Wedding of the Week: Kondwani Monica Kainja and Michael Likupe

20 Nov 2017

From the ceremony at Nottingham Central Adventist Church to the reception at The Carriage Hall in Plumtree, Monica Kainja and Michael Likupe's wedding was a celebration of love and honour 

How did you meet?  

We met at a youth camp, through a mutual friend. We were around 17-years-old. I was seeing someone else and he was getting on with his life. We were not interested in each other at all. 

Fast forward 11 years, he became my closest friend when we began working at the same law firm. He seemed lively but we still did not start to like one another until suddenly we did. We had a great time being friends and then growing to love one another. It all just fell into place.

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Tell us about the proposal.

It was at one of my favourite restaurants, Marco Pierre White in Nottingham. Everyone was in on it. I wondered why I was being showered with a lot of attention and why the waiters were extra attentive. I swore I was being watched and I did not know why. I remember telling Michael that everyone seemed a little nosy. He kept mum about the whole thing until they brought the dessert plate out with the proposal message and everyone circled around our table. I told the server he got the wrong table as I did not order dessert and I turned around laughing to Michael to tell him the funny story and he was on his knees. I was so confused, I was whispering: "I am so gonna kill you, what are you doing?". It was exhilarating, quite nerve-racking and heartwarming all at the same time. It felt surreal.

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What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?

I did not intend to have a theme but in the end everything was rather luxurious, although not too opulent. I wanted to make the day very Monica. That means 'great attention to detail without looking forced'. I wanted a clean look to everything. I wanted to have white, cream and blush hues. I also wanted a touch of cerise on the bridesmaids but that was essentially the only strong colour I wanted.

I used to think I would marry in an Elie Saab dress and that initially inspired my décor... I wanted greys and pinks. 

However, I considered Monique Lhulier but fell in love with a Vera Wang dress before I made it to my appointment at Browns Bridal. In the end I think my dress has a lot to answer for as I ended up building my vision for the day around it, I wanted a romantic feel that was not over the top. I call it complex simplicity, whereby I put a lot of effort into everything e.g. the invitations, save the dates, the flowers etc without looking too contrived.

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

The Carriage Hall in Plumtree. My husband and I loved going to Perkins for our lunches. We loved the feel of that restaurant and its location. We wanted an intimate venue with good food and we were excited when we saw they had a wedding hall. It was exactly what I wanted. We had considered country homes and big venues but they did not sit well with what I wanted; they just did not suit my personality and my husband's and so we went for the converted train station that is the Carriage Hall. It was big enough without us feeling swallowed up but secluded enough for us to feel as though we were in our little world.

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When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress? 

I do not even remember how many dresses I tried on. I tried on three Vera Wang designs at Browns Bride in London. The first dress I tried on there was the one. It was the first dress I put on where, as soon as I saw my reflection, I felt home. I just knew it was the one. Everything about it suited my personality. I lived the layers of silk, how it sat at my waist and how it supported my ample chest. I was never a wedding-y girl in the sense that I had not envisioned the day and day-dreamed about dresses but that dress put me into 'princess mode'. I certainly was not looking for a ballroom dress but when you find the one, you just know.

I chose a Maria Elena headpiece and a Peter Langner Odelia veil with silk trim which also retails at around. I also wore some Michael Kors shoes.

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What did the bridesmaids wear?

They all wore  the same design by Monique Lhuillier. I loved the layers of the dresses and how they moved. My maid of honour, Dionne White, was in blush and the remainder were in Cerise. I intended to have two maid of honours but my friend, Alice, could not make it which was sad. However, it was great to see how much she too loved the dress designs. It was a high to low tulle dress which was just breathtaking.

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Where did you find your suits?

My husband wore a bespoke Cad and The Dandy Saville Row suit. I was proud of how he worked with the tailors to ensure that they made his dream suit. He also had a bespoke shirt from them and wore Boss shoes from Selfridges and Tom Ford perfume.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

My floral arrangements were out of this world. They were a luxurious mix of my favourites: roses, hydrangeas and peonies in cream, blush, and subtle greens. They were petal rich. I cannot do them justice by describing them, but they just looked lush. I did not want strong colours, I wanted very soft colours. My bouquet was comprised of peonies and roses in all blush colours and tied together with lace and ribbon.

My bridesmaids carried one large hydrangea each. The mini bridesmaids had real rose flower crowns and carried rose pomanders in blush colours.

