Getting married in Marrakech last September was probably one of the best weeks of my life. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is as special as everyone says it’s going to be, and I don’t believe this is effected by the scale, location or anything else cosmetic about your big day. It’s down to having all of your loved ones surrounding you as you share one of the most intimate moments of your life.
I’ve gone back and forth with whether to do a feature on our wedding for so long, but now it literally just comes down to wanting to share my experience as a bride as well as the beautiful outcome of our sunset wedding.
I’ll do my best to break this feature up into all of the elements that came down to creating our wedding, and I’ll also share some of my lessons learned and tips for all my fellow brides.
Photography by James at Chasewild
I often get asked ‘Why Marrakech?’ and the short answer to this, is that a friend of mine told me to look into it as an option as it was affordable. Jenai and I had spent the first year of our engagement completely undecided about where to opt for. We both wanted a destination wedding, and my private Pinterest board was a collective of locations such as Italy, the South of France, Zanzibar, Paris, Thailand and finally, Marrakech.
It was a roller coaster ride, but Marrakech was the only destination we ended up booking flights to go and scope out locations in, we Googled ‘Marrakech Wedding Planners’ emailed Boutique Souk to make an appointment and as soon as we met the team and saw the first venue they showed us, we were 100% sold on Marrakech as a destination.
Having a destination wedding means a lot of logistical work for your guests, you should send save the dates out at least a year in advance to give them plenty of time to book flights, and always bear in mind different financial restrictions for everyone. Don’t be disappointed if some guests can’t make it. Marrakech was a great option for all of our UK guests as it’s a short plane ride away and if booked at least 6 months in advance, flights cost less than £100.
Le Palais Paysan was the first venue we viewed. We always wanted complete privacy for our wedding day, the last thing we pictured was getting married in a hotel where other guests could stumble upon the ceremony, and with Le Palais Paysan being a boutique hotel, it meant we could exclusively hire out the whole place as the accommodation for our guests as well as the venue and this guaranteed privacy. It also meant that our idea of having a BBQ/pool party the next day was easy to execute.
It’s so rare to find a boutique hotel which has such grand scale to the property, and not only were the grounds of Le Palais Paysan huge, but the views of the Atlas Mountains in the near distance were completely unspoilt.
Having all of your guests stay at the same place is a great idea, especially as it helps you organise transport simply, and it creates such an amazing buzz for the weekend, although not everyone opted to stay there, those who did had the best time, especially as the majority of our group of friends know each other, so it was kind of like one huge vacation for everyone.
ROYAL PALM MARRAKECH
When Jenai and I first visited Marrakech, we stayed at the stunning Royal Palm Marrakech and even after that short visit, I knew that it would be the hotel we booked for our stay during the wedding weekend, especially as it’s only a 15-minute drive to our venue.
We booked the beautiful Penthouse Suite for three nights and as well as this being a dreamy suite to stay in for your first night together as ‘husband and wife’, it was the perfect location for myself, my mum and the bridesmaids to get ready in, as it was huge. We had a private pool on the terrace, (some of the bridesmaids made use of that in between hair and makeup slots) and having all of that space meant that we didn’t get too anxious or feel stressed. My parents also opted to stay at Royal Palm, so organising my dad’s ‘First Look’ of me in my dress and transferring he and I to the venue, later on, was very simple. We used one of the hotels white Range Rovers to get us there, a great option considering the road to Le Palais Paysan is very rocky.
I can still feel those same butterflies sitting in that car with my dad as we made our way.
VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Once we had our date decided on and our venue booked we started scoping out for our creative team. I had seen a video of a previous wedding Boutique Souk had produced and was in love with the quality. I asked Rosena to put me in touch with the director, Jon from Happy Wedding Films, and I booked him immediately. The way he captures weddings is exactly what Jenai and I wanted, it’s non-linear and he has a very moody and romantic feel to his cinematography. Perfect for our Marrakech destination.
Through Jon, we were recommended to contact James, one-half of Chasewild. Although he is based in New Zealand, he was going to be in Europe over the dates of our wedding. After falling in love with the pictures on their website, which had a similar moody and sexy vibe to Jon’s work, we booked in James to capture our wedding day.
Our wedding video is a ‘Feature Film’ and is over 15 minutes long, but within that package, Jon includes a shorter ‘trailer’ which I’ve included below so you can see what some of our wedding looked like in motion.
Booking a photographer and videographer will take a big chunk out of your wedding budget. As well as their fees, you have to bear in costs for their travel and accommodation, so be sure to weigh all of that in when making your decision.
