This woodland wedding is an absolute dream, and what makes it even better is it was all DIY by the bride and groom. It’s no wonder the bride has now joined the wedding industry as Décor, Styling & Wedding Planner – Caroline Hitchcock Events as everything is beaut.
Firstly they cleared the wonderful venue The Ancient Woodland themselves, then they set about adding their personalities with beautiful decor they’d created, making everything truly unique to them. There are ribbon backdrops, flower laden pergola altars, immense chill out zones with peacock chairs and moroccan rugs, not to mention a darts board and table tennis table to keep everyone entertained.
The wonderful reception was held in a Country Tipi, and accompanied by a Horse Box Bar, and live music. All the guests are full of smiles, and none more so than our bride and groom Caroline and Mark, who’s love radiates in every image captured by Alex Wysocki Photography.
Probably best to get comfortable, as you’re about to be blown away.
Caroline the Bride: Nothing about mine and Mark’s relationship has ever been particularly prompt, It was 4 years from first meeting before we had our first date (although that’s not strictly true as we had one failed attempt a year before when my friends walked in to the very same bar and Mark and I found each other pretty boring that night, ha ha), 8 years before we go engaged and almost 10 years together before we were married, but I will say one thing – it was well worth the wait!
Mark and I are both a tad stubborn and equally as opinionated and Mark had made it quite clear over the years that he would be getting married on the beach, so the fact that he went along with my dream wedding means the absolute world to me. To be honest ‘went along’ is really the wrong phrase, he whole-heartedly made it his own dream as well and quite literally poured his blood, sweat and tears into making it the most amazing wedding weekend we could have ever dreamed of.
Since I was seven, after attending a very relaxed summer evening wedding in a family garden in rural Somerset, surrounded by trees, candles and music under the stars, I knew that come my wedding day (even though I was never someone who really planned or even thought about my own wedding until my late twenties) I wanted to recreate that wonderfully private happy atmosphere outside under the stars and surrounded by trees. Mark put aside his desire to help make my dream come true – and it really did come true.
After looking at a few different lovely, but manicured wedding venues… We found our woodland on the border of Hertfordshire & London (perfect for us as we live in North London but grew up in Hertfordshire, where many of our guests came from), The Ancient Woodland. Perfectly natural, no water, no electricity, no toilets… nothing, our very own blank canvas that the land owners were extremely kind in letting us work on the land to make it our own.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
For the three months leading up to our wedding weekend, we (especially Mark and his Dad) spent many evenings and weekends raking out paths and bell tent pitches between the trees for us and our guests, clearing areas for games, laying down logs to guide the way between the trees and creating grill pits and ‘chilling’ areas in cosy corners of our forest. We went down to the woods on weekends with our families, having a quick picnic between shifts clearing leaves and sweeping twigs from the tracks, even our 1.5 year old, utterly gorgeous, nephew helped us by scooping leave into his favourite rusty wheelbarrow (which later chilled the wine at our wedding) then riding around the woods in said wheelbarrow, surveying our hard work. No waiting for a knee replacement stopped my parents from raking, dragging and clearing up. 6 weeks before our wedding, Mark with the help of his family and a few friends dropping in, spent every evening in the woods building tree houses, benches, rustic bars, pallet swings and wig wams – rain and numerous spider/insect bites didn’t stop him, not even when he got the truck stuck (on 3 different occasions) in the mud and had to be rescued by the farm next door. When I said that blood, sweat and tears went into this wedding – I really did mean it. But when it got to our wedding day it was worth every splinter, every blister, every tearful exhausted bicker, every late night and snagged piece of clothing – it was our private, piece of forest heaven that no one had ever experienced in this way, no other wedding had used our swings or stood under our aisle structure or sat around our grill over breakfast with their guests. I could never have loved a piece of woodland more than I did on that weekend, in fact so much so that Mark and I now look after all wedding enquiries for The Ancient Woodland.
Our wedding weekend was filled with fun, love, family, friends, booze, food, music, candles, bonfires (and grown men turning into pyromaniacs), tents and… surprise ferrets!
Our wedding would not have been as memorable as it was without the amazing people who helped make it happen….
As it was so important for us to be surrounded by friends and people we loved on our wedding day, we decided that we would choose our suppliers, not only based on the fantastic service they provided, but if we felt like they could be a guest at our wedding, and luckily for us – it really did feel like that – we loved our suppliers so very much and are still in contact with many of them.
Photographer & Videographer
I must of course mention first of all the two suppliers who captured our weekend so beautifully, our fantastic photographer who was everything we had hoped for, friendly, warm, funny and incredibly talented – I couldn’t recommend Alexandra Wysocki more, she was without a doubt the perfect fit for our weekend and an absolute pleasure to deal with before, during and after – her pictures captured exactly how we felt and how much fun we all had (of course I may have looked better in the pictures if the beautician hadn’t threaded half an eyebrow off the day before… genuinely! Ha ha).
