Real wedding: Shanghai magic in London

Real wedding: Shanghai magic in London
Yuji and Stephen were married on New Year's Eve in London's Banking Hall

For their sumptuous New Year’s Eve wedding celebration in London’s Banking Hall, Yuji and Stephen created a theme inspired by the Art Deco elegance of old Shanghai


Photos by Nick Ray

A New Year’s Eve wedding is a double celebration, and when Yuji and Stephen were looking for the right venue for their party to end all parties, they had a very particular idea in mind. Yuji says: “Our theme was best summed up as ‘Paris of the East, in London’. I had been inspired by images of 1920s-1930s Shanghai – the city where I was born – although I was raised in the southern United States”.

While neither Yuji nor Stephen has roots in London, it became the natural choice because it’s the city they now call home. Yuji says: “It was also a convenient location for our family and friends, who are fairly spread out among the US, UK/Europe, Middle East and Asia. We had also considered a vineyard outside Charlottesville, Virginia, which is the city where I went to law school and Asia, where we met”.

Real weddings: Shanghai magic in London
The sumptuous grand hall was the perfect backdrop for a grand wedding feast

With many family and friends journeying to London to celebrate with them, the couple also held an intimate party a month ahead of the wedding in Shanghai for those who couldn’t make it to the New Year’s Eve ceremony.

The design of Banking Hall, which overlooks the Bank of England, was perfect for scene setting. Yuji says: “Shanghai used to be known as ‘the Paris of the East, the New York of the West’ and the glamorous Art Deco architecture of Banking Hall is reminiscent of the buildings along the Bund in Shanghai. It provided the perfect backdrop to set the scene”.

Real weddings: Shanghai magic in London
This was a truly international wedding, with friends and family flying in from all corners of the world to celebrate in the heart of the City

Yuji and Stephen loved the Main Hall – which comes with sweeping staircase and original features – and the fact that the venue includes a separate upstairs space known as the Counting Room. While the Main Hall’s grand dimensions were ideal for ceremony and evening party, they decided to use the space upstairs for a champagne and canapés reception with live acoustic band while the hall was being transformed from formal to evening party setting. The final decider was the in-house catering team; Yuji describes them as “awesome”.

Real weddings: Shanghai magic in London
Yuji's beautiful Phillip Lim gown was a spontaneous buy and, with its elegant cape effect and flowing lines, it suited the Art Deco theme perfectly

Having found the perfect party venue, the rest of the details fell into place. Yuji happened across an elegant Phillip Lim pale ivory gown that had a distinctly 1930s vibe with its sleek lines and cape-effect neckline and sleeves. Her bridesmaids made their own choices, opting for shades ranging from champagne and nude to gold and dusty rose. The bride carried an all-white bouquet of roses and ranunculus and finished off her outfit with decadent blue Jimmy Choo strappy heels. Yuji says: “My Phillip Lim gown was an impulse buy from Net-a-Porter and my mother, a former tailor, helped me to hem it. My bridesmaids all chose their own dresses and these fitted the theme so it all came together beautifully”.

The banquet-style seating plan created a convivial setting for a coming together of friends from around the world

While the Banking Hall needed very little dressing, Yuji and Stephen did introduce carefully chosen details. “We accented the fairly neutral background with pops of crimson, which is the traditional good-luck colour for Chinese weddings. All the male members of the wedding party – groom, groomsmen, fathers – wore navy lounge suits with red ties to add an extra colour dimension”.

Real weddings: Shanghai magic in London
Yuji's adult bridesmaids chose their own dresses, and the neutral shades worked together brilliantly

The crimson menus were created by Yuji and designed as fortune tellers that opened up to reveal each course. There was also a glamorous flash of gold in the traditional French croquembouche wedding cake. This imposing choux bun tower decorated with golden spun sugar had pride of place at the end of the hall. Yuji says: “It glittered the whole evening on the sweeping staircase”.

Real wedding: Shanghai magic in London
Scene setting for the evening was created with clever lighting

The high point of the day was the first dance. Yuji says: “That’s when the more stressful elements of the day were behind us, and we knew everything to come was just pure fun. Our song was Lost Stars by Adam Levine, which was special to us because when we were living apart for a year for work (Stephen in Dubai, me in London). Some of the lyrics helped to get us through tough times when we missed each other. We hadn’t rehearsed our dance at all but had agreed that we would pretend we were dancing in our living room, and we just had the most fun with it.”

Yuji and Stephen also loved the wedding feast. “A pretty close second to the first dance was the dinner, which was great. When we first started dating, our go-to favourite meals were the melanzane alla parmigiana from Mondo Mio and the steak frites at Les Bouchons Rive Gauche, both in Singapore. The chef at Banking Hall was able to re-create both of these favorites to perfection.”

Real wedding: Shanghai magic in London
This was a truly individual wedding – Yuji and Stephen's advice to other couples is to focus on the elements that mean something to you

This truly individual wedding turned into a wonderful party where Yuji and Stephen could celebrate two auspicious beginnings – their new life together and a new year – among family and friends. Their advice to other couples is to stay focused when you are in the throes of wedding organisation. Yuji says: “To borrow from the Bard: ‘to thine own self be true’. Throughout the wedding planning process you will be inundated with advice and pictures and inspiration and ideas, but you have to tell your own love story at your own wedding, otherwise what’s the point?”

Yuji’s wedding sourcebook

Venue and catering: Banking Hall;

Photography: Nick Ray;

Bridal gown: Phillip Lim;

Bridal shoes: Jimmy Choo;

Flower girl’s dress: Petit Bateau;

Flowers: Philippa Craddock

Cake: Le Papillon Patisserie;

DJ: Sternberg Clarke;

Band: Nick Haswell and the Rockets;