A fairy-lit black-tie wedding on the creek | Marina Island, Dubai Yacht & Golf Club
A fairy-lit black-tie wedding on the creek
Our favourite magazine editor, Helen Spearman of Good Magazine, got married to her beau recently and we are super stoked to bring our readers the low down on her special day. Helen has always been a big supporter of Bride Club ME, and when we heard she was due to wed, we were more than happy to advise. Being a staunch supporter of home-grown talent herself, it was inevitable that Helen’s wedding would incorporate local independent vendors and lots of crafty DIY.
Featuring an ice-cream van, a fabulous vintage jeep and a breath-taking gown by Catherine Deane for BHLDN, this wedding isn’t just awesome, it’s beautiful too. Enough from us – let’s pass you over to Helen, who talks us through the occasion and leaves us with some top real bride tips! Photo’s by Goldfish photography & Video .
When it came to planning our big day, there were a few surprises along the way (well, one in particular). We always intended to have two weddings – one on Christmas Eve 2013 with only close family followed by lunch at La Petite Maison, and marked November 1st 2014 in the diary for the big celebration with friends travelling from all over the world. There was a slight complication though – I fell pregnant in-between! It was a wonderful surprise, but a seven-month bump meant there had to be a bit of work on the bridal gown front…
I’ve never been one of those girls who planned their wedding from age 8 (no Monica-style ring binders here) but I’ve always known that I wanted a casual celebration, and preferably outdoors. Also, being the editor of good magazine, a title that celebrates small companies and creativity, as I started planning it became clear that we would like to incorporate local businesses and lots of personal, DIY touches to the big day.
We enlisted the help of planner Clare Ebbs from Aghareed, which was a smart move – she kept me sane and was invaluable on the day itself. Being far from home meant that Clare took over duties that might otherwise have fallen to friends and family, so her help was fantastic.
Once we had decided on the venue, things fell into place quickly. We wanted our friends and family to attend a blessing at Holy Trinity church, where we legally wed last year, enjoy some ice-creams from Desert Chill then travel to Marina Island on open top Big Bus Tour buses, for an evening of good fun and great food. After being a guest at a fair few weddings in our time, we wanted to make sure everyone had a blast – this included an open bar and buckets of flip-flops!
I was in a foul mood on the day that Nick proposed – it definitely wasn’t my finest moment. I’d had something of a meltdown about the future, and he left me to have a nap, probably hoping that I would have cheered up when he returned home. A few hours later I was in my PJs, making bunting for a friend’s new baby – and decidedly perkier. Nick sat next to me, made a wonderful speech about us being a team and how we’re stronger together, and then revealed a beautiful ruby ring asking ‘Do you want to get hitched?’.
I had another meltdown and forgot to say yes. Our dogs watched. It was chaotic, unplanned and totally us. That night we went to a friend’s birthday and tried to keep it quiet so we didn’t hijack the party, but the ring was spotted and the evening turned into a joint celebration.
The bride & groom attire…..
My dress was by Catherine Deane for BHLDN, and it was ordered before I got pregnant. You can imagine the panic. Luckily it was an empire line and I worked with a fantastic Dubai-based wedding dress designer and tailor called Suzanne Rachel to make some much-needed alterations. Shoes were by Betsey Johnson and I confess that flipflops were worn from around 6pm.
Nick has been going to Santoba tailor in Bur Dubai for years, so they made his tux, shirt and accessories, even embroidering the wedding date into the jacket.
It was important to us that our guests came to a formal blessing, so we worked with Father Tim at Holy Trinity on a ceremony that felt right. We also wanted a good sing-along with some hymns!
The hardest part of the planning was finding a venue; I didn’t want to choose somewhere that lots of friends had been married at, so we thought about a desert party, but decided on somewhere more convenient for guests.
