As couples go, Michelle and Paul Cousins must be high up on the patience scale - they waited two years for their perfect wedding venue.
Things weren’t so slow starting out, however, for Michelle, 38, (nee King) and Paul, 40, who met six years ago through Paul’s long time best friend, Neil Whitney. Within two years of being introduced, Paul popped the question while they were away in New York, on Brooklyn Bridge.
“I was quite surprised,” admits Michelle, who lived in Dartford, while Paul lived in Sidcup.
“It had only been a couple of years and we weren’t even living together at that point - we moved in together afterwards though. I was ready to settle down.”
Michelle knew what she wanted when it came to wedding venues - but to get it, meant a long wait.
“Cooling Castle is really popular, so to book there it did mean a two-year wait. But weddings are quite expensive and it was the perfect one for us, so we were prepared to wait. “I wanted to have a really small wedding,” she said. “It was very picturesque - just beautiful. The wedding co-ordinators there were really helpful too, although I also did quite a lot of the preparation myself.”
When it came to picking a wedding dress, things weren’t quite so to plan. Going to Hitched in Chislehurst, she didn’t find exactly what she wanted, but gave one which had been in the window a try - and it was the one.
“I was adamant I didn’t want lace. I had a very small budget for the dress and this one was in the window. It wasn’t what I thought I’d end up with at all, but I was very happy with it and everyone agreed.”
Accompanying her as her bridesmaids on the day were cousin Holly, sister in law Donna, Megan, and her two younger bridesmaids, Maisy and Mollie. Neil - who was there from the beginning - was Paul’s best man, naturally.
The pair opted for a blush and gold colour scheme at the historic Rochester venue, with flowers from Chic Weddings in Gravesend, and New York-inspired gifts on the tables, reflecting where Paul had proposed.
Waiting two years for their big day also meant by the time the wedding came round in March last year, there was another addition - their son Rex, who was one.
Michelle said: “We only had 40 guests in the day and around 60 in the evening. It was everything I wanted. I wish I could have that day again.”
A NEW DIRECTION
After becoming parents and getting married, the couple bought a house in Dartford, a project which Paul, a carpenter, got on with renovating in his spare time. But for Michelle, returning to work at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, she realised she had changed too, and wanted something different when it come to her job.
As a bride Michelle and her bridesmaids had had their hair and make-up done by Charlotte Ware Designs and it was partly that experience that inspired her to try something different.
"I wanted that whole experience of going to a studio," she said.
"I'd seen what she did on Instagram. She has a really nice little place. I wanted to find someone who wasn't going to impose things on me. I didn't want my hair down and I wanted a coppery eye, I knew that."
Michelle decided to look into doing something similar herself, which could also fit around her young son.
"I've always been very creative, and I wanted to try make-up," she said. "Growing up I couldn't wait to wear make-up myself and every Christmas and birthday I would ask for make-up to add to my collection.
"I wanted another career where I could still be artistic and explore my creative side.
"I decided that the wedding industry was something I would love to be involved in."
She went on a four-day intensive course with the Lucy Jane Make Up Academy in Herne Bay, specialising in the Art of Bridal and Occasion Make-up.
"I didn't know if it was going to be for me or not. But it definitely was. It's a new direction for me."
She has now launched Michelle Cousins Makeup, which she runs from home, but her fledgling business has its own website and social media, as well as a client list growing through word of mouth.
So, looking back with the benefit of her new-found skills, would she change anything about her own look on the day?
"I do think now I played it too safe - though I was very happy with it at the time," she said.
Venue: Cooling Castle, near Rochester - coolingcastlebarn.com
Photography: Esther Rae - estherraephotography.co.uk or email email@example.com
Flowers: Chic Weddings, Gravesend
Make-up: Charlotte Ware Designs
Michelle Cousins Makeup: