The Richards have become something of a romantic novelty in their native southwestern “mystical” UK. (Salisbury is six miles from Stonehenge, they point out.) “We’ve got experience and pedigree and the media’s picked up that we’re discreet,” Simon Richards explains of the attention they’ve received.
The two met at a club when they were 17 and have been together ever since. Soon they’ll celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. But it’s the Richards’ business called Convenus — “bringing people together” — that’s making them ubiquitous. The Richards organize all kinds of events, most notably weddings. And increasingly they’re finding that what most English brides want is hard to come by — an American-style wedding.
So they’ve come to transplant it. And they picked Richmond as their flowerbed. “We came here specifically to find out more about the American market,” Simon Richards says.
Nixon, a former Richmonder and 56-year veteran wedding planner, invited them. Nixon is president of Weddings Beautiful Worldwide, a certification program for wedding planners. Jill Richards is Nixon’s protégé and the only “accredited” wedding planner in the UK, Nixon adds.
The Richards organize all events held at Wilton House, home of the Earl of Pembroke. Richmond has a Wilton House, too. The Richards visited the 18th-century, brick mansion-turned-museum where the William Randolph family entertained George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. The Wilton House in Salisbury features the largest collection of Anthony Van Dyck paintings in the world — apart from the royal family’s. Shakespeare rehearsed four of his plays at Wilton, the Richards say, and Eisenhower and Churchill planned the D-day landings there. The famous “double-cube” room has a ceiling that mimics the Sistine Chapel.
In England, flower girls are rare and grooms wear top hats and tails, but not tuxedos. Wedding favors are just starting to catch on. And only recently has the government loosened control over where couples can be married — allowing outdoor ceremonies. The Richards figure they’ll do 150 weddings this year. Many will include flourishes they’ve picked up on here, like releasing doves or butterflies.
Nixon and the Richards discuss one item they search for when antiquing in England.
Simon Richards begins: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue — ”
“— and a sixpence in her shoe,” his wife concludes, adding: “I’m lucky. I’ve usually got one.” — Brandon Walters
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