Real Weddings: Francesca and Nathan’s Relaxed Day

Happy Friday Cwtchers!

Ah, we have such a pretty, relaxed, happy wedding for you to start your weekend off with a big smile.  Shot by the lovely Heledd Roberts, Francesca and Nathan share their big day details with us.  Over to you two….

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Francesca and Nathan’s Relaxed Day

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How would you describe your wedding theme?

To be honest we didn’t really have a theme. We wanted a relaxed feel to the day and wanted to have as much input into the whole day.

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What was your favourite part of your wedding?

EVERYTHING! From the 6am wake up call to the 3am hot tub party with friends! We has such a blast! We wanted the wedding weekend to be based on love, life, and laughter, and we certainly achieved this!

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Tell us about your Wedding Dress

The dress was from Karen Lesley Bridal Shop based in Northrop. It was the first and only bridal shop I went to! The staff were amazing and nothing was too much trouble. I had no idea what I wanted, and after trying on a fair few I went back to the first dress! It was a Mori Lee, and was simply stunning with the lace details. My Mum and sister came with me and were very helpful.

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Who did you pick as your bridesmaids &/or best man and why?

I had two bridesmaids, my younger sister Laura and Nathan’s sister Monique. They were amazing and so laid back about it all. from the bridesmaid dress fittings to the day itself they were so helpful and kept me calm.

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Nathan had his best friend since school Gaz as the best man. We couldn’t of had a better best man! He made us laugh and cry during the speeches and was such a great support for Nathan on the day! Nathan will be playing the part of best man for Gaz next year for his own wedding! We have to mention the ushers! Ben, Ronnie, Anton, Adam, and JV!

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They all have been such a big part of Nathan’s life and it meant so much they played a key part during the day! They were all amazing and looked very smart in their Ted Baker suits!

Why did you choose your venue?

We were married in the Marble Church in Bodelwyddan. Both our families had strong links to the couch and it meant a lot to be married there as my Mum and Dad were married there 33 years ago. It is a beautiful church.

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We choose Pentre Mawr Country House in Llandyrnong as our wedding reception. It was the first and only venue we visited! We fell in love with the place as soon as we arrived, and Bre and Graham (the owners) treated us like family! Nothing was too much trouble and they always were happy to help and get stuck in. It is a beautiful country house with cottages and even safari lodges (very posh glamping) for guest to stay in!

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It boosted large grounds with beautiful views and of course a marquee with a newly converted barn attached for the dance floor. Myself and Nathan come from large families, and with having 130 guests in the daytime itself we were looking for a venue that provided the space but also freedom to do what we wanted.

Tell us about your photographer

Where do I begin? Heledd Roberts is AMAZING! A very talented young lady who captured our day perfectly. We aren’t a posey couple, we wanted a very relaxed and natural photographer, Heledd was just perfect for this. The photographs are truly stunning and she has done such a perfect job on capturing very special moments.

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How did the proposal happen? 

Our proposal isn’t the most romantic, but it always makes me laugh looking back at it. I had just finished 3 night shifts in the hospital and Nathan had told me before I headed to bed that morning that he was off with Gaz to collect some new fence panels for our home. I thought nothing of it as Nathan was always doing DIY around the house. I woke up a few hours later and Nathan asked if I wanted to pop out for tea that night. We headed out and Nathan randomly stopped at local beach (Rhos On Sea). He asked if I would like to get out and go for a stroll along the promenade before our meal. However, being slightly post night grumpy and in need of food I declined and said no! Poor Nathan got out, opened the boot and came back to the car with a clogau gold box. His plan had back fired and couldn’t get down on one knee, so he opened the box and there was a beautiful welsh gold engagement ring! I was shocked, and felt awful that Nathan’s plan didn’t work. After a lot of tears and laughter I said YES!

Any DIY stories/tutorials you’d like to share?

I just love EBay and a good bargain! I did a lot of DIY things mysellf and with the help of lovely family and friends. I wanted a personal touch on the decor and enjoyed looking for ideas on Pinterest! On the Thursday night before the wedding myself and Nathan (with the help of our brilliant family) set up the wedding venue, it was so much fun!

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What was your first dance & why?

Our first dance was sung by an amazing singer called Samwise. He sang a cover of “Can’t help falling in love with you’ on the ukulele. Choosing a song was tricky but we finally found the one which had so much meaning and felt right. It was amazing, and everyone got involved and even sang along. The dance floor was packed!

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In hindsight, was there anything you would have done differently?

Not at all! I just wish we had longer. The day really does go fast!

Do you have any advice for future couples?

Enjoy every moment, the day really does fly by! Try and find some time just for the two of you during the day!

