Sonja Gets Married! (Part 2)

The couple: Sonja Stephen and James Willn
Length of engagement: 2 months | Wedding date: Part Two – December 9th 2016
Wedding venue: Marina Island, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
Photographer: Goldfish Photography

We met… We met at a Flywheel class here in Dubai…while both dressed in lycra and covered in sweat! It took around seven months from our first little conversation on our indoor bikes to our first date, because of situations we were both in. But the first date when it did finally happen was perfect and the rest, as they say is…

 Dubai Wedding Venue

Our proposal… We had both of our wedding dates (our actual church wedding in September and our big December wedding) booked around two months before we actually got engaged, which meant the proposal was never really going to be that much of a surprise – but I wouldn’t change that for the world! Obviously I always knew it was coming, but never knew exactly when. I woke up one morning to hear James busying himself in the kitchen. He called me and sat me down in front of a beautiful breakfast…and then he got down on one knee and ahhhhhh. It was just us and our beautiful cat (who is no longer with us, big sniff), at home, being us. It was perfect for me.

 Dubai Real Wedding Sonja - ring

Jimmy Choo Shoes Dubai

Our wedding theme/colours… I wanted a vintage-y theme as that was the theme that best suited my dress and the venue, but I didn’t want the theme to be really full on. I am very much less is more, so everything was quite simple. We had wooden barrel cocktail tables, the stationery was recycled cardboard, the table flowers were in a collection of different vintage-style small vases, there was a wooden ladder for guests to peg advice notes to and the whole island was lit up with beautiful fairy lights. The flowers were white and different shades of dusky pink to match the bridesmaids’ dresses.

Welcome Sign

Vintage decor

My dress…  My dress was by Eliza Jane Howell, the same designer as my first/September wedding dress. I fell in love with them both as soon as I saw them in the Boutique in London. Like my first wedding dress, it was bespoke and I really like the fact that no one else will ever wear exactly the same dress. I’m not a long dress wearer at all. I don’t really like them and they don’t suit me so it took a lot for me to choose a long dress for the big wedding. I did and do love the December dress, the beading and detail were incredible, but my favourite is definitely the short dress I wore for our actual wedding day in September. I kind of wish I had changed into the shorter dress in the evening – it would have made all of the dancing a lot easier!
Dubai Wedding dress

Wedding Dress - Dubai wedding 

My hair and make-up… The fab Hannah Lisa from Hannah Lisa Make-up did my make-up again for this wedding, just as she had for the September wedding. I had worked with her a few years ago when I was a magazine Editor so knew how great she was and that I could trust her to do a fab job. Because this was more of a wintery wedding and my theme was a bit vintage AND because I knew it wasn’t my proper, proper, proper wedding day, I went for red lips rather than the subtle light pink I had in September.

My hair, again, was left to my hairdresser George from JetSet.

Both Hannah and George did a fabulous job of getting me ready, but our Big Wedding Day was actually the most windy day I had ever known in Dubai, so that meant as soon as I stepped outside my hair looked like I had been dragged through a bush backwards…that was when it wasn’t being whipped across my face by the gales. It was pretty hard to find a picture where at least one person didn’t have a face full of hair!

My poor veil was constantly on the verge of being blown off and swept away…so while I had always hoped to be a serene bride walking down the aisle on a beautiful island, instead I was a squinting and holding onto my veil for dear life, while also trying to remove strands of hair from my mouth as I approached my Groom! flowers white roses

His suit… James wore a three-piece navy suit from Ted Baker. He’d been at Dubai Mall until almost 10 pm the night before our September wedding getting it and had always planned to wear it for both of our special days.

Groom Suit 

What our bridal party wore… My Matron of Honour and Bridesmaid both wore the same dress from Monsoon. I know, I couldn’t believe it either! I saw the dress when I was back home in the UK in the summer to collect my own wedding dress and knew it would be perfect. I was never keen on the idea of a bridesmaid dress and did think I would struggle, but I think the Monsoon dress was perfect for our theme and was quite a good match for my dress. They were a lovely dusky pink colour and had a tiny bit of a vintage feel. I got both of the girls a diamante hair clip to accessorise their dresses and that was all they had. My flower girl also had a dress from Monsoon and my Paige Boy wore a three-piece navy suit (to match the Groom) from M&S.

