Harriet + Hugo by The Unbridled

Hugo offered to take a photo of me and told me to walk towards the sea with my back turned to him. I obliged and set off into the waves. Luckily I was wearing wellies but when I got ankle-deep in the water, I turned around to see if he’d got the shot yet, and there he was… kneeling half in the water with a ring. He said some beautiful things and then asked me to marry him. I jumped to hug him and nearly knocked the ring out of his hand into the sea – good job he had a steady grip on it!

Tell us a little about yourselves, what you do, what you love…
Harriet: I’m 30 years old, living with Hugo in South West London. I work in property as a Senior Marketing anager, but have also worked as a Marketing professional in the fashion, events and food industries. I love all things Design – I’m an interiors nut and over the last three years, have loved doing mini-renovations on our home (although some not quite so mini – we undertook a loft conversion whilst planning our wedding… not the most relaxing period of our lives). I also love art, photography and fashion, so aesthetics were really important to me whilst planning our wedding. I had a vision for the look and feel I wanted to achieve and was so pleased we accomplished it. I’m also an avid environmentalist. I chair a Sustainability Committee for my company and am really passionate about making positive changes that benefit the planet.

Hugo: I’m 31 and also work in property but on the asset management side. I’m a self-confessed football fanatic and am, for my sins, an avid Arsenal supporter. Let’s just say it’s a good job there wasn’t a match on TV on our wedding day. As well as watching sport, I’m also into fitness and travel. I’m lucky enough to travel to Europe regularly for my work. I grew up in Hong Kong and travelled around Asia as a child for my dad’s work. So there was a real international feel at our wedding. We had guests from all over the world, which was amazing.

How/where/when did you meet – and what were your first impressions?
Harriet: We actually went to the same secondary school in Bristol, so we’ve known ‘of’ each other since we
were about 13 years old. It wasn’t quite love at first sight. We first got together when being introduced by mutual friends in a rather questionable club in Bristol. Hugo then quite quickly went off to University, and was travelling back and fourth to Hong Kong, so we did long-distance for the first few years of our relationship. 12 years later – here we are!
My first impression of Hugo when we first properly met (rather than the odd encounter in our younger years) was that he was quietly confident. He wasn’t the loudest in the group and I found that endearing. He was also kind – he was the one taking care of his friends after they’d had a few too many on a night out. I could tell he was extremely trustworthy and reliable, right from the outset. It didn’t hurt that he was also tall and handsome!

Hugo: Other than thinking she was the most beautiful person in the room and admiring her dance moves, I was struck by how down-to-earth she was.

When did you first realise that this was someone you’d like to spend the rest of your life with?
Harriet: I think I knew I couldn’t imagine my life without Hugo pretty quickly. Doing long-distance in the early years of our relationship meant we had a good amount of independence but always made time for each other. Saying goodbye at the end of a short weekend together was always really hard – absence really did made the heart grow fonder. I think we both benefitted from having separate lives, especially given we were so young, but I always longed for the time we could live in the same city. That time came when I moved to London after university and I knew then that I wanted us to live together as soon as we could. That was the natural next step in our relationship and I knew I wanted to be with Hugo for the rest of our lives. We would talk about our future together and both agreed we didn’t need to take the traditional route of marriage, family etc. We had such a long history together already, that just being on the same page about our future was enough – we didn’t need the marriage certificate to prove it. As time went on though, the idea of marriage did blossom in my mind and I thought making that commitment official would be great to do one day. I think Hugo knew that too, but he decided to throw me off the scent by feeding me stories about how he didn’t want to get married and ‘didn’t see the point’. This was him pulling the ‘Chandler’ move – if you’ve watched Friends, you’ll know what I’m talking about! It was a risky tactic but it paid off because I was pretty surprised when he did eventually propose.

Hugo: It was early on. We were in Hong Kong during Harriet’s gap year; we were there for a week together before she went off to Fiji to join her friends and travel for a few months. I remember taking her to the airport to catch her flight to Fiji. Saying goodbye for what would be months was really hard. It’s a massive cliché but I remember watching her go through Security and thinking I don’t want to have to say goodbye again. That was it for me.

