A secret Wedding in Las Vegas followed by a lavish Celebration at Clearwell Castle!
Tell us about the proposal – how and where did it happen?
‘On the 3rd anniversary of our first date, Michael wrote a beautiful card to me and then got down on one knee with the most beautiful ring, started to tear up and then got nervous and so his preparations of a romantic and heartfelt proposal turned into him shouting “WILL YOU MARRY ME, WELL? WILL YOU…I kept him waiting by admiring the pretty ring before delivering my answer!’
What was your first step in planning your wedding?
‘I am massively organised, arty and enjoy anything crafty, homemade or that can be put into a scrapbook! The first thing I brought was a scrap book to keep everything in and an engagement journal. The first thing Mike brought was a pair of shoes a few days before the wedding! However, we did book Clearwell Castle pretty early on as we had fallen in love with it and wanted to ensure we could make this dream a reality- so collectively, our first wedding purchase was the beautiful venue hire.’
Inspiration: Did you use blogs or magazines for ideas?
‘We were one of the last of our friends to get married so we got a lot of inspiration from people around us, we greatly enjoyed each of those weddings for different reasons but the main thing we took from this was, personalisation! Mike wanted to incorporate his past Military roots into a very special event and I wanted to give back to all my friends and family to make the day a celebration for everyone. I used Pinterest a great deal to look for ideas before making my own props and so on.’
Wedding budget: how did you organise your wedding budget?
‘Everyone told us to set a budget but we decided that we would just have what we wanted for the day. This meant our budget changed. We didn’t worry about the final price, what mattered to us was that our guests had a day that had something for everyone and was personalised for them as well as us.’
Wedding venue: how did you search for a wedding venue?
‘We needed somewhere that could help us pull off our dream day. This meant it needed to be near to our church in Chepstow but also big enough to host the event of a life time. Also we had several guests who couldn’t use steps and needed the assistance of a wheelchair or walking aids. To start the ball rolling, we visited a few wedding fairs in the local area that were held in various venues but found the restrictions on number of guests, accessibility and so forth was not ideal. We used the internet to look at places nearby that could accommodate more people and also spoke with friends, family and work colleagues. We heard a lot of good things about Clearwell Castle but I was concerned from the magazines that we would not be able to afford it!’
What made you choose your wedding venue?
‘We visited Clearwell Castle as a relative of ours had married there many, many years ago, we weren’t expecting to book it – to be honest we were just going to be nosy as we visited very early on into our engagement. We spotted the donkeys as we drove up the path. That was it, the house sale was on hold and we were booking Clearwell Castle. Its beauty, grandeur and historical allure were all it took for us to decide it was for us. We immediately fell in love with the gorgeous land and castle.’
Styling your wedding: how did you personalise your big day?
‘Secretly, we married in Las Vegas the Christmas before our UK wedding day. We decided to have our honeymoon in Vegas before the wedding and thought “why not!?” This was our first nod to a personalised wedding theme, we don’t do things by the book and we are free spirited and do what we think is right. Our wedding ceremony cost us 30 dollars and we think this reflects how we feel about or connection; it’s about love and fun as that’s what keeps us tightly bound together.’
‘We brought Las Vegas to Clearwell Castle- from disco light up sparkling shoes to bringing games and casino tables into our wedding evening. We really expressed our love of card games and being a bit silly! We’re in our 30’s and well past the traditional bridesmaid and groomsmen roles so instead we allowed our special guests some treats over the weekend and in return they helped out with the day and evening with special tasks.’
‘During the day, we chose to have cocktails and lollies on the lawn as well as traditional canapes. We also proudly displayed a stair way to heaven decoration with picture of loved ones that were supplied from our family. We combined tradition with fun games and had Jenga blocks alongside our guestbook.’
‘We also had charity jars, jars to leave us messages to open on our 1st wedding anniversary and our own cheese stack cake and port fountain to honour the fallen and those that could not be with us (a twist on the Military and Port tradition).’
‘Our cake was also a gift. We personalised the cake completely- we used our favourite cocktail flavours to make the tiers and had it decorated in gold roses and ivy to match Clearwell Castle’s theme and my engagement ring. On the top, we proudly displayed our customised cake topper with a nod to our home life which consist of many horses, a dog and other animals!’
‘On the tables we had homemade decorations and incorporated horseshoes and battle honours into the meal. We threw tradition out of the window. We had no top table and sat people where we thought they would have fun, we wanted a chilled out meal time and made sure everyone got to eat what they wanted on the day. The food was sensational. The music softly played in the background was just perfect- it was our favourite songs. It led nicely into the speeches and the rest of the day.’
‘For the evening, we had a film room showing our favourite Disney films and supplemented with board games galore and a popcorn trolley.’
Wedding photographer: how did you choose your photographer?
‘Our photographer is local to us and we remembered her name from a family member’s wedding party previously. We wanted fun photos, and to capture those photos that we will look at for years to come. We didn’t want reams of pictures with people looking cold and bored stood in a line, but to see them laughing at something is priceless to us.’
Wedding suppliers: how did you choose your suppliers?
