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One day, two beautiful weddings

The sun was shining on a fabulous June day and there was a sweet smell of lavender in the air as the guests waited in The Gardens, Yalding for the wedding to begin.  The Gardens opened in 2016 as an exclusive wedding venue.  The 12.5 acre site is divided into 16 distinct areas, representing garden design through the ages.  There are also extensive orchards, in keeping with Kent’s long history as the garden of England.  Five bridesmaids in cornflower blue and a beautiful flower girl sprinkling rose petals along the grass aisle, signified the arrival of the bride.  She looked radiant in a classic style, satin dress with pretty lace bodice, on the arm of her proud father, who escorted her to the round pagoda where her beaming fiance awaited her.

The service was lovely with one particularly entertaining poem by Taylor Mali “How falling in love is like owning a dog”.  Once pronounced man and wife, the happy couple were showered in confetti from pretty die cut cones and then they led the way to the barn, where Pimms and bucks fizz were on offer.  While the adults caught up with each other and photos were taken, the children were amused by various traditional lawn games, including croquet.

Soon it was time to be seated in the two interlinked tipis which are connected to the barn, for the wedding breakfast.  The sides of the tipis were rolled up, bringing the outside in and the flower/garden theme continued with the tables each named after a flower with said flower as a centre piece.  Favours were seeds of the flower your table was named after which I thought was a wonderfully unique idea.

The cake was also in keeping with the theme and made by the bride and groom themselves.  It was four tiers, topped with fondant roses and was sat on a section of tree trunk.

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Rather than just the usual guest book, they had also provided a camera and printer so that guests could put a picture of themselves in with their message.

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We had to make an early exit, after the speeches sadly, as unbelievably we had been invited to two weddings on the same day!  This does have a fashion bonus however as had they both been on separate days, I would have had to buy two outfits and therefore I could justify spending a little more on a dress and was able to treat myself to this amazing Ted Baker number that I had my eye on, totally guilt free!  I accessorised with silver sandals from Dune and a silver clutch.

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The second wedding was that of one of my best friends so I was gutted to have missed the main part of the day but pleased to be able to come and celebrate with them in the evening.

We arrived at the venue, a golf club in Shoreham, Kent, to see a number of classic cars in the carpark.  The bride’s own white cortina had been used as the bride’s transport, while her brother’s rover had been used as the Groom’s car and one of her Dad’s army trucks for the bridesmaids.

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The theme of her wedding was festivals.  Each of the tables had been named after classic albums, with the record itself serving as the table identifier.  The individual name cards were designed as festival tickets.  Favours were cleverly fitting with the theme and the couple’s married name – a travel coffee/tea cup.

The bride looked even more stunning than I could have imagined in a vintage style lace dress with low back and cute buttons, leading to the beautiful train.  She had accessorised with a long gold and pearl necklace down the back – very Chanel.  The bridesmaids wore long grey, embellished dresses that were 1920s inspired.  The flowers in hers and the bridesmaid’s hair were fake but looked amazingly realistic.

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We arrived in time for the cutting of the cake.  The cake was all marzipan with a lego bride and groom.

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The first dance then followed; a classic Dire Straits number, Romeo and Juliet.  It was beautiful to see them dancing and having fun together as man and wife.

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They had a fab dress up box and polaroid camera, so guests could all do pictures and stick them in the guest book, similar to the idea at the earlier wedding.

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Two beautiful couples and two beautiful weddings, I wish them both, all the happiness in the world.  I will leave you with a quote by Mignon McLaughlin that I think sums up marriage perfectly: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”.

 

 

 

A Hollywood Wedding

February saw one of my very good friends, Alanna get married.  Her and her husband couldn’t be more well suited.  Since we were in school she had always had a fascination with India and dreamed of visiting which she went on to do.  Her husband’s roots are in Goa and he proposed to her at the Taj Mahal.  Due to the Portuguese influence, many Goan people are Catholic so even the couples religious beliefs are aligned.  They are both lovers of travelling and both selfless, giving people, a true Hollywood couple.

Despite being a cold February day, the sun was shining for them when we arrived at the church in Earlsfield.  For the day I chose to wear a floral dress from Chi Chi London.  I paired this with some silver sandals which I have had for many years from Faith and a silver clutch from Asos.  For my hair I took inspiration from a newspaper who had done a spread on Hygge hair.  Hygge was big at the end of 2016 and its popularity continues.  Hygge is a Danish word and essentially means cosy.

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The groom wore a white suit with a pale blue cravat and waited smiling at the altar without any of the usual signs of nervousness.  When the bride entered on the arm of her father, she looked stunning, a true princess.  The dress had a corset top embellished with delicate jewels and then there was a magnificent full taffeta skirt, finished off with a full length veil.  Following her down the aisle were her two triplet sisters in stunning Karen Morgan dresses, accessorised with red shoes and a red flower in their hair.

