James and I met at secondary school when we were about 14. James was already at the school; I had just moved to the UK from being at school in Germany. I remember our A level English classes together, he was definitely the clever one and I remember copying his homework…
We got married in Mauritius, where we now live. We moved here around six months after getting together in 2015. It was a very difficult choice because getting married so far from home inevitably means loved ones won’t be able to make the journey and even those that can are asked to make a gargantuan effort. Ultimately, though, it just had to be Mauritius. It is our new home, the place we got engaged and the place that – no matter what happens next – has changed our lives forever. Oh, and it’s also not a bad backdrop.
With being in Mauritius, we decided early on it had to be on the beach. All day – ceremony until carriages. Although we’ve fallen in love with some hidden spots around Mauritius up in the mountains, for us the white sand in the West was the only choice. With sandy toes decided, our largest issue was exactly what type of venue.
Neither James or I wanted a wedding in a large hotel and would have ideally both opted for something a little more personal and intimate. But, we both soon realised that here it really is the only option to get everything else we wanted here on this small island: a fun and relaxed day for us and our guests in a naturally beautiful location right on the beach. What’s more, the other ideas we’d dreamed up over a glass of wine or two (of renting a big villa and hosting everything there, or heading up into the hills or even on one of the smaller ‘islets’) fell away quickly on closer inspection.
Rented villas can be very strict about maximum guests and especially hosting parties (nevermind weddings), and some of the beautiful island or hill side locations we found would have taken up half the day getting around – a logistical nightmare! We discovered the beautiful Dinarobin Resort, with a private villa directly on the beach but at the feet of the mountains in Le Morne in the West of Mauritius. It gave us exactly what we wanted and I am so happy with the choice we made.
We had a palette of rose gold, blush pink and ‘duck egg green’. Personally I also am in love with the Art Deco era, so tried to incorporate some glitz with my dress and the bridesmaid dresses.
During James’ speech, everyone raising a toast to our family who couldn’t be there and to a very dear loved one who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. As one of our wedding favours, we donated money to the charity, and asked our guests to wear their ‘forget-me-not’ badges. That will stay with me always.
Ah, if I say, ‘Which dress?’, does that sum it up? After trailing around shops in London, and gorgeous boutiques like Angelica’s I really couldn’t decide exactly what style I wanted to go for. With so much choice it is really overwhelming. As well as this, our trips back to the UK from Mauritius were always so short so I felt quite pressured to make my decision quite quickly. It wasn’t until I went to visit my Bridesmaids in Leeds that I found a dress. A small, independent dress shop in Pudsey in the North of England (where I spent my twenties and a place very special to me). However, after falling in love with the dress, from Enzoani, and agreeing our alterations with the seamstress, I went back some months later to collect it during a visit to the UK from Mauritius to find it was no longer what I wanted. The alterations had entirely changed the style and the fit (in my head at least, despite reassurance from my lovely Bridesmaids). I tried gently to query the changes and the final nail for me was the response I got from the owner. She had seemed as kind as you would wish when I bought the dress, but when I politely shared my worries about the alterations, I was confronted immediately with capital letters and words like liability(!). This kind of – entirely, actually – removed the magic in an instant. Despite that, given we live so far away, I took the dress back to Mauritius some 3 months out from the day and it is still sitting in my wardrobe. After some restless nights, I decided I had to have something else and started frantic searches online. Fortunately, I just happened to find it (at about 3am and fueled by cheese and biscuits). A favourite designer of mine was available and in my size (after many questions about measurements) I decided to go for it, blind in optimism. James’ wonderful best men (he had three!) went to collect it and one of them (on an early trip to Mauritius) brought it with him. It was a huge risk to take, but I knew it was the right one. Apart from a tiny nip and tuck from my Mum in the weeks before, it was perfect and I’m still counting myself so very lucky. My advice: don’t rush in, either to buying or to having alterations. And never be afraid to change your mind! Changing mine was one of the best decisions I made.
James was fairly late on deciding what he and his best men were going to be wearing on the day. It’s not too easy to get Beach Chic right for the Groom, without ending up too casual. After much searching, he found a Dark Green suit from Paul Smith, with his men in light pistachio suits from Noose and Monkey. It kept them all in the same colour theme, but with James more classic than the more modern look for the best men. With some lovely additions of hand made ties made from Peckham and Rye in London (where James spent his twenties) and shoes from Dr Martins and Barkers, both brands from our home town, Northampton. They really did look ace.