‘I visited wedding fairs for inspiration but when it came down to choosing suppliers, we used friends and family where possible. Clearwell Castle pretty much took care of the rest. We didn’t ask a lot of people for advice as we wanted things to be surprises throughout the day, we often used online Pinterest sites but everything we saw was adapted and made into ‘us!’
Describe your wedding attire?
‘I always knew that I wouldn’t suit the huge dress- at 5 ft tall, the most suited style was tea style and this was the thought from the start. My dress had everything I wanted, especially the ability to use the loo alone!!!! Mike’s suit was borrowed, fairly last minute from Moss Bros- Mike is so relaxed. His shoes didn’t arrive until two days before the big day!’
What accessories did you wear on the day?
‘I wore a pair of blue Pandora earrings gifted from a friend for my birthday the year before, a penny in my shoe gifted by the same friend. A silver Pandora bracelet gifted by my Mum and a blue personalised garter with the date of the wedding. Mrs. Heady personalised underwear, a tiara from Buckingham Palace as I love all things royal and princess. Two sets of shoes – one for the day (blue and pearl) and a flashing set with sparkles all over in the evening. I wore a pearl necklace that belonged to Alix, Mike’s Stepmother who sadly passed away two years prior to the wedding.’
What did your partner wear?
‘Mike wore a blue suit with a gold tie and navy shoes- it was perfect. I was initially worried as this was the only part of the wedding, I was not involved in organising- anxiety!!! The suit was beautiful and fitted so nicely with the wedding theme colours and has a virtual check over by his Mother and his sister to ensure I would be happy!’
Tell us about your Bridesmaids, Groomsmen and their outfits?
‘We had 8 special bridesmaids- all in late 20’s or 30’s except our Goddaughter, Ashlee who was 12. For this reason, we sent them all gifts when we got engaged stating we weren’t having traditional ‘bridesmaids’ but that they would play a very special role in the day. We asked them to choose their own outfits and shoes, we sent them the colour scheme and in return they all had jobs to do at the wedding!’
‘We had 3 special groomsmen- again all in 30’s so again we paid for the men to stay in a local hotel for a mini stag party. We invited them to join us for a meal the night before and then return their hotel. We treated them with gold ties, pocket watches, cigars, whisky and a personalised glass. We asked them to choose their own outfits and shoes, we sent them the colour scheme and in return they all had jobs to do at the wedding!’
‘My father died sadly when I was 21 and so we decided early on that my brother would walk me down the aisle. We paid for him and his partner to stay at the spa overnight with myself and my ‘bride tribe’ and gave him a gold tie, pocket watch, cigars, whisky and a personalised glass. We asked him to choose his own outfit and shoes, within the colour scheme.’
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
‘We spent the most on the venue as we wanted everyone together. But we also spent quite a lot on our special guests, ensuring it was a weekend about them too!’
What was your biggest wedding saving?
‘The biggest saving was the gifted items- we are so grateful and we never expected such generosity.’
What was your ceremony like?
‘After a wedding blessing and renewal of vows in St Tewdric’s church in Matthern we had a dove release over my Dad’s grave. Our vicar was so awesome we still have people asking about him!
We had church bells, an organist and we shared the cost of decorating the church with the couple who were also due to marry there that day. This was really nice, we formed a virtual friendship as we planned the flowers.’
Tell us about your drinks reception and wedding breakfast?
‘We chose our menu which allowed guests a choice. Clearwell Castle were so accommodating and we enjoyed Fishcakes to start, Chicken in lemon for main and Chocolate Brownie for desert- it was outstanding! The speeches were beautiful, my Godfather did a great speech as did Joe, our best man. For me though, Mike’s speech was so personal, brave and special, this is something I will remember forever.’
Did you have a band or DJ for your evening reception?
‘We had a singer in the day and used Clearwell Castle DJ in the evening. Our disco was 80’s/90’s themed but took lots of requests. We enjoyed burger and chips (our favourite meal) in the evening and danced the night away until we took sparklers outside to end the night.’
Tell us about your first dance – what song did you chose and why?
‘We decided fairly early on not to have a first dance, however several people did snap pictures of us dancing on the dance floor to Spice Girls!’
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
‘…..not change a thing, it was perfect. We have had several people approach us and say they’ve been to lots of weddings and ours was just sensational. We didn’t do it to get the praise, but are so glad people had a great time!’
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
‘We went on honeymoon before the wedding- we went to Las Vegas. After our UK wedding we went to Bath for a mini moon- we chilled in the outdoor pools and spas and used one of our wedding gifts by having a delicious meal in the Pump House. We were so exhausted after the wedding, we needed time just to chill and are so happy we didn’t book a holiday straight afterwards. No one tells you about the wedding fatigue! We are finally rested and planning a safari this year as one final honeymoon… let’s hope the lock down ends so we can get there!’
Tell us about your Suppliers:
Photographer: Megan – Sian Vickery
Bridal Flowers: Juliet Moor Flowers
Church Flowers: Catherine Gray Flowers
Make Up Artist – Faye McConnell, Bristol
Hair: Linsey Jones Hair, Caldicot
Dress: All about Eve, Newport
Cake Topper: Lucys Cake Toppers
Doves: Lovely Dovey
Singers: Simon Blight & Family