Wedding of the Week: Emma Cooper and Christopher Magill

15 May 2017

A rustic, Cotswold wedding was the order of the day for this couple who live in Australia and planned their big day from afar

How did you meet?

We met online, having both moved to Melbourne around the same time about six months previously; I am from London and Chris is from Perth (Western Australia). Our first date ended up in Melbourne’s iconic rock 'n' roll dive bar, Cherry Bar, and as we were leaving Queens of the Stone Age walked past us to go into the bar.

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Tell us about the proposal.

We were on holiday in the UK visiting my family. While in London, we went to Camden to look around the market, and found a little second hand bookshop tucked away in a side street. We were the only customers in there, and Chris took the opportunity to go down on one knee. The owner of the shop was so delighted to have witnessed the proposal he gave us a free book, London Music, which is a lovely reminder of the occasion. Unbeknownst to me, Chris had phoned her dad while I was in the shower earlier and asked for his blessing, which he said was the hardest bit.

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What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?

We wanted it to be a relaxed, informal celebration with a personal touch. In fact, we billed it as a ‘wedding weekend’; a weekend away at the Green Dragon in the Cotswolds with our wedding thrown in for good measure. We had a BBQ at the Green Dragon on the Friday night, which meant everyone from both sides of the globe could meet properly before the big day, then we said we’d be having Sunday lunch the day after and anyone who wanted to come could drop in. Most of our guests spent the whole weekend with us, which was terrific, especially as we live on the other side of the world to most of them. Chris is Irish-Australian and I am British, but we both live in Australia, so we tried to weave both countries into the wedding theme in little ways, too.

The theme reflected the Cotswolds venue in that it was quite rustic (e.g. glass candle holders decorated with twine; wedding favours wrapped in brown paper and twine) but nothing too explicit. The colour scheme centred around Chris’s suit jacket, which was tweed – green with subtle red and orange threads, so that became the basis for everything else. The bridesmaids wore a deep red colour, while the groomsmen wore a charcoal grey to match Chris’s trousers, with deep red ties to match the bridesmaids.

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When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?

I really had no idea where to start, as I’d never really given it much thought. Because my family are overseas, my Melbourne friends, Nicole and Anna, came shopping with me and very patiently watched me try on gown after gown, encouraging me to try on everything and anything. I found the dress in Raffaele Ciuca in Melbourne, and it is true what they say – it just felt right and I didn’t want to take it off. I liked the fact that it was an Australian designer, too (Maggie Sottero).

I was lucky that Anna and another friend, Hannah, were making the trip overseas to the wedding – they came to the fittings to learn how to do up the dress for me.

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Where did you find your suits?

Chris: We had decided early on that the wedding was happening in the Cotswolds, so I wanted a real country feel to my suit, and definitely did not want a grey morning suit. I ended up getting the suit tailor-made at a very modern-style tailor in Melbourne. I was wary of doing this at first as I didn’t think our budget would stretch, but after three visits (they had an open bar for customers…) I found the style, material and colours that I wanted, and it was actually very reasonably priced for something unique and that fit me perfectly.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

My step-mum very kindly did the flowers for us, which was great because she’s really talented. We gave her a brief of strong autumnal colours, no pastels, and that we wanted it to tie in with the green/orange/red colour scheme. What she came up with was absolutely stunning, a perfect fit for the venue, our tastes and the autumn weather we ended up having. She also used eucalyptus in the foliage, which was a nice nod to Australia. She used passion and grand prize roses, orange dahlia, pink hydrangea, green hydrangea, red carnations, pink and red spray roses, purple lisianthus, lilac freesia, dark red chrysanthemum and pink wax flower, as well as foliage including eucalyptus, ivy and pittosporum.  

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Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.

Planning the wedding from the other side of the world, not having ever seen the venue, meant we couldn’t really do too much in the way of detail. This was actually a blessing - we let go of a lot of the trappings of weddings and kept it really simple, and just went to town on a few really personal touches. We each had a say in how the room and tables were being decorated, making sure it reflected elements of us both.

