Real wedding: London carnival

Real wedding: London carnival
With rickshaw, canal boat and a glorious barbecue, Oli and Suzi made a festival of their summer wedding

A real wedding with a carnival flavour, Suzi and Oli’s laidback summer gathering combined 34 rickshaws, one canal boat and a glorious waterfront reception venue to create a truly heart-of-London celebration

Photography: Ben Bull

Suzi and Oli wanted something local and summery for their July wedding but, with limited time to spare, they also needed to think on their feet. Suzi says: “We had got engaged in the previous May, but didn’t start wedding planning until the February.” With only five months to cover all bases, what they created was a magical and relaxed celebration with friends and family.

The theme was simple. Suzi says: “We knew we wanted something local and natural – a carnival feel”. From the start they had planned this as an informal gathering and chose Islington watering hole and party space The Commissary as their reception venue. Suzi says: “It’s local to us and with a stunning setting on Regent’s Canal. We also loved the fact that we could have a barbecue here rather than a formal sit-down meal”.

Real wedding: London carnival
Oli and Suzi were married at Islington Town Hall.

Suzi found her perfect dress at Angelica Bridal, a go-to London wedding boutique in Camden Passage, and bought a frivolous feather boa in a department store on a whim – it turned out to be the perfect finishing touch. Bridesmaid gowns were also found at a department store. Suzi says: “I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and it wasn’t typical bridesmaid gowns. The floral dresses we picked out worked perfectly with our colour theme of purple and green and matched the style of the day”. Oli and his groomsmen wore smart dark blue suits with buttonholes in the same colour theme.

Real wedding: London carnival
The late afternoon start meant the wedding was relaxed – Suzi and Oli say it turned out to be great timing

Their chosen venue for the ceremony was Islington Town Hall, an elegant and classical space in the round. From there, they had to get to The Commissary, and this is where friends, family and local contacts came into play. Suzi says: “We had this idea of transporting guests from the town hall to the reception by rickshaw, but the problem was finding the 34 rickshaws we needed for guests”.

“One or two rickshaws got a bit lost, but our guests loved the ride to the reception”

Real wedding: London carnival
An assortment of rickshaws transported bride, groom and guests from the town hall to The Commissary

With no hire companies operating on this scale, Suzi and Oli asked around and eventually found a driver who thought he could help. Despite the informality of this arrangement he came good, and on the day the magical number of bicycle-drawn carriages appeared to transport everyone to the reception. “It was a bit of a logistical challenge and it was good to see the right number turn up”, says Suzi. “One or two rickshaws got a bit lost, but our guests loved the ride and everyone made it safely to the reception”.

Oli and Suzi had an even more unusual way of travelling. Having started out in a rickshaw they then embarked on a canal boat to arrive at The Commissary by water. Like many other elements of the wedding, this couldn’t have happened without the help of family and friends. “Oli’s parents have a canal boat which is usually moored outside London and we decided this would be a great way to arrive. It turned out to be a highlight of the day”.

Real wedding: London carnival
The canal boat journey was a highlight for Suzi and Oli, a chance to catch up and drink a toast to each other

The Commissary couldn’t have been more obliging about the quirky travel arrangements. Guests disembarked the rickshaws and walked across a floating wooden walkway to a side entrance. By the time Oli, Suzi, parents and groomsmen arrived by water they had a joyous welcoming committee on the dock to give them a heroes’ welcome. Suzi says: “Oli and I loved every minute of that 20-minute boat journey. It gave us a bit of time together after the ceremony and arriving to a sea of friends and family was just magical”.

Real wedding: London carnival
Suzi's lovely wedding gown came from Angelica Bridal in Islington

Friends and family came together to dress the reception – The Commissary having obligingly given them free rein to add their own flowers and festive touches. Suzi’s mother created a floral arch in the wedding colours and talented bakers among the guests organised a cake table as follow-on to the amazing barbecue feast created by The Commissary. Even the weather gave a helping hand, says Suzi: “The previous week had been a bit mixed. On the morning we had a brief shower while we were at the town hall and then the sun shone all afternoon”.

“We really wanted something local and natural – a carnival feel”

Real wedding: London carnival
Suzi wanted something a little different for the bridesmaids, opting for summery floral gowns to match the colour theme of purple and green

While Suzi and Oli didn’t have too much time to spare in planning, the team they assembled – from photographer and old friend Ben Bull to 34 rickshaw drivers – got into the spirit of the party. Suzi also found hair and make-up artist Danielle Daynes, booked through Torri Harris Makeup, who completely understood her wish to keep her look natural and created a style she was delighted with on the day. Danielle also created natural and glowing looks for her mother and four bridesmaids.

Suzi also recommends their band Eskimo, who let them choose a playlist that suited their personal taste and even offered guests the option for a spot of ‘bandeoke’ – singing lead vocals with live backing band. Suzi says: “The bandeoke was brilliant fun, as was the live music and DJ set built round our soul and rock wishlist”.

Real wedding: London carnival
The weather was perfect, adding a carnival flavour to a relaxed barbecue by Regent's Canal

Suzi and Oli’s advice to other brides and grooms is to remember that weddings can be planned in far less time than you think. “When we set ourselves a goal of getting married in five months’ time we wondered if we were mad, but actually we discovered that this meant less time to stress. Even the decisions we thought of as compromises at the time turned out to be just right on the day.”

Real wedding: London carnival
Suzi and Oli's advice is not to overplan – the less time you have the more decisive you become

A case in point was the late afternoon wedding slot. Suzi says: “We worried about a later start but it was brilliant. It meant that we had plenty of time to get ready with friends and family and enjoy that part of the day. Our preparation became part of the party. Guests were able to manage their journeys and childcare more easily and everyone arrived relaxed. This meant the whole celebration had exactly what we wanted for our wedding day – a proper carnival atmosphere on a lovely summer’s day in London.”

Real wedding: Suzi and Oli’s sourcebook

Photography: Ben Bull;

Venue (service): Islington Town Hall;

Reception venue: The Commissary;

Bride’s gown: Angelica Bridal;

Hair & make-up: Danielle Daynes at Tori Harris Makeup & Hair;

Band & DJ: Eskimo, booked via Function Central;


More real wedding inspiration?

A glorious festival atmosphere at a New Year’s Eve wedding