Inspiration

Talk about lucking out when the only date available at your chosen venue (Gate Street Barn) is in peony season, because Bride Alana's bouquet is B.E.Autiful, as is her bespoke Serenade Suzanne Neville gown. Together Alana & Ollie are a heavenly duo saying I do at a quaint and incredibly romantic hilltop church in the middle of nowhere. The fact they chose to have an unplugged ceremony too makes it even more intimate and special. Also, have you seen the cake? Lovingly made by Alana's godmother and adorned with even more bloomsey peonies. The table centrepieces are pretty special too, potted Orchids that doubled up as gifts to helpful family and friends at the end of the evening. McKinley & Rodgers always manage to wow us with their talents and this North Downs wedding is no exception. Ready to get stuck in? Pinning fingers at the ready for that Peony bouquet!

The Wedding

Alana the Bride: An unplugged, Friday wedding in a beautiful hilltop church, St Martha-on-the-hill. A landmark 574 feet above sea level on the North Downs with no road leading to it. We were lucky enough to get married in such a historic and unique place, surrounded with woodland and on the Pilgrims’ way. With stories dating back to the Iron Age and with a view across 7 counties - it made our day (and our photos!)

The Bride

I knew I’d have my hair down on the day, as I wanted to feel like me. I had the fantastic combination of Sharon and Tania there to help transform us - they not only made us feel amazing but made the morning so relaxing and enjoyable. I had always hoped that my dress would be Suzanne Neville. We got engaged in May and in August I went to their flagship store in Knightsbridge with my Mum and sister in law, Sarah. I was incredibly nervous and wanted to keep an open mind about the style of dress but had always wanted some tulle (and a veil!) I loved that my dress was bespoke and had a twist on the Suzanne Neville Serenade dress from their Songbird collection. I was lucky enough to discuss some ideas for my dress with Suzanne during my appointment. I kept my jewellery simple and wore vintage cushion cut diamond earrings lent to me by my godmother, Barbara, and on the eve of the wedding my parents gave me a bracelet with a beautiful white diamond star on it to wear on the day. I knew I didn’t want traditional white or cream shoes. I loved the idea of having a hint of a colour and sparkle under my dress and that’s when I fell for the Esme shoe by Jimmy Choo. There’s always an element of guilt when you treat yourself, no matter what the occasion, but I wanted to make sure that it was something that I could wear again.

The Groom

Ollie was born in Scotland and moved down south when he was young; because of this there was a lot of debate on whether he should wear a kilt on the day. I left it to him to decide, as I wanted him to feel comfortable and himself. In the end he opted for a blue suit and brown shoes both from an independent shop near to us, David Steel D7 menswear.

The Church and Reception Venue

Ollie first discovered St Martha’s on one of his mountain bike treks a few years ago and on getting engaged said it would be the perfect place for us to get married. Because of its location, we weren’t even sure to begin with whether it would be possible. We were thrilled to find out that it was and even more so that a wedding car was allowed - if it could make it through the sand, trees and slope to the top! We couldn’t ask our guests to trawl up the hill so we arranged a wedding shuttle to take them up and down the track. We wanted a relaxed feel to our wedding and one of the things that I was never particularly bothered about was hiring a special or vintage car. As our gift a family friend, John, drove us in his Range Rover – with the addition of a mini fridge so we could enjoy a much needed glass of fizz from the church to the barn. We visited Gate Street Barn once and after that didn’t need to look anywhere else. We were given the last two available Friday dates for the upcoming year - a Saturday wedding wasn’t for us, we had always said that a Friday felt more special and fun. Luckily both dates fell in Peony season but it meant a lot to us that McKinley Rodgers could capture our day and because of that the date got decided based on their availability.

Photographers and Videographer

I had come across McKinley Rodgers rather randomly a few months before getting engaged and was memorised. I knew from their work, blog and approach that they were the perfect fit. This was echoed when we emailed and later met Pen and Cam for our beloved pre-shoot. An incredibly talented couple, who not only made us feel relaxed (which was not an easy task in front of a camera!) but also people that you immediately wanted as friends.

Décor

We didn’t have a specific scheme; we wanted to keep it simple, pretty and romantic. The décor part was important to me as I always notice little touches. We wanted to keep the tables quite clear and limit clutter. We bought namecards from Paperchase so Ollie could write them all and chose ones that didn’t need a holder so they could be moved once guests had taken their seats. Surrounding our orchids in the centre of each table were a mix of silver tealight and clear glass candle holders. We chose gold rimmed wine glasses and champagne flutes which had a real vintage feel to them - these contrasted perfectly against the silver on the table and really set everything off. Ollie made all of our blackboards including our table plan. I loved that his artwork was involved on the day in such a big way, it made it special and of course as personalised as we wanted. We decorated the bar with lots of photos of us and our guests; I had these printed in a retro, Polaroid style. We displayed a couple of prints that were given to us as engagement gifts and meant a lot to us, one from my brother Craig and the other from my bridesmaid. We also had an Instagram sign with our hashtag which Ollie had drawn onto a mirror.