Was there a proposal? Tell us a little about it…
Harriet: It was over my birthday in November 2021. We’ve created a tradition of spending my birthday weekend down in Salcombe in Devon. It’s a really special place to both of us. We were staying at Gara Rock hotel for the first time and the proposal happened on a Sunday. After breakfast, we set out on a walk along the South West Coast Path. It was a really beautiful day – sunny, cold and crisp. We stopped to take in the view and sat on the edge of the cliff for a bit. I do remember thinking that Hugo was really quiet… I was talking about something and he just wasn’t responding. I recall catching him talking to himself under his breath – in hindsight, he was practicing what he was going to say. We got up from that spot on the cliff and I suggested we head back, but Hugo insisted we climb down to the nearby beach. It was a pretty remote beach and not overly accessible – when I say ‘climb down’ we really did have to climb/abseil on a rope part of the way down. I thought it was odd that he was so adamant we go down there. When we got to the bottom, we walked along the sand with the waves lapping gently. It was so beautiful and we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Hugo offered to take a photo of me and told me to walk towards the sea with my back turned to him. I obliged and set off into the waves. Luckily I was wearing wellies but when I got ankle-deep in the water, I turned around to see if he’d got the shot yet, and there he was… kneeling half in the water with a ring. He said some beautiful things and then asked me to marry him. I jumped to hug him and nearly knocked the ring out of his hand into the sea – good job he had a steady grip on it! I was completely surprised and to be honest, it was all a bit of a blur. I remember us sitting on the beach in amazement and just taking it all in together – the setting and the moment.

On the walk back to the hotel I think I asked Hugo a thousand questions, grilling him about what he’d been planning. He mentioned that the ring he’d given me wasn’t the actual engagement ring, which I was very surprised at as it was an incredible eternity band from Cartier. He said this was a promise ring and that we’d go and pick out an engagement ring together. Turns out he had been listening to me all those months earlier when I hinted about wanting to pick out my own ring! On the way back, we called our parents to share the news, then our siblings. We didn’t share it with anyone else for the first 24 hours because we just wanted to soak in the moment between us. The following day we started sharing the exciting news with our friends, which was so special.

Tell us about the vision you had for the mood or style of your wedding…
Harriet: After the engagement and before we checked out of Gara Rock hotel, we had been talking about what an incredible place it would be to get married. I always knew I wanted to get married in Devon or Cornwall, having grown up in the area, and Salcombe meant something to us as a couple, so Hugo was also keen. For me, there was no time like the present – before we left to travel back to London, I made a very impromptu appointment with the hotel’s event manager. She was amazing and saw us so last minute, and shared all the details about their wedding offering. In our hearts, we knew it was perfect, but we’d only just got engaged and needed to explore other options too. We looked into a number of other venues in the South West, which were all beautiful, but we always compared them to Gara Rock. Not only was it the place we got engaged, but it’s a truly incredible setting and everything from the décor to the service was exceptional. It just had the exact feel we wanted to create – sophisticated and stylish but untraditional and a bit different. Every time I thought of the style I wanted, I thought of the interiors at the hotel – it all just fit.

From that point on, I knew we had an incredible backdrop and starting point for the mood of the wedding. We agreed we didn’t want a religious ceremony and that we wanted to keep it fairly modern, whilst maintaining certain traditions. Given it was going to be in Autumn, I knew I wanted to embrace the moody Autumn colour palette – I had a vision of lots of rusty oranges, terracottas and blush pinks, complemented by stormy greys and forest greens. This was the basis of our flower choices and extended into the rust bridesmaids dress, Hugo’s amazing green suit and the ties for the Groom party.

I knew I wanted the wedding to feel really stylish and sophisticated but not too formal. Hugo and I wanted the vibe of the wedding to feel like a really special party. We wanted everyone to have fun and didn’t want anything to feel stuffy or overly traditional. We booked an amazing band who we knew would deliver the party atmosphere, and even had percussion instruments dotted around guests’ seats for use in the ceremony song – this really set the tone for the vibe of the day and we had some lovely comments from our guests around how refreshing the whole feel of the wedding was.