What’s the best piece of marriage advice you received?

Remember the day is about you two, and nobody else! It had rained all morning on the day but I was not going to let that spoil the day. I was marrying my best friend and love of my life, that was all that mattered.

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What was your favourite thing about planning a wedding?

We planned our wedding over a two year period, and a lot of things were booked very early, which helped! It was interesting learning new things about each other, although we have been together 6 years. Both me and Nathan have strengths and weakness, it tested the water for sure! Overall it made us stronger as a couple!

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The Suppliers

Photographer: Heledd Roberts Photography
Videographer: Theo Woodford-Dyer Videographer
Ceremony Venue: St Margarets Church, Bodelwyddan
Reception Venue: Pentre Mawr Country House, Llandyrnog
Bride’s Dress: Mori Lee
Bride’s Shoes: Not on the Highstreet
Bride’s Headpiece: Accessorize
Bride’s Jewellery: Not on the Highstreet
Groom’s Outfit: Ted Baker
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Dorothy Rose Bridal Shop 
Bridesmaid’s Accessories: River Island
Cake: Sarah Radcliffe (friend)
Flowers: Haf’s Floral Design
Hair: Fabienne at Hush
Make Up: Anna Baxter Make Up
Band: Samwise
DJ: Red Rooster Disco
Stationery: Paperchase
Caterers: Brooke House Mill (Denbigh)
Any Reception Decor/Props: Haf’s Floral Design
Transport: Just Rolls

The Wedding Album

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Sponsored Post: Top Tips when Choosing Your Wedding Band

Morning Cwtchers!

So hows all that planning going? Reached the ‘what on earth are we going to do for music in the evening?!’ stage yet?

Well panic no further, as we have Adam from Bands for Hire, here to help!  Bands for Hire are a music agency providing live bands for every occasion. From function and wedding band hire to swing and jazz bands, they have picked the very best on offer.

As a one stop entertainment agency, they also provide String quartets, Wedding Musicians and DJs for hire. 

Clearly, Adam is qualified to offer you some awesome tips when choosing your wedding band! Over to you Adam…

Sponsored Post Banner Choosing a Band

Top Tips when Choosing Your Wedding Band

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Like many soon-to-wed couples, one of the most important aspects of your wedding day may well be the music; the ceremony songs, background music and live band will become the sound track to your big day, and ultimately the soundtrack to your lives. With this in mind, along with the often large sums of money spent on entertainment, it’s vital to choose wisely.

A quick search on the internet for live wedding bands in your area and you will most certainly be presented with an overwhelming selection of bands, each one of various standards. Deciphering through the various websites will require some time, so grab a glass of red and get comfortable, you are about to hear more renditions of Uptown Funk and Mr Brightside than you ever thought possible.

So what steps can you take to ensure you’re making the right choice? These days it’s all too easy to throw up a website, bash out a few demos and call yourself a wedding band but as with every trade, there are various degrees of professionalism and there are a number of ways to root out the good from the bad.

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First Impressions are important

As a general rule of thumb, I find that if a band has gone to great effort and expense to produce high quality demos, videos and photos, then that is usually a good start. Putting together promotional material is a significant investment which demonstrates a professional attitude and serious intentions.

Compare Quotes

Whilst price isn’t always an indicator of quality, many bands will eventually settle at a price point that reflects their popularity and quality. The most experienced bands will inevitably quote more for their services so decide on what you can afford and work around your budget.

Ask for reviews and testimonials

Experienced bands will usually have testimonials available from previous clients, the more reviews the better as this will provide you with a good insight into their live performance as well as their communication. Not all agencies publish testimonials so don’t be afraid to investigate further if you can’t find any online.

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Are the band with an agency?

If a band is represented by a credible agency, then this is often a good sign, however, this then begs the question ‘how to spot a credible agency?’. Here are a few things to look out for:

  1. Is the agency a limited company and do they have a registered company number displayed on their website? If so, look them up on the Companies House website.

  2. Is the agency VAT registered? This can be a strong indication that the company has been around a while and will still be here on your wedding day.

  3. Does the company have reviews online that you can read from independent sources, i.e. Google and Facebook?

  4. How long has the company been operating for?

Quotes from agencies may occasionally be slightly higher than booking a band directly, but on the biggest day of your life, it’s comforting to know that a credible company is only a phone call away.

Check the Set List before booking

When researching bands, be sure to look into their repertoire and set lists to get a better idea about their performance. The majority of wedding bands cater for a mixed group of ages, so whilst you may want the majority of the music to be to your tastes, keep an open mind to ensure all guests will be kept entertained.

