The attention to detail, craft and care for everything displayed at this wedding is SO apparent and I’ve been lapping it all up!
Bride Emma couldn’t find ‘the one’ so she enlisted the help of a friend and together they designed her dream dress, but she didn’t stop there though, oh no, she also made her headpiece, customised her Tommy Hilfiger espadrilles, chopped away at her bouquet until it was perfect and whilst getting ready even pieced together a gluten & sugar free naked cake she’d baked earlier!
I could literally write pages about Emma’s talents alone, she is definitely one clever & very gorgeous lady and her and her new husband Ben are a dream team working together to host the most gorgeous theatrical white humanitarian service & reception in the open countryside for their family and friends.
There is still lots more treats, surprises, advice, tips and well just a wonderful account of a gorgeous day and yes even more clever DIY…
Love Story / Proposal
Emma The Bride: Ben and I are both actors and at the time we met, Ben was working at Shakespeare’s Globe in London alongside one of my closest friends from Drama School, Mary. Mary and Ben’s birthdays are a day apart and so they were having a joint birthday celebration at The Swan restaurant next door to the theatre after the show one Sunday, and that is how we met. It took 11 weeks for Ben and I to finally find a mutual agreeable date in our diary for our ‘first date’, but it eventually happened, and 3 years later, on a holiday in Venice (where I had previously worked on a play) Ben proposed. When we first met I was fresh back from Venice and I spent our fist date reminiscing about how wonderful it was – the food, the language – and I told him about a special place I used to visit daily on The Lido Di Venezia, where I would sunbathe on the rocks, learning my lines and dreaming of one day having a romantic holiday in Venice with a handsome man (I didn’t tell him that bit!). It is at that very spot, on the jetty on the Lido looking out across the Adriatic Sea, that Ben proposed. He got down on one knee and proposed in Italian, and then we jumped in the sea. It was Perfect. Ben knew I would want an antique engagement ring (he used a ring belonging to his Mum to propose), so once we had returned from our holiday we took a trip to the Lanes in Brighton, found the Perfect ring and then he took me to the beach and got down on one knee again to propose with the ring, this time in English. So I got two proposals!!!
I’d always wanted an outdoor wedding. I’m obsessed with white colour schemes and I’d grown up watching American movies with stunning back yard weddings with white chairs all in rows – so that was my dream. Initially we thought about getting married in Italy, so that we could be a little more certain of having good weather, combined with the fact that it is a special place for us. However, our main concern was having all of our friends and family with us, and we were worried that this might not be possible if we got married in another country and thus required people to get time off work and travel. We also had a limited budget and wanted to find somewhere really unique; somewhere that matched our personalities. Suddenly I thought about our friends (and former landlords) Maryann and Martin’s wonderful home. Their house is a beautifully converted former village pub. They also have a converted barn that they let out for holiday guests and they run wonderful wellness weekends utilizing the stunning buildings and their land! Their beautiful woodland. That was it – the hippy in me knew where we could have our unique outdoor wedding in the UK. And fortunately, they were thrilled with the idea. The next challenge was guaranteeing the sunshine!
The Bride’s Fashion & Accessories
I had my dress made by a dress maker friend Jayne. I couldn’t find ‘the one’ but after lots of trying on I discovered exactly what I wanted. I was looking for something boho and relaxed with a gipsy feel, but not too relaxed that it didn’t feel ‘bridal’. After taking all my favourite bits from various dresses I had tried, Jayne and I drew up a design. We found the perfect fabric in ‘Fabric House’ on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherds Bush. The trimmings on the dress were from Shepherds Bush Market. My veil was a bespoke design by Minna For my shoes I wanted wedges but I couldn’t find any that were quite right so I found a pair online and then adapted them adding ribbon and trim from my dress to turn them into espadrilles and added more of the dress trim on the front of the shoes. They were perfect and so comfy!
