A wedding for two in Prague
24 Nov 2020
Alanah Clarke and Thomas Duhamel cancelled their French wedding due to Covid-19 and instead travelled to Prague, the city they first met, to hold a secret wedding, just the two of them
Photography: Khiria Photographer
Tell us about the planning
Thomas and I got engaged on December 31, 2019 in Florida. When we returned to France (where we live) in January we started to plan our wedding. I am very traditional and always dreamed of the classic white wedding with my dad walking me down the aisle and being surrounded by family and friends. On the contrary, Thomas is creative and an out of the box thinker. Originally, Thomas was against the traditional wedding plan, but changed his mind once the ball got rolling. We are an international couple (French, Irish-American) with family and friends scattered throughout the world. Several of our immediate family members are unable to travel great distances for work and health reasons. This made our wedding planning extra difficult. After endless hours of brainstorming and great stress we finally booked a date and venue. Our wedding was scheduled to take place in France on August 8, 2020. By late February, we had signed contracts, paid deposits, designed and ordered our wedding invitations, organised accommodation for our family, designed a website, bought the wedding dress and more. The wedding was only five months away and things had to move quickly. On March 16, President Macron announced a lockdown in France. Throughout the confinement, Thomas and I stayed positive which kept the excitement of planning a wedding alive. However, on May 8 (three months before the wedding) it became clear that an August 8 wedding would not be possible. We were both devastated. The most heartbreaking part was the endless hours of hard work and letting go of that special date. There were tears everyday, but we said Covid will not take this important event away from us. About two weeks later, I had an epiphany. I said to Thomas, "Why don't we go to Prague and get married there?" We have always wanted to find a good reason to return to the city we met five years ago and this might be it. I am not an out of the box thinker, but Covid-19 clearly changed me. By mid-May, we contacted wedding co-ordinators in Prague and started to plan our civil ceremony in Prague. A new date was set for August 22, but this time we kept it a secret between the two of us. For the next three months, we secretly worked on our new wedding plan. In three months, we organized our paperwork, booked a venue, sorted accommodation, found a great photographer, booked a make-up and hair stylist, picked up my dress in London, purchased the rings and kept our hopes up once more.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
When we changed our plans and planned our surprise wedding in Prague we wanted to make it special and intimate. Thomas and I are both timid, so we didn't want to have our wedding at the city hall. Instead, we chose a beautiful Baroque garden in order to gain intimacy and beautiful scenery.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
We weren't planning on a theme or specific colour scheme. We are both simple people and wanted to keep it that way. Thomas is a designer, so I trusted his good eye. In the end it was simple and elegant.
Tell us about the dress
My definition of finding the dress is finding the balance between being in your comfort zone, but a little bit outside of your comfort zone at the same time. In February, I travelled to London to meet my grandmother and two out of my three sisters to go dress shopping. My grandmother and eldest sister live in London and my youngest sister lives in Barcelona. I made three appointments at three different boutiques in two days. The entire experience was wonderful and I enjoyed almost every dress I tried on. The last boutique I visited was called Bridal Rogue Gallery on Chiltern Street. I tried on an Atelier Pronovias dress and that's when everyone agreed that this was the perfect dress for me. I felt elegant and comfortable in it, but it was definitely more fitted than most things I generally wear. The next morning, my eldest sister and grandmother surprised me and told me they purchased the dress, veil and accessories for me. I burst into tears. Planning and budgeting for a wedding is not easy and when family members step in to help, it relieves you of all the added stress you have.
Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?
My bridesmaids would have been my three beautiful sisters. They were going to wear neutral colour dresses of their choice. I wasn't going for matching dresses. I wanted them to feel good and enjoy our wedding.
What did the groom wear?
Thomas found his suit and tie at Suitsupply in Paris. He purchased his shoes at Meerman shoes. His groomsmen would have been his three handsome brothers.
Tell us about your floral arrangements
I love dahlias and wanted them in my bouquet. The dahlia is a symbol of a commitment and bond that lasts forever, making them pretty perfect for weddings. The bold, bushy flower is elegant for summer or early fall weddings (when they're in season). I sent photos and a description to our wedding co-ordinators of the bouquet I had in mind. They worked with a local florist to create the bouquet and buttonhole. I wanted a simple and elegant bouquet - not a big/full one, in season flowers, a slight natural, organic/wild feel, white and light pink rose coloured dahlia flowers with touches of green and a natural wild look which can be mixed with others.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
Thomas and I walked together to the Canon in D. This was shortly after we revealed ourselves to each other (the first peek). We felt great and talked and laughed with each other the entire time. We were happy and proud that we finally were getting married in the middle of a pandemic.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
For a number of years, I studied opera and received my Bachelor's degree in Music. Selecting the music for our wedding was very important to me. We spent time together listening to the music choices and chose the ones we connected to the most. We chose Pachelbel's Canon in D for the procession and Bach/Gounod's Ave Maria for our rings exchange.
What was your most memorable moment?
The most memorable moment was calling our parents on video chat after the ceremony to reveal the news. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I will also never forget seeing Thomas dressed in a suit for the very first time!
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
Planning a wedding through Covid-19 is not easy. Our hearts go out to all the brides and grooms in the same boat. In the end you’re left to make a decision and if you want a wedding to happen sooner rather than later you better be ready to think out of the box and let go of your original plans. It is not easy, but in the end, it is about you, the couple and the marriage.
What was the most important investment for you?
Our photographer and the venue were the most important investment. We wanted a place that made us feel special and not exposed to others. Since we were getting married alone and surprising our family and friends, we needed to document our day. We searched for and found an incredible photographer. She listed to what we wanted and took great photos that allowed us to share our story with others. Our family and friends told us that the photographs were so great that they felt like they were there.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
The day after the wedding we drove to the south of the Czech Republic and stayed a night in Telč. The next day we drove through Austria and stopped in various places before making our way back to Paris five days later. We are spontaneous and didn't have any plans after the wedding. We booked hotels while driving. It was a fun adventure!
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Try your best to focus on what defines you as a couple and not let others get in the way. It is easy to get carried away while wedding planning. Set a budget and make a list of what is important to you and stick with it. Covid-19 planning is different...be prepared to have an open mind and let go of your original wedding plans if possible. Trust me, the second plan works out beautifully too. I think we enjoyed this wedding plan more than we would have enjoyed our original plan!
Steal Their Style
Wedding Coordinators: My Wedding in Prague
Photography: Khiria Photographer
Venue: The Vrtba Garden
Reception Venue: Kampa Park Restaurant
Dress: Bridal Rogue Gallery
Groom’s suit: SuitSupply
Make-up artist: Angelie Blazinski
Hairstylist: Dariya Kozhemyako