Watch the band live if possible

If a band is local and are putting on a showcase event then it’s a great idea to watch them live. However, the most popular bands in the industry don’t tend to perform any public gigs at all and so watching them live will unfortunately not be possible. Using promotional material and other aforementioned factors are usually the best way to judge a band’s professionalism.

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Communication is important

Whether you choose to book directly with a band or through an agency, good communication is essential. If a band takes a week to reply to your emails you’re going to feel frustrated and planning could get stressful. Decide on a band that you feel confident is on your wavelength and will be easy to deal with.

Final checks before booking

Before confirming your chosen band, it’s worth going through the following points with your band and venue first:

Insurance: All wedding bands should come with full Public Liability Insurance (PLI) to protect them from potential injury claims.

PAT Certificate: Your venue may also require PAT certificates for the band’s gear so check that the band have this.

Sound Requirements: Ask your venue if they have any specific sound requirements, it’s very common for a venue to have a sound limiter installed and if so, you’ll need to check that your band are comfortable with this.

Space: Is there sufficient space at the venue? As a general rule I usually recommend approximately a meter width for each band member and three meters depth. So, a 5-piece band might need 5 x 3 meters in total.

Band Rider: Does your band have a rider? 99% of musicians will request a meal before they perform and this should be outlined in their contract.

It’s time to start your search!

With all of this in mind, don’t forget the most important tip at all – choose a band that you love and that you feel has the perfect vibe to suit your day.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Cwtch the Bride only accepts sponsored posts from companies we think will be useful to you :) 

Bride to be Diaries: Introducing The Sporty Bride

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Hello everybody!

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I waved wildly at my computer screen after writing that which pretty much sums me up…mental!

I was very lucky to be selected as a ‘Bride to Be’ Blogger by the Cwtch team. Having followed this blog for a long time (long before I was engaged…) I’m so excited to share my journey with you all now it’s finally my turn to plan a wedding. This is my introduction post so you can get to know me a little bit better!

I’ve been coined ‘The Sporty Bride’ which is pretty much perfect really seeing as I love my rugby and am a tad obsessed with fitness. I put on a lot of weight whilst I was in university studying to be a physiotherapist, and subsequently lost 5 stone in 2012 after graduating.

Ever since then I’ve loved trying new sports and entering events (from 5k runs to full IRONMAN triathlons) to see what wonderful things my body can do.

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My current obsession being Yoga! I’ve been on a very long journey about self-belief, learning to love myself and my body (most of the time).

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I’m 27 and live in Swansea with my partner, Matthew. I work as a physiotherapist in a spinal injury/neurological rehabilitation unit as well as the head physiotherapist for Welsh Premiership rugby union team, the Bridgend Ravens and Ospreys U18 age grade.

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Matthew is the Elite Rugby Coordinator for the Welsh Rugby Union, he’ll often tell you it’s a lot less glamourous than it sounds but I know he works very hard and I’m very proud of him. Our paths cross quite often professionally and it adds another dynamic to our relationship altogether at times but makes for an interesting life!

We are a very social couple and love our rugby and a drink (or seven…). Matthew proposed to me on March 12th 2016. It was a Saturday and I had been working in the early afternoon. I agreed to meet Matt in the pub after work to watch the rugby, Wales vs England. When I arrived, Matthew took my hand and led me to a quiet spot. I remember being stressed because I hadn’t had time to tidy myself up having come straight from work – I was just about ready to tell him to let me go put ‘my face’ on when I saw how nervous he looked and suddenly I had butterflies.
He handed me a wrapped present; a copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price with a ribbon tied around it. When I opened the book, there was a square cut out and a ring was nestled in chapter 15 titled ’The Unbreakable Vow’ (Oh yeah…HUGE Harry Potter Fan).
I went into shock. He went down on one knee and asked the question. I couldn’t believe it, so much so my hands were shaking and I couldn’t speak but managed to say ‘of course’.

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Matt had arranged all our family and friends to be in the pub that day and so we got to go tell them all our good news at the same time! Wales lost the Rugby but, in all fairness, I can’t say I paid much attention to the game for the first time in my life!

Our Wedding is booked for the 4th of August 2018. 2016 was very eventful for us… we got engaged and became first-time buyers as well so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to plan and pay for (*groan*) the wedding of our dreams. We both wanted a big wedding full of family, friends and good times. Seeing as we are both fiercely proud welsh people there was no question about having our wedding in lovely little Wales.

As I spend most of my life in tracksuits and polo-shirts either in my rehab unit, working out or on the side of a muddy rugby pitch in pouring welsh rain looking like a reject from the ‘Gremlins’ movie; my wedding is the perfect chance to live out every feminine, girly fantasy I ever had. I’m sure that many people that know me might think they are at the wrong wedding when they rock up on the day. Many people are surprised to know that under my usually athletic, minimal make up, easy going self is a little girl that dreamed of a sparkly, glamourous and elegant wedding.