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The service itself was charming with well-chosen hymns and readings including ‘Give me Joy in my Heart’.  Outside the church there was a confetti parade which was lovely given that many churches no longer allow this.

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Me with the bridesmaids

The bride and groom’s transport for the day was the grooms lovingly restored VW beetle. Anyone who knows me well, will be aware of my life long love of these classic cars and seeing his brought back fond memories of my own car which I sold a few years ago due to it rusting away on our drive.

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The groom being fanatical about films could have chosen no better venue for the reception than Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire.  The studios were built in 1935 around a large Grade II listed Victorian house, Heatherden Hall where the reception was held. Pinewood has been the location of many films from Oliver Twist, to Carry On, to Bond to Harry Potter.  It was named Pinewood due to the number of trees in the area and the connotations of wood to Hollywood – the US film epicentre.

The wedding breakfast was held in a grand room, complete with a tall, ornate Victorian ceiling.  The tables were named after lines from films, such as ‘You remind me of the babe’ from Labyrinth which we sat on and ‘You don’t have to kiss me’ from Rocky which was the top table.  I’ve listed the other names and I’ll leave it for you to work out which films they come from, let me know in the comments when you do!

‘What? Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman?’

‘You are and always shall be my friend’

‘Hey you guys!’

‘Wax on, Wax off’

‘Luminous beings are we..’

‘What we do in this life echoes in eternity’

‘It’s not the years.  It’s the mileage’

‘Get to Da Choppa!’

‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift’

‘Pop the trunk!’

All the stationery encapsulated the couples love of travel, designed like an airmail envelope with a background of a world map with hearts marking places they had travelled to together and love themed postmarks including one showing date and location of the engagement.

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During the delicious meal of leek and potato soup, lemon and garlic roasted supreme of chicken and fruit crumble, the background music was all film anthems including tracks from Star Wars and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The speeches continued the theme of the movies with the best man speech being set out in episodes.  The grooms speech almost brought me to tears as it was clear that he is totally devoted to her.

The cake was beautifully made by the Groom’s sister-in-law.  It picked up the pastel blue in the grooms cravat in the icing flowers on it and was topped off with two doves symbolising everlasting enduring love being that doves mate for life.

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The cutting of the cake is a significant part of a couples special day not least because it is the first task that the couple undertake together.  For the cutting, the couple used a sword. They then fed each other some cake which represents them nourishing the relationship for the rest of their lives and providing for each other.

The cake cutting was followed by the first dance to Phil Collins’ ‘A Groovy kind of Love’.

The evening entertainment then got well underway and we all enjoyed lots of dancing and karaoke from some of the groom’s family.

It was a truly wonderful day, well deserving of an Oscar and I wish the two of them a very long and happy marriage.  They are the proof that there is someone out there for everyone, who is their perfect match.  Congratulations guys and enjoy the Italian honeymoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Cat’ and ‘Cowie’ tie the knot!

It was a sunny September day when we arrived at Easton Grange for the marriage of my school friend Cathleen Kobylinski to Alan Cowie.  I’m not sure whether the choice of month was intentional but Polish tradition (Cat’s heritage) dictates that months containing the letter ‘r’ will bring good luck to the marriage.

The venue was a working farm up to a few years ago when the farm moved to a different site and in 2012 the buildings were renovated to create this idyllic private venue. The refurbishment has tried to pay homage to the original use of the buildings and because part of the barn which is now the bar was used as a dairy – there are many cow pictures, which unintentionally added to the word play the couple were going with. Each invitation was decorated with a cow and a cat linking tails and this theme was followed through on the order of service and place cards.

For the day I wore a pale pink and cream A-line dress from Oasis accessorized with gold sandals which were purchased some fifteen years ago in River Island and were probably the first pair of shoes which I really splashed out on.  A goldy cream satin clutch finished off the outfit.

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The groom fidgeted nervously as we all sat and awaited arrival of the bride who was fashionably late as tradition dictates. The aisle between the chairs had been scattered with petals in pink and orange which were the colour themes with one bridesmaid in each of the colours. She glided in on the arm of her father, looking beyond stunning in a white lace number with delicate diamanté straps and a corset back which was laced with peach ribbon to match the grooms peach tie. The peach was a good choice as that can be seen as a combination of pink and orange so tied the two colours together.  We also caught a glimpse of her gorgeous blue shoes.

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The service was non- religious but was beautiful. I particularly liked the two readings that were picked ‘The Promise’ by Eileen Rafter and ‘I Like You’ by Sandol Stoddard.

We showered them in confetti and had all the obligatory pictures just before the sun was replaced with drizzle. Reception drinks were Kir Royale which I adore and the canapés were delicious – especially the mini fish and chips.

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The table plan followed a Rugby theme as well as entwining the couple’s backgrounds – English and Australian. Our seats were swiftly located and we had a beautiful favour of traditional polish gingerbread.  The centre pieces on the tables included eucalyptus to represent her Australian birth country, roses to represent England and thistle to represent Alan’s Scottish roots.  From the ceiling pink, orange and white paper lanterns had been suspended.