  • For the wedding favours we wanted something people could use and keep. Emma is a publisher and a bit obsessed with books, so we decided to choose a second-hand book for everyone. With such an intimate wedding there weren’t many people we didn’t know well, and it was really good fun choosing something we thought they might like. For the main part we used Amazon marketplace, and ordered books from the UK site to be sent to Emma’s dad in Gloucestershire for safe-keeping. For others we found people selling lots of books for next to nothing on Gumtree, and found the odd few in charity shops. Thankfully we had a big baggage allowance for the flight over. When we arrived at Emma’s Dad’s before the wedding we got a working bee together to write a dedication in each book thanking people for coming, wrap the books in brown paper and twine, and slip a personalised menu on top (which we printed before we left Australia). It was a lot of work but totally worth it – the table settings looked gorgeous, and when we made our entrance everyone seemed to be enjoying opening the books.
  • We used Scrabble tiles as name places (all bought on Gumtree for next to nothing), and paper heart confetti and hanging decorations made out of books and comics. We have our friend, Hannah, to thank for those as we are not crafty in the slightest.
  • We wanted the ceremony to be really personal. We had a humanist celebrant, Jenna Catley-Richardson, who did such a great job of capturing us, and what we wanted to say about marriage. She included the following Dr Seuss quote as her opening lines: “We are all a little weird and life is a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” That basically sums us up and got a chuckle from our guests, setting the tone for the day. It also tied in nicely with a slightly offbeat reading, The Lovely Dinosaur by Edward Monkton, spoken beautifully by Katie Henry. We also had a ring warming as part of the ceremony, during which Chris chose to play Half of Nothing by Australian musician, Tex Perkins. (Funnily enough, we met Tex at an intimate gig before the wedding and asked for his permission to use the song, to which he laughed and said "sure").

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

We wanted to do the ceremony out on the Green Dragon’s terrace, but the weather wasn’t great so we had a Plan B to do it inside the function room. Just before I was due to make an entrance, the clouds cleared and so everyone was ushered outside for Plan A. Of course, a few moments later it started to drizzle again, but we persevered. I remember feeling a bit guilty because everyone was huddled under umbrellas, but it was just a drizzle and the Green Dragon’s terrace looked beautiful with all the wet timber, glistening flower displays and the misty countryside backdrop. I don’t recall feeling nervous at all, just excited, and it was so lovely to see all our guests for the first time, many of whom I hadn’t seen for a while.

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What was your most memorable moment?

Emma: We listened to a piece of advice that was given to us by a recently-married friend (thanks Naomi) who said to take a few minutes out to ourselves if we could. When coffee and cake were served we took ours up to our room – we had the King George Suite above the function room (which, by the way, was gorgeous). We kicked off our shoes and took a few moments to just be together, reflect on what had just happened, and get our breath back for the evening do.

Also, my grandmother was an absolute legend – she was elderly but stole the show on the dance floor. Sadly, she passed away three months after the wedding, so we were both really grateful and glad to have had her there in such good spirits and that everyone remembers her in such a lovely way.

Chris: I honestly can’t remember much from when my sister (who was my best ‘man’) gave me a glass of champagne as we were waiting for guests to arrive, until we were sitting down for the meal. I hate doing speeches, but I rehearsed mine a hundred times and even rewrote it slightly on the morning of the wedding. It was tough and I needed a few pauses here and there, but I’m proud of the speech I gave and can remember the whole thing clearly.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Being on the other side of the world. Not only that, but having members of the bridal party in London, Gloucestershire, Belfast, Perth and Melbourne. Finding bridesmaids’ dresses involved me Skyping my sister, Nicky, in Gloucester while Nicky and her three daughters each tried on dresses at midnight Melbourne-time).

The hardest thing was not knowing what the room looked like (aside from in pictures), so we couldn’t envisage how things would look or work logistically. Emma’s dad and step-mum helped with venue selection – we did our research online and then sent them out to a couple of selected places to check out the food, drink and rooms (a hard job, but someone had to do it…). The Green Dragon was actually one of their suggestions and was the best decision we could have made. Simon, Nicky and Anna answered a lot of questions for us (so many questions), but they were really patient and helpful, we couldn’t have done it without them being quite so supportive and understanding of our situation. We met with them in person for the first time a week before the wedding, and after handing over the event plan, talking to Nicky and seeing the venue, we both relaxed – it was definitely in safe hands and the venue was exactly what we had had in mind. They were also very accommodating when we basically took over the place from Friday to Sunday. Nothing was too much trouble and the food was wonderful; we had a lot of happy guests.

We used a wedding website to manage everything, from providing information about the plans to collecting RSVPs: http://team-magoo.weddingwoo.com/. It was great to have everything in one place, and easy to put the URL on the invitations.

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What was the most important investment for you?

