Fun in the sun: A pale yellow and white wedding in Portugal
31 Jul 2019
Keeping their Algarve venue a secret right up until the ceremony, Hannah Gyngell and Richard Lowndes ensured their wedding guests were wowed from the outset
Tell us about the proposal.
Richard surprised me with a night away, I woke up on the Friday morning thinking I was going to work as normal. He let me get ready for work and as I was walking out of the front door with my car keys in hand he told me that he had booked me a day off and we were going away for some well deserved R&R. Most people would say at this point that I should have realised but only a few days before I had mentioned that I just wanted a day off to relax so after the shock of finding out that he had emailed the CEO of the company I work for requesting me a holiday day... I believed it was an innocent gesture.
He drove me to The Fox at Willian, a little country pub that we love and always wanted to go back to and stay overnight. After checking in, we decided we should go for a walk before dinner around the quaint village pond. Halfway around the pond Richard got down on one knee and I of course said yes.
Two days later I was tricked into ‘meeting my sister’s wedding DJ’ which turned out to be a surprise engagement party which Richard and my twin sister had organised.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
I’m a typical girly girl and would have gone with any shade of pink or purple and been very happy, however I also like to be different so when we got engaged pink suddenly wasn’t very appealing to me.
After scrolling through Pinterest, we loved pictures of pale yellow and white weddings in the sun so we chose this as our colour scheme.
We wanted to incorporate Portugal as much as possible in the day which we did with the help of our incredible caterers who the weekend wouldn’t have been the same without. We had a sit-down three-course meal starting with pâtés, breads, pickled carrots and olives which is traditional in Portugal. This was followed by seafood and local produce in our starters and mains and light but delicious desserts.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
Richard and I, along with my parents and twin sister, flew to Portugal for a quick weekend venue recce in October 2018. We booked venue visits based upon online reviews and searches and all of them were great. At the end of our very windy and rainy trip (not helpful when looking for outdoor venues) just before we were due to head to the airport, the small boutique hotel that we had just finished looking around suggested a villa that they also owned up in the hills. We were all very tired and after seeing lots of other great contenders decided we weren’t going to bother. However after some persuasion from my Dad we drove thirty minutes in the opposite direction of the airport to Casa Rupi.
As we drove up into the hills the rain stopped, the clouds started to clear and when we got out of the car and turned the corner to what is an unexpected breath-taking view Richard and I stopped in our tracks, looked at each other and realised it was where our wedding was meant to take place.
We didn’t tell our guests about the venue other than the town it was located in, so the beautiful backdrop was a complete surprise when they arrived on our big day.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I actually found my dress on the first and only day of wedding dress shopping.
I took my mum, twin sister (matron of honour) and cousin (chief bridesmaid) who is like another sister to me. We had three appointments booked at bridal shops where I tried on at least twenty different dresses. I went in already having an idea of what I wanted – a lace figure-hugging delicate dress that had scalloped lace at the bottom and I guess the dress I chose met my criteria. Sadly, I didn't find the dress in the shops that I visited but I had found lots of good options.
On the way home, we drove past a WED2B shop and decided to go in. I can remember picking my dress off the rail thinking 'this is lovely' and it was a third of the price of the dresses that I'd been trying on earlier in the day. It was by Ana Sorreno and called 'Sierra' in Ivory.
When I came out of the changing room with it on everyone was silent, the tears started, and we all knew it was the one. However it was missing the scalloped lace, but because I'd chosen a dress way under the budget that my mum and gran had kindly given me, I was able to find an amazing dress maker, Kerry Tuckett, to match the lace from the dress and add the perfect finishing touch.
What did the bridesmaids wear and who were they?
The bridesmaids wore pale yellow Maya dresses from ASOS. Before I’d even asked the girls to be my bridesmaids, I found the perfect dresses and ordered them (guessing the sizes) in fear that they would be sold out come December when I wanted to ask them.
I had five bridesmaids: Leah Iles, matron of honour and my identical twin sister, who found out she was pregnant while luckily ASOS still stocked a maternity version of the bridesmaid dress that the rest of the girls were wearing; Natasha Fletcher, chief bridesmaid and my cousin; Stephanie Lowndes, Richard's sister; Jade Fox, my best friend; and Ava Wheatcroft, Richard's cousin.
