What happens when an Aussie guy meets an Essex gal? A gorgeous classic country wedding with beautiful wild blooms and DIY details in a pastel pretty marquee at Hedingham Castle that’s what. But not before an adorable ceremony at the family church which also married bride Hannah’s parents, and framing the sentimental nuptials are THE MOST immense aisle flowers.
The incredible floral arrangements don’t stop there though, oh no. There’s also the blush centrepiece florals on wood slices, and the ladies perfect posies to match their perfect gowns. The bridesmaids dress in embellished No.1 by Jenny Packham gowns which are simply stunning, but Hannah’s Aire Barcelona gown is in a different league and looks like it was made for her.
Hannah the Bride: I knew at the start of my dress hunt that I wanted a ballgown with some drama and an unusual neckline – something you could never get away with on any other occasion. As soon as I came across Aire Barcelona dresses online I booked in an appointment at Golden Sash Bridal in Fulham. Ilona was brilliant and instantly understood my slightly vague ideas – she helped me mix a couple of styles so that the end result was an ivory off-the-shoulder lace-topped sheath dress underneath a bold, beautiful mikado overskirt. Ilona also made my full length veil which was lined with scalloped lace.
My wedding ring originally belonged to my great great grandmother Charlotte. We looked into the hallmark and realised it was due its 200th birthday in 2016 so it seemed really fitting to bring it into action again this year! My engagement ring was designed with Hearts of London in Hatton Garden, based on a vintage flower design I’d found which we added a few other details to. I also wore my Gran’s wedding ring on my right hand on the day – she sadly passed away exactly 6 months before our wedding day and had been so looking forward to seeing us get married, so it was really special to wear something of hers.
I spent a slightly ridiculous amount of time bouncing between wanting a fresh flower crown or going for a headpiece, but then I came across headpieces by Danish designer, Jannie Baltzer, mentioned in another wedding featured on RMW, after which I became a bit obsessed as they are so beautifully made and seemed to suit my dress more than a flower crown. They were unfortunately a bit out of budget, but when I was exploring the treasure trove that is Luella’s Boudoir in Wimbledon Village I found one of these I loved (it’s made partly of silk flowers so fit the bill!) and luckily it happened to be on sale.
I borrowed a necklace from my mum and wore ‘Gigi’ earrings by Kelly Spence, which my parents bought me as a wedding gift. Makeup was by the lovely Tania Stephenson-Oliver – I wanted to look fairly natural and fortunately she also somehow managed to make me look a little less pasty than usual!
Michael’s suit was a Ted Baker navy three-piece, hired from Moss Bros. He also had a dusky pink Moss Bros tie and cufflinks were custom-made by a designer on Etsy; these were tiny maps of St George (his home town in Queensland, Australia) and Kingston-upon-Thames (where we live now and where Michael proposed). He wore his brown RM Williams boots (classic Aussie footwear!).
We got married at Great Dunmow United Reformed Church in Essex – somewhere very special to us as my Gran and I were both christened there, and my parents and great-grandparents were married there. The reception was held in the gardens and Tulip Lawn Marquee at Hedingham Castle, a 12th century keep with a Georgian manor house. We wanted something of an English country garden wedding and we instantly loved the beautiful gardens and lake at Hedingham. The marquee there was very much a blank canvas so left room for us to really make it our own.
Colour scheme/décor and DIY elements
We didn’t really have a colour scheme as we didn’t like the idea of being too restricted or formal; instead we were keen to incorporate all sorts of things we liked, however varied the end result might be! Overall the dominant colours probably ended up being dove grey, dusky pink, gold and light blue. If we had a theme at all, it would have been ‘English country garden with an Australian twist’. Michael is half-Guatemalan so we also wanted a few touches to reflect that too.
We tried to make everything about the day as personal and relevant to us as possible, and since we are both pretty creative, we made/designed as much as we could by ourselves, starting with the invitations – I sketched out a design which featured our names surrounded by a circle of little symbols representing all sorts of things which we love or are important to us in some way. Michael then transferred my drawings to his laptop and worked up the rest, which we had printed by a small company in Wimbledon.
We had lots of colourful paper lanterns and honeycombs hanging from the marquee ceiling alongside bunting and fans on the edges – a bit of a tall order as Michael and his family plus his Aussie friends who had flown over for the wedding generously gave their time to put all of these up in the space of a few hours before the ceremony – they did an incredible job! For the tables, we bought 10 thick log slices from Ebay, on top of which we placed a big wooden tub of flowers per table. Friends kindly donated the table sign bases they had used for their own wedding – they were happy for us to modify these a bit and so we attached plywood boards that we’d painted in our back garden with 10 of the little symbols; e.g. a lavender sprig to represent our home (it has a lavender hedge which smells amazing in summer!); a deer for Richmond Park which is one of our favourite walking spots; a tractor for Michael’s childhood on his parents’ farm in country Queensland, etc. We also had lots of jam jar flower arrangements and jam jar tealights dotted around.
Our table plan was an old ladder kindly donated by my godmother – we strung copies of the table signs along the different steps and jazzed it up with jam jar flowers, tealights, and a little chalkboard heart. On the other side of the ladder, we strung black and white wedding photos of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, and also our first wedding photo…one of our ushers had thoughtfully snapped a polaroid of us in the car (a 1963 Volkswagon Cabriolet Beetle) departing the church, so it was really nice to have our first photo of us as a married couple there when our guests arrived.
For the guestbook, we fixed several lines of twine onto an empty old wooden picture frame and then attached lots of postcards from our favourite places. Guests then picked one of the postcards and wrote us a message before posting it into a mailbox we had bought from Amazon and spray-painted with the red Australia Post sign. A Polaroid camera was also passed around all night which led to a pretty amusing pile of photos for us to enjoy on our way to the airport the next day!
