When Zoë Onions, 32, the British designer behind the chic accessories line Peonica London, walked into her gym and locked eyes with internet investor Mo El Husseiny, 35, it was love at first sight. “When Mo walked in I blushed – I think he found it sweet. When I left he caught up with me and asked me out,” says the designer.
Their first date was at Zuma in London, followed by a second romantic outing rowing on The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park – by then Zoë knew Scottish-Lebanese Mo was the one for her. Fast forward two-and-a-half years to a hotel room in Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental, filled to the ceiling with white roses and bottles of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque champagne, Mo got down on one knee and proposed to a surprised Zoë with a 16-carat Dhamani cushion cut diamond ring. “I don’t know how he managed to smuggle it in without me noticing. It was all so unexpected that I cried,” she recalls.
They set a date to marry the following year, choosing Madrid, Spain as the location, “We have a long history and close friends in Madrid. The culture is very much our style, and the dining is phenomenal,” says Zoë. She hired a crack team of wedding professionals to plan the event, including London-based concept designer and florist Tony Marklew, and Komosara wedding planners based in Madrid.
The theme was to be traditional and elegant, with a fairy tale aesthetic that complemented the opulence of the Casino de Madrid where the ceremony took place. “The design and flowers were inspired by the fairy tale details of the beautiful venue,” explains Zoë. “The flower arrangements incorporated a romantic collection of blush pinks highlighted by gold foliage. In the ballroom, simple glass vases were transformed with silver leaf, silk flowers, and crystals to emulate the crystal chandeliers, and all tableware and furniture was chosen to act as a subtle backdrop to the sophisticated yet playful colour palette.”
Being a designer, Zoë’s focus was on what she was going to wear for the event, and chose not one but three gorgeous gowns by her favourite designers.
“For the ceremony, I wore a Vera Wang dress with flowing silk tulle, petals and a custom-designed veil. For the dinner, I wore a beautiful embellished Mikael D cape dress which had an angel shape to it. For the party, I wore a fun Valentino silk mesh dress with an Oscar de la Renta skirt,” she says. The bridesmaids wore dresses by Alex Perry, Zoë’s favourite Australian designer, and she gifted each of them one of her Peonica London bags to carry – Mo gifted his groomsmen Cristofle business card holders.
Zoë’s highlights of the wedding were “the opera singer and ballerinas [performing] during the dinner” and the string quartet that played ‘Water Music’ by Handel from the balcony as she walked down the aisle. With such an incredible line-up it’s no wonder that she sums up the day as “perfect” and would do it again in a heartbeat.
BRIDE’S BLACK BOOK
Dress: Vera Wang, Brownsfashion.com
Shoes: Oscar de la Renta, +971 4 339 9005
Make-up artist: Benny Hancock, Bennyhancock.com
Bridesmaid dresses: Alex Perry, The Strand Arcade, Sydney, Alexperry.com.au
Venue: Casino de Madrid, Casinodemadrid.es
Wedding Planner: Liesel Papke at Aghareed, +971 50 826 8006
Cake & flowers: Tony Marklew, +44 (0)7801 933 494, Tonymarklew.com
Photographer: Kate Forster, +44 (0)7415 103341
This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Bride Autumn/Winter 2016