So this week marks THREE years of being married! And we sure have filled a lot into three short years.. moving to London, a month long honeymoon, some fun weekends away, a month in Indonesia, two pregnancies, two babies, and a move to birmingham later.. here we are celebrating 3 years of being married!
Celebrating our wedding anniversary (not that we do much celebrating with two kids on board) always makes me look back on ALL of the photos and ALL of the videos, and of course Timehop and facebook memories send me daily reminders of what I was doing ‘on this day’ x years ago. So I can’t help but flick through all the memories fondly while I’m stuck under a nursing baby or catching a rare quiet moment while both boys are asleep.
So today when I was doing said above activity, it occurred to me that I have never updated my blog on my wedding details as I had always intended (I had lots of intentions for this blog when I started it, but that was before any babies popped out and the reality of keeping it up to date and the visions I had in my head have sadly become just that.. ideas in my head).
So here goes.. (I’ll try to keep this as concise as possible).
My big fat Asian wedding lasted just over a week, with three main events (traditionally a mehndi night occurs before the wedding, then the girls side host a baraat where the bride traditionally leaves her family for her husbands family, followed by the boys side hosting a walima to celebrate the marriage). We also had two dholki nights and a mayoun leading up to the Mehndi. Which are basically held in the homes of the bride and groom and consist of food, dancing, singing, and lots of fun.. Although I’m calling it my ‘big fat Asian wedding’ there’s something to be aware of. My husband is not Asian. So although we had a traditional Asian wedding, we did also have a reception (I guess you could call it the Walima as my husband organised the food as per Asian tradition) which was more of a fusion event of both cultures, and although we adopted many of the usual Asian traditions, the main wedding day especially was more of a mix.
In Asian families, the bride or grooms family very much host the parties, but as this is not tradition for my husbands family, all three events were hosted and organised by my family. So I had 3 big events to plan and prepare for.. (courtesy of my mum).
The biggest and most stessful part about planning your wedding, is finding the perfect venue and setting a date. We wanted a summer weekend wedding but we were flexible with dates. I started looking for venues in January 2014 for the summer of 2014! Yup, I like a challenge. As we were doing things a little differently than a standard Asian wedding, I knew I wanted a smaller baraat day, and a bigger, more extravagant reception. So, I focused on finding the perfect reception venue, and with the help of my lovely mum and sister, we found the perfect venue and booked it within a week!
My criteria for a venue was:
- A country house/ stately home or something pretty with a garden or outdoor space
- Must seat 200 guests for a meal (it was a challenge to only have 200 guests as Asian weddings tend to be a lot bigger, but it was a trade off between the perfect enue or more guests.
- The venue needed to be licencesed for a civil ceremony (in Asian weddings the civil ceremony is often done as a separate event all together)
- Must cater for Asian/halal food or have a preferred Asian caterer.
- NOT a marquee.. although marquees can look amazing and are a blank canvas, I did not want to spend thousands to be sat in a marquee. I wanted to enjoy the venue itself, after forking out all that money! A marquee reception was a big no no for me.
- Location wise I wanted something within driving distance of birmingham, or between birmingham and Manchester.
Myself and my sister looked at venues online, and called around and any that looked like they met my criteria we arranged a viewing for, but to be honest not many venues did tick all of my boxes so we only ended up viewing 4 or 5. And one of them was PERFECT and had availability in August 2014, which was ideally when we wanted to get married! So we quickly booked the stunning Ragley hall for Sunday 31st August, and hoped we could make the other venues and events work around it.
I had always wanted my mehndi event to be at home, and luckily my mums back garden was a reasonable size to host a good sized marquee, so this was very much my preferred option but we still looked at different options. Dates and availability were proving challenging, not to mention all of the additional costs beginning to stack up. So we made a very bold decision. If we were having a marquee at home for one event anyway, we might as well do the baraat and mehndi both at home and have the marquee set up at home for a longer period, making the most of the cost of the marquee and giving us more flexibility on dates and caterers etc. It was going to take a lot more planning, hard work from me and my extended family, but getting married at home was so personal and I loved the idea.
The weekend before the reception was bank holiday weekend, and so we decided on the Saturday for the Mehndi, and the Monday for the baraat, followed by the reception the Sunday after at Ragley. So, I then called around and asked around and found a company willing to setup a marquee for 200 people in my garden, for the dates I needed… and just like that, by the end of January, our wedding dates and venues were sorted!