We alternated favours around the tables – guests either received an Anzac biscuit (baked by my mum) or a wildflower seed packet (these were ordered from Notonthehighstreet). All were accompanied by Minties (Aussie mints).
We were keen to try as much as possible to create a mix of English and Aussie flowers, and to have a loosely bound, wildflower/meadow sort of look – nothing too structured or formal. This meant including a wide variety of flowers – my bouquet featured a king protea, waxflower and eucalyptus as nods to Australia, together with roses, dahlias, peonies, delphinium, raspberry astilbe, matricaria daisies, smaller protea and lavender.
We wanted the church aisle to give the idea of a wildflower garden, but also wanted to stick to our budget (!), so our wonderful florist, Sam of Violets and Velvet, cleverly created beautiful, voluminous arrangements in distressed wooden tubs which lined the aisle and then later became our table centrepieces in the Hedingham marquee. We had jam jar flowers lining the church windows and two big milk churns filled with flowers at the entrance. In fact all the arrangements from the church were repurposed by Sam into the marquee for the evening reception, aside from the altar arrangement which stayed in place for the next morning’s church service. We split out all the other flowers at the end of the night into little bunches we gave to our friends and family as a thank you for being so generous with their time and all round fabulous.
The Wedding Party Fashion
The bridesmaids wore sparkly dove grey hi-low hem dresses by No.1 Jenny Packham from Debenhams, with gypsophila sprigs in their hair. We gave them blush and gold porcelain flower studs by Marie Canning, each a different flower, and they wore their own shoes.
The best men, groomsman, usher and fathers of the bride and groom all wore the navy Ted Baker three-piece suit and their own shoes. My good friend Lewis couldn’t be a bridesmaid so we gave him the grand title of ‘the bride’s attendant’ – he also wore the same suit. We gave them all dove grey ties to match the bridesmaids’ dresses.
Michael’s nephew Rafferty was our gorgeous pageboy – stealing everyone’s hearts, he wore a mini version of the navy Ted Baker suits we hired for all the guys (so cute!) and a penguin print bowtie by Mrs Bowtie.
My mum read from Corinthians and our sister-in-law Lucy read ‘An Extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ by Louis de Bernieres. As with any expat Aussie, Michael is a huge rugby fan so was really keen on ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’ – the words didn’t quite work for a wedding…so we found an alternative hymn called ‘We Pledge To One Another’ which is sung to the same tune and worked really well (it also happens to be the anthem for the Rugby World Cup). Michael the organist also surprised us by playing ‘Waltzing Matilda’ while we were signing the register.
We had garden games including giant jenga and some overly competitive croquet on the lawns. Photobombing also seemed to be the order of the day with two of our guests sustaining slightly odd injuries! The brilliant Tommy Guns played in the marquee and had everyone on the dancefloor until the very end.
When everyone arrived at Hedingham we were straight out into the garden to enjoy the sunshine with Pimms, beers and canapes. For the dinner itself we chose an alternating menu – at the tasting we couldn’t decide between our narrowed down two options, so we decided it would be more fun to alternate dishes around each table, so that people could swap if they wanted to. Starters were either country pate with homemade bread, cornichons and chutney or bruschetta with roasted pepper and vine tomato. Mains were braised lamb steak with rosemary and port with dauphinoise potatoes and beans, or roast breast of lemon and thyme chicken. For desserts we had either raspberry and lemon trifle, or gooseberry and elderflower crumble tart.
We had a cheese tower by The West Country Cheese Co which was completely demolished before the evening was out, with Essex chutneys and honey, alongside a traditional cake by a local baker which was painted with a colourful Mayan design – a little nod to Michael’s Guatemalan heritage.
A cocktail hour was a must for us so we had fun restyling three cocktails into English, Aussie and Guatemalan versions: Fantastic Mr Fox (sloe gin, lemon, soda); Dark & Stormy Nindigully Night (Bundaberg rum, Bundaberg ginger beer, lime) and Quetzal from Tikal (Zacapa 23 rum, guava, soda, lime, mint).
We were so happy to have found Matt – we felt that lots of formal posed photos weren’t for us so we were drawn to the relaxed, playful and slightly cinematic feel to Matt’s style. His beautiful photos captured the fun and details of our wedding in a natural, authentic way, and he was such a chilled but organised influence throughout which was so appreciated!
We would definitely suggest looking for bargains wherever you can and working with suppliers to stick to your budget – planning a wedding can obviously be so expensive but we found many things in sales and negotiated discounts wherever possible. We did an enormous amount of DIY which did become quite overwhelming when we pulled it all together and had to work around lack of access to the marquee until the wedding morning itself! Also we’re pretty sure our dads would have appreciated not being coaxed into assembling 70 paper lanterns/tying ribbons on various things for several hours the night before! That said, the end result was hugely satisfying and allowed us to involve family and friends who were absolute troopers – it brought everyone together, but we would just advise not overdoing it as it would probably be more ideal to have some time to relax before the big day..!
Photography by Matt Willis Photography
- Dress Designer Aire Barcelona
- Bridal Boutique Golden Sash Bridal
- Earrings Kelly Spence – Gigi
- Bridal Shoes Rainbow Club
- Headpiece Jannie Baltzer
- Bridesmaid Dresses No.1 by Jenny Packham
- Groomsmen Suits Moss Bros – Ted Baker
- Venue Great Dunmow United Reformed Church
- Hedingham Castle
- Florist Violets & Velvet
- Cake Cakes Glorious Cakes
- Entertainment The Tommy Guns
- Transport The Little Vintage Car Co.