The tables have turned and we’re cross-examining this month’s That Bride Charlotte Patton, one of the legal legends over at Experis Legal Futures. We talk to her about her unconventional first date and lush destination wedding to her high-flying pilot husband Rob Patton in Italy. For any of you ladies wanting to know how to plan your own destination wedding, Charlotte’s got a little guide for you in our interview below. But for now, shh-court’s in session!
All love stories have to begin somewhere. How did you two meet?
We met in our final year at university and started dating soon after.
Where was your first date?
We arranged to meet at the local Christmas Market and had planned to go out for dinner afterwards, but we spent so much time chatting that by the time we got around to eating everywhere was closed. Except McDonald’s, which was where we ended up.
Can you tell us about the first time he said he loved you?
We’d been dating for around four months I think, so it wasn’t very long. Naturally, Rob said it first.
Every bride has a proposal story. What’s yours?
We went on holiday to Mexico in summer 2011. On the day itself, Rob had arranged for us to go swimming with dolphins during the day, which was great fun. That evening, he had arranged for us to have a romantic private dinner on the beach. I didn’t suspect a thing as we’d done some research prior to going and I’d actually suggested it to him, so Rob let me think it was my idea. (It kind of was though.)
After a gorgeous meal, Rob asked what our plans were for the rest of the night…and for the rest of my life. He then proceeded to get down on one knee. I was so shocked that I could barely speak. Afterwards, we celebrated with champagne and called our families to tell them the good news.
Tell us about the ring.
I love my ring, it’s an Emerald cut diamond with baguette diamonds on either side. We had actually seen it together it while innocently looking at rings one afternoon, so I was over the moon when it ended up being the very same ring that Rob proposed with six months later.
What did you do for your hen party? We want the dirty details.
I was extremely lucky because I actually had two hen parties! My bridesmaids in the UK organised a weekend in London with all of my close friends. It was a great weekend and included a burlesque dancing lesson, silly themed games and (in true hen party style) a stripper!
My lovely Hong Kong friends also organised a surprise long weekend in Thailand which was fantastic. We hired a villa, chilled out during the day and had Thai massages, ate lots of delicious food and partied in the evenings.
How did you go about planning your wedding? Did you go the DIY route or did you hire a wedding planner to help you out?
There was a lot going on in our lives at the time so we decided on a long engagement, in order to allow us time to move and settle in to Hong Kong. We decided our wedding date would be July 4th 2014, a date exactly three years after the proposal.
With us living here in Hong Kong and friends and family all over the place, we thought we’d try and choose somewhere in between. We ended up planning a destination wedding in Amalfi Coast in Italy.
We soon realised that we would need to hire a wedding planner and after searching extensively and reading numerous reviews, we chose a planner we felt suited us best. We didn’t have a theme, but weather permitting; we wanted to hold it outdoors. We eventually decided upon a colour scheme of green, navy and grey in order to compliment the natural backdrop. The hotel has the most breath-taking views so I wanted to keep everything simple.
Planners are a godsend when you’re organising a destination wedding. They helped us source everything we needed: the florist, photographer, musicians and even the sparklers for the send off. In September 2013, we visited the venue and had the opportunity to meet the planners, sample our wedding menu and visualise the day.
It doesn’t matter how far in advance you start planning, there are just some things that cannot be done until the last four weeks before the wedding. It ended up being a hectic final month.
Tell us about the dress.
The dress shopping experience surprised me a lot. I’m quite confident with my style and know what suits my body type, but I was surprised to find that what I thought would look good really did not. The dress I chose was nothing like I had envisaged wearing, but once I tried it I just loved it. I only spent a day looking and probably tried less than 10 dresses in total.
What was the wedding like?
The ceremony took place in a beautiful garden in Ravello, on the Amalfi coast.
After the ceremony we enjoyed canapés and drinks in the main square of Ravello before the wedding reception at the Hotel Caruso. Pre-dinner aperitifs and the wedding banquet were hosted in one of their beautiful gardens, which overlooks the coastline.
Once the meal was over, we all moved to the hotel’s infinity pool area where we cut the cake, then the bouquet was tossed and we had our first dance. We all danced until midnight and enjoyed the quirky photo booth, until it was time for our sparkler send-off.
Everyone remembers their first dance. What song did you choose?
“How Long Will I Love You” – Ellie Goulding.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned while wedding planning?
The importance of time management and the ability to multi task. Things will go wrong and it will be stressful, so be prepared and plan a back-up for everything.
Have any tips and tricks for brides-to-be?
Don’t let anyone guilt you into inviting every man and his dog. We decided early on that we wanted an intimate wedding, but at times it was difficult. Your family will often have expectations of who should be invited, so it’s important to remember to stay true to the day you both envisaged and who you want to be there.
Start a wedding folder to keep all your important documents and emails organised. You’ll be amazed how swamped you will be otherwise.
Don’t sweat over the small things (even if you think they are big!) So many people told us not to worry when things went wrong and many didn’t even notice anything on the day. If we’d just listened to them, it would have saved us so much stress!
What do you remember most about the entire experience?
Rob’s reaction when he first saw me. Seeing all of our friends and family together, having such a great time. It’s probably the only time everyone that we care for the most will be altogether in one place, so it felt really special.
Is there anything you would have liked to do differently?
Three years of on-and-off wedding planning was too long because you start to lose interest. 18 months would have been ideal.
And that brings us naturally to your honeymoon. Where did you end up going?
The honeymoon was a surprise, all I was told was to pack for a beach holiday. It turns out that Rob is amazing at surprises; he took me to the islands of French Polynesia, which is somewhere that I’ve wanted to go for a long time. We stayed on an island called Bora Bora and another one called Taha’a. It was pure paradise, I only wish we could do it all again!
You absolutely glowed on your big day. Can you share any of your beauty secrets?
In order to prep for the big day I went to a few places:
I went to The Strand for all my hair care needs-they were amazing and I would highly recommend them to everyone. I will never have my hair done anywhere else (take a little peek at our Sassy review here). They worked out a six month plan for me to help get my hair into tip top shape. Keith, the creative director, does my colour and cut. Being a blonde in Hong Kong is not easy, but he is the best I have come across here- and I have tried a lot of places! Then I had extensions to add volume, which were done by the very talented Fei. I also visit their salon for the odd beauty treatment.
I also go to the Nu Waxing Workshop for all my waxing needs, Joey is hands down the best waxer in town! It’s slightly expensive, but definitely worth it.
Can you think of anybody who helped you get fit and healthy in time for your big day?
I started Barre classes at Trinity about six months before the wedding, in addition to my regular gym workouts. (We’ve been there too, see what we thought here) I tried to go between 2-3 times a week. I had never done it before, but I’ve heard good things and really felt that it toned me up in a short amount of time. Karen and Mylene who run the classes are very good, ensuring everybody is working as hard as possible and moving correctly.
I also used the Cambridge Diet Plan (we’ve tried it too, see what we thought here) a month prior to the wedding, although I had been steadily watching what I ate for a good six months. I felt that I needed a little extra push for those last stubborn couple of pounds. The diet plan’s not easy, but I did feel healthy and had lots of energy and got the results I wanted quickly. I would definitely do it again.
We’ve caught the wedding bug and as such, we’ve figured out where the best wedding services in Hong Kong have been hiding in our roundups. For more interviews with real Hong Kong brides, see our other That Bride interviews!