Updated: Aug 31
Text by Betsy Jance von Atzigen
Images by Frances Ledesma, Chris Uy, Betsy von Atzigen
Filipino-American NHS surgeon Frances Samantha Ledesma and the love of her life British-Irish David Johnson with Best Dog and zealous guardian Fin at the Old Marylebone Townhall, Westminster London
"We met on Tinder, a dating app, when I was in the middle of moving to London. We had our first date and just kept going out. We survived 5-6 months of long-distance relationship while I kept flying back to Manila before officially moving to London. And we’ve been inseparable since." Frances recalls. The bride
California-born Frances is a vascular surgeon in training in London who joined UK’s NHS - National Health Service in 2018 after graduating from Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health and accomplishing a string of medical trainings across continents.
Young and adept at her medical profession, Dr. Frances Ledesma inspires university students to pursue the medical field.
"Surgery is probably the slowest to change out of all the medical specialties. Its culture is so deeply embedded in traditions that do not necessarily translate anymore at this point in time. However, it’s slowly being changed from the inside by people— especially women, who step up to the plate and say that the culture needs to be more accepting, welcoming, and kind. So, I’m grateful to be in the company of those who make surgery feel more like home rather than a stressful, unwelcoming workplace."
Proud of her Assumption San Lorenzo education, she bears foundress St. Marie Eugenie’s charge to be mindful of one’s "social and ecological realities and be rooted in one’s own history, culture, and times."
Franny, endeared to family and close friends, is the daughter of Manila-based business owners Janet Marie Jance and Augustus ‘Migo’ Ledesma, with roots in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Philippines.
David is a young finance analyst on sustainable investments in London UK. He does research and analyses data to create financial models and inform investment decisions. Warm, winsome, and a towering fellow, David enjoys a good drink at the pub and long walks with his love and Fin. Allergic to many things since childhood, having a medical doctor next to him hopefully averts any untoward emergencies. He is the only child of Elizabeth and Philip Johnson and is of British-Irish descent while Frances is a pretty mix of Filipino-Spanish-Austrian-American lineage.
To ease the multicultural and geographically distant origins, they opted for a wedding atmosphere of togetherness in two venues, beginning from the Old Marylebone Townhall in Westminster, UK where they exchanged I do’s and to Don Bosco Chapel on the Hill, in Batulao, Batangas in the Philippines come early 2023.
The newlyweds share expanded families on both sides that value marriage for keeps. While visiting Kerry, Ireland, home to most of David’s family, Frances was inundated with “I’m so excited for your wedding!” Or “I can’t wait for your wedding!” Or “Is what I’m going to wear okay?” In other words, I wish we got hitched in Vegas!’’
The zealous guard
Home in London (in Manila, or in her surgery which also counts as ‘home,’) is where the warmth of a relationship nurtures the soul. Home is where Fin awaits Frances and David at the end of frenzied days. Indeed, Fin zealously guards the wedding kiss!
The couple adopted Fin during lockdown from a family who could no longer take care of him. Frances saw Fin on an Ad and went to personally meet the German Shepherd herself. Fin ran up to her like he’d always known her. Touched by a strong connection and sense of belonging, she took him home that day, without David’s knowledge. The latter only realized they owned a large, smart, hyper-cuddly German Shepherd named Fin after work that day.
Finally, the long-awaited day in August came. It was fairy-tale like and remarkable as every bride and groom would want it to be. Families flew in from the Philippines, Ireland, across the UK, USA, Switzerland and elsewhere along with incredibly chilled London-based ‘doctor barkada’ and childhood friends of the couple to celebrate the nuptials.
Large and lively Ledesma and Johnson families and friends gathered and met in London’s iconic Old Marylebone Townhall, city of Westminster, central London. It is an exquisite example of Edwardian Graeco-Roman classicism, faced with Portland stone and a unique tower feature in the style of Christopher Wren. It is home to many celebrity weddings from Beatle Paul McCartney to Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.
A packed Westminster Room with gorgeous wood panelling, carved fireplace and elaborate ceiling plasterwork lie in wait.
Then the bride walked in.
Elated he stood unmoved.
The bustling crowd stilled.
She wore a glamorous Lesley Mobo couture bridal white lace gown with Filipiniana sleeves, light veil and trail with stunning embellishments, designed to suit her personal style, texture, movement, and the warm summer English season.
While looking so splendid in her wedding gown, Frances was transitioning from singlehood to a new commitment and partnership with her beloved David. Both publicly professed to join as man and wife in front of their parents, bridesmaid Bea Ledesma, best man Sam Duncombe, a Westminster judge and a registrar, and a hundred other witnesses.
The wedding party began right at the doorstep of Old Marylebone townhall. Oh, what a transport of delight awaited everyone! A burnished red vintage double decker bus waited in attention as the newlyweds descended the steps of Old Marylebone Town Hall to a shower of soft confetti, symbolizing fertility and prosperity.
The sight of the red vintage bus alone must have taken Londoners down memory lane with all the sense of a wedding occasion, wellbeing, and nostalgia. The trip was in itself a celebration of years gone by and years to go by.
The wedding party on board the double decker was driven and escorted to a tucked away leafy corner of Bloomsbury – the Foundling Museum. Located in a tranquil yet central London venue, it offered an exclusive and ideally placed wedding party venue. This remarkable museum has more than 275 years of history imbedded in its exquisite art collection, objects of historic crockery, contemporary sculpture pieces, and spaces all telling stories of a gone by era.
A sweeping 18th century staircase led Frances and David and their guests up to an opulent Court Room with one of the finest Rococco interiors in London. It surely made an excellent backdrop for an intimate reception over a 3-piece classic ensemble, flowing champagne and canapé. The elegant and stunning Georgian-style Picture Gallery hosted the fine sit-down catered banquet that lasted three hours. The grand paintings hanging on the walls of the gallery included Captain Thomas Coram, one of Hogarth’s finest portraits given to the Foundling Hospital in the 1740s.
Apparently, all couples who book their special day at the Foundling Museum are offered lifetime membership of the Museum and could revisit whenever they like to relive those very special memories.
Frances and David made a decision to commit to each other in love. True love is more than the fleeting moments of emotions. Love is a commitment that endures the ups and downs, rides out shared trials and joys. Marriage is that thing that lasts, contrary to modern day practice. And they’ve only just begun, along with Fin, guarding the kiss.
Images by Frances Ledesma, Chris Uy, Betsy von Atzigen