Last summer I had the opportunity to create alongside a very talented team, a project that has brought me so much joy. We put together a modern bridal inspiration editorial, with stylish details mingled with lush botanicals. A new look at a summer English garden wedding, inspired by the ephemeral dragonflies.
This project is very close to my heart for so many reasons. For one, I love the bold colours. They are such an unexpected and uplifting surprise. And yet, they work great for the stylish look I had in mind. I am also over the moon, with the whimsical, dreamy vibes that we have achieved. All while maintaining an aesthetic that is both current and easy to recreate.
All in all, this project has summed up everything that I want to communicate, as a professional, to couples, and in particular to lesbian and gay couples, eager to make their wedding day truly memorable and utterly personal.
I curated this entire editorial to tell a story. Because thoughtful details and the story are the very things that make every experience outstanding and memorable. I wanted this project to encourage couples to take the same approach in planning their wedding, while also providing them with inspiration for the look and feel of their special day.
Joy, laughter and love are the pillars of an awesome and memorable wedding. So, to me, to create a genuine and inspiring look for a summer English garden wedding, has meant letting the models have fun with it. Capturing precious moments, as they ran barefoot through the garden, laughed, played, climbed things, and got comfortable with each other.
A vision of dragonflies, for a summer english garden wedding
For bridal inspiration projects, I always use ideas that I find outside the realm of weddings, to give me the story and unique edge that I normally get from the couples I work with. Most often I use ideas that I get out of the blue, in the most unexpected moments. These are the ideas I feel on an emotional level, rather than rationalising them. Which serves me better when building a story.
Such is the case of this editorial, which was prompted by my fascination with dragonflies.
The inspiration | where it all started
Throughout last summer, I’ve noticed an astonishing number of dragonflies flying through my garden, no doubt due to the exceptionally warm weather. I’ve been mesmerised day in and day out, sitting at my desk, watching them flutter about. Looking like they were surfing on invisible air waves.
I’ve always had a fascination for them. As a kid, I used to follow them around and watch them up close. I almost got lost once, during a family picnic because I ran after a giant dragonfly.
And last year, seeing them so often fly by my window, I got an idea. Their lightness and delicate, fluid movements have struck a chord with me. A story had started to take shape in my mind. The story of two women, floating through winding vines and flowers in an English garden. Enjoying themselves in an intimate setting. Laughing. Loving. Taking in every precious moment…⠀⠀
The vision for a modern, sophisticated wedding that focuses on intimacy and individual style
From working with couples and from my own experience, I know that some of the most cherished memories happen during the ceremony and in those intimate moments, that the couple spend alone. And yet those also seem to be the ones that fly by.
I wanted this editorial to highlight those special moments in an authentic and joyful way. Therefore, we focused on capturing natural movement. The delicate interaction between the brides. And emotions such as the joy and calmness you feel once you are married to your loved one. So, that couples seeing these images would start to dream about these moments. And feel inspired to put an emphasis on making the most out of them.
The light movements, the delicate features and fleeting nature of dragonflies offered the perfect metaphor to convey the beauty and ephemeral quality of those love filled moments. And, equally, as an epitome of finesse and femininity, the dragonflies have also provided the inspiration for our couple. Two women, two distinct personalities, each radiating femininity in her own right.
Curating details to tell a story
The setting – a quintessential English garden, set in the heart of a wood, for a perfectly wild and natural summer wedding
The Pergola and Hill Garden at Hampstead Heath lent themselves perfectly to this project. The structure and adjacent garden are set in the middle of the wooded area of the Heath. If you’ve never been there, it’s definitely one of the best places to check out on a summer day in London.
The Edwardian landscape gardens have the charm of a quintessential English garden, filled with native and exotic plants. While the Pergola is a raised walkway, stretching across the gardens and overlooking the entire Heath, with colonnades overrun by vines and climbing garden roses. A slightly faded image of a formerly more opulent structure, with a mysterious and whimsical air.
Every now and then, the structure opens into small alcoves, that seem to be there especially for couples to hide away. We used two of those corners to create the setting for the intimate ceremony and the lounge where the couple would retreat after. The columns and banisters of the Pergola, covered in dense climbing vines offered a perfect canvas for Zuzana, to create her fluttery floral arrangements on.
