One of my blog readers and avid OGGS fans is the American writer that was based here last summer. Business brought him to London town all the way from Los Angeles via Milwaukee and he popped in to see us while he was here. His visit happened to be the day prior to our first wedding of the year and it was a high profile one indeed. Here is a guest blog post on what happened next, written by John Lewinski.
|Taken from Hello!: Our very own Perry’s moment of fame
The writing business brought me back into London for meetings during the final week of March. I was shocked by the nasty weather with single digits temperatures, bitter winds and a blizzard combining to deny stubbornly any possible existence of seasons beyond winter.
When my appointments brought me through St. James’s Park and around Westminster, I stopped in at OGGS for a quick lunch in the packed Brasserie
. I never expected a simple plate of fish and chips would lead me to affirmation that spring was indeed right around the corner.
After wrapping up lunch, I took a brief stroll upstairs. It’s not every day I get a chance to look over the paintings along the stairwells or the architecture of the domes. It was a quick peak into the Great Hall
(my one-time communal office during the 2012 Olympics) that warmed my heart more than the London weather ever could.
That glimpse revealed white-clothed tables decorated with fresh flowers as well as a stage set up with the band equipment and bar area. An electronics-packed DJ station needed only a cue to fill the big room with music. The hall was set up for nuptials – confirming that wedding season was once again descending on OGGS.
This particular display was for the Laura Jenkins and Gavin Johnson wedding on March 23, the first major bridal event of spring, 2013 at OGGS.
Setup for the event started the day before. While OGGS staffers went about their Friday, Events Manager Perry Simmonds and new OGGS Wedding Coordinator Loan Odd had access to the spaces reserved for the Jenkins party.
|The Great Hall: Steve Shipman Photography
From 9:30 the next morning, Simmonds and Odd worked together to set up lamps and candles throughout the venue, before placing name plates on seats in the Smeaton Room (where the actual ceremony would take place). Then, it was on to the reception space in the Great Hall with place cards matched to the bridal party’s table plan.
By that time, other team members from the OGGS Catering and House teams arrived on schedule to double check and reconfirm information from the function. That means Simmonds and Odd must check in and consult with those departments while also taking care of their own responsibilities. You can imagine how the hustle and bustle ratchets up a few notches.
Deliveries for the wedding preparation arrive throughout the day. For this particular production, the most challenging installation was the baby grand piano needed for the ceremony’s special guest performer. You can’t have a piano without a piano tuner, so that was the next element to show on the scene.
After that, the arrivals were more traditional. There was the wedding cake. Once the band was on site, they needed to set up in the Great Hall for a sound check. The wedding’s Toastmaster arrived plenty early to review all of the formal proceedings.
|OGGS on the Cake! Steve Shipman Photogtaphy
Dining preparation was in full swing. Guests would enjoy a Champagne and Canapé Reception before settling into a celebratory meal of asparagus wrapped in Parma ham with a warm poached egg, basil oil and balsamic glaze served with Hollandaise sauce; roast rump of lamb served with pommes boulangere; spinach, roast vine tomatoes and rosemary jus; and baked chocolate fondant with a chocolate cigar and vanilla ice cream.
The couple provided a playlist via iPad for a little background music during the drinks reception and dinner. The device and instructions needed to go to our onsite Audio Visual technician for their own soundcheck, scheduling, etc. The couple chose a “walk in” track (Greatest Day by Take That) to be played as they were announced into the festivities. So, the Toastmaster and A/V technician had to check the length of the instrumental on the walk in song as that was the cue for the announcement. Many weddings are considerable productions, and this kind of timing, choreography and coordination takes a little time.
To put it in Simmonds’ own words: “With weddings, you are really on your feet from start to finish – and you don’t realize how tired you are until the wedding is underway.”
The Welsh bride and Yorkshire groom chose a London theme for their big day. The aura of the British capital ran throughout the stationery, table names (including Covent Garden, where they met).
The cake (a three tier, three flavored sponge mix of lemon, vanilla & chocolate) included iconic London decorations – including the Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and, with a nice flourish, our own OGGS building. Laura and her mother even arrived in a white London taxi, all in keeping with the theme.
The color scheme was predominantly white and green, so the OGGS pillars in the entrance foyer were lit in white during the drinks reception. All areas were complimented with white linen and a mix of white flowers with green foliage.
The main staircase was adorned with glass hurricane lamps and ivory candles, providing a magnificent background for the wedding photographs and an inviting path for guests to head upstairs into the Great Hall for the wedding breakfast.
The Smeaton Room would host the actual ceremony, and the fireplace mantel pieces both there and in the Brunel Room (drinks reception) had groups of ivory church candles and all of the tables were laden with smart little votives. The pillars in the Great Hall started off being up-lit in soft white light, highlighting the gold leaf in the room and were changed to warm amber after the first dance. The chandeliers were dimmed for mood, but there remained just enough light to allow a twinkle with the additional reflections from the candles below.
When it was finally time for the wedding party to arrive, heads certainly turned as the bride emerged from that white London taxi with her mother and bridesmaids not far behind. They used Storey’s Gate – the location of the OGGS secondary, discreet entrance allowing everyone from brides to celebrities to arrive at the venue discreetly.
That discretion was essential when the bride Jenkins’ sibling, international vocal star Katherine Jenkins, arrived to sing The Prayer (by Celine Dion) at her sister’s wedding. The Paparazzi was on the hunt and managed to snap a few shots of the Jenkins’ clan – and a few OGGS staffers like Simmonds and Odd before the fuss settled down into Westminster wedding bliss.
Hello! Magazine kept tabs on the proceedings from the tabloid shadows to write up a special feature on the wedding. I’ve heard some mumblings that the celebrity magazine was in the neighborhood because of the bride’s celebrated sibling, but I think it’s clear to me they really wanted a glimpse of Simmonds.
|The Bride and her Bridesmaids: Steve Shipman Photography
By all accounts (including the raves of Hello!) , the Jenkins/Johnson nuptials were a complete success – with the venue staff as happy as the wedding party to see it all come together so well. When all of the guests, crews and delivery folks were gone, with the Great Hall settled back into brief peace and quiet, Simmonds, Odd and the entire OGGS team could enjoy their success for a moment – before ramping up for the next wedding in what will be another busy season.
As a writer, John Scott Lewinski travels the world, writing for more than 30 national magazines and online news sites – including Crave Online, The Hollywood Reporter, Wired Magazine, Esquire.com, Hemispheres, Via, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, CNET, Popular Science, and ABC News Online. While covering the 2012 Summer Olympics for multiple outlets, he enjoyed getting know the history and people brining OGGS to life. Whenever work brings him back to London, he stops by Westminster to check up on the evolution of what was his London Media Center.