An ‘Anything Goes’ Meets Mexican Day of the Dead Fiesta Wedding

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DIY fans, listen up – this gorgeous wedding has sooo much arts and crafts! And it was planned in under three months, so you can see, not only can it be done, but how beautifully it can be done. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you bring the day together as a team of family and friends, like Sarah and Craig here did, it’s going to look and feel super amazing…

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The Story of the Wedding by Sarah, the Bride

Was there a theme? Sort of… I’ve always been obsessed with skull imagery since I was a teenager. I have a fascination with the Mexican festival ‘dia de los muertos’ (day of the dead), which combines skulls with bright colours and a fiesta vibe, these featured heavily in the ‘theme’ for the day, and we worked loosely around it. It was kind of the approach of if it’s bright and fun and we like it then that will work – an anything goes mix-up affair!

The best bit of the wedding planning was definitely making the decorations. We created a Whatsapp group called ‘operation decoration’ and a shared Pinterest board called ‘wedding shiz’ – it meant that people involved could share ideas or updates on what they were working on. Throughout the three months prior to the wedding, our phones would ping with pictures or ideas. My parents would send me updates of my grandma (who unfortunately was unable to attend the actual wedding owing to being too frail) supervising the craft sessions or cutting out labels, and it was great to have her involved in this way. My friends and I hand sewed a lot of the skull decorations and had many a ‘stitch and bitch’ session with drinks and food. My hen do was basically a crafting session at our house; it took me the whole evening to make one skull, which I called the pina colada skull as it was a bit wonky…

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Our venue was the Trinity Centre, Bristol. We really wanted a city centre venue that was not a hotel. We were wary of being sold a ‘wedding package’ as we wanted to be quite free with our decoration and choice of caterers (we had a curry!). Trinity basically offered all of this and a blank space to work with in a city centre location.

I had a bit of a nightmare choosing a dress as I knew I didn’t want a traditional style wedding dress. I had decided I wanted a vintage style swing dress, and after a few failed attempts of ordering swing style dresses from various vintage shops online that made me look more like a bridesmaid than a bride, a friend suggested I try Etsy. I had my dress custom made by Gin and Sin London via their Etsy shop. I emailed my measurements and they turned it out in three weeks. And I got to choose from about seven shades of duchess silver satin! The dress fitted perfectly. And my tiara was my mother’s –  she wore it on her wedding day in 1970!

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Craig ordered his suit online from Marc Darcy London, and his shirt and tie he bought the day before the wedding from Marks and Spencer! His shoes were limited edition Nike Air Jordan Champagne 6s he had bought five years previously, and had always said he would wear them if we ever got married.

Neither of us knew what the other was going to wear before the wedding day. It freaked a lot of my female friends out that I did not know what Craig was going to turn up in, but because of the ‘anything goes’ theme of the day, we seemed to work together well. Really, I would not have cared if Craig had turned up in a banana yellow suit, in fact I probably would have loved that as well.

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The bridesmaids’ dresses were the first thing I ordered for the wedding. My nieces of four and five years were so excited to be asked; I wanted to make it special for them. I was a bridesmaid when I was younger, and I always remember hating the dress I had to wear. I know they would not have minded, but I wanted them to choose whatever colour dresses they wanted. They both declared straight away the colour of dress they wanted (hot pink and purple). I found a seller on eBay that sold girls’ party dresses in the same style in various different colours at £15 each. We ordered a third dress in lilac to match for my best friend’s little girl, who was also a bridesmaid. My nieces still wear their dresses all the time; I am constantly getting Whatsapp updates of its latest outing. I have ordered the size up again for one of them so her mum and dad can subtly swap it as she gets bigger because she loves to wear it so much. This was probably the best £30 I spent for the whole day!! They wore headbands from the H&M and Accessorize kids’ departments. My niece in the pink dress wore a headband that was worn by my auntie when she was a bridesmaid at my mum and dad’s wedding in the 70s!

The key people wore gerberas to identify them as important, but we did not specify a dress code. However, as the word got out that there was a kind of ‘day of the dead’ theme going on, family and friends turned up in skull themed clothing without us asking – people just got really into it! My brothers and father had ties, bow ties and shirts custom made via etsy out of ‘day of the dead’ fabric each of their own planning and choosing!

