A Very Literary Wedding – Part 1 – The Details

It’s been a long time coming, sorry to make you wait! There’s a lot to cover with this wedding because we had a year of planning, crafting and creating leading up to the wedding itself. I wrote around 4,000 words and I don’t think everyone wants to read through that (unless you’re seriously into weddings!) – but I promise I’ll also include photos. So if you’re interested – follow through…

Our wedding theme was something we decided very early on – we got engaged in December 2012 and the proposal was full of the things that had made up our 13 years together – letters, romance, films, trains and, of course, books. If you want to read my account of the proposal (in New York!), head over here. Neither Dan or I are particularly interested in big, traditional weddings. I’ve never been one of those people who wants to walk down a huge aisle with a massive shiny dress (if that floats your boat, kudos!). Both of us are introverted, geeky and limelight-shy people so I think it was important to us to have a wedding that reflected who we are and what our relationship has been about. So in January and February, we formulated a plan to complement the proposal – to have  a literary and film themed wedding. It would feature books, vintage-style decor and film music. We chose 1st February 2014 because it was our 13th anniversary and serendipitously, also a Saturday.


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

The detail was the most important thing to us – even at that early stage! So we started playing around with film-music scores from our favourite romantic films to find music for the ceremony. We chose orchestral music from Amelie, Chocolat, Midnight in Paris and drumroll, please – StarWars! I’ve always loved StarWars – my Mum’s Dad, Pop, always used to watch the original three films when we went to visit them and so the music is part of my childhood. Dan loves the films too, and I think we both thought it would be suitably geeky and a tribute to Pop if we made the Main Titles (from A New Hope) my bridal march. The Bridesmaids and ‘entourage’ music was La Valse d’Amelie, the orchestral version, and whilst we signed the register, Comptine d’un Autre ete – L’Apres-Midi from Amelie and the Main Titles from Chocolat played. Our leaving music was The Throne Room/Medley music from the end of A New Hope!


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

We decided to go with literary readings about love and marriage for the Ceremony that my Gran, Mum and Dan’s Mum read out. My Gran read an extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (said by Dr Iannis):

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two. – Louis de Bernieres.

Dan’s Mum read out an extract from Union from the Beginning to the End by Robert Fulghum:

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”- those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this – is my husband, this – is my wife.

And my Mum’s reading was from A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six (this came after the vows and exchanging of the rings):

A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.


Photo © Laura Calderwood

We also wrote a small paragraph each together for our vows. It took us a while to make sure we were happy with what we wrote – strangely enough I found it really hard to put into writing! It has always been hard for me to put love into words, it truly is one of those difficult feelings to describe, but the readings above get to the heart of what our relationship has been and is about. I had to think about what we both wanted from our future together and about how we would describe our relationship. Eventually we came up with something that we were both happy with:

DAN: I give you this ring as a promise to share my life with you, facing life’s challenges together, as equals. As I welcome you into our family, I promise you my love, support, and understanding.

LIZ: I give you this ring as a promise to share your passions, discover new places and build new dreams together. As I welcome you into our family, I promise you my love, support, and understanding.


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

Choosing the venue was a bit trickier. I think we decided to have the wedding in York because it has always been a special place for the two of us – I spent three years there for my BA degree and then another year there for my MA, and it cut the journey time for us in half – we had a long distance relationship for a few years since Dan lived in Edinburgh, and I lived in London. It was the ideal place for people to travel to as it was between our families. So this narrowed down our venue choices, and we went to visit York in February last year. There were a few we were interested in – The Royal York Hotel, The Grange Hotel and The Churchill Hotel.

Although both The Royal York Hotel and The Grange Hotel have their charms, we felt they weren’t quite right for the style of our wedding, and for us personally. We also considered The Hospitum which is a popular venue for weddings in York, but our budget didn’t stretch to that and it would have been cold in February. When we walked into the Churchill Hotel, we immediately felt at ease and loved the intimate, boutique style. Everything about the hotel was just right – the way it was decorated, the style of the building, the modern touches, the quirkiness. And there is a huge floor to ceiling bookshelf as you go through to the Westminster room. When we met the General Manager of the hotel, John, he made us both feel at ease and went through our options with us. I think my Mum and sister both loved it too – they came with us and I think we all just fell in love with the place!


