The Downton Abbey-themed wedding of Christiana Philips and Gareth Lewis
24 AUGUST 2013
For HELLO! Online readers Christiana Philips and Gareth Lewis, the expatriate couple got off to a sporty start when they met at a Thai boxing class in Hong Kong. They quickly bonded over their hobby and discovered they had lived just down the road from each other when they were living in Kent.
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Two years later and a proposal was on the cards. Gareth planned a special meal of all the couple's favourite foods cooked by a personal chef, and chose a private beach in Thailand for the setting of his proposal.
"I was so excited and immediately started screaming and running around so much so that I forgot that I needed to actually say yes!" said Christiana. The couple flew back to the UK to be married on a perfect British summer day in the company of friends and family.
Unlike most brides, Christiana was lucky enough to choose the very first dress she tried on.
The gown was designed by Manuel Mota and with its long feathered train and intricately detailed bodice, Christiana looked stunning as she made her grand entrance down the staircase.
"I adore his dresses, and I knew which one was mine from the very first instant," said Christiana. "It was the first and only dress I tried."
Christiana decided upon very simple make-up and jewellery for her big day to complement her statement gown.
"I really wanted to look like "me" on my wedding day," she said. "Both my husband and father asked for me to have my hair down, so I left it that way."
The bride wore a pair of diamond stud earrings and no necklace to give all attention to her intricately decorated bodice. Gareth added a touch of sparkle to her look by surprising Christiana the night before the wedding with a diamond bracelet that he had designed himself to match her engagement and wedding rings — a beautiful personal touch that bought Christiana great joy on her special day.
She chose flowing Grecian style dresses for her bridesmaids and small headbands of pearls and diamonds to accessorize their look. The choice of bridesmaids was easy for Christiana. As one of five daughters, she decided to have all of her sisters with her as she walked down the aisle which she described as a "dream come true" for her dad.
Christiana knew that she wanted her wedding to be a traditional and elegant affair and hence her choice of Highclere Castle as the venue. As a set of the British drama Downton Abbey, the castle had the grand and extravagant interior and exterior that Christiana and Gareth had been searching for.
It was also conveniently close to London, which had been a requirement for the bride and her fiance, as they had several guests traveling from across the globe to celebrate with them on their special day.
The mother of the bride and mother of the groom were given special attention at the ceremony. Christiana and Gareth left special notes on gorgeous heart-shaped signs on the back of their chairs before the ceremony began. It was a lovely personal touch and had the family in tears before the ceremony had even begun.
As the radiant bride made her entrance with her father, guests admired her striking gown.
"I fell in love with the back of the dress in particular," said Christiana. "Given the stairs I walked down in front of the guests, I thought the long train would look stunning."
After the ceremony, guests were invited to play lawn games, eat canapés and drink pimms and champagne as a harp played in the background of the Highclere grounds. Dinner was later served in the beautifully-decorated dining room Christiana had helped style.
The bride used delicate white roses, water and atmospheric candles in her flower arrangements, and chose candelabras draped with roses as centrepieces for the tables.
"For a bit of extra fun each table was named after a movie related to those on that table," she said. "For example for my Greek/Italian family tables I chose My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Godfather."
Due to her Greek and Italian roots, the cake and the food that Christiana served was very close to her heart and the couple even served bacon sandwiches as the night drew to an end.
After dinner, the impressive five-tiered cake was brought out, and guests could choose from a selection of the chocolate, carrot, lemon, banana and red velvet layers.
Family and friends then celebrated merrily with Gareth and Christiana's favourite cocktails, Cosmopolitan and Caipirinha, and moved on to the dance floor. The newlyweds' first dance was to Video Games by Lana del Rey, before the bride had her father-daughter dance to A Groovy Kind of Love by Phil Collins.
"It's a song my dad has always said made him think of me," said Christiana. "The band was amazing at getting everyone involved, from my grandmother, to the two-year-old flower girl."
To end the spectacular day on a high, the couple surprised their guests by driving along the long castle driveway in a Rolls Royce as fountains of fireworks lit their pathway.
"The day went too quickly, but we enjoyed every second," said Christiana.