Well hello you! Taking you into the weekend, I am delighted to introduce you to our first, of two, brand new, Nu Bride couples; Africa and Jermel!
Africa and Jermel are childhood sweethearts and have one of the most stunning proposal stories to share, as well as snippets into their wedding planning journey so far.
I discovered beautiful Africa, after the chic team at You & Your Wedding Magazine launched a super campaign to have a gorgeous ‘real’ bride on the front cover of their next issue, voted by readers.
Aren’t they all stunners! I did manage to vote, but unfortunately within 24 hours of finding out about the campaign, the deadline to get you all to vote for your favourite had already passed. Boo. 🙁 The lucky winner will find out if they have won when the issue hits the newsagent on the 26th March! Aren’t they bloomin’ gorgeous!
Absolutely love the concept team YYW – bravo! I’ve mentioned previously, it has been statistically reported over and over again, that consumers are most likely to buy a product or service, if they see a version of themselves represented in the marketing. So to me, it makes perfect sense to use real brides-to-be to advertise mainstream wedding magazines. Lets hope it starts a new positive trend in the industry, most if you already know my personal quest to make it more inclusive!
Meet Africa and Jermel
Jermel and I first met when we started working together in fashion over 8 years ago, but at the time I was in a 5 year relationship. Several years later, we met up again on a night out and are due to get married in July this year!
To celebrate our whirlwind time of being back together, we were enjoying a beautiful holiday in Krabi, Thailand. I had always discussed marriage, but the conversations always seemed one-sided and it had been quite some time since either of us had, had any concrete talks of our future, just appreciating that we were back together.
9 days into the holiday, Jermel had arranged for us to plant a tree in our hotel so that we had a definite reason to come back and visit.
I waited with the hotel guide as Jermel painted his name on the rock and turned around to be photographed…
Instead he had scripted “Will you marry me” on the rock face. It was completely unexpected. We were asked to write our name, date and hotel room number so I assumed he was just taking a reallllly long time to write that!
If you ever have the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the photos, my face says it all! I was a mess and just in the deepest shock. My sisters still jibe me about it to this day! (Nu Bride; So cruel! I love this shot!) We ran into a nearby tattoo parlour and I had a diamond tattooed using a bamboo shoot and needle –the traditional Thai way to symbolise the moment!
It took quite some time for me to find the perfect ring, but I’m so grateful that Jermel gave me the opportunity. With our heritage, it was so important to us that the diamond chosen was traceable, Kimberley Certified and most importantly conflict free and after 7 months of searching we came across the Sundara ring by Ken and Dana Designs –a boutique bespoke jeweller in Chelsea, New York. With our consciences at ease, Jermel surprised me by upgrading the ring to a 2 carat and 10 months after I said yes, I was wearing the ring of my dreams! (Nu Bride: WOW!)
Coming from a family with very few weddings (my mother eloped when I was 6 and my father has a more free-spirited approach with regards to marriage), So the initial feeling I had when I started planning was freedom. I felt there’d be very few expectations to conform to and definitely no family traditions, so I just started to list all the beautiful things I wanted to form part of our wedding.
Of course, Jermel, the voice of reason, quickly rationalised my list and once we had set a budget, broke the budget and then finally agreed on a new budget, my serious wedding planning hat came on.
Pressures to Conform
One of the benefits of marrying a character as laid back as Jermel, is that unless he feels very strongly about something, I know that he will always support my ideas. We discovered the easiest way to cut our budget, was to reduce the number of guests invited –unthinkable in our Caribbean culture, but I knew very early on that I wasn’t going to conform to the preconceived notions that many of the people around us had already decided on.
As I sat in my hair salon, the night before my engagement party, my hairdresser asked for a little more information on what we had planned the following day…..
She looked horrified as I described the Garden Bar & Grill that we had booked in a beautiful establishment in Notting Hill for 50 of our closest family and friends.
Why are you trying to be so different?
‘Different?’ I thought.
So I asked her what she had in mind. And as she started to explain the Congolese traditions of aunties providing various different cold dishes at the bride-to-be’s family home, no guest list and casual dress code. For us, I really just couldn’t think of anything worse.
It wasn’t the first time Jermel and I had come under fire for trying to organise non-conformist wedding plans. My own father was embarrassed to share photos of the ‘classy do’ with family, in case they judged his daughter for having become too westernised.
Both Jermel and I come from second generation Caribbean households; with my mother being mixed race and the majority of my maternal family strictly white British.
The decision to serve Mediterranean food at both the engagement party and the wedding was met with shrieks of disbelief from work colleagues and family friends. “No Caribbean food?” Believe it or not, we tend to only eat Caribbean food every so often and Mediterranean food is great for sharing and very rarely displeasing to even the fussiest of eaters!
Searching for Inspiration
When you come from a family as diverse as mine (British, Irish, Caribbean and Pakistani), it’s very easy to forget that others may see my skin tone before anything else and the assumptions based on cultural traditions that are made. A primary example of this is the decision to ‘Jump the Broom’ after saying I do. This was a casual and innocent assumption by my best friend. But I had honestly never even looked into it. The more research that Jermel and I did, we knew it had to form part of our ceremony.
When looking for visual wedding inspiration I found I wasn’t actually looking to be inspired at all.
I doubted very much that there was another bride out there with the same concoction of ideas running around their brain. What I was personally looking for, for inspiration, was practical inspiration. Different ways to drape the foliage around my venue… Guidelines on just how many thousands of candles is too much for venue….!
We are getting married on the 25th July 2015 at the most breath-taking venue in Peckham, South London. And again, I often find myself having to justify the venue after stating the location, but it really is just amazing.
Our wedding theme is the death scene in Baz Lurhman’s Romeo & Juliet. Think trailing ivy, 1,000’s upon 1,000’s of candles, crumbling brickwork and fairy lights. (Nu Bride: Divine)
We’ve decided to forgo flowers completely in favour of foliage, as I think they can be just as dramatic and I just have an unexplained love of Ivy and Eucalyptus. (Nu Bride: LOVE Eucalyptus).
My bridesmaids will be wearing taupe and dusky pink twobirds dresses purchased directly from the supplier in Singapore (for a fraction of the price). I have chosen a custom-made white lace mermaid tail with a scalloped bust and full length cathedral veil and just to mix it up, my father (a practising Rastafarian) will be wearing an all-white full African suit. (Nu Bride: Gorgeous!)
How gorgeous are these two!
It’s fascinating how our friends and families, automatically place such large assumptions on what we should and should not do for our wedding. Strong opinions about food culture, traditions and even expenditure! Well done Africa and Jermel for sticking to what feels right for you and continuing to plan your wedding in your own sweet way with those who matter most!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hear more!
PS. I shall wait with bated breath to see which of these gorgeous ladies is voted to don the front cover of You and Your Wedding Magazine at the end of the month. Of course I have my favourite and we may even make a little UK wedding history if Africa wins too!
Engagement Party Venue: The Garden Bar and Grill
Engagement Party photography: Theo Philips