The lane to our house. Credit: Helena Dolby. All the signs were made by my Dad and paint by my mum. We had them all over to help guide everyone and give little hints of what was to come. Credit: Helena Dolby. Everyone approached the party walking down our garden path. From the path, the only hint of what was to come is this banner my mother made. It is a cut out based on a photo of Harry and I from our wedding in May. Credit: Helena Dolby.
This weekend, our very lowkey wedding was
featured in Vogue! Alongside magnificent haute couture affairs was our very very homemade affair. Pretty much every aspect of our wedding was handmade and handcrafted, and I feel incredibly proud of the work we and our families put into the event. I thought this deserved a spot in The Journal, as it's one of the biggest projects I have ever undertaken.
We had seen many friends go through the wedding planning process and knew how stressful it could be. So, we wanted to keep it as low-key as possible and ensure it didn't take over our lives for too long. After getting engaged last December, we set a date for the wedding the following spring, giving ourselves five months to plan everything. I am from Yorkshire and had always hoped to have the celebrations at my family home. However, for the ceremony itself, we were quite determined to get married in St Etheldreda’s church in Farringdon. It’s a place Harry has connections to, and we wanted to get married in this city, where we met and will always live—a place that we can pop into, somewhere that can be a part of our lives.
This combination led us to decide on a two-part wedding: a small, intimate London wedding for the ceremony, followed by a big celebration in Yorkshire. Running my own business has made me incredibly aware of how far you can stretch your funds for the best result. Given that we didn't have a large budget for the occasion and were handling all the planning ourselves, we had to be careful about where and how we chose to use it. This meant keeping things simple and only investing in parts of the day that would make a significant difference. We had no florists, no hair stylist, no makeup artist, no fancy invitations, no table dressing, no expensive outfits (we rented where we could), no table plans, no wedding favors... the list goes on.
Instead, we invested in those elements that transformed the day -
the spectacular band, our DJ, delicious food, a marquee, and I handcrafted everything I could. From our illustrated invitations to my embroidered second-hand wedding dress, to our homemade decorations, to my mother's incredible applique banners. I am so pleased with how we stretched our budget without sacrificing the important elements to us. I hope this article gives anyone planning a party a few ideas for crafting elements themselves!
You can read all about the first part of the wedding and my embroidered wedding dress in this article
here and, for studio members I have written a totally comprehensive how to guide on all the home made decorations you'll see in this article here. It covers everything from how to paint your own table cloths, to some behind the scenes images from mums banner making, to our bunting and flags and more.
As I much prefer pictures to text, without further ado I'll get stuck in and share with you all my favourite pictures from the occasion (taken by the equally talented and lovely
Helena Dolby). I hope you enjoy! Even though I didn't wear my embroidered dress on the day, lots of our friends and family wanted to see it (our May wedding was very small). So I put the dress on a manikin you could see as you approached and it was inside the sitting room in our house for anyone who wanted to see. Credit: Helena Dolby. We set up a cloakroom and, given the theme was a disco twist, we filled it with disco accessories - lots of glitter, glasses, face gems, glow sticks - as our friends dropped off their coats they could add some disco to their outfits. Credit: Helena Dolby. To get into the part, guests walked through our makeshift bar. This banner, which was made by my mother, hung inside the stable door and welcomed everyone as they entered. Credit: Helena Dolby. It was so important to us to get to celebrate our wedding in the place the means to most to us in the world (or the most to me at least!)