A Very English Affair.

It was Vix’s post the other day that inspired me to write this post.

She shared quite candidly her quandaries over her flowers and her wider wedding decor choices. Trust me, from looking at the plethora of images in her post she has nothing to worry about!

But there was one question in particular she asked that struck a chord with me – is ‘things I like’ even a theme?

You’ll have noticed if you read the comments that I responded with a resounding yes. But actually Vix’s dilemma is something I hear about (and relate to) often. Equally I’m asked fairly frequently by both friends and you gorgeous lot for help styling your big day.

How do I create a theme? How big should a styling budget typically be? How much ‘themed’ decor is too much? Do I even need a theme? Where do I start?

If I had all the time in the universe then I’d happily sit down and talk to each and every one of you but unfortunately I don’t have this luxury. In reality the answer to each one of these questions is subjective – it totally depends on you as a couple and what you feel is of the most importance.

Instead I thought I’d take you through my own process for creating a theme – in particular for my wedding last month.

Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that the use of the word ‘theme’ should be taken lightly. I am not suggesting that your wedding should resemble a Trekkie convention nor the set of the Tellytubbies although if this is your bag then by all means go for it. No by using the word theme, I mean a sense of atmosphere that you are trying to create on your big day.

The best place to start is with images – moodboards are your best friend. Whether they be torn out shreds of paper in a scrapbook, a secret board on Pinterest or pulled together on Photoshop, this is one way of helping you to establish your wedding look.

Laying out all of your favourite pictures side by side allows you to pick out the common threads, to prioritse what is really important to you, a way of separating the wheat from the chaff if you like and you’ll find that your theme will begin to emerge.

I actually took inspiration from my wedding venue when thinking about my theme – Iscoyd Park epitomised what I named ‘A Very English Affair’. A harking back to times past, of jolly hockey sticks, polo players, gentlemen’s clubs (in a good way!) elegance and sophistication. Girls in long silk dresses, champagne saucers in hand clutching the arms of their cigar smoking, tweed-wearing other halves.

Creating boards for each and every part of my wedding day helped me to define which parts of the decor were required at each stage and clarified my lines of thought. It also meant that I could communicate my vision clearly to my wedding suppliers – my cake designer, my florist and to my bridesmaids and the boy’s ushers too.

Shall we take a look…

A Grand Entrance

Those of you who are regular readers of my inspiration posts will already be aware that I’m a big fan of the ‘entrance’.

No… not the bride’s grand reveal as she swooshes towards her intended, although I am partial to this particular moment of the day. Incidentally, I’m guaranteed to shed my first tears upon seeing the bonny bride at the top of the aisle…do any of you suffer from this affliction or is it just me?

No, the ‘entrance’ we’re talking about here is your guests’ first impression of the day on the day itself…a taste of things to come if you will.

In most cases, the entrance is actually a physical entity i.e. the front door to the venue or the reception hall where they begin to gather before the ceremony begins and is a perfect opportunity for you to make a real style statement.

Plus you can have a bit of fun too…

When I ventured on my ‘English Affair’ journey, I was keen to integrate the front door of Iscoyd Park into the wider decor scheme – the steps leading up to the entrance made perfect shelves for theme-inspired paraphernalia and the door itself screamed out for a seasonal wreath complete with pheasant feathers.

Given that my wedding was only three days before Halloween, it seemed daft not to make the most of the gourds, swedes and pumpkins so readily available in the shops. Plus I loved the sort of Harvest Festival appeal that arrangements of these vegetables can make.

Lastly carefully displaying huge wooden boules, battered polo mallets and croquet sets along with old badminton and tennis rackets, a cartridge belt and a few crests are just some pieces that bring the rest of this set-up to life.

Here Come The Boys

Striped blazers, brogues and chinos form the skeleton of ‘A Very English Affair’ from a male sartorial perspective along with a blue through to brown colour spectrum. Bowties and herringbone shirts also have a huge role to play and beautiful pocket squares finish this look off nicely.

