Ever since I was a little girl, Richard Curtis has been my religion. Meet-cutes are my miracles, I worship at the altar of montages that span seasons and I faithfully believe in running across cities, over bridges, through airports, traffic jams, hospitals and press conferences, to give soaring, endearingly quirky declarations of love. My favourite genre of music is Romantic Comedy Soundtracks (Shania, Ronan, and The Corrs included) and, for my sins, my biggest crush (husband excluded) is still Hugh Grant. It’s almost comedic in itself, then, that I was the only one who didn’t predict that I’d marry the boy next door.
It wasn’t a choice, romance is in my blood. My parents met at a party in Paris, my dad there on a work trip and my mum spending time in the city as an au pair. She came to London for their second date and moved in that same night. Six weeks later, he was told he needed heart surgery and the night before, operation looming, she said, “When you wake up, let’s get married.” Max and I didn’t move quite so fast. In fact, I have fancied my husband for nearly 15 years – almost half my life, and mostly from afar. Sometimes when I look at him, I see him aged 18 and feel the same giddy rush of teenage emotions I did then. But if anyone had told me at that age that I’d be standing next to him at an altar, I’d never have believed it. I barely believe it now. I remember saying to one of my closest friends, “Did you ever think I’d end up with Max?” To which she replied, “Yes – everyone did. Except you two.” So when the stars finally aligned, we were eager to make up for lost time, because – to quote Billy Crystal’s Harry – “when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”.
Equidistant from both our childhood houses, there’s a bus stop. It’s where we would awkwardly avoid eye contact as teenagers waiting for the bus to school, and later it’s where we would sneak out of the house to meet. So when, on our first anniversary as a couple, Max asked me to meet him there, it didn’t seem strange in the slightest. I got there to discover he had covered the whole bus stop in fairy lights and had a bottle of champagne waiting to be popped. My favourite part? He brought enough glasses so that anyone actually waiting for a bus could join us for a glass. Two years later – on top of a mountain in Japan, surrounded by deer – he asked me to marry him, and despite all the challenges Covid threw our way, and a “will they, won’t they” courtship to rival Ross and Rachel’s, we were finally married in September of 2021.
The night before the wedding, I saw my facialist Rhian Truman for a final treatment; concentrating predominantly on facial massage, she chiselled my cheekbones and left me almost luminescent. Newly sculpted, I had dinner with my immediate family in the restaurant my parents dined at the night before their own wedding over 30 years ago. Maggie Jones’s is dimly lit and deeply romantic; named, supposedly, after the alias Princess Margaret used to book her and Lord Snowdon’s favourite table there.
The morning of our wedding, I woke up at The Portobello Hotel, rested after an extremely unexpected solid eight hours of sleep. I walked through Notting Hill, the streets of both my childhood and my favourite rom-com of all, to an 8am class at Heartcore Pilates. The trainer looked at me like I was a lunatic on day release when I told him it was my wedding day – “Why the hell are you here then?!” – but got on board quickly, peppering the playlist with themed songs and finishing up with The Dixie Cups’s “Going to the Chapel” before the whole studio waved me off, a host of wonderful strangers cheering me on.
From there, it was back to The Portobello Hotel for room service (boiled eggs, soldiers, and a mint tea – a wise friend told me caffeine makes you sweat), and to begin getting ready. I’m not totally sure how but from the moment I woke up, I felt mindbogglingly calm, with an intense clarity and presence of mind I’ve never experienced before. Regular acupuncture with Ross Barr certainly played a role, as did, I’m sure, a recently acquired habit of daily meditation. But, above all, I think it was because I felt certain, for the first time in my life, that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
If I hadn’t been feeling so serene, make-up artist Jennifer Oliver would have remedied that in a flash. The human embodiment of a rose quartz crystal, I would set her soothing voice as my alarm clock if I could. She also happens to be a genius of a make-up artist, who made me look (and more importantly, feel) my absolute best. Hershesons’s brilliant Grace Amelia gave me the half-up, half-down ’do of my dreams, and placed my veil like she was crowning me a queen. I’m borderline freakishly obsessed with my fringe, and I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else with it.
While I was in make-up – but crucially, pre-mascara – my mum surprised me with a letter and gift from my husband-to-be, a beautiful pair of Sophie Bille Brahe pearl earrings that I’ve barely taken off since. On the subject of my groom, I’d like to mention that while I was in hair and make-up, steaming my dress and shimmering my décolletage, he and his best man were playing crazy golf. Petition to add a new verse to Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy”? When he finally got round to getting ready, it was a bespoke, three-piece Casely-Hayford suit in dark navy that he put on.
You’d be forgiven for skipping straight to this paragraph: the dress. Oh, the dress. I will never be able to do justice to the way it feels to be embraced by a Vivienne Westwood corset. She’s a Dame for a reason and I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t because her gowns make you feel sculpted by Michelangelo himself. Jokes aside, knowing my wedding dress was designed by a woman who has spent her entire life ardently fighting for some of the most important causes we face had a value that cannot be overstated.
