This afternoon the blog is offering up some much-needed wedding planning advice for those of you...
Happy Friday and yay for the weekend! I am super excited it’s the weekend, and as I don’t work on a Friday, my weekend starts right here! Today I am taking Dexter to the cinema to watch Cars 3, which I’m hoping he will sit through! Saturday we have a 4 year olds birthday party, then Sunday we are off to Tramlines, Sheffield own music festival. What about you?
So far this week we have been to New York, East Sussex, Estonia and Tennessee and today we are finishing off the week in Belgium with Christina and Niels wedding courtesy of the bride herslef who sent me in the wedding, with photos by Patricia Vanrespaille. A lovely wedding filled with pretty lilac details and Christina make the most beautiful bride.
Christina and Niels were married on the 27th May 2017 in a ceremony at Villa Lucie, followed by a reception at Kasteel Ter Loonst. ‘Though living in Asia, we chose to get married in Kampenhout, Belgium, where the groom is from. We lucked out as Villa Lucie looked like something out of a fairy tale with its unique architecture and charming interiors. The first time we laid eyes on our reception venue, back in December 2016, we fell in love. At the time, the old, abandoned barn was being refurbished. The venue’s location was of particular sentimental importance to the groom who was born and raised in a house just a 10″ walk from this castle. The owners of that private estate were friends of Niels’ father, and were nice enough to let us use their space for our wedding. We had about 100 guests and the wedding took 8 months to plan.’
How they met
We met on Tinder while we were both living and working in Shanghai. We decided to meet not long after chatting over the online platform. We have been together for 2+ years.
The groom had been planning his proposal for 3 months. He first posted a handwritten letter to Christina’s parents 3 months before his actual proposal, asking for her hand in marriage. Once he got the green light from them, he then booked a surprise weekend getaway at a resort where she had always wanted to visit, which was located outside Shanghai. On the actual day of the proposal at the resort, Niels was the perfect boyfriend – willing to try out yoga classes, which he normally wouldn’t ever do, and pampered her by having booked a couple’s massage session beforehand. While getting dressed, he was particular about what she was going to wear, but that still didn’t throw her off. During dinner, he was a little distant and seemed to be in a rush to get back to the room, while she was just enjoying the great food and dessert. When they got back, just before she took off her heels, he picked her up and put her in the middle of our room and got down on one knee. He started telling her the speech he had prepared for months, and soon they were both in tears, as he asked her to be his wife.
How did you allocate your budget?
This was part one of the two weddings the couple had planned to celebrate their love. The one in Belgium was a civil ceremony, while a church wedding awaited them in Cyprus the week after. His father contributed to our catering expenses and his mother chipped in too. Christina paid for her dress, bridesmaid dresses, some décor, and all accessories, while Niels’ paid for the rest of the expenses.
Where did you splurge and where did you save?
We asked Niels’ relatives, who were based near Kampenhout, to help us plan the wedding. So, we didn’t have to think about hiring a planner or event styling company. We also saved on the wedding venue itself, as the owners were family friends and were nice enough to allow us to use the castle’s refurbished barn for a minimal fee. We saved by purchasing my bridesmaids’ dresses and my own wedding dress in Asia for a fraction of the cost compared to Europe. Our DIY décor projects also helped to lower our costs. The biggest expenses were the catering, photographers’ and the florists’ expenses, who we hired for the table arrangements inside.
Why did you choose your photographer?
We were initially recommended a few photographers by Niels’ sister, but none were available on our date. Instead, one of these photographers on the list recommended Patricia Vanrespaille, and we really liked her portfolio. Her style was candid and natural, and that was exactly what we were looking for.
My dress was by a Filipino wedding dress designer, named Maureen Reeca Cruz. I wanted to save by purchasing my shoes from a high-street name, Charles & Keith. I was going for a “woodland fairy” look, so instead of a veil or headband, I went for a floral crown, made by our florists, Het Viooltje.
