Wedding of the Week: Emma Belcher and Steve Readman

28 May 2018

A 1920s meets Manchester City colour scheme, duck races and caterpillar cakes were just some of the ways Emma Belcher and Steve Readman made their wedding a unique occasion

How did you meet?

We met in 2011 via a dating website – we met up in Reading as it was about half way between where we both lived at the time.

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Tell us about the proposal.

Steve proposed the night before our fifth anniversary. I got stuck in traffic on the way home from work on Friday night, and I came through the front door apologising for being a lot later home than I thought. Steve sounded physically distant so I walked through to the kitchen to find the patio doors were open and Steve hiding behind the house. I asked what he was doing and he asked if I’d seen what was on the side of the kitchen. I went back in and there were two bunches of flowers and a bottle of champagne and champagne saucers, which I thought was lovely as it was our anniversary the next day. He then asked if I could see anything else and I said no – he asked again and I still couldn’t see anything. Exasperated Steve then said: "Just look at the chalkboard!" and he’d written ‘Emma, will you marry me?’ on it. So I completely missed his proposal. He then got down on one knee and gave me my ring – it was all lovely and very typical.

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

The '20s and a vintage feel to our wedding was very much influenced by my wedding dress – I didn’t want it to be ‘full-on Gatsby’ but to have that vibe. So we hired champagne saucers for the drinks reception and all our stationery (invitations, guest place cards, menus and thank you cards) were done in a pale blue and gold art deco style (gold for '20s and pale blue because Steve is a big Manchester City fan). We also tried to go a little vintage with our flowers, table decorations and table plan too.

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

We chose the Swan Hotel at Bibury because we used to live nearby, so often went there for lunch or dinner out or just to visit. It was important to us to get married at a place we had a connection with – getting married in a ‘wedding factory’ venue seemed a bit impersonal to us. Also it means we can go back to where we got married for our anniversary and other celebrations which is lovely. The village is of course absolutely beautiful, so it seemed the perfect backdrop for our wedding.

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

My dress was by Maggie Sottero and it happened to be the first one I tried on. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want: sleeveless, fishtail or princess dresses were definitely out. I took my mum and sister to Proposals in Witney, and it was my sister who spotted it. We had pulled out a few others to try on too, but as it was different from the rest the shop suggested I try it on first. I loved it straight away – I’d never imagined myself to be the sort of person who’d end up with the first dress they tried on so it really surprised me. We tried other dresses that day (about 12 in total) but nothing came close for me.

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What did the bridesmaids wear?

The bridesmaids wore dresses from ASOS – we had ordered bridesmaids' dresses from a separate bridal shop to where I got my dress from, however the dresses didn’t arrive on time so I panic bought from ASOS instead. They all looked amazing though and in the end looked much nicer than the original bridesmaids' dresses.

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Where did you find your suits?

We used Suits of Newbury for Steve, the best men, usher, page boys and dads.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

We tried to keep our spending on flowers to a minimum, as it’s such a disposable part of the day. We spent the money on beautiful bouquets and buttonholes for the wedding party (including mums). We had a few flowers on the wedding breakfast tables and hired mirrors and cracked mercury glasses with candles in them for table decorations. The glass jars with candles in them down the aisle were also reused and put on the tables too. Overall, it was pretty simple with a vintage feel to it that complemented the venue too.

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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 quite a few things to make our wedding as personal as possible:

  • I made a speech as I always knew I wanted to do a speech at our wedding. I always find it a bit sad that in a room full of a bride's nearest and dearest she doesn’t say a word while all the blokes get to take centre stage. My parents divorced when I was three but they (and their partners) get on brilliantly for which I’m so grateful, so I particularly wanted to thank them in front of everyone. I was nervous but was so glad I did it. It meant so much to me.
  • Duck races – after the wedding breakfast we held duck races down the stream in the hotel’s garden, which was amazing fun – a village near where I grew up put on a duck race every year so they have fond childhood memories for me. So many people commented how much they enjoyed it, in fact Steve and I were having photos taken at the other end of the village for some of the races and we could hear the competitive shouts and cheers from there.

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  • Favours – we had charity pin badges for Cancer Research and Alzheimer’s as these are both causes very close to both our hearts. Quite often favours get left on tables at weddings, so we knew even if that was the case we’d still have made a donation to charity regardless.
  • Table names – our table names were some of our favourite films – Some Like It Hot was for the top table of course, sticking with the '20s theme.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I was extremely nervous in the build up on the day, but was determined not to cry – I’m definitely a crier when I get emotional. I had some advice from Steve’s sister-in-law to try and look at people’s faces while walking down the aisle, which I’m so glad I did because I can remember exactly who I looked at on each side so clearly. Steve’s face was a picture; I’d never seen him look so happy.

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you? 