I’m also hoping to somehow incorporate our love of sport and wales into our plans…could be an interesting combination! I desperately want my wedding to look as good as my pinterest board does haha! (By the way…I wasn’t kidding about the gremlin look…)

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I hope that all you enjoy sharing our journey with us as much as we will enjoy sharing it with you- I’m going to be as honest as I can and hopefully not boring!

Hwyl for now- I’m off out for a run! N x

Cwtch of the Week: A Golden Hour Cwtch

Hello Cwtchers!

To get over all that chocolate we have managed to consume over the Easter holidays,  we have an absolutely stunning Cwtch of the Week to share with you all.  Shot by the very talented and lovely Sheetal Varsani, the shot is of Sarika and Dipesh, enjoying a lovely moment on the beach, as the sun goes down, during their engagement shoot. I will hand over to Sheetal to tell you more about the shoot. Enjoy!

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A Beach Sunset Cwtch

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A week before their Civil Ceremony, I travelled down to Ogmore-By-Sea with Sarika & Dipesh to catch the sunset for their pre-wedding shoot. Despite the weather forecast being a bit iffy, these two were happy to embrace the cold wind and drizzle.

They were even brave enough to get into the ocean!

Having documented their Chandlo Engagement last year, it’s always a joy to have these two in front of my camera.

I’m really looking forward to capturing their official marriage at Cardiff City Hall and can’t wait to share more photos!

And as for us, we have the whole engagement shoot that we cannot wait to show off to you! I will be chasing Sheetal for those wedding images too! x

Please Help Our Boobless Bride Dawn And Her Family

If you followed Dawn’s Bride to Be ‘Boobless Bride’ Diary posts last year, you will know what an incredibly terrifying and heartbreaking journey she has been on.  You will have also read how her & Steve’s love story went viral and was seen online by millions.

Today, It is with a very heavy heart I write this post.

I’ve sat here for hours trying to find the right words but nothing seems to be working. The tears just roll.

My Cwtch Girls are like sisters to me, best friends, the bridesmaids I never had. The success of Cwtch The Bride has never been down to me. It’s these incredible women that work with me. We all ride this wave together. So when one of my Cwtch Girls are hurt, so am I.

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Owen Mathias Photography

Last week we were given some devastating news that left us all numb. We didn’t really know how to process it. We cried, we sat there speechless and felt utterly helpless. I wanted to scream and post angry statuses across the blog but I couldn’t find the words. We also needed to get Cwtchfest out of the way before we shared this.

Our brave and inspiring Boobless Bride Dawn had found a new lump. For anyone, finding a lump of any kind is scary. However, When you’ve already battled triple negative Breast Cancer, lost both breasts and survived… this lump brought with it a terrifying new fear.

Dawn let me feel the lump. It was small, about the size of a Cadbury mini egg (sorry… theres a bag of them on my desk and it’s the only thing I can see that’s similar in size). This lump isn’t going away either. It brought with it the devastating news that her cancer is back. Only this time, its worse….it’s incurable and doctors have told her she may only have two years left.

Please let that sink in for a moment. TWO YEARS!

Today, I’m asking for your help. I’m sharing Dawn & Steve’s beautiful wedding again which I had the honour of photographing. They haven’t even celebrated their first wedding anniversary yet.  I want you all to look at each and every photograph and think about how special every moment of this day is. The beauty of life is not seen in staged photographs, its in the everyday moments. The laughter, the tears, the things we don’t realise we take for granted. Our Time.

We all know a wedding day is special yet i’m now learning just how special EVERY day is. Every moment we get to share with loved ones is precious, we just don’t realise how much until we’re told our time is being taken away.

Dawn has two beautiful Daughters Imogen & Maddie whom I’ve gotten to know very well. What makes this all the more heartbreaking is that the girls father (Dawn’s ex), is in the advanced stages of Huntingtons Disease (a progressive brain disorder) and the children are facing the prospect of losing both parents before their teenage years. (This breaks my heart)

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Maria Farrelly Photography

How can we help?

Just Giving page has been set up for Dawn and her family. If there is one thing you could do for her right now, Its donate what you can to help fund some very special memories her children need to make with her right now. In the past week (thanks to donations),  Dawn has has already been able to start creating happy memories with her girls. The media are also following this story and helping to raise awareness. But we need to do more.

Dawn asked me to photograph her entire family together last saturday, it was something very important to her. She wanted me to create some fabulous images of her family together before her chemo starts and she loses her hair. (Damn that was so hard to write) I’ll be sharing the images very soon.

