Fiona & Rasmus


Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

I’m always delighted to get to share a wedding in a public social hall (why don’t we have more of these on the site??) because it can be scary, in the world of stunningly perfect wedding venues, to tackle making a plain hall beautiful. But Fiona tells us, “It cost an incredible £11 an hour but has a slightly scary yellow and green decor and an MDF stage at the front. It wasn’t the castle or beautiful barn my ten year old self had imagined, but when we walked in to the hall behind our piper (we had a piper!) I literally gasped because the place had been transformed with candles, paper hearts and the most enticing display of food  you ever saw!” So ladies getting married in your church social hall, have faith. And for the rest of you, Fiona’s tale of a wedding that spans multiple countries, and is deeply infused by faith, is wise and wonderful.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

My husband and I have been married for nearly eighteen months, which feels like a long time but is apparently still short enough that people will ask me ”how is married life?” I assume they won’t keep asking this in ten, twenty, thirty years (although maybe they should).

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

I’ve been reading APW since before I was married but it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing this. Which is somewhat ironic since I still love to talk about our wedding day to anyone who is foolish enough to ask me about it. But eighteen months has given me a different perspective on our wedding day. The truth is, I still think about our wedding a lot, because even though we were committed to each other before that day, the public declaration of that commitment in front of the people we loved most and our church family solidified it in my mind, made it tangible and real in a unique way, and I see that played out in all the little moments of marriage every day.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

Rasmus is Danish; I am half English, half Scottish. We met in Brussels in Belgium three years ago on a sunny, May afternoon and were engaged within a year. We kept our engagement secret for two months so that I could meet his family (who live on a remote island in the Baltic Sea) without the additional pressure of the fiancée label and then had a mere four months to plan a two-country wedding. My husband quickly kicked into project manager mode, complete with multiple excel spreadsheets, and we managed to pull everything together without a great deal of stress, few tears and very few fights. I was so very grateful to him for being so wonderfully organised, and to our brilliant families for all their hard work.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

Our first big decision was where to hold the wedding. Our lives together are here in Brussels where we met, live, work, and worship, but our cultures and families made us who we are and we wanted to honour that. In the end, we decided on two events: the wedding ceremony took place in my home church in a small village in Oxfordshire, England, followed by an afternoon tea reception and then a private dinner for our immediate family in the evening; a week later we threw a huge party in Brussels for all our mutual friends, and a whole bunch from Denmark, the UK and even the USA, who flew in for the celebration.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

The decision to do two events was made for practical reasons but it was probably the best decision we made. Our wedding lasted a whole week from our wonderfully fun, multilingual prep day to the morning-after brunch at our flat for all the out-of-towners (45 turned up!) eight days later, and I got to savour every moment with my new husband and our precious friends and family.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

We are both committed Christians – we met at our church here in Brussels – and our thoughts about the significance of marriage are informed by our faith. The church believes that the marriage covenant is a sacred picture of the relationship between God and his people. As our pastor put it so beautifully in his talk at the wedding, we are meant to be ambassadors through our marriage of the faith we hold to. We loved this idea that through our hospitality, our generosity, the way we serve our city and those in need, through our acceptance of everyone, our love for the outcast, our creativity, our work, our commitment – the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for. I think this idea works for everyone, whatever your faith or beliefs.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

The main thing I learnt through the whole process? I think most of you would agree with us that it’s important to make your wedding your own, and not to feel obliged to include or exclude something according to what is tradition, or your friends’ and family’s opinion. Our wedding was a mix of both our cultures and our life together in Belgium and was also true to our beliefs and values. All of this made it feel authentically us. But what I learnt is that it is also important to realise it is impossible for this one day (or even a week!) to entirely represent or symbolise everything about who you are as individuals and a couple. We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

You can do a lot with a little. We hired our village hall for the afternoon tea. It cost an incredible £11 an hour but has a slightly scary yellow and green decor and a MDF stage at the front. It wasn’t the castle or beautiful barn my ten year old self had imagined, but when we walked in to the hall behind our piper (we had a piper!) I literally gasped because the place had been transformed with candles, paper hearts and the most enticing display of food (all home made by my wonderful mother) you ever saw! And once everyone behind us had come in and filled the room with laughter and chat, it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

I also realised how important it was to be surrounded by this incredible community of supporters who loved us. In the Church of England wedding service, the congregation is invited to promise that they will support and uphold us in our marriage and it was a thrilling moment to hear them respond with one voice that echoed up to the high beams of the church!