Our flowergirls were: Summer Lowndes-Harris, our three-year-old niece and five-year-old twins, Evie and Isabelle Taylor who are Richard's cousins. They wore white lace dresses from Debenhams.
What did the mother of the bride wear?
After a long and lengthy shopping process, my mum's outfit (both dress and jacket) was from Hobbs.
Where did you find your suits?
The suits were one of the hardest things to buy as we had to wait until the summer suit range was stocked. We knew it would be hot in Portugal and we wanted light material in a light grey colour, even in March the spring suits weren’t right. The suits we chose were from Next which offered great sizing options for the groom, ushers and dads.
Did you hire a wedding planner?
I’m a very organised person so I don’t think I could have given over control of our important day. However getting married abroad does come with some hurdles that you can’t get over yourself, the main one being the legal process of getting married. Luckily, we were able to pay the venue to help us with that. Everything else, from decorations and suppliers to music and layouts, was organised by Richard and I.
I wanted someone to be my eyes and ears on the day – setting up the tables and keeping us to schedule, so we employed a local an on-the-day co-ordinator. We took almost all of the decorations with us to Portugal and so a few days before the wedding we met with her and handed everything over along with my layout bible and she was brilliant at making our vision a reality.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
I pay a lot of attention to detail in everything that I plan, but for my wedding flowers I really didn’t want to be disappointed and not knowing the supplier or what type of flowers were in season we asked our florist to surprise us. I knew that I wanted my flowers to be white with hints of pale yellow and the bridesmaids and flower girls to have just white flowers so we let her choose the specifics.
I really wasn’t expecting to love the flowers as much as I did and when they were delivered on the day, I cried. I couldn’t have chosen better if I tried.
Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.
- During the pre-ceremony drinks guests could help themselves to sun hats and hand-held parasols. On each of their ceremony seats were personalised white wooden fans to help keep them cool.
- We had a flower arch and stone table for the ceremony which was the perfect backdrop.
- We had my dad's best friend sing during our drinks reception. He is a singer and someone who means a lot to both Richard and I
- We hired an ice cream bike for our guests to enjoy. One of the flavours was Häagen-Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake that I used to always have while on holiday in Portugal as a little girl
- Table numbers were years of our family weddings: both sets of my grandparents, both sets of Richard's grandparents, my parents, Richard's parents and my twin sister’s wedding day. The signs featured the years and a fun fact about that wedding and each table featured a framed picture of each happy couple
- Our favours were cards saying Mr& Mrs Lowndes on the front and inside a little poem I made up to describe the £10 Nando’s gift voucher inside. Nando’s kindly donated us 80 £10 vouchers for our guests in exchange for us donating to their charity, Nando's Fighting Malaria
- Place settings were small port bottles with corks and a stick on the front with the guests' names
- We had our stationer make up a game we found online where the guests on each table have a sweepstake for the length of the best men’s speech. We also had little pencils made with Mr & Mrs Lowndes on them for them to write their predictions
- We made the flowergirls' goody bags – the bags were from Cath Kidston and the contents contained a personalised Eye Spy card and disposable camera for each of them, Disney puzzles, flowergirl colouring books and lots of little things to keep them entertained. The other children also had a gift on their place setting relevant to their age and interests.
- We had big light-up LOVE letters by the pool and festoon lighting over the pool. The trees and pergola were draped in fairy lights so come sunset it looked beautiful
- We had a guest book table with a Polaroid camera and a guest book for guests to take a photo and write a message
- Guests were treated to free wine, beer and fizz all day and night
- We also provided the taxis to take them to the venue and back so no-one needed to worry about driving or booking a taxi – they didn’t know where they were anyway. The party went on until well past midnight and finished with most of the guests jumping in the swimming pool – to the horror of their awaiting taxis.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I felt a whirlwind of emotions as I pulled up in the car with my dad at the venue. I couldn’t believe I was there on my wedding day, I could barely breathe as we lined up as I was holding in the tears and even when the music started it got worse. However cliché this may sound, as soon as I turned the corner and saw Richard that feeling vanished and I was just overjoyed. I walked down the aisle to an instrumental string quartet version of Elvis' Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
During the ceremony, my brother Danny and Richard's sister Stephanie both gave a reading. Our aunties (Karen and Angela) were our witnesses and we included sand blending in the service which has made a nice keepsake for our mantlepiece. We had both an English celebrant to do the exchange of rings and vows and a Portuguese registrar and translator to make the wedding legally binding.
