The Wedding of Any Year

the-wedding-of-any-year-1Ian Radford, Chairman of the majorly successful Sala Group, and his long-term partner, Claire Strutton pulled out all the stops for a beautiful British summer wedding with their closest family and friends.

One Day at a Time

I had been living in Marbella just over a year when Ian and I were introduced at a work related meeting. At the time, I didn’t know many people in Marbella but I knew straight away that Ian and I would be good friends, and we were. Those first few years weren’t particularly easy; as a single parent I was working all day and going home in the evening to look after my son. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to stay in Spain but Ian was one of the few people who made my day brighter. He has an infectious giggle and even though I joke that he has Angry Tourette’s, you won’t ever meet a kinder, fairer person. He was one of my best friends for the two years before we became a couple and most definitely kept me sane!

A Blissful Ignorance

As I usually work all summer, Ian always plans a weekend away for us so I don’t feel like I’ve completely missed out on the holiday season. Two years ago he told me we were going to Madrid for our weekend. Ian’s terrible at lying so I wasn’t convinced. I was almost certain that we were actually going to watch the Euros in the Ukraine which were going on at the time and he just didn’t want me to complain! I kept asking him what I should pack as I didn’t want to take clothes for a boiling hot weekend in Madrid and end up being freezing cold in the Ukraine. When we landed in Madrid, I was relieved; when we stopped outside a transit gate going to Venice, I was ecstatic!

City of Love

The beauty of the architecture in Venice and our airport transfer to the hotel in a classic wooden Riva boat meant that by the time we got to the room, I just ran inside and started bouncing up and down on the bed with happiness.

It sounds crazy, but when I look back, a proposal was not any-where on my radar. We opened the champagne in the room and I walked out onto the terrace, blab-bing as I went, “Oh baby, look at the view! This place is amazing! This room is amazing! This is my perfect weekend! You are amaz-ing! You know me so well! We are perfect for each other!” When I turned around to see what Ian was doing, I heard him say, “I think so too.” He was standing right next to me with an open box which con-tained a ring. I burst into tears and mumbled, “You wallyhead.”

Once I had stopped crying, he told me to look inside the ring; it was engraved with the words, “My Beautiful Wallyhead, I love you.” If somebody else had told me that story, I wouldn’t have believed it. Ian told me he had a trip planned on a gondola for the following day but at that very moment everything was just perfect.

the-wedding-of-any-year-2Do Everything In Love

Neither of us had been married before and, at our age, there are fewer and fewer occasions when everyone you love and value can be together and just have a good time. With that in mind, we planned our wedding more as an event. With friends and family travelling from all over, we wanted to make it worth the effort for them, a memo-ry they would never forget - just a fun, lovely time. For the day before the wedding, we organised a trip to Royal Ascot and the day before that Ian and his friends played golf at The Buckinghamshire, with the rest of us turning up later to watch England play in the World Cup.

Childhood Dreams

As a little girl I used to ride my bike past Fulmer Church because it was at the end of my mum’s road. It probably sounds odd, but if our wedding had been anywhere else it just wouldn’t have felt real. We met the local vicar and booked the date. Ian would have preferred a Spanish location, so I knew he was agreeing to a U.K. wedding to make me happy. I wanted a homely place where everyone would be comfortable and Stoke Place has that lovely old, country house kind of feel. On the first day when we came down for breakfast and everyone was casually sitting around chatting as though this was their own house, I knew we had got it right. Coming back from Ascot on the Friday and having a BBQ in the garden cooked for us confirmed this.