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

A dear old vicar who attends my home church had made the effort to be there despite being incredibly frail, and to see him standing up out of his wheelchair with the support of his wife as we exited the church to honour us was incredibly moving. There were so many of these moments throughout the days, with family, friends and our church and it’s what made us even more sure that our marriage will last and be strong, because we have this wonderful community willing to love us, teach us and walk each step with us.

Fiona & Rasmus | A Practical Wedding

Photos by: Andy Rous

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  • http://quiltonthetracks.posterous.com Margaret M.

    Yes! This kind of venue is exactly what I recommend to my friends/coworkers planning big weddings on small budgets. For some reason that seems to make people so sad, which frustrates me a lot.

    “And once everyone behind us had come in and filled the room with laughter and chat, it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.”

    This is the best.

    Many congratulations!

    • Belle

      I have exactly-ed this but I just have to add how much I really love that sentence from your post Fiona. I have no idea where or what my venue will be but, really, you said it best. No matter where it is, as long as it is filled with love, laughter and family, it will be the most beautiful place on earth. Thank you for reminding me of that!

  • Cass

    I will also be having a church +social hall reception. It’s so eminently practical. The price is right, for one, it’s EXTREMELY convenient, for the other.
    Not only do our guests have to walk a mere 20 feet to the hall after the wedding ceremony, but there is free parking (in the middle of downtown – unheard of!), we can choose our own catering AND bring our own choice of alcohol.
    There is plenty of space for everyone we ever wanted to invite.
    Why don’t we have more of these weddings on APW? I’d love to see how other people handle this kind of “diamond in the rough”?
    With 4 weeks to go until my own wedding, transforming such a bare space has been a challenge. But I whole-heartedly stick by this decision; it was one of the easiest to make (“winning, duh!”)

    • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

      I think part of the fun of a bare space is the transformation you can bring to it; i’ve seen a few great examples of when an ok space turns into an amazing space through people just showing up and bringing their talents and wearing their “ok, let’s do this!” hats. And they have fun whilst doing it too!

    • Noemi

      I am also having a social hall reception, but there will actually be two receptions for our single ceremony. My father is a minister, so we are inviting the entire congregation to the wedding, but for the evening reception immediately following the wedding ceremony, we can only invite family- this reception will take place at a golf course’s restaurant. The next day, Sunday, directly after the worship service, the entire congregation will move downstairs for a casual luncheon reception.

      I have had so many events and attended so many events in that social hall– our church members’ graduation and confirmation parties (including my own), bridal showers (including my own), congregational dinners, even a wedding reception– and now I get to add my wedding celebration to said event list. Yay!

  • Joan

    “We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.”

    Yes! Thank you for this. We are in the midst of planning our wedding, and I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the great ideas we have for making the day really represent us. Remembering that we will have our whole marriage to live out who we are is so wise.

    We are also not having a super-fab outdoor wedding but instead will have our ceremony and reception in a big church hall/sanctuary mostly because it’s so darn affordable. It sounds like you all really made that space work for you, and, again, you’re so right, I’m sure once all our loved ones are there together with us, it’ll be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

    Thank you for this post, and congratulations!!

    • carrie

      I copied the same text out to say THANK YOU. I needed someone to say that. I am a keeper of quotes and of song lyrics, and forever I have thought that our wedding day was the best place to put these things into decor or table numbers or…SOMEthing. But it’s just not possible. I thought the other day that maybe I could work them into art around the house, but not having them in the wedding has been nagging at me. So I really needed this.

      Beautiful post and wedding day, thank you for sharing and congratulations!

    • Manya

      “We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.”

      I love this statement.

      While our wedding will be aesthetically pleasing and layered with fun details (cuz that’s how I roll, and it’s fun for me) I also had an epiphany that no combination of details could ever sufficiently honor our marriage. It was somehow liberating to realize that no party or ceremony could ever be special enough to fully reflect how much we love each other or capture how deeply we value our relationship. That realization helped me to make smarter choices about what to include and what to cut to save money.

      For every single item in our weddings we have the option of upgrading to the finest… and the emotional ploy of the marketers is: “Isn’t your relationship special enough to DESERVE the finest?!” OF COURSE IT IS! But when I realized that even the finest of everything still wouldn’t be enough to represent the miracle of finding MY PERSON, when I realized that my marriage transcends the “finest”; I felt a sense of peace. The best way to honor my marriage beyond the party will come in the way I honor my husband and our life together through the beautiful details of the every day.

      • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

        I think you just put it even better than I did :)

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      This was something that really resonated with me as well. There are so many facets to two people and to a relationship as well, not to mention all of the ingenious and/or pretty and/or “why didn’t I think of that?!” things that you see incorporated into other celebrations, and it’s so hard not to try to cram everything into what we often think is the One and Only Time to Show Off Everything: The Wedding!!!

      It’s really refreshing, then, to realize that there will be a tomorrow, and a day after that. There will be plenty of time (God willing) to use these ideas and inspirations, not just for a wedding, but for a life. How well-put.

  • http://Cubicalmouse.blogspot.com Stephanie

    We are using the church social hall, too! :) The venue is free since my future father in law is a pastor. Decorating this hall is going to require much magic (magic that does not hang tulle off of everything). I think we will use a lot of homemade bunting.

    Congrats on your wedding! It looks marvelous and you both look exceedingly happy.

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    moved to tears by the frail vicor standing to honor you!! aaahhh.

    I think if you can get married in a church as gorgeous and charming as that, you could have your reception in a cardboard box and I’d never notice. I am a sucker for stone churches!

    may I ask WHAT is going on in that photo towards the end with your groom being restrained, with scissors involved..? ha.

    anyway! really sweet post, thanks for sharing. and congrats on a happy 18 months! :)

    • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

      I also want to hear about the scissors photo…

      • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

        It’s a Danish tradition… the men surround the groom at some point during the party and cut off his socks, tie and underwear! It was pretty much hilarious.
        However I have no idea why, and when I just called through to the other room to ask Rasmus why, he just shrugged and told me to google it… which I guess is proof that some wedding traditions are still worth doing even if there is no symbolic value in them at all! :)

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

      “moved to tears by the frail vicor standing to honor you!! aaahhh.”

      oh good, it’s not just me!

      vicars and stone churches and excel spreadsheets? this is my kind of wedding!

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    Such a lovely post. A favorite part: “But what I learnt is that it is also important to realise it is impossible for this one day (or even a week!) to entirely represent or symbolise everything about who you are as individuals and a couple. We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.” I’m definitely going to keep this in mind during the planning process. It’s great to think that you want a day that really expresses who you are as a couple, but it’s also good to know that things can still be meaningful and beautiful even without every single detail that you think needs to be there.

  • Salwa

    We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.

    YES!!!! Thank you for saying this!! With so much pressure from the wedding blogosphere to make a “unique” wedding that reflects you there is only so far you can go. A lovely post. Thank You.

  • Kashia

    “the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for. I think this idea works for everyone, whatever your faith or beliefs.”

    THIS. You have put into words an idea I’ve been trying to articulate for a while now. Thank you.

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      it took me about 18 months to be able to articulate it… you cannot believe how many wedding graduate drafts I have saved :)

  • Alison

    Fiona, this is a beautiful post which resonated with me for two main reasons… first practically, my fiance and I are having our reception in a community centre/village hall this summer. The decor is quite plain but it took me so long to “get over” the chairs, which are awful grey velour padded office chairs (I don’t know why!). In my mind we can transform the hall with flowers and candles but the chairs always stand out in my vision as being so ugly and My fiance said that if it mattered that much to me we could hire chairs but as soon as he said this I realised how ridiculous I was being: for 90% of the meal the chairs will be hidden beneath our beautiful family and friends who (as my mum pointed out) will be grateful for a bit of padding, velour or otherwise – your comment about the people you love making a place beautiful really cemented this in my mind – so thank you!

    Secondly, I loved what you wrote about not having to force everything you stand for into one day… it made me realise that I’ve gone a bit DIY/eco/vintage/locally sourced/travel-themed/kitsch/Welsh/Ghanaian/theatre/academia/English-theme mad and I can step back from all of the tissue paper and the craft knife and the bamboo cutlery for a minute and just breathe :)

    Finally, I totally agree with Cass – I’d love to see more grad posts from receptions held in local community centres/halls. I read a post on another blog the other day where the bride said something like “we were lucky enough to hire a designer to decorate the venue and I was determined to leave it up to her so that it would be a surprise for me when I walked into the room on the day”. If this does it for you then it’s wonderful that it’s an option but an absolutely key bonus of our village hall – for us – is that (at £12/hour) we can afford to hire it (and, crucially, it’s available!) the day before too. One thing I am MOST excited about for our wedding is the day before when both our families and a handful of our best friends are going to spend the day at the hall hanging bunting, setting up the tables, arranging the flowers, eating nice food and generally appreciating what a caring, talented and committed people we have around us. Also we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of people in the village who have offered to lend us things, help us, recommend the services of other lovely local people… it has really helped us to see the value of community centres and the sense of community they genuinely inspire.

