Sara and Mark married in June, which was just over a year after they got engaged. They got very lucky with the weather – during the wettest June on record, the sun came out for them on their big day!
Good job really as they had planned to camp out in the grounds of their reception venue Minstead Manor Estate.
Photography today is by the superbly talented Big Bouquet.
A Wedding With A Difference
Our search for a venue revolved around non-hotel venues as I had worked in various hotels over the years and so wanted my wedding to be different to those I had worked at. We narrowed our search to barn and marquee type wedding venues and after a reality check viewing a marquee in the heavy rain during the previous summer, we selected our venue which had both a barn and a marquee!
By day the venue Weddings In the Woods is the home of the New Forest Outdoor activity centre in the grounds of Minstead Manor Estate, which is still home to the family. We fell in love with the venue the first time we went to view it – it was everything we were looking for and more. The whole place had a really lovely feel to it, with a fire pit, a beautiful forest setting and even shepherds huts for guests to stay in onsite! Our wedding co-ordinator Simon made everything really easy for us, and it was the flexibility of the venue that also really appealed: the ability to decorate the venue ahead of the day, the option for additional guests to camp and stay in camper-vans over night on-site, the mixture of being able to provide some of our own drinks as well as having a fully stocked bar available all day.
Floaty And Grecian
My dress was from Brides of Southampton. I went there as it was recommended to me by a friend who’d been there previously as a bridesmaid and said that the service was really good. This really appealed as I know from visiting some wedding shops as a bridesmaid myself that sometimes the attitudes can be very stuffy, and that’s not me at all! All the staff in the shop were so helpful, and when I explained I was looking for a floaty, Grecian-style dress they were able to recommend loads of other dresses to try – in addition to those I had picked out myself. As it turns out the dress I chose was the very first one I tried on when I went with my mum. We went to do a bit of a reccy to see if there were any dresses there that I liked – which there were – and so we went back with the whole gang: bridesmaids and mums too! I had envisaged going to lots of different shops before I found the dress, but after revisiting the shop and trying on my shortlist of dresses for everyone, I was happy.
Due to the style of the dress that I had chosen I didn’t feel it suited a veil or a tiara, but I still wanted something in my hair. I knew I wanted to wear my hair up so it stayed in a style for the day. I was searching for ‘grecian hairstyles’ to give me some ideas before going to the hairdressers for my trial and it was then that I found the hairband that I wore on the day. I then had to try and find a stockist in the UK! I got lucky and found it, which was handmade to order from Chezbec. It was a double hairband style based on a ribbon which tied easily at the back. This was my ‘something new’.
The jewellery I wore on the day acted as my ‘something old, something borrowed and something blue’! The necklace I wore had belonged to my Nan, which she had given to my Mum. The blue bracelet I wore had also belonged to my Nan and she had given this to me several years before (very lucky!). My Grandpa had bought her both of these and neither of them knew I was going to wear these on the day, so it was a complete surprise when I went to show them – my Grandpa said ‘so i’ve got good taste in jewellery then?!’ to which I replied a definite ‘yes’!
Chuck Taylors For Everybody
Now this is where we definitely went off the beaten track of normal wedding shoes. We were going for a laid-back day and style, and we used the Converse website to create personalised Chuck Taylor Converse for everyone – even me! In total we had personalised Bride, Groom, Best Man, Usher and Dad (for my Dad giving me away) Converse, and as a result we were really comfy all day and night!
Pastries And Fizz
To stick with the grecian theme/styles I spoke to my hairdresser, who was very excited about getting us all ready for the big day! The hairdressers I go to and used on the day are Evolve in Lyndhurst. Darren, my hairdresser, was great and did lots of research into the sorts of styles we might like for my hair and the bridesmaids hair. We all went in for a hair trial as well, which was useful to give us an idea what it would look like on the day and what would work with each of our hair types. On the day both Darren and Mandy at Evolve welcomed us with a selection of fruit, pastries and fizz! It was such a lovely touch and really made us feel special.
In terms of make-up I don’t wear a lot of make-up normally so didn’t want to look so different from my normal look, and wanted to keep the make-up natural, but obviously special enough for the big day. I went to the Bobbi Brown make-up counter in John Lewis, Southampton as they offer a completely free bridal trial – there were no fees upfront and no pressure to buy anything after the trial. I went away afterwards and thought it through and then went back to get the bits I wanted. The make-up trial was really helpful as I was able to see what I liked and what I didn’t, see how it might look on the day and get lots of hints and tips about how to put on make-up! The lipstick colour used on me turned out to be rather in demand, as it was the same shade worn by Princess Kate at the Royal Wedding last year (a Bobbi Brown make-up artist did hers on the day) – the shade is number 22 Sandwash Pink.
