Every last one of those beautiful paper cranes was folded by today’s Bride Alison.
In Japanese culture, a Bride who finishes this task before her wedding day will be rewarded with a good and happy marriage. And judging by the gorgeous images from Babb Photo, the Bride will also be rewarded with a beautifully decorated reception venue…
Alison’s write up is full of detail, laughter and great advice. And it shows that things will always be alright in the end.
Alison The Bride: I loved the winding lanes to our venue, South Farm, and the surrounding countryside, the farm building, the barn and the grounds. Food and its provenance is important to us, so the fact that the farm is an organic smallholding that supplies much of its own fruit and veg, free-range pork and eggs was a key factor for us too.
We had the full tour including the greenhouses, poly tunnels, the works! Our guide snuck us a couple of delicious tomatoes to taste. When he asked, “Do you want to meet the piglets?” I knew we would be booking the farm.
Sparkly And Fresh
I don’t wear much make-up day to day, I’m not very good at it and I feared that the nerves on the day might make me even more clutzy. Two of my beautiful Bridesmaids booked me a trial with Dina of D & D Make-up as a present. Once I saw what she could do with my make-up and hair I was converted.
She did a wonderful job of making us look like sparkly, fresh versions of ourselves, despite the fact we had all been up laughing, crying and chatting into the early hours the night before. The hair and make-up stayed put all day in a way I could never manage by myself.
She brought Giles to help out with the hair too so we were well looked after. I was thrilled with everything they did. Getting ready with the girls, Dina and Giles was a lovely part of the day. For perfume it had to be Chloe. I don’t know if it is my signature scent yet but one day it will be.
Dithering Over The Dress
I found dress shopping tough. I knew the style I preferred pretty early on. I love lace and sleeves, with a simple silhouette but I am not sure I would ever be lucky enough to have a moment where I found “the one”. I found the shopping experience awkward and, often the assistants seemed insincere in their constant compliments when some dresses were clearly ridiculous.
I also struggled to come to terms with the idea of a dress more expensive than my car. I wanted to run around, explore the farm with my new husband and my loved ones and hug everyone in sight, regardless of whether they were holding a glass of red wine, without worrying about staining a dress. I wanted to be present, not pre-occupied. I looked at the overseas online shops and got scared of the bad reviews. I dithered.
Inspiration via RMW
When I saw the piece about Kitty and Dulcie on RMW, I began to think there was a genuine alternative. With a bridesmaid by my side, I took my measurements, then took them again, ordered my size and about 3 days later a giant pink box arrived at my desk at work! I had to wait all day to try it; it was agony.
The fit was almost perfect and precisely as it was advertised. I had some alterations done by a local seamstress to take it in and I got my full length, lacey, fishtail dress for a fraction of the cost in a shop. Overall I was exceptionally pleased with my dress and the service. I have one caveat. There was a mark on it, and I had some back and forth with the company and we never really ironed out this problem. If I sent it back, they couldn’t guarantee a replacement in time, but I couldn’t risk not finding another dress.
They wouldn’t pay for cleaning without seeing the mark and I couldn’t take a picture of it as it was on the underlayer and my camera could not be persuaded to focus on it. It went on and on. In the end I chalked it up to experience, kept the dress and wore my late-grandmother’s brooch over it. It was nice to have it as my something old, so I was content in the end after all.
Like A Rock Star
Along the road to planning the wedding I found out I was expecting a new arrival. I also found out that it was likely to be the hottest day of the year. I couldn’t try my dress on again and I wasn’t sure it would go over the tiny but expanding bump (particularly as I had it taken in before this news came to light!)
On the Sunday before the wedding, in a sudden burst of energy, I ordered a dress from Monsoon UK as a second option. It was the matching dress to go with my bridesmaids, but had only just been released, it was like a sign. It arrived 3 days before the wedding. It was all pretty casual.
Even if dress one fitted I thought I might need something light and flowing to be able to move around in the evening and avoid fainting. In the end they both fitted and I got to feel like a rockstar with a costume change part way through the day. Even my two dresses came to less than half of the average shop-bought dress. My advice would be to consider all the options as buying online totally worked for me.
Last Minute Accessories
I am not particularly traditional and whenever the proprietors of bridal shops plonked a veil on my head it made me feel like a little girl dressing up rather than a real bride. They just weren’t for me. I didn’t think of accessories until the Thursday before the wedding, when I ran to town after work to try and pick something up during late night shopping. I couldn’t have left it later if I tried.