The charming gardens of Hampstead Heath, were the perfect setting for our summer wedding editorial. The structure of the Pergola, slightly faded and overrun with lush vines and flowers, offered the perfect touch of whimsical, dreamy and timeless. Just the right edge, for couples who want an untamed, natural and extravagant feel to their stylish, modern wedding.
A daring colour palette to reflect the vivid hues of dragonflies
The bold, rich colours were also inspired by dragonflies. Uncommon for a wedding, I chose the vivid palette to encourage couples to be brave with their colours, as well as with every other aspect of their wedding. Because colourful can also be elegant and sophisticated. And it is all the more fit for a wedding, as it has an uplifting and joyful effect.
While gold is a staple for weddings, the colour yellow is often seen as tacky and therefore is more rarely used. I wanted to demonstrate otherwise and encourage couples to take a braver approach to their colours. In addition to being a joyful and uplifting colour, yellow can also be elegant. It adds beautiful luminosity and contrast, when paired with the right hues. And, for a summer wedding, a yellow accent gives just the right note of heart-warming playfulness. Choosing the right tones of yellow however is very important to keep things stylish. I personally like to mix pale yellows with muted or warmer tones, to emulate a natural look.
Delightful floral and botanical arrangements + distinctive and refined modern decor to set the scene
For the florals and styling we picked delicate summer blooms with fluttery petals, winding vines, and light, sheer silks to suggest movement and mimic the delicate and airy quality of the dragonfly wings. We also took a cue from the surrounding forest and added some more grounded and opposing elements. Mosses, mushrooms and ferns, as well as heavy, rich velvet, were the balancing details we added to create a layered space full of surprises. The overall result being an extravagant, fairy-tale like space mirroring an untamed garden, in which our couple could sink and enjoy themselves.
I did however have a modern couple in mind. Which is why I chose a mix of contemporary furniture and props. Comfy velvet armchairs, geometrical tables and a stylish drinks trolley with brass accents, for an understated modern luxury feel.
The aim of the lounge was to create a comfortable and intimate space, similar to one a couple would have in their home. But instead placed outdoors and immersed in this lush, floral setting. A space where the couple could feel at ease and enjoy a few moments together, after the ceremony.
For the ceremony we used a small alcove that opened to one side of the Pergola, overlooking the garden and forest beyond. Nestled among columns wrapped in vines, Zuzana has created a patch of floral heaven. To complete the ambience, I used short beeswax pillar candles, placed on wooden sticks mimicking the palisade of the Pergola.
For an immersive setting, we took our cue from the surroundings. A carpet of moss, ferns and mushrooms, on the floor of the Pergola – a touch of the nearby forest. Columns and furniture wrapped in floating jasmine vines and fluttery garden roses, delphiniums, irises and pansies, typical of an English garden in the summer.
Imagining realistic personalities for the couple
With the couple I wanted to mirror, in a way, the duality that we were creating in the space. Each of them had a well defined and distinct style, but with a common ground.
I wanted to highlight different personalities who come together to find a common ground as a couple. While at the same time pointing out that these differences don’t always come in a feminine/masculine duality. And that feminine can come in many shapes and forms.
Natalia was exuberant and bubbly, with a light and natural classic style. While Sophie was demure, grounded, composed and mesmerising, with a sleek modern style.
Bridal fashion and personal details that breathe feminine and understated elegance
Bridal Wearable Flowers
One of the main highlights for me were the wearable flowers we created for the brides. I wanted to offer a distinctive and stylish alternative for the bridal bouquet. For some brides, a bouquet can become cumbersome after a while, so delicate wearable flowers would be a great alternative. While for others, the wearable flowers are an alternative to jewellery, perfectly matched with a bridal bouquet.
I worked with Zuzana, to come up with ideas for jewellery style florals, that the brides could wear and that would retain the essence of the concept. The flowers needed to mimic the overall style of the other arrangements. But they also needed to be delicate not to be ostentatious and cumbersome to the brides.