Dubai Real Wedding Sonja - Bridesmaids

Dubai Real Wedding Sonja - bridesmaids

Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club UAE

Our ceremony and/or celebrant… We had a bit of a ‘celebrant nightmare’ the week of the wedding. Talk about adding to the stress! We got married at Christ Church in Jebel Ali so we had planned to use one of the Reverends from there for our December Blessing…but about three days before the December wedding day we couldn’t agree on a service. The Reverend would only provide a blessing service which meant he would refer to us instantly as ‘ man and wife’ and reference ‘our wedding day’. I fully understand the laws in Dubai and understood we had already had our wedding day in September which was witnessed by 20 of our very close family and friends. But we didn’t want a blessing! Our extended family had travelled miles to see us get married, not to see us be blessed. We felt so strongly about that, so we decided to change plans and find our own celebrant.

As soon as I met Toni Bloodworth-Barker I knew she was going to be fantastic…and she was! She carried out a wonderful, lovely and warm ceremony which was personalised for us. We had readings from both my brother and one of James’s sisters too and the whole service was exactly what we had in mind. I couldn’t recommend Toni more.

Dubai Wedding Ceremony

Dubai Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Celebrant Dubai
Dubai Wedding Ceremony

Dubai Wedding Ceremony

We chose our photographer because… I’d heard great things about Goldfish Photography and in comparison to other photographers, their pricing was great. I’m really happy with the images.

Wedding UAE

Dubai Wedding photographers

We chose our venue because… I was a guest at a friend’s (Hi Helen Farmer!) wedding there a couple of years ago and I fell in love with the venue. We did consider perhaps a Dubai Golf Club but nothing compared to the Island. I showed James pictures and he instantly loved it too. The fact that it’s so private and has the most beautiful surroundings help to make the day even more special.

Dubai Wedding Venue Decor

Dubai Wedding Venue Decor

Dubai Real Wedding decore theme

Our menu… I was so happy with the food! I was initially a bit anti the buffet style dinner option, but we knew being on an Island it was definitely the best choice. It meant everyone could eat (hot food!) at the same time without having to wait for it to be served and it also meant everyone could eat as much of whatever they wanted. The venue offered us a choice of menus, but we chose the BBQ option which included a whole host of things (all delicious!) including Lamb chops, steak, chicken kebabs, Thai red chicken curry, salmon nicoise, seared beef and rocca salad…so many people commented on the food, telling us how good it was and I was very happy because the chef made lots of gluten and dairy free options which meant I (and a few other intolerant guests) could enjoy yummy dishes too.

Wedding Menu

Tablescape Wedding planning

Dubai Real Wedding

Our honeymoon… We haven’t been on our actual honeymoon yet. We’ve had a few wonderful staycations, but the honeymoon is finally getting close! We’re off to LA and Palm Springs and both can’t wait. I have great friends who live in LA – they actually made the trip to Dubai for the wedding which meant the world. We’ve wanted to go and visit them for a while so we thought this was the perfect opportunity.

Dubai Real Wedding

Bridesmaid dresses

dubai wedding reception

My favourite part of the wedding day… Honestly, I loved it all so much it’s hard to pick just one part. There was a moment when I looked out from the top table and saw so many of our amazing friends and family sat out there in front of me and I felt so happy. But I think if I had to pick one thing, it would be the band! Tim Hassall and his band made our wedding! From the minute they started playing every single guest was on the dancefloor and none of us stopped all night! At one point I got persuaded to start a little conga with a girlfriend and when I turned around every single one of the guests had joined in. A wedding conga! There’s actually video footage which still makes me laugh out loud. To see everyone having such a great time was fantastic. It’s what we wanted, so we’re pretty happy…and we can’t thank Tim enough. He’s a fantastic musician and entertainer and we desperately want to have another party of some kind so we can book him again!

Wedding cake

Wedding Party

My piece of advice for other brides… Will every little detail you spent ages planning and arranging all go without a hitch? Absolutely not. Will there be little stresses on the day? Yes. Will any of it matter and will anyone else notice? NOT AT ALL! So much of my planning went out of the window! I’ve seen so many images of brides getting ready and looking all happy and calm – mine wasn’t like that at all! But did I have an amazing day? YES! It was fantastic from start to finish and I’m pretty sure I was the only person who knew any of the stuff had ‘gone wrong’. So be prepared for little glitches, realise they really don’t matter and just enjoy it all. Every minute. Every bride says this, but the day goes so fast. Make time to just stop and look around and to appreciate how wonderful it is that all of those people are there celebrating with you because they love you.

MUSIC: Tim Hassall

SOUND/LIGHTING: Mramez events

FURNITURE: Innovative Hiring


FLOWERS: Firenze Flora

PHOTOGRAPHER: Goldfish Photography


CAKE: Cupncakes

HAIR: JetSet

MAKE-UP ARTIST: Hannah Lisa MakeUp

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The girls at weddingsonline

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