I grabbed a pair of earrings, a very simple necklace and a statement cuff from Accessorize UK and ran home to finish my epic DIY projects and packing to leave the house at 8.30 am the next morning to begin my wedding adventure.
Style First, Colour Second
I had three bridesmaids, two very old school friends and Neil’s sister. Their outfits were the first things we bought for the wedding. I didn’t have a colour scheme in mind and decided to be guided by the dresses the girls liked rather than being stuck with a colour and then having a limited choice of dresses. I would thoroughly recommend this approach.
We did a few short trips to get dress ideas and browsed a little online before spotting a pretty teal cocktail dress in Monsoon UK. It had a flattering cut, it had the right amount of sparkle and it suited all of them beautifully. The dresses were Grecian-inspired silk, with a beaded belt cinching in the waist.
They were very much involved in choosing the dresses so I felt confident that they would feel happy and pretty on the day. We teamed the dresses with silver peep-toe shoes from Jones the Bootmaker, which were beautifully comfortable with a little heel. Dressing my girls was the easiest part of the whole affair.
Navy Blue And Golden Yellow
Neil asked my brother and his best friend to be best men, and his sister’s fiancé to be an usher. Team Groom and the Dads all wore navy blue three-piece suits from the high street, some from Marks and Spencer and some from Next depending on their preferred cut. Neil had his suit made at Suit Supply. He chose a brighter blue teamed with a cream waistcoat to make him stand out amongst the boys. He looked especially handsome.
We made several desperate attempts to find ties in the same shade of teal before we realised that we didn’t care about matching. We decided we wanted the overall look to be bright, colourful and inspired by summer and eventually chose golden yellow ties. We gave the boys goody bags on the day with the tie, plain white pocket square and a pair of bright socks each.
A Summer Picnic Mini Festival Mash Up
Once we had decided that we weren’t having a matching colour scheme it got a whole lot easier. We had a vague theme of teal and yellow to link with the ties and dresses but overall the scheme was summery and chaotic. The venue gardens are a riot of colour in July and we wanted to embrace the wonderful English country garden.
The venue is quietly eccentric and we wanted to embrace that. Our friends camped in the field, and some were lucky enough to stay in the restored gypsy caravans on site. The venue didn’t need much help to look stunning and the fact it was the most glorious day of the summer helped too. It felt like a summer picnic and a mini-festival all rolled into one.
A Whoosh Of Fragrance
We had a meeting with a wonderful florist, Liz of Tilia Flowers, and we knew she immediately understood our ideas. Our preference was for bright, colourful English flowers with a variety of shapes, sizes and textures. We gave her the freedom to pick whatever looked brightest and best on the day. We asked for fragrant flowers and herbs to be included in the bouquets and buttonholes so every time we had a bear-hug with someone (which happened approximately every 25 seconds) the scrunched flowers let off a whoosh of fragrance. She included blue and yellow flowers to tie in the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
I explained that I loved peonies but I did understand that they may not be at their prime so something similar would make me happy. I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know who she bribed. When she arrived with the bouquets I could not believe the monster hulk peonies exploding out of each bunch. I thought my flowers looked a bit like something from a Tim Burton film and I loved them.
As a bonus the florist was very familiar with the venue and gave us great suggestions on how to re-use our ceremony flowers later in the day so we got lots of blooms for our buck. It felt like there was an abundance of flowers around all day.
Clear Eyes And Full Hearts
I usually cry at absolutely anything but I was too excited to feel nervous or negative in anyway. As we waited to step out of the farmhouse into the garden for the ceremony, all three bridesmaids got teary instead. My lovely cousin, Katherine played a piano version of “Your Hand in Mine” by Explosions in the Sky as I walked down the lawn with Dad, trying desperately to spot Neil.
Most people were on the chairs, but some people were sitting out on blankets on the lawn in the shade as it was the hottest day of 2013. I found him at the top of the aisle looking a little shell-shocked (or suffering heat-exhaustion). We walked round into the summerhouse together and every now and then he whispered to me “Can you believe this is happening?” Somehow we got through the vows with clear eyes and full hearts. My Mum and Neil’s Sister did wonderful readings and we held hands right the way through.
Every now and then I could spot our wonderful photographer, Laura Babb, or Bee and Mark from Yay Films zipping around to get a different angle, but it felt like a very personal, almost private ceremony.
