It’s typical. Just as you start to plan the first barbecue of the year, the weather changes and all you are left with is a damp sausage.
The sun has disappeared (please don’t tell me that we have already seen the back of Summer 2012), but we shall carry on with our barbecue plans regardless – courtesy of Russell and Kerry.
To celebrate their marriage they had a weekend of fun with family and friends in Norfolk. On the saturday they had the ceremony and a barbecue with disco. The next day they completed the weekend in style with a cream tea picnic. I am pleased to report that they enjoyed better weather back in August 2011 than we are currently having!
Katherine Ashdown is the lady with the lenses responsible for all of today’s beautiful summer imagery.
Russell and I fell in love with Chaucer Barn the minute we saw it and the words ‘jaw-droppingly beautiful’ honestly don’t do it justice! We loved the fact that you hire it for the whole weekend, get a free run of the whole house and gardens, get to choose your own suppliers with no tie-ins at all and that you and your guests can hold the ceremony, celebrate and then sleep all under one roof!
An Online Bride
To be honest, I’ve never really been one for dresses as I’m usually found in my trusty Converse and jeans, so I was actually very nervous about finding a wedding dress. I have to admit that the idea of venturing into bridal shops terrified me so I was thrilled when I managed to find my dress online. I’m one of the most indecisive people known to man but I finally opted for a really simple, fitted ‘Toni’ dress from L K Bennett. I loved the silk and lace detail as it made it feel suitably ‘bridal’ and feminine but the knee-length, unfussy design suited the kind of informal day Russ and I were aiming for.
A Future Heirloom
Rather than splurge on a really expensive dress, I decided to spend a little more on my jewellery instead as I could wear it again. Also, the sentimental part of me likes to think that one day it might be worn by my own children (or even grandchildren)! I found a lovely, simple Danish design from Georg Jensen called ‘Daisy’ that I fell in love with and I wore the long silver and white necklace with earrings to match.
I hadn’t been able to find anything for my ‘old and borrowed’ and so I was delighted when my mum magically produced my great Nanna’s old engagement ring on the morning of the wedding. Luckily it fitted me perfectly and it felt very special to be wearing it on my big day!
My totally out of character and ridiculously high shoes were ‘Andie’ in dark taupe from L K Bennett. I bought them about four days before the wedding in a mad panic and didn’t really get a chance to practise walking in them… Thankfully I had my Dad to cling on to whilst negotiating a flight of stairs and walking over gravel past all our guests to meet Russell. In the evening I wore some really simple nude pumps from Jones Bootmaker before eventually resorting to bare feet!
The Bare Minerals
My sister helped me with my hair and I had my make-up done professionally. Our photographer recommended Emily at Love Moi Make-Up and she was brilliant! She put me totally at ease and seemed to really ‘get’ the feel of our day. I was so pleased with the Bare Minerals make-up she used as it felt like I didn’t have any on but it stayed all day. Emily was great with my mum, sister and Russell’s family too and was really friendly, professional and helpful but also very laid-back and calming – I’d recommend her to anyone!
Some of my cousins are florists but they live nearly 4 hours away so it wasn’t really practical for them to bring the flowers up with them to North Norfolk! My very talented cousin Catherine helped me pull together my ideas of using wild and garden flowers from pictures I’d seen (I can manage to tell a tulip from a daffodil but that’s about it) and the kind of quantities we’d need. Armed with my list of possible flowers and my budget, I went to see Rita at The Passion of Flowers in Holt, who was recommended by Chaucer Barn.
Rita and her team were brilliantly helpful, friendly and clearly took real pride in their work. They made their own suggestions, mixed them with my cousin’s ideas and completely understood what I wanted to achieve. Rita put together my bouquet of baby sunflowers, thistles and stocks and I was absolutely thrilled with it – it was exactly what I had envisaged! They also did the buttonholes of baby sunflowers and corsages of dahlias, ranunculas and roses for our immediate family and friends.
Rita also prepared a few boxes of flowers ready for my cousins Catherine and Jamie who popped round with them on the morning of the wedding and started working their magic! It took them less than an hour to arrange the beautiful flowers in all of the sixty or so jam jars and vases we’d been collecting for months on end. Catherine also put together my hairslide with a baby sunflower and blue thistle, which was a nice personal touch.
