Bespoke-Bride: Wedding Blog



October 2014



A Fun Filled DIY Wedding with a Nod To Chinese Roots, Japanese Culture, Travelling & Games!

Written by , Posted in Cultural, Festival, Handmade, Real Weddings

Cultural Japanese Wedding with Paint Trash The Dress


This wedding has got to be up there with one of the BEST DIY weddings I’ve ever seen!! Ken & Eliza really went to town on incorporating their own personalities into their wedding day, not only did they signify their Chinese roots but they also expressed their love for Japanese culture, gave nods to travelling the world, books and even had a ton of games for their guests; i’m talking bouncy castle, tug of war and even…painting the bride and groom! Yep you heard me, think guests with paint filled water pistols! A-mazing.


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Ken proposed in December 2012 in the New Forest with a commissioned dragon and tanzanite ring and it just set the mood for the whole wedding planning. We wanted to be as original, creative and fun as possible with as many elements of our personalities as we could cram in there!

We looked at farms, fields and waterparks before finding the gem of the YMCA Fairthorne Family Park in Botley near Southampton where they would let us have the whole campsite for a weekend and were open to all madcap ideas. They were not registered to conduct marriages so we decided to go to the registrar office quietly the day before, and conduct our own humanist ceremony under the trees with all our friends and family on the day. It let us be a lot more personal with Ken’s sister, Andrea, being our master of ceremonies bedecked in a cloak and dragon staff. With absolutely no schedule or restrictions to what we did, Ken and I decided we’d have a good old fashioned lunch and dinner as we have often been famished at other weddings. We had a hog roast for lunch and BBQ for dinner provided by the local Hampshire Catering company. Guests had the option of bringing their own tents to camp, or using Baylily Bell Tents who provided gorgeous pastel bell tents with the full glamping works including personalised signage (Narnia tent anyone?). We were sneaky and got the honeymoon tent complete with a four-poster bed!

The Dress…

As Ken and I both have Chinese roots, we decided to have a Chinese tea ceremony in the morning. Traditionally the groom and friends have to do a series of challenges to prove his worth before the bride’s friend allow him to collect her. They then pour tea for the parents and relatives to ask for a blessing on the marriage. The Chinese wedding dress is normally a red and gold quipao or qua, however I didn’t think the style suited me. For my white wedding dress I tried on a few in the UK but the dresses I really liked were ones I found on Pinterest and other internet sites. I wanted something floaty and a bit woodland fairy, so I decided to get a bespoke dress made whilst in Hong Kong. I made my own floral headdress using online tutorials. I bought my first glue gun, floral tape, floral wire and lots of fake flowers and through trial and error, managed to create something I was happy with. My first attempt looked more like a Roman wreath so I was glad I persisted! My hair and makeup was done by some very generous friends who took me to the make-up counters and came round to my flat to curl my hair before the day. They did it perfectly as I wanted a very natural look with a hairstyle we could change quickly between dress changes. They were absolutely great from getting up super early to staying totally chilled when we all squeezed into the campsite toilets!

The Groom…

Apart from the Chinese outfit in the morning, Ken wore a tweed waistcoast from Slater Walker and trousers from Debenhams. Ken always rolls up his sleeves for work and I confessed imagining him in a waistcoast with rolled up sleeves on our wedding day. He was happy to oblige and to tie into the casual rustic-wear, his two bestmen had tweed flatcaps.

The Ceremony…

We had a lot of fun making it silly and personal. Whilst neither of us are religious, I really liked it when you turned to your neighbour in church and shook their hand. So we incorporated this as giving your neighbours a hug. We thought it was a great way for people to make new friends! We wrote our own vows in secret, only consulting on the maximum length. No-one was more surprised than us, that we had picked out the same anecdotes from our relationship to highlight. I was very close to tears and it just cemented the knowledge that we were meant to be together. We also wrote our ring exchange based on our wonderful experience of making our rings in Dorset at Flux ‘n Flame jewellery school.

The Flowers…

My friends in Japan had bought me this beautiful origami paper and I wanted to make something with it. I had lived in Japan for 3 years and Ken and I both love the culture, watching Japanese anime and eating Japanese food regularly. My favourite character has to be Studio Ghibli’s Totoro as he is a forest spirit (apt for our venue) who can only be seen by children who believe. A Japanese friend taught me how to make origami Totoros but I didn’t know what to do with them until Ken suggested I make them into my bouquet. It took a lot of trial and error but I love that I can keep my bouquet forever! I also made my bridesmaids bouquets from book pages and old maps sourced from charity bookshops. We also both want to travel the world, eat exotic foods and perhaps even live overseas so the maps were appropriate too. My two nieces, Laura and Sarah were flowergirls too and I made them pomanders with ribbon roses and fake flowers glued onto polystyrene balls.

