Rich purples, roses and lilies bought a warm glow to Joanna and Simons crisp February day...
Joanna Lyall, 30, wasn’t expecting a proposal from boyfriend Simon Lilly, 37, when the pair headed to Mexico for some winter sun in 2009. “He’d told me on the plane that he wasn’t in a rush to get married,” she explains. “So when I found a ring box on our balcony on the last day of the trip, I had to ask if he was joking!” He wasn’t, which Joanna quickly realised when Simon dropped to one knee to make the offer official. “We had to finish packing after that, but we were so excited we could barely concentrate.”
Photography: Polly Alexandre
The plans for an elegant celebration the following winter began to take shape right away, with a warm, romantic venue high on the list of priorities. “As soon as I walked through the door of Gosfield Hall, I knew it was the one,” says Joanna of the 16th century Essex mansion whose past guests have included Queen Elizabeth I. “While we were visiting, the clouds lifted to reveal a perfect, crisp blue February afternoon. It was stunning.”
On 27 February, another flawless winter’s day, Joanna and Simon were married before 100 guests. To personalise their civil ceremony, they exchanged their own vows, although Joanna confesses she was so moved walking down the aisle that she temporarily blanked on her lines. “As a partner at a media agency, I often present in front of large audiences, but I was overwhelmed by it all on my wedding day,” she says.
“I suppose I had been to enough weddings over the last five years to know what I liked and what I didn’t,” says Joanna of the hunt for her wedding-day look (a gorgeous A-line Suzanne Neville design). “I knew I wanted lace, and something classic with a twist. Mine was the first dress I tried, and nothing after it was quite the same.” A lace bolero and full-length veil added a timeless, dreamy feel.
A pair of peep-toe silver Manolo Blahniks added extra luxe. “As a shoe-lover, I also wanted fantastic heels!” says Joanna.
Joanna's hairslides and jewellery were from Yarwood-White. "I wanted a vintage look and these pearl and crystal pieces were perfect."
The bridesmaids were kitted out in purple dresses from Monsoon, and carried bouquets of tulips, lilies and roses.
Joanna even provided each bridesmaid with a pair of Hunter wellies in case it rained!
Simon's aubergine cravat and black tails, which matched the groomsmen's suits, were hired from Dapper. He wore a calla lily buttonhole.
A pearl and lace theme with accents of aubergine and silver inspired the details for the celebration. “I've developed a love for purple over the last few winters, and its warmth really suited a February wedding,” Joanna explains. “The silver gave me another colour to play with to lighten things up.” Tables were all named after varieties of lilies (“because I was becoming Mrs Lilly”), while storm lanterns and flower-filled purple martini glasses by florist Caroline at The Orchid Room made original centrepieces
At the reception, individual touches were everywhere, starting with an ice-breaking quiz so guests could test their knowledge of the couple, complete with a prize of lottery tickets. And as a surprise, Joanna’s parents placed little books with childhood pictures of the bride and groom on each table. “I have to say, my mum did a lot of the organising, and she did an amazing job,” says Joanna. “I had a vision of the day and she helped me create it.”
The beautiful cake was iced in a lace pattern and draped with sugarcraft pearls to match the theme: a masterpiece by Fancy Nancy.
Deep mauve and pearl were echoed in the elegant table plan and menus by Mandalay.
At the evening celebration, guests hit the dancefloor to pop classics performed by The A-listers band, and partied on from Joanna and Simon’s first dance, Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, to the last song at midnight. “It was such a special day,” Joanna recalls. “Everyone is so happy for you, and they queue up to tell you that you look beautiful. I felt amazing!”