... Yorkshire: a.k.a. heaven on earth To get into the bar, you had to push through streamer curtains. These are so easy to make and just added so much joy. My mum made them to go across all the doorways. Credit: Helena Dolby. Our bar was in reality my dads workshop. We have swallows which nest in here year after year and they only flew the nest a few days before the party so it was getting a bit tense whether we would be able to use it! Harry and I were behind bar serving champagne to everyone as they arrived which meant we made sure we saw everyone! Credit: Helena Dolby. The bar was lined with more of mum's banners, including this massive drinks one across the back wall and "Harry's Bar" banner behind in the previous photo. Credit: Helena Dolby. As you come out of the bar, across we had converted our barn (affectionately known as the NOB... new out building) into the "food hall". Its quite a scruffy building so we did our best to beautify it with fabric, banners, balloons and bunting. Our family friend Jackie had grown troughs of cosmos for us to have along the back wall. Credit: Helena Dolby. We had a small marquee set up in the field behind my house. We have the most glorious view across the valley, however the whole occasion was so weather dependant. We had no plan B, so were incredibly lucky that it didn't rain (a rarity for Yorkshire!). Credit: Helena Dolby. One of the best things about having the party at home is that we could make sure both we accommodated everyone. Whilst my granny Merry had been able to come to our London wedding, for my granny Pam (who is 100!), she unsurprisingly didn't want to travel down. So having the party at home guaranteed she could make it and we even had her own armchair brought out into the yard! Altogether my mum made around 200m of bunting our of crepe. My favourite colours are red, pink and orange (ideally all together, clashing wonderfully) so we used these across all the decorations. Credit: Helena Dolby We set up an area inside the house to be a quiet zone for anyone who wanted a time out. In the end, no one ended up using it though which we took to be the sign of a good party! Credit: Helena Dolby The long shadows at dusk across Wharfedale. Credit: Helena Dolby One of the biggest craft projects I undertook was painting all the tablecloths. I cut it very fine so in the end painted three 15ft and six 6ft table cloths to decorate everywhere. Credit: Helena Dolby We didn't have a sit down meal and our Indian buffet was all served in bamboo bowls so there was no crockery to lay on the tables. Painting the table cloths meant they still felt full even though there was nothing on them. Credit: Helena Dolby We have an article for Studio Members that goes into all the details of how to do this yourself. Follow the links in the article to find this.
Studio members have access to an exclusive guide on how-to do all the homemade elements from The Hooley
Whilst there was no getting away from this being quite a scruffy garage / workshop. By lining the walls in fabric and adding lots of colour, we created a space which felt really atmospheric. Credit: Helena Dolby Some more of the painted table cloths in the yard. I repurposed lots of old paint tins to make weights to hold all the balloons down. Credit: Helena Dolby Even my dad's pride and joy, his old Massey Fergusson, got tarted up. A little photo opportunity spot! Credit: Helena Dolby When the wind blew, the crepe flags were so light they fluttered in the wind. We left them up for weeks after the party as they looked so jolly blowing around! These are another of the homemade elements I cover in the Studio Members article. Credit: Helena Dolby As we knew the party would go on till the early hours, we set up a big seating are in the most sheltered area of the house, with some firepits to keep us warm once the sun went down. Credit: Helena Dolby My mother is a genius. She made all the incredible applique banners in just a matter of weeks, working from dawn till dusk! Credit: Helena Dolby The pièce de résistance was this large dragon mouth banner which guests had to walk through when leaving or going to the bathrooms. It was inspired by a Moki Cherry banner I saw just weeks before the party as a show at the ICA. I sent mum photos and next thing you know, she had made one! Credit: Helena Dolby. Details from the applique showing the intricacies of my mothers design. Credit: Helena Dolby. A particularly favourite banner from the party. This one now had a permanent spot on display in the house as a reminder of the magnificent day. Credit: Helena Dolby. Details from the banners showing all the different patterns and trimmings. She took a lot of inspiration from the banners which hang at Giffords Circus. Credit: Helena Dolby. If you are interested, my mother takes on a small number of commissions for banners each year. Credit: Helena Dolby. Here are my two grannys. Having them both together at the party meant the world