A Transatlantic Romance, Lilac Vintage Wedding: Liz Lomax & Chris Connoll
06 Oct 2014
A ring warming ceremony, little unicorns and wild flowers made this Warwickshire wedding day one to remember
Liz and Chris’s transatlantic fairytale came true at Hampton Manor, Hampton-in-Arden, Solihull
Photography by Valentina Weddings
Capturing His Heart
The story of our rock ‘n’ roll fairytale wedding at Hampton Manor began 4,800 miles away and three years earlier at a music festival in Austin, Texas, called South by South West. I had taken a break from sculpting to come down to the festival from my home in New York City to photograph British rock bands and ended up staring through my lens at Chris Connoll, the drummer in Coventry band Pint Shot Riot. We were introduced to each other and knew instantly what we had to do.
A Long Distance Love
We spent the next nine months flying back and forth from England to NYC and various places in between to be together. At the end of 2011 I made the move to England and one year later we got engaged in Paris. We started our search for wedding venues right away and discovered a hidden gem just five miles from our doorstep that we had never even heard of!
Married Under Beautiful Acer Trees
Hampton Manor is a stunning 19th-century manor house that looks like a castle yet somehow feels like home. Once we saw it, we fell in love and knew we had to get married there. We decided to hold the ceremony outdoors under the beautiful acer trees and I was to make my entrance from the tall Rapunzel-esque clock tower, following my six bridesmaids, to a rather complicated walk down the aisle which involved circling around the trees and the bridesmaids and groomsmen doing some "high-fives" and random twirls along the way.
The Ring Warming Ritual
Chris's cousin Matthew conducted the ceremony which Chris and I wrote, along with our vows to each other. One of my favourite parts of the ceremony was the ring warming ritual, where our wedding rings were passed around so our guests had the chance to hold them in their hands, silently saying a prayer or a wish for us. My father-in-law then read a beautiful poem that my mother-in-law had chosen for him to read on her behalf, before she passed away just two months prior to our wedding. We had a tree-planting ceremony, said our vows and then danced back up the aisle to one of our favourite Johnny Cash songs, Walk the Line.
A Claire Pettibone Dress
I came across a picture of a gorgeous dress online while Googling 'unique vintage wedding dresses'. The problem was that it had no designer credit attached to it. So after several days of internet investigation, I discovered that the designer was Claire Pettibone and the dress was called Viola. I began my quest to find the dress in a shop in England because I knew there wouldn't be time to have one shipped over from America. So I called every wedding dress boutique in the UK until I found that exact dress… and there was only one... and it was in the wrong size! But I drove to Bath and bought it despite it not fitting (I gave birth to Olivia, our little girl, just two months earlier) so I began a hardcore Zumba regime to shed the baby weight.
Handmade Papier-Mâché Lanterns
My sister-in-law Jen turned out to be the most amazing wedding planner ever. She's good with numbers and spreadsheets and has a way of finding solutions for every problem; one of the problems being that loads of Americans were flying over for our wedding and needed places to stay. So my husband's entire family kindly moved out of their home and made way for the US invasion. My younger sister Charlotte flew over from NY carrying tons of wedding supplies. She also flew my older sister Ann and my niece Emily all the way from Vancouver as a surprise! They carried with them handmade papier-mâché lanterns which we scattered around the grounds at night, filled with glitter and tea lights… magic!
The Day of the Wedding
I wasn't well at all on the morning of our wedding as nerves got the better of me and I don't like being the centre of attention, (the wine at the rehearsal dinner the night before might have played a part as well) but I'm happy to report that by the time I walked down the aisle, I felt amazing and ready to embrace the greatest day of all time.
