One of the best things about blogging weddings as a job is discovering quirky venues and sharing weddings that are completely outside of the box. Today’s wedding is seriously beautiful and takes place at The Potager Garden, a tiny cafe and garden centre in a gorgeous wooden greenhouse, nestled in the heart of the countryside. If you’re finding that your budget is being stretched when it comes to the venue, it really pays to look at places you wouldn’t instantly associate with a wedding day.
Jana and Steve chose a woodland theme for their celebrations, which suited them and their venue to perfection. This whole wedding is absolutely magical, brimming with incredible flowers and it will transport you to a balmy Summer’s day where your only worry is where your next cold drink is coming from…
Jana the Bride: I had never dreamed of wearing anything over the top as I quite like simplicity when it comes to clothing, which made it quite difficult to find the perfect dress. However, I still wanted that once in a lifetime feeling of wearing something special and I eventually found what I was looking for. It needed a little work (and more than a little boob tape!) but it looked great on the day. To accompany, I wore flat lacy Toms shoes and a simple flower crown.
Steve the Groom: I had originally been really keen to wear shorts and hiking boots for the ceremony so that people would recognise me! However, this was swiftly swapped out for a smart yet casual tweed waistcoat, white shirt with brown tie and khaki trousers, finished off with a pair of smart Toms shoes, a personal favourite.
We were lucky that we both had the same vision for our big day; something outdoorsy, a relaxed atmosphere in nature and a small group of the people closest to us to celebrate with. There was a worry we had left it all too late (we started planning in March for a July wedding!) and we’d have to compromise. But, amazingly, and thanks to Jana’s hard work researching venues, we found the perfect place on a wedding blog and immediately fell in love with The Potager Garden.
Everything was magical, from the enchanting woodlands where we planned to have our ceremony, to the two beautiful glasshouses that were ideal for hosting our wedding breakfast and evening entertainment separately. On top of that there was lots of outdoor space too which allowed us to get creative with ways to keep our guests entertained.
Living nearly 300 miles away meant that all the planning for how we were going to decorate was done in our heads, with a few measurements and photos to work on for reference. Boxes and parcels arrived on a daily basis in the months before, and Jana paid particular interest to the finer details which would define us and our life together. We then had around five hours on the evening prior to the wedding to put all of this preparation in place and, with the help of best men and bridesmaids, everything came together beautifully!
After much debate, the ceremony location was changed from the forest to a shaded grassy area which offered dappled lighting along with stunning views out over the countryside. Hay bales, with hessian for a less prickly experience, was our seating which made it easy to move them around and we ended up with everyone being very close for the ceremony, giving that feeling of involvement to all our guests. Our florist provided a flower arch which stood in front of a grand old tree and this made for a wonderful complement to Jana’s dress.
The woodland theme continued in the larger of the glasshouses where we had the wedding breakfast, with hessian runners, wild flowers and some of those finer details like mushroom candles and cute little potted succulents. Overhead hung a beautiful wisteria which, with the simple addition of some hand-made bunting, created a cosy atmosphere. We enhanced this intimate feeling by having the table in a ‘U’ shape which allowed us to see and chat to everyone while seated.
With so much outdoor space we had room for games like giant jenga, boules and table tennis to keep the children (and adults) entertained. There were a couple of hammocks hanging from the trees and a tightrope that were already there as part of the café which were all well used too.
Steve’s mum is an artist and she made some hand painted signs with lines from The Teddybears Picnic such as – ‘If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise’ – which lead our guests first to the ceremony area and then on up to the glasshouses. Some Polaroid style photos from our world travels hung between a couple of trees, as evidence of our most shared passion.
By far the most popular instalment though was our coconut bar. Everyone knows of Jana’s love of coconuts and we’d shipped in around 100, along with a bottle of rum and a coco-jack for easy opening, and invited our guests to help themselves while keeping them hydrated on a hot summer’s day! Steve’s niece, Elsie, particularly enjoyed helping out by smashing open the coconuts, with a little help from her dad of course!
I’m not sure what we would have done had Jo Clement of Enchanted Brides Photography not been available! Having seen her style on a few blogs and on her website we wanted no-body else! Thankfully, one of the joys of having a Monday wedding is that amazing people like Jo are available and we were both ecstatic!
Our first meeting was on a chilly April morning, around 5am, on a small, deserted Cornish beach for our engagement shoot. This inclusion in the photography package was a great way for us to get to know each other, for Jo to see how photogenic (or not) we were and for us to get used to the fact that she would more often than not, be rolling on the floor or climbing a tree in order to get her shot. On the day we were left to enjoy the atmosphere and mingle as much as possible while Jo took candid photos of the day’s events. She apologetically ‘borrowed’ us for a while to get some stunning shots of just the two of us in the woods and encouraged the use of some amazing animal masks we had had made too!