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Speeches were given with the bride’s father making the toast in Polish and a very insightful and humorous speech from the best man. Dinner was then served. I must comment on the puddings which were amazing. There were 3 mini puddings – cheesecake, chocolate brownie and fruit with shortbread.

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Feeling suitably fall all the guests retired to the bar area where the bride and groom had been very generous in giving a free bar. It was a wonderful chance for me to catch up with my oldest school friend who attended too and now lives in Manchester – I could have talked all night.

Evening food was served but to be honest I had no appetite left. Instead of the usual visitors book to sign they had opted for a large Mr and Mrs in black which we wrote well wishes on in a metallic pen.

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The groom’s sister was responsible for the wonderful wedding cake – mainly cupcakes with one round cake topped with a peach flower. The cake was cut and then it was time for the first dance. I always await this point as I think it is so interesting to find out what song couples feel best represents them. On this occasion, ‘Your my best friend’ by Queen was chosen.

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The party was then officially started. I liked the fact that they had a live band which is somewhat unusual nowadays. The band were called Shine On and were very good, performing a variety of indie and pop music.  Guests danced into the night and there was added fun with complementary glow sticks.

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I’m so pleased that two lovely people have found each other.  The wedding was a beautiful day and I wish them a long and happy marriage.

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An Eastern Journey – Part 2

Leaving Japan, I felt a bit sad, despite having seen all we aimed to apart from an Onsen, which is a traditional bath and a Geisha show.   It had certainly been a whistle stop tour, as you can read in part 1 of this blog and I would dearly love to return.

Initial impressions of Hong Kong were not that favourable as it is such a stark contrast to Japan. Whereas Japan is ordered and exceptionally clean – Hong Kong is more like London with much hustle and bustle; after all it is the most densely populated metropolis in the world. I was however excited at the prospect of meeting up with our friends Pelham and Karina who had invited us here to celebrate their wedding – the away fixture as they called it – see previous blog of their English wedding

Hong Kong was under British rule for almost 155 years, until July 1997 when it was handed back to China (with the exception of about 4 years during WW11 when Japan occupied it).   Hong Kong is on China’s South Coast and is split into three main regions – Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories.

The name Hong Kong is believed to have its origins in a Cantonese phrase meaning ‘Fragrant Harbour’. This may be due to the fact that incense factories were all around the north coast of Kowloon and the produce was stored in Aberdeen Harbour for export, before Victoria Harbour had been developed. It is also nicknamed the Pearl of the Orient due to the way the skyscrapers in Victoria Harbour light up the night sky. Hong Kong has a kind of fusion culture which is a combination of both Chinese and British culture; however since its independence, their own unique culture is developing and people will proudly refer to themselves as Hongkongers. The official languages are both Cantonese and English.

We purchased an Octopus card which is by far the best thing to get on arrival in Hong Kong and is similar to the London Oyster card, in function but the similarities end there – the travel using it is incredibly cheap and the small initial outlay lasted us for our entire trip.

On our first night, the guys from England headed out drinking with Pelham whilst the girls visited ATUM; a dessert restaurant, with Karina. The restaurant was located in Causeway Bay and we boarded a tram to travel there from our friend’s hotel. The tram is an icon of Hong Kong, running since 1904 and the largest fleet in the world to be exclusively double decker trams. Once inside the restaurant we were bought an appetiser drink in a test tube. Then began the business of having a dessert designed in front of us. It was an absolutely amazing experience to watch the art works being created, especially when they made ice-cream with liquid nitrogen. Eating it all was even more enjoyable. We then joined the boys in a roof top bar on the IFC mall, overlooking the harbour.

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The following day, Karina’s uncle had arranged a busy day of sightseeing. It was fantastic to have a local to show us the highlights of the city and he certainly was a character. First stop was Nan Lian gardens in Kowloon. These were stunning gardens with koi ponds and I was able to capture the picture that had been used to illustrate the Hong Kong Lonely Planet guide – a golden pagoda! We then had lunch in the Chi Lin Vegetarian restaurant there that had a beautiful waterfall cascading down the outside of the building.

Golden Pagoda

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We boarded the private mini bus, he had arranged and headed to the New Territories and Lam Tsuen wishing tree. The wishing tree is where you tie your wish to an orange and throw the orange into the tree – if it stays in the tree, your wish will come true. The old tree is now too unstable after a branch fell down in 2005, so there is a new tree and only plastic oranges are used, which can be bought from sellers on site. You can also buy a plastic lily pad with a candle, attach a wish and float it on a pond. There were statues of all the twelve Chinese zodiac animals nearby the tree, which was a great photo opportunity.