We also absolutely love our wedding video by DGTLcoutoure who yet again, completely captured the feel of our weekend and how happy and excited we all were to be there. Our happy little video snippet can be seen below.
With regards to clothing, Mark opted for a relatively low key, relaxed wedding style (with his sleeves rolled up at my request… I love it when his sleeves are rolled up), with matching ray ban sunglasses for him and the ushers. Our gorgeous little nephew Henry (who completely stole the show) wore a tiny version of the laid back outfits with matching burgundy (my favourite colour) socks and incredibly cute tassel loafers, which he strutted/jumped down the aisle in style… before insisting (without the use of too many words of course) on changing into his favourite wellies (in the middle of summer).
The dress was surprisingly low on my importance list, working in events meant I was far more interested in all the other aspects of the day and far less interested in my own aesthetics, which didn’t always pay off (i.e missing eyebrow… oh and the fact that I decided at the last minute without trying it first that I needed my arms waxed…. And then felt like a naked mole rat on the day, ha ha ha ha. My tip, don’t try anything new (looks wise) in the months prior to your wedding – your other half proposed to you as you are….
So there is no need to change yourself as long as YOU are happy!). The entire reason I chose the dress I did (and it is not the dress I imagined I would have) is because of the stunning flowing train, that I could just picture trailing behind me in the woods, that and the fact that my Mum loved it and choosing my dress together just the two of us was an incredibly special day.
My beautiful bridesmaids, my amazing sister Rachel (MOH) and my two beloved school friends Hannah & Lucy, each wore an individual dress that fit within our colour ‘scheme’ spectrum of burgundies, reds and dusky pinks – I didn’t particularly want matchy matchy and I just wanted them to like their outfit, we were pretty relaxed about this, so much so that Luce had two dresses and only chose which to wear as we were putting our outfits on to walk down the aisle, 30 minutes before the ‘I Do’s’.
One of the other things that I loved is that I had no outside hairdressers or make up artists coming in, I literally got ready for our wedding surrounded only by my closest family and friends and suppliers that we had grown to love. My hair was done by one of our beautiful wedding guests, Kelly, who was also camping on site – her husband Eddie, was one of our ushers and on feed the bride and wife duty, which meant that Kelly had a slap-up meal of one cold sausage, a sandwich and some pretzel sticks whilst doing my hair… ha ha ha ha.
My make up was done by my gorgeous Hannah (bridesmaid) although I was having so much fun running around the woods and chatting with my friends that she found it pretty hard to pin me down long enough to put any make up on me!
A huge part our wedding was the DELICIOUS food, my biggest pet peeve with weddings are when people aren’t fed enough or can’t relax and have fun because they’re partially watching doors praying for a canapé to come through them! We decided to make food available throughout the entire day, even if it was just jars of pub snacks at some points!
Our main wedding meal were, in the words of Mark’s beloved late Grandad Henry, ‘bloody lovely’ hearty pies served by wait staff with mash, peas, roasted carrots and gravy from an airstream caravan. The pies were immense and went down a storm, we were completely and utterly stuffed.
Our wedding cake was a really tasty, lemon and poppy seed sponge one tier cake with black and gold fleck cream cheese icing, topped with wild florals.
The rest of our food, from rustic ‘manapes’ to evening outdoor paella pans and Sunday salad brunch came from the talented hands of ‘Doggart & Squash’ who also supplied the staff and kept things running smoothly on the day. Doggart & Squash were a huge hit with our guests and I would highly recommend them to anyone!
Of course, we wouldn’t have had anywhere to eat our pies (or dance until the early hours) without our tipi by the wonderful County Tipis, who also supplied the awesome horse box bar for the weekend!
The other tents we had… to sleep in and get fancy in were supplied by Victoria Lilly Events who gave me such a gorgeous double bell tent set up to get ready for my wedding (after a quick shower in our portable shower block… pure luxury and glamour… ha ha ha).
We camped for two nights and once we’d entered the woods on Friday morning, we didn’t leave again until Sunday and were in our own little bonfire smelling bubble for 3 wonderful days. The morning of my wedding I even brushed my teeth outside my tent with a toothbrush, paste and a bottle of water… and it was bloody perfect!! That morning I was surprised that I didn’t care what I looked like anymore or how I should behave, I have never in my life (and I’ve been lucky and had a lovely life so far) been as happy as that day – it was right for us, maybe not others, but for me it pure wilderness, bonfire fuelled perfection.