The key to a successful look is to ensure that the tailoring is spot on. The beauty of such a look is in the crispness and accuracy of the fit – if this is absent you’ll end up looking like an eccentric disheveled professor.

Not so hot on your wedding day.

Another tip to bear in mind is to not be too ‘matchy matchy’. Opting for different coloured chinos to a jacket looks particularly suave – equally having your wedding party in different jackets but with the same trousers retains individuality whilst being eye-catching too.

It’s all about getting the right mix of smart to casual. At our wedding, one of our guests swopped his jacket in the evening to a brand spanking new cricket jumper for a different look.

It was epic.

One thing I learnt on my own planning journey is how much the ushers appreciated being included within the decision making process for their outfits. Having shown them a moodboard of their ‘look’ they were confident enough to offer up suggestions for the ushers’ ensemble. They not only looked amazing but they felt utterly comfortable too knowing that they’d chosen it for themselves.

One word of advice I will offer you is if you do choose to describe your dress code as ‘country club’ you run the risk of stressing out your guests as they make their sartorial decisions – in particular the girls. There is also a chance that some may misinterpret country club and just go for plain country.

Yes folks we’re talking gilets and wellingtons. You have been warned…

Aisle Style

Short of draping each chair with patriotic flags and placing a tennis racket and hunting horn on each seat, it was always going to be slightly trickier to convey the ‘English Affair’ theme within the ceremony.

Opting for a decadent urn filled with an organic clutch of foliage from the local hedgerows was a must, as was a runway of candles to light my way to my beau. Both of these elements were in keeping with the theme due in part to the sense of tradition that they evoked.

And then I took Vix’s approach… which is to pick and choose from the things you really like and integrate them into your day.

I don’t want to give too much away at this stage but I will say that there were specially selected antique bells (an Irish Tradition), the most wonderful order of service complete with Edwardian style silhouettes and copious amounts of confetti.

Dinner Is Served

A sumptuous dining experience like the evening soirees held at Downton Abbey is exactly what this theme is all about.

Using trophy cups for floral centrepieces rather than conventional vases as well as elaborate silverware, mercuried silver textures and cut glass are surefire ways to obtain such a look.

I’m a huge fan of decadent linen and this theme is really where tablecloths and napkins really come into their own. If you’re looking to create impact in your venue, then choosing striking linen as opposed to standard white cloths is cost-effective way of doing this and is bound to get your guests talking.

Dining by candlelight is integral to this set-up, since it takes the culinary experience to the next level. Try mixing different sets of silver candlesticks on each of your tables and use dinner candles in similiar hues to your linen. It’s worth mentioning here that it’s best to utilise a palette of no more than three colours to prevent unnecessary clashes.

Attention to detail is crucial to ‘A Very English Affair’; in fact it’s the subtle layering of different touches that will really ensure that you nail such a theme. For example hunting for period menu holders at car boots and on ebay will add an authenticity that perhaps more modern pieces lack. If it’s possible, try designing your table names and place names to reflect the theme too.

Whilst cigar favours for the boys and sugared almonds in antique champagne saucers for the girlies might seem a little outdated in theory, if enough care is taken and the right components are brought together then these treats can look irresistible.

Trust me folks.

A Floral Banquet

I’m not sure how many of you have seen the film Atonement – if you haven’t then hot foot it to your local DVD shop and rent it out sharpish.

There is a point to this…bear with me.

There’s so many elements that I love about this screenplay but it is the flowers that appear during the drama that stand out so strongly for me. There’s a heady, decadent, fecund aura that surrounds them, the last hurrah of summer if you will.

In fact it is the organic, unruly nosegays that the main protagonist in Atonement scoops from the garden that sum up ‘A Very English Affair’. Think soft English peaches and blousey pinks, teamed with rich plums and muted greens.

Old garden roses thick with aroma, berries and fruits scooped into urns and old kitchen jugs full of lush foliage are just some of the ways to describe this theme. You see this style shouldn’t be overly engineered nor too stylised. The success of this look depends also on the quantity of flowers that you use too – more is always more.