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Next we visited Che Kung temple. The temple is dedicated to Che Kung, a military commander whom legend has it, ridded Sha Tin of the plague. There is a golden windmill by the giant golden statue of Che Kung which people believe spinning the sails of, brings good luck. I had my fortune read there, from a piece of paper selected by which stick falls out of the pot when you shake it, whilst telling Che Kung your wish and one of Karina’s friends kindly translated for me. I felt much better about the impending move after this when he said it would be a safe and secure home but wouldn’t bring us great fortune.

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Our final stop was Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, at 552m – what a view from the viewing stations and even better from the Peak Tower. Sadly we didn’t have time to ride the 125 year old funicular railway, so were taken up and down by mini bus.

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Dinner that night was a marvellous experience that I will never forget. The Jumbo Kingdom restaurant is a floating restaurant, moored in Aberdeen Harbour which you travel the short ride to by boat from Aberdeen Promenade. There was an opportunity to dress up as a Chinese Emperor and his wife and have your photos taken which was great fun. The banquet meal was delicious although I declined to sample the thousand year old egg! This is a Chinese delicacy and whilst not literally a thousand years old, it is a chicken, duck or quail egg, preserved for several weeks or months in a mixture of either ash, salt, quicklime, clay and rice hulls depending on the method used. It certainly looks rotten as it is a dark brown colour.

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The next day we had a much needed lazy day in the hotel before leisurely getting ready to catch a taxi over to the W Hotel for Pelham and Karina’s wedding banquet. I had selected my Oasis dress in V&A Appleby print as I felt that it had a sort of oriental feel and accessorized with gold sandals and a gold clutch.

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On arrival at the hotel, we were greeted by life sized cardboard cut-outs of Karina and Pelham. We were also able to peruse the album of their English wedding.

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A red envelope was given to us which custom has it you place money in for the bride and groom. The red symbolises good luck. Opinion on the amount of money to be placed inside is divided; some say it should be digits that end in an even number as odd numbers are seen as bad luck whilst others suggest amounts ending in odd numbers are more favourable because they are harder to divide, hence meaning the marriage should be stronger. The figure should also not include the number 4 as this number is seen as unlucky due to it sounding similar to the word for death; interestingly lots of buildings don’t have a fourth floor because of this. When the bride and groom arrived in Chinese dress – they performed a tea ceremony welcoming their respective in laws.

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Following the ceremony we all found our seats for the banquet. In each place was a square purple box with a photo of their English wedding on the front. The colour theme for both weddings was purple.  There was much debate about what the contents of the box was, with many people suggesting that it might be soap, but it was in fact tea.

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There was a lovely slide show of Karina and Pelham growing up, followed by photos of them together. Karina and Pelham both changed into their outfits from the English wedding. Karina sang a beautiful song to her parents, as well as singing with her Mum when she had changed into a cerise pink gown. There was an opportunity for karaoke and we all went up and ‘helped’ Pelham with a song. The banquet was delicious and seemingly never ending – course after course, after course was brought out. Karina had a final outfit change into a beautiful layered pinky peach taffeta dress.

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The banquet ended at 11 so I, my husband, Pelham, Karina and other guests from the UK made our way to nearby Ozone Bar. This is the highest bar in the world at 484 metres on top of the International Commerce Centre.  Inside is very futuristic with refractive glass.

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On Wednesday following a walk in Kowloon park where we saw turtles and flamingos along with people practising taichi, we decided to add another country to our list and took a boat trip over to Macau. This is a peninsula of China, to the west of Hong Kong and is often referred to as Asian Las Vegas as it is the only legal place which the Chinese can go to in order to gamble. The country has Portuguese roots as it was a colony of theirs from mid-16th century until 1999 and it is the most densely populated region in the world. It has its own currency of Pataca but Hong Kong dollars can also be spent there. I was most upset that immigration in general appears to have dispensed with the rubber stamp method on entering the country. For Japan, Hong Kong and Macau I simply received a tiny piece of paper (called a landing slip) like a receipt placed loose in my passport. I like my passport to document where I have been and having googled it since, I see no reason why I cannot staple these into my passport as a souvenir.

A local speciality associated with Macau is a Portuguese egg tart; naturally I had to try one from one of the many food stalls. This is an egg custard filled pastry case and I really liked it.

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The main site to see in Macau aside from the neon lit casinos is the ruins of St Paul’s cathedral. Only the façade of the 17th century church remains following a fire in 1835.

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After exploring this and Monte Fort which ironically has a cannon pointing at Grand Lisboa Cascino as if it disapproves; we checked out Na Tcha Temple, built in 1888 and a tiny temple behind the ruins of St Paul’s; before indulging in some shopping. My husband bought my Christmas present which was a Pandora bracelet which although it is readily available in the UK came with a charm that is exclusive to Asia. We finished our trip with noodles at Cheong Kei, which is Michelin recommended.

