Actress Karen David may have tied the knot as her character Francesca Montoya in the BAFTA-nominated series Waterloo Road, but off screen, the brunette beauty has a romantic story of her own.
Karen met her husband, Swedish songwriter and music producer Carl Ryden, when the duo collaborated on a music project in London. "He literally had me at hello," said Karen, recalling the moment. Four years later Karen and Carl wed in a beautiful cliff top ceremony in California.
Chatting exclusively to HELLO! Online, Karen gives a special mention to her relative who conducted the ceremony, the couple's untraditional way of cake tasting, and how to avoid morphing into bridezilla.
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How did you choose your wedding gown?
"My mother saw the Allure Couture dress featured in Martha Stewart's Weddings magazine, and when she saw it she just knew it was the one and in this case, she was right. I am petite so I always knew I was going to pick a dress which would not overpower me. I wanted something classic, elegant and romantic. I fell in love with the details on the shoulders and the back of the dress. It was beautiful and I loved the French bustle. It reminded me of all things Downton Abbey and Jane Austin. I also had to consider Carl's style which is quirky, cool but classic and the style of the venue we had picked, and this dress just ticked all the boxes. I opted for a simple, tulle, long veil, to help create more of the romantic look I was going for."
What jewellery did you wear?
"I was looking for something special and not obvious for my head piece and jewellery. I looked at so many bridal stores but they all just looked the same. Finally I stumbled across a blog which featured some stunning vintage in The Great Gatsby. My heart jumped — that's how excited I was. Then I found out the designer, Johanna Johnson, was from Australia but thankfully I could custom order the pieces in time for the wedding. I love everything she designs, from her veils to dresses — they're so special. She calls her jewellery and accessories heirloom pieces which they really are. You'll never tire of them, and you'll want to pass it on to your grandkids. I also wanted to choose a headpiece and jewellery that would have an afterlife, that I could wear on a red carpet event."
How did you decide on your hair and make-up for the day?
"With my dress and jewellery chosen, that sparked ideas for how I wanted my hair to be. My hairstylist, Michael Brent, and I played around with some updo styles, keeping it loose, and to the side, with a bit of a Gatsby kick to it to match the jewellery. I was so blessed to have my dear friend, Shalini Vadhera, a make-up artist to the stars, help with my look. We went for a fresh, glowy and glam look without being too overpowering or done up. She used a lot of neutral and warm tones for my eyelids and cheeks too."
What was the theme of your wedding?
"We wanted to create a vintage style, rustic kind of wedding, fused with some of the traditions from both of our backgrounds. It was tricky with the colours of my Chinese and Indian heritage, which are usually deep reds and gold, and Carl's Swedish heritage. In the end, we went with blue, yellow and white flowers representing Carl's side. We went for the wild, rustic flowers that you would find along many hike paths back where Carl is from in Sweden. Our florist took care of the gazebo and used beautiful cream and yellow chinese orchids with dogwood branches. It was like a fairytale. To complement the flowers, Carl found these wonderful vintage lanterns from the 1900s which adorned the bridal path, as I came down the aisle. In the dance hall, we added multi-coloured Chinese lanterns, which were so much fun and very much a reflection of our personalities: bubbly and effervescent. Our wedding favours were spice bags, with our homemade recipe for chicken curry. When I first met Carl, I quickly learned of his passion for cooking, and we ended up cooking my grandmother's classic chicken curry."
How did you choose the location?
"We got married in Palos Verdes, California, along the American Riviera, in a beautiful Spanish estate called La Venta Inn. Back in the 1930s, the likes of Gloria Swanson and Cary Grant would stay here for weekend retreats. It took us a while to decide where we going to get married, but we both knew we wanted an outdoor wedding in the springtime. Carl wanted to try a location other than Sweden, and as much as we love London, the weather can be up and down. Toronto, where my family are based and even India were on the list but in the end we fell in love with the ocean and city views at La Venta. It fit our personalities as it was relaxing and welcoming and rustic, yet so elegant — everything we wanted."
Did you have all of your friends and family at the wedding?
"My brother in law, Rob Wells, actually married us. Rob is like a brother to both Carl and I, and his father, God rest his soul, Bill, was a minister, and if he were still with us today, he would have married Carl and I. We found out that California allows a person of your choice to be deputised for the day and can legally marry you, so we thought how lovely it would be if Rob could take part of his father's sermon of when he married my sister and Rob, and include it in our ceremony. It was as if Bill was right there which was so incredibly special. Not only was Rob's sermon so funny, and personal, it was also so heartfelt. My father was so shy, bless him, as all eyes were on us as we walked closer to the gazebo, and those views — they were so stunning. I couldn't have hoped for a more picture perfect day. The sun was shining and all our 85 friends and family from London, Sweden, Toronto and L.A were all there. It was so moving."
What was your wedding cake like?
"Our wedding cake was simple and classic. Jamaica at Jamaica's Cakes worked closely with us on the style, and we loved the initial emblem plaque she added to the front of the cake. We tried so many cake places but hers won hands down for flavour and the fresh ingredients. The funny thing is that there was no time to come in and do a proper cake tasting, so Jamaica packed up a few boxes with loads of different fillings, and Carl and I ended up doing our cake tasting in the car, on my way to the airport to catch a flight to London. I was feeding Carl as he was driving and made notes but that's how we chose our cake. We ended up choosing a vanilla cake with lemon mousse and fresh coconut filling for the bottom tier and for the top two tiers, we went with a chocolate with raspberry puree and pastry cream filling. It was delicious."
What was your most memorable moment of the day?
"I got to marry my best friend who lets me be me, supports my dreams and makes me laugh a lot, and thinks I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. Marrying him is what made our day so special, everything else was a wonderful bonus.
"I was spoilt for choice with best moments...saying our vows, hearing our parents and dear friends speak at our dinner reception. My mother's speech was hilariously heartfelt — she kept hinting for grandchildren but her words of advice in this new chapter of our lives gave us all a lump in our throats.
"The band was brilliant too. Carl and I were treated to a private 'serenade'. They sang and played so beautifully to us right after the ceremony, by the balcony with the ocean views — it was the perfect moment. Later on, dancing with my papa to Bobby Mc Ferrin's, Don't Worry, Be Happy was priceless, cutting the cake, and hearing Carl's speech were memories I won't forget.
"Everyone gathered in the dance hall with the fireplace crackling. They circled around us, with the night views of the city setting the coastline alight behind them —it was magical. Having the people you love and care about all in the same place, from all over the world — we knew that moment would never happen again and we embraced every minute of it. We didn't want the day to end."
What tips would you give other brides planning their wedding?
"Planning your wedding doesn't have to be stressful. I know that it's easier said than done, but for the most part, Carl and I were so relaxed and excited in planning our day, we enjoyed being creative and following our hearts with our ideas for the wedding. We added a lot of personal touches which represented us. Don't feel pressured into feeling like you have to do something in your wedding for someone else. This is about you and your hubby to be, and what you both want. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your family and friends are more than happy to help when you need them. I am a huge fan of what's on offer on the great big web — there are so many ideas, inspirations and tips from various wedding sites. Most of all, have fun and trust that everything will fall into place."