Phil married Francesca at her Grandmother’s beautiful 19th century house in Chiddingfold Surrey. With a ceremony in the walled garden and reception on the front lawn this is a simply stunning back garden wedding by any standard. Boys out there will probably appreciate the wedding car… An Aston Martin DB4 (007 alert) that belongs to Francesca’s Uncle and any girls will no doubt swoon at Francesca’s gorgeous Justin Alexander dress, skilfully altered by Sam at the now sadly closed Mamfii bridal.
Actually, I’m being terribly sexist here… Every one of you will appreciate every single detail of this mornings wedding… Because it is simply beautiful.
Francesca The Bride: I have always known that I wanted to get married at my Grandparent’s home in Chiddingfold, Surrey. It’s where I grew up, spending cosy Christmases by the fire and summers in the pool, and where Phil has got to know my family over the last six years. The day before the wedding the place was a whirlwind of activity. Jesse and Nick at Perfect Pitch Marquees had about 15 guys setting up the two marquees. Phil and my family strung up over 400 meters of fairy lights whilst my bridesmaids set out over 300 glass jars with tea lights that friends, colleagues and family had all collected for us over the last 18 months, and hung tea light lanterns in all the trees.
Caroline Oleron lives just down the road from my Grandmother’s house where she runs Cherfold Cottage Flowers. She immediately understood my vision of bright, unstructured, sumptuous summer florals and brought round buckets of flowers from her cutting garden which she mixed with some flowers that my Grandma had grown especially to create our beautiful table arrangements. These flowers went into mismatched cut glass vases which I had collected from car boot sales and charity shops. Caroline also created all our bouquets and button holes which could not have been more perfect – the flowers were one of my favourite ‘things’ that made up our wedding day.
Choosing a dress was one of my favourite parts of the planning. I saw a Justin Alexander advert in the first wedding magazine I bought and thought it was ‘the one’. So I found the nearest stockist which was Mamfii Bridal near Guildford (which has sadly since closed) and booked an appointment. After spending a couple of hours trying on dresses with the lovely owner Sam, one of my bridesmaids found a dress which was the perfect lace but not quite the right style. We ordered the dress in my size and Sam worked her magic, cutting bits off and sewing extra bits on until I had my perfect and unique Justin Alexander dress!
Getting Phil’s suit was not quite as easy… He’d seen one in Reiss that he really liked, but by the time we went to buy it, it was in the sale so there was only one left in his size in the south of England! I managed to dash over to Regents Street one lunch break and grab it, hoping that he knew just how blue it was and that it was definitely the right size as they don’t do refunds on sale items! Luckily the suit was just right, but they had run out of the matching waist coat. “No problem” I thought, “we’ll just have one made!”. This turned out to be a big problem, we could not find matching fabric ANYWHERE! After months of trying to figure out a solution, we were shopping for the groomsmen’s suits in Next, when we spotted a waist coat that perfectly matched Phil’s suit – a wedding miracle. We also ended up the best man’s and usher’s suits there which were their thank you gifts. I found them each slightly different but matching ties in TK Maxx – another bargain!
The 7 bridesmaids all wore the same dress from French Connection, which again were all eBay bargains! I wanted something bright and fun and these fit my bright summer colour palette perfectly. My wonderful seamstress Jane who altered my dress, also altered all the bridesmaids dresses, as well as making them sashes and adding straps for Phil’s nieces. My gorgeous twin cousin flower girls wore ivory dresses from Monsoon.
It was so much fun getting ready with my bridesmaids (all 9 of them!) in a big bedroom at the front of the house and watching guests arrive. Stephanie Munn did all our hair. My lovely sister in law Amy had been expertly colouring it every six weeks leading up to the wedding whilst Steph had been trimming. We had one trial beforehand to check that my idea of an up do for the ceremony that could be taken down for the reception would work.
I decided to wear a simple veil after seeing how lovely it looked in a colleagues wedding photos, and that colleague Kate kindly leant me the veil she had worn so that was my something borrowed. My Filippa Scott shoes were another eBay bargain at just £25! I am such a magpie for all things sparkly, jewellery was always going to be an important part of my outfit. My uncle who is a gem stone dealer leant me some dazzling diamond earrings and a pendant to wear during the day. For the evening I wanted to make a bit of a statement so after hours of hunting down the perfect necklace I bit the bullet and ordered one from J Crew in America even though it was about 4 times over budget! When it arrived it was exactly what I had hoped for and I’ve worn it several times since.