Stealthily Capturing The Day
Photography was an important part of the day for us. We found Laura Babb on the RMW Love Lust List. Her portfolio spoke for itself and her responses to emails were quick and friendly. We booked pretty sharpish when we found out she was available without waiting for a meeting. There was no need and I am so glad we got her. She gave a great personal service, she is super-friendly but totally professional. I cannot stop recommending her. Her tutorial on carrying bouquets was exceptionally helpful when my butterfly brain was zipping around everywhere before the ceremony too!
Lovely Mark and Bee from Yay! Films were there to capture the day in motion. I didn’t really notice them when I wasn’t trying to spot them, which I think is a good sign. I suspect they may have struggled to persuade our old-school crowd of family to keep moving and not pose because these new-fangled video cameras are so small they look like they are taking stills, but if this became a chore they never let on! I love their highly edited style and the modern approach of interpretation rather than transparent reporting.
Von Trapp Family Style
After the ceremony we had an open-mic session in the garden to let our wonderful, talented friends do all the hard work. I was especially nervous about this part of the day as it really relied upon everyone getting involved. My mind was officially blown by the effort everyone made to put amazing songs together.
It meant that even though I spent hours planning the wedding, there was a two hour section of the day filled with surprises. I absolutely loved it. The highlight of the entire day was when I saw Neil go up on stage to sing an acoustic cover of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, dedicated to me, with his best man and an old friend on guitar.
I managed to avoid crying right up until my brand new husband sang for me in front of all of our guests. I also played a little bass while my Dad played a Fleetwood Mac blues track which was a wonderful, surreal moment. My Cousins and Aunts and Uncles all played and sang, we had two singing bridesmaids and some lovely star-turns from friends.
Our first dance was the song “Perfect One” by a band called Lit that we have both loved since we first got together in sixth form. This song was on the first mix tape (on a genuine cassette) that Neil gave to me when we were both 17. It seemed right to dance to it at our wedding 13 years later after growing up together.
We decided that a band was the best way to get people dancing in the evening. I was so glad we found Pressure on Alive Network. As a lot of our friends are musical, we knew a tight band was essential and we were thrilled with these guys. They played a great mix of tunes, their Daft Punk cover was brilliant and they kept everyone dancing to the end. Neil and his sister were pulled up on stage to sing the last song of the night then we all collapsed on to picnic chairs outside to cool off until midnight.
A Glorious Feast Of Home Grown Produce
We picked the venue partly due to the amazing fresh, home-grown produce and we were not disappointed. We had canapés throughout the open-mic reception, including tuna sashimi, risotto and cheese bon-bons, mini chorizo with mash and brie croustades. We also had the South Farm vintage ice-cream bike serving home-made ice cream in delicious flavours like cherry, toffee-pecan and bread-and-butter pudding. Everyone appreciated it in the gorgeous sunny weather.
For our wedding breakfast we chose a squash ravioli for everyone, then a choice of slow-cooked pork, cod with wild mushrooms, or chard and gruyere tart. The dessert was an assiete of dark chocolate and cointreau tort, crème brulee and lemon posset. Several people have said it was the best pork they have eaten.
In keeping with the informal, summer-garden theme, the cake was a three-tier un-iced Victoria sponge decorated with an abundance of English soft fruit. It was made by my multi-talented cousin Katherine. I was lucky enough to get many trial cakes, each as delicious as the last, before the wedding day arrived.
My dad made me a beautiful wooden cake stand, out of a big slice of tree, smoothed and polished to a deep warm brown. My mum knitted two incredibly cute blue-birds from an archaic pattern I unearthed from an archive on the internet and we used them as cake toppers.
DIY Successes And Failures
I tried to make my own invitations and they were horrible. Owen, our talented, designer/web-design geek friend offered to take a look and tidy them up, or have a go at putting something together. I sent him the bones of what I wanted to include. A couple of days later a PDF popped into my inbox with a glorious personal invitation, with lots of lovely touches sprinkled here and there. He took every bit of stress and strain out of it. I got the finished prints and sewed them up with colourful embroidery thread into little booklets to post out to everyone.
I love photobooths, but the budget was stretched tight, so I made one using a vintage suitcase from my nan’s house, an instamatic camera, some really scary animal masks from the internet, some military style hats and silly glasses. I got a beautiful handmade photo album from Kate Bowles Books on Folksy and supplied markers and asked everyone to stick a photo in the book with a message as an alternative to a guestbook. The result is wonderful. As a bonus, I have a box of horrible masks to scare my new husband if he decided to come home late.