My engagement ring is a antique from Paul Goble, The Laines, Brighton. We needed a bespoke wedding ring to fit round the unique shape so we had to get something made and we wanted both of our rings to match. To help keep the budget down, some family members donated their gold rings and we had them melted down and designed both of our rings and had them made out of the family gold by Crafting Gold
The Groom’s Fashion & Accessories
Ben The Groom: I knew that I wanted to wear a suit that was white or slightly off white, preferably three piece, but in order to fit in with the woodland setting (and to prevent me looking like an extra from Miami Vice) we knew that we were looking for a rougher fabric like linen or tweed, rather than a standard white suit. In the end, we realised that it actually looked better if it wasn’t a suit at all – I wore white pressed chinos with a white shirt, on top of which we layered an off-white waistcoat and jacket. I really love the slightly darker shade added by the knitted ivory tie. The overall effect was perfect – smart, but not too straight-laced. The unusual straight cut of the waistcoat really worked well in this combination. Lastly, I have to say something about the shoes – two-tone brown and white brogues… Not the sort of thing you’d often have an excuse to wear! They got quite a lot of attention on the day and I absolutely love them.
Green Farm is a beautiful, idyllic farm set in the Kent countryside in Shadoxhurst, a little village near Ashford. The owners, Maryann and Martin take beautiful care of it, and also run a couple of stunning converted barns as holiday cottages through the year and a series of health retreats in the summer months. Emma had known them for years, as Maryann had been her landlady when she first moved to South London. I’d also lived in that flat for a short while, and even when Emma and I moved we remained friends. I think Emma had always thought that Green Farm would make a beautiful venue for a wedding, and so after we got engaged she suggested that we go and visit Maryann and Martin to take a look around – I think for inspiration more than anything else, though Emma may have had more crafty designs here than she let on. Anyway, Maryann and Martin are very wise and perceptive people, so they figured out almost immediately what we were thinking, and that very day, as we sat in their lovely conservatory enjoying a cup of tea, they very generously offered to host our wedding.
I honestly think that being at Green Farm was probably the key ingredient that made the wedding such a glorious success (apart from my wife, of course!). The sheer beauty of the setting was breathtaking, and it had everything we needed to host a fantastic wedding – a gorgeous intimate little woodland clearing for the ceremony, a lovely outdoor dining area under a splendid ancient oak, and rolling fields to walk across and enjoy the views on our way to the barn for the reception party in the evening. Added to this, the fact that we had such a personal connection to it and its owners made it all the more special. Maryann and Martin were so overly generous that they literally opened the doors of their home to us – we were able to put up our family members in the farmhouse, whilst members of the bridal party stayed in the holiday barns. We’re glad that we were able to do this, as it did take a lot of hard work and ‘mucking in’ to make the wedding happen, as we had to organise the hire of everything (tables, chairs, the generator, the toilets, etc.) and set it all up ourselves, so many hands were needed on deck. Everyone pulled together though, and if anything the day was made all the richer for it. No-one was more generous with their time and advice that Maryann and Martin. We are incredibly lucky to have them in our lives, for without them, our perfect wedding simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Colour Scheme / Décor
Emma The Bride: White, white, white! Lots of candles and white flowers. I ordered lots of white paper lanterns from Amazon and hung them with ribbon from the trees. I also made my own dream catchers. I really wanted to have Festoon lighting in the woods and although it was daytime they still had a lovely effect and then in the evening in the barn the looked fab. I brought lots of white fabric and made my own drapes to hang from the rafters in the barn and then used any left over fabric to make a ribbon backdrop to hang against the barn wall.
I wanted lots of flowers but as with most things, we were restricted by the budget so we had buttons holes and my bouquet made by Emily and Me and then they provided us with lots of loose flowers that we dressed ourselves (tied to chairs and in an assortment of jars that I had been collecting, on the tables). The Bridesmaid’s bouquets were bunches of Gypsophilia tied with floor length ribbon. I did them myself on the morning of the wedding and I loved them. When the bouquet arrived it was the first time I’d held it and I realised I wanted to add some of my relaxed, bohemian style to it myself, so at the very last minute I took the sheers to it (whilst still having my hair done), then it was the perfect bouquet for me!
I didn’t know until only a few weeks before the wedding if I would have 2 or 4 bridemaids. 2 of them live abroad (America and Australia) and work commitments meant they sadly weren’t able to get there. Because of this we had held off getting the dresses until we knew for sure. I wanted the girls to feel and look relaxed but glamorous but again I couldn’t find the right combination or anything that fit in to the very small budget. We finally found a shape that we all liked from ASOS but the dresses were bright white and they clashed with the rest of the bridal party who were all slightly off white. So, with the help of my magic-fairy friend Sarah Swaffield, we dyed the dresses a beautiful pale mushroom/beige and then Sarah customised them using bits of fabric from my dress and bits of my old jewellery. I was so happy with the end result, they were absolutely perfect and the girls loved wearing them. Sarah also made their stunning head pieces from dried flowers we bought in Covent Garden.