Our priorities were music, food and drink. There are so many things you can spend money on for a wedding, you have to decide what is really important. We felt our family and friends would enjoy the day most if they had great food, a good budget behind the bar, and some high quality entertainment to make it a party.

Music was one of the most important things as it is a big part of both of our lives, and we curated that element carefully. We had the Vyne String Quartet during the ceremony playing selected rock/metal covers. They learned I Was Made for Loving You by Kiss for when Emma walked down the aisle, and Modern Love by David Bowie for our exit. They continued to play during the meal until the speeches started. After the speeches we had an iPod playlist that Chris put together.

In the evening we had live music from the ZuZu Men, a Bristol-based band who really made our day special. We researched so many bands using the internet and YouTube, and are glad we took a punt on these guys – they are absolute professionals. They had everyone dancing all night, and the dance floor stayed full even when we served bacon sandwiches for supper. They were so much fun and everyone loved them, we cannot praise them highly enough. It didn’t go unnoticed that the song they played after the first dance was I Come from a Land Down Under by Men at Work, which got all the Australians going. They read the room perfectly from start to finish, and left everyone wanting more.

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What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?

The ZuZu Men played I Found You by Alabama Shakes for us. The lyrics hold meaning for us:

Well, I traveled a long way
And it took a long time to find you...
But I finally found you...

…given that Emma had to move from the UK to Australia and Chris from Perth to Melbourne before we found each other in our 30s.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

Neither of us is that fussed about cake, or interested in traditional wedding cake. However, while researching wedding ideas we came across an image of a Lamington cake that someone else had done. We both like Lamingtons, and it is an iconic Australian cake, so it was another nice way to bring a bit of Australia into the proceedings.

If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

We couldn’t have asked for a better day, but we would both go back and tell ourselves to slow down and remember it better.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

No, it all went really smoothly.

Where did you go on honeymoon?

Bordeaux and Paris. Both places are amazing and we’d love to go back (a long way from Australia though…).

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Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?

  • Decide what’s important to you to have a good time and invest in that.
  • Do it your way – you can add your own personality without offending people. We had the string quartet playing things like Nirvana, Metallica and Kiss and everyone commented how lovely the musicians were.
  • Do your research, but don’t get carried away. It is so easy to get caught up in ‘stuff’ and we had to check ourselves a couple of times and go back to the plan, which was about simplicity, informality, and fun. We used wedding blogs and sites like Offbeat Bride as inspiration, and kept a Pinterest board of ideas, which we whittled down to a final theme.
  • Stick to your guns. Everyone has an opinion, but it’s your day. Don’t feel you have to do anything because that’s how it’s normally done or because someone else thinks it should be that way. For example, we both hate chair covers and didn’t want the more formal look they give. The Green Dragon’s function room chairs are basic but provided a more rustic look to the room and even accidentally went with our colour scheme. We saved almost $1000 by not having white chair covers and white linen napkins – that money went behind the bar instead where we knew it would be more appreciated by our guests.
  • Keep it fun. We took the planning to the pub a few times when key decisions needed to be made or logistics ironed out.
  • Set a budget. We were quite set on how much we wanted to spend (or didn’t want to spend, rather), but we still went over budget a little bit. It can spiral really quickly. Also, be organised about keeping records about what you’ve spent, what’s left to buy, invoices you’ve paid/not yet paid, etc. There are so many little things to remember, and it would be very easy to forget to pay a supplier simply because you’ve got so much on your mind, especially as we had to travel overseas to get to the wedding too.
  • Enlist help. We are really grateful to our family and friends for helping us pull the wedding off. Our friend, Anna, kindly agreed to be our MC and to liaise with the Green Dragon on the day, which took a lot of pressure off us and our families – make sure you’re not encumbered with anything organisational on the day itself if you can help it.

Get the look:

Photography: Jamie Waters, www.jamiewatersphotography.co.uk/
Bride’s dress: Maggie Sottero, ‘Joelle’, from www.raffaeleciuca.com.au
Groom’s suit: Oscar Hunt, www.oscarhunt.com.au
Venue and catering: Green Dragon Inn, www.green-dragon-inn.co.uk
Celebrant: Jenna Catley-Richardson (now lives in France)
Band: The Zuzu Men, http://thezuzumen.com/
String Quartet: Vyne String Quartet, www.vynestringquartet.co.uk
Cake: Emily at Cupboard Love Cakes, Cheltenham www.cupboardlovecakes.com
Bridal hair and make-up: Lucie Richmond, www.lucierichmond.co.uk

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