Calla Lilly Theme
Even though the village we live in is fairly small we are lucky enough to have a lovely Florist shop called ‘Florality’, and Krissie there was so helpful. I had done some research before I went into the shop and knew I liked Calla Lillies – but that was about it! We were made really welcome in the shop and sat down to talk through with Krissie what we wanted. I was also conscious that bridesmaid bouquets are often held for photos and then discarded so wanted another suggestion which was when Krissie suggested having wrist corsages for the bridesmaids in a similar style to my bridal bouquet. We also had the button-holes for the Groom, Ushers and my Dad made as small versions of the same thing, so the Calla Lilly theme followed through.
We knew we didn’t want big floral arrangements on the tables and decided on using sloe-gin style bottles to hold smaller arrangements. Krissie was again happy to work with our ideas and make them real.
Brown And Green
The boys knew they wanted brown suits to match in with the brown and green theme. They struggled with this at first – especially when they told the shops they were planning on wearing the formal suits with Converse trainers!
The suits were hired from Perfection on East Street in Southampton and Gail and Sam – although initially sceptical of the trainers idea – soon grew to love it!! They were really helpful and the boys were able to go back and try the suits on again with everyone and make sure they were completely happy before they committed.
As the boys were wearing skinny ties, and we purchased lovely ivory “light” floral pattern shirts by Jeff Banks STVDIO.
For the bridesmaids we were lucky enough to get the dresses from the same shop as my dress – which made it very easy for going for fittings and co-ordinating collection. I knew I also wanted similarly floaty dresses for the three bridesmaids (my now sister-in-law and two best friends) and as their dresses were from the same shop we were able to match very similar styles.
Marks suit matched with the ushers and he looked gorgeous! He had wanted a few geek touches to personalise his outfit, so he and the ushers had Nintendo controller cufflinks which we found in the ‘geek wedding’ section on Etsy. Mark had also wanted a pocket watch for the wedding as he was wearing a waistcoat, and he had been looking around for a while for one until he came across square shaped Super Mario pocket watches from Japan – again fitting in with his geeky and computer game style! The pocket watch was so great that we ordered another as a present for the best man – also a big gamer.
A Natural Process
We always knew that when we got married we wanted Big Bouquet to do our wedding photos. We absolutely love their style of photography and the way they managed to capture the essence of the day and make everything reflect the day itself. We are lucky enough to know Emma and Ian from Big Bouquet, who are a husband and wife team themselves so it all felt very natural going through the process with them. As well as wedding photos they also included an engagement shoot, which was an opportunity to get used to having our photos taken, as well as have a selection of other lovely photos – including one which was printed, mounted and taken to the wedding for guests to sign around.
Emma takes most of the photos and we went for a full-day photography, meaning we had cover from the getting ready bits, through to the evening after our first dance. Emma met the girls at the hairdressers and Ian met the boys whilst they were getting ready. It all felt very natural and they really have captured the feel of the day, with lots of photos I didn’t know had been taken! Emma also came up with some great ideas for different types of photos to reflect our personalities, such as photos of the boys with their hand-held games consoles and the girls with various craft projects we had been working on! We are so happy with the photos, and have had so many comments from those who have seen them – with the main comment coming through being simply ‘amazing’. We’re currently trying to make the choices for our albums – which is not easy as the photos are all fab!
Apple Crate Cake
The cake was found by my mum as she had seen their website Taartuficakes in a wedding magazine. They had such a good selection on their website but the one that caught our eye was in the style of three stacked apple crates. The cake is then personalised with your two surnames on it and the date of the wedding and decorated with flowers and apples. It looked amazing – and tasted great too. The cake was from and we opted for three different flavours – zesty lemon with lemon curd buttercream and limoncello, rich chocolate torte with Montezuma’s organic chocolate and Madagascan vanilla sponge with jam and buttercream.