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

I could go on about all the reasons we had for why we chose certain things. For example, it took many hours of searching and thinking about who we would choose to be our photographer, cake maker and what sort of dress/outfit details I wanted. Our photographer was Laura Calderwood, and I can’t sing her praises enough. She put us both at ease, was informal but professional and we both loved her photography style. She does reportage style photography and beautiful detail shots of everything at the weddings she attends.

The cake maker was Joanna Rose – who produced a work of art for us. We wanted something untraditional but still beautiful, and loved her style. We wanted a stack of books to mirror the decorations on the tables – four books, two each of our favourites. I chose Pride and Prejudice and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, and Dan chose War of the Worlds and A Wizard of Earthsea. We wanted books that looked a bit like the Penguin Classics clothbound books – and Jo came up with something incredible, that fit the style and colours of the day. There were four different flavours for each book too – Vanilla, Chocolate, White Chocolate and Lime and Lemon. My Dad’s Dad was a baker (we called him Grandpa Cake), and I think he would have been impressed to see such a beautiful cake.


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

I found that Pinterest was a great tool for wedding planning. It helped both of us bring our ideas together and to work on the theme details. It could have turned into a mess, but seeing all these different elements together and being clear about what our vision was, really pulled things together. We chose things we liked – books, ‘field’ flowers, typewriters, penguin books – and brought them together in our own way.

Dan did a lot of tech wizardry to create the invitations, order of service booklet covers, book page print-outs and the table plan. So much of what we did was DIY, which almost drove us to the abyss in the end but was worth all the sleepless nights and days of crafting. We made book-print roses, chair decorations, all the table decorations apart from the mugs of flowers and birdcage lanterns and the labels for the favours. We tried to do things as inexpensively as we could. There were three book sculptures that we spent around three months making – papier-mâché, glue and paper from Paperchase. We couldn’t have done it without the help of my cousin, sister and Mum – they spent evenings cutting, glueing and sticking with us.


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

Our table decorations were five of our favourite books on each table, under a genre, with a ‘featured’ book – a quote from that book was the table name. We had nine tables, and the genres were: Romance, Supernatural, Dystopia, Drama, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Non-fiction, Magic and the top table was ‘New Adventures’ – books we wanted to read but haven’t read yet.

So it was really like a kind of book fair! The books were for our guests – they could choose from any of the books and take them home. Our favours were from Teapigs, the English Breakfast Everyday Tea, in the sample packs, and Brownies from Bluebasil Brownies. They had ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me’ labels from Etsy (digital downloads). There was also a bit of book-confetti on the tables from Bookish England on Not On The High Street. We covered the books with cream and purple paper, and printed out a quote for the featured book, along with the menu for the back of the book. Dan’s best man thought of questions for each of the guests (we had asked them for their favourite book or film) that we put on the backs of each placecard (a kind of ice-breaker).

Photos © Laura Calderwood.

My dress was made in collaboration with Danie Page of Purple Reign – she is related to us on my Mum’s side of the family so she was the first person we thought of. I had something in mind for the dress – I wanted something floaty, lacy and vintage-style, with a sweetheart neckline. It progressed from looking for images that fit my idea and developing something that worked for me. Danie is a star, and worked with difficult fabrics (chiffon, silk and thin chantilly lace), and came up with something beautiful. I felt like myself in it and didn’t feel restricted or overwhelmed by it.


Photo © Laura Calderwood.

Phew – so there’s a lot going on there, but on the day it just all looked amazing and all the hard work was worth it. Part 2 will be shorter, about the day itself…

Photos © Laura Calderwood.

You can find more photos and details in the Flickr album I created: Our Literary Wedding.

Photos © Laura Calderwood Photography.

8 thoughts on “A Very Literary Wedding – Part 1 – The Details

  1. Its beautiful… an account of a story thats true and promising… all the best to u guys 😀


  2. I figured out how to receive your posts via e-mail. No worries on your end. Looking forward to reading about your wedding.

    Best regards,


  3. Just lovely. I loved your readings, cake, the activities for kids, and the groomsmens’ boutonnieres, Eryngium Sapphire Blue, which I grew in my old garden. You look so lovely and happy. Congrats to you and Dan! Oh, and what could be better than walking down the aisle to a Star Wars tune. Fantastic. My sons will be impressed when I tell them.

    Best regards,


  4. Wow, it’s worth getting married!


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