Flowers

There were a real mix of flowers; they were just all my favourites – white hydrangeas in the church, pink peonies, gypsophila, white orchids and roses. I asked Carrie to add a thistle to each buttonhole so there was a touch of Scotland with Ollie on the day. I had dreamt of a huge rustic bouquet filled with peonies, gypsophila and eucalyptus with a white ribbon hanging from it. Carrie created exactly the look that I had been hoping for; when everything arrived on the day I couldn’t have been happier. A dear family friend, Paula, filled chrome champagne buckets on each table with orchids surrounded by moss. They looked spectacular and so different from anything I’d seen before; these were later given out as our thank yous. Everything had such a personal touch and made each little thing that bit more special.

The Bridal Party

I wanted my bridesmaid, Sophie, to feel really lovely in her dress and did not want to pick something that she wouldn’t feel comfortable in. This really helped me to narrow down the colour and style. In the end I ordered a couple of dresses from Kaliko and on trying them on, we opted for a navy maxi with jewelled embellishment at the waist. Only a few weeks before the wedding I finally found the perfect navy shrug to go with the dress, it had a waterfall hem and softly draped cap sleeves which really made her outfit complete. As we wanted quite a relaxed look, the Groomsmen wore their own suits and Ollie bought them all matching ties in silver.

Special Moments

It was in fact my Mum’s idea to go with an unplugged wedding. It was something that I had never heard of but after being at several weddings and seeing first-hand how distracted guests were by their mobiles or worst still uploading photos before the service had even finished! Being in the middle of nowhere we felt it was rather fitting with the location and we loved the idea of walking back down the aisle to our family friends cheering and clapping rather than clutching mobiles and cameras. We really wanted our guests to be in the moment with us. I made all the wedding arrangements and loved every moment, but didn’t count on an emotional surprise on the day. At the end of my Dad’s speech after his toast and the applause he said: “Here is a little something for Alana that is special to us both …" The room fell silent and I then heard the faint strumming of ‘You are my sunshine’, my Dad and my song. A girl then walked through the barn towards us singing and playing this on the ukulele - there wasn't a dry eye! I loved how during the last chorus my Dad started singing too and got everyone joining in, it turned into a wedding sing a long – definitely a moment that I will treasure and that will stick with me for life.

Entertainment

I love that I had randomly come across Tom singing and playing the piano in a bar. Music was a big part of my childhood with my Dad playing the piano; I wanted something quite relaxed at the reception with an eclectic mix of songs. In the evening, we knew we had to have a DJ as there were some many classic 80s and 90s songs on our list - we just wanted to dance the night away!

Food

Choosing our wedding caterer was really important to us; we love our food and are surrounded by family and friends who are excellent in the kitchen, including Ollie. We met with Eloise at Kalm Kitchen’s beautiful countryside offices and within minutes of discussing plans with her, she understood exactly what we were looking for. Throughout the planning she was outstanding and on the day I felt very happy knowing she was in charge – everything was executed perfectly. We chose an Italian sharing platter to start – we love this type of food, a Pork dish with crackling for the main (Ollie’s favourite!) and they made a chocolate mousse dessert with gold leaf especially for us. The cheeseboard that they created, using a selection of flowers from Carrie, was the BIGGEST I’ve ever seen; it became such a talking point and looked absolutely stunning. My godmother, Maggie, made our wedding cake as our gift and it was beyond what I could have expected. I didn’t give her much of a brief just that I wanted something rustic and with some flowers on each tier. It was a beautiful addition and meant even more because she had made it.

Stationery

We had struggled to find anything that had captured what we had in mind. By chance, I met Kate at a wedding fair and she was fantastic from our first email exchange. We absolutely loved the style that she created for us and adapted where needed. I loved the hand drawn white floral pattern on our grey invitations and how she suggested reversing the pattern for our on the day stationery.

Advice

Enjoy every moment and try not to be nervous. My Mum and Dad said something that really resonated with me, just remember that you’re saying your vows in front of the people you love and to the person you want to spend the rest of your life with – there’s nothing to be nervous about. I listened to our reverend when she suggested having the rehearsal the night before to help with any nerves – it really helped us all. On the wedding day I was so pleased that I could walk down the aisle with my Dad, taking it all in and looking around the church to see all the people I cared about smiling at us. It felt so very special to be able to look at Ollie and say my vows.

Written by Lorna Shaw

Videographer: Story Catchers | Bridal Gown: Suzanne Neville | Bridal Shoes: Jimmy Choo - Esme | Hair Stylist: Wonderful Wedding Hair | Makeup Artist: Tania Stephenson Oliver | Venue: Gate Street Barn | Florist: Topiary Tree | Caterer: Kalm Kitchen | Stationery: Coral and Slate | Entertainment: Tom Worrall | DJ Chimpy | Bridesmaid Dresses: Kaliko | Bridesmaid Shrugs: Monsoon | Grooms Suit: David Steel D7

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