Couple: Sara and Mike
Venue: Thornton Manor, Wirral
Photographer: Paul Baybut Photography
“Mike and I actually met in a car crash – I crashed my tiny Daihatsu Copenhagen into his truck! He stormed over looking angry, and then saw me and put the charm on. My car was a total write-off so he stayed with me until I could get home and made sure I was ok.
“Mike proposed to me, on the very same roundabout I’d crashed into him on five years earlier! He had the ring on the breathalyser tube from that day (the police came to help and had to breathalyse us as standard practice).”
“After trying on dresses in various shops, I knew I didn’t want an off the shelf option. My wedding dress needed to be as unique as our wedding, and reflect my style. I didn’t want to look like a princess – I wanted to look like a vintage femme fatale; beautiful, breathtaking, but who could also kill you in your sleep!
“The dress was custom made by a local designer – a woman called Pat, in her 60s, with tonnes of experience. I showed her my Pinterest board and we came up with a design together. I went on my own for all the fittings so it would remain a surprise to my friends and family.
“It was dramatic, vintage, risqué… everything I wanted! The base was a sheer material, and then the detail built up around it; loads of gold beading, lace, and feathers. The train was really long, and the edging encrusted with beading and crystals, so every time it caught the light it twinkled.
“She also made me a dramatic long matching veil, edged in lace. It’s so beautiful and unique that I’m even thinking of getting a retail glass display unit to display it on a mannequin somewhere in my house! Not sure if that will be too much, but I just want to admire it every day!
“My bridesmaids wore deep burgundy dresses. I chose each one specifically to suit each of their styles, body shape, etc, so they would feel beautiful and comfortable in what they were wearing. No two were the exact same shade or style.
“Mike wore a suit that his late dad had made for him, so it was a special thing for him to wear. He was an expert tailor in Chester and well renowned. Mike’s tie matched the bridesmaid dress colour and the groomsmen’s ties matched my wedding dress colour.”
“I wanted avant-garde meets wild for my bouquet, with lots of red and foliage. I don’t know much about flowers so told our florist the theme of the wedding and she created the perfect bouquet to match, as well as a flower display for the top table and some additional foliage to add to the candelabras. They were so beautiful! I then used faux flowers on my bridesmaid skull ‘bouquets’ to match the colours, with artificial red velvet roses and twigs/branches to give them a gothic feel.”
“Our wedding styling was gothic glamour meets avant-garde! I’ve always had eclectic taste – I love vintage and pin up but also love the drama of gothic styles too, so I wanted to incorporate both into the theme.
“Our overarching theme was ‘Til Death Do Us Part’. We had a coffin for a post-box, coffin shaped order of the day board, and cut the cake with Mike’s machete (much to the shock of the venue when they asked ‘do you need a knife to cut the cake with?’)! The colour scheme was black, gold and red, my three favourite colours. I was conscious that I didn’t want it to be tacky though; it all had to be tasteful and elegant.
“Instead of traditional table names, we named each table after a femme fatale with a framed photo of them… Morticia Addams, Vampira, Dita Von Teese, etc.”
“Pretty much all the décor was handmade by us! We wanted something really unique and most suppliers just didn’t cater to this. For our bridesmaid bouquets I made plaster of Paris skulls, sprayed them gold, and topped with fake flowers. Mike made the coffin post box from ply boards and I painted and decorated it. Our order of the day and seating plan boards were also made from ply board, cut in the shape of a coffin, with ‘Place of Rest’ as the title for the seating plan.
“I spent months gathering large branches from the park opposite our house, then sprayed them gold and put them in raised gold plant pots as centrepieces. We also alternated between large candelabras that I found on Facebook marketplace for a steal, which I dressed with trailing faux flowers and foliage, and we made coffin-shaped place names from cardboard.
“I added a 3D skeleton hand with a wedding ring on it to our guestbook, and weathered the book to look like it was about 100 years old. Finally, for our cake stand I used a small cable drum, sprayed it gold, and added huge skulls and red roses.”
“Our cake had to be black! We had three tiers – red velvet, lemon and caramel. It was matte black with metallic gold swirls that looked like marble; tasteful yet dramatic… and absolutely delicious!”
First Dance and Entertainment
“Choosing a first dance song was hard as we’re both awkward when it comes to coupley dancing! We didn’t want soppy, but it would be pretty difficult to dance just the two of us to Pantera or Black Sabbath with everyone watching! So, we went with ‘Starlight’ by Slash and Miles Kennedy. We both love the song, but there was no meaningful ties to it – we just thought, yeah, that works!
“One of my bridesmaids and close friends is a burlesque performer, and we used to perform together back in the day before I hung up my tassels! I asked her if she could perform her showgirl act – complete with giant Martini glass full of water! So, after the ceremony she whizzed upstairs, got changed out of her bridesmaid dress and into her costume, and performed for all the guests in one of the venue’s grand rooms. Everyone LOVED it, but some family members were quite shocked I think!
“We were going to have axe throwing too, as Mike used to be an axe throwing instructor in Manchester, but unfortunately we couldn’t get the right insurance for the venue.”
“I have worked with Paul Baybut for many years, creating shoots from pin up to gothic, and we even did a photo shoot in Mike’s friend’s swimming pool! I saw his wedding photos and knew it had to be him. The images he captures are so dramatic and nothing less would have done for our big day!
“It’s so, so hard to pick a favourite as I love them all! However, he did get a shot of me standing on a table in front of a very old tapestry (not sure the venue would have approved but we did it anyway!) which I love. I also like the photo of me and Mike pretending to fight – that was quite funny and totally unplanned.”
“I think the best part for us both was to be there celebrating our wedding with all our friends and family together in one room. That was just so special. Our only regret is that our dads weren’t there to celebrate with us. They passed away around the time we met, so we never got to meet each other’s dads, but we had a photo frame of them to include their memories into the day.”
Advice and Tips
“My advice is do what makes you happy. It’s your day, so make it as crazy, unique and magical as you can. Luckily our friends and family know us so well that none of the quirkiness was a surprise! In fact, most people said it was the best wedding they had ever been to! It goes in a flash, so get a good photographer to give you something tangible to celebrate those lasting memories.
“To save money, marry midweek and out of season. We would never have been able to afford our chosen venue if we’d married at a weekend in Spring or Summer. Not everything has to be expensive either. My dress certainly was, but it was worth every penny as was a real showstopper. But my shoes, which remained relatively hidden under the dress most of the day, cost about £15 online. Faux flowers aren’t always as cheap as you might think though. If you can salvage any wild flowers and foliage from nature it will save a small fortune for décor.”
Photography: Paul Baybut Photography
Wedding Venue: Thornton Manor, Wirral
Wedding Dress: Custom made by Pat Bell
Shoes: Bought online
Headpiece: BatcakesCouture on Etsy
Groomswear: Groom, Chester
Bridesmaid Dresses: Bought online from various websites
Flowers: Black Eyed Susie Floral Design
Cake: Anita’s Wicked Cakes
Catering: MH Catering
Entertainment: Ginger La Rouge
Styling and Stationery: DIY