Lastly floral crowns and ample corsages for the bridesmaids finish this ‘theme’ off perfectly. Such arrangements pay homage to days of yore, of England’s golden era.

So what do you think folks?

Has this concoction of images helped you to pinpoint your own wedding theme or just muddied the water further?

Conversely, do ‘themed’ weddings make you want to run for the hills in horror?

And of those of you who have already married, how easy for you was it to select your wedding day decor? Were you working to a clear plan or was it something that you decided as you went along?

Lastly is it just me or does anyone else wish that the time-machine would actually be invented? Here’s hoping anyway…

All my love Lolly xxx

Author: Lauren Gautier-Ollerenshaw
Lolly is a self-professed frustrated florist and styling maven with an endless passion for all things pretty.

30 thoughts on “A Very English Affair.

  1. If you ask me ‘things I like’ is the 2nd best wedding theme ever. How better to have a wedding day bursting with your own personality and individual taste? If you’re wondering what I think the best wedding theme ever is it’s ‘things WE like’! After all, a wedding day is about two people and they happiness they equally share x

  2. @ Amy, I like “things WE like” – that’s pretty much our wedding theme. Our wedding will hopefully have the look, sound, taste and vibe of all things US, but carefully curated to have a broad appeal and not alienate anyone by being too obscurely personal.

    Interestingly, we’ve been having a related discussion over on the QBB FB group – focussed around how its hard to find fresh inspiration when you’ve been knocking around the blogs and mags for a while, and everything starts to feel a bit ‘done’. We’ve kind of concluded that it’s highly unlikely that your guests will think any of your ‘theme’ and decor choices shockingly 2011, and as long as you choose things that have a genuine meaning to YOU, then they will work and have relevance.

  3. ooh Lolly I’m pleased to have inspired further debate here! Really enjoyed this post and the dreamy picture inspiration. I now want a church aisle filled with candles, although concerned this may pose a fire hazard!!

    I’ve got a few of these lovelies stashed away in my pinterest heaven too 🙂 Oh and I am with on “the entrance”….our guests will park at the venue and I want to make the walk round to the right part of the candles magical, but just trying to figure out how to do it without people getting upset about heels sinking into the woodland! 🙂

    final question, I am going to attempt to make linen ‘stuff’ for our tables, a sewing machine is on the crimbo list much to Mum’s shock and awe. So can you guys tell me how easy you have found hessian to work with? I have a bit here and it seems softer than I thought (good) but prone to shedding! Am thinking about trying to hem it and make into runners and hoping it will a)drape well b)not get crap all over the girls frocks!


  4. Wow this is a seriously beautiful set of images! I think you’re just teasing us until we can see the real thing Lolly!

    We don’t really have a theme as such and I really hope it all comes together in the end. For example, will the indie band go with the English country garden flowers and decorations (these are the things that worry me when I should be sleeping). But as you say, these are the things we like, and hopefully reflect our tastes, as in I like to decorate my house with pretty flowers whilst listening to the Killers (old stuff not new).

    As for making different mood boards for different parts of your wedding, that is a really good idea! I think I have it all set apart from the aisle. Our venue has these hideous (in my opinion) red and gold chairs that you can’t hang things off and I really don’t know what to do with them. Although, I’m wondering if on the day I will even notice them (probably not).

    That was a bit rambly wasn’t it? Sorry ha!

    Lovely post Lolly xxx

  5. OMG just realised the autocorrect going mad in my post lol! “I want to make the walk round to the right part of the candles magical”…i mean gardens!

  6. @ Miss Vix – how long is your walk? Hessian carpeting? Maybe that wouldn’t look at all like I’m imagining it in my head mind you…

    @ Amy, I so agree with you. Thankfully with Adam around the men are seldom overlooked on RMW 🙂

    @ Tabitha. Lol! I’m so glad it’s not just me… we’re getting married in a beautiful 14th century church, fitted with the inevitable Victorian pews – only, I have no idea how we are going to hang/tie/attach the bunches of gypsophelia to them. I’ve looked and it just doesn’t seem physically possible…

    Anyway – cheers for the post Lolly, you’ve made me think about our wedding details and it all comes together to sound like ‘A Weekend in the English Countryside’. Theme found? I think so! I do have a question though. How do you transition from dinner and cake to partying the night away without breaking the atmosphere that all the attention to detail has created?

