As our first That Bride of 2017, owner of Sassy’s fave eco-hair salon, Love Hair; Toni-Marie Ovendon (née Sutton) sets the bar high with a magical rooftop wedding in London’s coveted Roof Gardens in Kensington. We’re welling up at her beautiful wedding photos set amongst iconic London buses and sunny gardens – pink flamingos and all! Amongst the smiles, laughter and amazing Spanish trio band, Toni-Marie dishes on her first date and her experiences behind planning an all-in-one wedding…
All love stories have to begin somewhere. How did you two meet?
We met at Pastis on Wyndham Street through a couple of our mutual friends. Although we later found out that we lived five roads away from each other in London for years, and never met until we moved to Hong Kong!
Where was your first date?
It was a long sequence of dancing around social meetings before we finally went on a date. Our first official date was at Chicha and I suddenly felt really under the weather so we had to leave and head home for a takeaway instead!
Every bride has a proposal story. What’s yours?
Ian had planned for us to hike over to Long Kee in Sai Kung for a day of picnics and lying on the beach where he then proposed! It was really nice to have the day to ourselves and let it all sink in without having phone signal to contact anyone. He knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with a big public display, so it was perfect and so personal.
Tell us about the ring.
The ring is beautiful! Ian designed it himself, which he later admitted was much harder than expected as it involved so many small decisions to bring it all together – and to find something which suited my sausage fingers! The diamond I believe is from Fifth C.
What did you do for your hen party?
I was an extremely lucky lady and had two hens which were really quite different! The first one was with all of my friends in Hong Kong, where we headed to Macau and was organised by my best friend (and bridesmaid!) who actually lives there. We spent the day at a water park, dined in Old Town Macau and danced the night away.
The second was in a huge, old converted barn in the English countryside where I spent quality time with my friends from home; including us building our own rafts and racing down a very cold river. It was one way to cure a hangover for sure!
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?
We actually chose a beautiful venue in London – the Roof Gardens in Kensington, which meant that we could organise everyone in one place, which made it much easier for us.
Who helped you create your perfect day?
Ian, myself and a little help from my bridesmaids! We were each responsible for something, from flowers and the music to a pre-wedding picnic and of course, the hen do. One of my close friends made our wedding cake and it was incredible – she has one seriously scrumptious skill!
Tell us about the dress.
Originally I thought that I really wanted a relaxed Boho-style dress, but when I tried them on it just didn’t feel right. I tried quite a few bridal shops, but none could beat HITCHED! on Bonham Strand. Dana was so helpful and really listened to my needs, helping me to find the perfect dress! It was the complete opposite of what I originally wanted, it was much more structured and classic but I felt amazing in it. It’s an Augusta Jones dress called Skyler.
Who helped you look and feel your best on your big day?
Certainly not the hotel bar! We were up to 1am the night before with all of our friends and family – it was so hard to go to bed. So I was extremely lucky to have my four amazing hairdresser friends transform myself, my mum and all of my bridesmaids for the big day. My makeup artist was fab; she knew her stuff and made me look fresh without all of of the heavy makeup.
What was the wedding like?
One of Ian’s best friends, Jerry conducted our ceremony which was a nice personal touch and made the day feel much less nerve racking! Sadly, my Dad isn’t alive today so my I had my beautiful mother walk me down the aisle. The day took everyone on a journey. We held the ceremony in the Tudor Garden, followed by a drinks reception and canapés in the Spanish Gardens as we spent a whole month in Colombia together (and where Ian stated that if I could put up with him for a whole month then I could for life!). We had hired a Spanish trio to play acoustic Latin music, which created a really upbeat vibe in the colourful, sunny gardens. We then headed to the English Garden for a sit-down dinner and speeches; as we’re both from England we kept it simple, white and floral with bird cages as the centre pieces.
My favourite part was the nine-piece brass band called the ‘Hackney Colliery Band’ who then appeared and had everyone up and dancing, followed by our final surprise which was a Hong Kong-themed room filled with hangings lanterns and parasols – a tribute to where we first met.
The song for your first dance?
We wanted to keep it really informal, so we didn’t officially have a ‘first dance’. I guess that the first song the band played would have been it, which so happened to be a song by Adele.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned while wedding planning?
Be sure to book the main details first! Good food, alcohol and music which everyone will enjoy. And don’t stress!
Have any tips and tricks for brides-to-be?
Go with your gut and with what you want. Your wedding should be personal and relate to yourselves, not what you think everyone else would like. The advice a few of my clients gave to me was to ensure that Ian and I had a couple of moments throughout the day that was just the two of us. And be sure to use a photographer who knows the venue, be specific about the types of photos you want to capture!
What do you remember most about the entire experience?
It was the best day from start to finish, but it all went by so fast; especially in the afternoon – it literally flew by.
Is there anything you would have liked to do differently?
For time to have slowed down! It was perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing.
And that brings us naturally to your honeymoon. Where did you end up going?
We headed to Botswana where we stayed at Chitabe Safari Camp, and were extremely lucky to see so many big game animals each day. From there we flew on a tiny plane over to Zambia to see the Victoria Falls – which were spectacular. We took in the sights by helicopter and on foot.
We also went white water rafting down the Zambezi River, which separates Zambia from Zimbabwe; it was extreme but a lot of fun and I couldn’t imagine any other way to see the amazing gorge. We stayed at wilderness eco camps, where the service and quality were outstanding. Our week of adventure was followed by a week of utter relaxation in the Seychelles which had the whitest sand and bluest sea you could ever imagine! All organised by the fantastic Gavin Lautenbach of Mammoth Safaris.
Images courtesy of Liam Crawley.