With a blanket wrapped around my shoulders in attempt to savor me from the ice-cold wind, my new husband and I waved to all of our closest friends and family as the tuk tuk cranked up the tunes (typical Thai style) and began to meander around the market stalls and over the cobbled paving. But all the smiles, cheers and waves continued and we soon realised that we were being welcomed into married life not only by our nearest and dearest, but by all who saw us sat in our red and white tuk tuk, in full wedding attire on a crisp November day in England.
This notion of insanity pretty much sums my husband and I up. From illegitimately entering Egypt, to travelling through Israel during some of the most fatal days of the war with Gaza, to diving with hammerhead sharks on our recent honeymoon, we never have conformed to the norm, so why would our wedding be any different? As intrepid travelers, most of our guests had presumed there would be no invite waiting for them on the doorstep, instead they expected us to jet off to some exotic destination, as per the typical Stainton-Wright approach. But instead of sharing our travels with them all on our return, we decided to share some of our favourite travel experiences with all of them. Of course it wasn’t possible to take everybody overseas, so we decided to take overseas to them instead.
Prior to meeting, Philip and I both travelled extensively through South East Asia and for both of us Thailand was a particular highlight. We had told many of our travel stories to our friends and family, but how wonderful would it be if they could experience some of those things too we thought? And that’s where it began- we were going to plan an Asian themed wedding, right here in England.
The Tuk Tuk
As you can imagine, tuk tuks aren’t exactly in abundance in Britain. I did however manage to source a company named tukshop that was based in Southampton. The tuk tuk was fanatastic and although a little chilly, they came prepared with blankets and an expert driver (who was far more careful than the tuk tuk drivers We’ve generally encountered in Asia!). For me, the tuk tuk was one of my highlights of the day and I’m sure it is something that the guests will remember. I kept it a secret from most so when the guests were instructed to head downstairs to the tuk tuk it did make me laugh!
The Ceremony Venue
The ceremony wasn’t Thai at all (apart from the transport there and back!). It took place in Wokingham Town Hall, a beautiful building that allowed us to have a ceremony that was even more beautiful. We had two readings, one from the best man and another from my best friend. The ceremony lasted around 15 minutes and then we were able to walk back down the isle to crack open the champagne- cheers!
The Reception Venue
I searched the Internet for advice, but all I could find were references to Indian weddings, which wasn’t quite what we wanted. We wanted our wedding to represent us and none of those did. I looked in to lots of different venue options, and most of them were incredibly expensive, and lacked character. Plus, they wouldn’t let you provide your own catering-which was a must! In the end we found a quaint little barn names Stokes Farm Barn, with wooden beams and loads of character. It was very, um, English. Not what you would expect for an Asian themed wedding huh?
But it worked, it absolutely worked. The scenery was lovely, as it was located on a working farm there were geese strolling along and horses grazing outside, and it was a lovely setting (although VERY cold!) for photos. Inside the barn was separated in to two areas, in one we had the wedding breakfast, and the other the live-band followed by i-pod disco. What we loved about this venue was that we could decorate it how we wanted. We searched the Internet for some of those hilariously funny signs you see in many parts of Asia and put them throughout the venue- we wanted to make people giggle! This photo was put above the urinals in the men’s toilet!
We also ordered lots of decorations, from Chinese lanterns, Chinese scrolls, Japanese serviettes, fairy lights (lots of fairy lights) and ivy to bamboo plants and balloons for the table centerpiece. The venue looked stunning and everybody commented. It was now a quaint English barn come Asian boudoir! Oh, and I also had butterfly place cards to represent lifeasabutterfly!
The Food (and drinks)
On arrival we had a selection of Asian beers and cocktails for the guests along with a few bowls of prawn crackers to nibble on. For the wedding breakfast Philip created a fantastic table plan and menu highlighting our food choices. We used an authentic Thai caterer who cooked us an excellent meal. We had tried the food previously and instantly loved it, it was great because we could choose our own dishes and have it tailor made to suit us. We had a selection of starters including duck spring role, satay chicken, dim sum and Thai spicy fishcakes. We then had a Thai green curry, sweet and sour haddock and crispy pork with cashew nuts along with a fragrant Thai rice, stir fried vegetables and pad thai. Thai green curry is my favourite meal and pad Thai is Philip’s favourite so they had to be in the mix- the curry was particularly popular with most people requesting seconds!