Helen from Do you Believe invited Dawn & Imogen into the boutique to try on some wedding dresses. A special moment every daughter cherishes with their mother.

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We are planning to organise something very special for Dawn and are asking all our readers and fabulous wedding businesses to come forward and work with us on this. If you’d like to get involved please email us directly here and don’t forget to donate

PLEASE HELP US TO HELP DAWN x

Many thanks,

Maria x 

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Real Weddings: Our Boobless Bride Dawn, and Steve’s Perfect Day

Maria Farrelly got to witness their day, and capture it, makes it even more wonderful.

What was your budget? 

We need to keep the costs as low as possible as I have been off work for over 18 months.  But realistically I think it came in at around £7,000.

How would you describe your wedding theme?

As you already know I have been battling breast cancer for almost 2 years now. In August 2015 I was awaiting very serious scan results to see if the cancer had spread.  A terminal diagnosis would have overshadowed any future plans, I had always wanted to take the children to Disney so thought – right now, I am not terminally ill so would embrace the opportunity to have a carefree time with my girls.  So, with one of my closest friends Marie and her daughter Isabella in tow, we headed off to Euro Disney. Although it should have been the most frightening time of my life, somehow I barely thought of the scan results.  The magic of Disney completely consumed us and we had the best time. One of the days we were there, the children were playing in the Alice and Wonderland Maze.  I can remember feeling so full of love, hope and determination – after all I have so much to live for.  So, when Steve proposed to me it just seemed absolutely right for the theme to be Alice in Wonderland. Not only was it such a positive memory for me with the children, it married well with my love of vintage clothes and big Petticoats!

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What was your favourite part of your wedding?

I know this is going to sound ridiculously cheesy but for me the best part of the wedding was having all of my loved ones and friends with us to celebrate not only the wedding but getting through the previous 18 months.  It felt like both families really united and all our friends came together to have one hell of a party.  The band were incredible… everyone danced the whole night long.

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However, there were two moments that were particularly special for me on the day…

I organised a balloon release in memory of my father.  All guests had a balloon with a label on saying a guests name, the details of the wedding and an email address to tell us how far the balloon had travelled. All of my friends and loved ones gathered on the golf course, each holding a different coloured balloon in memory of his name. Instead of crying I stood proud and watched every balloon slowly float to the clouds – hoping that my dad would see them pass by. Unknown to me at the time, the guests were eagerly trying to find out who had their balloon and it acted as an ice breaker and became their favourite part too.  I would never have dreamed when I planned this part of the wedding that it would become the most special part for me. Each balloon symbolised hope, love and freedom.  It was not sinister or morbid, it was a happy moment with my father close in my thoughts and resulted in one of my favourite photos of the day.

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The second moment that was particularly special to me was captured by Maria.  Steve was saving for a VW Camper before he met me, I kind of ruined his plans.  Instead of a vehicle symbolic of freedom and carefree life, he bought an engagement ring and wedding symbolic of restriction and responsibility.  So I decided, I wouldn’t have a stuffy wedding car.  I would hire a vintage VW camper.  So I started ringing around and all of the companies I spoke to quoted over £600 to simply pick me up and take me to the first venue.  So then I discovered ‘Split the Difference’.  A couple who manage a company that hire out VW Campervans.  For the same money I could hire the camper…for a week!!!!  Bosh!!!!  Wedding car and honeymoon sorted in one go.  So… mad you may think, the day before the wedding.  Beth and I (my Maid of Honour) set off from Newport to Wrexham to collect ‘Jessie’ our beautiful camper.  A very slow and long journey home was worth every second when I saw Steve’s face when we came out of the ceremony.  It was sheer delight.  A magical moment.

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Tell us about your Wedding Dress

Choosing a wedding dress was always going to be a difficult part of the wedding planning for me. When I met Steve I was a size 12, long legs, beautiful hair (extensions cough cough) and excuse me for being crude but as Steve said “a great rack”. But here I was newly engaged, a size 20, completely bald – not even an eyelash and no breasts. I thought it would be impossible to find anything that I would feel beautiful in. But my sister-in-law was fantastic she came to shop after shop in a bid to find this miraculous dress that in essence would replicate the powers of the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. You know… make me feel thin, attractive and sexy – all the things I did not. I came out of every bridal shop feeling exactly the same; deflated, insecure and reluctant to continue looking. Then Beth reminded me of how wonderful Helen at Do you believe? in Newport had been when she married my brother. So we headed to Helen in a bid to find a wedding dress like no other.

