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Real wedding: An elegant Oxford college affair

Katherine and Will chose the wow-factor Wadham College Chapel and the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library for their elegant city wedding. The bride shone in a sparkly-shouldered Reem Acra dress and guests were treated to afternoon tea canapés and bespoke cocktails | Photography by John Nassari

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Katherine and Will, who are both lawyers, met on their first ever day at work. Several years later Will surprised Katherine with a festive proposal. “During a pre-Christmas weekend away in Oxfordshire, Will suggested we try and convince the security guards at Blenheim Palace, which was closed, to let us in for a romantic late night walk,” says Katherine. “I was so shocked when they did! Will then proposed under the Christmas Tree overlooking the lake, much to the delight of all the lovely staff, who were all in on the surprise.”

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Photography | John Nassari

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Katherine fell in love with a stylish pleated silk dress designed by Reem Acra at Brown’s Bride. “As I am only 5″2′ I wanted a simple dress that didn’t overwhelm me,” says Katherine. “As soon as I saw the ‘Olivia’ dress i knew it would be perfect. I was also lucky enough to meet the designer at a trunk show. She was lovely and spent ages with me making sure the dress fitted perfectly.” 

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Katherine finished the look with gorgeous sparkly shoes and jewellery that had been given to her by Will and other family members. 

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Will and his groomsmen looked dashing in suits from Ede & Ravenscroft.

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Katherine’s bridesmaids wore beautiful soft grey dresses from Maids to Measure. “The dresses we originally picked were slightly different, but two days before the wedding the tailor’s shop (where the dresses were getting some last-minute alternations) burnt down with the dresses inside!” says Katherine. “Maids to Measure were completely amazing and very kindly lent us some new dresses in the same colour! They saved the day and the girls looked wonderful.” 

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The backdrop to the big day was historic Oxford. “The city is a really special place for both of us, and we have spent lots of time there together, says Katherine. “I loved the idea of getting married at my old College, as I felt completely at home there. Having it in the Wadham Chapel also allowed us to have a Church of England ceremony, which was also blessed by the Catholic Church (Will is Catholic, but I’m not) and this was really important to us.”  

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The couple decorated the church with huge candles in hurricane lanterns and large stone urns filled with white roses, lisianthus, hydrangeas and delphiniums from Fabulous Flowers

Katherine’s hand tied bouquet was a mixture of white spray roses, scented stephanotis, white freesia and lily of the valley, while the bridesmaids carried posies of pale pink spray roses and freesia and the groomsmen had button holes of white spray roses with lily of the valley.  

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“The drinks reception was one of my favourite parts of the day,” says Katherine. “We walked straight out of the Chapel into the beautiful Wadham College Gardens, where we served champagne and afternoon tea-themed canapés, including tiny scones and cakes.”

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As a stationery enthusiast Will took charge of all the paper-based details. The stylish invites came from Smythson’s bespoke service and the couple kept the look traditional, yet chic, with classic white paper with silver gilt edging. 

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Katherine and Will enlisted the help of Isobel Lamplough of Isobel Weddings to help with the tricky timings of the day. “It literally couldn’t have happened without her,” says Katherine. “The Bodleian is a working library and we could only start setting up the wedding at 3pm (the time of our wedding ceremony!). Isobel and her team then only had two hours to totally transform the Divinity School in time for our wedding reception to start at 5pm. Isobel was so much fun to work with, and having her to help with all of the details made the whole planning process really stress-free. On the day we were able to just relax and enjoy it, knowing that Isobel was on hand to help with any last-minute problems.” 

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The transformation of the room included glass trumpet vase table centrepieces filled with white hydrangeas, white roses, lisianthus and stocks. 

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“The Bodleian Divinity School is supplied as a completely empty space so we had a blank canvas to work with. As the ceiling is very ornate, we kept the decoration simple and focussed on the lighting and on hiring beautiful furniture,” says Katherine. “One of my favourite items was the bar and bar stools, from Great Hire – it was amazing to be able to have a cocktail bar in a library!” The couple created a bespoke cocktail menu featuring their favourite tipples, all with literary-inspired names to reflect the library setting. “There was a tea-infused ming julep (served in a tea cup) called Great Gats-tea and a blueberry cocktail called Violet Beauregard.”

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The cake was a family effort. Will’s grandma baked it and his Auntie Mags and cousin Marissa decorated it. 

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“Music was a really important part of our day. We were lucky enough to have the Wadham College Choir and organist at the ceremony – the organist played one of our favourite songs Wouldn’t It Be Nice by the Beach Boys for the recessional as we walked down the aisle together. We then had an amazing string quartet, Reflection Strings, playing a list of our favourite songs during the drinks reception in the gardens. For the evening reception, we had a live band called Candy Apple Blue. They were amazing and got everyone up dancing!”

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The couple chose photographer John Nassari to capture their big day. “Both Will and I are pretty camera-shy so we were drawn to his relaxed reportage style. We wanted to capture the day as it happened without spending much too time away from our guests taking formal photographs,” says Katherine.”John spent time getting to know us before the wedding so that on the day we felt completely comfortable with him. He really caught the feel of the day, and got some amazing photographs.”

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Words of advice: “Make sure that both of you are involved in planning the wedding. Will and I planned every detail of our wedding together and it made the whole thing such a fun process. We turned all most of our wedding appointments into dates or days out in Oxford, which meant that we have lovely memories of the planning, as well as of the day itself.”