A Dreamy, Magical Backdrop
When the door to the clock tower opened and I stepped out to start my walk, I was blown away by how gorgeous and romantic our ceremony setting looked. My husband and his team of groomsmen slaved away all morning, along with our florist Karen, to create a dreamy, magical backdrop. They hung fairylights and little apothecary bottles from the tree branches. Each bottle contained a single stem flower or a mix of wild flowers such as baby’s breath, lisianthus, lavender, peonies, dahlia, daisies, veronica and scabious. The aisles were lined with jam jars and rustic buckets over flowing with flowers. The boys also hung a canopy between the trees above our heads and a hammock to enhance the relaxed feel of the day. The ceremony was conducted around an old oak barrel set among logs collected from the manor grounds. We were prepared for rain or shine that day, equipped with umbrellas for every guest and wellies for me and the bridesmaids.
Little Unicorns and Wild Flowers
At the reception we danced into the award-winning Peel's Restaurant, a stunning fine dining room with a gorgeous glass roof, for our wedding breakfast. Each table was decorated with a table number that I had made by hand, découpaged and glittered, surrounded by little unicorns and wild flowers in a cluster of rustic jars and antique bottles. Chris and I had made (with love) homemade chutney the week before for the wedding favours and filled little jam jars with it. A small vintage tag, designed by Margot Miller, my best friend/bridesmaid and stationery designer, was attached to every chutney jar assigning each guest to their seat.
We had decorated the entire manor to feel like home, with funky framed photos of us and our family, fun little signs, antique hearts, glitter and lots of unicorns. We filled Martini glasses on the bar with our personalised 'Liz & Chris' matches and matching cocktail napkins. Our sweet trolley and photo booth went down really well and kept guests very busy.
The First Dance
Our first dance was to This Will Be Our Year, by The Zombies and when it finished we went straight into We Love to Boogie, by T. Rex. We had hired a wonderful dance instructor, Sarah Skinner, to choreograph our first dance. We practised several times but in the excitement of the night, we forgot most of it but had so much fun anyway!
We had a wide variety of musical entertainment at our wedding, beginning with the Boogie Woogie Troup playing swing and shuffle outside; DJ Fast, of Fun Lovin' Criminals, spinning tunes inside on the dance floor and a kick-ass rock concert by Pint Shot Riot.
Our entire wedding from start to finish was captured perfectly in gorgeous pictures by Mark Raffan of Valentina Weddings. Shortly before my mother-in-law died, she had a wonderful last holiday with my father-in-law in Italy where she met Mark and his wife Lesley, during a photoshoot. As her last gift to us she hired Mark as our wedding photographer, a precious gift we will treasure forever.
Top Tip for Brides-to-be:
Do NOT drink the night before your wedding. Get some sleep. Also, try not to plan your wedding when you have a two-month-old baby!
Steal their Style:
Photography: Valentina Weddings valentinaweddings.co.uk
Venue: Hampton Manor, hamptonmanor.eu
Dress: Claire Pettibone, clairepettibone.comAccessories: Jimmy Choo shoes, jimmychoo.com ; Gillian Million bracelet, gillianmillion.com
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Lela Rose, lelarose.com/bridesmaid
Hair: Emma Woodward, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07513 305372
Make-up: Sarah Wilcox, sarahmariewilcox.co.uk
Groom’s outfit: Ted Baker suit, tedbaker.com; Penrose tie and cufflinks, penrose-london.com; Mezlan shoes, mezlan.com
Groomsmen’s suits: Paul Smith, paulsmith.co.uk
Stationery: Margot Miller, margotmiller.com
Flowers: Passion For Flowers, passionforflowers.net
Cake: Croxys Cakes, facebook.com/pages/Croxys-Cakes
Catering: Peel's Restaurant, Hampton Manor
Music: Boogie Woogie Troop, boogietroop.com; Pint Shot Riot, pintshotriot.co.uk; DJ Fast, (Fun Lovin' Criminals) mixcloud.com/FastCriminal
Video: Blue Ridge Wedding Videography, blueridge-weddings.com
Photo booth: Gigglebooth, giggleboothwestmidlands.co.uk
Post box: The Something Borrowed Boutique, thesomethingborrowedboutique.co.uk
Guest book: facebook.com/maryshandmadekeepsakes
Dance lessons: Sarah Skinner choreographer, 07957 398263, facebook.com/sarah.skinner.779