I finished the last post falling asleep at 1:30am after White Night…I woke up on my wedding day at 4:30am. This was a fear I had, not getting a good sleep the night before. My mind was buzzing with a million things obviously. I thought about taking a sleeping tablet but given I’d never taken one before I didn’t think the night before my wedding was the best time. If there was ever going to be a day to run on adrenaline then this was it.
By 6:30 I thought sod it, let’s just get this day started! I still had cards to my mum, dad, sister and Liam I wanted to write. I purposefully left them until the morning of so they would be written with my most real feelings and emotions.
My sister Aimée was still sleeping and didn’t hear me leave, I knew she’d freak out and wonder where I’d gone but she’d soon find me.
Other than bumping into the lady delivering the breakfast croissants, the chateau was eerie silent and the thick, and I mean THICK, fog that was surrounding it made it feel mega surreal, you couldn’t even see the top turret of the chateau!
I decided to walk to the very bottom of the chateau steps, write my cards and watch the fog lift and the chateau appear (the fog didn’t lift until about 10am which caused mild panic after the previous days rain!)
The card I wrote to Liam said ‘I’ll Be The One In White’ on the front….I reflected on how far we’d come in 16 years and how we never at 15 imagined this moment. I thanked him for allowing me to have the wedding of my dreams, I let him know I was grateful to him everyday for the lifetime of memories he’d given me already and to listen to every word in my vows and speech as I meant it all.
I loved this little moment to myself. I knew it would be the only chance I’d get for the rest of the weekend (In true bride fashion I never even had a wee on my own) I think it was important to take a second to gather my thoughts and prepare myself for the epic-ness ahead as I knew it would soon all become very busy and very hectic.
Around 7:30, once Aimee realised I hadn’t done a runner, she found me and said the Bow & Blush girls had arrived. I took a deep breath, looked up and chateau and said to myself ‘let’s marry him Sar’ and climbed the steps to start the day.
Bow & Blush – AKA – the make up duo, the boss ladies, the best in the business sisters were ready and raring to go. The girls hadn’t done an abroad wedding before but I’d known them both years and for me, there was no question of asking anyone else. Luckily they were super keen and turned us into queens. Their work is so amazing, I’ll always be super grateful to them for making our morning so calm but fun.
By 8am all my bridesmaids were together, sleepy but ready to be beautified. I was flagging with tiredness already but after a few Berocca’s I found some energy and briefed them all on the little jobs that needed doing, where all the decorations needed to go and let them get on with it. Roxy looked at me and said ‘Right, there’s quite a lot to do babe, we need to get going’ …But with a film set-decorator, an event planner and a creative advertiser on my team to name a few, I knew I had nothing to worry about, I choose my people well! …I had in my head how I wanted things to look, I’d spent 18 months living on Pinterest remember – things like the card table, the table plan, my Grandparents wedding pictures hanging from the trees, the lavender on the chairs and the place names …but they made everything look better. *See my instagramable mermaid party for confirmation of what my girls are capable of. I was so happy with what they did with each little detail.
The ‘make up room’ overlooked the terrace so it was easy to call up whoever was next in the chair and over-see what was going on.
Now I know what you’re thinking…. where were the boys while all this was going on…what jobs were they doing? In the pool playing volleyball is the answer. All morning. Liam was woken by his mum at 9-something! To be fair, they each came into their own at other points during the day so I won’t be too hard on them, plus they did have to be ready an hour earlier than us!
One piece of advise I’d been given during the build up was to not feel locked in a room just because Liam and guests might be ‘around’. Like I said, he was in the pool most of the morning and the chateau very much lended itself to a boys wing and a girls wing so there was no danger of us seeing each other! …We’d put breakfast on for everyone staying at the chateau so it was lovely to sit in the sun and have a croissant with my Grandad and chat with my Auntie etc and not feel like I had to hide away.
Around 10am I gave all the girls and our mums their cards and gifts. Our mums had matching Etsy robes that I paired with Jo Malone perfume sets, a Betty’s afternoon tea voucher for my mum and a print of me, my mum and dad.