A Load Of Tosh
We decided on having a DJ for the wedding and are lucky enough to know the very talented Tosh Ohta. We went to meet with Tosh and part of his pre-wedding discussion involved finding out the types of guests we had coming, age groups and musical likes and dislikes. This worked out fantastically on the day as there were so many great songs played, and no-one wanted to leave the dancefloor as the good songs just kept coming! Tosh really put so much work into matching the music to the audience and it really paid off.. We had so many comments about how good the music was! You can hear some of Tosh’s music on Soundcloud.
The song we chose for our first dance was The Book of Love by Peter Gabriel. The song has lovely lyrics which is why we chose it – they are so nice we even considered having this as a reading during our wedding service. We didn’t want to just ‘sway’ so after watching a few videos on You Tube we worked out a few brief steps that we repeated throughout the song.
We were both keen to keep with the handmade feel and decided to make crochet flower brooches for the girls and provide with boys with hessian bags filled with Lego – which we thought would keep them entertained! For both we created luggage tag style name badges from brown card and tied these onto the favours with string. Both worked well as most of the girls ended up wearing their crochet flower brooches (complete with name tags!) and all sorts of things were being built with the Lego – the most impressive being a goblet that would later hold a shot glass!
For the children coming to the wedding we put together bags with their names on and filled them with silly things such as water pistols, colouring books, crayons, bubbles and the like. This also kept them entertained throughout dinner and the speeches.
Bunting And Hay
We were able to have access to the venue the night before the wedding and so headed over with our team of helpers. We decorated the venue with metres and metres of homemade bunting – handmade beautifully by my mum who had been working hard on it since we got engaged! We also had a hay bale ‘sofa’ in the corner of the marquee which made both great seating and photo opportunities. As the venue was in a woodland setting we hung colourful solar lanterns and big white letters that spelt out ‘LOVE’ in the trees. We added twinkly lights to the pillars around the bar and lots of wedding paper chains (from Marks & Spencer and East of India). We also used various sizes of wicker hearts at various points around the venue.
We also found some amazing signs that look like actual road signs that we got personalised to say ‘Sara and Mark’s Wedding’ and put these on the main road to indicate the turning into the venue. For the tables we had chosen video-game consoles as the table names and had these written on mini-chalkboards on stands. We also scattered buttons across the table to continue with the handmade theme. On the top table we also had some ‘Mr & Mrs’ bunting and photos of both our parents wedding days.
Not Just A Pretty Picture
We had our save the date and invitations designed by the very clever Ian, who is not only half of Big Bouquet but also runs Swash And Fold. We met with Ian to discuss our ideas and he was really helpful and knowledgeable about the different styles, typography and types of paper, and he completely brought our ideas to life! For the save the dates, we decided to really embrace the geek theme and use old floppy disks with the label Ian designed stuck on.
I arrived at the service in an old style VW campervan called Basil from Solent VW. I chose Basil as he matched our colour theme and was absolutely beautiful. The van was immaculate, and it was lovely to hear that Basil is still used by Andy (the driver) and his family for camping trips as well as weddings!
We had our rings designed at the same place my engagement ring came from which was Serendipity Diamonds on the Isle of Wight. We met with Mark in their offices to discuss what we liked, and see what different styles of rings looked like on which was really helpful.
During our church service while we signed the register, Mark’s brother-in-law played ukelele and sang the Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo`ole version of Somewhere over the rainbow which sounded beautiful. It was a really personal touch and we felt very honoured that he agreed to perform. We also provided a basket of flip flops for the guests (which we got from Matalan at the end of the summer) and made a sign saying ‘for party feet!’, inviting people to help themselves – which they did and meant people could dance for longer!
We also gave people the option to ‘hang up your hats’ and had a line of string with pegs hung up in the marquee with a sign that Mark made. For our guest book we had a typewriter, a Polaroid camera, various props (such as frames and moustaches) as well as chalk boards for people to write messages on which all made for some great photos!
Venue – Weddings In the Woods
Boutique – Brides of Southampton
Hairband – Chezbec
Shoes – Chuck Taylor Converse
Suit Hire – Perfection
Cufflinks – Etsy
Photography – Big Bouquet
Cake – Taartuficakes
DJ – Tosh Ohta
Stationery – Swash And Fold
Well, I’ve see brides and grooms in converse before… but not everyone. Love it.
I am also loving the computer/games console table names and I have to mention the save the date floppy disk too… when did floppy disks become retro cool? I guess right about now.
Right,I am off to sit in a corner and feel old… right after I buy myself a mario pocket watch