After dinner we had a banana-based Asian desert and wedding cake. We bought the cake from Marks and Spencers, it was white and simple, which was what we wanted and was chocolate inside! Yum! Philip doesn’t like cake at all and I don’t like fruit cake so we opted against the traditional wedding cake. We tried to keep costs down throughout and I thought the M&S cake was excellent value, although I had initial gasped at the price I soon realised that it was far better than getting a cake made professionally.
One of the highlights was my overseas importation…bush tucker trial style! Remember when you told your friend about the tarantula you ate whilst drunk on Koh San Road? Well now they can try some too! I found a website that sold edible bugs, from canned tarantulas to flying cockroaches and scorpions! I genuinely thought that people would see the bowl of ‘local delicacies’ and laugh, and that maybe somebody might be brave enough at some point (most likely after a few Asian beers and some Mai Thai), but I was so wrong- they were a HUGE success! By the time I even had the chance to see the bugs half of them had been eaten, almost everbody I spoke to tried some, from Philip’s 7 year old nephew to my 50 year old dad! People were sharing cockroaches and offering out tarantula legs, it was absolutely hilarious!!
The wine wasn’t Asian- if you’ve ever tasted Asian wine you will know why we made that decision! I ordered the wine online from a warehouse in France and Philip drove (in the midst of ‘operation stack’ as a result of the migrant crisis!) to collect it. I chose a brand that I was familiar with so I wasn’t taking any huge risks and we ordered so much that we had wine left over after the wedding! It was a pretty good deal and we even got the ferry ticket thrown in with the cost.
I can’t give you loads of details on music because I’m not the expert- Philip is. But he did a fantastic job, he used contemporary chart music played by a string quartet and blended the songs seamlessly together for the ceremony. He had organised for his school choir (he is a secondary music teacher) to come and sing during the signing and they were absolutely fantastic and really added ambience to the ceremony. He then put together a playlist of travel-themed songs for the beginning of the reception during the welcome drinks etc followed by the evening playlist which consisted of a mix of current chart music and some of our favourite classics. The music he created was great because it was so personal to us and our guests (he played lots of their favourites too!).
Did I forget to tell you that he also got up and played guitar with the band? Oh, maybe that’s because I missed it!! By this time I had had a few glasses of my lovely French wine… but I have seen many photos and I’ve been assured that he did an excellent job on stage- the star of the show as always!
Alongside our funny Asian signs and bug buffet we wanted to make sure that our guests didn’t get bored. Remember when you went to Thailand and played Jenga on the bar? Well, we tried to replicate this by having giant Jenga for people to play. We also had a quiz for people to do when they sat down at their tables. This was another huge success-it was no boring his and her quiz! Forget the ‘how did we meet?’ type questions, we included as many funny, weird or embarrassing facts as we could. Our wedding guests now know that my spoiler fell off my first car in the middle of the road (eeek!), that Philip almost became a secret agent before starring in a film named From Delhi with Love and that his speciality meal is hot cross burgers (don’t ask!).
After the meal we then had the speeches and I have to give him credit, Philip did a brilliant job. Again, in a typical un-traditional Stainton style, he created a video detailing our lives from birth to now. He used photos that included most of the guests who were at the wedding so everbody was involved and there were loads of cheers and lots of laughter. Lots of the photos were travel-focussed and I loved the way that he included photos of places we had both been to before we met, kindred spirits! To top it off, I loved it when I turned to look at the people on my table to find that my sisters (now) fiancé was absolutely crying his eyes out- hilarious!
As you can see, our wedding was anything but traditional. But then that’s us- Philip and Hayley. We have started as we mean to go on….