Blue bow ties and plenty of smiles

Benenden School

When a family holiday in Spain started with a romantic proposal, Clare Lush-Mansell, the blogger behind, embarked on a three year engagement to plan her perfect day

Describe your husband in less than ten words: Kind-hearted, sensible, selfless, strong, and a great Dad!

How did you and your husband meet?
I was on my way back to Ireland after a year in Australia and Dave was on a three-month sabbatical from work in May 2006.

We met in a bar in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. He wrote his email address in my Lonely Planet guidebook and the rest is history!

Tell us about the proposal…
We were staying at Dave’s dad’s place in Spain. My mum had arrived that night to spend our second week on holiday with us. She offered to babysit so Dave and I could have a much-needed evening out together.

We went to our favourite restaurant at the nearby town of Nerja. He was pretty quiet throughout the whole meal. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with him and honestly had no idea that he would propose to me that night in the restaurant! A traditionalist at heart, he got down on one knee and I said yes.

Where did you get married and how did you choose the venue?
We had originally planned to get married abroad, but after we had our second child, and I started my blog, we decided it would be easier and quite apt to keep things local before going further afield for our honeymoon.

It was difficult to find a venue that ticked all of the boxes. There were certainly a couple of ‘Bridezilla’ moments! Initially, I had dismissed The High Rocks as a venue. I thought it was for wedding parties with really large numbers, but it turned out that they had several different options. When we went to see it, we knew straight away that this venue would work for us. The fact the party could keep going to 2am was an added bonus!

Tell us about your big day and some of its key highlights…
The day itself was surprisingly relaxing. My mum, bridesmaid and I had a lovely morning getting pampered by Jade at The Gallery in Southborough and Ellie from The Beauty Aisle, who did our make-up.

Highlights for me included seeing my beautiful boys in their little blue and white striped bow ties, my mum giving me away, exchanging vows, being welcomed with my new ‘husband’ at the reception and having all our loved ones in the same place at the same time.

My husband really enjoyed seeing me with our boys when we walked up the aisle, and having some time together after the ceremony for our photographs.

How did you start your married life together?
We went to Menorca on a ‘familymoon’ with my husband’s Best Man, his wife and two children. They had flown over to the UK from Australia for our wedding.

The first week was spent in a villa with our friends, and the second was just the four of us at another resort.
Dave and I are going on honeymoon to where it all began, Thailand, later in the year. The grandparents have kindly offered to look after the boys.

Who were your key suppliers?
Isabella Grace was the first bridal shop I visited. I was blown away by their service, choice of dresses and the overall experience I had there.

My mum, mother-in-law and sister-in-law came along and helped me choose the dress, and it meant a lot to get their opinions. Miss Kay was a super seamstress too – her shop is across the road from Isabella Grace.

Jo Fisher, also known as The Florist Tunbridge Wells, did an amazing job with the flowers. I met her at a networking event and knew immediately that I wanted her for the flowers. She is such a lovely person, and the brief was met perfectly.

The cake was made by my mother-in-law, and it meant the world to us that she made it.

Clare Fitzgerald, from Fitzgerald Photographic, was a joy to have with us. She’s so relaxed but professional and captured the day perfectly. We were over the moon with our photos.

I changed my mind several times about the hair style I wanted, and Jade from The Gallery in Southborough has the patience of a saint! She stayed late after work to ensure we got it right ahead of the wedding. I couldn’t have been happier with the end result.

The High Rocks were wonderful. They have so much experience with catering for large functions and everything ran so efficiently – a very safe pair of hands. There wasn’t a single moment when we didn’t feel at ease.

We chose to have some marvellous macaroons as wedding favours after meeting Mary-Anne from The Crow Kitchen at a wedding fair in The Pantiles. We really enjoyed the ‘tasting’ part of it, too.

Giuliano from Graphik Vision was our absolutely superb videographer. He was so unobtrusive and I just love watching the video!

Ellie from The Beauty Aisle worked wonders with my make-up on the day. She understood the look I was going for and experimented with lots of different colours and textures during our trial to see what suited me best.


  1. Have a short engagement. We were engaged for three years and, in hindsight, a shorter engagement might have kept things simpler! A long engagement means more time to plan, which can be a mixed blessing
  2. Get help with the children. We had nine young children at our wedding, two of which were ours. Hiring three girls from our son’s pre-school to help on the day ensured we could relax as much as possible
  3. Make a decision and stick to it – there is so much choice these days! I had a wobble about the venue and my dress. I kept coming across other options and wondering whether I should have gone for them. Make your decision and stop looking
  4. Hire a videographer. I have watched our wedding video so many times already! It lasts approximately seven minutes and is such a beautiful synopsis of the day. It will be so nice to watch when the kids are older, too
  5. Delegate, delegate, delegate! There are only so many things a bride can do during the lead-up to her wedding day. I called in help from family and friends for various things whenever possible. They were happy to help and it was nice to have them involved

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