Creating unforgettable memories for their guests was Dani Harding and Matt Hoppé's ultimate aim for their big day - Bride's Wedding of the Week
How did you meet?
Tell us about the proposal.
Matt and I both have two children each and so woke up on Christmas morning to do Christmas presents and breakfast etc. Later on in the evening, when it was just the two of us, we sat down together, poured a glass of prosecco and then I was presented with the most beautiful Vera Wang ring.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
We both wanted something along the Thames and with our love for the beautiful scenery of that area and all the boats, it needed to be something along those lines. We didn’t have a theme so to speak, but taking a cruise down the river between the ceremony and reception definitely gave it a nautical feel. The bridesmaids were in navy long dresses and our flower girl in a taupe contrasting dress which tied in with the groom and groomsmen in their chinos and blazers.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
The Beetle and Wedge Boathouse Restaurant is an amazing location in Moulsford, Oxfordshire, and the food is always good, not just for weddings. We had one of our first dates there and actually on the way back from looking at another venue we popped in for a drink. We didn’t think that they would have space for us, but it really was meant to be. We met with Charlotte who described everything we wanted in the first 10 minutes of us arriving. It’s an incredible location and I believe it is the same stretch that the Wind and the Willows was set on. But more than that, the team were incredibly flexible and they really made the day amazing, going the extra mile in everything that they did. I have never been to another wedding where the food was as good.
We didn’t want to go for a wedding venue where you pay through the roof and then get fairly standard catering designed to please the masses. We wanted good food… great food. We were paying for it after all so we wanted to feel like we were taking everyone out for a really good dinner. The Beetle and Wedge did not disappoint; no pre-ordering, the menus were printed (we decided on the options) and then our guests could pick what they wanted and ordered just before it was served. Cooked freshly just for them.
Rustic and literally on the riverside, the Boathouse has the best of both worlds: an old barn conversion for the bar and dance area and a light, beautiful conservatory restaurant overlooking the river and its own moorings and gorgeous outdoor area. I could keep going on about this venue. It was perfect, the service was amazing and we even had fish and chips in newspaper cones later on in the evening while we watched the fireworks.
The boat from Salters Steamers really was the catalyst for a great party, taking us up to the venue. We meandered along the Thames for about an hour, passing people on their boats and in pubs alongside the river while they waved and shouted their wishes. We had a 7ft ‘Just married’ sign on the back, so you couldn’t miss us. We also prepared music which was a compilation of all of our guests' first wedding dance songs. The Beetle and Wedge delivered canapés to the boat and prosecco was handed out, so before we even arrived, the party had started.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
The dress was from Something Borrowed Something New in Caversham. The dress had just come into the shop the day before my appointment, it was in the window and I put the deposit down there and then. It didn’t even fit at the time but the lovely Rochelle put my mind at ease, offering the easy to use alteration service that she offers and I never regretted it. I took a risk putting a deposit down on the first dress I had seen and the first shop I visited, but from there I went to other shops and absolutely nothing came close. Rochelle personally picks each of her one-off dresses, so I found these to be really unique and up to date. The dress I wore was a Maggie Sottero, Castalia; I had so many compliments and it really was the perfect dress for me.
What did the bridesmaids wear?
These were simple yet classical navy chiffon dresses.
Where did you find your suits?
We wanted to keep it fairly casual and everyone comfortable; chinos and blazers were bought from TM Lewin.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
We wanted a classic look which was not over the top; The Beetle and Wedge provided their table lilies in long stemmed vases at no additional cost. For our bouquets, we visited the lovely Keri, a florist based in Wallingford. She managed to fit us in in between weddings. The flowers were beautiful and exactly what we had imagined. They were delivered to us at the hotel free of charge with a lovely card with her wishes to us.
Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.
We really wanted to give each of the guests something personal, something practical and something unique, that they would remember. Each adult guest received a small bottle of rum (Kraken) with a small personalised tag on it. They also received a gift box which had biltong (a South African snack) inside as I am south African. Of course the gift boxes could have anything in them, but we wanted to make it personal to us and also to them so the most important part was making it something that they would keep. We painstakingly found photos of each of our quests, filtered them and printed them out as a filmstrip. Each of the quests therefore had a photo of themselves and loved ones attached to their gifts.