What was your most memorable moment?
The most memorable moment would probably also pass as a wedding fail. The music for walking back down the aisle stopped after the first few chords and the team couldn’t get it to play again. Luckily we hadn’t started walking yet so, after a few seconds of silence, our guests started singing the song ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys, and we walked back down the aisle to them singing to us.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
I wouldn’t say 'challenging moment', but having a language barrier was difficult. There were some things I couldn’t find out for myself because I couldn’t speak the language, so I had to trust what I was being told or gets lots of opinions which made things a little harder and took a little longer to organise.
I also missed not being able to just go to the venue and look around – especially when It came to where we wanted to position the tables or even looking at where the shade would be on the day. I was purely relying on the two visits that I'd previously made and photos.
What was the most important investment for you?
The most important investment for us was making sure our guests had the best time possible. The fact that they all spent a lot of money to come and share our special day meant that we wanted to give them a weekend to remember.
We organised a crazy golf tournament the day before the wedding, which involved hiring out a crazy golf course in Vale De Lobo for all the guests to meet, play against each other and have a few drinks. We had medals for first, second and third place along with prizes for the children.
On the Sunday (the day after our wedding), we invited the guests back to Casa Rupi for a barbecue. Our wedding caterers came back and cooked for everyone. We had waiters and a bar cover by Richard and I and a musician who sang with his guitar while everyone was eating, playing in the pool and relaxing.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
We chose McFly's ‘The Heart Never Lies’. McFly are a band I loved growing up and while Richard didn’t go to their concerts or have their albums, he watched them from afar as he was also a drummer in a band so appreciated their music. Romantic love songs aren’t really our thing, so we wanted a song we both liked, had nice words and was more ‘bandy’ than ballad.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
We had a band play our evening reception and they were amazing. I would highly recommend them. Nicole Silver, the singer, kept everyone on the dancefloor from the second she started to the end of the night when she played encore after encore.
My dad arranged to sing a song with the band and after a quick rehearsal with the guitarist around the corner, he joined them for Cheer Up Sleepy Jean.
Richard was also a drummer and one of the guests told the band who then invited him to take the place of their drummer. We all thought it would be a quick few drum beats and he would be off again, but with no rehearsal he joined them for one song and played Superstition – which was probably the highlight of my evening.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
The guests were asked at the band's break to go back to the garden where our ceremony took place to watch Richard and I cut our cake. It was three layers of carrot cake and caramel cake covered in white buttercream with a pale yellow ombre effect. We had clay figurines made of myself in my dress, Richard in his wedding suit with a Woking FC scarf around his neck, and Luna - our cat - who sat on the top. Unbeknown to the guests, as we cut the cake a curtain of firework sparklers went off behind us. We ate the cake at the barbecue the following day.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
We were in Portugal for a week prior to the wedding and we stayed there for another five nights before coming home. We are going on our honeymoon in November to South Africa on safari followed by the Seychelles.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Richard's cousin, Karen, gave me a great piece of advice which I now pass onto friends planning their weddings and that’s to stick to your budget. When a supplier quotes you and it’s too expensive don’t just accept their first price – everyone knows weddings can be an expensive time so tell them your budget and if they can’t help they may be able to offer an alternative.
Steal their style:
Photography: Charlotte Jane Photography
Venue: Casa Rupi
Seamstress: Kerry Tuckett of Very Me
Bridal hair: Myah Isabel
Bridal make-up: Natasha Fletcher Makeup (based in UK)
Bridesmaids' make-up: Susanna Alexio
Catering: The Pickled Carrot
Band: Nicole Silver
Reception singer: Harry Dolan (based in UK)
Stationery: Helen Scott (based in UK)
Videography: Norberto Santos
Proposal location: The Fox at Willian, Hertfordshire
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