Well-travelled couple Becks and Tom decided to bring some Hollywood Hills LA party glamour to their big day in Essex and threw a massive party in the field for all their friends and family. Well I say field, the Browning Bros. venue Chalkney Water Meadows is an enchanting space with the prettiest wooded lake. It makes the most incredible backdrop to Maryanne’s gorgeous images. So much more than a field 😉
There are some special images to look out for – the adorable page boy sheltering the little flower girl from the rain (seriously, my heart melted). And the image of Becks and Tom saying ‘hello’ to one another on the morning of their wedding around a corner, so they didn’t actually see each other – super cute.
Becks the Bride: Before we got engaged, Tom and I had been together for twelve years, yet there never really seemed to be a right time to walk down the aisle! Least of all when work commitments forced us to live apart in London and LA in 2015. So when I decided to fly over and book a surprise weekend away in Palm Springs for Tom’s 30th Birthday, he saw that weekend as the perfect opportunity to hijack it and make a dramatic proposal on top of some rocks after hours of trekking around the Joshua Tree National Park.
After the engagement hype wound down, we started to wonder how we’d handle planning the day whilst living on separate continents. The first idea was to have everyone fly over for a sunny Hollywood Hills mansion pool party wedding Stateside – cool right? But, ultimately wanting to share their big day with as many friends and family as possible, we opted for keeping close to home. Plus, we soon realised just how expensive, restricting and difficult it was to hire something in the Hollywood Hills – things are done very differently that side of the pond.
So, we settled for trying to keep the LA fun party vibe here in the UK instead. Above all else, we wanted it to be personal, relaxed, not too formal or restrictive in structure and definitely with a venue that took the party way beyond midnight!
We decided to get help with our LA-cool-in-the-British-countryside endeavour and hired Holly and Susie from Revelry Events to set us in the right direction and achieve a truly rulebook-free wedding.
With Revelry’s help, we started looking at venues. We knew we wanted somewhere where all our guests could glamp, a relaxed venue without time restrictions, and an opportunity to stretch one day into a whole wedding weekend.
We eventually found Chalkney Meadows – a Browning Brothers venue in Colchester – which was exactly what we were after. All the essentials were on site – a huge tipi, clear pathways, all the electrical and water set ups needed, ample parking for guests, a refrigerated van, a separate lodge in a neighbouring lake for me to get ready in, glamping tents and more! They allowed couples to be as creative as they wanted, and that is what ultimately won us over!
The decor and detail was probably the biggest priority for us once the venue was booked. We saw this as an opportunity to not only be creative but keep growing costs down! We wanted decor that would complement the venue and reflect us as a couple, but also be memorable enough that we could keep key pieces for years to come.
We had a vision of having enough to spell out ‘Let’s Do This’ in giant light-up marquee letters, but hiring would have set us back way too much, so we decided to make them ourselves for a fraction of the price. This was the first step into a whirlwind of DIY which, although took a lot of time, was something that we did as a couple in the summer when Tom had made the transition of moving back to the UK for good.
For the centrepieces we wanted something to really fill the table and stand out in height as well as reflecting the venue its’ woodland surroundings. I found artificial manzanita trees online at Country Baskets and sprayed them a copper gold.
Since I’m a film critic and Tom is a photographer, we thought it would be fun to recreate scenes from our favourite movies together and print them out as mini polaroids to hang from the branches. We had a graphic designer recreate all the movie posters into a bespoke image which were then used as the table numbers, which now feature in our home! Tom built a cinema lighting box for our table plan (still finishing it off the day before the wedding!) which also sits proudly in our office at home.
On a more sentimental note, we both wanted to pay tribute to our late fathers, which we did through our ceremony arch. My dad had stain glassed some doors some years ago, so we repurposed them and built a backdrop with flowers. Having a piece of him stand behind us as we said our vows meant the world to us.
Because of the setting being so natural and woody, we really liked the softness and simplicity of gypsophila, so our ceremony tipi was decorated with simple buckets filled with mini explosions of it. For my bouquet, I wanted something relaxed and whimsical – wildflowers, soft pinks, and greens to really add to the woodland feel.
We knew from going to other people’s weddings that the wedding cake always seemed to go half eaten and wasn’t ever as important as couples intended. With that in mind, and in an attempt to keep costs down, we opted for a cheese tower from Godminster instead!
The Food & Drink
We absolutely love street food and we knew we wanted that as part of our wedding. We started our search at places like Brick Lane Market and Pop Brixton to find alternative catering options. Spanish food is by far our cuisine of choice, and tapas seemed a perfect option for getting variety into our wedding menu. Spanish food experts Paella Fella provided sharing platters, which incorporated meats and cheese from Brindisa in Borough Market with their own freshly cooked Padron Peppers, Tortilla and Patatas Bravas.
One of the things we love about LA is the choice of incredible street food from great looking vans, so we wanted to find something similar. We found a local burger company who made amazing gourmet burgers, and also had a showstopper of an orange VW. We designed bespoke burger stickers for each option – all tied into movies of course!