SAVE THE DATES & INVITES
Once we booked our venue, our photographer and videographer, it was finally time to invite our guests. Jenai and I decided on creating a website to act as our Save the Date. We mentioned all of the relevant information such as location, date, timings and the accommodation options and we had links to flights. We encouraged everyone who knew they’d be coming to book their flights well in advance. this way we knew their RSVP was for certain and they’d save some money by doing this in time rather than last minute.
For our wedding invite, Jenai and I knew we didn’t want something shop-bought. One of Jenai’s businesses is a design studio (Ego By Design) and we decided to create our own. We wanted the design to nod towards the feeling and vibe of the wedding, so we went for a scatter of gold foil to replicate the feeling of all of our candles and the fire-eater performance that was to be at the wedding. The outcome was so beautiful! We used a website called Dynamic Print who took our design and created a template from it to make all of the invites, and for the rest of our print such as menus, itineraries and our seating cards we used various websites such as Minted, Moo and Zazzle.
For our envelopes, I’m so lucky to have a very kind and talented bridesmaid, the lovely Carrie who addressed each one.
Printing can be expensive, especially in the UK. We opted to have as much as we could printed in the US and shipped over, there are so many more options and it’s not as pricey. You have to pay a little for customs but it’s worth it with what you save.
I woke up the morning of my wedding day without an alarm. I wanted to be completely relaxed and calm. I made sure to have a shower the night before because I knew I preferred second-day hair when styling it. I wore my gorgeous Agent Provocateur kimono, my ‘something borrowed’ from my dear friend and bridesmaid, Carrie and I was counting down the minutes to the bridesmaids and my mum arriving.
I ordered a huge breakfast for everyone and the girls changed into their matching pyjamas which I got from ASOS. Whilst they were enjoying their pastries, I surprised them all with gifts. I wanted to say thank you for being such great support systems throughout the whole process and the looks on their faces were priceless. I got them each their initial in the form of a beautiful pavé diamond necklace from Monica Vinader. I also made sure not to miss my mum out, she was overjoyed!
I was the last of the girls to get my hair and makeup done. I had a trial with Marian 6 months before and we decided on keeping my look very natural and not too dissimilar from my everyday makeup. I just wanted to look like the best version of myself, the last thing I wanted was to feel too done up. Thankfully I had my lash extensions done with Asma at Boudoir Lashes before travelling, so they were full and fluttery. There was no way I was risking wearing mascara and having it drip down my face with all the crying!
After hair and makeup was complete, I got dressed in the bedroom with my sister, whilst everyone waited in the living area. It all started to become very real. I remember being so eager to show my dad and get moving that I didn’t even look in the mirror to check my hair or how the veil fit! Seeing my dad’s face was one of my favourite moments from that day, he looked so proud and happy and it just made me feel amazing.
My darling sister then surprised me with the most beautiful wedding gift, a Bulgari white and gold ring which I haven’t taken off since! It matched my Lucy Folk earrings perfectly and was a great ‘something new’ for the day.
It didn’t even cross my mind to check my hair, see if my veil was on right or anything you’d normally do when getting ready for an event. My mind was just focused on getting to the wedding and seeing Jenai, so from one bride to another, make sure you take a few moments to yourself, calm your nerves and just making sure you’re composed. It will be the only time you have a chance to do that for the rest of the day.
I had four bridesmaids, which is a great number of girls to have because it’s just enough that you feel there’s a ‘bridal party’ and not too much that it’s overwhelming. They were made up of my sister, Natalya, a childhood family friend, Farah, Carrie (who you’ll all know if you follow our adventures around the world together), and one of mine and Natalya’s closest friends, Farrah.
The lead up to choosing their dresses consisted of endless photos and conversations shared on a WhatsApp group called ‘Bridesmaid Gang’ and was probably one of the most challenging tasks, regardless of the fact that I had a very clear vision for what I wanted them to look like. We all live in different cities so going to shop together wasn’t an option, so instead, we all scoured the internet with a colour theme in mind. I knew I didn’t want them to match, I wanted them to look and feel themselves but maintain the same sandy/dusty/gold hue to blend in with the wedding decor and venue.
I absolutely love the outcome of my girls, they all look effortless and super sexy.
My mum was probably everyone’s ‘best dressed’ at the wedding. She looked sensational in a beautiful red dress by Halston Heritage. I loved how much she stood out, she was truly the embodiment of ‘Mother of the Bride’.
When it comes to deciding who’s responsibility it is for purchasing bridesmaids dresses, I think, as a rule, it should be the responsibility of the bride if she’s dictating a very specific dress, but if you allow control over what they wear (bearing in mind colour themes), then bridesmaids are sometimes happy to purchase these themselves. Kind of depends on your group of girls.