    I’ll stop now. Honest.

    @ Miss Vix – how long is your walk? Hessian carpeting? Maybe that wouldn’t look at all like I’m imagining it in my head mind you…

    @ Amy, I so agree with you. Thankfully with Adam around the men are seldom overlooked on RMW 🙂

  7. @Phillipa couldn’t agree more. I was worrying the other day about how ‘done’ people might think my bunting is…but it’s handmade by me and our theme is country fair, so I’ve reassured myself that it fits the theme, will look pretty and the guests probably haven’t seen it before – unlike us wedding blog addicts!

    @Lolly – fab post, I am loving the tweed – fiancé is wearing a tweed blazer and waistcoat and was unsure what to do regarding the bottom half. I suggested chinos and I’m going to show him this post as extra ammo 😉 Xxx

  8. @Tabitah – my reception venue has those chairs – red velour and gold. Initially I was adament that althuogh I didn’t love them, the chairs weren’t important to me in the grand scheme of things and chair covers were naff and a pointless expense. But now as I get more and more swept up into wedding stuff and all the details/decor I’m definitey going to get white chair covers. On the other hand though – when people are sitting down you won’t even see the chairs…

  9. @Amy well said – things we like is a tip top wedding theme. Wherever possible I tried to encourage the boy to have his input into the day. Not only did the wedding reflect us as a couple but it meant that he felt equally as proud of what we achieved.

    @Philippa we hear this concern from so many of our brides, worrying that they can’t have the photobooth because they feel it’s been done to death or the sweetie buffet because it’s appeared on all of the wedding blogs this year. We say remember it’s your day – if you want said sweetie table then go for it!

    @Miss Vix a woodland walk?! I die. How blinking romantic! What a perfect way to set the scene for your wedding. As for the candlelit aisle I’d suggest using hurricane vases and putting the candles inside. This way they’re protected from drafts at floor level and won’t be blown out plus you can rest assured that Aunty Mabel isn’t going to go up in flames. I loved my candlelit aisle – only next time I’d have even more. More is always more…

  10. @Lauren – its one of those funny things though when you haven’t been to the venue that many times and I keep trying to remember how clear the path is!!! don’t want them getting lost and appearing in the ‘staging area’, I’m obsessing about trying to get them to walk a certain way around the gardens, think I feel another Cornish holiday coming up!

    and more is definitely always more 😉

  11. @Miss Vix as for the hessian I cannot profess to be a sewing queen. In fact I’m distinctly rubbish at the sewing machine – that said I’m sure that hemming hessian should be fairly easy – can the ladies at the haberdashery shop help you out at all…

    @Amy A weekend in the English countryside sounds just dreamy! The transition from dinner to dancing can be difficult to negotiate – again it depends on your budget and your theme. For example the boy and I considered a cocktail hour between our wedding breakfast and the evening but due to budget restrictions it wasn’t to be…You’ll find in the main that guests tend to be on the verge of being merry at this point and so won’t care too much about the ‘details’ at this stage…

  12. @Katie I’m a huge fan of tweed so I’m thrilled to hear your boy is wearing it on your big day.

    @Daphne If the chair covers are important to you then I recommend pursuing them – you’ll only fret otherwise.

    @Miss Vix there’s always time for another Cornish holiday…

  13. @Katie we need to see pics of the tweed! so cool!

    @lauren – cocktail hour is a fabulous idea for the ‘transition’ might steal…this makes me want a neon pink sign though….

  14. @Daphne – I know how you feel, I get like that and end up obsessing! I thought about covers, but not sure the budget will stretch. I’m hoping my guests will pretty them up enough so I won’t notice.

    @Amy – Maybe you could create some kind of plinth (I saw a wedding where they used old logs) and have them lining the aisle and put little jars and vases of gypsophelia on them? I was thinking about doing something like this.