Ben The Groom: We knew that we wanted the wedding party fashion to be uniform, but we didn’t have a massive budget and we didn’t really feel comfortable asking our guests to add to the expense of attending the wedding by having to buy or hire clothes. I’m lucky in that my five Groomsmen scrub up pretty well regardless of what they’re wearing, so we decided to look into buying some high street fashion linen suits for them and found some in H&M. These are not hugely expensive, particularly if you are shopping just as the summer is coming to an end, as we were. By this point we knew that my jacket and waistcoat were off-white, so we decided that white linen would give a nice contrast. Another difference to the Groom’s suit was that the shirts worn by the Groomsmen were a dark shade of beige – initially I was sceptical of this, but it worked really well, proving once again that Emma has a much better sartorial eye than I do. They also looked great with the white knitted ties.
Ben The Groom: We chose a Humanist ceremony as it fitted the setting, and also in deference to the fact that neither I nor Emma are really religious. Rachel Dale, our celebrant, was brilliant. She came to visit us in Dulwich and got to know us so that she could craft a fantastic bespoke ceremony for us.
Both the readings were written by members of the bridal party – Nick, one of my Groomsmen, wrote a brilliantly touching and funny piece that he read for us, whilst Emma’s Sister Jodie wrote a beautiful poem that was read by our friend Zaraah. The final piece of the ceremony was a sonnet that I had secretly written as a surprise for Emma. Just as my friend Ben was preparing to recite it, a old fashioned single-propeller aircraft flew over the congregation – the pilot had obviously seen that something was going on down there and decided to give us a a fly past. That was a pretty special moment.
Emma The Bride: We got so many positive comments from our guests about our ceremony. It was so unique and so funny. Rachel our celebrant is also an actress friend of mine who I had met whilst working in Venice so I knew it would be a perfect way to tie our whole story together. Rachel was brilliant. We wrote our own vows, which were both sincere and humorous and it all felt so personal and a true reflection of our personalities. There was a point when we were considering just getting a friend already attending the wedding to conduct the ceremony (most of them being actors anyway) but Rachel’s experience took all the pressure off us and she perfectly set the tone for the rest of the day. I would definitely recommend stretching the budget and having a humanist celebrant if you’re considering a non-religious ceremony. Money well spent.
Ben The Groom: So many of my friends and family are musical, and playing music has been such an important part of so many of my friendships that I knew that I wanted some of the guests involved with the musical entertainment throughout the day. My friend Jonny is a fantastic guitarist and singer, so we asked him to perform during the ceremony. That meant a lot to me, because some of my happiest memories are of Jonny and I playing our guitars together. The first half of the musical entertainment in the evening saw a scratch band made up of various guests take the stage. Instruments were swapped around depending on the arrangements of each song, different singers came up and guested – it was really fun and, we felt, a bit unusual! The whole thing ended with a rendition of Johnny B. Goode – Jonny and I on guitar, my Dad playing bass and Sarah Workman on drums, who I had hired for the evening and who flawlessly played every song without ever having had a chance to rehearse with anyone!
The main band for the evening were a group called Brass Roots. They’re a nine piece brass band who play modern pop, soul, funk and dance music and they’re absolutely amazing. Emma and I first saw them when they played the Globe’s end of season party in 2011, not long after we met. Hiring them was probably the single most expensive outlay of the wedding, but they we worth every penny- they were really understanding and accommodating about the fact that we were running a bit late, and played fantastically. Everybody had an amazing night, and it was nice to be able to offer something a bit special to those guests who we’d only been able to invite along for the evening.
Emma The Bride: Brassroots were the first thing we booked for the whole wedding and then worked out the rest of the budget around them. They were well and truly worth it and again perfectly tied our love story together having first heard them back at Shakespeare’s Globe, not long after our first date.
Ben is a brilliant singer and guitarist, as is my Dad and many of our friends and I also sing professionally but I’ve never been able to play an instrument so as a surprise to Ben, I did my best to learn the chords for ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers, a song that was special to us, and after Ben and his friends had finished their set, I took to the stage along with my Dad and our friend Jonny and sang the song, playing the chords the best I could! It was brilliant, all the guests were singing along and I felt like a Rock Bride!! Ben loved it and had no idea!