I gave the girls grey personalised HA Design PJ’s to match my pink version. I decided to just have them embroidered with their names rather than ‘bridesmaid’ so that they could wear them again. (Little tip; I bought them in the Black Friday sale last year and saved a small fortune!) I also gave my sister some Kate Spade earrings to match her dress.
They wrote me emotional cards and gave me lovely gifts too, we all cried happy tears together, it was magic.
Liam gave his boys individual quirky cufflinks – He got my dad and all groomsmen sorted out at Charles Tyrwhitt, each had their initials embroidered on their cuffs as a finishing touch. I mentioned before, Liam loved his ‘suit making’ experience at Michaels Berg tailors in Leeds, he couldn’t speak highly enough of them, our wedding date was sewn under his collar and both our initials on the inside lining, he looked 10/10! The lads all bought him some whiskey that was passed around before heading down to the ceremony I later learnt!
Whilst getting my hair and makeup done the girls delivered a gift from Liam…it was the most beautiful Tag watch that I’d once said I loved, he’d taken note. I was blown away. He wrote some beautiful words in my card too that meant my makeup needing redoing!
He’d also written ‘LJ Always’ on the bottom of my wedding shoes in permanent marker!
So things were starting to take shape, everyone’s hair and make up was done, all the dresses were steamed, the bouquets had been delivered and the champagne had been popped. Some how, from here time ran away from us, but that wasn’t stopping us from taking a ton of pictures before finally getting into our dresses. We snook through someone’s room out of the back of the chateau as guests were all just about in place by this point and got some fun shots in the sun. The approximate time of this was 2:45pm… we were due downstairs at 3!
When it came to stepping into my dress I didn’t need much help to be honest, just a short zip and a button. I never said too much about my dress in my previous posts as I wanted it to be a surprise so let me tell you now…
You all know I searched high and low for the dress of my dreams, I wasn’t going to stop until I ‘got the feeling’, I knew it would come eventually. Last August I saw a random picture on Instagram that stopped me in my scroll. Just from the picture I got a buzz. I searched and searched until I knew the designer, the dress name, who in the UK stocked it and where closest to me I could get my hands on it. When I eventually found her even on the hanger she gave me the feels. It was 3 sizes too big the first time I tried it…but I knew. ‘Fleur de Lis’ – Blush by Hayley Paige with a cut out back, super detailed appliqué, 7-layers of underskirt, low cut, a dreamy train and POCKETS. The pockets completed my whole bridal life. She was my one and worth the search. Plus I always secretly wanted a Hayley Paige gown.
At my last fitting, because all the weight of the dress was in the skirt and the straps were very thin, my shoulders were taking all the weight and leaving bad red marks, so at the last minute they were cut off and changed for slightly wider ones that thankfully worked.
I’ll be honest, the boutique where I found ‘Fleur de Lis’ wasn’t the best but the dress made my dreams come true so that was enough. … The cathedral length veil was from a different boutique and had crystals dotted down the length of it that looked pretty in the sun. My shoes I struggled with, I’m so not a shoe person, I just wanted comfy but a heel, bridal but subtle, memorable but affordable….. Asos saved me. As always.
My earrings took a long time to find but when I did, I LOVED them. They were just Debenhams.
For the traditions – My new was obviously my dress/everything! …Borrowed as I mentioned previously was the cake knife, old in the end was one of my Grandmas embroidered hankies and blue were my shoes and earrings at white night.
So the last twenty minutes or so we’re a little frantic, it turned into a bit of a mad dash to add all the final touches… my veil, lipstick top ups, perfume sprays and hats in place for the mums. We were singing ‘I’m so excited’ at the top of our voices whilst everyone was melting outside…we necked our last sips of champagne then we were good to go. …My mum took one last look at herself in the mirror and cried, she honestly looked so incredible.
Finally around 3:25pm we were all ready, only 25 mins late…Just time for a moment with my dad then it was time.
Last message of advice for the girls before walking down the aisle – ‘Hold you bouquets by your pubes not your boobs!’ …and don’t fall down the steps!!
The walk was long. 100 stone steps! Mum and Caroline were escorted by the ushers that by this point had almost had enough of the 27 degree heat. Then the girls set off in pairs, perfectly spaced to Jason Mraz ‘I’m Yours’, and I followed to Ed Sheeran ‘Tenerife Sea’ played by our guitarist, Liam. (Listen to the words if you don’t know it. It’s an emosh one.)