For dessert, we took inspiration from a trip to New York, where we discovered S’Mores. By having candle trays on the table as part of the decor, we created their own s’mores with slabs of chocolate and malted milk biscuits and marshmallows. The guests were then able to toast the marshmallows on the table in front of them and have a fun dessert dining experience too!
Given that all elements of the wedding were in one place, there was no need for fancy transport, so to transport Becks from the bridal lodge to the ceremony they looked no further than their own Beetle Convertible – Jeremy!
Since we couldn’t legally get married on site, we chose to delay the legal wedding until a few months later with a more intimate group in London. So with no restrictions for this ceremony, we wrote our own. Tom’s eldest brother acted as our celebrant, which was so meaningful.
I walked into the ceremony tipi to an acoustic version of Bruno Mars’ Marry You, performed by our close friends. Rather than give readings, we asked our friends and family to give us marriage advice – some who had just gone through their first year of marriage, some five years, and our mums to talk about the long haul love of sharing a life together.
We asked a good friend and DJ who runs Slick Sounds to bring the noise for our wedding reception, and the fact that he knew us so well just meant we had the most perfect playlist!
The Photography & Videography
Photography and videography were very high on the priority list for us. Not only because of our professions, but because we knew how much of ourselves we were putting into the day and we wanted to capture that in the best way possible. We chose Mary-Anne because of her vintage and unobtrusive style which was a perfect fit for the setting. For videography, I turned to a friend who is a creative director of a video production company, who I had worked with for many years and asked him to create a film for us – complete with incredible drone footage!
One of the best investments we made was to have a photo booth supplied by VIP Box. This was a self manned photo and video booth, and we created a brick wall-effect backdrop with graffiti! The photo booth told its own story of the night and gives a completely different (possibly more tipsy!) perspective of the evening!
I knew I wanted a dress that was form fitting and structured to an extent, but with a non-fussy, relaxed style that I could move and dance in later in the evening. I chose a Watters Pippin dress, (an American brand) that was supplied by Emma Elizabeth Bridal in Twickenham.
Never ever expecting to wear lace, mainly to avoid any patterns that included flowers or other fussy elements, I found with the Watters dress that the lace was very much a vintage 1920’s style design, which was elegant and felt much more in keeping with what I was looking for.
Wanting to put one final personal touch to the dress, I worked with a seamstress to create bespoke off the shoulder sleeves that had a little button so they could be taken off post ceremony. This gave the dress an even more whimsical or even slightly bohemian look that really reflected the setting for the wedding.
For my hair, I chose to have a relaxed messy side bun, and natural makeup to complete the look, teamed with a touch of glam with my gold shoes, a gold feather bracelet and matching earrings.
I found the bridesmaids dresses really early in the process. I didn’t want something traditional or formal, and I wanted the girls to be comfortable. I found a rose gold kimono dress from ASOS more than a year before the wedding!
But in the year leading up to the wedding TWO of my bridesmaids announced that they were expecting, and would be heavily pregnant on the wedding day. Thankfully, the dresses weren’t form fitting and had pregnancy options so worked for everyone in the end. The girls looked blooming and gorgeous in their gowns with their growing bumps. The girls all had loose curls, completed with a gold flower wreath head piece also from ASOS and a gold feather long necklace as a gift from me.
Tom wanted a suit option rather than a traditional morning suit look. Without wanting to spill into hipster territory too much, Tom had a deep blue suit shop bought from Ted Baker and tailored, and teamed it up with a grey waistcoat and orange linen bow tie as a nod to his dad’s love of the Wolverhampton Wanderers and his own ginger hair!
Personalise as many key elements of your day as possible! For us it was really important that we had elements of our decor that would double up for our home, constant reminders of an amazing day for years to come.
Though not everyone would, we really enjoyed the DIY aspect of it, and managed to keep much of it a surprise for their mums as well as their guests and felt a real sense of pride and achievement in all the different things we created together. For us it meant we didn’t necessarily have to compromise on the big ideas because we found creative ways around costs and got our hands dirty.
We made a pact after we got engaged that their wedding wouldn’t take over our lives and most importantly wouldn’t stress us out, and for the most part that pact stayed true. It is one amazing day, but it’s almost never perfect to how you planned it. There will always be hiccups along the way and even on the day itself. For instance you can NEVER predict the weather, you just need to work through it, find a solution if you can and remember have fun because it really is the best day ever.
Photography by Maryanne Weddings
- Venue Browning Bros.
- Wedding Planner Revelry Events
- Florist Dilly at Abbotts
- Bar Swiggy’s
- Catering Paella Fella
- Cheese Tower Godminster
- Food Truck Burger and Beyond
- Crockery Hire Classic Crockery
- Photo Booth VIP Box
- DJ Slick Sounds
- Make Up Joyce A
- Bride Watters
- Boutique Emma Elizabeth Bridal
- Bridesmaids ASOS
- Groom Ted Baker