In the Nick of Time

I never had a particular style in mind for my wedding dress - in fact, I bought the first one I tried on! On a quick weekend over in the UK with Ian’s sister Nicola and my cousin Sasha, I called up the local bridal shop in Beaconsfield, anticipating no problem in secur-ing an appointment for the one day I was there. It turned out the store was holding a designer day which had been booked for over a year in advance. The lady on the phone was very gracious but she actually choked when I said the wedding was only three months away and I had not yet tried on a dress. “Get here in 10 minutes be-fore we open and we will squeeze you in,” she said. I dragged Nicola out of the shower with wet hair and we made a dash to the shop. The sales assistant picked out four dresses for me. Ian had given strict instructions that - as my dress sense is terrible - I was not to make the decision on my own! I later found out that Nicola and Sasha had been texting one another opinions on each gown while sitting next to each other in the shop. As it happened, we all agreed that the first dress was the best and, since designer Suzanne Neville was there that day, we were able to customise it a little.

Beautiful Buds

Flowers and my family have a long running history so I knew that it was always only ever going to be white and green colours. We had beautiful phalaenopsis orchids, hydrangeas and delphiniums. The flowers were stunning. I guess they dictated the simplicity of everything else. The men and bridesmaids wore champagne shades and the venue was white with delicate touches of detail everywhere, including personalised love heart sweets and M&Ms in the favours boxes.

The vicar was hilarious and set the scene for the day. During the service, he said that divorce was not an option, you make these promises and you make it work. Murder, he joked, was an option, but not divorce. He had everyone in hysterics and it meant that we all listened to every word he said; I think he made a few converts that day!

Best of British

Next door to the church is a lovely old country pub so, after the service, everyone walked straight next door for Pimms, beer and food before being picked up by an old red double decker bus to take them to the reception. When we arrived a steel band was playing in the garden, there was also a bouncy castle and a blow up candy-floss and hot-dog stand to keep the kids occupied.

the-wedding-of-any-year-3A Little Party Never Killed Anybody

We then went in for the wedding breakfast; La Sala signature act Masquerade Duo performed and were fantastic – many of our guests told us it was the first wed-ding reception they have been to where people were dancing during the starter. Alexander O’Neal also performed later on in the evening; his singing accompanied our first dance. It was lucky that Alexander is such a seasoned performer because the Masquerade Duo was a hard act to follow. We had a DJ for the remainder of the night but hardly anyone was interested in dancing once the photo booth had opened!

Effortlessly Elegant

There was no definitive theme re-ally - we just stuck to what we like: quality, understated elegance and lots of enjoyment.

In the Spotlight

Every moment of the day surpassed anything I could have dreamed of, it was unreal. I still get goosebumps from the flashbacks! Definitely at the top of my list of favourite moments is arriving at the altar, winking at Ian and seeing him grinning back at me. I also loved it when Masquer-ade called me up to sing. I had planned it before but then didn’t get the time to rehearse.

On the wedding day itself I was relieved I hadn’t confirmed it because I woke up with a sore throat. I had however forgot to tell Masquerade, so she suddenly called me up to perform in front of everyone. Horror turned to pure joy when half-way through the song ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, I sang the line, “...and if, I should ever go away, then close your eyes and try to feel the way we do today and then if you can remember...” to look up and see all of our friends and family with arms around each other, standing up, standing on chairs, standing on anything, singing to each other the words, “...keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure, that’s what friends are for, for good times, for bad times I’ll be by your side for ever more, that’s what friends are for.” It was an incredible moment for me as not everyone in the party normally gets along but, for that moment, everyone was together and happy.

If I had to do it again, I would change…

The obvious answer – I would make sure those people who couldn’t be at the wedding, were able to attend. Apart from that, not a thing.

Listen to your Heart

I would advise future brides to show more gratitude to the people who are helping you and stay true to yourself. Do what you want, not what you think will keep everyone happy - oh yes, and always keep the supply of food and drink coming!

Family Time

We managed to steal four days, just the two of us, in Paris before heading off with the kids to USA.


Claire´s Address Book

Venue – Stoke Place,
Photography – Studio Rouge,
Dress – Suzanne Neville,
Shoes - Freya Rose,
Flowers – Zoe @ Flowers Inc.,
Entertainment – Masquerade Duo & Alexander O’Neil

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