I don't normally work on the real weddings but today's is just that little bit special. You see it is my baby sister's wedding. A day full of so much love and laughter that I couldn't not share it with you. Abi looked beyond stunning in her Amanda Wyatt Natalia gown which was chosen to compliment my new brother-in-law's military dress. Seriously smart. And you will probably spot my two little girls in there too. You've got to love a tiny tutu. I can't say enough about how amazing Cripps Barn was, just fabulous, and the perfect back drop to the hours of crafting, planning and baking. Everything came together to create an elegant day with just the right amount of fun. It was a truly amazing day and I hope you love it as much as we all did. Enjoy!

The Bride

Abi The Bride: I always imagined that picking a dress would be the hardest part - it wasn’t! I went to a couple of boutiques but found that I liked nearly every dress I tried on. In the end I took my oldest school friend with me, knowing that she knew my taste to a tea and would be brutally honest. I knew straight away that the Natalia dress by Amanda Wyatt was a contender. It felt so light and young, I loved it! My friends and the very lovely lady in the shop were convinced it was the one, so I decided to go with it. I have always been a big fan of being organised, so was happy to have the first box ticked. My dress was fairly simple and I didn’t want to over clutter it with accessories. I chose a simple veil that drew attention to the scooped back of the dress, with a vintage hair clip. I decided on a very loose hair style, which was loving styled by Vicky; the clip just brought this to life; it added that little extra something and picked out the tiny pearl detailing on my dress. My sister leant me a lovely ring and some pearl earrings then on the morning of the wedding my Mum gave me a pretty pearl necklace; nothing else was needed, it was perfect.

The Groom

My husband has been in the forces since he left school. He has never been one to draw attention to himself, so he took a long time in deciding whether or not to wear his military dress. In the end I made the decision for him. The army has been such a big part of our lives and a massive shaping factor in our relationship, so I felt it was only right that we recognised this.

The Venue

Ed and I have very similar tastes, so choosing a venue wasn’t too difficult. We knew that we wanted the ceremony and reception to be in the same place, so started looking at barn style venues. Within 6 weeks of being engaged we had visited 5 venues all within an hour of our home (it was important to us that people didn’t have to travel too far). After seeing each venue we wrote a ‘Pros and Cons’ list and narrowed it down to two. In the end Cripps Barn won, mainly because of the outdoor fire pits and amazing food choice! We knew it was somewhere we could have a relaxed day, with plenty of chances to personalise things. The staff at Cripps were fantastic. I spent many an hour worrying about how everything was going to come together on the day, but they really took care of everything. They asked for a timeline and table plan from me, then they just made sure that it all happened! They were also very helpful during the planning process and were very flexible with their options. The wedding party stayed at The Fleece Inn in Cirencester. They supplied us with endless ice buckets and champagne glasses and even fetched me a Starbucks the morning after as I had completely lost my voice! A definite winner.

The Decor

Probably the hardest decision! I love pastel vintage styling but also have a real passion for colour, so went around in circles for months. In the end it was our theme that helped me. I was lucky enough to live with a graphic designer at University and he very kindly designed us some ‘Penguin’ book themed Save The Date cards. Everybody loved them and from there we decided that our table names would be themed around book titles (much to my excitement, given my mild obsession and excessive collecting of books!) From this I took some of the colour ways from the old Penguin book covers and used these when liaising with our florist. Christiane had some amazing ideas and really helped it all fall in to place. I have never been a fan of chair covers, but wanted to liven the wooden chairs up a bit. We decided that ribbons would be the easiest way to do this. The day before the wedding one of my bridesmaids spent hours cutting hundreds of lengths of lovely coloured ribbons, which my sister and sister in law lovingly tied in to place on the day. My family helped me to collect small items for each table, linked to the chosen book. On the day my sister and the florist arranged each centre piece; every table was different and we were stunned when we saw how it had all come together. One of my bridesmaids, Katie, spent hours helping me to create the wedding favours. We decided that we wanted to give people a scratch card each, but needed to make these fit with the theme! I decided to put these in to little Kraft envelopes, each with a penny attached to scratch the card. I had a ‘For richer, for poorer’ stamp hand made and then painstakingly stamped good luck on to the back of each one, one letter at a time! The table plan followed the book them and I asked my friend Jon to design some mini book covers for me. With the help of my sister and Mum we covered a frame in pages from old books and strung the seating plans on to them. I also spent many hours painting an old wooden crate pink, which I then used to string up old family photos. My bridesmaid Sian had a cloth bound guest book hand made to match our Penguin invites; it was a lovely touch.

