Pembroke Lodge French New-Zealand Wedding | Maria Brosnan Photography

Say hello to Mélissa and Chris. Melissa is French, and met her husband-to-be Chris, of New Zealand heritage when he moved in to replace one of her flatmates, who was moving out. Talk about love knocking at your door! Slowly but surely, they fell for one another.

Mélissa and Chris (who recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary) married at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park, in a wedding that brought together their friends and family from across the world – 14 countries were represented and hundreds of thousands of miles travelled for a day brimming with a whole lot of love-filled tears. They had an inclusive wedding with translations in French for non-English speaking guests, converse trainers, a man of honour and had to confront some outdated views in the wedding industry to have the wedding they wanted.

I love how Mélissa and Chris stayed true to themselves and their personalities, with fun details like Lego placeholders and a wedding cake made of cheese –  their wedding absolutely had their stamp on it, as it should be! 

Captured by Maria Brosnan, enjoy these images and words from Mélissa telling the story of the day.

The Proposal

It was a very spontaneous proposal! Chris knew he wanted to propose at some point, but he didn’t think he would do it then. We were at home on a Sunday morning, in our PJs, watching Doctor Who. I apparently said something that made him laugh and he says he loved me so much in that moment that he couldn’t wait any longer; he paused the TV programme, got on one knee, and after explaining all the reasons he loved me, he proposed. Needless to say, it was very emotional!

 

Coming Together

 

All we knew is that we didn’t want anything too formal. Our florist, Louise, really did a great job of it! She listened to what we wanted in terms of style and colours and put something perfect together. It had a natural, countryside feel to it.

For the evening reception, we ordered 200 cookies from Ben’s Cookies. It was a fairly unusual request and the team in their Hammersmith shop was beyond lovely. We even got a really nice card from them.

Our wedding was very ‘us’, which was exactly what we wanted! First of all, it was very geeky: the invitation was a picture of the Lego bride and groom in front of our venue, our name tag holders were Lego mini figures, and our table names were classic video games.

It was very international as well, with 14 nationalities represented. We did the maths, and a total of 325,947 km were traveled by our guests all together to be there, which we thought was amazing! We printed every guest’s flag on the back of their name tag on the tables. And of course, everything had to be translated into French, with the help of one of the bridesmaids, as some family members didn’t speak English.

In the day of Pinterest, it is so easy to find inspiration and ideas – our only challenge was doing as much as possible ourselves to save on costs, but we really enjoyed the DIY and it made our wedding so much more personal. We started planning so early that we were never really stressed about getting things done.

We chose Maria Brosnan as our photographer, she was the best! Everybody loved her and we keep getting praise from our friends and family. We love the pictures; they’re very us, and we absolutely loved working with her.

The Dress

The dress wasn’t hard to find at all, although I expected it to be. I’m not a ‘girly girl’ and the idea of shopping for a wedding dress was worrying me a bit. My mum and one of my bridesmaids flew over from France one weekend, and we went shopping! What a fantastic, emotional weekend we had! When we went to the first shop, I didn’t really know what I wanted and, more importantly, what would fit me. So I just tried on lots of different styles, which was great fun. (Though nobody tells you putting on wedding dresses is hard work! Definitely a bit of a workout and balance exercise!) I found my dream dress at the second shop, Emma Elizabeth Bridal, who also had a stand at the National Wedding Show. They were so friendly and helpful! I told Emma my budget and what I had in mind, and she showed me two dresses. I tried on the first one, and it was beautiful but not quite right. Then I put on the second one, came out in it, and saw my mum and bridesmaid fighting tears. I obviously got very emotional as well and knew it was ‘the one’.

We went on to a third shop in Richmond as we had an appointment anyway, but it wasn’t a great experience. The lady was a bit judgmental about my budget and kept showing me dresses that were over my budget or not what I wanted, as she kept saying she wanted to show me that I wouldn’t get much for my budget (honestly, it was a very reasonable one). She also told me things like “this dress will be perfect because it will hide your tattoo”. I love my tattoo and did not want to hide it! (Nu Bride: I HATE that you had this experience Mélissa) She also hesitated a lot before letting my man of honour past the lobby as she “didn’t want to make brides uncomfortable”. Weird experience, but in the end we all had a good laugh out of it (and prosecco!).