    While it took the 10-year old inside a while to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t a castle, actually the local village hall/community centre has become more than just our reception venue. Planning our wedding has reminded us of all the different communities we belong to and value and this has set the tone of our wedding far more than any of the “themes” we’ve tried to incorporate in our decor.

    Hmmmmm, I’ve never commented on a post before… sorry if it’s waffley!
    A.

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

      Every time my sisters have gotten married it’s been in a semi-ugly hall that our family worked together the day before to make beautiful with tulle and candles and flowers and whatever they’d chosen. And they are lovely, magical, shiny places that day.

      But the best part? The day before of arranging tables and placing things around while music plays and we joke and mellow and interact.

      • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

        Yes! This is what I said above…everyone working together to create something out of not-so-much…that’s lovely

        AND the fact that church halls are usually free the day before and don’t charge you for it = actually awesome.

      • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

        “But the best part? The day before of arranging tables and placing things around while music plays and we joke and mellow and interact.”

        Ahhh, thank you! I’m hoping so much for this. This will make having to bring our own lighting, and chairs, and linens, and plates, and silverware, and glasses, and EVERY SINGLE FREAKING THING completely worth it!

      • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

        Yey! Oh I am so with you all on this :)
        We spent the day before decorating the church and the whole morning decorating the village hall together. It gave two families that had never met and didn’t share a language time to get comfortable together and break the ice. And my big tip is to break up the prep day with a huge pub lunch!!

        And Alison, your “DIY/eco/vintage/locally sourced/travel-themed/kitsch/Welsh/Ghanaian/theatre/academia/English-theme” comment made me laugh out loud!

    • Alison

      Ha! I just got an email from the guy who is renting the hall to us and he said that he’s been thinking and it doesn’t seem fair to charge us the full £12/hour rate for the Friday when it’s not technically the reception… so he’s charging us £12/hour between the hours of 3pm-midnight on the Saturday but everything before that he’s cut down to £4/hour! Seriously! What a guy! Community centres are the new castle! :)

      • lorna

        another community hall bride here- we were offered the same thing! church felt “mean and a bit penny pinching” charging us full rate so brought it down for prep the day before. we only have 2 hours though as they have mummy and baby yoga that day…

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com Jo

    The picture of you hiding your face during a toast, and of the cutting-of-the-(I assume) tag, those kill me. They’re just overrun with joy and personality and I want to curl up in it.

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      thank you!! the funny thing is it was the second time I’d heard the toast because he’d given it first at a private meal with just our immediate families. I should have been more prepared!

  • http://oversized-cliches.blogspot.com Zan

    As I was reading this, “We loved this idea that through our hospitality, our generosity, the way we serve our city and those in need, through our acceptance of everyone, our love for the outcast, our creativity, our work, our commitment – the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for.”

    I was all, yeah! That’s us! That’s what we think! And I was going to write a comment about what a beautiful idea that is and how it works for us even though we are not religious.

    And then I got to your next sentence, “I think this idea works for everyone, whatever your faith or beliefs.”

    Indeed. :)

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    I think the best thing about renting a less expensive venue is that most people really don’t care if it’s not fancy and everything perfectly matched. What matters is how much people enjoy themselves. We spent $400 on our venue, which happened to be in a barn, but the chairs were unattractive, there were wires in weird places (it’s used for small plays and things) and we had big white fans circulating air. No one cared, though… people still talk about our wedding and how much fun they had.

    Congratulations on a beautiful wedding and reception!

  • kristen

    this is my favorite. apw. post. ever.

    i love how marriage is SO much more than just about two people. it’s about “[the] idea that through our hospitality, our generosity, the way we serve our city and those in need, through our acceptance of everyone, our love for the outcast, our creativity, our work, our commitment – the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for.”

    thank you. this is what i needed to hear. :)

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

    I love how your friends & family filling the room with laughter & chatter turned your venue into the most beautiful place. I felt the exact same way. Congrats & best wishes~

  • http://www.aweightymix.com Danielle

    This is awesome. We totally had our wedding at a public bathhouse on the beach in Seattle. It saved us a ton of money in the long-run and it was absolutely beautiful, all because of the work everyone put in. Sure, it wasn’t in a fancy castle or barn or anything, like mentioned before, but it didn’t matter. All of the happiness and love and work people put into helping us create the wedding we wanted made it more beautiful than I could’ve ever imagined.

