A Glorious Menagerie.

Have you ever attended a wedding where you’re sitting next to a giraffe on one side and a lioness on the other?

Thought not. It sounds a bit like Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium doesn’t it but I promise you it’s real.

Today’s gorgeous wedding comes from the depths of the Oxfordshire countryside and took place earlier this year in a frankly spectacular venue that embodies British eccentricity at its very best.

I won’t reveal too much at this stage; instead I’ll leave it to our bride and groom’s wedding planner Julie Dawson from The Wedding Genie to give you all the juicy details.

The wonderful Jo Hastings was on hand to capture the classic beauty that epitomises this wedding.

The Quirkiest Venue In Town

Shellie and Mik wanted a wedding venue that reflected them totally. When we found Aynhoe Park on the Internet they knew it was the one. It was quirky, stylish, and the décor style was like the inside of Shellie’s own house.

There are stuffed polar bears, kangaroos wearing top hats drinking champagne as well as the biggest stone statue collection in Europe. All the rooms are different and decorated with tremendous flair.

The grounds are to die for to and it also had a helipad, which was fab as Mik surprised Shellie the morning after the wedding by booking one to take them off on honeymoon.

The whole house is available for exclusive use and was hired for the weekend. I have to say a huge thank you to Anna for her help on the day and during the planning. It truly is an amazing house. The orangery that was used for the ceremony is just to die for.

A Decadent Dress Journey

Wow what a journey to find “the dress.” Shellie wanted an Ian Stuart dress and the style she chose was super flamboyant to match her style and love of clothes. We went shopping twice for two full days and tried on nearly all the collection.

We loved one dress but Shellie just couldn’t decide. It was really tricky because she looked fabulous in all of them. To be on the safe side we tried a few more designers and then Shellie saw a stunning dress in a wedding magazine made by the Italian designer Le Spose Di Gio.

There is only one shop in the UK that sells this designer, which is in London in Belgravia. We spent a most splendid day there trying on many dresses. The one Shellie chose was from the new collection that had not been introduced yet. It was a totally different look from the Ian Stuart styles.

The colour was a nude blush pink and as soon as she put it on it looked divine and we knew it was the one. It was so simple but so chic and stylish and a total diversion from the clothes that Shellie normally wears. She instantly felt like a bride.

I have to say that Dina the lady who looked after us was superb. Nothing was too much trouble, in fact on the wedding day she came to the venue to dress Shellie and help make sure the dress looked perfect. In the evening we changed Shellie’s look slightly so that the part of the dress that wrapped around the shoulders for the day became a waist sash.

A veil used for the ceremony was removed after dinner.

Blush Pearls

The accessories were beautiful Shellie wore blush pink pearl oyster earrings specially made for the day that matched her dress perfectly, made by her local jewelers in Leamington Spa.

In fact all the bridesmaids had them made too as presents! I even got a pair as a thank you present to wear on the day as well as the Mothers of the bride and groom.

Not One Pair But Two

Shoes! A task that had Shellie searching for weeks. Shellie has a phenomenal eye for colour and her shoes had to be exactly the same as her dress. They also needed to be comfortable without being too high.

In the end we were delighted to be able to get some from Le Spose Di Gio to match perfectly, but a girl can never have enough shoes so Shellie had a wonderful pair from Rachel Simpson too.

Hair Art

Shellie had her own hairdresser but unfortunately she was going to be away for the wedding. My brief from Shellie was to find her the best there is. Straight away I went to Claire Hanson. I have always wanted to work with Claire, she is well known for working with celebrity wedding planner Sarah Heywood on the Wedding Bible.

Claire is one of the most likeable and professional people I have ever met. We had a fabulous day at her house for the hair and makeup trial. Shellie said she wanted hair art so Claire and Lisa styled her an up-do to die for.

Shellie wanted a look that was classical but emphasized her gorgeous eyes and lips. They spent ages getting it just right. On the day I thought Shellie looked like Grace Kelly.

A Chelsea Flower Show Winner

Shellie commissioned a Chelsea Flower show winner Sarah Horne to produce her wedding flowers. Sarah has a shop just down the road from Shellie’s house which was ideal. She is super talented and used to creating weddings that are out of the ordinary.

When we discussed the theme, Shellie wanted the table décor to reflect her quirky personality and flamboyant style. It was decided to dress each table differently. We had 10 tables and used 5 large candelabras that were dressed entirely differently. I hired these from the superb Bonne Fete.

Sarah wrapped moss around some and entwined crystals on others. They were completely covered in flowers to match the blush pink theme. We had a spare bridesmaids dress which was cut into strips and woven into the décor.

Sarah used some of the dress material from Shellie’s wedding dress too. The results were spectacular. We also had 5 smaller lower centerpieces of various vintage crystal vases on cake stands and trays.

The bridal flowers were roses which are Shellie’s favourite and matched perfectly. The bridesmaids had one huge rose in the same colour that Sarah made. All were wrapped with the dress material to tie everything together.

To really create a wow factor and again reflect Shellie’s hobbies, Sarah dressed two antique mannequins which belong to Shellie in flowers. One wore an actual flower dress with wings made out of wire with flowers that were attached throughout. The second wore a waistcoat of flowers.

I placed them on glass tables (courtesy of my lounge) to make them appear to float. They looked spectacular in the ceremony room, then later we moved them either side the bar area.

Girls In Rose Dresses

When I met Shellie, the first thing she said to me was the style was not to be anything vintage! Much like the wedding dress being a total departure from Shellie’s style so was the theme. She fell in love with some vintage style dresses from Phase Eight which were pink, grey and cream. There were large roses on them which matched Sarah’s roses perfectly.