The Ceremony

We had a civil ceremony at Pembroke Lodge, and unfortunately, there is not much room for us to personalise our ceremony which is what we really wanted. We were given a script by the Richmond Council and personalised what we could. We were a bit worried that it all sounded too legal when we read it on paper, but on the day, emotions took over and we completely forgot about it. It was hard not to cry the whole way through! The lady performing our ceremony was perfect and so nice.

We also got to have a bit of fun: The music we chose for the bridesmaids to walk down the aisle to was the Imperial March also from Star Wars, which really helped relax the atmosphere. I love the pictures of people laughing just as I was about to walk down the aisle myself. 

I walked down the aisle to the theme from Star Wars then Love Actually which reduced a lot of people to tears.

My brother, who was also a witness, was determined to make the ceremony a bit more French, so he showed up wearing a beret, and carrying a baguette and a bottle of wine. We couldn’t believe he did it as he is usually a bit shy, but it did make us all laugh. So thanks to him, all the pictures of us signing the registrar have a bottle of red wine in the forefront.

Getting married in front of all the people we love most in the world was what the whole wedding day was all about, and it is definitely our favourite part of the day. Even though neither of us could stop crying the whole time!

Favourite Moments

 

Our wedding cake was infact a cake made of cheese from The Teddington Cheese. Their team is passionate about cheese and we’re really happy that we picked them, as we had a lovely time during our tasting and the cheese was amazing. They’re a very friendly bunch.

Without a doubt, the funniest moment was Chris’s speech. He attempted the first half of it in French, which he had prepared. A friend had printed English translations for each table. When speaking French, he always ends up saying accidental rude stuff, and he did not disappoint – the funniest one was when he was trying to say “call a cat, a cat” and ended up… let’s just say he used the female word for cat instead! (Nu Bride: LOL!)

Our first dance was a song called ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ by Death Cab for Cutie. It is a beautiful love song, and it is special to us. Shortly before we got engaged, I was having a bad day at work. I was stressed, everything was going wrong, and I was texting Chris to let off some steam. He replied with a video; he had recorded himself playing the ukulele and singing the song to make me feel better and tell me he loved me. It was hard not to tear up in the office!

The whole day was perfect and it went way too quickly, but we enjoyed every single minute of it.

Challenges and Triumphs

The only challenge was having our families scattered around the world. For example, my mum was desperate to help and there was only so much she could do from France. So we kept sending her DIY stuff she could help with to make her feel involved. And in the end, it was very helpful! Obviously, we also had to help our families in planning their trips. Chris was very involved in helping the Kiwis; his sisters were travelling from the other side of the planet with kids, babies and toddlers, which was a challenge. But in the end, everything went smoothly, and having both our families with us for a couple of weeks was amazing. We cherished every minute of it, as it is unlikely to happen again anytime soon.

Saying goodbye to everybody was quite hard.

 

Top Tip For Couples

As soon as we got engaged, all our married friends kept telling us that the day would go very fast and that we had to try to slow things down, take time for ourselves, and try to enjoy every minute of it. And it was very true. But our main top tip is to delegate. The bridal party and family can help and from the day before the wedding, make sure you have nothing to do except enjoy every minute. It made a huge difference for us

A great big happy first wedding anniversary Mélissa. Thank you for sharing your joy with us.

The Talent

Photographer: Maria Brosnan

Venue: Pembroke Lodge

Bride’s Fashion:  

Dress:  Pippin by Watters from Emma Elizabeth Bridal

Jewellery: I wore a simple pearly necklace, which was gift from my man of honour a few years back, and matching earrings which were a gift from my parents for the wedding. I also wore a blue Pandora bracelet with a Kiwi bird charm on it.

Shoes: Converse (I had a pair covered in glitter!)

Makeup: Sasha from The Balcony

Hair: Morgane

The Girls:

Bridesmaid Outfits: ASOS

Bridesmaid Shoes: Converse

Personal Touches:

Cake: The Teddington Cheese

Flowers and Décor: Flourishing Temple

Food: Pembroke Lodge

Favours: Lego minifigures

Stationery: Bride and groom

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