The biggest and craziest DIY task was my decision to fold 1000 origami cranes. I read the myth that a bride who finishes this task, called ‘senbazuru’, before her wedding day will be rewarded with a good and happy marriage. I got two giant packs of paper and folded cranes, every evening, in my lunch-break at work, sometimes when I was stuck on hold on the phone I would finish a couple. I had shoe boxes full of cranes all over the house. Friends helped enormously. We were occasionally found folding cranes in the local pub, with each crane looking less and less crane-like than the last.
Even after they were all folded, I still had to figure out what to do with them. Eventually, with the help of several friends, I strung them on beading wire, separating each one with a bead and hung these strings of birds all over my house to avoid horrible tangles. They were spread out across the back wall of the barn behind the top table as a rainbow backdrop to the evening reception. I recommend that you do not start this unless you mean to finish. It will take hours. It will become boring. I gave myself plenty of time and it was still a rush to finish the last few strings of birds half an hour before I had to leave for the wedding weekend!
I sent a couple of tiny cranes to our florist to pop one in my bouquet and one in Neil’s buttonhole but the post didn’t work out so she didn’t get them. On the morning of the wedding, I made two absolutely tiny cranes for her to use. It was quite a meditative moment, sitting there folding the final two birds quietly while everyone ran around prepping the venue and blow-drying hair.
Mad, Bright And Colourful
Although we didn’t plan a theme, the cranes helped tie everything together in a mad, bright, colourful way. True to form, we left the table plan to the last minute. Then Neil had a vision of how it should be. He spent a sunny afternoon in my parents’ garden making a giant picture frame with my dad and staining it teal. I made big origami birds in 7 colours to decorate the tables. We strung the guest names in long lines, interspersed with cranes of the appropriate colour to show which table they should go to. It was visually stunning and I think everyone got the message, as everyone ended up with a seat!
We printed the place tags at home on paper dotted with dried flowers and bee-friendly wildflower seeds. On the back they had planting instructions and they doubled as favours for the guests.
The bunting around the barn and garden was made by friends and family, including a special string of bunting where each flag was made by one of the hens who came to my hen night. It is a keepsake I will treasure. There was also a special one made by my dad that made me cry when I first saw it.
Give Up Control
My beautiful Bridesmaids organised a spa day the day before the wedding. It meant I had to pack for the wedding, pack for the honeymoon, finish any last DIY bits and then leave the world’s longest list for Neil to organise and swan out of the house at 8.30 am on Friday. The wedding was on Saturday and we zipped off on honeymoon straight after. I relaxed, I swam, I had my nails done and I let all the rest of it go. If you can bear to give up that last bit of control, I would really recommend it. It meant that I wasn’t a frazzled, quivering mess on the morning of the wedding.
After I ran out to get jewellery on the Thursday before the wedding, I wasn’t totally thrilled with my choices. I needn’t have bothered. While I was stuffing my face with pizza in my Bridesmaid’s garden on the wedding eve, my husband-to-be arranged a secret parcel to be delivered to the house without me having a clue it was happening.
On the morning of the wedding, before I had any make-up on to ruin, my girls huddled round me with gift bags and cameras. He had snuck out and bought me the most beautiful Tiffany necklace and earrings as a surprise. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the signature turquoise boxes. He also got me some teal Rayban sunnies so I could look cool in the photos and match my Bridesmaids and then take them on honeymoon. It made me realise all over again what a sweet, crazy, extravagant, thoughtful man I was about to marry.
My advice is to plan and make and create to your heart’s content but also rely on your friends and especially your partner to be involved and to surprise you. It was all the little (and amazingly huge) things that everyone brought to the wedding that made it so special.
Alison & Neil Wedding Highlight Film from YAY! Films on Vimeo.
Bride’s Gown – Kitty And Dulcie and Monsoon UK
Accessories – Accessorize UK and Tiffany
Bridesmaid’s Gowns – Monsoon UK
Hair And Make Up – D&D Make Up
Groom – Suit Supply
Groomsmen – Marks and Spencer and Next
Invitations – Owen Lewis Design
Florist – Liz at Tilia Wedding Flowers
Band – Pressure from the Alive Network
Venue – South Farm
Videography – Yay! Films
Photography – Babb Photo
I actually think it would be very therapeutic to fold cranes in the run up to your wedding.
It must have been very satisfying for Alison when she folded the final one.
They do look truly spectacular in all of their rainbow glory against the barn wall.
Lots of love,