Two weddings, one couple: Double celebrations in South Wales

01 Jul 2019

Following a humanist ceremony with just the two of them in attendance, Michael Hughes and Joanne McCarthy invited 100 guests to their second wedding three years later

How did you meet?

Jo and I were family friends who only really got to know each other after university when we both returned home prior to going travelling. During university I had decided I wanted to go, Jo liked the idea but was a bit apprehensive, so we decided that we’d travel Australasia together once we had worked for a few months to earn some money. We returned home in 2008 as close friends. There was a spark whenever we caught up but life was just passing us by.

After a few months I had enough and bought a visa to go to Canada, but before leaving we all went to Shepperton for a 50th birthday party. That night, to our families’ relief, we finally got together. Five months later when I left forCanada there were tears, however when Jo visited nine months later we realised nothing had changed between us. So, on my return on 31st August 2010, that became the date we 'officially' got together.

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Tell us about the proposal.

Jo had never wanted a big wedding; her perfect idea was to elope and get married on a beach with no one around. At the start of 2014 I began to think about how I’d propose. I decided I’d do it on our anniversary, so I booked a weekend away at the Oxwich Beach Hotel and told Jo she needed a smart dress... it just couldn’t be black. Jo didn’t have a clue, even after I spent two days shopping with her without complaining.

On the evening of the 31st August 2014 we drove down to Worm's Head in the Gower. At sunset I pulled out the picnic blanket and hamper, including candles and champagne. Before pouring the champagne I mentioned that there was a clause... to have the champagne Jo would have to say 'yes' as I surprised her with an engagement ring. Jo, after a moment of stunned silence, said yes. After the shock had passed, Jo - still a little bemused, asked why did she have to buy that expensive dress? That, I explained, was because the dress was to be worn in the morning when we’d be getting 'unofficially' married at Sunrise on Oxwich Beach.

I’d arranged with Zoe Binning, the celebrant, and Rachel Lambert, the photographer, to meet us just before dawn. Zoe had agreed to read out the humanist ceremony and vows I had written and bring Jo’s bouquet, while Rachel would document it all with her camera. Zoe had even got the green light from Oxwich Bay Hotel that we could use one of their small lounges in case it rained. The British weather of course meant that sunrise was hidden behind the drizzle and luckily Zoe had thought ahead and brought umbrellas.

A few months later, we began to plan our official wedding where our families and friends could join us. 

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Did you have a colour scheme?

Blue and coral

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

We married at Llantilio Crossenny church in South Wales and we chose The Hog's Head as our reception venue. We found the venue in the Good Beer Guide. We wanted an outdoor, marquee wedding and The Hog's Head provided this, with the benefits of a roof and very good beer.

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When did Joanne know when she'd found ‘the’ dress? 

She had the 'wow' moment after trying lots of dresses on. The dress matched the one she thought she'd initially pick. 

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Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear? 

Joanne had one bridesmaid, her sister, who wore a coral outfit. 

What did the mother of the bride wear?

A royal blue dress and jacket with matching hat. 

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Where did you find your suits?

Slater Menswear in Cardiff.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

We used plastic flowers for the church and tables. The bride and bridesmaids carried blue and white bouquets, and the mother of the bride wore a matching corsage. 

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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.

  • The venue had a photo booth which our guests loved
  • We had an anti-pasta starter on the tables so people could help themselves when the speeches got underway
  • Our top table seated just the two of us
  • The tables were named after places we visited
  • We provided tables with drinking games and betting games related to the speeches
  • For the catering, we had an excellent hog roast then a barbecue in the evening

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What was your most memorable moment?

It's impossible to pick!

What was the most important investment for you?

For the second wedding, getting the venue right.

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

Nat King Cole, L.O.V.E – it's fast enough to dance to and the words are perfect. 

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Did you have any evening entertainment?

No One Knows, a band who were excellent.

Tell us about your wedding cake.

The cake was made by the mother of the bride. It was three tiers and featured lots of details including us as figurines in a Jacuzzi on top. 

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Did anything go wrong on the day?

We had the odd rain shower on both occasions. 

Where did you go on honeymoon? 

We had a mini-moon in Greece then a few months later went to Cuba, Belize and Mexico.

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

Don’t spend silly money on silly things that noone will notice. 

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Steal their style: 

Wedding planner for humanist ceremony: Weddings by Zoe
Photography (humanist ceremony): Rachel Lambert Photography 
Catering: Owen’s Catering
Illustrations: Simon Wyatt

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