This was another brief moment on my own actually, stood on the top step was the moment I saw every single person I loved looking up awaiting my arrival. I lost it here a little, Anna, our planner had to give me one last big squeeze and tell me take some deep breaths. Rather dramatic but I’d waited half my life for this moment girls. Literally. This was it.
My dad and I had planned I’d walk the first few steps on my own and then he’d join me to walk the rest. I think this confused everyone when they saw me on my own but this was my Meghan Markle moment ok! Why not, keep ’em guessing! I still did the majority with my dad! My dad couldn’t speak bless him, he was so choked, I kept trying to talk to him on the walk down saying; ‘Omg dad, how crazy is this’ but he was too busy crying to get any words out.
To have an entrance that lasted as long as it did was everything. The steps sold the entire venue to me in the first place. The drama of it. The drone footage takes my own breath away! …If I can’t say that about my own entrance then what would have been the point. I flipping loved it and wish I could walk that walk every week!
Liam was crying when I (finally) reached the end of the aisle, I hoped (but knew!) he would be but given we’d already said our vows to each other a month earlier I did wonder….He’s an emotional guy in his old age though which I obviously love. I kissed my dad and Liam shook his hand.
Then it felt like it was just the two of us.
Someone told me not to look at anyone other than Liam during the ceremony and I didn’t. I was so, so in the moment and hanging on his every word. I wanted our vows to be fun, sincere and personal, we’d sat at opposite ends of our sofa one mid-week night and wrote them. I’d tweaked mine since our first ceremony but I hadn’t re-read Liam’s so it was still like hearing them for the first time.
Here’s a snippet of Liam’s words to me:
‘Sarah I’m standing here promising to be your lover, best friend and husband. I promise to always be the shoulder for you to sleep on, as long as I haven’t fallen asleep first, the rock for you to lean on and your travel buddy to see the rest of the world with. I vow to love you when the sun shines, the rain falls… through good times and bad.
Whenever you look at this ring, think of me and know that I will love you always’
And a little part of mine to Liam:
‘Liam, I promise to always help you find your way… to the bathroom in the middle of the night when you cant find your way. I promise to keep spending all your money by taking you on the best adventures. I promise to be interested in the 19th football game of the week, and I promise to still love you when your curly, blonde locks turn grey.
Thank you for making 16 years of loving you the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do.
All my love, from this day forward, Sar’
Our celebrant was wonderful too. He was a local guy, his father owned the vineyard up the road that supplied the wine for us at dinner. He probably didn’t enjoy waiting half an hour for me but he was laughing and cheering along with us so I think he had a good time! He had a very strong French accent, the way he pronounced Liam as ‘Lee-am’ really added to the authenticity of the whole thing!
Two of my very close girlfriends agreed to do a reading mid way through the ceremony. I know how nervous they both were but it meant so much to make them a part of our ceremony. Stacey went first, here’s a small section she read to us;
‘Marriage is promise that two hearts gladly make
A promise to be tender, to help, to give and take
Marriage is a promise to be kind and understanding
A promise to share one life together’
Erin was next, she’d told me she probably wouldn’t get through her reading without getting emotional…. she didn’t even get past the first line before everyone was a crying mess! I’ve known Erin since my Disney days so her words meant a lot. She talked about Liam and I’s journey together and how even back then I always told her I’d marry Liam. She’d flown 10,000 miles to be with us so I will always be eternally grateful to her….I was so thankful for my Grandmas hankie in my pocket at this point.
‘My babe and her babes. Hearing the tales of your love story for the past 11 years gave me nothing but hope, excitement and faith in not only love, but that true princes really do exist. On a ship in the middle of the ocean with no land in site, a broken internet connection and the furthest from your heart keeper you could be, you told me, baaaaabes, it doesn’t where we are in the world or what we are doing, I know one day I will marry that man. He’s the one for me’
Then, sealed with a kiss and a high five, we were married. I was married. To Liam.
Straight after the ceremony we took a moment (and a selfie) to ourselves, looking down on all our guests being made photo-ready by the ushers.