The Dress (or dresses)
Once dates and venues were all confirmed, the next important thing for me was getting my outfits sorted, as Asian clothes can sometimes take 3-4 months to arrive as they are often made to order. I love traditional Pakistani bridal clothes, which are not easy to get hold of in the UK, so I booked appointments at boutiques in birmingham and London, but being super fussy about the style I wanted I only looked in about five shops in total, and found my outfits super quick. Asian bridals in the U.K. come with a hefty price tag. Luckily my mum agreed to give me a more than decent budget as it was still cheaper than the cost of a flight to Pakistan and back 😂, but I appreciate that my bridal outfits may not suite every budget, but there are more affordable shops out there and now more and more people are offering Pakistani bridals.
1.My Mehndi outfit..
Traditionally brides wear bright colours on their mehndi, yellow, oranges and greens are common. I wasn’t too fussed on my mehndi outfit, I wanted something nice and simple, as traditionally a bride dresses down on their mehndi with little or no makeup, so that they look even more stunning on the wedding day. In the end, I opted for a dress by Lavelle. Although I had 2 options and didn’t pick what I was actually wearing until the night before.. Story of my life I am super indecisive!
2. My baraat outfit
Traditionally Asian brides wear red (I’m not actually sure why), and although I was undecided on whether I would, after trying on a few red outfits I decided I would follow the tradition and found a stunning outfit by Ziggi’s Menswear sister brand Mehzabeen bridal.
3. My reception outfit.
I wanted something elegant and timeless and I wanted nudes/pastels.. and when I saw my outfit from Gul’s Style (in ilford), I knew I had to have it.
We worked with one of the approved caterers for Ragley for the main reception and they were amazing. The food was impeccable and they helped to organise the whole day and made sure everything ran smoothly and on time, so basically act as wedding planners also. I would highly recommend Five Rivers, and they work with lovely venues all over the U.K. We had many meetings at their restaurant in Walsall, where we ran over the minute by minute plans of the day, they really were amazing. For the two events at home, my family arranged a local caterer based on recommendations, and we made sure we hired caterers with waiters/waitresses and their own equipment as I didn’t want my family to have to do loads at the events. Although they failed to send the waiters on the mehndi so my family had to step up and do it.. I have the best family! (They also did all the clearing up and washing up for both events we had at home).
The venues, clothes and food are the main things to organise, so once this was done I relaxed a little as the rest were all the finer details that I then had months to organise. I set up some spreadsheets, one to manage my budget and keep track of what I was spending, one to list all of the vendors I was using and their details, one to create a guest list which then become an ‘RSVP’ tracker, and one to create an ‘order of the day’ for all three events.. oh and finally one spreadsheet was a to do list of what was needed with dates/deadlines and requirements. Sounds a bit complicated but it was super simple and helped me keep organised.
I wanted a bright and vibrant backdrop for the mehndi with lots of lighting, and hired events company Dream moments for both the events at home. They spent hours setting up and then turning it all around for the second event, where I wanted something a lot more subtle and elegant. They did an amazing job and were worth every penny. Myself, my sister and cousins made the centre prices for both the mehndi and nikkah and they turned out lovely! We also had a pick and mix stand and dessert table, all home made! For the reception at Ragley, I hired a florist to provide candelabras and flowerballs, to compliment the beautiful grand hall and colour theme. Fresh flowers are pricey, but I didn’t need to dress the room in any other way as the room was simply stunning.
For me, this was the fun part!
The mehndi is full of lots of traditions and singing/ dancing, so the entertainment is pretty easy. We hired a Dj and I forced my cousins and close friends to practise a couple of dances to perform on the day, I even took part in one and I am a shocking dancer! Once the food has been served, the dance floor is cleared and the rest of the night is lots of dancing. So this was pretty easy to organise.
The baraat day is traditionally sad for the brides family as they ‘lose their daughter’ to their husbands family. This is not really the case in this day and age, but it still symbolises the change in dynamic as you leave with your husband and his family. So, there’s usually a sombre mood and not much singing/ dancing. We did have a Dj to provide nice background music for the event.
So basically, all of the entertainment was saved for the main reception. We had:
- A harpist for the civil ceremony and drinks reception
- A live singer during dinner
- Dhol players
- A photo booth
- DJ for the after dinner fun
- Fire throwers in the beautiful gardens
- And finally a lovely fireworks display to end the night
We managed to squeeze ALOT into the day as it really was such a lovely day. In fact, I loved all of my events so much. The months of planning, ALL of the spreadsheets and the stress all paid off and our guests enjoyed it as much as us (so I’ve been told repeatedly). I could not have done it without my mum and sister, and of course my husband! I think I was a relaxed and organised bride, which came down to my attitude, my spreadsheets, an the help of my family. I absolutely loved my wedding events, and loved this little trip down memory lane.. I hope you enjoyed reading, and just in case you arent already sick of our faces, I’ll leave you with some more images below..