Bridal Fashion, Hair & Make-up
For the accessories, I’ve focused on one colour and style for each bride. Sophie had a modern minimalist hoop ring and yellow velvet pumps. The gorgeous washi umbrella was an unexpected detail that I added just a week before the shoot. I came across it in a boutique Japanese shop in Notting Hill and it’s one of my favourite details of the shoot. When I saw it, it struck me as the perfect final touch to complete Sophie’s look. Something that is a bit out there, and gives her a note of originality, and mystique, without conflicting with the overall style. Natalia, on the other hand had a delicate vintage ring with a small sapphire and light blue heel sandals.
The designer gowns by Costarellos, were both light and airy, to allow for beautiful, flowy movement. However, each had a different cut and details to reflect the couple’s differing styles.
I wanted the brides to have a clean look, to let their natural beauty shine through and stand out against the richness of the decor. So, the make-up was minimal for both, with relaxed up-dos that highlighted the beautiful colour of their hair.
The wearable flowers were designed to evoke dragonflies, but with each bride’s personality in mind. Nathalia, wore 2 pairs of blue dragonfly wings as a flower necklace and in her hair. While Sophie’s wearable flowers were more abstract and understated, wrapped on her arm, with floating, delicate maiden-hair vines, suggestive of movement and lightness.
Minimal and artful wedding stationery, for a touch of understated luxury
Stationery design is not normally part of my services (you can read here about my services). But it’s something I like doing and have done in the past for a few clients.
And in this instance, I had a lovely designer on board who had to give up the project really close to the date. Which meant that I couldn’t find anyone else in time for the shoot. So, I took on the challenge myself. I don’t do calligraphy, but I do watercolour painting, drawing and digital design. And I really loved it.
The design focused on fluidity, transparency and movement. With watercolour layers, suggestive of clouds of smoke, floating around a floral vine. The text of the invitation was on vellum overlaid on a hand painted card. The Intro card and Vow booklets had special floral characters for the initials. And the whole pack was wrapped in glassine paper and tied with a delicate gold thread.
The overall look was modern, clean and understated, with a few classic touches.
Delectable and utterly original wedding cakes as an artistic statement & a delicious indulgence
Cakes were of course a must, to take the indulgence to a new level. The perfect complement to the drinks they’d have in the lounge.
I shared my story with Kate and asked her to create a modern cake that emphasized fluidity, movement and lightness, as a metaphor for the dragonfly flight. She ended up creating 3 cakes. The main cake was a gorgeous abstract interpretation of the lightness and fluid movement of dragonflies. And it complemented perfectly the watercolour painting on the invitation suite. The other two cakes were a more direct nod to the dragonflies and replicated textures and shapes from our setting. With one of them topped with a rice paper, hand painted dragonfly.
Honestly, I don’t think she could have done a more amazing job.
If you are after unique details that engage, that spark conversation and make a statement, focus on subtlety. Creating analogies and abstract interpretations of your subject/inspiration and accentuating qualities, will be intriguing and will add to the charm of the experience. Kate’s modern interpretation of flight and lightness, in the feature cake is the embodiment of a sunny, heartwarming, summer wedding day.
Looking at the images, perfectly captured by Inna, I couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing work that the team (full team details at the bottom) have created, in helping me tell this story. And I hope that you enjoy it and find it inspiring as well.
Whether you love the look or not, my message remains the same:
Be brave to be yourself on your wedding day.
Let your personality shine.
Don’t be afraid to be a little wild, unconventional and compromise less for others.
Take on board only those things (read traditions and trends) that make sense to you.
Put extra energy and thought into your most intimate and meaningful moments – make sure you breathe and let things sink in for a while before you move on. The rest is just a (albeit awesome) party that matters just a little less.
Focus on love, joy, laughter, and what comes most natural to you.
Give yourself room to move and spend a glorious time with the people that matter the most to you. So when planning, allow time and space for that and make choices that keep you comfortable throughout the day.
P.S.: How funny is it, that as I was writing this post, a year after l had the inspiration for the editorial, dragonflies were fluttering by my window again? 🙂
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Creative Direction, Planning & Stationery Design: Teastyle Weddings | Photography: Inna Kostukowsky | Flowers: Fig & Flower | Cake design: Kate Alexandra Cakes | Bridal Hair: Maeva Sangrigoli | Bridal Make-up: Beautiful You | Venue: Pergola and Hill Gardens | Dresses: Costarellos | Bridal Boutique: The Wedding Club | Models: Sophie N Thorpe & Nathalia Pinheiro