After the flower petal throwing came the formal pictures. Previous brides told me this part was stressful which I never understood… future brides, it actually is. No offence guests, but herding you all into specific groups is hard! …I didn’t let this last longer than 15-20 minutes as I knew Liam would lose interest even sooner than I would!
You have to have these shots though… they’re the mantlepiece pictures. They’re the ones that in the end, you’re glad you did take so have patience. And sunglasses!
Now the fun could really start… we had a 50 glass champagne tower waiting for us on the top-terrace. This was a special touch from the chateau that suited our day and kicked off the reception and celebrations.
I think I managed two canapes but this was our time to mingle. We purposefully made this part longer than normal, it’s my favourite part of any wedding, I got round as many guests as I could taking as many pictures as I could of course. I remember feeling a little sad when it was already time to move onto the wedding breakfast. …This feeling didn’t last long as I knew baked Camembert was on the horizon!
The parasols has been positioned perfectly so that no-one was in the sun, the ice buckets were overflowing with the chateaus own wine and my dad being the amazing M.C that he is, got everyone hyped for our first entrance as Mr and Mrs. ..Napkins were in the air, the lads were whistling, everyone was cheering, I knew tame was well and truly out of the window from here on in!
The place cards had been handwritten by my bridesmaid Lottie and slotted into the corks we’d been collecting for years (ok a few months) individual flowers were in an assortment of jars along each table and the bridesmaid bouquets placed across our top table along with a surprise flower train from Anna that she’d added because she knew I’d love it 🙂 I decided early on favours weren’t for me if you’re wondering, nothing against them, just not for me.
Our view from the top table was one of my favourite views of the day. The chateau backdrop, the sun turning, you know, that shade I love…rows of rowdy pals all laughing, rosé being drank like water…. I hope I’ve set the scene, that was an up there moment for me.
After devouring Camembert and bacon rashers, my dad was up. The one guarantee I had of the entire day was my dad’s speech. He barely ever reads from notes, he’s a Hospital Radio presenter and I’m his favourite daughter so ‘nailed on’ was the accurate term I used! He mentioned all our family and called out each of our friends that had travelled across the world to be with us. He talked about some of my adventures over the years and my love for travel that my mum had passed on to me, he made a fuss of my Grandad on the front row and threw in a few awful dad jokes too but I felt proud and blessed. Thank you Daddy, I forgive you for crying all the way down the aisle xx
Aimée also managed to sneak in a surprise poem to us both which was so personal to her growing up with Liam around and the relationship we have – My life with my sister:
Always the one to do my hair
Always laughing, always joking.
Having water fights until we were soaking
Always making up our next dance
To seeing you as Ariel here in France.
Always phoning for a chat
And constantly telling me my legs look fat.
Always playing in the loft with our toys
And now out drinking with our boys.
Along came Liam your new ‘friend’
Who knew you’d be together until the end.
I thought he stole my big sister
But now I’m so glad he’s become your Mr.
Now my sister AND my brother
I really couldn’t wish for any other.
Here’s to you two on your wedding day
I love you both is all I have left to say.’
After a huge, delicious (not exaggerating, ask any guest) portion of duck confit, Liam was up next. (No seriously, it was like heaven on a plate.) Off the bat he spoke with so much confidence, he does a lot of public speaking at work and he’s been best man twice before so he played to the crowd and proved all the nights down the pub with his BFF Parker perfecting his words, were worth it.
The way he spoke about his parents was so special… He thanked them for helping him through uni, getting us on the property ladder and supporting him across two Marathon finish lines!
He told funny stories from the early days at the Binns’s, our school years and the crazy, fun adventures we’ve been on in 15 years. Here’s some of his sentimental words to me;
‘Sar, I might be your full time Insta-Husband but I’m so proud to now call you my wife. Despite all your time spent on the ‘gram you never cease to amaze me. You’ve grabbed every opportunity that’s come your way and you’ve lived life to full. When people ask why France? I go into Sarah-Lou sales pitch mode and share the travelling journey you’ve had. You should never stop being you, I’m proud of everything you’ve achieved, in every corner of the globe. In short, I’m your biggest fan.