  15. A few of these images just made me sigh…

    Particularly the girl with bells round her wrist.

    And I haven’t even read the post yet, I just had to comment!

  16. @Amy can’t you attach wire to the gyp and bend it over the pew end? (sorry if you don’t know what I mean, I shall hunt for a pic!)

  17. @Ruby sigh in a good way right?

    @Amy The Wedding Of My Dreams does these amazing little vases that have metal loops attached to them so that you can hang them from ribbon/string/wool/prettymuchanything perhaps you could use these and loop them around the pew end?

  18. @Vix, I’ve just made some hessian table runners (I got mine from wedding of my dreams) and although I thought I would hem it, I didn’t in the end. I cut the end and frayed them so they have about 1.5 inches of fringing on each end which looks much better than a hem and won’t fray any further.
    I took the easy way out and had ‘english country garden’ as my theme so anything floral and natural looking, living plants in small terracotta pots on the tables, gingham runners, rusted heart stakes for the table numbers. I didn’t really have any ‘props’ and b/c it was outside, the landscaping really did a lot of the decorating for me (free!)

  19. @Nicola where did you get the rusted heart stakes from?

    Thanks for the advice about the table runners, I’ve also bought fabric from wedding of my dreams, but when i piled it on my lap to ooooh at it noticed i was covered in bits!! 🙂

  20. @Vix, I got them from ebay. I just checked and they still have them. The seller is the homeandgiftcompany and they’re called ‘heart shaped metal card holder stakes’, £9.99 for 4.

  21. @Katie, I’ve had that exact same dilemma over the bunting (I can’t believe I’m even coming out with a sentence like that – what has become of me?!)

    @Amy it’s the Quirky British Brides group on Facebook, started a while ago by an inspirational bride to be, quite a few of RMW faithful are on there. After it was recently mentioned a week or so on RMW there was a bit of a heavy influx of newbies (myself included), so I think the moderators have locked it down as a ‘secret’ group for the time being, to try and keep it intimate, but I’m sure it will be opened up again to new members once we’ve all settled in…

    I hope that’s right and I’m not speaking out of turn – as I said, I’m new myself but already finding it a great source of inspiration and support…

  22. Thank you ladies for the gypsophelia ideas… I am off to wedding of my dreams to see what goodies they have 🙂

    Also – Vix, I’d forgotten you were getting married in my home county. Might have to scroll back through RMW history to remind myself of the details!

  23. Sorry all, a bit late to the party here (been at Ideal Home at Christmas Show!!! :-p )
    Anyhoo……loving the inspiration Lolly, but as @Tabitha said – are you just trying to tease us all!?!! 😉
    (oh & by the way saw the most amazing lamp today with a stand made from an old wooden tennis racket – you would’ve loved it!!)

    As for theme – ours has kind of evolved over the months, original ideas have come from inspiration from the venue. But now I just keep buying stuff I like & hoping it will fit! haha
    This has also happened with colours, I didn’t really have much idea with colours apart from one I liked, but since my trip to the fabric shop in Birmingham I now have a number of colours included in the flowers!! 😉

    ps. love a candle filled aisle, but unfortunately our church aisle really isn’t big enough 🙁 *sad times!*


  24. Ahh Lolly, this is the part I’m really struggling with – particularly ‘the entrance’!

    Our ceremony is in a courtyard with a gate at one end and an arch at the other. When you walk through the gates there’s lots of tall flowers & foliage and then there’s four square of grass, the furthest two being where the chairs will be set out for the ceremony. I just don’t know what to do with it! Whenever anyone asks me about them, I just say rustic, American South, barn/garden wedding. But thats not very eloquent! There will be garden games, a chill out room, the barn where the reception is and the courtyard.

    Any suggestions? xxxx

    Oh and how do you make a moodboard?

  25. Some really stunning little additions to a wedding there, especially love the candles as they are there are still so popular. I think every bride should collect bits they like to make their wedding more personal. I collect little things all the time that I think I might use and keep them in a box in the attic ready for September.

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