Tell us about your main outfits, what was unique, is there a story?
Harriet: I had two dresses – my main dress was the very first dress I tried on. It was a gorgeous Alexandra Grecco gown that I found at Lovely Bride London. I knew I wanted something modern and simple, and I didn’t want any lace. As it was a November wedding, I also liked the idea of having sleeves to avoid the need for a jacket. When I first tried on the dress, I loved it – it was so clean and simple but had these really cool sleeves that added a bit of interest. I also loved the shape – it was flattering without being too tight or figure-hugging and I felt really good in it. Because it was my first one though, I didn’t want to commit too early, so I went on to have several more appointments and tried on about 20 dresses in total. I compared every one to that first one though, which I knew was a sign it was my favourite.

After I’d settled on it and bought it, I had a series of summer weddings where I was quickly reminded how hot and sweaty it could get on the dancefloor. Knowing we’d be on the dancefloor all night once the band started, I thought it would be a bit hot to stay in my long sleeved dress, so begun the search for a second dress to wear in the evening. I had a few attempts at finding the right one, but eventually came across the Retrofete number. I loved that it was in keeping with the ‘simple’ style of my first dress, but also had some glam sparkle which felt appropriate for the evening.

In terms of jewellery, I’ve always loved CompletedWorks and liked that they offered something for modern brides. I love gold hoops and liked that I could stay true to my everyday style but in a more elevated way. I also wore a beautiful ring borrowed from my mum, which was my Grandmother’s engagement ring. As she’d passed a few years earlier, it was so special feeling like I had a piece of her there. I also borrowed a gorgeous bracelet from my mother-in-law which was a gift to her from her husband – I felt very honoured to wear it.

Hugo: I knew I wanted something a bit different for my suit. I liked the idea of having a bit of texture, and the green Loro Piana material we found at Cad & The Dandy was perfect. It was made-to-measure and the tailors did an incredible job. The hardest bit was finding a suit for the groomsmen that went with it, and with the rust-coloured bridesmaids’ dresses, and was in keeping with the colour scheme – Harriet was strict about that! Eventually we found a greige suit, also at Cad & The Dandy, which was perfect. We also chose rust ties to match the bridesmaids’ dresses, which worked really nicely.

A surprise for Harriet was the addition of the t-shirt I wore on my stag do, that had her face printed all over it. A gift from my stags. I threw it over the top of my shirt at about 11pm and appeared on the dancefloor, much to Harriet’s (and all the guests) surprise. By that point, the colour scheme didn’t matter any more!

Ceremony + Reception Location, Catering & Beverages: Gara Rock, @gararockhotel / Photographer: The Unbridled, @the_unbridled__ / Videographer: Soby Films / Celebrant: Devon Registration Service / Band & DJ: ALR Music, @alrmusic / Magician: The Crooked Croupier, @crookedcroupier / Photobooth: Mobile Photo Booth / Styling: Fern Godgrey Weddings, @ferngodfreyweddings / Planner: Fern Godgrey Weddings, @ferngodfreyweddings; Gara Rock, @gararockhotel / Hire: Glas Events, @glas.events / Marquee: Hatch Marquee Hire / Flora: Miranda Hackett Flowers, @mirandahackettflowers / Cake: Blossom & Bee Vegan Bakehouse, @blossomandbeebakehouse / Stationery: Lilac & White, @lilacandwhite / Registry: The Wedding Shop / Guest Favours: Candles from Ruth Mastenbroek, @ruthmastenbroekperfume / Bride’s Wedding Dress: Alexandra Grecco, @alexandragrecco via Lovely Bride, @lovelybridelondon / Groom’s Suit: Loro Piana, @loropiana via Cad and the Dandy, @cadandthedandy / Ring/s: McKenna Jewels, @mckennajewels / Shoes: Emmy London, @emmylondonofficial / Earrings: Completed Works, @completedworks / Bag: Isla Risa, @isla.risa / Makeup + Hair: The Pop Up Salon, @the_pop_up_salon / Fragrance: Ruth Mastenbroek / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Ghost / Groomsmen’s Suits: Cad and the Dandy