Everyone, see your drinks off for my final toast, to my wife; SARAH LOUISE JOLLIFF.’
It was another highlight for sure. I’ve made him read it to me twice since and sometimes I steal his phone to read it again, it was honestly beautiful. I was a very proud (crying) wife by this point.
Only Liam and my sister knew I was going to do a speech. Not a chance was I only letting the men speak, I wanted to make sure I got my own round of thank yous in too. I only spoke for 10-15 minutes but I wanted to toast absent family that were no longer with us, mention my Grandma properly and tell our friends that had left their babies at home just how grateful we were. As good a job as the boys did, I felt this was important and it was something I always, always knew I would do. …I also thanked all my girls for packing 3 days worth of outfits! …If you’ve seen the ‘outtakes’ on our wedding video you’ll have heard that I took great pleasure at the end in winding everyone up, thinking I was getting real emosh about my new husband when really my beloved, cannot live without, true hero, right arm was of course, INSTAGRAM! The lads that I made cry with this will never forgive me I don’t think!
I did thank Liam eventually. I thanked him for so much. I would write some of it here but I’m conscious you’ve probably been reading for about an hour and we’ve not even got to sunset yet! …..Ok.. here’s a little bit…
‘Liam, It’s been a beautiful journey so far….we started out on Bonfire night 2003 as two kids with no jobs, no cars, no iPhones and no cares…but somehow we’ve made it to today, our wedding day. We’re the same people just with another level of new love for one another.
I promise I’ve got your back always babes. Forever and forever.’
….Stay with me, we’re up to golden hour.
So we’ve been sat at dinner for almost 3 hours by this point, as I said, the rosé we chose was too easy, we had a lot of magnums of the stuff and sure as heck wasn’t going to be going to waste. So when our photographer said it was time to head to the vines for sunset, I argued that it couldn’t be! …I didn’t need much persuading obviously, I just needed the wine taking out of my hand.
I always knew I’d bring my girls along for this bit, that light is too good not to share around. 12 months ago this would have been Liam’s idea of hell but the photographer and videographer were so chilled and having the girls there was so fun, plus we all know Liam’s secretly a pro at this kind of thing. I’ve moulded him.
People have asked me if I have a favourite picture from the entire weekend, I do. A clear front runner, it’s this one 👇🏻
The money shot! Sorry Liam. It’s the stuff of dreams and the one that made us all scream the first time we saw it. I personally think it’s utter perfection…
This probably ties in with one of my favourite moments of the day too… seeing the girls properly in their dresses. We’d had one, very brief try on of them all at the Hen – this was without all the finishing bits, hungover without shoes or alterations. Imagination and faith was key in the last few weeks but I never doubted any of their choices.
I’ve said in a previous post, each of them choosing and wearing their own dress (or skirt, or jumpsuit) was always my vision, I said it from the beginning and never changed my mind. There’s an Asos collection out there that I’ve seen at 3 weddings just this last season…plus Roxy had been a Bridesmaid 5 times in less than 3 years so originality was at the forefront of my mind. My girls are too individual, honest and strong minded for me to dress them! I gave them free-rein on shoes, makeup and hair too. I’m so glad I did because they each came into their own and looked incredible. I’ll be forever grateful for the efforts they went to.
So, if I’d have had my way we would have stayed up amongst the grapes for a few more hours but the girls marched me back down to the terrace as it was already 9pm and the boys still hadn’t done their speech yet. …or managed to eat all day.
The week leading up the wedding Dan and James told Liam their speech was around 45 minutes long. Liam panicked. He knew a decent speech needed to be no more than 20 really. They agreed to try cut it down to 30…which still put Liam on edge a little.
But, 50 minutes later they had that terrace in fits of laughter. Oh man, I just don’t know where to start. They were compared to Ant and Dec, Morecambe and Wise. Pure movie gold. …Maybe I’m biased but for me, they did the best job.
They followed a theme they’d done on the Stag that consisted of fining Liam for certain stages of his life like becoming a southerner, collapsing 500metres from the marathon finish line and forever being the most drunk at the end of every night….. but then turned it back around into rebates for having top class parents, a decent job and a just as decent, now wife!!