When the agonising wait was finally over and we received the package with our photos a few weeks later we couldn’t have been happier with the results! Jo captured the essence and spirit of the day while being both invisible and a part of the party at the same time!
Our flowers were done by a local florist, Jen at Twigs and Greens – who created some wonderful arrangements of wildflowers for our tables, a stunning bouquet with lots of greens to contrast the creams and whites of the roses and peonies and the beautiful flower arch for our ceremony. Jen also made some wonderful button holes using succulents which looked amazing on Steve and his best man, Liam.
The Wedding Party
My bridesmaids had the dream of being allowed to choose what they wore, with only a loose guide of a creamy colour and tulle skirts which they all managed without too much fuss! Steve’s nieces were our flower girls and they wore beautiful creamy coloured dresses (bravely ordered from China!) topped off with flower crowns that made them both look more adorable than ever! Best man Liam did an honourable job of arriving with an almost identical outfit to Steve, despite only working from a picture message and shopping without female help!
Having a humanist ceremony meant so much to us as it allowed us to completely make the day our own and more of a celebration than a formal affair. We met with our celebrant a couple of times (in a supermarket café and a garden centre!) and the process of getting to know each other was a great part of the whole experience. On the day David felt quite a part of the wedding party! He captured our personalities and our relationship so well and worked that in to the relaxed style we wanted.
Being able to write our own vows meant a lot to us too and we kept these secret from each other to share at that special moment, each of us not sure if we’d be able to complete them without bursting in to tears!
Steve – “It was a magical moment seeing Jana walking down towards me through the trees, sunlight illuminating her beautiful blonde hair and the adorable look of someone trying not to cry on her face. She looked perfect and I knew I’d remember that moment for the rest of my life.”
There was a surprise for both of us as we had asked a dear friend to do a reading of her own choice which she did beautifully, and then Steve’s older niece, Ava, read an abridged version of the Dr Seuss poem ‘Oh the places you’ll go!’, maintaining the travel theme in a very cute way!
Having only 25 guests it was easy to be able to look around and engage with everyone during the ceremony and meant they could all feel a part of events too. Everyone kept it together, just about, and our rings, which we had made for each other at a workshop back in London, were exchanged!
Jana loves the piano and we were so lucky to find a great jazz pianist, Roger Miners, to play before, during and after the breakfast. Like everyone else involved in the day, Roger adapted superbly to the ambience, playing familiar tunes and keeping everyone entertained wonderfully, despite having to endure soaring temperatures in the glasshouse as a rare sunny summers day in the UK wore on. When it became too much for everyone inside it was lovely to see Roger mingling and sharing smiles and giggles with our families and friends. Roger commented afterwards that ours was the first wedding he’d played not wearing a suit and tie!
In the evening we moved in to the smaller glasshouse where our band, The Sparks, kept those who wanted to boogie (mostly Steve and his nieces!) on their feet for a couple of hours before we moved outside for their final set, an acoustic hour by the fire. This was a magical end to the day with everyone singing along, hugging and slow dancing while the fire crackled.
We like to eat quite healthily at home and it was important to have a menu that contained lots of fresh ingredients and natural flavours. The café at The Potager Garden is vegetarian and Shane, who also happened to be the mother of one of the waitresses, had done events there before. It didn’t take long on our first meeting with her to know the food would be amazing as after only a few minutes of conversation she had visualised a menu that only required the minutest of tweaking before it was agreed.
We opted for buffet style but had the ‘starters’ available straight after the ceremony to keep tummies happy. There were bowls of olives, home-made hummus, guacamole and duck liver pate along with bread sticks, freshly baked bread and vegetable crudités.
Main course was a healthy mix of salmon gravadlax, herby roast chicken, slow-cooked beef with dumplings and vegetarian and vegan quiches with lots of vibrant salads to complement.
There was a special treat for dessert which got everyone excited. A couple of months before we had been to a food festival on St. Ives beach where we had met an impressive looking chap showcasing his mobile ice-cream business; a Union Jack bedecked bicycle with a freezer box on the front! After the obligatory tasting session we knew we had to book him and as clockwork, he arrived just as Steve’s speech was finishing! Most had more than one scoop on such a hot day too!
There were two cakes; a ‘cheese’ cake containing 4 cheeses from stinky to cheddar to satisfy everyone’s taste, and a delightfully decorated two-tier cake of which the top tier was lavender and lemon and the bottom was orange and almond. We originally went for half-naked but later on added a very real looking chocolate bark! This was all topped off with a menagerie of miniature woodland animals and real moss around the base which enhanced the bark even further.
If two tiers of loveliness weren’t enough, we couldn’t resist adding some fantastic mushroom shaped chocolate cake-pops too. Evening food came in the only form it could possibly have been…Cornish pasties! Sourced from a local bakery these were a yummy and handy snack as the evening rolled on.