James and Valeria
11th September 2018
James and Valeria chose to have an intimate vegan, low-impact wedding in London on their one year anniversary as a couple. The ceremony was held in the Vestry in Tower Hamlets Registry Office, which was right across the street from where they live. They then celebrated in an entire vegan restaurant.
‘We chose to have our reception there because the food was amazing, the staff were lovely, and it was the perfect setting for the private, intimate and simple sort of wedding we hoped for’
Until recently, Valeria had been working as a store manager for GreenBay, a vegan supermarket in London, whilst James was the social media manager and content creator there. However, they have now both left their jobs there and have moved down to Devon where they are looking for similar work and James is planning to train to be a teacher.
‘Strangely - though we met years after going vegan - it turns out we both went vegan at the same time, both in February of 2015. We were both inspired to go vegan because of animal rights, and I (James) had already been vegetarian for about a year and a half. That said, the environment is just as important to both of us and we both try to live as zero-waste or low-impact as possible.’
‘We met the house-warming party of some mutual friends of ours, and since we got talking we haven’t stopped for a single day since. We spent every weekend visiting each other (between Devon, Birmingham and London), and after just two months of being together I asked Valeria to marry me. That was in November, and we kept the news to ourselves until March. We wanted to enjoy our secret without worrying about the wedding planning for a while, and also knew that announcing we were getting married just two months after getting together would seem like we were moving pretty fast to friends and family. But you know what they say, “when you know, you know”.’
‘We both wanted to keep it small, relatively simple and inexpensive. Our focus was more on us and the fact that we were deciding to spend the rest of our lives together, rather than on ‘putting on a good party’ for everyone else. Since we are both vegan and try to care for the planet, we opted for more eco-friendly alternatives, and of course all of the food and the cake was vegan.’
‘We had an official wedding planner, my (James’) step-mum, Wendy! From when we announced our engagement up until we were officially married, Wendy took care of most of the arrangements, finding suitable venues, organising the photographer and finding a seamstress for the dress. Not to mention organising all the decoration of the reception and the little touches that made our special day even more special.
‘In terms of the suits and the dress, we were guided by our own tastes I suppose. We broke with tradition here a bit, as Valeria helped me choose my suit and I also helped her to choose the dress, and we even got ready together on the day and walked over together to the Registry Office.’
‘Valeria’s dress was bought from Debenhams (online) from the sale section, since we didn’t want a ridiculously expensive wedding (to splash out on the Honeymoon instead!). Initially, Val was hoping to find something second-hand, but the options were limited and often the second-hand dresses would cost more than a new one that has been reduced.’
‘The dress was simple but elegant; ivory coloured with sequins and details on the bodice. It was long, reaching the ground, and strapless. Valeria chose it because she fell in love with the design and the fact that it was strapless, showing off her shoulders and back. She tried on quite a few dresses that she liked, but many of them were uncomfortable so comfort was also a pretty deciding factor, as she knew she’d be spending most of the day in the dress.’
‘The veil that Val wore was worn by James’ step-mother when she married his father. It was handmade by her mother, James’ grandmother. It was also ivory coloured, long and flowy.’
‘Valeria’s shoes were flat sandals, for comfort. A simple design, made with cork and a synthetic leather (vegan-friendly), they were white and minimalist.’
‘Valeria wore a sort of tiara, that was also worn by my (James’) step-mother on her wedding day. It attached to the veil with hooks and featured blue stones that matched my (James’) blue suit and eyes.’
‘The only other accessory that Valeria wore was a simple silver heart necklace that I (James) bought her the week before the wedding.’
‘A bright, blue, three-piece suit from Burtons. Made with cotton and polyester, it was chosen because it was the exact colour I was looking for but the first suitable suit I’d found that didn’t contain any wool. My shoes were also from Burton; brown (to go with the bright, blue suit) and vegan-friendly, made with synthetic leather. My Dad was my best man, and he wore a matching suit and shoes to me. Though he isn’t vegan, he was more than happy to also wear vegan-friendly attire on the day.’