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Neither of us was really looking forward to the ceremony aspect of the day. We saw it really as the thing to get through before we could have the party afterwards!! I think we were both nervous at the prospect of standing up in front of everyone. However, the ceremony perhaps was my favourite moment. Firstly, when I arrived with my dad, before I walked down the aisle, we waited outside the room with my mum, who was supervising the bridesmaids, one of which had only learnt to walk a week before. It was a lovely reassuring moment to be there with both of them and the girls. When it went to walking down the aisle, it all happened so fast, my mum suddenly asked, “do you want the girls to walk before or after you?” I said “I think they are meant to go first.” Well, before you knew it, I was walking down the aisle arm in arm with my dad behind my mum herding the bridesmaids in a large fur coat she had not taken off yet like some crazy cat lady. We had to stop half way down for my mum to pick up the youngest one who did a stumble; it was so funny, I was laughing all the way down – I think Craig got to see my mum first before he got to see me! The civil service ceremony was short and sweet – we had no readings, but the feeling between us as we had our arms around each other for support, and the love we could feel from the guests, was just electric. You could just feel everyone was really egging us on. When we finally kissed after we said “I do” the whole room cheered and stamped – we even did a little bow together.

On another note, realising that Craig had ordered a Mustang to pick me up and take me to the venue was a lovely unplanned surprise that I did not know about!!

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The majority of the decorations were DIY. My friends and I hand sewed about a hundred felt sugar skulls that we hung from twisted willow branches. We were very lucky to have a friend who had access to a top quality printer plus some pretty nifty skills on Photoshop. She made a series of printed decorations for us – customised labels for the flower tins we had on the tables; the tarot card table placements; and signs directing guests during the wedding. My dad spent months, with the assistance of Craig and other family members, hammering nail holes into tins that we had as tea lights. The tins were collected courtesy of friends family and my mother’s local Slimming World group. My mother sewed 200 metres of bunting! We ordered the binding from eBay, and the fabric came from anywhere you can imagine – old clothes I no longer wore, my grandma’s skirts, my dad’s shirts, bedsheets we had when we were children, charity shops, eBay, and donations from friends and family. My mum and dad were sending updates to the Whatsapp group of various bits of fabric they had found in some charity shop most weeks. We spent the Christmas holiday in a bunting workshop, all of us cutting triangles while my mum sewed away! The final effect was an amazing mishmash of colours and textures, and a collection of fabrics some of which had an emotional connection. My dad slaved away making tiny pots of jam for favours, and each label was specifically hand cut by family members. My aunty made the wedding cake and cupcakes. We had items donated from friends – drapes for the ceiling of the venue, tablecloths and paper ‘day of the dead’ bunting.

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The whole effort was a team one, from making the decorations, to hanging them the morning before the wedding. It made everyone feel more involved and elements of the day that much more personal and special; it worked out to be a proper family affair. The guests also got to take home handmade favours, and it’s so lovely to pop round a friend’s house and see a felt sugar skull hanging pride of place in a kitchen or front room.

Our advice is that it really is your day. Other people may have assumptions of what you should traditionally be doing for a wedding,but you really do not have to do what other people want or expect.  I got really fed up of people sucking in deep breaths or raising eyebrows when I explained we were planning a wedding in three months. Other people seemed to want to create a big drama that things can’t be done in a short time frame (it can – you just need friends, family and a spreadsheet or two). All of our guests fed back that our wedding totally reflected us, and they had enjoyed the informal approach of the day. I think this is because we did what we wanted to do: no seating plans, no formality, sit where you want, eat what you want and drink what you want – we just kept the fuss and formality to a minimum.

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When planning your wedding, just ask around for help and advice. We found our band, caterers and photographer through asking others for help, so mainly through word of mouth and social media. I remember not really knowing where to begin and who to go with when we first started planning, this plus people telling me every 20 seconds we were ‘cutting it a bit fine’ got me a bit agitated, but going with people who were recommended by others worked out as the right thing to do. You can always gather a couple of reviews and choose from more than one option.

If you are setting up the venue yourselves, get a designated friend or family member to take control of the situation so you can get ready on time!!

And lots of spreadsheets and glasses of prosecco help with planning and setting up!!

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We walked down the aisle to Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. We did not really plan to have a first dance as it’s not really our thing. However, our guests would not hit the dance floor until we went on. We danced to the second song our band played, which was Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. A bit of a sad song for a first dance if you listen to the lyrics, but we were peer pressured into it!!

The whole day was just wonderful. The only thing I would change perhaps is leaving myself enough time to get ready. As we decorated the venue ourselves in the morning, my friend Steph who did my hair had to pretty much drag me away and demand I get ready at 1:30pm. I did my make-up in a hand mirror while she did my hair. It was all a bit hectic, but I had a large glass of prosecco to hand, and the lovely Florence, our photographer, and Steph to calm me, so I let it go and thought, ‘well now, what will be, will be…’

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Credits

Photographer – Florence Fox Photography
Bride – Dress by Gin and Sin London; Petticoat by Hell Bunny from Rock Collection; Shoes by Ruby Shoo; Feather bolero by BIBA from House of Fraser
Groom – Suit by Marc Darcy London; Shoes by Nike; Shirt and tie by Marks and Spencer
Bridesmaids – eBay; Accessorize; H&M

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