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Our return journey from Macau was far from plain sailing. We had to give up on finding the bus back to the port and get a taxi. Little known to us, we had been booked on a set ferry back and we struggled with the language barrier to explain our predicament to the officials. In the end we were forced to pay for a full price first class ticket if we wanted travel when we did. We did get a free meal out of it though.

We rose early the next day to travel on the metro to Tung Chung where we picked up the first departure of the day on Ngong Ping cable car over to Lantau Island. The cable car was officially opened in November 2006 but there was a soft opening that preceded this on 18th September where only 1688 tickets, each priced at HK$88 were sold as the numbers were considered lucky in Feng Shui tradition. It is a 5.7km long bi-cable ropeway, the first of its kind in Hong Kong and offers 360 degree views of Lantau Island on its 25 minute journey.

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The sights of the green mountains are truly beautiful but by far the best sight is of the Tian Tan or big Buddha, emerging from the trees and standing tall, watching over the Island. Upon disembarking the cable car, we took the short walk to the bottom of the 268 steps and climbed part of the way up to the Buddha which is a bronze statue, completed in 1993, weighing 202 tonne and the largest seated bronze Buddha in the world. It really is an impressive sight.

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On our return to the cable car we stopped into some of the shops in Ngong Ping cultural village and I couldn’t resist this beautiful dress.

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Our next stop was one of the highlights of our time in Hong Kong as I am still a big kid at heart. We visited Disneyland. The park is small in comparison to Euro Disney but there is a lot of magic packed into a very small area. Even the MTR train that takes you there is decorated with Mickey.

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We began by taking the little train around the perimeter of the park before having lunch and I couldn’t resist Mickey themed waffles for afters.

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Next I purchased a pair of mini mouse ears before we assembled on Main Street for the parade.

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We tried a few gentle rides as my husband is not big on scary rides. We both really liked the Buzz Lightyear ride where you competed against each other to score points for shooting Zurg (which I won) and afterwards had our picture taken with Buzz himself.

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We watched the Lion King show which was fantastic. Before we left we checked out the gift stores and watched the evening light parade on Main Street.

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After briefly stopping off at hotel we made our way to the nearby Temple Street night market. This bustling street bazaar sells all manner of trinkets, clothes and other wares and has often featured as a backdrop in movies. There are often impromptu opera performances and fortune tellers however we arrived too late to enjoy those. I did purchase a lovely set of chop sticks and a fake Jade bangle as well as a very cheap fake bag of a very sought after make. Jade is considered by the people of Hong Kong to have mystical qualities. What was even more fun was the haggling with the vendors. When we had had our fill of the pushing and shoving, we ducked into one of the many noodle bars and enjoyed a large meal, washed down with a local beer.

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Our final day in Hong Kong had dawned. We headed out to see 10000 Buddha Monastery on Po Fook Hill in the New Territories. It was a very hot day and the hike from the nearest station up 431 steps which are lined with 500 life-size gilded Arhan statues was a very tiring one. Eventually we reached the temple which is decorated with some 13000 gold miniature Buddha’s. There are several other temples and a nine storey pagoda. On our descent from the Monastery we were met by two monks who put bracelets and necklaces on us and blessed us before asking for money; we declined and gave them back the things they had adorned us with.

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We travelled back to check out and leave our cases before making our way down to the Victoria Harbour area, named after Queen Victoria. We decided to sample the famous afternoon tea at the Lobby of the Peninsula Hotel. We had to queue for about an hour to be seated and were lucky that they decided we met the dress code as we were casually dressed in preparation for the night flight home that evening. The Peninsula Hotel opened its doors in 1928 and is a bit like Hong Kong’s version of The Ritz. It is a mix of oriental glamour and traditional colonial Britain with beautiful white pillars, embellished with gold. The tea was called Peninsula in Pink and raises awareness of breast cancer and donates to local breast cancer charities for the month of October. There were some pink cakes and we also received a pin badge commemorating it. Whilst we ate we were serenaded by a string quartet.

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Our bellies suitably full, we looked for the Avenue of the Stars but unfortunately it was closed. We walked past the Former KCR Clock Tower, a 44m clock tower which was once part of the Southern Railway terminus and onto the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry concourse where we decided to take a cruise on the Star Ferry.

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The boat tours all the harbour’s stops and means you get a great view of the Hong Kong skyline, with the Bank of China Tower and the huge HSBC building being two of the sites.  The HSBC building is a British designed building which was finished in 1985 and was at the time one of the worlds most expensive buildings. The original star ferry which takes passengers between Kowloon to Hong Kong Island which started passenger services in mid-late 1870’s, still runs and is still a very cheap way of seeing the Harbour.

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We then walked back to our hotel via the Rosary Church, the oldest Catholic Church in Kowloon which was consecrated in 1905 and remained in tack during WW11. Since 2010 it has been a grade 1 historic building. Although the mass was all in Cantonese, you could still work out what bit of the service they were performing.

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We killed some time over coffee in Starbucks before getting our transport to the airport. I will never fly the late flight again as the airport was so boring with all the shops closing up. As on the way out – I slept for most of the flight home.