THE GROOM & GROOMSMEN
Anyone who knows my husband knows that he is the most chill, casual guy on the planet. He hates dress codes and lives in black T’s, snapback caps and sneakers. So seeing him in a tux was one of the best moments for me. He looked amazing, his tux was custom made from Ben Lawrence. It took about 6 weeks to make all in all and he had utter control over each aspect of the process, so he loved it.
His best man/cousin, Jehrome, and our officiant for the wedding (who also happens to be one of our longest and dearest friends), JC, both wore suits from NEXT. They were so affordable and unbelievably sleek. The boys looked so dashing I was beside myself.
Ok, so this is the bit that, if you’re anything like me (a casual girl at heart), is the most daunting for all brides. Personally, my hunt for a dress was an absolute nightmare. My wedding was going to be at sunset, in the mountains, in Marrakech and the dress needed to be appropriate for that, but seemed non-existent.
I’ve always thought I knew exactly what I wanted to wear on my wedding day. I pictured something off-shoulder, fit and flare, off white and lace. I was very close to getting my vision custom made, but that process seemed impossible with my work and travel schedule last year. So, instead, I decided to go for off the rack.
I had about 5 major wedding boutique appointments, some in London, others in Dubai. During my last appointment, six months before the wedding day, I was back in Dubai and ready for another fitting at Esposa. I was about two hours in, 25 dresses later and ready to call it quits until my mum pulled out a long-sleeved, lace gown and it wasn’t until I tried it on and saw the look on hers, my sisters and one of my bridesmaids faces that I was sold.
My dress was by Inbal Dror, one of my favourite wedding dress designers. I could picture the beads and embellishment of my dress sparkling in the candlelight at our dinner table and I loved the embroidery on the back. It felt like it was made for Marrakech and was the complete opposite of what I had imagined, but somehow it was even better. It didn’t feel like an overpowering dress. It just felt like it was meant to be for my wedding. I was so happy to finally find it.
I opted for a cathedral length veil as I wanted something to finish off the look, but me being me, this didn’t even last on my head until dinner! I got rid of the veil whilst we were shooting some portraits, but the dress had so much beautiful design happening everywhere that it really didn’t need anything else at all.
My shoes were by Manolo Blahnik. I found them on sale during a trip to New York a few months before and they ticked off every box. Mules, low heel, metallic and embellishment and at 50% it was a no brainer.
This is another section of your budget that will quickly disappear. I spent a lot of money on my dress. At the time it was painful, it’s by far the most amount of money I have ever spent on a materialistic item but after discussing it with Jenai, we decided that something like this is only ever a one off. Have a budget in mind before you go and try on dresses because the prices might shock you if you’re not prepared.
THE WEDDING ITINERARY
When Jenai and I were discussing our ideas for the wedding with Boutique Souk, we kept the most important factor at the centre of all of our plans. Intimacy.
We wanted our wedding to feel relaxed, exotic and most importantly, romantic. Boutique Souk were absolutely outstanding with their services. I didn’t have to worry about a single aspect of our wedding production besides showing up. Having them as wedding planners was nothing short of an utter pleasure.
To make sure that we kept the romantic element to everything, I knew that I wanted us to get married during golden hour. Even if this meant that we’d have most of our dinner and party pictures taken at night. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make!
Because Le Palais Paysan has so many facades to its property, we could split up the wedding day into different areas and this really helped break up the day so guests didn’t feel like they were in one place for too long.
It started off with our vows ceremony underneath the olive groves at the front of the property, guests were welcomed with an iced tea or glass of champagne, and there were some cute animals placed in a little pen from the hotel’s farm, which added such a rustic feel to everything. After we exchanged vows, guests would be welcomed to a cocktail hour, held in the back gardens with the view of the mountains in the distance. This is when Jenai and I would shoot off to take our photos.
Our dinner table was completely hidden away from view. It was set up by the pool, accessible by a descending staircase meaning that until you reached a certain level, you wouldn’t be able to see it. So again, it was another reveal for our guests to experience and this is what we loved about the flow of the day, there was reveal after reveal for our guests to enjoy.
I arrived at the venue just after the bridesmaids, and from the distance, I could see all of our guests had been seated. Just typing this out is making me relive those nervous butterflies in my stomach. It was one of the most exciting moments. I was so happy my dad was by my side to help calm my nerves. I heard our processional music play and one by one my gorgeous bridesmaids walked down the aisle along with our beautiful niece, Polly who sprinkled rose petals from a raffia basket.
My dad kept telling me to calm down as tears were already streaming down my face, but I couldn’t help it, it was so emotional. As soon as I got to the bottom of the aisle, I broke tradition and hugged Jenai, it just felt like the right thing to do. Our best friend, JC was the officiant, and this was one of the best decisions we ever made. It allowed our vow exchange to be as personable as can be, he would share anecdotes about our relationship and it was just a ceremony full of laughter and happy tears.