to us. Both of these are the reason I stitch - they have inspired my entire life - so it was incredibly important to have them there for such an important day in our lives. My older granny, Pam, who is facing the camera here, is 100! Credit: Helena Dolby. More snaps of the giant banners across the court yard. Mum made three banners in this style, each measuring over 5 meters long. Credit: Helena Dolby. We had a self-service bar for the evening. Whilst it wasn't entirely intentional (the bar staff didn't turn up!!), it ended up being such good fun. So many people met who wouldn't have otherwise, through mixing each other cocktails in the bar. The banner on the door marking the way into the bar! Mum adorned lots of song lyrics and slogans across the banners - every one carefully selected to encourage people to feel as wild as possible! Credit: Helena Dolby. We asked everyone to come to the party with a disco twist. Outfits varied wildly from sequins, to velvet, to feathers, to head dresses, to flares, to patterns. When the 170 guests had filled the yard, it was such a sight... so much colour!! Credit: Helena Dolby. My mum, Joanna, looking fabulous as usual before the majority of guests arrived. Credit: Helena Dolby. The best seat in the house, on Terry the Tractor. Credit: Helena Dolby. At our wedding ceremony in May, both Harry, my father and our best man Jamie had given speeches. It felt odd for them to do it again, so this time I got the honours. It was so wonderful to get to say my thanks to everyone in my life - you don't get opportunities like this very often in life! Credit: Helena Dolby.
Studio members have access to an exclusive guide on how-to do all the homemade elements from The Hooley
My wonderful dad, Rollo, in his outfit no. 1 of the night... just wait till you see his second! Credit: Helena Dolby. During the speech I unveiled a surprise outfit for Harry. I actually also crafted his a few shots bandoleers our of silver fabric too so later in the night he was a roaming silver cowboy dishing out caramel vodka to anyone brave enough. Credit: Helena Dolby. Dad crafted the stage for me out of a load of old pallets... oh the glamour! Credit: Helena Dolby. My gorgeous mum during the speech. This is the bit where I owned up to the fact I have built a career on plagiarizing her entire aesthetic... my mum is hands down the biggest inspiration! Credit: Helena Dolby. I had coordinated the band so they would march through and suprise all the guests right at the moment my speech finished. Back Chat Brass were simply magnificent! They kicked off the evening with September, by Earth Wind and Fire. One of Harry's favourites and an aptly named song for our party date. Credit: Helena Dolby. Back Chat Brass paraded all the guests down to the marquee for the first period of dancing. The whole party was coordinated to spend as much of it dancing as possible! Credit: Helena Dolby. I decorated the marquee with more bunting, fairy lights, disco balls and made hundreds of hanging figures all dancing over the party! We had two friends, George and Matt, who were incredibly generous to help us do all the lighting and sound for the party, as well as the best DJ set from George. Definitely wouldn't have been such a success without them! Let the party begin! Credit: Helena Dolby. The best food locally to us is Pakistani cuisine. As two curry lovers and food obsessives, the Aagrah (a local Bradford institution), were the first thing we booked for the party! Credit: Helena Dolby. We had no seating plan and the buffet was served continuously over 3 hours, so it meant everyone mingled. Our "food hall" was absolutely buzzing all evening. Credit: Helena Dolby. The table cloths formed the perfect backdrop to the evening. I was so so very happy with these! Credit: Helena Dolby. As it went dark, Back Chat came back out to do their second set. They were absolute magic - here they were playing a bit of Aviici - from this point onwards the night started unravelling in a magnificent way. Credit: Helena Dolby. Harry's outfit change into the silver cowboy. Nothing says party like a silver suit. (p.s. the hat lit up!) Credit: Helena Dolby. Never to be outdone, my dad also had a secret outfit change planned. I challenge you to guess his niche film reference for this outfit... Credit: Helena Dolby. One of my best friend flew in from Pittsburgh for the occasion and getting a night with her was just the best. Credit: Helena Dolby. And I'll leave it there. From this point onwards the night totally unraveled with the last stragglers making it to bed at 8am. The best night of our lives!! Credit: Helena Dolby.