I really enjoyed our stay in Hong Kong, despite initial first impressions, but feel I have probably seen most of what I wanted to see there – except for the pink dolphins. It has however aroused my interest further in a trip to mainland China. I really felt blessed to be able to celebrate Pelham and Karina’s marriage with them and wish them many happy years together. Karina’s family couldn’t have made us more welcome and her uncle was a fabulous tour guide. It was also lovely to meet their other friends and family from the UK who were able to make the journey too and I look forward to a reunion with them in London at the end of January.

An Oriental Affair

As the taxi wound its way up the wide sweeping driveway and South Lodge came into view, it was clear that this was going to be a wedding of grandeur. South Lodge in Horsham is an impressive country house, which development started on in 1883 with final substantial additions made in 1911. It was used as a hospital during the Second World War and opened as a hotel in 1985.

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The wedding was of an old friend of mine to his fiancé who is originally from Hong Kong. This was part one of their celebrations with the ‘away fixture’ as they are affectionately calling it, a Chinese banquet in Hong Kong, at the end of October which we are also attending so look out for a future blog post!

Inevitably as happens at these sorts of events where small talk is a plenty between strangers, the question came up of how I knew my friend. This is always an awkward one as we actually met on Facebook, when we were both single, but when we met up it became clear there was nothing remotely in the way of a spark between us, but we got on and so became firm friends.

For this special day I chose to wear a 1950’s inspired halterneck circle dress, in a red rose print design from Rocket in Rochester. My shoes were my red Sarah Jessica Parker designed heels which I bought some time back but had yet to wear. The outfit was completed with a red envelope clutch bag from Dorothy Perkins.

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The ceremony was outside and it was thankfully a beautiful bright sunny September day, albeit a bit on the breezy side. We sat on rows of white chairs that were decorated with colourful pompoms, with a red carpet inbetween, leading to the stunning gazebo at the front. My friend looked the happiest I have ever seen him as he waited for his bride to appear. His suit was accented by a deep purple cravat and cummerbund, to correspond with the colour theme of the day.

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We all turned to see the stunning bride in her gorgeous white dress, walk down the steps from the lodge and along to the gazebo. She had 7 bridesmaids which were a vision in their purple dresses.

The ceremony itself seemed quite short but I guess that is because I am used to church weddings. Whilst they signed the register, my friend’s sister played ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri on the piano.

There was then a drinks reception where the champagne flowed freely and there were a number of tasty canapes. Photos were taken whilst we all relaxed and got to know each other. There was an interesting take on the group photo-the photographer laid a rope out in a heart shape and got us to stand around the edge. He then removed it and took the picture – I always had wondered how they do these funky group shots and now I know!

Soon we were welcomed by the toastmaster inside from the gardens, to find our name on the ornate table plan that was a world map, with the tables named after places the couple had visited. It was also decorated in purple and with butterflies – themes that ran through the whole day.  The travel theme was also incorporated in the guest book which had a watermark of world map on each page. We then entered a large medieval style room. Round tables were adorned with silver candelabra that had real candles and ivy wrapped around them. There was some debate on our table as to whether or not the candles were real but this soon became obvious when the wax started to drip down. The bride changed into a beautiful traditional gown for the meal, which her mother had worn for her wedding.

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The favours were in red and gold silk bags and were Jasmin flowering tea. Yunnan in China is where flowering teas come from but it is unclear as to whether these are an ancient idea or a modern phenomenon. They are essentially dried tea leaves with a dried flower in the middle. When boiling water is poured on the bulb, the leaves open up, revealing the flower.

tea

Following the meal, sweets were brought round with the tea and coffee including macaroons with the couples initials piped on the top. We then retired to the bar and games room whilst they cleared the tables to make way for the dance floor. There was a sweet table, with paper bags that were personalised with the couple’s names in purple text. We browsed the stunning pre wedding photo books – a custom of Asian weddings since the late 1990’s.

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Once the room had been transformed, with a black and white checkered dance floor we entered for the cake cutting – the cake was also decorated in purple and butterflies. Following that was their first dance, which was to ‘Fly me to the Moon’. The bride and her bridesmaids who all met at dance class then treated us to a magnificent display of dance.

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It was then time for what I had been waiting for – the mixologist! The names of the cocktails were personalised to the couple.  The barman would make any cocktail you wanted. Particularly spectacular was the one he set light to. A few cocktails later and a box of props came out which made for some instagram worthy photos.

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It was a day to remember; I wish the couple many happy years together and look forward to part two in Hong Kong. It is wonderful to see a couple that compliment each other so well.

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A Greek Afternoon

The last Saturday in September was my brother Rob and his fiancé Jade’s wedding day. It was a lovely sunny day and mild for the time of year.