This one was simple! My mum has been a chef for years and we were able to convince her to make ours! Three tiers of spongy delight. And absolutely NO fruitcake! Simple, with real flowers were my only requests.
Our favour was a bottle of the local Mauritian beer, Phoenix, with a tag around the top tying a small badge for the Alzheimer’s Society. It was important to us to recognise this charity and our loved ones, so it gave us the chance to donate some money and for everyone to wear a symbol of support. And of course something to toast with.
We went for white roses for the bouquets and gypsophilia. I wanted a beautiful, rustic English country garden feel (on a Mauritian beach!). Thanks to my generous new Auntie Steph (A.K.A Mum de Force), they were so perfect that I decided that I wanted some for my hair!
After LOTS of looking and pondering (including debating filming our own) we went with a local company in Mauritius called Sar Productions. They are a small group of really passionate and talented guys people and it was just the biggest pleasure to have them with us. They hadn’t done many weddings before but their work is just beautiful and it gave me the confidence to go with them. I also dreaded the idea of a classic wedding video so was after something with a different take. In the end, the team (and their drones!) followed us and our friends and family for the whole week not just the day and just became part of the celebrations. What they produced in the end was beyond what I could have ever wished to hope for.
Despite the beautiful natural location, getting married in Mauritius was pretty tough to organise. We don’t speak the most common languages and hadn’t a clue where to begin with suppliers. While the island is built for marriages and honeymoons, they tend to be quite small, private affairs. We wanted a big, family and friends filled celebration of 100 + right on the beach in a beautiful spot. Not so typical. The way of life here is also quite a lot slower than Europe, to say the least, and the bureaucracy and systems are complex and unclear. The relaxed, let’s to it tomorrow approach, was difficult to manage when you want to get things right. The biggest concern for us wasn’t just getting it right for James and I, but getting it right (and in good time!) for all our friends and family who we had asked so much of to make the trip.
Coming back in January after a Christmas trip to the UK and being three months out from the day, the world’s collided for our friends (not wedding planners, but lovely people and who know Mauritius inside and out) to step in and help us. From that point onwards it got so much better as they knew and understood the island and could help us navigate our way around, avoiding the 20x Expat price hikes and getting to really good local suppliers. I would say a solid six months of planning only came together in the last three weeks. But we made it – and the most important thing was it was worth it! Prioritise the planning and make sure you spend time on the things that really matter to you. Doing long to do lists can give everything the same level of importance, but really, you can count what really matters on one hand. Get those things right and enjoy your day.
They wore dresses from Adrianna Papell. With seven bridesmaids, I wanted them to all love their dresses. I sent examples of Art deco style dresses that I thought would be beach perfect, and to be honest, in unison we agreed quite quickly. We wanted to mismatch the dresses slightly so went with a mix of light green and taupe.
I always knew what I wanted here: rustic, shabby chic and simple. Nothing glitzy. Pinterest was the key for me in creating the mood boards and – after months of battling by myself, figuring how to source these decorations in Mauritius – I finally got a friend on board who shared our vision. I don’t have words to say how much difference Brigitte made. A talented wood worker herself, she recreated all my ideas with incredible attention to detail. Branches with hanging tea lights, wooden signs, hand made charcuterie boards, a wooden arch for our ceremony and lanterns and candles everywhere! Just everything I wanted. I don’t know if it’s being in Mauritius or not, but having some things made was almost as cheap as renting them, and we now have some lovely keepsakes that we can take with us wherever is next.
This was something we thought would be crucial to the day. Given the hot weather, we wanted to ensure that guests were entertained throughout the day to avoid any ‘flagging!’. Before the ceremony, we started with a fabulous four-piece jazz band called ‘Gin n’ Tonic’ that I had met during an event for Instagrammers in Mauritius. Secondly, we had some traditional Mauritian Sega dancers and drummers whom led the guests to our lunch venue. Thirdly and finally, we had our wedding band who played Stevie Wonder and old classics followed a DJ for the evening.
Bride’s Three Top Tips (for future brides):
- ENJOY the day and spending time with your nearest and dearest;
- Make sure you speak with your photographer about the style pf photography you want beforehand, so you don’t have to waste too much time with formal static pictures (if at all!);
- Spend time with your husband!
Suppliers: Dress – Monique L’hullier / Shoes – Victoria Vapour Embellished sandals by Emmy London / Flowers – Mum de Force / Make-up – Valerie Lee Makeup / Hair – Gemma Suter, Hensmans / Bridesmaid Dresses – Adrianna Papell / Cake – Mum / Photographer – Sar Production and @islanderinthesun