All of the flowers were so fresh and beautiful and had the ‘just picked’ country garden look that we were after. We honestly couldn’t have been happier with the flowers and we received so many compliments about them!
We didn’t have bridesmaids or a best man as such but we did ask our sisters Sam and Annette to do a reading each and be witnesses at our ceremony. My sister Annette wrote and read out a poem especially for us, which was one of the sweetest and most emotional parts of the day for us both.
We gave Sam and Annette a totally free rein and they just picked their own dresses but, despite living more than 100 miles apart, they both managed to choose dresses of very similar colours of soft, silvery grey and we accessorised them with pink and orange in their corsages. They both looked stunning and the whole effect ended up looking far more coordinated than we actually were!
Russell chose not to have a best man but he did ask one of his closest friends, Brendan, to be our ringbearer and him and his lovely wife Cathy played a massive role in ensuring everything ran so smoothly over the weekend!
Russell looked really smart in his Daniel Hechter three-piece navy suit and classic brown brogues. He wanted to stand out a bit from the other men in their suits so he opted for a waistcoat as well, even though it was the middle of August! When I saw him waiting for me in the ceremony room I felt so excited, happy and incredibly proud that I was about to marry my truly lovely man.
Warm, Attentive And Patient
Katherine Ashdown was recommended by Chaucer Barn and we were delighted with her photos. She was so hard-working and professional but also very warm, attentive and patient with us! Her photos are beautiful and she is a very creative, talented photographer that we’d recommend to everyone.
A Garden Party
Russell and I knew from the very start that we wanted a barbecue as we were after a laid-back, garden party feel. We met with a few caterers but none of them were able to offer actual barbecue food and we were about to give up hope until we found Deborah Steward. Deborah and her husband Kevin were both so friendly and our menu tasting session ended up being a full-blown three-course meal chatting about holidays over a glass of wine (or three!) in their sunny courtyard. The wedding food was served ‘family style’ so everyone passed round bowls of salad, pasta etc which helped to get conversation flowing. The food itself was absolutely delicious with proper ‘Norfolk portions’ and we received so many compliments from our guests. I would thoroughly recommend them – their chocolate brownies and salted caramel ice cream were to die for!
Chaucer Barn is an absolutely stunning place that needed no decoration but I really enjoy crafts so I relished the chance to get a bit more creative!
As Russell proposed to me over a game of Scrabble, we wanted to try and bring this in to our decorations for the wedding somehow. Throughout the house we put out messages made from wooden Scrabble tiles and the table numbers and signs in the marquee were put together using the Scrabble theme too.
Our plain white marquee needed brightening up so we hung paper lanterns from The Hanging Lantern Company and, as he is an origami fan, Russ made some giant paper cranes (symbolising luck and happiness). He also made some mini origami birds with some lovely patterned paper from Folded Square that we dotted around the house and we also hung a few on a ‘Wish tree’ that my Mum made for us.
I had some lovely fabric from Liberty that I knew I wanted to use somehow and I hit upon the idea of photocopying it to make paper placemats, napkin rings and also the bunting. My friend Sarah deserves a medal for spending hours putting together the bunting before the wedding! The whole family and friends collected jam jars of all shapes and sizes and we glued some coloured, grosgrain ribbon round the neck of the jars, put them into clusters and added the gorgeous wild flowers. We also laid out clear glass tealight holders down the middle of each trestle table and some added brightly coloured tealights that were bargains in the Habitat closing-down sale!
We set up a children’s tent using a traditional white canvas tent loaned to us by Tess from Albion Days. As I’m a primary school teacher I managed to borrow lots of games, beanbags and PE equipment from school for the children to enjoy and my mum bought some giant bubble-makers, which were also very popular! Chaucer Barn is a beautiful place but not really designed for lots of small children, so the children’s tent was a huge success as they could take it over completely and their parents didn’t have to worry about colouring pens and sticky fingers all over the walls and antique furniture in the house!
In the evening our family and friends helped set up fire braziers (with marshmallows!), blankets and nightlights around the garden. We also hung up lots of little glass tealight holders in the bushes and dotted all around the garden which my Dad made using yet more recycled jam jars and cable wires! They looked stunning and so pretty and the overall effect was quite magical.
A Traditional Fruit Cake
Russell’s mum is a very talented cook and she offered to make our lovely three-tier traditional fruit cake for us. It was decorated by her friend Sarah with a very simple design of all-over white icing with navy blue bunting and swallows detail and Scrabble tiles made of icing spelling out our names. We were delighted with how the finished cake looked and it tasted delicious too!