I chose to wear this oriental inspired dress from Oasis and paired it with black pointy shoes from New Look and a bag which complimented the pink as well as the black also from New Look. The look was finished off by a salmon pink fascinator. I co-ordinated my husband by dressing him with a matching salmon pink tie.

my outfit

bag and shoes

fascinator

Guests were taken to the quaint church by a 1970’s double decked bus which a friend owned and drove and they had decorated up with white bows and a mr&mrs garland.

bus

The church itself, All Saints in Foots Cray dates from 1330, although there have been various modifications made since that date. It is a very pretty church with a nice meadow next to it where lots of the photos were taken. It was a church held dear by Jade as her maternal Grandparents were married there some 62 years ago – how lovely for them to see their Granddaughter married in the same church.

The orders of service were handmade and matched the heart theme of the invitations. I loved the fact that their choice of hymns took me back to school assemblies with ‘Make me a Channel of your Peace’ and ‘Whole World in his Hands’. I read a piece from the bible and the second reading was a poem from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and was the first nod of a Greek theme being that the film was set on the Greek island of Kefalonia.

The bride and her father arrived in a lovely Bentley and she looked stunning in her dress which was a beaded top with sweetheart neckline and a beautiful bow around the middle. She was followed down the aisle by her cousin, a last minute stand in for Maid of Honour who unfortunately was ill and 2 wonderful flower girls – Jade and Rob’s 3 year old daughter and their niece who was 2. The 2 girls wore champagne dresses from BHS and little shrugs made by Jade’s Grandma. The flowers were champagne and white roses and were all artificial but you never would have guessed – they looked just as stunning as fresh flowers would.  The men in the bridal party had gold patterned ties.

jade

bridesmaids

Whilst Jade and Rob signed the register with their witnesses, my Mum’s brother sang ‘Ava Maria’, ‘All of Me’ and ‘How Long will you love me’. His performances were met with a round of applause, something he had not been expecting.

After the confetti and a number of photos, Jade and Rob joined their guests on the bus and we were driven to the reception at Shortlands golf club where we were welcomed with bucks fizz.

Each table had been beautifully laid out and this was where the Greek theme started to shine. The table plan was handmade with a Greek style border around each table. Each table had an olive tree as a centre piece with fairy lights twisted in them, a sign with the table name on and some old black and white photos of Cyprus. The tables were named after Greek Gods, we were sat on Zeus, the father of the Gods. The top table had a hint of my brother’s passion in it as the olive tree sat in a spring from a train that had been sprayed gold. Favours were cream boxes which had your name and a picture of the God whose name adorned your table. Inside were 5 sugared almonds with the relevant meaning, a couple of other sweets and an old Cypriot coin. Also on the table were butterfly social stirrers (something to stir your tea or coffee with a conversation starter printed on it), a quote/fact about marriage e.g. ‘In the words of Groucho Marx, marriage is a wonderful institution but who wants to live in an institution.’  There was also a card describing some of the Greek traditions for a wedding. They had painstakingly cut out heart confetti from Greek newspaper which was sprinkled on the table– tying together both the heart theme and the Greek theme.

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table

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The sit down meal or wedding breakfast was a quintessentially English afternoon tea. The company who did this supplied lovely vintage crockery as well as some vintage props and an old suitcase for any wedding cards. Postcards were handed out for guests to write some advice or a memory on for the couple – an alternative take on the guest book. The children were given glass milk bottles filled with lemonade and a traditional styled straw which added to the vintage feel.

afternoon tea

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The speeches followed and unusually the bride also said a few words as she handed out gifts to the relevant people of the bridal party. It was lovely that they gave gifts to both the fathers and the mothers rather than just the traditional mother’s gift. The father of the bride speech had clearly taken quite some preparation as he talked about the history of the ‘Baines’ name and that of the ‘Michaelides’.

The tables were then pushed aside and a Greek band arrived. Everyone had an opportunity to take part in the dancing and we were particularly amused by a dance the lead musician got my brother and his best man (my Dad) to do. Then it was time for the Greek money dance. It is traditional for the bride and groom to hold a handkerchief between them and guests take it in turns, pinning an equal amount of money on both the bride and groom.

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best man dance

money dance

The cake was cut which had been made by my Auntie and had cream roses and a kind of drape that to me resembled the traditional Greek robe. Then the couple enjoyed their first dance to ‘Everything’ by Michael Bauble – a favourite of Jade’s.

cake

After the traditional Greek music there was a DJ and a fish and chip van came to provide the evening food which was a lovely novel idea. The couple really had thought of everything and provided a bucket of gold flip flops for tired dancing feet which I have not seen done before.

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At the end of the evening, my husband and I left for the train station, both a little the worse for wear and staggering along with one of the olive trees that I was given as a thank you for doing the reading – we must have looked a sight!

