Cuban touches by having part of the ceremony in Spanish, with Adam saying his vows in Spanish. We also had a Cuban inspired starter, with all the tables named after places in Cuba accompanied by mini rum bottles. The biggest surprise we had was our wedding dance, which we will touch on later.
TELL US ABOUT THE CEREMONY AND RECEPTION LOCATIONS. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE VENUE AND WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
I think for us this wedding day was important for so many reasons because it represented a milestone in so many journeys. This included the journey we had taken just to be together against all odds, and the journey our parents had taken in accepting who we were and being so supportive of us as a couple. For us it was like a fairytale, and when we saw the venue online, Horsley Towers, it seemed like the perfect place for this.
We went to view it in person and we were blown away. It was like a beautiful quirky castle on a lake and it had such a British traditional undertone that would be a perfect canvas for our ideas. The ceremony room had a beautiful high ceiling and church feel to it, and the rest of the rooms had an English manor country house feel. We viewed 4 more venues after this but in our hearts we knew we had already found it. Also we had exclusive hire meaning all our guests would stay there overnight without anyone else being there.
We would also like to give a huge shoutout to the wedding team there. They went above and beyond, accommodated a TV Show, and nothing was too much to ask.
We spent a long time searching for suit ideas for two grooms and we struggled. It seemed either both grooms wore the same thing, or would wear two different suits that didn’t always connect how we would like them to. After a lot of playing around on photoshop we came up with the idea of burgundy and navy custom made suits to have the same small details, and then matching dogtooth waistcoats and ties to clearly link everything together. We used a company called The Drop to make the suits and waistcoats, and had some final adjustments made when they arrived to really get a good fit. We got our matching socks and ties from TM Lewin. The shoes were both from Dune. The burgundy and navy also tied in with our subtle theme which linked everything to our two national flags.
We had 6 groomsmaids and this was the really tricky part. How do you find a dress all 6 girls of all different shapes and sizes would like? We knew we wanted them in white, just as it would be something a bit different and be the final piece to our white, burgundy and navy theme. Actually we took a huge gamble and found a very reasonably priced dress from one of those Chinese companies online everyone is afraid to use (you see horror stories of dresses arriving in lime green). We ordered a test one first, and realised with the money we saved on the dress we could get them all tailored to individually fit each girl perfectly. We then had our seamstress add a navy ribbon to three of them to match Adam, and Burgundy to three of them to match Daniel.
FLOWERS & DECORATIONS
Our flowers were done by Blakes of Bookham, who regularly do the flowers for Horsley Towers. We opted for all white and what can we say apart from wow…..they absolutely blew us away with the flowers they made for us all over the venue. There was a beautiful feature up the staircase, tall pedestal flowers in the ceremony that we had moved to the wedding breakfast after, and small details everywhere else that were breath taking. We are so grateful to them for all they did.
We also had the lovely Confetti and Lace do our chair sashes to make the ceremony room even more perfect, with each chair having alternating navy and burgundy ribbons on the back. The exact same ribbon was then used in the ceremony program fans that we made ourselves (with the help of our patient family). These were a great way of presenting the program as a keepsake that would also keep everyone cool. They turned out to be very useful as it was the hottest day of the year!
There were other areas we did DIY in the wedding. We made our own miniature rum bottles as wedding favours to tie in with the Cuban theme, right down to the detail of designing and printing the labels on special craft paper. Designed a custom hashtag sign for the photobooth, sparkler tags, and all the wedding signage. We also worked with a menu printing company to design custom gold embossed table name signs which were all places in Cuba, and matching cards on the table that had useful Spanish phrases and fun facts about our relationship.
Our cake maker, Nia Cummings, was an absolute gem of a find. Not only are her cakes a piece of art, Nia is incredibly modest and still doesn’t yet realise how incredible her work is. She took a genuine passion in making this cake perfect. We actually designed it on photoshop first as we wanted to use the cake to pull our burgundy and navy theme together, in an elegant way with our two flags on the top in burgundy and navy. Nia had the idea of adding our two country’s national flowers onto the cake, and she perfectly reproduced our design and in many ways made it even better than we could have imagined. It was a very unique cake that wasn’t overly effeminate but still had the beauty of a wedding cake.
WHAT WAS WAS THE ENTERTAINMENT?
We hired a brilliant swing style band called The Doodlebugs, as we loved their vintage take on modern classics. They agreed to learn something VERY different to their usual repertoire for us, which was the Latin themed “Let’s get loud” by Jennifer Lopez. We tricked the guests by picking a very slow, traditional first dance at first. 10 seconds in we pretend to walk up to the band and complain it was too slow, and suddenly we both threw off our jackets and jumped into a salsa style first dance we had choreographed with Karen Hauer. It was so much fun learning this first dance, and if there was place to really bring in the Cuban theme we knew this was it. The band did a great job of learning the song to the exact same tempo as the original, and given that it was our first time doing the dance with them rather than a track it all went to plan!
