Waldorf London Luxury Humanist Wedding

Hello my darling,

I have a smile inducing gorgeous real wedding to share with you today, captured by the brilliant Vitae Photography.

Beautiful Sophia of Pakistani heritage and gorgeous groom  (Ayoola) Ayo of Nigerian heritage married on 27th March 2016 at the deliciously romantic at Waldorf Hilton, London, known for being used to film one of the romantic films of all time, The Titanic.

With a gorgeous mix of Nigerian, English, Pakistani and Indian cultures, this fusion presented Ayo and Sophia with great challenge and also great triumph. There was not a dry eye in the house at their beautiful wedding featuring a wonderful humanist ceremony performed by Nu Bride Ambassador; Zena Birch.

Over to the happy newlyweds who gave me the details of their beautiful day.

The Proposal

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Ok, this one may take a while!!

Ayo’s perspective:

Fast forward a year of Sophia living alone and I decided I wanted to marry her. I spoke with her sisters to get their blessing and also keep them in the loop as they had been put in a difficult position. So they were all excited and everything was agreed.

I decided to  propose in the Maldives. I used Kuoni and told them it was a secret and they ensured that she didn’t know anything. It was great!

I needed Fi (Soph’s maid of honour and closest friend) to help me find out rings she may like or styles she likes, her older sister, Soby, helped me find out her ring size and Lauren (another one of Soph’s close friends) helped with a few holiday clothes.

So Sophia’s old boss was great and we sorted it all out and she was all set (her holiday request was approved, secretly) (Nu Bride: Cunning!) She then decided to quit the job at the time (oh great great great) so I then had to ask her to forward me the mail her new boss sent to her to look at her job description (this is normal practice between us) so I got his email off her and sent the request to him and he agreed and gave her the holiday etc. She then decided to leave that job and the week of the holiday proposal she was scheduled to have an interview for her new job. (Nu Bride…Noooo!) I then had to speak with Noshy (another one of her older sisters) and find out the manager’s name, stalked her on linkedin and called her. I told her assistant the situation and begged to move the interview forward. They eventually agreed and she had the interview and got the job. (Nu Bride: Phew x 2!)

The days prior I had a few surprises for her, so we got her hair done at Errol Douglas (Nu Bride, great choice!) and then went to our favourite restaurant. We holiday shopped for her trip to Madrid (perfect excuse but it was actually for the Maldives). And we just chilled the day before.

I packed her bags, she packed her toiletries, I told her I was having an operation and she would have to stay the night (I know, terrible) (Nu Bride: Ayo! lol!) and we headed off to the airport to pick up my aunt. We arrived and I asked her if she ever flown business class before and brought out tickets. She was so excited she couldn’t contain herself. She started crying, mind you all she thought was that I surprised her with a holiday and business class seats.

The next day I told her to pack an overnight bag. We  were driven to a private island where we were to have dinner on the beach and stay there alone. It was at dinner that I proposed and she said yes.

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Sophia’s perspective:

Ayoola planned the proposal for an entire year, if not longer, with my entire family, work colleagues, my boss, my prospective boss, all of my friends. (Nu Bride: Oh my gosh!) When he told me everything after he proposed, I was in absolute awe of how much time and effort he dedicated to doing something so special just for me.

I’ve always said how nice it is that people have pictures taken when they’re proposed to or something to capture the moment and he arranged for a professional photographer to capture the entire thing and make us a book of pictures before we left the island! It was all just the most incredible experience EVER. However, the day we arrived Junior got very severe tonsillitis (for the first time in his life) and so when he proposed to me the next day we couldn’t even have a proper kiss! The poor man was on medication for the entire remainder of the holiday and only actually enjoyed all of the incredible food the day before we left. Nu Bride: Must’ve been the nerves and anticipation!

I didn’t hear a single word he said when he got down on one knee to propose I was immediately in floods of tears! He could have been saying anything but I was saying yes. Even though we had talked many times about getting married, this still came as such a surprise. I felt like I couldn’t possible love Ayo any more than I do, but that love seems to increase everyday and that day on the beach my heart was absolutely bursting. It still makes me quite emotional when I think about it and he proposed in August 2014.

Coming Together

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We didn’t have a particular theme. We just chose all of things we both love and really wanted and incorporated them into our day. We made all of our decisions together with no external input and it meant that everything was exactly as we wanted. Both of our cultures were part of the day and we couldn’t have asked for a more personal day from the ceremony right through to the end of the night.

We both wanted to incorporate our cultural backgrounds within the wedding and after much back and forth we did this through our clothes!