I walked down the aisle to Salvation by Gabrielle Aplin. I definitely didn’t want to walk down the aisle to a ‘classic’ wedding song so I chose this song as it has such a beautiful piano introduction. Our signing the register songs included Stand By Me by Ben E King and Heaven Must Have Sent You by the Elgins (we love a bit of Motown). We walked back down the aisle to God Only Knows by the Beach Boys as it's one of our absolute favourites.

One of our readings was ‘The Life That I Have’ by Leo Marks, as the words are really beautiful and it was an original poem the author wrote in memory of his girlfriend, and to encrypt messages during WWII. My granny who passed away a few years ago worked on the mathematics behind Colossus (the first computer and a code-breaking machine), so it had another depth of meaning to me too.

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What was your most memorable moment?

Aside from the ceremony and actually getting married (which was both surreal and wonderful), I think dancing with all our friends and family around us at the end of the night was truly one of the happiest moments of my life.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

We had a plan of what we were going to sort and by when, which we were pretty good at sticking to. However in the month before the wedding the bridesmaids' dresses weren’t going to arrive on time, Steve had a problem with his suit, and our guest place cards hadn’t arrived and we needed to buy more... so a catalogue of problems came along all at the same time. It all got fixed but was a bit stressful and pretty close to the wedding.

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What was the most important investment for you?

We tried to put our money towards what we considered to be ‘keeper’ items after the day – the photos and our wedding rings, in particular. Everything else we just tried to make a sensible choice at the time and saved really hard for what we wanted. For example, we spent extra money on food and drink, but cut back on the flowers and the cake. What people most care about at weddings is whether they’ve been fed, have had sufficient drink and have had a good time – if someone comes away from your wedding appreciating your flowers the most, then I think something’s gone wrong.

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

Our first dance was a slightly unusual one – we chose Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding because it’s a song that we listened to a lot when we first moved in together and would often dance to together in the kitchen, so it seemed an obvious choice. We went on honeymoon to California two days after the wedding and on driving out from San Francisco we actually made a little trip to Sausalito to see the houseboats at Waldo Point, where Otis Redding wrote the song, so that was pretty special too.

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Did you have any evening entertainment?

We had a DJ. We have a very eclectic music taste between us so we knew a band wouldn’t cover everything we wanted to have played. It was brilliant, and even better when requests were taken from other guests too. For example, one of my closest friends and I love Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons, so she requested it and we danced together, and at the end of the song she just burst into tears – I think she’d been bottling it up all day.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

We absolutely loved our Colin and Connie the caterpillar wedding cakes from M&S. We did go to a wedding cake maker to design a cake but it just worked out too expensive to justify, particularly as not all the cake always gets eaten. We got so many comments on the cakes though, so definitely worth it – and who doesn’t love a caterpillar cake?

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

I don’t think I’d change anything. It all came together and was the most amazing day. Perhaps I would have tried to relax more in the build-up though.

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Did anything go wrong on the day?

I was so worried about so many things in the run up to the day (the weather, parking, someone tripping up and spilling an entire glass of red wine down my back…) but actually things went pretty smoothly all in all. Although when throwing my bouquet I wanted to give it some height and distance, but instead I managed to throw it directly into the ceiling and it fell down about two feet behind me - typical. Second time round one of my bridesmaids caught it with the greatest of ease, thankfully.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

I wish I’d known how easy it is to get upset when people don’t act quite in the way you’d expect them to in the run up to the wedding. People are strange beings so try not to dwell too much on anything that disappoints you, it’s small in the grand scheme of things.

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

Keep a list of expenses, try not to stress (much easier said than done) and of course, the bride should make a speech – you won’t regret it, I promise.

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Steal their style:

Photography: PhotoGlow, Cheltenham, www.photoglow.co.uk
Venue:The Swan Hotel, Bibury, www.cotswold-inns-hotels.co.uk/the-swan-hotel/
Dress: Ettia by Maggie Sottero from Proposals, Witney, www.proposalsbridalstudio.co.uk
Accessories: Veil and hairband by Donna Crain, Blackwater (Camberley), www.donnacrain.com
Wedding rings: Peter Casey Jewellery, Wantage, www.petercaseyjewellery.co.uk
Bridesmaids’ dresses: ASOS, www.asos.com
Hair: Bella Bridal Hair, Gloucester, www.bellabridalhair.co.uk
Make-up: Emily Tarrant Make Up, Northleach, www.emilytarrantmakeup.com
Groom’s outfit: All suits rented from Suits of Newbury, www.suitsnewbury.co.uk
Stationery: TwoforJoy Paper, London, www.etsy.com/uk/shop/twoforjoypaper
Floristry: Aqua Flowers, Cirencester, www.aquaflowers.com
Cakes: Marks & Spencer, www.marksandspencer.com
Entertainment: Celebration Roadshow (DJ), Bristol, www.celebrationroadshow.co.uk

For more real wedding inspiration, pick up your local edition of Bride magazine

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