Sometimes life offers you second chances and so it was with the wedding of our daughter Anastasia to Peter-John “Pinky” Wallis. She has made a career in London as a portrait painter and is a member of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters (as her mother, I take my Cuisinette apron off and clap my hands, as this was not an easy path to choose) She met her future husband, not at the Swing Dancing Clubs that she frequented, nor at the Punk Rock Festivals he organized, but rather through his chance conversation with a kitchen designer who knew them both. Robert and I arrived in London two days before their event and discovered just how different a wedding in London can be!
First of all, a shout out to a great local independent cab company in London, located in Dulwich, which is in the southeast sector. They picked up our groups of Americans, French, and Italians (even rescued a lost passport) at a variety of airports, and dropped us all off at various hotels and venues when needed. Cheerful drivers in clean cars, (who also did not talk on their cell phones incessantly), prompt service, credit card prepayment available, and reasonable pricing. What more could someone ask, who has survived some pretty scary cab rides in New York? So put Dulwich Cars in your smartphone or address book when you go to London. We also utilized Homeaway.co.uk to locate a nice flat nearby at Riverside Wharf. Owners were really accommodating to our crazy schedules. An added bonus was the owners’ wonderful selection of toys, books, crib and high chair for our grandson.
We had wanted all of our friends who journeyed across the pond to have a really good English dining experience. The food scene in London is so radically different now than it was 15 years ago when we first visited. Natasha found Drapers Arms, which is near her first studio in Islington. This gastropub was a fabulous choice for our party 0f 30 people in their upstairs tea parlor. The menu, wine and bubbles choices were divine and as we had a passel of children, there was plenty of room for them all to run around, hide in the fire places and even under the tables. The Drapers Arms get their bread from St John Bakery, which if you love good bread, should be on your food tour.
Our flat had the perfect space for hair dresser/makeup guy, three bridesmaids and bride to prepare for the big event. The Makeup and Hair Wizard was Sammy Galindo, who is originally from Texas, but you can see from his site that he has a flair with a definite London edge.
For a girly afternoon, Natasha booked us in a nail salon like no other I have ever frequented (and I am somewhat pedicure obsessive). Hula Nails decorates your nails and other parts of your body in the most remarkable 50s’ kitchy-tiki decor I have ever seen. They wouldn’t let me take a scenic photo as they have had too many like minded salon owners try and copy them. Suffice it to say you drink champagne, watch movies from the 50s, and ogle at their astonishing collection of 40s and 50s pin ups. Ironically we watched “Rear Window” and it was Grace Kelly’s iconic dress in this film that was the inspiration for Natasha’s wedding dress.
Her wedding dress was created by Dana Bolton of Once Upon A Time Wedding Dresses who has a neat Facebook Page too. Her to die for hat (only the American women were shamefully without hats in the wedding party!) came from Edwina Ibbotson Millinery. Edwina offers hat making courses, which Natasha took to create the hat she wore to her sister’s wedding three years ago. British hats are astonishing in their artistry and sheer creativity.
Oh yes, the shoes, of which she had three pairs (which were not tucked into my Mom Bag from The Shoe Hive, but everything else was). One was a pair of vinyl Vivienne Westwood heels, another slightly more traditional, and the final– a polka dot version of Keds similar to the ones her grandmother wore all the time when Natasha was little.
Now on to the wedding festivities which were photographed by Assassynation and we have used her delightful photos in this blog. Sassy does photo shoots for quite a variety of weddings in Europe. I think you’ll enjoy looking at some of her other photo previews as well on her Facebook Page
After much bouncing around between Portsmouth and London, Natasha returned to The Old Finsbury Town Hall (where she actually had gone Swing Dancing once or twice). It was better than perfect. A civil (and it was indeed quite civil) ceremony was performed in the aptly named Ceremony Room and then we had the reception in the Main Hall. The reception actually came in two parts: there was a high tea (we are in England), a Charleston demonstration with a Dixieland Band and then ultimately a late night buffet and roaring dance to The Racketeers.
The caterer and florist for the absolutely smashing tea is Hanna Judd of The Tea Set Company. Each table was set with vintage china, and had cake stands filled with little sandwiches, tarts and scones. Pots of jam, butter and clotted cream were on the table. There was a Lemon cake and a chocolate cake to dive into along with loads of delicious tea. The servers were all dressed in 50s outfits. The flowers on all the tables were lush and seasonal.
After a cake cutting ceremony in the Small Chamber (a term I use loosely) and the very tasteful removal of the bride’s garter and tossing of the bouquet, we all returned to the great hall and were treated by a smashingly good British Dixieland Band and Charleston from The Bees Knees. And to top it off, a casual buffet created by Purple Potato Caterering Company was served–the menu included a delicious tomato and goat cheese tart (author of this blog will try and coerce the recipe from them). In fact the this caterer was so good, we hired them to do a birthday lunch the next day in Natasha’s flat. The finale was an absolutely brilliant band picked out by His Pinkyship (our name for our son in law) called the Racketeers. Absolutely everyone was dancing wildly-from guests in their 70s plus to toddlers. And I must say the British can dance!