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We had people in traditional Nigerian wear, traditional Indian/Pakistani wear, and English wedding attire. It blended all of the culture around us into a big melting pot and looked amazing!

My wedding dress was a traditional lengha.

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Although I’m very ‘western’ by traditional Pakistani standards, I have always loved getting dressed up in traditional Indian and Pakistani clothes for big events such as weddings and family parties. I always knew if I had a wedding this is the type of outfit I would want but the variety is ENORMOUS. There are a million different colours and styles, as well as designers and stores all over the world that stock the clothes. Because the outfits are so expensive (in the thousands) I was wary of using some stores because they had bad reviews.

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Researching stores and designers was actually very difficult. I was doing it all alone and none of my close friends know much about Indian clothes, and my family weren’t involved in any of my wedding planning.

I must have started looking around 6 months before I finally settled on a colour and designer.  I chose a store in Notting Hill (Aashni & Co) who had absolutely lovely staff that made me feel very special! Especially Kokko and Anu who work in the store and carry out the fittings. The outfit I chose is the first outfit I tried on when I was shopping around, and I knew it was always going to be the one I chose! But felt I needed to shop around to justify the amount of money I was spending.

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My best friends (Fiona and Anna) bought me my wedding shoes as a gift. They were some lovely suede heels from Office. Nothing fancy, but very comfortable and they look very elegant. I am big on comfort so I couldn’t buy costly designer shoes that firstly, nobody can see and secondly, are uncomfortable.

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I purchased my bangles, earrings and head piece from a store called Glitters on Green Street. The lady that works there has been matching jewellery to bangles for over 10 years (!) and she matched everything perfectly and with ease. I spent very little but received excellent service from them and would definitely go back. I took all my friends there to buy their jewellery too!

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I found my hair and make up artist on instagram too! I initially found the make up artist after months and months of trawling through pictures on social media, and contacting various people. Some didn’t even respond to me and some took so long to respond that I didn’t want to go with them. The MUA I decided to use for make up (@nikki_makeup) was absolutely lovely to deal with. On Nikki’s recommendation, for hair, I chose Lara of @larazeehair.

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She was just as lovely as Nikki and the fact that they worked so closely and well together swayed my decision to book them both for a trial. They were brilliant! I’ve never felt so beautiful. They were both flexible, even though what I wanted changed regularly, and they did the make up exactly as I wanted – not how they thought would work.
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I struggled when finding a make up artist as I’m not very keen on full Indian bridal make up. I don’t wear a lot of make up so heavy foundation feels awful to me. I would highly recommend Nikki and Lara to anyone looking for a make up artist or hair stylist.

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Ayoola explains how he found his suit: Sophia found Kabiru on Instagram too! He works on Savile Row which came as a surprise as I had initially thought any suits from a tailor on Savile Row would be unaffordable.

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I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to wear so when I arranged a consultation with Kabiru I was a little lost. He was excellent, incredibly professional and patient. I’ve never seen so many fabric swatches in my life! He took me through absolutely everything, even showing me things he knew I wouldn’t like so I could make my own choice.

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We had two photographers from Vitae Photography; Will and Johno. From the point I contacted them they were brilliant. We would wholeheartedly recommend Vitae Photography. They became fully involved in everything and we actually enjoyed being around them on the wedding day. Our friends and family have also been speaking highly of them and telling us how much fun they both were, whilst still being professional. We absolutely loved our wedding pictures. They clearly put a lot of love into what they do, and truly enjoy it.

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The Ceremony

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Our humanist wedding ceremony was carried out by Zena Birch who is just wonderful. Zena has a real warmth and honesty to her that made us trust her straight away.

I’m muslim and Ayo is Christian, it would be fair to say that neither of us are particularly religious, but we share very common values that cut across all religions. As a result, we wanted a ceremony that focused on our love and respect for each other as well as the people around us rather than a sermon and we loved everything about the idea of a humanist ceremony.

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The entire ceremony was completely tailored to us and incredibly personal. We loved every bit of it and enjoyed hearing our story again.

Our guests all commented on how personal the ceremony was and not one of them has witnessed a ceremony like it before. It was beautiful.

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We talked about our favourite moments of the day as I thought our favourite moments would be different things! But for both of us our favourite moment was seeing each other at opposite ends of the aisle. We hadn’t seen each other since the day before and we were just so happy to see each other!
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My aisle song felt incredibly personal because we didn’t use a well-known artist. We found a Youtube cover of a song that Ayo absolutely loves. I don’t actually like the original song but the cover version just makes me melt every time I hear it. The words mean a lot to both of us. Even when we were playing it before the wedding to decide if it was the right song, it gave me goosebumps and made me quite emotional!