Immediately Helen made me believe that not only could we find a beautiful dress but one that would meet my very obscure specification. Tea length dress with a vintage feel that would nip in at the waist, have a high neck to hide my prosthetics and sleeves that would enable me to cover my arms as the Lymphedema swelling is very unpredictable…. oh and more importantly would go with my beautiful blue petticoat that I bought at the vintage Fair in Cardiff.  Helen didn’t feel that she had anything that match this criteria, however this was not going to stop Helen giving me that bridal moment. Together we designed my dress – a completely bespoke dress. We chose the style together, the lace, the embellishment and I simply knew that she would give me a beautiful dress.Dawn_Steve_Wedding (25 of 964) Dawn_Steve_Wedding (27 of 964) Dawn_Steve_Wedding (31 of 964) Dawn_Steve_Wedding (33 of 964)
Everything was going beautifully and as with all perfectly laid plans we hit a problem. Where I’ve had the mastectomy fat pockets collect in the most bizarre and unusual of places so imagine my surprise when I have my final fitting and discover my body has miraculously started to grow its own breasts!!!! On my bloody back!!! That’s right – my dress is done up and from the front I look beautiful… but…I turn around and there hanging over the back of my dress are what can only be described as two of the biggest boobs I have ever seen made from back fat. So as you can imagine the meltdown began. Helen with the help of Val at House of Couture in Maindee set about hiding my new assets.  They removed the cap sleeves, found a lace bolero and added embellishment to the edge of my dress to match.  Before I knew it I was feeling more confident again. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t wish I was a size 10 with long flowing hair a beautiful waistline and an ample bosom, but with all things considered I felt as beautiful as I ever could have felt on the day and that was all thanks to Helen going above and beyond what was required of her. I was absolutely delighted when Helen agreed to be a guest at the wedding because truly I went into her bridal shop a customer and came out a dear friend.

Who did you pick as your bridesmaids &/or best man and why?

Picking the bridesmaids was probably one of the most difficult tasks for me when it came to the wedding.  How could you choose a select few when so many had been wonderful to me over the years.  One thing that I did know, I wanted my sister-in-law Beth to be my Maid of Honour, she has become more like a sister to me over recent years and would keep me calm on the day.  But how do I chose the bridesmaids?  There’s Cath – the bestie that went all through school with me and shared many a night on MD 20/20 with me in Caerleon? Boon -who went all through college with me, can make me laugh in any situation and is yet to have a boyfriend with an actual name!?  Pirate!? ASDA!? Millionaire Guy?!  No idea what any of them were actually called… go figure. Jodie – who was there when I had a complete melt down and stayed sober enough to make sure my antics came back to bite me in the bum. Emma – my partner in crime on school trips who is my rock when it comes to the children or Lindsay who swam across the river Thames with me after a drunken night as it looks like a shortcut. I mean how can you choose from such a high calibre of Friends lol? Simple really…. I asked them all!!!  Now don’t get me wrong there could have been so many more as so many of my friends have been an incredible support over the years but most of them were married and it made sense that they could sit in the congregation with their husbands. So that what it… my 6 Single Sisters would be asked to be my bridesmaids.

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Now for the flower girls…well we’ve got three children between us Imogen, Madeleine and Yvie and I couldn’t leave out Ngaire and Isabella who are like daughters to me, so the bridal party doubled in size. I know what you’re thinking… more people are going to walk down the aisle than be seated but that’s a luxury of it being MY wedding… I can do just as I please – so I did.

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As for the best man it was a simple choice for Steve.  He asked his lifelong friend and advisor Mike.  Mike was given the job of embarrassing Steve and boy did he do a brilliant job of that. He provided one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard –  and he tucked me up beautifully by quoting some of my face book posts during our time together.  All based around food which poo poo’d my theory that the weight gain was solely down to steroids during treatment.  Damn him lol.

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Why did you choose your venue?

The Venue for us was very easy. When I was going through treatment we would go to Bellevue Park in Newport a couple of times a week to feed the squirrels. It was just about all I could manage but it was a beautiful location, the children absolutely loved finding squirrels and we enjoyed amazing food and drinks in the cafe. We became good friends with Matt and his team at Parc Pantry and new immediately this would be where the ceremony will be held.

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When we started to put invites together it was quite apparent that congregation was going to be too big to fit in this venue for the whole day so looked for an evening venue. We Struck Gold when we found Tredegar Park Golf Club.  Not only were the grounds absolutely breath-taking, but Neil and Kim were absolutely exceptional from start to finish. Although they had never done it before, they accommodated an afternoon tea as the wedding breakfast and purchased vintage crockery to make the tables look authentic.  The food was plentiful, cakes as fresh as if they had just come out of a bakery and the hog roast was a massive hit. The function room is beautiful, big windows overlooking the course and exposed beams giving a wonderful ambience and we even got to sit with Neil for an hour at the end of the night and share what a wonderful time we had. I cannot recommend both venues more highly – they truly made it a magical day.