My veil was equally special. Sourced by the wonderful Jane Bourvis and originally from the 1930s, it was made from the most delicate tulle with a hand-stitched trim and floral detailing. I love that this wasn’t its first wedding day and I hope it won’t be its last. My shoes were a pair of patent white T-bars by Prada, which I cannot wait to wear again with frilly socks and a Simone Rocha dress. The chunkier heel meant they were comfortable until the very last song played. My handbag was a pearly, flower-shaped beauty by Shrimps perfectly sized for all the essentials, and my “something borrowed” was a pair of Jessica McCormack’s signature diamond gypset earrings, which are now firmly on my Christmas list. I co-designed my wedding ring with jewellery designer Bear Brooksbank which was such a special experience; she’s a total genius and one of the loveliest people to boot.
Our flowers were by my lovely friend Rachael Barker, who created the most exquisite bouquets for me and my maids of honour, and filled both venues with dahlias, Italian anemones, parrot tulips, Icelandic poppies, ranunculus, and English garden roses. She also delighted my six-year-old flower girl, our niece Luna, by making her a beautiful floral crown to match her Simone Rocha X H&M outfit.
We were married at St Francis of Assisi on a street named Pottery Lane, an intimate and beautiful Catholic church 10 minutes from where my husband and I grew up, and where I took my first Holy Communion as a little girl. I walked up the aisle to Handel’s “Aria” from Concerto Grosso no 12, on the arm of my father (who looked extremely dashing in a Paul Smith suit). My husband and I always say that the best cure for a hard day is hearing the other person say, “Welcome home!” at the end of it. So much so that now we both say it, even if we’re the one coming through the door. When I got to the top of the aisle, it was those two words he whispered in my ear.
The ceiling of the church is painted a beautiful blue, scattered with gold stars. I was entranced by it as a child and it was the inspiration for our wedding stationery, all hand-painted by my best friend and maid of honour. The most exquisite choir I’ve ever heard sang intermittently throughout the service, and in addition to religious readings by a best friend and my mum, my stepdad read a favourite poem of mine, [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in] by EE Cummings. We left the church to Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, an undeniable banger.
The reception was held at our favourite restaurant: St John, Smithfield. Max spent many years working in its wine department and it’s been our go-to for joyous occasions since the very start of our relationship. I’ve lost count of how many birthdays, promotions, and engagements have been marked by bone marrow and a Black Velvet (champagne and Guinness – don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it). We feasted on globe artichokes, scallops, razor clams and cabbage, confit pig’s cheek and dandelion, braised lamb with white beans and green sauce, and a tomato, little gem and anchovy salad so good it almost stole the show.
It was the most delicious meal of my life, and I haven’t even got to my favourite part. After a scoop of zingy lemon sorbet, our cake was served. We are very lucky to call St John’s esteemed head pastry chef a dear friend of ours, not simply because it meant we knew we’d be in exceedingly capable hands, but also because Alex Szrok humoured (nay, encouraged!) my wildest idea to date: a raspberry tart big enough to serve 100 people. It hadn’t occurred to me that a tart tin of that size might not be readily available – you can buy everything online these days, surely? In the end, my saintly husband-to-be fashioned the tin (one whole metre in diameter) himself out of industrial ducting and spare sheet metal. If I didn’t already know how lucky I was, I sure do now. I caught glimpses of Alex throughout dinner, placing each and every raspberry with such care and artistry. I had two slices and it wasn’t enough.
After magnificent speeches, we descended to the dancefloor, complete with a disco ball even bigger than the raspberry tart. Our first dance was to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli, and I had secretly arranged for a surprise brass band to join in for the chorus (no prizes for guessing the romantic comedy reference there!). Negronis were served, and I changed into the most beautiful silver dress by The Vampire’s Wife, before dancing, shimmering under the disco ball, until the early hours.
This would be the point in the movie – the penultimate scene, or paragraph, in this case – when the protagonist would find himself running to find his love through Camden via Kensington, across Primrose Hill, through Pimlico, inexplicably back in Notting Hill again, and suddenly in Soho, all to tell her that he simply cannot live without her and it’s only just occurred to him. So, in honour of every rom-com I’ve ever loved (and as a wife, standing in front of a husband, asking him not to cringe so hard he divorces her), here’s my own movie monologue.
I love that he can tell if my wine glass needs topping up from across a crowded room. I love his outdated but determined dedication to coronation chicken. I love that he’s my biggest cheerleader and my greatest ally. I love that he’s steadfast yet silly, and that after 15 years he still makes me swoon. I love that he actively enjoys cleaning, but would rather forego cutlery forever than wash a single knife or fork. I love that if I asked for the moon, he’d look for a lasso.
I hate that he leaves all the cupboard doors open, that he tucks the toothpaste behind the tap so that I have to prise it free every morning. I hate that he makes us eat vegetables with every meal, even when we’re hungover. I hate the Formula One podcasts that have become the soundtrack to my home life. But mostly, I hate the way I don’t hate any of it, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.
The genre of romance has only one failing (in my book, at least): its insistence on fate. The notion that our paths are predetermined, or that we have no choices to make for ourselves. I prefer Forrest Gump’s view on things: “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental – like on a breeze – but I think maybe it’s both.” So maybe serendipity did bring us together, but on 11 September 2021, we chose each other. For that day and every one then on.