Boutique Souk created the most stunning circular arch for us and I’m so pleased we ended up opting for something a little different.
If you have anyone in mind to officiate your wedding, don’t hold back. Just do it! For us, it was an easy decision because our legal wedding had already been done a week before, so this was purely symbolic and it felt so much nicer sharing this moment with a friend rather than a stranger. Plus it will save you a bit of money too!
POST CEREMONY & PORTRAITS
After we said ‘I do’, we were whisked away to begin our portrait session with our photographer. Guests were directed to an olive tree with ribbons hanging low, each holding a name card and seat number. I loved the idea of doing something other than traditional table charts, plus it looked beautiful in the wind and was a real conversation piece. They were then taken through the arch of Le Palais Paysan to enjoy cocktails with a view.
Leaving your guests to take photos is going to be the hardest bit. We capped our session at about 45 minutes as we really didn’t want to pull a disappearing act on everyone, and as important as it is to make sure you capture beautiful moments together, I think it’s equally as important to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy everything you’ve been looking forward to for so long.
When you book your photographer and you have your initial meeting with them. Be prepared with a list of images that you 100% want him or her to capture. Whether that’s specific family members, shots of you with your dress and veil laid out in a particular way or moments from the wedding that you definitely want snapped. That way, nothing will be left out. Trust me, on the actual day, all of your previous thoughts about specifics are completely absent and you’re just focusing on having a good time, so prep in advance, that way everyone has a clear understanding.
After cocktails, our guests were escorted to the dinner table. As Jenai and I had such a small wedding, we only wanted one long table for dinner. We had 48 guests in total so there was no need to split everyone up. I loved the idea of everyone sharing the same space and the outcome was so intimate.
For so long I always thought I’d want a white themed wedding but once I found the dress, everything changed. I knew it had to have some colour injected into it and Rosena from Boutique Souk agreed. We decided on hues of pinks and reds mixed with lots of foliage and candles absolutely everywhere. There were lanterns strung from the trees behind us, huge raffia lanterns on the other side of the pool and fair lights placed on the way down from the stairs, it was everything I had imagined and more.
Once guests were escorted down, me and Jenai had a moment to ourselves to take it all in before making our entrance as husband and wife and it’s one of the most vivid memories I have from that day. I remember just feeling blown away by this view of this dinner table, the sun setting in the background made everything glow even more and of course, I started crying again! My makeup was for sure ruined by this point, but who cares?
We walked into everyone cheering and made our way to our seats. Our dinner courses began coming out and they were delicious. We decided on a mezze of Moroccan salads to start, leg of lamb for mains and a trio of desserts to finish up. We also had a tiered dessert table by the dance floor filled with macaroons, french pastries and fresh fruit for guests to help themselves.
ENTERTAINMENT & MUSIC
After speeches, we had one more surprise for our guests. We had booked fire-eaters to perform. The show was so much fun and it really set the mood for the party.
Once the performance was over, Jenai and I cut our cake and had our first dance. I just remember feeling like no one else was there and then all of a sudden all of the confetti bombs went off!
Deciding on music was the biggest challenge. Jenai was adamant he didn’t want a DJ and he had created the mother of all playlists which included the tracks for every single moment of our wedding. From the arrival music, recessional, cocktail hour music, first dance and party tracks, it was hours and hours long and so epic! I couldn’t believe he pulled it off and the flow was perfect. I’ve listed a few of the tracks at the end of the post if you’d like to hear some of what we had playing.
I had the most fun with my friends, family and husband that night. Zero fucks were given about how I looked, how much I was ruining my dress or anything else. We danced the night away until I couldn’t stand up anymore and sometime in the middle of the night, we finally made our way back to our huge bed at Royal Palm, only to wake up the next morning, ready for round two with our BBQ and pool party!
I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading this post. It’s by far the longest thing I have ever written and it’s taken me forever to put together but I’ve really enjoyed sharing all the details with you, and to any brides-to-be reading this, I hope it answers some questions or gives you some inspo. I wish you the happiest of wedding days!
JUST A FEW TRACKS FROM THE DAY
ARRIVAL: Al Green ‘You Are So Beautiful’.
PROCESSIONAL: Michael Giacchino ‘There’s No Place Like Home’
RECESSIONAL: Sade ‘By Your Side’
COCKTAILS: Robin Thicke ‘Lost Without You’
DINNER MUSIC: Instrumental versions of popular songs, such as Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’
CUTTING OF THE CAKE: Etta James ‘At Last’
FIRST DANCE: Sam Cooke ‘Nothing Can Change This Love’