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Tell us about your photographer

I’ve been very fortunate when planning my wedding, things just seemed to fall into place.  Not only was I able to enjoy all the girlie aspects of planning it, but I actually met a number people that have gone on to be really good friends. None more so than your very own Cwtch Queen, Maria Farrelly.  When a friend of mine Amy recommended I entered the competition to join Cwtch The Bride as a ‘Bride to Be’ contributor, I never dreamt that I would not only win, but meet an incredible group of women. I found in Maria a kindred spirit, we instantly hit it off and I found writing the blogs not only purposeful but therapeutic. When Maria when I started talking more we realised we had a lot in common and although women follow cwtch from all areas in Wales, we actually lived very close to each other… so we met up and have grown closer friends ever since.

At this point I did have a photographer booked but fate stepped in and my photographer called to explain they had been double booked. Immediately I got in touch with Maria in hope that she may be available. Maria had very few dates available so it was looking unlikely that this would be an option, however I truly believe it was just meant to be as she was indeed available on the 28th of May. Without even looking at any of her photographs of portfolio I booked her. I am a people person and knew instantly I wanted her involved in the day and trusted that she would give us the most beautiful photos.  More importantly she understood my body confidence issues and could help me work through that on the day – and I wasn’t disappointed. She made us feel relaxed and was the professional throughout.  At no point did it feel staged or uncomfortable – in fact at some point I don’t even remember her being there.  She disappeared into the shadows and captured every moment beautifully.  The only thing I regret is that because she was so busy working on the day she was unable to really celebrate with me.  She is a dear friend of mine now and I would have liked her to have been there as a guest.

How did the proposal happen? 

Well, unknown to me, Steve has tried on 4 different occasions to propose, but because I had just had the all clear and the kids were off school – I kept bringing the girls along to our ‘date day’ – oops.  So eventually Stephen put his foot down – “I haven’t had a day on my own with you since your ‘all clear’ so we need some ‘us’ time.  I agreed, and we decided to celebrate by climbing pen-y-fan, it would be symbolic of the journey we have climbed.  True Welsh style, it hammered down with rain. Someone got struck by lightning up there during the last storm so we both agreed that I have danced with the devil lately as it is so this would be stupid.  So instead we would head to Neath Waterfalls.  8 Miles we walked – 4 waterfalls later and a beautiful day had by all.  Soaked through we went back to the car, changed into dry clothes and went into a little hikers pub.  We had a beautiful meal and I said – as if setting the moment “this is a beautiful pub, warm, lovely and full of character – if I ever get married again I’m going to take up hiking to shift the weight” with that he said – best start walking then and put a little black box – not the type that find aeroplanes – this is the one that finds tears, immediately.  Tears rolling down my cheek he asked if I would marry him – of course I said yes.

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But this is not the real story of the proposal – the real story is how I ruined the intended proposal.  Picture this – beautiful waterfall, full as it was raining so heavily, no one around, beautiful sounds of wildlife active in the storm…I’m stood on a little bridge gazing into the waterfall.  Steve walks to me, puts his arm around me (in his head this is the moment) – “Dawn” Steve said… “Yes babes” I said…. then before he could say another word I interrupt him – I’m known for it, I’m an excitable person – to advise him that I would like to head back to the car soon as I’m that wet my pants are soaking and its chaffing my arse.  NOOOOOOO!!!!! Moment killed…so that was the end of the beautiful waterfall proposal.  Oops.  But to be honest, it makes the whole ordeal more ‘me-like’.

Any DIY stories/tutorials you’d like to share?

For me the little touches in a wedding are what makes it special. So I spent hours making little bits and pieces that would make the difference on the table. I ordered off eBay bags of little brass keys and painstakingly tied luggage labels to them for name cards that would complement the theme. I also wrapped all the cutlery in beautiful little Ribbons embroidered with mine and Steve’s name and the date of the wedding.

One of my bridesmaids Lindsay also made beautiful favours for me which really added to the impact of the Alice and Wonderland theme.  Little mini eggs in jars with ‘eat me’ labels and small shot bottles with ‘drink me’ – everyone commented on how beautiful they were.

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I designed vintage themed name labels and used Microsoft Excel to mail merge them so that they could be printed on mass in a few minutes.  Ladies – MAIL MERGE IS THE WAY FORWARD – it saved me hours, was the best thing I did. Finally, the centrepieces I made myself by simply collecting old vintage books from car boot sales and tying them in hessian and lace. I couldn’t have been happier with my tables and my boss was so impressed he tried to convince me that there was a career in wedding planning for me!!!

