Before we go any further I think you all need to be armed with your pinning fingers because bride Caroline’s wavy half up half down do adorned with flowers is a thing of beauty and you’ll all be wanting it for your very own. So elegant, yet so relaxed, and coupled with the illusion lace back of her Lillian West bridal gown is going to make you go weak at the knees.
The rest of the blush flowers and neutral colour palette is just as delightful, as is the The Great House wedding venue in Sonning, which not only has beautiful grounds for epic portraits captured by Benjamin Stuart Photography but is also a place that holds many happy memories for our gorgeous couple.
Caroline The Bride: I really didn’t know where to begin when it came to looking for a style of dress, so the plan was to just head to a big bridal boutique, try on a selection and there I would fall in love with “THE ONE”. The only problem was, when it came to dress shopping day, I had already fallen in love with a Lillian West gown I had stumbled across in the pages of a bridal magazine. Despit being handed an endless suppless of pretty dresses to try on, I just looked in the mirror and pined after the one I had fallen in love with. So that was it, the hunt was on! It was fate, the closest store with THE dress was True Romantica Bridal boutique in Kenilworth, not too far from my father’s house. So an appointment was made! I tried on the dress and fell in love with it immediately. My father gave me a crystal flower bracelet for me which complimented the flower detail on the dress beautifully. Other accessories were nude Christian Louboutins, and simple diamond stud earrings which were a gift on the day from my new husband! Due to the amazing detail on the back of the dress I decided against a veil, and chose a statement fresh flower hair piece to match my bouquet of Quicksand Roses instead – beautifully put together by Sonning Flowers. In addition to the roses, my bouquet included white ranuculus, pink astibe, apricot stocks, and my mother’s favourite flower – forget me nots. And as a final touch, my Nan’s brooch was pinned to the bouquet ribbons for me.
Hair and Beauty
Nikita-Jayne MUA did mine and the girls make-up. She was recommended by my Chief Bridesmaid Beckie, and after a trial with her on New Year’s Eve I knew I was in safe hands! Charlie Hines from Cocoon Hair and Beauty in Reading did our hair. Charlie spent so much time helping me achieve the right look and shared images with me on Pinterest regularly when she saw things that would work with the style of the dress. Her creations for my bridesmaids complimented my chosen style so well. Both Nikita-Jayne and Charlie were so lovely to have in the suite whilst we were getting ready. They were like two extra bridesmaids just gossiping and giggling with us.
I had four bridesmaids, all with very different body shapes, so I wanted them all to feel special in outfits that suited them individually. So once we decided on colour tones of nude/blush to compliment the Quicksand Roses we set to work looking for outfits. This was harder than we thought, and I think Andrew began to have second thoughts about a lifetime commitment to someone who seemed to have suddenly developed a serious shopping addiction. A spare bedroom full of dresses and around 35 parcel returns later, we had all four outfits! Outfits were from ASOS, Ariella London, Monsoon & Debut at Debenhams. They all had sprigs of gypsophila in their hair to match their bouquets.
Andrew wore a 3 piece navy suit from TM Lewin, Paul Smith blue tie and pocket square, and his favourite tan Ted Baker shoes (which he was wearing at the wedding he and I met at!). His groomsmen wore navy blue suits and silk tie and pocket squares, all from Next. My gift to Andrew was the Saxon watch from Larsson & Jennings, with his initials embossed into the navy blue leather strap.
We love visiting Coppa Club at The Great House in Sonning when we get the opportunity to escape there for a child-free hour or two, so when Andrew proposed, and we realised the events space at our favourite venue was being completely re-built, we didn’t have a second thought! It’s a beautiful venue with gardens backing on to the River Thames which meant guests walked straight out onto the lawn immediately after the ceremony for games, nibbles, photos and most importantly… bubbly! Corrina, Chris and Ollie listened to all of our wishes and everything was spot on! We collect corks and have them from all the bottles we have shared since the day we met (I won’t declare the number as it is worryingly high!), and they even presented us with a bag of all our wedding day corks! Styling on the day was mostly all about the flowers, and given the interiors of the space are so well put together we only needed to add a few additional touches – huge LOVE letters for the evening being our favourite. These were provided by the wonderful Pumpkin Events.