We had two florists, one for the church and one for the reception. At the church, we had six massive arrangements framing the aisle, with rose petals on the cream carpet. We also had a wooden arch with hydrangeas and roses, which had some green to break things up a bit. For the reception, we had 11 massive centrepieces with hydrangeas, peonies and roses. They were in tall glass vases. The main table had a huge centrepiece and the flower heads were half the height of my husband.

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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.

We had photo booths and a firework display designed for us. We also had a live jazz band, a choir and many other wonderful things. I think what people said they really appreciated is that, rather than a top table, we sat on a centre table and we were one table away from everyone.

I loved our table plan and the table place names and numbers, and the way that the glassware was arranged. To be honest what people liked about our day was the execution; they all said they had never seen everything come together for any wedding in the way they saw ours.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I was elated. I felt at peace and I was so happy. I was determined to have a great day because I just felt so happy.

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What was your most memorable moment?

I walked into the church and I just muttered, “wow”, because everything looked exactly as I had imagined it. It was wonderful to see that your vision could be carried, but most of all, when I saw my husband, I just felt like my joy for the day was complete. My favourite moment is when my hand was placed in my now-husband’s hand.

I was also ecstatic to see old friends and family. I have had the privilege of having many people love me through the years and great friends who turn into family. I saw how much my husband was loved. I just knew we would have a great life.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Telling people to leave me to it. I was intent on doing it all myself and with my husband as I had a specific vision that most people did not get and I knew that, without a shared vision, it would not be possible to achieve the same thing. It was hard getting people to trust that I knew what I was doing despite not having any experience at all at the planning thing. On the wedding day, everyone came to me and told me I did an excellent job and that it was the best wedding they had gone to. I think my husband and I just wanted to have the trust of those we love and for them to realise we can take control of our lives and be OK.

But we also had family members who were supportive and helped things along... some, of course, created more challenges then necessary but such is life.

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What was the most important investment for you?

All of it. I am so specific about things and so everything becomes important. To begin with, it was the flowers and invitations - the invitations were one of my favourite things - then photography and videography.

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

I did not choose a song; we just danced to live jazz music.

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Did you have any evening entertainment?

As well as the jazz band, we had fireworks and live dancers.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

It was luscious and had five tiers in the following flavours: red velvet, Madagascan vanilla and raspberry, lemon and elderflower, and chocolate and salted caramel. 

The lemon and elderflower layer was out of this world but every part of the cake was exceptional. We had a freelancer called Lynne Gardener do the cake and she was incredible. People still talk about it.

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If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

Maybe cut out the drinks reception nibbles as they were not necessary. I would also have ordered less for the evening food.

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Did anything go wrong on the day?

Yes. The hairdresser came two hours late. I was so frustrated given that I paid her £260 to do my hair plus paid her travel and hotel (around £170). She never even apologised properly or gave a good explanation.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

We planned the wedding in three months or so and everything went smoothly. I wish someone told me to chill and that this was enough as I was paranoid I’d left it too late. Also, hidden costs.

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Where did you go on honeymoon? 

Bali. We did not go immediately; we had a mini break in Newquay and went to the wonderful hotel that is The Scarlet for massages and wonderful dinners and then booked our main honeymoon for Bali. My tip to all couples is make the first year of marriage a honeymoon. We also spent several weeks in plush hotels in London and sampled a vast number of Michelin star restaurants.

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

Yes, trust yourself and your instincts. Make this day your special day and do what you want to do. Do not be pressured into doing things that will take away from the day being yours. It will be something you remember and so make it a good memory. But remember, it is just a day, although a day to have the best party of your life so make it count.

Steal their style:

Videography: Clive Coutet of Clive Coutet Media, www.clivecoutet.com
Photography: Atunbi, https://www.theatunbiexperience.com/
Floristry: Rebecca Cadwell of Floraldeco, http://floraldeco.co.uk
Cake: Lynne Gardner of Gardner Cakes, https://gardnercakes.co.uk
Fireworks: Galaxy Fireworks, www.galaxy-fireworks.co.uk
Invitations and wedding stationery: Enchanting, www.byenchanting.co.uk  
Car: Dennisson Cars, www.dennissonclassics.co.uk 
Make-up: Crystal Lewis, https://freelancerclub.net/discover/freelancers/crystallewis/image/15121/0/all

For more real wedding inspiration, pick up the latest edition of Bride magazine

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