A fun-filled wedding in Essex

24 Nov 2021

Janet Flaherty and Michael Clark tied the knot 16 years after they first met

Photography: June Essex Photography

How did you meet?

In the Rising Sun pub, Tottenham Court Road in 2005. So, it was a 16-year probation period including the pandemic.  

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Tell us about the proposal

Michael proposed on holiday in Sri Lanka. He had to leave the ring in a safe at every place we stayed at without me realising. He lined up cocktails at sunset in Bentota. I was oblivious and nearly missed the sunset, but not the proposal. 

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How was your wedding affected by Covid-19?  

The wedding was deferred twice, so it was third time lucky. We filmed a short message to our guests to announce the new date(s) to keep them informed.  

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

A hint of West Ham claret and blue, but mostly classic cream and gold. 

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What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?  

When we visited Crondon Park, one of the team had lit 100 tealights and placed them on mirrors on all the tables. It created such a cosy glow, and we couldn’t get it out of our minds. We knew our friends would have a really good time in a venue like that.  

We could imagine our wedding in the Baronial Hall. We liked the enclosed garden, which is safe for wandering children, and felt that our guests would not be too spread out. 

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How did you know you’d found ‘the’ dress?  

I spotted my ‘Marilyn Monroe’ dress on JJ’s House bridal website. I tried on dresses at one shop in Worcester with my sister and two nieces but none of them hit the mark. I just knew I had to try the Marilyn dress. When it came, I loved it. I knew immediately it was the one and I would feel wonderful.  

Michael also bought me a customised claret and blue garter with Mr and Mrs Clark on the ribbon. 

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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 

As a nod to West Ham United, we borrowed a bubble machine from a friend to have bubbles floating across the garden. The flowers were seasonal yellow roses, gypsophila, and eucalyptus. We also included some artificial shamrock as a nod to my Irish heritage. The tables had a centrepiece of a pillar candle in a birdcage, with tealights on mirrors. We didn’t want a centrepiece that would obscure people trying to chat. 

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For our party favours, every place setting had a gold mesh bag with gold foil covered chocolate hearts and a brass key that doubled as a bottle opener.  

We asked our front of house person, Deborah, to ask our guests to whirl their napkins around when she announced our arrival for dinner. We had been at a wedding in France where this is a custom. It was wonderful to walk through a sea of napkins and it made everyone laugh while they did it. 

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?  

I chose Symphony No 3 Organ Finale by Camille Saint-Saëns to walk down the aisle to. It’s really dramatic and I told Michael that I wouldn’t arrive straightaway when the music started but would wait for the right part to make my entrance, so he knew the timing.  

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It gave me a short time to view the room, see our guests and see how it all looked. I felt so excited but people at the back spotted me and got restless. Someone called out to me so I set off down the aisle and arrived sooner than I expected. But it was lovely to be in a room full of fun and joy. As soon as I locked eyes with Michael, it felt perfect.  

We had thought the formal part of the wedding was something to go through to get to the more fun part, but we actually really enjoyed the ceremony and the importance of the words.  

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What was your most memorable moment?    

People are always happy for the couple at a wedding but we were struck by just how happy everyone was. People were so pleased to have a reason to get dressed up and go out after the pandemic. There were many mini reunions happening around us. It was lovely to be the reason they were all there. 

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

And I Love You So by Perry Como. We both liked this as it kept coming up on a car advert, but we thought we couldn’t use a television jingle for our first dance. Fortunately, the advert wasn’t airing when the wedding date drew near.  

People thought we’d practised or had dance lessons but we hadn’t. We always fool around on the dance floor, but when we saw the recordings our friends had done, we looked surprisingly in step. 

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Tell us about your wedding cake 

I made 148 cupcakes with frilly cases and edible toppers with mine and Michael’s name and wedding date. The icing was a bit disastrous so the cakes were rescued by my more artistic niece and nephew, Megan and James.  

The top cake was made by the Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise that helps to create jobs and develop skills for women socially and economically disadvantaged. The topper was a man, woman and cat – in honour of our cat, Thunder – who was also on a banner on the dance floor.  

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Where did you go on honeymoon?  

We flew to Glasgow and travelled around Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, and visited The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies. 

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

Do what you want to do. Don’t be swayed by the wishes of others. Drop the parts that freak you out or are just not you - we didn’t have speeches.  

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Set up a microsite, there are lots of free ones out there. You can give all your guests information in one go, collect music selections, advise of hotels, minicab companies and, in our case, new wedding dates. It meant we could text the link to people and it definitely saved multiple phone calls with people about the same questions and queries. 

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Steal their style:  
Photographer: June Essex Photography
Venue: Crondon Park
Dress: JJ’s House
Hair: Kennadys
Suit: Marks and Spencer
Flowers: Stock Florist
Cake: Luminary Bakery
Party favours: Treasure Island Sweets
Décor: Finishing Touch Covers
Entertainment: PC Disco

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