Our invitations, placecards and table plan were inspired by the festoon lights draped over our favourite drinking spot in our garden. We stumbled across Colorworks Bath when looking for stationery inspiration and fell in love with their aptly named style ‘Festoon’.
The wedding breakfast comprised of a refreshing tuna tartare, steak, and blackberry pavlova for dessert. Homemade chocolate honeycomb pieces were served with the tea and coffee. Everyone was delighted with the food!
My wedding band was a half diamond eternity ring which is set in exactly the same style as my engagement ring (both from 77 Diamonds), and Andrew went for a simple wide palladium band.
As a couple, at any event we always manage to find ourselves hovering around a photobooth, so we just knew we had to have one! We discovered Booth Nineteen and immediately fell in love with their style, which suited the décor in the Great House Lodge perfectly! They bring along a backdrop, an attendant, and the camera is housed in a vintage style booth. The best bit about it is that you can get so many people into the photo, and everyone can see you, so makes for great people watching! Our amazing photographer Ben (who also acted somewhat as a wedding planner!) had suggested hiring a jukebox to avoid our fear of a cheesy DJ speaking down a microphone. Despite it being the unknown, we went for it and hired from Touchscreen Jukebox Hire, and couldn’t have been happier! It was a huge hit and there was a crowd around it for the whole evening, with everyone desperate to get a song of their choice played.
The cake was a 3-tier semi naked cake made by Jo Parke of Elegant Tiers. It was decorated with fresh flowers provided by our florist, and placed on a tree slice. The flavours we chose were salted caramel (which was divine!) and classic vanilla and raspberry. A dear family friend (thank you Kenneth!) also made us a delicious boozy fruit cake in February which he then continuously fed with Grand Marnier until icing it before the wedding. This was sliced and served alongside the main cake, and was just as much a hit as Jo’s!
Our eldest, Tilly was a flower girl but never got to walk down the aisle with me because she woke up on the morning of the wedding with a sickness bug (talk about timing!). So she just about managed to watch the ceremony, but then guests, and even guests parents (who drove over to the venue to help) took it in turns to sit with her whilst she rested in the hotel room, so that my mother didn’t have to miss the day. All the offers of help were just so overwhelming and we were so grateful! The best moment was at the end of the wedding breakfast when Tilly wandered over and gave me a big hug! In her second flower girl dress of the day, pink Converse and a slightly wonky tiara. Talk about stealing the limelight! Ben, our photographer, was brilliant and whisked us straight outside to make sure we had some special photos with Tilly whilst the light was still good, given she had missed all the group shots earlier on in the day.
We’ve mentioned Benjamin Stuart a couple of times already in this which just goes to show how much more he did than take photos. I don’t think there is a way of writing down just how grateful we are to Ben for all the help and advice he gave us in the build up to the wedding. From the moment we shared a relaxed lunch and had our engagement shoot, we immediately clicked and instantly felt like old mates catching up. On the day he and his wife Zoe come as a team and their photography style means they blend in with the rest of the guests and tell the story from start to finish with their images. We are absolutely thrilled with the results and can’t stop smiling at our stunning photos of us and all of our guests.
Planning & Advice
Remember… it is YOUR wedding! Everyone will have an opinion, there WILL be fallouts when you don’t do what others believe you should, but you have to be true to yourselves and know that you have planned it your way because that was your wish. Don’t make exceptions or changes just because you feel pressured. Enjoy the day and take a few moments to look around and see all of your favourite people in the same place at the same time. It’s a pretty special feeling. Also grab a couple of moments to yourselves! We managed to escape to the neighbouring lawn of Coppa Club and sit on deckchairs for five minutes to ourselves, and despite it being such a short time away from everyone else, I still remember it clearly and how lovely it was to be sat chatting as husband and wife, just the two of us!