Presenting this week’s #FridayBride Laura 

Marry me by the sea

Dreaming of getting married by the coast? These lovers did just that on the stunning Big Sur coastline in the late summer of last year. By choosing this divine Californian location, guests travelled the same distance from either sides of the world to celebrate one Brit, Laura, and one Kiwi, Mark, committing their love to one another. Laid back and low key, this relaxed pair kept their day informal at the Wind & Sea Estate in a private house. The unspeakably beautiful backdrop and burnt orange sunsets just added to the romantic weekend that was ahead of these newlyweds.

Laura stunned wearing our vintage-inspired Sabine top, layered on top of our Payton dress. She incorporated the natural beauty of their surroundings by styling her look with bright, rustic flowers in the bouquet and decorated in her hair.

Enjoy scrolling through the brilliant photography by dear friend, Kristen Leven Photography, who caught Laura and Mark’s intimate moments so perfectly.

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When and where did Mark propose to you? Did he have a ring ready?

He proposed in the spring of 2015, along the path between Hammersmith and Barnes Bridge. Mark had planned a day of surprises where he took me back to all of our first date venues including St Paul’s Cathedral. It was a fantastic day and yet, I suspected nothing as this kind of day is not out of character for Mark to plan! He has always been rather ambivalent about marriage (or so I thought). We ended up walking along the Thames Path near to where we live, which has become a Sunday tradition for us over the years, and we stopped to sit at bench by the side of the river. It was only then that I thought something strange was up, as we had never sat on that bench together. Before I knew what was happening, he was on one knee with the most beautiful ring that he had chosen. I did not see any of it coming after over 6 years together so it was a pretty momentous day.  

Where did you purchase your dress & why?

I bought my dress from the Charlie Brear flagship studio.  It was the first place I booked as one of my bridesmaids had previously bought her wedding dress from CB. I wanted a classic piece, which would also suit the venue we had chosen. I was after something very simple and elegant but with a touch of glamour thrown in to make it stand out. I knew a big or traditional type of wedding dress was not for me. The advice I was given by others is to be open minded and try on a range of styles. Even though I had found my dress on my first visit to CB, I did go to a more traditional dress store, which confirmed exactly what I wanted and what styles suited me. Charlie Brear was the only real contender for me so finding the dress was a very simple and easy process.

What was your best experience when trying on dresses?

The studio made the experience! It’s the most luxurious place to try on the most beautiful dresses. Hannah was absolutely fantastic, styling up different pieces and helping to select dresses that I would not necessarily have tried. It was actually Hannah’s suggestion to try the Sabine top over the Payton dress. The Sabine top was the touch of glamour I was after. Both my mum and my bridesmaids’ faces confirmed it was the perfect dress when I first paired it together.

What would your advice be to other brides about shopping for a wedding dress?

Keep an open mind and try styles on that you wouldn’t normally try. Wedding dresses are like no other outfit you have or will ever buy again, so you have no clue as to what will or won’t suit you. The venue also had a much bigger influence on my dress choice – more so than I had expected. Knowing where the wedding would be taking place made it much easier to dress shop.  

How did you feel after you had ordered your dress?

Excited and surprised. I thought it would have been a much harder process to find the right dress than it was.  I bought it 10 months before the wedding so when it arrived for my first fitting, I was a little nervous.  I thought I may have changed my mind or remembered it differently as so much time had passed but as soon as I saw it, any doubts I thought I might have had immediately disappeared.  

What shoes did you wear?

I wore a pair of Rainbow Club bridal satin court shoes from John Lewis. They were very simple with a 3 inch heel. I had debated about not wearing heels at all (I’m 5’9) and did not want to tower over Popey (nickname for my husband, Mark!) but I couldn’t bring myself to wear flats in the end. Heels always make me feel more glamourous, so luckily I found a pair that were very comfy and I wore them well into the evening, which included several hours of dancing.

Did you struggle finding the right lingerie that worked with your dress, if so would you recommend anything for future brides?

I really did struggle – and I spent a fortune trying various options. I don’t have the smallest of bra sizes so a low back dress without a bra was always going to be challenging. I didn’t realise quite how challenging this would be. The girls at CB were fantastic in continuing to help me with options months after I bought my dress. I eventually went with the Ultimo low back strapless bra which was low enough to work with the Payton dress. I had a loop stitched into the dress to wrap around the back of the bra to prevent it from riding up and showing where the deep ‘V’ ends. It gave me a better shape than the stick on cups could. As the Payton is figure skimming I went for spanx tights and no underwear so I had no visible lines (it worked a treat).

Who did your hair & make-up and how did you find them?

Kim Larson, who is based in Carmel, did hair and make –up for me and all my bridesmaids. Kim was recommended through Wedding Wire and by our wedding planner who was also local to the Carmel/Big Sur area. I met Kim a few days before the wedding to talk colours and hair styles and both Kim and her associate, Crystal, were fabulous on the day. They had to travel a long way to get to the house which was pretty remote and were very efficient in getting six of us ready that morning.

What was the most memorable moment of the day?