Marina Island is a lovely little spot right on the creek, and it was a blank canvas. I also liked that guests wouldn’t dissipate over several spaces, and loved the idea of creating a ceiling of fairy lights over the tables and dancefloor. We worked with the events team there to come up with a ‘family style’ menu of Italian sharing platters, roast beef joints that could be carved at the table by designated guests (we had personalised aprons made) and cupcakes. We wanted it to feel like a family feast that you would enjoy on holiday, followed by dancing under the stars.
The wedding theme, DIY & special touches…
I wanted the whole thing to feel magical – and fairy lights definitely helped! With so many guests travelling from the UK it would have been a real shame to stick everyone in a ballroom, and the view of the Dubai skyline from the island was perfect. With buckets of hydrangeas, live music, little personal touches (including name places that featured our spaniels), plenty of food and wine, a fancy dress box and music by DJ Tim Cheddar, we aimed for an unpretentious black-tie party.
We hope the wedding felt personal from the very beginning, from the church readings and quotes on the order of service (including the lyrics from Pulp’s song Babies “Oh I want to take you home. I want to give you children. You might be my girlfriend, yeah!”) to the advice cards we asked people to fill out. Some were wise, some were eye-opening! We also had masks made of our faces so there are some pretty spooky photos of guests looking like us, while wearing floral garlands and rabbit ears.
My dad is a big lover of Land Rovers, so we surprised him with our wedding car – a vintage model from Platinum Heritage, and the Big Bus was fantastic for out of town guests, as they enjoyed a mini tour on the way to the venue.
I worked with an Australian designer I found through Etsy to create the order of service, menus, table plan and signs, then had them printed here, which worked out much more budget-friendly than using a stationery store, though there was a bit of back and forth. We made name places using photos of our dogs, then stuck them onto luggage tags that were tied to wine glasses. If they couldn’t be there in real life this was the next best thing!
The wedding cake….
Jarful provided cupcakes in jars with personalised labels, which worked really well – the venue kindly provided a cake, but we forgot to cut it! Too busy dancing…
Most enjoyable part of the planning process…
Weirdly, once we had collected everyone’s addresses I really enjoyed sitting with Nick and sending out invitations – it just made everything feel real.
Most testing part of the wedding planning process as an expat bride…
Finding a venue was tough. Every hotel tried to offer us a ‘five-star package’, which wasn’t what we had in mind at all – we didn’t want a buffet or the dreaded covered seats (and ended up hiring Tiffany chairs and oil drum cocktail tables from Innovative Hiring.) It was also a bit tricky tracking down certain items like luggage tags, so Etsy came into its own, but I was careful to order early so the UAE postal system didn’t get in the way.
Mainly, though, it was tough having my mum so far away – I really value her opinion so there were a few email discussions and she came over for a trip to give our venue the thumbs up, which meant a lot.
Top three tips for a bride-to-be…
♡ Get a planner. Whether you use their services for the whole planning process or just on the day to pull together vendors on the day, the peace of mind is well worth the money.
♡ Don’t skimp on photography. We used Goldfish Photography & Video after seeing their style online and having a ‘getting to know you’ meeting. And don’t be shy to communicate what you want to achieve with the images, or you could end up disappointed.
♡ Add a personal touch. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the luxury hotels in Dubai, and lose yourself in the process. You want your guests to feel like they were at YOUR wedding, and not just a beautiful event.
For those interested in watching Helen and Nick’s gorgeous wedding video by Goldfish Photography & Video, click here.
The Brides Little Pink Book
Venue: Marina Island, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club / Photographer: Goldfish photography & Video / Dress: Catherine Deane for BHLDN / Flowers: Dubai Garden Centre / Make-up artist: Hannah Lisa / Hair: Beauty By EDGE / Music: Adam Baluch and DJ Tim Cheddar / Transport: Platinum Heritage and Big Bus Tours / Ice-cream van: Desert Chill / Furniture hire: Innovative Hiring / Stationery design: White Willow Paper
Looking for more real wedding inspiration? Click here.