Emma The Bride: We were so lucky with the weather and managed to have the meal sat outside. Our caterer’s Herb Garden Catering, were so accommodating with our plan A, B and C and luckily plan A went ahead and there food was delicious. We started with a selection of canapés and champagne. We had quite a few speeches (actors!!) so we had a sharing platter on the tables as a starter followed by main course. We then asked selected guests (we have a lot of talented friends) to make desserts and we had a dessert table with a host of beautiful desserts to choose from. I’m so glad we did that, it was a really nice way to get everyone a chance to mingle during the meal and also lovely to have everyone feel they had contributed to our special day.
In the evening, our wonderful butcher friend Vince provided us with a huge selection of cheeses and we also had delicious freshly made Pizza served by The Mobile Pizzeria. Friends of ours had had Pizza in the evening at their wedding and we loved the idea. I highly recommend it.
I’m gluten and sugar free. I still wanted to have a wedding cake though because it was one of the traditions that I was looking forward to. (We didn’t have many!). However, I really struggled to find a company that would make both a gluten and sugar free cake, so I made my own!!! I wanted a naked cake so I made the sponge bases a few days before and froze them. Then on the morning of the wedding, in between arranging the flowers and getting ready, I put the cake together, using coconut cream and home made sugar free jam and then decorated the cake with edible flowers from Greens of Devon. I was so happy with the end result. It was a bit hit and miss and I hadn’t made one before but everyone loved it!
I found Amy by way of recommendation from a dancer friend. As soon as I saw her website I knew she was the right photographer for our wedding. Her style was so spot on. And she was absolutely brilliant. I’m not a great time keeper (normally because I’m trying to do too many things at once) and that trickled into our day a bit, but Amy was brilliantly calm and went along with everything. It felt like we just had another mate by our side having her there all day and we are so happy with the end result. She’s captured the day perfectly. We are so grateful for the memories she has given us.
Ben The Groom: Amy did an absolutely amazing job. She was incredibly generous with her time, making the effort to give us a full consultation a few months in advance of the day so that she knew exactly what the vibe of the day would be and what we were hoping to get out of our photos. On a day that was sometimes pretty hectic and busy, she managed to capture all the key moments, took some beautiful portraits, and generally produced stunning images that make me smile from ear to ear whenever I look at them. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough.
Emma The Bride: Most of the wedding was DIY! The dress, shoes, Bridesmaid dresses, head pieces, cake, flowers, decorations, you name it. One of my favourite pieces however was the stunning pagoda we made from wood we chooped from the woods at Green Farm. The day before the wedding, Martin and some other family and friends chopped up some wood and created a perfect arch for us to marry under. I decorated it with sheer white curtains, and flowers and my friend Zaraah lovingly made a wax paper back drop. Maryann tells me that the structure is still standing in the woods now. I found most of my ideas on Pinterest. I couldn’t have done without it. I’m really good at visualizing things in my head but Pinterest really helped to show other people my ideas.
Stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to ask for help. So many people chipped in and offered help from DIY, making dessert, helping decorate and even giving us their gold. And try not to get stressed out about who you ‘should’ invite. It’s your day, your memory, invite the people you want to share it with.
Create a Pinterest board – it was my go to for design and really helped when sharing my ideas with suppliers etc.
Get a feel of your bouquet – If you can ask to hold some bouquets before you decide which you want. I was so shocked how the weight and bulk of my bouquet made me feel. They may look right but when you hold them its different.
Get your husband involved – Ben and I created this whole event together and it was a really good experience (ups & downs). But I’m so glad that he had as much a say in the day as I did. I always had the final say on design but when the day was over we felt really proud of the team work, which is a pretty good start to married life.
Photography by Amy Faith Photography
- Bespoke Dress Designer Jayne Hurley Couture
- Bridesmaids Dresses ASOS
- Grooms Attire Zara
- Groomsmen H&M
- Bridal Shoes Tommy Hilfiger
- Grooms Shoes Office
- Veil/Headpiece Minna
- Hair Dennis Macco Hair
- Make-up Emily Johnson
- Florist Emily & Me
- Venue Green Farm
- Entertainment Brass Roots Music
- Edible Flowers on the Cake Greens of Devon
- Catering Herb Garden Catering
- Pizzeria The Mobile Pizzeria
- Celebrant Rachel Dale