Photography: Caleb John Hill
Australian-born, London-based Ashlee Barrett-Bourmier is a stylist and Fashion Editor of The Violet Book. Her and her photographer husband Ed got married in Merida, Mexico. It was where they went on their first holiday together and after finding a venue that perfectly captured their spirits, they decided to get married where would make them happiest (after all, their family and friends were scattered all over the world!) But for Ashlee, applying the same carefree mantra to her wedding wardrobe proved much more difficult! As a stylist, she felt huge pressure to be ‘different’ and ended up buying 4 dresses in the height of her wedding dress shopping madness. Ashlee shares with White Dossier why approaching her wedding looks like she was creating a fashion-story was the single most stressful part of the wedding planning process! Despite the pressure she put herself under, looking back, she’s so glad she stuck to seeking out what she truly loved.
Why did you choose to have a destination wedding in Merida, Mexico?
I’m from Australia and Ed’s parents are from France and the UK. The majority of our friends live in Australia and the UK and we knew that no matter where we got married we were going to put someone, somewhere out – we were always essentially going to annoy somebody. So, we decided to do it wherever made us happy and forget about trying to please everyone else! We had our first vacation together as a new couple a year or so before in Mexico and we’d absolutely fallen in love with the country – the food, people, culture and landscape. We also needed to consider warmer destinations for the time of year we wanted to get married and November in Mexico felt like the right choice.
How did you pick your actual wedding location?
I searched long and hard for somewhere that aesthetically suited us. I literally couldn’t bare the standard wedding locations that popped up when I entered “wedding” into any search engine. They all felt so impersonal to me because some other bride/couple had used that location before. It wasn’t that I felt like we needed to get married in a place no one else had used, it was just that I couldn’t bare the idea of having a wedding that didn’t feel totally like ours. We actually found the wedding venue before we’d even really convinced ourselves about Mexico. I just widened my search to anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere and we finally found the venue we ended up using, which in a happy coincidence, was Mexico.
Did your choice of location influence what you wanted to wear?
I did think a little about how the dress would look in the location but it didn’t totally influence the decision to confirm it as the final one. I had so many more difficulties when choosing my dress that location was the least of my worries. I always liked the idea of a long-sleeved dress but that had to be crossed off my list purely because it would have been too hot to wear.
So you didn’t find it easy deciding what to wear for your wedding day?
I actually found it incredibly hard to decide what to wear. It was probably the single most stressful part of the wedding process. I ended up buying 4 dresses in the dress madness that took over my life. It’s hard to establish what kind of bride you want to be when there are so many options. There are so many shapes I love and so many colours and cuts, that it felt impossible to pick just one. When you have other people throwing in their opinion on top of that, it becomes really difficult to navigate where to go with your outfit. That’s why I was very adamant about not dress shopping with anyone else. I took my mum and my sisters to one dress appointment but all the rest I went to on my own. I generally know what I like and what suits me and I didn’t feel like anyone else’s opinion was going to help me. I just felt like it would confuse me even more.
Did you find your dress shopping difficulties surprising?
As a stylist, I thought the process would be easy and enjoyable because choosing clothing is such a big part of my day to day life with work, but by the end I was just so exhausted by it all. I felt a large amount of pressure to get it right because of the industry I work in. I presumed that everybody who knows me expected me to wear something “different” and as much as I don’t like to admit it, I think I really wanted to live up to those expectations. I also really disliked a lot of the dresses that looked like a million other dresses I’d seen on a million other brides. It just all felt so boring to me. I wanted to feel different and I wanted to feel like me. Looking like any other person isn’t something I’ve ever strived for in my own personal style so I didn’t want my wedding day to be an exception.
Being a fashion editor, did you approach your wedding like creating a fashion story?
For me, the most important thing, besides everyone enjoying themselves, was my wardrobe so yes, I definitely approached it from a fashion standpoint. I like to be different. The idea of having a wedding that was the same as someone else’s was the driving force behind quite a bit of my wedding stress.
Why do you think it’s so hard to create a wedding wardrobe?
Because there is just too much out there. There is such a huge selection and there is so much bad stuff on the market. It’s hard to filter the good stuff from the bad and it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s ideas.
Do you have a favourite wedding dress of all time?
Kylie Minogue’s character Eponee’s wedding dress in Kath & Kim and Buttercup’s wedding dress in Princess Bride.
Who’s your recent bridal crush?
I’m overly obsessed with the model Emma Leth’s (now Rosenweig) wedding look. It was the absolute coolest, ever….hands down. I also loved the stylist Alex Carl’s custom Self Portrait wedding dress.
Your wedding photographs are stunning! How did you find your photographer?
I’m not the biggest fan of standard wedding photographers. Their work can sometimes feel quite staged and rigid. Although Caleb John Hill is technically a wedding photographer, his personal work is what really sold him to us. His work is just so beautiful and the tones are gorgeous. It’s very warm and very modern. Considering Ed is a photographer and about 90% of our friends are photographers, the imagery was a really really important element for us. We wanted images that felt really natural and I wanted to spend very little time on any posed photos. I think we literally took 10 minutes for portraits with Caleb. I wanted him to capture the essence of our day – people just being people rather than Ed and I posing it up. Shooting from the hip is very much how Ed shoots so it was important to us both that Caleb shot more like that than in a stiff rigid manner.
Shop Ashlee’s Civil Ceremony Look
Ashlee’s Bridal Looks
As you got married in Mexico, you had a civil ceremony – talk us through what you wore…
I wore Ryan Lo to the civil ceremony in London along with heart-shaped Alessandra Rich crystal and pearl earrings and Magda Butrym silk satin white shoes. Ed wore McQ by Alexander McQueen. Garland Flowers created my bouquet which we then replicated for the actual wedding in Mexico.
