Oh yes! Today’s wedding venue is an absolute stunner and all the more exciting for me as this is where my sister is tying the knot next year! Better yet Hollie and Dom tied the knot in possibly the best ever month to get married – October – which incidentally when I got married 😉
Hollie and Dom’s big day undoubtedly contains some of the best aisle style I have ever seen. Honestly wait until you see the clever use of Autumn leaves and THAT arch! I’m gutted I never thought of the idea myself because it is BEAUTIFUL. Perhaps for the vow renewal…
Anyway I digress, you need to see all the wonderful details so I shall stop blathering on and let you take in all the wonderful images by Lucy Davenport. I can’t go without mentioning the gorgeous colour combos on the reception tables, the flamingo cake toppers and the clever use of animals in the table plan. Wonderful!
The Brides Fashion
Hollie The Bride: I’d identified Jenny Packham as a designer that I liked the style of and so decided to find a boutique that stocked her dresses. It turns out that I needn’t have worried as at my first appointment, I saw a dress and I knew it was the one! I tried on 15 dresses over two shops afterwards but I never got that same feeling. Luck was obviously on my side that day as although I found the perfect dress in the first shop, I had a second appointment to go to on the same day; and the first thing I saw when I walked through the door was my dress in the sample sale at half price! It obviously was meant to be, and the seamstress Amanda at The Mews in Clifton did such an amazing job of making it fit perfectly for the day.
Accessories brought out the bargain hunter in me again, and one morning I saw that there was a Jenny Packham sample sale scheduled for the next day near my work in London. I found myself up bright and early the next morning, ran in straight for the accessories and managed to get the only crystal Acacia II headpiece, Acacia Bracelet for my MOH to wear and stunning veil; all for less than the headpiece at full price. All they needed a bit of a clean, but I sorted that out in the evening and they looked as good as new. I had wanted a Ryan Storer ear cuff for a while, and thought this the perfect opportunity!
The final pieces of my wedding day jewellery ensemble were a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet borrowed from my mother in law, Ros, which complemented my dress so well. My ‘something old’ was my Grandmother’s eternity ring, gifted to me from my mum as my grandma passed away a few years ago but we know she would have loved the wedding day in all its eccentricity and to have been a part of it.
The Grooms Fashion
Dom wanted a suit that we could wear again, in a classic navy colour. He found a great suit from Zegna that fitted him well, and could be worn again easily. We found some great Prada shoes in the Harrods sale that were perfect. We toyed with the idea of a waistcoat for a while but it felt too formal, and we wanted to feel relaxed in our outfits.
Dom and ushers looked into hiring suits, but found it was hard to find a matching set that went well with Dom’s suit. Upon discussion, all the boys agreed that they probably needed a new suit, so we went halves on classic navy suits from TM Lewin, that fitted them perfectly and co-ordinated so well with Dom’s. Ties were also from TM Lewin, part of a discontinued range that were in the sale, but that matched the bridesmaid dresses so well we couldn’t resist!
We changed our minds a lot in the early days of wedding planning; the original concept was for a barn wedding with lots of white flowers and a very rustic natural look. We live in London but had decided to marry in Oxfordshire where we met and both grew up. Nothing in my research clicked, but I made five appointments based on reviews and recommendations from friends hoping to love something in real life (a bit like my dress!).
Towards the end of my research, thinking nothing looked like where I could see us getting married I typed in “weird wedding venues, oxford” to Google. The top hit was Aynhoe Park and I just knew that it was the one. I scheduled an appointment and blocked out the fact that it was grossly over our budget. It was our second appointment on the day, but as we walked through the door Dom turned to my mum and said “I think I’ve just walked into Hollie’s brain”. So much on that first visit made us laugh, and start getting excited about the day.
We continued on our appointments every new venue I just thought…this isn’t Aynhoe. We knew it was going to, painfully, double our intended budget and through the low key natural theme was out the door. It was now unexpected, over the top, and stunningly beautiful. We all knew that it was the place. This was further confirmed by the next available date being the 11th October, which was our original anniversary of when we started going out. We also loved that we had the venue for a full weekend, we had a number of guests coming from overseas and it was so good to spend the Friday night relaxing with them, and letting the resident guests all explore the house to the full! The grandparents faces walking through the door and being confronted by two polar bears and a giraffe were an absolute picture.
White flowers and rustic beauty had to go out of the window; our wedding scrapbook had to have a serious overhaul. As we now had an autumnal wedding, we wanted to ensure a warm colour scheme, as the weather could have been difficult mid-October so wanted guests to feel cozy, even if it was grey and miserable outside. We had a colour scheme of gold and pinks, with warm coral lighting illuminating the house internally; there was a lot of gold in the house so this was an easy theme to adapt. Thankfully the house didn’t need much decoration as it is already so full of props. We just needed to get a few finishing touches to make the day personal to us.
The Aynhoe florist was perfect for us, she knew the house so well and everytime we visited the venue we always noted how gorgeous the flowers well and how well they accentuated the space. Geri was great, and really understood my slightly bizarre descriptions of what I was after. The leaf arch was such a great focal point for the wedding ceremony, and the autumnal theme carried through onto the tables, with seasonal fruits, pine cones and leaves all spray painted gold. She followed my plan of candles, petals and autumnal leaves everywhere in the ceremony room, and executed it beautifully.
