Using Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ as inspiration, this photoshoot was a collaboration between local and national suppliers
“I knew I was destined to love you.”
- Gwendolen Fairfax, The Importance of Being Ernest
Sarah Mitchell from Three Graces Events takes us behind the scene of her Oscar Wilde themed wedding shoot, which featured pewter detailing, bespoke lace boots, and a beautiful pavlova cake.
What was the inspiration behind the shoot?
This shoot was born of a love of Oscar Wilde’s infamous play ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’. Such a farcical comedy might seem like unusual inspiration for a bridal shoot but it is Oscar Wilde’s ability to expose the fragility of man’s character that makes this play such a unique depiction of romance. Wilde shows us that humans love deeply and without restraint despite flaws, not in absence of them, and gently pokes fun at the lengths we are prepared to go to in the name of love.
It was vital to take this Victorian love story and reinvent it for the modern-day couple with all of the style and elegance of the 1800’s but none of the stuffiness. Our photographer Matt was fantastic from the start and has an exceptional gift for working with natural light rather than against it. This meant that despite being an overcast and drizzly April day we ended up with some beautiful dark and edgy atmospheric images instead of something that looked too artificial.
Tell us a little bit about the venue and why it was chosen
I first came across Wasing Park’s hand-painted Victorian Summer House in an old school-friend’s wedding album. The picturesque estate with its rolling lawns and grand manor house served as the perfect gentleman’s country retreat. A sweetheart table was set using a mix of burnished pewter charger plates and platinum-edged glassware from Jones Hire, juxtaposed against a clean, contemporary glass candelabra, eclectic glass candle holders and an heirloom glass coffee set. The table was dressed with a river of the finest muted blue silk expertly hand-dyed by Sophie at PomPom Blossom with luxurious napkins to match. Fen from MonAnnie Cakes concocted a pillowy stacked pavlova cake filled with Swiss meringue buttercream, raspberry coulis and decorated with tiny edible pearls, fresh fruit and flowers with gold accents. The cake was set on a rustic metalwork stand reminiscent of old English-garden gates.
What did you choose for the flower arrangements?
Sarah Maylin interpreted the brief beautifully when it came to the flowers, centering the floral design around a bouquet of pure blue delphiniums inspired by Cecily’s innocence and purity, which were bound with a soft gold silk ribbon by PomPom Blossom. Then the other elements – the deep-hued roses, delicate lilac, fleshy fruits and exotic cymbidium orchids – were selected to contrast sensually with the elegant tableware and offer a sense of enduring romance.
Each petal produced by Shropshire Petals is delicately handpicked and air dried to create the most beautiful wedding confetti. No dyes are ever added to their petals, ensuring they are 100% biodegradable and eco-friendly. We were delighted to feature delphinium and hydrangea petals in shades of amethyst, midnight blue and duck egg blue, which added an extra element of natural texture.
What was the thinking behind the décor for the shoot? How did you tie it all together?
The stationery was handwritten in an organic calligraphy style, faithful to the period and using a combination of handmade papers and metallic pigmented inks. Dusky blues and soft, torn edges were key to the look, along with a quirky leaf illustration on the bespoke invitation suite from By Moon & Tide Calligraphy. The envelope was dressed with limited edition Oscar Wilde stamps and set against a traditional William Morris fabric.
Luxury ring box maker The Mrs Box supplied one of their opulent ring boxes in “The Eastleigh” style, a striking Tuscany-yellow shade of gold with rich gold embossment on the lid. Inside the ring box perched a peach morganite engagement ring, offering a softer and more period-appropriate alternative to the traditional diamond.
What kind of look did you want to achieve with the make-up, hair and outfits for the bride and groom?
We were blessed to have the input of two exceptional bridal wear designers, Joanne Fleming and Sarah Willard. Joanne’s ivory “Chatterton” gown featured delicate silk chiffon over a silk satin underskirt, with an antique lace long peplum and train, embroidered tulle bodice and poet sleeves, and guipure lace detailing. The “Chatterton” was perfect for this shoot, being sympathetic to the era in design whilst offering contemporary couture elements.
Sarah Willard’s bridal separates are from her "Whispers of Love" collection. With soft layers of sheer fabrics, it is Sarah's most romantic collection to date and perfect for the fine art bride. “Lily” is a slip dress in ice blue silk satin chiffon, worn with a “Naomi” overblouse in soft spotted tulle and French lace, fastened with tiny pearl buttons.
The make-up look was a bold metallic style, inspired by the playful use of colour seen in avant garde make-up. Our make-up artist Grace used ultraviolet blue and gold pigment, fine glitter and high end cosmetics to add depth of colour and to highlight the cheekbones, eyes and cupid’s bow creating a bold non-traditional bridal look that was perfect for this particular work of fiction.
Our hair stylist Sophie created a striking voluminous up-do by working with our model’s hair type to create volume and enhance her natural curls, building in a textured fishtail braid and adding height to the crown for a fierce contemporary look. Sophie shone in more ways than one on the day of the shoot, gamely stepping in to model for us when one of our models had to cancel last minute and making a divine “Cecily”!
For the menswear, tweed suits have long been a popular choice with discerning grooms seeking quality and versatility. The Vintage Suit Hire Company in Bedford offer tailored three piece suits beautifully made from fine worsted wool in a herringbone check pattern, with signature brown buttons. With our beloved characters “Algernon” and “Jack” in mind, we styled the suits with fine cotton shirts and vintage silk cravats to add to the dapper “city-gent-in-the-country” feel.
What kind of accessories were used to create these looks and why?
Bridal accessories designer Donna Crain crafted a bespoke belt to match using Swarovski crystals and pearls sat against an ivory ribbon. The model’s hair was decorated with one of Donna’s exquisite gold leaf hair vines with complementary hair pins, embellished with ivory pearls to contrast against her beautiful red hair. An opulent ostrich feather bridal wrap adorned the model’s shoulders for a polished, luxurious finish.
Nicole at House of Elliot England designs handmade lace boots inspired by the original wedding boots of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Each pair features luxurious soft lace and a satin ribbon side detail. For this shoot I chose our 'Lottie Elliot' ivory lace ankle boots which feature a vintage inspired round toe and kitten heel. As they were inspired by popular 'half boot' of the late 1900's they were the perfect choice for this Oscar Wilde inspired shoot.
Get the look:
Styling and coordination: Three Graces Events
Photography: Matt Lee Photography
Ivory lace “Chatterton” gown: Joanne Fleming Designs
Silver-blue gown with lace blouse: Sarah Willard Couture
Suits: The Vintage Suit Hire Company
Accessories: Donna Crain Surrey
Lace boots: House of Elliot
Hair styling: Sophie Murray Hair & Make-up
Make-up: Grace Hayward of the Suzanne Dusek Hair & Make-up Team
Flowers: Sarah Maylin Flowers
Confetti: Shropshire Petals
Cake: MonAnnie Cakes
Hand-dyed silks: PomPom Blossom
Pewter dinnerware and glassware: Jones Hire
Ring box: The Mrs Box
Stationery: By Moon & Tide
Venue: Wasing Park Estate, Berkshire
Models: Katja Cemic; Deen Pontefract; Felipe Oliveira; Sophie Murray