In the end, you ended up buying your wedding dress from Sphere Collective from your home-town in Australia. Talk to us about the experience of finding your dress there?
I’m from the Sunshine Coast in Australia. It’s definitely known for its laid-back surf vibe and not as a shopping destination. To have a beautifully and thoughtfully curated, modern, fashionable bridal store like Sphere Collective in my home town is such a wonderful thing. Stumbling upon Sarah’s store when I was home over Christmas was one of the best things that happened to me because that’s where I found the dress I ended up wearing.
Your main wedding dress was Ella Moda. What was it that stole your heart?
It was the dress that got me! It felt different enough and most importantly my mother disapproved! I like it when people have an adverse reaction to what I wear. My mum obviously came around to the dress byElla Moda and thought it was beautiful in the end, but there was a bit of persuading to begin with.
Did you always know you wanted to wear a veil on your wedding day?
I 100% knew I wanted to wear a veil. I wanted to look like a bug caught in a net.
Where did you get your wedding shoes? Did they stay on all night?
I wore a pair of baby pink silk satin bow embellished heels by No. 21 with my main wedding dress. I then changed into a pair of hot pink Balenciaga Knife heels for my evening dress.
What jewelry did you wear on your wedding day?
I wore a pair of handcrafted textured 18CT yellow gold flat hoops with white freshwater pearls cocooned in a textured gold jacket by the jeweller Jessie Thomas with my wedding dress. I then changed into a pair of Alessandra Rich silver rectangular crystal drop earrings for my evening outfit.
Talk us through your bridal bouquet…
My bouquet for my wedding in Mexico was a replica of the bouquet I had at my civil ceremony in London and was created with white spray rose, white freesia, white lisianthus, wax flower, mimosa and eucalyptus. It was really important that I had an abundance of Australian fauna both in my bouquet and as table decorations and around the archway. While we sat for our meal, I kept smelling the sweet reminder of home from the eucalyptus table runners. They cascaded from the table tops to the floors. It’s a gorgeous smell that I’ll never forget from that evening.
Did you help your fiancé decide on what to wear? What was he suited and booted in?
He tried on two suits and picked the first one. Such a different experience for him! Ed wore a Saint Laurent suit, shirt, tie and boots on the wedding day. I helped out and made sure the tailors were fitting everything to him perfectly when it came to adjustments.
If you had bridesmaids, what did they wear?
One of my sisters was my only bridesmaid. She wore a black Catherine Deane Hessa lace trimmed plisse satin-jersey jumpsuit. We only confirmed it a week before the wedding. She had just had a baby a month earlier and we couldn’t try anything on her until just before we left for Mexico. I was quite stressed not knowing what she was going to wear so close to the wedding day. My other sister became an ordained minister online and married Ed and I. I picked every person’s outfit in my wedding party – my mother, my sisters, my niece, my groomsmen, my groom and even my father’s wife! To say I’m a control freak about clothing is a total understatement!
You had an outfit change. Talk us through your Alessandra Rich dress (wow!)
It was one of the first dresses I bought, literally a week after I got engaged. This Alessandra Rich lace gown was going to be the wedding dress but as I tried more and more dresses on I realised I did really want to walk down the aisle in white. I had plans on adding a train to the back of it with a massive bow if it was going to be ‘the one’. I loved wearing it in the evening though. It was so fun to dance in and it felt very me.
Shop Ashlee’s After-Party Look
Ashlee’s Hair & Make-up
Describe your wedding make-up and hair to us?
I don’t wear much make-up generally and I really dislike when brides look too made-up on their wedding day. I wanted to look like an elevated version of myself, not like someone else completely. Ed loves my curly hair so I wanted to make sure I kept everything quite natural and just went with a messy up do. My incredibly talented friend Becca Wordingham did both my hair and make-up and totally nailed what I wanted. We hadn’t done any trials or anything like that. I just trusted that whatever she did would be great.
Did you do any beauty prep in the lead up to your wedding?
I went through a few months of skin preparation with the skin specialist Jasmina Vico. I suffer from Melasma on my forehead and her treatments really helped me feel like my skin was at its best before the wedding day.
November 16th, 2018
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
Number of Guests
Our beautiful friend Lucy Newman who is the founder of LJN Studios and who is a master of embroidery, hand drew our faces in black and white outlines, connected with a red heart, which were then printed on to our invites.
Decor & Flowers
Our guests were serenaded to by a 9 piece mariachi band as they entered the wedding location. While guests took their seats, we played Prince’s “17 Days” (piano & a microphone 1983 version) on loop. I walked down the aisle to Kish Bashi’s “This Must Be the Place” (Talking Heads cover), we then kissed and completed our short ceremony with The Staple Singers “Let’s Do It Again” and our first dance was to Lord Echo’s “Thinking of You.”
Just one big party with the people we love – good food, good drinks, good company and good music was all we really really wanted.
Tulum right before the wedding. We holidayed with some of our friends and family at Coco Tulum. We drank margaritas by the beach, swam in natural lazy rivers, ate beautiful food in places like Hartwood and Arca, rode bikes and relaxed before heading into Merida where we started prepping for the wedding.
Jungle and beach adventures in Costa Rica. We spent some time in the jungle exploring waterfalls and volcanos and then moved to the Pacific Coast to surf and chill by the beach.
The most memorable moment from your wedding
That moment before you walk the aisle. It’s such a huge amalgamation of emotions. All the work you put into this event is just about to unfold and you’re about to walk straight into it. It’s a really odd incredible moment.