We chose not to have favours on the tables but instead put together some retro sweetie bags full of goodies from A Quarter Of in simple, colourful striped paper bags. People just helped themselves to them during the day and they were hugely popular with kids and adults alike!
At the end of the Sunday cream tea we gave the large origami birds hanging from our marquee ceiling to each of the children that joined us. They were really popular and lots of the children have now got them hanging from their bedroom ceilings, which is quite sweet.
All of the beautiful flowers were turned into bouquets and given to our friends and family that stayed with us in the house and worked so hard over the weekend.
Russell and I have been avid festival goers since we were both in our teens and we first encountered the brilliant DJ Peepshow Paddy and his Disco Shed at Latitude a few years back. We were so pleased when we found out that he actually did weddings (at one point Paddy even suggested he would be prepared to do our wedding instead of The Big Chill as we’d booked first, which is true commitment for you!) although sadly there was no need for the actual shed at our venue. Paddy was really fantastic – he set up his equipment in the kitchen, sorted our ceremony music and P.A. system in the marquee, won over loads of fans with his awesome DJ-ing. The music was great all night and the dancefloor was busy right up ‘til gone 2am before a very tired Paddy kipped over on one of the sofas!
It’s Getting Better
Russell and I are both big music and film fans so together we put quite a lot of thought into the music for our big day. I walked through the garden and the crowd with my Dad to meet Russell in the ceremony area with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ playing in the background. During the ceremony we played some instrumental music from two of our favourite films, True Romance and Amelie and at the end of the ceremony we had ‘It’s Getting Better’ by The Mamas and the Papas for some celebratory confetti-throwing!
Choosing the song for our first dance was quite challenging for us but in the end we plumped for ‘The Ship Song’ by Nick Cave. Seeing him perform with The Bad Seeds was one of the best gigs Russell and I have ever been to together and we felt it was suitably slow for us rather nervous, non-ballroom dancing indie kids!
Friendship And Love
We were really lucky to be able to have nearly all of our immediate family and close friends staying with us over the whole weekend, which made it really special for us. Everyone was so happy and keen to help and took responsibility for different jobs throughout the day that made it all go smoothly without the need for a wedding coordinator at all! Both Russell and I were completely blown away by the very real sense of friendship and love as our friends and family all pulled together to make our day so very special and memorable for us.
We’d definitely recommend trying to add some personal touches. The photo wall was a big hit as our guests could have a giggle at our horrendous ‘90s hair but it was also quite touching seeing pictures from when we were little with some of our family that are no longer with us. We put out a Canon Selphy compact photo printer for people to print out their own shots from the wedding and add them to the photowall during the weekend, which was fun!
Another idea that seemed to go down well was the icebreaker-style activities we laid out on the tables before we ate. We both enjoy a good Pub Quiz so we put together a quiz with silly questions about our childhood and university days. We also put some origami paper and instructions on the tables, which was a really simple idea but it seemed to be really popular and actually got quite competitive!
Russell and I have been together for fourteen years and already have a house together so we really didn’t need a traditional wedding list. Instead we used Buy Our Honeymoon and personalised all of the items and experiences that our friends and family could choose for us whilst we were on honeymoon in Croatia. It seemed to go down really well and we loved the fact that we indulged in some luxuries that we might not have usually done on your average holiday! The website was really easy (and fun) to set up and it was very smooth for our guests. We then sent thank-you photo postcards of us enjoying our gifts on honeymoon using our compact photo printer, which helped to add another personal touch.
Finally, our advice for other couples out there; do it your own way and stay firm on that from the outset. You only need to do as little or as much as you like as, ultimately, all anyone wants is to show you how much they support, love and care for you both, to see you enjoy yourselves and share in your happiness together.
Venue Chaucer Barn
Dress L K Bennett
Shoes L K Bennett
Make-up Love Moi
Photographer Katherine Ashdown
Florist The Passion of Flowers
Caterers Deborah Steward
DJ Disco Shed
I love the idea of a family style barbecue and garden party.
There are also some great ideas for styling a marquee here – the giant origami cranes look amazing!
Russell and Kerry incorporated a lot of simple and effective personal touches to their big day which helped to engage their guests, keep them entertained and helped make their family orientated event such a success.