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Halfpenny London Managing Director Jessica Reece’s Intimate Religious and Civil Ceremonies in London

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Hajley Photography

Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.

Jessica Reece, the managing director for one of Over The Moon’s favorite bridal labels, Halfpenny London, and Sheedo Okotan originally envisioned a 2021 wedding with all of their families and friends. But before they could commit to a venue or day, they realized that their families likely wouldn’t be able to attend. “My family is in Australia, which closed the borders at the beginning of Covid until June 2021. We could see that dragging out further,” Jess says. Meanwhile, Sheedo’s family is from Togo in West Africa. For the foreseeable future, international travel restrictions would be difficult for either party’s family.

Instead of waiting until 2021 to begin their future together, Jess and Sheedo planned for an intimate micro-wedding in December 2020. “In October, we started toying with the idea,” Sheedo mentions, “Our biggest hesitation was the fact that our families wouldn’t be with us physically on the day.” But as soon as they told their families about their micro-wedding plans, any hesitations Jess and Sheedo had were eclipsed by their families’ joy. They began planning their ceremony with their families’ encouragement and support from afar.

London went into lockdown the day Jess and Sheedo received their marriage license, so all wedding planning momentarily ceased. As soon as the lockdown was lifted, they seized the chance to finally book their venue. They were only offered one date in December, which left them two weeks to plan.

The couple did not use a planner, but Jess concedes that if anyone were to be named the “unofficial” wedding planner, it would be Halfpenny London founder and designer Kate Halfpenny. “So many people offered advice and help, mainly my wonderful boss Kate Halfpenny, who went above and beyond to ensure no detail was left undone—she was incredible!” Jess says. If there was any position left unfilled, Kate had someone to recommend. She ordered the flowers, tracked the cake down to the venue, and even dressed Jess on the morning of the wedding.

Jess did not have to look too far for her dress, considering her relationship to the exquisite Halfpenny London brand. The bride’s wedding outfit was centered around her Halfpenny dress. She had her fun appointment with Kate at the Halfpenny London boutique. “I Zoomed my parents, sister, best friend, grandparents, and Sheedo’s family into the appointment, so that they felt included—it was really special!” Jess notes. She, Kate, and all of her Zoom viewers agreed that the third dress she tried on was “the one.” Kate then transformed the dress into a bespoke top and skirt.

Being so integral to Halfpenny London, Jess was able to see her wedding outfit’s transformation firsthand. She had weekly fittings at the boutique. The women in the atelier spent weeks on the skirt and top, before Jess and Sheedo even knew when their wedding date! “There was only one seam on the skirt sewn by machine,” Jess marvels. “The rest was all hand-draped and stitched.”

Jess styled the Halfpenny number with more understated accessories. “I chose delicate crystal and pearl drop earrings from Sally at Tilly Thomas Lux, Aquazzura shoes, a JW PEI bag to mimic the drape—that was a hunt—and a modest bouquet of ranunculus,” Jess says. For the church ceremony, she donned a simple elbow-length veil and changed into a gold feather headpiece her dear friend, who happens to be a couturier and milliner, made for her.

The groom wore an Italian sky-blue suit that they had purchased before lockdown. “We wanted a classic but fun look for Sheedo,” Jess mentions. He paired his sharp navy bow tie with a polka dot pocket square. The groom pictured himself in Chelsea boots for the wedding day, so they found the perfect pair from Axel Arigato.

On December 10th, 2020, Jess and Sheedo married in both a Christian ceremony and civil ceremony. They started the day at their church where their pastor married them. “For us, this was the most important ceremony,” Jess asserts. Only fifteen of their closest friends and family could attend, but the moment was still so special. Jess and Sheedo walked down the aisle together, following Jess’s niece as the ring bearer. Jess’s nephew performed a reading, and their friends and family tuned in from all over the world to watch the whole event on Zoom.

Meanwhile, the civil ceremony that followed contrasted completely. They were all seated and masked for the entire ceremony. Jess grins, “Sheedo did manage to sneak a cheeky kiss—or three—once it was official.”

After the ceremonies, the couple took their photos with Jess’s talented friend Hajie from Hajley Photography. Ever since Jess first met Hajie three years ago, she knew she would ask her to photograph her wedding one day. Hajie snapped beautiful shots of the couple in London parks before the reception.

The reception at the Standard Hotel’s restaurant Decimo was, in short, a dream. “We had the whole restaurant to ourselves,” Jess says. The room was split into tables of six. Their family gave streamed speeches online. Through Zoom, they felt like they were all together while they cut the cake and danced. The Halfpenny London team even surprised the couple, welcoming them and congratulating them.

While reflecting on their micro-wedding, Jess and Sheedo could not be more pleased with how the day unfolded. “I’m so glad we took the leap and decided to get married in December. We have gone into two more severe levels of restriction since the wedding, and it looks like it could remain for some time,” she points out. “The wedding has brought such joy to us and our families at the end of a not-so-joyous year,” Jess says, while Sheedo adds that “I will humbly call it an achievement.”