The Flowers

I saw Honeysuckle Flower Co. at an open day at Cripps. I loved the relaxed style and thought it would be good to have somebody who had worked at the venue before. Christiane was really approachable and I knew she’d be perfect. From start to finish Christiane was great. I changed my mind several times (whilst deciding what Ed and the boys would wear) and each time she came back with the perfect solution. I went for very natural, romantic looking flowers, but with lovely bright ribbons on the bouquets to really make them ‘pop’. I gave Christiane the book choices for each table and she made sure that the flowers were relevant to each. I never imagined that they would be so beautiful and was genuinely stunned when she delivered by bouquet.

The Bridesmaids

Bridesmaid fashion is always tricky, as everybody has different tastes. After trying endless dresses (and buying/returning many!) I decided that multi-way dresses were the best option. I decided on ‘pewter’ coloured dresses from Two Birds Bridesmaids, as the colour looked great on all 3 of my friends. The staff at Two Birds were so fantastic and after cleavage related dramas when trying the dresses on, they managed to make us some bandeaus at the very last minute. Of course, one bridesmaid decided that this wasn’t necessary - the results of which featured in the Groom’s speech and provided much amusement on the day!

The Groomsmen

As the groom was in military uniform, choosing the groomsmen’s outfits was a little tricky. I have always been a fan of brighter blue suits, but they needed to go with the military dress whilst still being relaxed enough for the venue (and the best man’s dreadlocks!) In the end we settled on a traditional navy suit, with a grey and blue waistcoat to add a little twist and to ensure that they stood out in their own right.

The Little Ones

I chose to have my two lovely nieces, Molly and Alice, as flower girls. For them I chose pale pink tutus, with a simple plain white top. This was accessorized with floral crowns and a flower wand each, with lots of fun ribbons of course. The girls were very excited in the lead up to the wedding and couldn’t wait for the ‘disco’! Ed is very close to his younger sister and it was really important to him that she be involved in the big day. To mark her apart form the older girls I dressed her in a pale pink dress to tone in with Molly and Alice.

The Ceremony

I actually had the flu on the day of the wedding. The night before I took a serious dose of Night Nurse and slept with copious amounts of Olbas Oil on my pillow! Rebecca did a brilliant job on my makeup and nobody noticed that I could barely breath and my eyes were streaming. All of this resulted in me being very distracted and I found that I didn’t feel nervous in the slightest. My bridesmaids however were very concerned about the prospect of falling over on their way in to the ceremony! Molly tried her best to coax her younger sister Alice in to the barn. This was very funny to watch and provided a further distraction just before we entered. Sadly my father passed away four years ago, so it was my step-dad that walked me down the aisle. This meant an awful lot to both of us and the ceremony itself was very emotional. We had two readings. One called ‘The Promise’, which my friend Emma had picked as it reminded her of us. The second reading was from the Amber Spyglass, one of my favourite books. My sister printed the wrong reading, then when she finally managed to get the correct one on the day, she left it at the hotel! Luckily she’s a very good public speaker, as she ended up reading from her phone! If you had told me beforehand that that was going to happen I probably would have had a meltdown (as it very much goes against my OCD!) but on the day such small things really don’t matter, as everyone is in such high spirits. We left the ceremony to ‘ All I Want Is You’ by Barry Louis Polisar. It was the perfect up beat music choice and reminded us of one of our favourite films.

The Entertainment

One of the first things we booked was a magician. He came very highly recommended and once we had chosen our venue I knew it would be perfect for entertaining people whilst they were milling around getting merry on bubbles after the ceremony. This was hands down the best choice we made. Rob was very subtle in the way that he made his way around the guests and he fitted in perfectly. A lot of people assumed he was a guest himself! The bits that I saw were astounding and I have absolutely no idea how he did it. There were some genuine jaw dropping moments of disbelief and I have had so many people tell me that he was great. For our evening entertainment we decided that we didn’t want a band, but we weren’t really keen on just having a DJ either. After seeing him at another wedding, my sister told me to check out Paul Martyn. He sings, plays saxophone and DJs. The way he mixes this all together through the night is great and he was very patient with the many drunken requests he received throughout the night! When speaking to him about song choices, he explained why being too prescriptive about what you want doesn’t always work fro a large audience; I knew then that he clearly knew how to do his job well as many would have just said ‘ok, I’ll play whatever you tell me’.

The Food

I am lucky enough to have RMWs very own Lottie Manns for my sister. As I’m sure you all know she is also a very talented baker! We decided not to have dessert from the venue and instead upgraded our choice of starter. My sister therefore helped me plan a whole table of ‘help yourself’ cakes and treats, which were thoroughly demolished throughout the evening! The portions at Cripps Barn are HUGE so nobody missed having a sit down desert. We found that having a whole cake table with lots of lovely options to pick at worked really well and everybody loved it. My Mum spent hours sewing little Sylvanian sized outfits to match my dress and Ed’s uniform; these topped our beautiful semi-naked cake. The food and portion sizes at Cripps really are impressive. I was shocked by the amount of food at the tasting evening but assumed this was just because they wanted us to try everything. But no, the portions on the day were just as big! For our starters we had a mixed charcuterie board, which came to the table ready for people to help themselves. For our mains we had slow cooked bbq sirloin bricks, served with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans. Neither Ed nor myself ate an awful lot on the day as we were too busy working our way around the tables to thank everybody for coming, but I can safely say they were the best dauphinoise I’ve ever had! Everybody was raving about the food and I had many people say it was the nicest wedding food they’d ever had. We just loved the relaxed ‘take as much as you like’ style and Cripps were great at catering for special dietary requirements.

The Photography

Picking a photographer was probably the hardest part for me. Having done a lot of dark room photography at college I was quite fussy about the style I was going for. I find many modern photographers today are almost too ‘artistic’ and I was worried that these kinds of photos might not age very well. I trauled through endless websites and contacted a lot of different people, most of which I had found through The List. Lots of these sent me example portfolios which weren’t on their websites, along with price lists. From here I narrowed it down and then gave a couple of them a call to have a chat about what I wanted. When I spoke to Sarah Morris I knew we’d get on well. We decided to have an engagement shoot and she was great. We met up in Oxford and she managed to take loads of snaps in just 20 minutes, before we headed to a little pub for a coffee (or in Ed’s case an 11am beer!) and to chat through my plans for the day. Ed wasn’t keen on having his photo taken in public but she was very good at getting him to relax and we found it a really helpful process. If your photographer gives you the option, I’d definitely recommend to anybody that they do this. It gives you a chance to get to know your photographer and the way they work, as well as getting you used to being photographed. Sarah is all about ‘telling the story’ of your day and took a great mix of artistic shots, natural shots and of course, a few obligatory group shots! She was incredibly organised and made sure that we got all of the shots we wanted – even if she did have to boss around the odd drunken bridesmaid in order to get it done! She wasn’t intrusive at all on the day and made sure that we spent minimal time away from our guests. Given that it was October we were incredibly lucky with the weather; it was very warm and sunny all day, making for some great pictures. Sarah’s style was very ‘us’ and we were stunned with the results.

The Videography

As well living with a graphic designer, I was also lucky enough to live with a videographer at University. My very good friend Haroun Al-Shaater makes short films for a living, so we were delighted when he asked if he could shoot the wedding as his gift to us.


My main advice to people would be to relax. That may be easy to say in hindsight (and with a very wedding orientated sister!) but I actually found that it wasn’t too hectic and I left many things until the last 2 weeks, without too much chaos! Get all of the key elements (and those about which you have specific ideas/requirements) booked up early, as it’s crazy how far in advance other people book things. With those out of the way and secured I could then relax. We wrote a big list of all of the smaller tasks and picked a couple to do each month (dishing them out to others where possible!). Of course, it always helps to pull in favours where you can- don’t be afraid to ask, I found that most people were actually delighted to be asked for their help. Using post it notes was invaluable when doing the table plans, as it allowed us to keep moving people around until we were happy with it. Also, get a good spreadsheet set up for all of your budgeting and update it every time you spend money on something or add money to your savings, so that you can easily keep track of it all; I found this really helped and it definitely reigned me in. It’s easy to lose track of all of the little things! But the two main things- remember that it’s your day, and take some time to step back and appreciate all of the happiness in the room.
Lottie Manns

Written by Lottie Manns

Bride: Natalia by Amanda Wyatt | Boutique: Perfections Bridal Studio | Florist: Honeysuckle Flower Co. | Venue: Cripps Barn | Cake: Buttercream & Dreams | Bridesmaids: Twobirds | Pizza Van: Baz & Fred | Flowergirls: Monsoon | Tutus: The White Company | Groomsmen: Nicholas Smith | Stationery: Jon Simmons | Magician: Rob James | DJ & Saxophonist: Paul Martyn | Make Up: Rebecca Frances | Hair: Victoria Claire

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