The Suit and Bridesmaids
Our suit was bought from Hugo Boss’ flagship store in Makati, Philippines. And my bridesmaids’ dresses were bought in Shanghai. I ended up buying them from a little store called Xing Qi Cloth Shop. The challenge was getting everyone’s measurements right, while being so far away from each other and each bridesmaid located in different countries (UK, Belgium, Cyprus). I was very pleased with the result and so were the girls.
Theme or Colour Scheme
We were going for a rustic, woodland-themed wedding, but that still felt elegant and infused with cultures since we are a mixed-race couple with many different backgrounds. This played a huge part in our choice of décor, and even favours. Our key colour was lilac, Christina’s all-time favourite colour, mixed with shades of pink, white, and peach.
We had a mixed of roses, hydrangeas, blue thistle, and abundant greenery for our indoor table arrangements. Outside, we also had mini roses combined with white gypsophila, for a rustic touch.
With such a gorgeous venue, we didn’t want to overwhelm this great, already rustic backdrop with too much décor. All our décor, except the flowers inside the venue, were DIY projects. Niels’ mum and aunties got creative with the table arrangements outside, filling mini mason jars with bouquets of roses and gypsophila, and even created the giant wooden photo frame hanging on a tree branch outside. The groom’s brother bought the photo frames from IKEA and Christina designed the paper goods, as she owns an online wedding stationery business. The invitations were also designed by Niels’ sister, a graphic designer, and printed through Christina’s company. The groom’s sister and her boyfriend helped us create all the wooden signage, including the giant N&C. We also covered bar tables with strips of burlap, and borrowed an old watering can filled with daisies from his mother’s garden.
Christina brought back paper lanterns from Singapore in pinks, whites, and lilacs, for an Asian-inspired touch that still matched with the wedding’s colours and theme. These shades were incorporated in the flowers, the napkins, and some of the signage.
At the reception, waiters served canapés, such as mini servings of tagine and couscous, gazpacho soup, and custard made of cod, to kick-off celebrations. A buffet-style dinner was then served with different themed food stations, such as Greek, Belgian, and Asian, as a testament to our different backgrounds. There you could expect classics from each station, like souvlaki, Belgian frites, and glass noodle salad. The couple bought mini flags and placed them at each corner to iterate our theme.
To save costs, we didn’t have a wedding cake and instead opted for wine glasses filled with a range of our favourite desserts: Panacotta, tiramisu, traditional Belgian rice pudding, strawberry mousse, and chocolate mousse.
We downloaded a playlist of some of our favourite songs and played this throughout the dinner. The dinner was followed by a series of toasts, speeches and presentations, which moved everyone to tears and laughter. We danced and sang along to songs played by the groom’s best man, brother, who broke out his guitar towards the end of the night.
Your Big Day (YBD) created all the paper signage and wedding invitations. YBD is the online custom stationery business owned by Christina.
The wedding rings were purchased from a jewelry store, owned by the partner of Niels’ cousin. The bride and groom wrote their initials by hand and have their handwriting engraved on the inside of each ring. Guest favours showed off the bride’s Greek and Chinese cultural backgrounds: mini bottles filled with rosemary-infused olive oil and heart-shaped, red cookies individually printed with “Double Happiness” characters.
Special Moments or Highlights
Reading our vows to each other was definitely a highlight for the two of us. It was especially moving to watch the humorous and sentimental presentation that Niels’ brother had prepared. The speeches given by the groom and members of his family were very special and filled with emotion. And of course, seeing all our closest friends and family who had travelled from near and far to be with us on our big day.
Advice for Other Couples
Looking back, we absolutely loved this entire period of preparations, getting to know professionals from around the world. For those of you embarking on a wedding planning journey, enjoy it as it is an experience in itself and it will be over before you know it. It helps to be proactive, patient and, most of all, don’t forget to LOVE!
For Christina, it was definitely seeing her two of her closest childhood friends at Villa Lucie, who surprised her at the wedding. She wasn’t expecting it at all! And it showed in the photos. For the both of us, it was the glorious weather in Belgium – 28 degrees and sunny!