Fiona + James by The Unbridled

We were both back in New Zealand the following April, and it was around then I started to make plans to propose; first consulting my Mum on the size of the diamond I had picked out, to which I was promptly told it wasn’t quite big enough!

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love…
We’re both Kiwis living in London, since 2015 & 2018 – James is an engineering project manager and I’m a product manager in tech. We’re avid travellers, and love dining out as much as we love cooking up a storm at home over a bottle of wine, listening to our favourite records.

How/where/when did you meet – and what were your first impressions?
Fiona – We’ve known each other since we were 18, but weren’t close. After we’d both lived abroad and grown up, James returned from London to Christchurch, and we re-met at our mutual friend’s wedding. We chatted away, and by the end of the night, we found ourselves completely smitten. We’d find any opportunity to catch up – a quick coffee, lunch, and soon our first official date at a teppanyaki bar. Once James returned to London, five months went by with daily phone calls, care packages and mixtapes – and eventually, our European holiday plans turned into a one-way ticket. Somehow, we both just knew it was meant to be.

When did you first realise that this was someone you’d like to spend the rest of your life with?
James – It probably first struck me when I left NZ to come back to London just after we re-met, it might have been young love or something more spontaneous, but something felt different. We were both back in New Zealand the following April, and it was around then I started to make plans to propose; first consulting my Mum on the size of the diamond I had picked out, to which I was promptly told it wasn’t quite big enough!

Was there a proposal? Tell us a little about it…
James – After I’d designed the ring, it was Fiona’s birthday in May, so I got her a surprise weekend away as a present for later in the summer. Little did she know, we were jetting off to Lake Como, a place we were meant to go on holiday earlier in our relationship but which was scuppered by the slow visa process. I rented an Airbnb on the southern side of the lake, halfway up the hill with a panoramic view of Lake Como. We arrived after driving up from Milan, me stressing about having an expensive item hidden in my bag, and Fiona wanting to stop repeatedly to take in the view, not helping my nerves!

We made it to the Airbnb and had the longest (but nicest) check-in process from our Italian host, who was nice enough to leave us a bottle of Prosecco. So we poured a few glasses and enjoyed the view on the grass outside. I hadn’t devised a plan to actually pop the question, but thought now was as perfect a time as any, so I quickly slipped inside and grabbed the ring. Coming back outside, my heart was racing, chin a bit shaky and nervous all over. From there it felt like a bit of a blur, I remember getting down on one knee and asking Fiona to be my wife, her saying yes immediately – so quickly in fact, she didn’t even look at the ring! We stopped for a quick moment so I could put the ring on her finger, which she loved as soon as she saw it, then we went back to being the happiest two people on earth, taking photos, celebrating with another glass of prosecco and enjoying the moment.

Tell us about the vision you had for the mood or style of your wedding…
With our original wedding plans hindered by the chaos of 2020/2021, we decided to embrace London’s charm and plan an intimate ceremony that would ensure our day was incredibly special, whether our family were able to travel or not (thankfully, the borders opened up in the nick of time!). We wanted the day to be romantic yet modern, inspired by nature with earthy tones and interesting textures, and above all, it had to feel totally relaxed. Our brilliant wedding planner Hannah magically pulled our vision together, incorporating the textures, tones, and scent into every element of the day, which truly could not have been more perfect – down to every last detail.

What was one element you were happy to splurge on?
With so much travel and border uncertainty, not knowing whether our family would be able to make it over to London, we planned early on that we would splurge on a special dinner for two. We found the perfect space at the uniquely beautiful Hide Restaurant in central London, which Hannah and our florist transformed into the most exquisite wild meadow – with ferns and grasses to represent our New Zealand roots, and my favourite cosmos flowers, which danced with the subtly moving lighting of the Shadow room. We enjoyed a wonderful seven-course meal together with some very special old wines from the cellar.

Did anything happen on your wedding day that you laugh about in hindsight (even if it was stressful at the time)?
James had conspired with my best friend from back home to surprise me the night before the wedding. He had subtly arranged with all of our vendors that we’d have one more guest, and I was absolutely none the wiser. There were issues with her connecting flight, which meant she arrived the morning of the big day, rather than the night before, so I now know that he was doing an exceptional job of hiding quite a bit of stress the day prior! I still can’t quite believe the timing, but she knocked on the door of our hotel room at the exact moment we had arranged to facetime – I have truly never been more surprised! It made the best day of my life even more incredible than I could have ever dreamed.

Tell us about your main outfits, what was unique, is there a story?
Fiona – I tried dozens of dresses on the hunt for the perfect one, which I came across in an Instagram story of an exquisite bridal store I had previously visited – I had missed the trunk show by only a week! I eventually found a stockist and tried a few styles on, saving the one I had seen for last, and I instantly knew that it was the one. Luckily, I was able to order it through the wonderful Lyndsey at Amare Bride, who made the whole experience exceptionally beautiful and personal.

Ceremony location: A Day to Remember, @adaytorememberdotlondon / Reception location: The White Horse Mayfair, @thewhitehorsemayfair / Dinner for two: Hide restaurant, @hide_restaurant / Photographer: The Unbridled, @the_unbridled__ / Styling + Planner: Studio Porter, @studioporter / Flora: @tuberoselondon / Catering + Beverages: Provided by venues The White Horse & Hide / Cake: Anna Lewis Cakes, @labohemecakedesign / Stationery: Invites – Paper Grace, @papergraceuk; Cake stationery – Papier, @papier / Gifting: Contribution to honeymoon fund / Ceramics at Dinner: Purchased from Every Story, @every__story which we’ve kept / Room Fragrance was sprayed in all venues from the hotel, ceremony, reception & dinner: Jo Malone, @jomalonelondon / Bride’s Dress: Newhite, @newhite_bridal via Amare Bride, @amare_bride / Groom’s Attire: Custom Hackett, @hackettlondon / Ring/s: The Diamond Ring Co, @the_diamond_ring_company / Shoes: Loeffler Randall, @loefflerrandall / Bag: Cult Gaia, @cultgaia / Earrings: Freya Rose, @freyaroselondon / Makeup + Hair: Unveil, @unveiluk / Fragrance: Juliette Has a Gun, @juliettehasagun