YOUR WEDDING PLANNER
This was where our wedding had a bit of a twist. During our planning process we were approached by the production team of The Wedding Fixer, a reality TV show for W Channel. In this brand new TV Show, one of the world’s most famous wedding planners, Sarah Haywood, joined couples in their wedding planning journey to help them make their wedding the perfect day. She wouldn’t take on the full role as a “planner” so to speak, but she would help with her useful advice, fix a few problems, and cast a watchful eye on the day to make sure it all ran smoothly. We would be fools to turn down the help of someone named the No.1 International Wedding Planner by Vogue, so of course we jumped at the chance.
We planned and saved up for our whole wedding in a matter of months so we were often working 7 days a week, long hours. This meant that adding in a reality TV show throughout our whole journey was admittedly at times a lot to handle, but it certainly made the whole thing even more of an experience.
Sarah Haywood found that if anything we were maybe even too organised and there wasn’t a lot for her to “fix” from a planning perspective, however she provided valuable advice on detaching a little and enjoying the process more. She booked Strictly Come Dancing’s Karen Hauer to help us choreograph our first dance, and a private pod on the London Eye for our parents to bond in one of their first meetings. On the day she was invaluable, making adjustments to the wedding breakfast decor to give it a real edge.
One of the most valuable parts of the whole show was it left us with a precious documentary of our whole journey. So many couples have a video of their wedding day, but the time leading up to it is a distant blur. Daniel and I have a permanent keepsake that includes the moment we heard his parents got the visa to come to the wedding (which was incredibly emotional for us), learning our first dance, our parents coming together and much more. It’s so rare to have all these things on video and we know we will watch it back for years to come.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
We spent a lot of time researching photographers. And we mean, a LOT. When we found Nick we knew we were onto a winner. Many wedding photographers have a stunning selection of shots on their front page, but with Nick it became clear when you went into the online albums for each wedding that every single picture he took was front page worthy. We met with him before the wedding and he had an excellent understanding of how to use light. We may be biased but we think these are some of the most beautiful photos we have ever seen, and he managed to avoid our team of 3 videographers and the TV crew of 9 people for the wedding TV show in all the photos. Not an easy achievement!
Much like the photographer we spent a several days just searching for the perfect videographers. We came across Manmade Films, a family company of three who had won numerous awards and their wedding videos really told a story, with a cinematic quality. Our wedding was really story focused, and we knew they would be perfect to capture it. We also really wanted someone with a drone to capture the beauty of the venue. We were absolutely blown away by their wedding video. It was a work of art, with the Ellen the celebrant’s speech narrating the beginning clips, and our speeches overlaid with the beautiful clips later on. They listened to the vision we had and created something so perfect.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD SOMETHING WE DIDN’T LIST ABOVE THAT’S YOUR MOMENT
Something we would really recommend to couples if they can is to write their own vows, and keep it a secret until the day. Let someone else read over them to check they are a similar length. For us it was a very special moment, reading our vows to each other, saying how we felt.
We used a Photo Booth company called Openbooths who are amazing because their photos were studio quality, and it was an open set up where you could watch the guests having fun. They even let us design custom faceplates for the camera device so it matched our theme.
WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT AND MOST FUN PART FOR YOU?
For us the biggest dream we had was simply getting all of Daniel’s family at the wedding, despite the many visa hurdles it would take. Having both our families meet and spend time together was more than we could have ever asked for, and having them all there at the wedding was simply incredible. Daniel’s parents showed us they unconditional love from the beginning and It was so important to us for them to be a substantial part of the day.
There was also a silver lining to what seemed to be a difficult situation. On the wedding day, Adam was incredibly ill with a stomach bug, and was sadly being sick every half an hour throughout the day. We managed to hide it from the guests despite the fact it got worse as the day went on. During the wedding breakfast we had to sneak off to a small room at the back whilst Adam was very ill. This moment for us was weirdly very special. It gave us a private moment together, on our wedding day. This was a blessing that occurred from the tricky timing of Adam’s illness. We laugh that Daniel’s first husband duty was looking after a very poorly Adam half an hour after getting married. We think it’s cute.
WOULD YOU HAVE ANY PIECE OF ADVICE FOR COUPLES PLANNING THEIR WEDDING?
The first thing sounds cliché but it’s true – there will always be things that you simply can’t control. The best thing you can do is be super organised before the wedding day, make sure everyone knows what they are doing, so that on the day you can simply let go. If it goes wrong, it’s all a funny part of the story. Use the help of your wedding party to give them responsibilities and make sure each person is overseeing something so that you can relax.
Detail makes for a beautiful day, but don’t get so caught up on it that you can’t enjoy the process. Remember what this is all really about, and enjoy every minute of it!
Finally, and this will sound incredibly cheesy – if you have enough faith and love, ANYTHING is possible. You can absolutely move mountains to be with the person you love. If anyone reading this is facing the problems of a long distance relationship, please don’t lose hope. It can be scary. The visas can feel impossible. It can be hard work and really test you as a couple, but one day when you have the wedding day of your dreams, it will all be worth it.
Venue: Horsley Towers
Photography: Nick Parker – Parkershots
Wedding planner: Sarah Haywood
Celebrant: Ellen Bower
Suits: The Drop
Accessories: TM Lewin
Hair & Make up: Fran Straker
Flowers: Blakes of Bookham
Cake: Nia Cummings
Music: Palatine String Quartet
Photo booth: Openbooths
Wedding website: Minted
Check out other gorgeous real weddings on our blog!