We used a seamstress to add further petticoats underneath the dresses to make them stand out for maximum impact. She also added a trim of the same material around the lace petticoat on each dress as well as embroidering the labels of each of the men’s jackets with their names.

The sashes for the bridesmaids dresses were made from the same material as Shellie’s dress. The headpieces were also from Le Spose Di Gio to match perfectly and their shoes were a great find in L.K. Bennett.

Henley Regatta

The groomsmen all wore made to measure blazers with matching chino type trousers. The pageboys wore the same trousers with white shirts and gorgeous Hugo Boss cardigans. All the men wore brogues and the boys wore boat shoes.

The whole theme was very Henley Regatta. Every single thing that Shellie chose had to be the exact colour.

Mik wore a navy blue suit by Armani. It was his choice not to wear a tie to add to the overall scheme. He looked just gorgeous and the blue and blush pink together was just heavenly. The buttonholes were plain roses, chosen to match the bridesmaids.

A Romantic Photographer

When it came to choosing the photographer this was tricky. Mik is an excellent amateur photographer but Shellie hates her photo being taken.

Jo Hastings fitted the bill perfectly. Not only is she in love with shooting details at weddings but also she is one of the most gorgeous ladies to be around who makes you feel at ease right away.

She captures romance perfectly and has a laid back but superbly organized attitude. It was my job to ensure I found Mik and Shellie someone who could capture the essence of the day and show all the fabulous details we had spent the last six months putting into the wedding.

I think you can see from the images that we chose wisely.

Love Is A Warm Trombone

Shellie wanted someone to sing at the ceremony so I had no hesitation recommending Vie Watson. Her voice is divine and she looks amazing too. To surprise Mik, after the ceremony his nephew stood up and started to play ‘All you need is love’ on his trombone, just like Love Actually!

Vie sang with him, it was amazing and the guests loved it. The most funny thing was that you have to keep a trombone warm so it had to be wrapped in a water bottle and blankets throughout the ceremony.

We had rehearsals before the wedding with Vie, who incidentally is also a music teacher. During the champagne reception Vie sang Shellie and Mik’s favourite songs.

We had Jim McAllister, a Frank Sinatra style singer to start the evening off and then one of the best bands I know guaranteed to rock the evening – iPop. Suze is the lead singer and not only is she gorgeous but she can sing just about anything and is lovely with it.

A Chocolatey Confection

Shellie wanted a choccywoccydoodah cake. Mik wanted the exact version that was on the website – All you need is love – as this is one of their favourite records and sayings.

We knew the colours did not match our theme but we didn’t care. Mik loves chocolate so the inside was white chocolate truffle and dark chocolate truffle.

After the cake cutting, the cake was cut up and placed into containers that looked like Chinese take away boxes with a little metal handle tied with pink bows. These were finished off with tags from the lovely Elle Is For Love Stationery and given to guests as they were leaving.

In the evening, there was not only a fabulous cheese arrangement made by the caterers – Indulging – but also a hog roast and then ice-cream and old fashioned sweets to finish. These were served from a vintage ice cream van called Daisy. Shellie was thrilled because it was purple, to go with an private joke of hers and Mik – ‘forever in purple’.

Jim sang the first dance number “It had to be you” which was chosen by Mik and Shellie because it so relates to them. They had dance lessons too so the whole thing was gorgeous.

Eclectic Vintage

Apart from the fabulous flowers Shellie had gorgeous little flower arrangements made for all the rooms in the venue. I had labels made with their favourite sayings on them. Aynhoe Park is so full of the most wonderful items that you don’t really need much else. On the tables we hired vintage frames which held the table names.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the tables were called after shoes, another of Shellie’s loves. The stationery was simple letterpress and our table plan was provided by Elle for Love Stationery.

Aynhoe have the most spectacular mirrors so we had our table plan made on a vintage silver mirror to match.

This wedding totally reflected the personalities of the bride and groom. Every detail was well thought out to ensure their guests had the best time – even through dinner.

For the wedding breakfast, each table was served a fillet steak joint. A designated guest from each table was chosen to be the head carver and were given aprons and hats and carving knifes!

They really took part in the event and it was a super surprise for everyone too.

Pearls Of Wisdom

I strongly advise all brides and grooms to be to really enjoy yourself on your big day. Try to delegate and don’t worry about anything that goes wrong.

Don’t be swayed by what others want; it’s important that you choose what you want. Enlist a great team to help you too. The day does go by in a flash so savour every moment.

One last pearl of wisdom is get a great photographer, so when the day has long passed you can relive it again through your photographs.

Venue – Aynhoe Park

Wedding Planner – Julie Dawson – The Wedding Genie

Dress – Le Spose Di Gio

Shoes – Rachel Simpson

Shoes – Le Spose Di Gio

Bridesmaid Dresses – Phase Eight

Bridesmaid Shoes – L.K.Bennett

Hair – Claire Hanson

Flowers – Sarah Horne

Photographer – Jo Hastings

Cake – Choccywoccydoodah

Stationery – Elle Is For Love

Candelabra Hire – Bonne Fete

Wedding Ceremony Singer – Vie Watson

Rat Pack Singer – Jim McAllister

Wedding Band – iPop

Frankly there are so many gorgeous details in this wedding I don’t know where to put myself.

Unicorns on pianos, military caps on lions, two pairs of wedding shoes, a twirling bride, the most exquisite bouquet of O’Hara roses, a trombone-playing nephew and shoe inspired tables have got me in a tizz.

I LOVE all of it.

So how many of you agree? What’s your favourite bit?

I’m placing bets that it’s the bouquet…am I right?

All my love Lolly xxx