What was your first dance & why?

When Stephen I first started getting serious it was a standing joke that he wouldn’t say he loved me – just that he tolerated me more than anyone else he had ever met.  This went on to him saying he would write his own vows as he could not commit to ‘til death us do part’ as he had no way of knowing what the future held.  (Of course this is all bants)  But it seemed only fitting to have a song that was special for us bad had the underlying tone of sarcasm that Steve is renowned for. So there was only really one choice it had to be Beach Boys, God Only Knows – Steve was a keen Surfer in his youth and I genuinely would not have got through the relentless treatment and surgery without him, so I really don’t know what I would be without him. Plus the first line said ‘I may not always love you’ anyone that knows Stephen would find this funny. So we both started the first dance, awkwardly swaying back and forth singing to each other at top pelt ‘I MAY NOT ALWAYS LOVE YOU and sobbing by the ‘God only knows what I’d be without you’ line… but found the children surrounding us in a circle – never one to miss an opportunity I pulled the kids into our dance and our romantic moment became the ‘Okey Kokey’.  It was amazing.

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In hindsight, was there anything you would have done differently?

In hindsight the only thing that I would have done differently was not wait so long to get married (although 9 months sounds a short engagement in our situation we should have seized the day). We waited until May hoping that my father would have overcome his treatment for leukaemia, little did we know that by waiting that few extra months, my father would not be there.  And that truly breaks my heart.

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Do you have any advice for future couples?

The best bit of advice I can give to future couples is…don’t get so pulled into the obsessive perfectionism of the day and lose the significance of why you are there in the first place.  Enjoy every second the day will be over in a flash.  Stephen and I had a good 90 minutes to leisurely have photos taken, but we were in our own golf buggy travelling across the golf course which gave us time to enjoy the moment together before the ‘mingling’ and ‘drinking’ began.   We were completely loved up in that moment. I think every bride and groom should time at least an hour alone – not surrounded by photographers and caterers and bridesmaids but the two of you alone in love – time to … just be.

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What’s the best piece of marriage advice you received?

I’m not sure this is a piece of marriage advice but it is my mantra – the way I keep positive and happy… with a little Dawnism thrown in for good measure.
Live every moment – Don’t waste time arguing, say your piece and move on.
Laugh everyday – Get pleasure in those little moments (I recommend Alphabet dating)
Love beyond words – Don’t assume they know, tell them every day.
And dance like nobody’s watching – Don’t worry what other people think… dance together in the rain!

What was your favourite thing about planning a wedding?

The best part for me about planning the wedding was meeting so many amazing people along the way. Although I went to them as a client I genuinely felt I met friends – I have already mentioned so many but there was Molly – the lead singer of The Supers.  They were an incredible band that got everyone dancing, completely adjusted their running order to fit around the beautiful weather and played like their life depended on it.  Lucy and the Girls that had 11x hair and makeup to do in one morning…what an accomplishment and great fun. Pat and Paul who let us use Jessie and made the most beautiful bouquet as decoration inside, Neil at AJC Cardiff who designed and created the most beautiful engagement and wedding ring, Elisa who designed the table plan, Hilary at Hilarys flowers who produced the most beautiful Top Table pieces using cake stands… too many to name everyone but thank you all the same.  I just seemed to experience such kindness and generosity – One lady on ebay for example… I sent her a picture from Pinterest of a setting I was trying to recreate…she went to the length of folding about 30 different napkins in the exact way I showed her, with cutlery, photographed them and sent the pics to me so I could see what went best with the crockery I had.  It must have taken her hours… all because she wanted to do her bit to make my day special.  It’s completely restored my faith in humanity because it’s easy to only remember the idiots that plague your day.

The Suppliers

Photographer:  Maria Farrelly
Ceremony Venue: Belle Vue Parc, Newport (Parc Pantry)
Reception Venue: Tredegar Park Golf Club
Bride’s Dress:  Helen’s own Label, Do You Believe?
Bride’s Shoes: Elegant Steps
Bride’s Headpiece:  Val, House of Couture
Bride’s Jewellery:  A locket my dad gave my mum
Groom’s Outfit: Slaters
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: True Bride
Bridesmaid’s Accessories: Etsy
Cake: Emma Baker, The Retro Cake Company
Flowers:  Hilary’s Flowers
Hair: Beautilicious – Lucy
Make Up: Beautilicious – Lucy
Band: The Supers, Bristol
Stationery: Elisa by Design
Any Reception Decor/Props: Forever Bows
Transport: Split the Difference
Other:  MASSIVE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO MADE OUR DAY SO SPECIAL

The Wedding Album

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