By the time Peter proposed, both sets of parents had known of his plans for months, managing to keep it a secret. So, it was no doubt the element of surprise that led to her initial response to the all-important question: “Are you joking?!” But of course, she then said “yes” and they spent the day celebrating in Liverpool with family.
There was only one choice of ceremony location for the couple: Emmanuel Parish Church, Southport, which Jen attended as a child. The date was set for 8th August, 2020, but before W-day arrived, the world was thrown into turmoil by the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving Jen and Peter’s plans in tatters. Read on to find out how the couple overcame the challenges that faced them, and re-built their
"We basically had to overhaul the entire wedding," Jen explains. The original guest list included 100 for the day with more invited for the evening bash, but this had to be trimmed right down to 25, thanks to the Covid-19 restrictions. "Everything apart from the church, photographer, flowers and dress changed. I even did my fittings in a mask, with the couturier wearing full PPE," Jen tells us.
The couple turned their hands to making pompom chains to section off parts of the church, and Jen's mum, along with the mum of one of the bridesmaids made wedding-themed face masks. Despite being unable to attend, the couple's nearest and dearest showed them nothing but love and understanding, with many turning up at the church to socially distance outside and celebrate safely. The bride tells us, "The support we had throughout was amazing, and it's really made us treasure our family and friends even more. The worst feeling was not knowing whether our wedding would go ahead, with new restrictions happening every day. It was stress unlike anything I've known, until the evening before when we knew it was all going ahead as (re)planned."
Jen was looking for a natural, unstructured feel to the floral designs. "The idea of a posy or bunch of roses didn't appeal to me," she says. She was also keen to source local and seasonal blooms, which made Agnes and Bee the perfect fit. The scent was also a key factor, so the florist's Kate also included blackberries and mint leaves, along with dahlias to add colour and texture to the bouquets and buttonholes.
While consulting with their cake-maker on the necessary changes, they opted for a single tier cake comprising three layers of sponge – chocolate, red velvet and vanilla – plus a cake stand holding cupcakes in the palette colours. This way, if guests wanted to safely take a sweet treat home, they could. The showstopper was topped with super-cute cross-stitch decorations made by the mother-of-the-bride, complete with matching wedding attire.
Including family in their special day was incredibly important to Jen and Peter. So, they created a board from pallets and driftwood, and hung on it photos of their parents' and grandparents' wedding, placing it at the church entrance. "This was the first thing I saw when I arrived, which made it really special," the bride recalls.
The idea of a VW Campervan as the wedding transport seemed perfect when you consider the practicalities of a wedding dress with hoops! "It made everything so much easier, as I didn't have to worry about my gown catching on anything, or creasing during the journey. It also made social distancing a doddle," Jen explains.
Speaking of the beautiful dress, it was the first Jen tried on, and was suggested to her by the boutique owner. Looking at this gorgeous Morilee creation on the hanger, Jen wasn't too keen, but once she had it on she knew it was the one. She advises, "Trust the people in the shop – they will know what will suit you more than you will!"
The groom, groomsmen and fathers all wore matching Cavani suits. Peter was looking for a traditional suit, with a quirky edge, and had chosen these after consulting with the gentlemen. The wedding's palette was based on the colour of the bridesmaids' dresses, so ties and pocket squares to match finished off the chaps' look.
The priority when dressing the bridesmaids was to ensure they all felt comfortable and beautiful. So, the ladies came up with a vision for the ideal dress between them and worked from there. They all agreed they'd need something they could easily move around in that wouldn't be too hot, given the August date. Jen says, "The high-low hem and double-layered chiffon was the perfect decision. It was a happy accident that the style of their skirts matched the design of my own."
The vicar's sermon was a real standout moment for the pair. Jen explains, "He spoke about love and how it supports you through hard times, while placing those you love at the centre of your universe. This rang true for all of us, especially our parents who'd gone above and beyond in order to make our day as special as it could be. Saying that, I wouldn't have changed one moment of it. Having a more intimate event made us both realise that, first and foremost, the wedding itself was the most important thing."
That's not quite all folks! Jen and Peter are hoping to do the whole thing again on the Saturday closest to their first anniversary, with a blessing at the same church. Mr and Mrs Holden will then be heading to the venue they had originally booked for a wedding breakfast with their guests, all set up by the suppliers they'd enlisted initially. "As most of the companies we'd used are independents, we didn't want to take our deposits back or cancel their services, so we decided we wanted to give something back and have a celebration at the same time. We just feel so lucky to be married," Jen explains.