The morning of our wedding also brought another surprise from my usually stubborn husband… I had been saying since we got engaged that I didn’t want a jewellery gift or anything like that on our wedding morning, all I wanted was to have some kind of animal visit me during the morning, ideally an otter but that would be pretty hard to pull off, ha ha. I said that I’d love a ferret if I couldn’t have an otter, Mark had always said no and was adamant that it was ridiculous and that it would never happen, he was very opinionated about this, and to be honest by the time our wedding rolled around I’d put it out of my mind…. Until I was sat in the trees with all the girls that were camping, getting my foundation applied & drinking bucks fizz when one of them said “Caz I think there’s someone here to see you..”, I thought excellent my aunty and cousins are here and swung around… and there were too handlers from the zoo walking down the track with animal carriers… he’d only got me a ferret, a rabbit and a tiny hedgehog type creature!!! I literally jumped out of my seat, I have no idea if I screamed or cried – I was just SO happy! The gorgeous little ferret made me absolutely stink (after I’d showered!! Oops) and visibly scratched my chest and wrists as it was saying hello… and I couldn’t have cared less about that, I showed my scratches off with pride to my guests in my wedding dress. Mark getting me that surprise and getting to spend my morning with animals made my life! All I wanted to do was get down the aisle and marry my boy after that!
Our ceremony was held down a track between the trees (we were so lucky it didn’t rain!!!) beneath beautiful wild flowers, arranged by the amazing Stephanie Randall who bought our wedding colours to life. The ceremony itself was an incredibly personal humanist ceremony performed and written, alongside mark & I, by Exclusive Ceremonies, who gave us complete input opportunities and we loved working on the content together. Much to the dismay of my husband, the ceremony even mentioned that I ‘knew’ Mark would give in and let me get a guinea pig (still working on this one) and by request of Mark listed one of the reasons he loves me as ‘she makes a mean chicken salad’! One of the funniest moments of our ceremony was when one of the benches collapsed (no one was hurt… just a few dirty bums!) mid ceremony, landing 5 of our closest friends in a heap on the ground… by request this was included in our wedding video!
Our family mean a lot to us and sadly all but one of our grandparents have passed away, so we had photographs of our beloved Grandma’s and Grandads at the ‘alter’ watching over us as we signed our certificate and on the day itself we had Nanny Eileen there for the oldies, representing 😊. We had a rose ceremony, which included Mark and I taking a rose each from my bouquet and giving them to our lovely new mother in-law’s as a sign of love and respect.
Our wedding flowers were stunning, wild and eye catching, a mix of foliage (my favourite), deep reds, dusky pinks and burnt oranges and I walked down the aisle with a wonderfully wild hand tied bouquet with a king protea that still sits on display in our flat.
What really got the party going, other than a lot of booze and very amusing guests, was our wonderful entertainment – for the ceremony and drinks reception we had Nick Fenwick, who settled himself between the trees with a battery powered amp and played our favourite songs, including my unconventional choice to walk down the aisle, my favourite song in the world, ‘World Spins Madly On’ by The Weepies (listen to the first line and you’ll see why it wouldn’t be every one’s choice, ha ha).
Nick was a huge hit and much to my Dad’s delight took requests, so good old dad took over the music at the music at the drinks reception – that is until our usher Eddie joined Nick for a very impromptu, hilarious and at points terrifying rendition of ‘Pure Imagination’ from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (again this can be seen in our wedding video clip).
The drinks reception itself was an area we had made further into the woods with swings, wig wams, ping pong table, skittles, limbo, log seats and a constant flow of cocktails, mocktails, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, canapes and a bread & oil dipping station for myself, the bread obsessed bride!
Later in the evening we had the Folk Junkies doing both acoustic, folk and electric sets throughout the night – and they were absolutely AMAZING! I’ve grown up around folk music with both my parents being keen musicians, so having a folk element was really important, they absolutely blew everyone away!! Everyone should have a listen if they get the chance, really lively, fantastic musicians that got ALL ages up on the dance floor (of course Folk Junkies did have to take a quick break so that we could fit Garage hour in!).
Decor & Styling
Our wedding was very much so a ‘Do It Yourself’ affair, I spent hours writing, printing, cutting and embossing our wedding stationery, wood burning the gift boxes for our wedding party and sourcing our props from lofts, parent’s houses, our flat, charity shops and the internet. Many of the colourful textiles from our wedding actually came from our trip to India earlier in the year and many of the props, whilst no one will have known, had incredible sentimental value to us both, like the broken and glued back together ceramic pot my grandma made, my great grandad’s ottoman and Mark’s grandad’s old vintage oil can – we really were surrounded by everything and everyone we loved. Since the wedding I have now set up my company ‘Caroline Hitchcock Events’ and use many of the props we had on that very happy day in our styling and like to think that they bring a little bit of luck to the other events they now go to…. I mean who gets married completely outside on bank holiday weekend in England without a drop of rain, we were unbelievably lucky! Ha ha ha.