Each guest also had a small ‘message in a bottle’ name place. For the seven children that attended, we gifted each a ‘He POPPED the question’ brown paper bag, filled with ‘popping’ goodies: Poppets sweets, popcorn, popping candy, and more.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I was so nervous about this part in the build up to the day, but as soon as I saw Matt I was OK.
What was your most memorable moment?
Too many to choose from. We had the most amazing day.
We have sat together over a glass of wine since the night and asked each other the same thing, and it's really hard to decide. We loved being able to take the whole wedding party up the Thames to the venue via boat. It was perfect weather and beautiful stretch of the river. The guests also all arrived at the town hall by an old vintage bus. This was a stroke of genius as it forced all the guests to ‘get on board’ and break the ice and not have to split up for transport. A couple of proseccos along the way to the town hall and everyone was old friends by the time the ceremony started. This was the same for the boat. It meant that nobody was going off in separate ways, doing their own thing, arriving at separate times. It was a party from start to finish.
At around 10pm, after dinner, speeches and our first dance, we had the most amazing fireworks display followed by all of our guests launching Chinese lanterns into the sky. It was truly stunning and great for photos, and although not all lanterns made their launch, we don’t think anyone would forget it.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
Probably contrary to the above, there was a lot of planning and explaining the transport to everyone. It was worth it though. We made a timeline for everyone and it gave us an excuse to talk about it more.
What was the most important investment for you?
Food and drink... and the venue. We didn’t skimp on the drink. Most venues cater for about half a bottle of wine per guest. We catered for about a bottle, plus three glasses of prosecco for each person. The Beetle and Wedge were very flexible with what we wanted and needed and they even adapted this as the day went on. The venue is probably the most important because of the photos, but really it’s the atmosphere it creates and massively impacts how everyone feels on the day.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
Mumford and Sons - There Will Be Time. All couples should listen to this song and read the lyrics. It really is lovely and not many people know it. We put the words up on a big screen for our first dance which also filtered photos of us while we danced.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
As soon we arrived by boat, we were greeted by our live band, The Winkle Pickers from Your Big Day Music. It was amazing luck that we found these guys; they were incredibly reasonable and flexible with timings, they absolutely rocked. Not a typical kind of wedding band - these guys are young, trendy and actually very good.
Did you have a wedding cake.
No. Everyone has their own priorities but I feel this might be a dying tradition. We went round and round in circles about this and decided against it. Nobody missed it, we had the most amazing spread of puddings and cheeses instead.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
Nothing, not one thing. Our next door neighbour even had a classic Jaguar and he was kind enough to drive us to the ceremony as Wallingford happened to be his home town. It was all meant to be.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
The only thing that went wrong for about five seconds was that we had left behind the bridesmaids' gifts. We only realised when we got off the boat, and we had all had a few glasses by then so couldn’t drive. The manager at The Beetle and Wedge drove all the way to our house to personally pick them up from our bedroom; I had absolutely no idea this even happened until the next day.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
We are going this month, when everything settles down and so we have something to look forward to.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Have fun, spend lots and lots of nights listening to music together, drinking wine and getting to know what each other really wants and doesn’t. Have fun planning it and include as many friends and family members as possible... those that are involved are invested. Also, take five minutes - just the two of you - on the day, stand away from the crowds and take it in. There is so much going on throughout the day but I remember this moment the most.
Steal their style:
Photography: Francis Bigg Photography, www.francisbiggphotography.com
Band: Your Big Day Music - The Winklepickers, www.weddingbandsurrey.org
Ceremony venue: Wallingford Town Hall, www.wallingford.co.uk/town-council/council-services/weddings-and-civil-ceremonies
Boat hire: Salters Steamers, www.salterssteamers.co.uk
Reception venue: The Beetle and Wedge, www.beetleandwedge.co.uk
Floristry: Wallingford Flowers, www.wallingfordflowers.co.uk
Videography: Richard Sealey, https://richardsealey.wixsite.com/film-and-photography
Transport: Classic Bus Hire, www.classicbushire.co.uk
Hairdresser: Crops & Bobbers, Kelly Hall
Make-up: AC Makeup Artistry, www.instagram.com/ac_makeupartistry
Dress: Something Borrowed Something New, Caversham (Maggie Sottero), www.maggiesottero.com
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