I had seen miniature animal place settings on some American blogs right at the start of wedding planning and realized this would be perfect for our venue, with the animal theme. We tried this as a DIY project and failed miserably. Gold paint was everywhere and the animals never dried! Thankfully I found Catherine Klepac on Etsy who knew the magical formula to get the animals to dry and had express shipping. We also used the animals sawn in half on the table plan, to denote the table name and to give people a hint of how to identify their table. Dom’s dad was given the assembly of the table plan as a surprise wedding morning task… we loved the finished result! We didn’t do too much DIY (not our natural calling apparently), when we did it looked exactly how we wanted.
The Wedding Party Fashion
The bridesmaid dresses were one of the hardest things to find. My sister was an absolute savior at many points during my wedding planning; she was the best at reassuring advice that it would all work out well, she made our incredible golden cake, researched and booked my gorgeous make-up artist, and she found the perfect bridesmaid dresses! Na also did 1001 tiny little things in between that helped make the day what it was, I am so grateful to her and her calm presence. The dresses were from Biba at House of Fraser and fitted all the girls so well. They all looked so beautiful!
The ceremony was beautiful; it felt amazing to be making our vows to each other after seven years together in front of our friends and family. I underestimated beforehand how important the music was, I still have our ceremony music on my ipod and when it comes on I just get the biggest grin on my face! I walked down the aisle to At Last by Etta James, and we walked out to Jackie Wilson Higher and Higher. When we hear the songs in public we are always smiling at each other or doing a bit of a dance down the aisles in the supermarket. We love confetti, and my mum’s friend from her village made us a huge batch of confetti which ensured some very over the top confetti photo shots and confetti going everywhere! Exactly as we wanted, as when else do you get confetti thrown at you?
After the ceremony the Aynhoe staff (who were the best team you could hope for from day one) recommended we went to have some alone time in the library to relax and celebrate with a bottle of champagne. It was a time we both really treasured and we had a chance to sit back and realize what we had just done!
Anton from Mission Events co-ordinated the music throughout the day, we loved that when we had finished our meal the doors opened to the dancefloor and flickers of lazers came out it created a great teaser campaign for the evening entertainment. The ceremony room was transformed, it was hard to believe it was the same space! We had a great playlist and everyone kept dancing throughout the night, even to some of the more unconventional choices that arose out of the hen do (namely Lil John – Get Low).
Tip – make sure your DJ knows which version of the song you have practiced dancing to! Little did we know the version of “First, Last, Everything” we had practiced dancing to was the edited version… Dom and I entered the dance floor and oddly swayed to about a minute of Barry White’s seductive mumblings before the song kicked in and we could start our first dance for real!
My wonderful sister made the cake as her wedding present to us. I sent her a picture of an entirely gold cake when she asked for inspiration, and didn’t quite think through how difficult that would be to create. But she did it spectacularly, with all our preferred cake flavours. My favourite carrot cake base (she makes the best in the world), my grandma’s recipe for fruit cake in the middle and Dom’s favourite lemon drizzle on the top.
One of my most ridiculous moments was the purchase of the flamingo cake toppers (I went full bridezilla), they cost an extortionate sum for what they were once shipping was included. But we love them! We have them now in our house on display so we are getting more than a day’s use out of them.
My philosophy for the day was if people are well fed they are usually at their happiest, so we went a bit overboard with food. Indulgence made choosing our menu so difficult, as we loved every option they presented us at the tasting. I think one of the only things we would have changed about our day was the option to eat more of our canapés! They were served during the time our photos were taken and we only got about 2 each. We sourced our wine from Berry Brothers & Rudd. Their Cremant de Limoux is delicious and a great price for a good sparkling wine. We had canapés, the three course meal, cake of cake, cake of cheese, and then bacon rolls and a sweet trolley at 10pm, just in case people had any remote notions of hunger!
We made sloe gin for our favours for each guest, we make a batch of sloe gin every year from the trees near my mums house in devon, and it was the perfect time to serve it after a year of brewing. Especiaslly delicious mixed in the champagne for the toasts!
Lucy was and continues to still be amazing and so helpful. Lucy was recommended by the venue, and when we looked at her work we knew that it was the reportage style we were after. Dom and I aren’t particularly comfortable having our photos taken so we wanted it to be something that happened without us being too aware. Lucy captured the day beautifully, and the photos are something that I really treasure and that take us back to the wedding day instantly when we look through them.
We also had a DIY photobook with tiny polaroid cameras. It is so much fun to read and look back on, with people posing with the animals. And the comments/photos only get better as people get more drunk…
The team at Aynhoe made everything so easy, my bridesmaids seemed to find it a bit unnerving at quite how calm I was – but I knew Charles the butler had it all under control so I could just enjoy the morning. There were things we forgot to do on the day (throw the bouquet…oops!) but it was still the best day of our lives so far. My advice would be to make sure you get some alone time with your new husband/wife after the vows to let it sink in, and also not to be afraid to make the wedding as unique to you as a couple as it could possibly be. Also don’t worry about adding things in at the last minute!
Photography by Lucy Davenport
- Bridal Gown Jenny Packham
- Venue Aynhoe Park
- Groom’s Suit Zegna
- Groom’s Shoes Prada
- Ushers’ Suits T.M. Lewin
- Table Plan Animals Provided by Catharine Klepac
- Bridesmaids’ Dresses Biba at House of Fraser
- Florist Sweetpeas Floral Design
- Balloons Bubblegum Balloons
- Catering Indulgence Catering
- Make up artist Sarah Brock