They did Liam and themselves proud. They played off each other, brought the banter, had everyone downing drinks left, right and centre (even our parents!) and managed to sneak in a guest appearance from the lads stag mascot – ‘Sassy Stanley’
The boys got me good when they mentioned how good a friend I’d become to them over the years too – they commented on my ‘don’t care what anyone thinks’ attitude, never failing to give the banter right back and never forgetting to check in when things get hard and times get rough. That got me. The best lads and BEST best men there ever was.
(Dan is single btw, DM for further details)
Oh crap! I just remembered I missed a bit! Rewind back to 8pm. The cake. We opted for a traditional French wedding cake, a croquembouche – profiterole tower. Liam planned for a saxophonist to come out as we cut the cake to keep things lively (not that there was any danger of that with our mates) and get everyone rallied for the last round of speeches. We then sat back down to scoff the profiteroles as dessert.
So, literally as the boys wrapped up their performance, it was dusk. Anna grabbed us and said we were running an hour and twenty minutes ‘late’ so needed to head to the bottom terrace for the first dance ASAP as she has a 10:30pm curfew for the fireworks… otherwise she has to apologise to all her neighbours the next day!
I went off for a quick wee first – with the help of a bridesmaid of course – Liam told me he took a moment to himself here, everyone had left the terrace so he put his feet up on a chair, drank the last of the rosé and looked up at the chateau to take it all in. I’m really glad he did that.
The first dance was a whirlwind. We’d practiced in our lounge, we’d had a lesson even…but the rosé had taken over by this point, me not Liam! Talk about being lead by the man, I didn’t have a bloody clue what I was doing…we danced to Take That ‘Greatest Day’ surrounded by everyone waving two sparklers each in the air. ‘Greatest Day’ always gave me the feels whenever I heard it and since we actually don’t have ‘a song’ really, we decided whilst on a hike in Greece last year we liked it and it suited us. Liam pulled the whole thing off and made us look good. He really did embrace every aspect of our day bless him.
As ‘Greatest Day’ faded out, our surprise fireworks lit up the sky (and made everyone jump!) We’d managed to keep them a secret from everyone and I’m so glad we did. My magical Disney moment, obviously another highlight.
After being reminded, I threw my bouquet…a strong group of babes were poised and ready but my beaut friend Stacey being the leggy 5ft 10″ model that she is meant the rest of the girls didn’t stand a chance!
Whilst dancing the night away everyone tucked into our midnight snack which was lemon, chocolate and sugar crêpes served from an old, Instagramable van…I remember this part, just!
They were a cute old couple that had driven up from the South of France… just to serve snacks to all our drunk mates 😂
The DJ and saxophonist took over the rest of the night and made Liam a very happy man. They were French but split their time between Bordeaux and Ibiza, they totally gave us what we wanted by playing all the tunes we’d requested and some. I don’t remember not being on someone’s shoulders at any point! Everyone partied HARD.
But by 1am I could go no more. I fought off going to bed but given I was falling asleep at tables and on the dance floor stood up,y time was up. 21 hours after only 3 hours sleep I’d fully ran out of wedding steam. I was put to bed at 1:30am by Liam. …He politely asked me if he could go back and party, I don’t think I kept my eyes open long enough to even give him an answer. …My battered shoes and filthy dress were hung up but I could go to sleep happy because not only had I had the most incredible day, the party was far from over, we still had one more day to do it all again.
And that was our wedding day.
I’m so proud of Liam and I’s love story. It’s one of my greatest achievements. I know it’s special and I know it’s unique. I feel our wedding day told our fairy-tale. We stayed true to ourselves in everything we did by creating our own greatest day.
Knowing everyone there with us had believed in us and followed the journey we’ve been on since we were 15 was such a huge and wonderful feeling. I felt everyone wanted to celebrate our love as much as we did. I became my own #couplegoals for a day!
From start to finish it was all such a journey, a life-changing experience and a big 18-month adventure. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat if I could. I’m so incredibly grateful to Liam and for the memories we made that day, but mostly for the immense amount of love I felt through it all.
To marry Liam had been my life-goal and wish all along, my heart never let me down. I’m happy I kept the promise I gave myself all those years ago.
Thank you for giving up half your life to read this post. You’ve officially reached the end.