The day was so quirky and unique and it was abundantly clear just how much effort each of them had put into the day. It shows that even when the budget is modest, a wonderful day can be achieved. Jade and Rob make a lovely couple and I wish them a lifetime of happiness.

confetti

Bride and Hen

A few Saturdays ago, as the hairdresser straightened my locks I was much happier with the end result than I usually am as she went for more of a brown instead of a copper to contrast with the bleach highlights. Normally I wouldn’t indulge myself by having it blow dried and straightened but thought I would treat myself being that it was my brothers fiancés hen do that evening. Have you noticed how you tell your hairdresser more than you probably tell some of your friends? Going to the hairdresser’s is 2-3 hour gossip along with reading trashy magazines and being pampered – pure indulgence!

I carefully chose an outfit for the hen. 1950’s ‘A line’ midi skirts are making a comeback and this Harper skirt from Coast is stunning. I wore it with a plain black vest top to ensure the detail of the skirt was accentuated, some black suede heels and an old favourite – my black clutch with a butterfly embellishment from Faith.

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We began at the hen’s home where copious amounts of wine were consumed before we headed to the local Indian restaurant to her called Shampan. Here we furnished Jade with a ‘Bride to Be’ sash.

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Cocktails and wine flowed. My Mum tried her first curry and wasn’t overly keen I don’t think but we all had a fabulous night which was rounded off with the fateful shots. We walked or should I say stumbled back to hers, me clutching the half finished bottle of complimentary wine and managing to narrowly miss tottering over in my heels which was more luck than judgement. Once at hers we had more wine before my husband ushered a reluctant me out of the door.

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Sunday morning came round all too quickly and I think I woke still drunk! Nonetheless I set about trying to make myself look respectful for the wedding of my husband’s friend in Suffolk.

I wore this green butterfly dress from Oliver Bonas and accessorized with gold heels from Oasis and a gold bag also from Oasis. I opted for green (graffiti) Urban Decay eyeshadow to finish my look. I bought my husband a tie to co-ordinate.

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eyeshadow

phil and i adams

The wedding was held at Woodhall Manor – a grade II listed building near Woodbridge in Suffolk. The oldest parts of the manor date back to medieval times and it is simply stunning and set in vast beautiful gardens.

woodhall

The ceremony was in these enchanting gardens – I had never been to an alfresco wedding before and they were fortunate enough to have a beautiful day for it. The chairs were set out with white covers and purple organza ribbon and white rose petals were sprinkled on the grass aisle between the rows of seats. The groom waited checking his watch by the archway at the front that had bird coups above. The bridesmaids, dressed in purple, a flower girl and two pageboys made their way up the aisle before finally the bride appeared on the arm of her father. She looked stunning in a beaded halter neck dress, carrying a purple bouquet and was clearly very emotional. After they had taken their vows; a white dove flew out from above where they were standing which was very romantic. White doves tend to symbolise love due to them being associated in Greek mythology with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Doves also mate for life so are seen as symbols of monogamy and loyalty.

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Whilst the photos were being taken, we chatted in the gardens with a glass of Pimms and a selection of canapés which included chicken satay, potato wedges, duck, prawns and cream cheese and smoked salmon tarts. Before long we were ushered inside for the wedding breakfast. In keeping with the medieval roots of the house the tables were named after medieval royalty. We found ourselves sat on the table called Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey – the 1st Duke of Suffolk and great granddaughter of Henry VII. Edward VI nominated her to be queen on his death bed in July 1553, passing over his half sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. Mary claimed the throne some 9 days later and Jane was executed after some delay in February 1554 for high treason. The table plan, table names and place cards all had a purple swirly pattern on them, akin to what had also been on the invitations, to fit in with the colour scheme as well as giving a medieval grandeur feel to them. I sat for the first time at a wedding table with a place card with my married name on it which I was quite excited by.

table plan

The favours were small jars of hot chocolate, topped with white chocolate and marshmallows, which was different and they were decorated with a purple ribbon. As well as these they also had an old fashioned sweet table with little paper bags adorned with their names. The table was popular with both adults and children – you can’t beat a flying saucer or a fizzy cola bottle!

favour

sweet table

The meal was lovely and was followed by some very emotional speeches before we retired to the bar to start the evening do. They had a band which I thought was fantastic and quite unique these days. The band were called The Someones. The band formed in 2005 and have played over 700 gigs. They perform covers from 60’s up to the present day. They certainly made my day when they played Dakota by Stereophonics. The couple’s first dance was to Savage Garden’s ‘I knew I loved you’.

Much drinking and dancing ensued before we returned to our rooms in the manor. We woke in the early hours to find the light on so I guess we must have passed out when our heads hit the pillow. It was nice to wake naturally on a Monday rather than to the sound of the alarm. Breakfast was taken at the manor with all the guests and the bride and groom.

We wished them a happy honeymoon and then drove into Woodbridge to take coffee with a friend of mine and her partner who live nearby before driving home. Congratulations Adam and Esther – may you have a long and happy marriage.

adam and esther

Look out for another wedding blog soon on my brothers wedding!