‘Valeria’s favourite flowers are sunflowers, so the bridal bouquet and the bridesmaid’s flowers were sunflowers. This also tied into our subtle colour theme of blue and gold, which loosely represented two of the colours in the Colombian flag. For the buttonholes, ivory roses were used to match the wedding dress. All of our flowers were done by my (James’) paternal grandmother, who specialises in flower arrangement. This not only kept costs down for us but also added another special element to the day, with so many things having links to family.’
‘Our rings are really special to us. For my (James’) eighteenth birthday he was gifted a gold ring from his maternal grandmother which was made from her jewellery, including items given to her by my grandfather and other family members. She had rings made from her gold for my sister, my cousin, my mother, auntie and me. For our wedding bands, we had this ring melted down and two plain gold wedding bands were handmade from it, in a local jewellers on Roman Road, Bow (East End, London). Not only did this make two weighty, durable and high-quality handmade rings for a much lower price than we could have bought them for, but it was much more ethical and zero-waste – re-using existing gold, avoiding mining, transportation carbon-emissions and any packaging. Of course, the best part is the emotional significance of the rings, that we will always have a part of Nan with us.’
‘We had canapés on arrival, including some arepas con hogao since Valeria and her family are Colombian. We also had welcome drinks, including non-alcoholic punch for the kids and for us (we’re alcohol-free). Once seated, we had a large selection of different dishes brought out to the three tables for people to share from, followed by dessert, another dessert and wedding cake! I don’t remember a single person being able to finish their food, and I’m pretty sure almost everyone took some home with them!’
‘Our cake was made by some friends of ours; Shoreditch-based Vida Bakery, which is run by a lovely Venezuelan couple. The cake was vegan and gluten free, featuring a Passion Fruit and Lime base layer and a Chocolate Brownie Cake top layer. The design was simple and minimalist, with a wooden cake topper with our names and the date.’
‘The most noteworthy element of the stationary is probably our table names, which were actually packets of wildflower seeds in recyclable packaging. We got them from and figured it was something that people could take away from the day that would benefit nature and at the same time serve as a more lasting reminder of the day. The website specialises in eco-friendly favours and stationary and we’d strongly recommend them!’
‘Every person was given a pin badge with a Union Jack and Colombian flag, to signify the joining of a Brit and a Colombian, and our two families. We thought it was a nice symbolic gift and something that people could wear for the rest of the day. A family from each table could also take the plant home with them, as we opted for potted plants instead of cut flowers as a more eco-friendly alternative.’
‘The only reading we had was a love letter written by Victor Hugo to Adele Fouche. It goes as follows:
When two souls, which have sought each other for,
however long in the throng, have finally found each other …a union, fiery and pure as they themselves are… begins on earth and continues forever in heaven.
This union is love, true love, … a religion, which deifies the loved one, whose life comes from devotion and passion, and for which the greatest sacrifices are the sweetest delights.
This is the love which you inspire in me… Your soul is made to love with the purity and passion of angels; but perhaps it can only love another angel, in which case I must tremble with apprehension.
Victor Hugo (1821)’
For their honeymoon, James and Valeria spent a month in Colombia, the city Valeria called home. They even planted a couple of trees to offset some of their carbon footprint!
A big congratulations to James and Valeria!
I will leave you with some wonderful words of wisdom and reminds us of the advice our other brides and grooms have shared!
‘My advice would be, stick to what you want! It’s your day, so have it your way. The last thing you want on your special day is to feel stressed or tired so leave yourself enough time to plan everything and focus on what’s important to you as a couple. Also, consider a photographer so that you have some photos to look back on, as if you’re like me you’ll love looking at them, reliving the day, and having some up around the house.’
Vida Bakery - vidabakery.co.uk
Wild Flower Favours - wildflower-favours.co.uk