    Anyway, your wedding looks beautiful and I’m so happy this was posted because you can still have the most beautiful wedding, even in a hall or a backyard or wherever you are. Love and happiness is what makes it a beautiful day.

  • LV Anna

    “We loved this idea that through our hospitality, our generosity, the way we serve our city and those in need, through our acceptance of everyone, our love for the outcast, our creativity, our work, our commitment – the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for. I think this idea works for everyone, whatever your faith or beliefs.”

    This. Great words for a concept I’ve been struggling to articulate for a while now. Thank you!

  • http://fianceesarehumanstoo.tumblr.com/ fianceesarehumanstoo

    Fiona, I love the way you explain your faith and thoughts on marriage. It just puts it all a lot clearer for me what I’ll actually be doing when I stand up there to be wed and how it is so much bigger than I think it is most of the time. Of course getting married is good for me, but I’m hoping that it won’t end there; I’m hoping me being married will be a blessing for my friends, our community, our city. Cause I think seeing God’s love worked out in marriage; or any love worked out in action, does change things.

  • Carly

    Can I just say I LOVE your dress! So simple, so elegant – and I adore the buttons down the back. Gorgeous!

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      do you want it? :)

      • Carly

        What an incredibly sweet offer!! My goodness… I got married Sept. 18 – otherwise, I’d take you up on your offer in a heartbeat! My dress was very similar, actually (Paloma Blanca, ivory silk, style #3900). It didn’t have buttons down the back though, which I LOVE. You looked absolutely stunning! Now I wish I could get married again so I could wear your dress… ;-)

  • http://www.kellyandellen.org/house Ellen

    “We had so many ideas for our wedding that were never included. That’s ok. We have our whole marriage to live out and show people around us who we are and what we value.”

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! This is exactly my thoughts about our wedding and marriage. Thank you for putting it so beautifully…

    (This from another Anglican church ceremony + church hall reception bride…)

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    Can I just say that the second photo made me stop and just about made me cry because of the sense of the love between you guys? Beautiful…

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      Hi Jenny! *wave*
      It was a special moment. :)

  • JEM

    love.this.post.

  • Erin

    I am so happy to have found this site with posts like this that focus not on the wedding as a “style statement” but as what it should be: a commitment to love not just for the couple but for all the family and friends that will be there that day. Thank you for the reality feedback in the crazy world of weddings!

  • Bex

    Thank you for this post! I was so encouraged that it prompted me to make my first APW post after lurking around here for over two years.

    “The church believes that the marriage covenant is a sacred picture of the relationship between God and his people…we are meant to be ambassadors through our marriage of the faith we hold to. We loved this idea that through our hospitality, our generosity, the way we serve our city and those in need, through our acceptance of everyone, our love for the outcast, our creativity, our work, our commitment – the way we daily live out our marriage tells the world what we believe, what we stand for.”

    I am not married, but this quote perfectly expressed what I am hoping and praying for in a marriage. I love that you appreciate and value the day-by-day experience of life while remaining focused on the big picture of our impact on the world and the lives of those with whom we interact on a daily basis. Already, your marriage reflects what you stand for.

    I wish you both a long and joyful marriage filled with God’s blessings.

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      Thank you, Bex.

  • http://singingpilgrimdancing.blogspot.com Pamela

    It’s lovely! I may be doing this too, not sure yet. I am DEFINITELY having a church wedding, but whether or not I have the reception at the social hall or not is yet to be decided.

    (Well, the US wedding. The India one we’re being married by the church, the people, but they don’t own the building they rent each Sunday so for us to rent it out just for our wedding would be too expensive so we’re not sure where we’re getting married. It may be at a night club, which I never would have pictured, because my guy’s got friends of the family who own one!)

  • Moz

    What a lovely grad post! And also, what a beautiful church! (The wedding singer in me gets excited by beautiful churches.)

    Congrats on your marriage.

    • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

      It is a beautiful church… it was built in 1150 so it is generally cold and damp and the pews are so uncomfortable you are guaranteed never to fall asleep during a sermon. But it IS beautiful :)