There were two. The first was walking down the aisle to greet Mark. I was stood opposite him as the ceremony was about to start when he leaned in to kiss me and said hi. Both I and our celebrant, Bryan, had to pull him back and remind him that this part comes later. It made everyone laugh and banished any nerves I still had from the walk down the aisle. The second had to be the weather. Another plus to getting married in the Big Sur is the consistent weather, or so we thought. There was an unseasonable heat wave on the four days leading up to the wedding. On the actual day, the temperature dropped back to the low 20’s and bought with it some very unseasonable fog which shrouded the house all day. It wasn’t quite what we had envisaged but it didn’t affect the day in the slightest – other than giving it a somewhat ethereal and atmospheric vibe. The following day it was back to bright blue skies and sunshine. Luckily, we had a second day of celebrations at the house so we all got to appreciate the two extremes of Big Sur which made it all the more memorable.  I did not find it quite as funny on the day as I do now.

What Traditions did you follow? 

We did not see each other the night before the wedding, Mark spent it with his groomsmen and I stayed at the house with my parents and all my bridesmaids. We also had some of the usual traditions including the cake cutting and a first dance.   

Did your wedding have any quirky or unusual features?

We decided to have the speeches before dinner to not prolong the nervous build up for the speechmakers. Popey, having been a best man a few times, wanted them all to enjoy their dinner with a few drinks without the worry of speeches later in the day. We kept things fairly simple as the venue did all the hard work for us. We chose flowers within the local area and what was currently in bloom, and went with colours to match the Big Sur sunset. We also had a second day of celebrations at the house with a post wedding BBQ as everyone had travelled so far to celebrate with us.

Who took your fabulous wedding pictures?

The supremely talented Kristian Leven who as well as being a top London wedding photographer, also happens to be one of my closest friends of the last 16 years. Asking Kris to be our photographer was the easiest decision of all the wedding planning decisions. It’s also fortunate for us that Kris is a dab hand at photographing destination wedding and was completely unfazed by the weather conditions (unlike us).

How did you feel walking down the aisle?

Unbelievably nervous which took me by surprise. I asked my Dad to talk to me constantly while we were walking down the aisle (and it was a pretty long walk) as I didn’t want to get to the bottom and start blubbing.  I cannot remember what we talked about but we were giggling the entire way down.

Take 5 with this week’s #Friday Bride LAURA


1.Planning a destination wedding? The venue does most of the hard work for you and you can’t get bogged down in the little details.

2. Do the things that you and your husband want and not what is expected or traditional – you only get one day and it should reflect who you both are.

3. If things don’t go to plan – let it go. Only you will know it hasn’t.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you think back to weddings you have attended as a guest and you can’t remember the little things then don’t waste time making decisions on them.

5.If you have good food, good wine and good music your guests will take care of everything else.  

If you could do it all again what would you do differently?

We had been given lots of advice by other friends to take some time out, just the two of us, during the day, which we did. We wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Where did you go for your honeymoon?

We flew to New Orleans, where we started an epic road trip driving the blues highway. We stopped in Memphis, Nashville, the Great Smokey Mountains and finished up in Charleston and Folly Beach in South Carolina. The Deep South is the best place to go when your wedding diet ends and all southerners, when they find out you have just got married, want to celebrate with you…..with multiple shots of bourbon!  

Did you find organising your wedding an easy process?

Once we found the venue, everything else was straightforward. Choosing to get married abroad, we had to book things and take a leap of faith that it would all come together on the day. We didn’t see our wedding venue until 3pm the day before when we checked in. We had a planner in the local area that was not great at communicating, so there were a few things that could have been easier - particularly when there was an ongoing issue with forest fires in the weeks running up to the wedding. Booking it all online in many ways makes it much easier. We couldn’t get stressed or bogged down in the detail so it worked for us.

What will you do with your dress now?

I am still deciding what to do but I definitely hope to get some more use out of the Sabine top.

What are you and Mark's best memories of the day?

Seeing all of our friends and family come together after travelling so far to celebrate with us is unforgettable! You realise how lucky you are to have so many amazing people in your life. The two days celebrating also meant that the wedding day did not feel like it was over in seconds and we were able to spend some proper time with everyone over the course of two days. Both Popey and I look back at the ceremony in particular as a highlight. We ended up giving more time to planning the ceremony than we had thought we would. We adapted our vows and a reading, which were very much in keeping with our laid back approach to it all and sense of humour. Our celebrant, Bryan, was fantastic and we spent some time with him in Carmel before the wedding so it felt very personal. The ceremony is normally the boring bit when you go to other weddings but when it is your own it takes on a very different meaning.


Dress - Payton and Sabine top by Charlie Brear

Shoes - Rainbow club

Accessories - A back necklace and matching earrings from Denise Jewellery designs, Etsy

 Ceremony & reception venue - Wind & Sea Estate, Big Sur, California

Photographer - Kristen Leven Photography

Bridesmaids' dresses - Coast

Rings - Osaka, Hatton Gardens

Music- Mark Banks

Caterer- Sea Stars catering

Hair and make-up - Kim Larson Bridal