Wedding of the Week: Jessica Phillipson and Thomas Bennett

30 May 2017

We followed her wedding planning journey, now - in a culmination of the series - bridal blogger Jessica Phillipson (now Bennett) shares the beautiful details of her big day

How did you meet?

Ours was a romance for the digital age (and neither of us comes off well in this story). We met at Royal Holloway university – Tom had just graduated and was staying on as a funded athlete, training for the 2012 Olympic Games (he is a fencer); I had just started and was working as a student ambassador. We were both representing the university at an open day for primary school students. Tom said two words to Jess, bottled it and ran away at the end of the day. About a week later, he emailed Jess’ boss (who had arranged for him to work at the event, too) asking for a list of student ambassadors who worked on the day. He then found Jess via Facebook. One message later, we had a date set up. We have a lot to thank Mark Zuckerberg for.

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Tell us about the proposal.

We were due to drive from our home in Norwich down to Tom’s parents in London, going to the theatre, seeing friends and celebrating five years together. I decided I really wanted to go to the gym before leaving, not knowing Tom’s proposal plans or that they involved an outdoor picnic. When we eventually hit the road, the skies were clouding over. Having originally liked the idea of a picnic, when we pulled up at Hatfield Forest, I suggested eating in the car as the skies looked so threatening. Tom was oddly persistent, so out we went. After settling down and munching through some sarnies as quite a brisk wind whipped around us, Tom started looking sheepish and said: “Jessie, I have a question. I love you and I want to share my life with you. Will you marry me?”, to which Jess said: “Of course I will” and a beautiful three stone engagement ring was produced.

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

We didn’t have a theme really, but we were keen to have a relaxed and natural feel so our flowers were meadow flowers and there was lots of greenery. Our colour scheme represented where we met – our university colours, which are purple, green and white.

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

I had no idea of what I wanted beforehand. I went on a day’s shopping trip with my mum and bridesmaids and we went to three shops. In the second shop, I found a dress I really liked, so I headed to the third shop with a dress in mind (and with low expectations – I hadn’t expected to find anything in this particular store). About five dresses in at shop number three, it happened. As the dress was done up, I knew I never wanted to take it off. It flattered me in ways the other ‘favourite’ had not and suited my style completely. I felt fantastic in it, which was clear on my face, so my shopping buddies were all smiles and enthusiastic nods.

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Where did you find your suits?

We did lots of research online, but eventually ended up going to Moss Bros. We timed it well, as coinciding with the Black Friday sales meant Tom ended up buying his suit for not as much money.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

Neither of us are flowers experts, so we basically had no clue what we wanted. We met Steph via a work colleague (whose mum is friends with her) and just loved her personality and enthusiasm. She took the time to find out a bit about our day and was full of suggestions for what to go for. She also visited the venue with us and sent us lists of flowers suggestions to approve or reject. We ended up with lovely, rustic meadow flowers cascading out of white jugs as centrepieces, dried lavender bunches as aisle ends and a lovely table runner that matched the bouquets, which were primarily made up of stunning ‘memory lane’ roses. Our new favourites.

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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.

  • One of our bridesmaids is a graphic designer and kindly created a logo for us to use throughout our wedding. This was on all stationery (DIY) and our wedding favours. We got Kisscakes to create edible placecards-cum-favours – little round iced biscuits with our logo and people’s names on them.
  • We decided against a wedding guest book, getting our guests to instead sign a blank photo border for us to frame – a book sits on a shelf, a picture on the wall gets looked at.
  • Our wedding cake was made by Tom’s extremely talented mother, and was so perfect we didn’t want to eat it.
  • We also had a projection on the wall of our childhood photos and photos from our relationship – it’s been done before, but it proved a great talking point for guests who perhaps didn’t know each other so well.
  • We wanted there to be live music throughout the day, so we had a ceilidh in the evening. But our musical highlight was definitely Ukulele Simon, who played for the ceremony and during the drinks reception. His ukulele versions of all genres of music were such a big hit with our guests – so many people asked where we found him and if they could take him home. A great guy.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

That’s a funny story. It’s quite a long walk through the garden at the Norfolk Mead until you get to the venue and, as the walls are glass, you can be seen the whole time. My veil actually got caught on a rose bush. Luckily I freed myself, turned to my audience with a massive grin on my face, which apparently got a big laugh and, as Tom later told me, relieved any tension he was feeling. Hearing Ukulele Simon’s version of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love as I walked in made my heart swell. Everyone either side of the aisle was a complete blur as I focused solely on Tom, who looked so happy to see me. Our video shows that I basically ran with my dad down the aisle, but it felt like it was happening in slow motion. I will never forget it.

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What was your most memorable moment?

Walking out, hand in hand, and taking a brief moment to ourselves to look at each other and say: “We’re married”.

What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Tom works offshore, so every few weeks he goes away for a few weeks. We were both keen to have a say in how the wedding came together, so it was a bit stop-start at times, but we gave ourselves two years to plan. So it actually felt like a very smooth process that didn’t take up that much of our time.

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What was the most important investment for you?

Definitely the food, but also the music. Lots of our friends and family were travelling quite a way to be there, so we wanted to give them a good party, which means full bellies and sore feet by the end of the night.

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

We chose You’re My Best Friend by Queen (originally written by the band’s bassist for his wife). We don’t have a song that is significant to our lives, but we often listen to Queen’s Greatest Hits on long drives (with Wayne’s World-style head banging to Bohemian Rhapsody, of course). We hate soppy love songs that somehow seem inauthentic and not enough to describe how we feel, but the sentiment of this song is just lovely. We don’t just love each other, we really like each other, and are very much a team.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

Ours was a four-tier cake made by Tom’s mum. The layers were chocolate, chocolate fruit cake, coffee and pistachio. Delicious. The outside was covered in a cascade of sugar flowers – all made by Tom’s mum – that matched the flowers in the bouquet and our colour scheme. Every other tier also had a layer of sugar lace. It was a real show-stopper and tasted as good as it looked. She is a very talented lady.

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

The hairdresser who was supposed to help out the make-up artist cancelled two days before, so the make-up artist said she would start earlier and do it all. This didn’t really work as we were quite rushed towards the end and I was about 30 minutes late (unknown to our guests). I wish I had insisted on a replacement hairdresser.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

That the weather was actually going to be gorgeous and worrying about something you have no power over is pointless. Also, that changing your name is annoying. NameSwitch was a real help – you put your information in once and the service creates ready-to-send forms.

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Where did you go on honeymoon?

We went on a mini-moon to the Peak District, which was a lovely way to relax after the day. Lots of walks, beautiful surroundings and champagne every night. We are going on our honeymoon to New Zealand in December.

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

Give yourself plenty of time. We had two years and it was actually an enjoyable experience. So many people report being stressed about wedding planning, yet we were completely calm throughout because we had time.

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Get the look:

Venue and catering: The Norfolk Mead, www.norfolkmead.co.uk
Photography: Luis Holden, www.luisholden.com
Make-up: Sam Storey: https://en-gb.facebook.com/mamfeemua/
Flowers: Steph Middleton: www.stephsflowerbarn.co.uk
Music: Ukulele Simon, www.ukulelesimon.com, and Whirligig, www.whirligigmusic.co.uk

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

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