The Cake…

Ken’s sister Andrea and her husband John Paul made our cake. We knew it would be epic because everything Andrea does is beyond exceptional but we were not expecting this. Ken kept asking for a floating cake, and I had asked for personality and no marzipan. What we got was this amazing 4 tiered topsy turvy cake with a hundred decorating techniques. Inside we had two tiers of really light fruit cake and two tiers of madeira with hidden spots of different colours and flavours. I don’t think Disney or Willy Wonka could’ve done a better job. Andrea took a week off work to make our cake and we were really touched by her efforts. We also think she should go professional! We asked guests who could to bring a dessert to share and were overwhelmed by the generosity. I don’t think I saw half of the offerings but there was everything from Totoro biscuits and chocolate brownies to a massive cheeseboard. It was so much tastier and more personal than having the catering company do it!

The Photography…

We had Big Bouquet Photography cover our wedding. Both Ken and I had separately made a shortlist and these guys were in the top 3 for both of us. Many of their weddings were what we envisaged for our day: rustic, relaxed and full of candid happy moments. Their package included a pre-wedding shoot and we certainly warned them what they were getting themselves in for when we arrived armed with bubbles, a play sword and axe and books. They were brilliant on the day, often melting into the background so that we could relax with our friends and family yet managing to capture lots of brilliant shots.

The Décor…

The marquee was decorated with lots of crafting and hints of us. I made over 30m of bunting and hemp table runners. We bought hardback books to decorate the tables with our love of reading. Ken brought the Warhammer figurines he had painted as a teenager and I brought my childhood pocket dragons to have some fantasy elements. We had to make tokens for the ice-cream van so they could count how many serving they had given and Ken made these personalised Magic Cards with photos of us and friends. My friend Nikki is an artist and she drew the tree which we used for a guestbook by inviting guests to put their fingerprint on it. It is lovely as it now hangs on our wall and we can remember everyone that attended.

Memorable moments…

We found a local ice-cream van and got them to drive up after lunch. It was great fun to hear the music and line up for ice-cream on a hot day. In the lull between meals at late afternoon we decided to make the most of the campsite’s activity pack replete with parachute, tug of war rope and ball games. It was great fun and luckily the manager only laughed when we ripped the parachute and broke the tug of war rope in half. It was lovely to have an activity that people could join in or even just watch and it broke up the formality of the wedding. We also had a bouncy castle. It was the one thing I said couldn’t be compromised on when we got engaged! It was great fun, not just for kids, and I even managed to get my mum and aunties bouncing around!

The highlight of our madness was painting the bride and groom. This came from watching a Lisa Hannigan video and also the recent spate of holi/ colour run related posts on the internet. We’d seen some trash the dress shoots but thought it would be much more fun if our friends and family could be involved in the process. Ken found a cheap white suit in Hong Kong and I got a bargain dress from Ebay so we wouldn’t have to wreck our proper wedding clothes. After experimenting with water balloons and water guns at home, we settled for buckets of paint with water pistols and sponges. It was the best fun to be deluged in colour, especially on a hot July day. It’s not every day you get permission to spray someone with paint so the guests really enjoyed it too!

Advice for other couples…

I think it would be, prioritise what is important to you. We didn’t follow the wedding rule book at all and this gave us a lot more options as we didn’t go for a venue with a set wedding plan. Obviously it isn’t for everyone, but it made us happy, so prioritise the things that make you happy and reflect you as a couple. Everyone came away from our wedding knowing we are fantasy geeks who love silly fun and the outdoors. Don’t be afraid of crafting: I had never made bunting, paper bouquets or decorated jam jars before we got engaged but it is a lot easier than it looks and the sense of achievement on the wedding day makes it worthwhile. Ebay, Pinterest and Youtube were a goldmine of help and improvisation. Doing a DIY wedding is fun but you do have to be organised as there is no wedding planner to do it for you. We had a giant spreadsheet of suppliers, telephone numbers and when balances were due. There were countless times we thought about just packing it all in and eloping, but what pulls us through was the enthusiasm of all those around us and how much they were all looking forward to the big day. We used the skills of our friends where we could for help with invite designing, decorating, jam jar collecting, baking and on the day lots and lots of behind the scenes action and moving stuff around to make sure we weren’t stressed. It really made us appreciate how wonderful our friends and family are and made us enjoy the special day with them all the more.

Super Suppliers // Venue: YMCA Fairthorne Family Park // Hog Roast and BBQ: Hampshire Catering // Main Marquee: Apex Marquees // Accommodation- Guest village bell tents: Baylily Bell Tents // Photography: Big Bouquet Photography // Band: Swing Your Partner Ceilidh // DIY wedding rings- 2 day workshop at Flux and Flame Jewellery School // Commissioned Engagement ring: Jesa Jewellery // Bouncy Castle: PartyMania Bouncy Castles // Flowers: David Salter Wholesale Flowers // Ice cream van: Sammy’s Ice-Cream Van (Hampshire) 020380602706 //Men’s wear: Walker Slater // Wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses: CR Bridal //

I don’t know about you, but I am just in awe at Ken & Eliza’s beautifully unique wedding!

Much Bespoke Love

Jess x



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