We had a legal ceremony at Guildford Registry Office at 10am on the morning of the wedding with just our parents, casual clothes and no rings. We then had what we considered our actual wedding ceremony in the walled garden at my Grandma’s in front of all our friends and family. The walled garden is full of flowers and so beautiful that it didn’t need any decoration once the marquee was up and all the chairs were in place. The only addition we made was the huge pots of pink and purple flowers that sit under my Grandma’s kitchen window. This wasn’t planned but my Grandma had the bright idea on Friday evening once I’d gone home to be pampered, and I’m so glad she did as they finished the space off perfectly. My Dad walked me down the to a string quartet playing Elbow, One Day Like This. We had a beautiful ceremony conducted by Graham from Precious Moment Ceremonies. We wrote our own vows, our lovely friend Joni read The Wedding Song by Bob Dylan which she adapted slightly so it perfectly suited us, and Phil’s Mum’s best friend Maria Carmen read Corinthians 13 in Spanish and her daughter Maria Jose read it in English. We had family fly in from all over the world to be at our wedding including Phil’s Spanish aunts and uncles who speak very little English so we thought a reading in Spanish was a good way to involve them. We exchanged rings which we had made by David Law at Your Personal Jeweller. After the ceremony the string quartet started up again and the drinks and canapés began to flow.
Once we’d had a chance to say hello to everyone we disappeared with our wonderful photographer David Long to have our couples portraits taken. I was in contact with various photographers when a friend told me about her sister’s husband David. When I got in touch he sent me some links to Rock My Wedding blog posts which were exactly the kind of photos we wanted from our day, and when I spotted a couple I knew who were guests at one of the featured weddings we decided it was fate! David was absolutely brilliant on the day, organsing our rather large wedding party and families into group shots which were done in minutes and actually really fun! He captured so many special moments without us even realising and everyone said how nice he was. We love every single photo he took and cannot recommend him strongly enough.
As our ceremony and reception were in the same venue and we were staying there that night we didn’t actually need any nice transport but my Uncle has a beautiful Aston Martin which Phil couldn’t resist not having as part of our day. So it sat outside the reception marquee looking pretty until it started to rain, at which point Phil and my Uncle got in and drove it off to be safely tucked away in the garage. Apparently my Dad turned to my bridesmaid Joni and said “Well that didn’t last long!”.
Our main reception was in a marquee on the front lawn. We had a delicious summer feast provided by Just Jane catering of big bowls of salads, vegetables and breads on each table and barbequed meats which were served to tables by waiters as they were cooked. Dessert was our amazing wedding cake made by Emma at Yours Tastefully. To me, strawberries personify summer, and I have spent many a happy afternoon picking them from my Grandma’s vegetable garden. Emma made us six variations of strawberry cake combinations and in the end we went for vanilla sponge with fresh strawberries baked in, a filling of cream cheese frosting with layers of more fresh strawberries, then the whole thing was covered in cream cheese frosting and decorated with more fresh strawberries! People still talk about how it was the best cake they have ever had and the whole thing was gone within minutes.
As well as the beautiful flowers in vases, there were wooden table numbers which I had spray painted gold and silver tea light holders leant to me by a friend. Jewelled coloured name baubles from Cox and Cox, which I gradually collected on eBay doubled up as favours which people could take home to hold a little photo. Next to each setting were sparklers with a ‘light up our first dance’ tag, we thought these would make for pretty first dance pictures and also take some of the attention of us! Caroline our florist lent us a small blue wooden ladder which we decorated with flowers and used as the table plan. When walking past a Monsoon store one afternoon I saw huge flowery hearts made of card hanging in the window and thought they’d be perfect to decorate the ends of the marquee. With some fairy lights woven in they worked perfectly.
Instead of gifts we had asked for contributions to our honeymoon which was a safari in Kenya, so I found an old suitcase in my Grandma’s attic for people to put their cards in got some old binoculars and vintage plastic animals on eBay to set the scene. A basket of jewel coloured pashminas and flip flops were by the card table to keep people comfy in the evening. Another one of my favourite ‘things’ at our wedding were the fantastic F&P light letters that my Dad built and Phil wired up. I’d seen and loved them but they are so expensive to buy! My Dad is the ultimate DIYer so I showed him a photo and a few weeks later they were built. They are now hanging in our spare room!
There were 3 fantastic speeches from Phil, my father John and our best man Alex which were all contained just the right amount of warmth and humour. We then had our first dance to The Lumineers ‘Ho Hey’ surrounded by sparklers waved by our guests. The party was properly started after that by our DJ John who played all our favourite music from The Police and Fleetwood Mac to Calvin Harris and Daft Punk. A very well stocked bar kindly provided by my Dad as well as a giant paella at about 10pm kept everyone dancing until the early hours.
My Grandma had all 40 of our family members back the next day for a BBQ which my Dad heroically managed to cook despite consuming what I’m sure was a large percentage of the whiskey on offer the night before. It was lovely to talk about everyone’s favourite parts of the day and spend time with our families who had come from Spain, Canada, France, Laos and Thailand to be with us. The entire weekend was the most fun we have ever had and if we could do it all again this weekend, we would.