Jenny and Alan renewed their vows after 25 years of marriage in the beautiful city of Venice, accompanied by their four sons, their romantic getaway was majestic and magical.
Their wedding was set on the Ca Sagredo Grand Canal in Venice, followed by a small reception at the Florian Bar in Piazza San Marco, otherwise known as St Marks Square.
Jenny describes the planning and a magical day for her, Alan and their family.
I first approached Catherine to see if she would be interested in creating a dress for someone who was the opposite of a new young slim bride. Alan and I were renewing our vows after 25 years of marriage with our four sons in Venice and I wanted a red and gold dress that reflected Venice. Our first wedding had been 30 people in a Registry Office, our youngest was 5 weeks old and the outfit choice was more about being able to breastfeed in a modest way than impress!! I met Catherine in her studio, surrounded by beautiful floaty dresses and fabrics and everything was really beautiful. I had chosen Catherine as she had worked with Alexander McQueen, my most favourite Designer ever, because of his style, complexity, and personality. Catherine was really pleased to work with me and it was obvious she felt what we were doing was very special and indeed it was. The meeting with Catherine made me realise how special this event was going to be, I think she was as dewy eyed as me! I dressed with care for our first meeting as I wanted her to get my ‘style’ so I paid attention to everything. Catherine is astute and highly skilled, with real clarity. The only proviso I gave her was that the dress needed to be red – scarlet – with some sort of gold embroidery on it somewhere – not a lot to go on. In my head I imagined something with a train perhaps, and to my ankles, not right to the floor. We parted and Catherine asked me to send her any photos of any ideas I had. I took my time and sent her snippets of ‘that waistline’ or ‘that sleeve’ or ‘that pleat’, I think 17 things in all, none of which joined up! By my next visit she had some beautiful red silk and had already made up a little jacket that we both recognised as being very similar to the photo of a Dior model from the New Look (50’s fashion phenomena not budget high street!!). She had made the jacket without measuring me and it fitted almost perfectly, in fact, I don’t recall that she ever measured me, she just has an amazing understand of fit. She then draped fabric around me whilst I looked frankly stunned in lots of mirrors. It was such a strange combination – I both recognised and did not recognise myself at the same time, and it was an incredible process.
My girlfriend, Julia, came with me for the next 3 visits and I brought along no end of pairs of red shoes with me each time to make sure they matched. Each visit the dress became me and by that I mean, you know when you wear a posh frock it can wear you? Well, it was like putting on an old favourite, but yet I had never worn it. The final fitting was amazing, but it was not a big reveal as we had designed and created this absolutely beautiful garment together. I felt like it had heritage, like a historical costume, but at the same time it was absolutely contemporary. Catherine had made the most of my best bits – which we all have – and she created a shape that was absolutely right for me. It was in fact two dresses worn together, a straight shift dress with no sleeves and, what can only be described as, a wrap over dress mounted on a small jacket with a stand up collar that all together presented like the most elaborate dressing gown ever. It moved beautifully, I could manage it, it felt like I had had it forever, it took my breath away, we were all in tears. My Twin brother, with whom I was very close, and who was a Goldsmith, was making four rings for me to wear as a ‘stack’, each one representing one of our children. His text to me when he saw me in the finished dress was so lovely, and one of the last texts as I ever got, as he was killed in a car crash 3 weeks later. Unfortunately I had the both the best day and worst day of my life within 3 weeks. Catherine was skillful at the highest level – a designer, a tailor, a costume designer, intuitive, magical and she delivered something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I walked in St Marks Square and the Doges Palace with 1000s people around me feeling like a Queen- absolutely supreme and that was down to her.
It was freezing cold in Venice! I bought red cashmere gloves and red fox wristlets from a boutique in Venice. My shoes were from Russell and Bromley, my jewellery was bizarrely from Amazon!
My wedding rings were designed and made by Paul Draper, a fellow of the Goldsmiths Institute.
Alan’s Suit :
Hand made silk pink and red tie limited edition
Prince of Wales check suit with red line
Shoes from John Lewis
Cufflinks hand made Murano Glass from Venice
The Day itself:
We were staying at Palazzina G, a 5 star Phillipe Starck designed hotel on the Grand Canal. My hair and make up artist arrived at 7.20am and spent 3 hours with me! The two Italian Weddings planners and photographer all arrived at 10.am. We chose an Italian Wedding Planning Company to work with us and they were amazing. They gave us lots of options to choose from including the hotel we stayed at the venue for the ceremony the receptions the photo venues photographer and hair/make up, florists wedding cake and Celebrant. We wrote our own words and had them translated into Italian. The Celebrant said them first and we repeated the English version, it was very personal. The Celebrant actually said she thought it had been so beautiful, she thought more people should celebrate their marriage with their children after so many years! We walked together up an amazing candle lit staircase with huge murals on each side to classic Italian Opera music. The food was classic Venetian Canapes at the first reception at Ca Sagredo with, of course, Prosecco. The second reception, which we travelled to by boat, was at the oldest bar in St Marks Square, The Florain Bar, where we had more savoury and sweet canapés, and more Prosecco. We had planned another dinner in the evening, but in the end we all got into warm clothes and went to a family Pizza restaurant with our boys, which was perfect.
The best part of the day:
The moment when we walked into the room for the ceremony at Ca Sagredo, holding hands and reaching the top of the stairs, with the beautiful Italian Opera playing, and brilliant sunshine flooding the room. In such historic surroundings it felt so powerful, like all the love we had felt over the last 30 years was in the room. We could not see if our boys had arrived because it was so bright, they had flown in from London that morning, but then I caught sight of my youngest boy’s silhouette. It was very emotional and I hugged each one of them. We sat on two beautiful chairs and my rings were bound together on an embroidered cushion. We said the words to each other that we had written with so much love and feeling, there is a photo of Alan really looking at me and it is a forever look. Each of the rings were placed on my finger, and words about each son said. The whole thing was magical, and the feelings Alan and I were left with really shocked us, as it made us realise we had taken an even deeper step with our love for each other, it was just amazing.