It can be found here and it’s beautiful so please do give it a listen! –

The Reception

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The flowers and décor were done by one of our very close friends and mother. Her mother, Lynn Robinson is a professional florist who now teaches but was happy to do the decorations for our wedding.

She took a lot of time getting to know us and what we like. Neither of us actually like flowers! So we asked for something classy but with more candles and flower petals. We like understated décor, and they did exactly that.

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The Waldorf London is beautiful itself, they even filmed some of the scenes for the original Titanic movie in the room we had our ceremony in. Lynn used twigs and fairy lights for our arch and simple candles, orchids in water and flower petals. It was perfect for us as we don’t like huge centre-pieces or lots of flowers. Everyone was questioning us when we made this decision but we stuck by what we wanted and liked.

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When we were initially planning the wedding, we tried to find a caterer that could cook Pakistani food as well as Nigerian food. This proved a lot harder than we thought, and we then decided to settle on just one type of food. Again, this was difficult as a lot of the venues almost doubled in price when we said we wanted to use an external caterer.

In the end we decided to go with the internal catering at the Waldorf Hilton for ease.

The food was incredible and our guests are still talking about it. We arranged for all of the food to be made halal so that all of our guests could enjoy the same thing. We still had several guests that requested vegetarian food and this was easily catered for too.

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We didn’t want a wedding cake – so we didn’t have one!

Again, everyone had an opinion on this but neither of us see the point in a wedding cake when our dinner included dessert. What we did decide on was a candy buffet.

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We made the decision not to have any alcohol served or an open bar at the wedding. Neither of us drink that much so it felt like a waste of money to us. Instead we purchased all of our closest friends (unofficially groomsmen and bridesmaids) hip flasks filled with their favourite alcohol. This went down very well! They enjoyed using them and they were personalised with their names on the front and our wedding date so they now get to keep them as a reminder of the day.

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We didn’t have any other favours and this wasn’t a problem at all. We also didn’t get any particular stationery. The hotel arranged place cards, menus and table plan printing. And we sent out invitations using an app called PaperlessPost. This saved us hundreds of pounds and made it much easier to manage invitations and responses. As well update our guests en masse regarding ad-hoc things such as hotel contact details for reservations.

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The best man speech was by far the funniest moment of the day! He was brilliant! So funny but still made us cry by the end.

We used an entertainment company called Firebird Events. They provided us with speakers, DJ, DJ booth, and lighting. They were excellent, professional and also flexible with last minute requests.

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For our first dance, we found that choosing important songs is far harder than it seems! So we decided on the cover version of a song that we love by Luther Vandross called So Amazing. The cover we used was by Beyonce and Stevie Wonder.

Challenges and Triumphs

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My (Sophia) family were both a challenge and a triumph. None of my family really accepted our relationship due to cultural reasons, (Nu Bride: Hugely sad to hear) and weren’t involved with anything in the run up to our wedding.

However, Ayo got in contact with them closer to the wedding and ironed out the issues with my sisters, which meant all three of them attended and really enjoyed their time. This itself turned into a triumph and we are both now building a relationship with my sisters and their respective families. (Nu Bride: Truly lovely.)

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One Tip for other couples

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Do exactly what you both want.

Don’t make it about other people. The people that truly love you will have an amazing time regardless of what you choose to do.

Don’t worry about their opinions and don’t worry about old traditions do it your way and you won’t regret it!

Excellent advice Sophia and Ayo, truly adored sharing a snippet of your world. Your union and love for each other is infectious. The biggest of congratulations to you both.

The Talent

Photographer: Vitae Photography

Venue: Waldorf Hilton, London

Celebrant: Zena Birch

Bride’s Fashion
Dress: Sabyasachi Mukherjee from Aashni & Co | Shoes: Office | Accessories: Glitters, Green Street | Makeup: @nikki_makeup | Hair: @larazeehair

Groom’s Fashion
Suit & Accessories: Kabiru | Shoes: Kurt Geiger at Selfridges

The Girls
Bridesmaid Dresses: Indian saris  | Bridesmaid Shoes: Their own 

The Guys
Groomsmen Suit: Best man’s own | Accessories: Kabiru

Personal Touches:
Food: Waldorf Hilton, London | Flowers and Décor: Lynn Robinson Family friend 

The Entertainment:
Music and sound system: Firebird Events

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