This heart warming wedding throws LOTS of wedding traditions out of the window. And I love it so, SO much for that very reason.
For starters, Andrew helped Jane chose her gown. Then the lovely pair drove themselves to their local registry office for a simple ceremony surrounded by their gorgeous children. This was followed by a relaxed party at their home with an epic sweetie bar, a delicious looking Summer buffet and lots and lots of fun and games.
Story + Colour have captured so many wonderful images of the new family together – they really will help you to remember what getting married is all about.
After putting the phone down we drove straight to our local wedding dress shop. Clifford Burr, a beautiful Georgian house filled with the most elegant and stylish wedding dresses. I’ve married a rare breed of man who actually enjoys shopping, so although ridiculously un-conventional, it was the most natural thing in the world to me to have him by my side while choosing the dress. I’d imagined wearing a vintage style lace number but actually, after having fun trying on a few, we had narrowed it down to two very different styles. He favoured a 50’s style tea dress and I, a flowing Grecian dress. Unable to choose between the two, we decided to buy both and draw further inspiration from them as to how we would plan the day itself.
After months of putting the whole thing off due to indecisions in early planning, in one single day we had managed to book the date, buy not one, but two dresses and set the scene and wheels of our wedding day well and truly in motion. We would have an afternoon tea reception for our wedding guests followed by a laid back garden party in the evening…sorted!
Armed with a few ideas but still without an overall ‘theme’ to decorate our garden, we decided to just go with whatever felt natural. If we saw something we liked, we’d find a way of using it. Our wedding would simply be an extension of ourselves; our home, our style and our taste – it would be our day.
As the guest list continued to grow, we became more conscious that we needed to keep our friends and family entertained so we were to fill every nook and cranny with something for them to either see or do.
Our old rustic and redundant stable breathed a new lease of life and became ‘The Stable Bar’ pub, which was lined with empty bottles and dinner candles, flowers, old-fashioned drink crates and a bar made from authentic vintage beer barrels. The numerous cobwebs, layers of dust and scattered straw were retained adding to the ambience and the feeding troughs were filled with ice to chill the beers.
We created an outside seating area to echo the ‘pub’ with restored leather Chesterfield sofas and Persian style rugs from Ikea. Next door we created an old fashioned sweet shop by filling vintage style sweetie jars with thousands of colourful penny sweets and lined them neatly on our Victorian dining room dresser that had been carried out to the adjoining courtyard.
We bought stacks of traditional garden games from eBay, including croquet, skittles and giant noughts and crosses and set them up in little gaming areas. Family pictures were hung out in the garden amongst decorative birdcages enhanced with plants and stuffed birds. Our classic ‘Pashley’ bicycles were wheeled out and their baskets filled with flowers. Trailing handmade bunting was hung which my bridesmaid had made for her own wedding a few years previous.
Wherever there was a space, it was filled with something that we thought was lovely or fun! The windowsills of the house were adorned with huge flower arrangements, fairy lights wrapped around every trellis and tree, lace curtains hung from the century old wisteria and lanterns were placed all over the place.
An outdoor wedding will always come with the peril of unpredictable weather. With this in mind, It seemed sensible to hire a marquee that would be big enough to both seat out guests during the day as well as dance in during the evening, but also small enough that it didn’t take over and dominate the garden if we had glorious sunshine. A generic white marquee was never going to fulfil our desire, I was so keen to hire something that people hadn’t seen before and something that complemented the garden. We stumbled across The Raj Tent Club at the Brides Wedding Show in South London some months before and fell in love. They offer a variety of beautiful tents with what seems like a countless choice of fabric linings, attractive lanterns, varying lighting arrangements and furnishings galore. We also bought stacks of pashminas from stalls along London’s Oxford Street and lined them up in an old wardrobe from one of the children’s rooms, just in case it got chilly in the evening.
We opted to hire our tables and chairs from Casablanca Hire and with luck on our side, the sun shone that morning allowing us to position half the tables inside our majestic tent and the other half outside on the lawn. We created extra outside seating using cool deck chairs and additional straw bales were wrapped in lace and placed around more of the Ikea Persian style rugs on the lawns.
The Set Up
We woke up at 6am on the day, so that we could put everything in place in the garden, blow up the giant balloons, lay out the table cloths and perfect the numerous details. It was then that the day started to go into fast forward…Our masterpiece of a cake arrived from the Pretty Gorgeous Cake Company, the caterer (Sarah Williams) started to lay out the vintage crockery we had hired from Vintage Rose, my fabulous hair and make up girls started work on myself and my bridesmaid.
Andrew and his brother got themselves dressed into their beautiful Italian cut suits from Diverso, and our two sons complemented their look with smart blue tailored shorts from Hackett and M&S shirts. The four of them wore bespoke bow ties from Bow and Tie, London. They drove off an hour before us girls were ready to give us some much needed space and peace!
My hairstylist, Phoebe, set to work on my very long, thick hair. Somehow she managed to pile the whole lot onto the top of my head and into the most perfectly styled ballerina bun. It looked fabulous with my tea dress. Victoria gave me flawless and very natural make up. My bridesmaid wore a fantastic pink Ted Baker tea dress, which looked stunning, especially as she had only just given birth! My little girl and Andrew’s twin girls wore silk dresses from I Love Gorgeous and Andrew’s teenage daughter wore a pretty pink Coast dress. Consciously, nothing matched perfectly, but the colour palette worked wonderfully together. It was just our style.
As a florist myself, I have always and will always love roses the most. I made myself a rose dome with white, peach and sweet avalanche roses. I made the girls’ bouquets with the same but interspersed with grey berries, velvety lambs leaves and fluffy green Alchemilla Mollis. The table arrangements were made by my wonderful staff as a surprise for me on the day. Big rings stuffed full of the same flowers surrounding my tall candelabra with duck egg blue candles as well as gold crackled vases stuffed with flowers dotted here, there and everywhere!
We drove ourselves to the nearby registry office at County Hall. We elected for a simple ceremony as we stood in front of all of our closest friends and family. It was perfect, until Andrew called me ‘Nicola’! Luckily for him, it is my middle name and the confusion created a lot of laughter and made us all relax.
We drove ourselves back to the house and when we entered our garden we were as surprised as our guests where at how magical and wonderful the garden looked. Every little detail went noticed by everyone as upon arrival guests went off to explore while we managed to take a little time out with our photographer. It seemed that our plan to not have a plan had really paid off! Nothing matched, nothing was ordinary and therefore everything was perfect for us!
Andrew owns a wedding photography business so after searching for someone who would capture our day as perfectly as he thought he would, we came across Dan at Story and Colour. It was pure coincidence that I went to school with Dan and his wife Laura and surely a sign that he was meant to be our photographer! The pair were great, and fulfilled the brief we gave them to capture the details… the rest would stay in our memories.
The afternoon tea was served on the lawn accompanied by Pimms served from old-fashioned mini milk bottles as well as cider and Prosecco. Our caterer made sure every table was filled with delicious finger sandwiches, scones and cakes, while the children ate picnics from our personalised ‘M&M’ hampers. The gorgeous Annabel sang while guests explored the garden and our cake and desert tables took centre stage on the front lawn on furniture brought out from our house.
As soon as the afternoon tea was cleared away, Andrew and I popped upstairs for an outfit change and to give ourselves a few minutes together to look out from our bedroom window and watch our nearest and dearest having a wonderful time. It felt amazing for the day to have finally arrived, especially as we were all enjoying it so much.
After the delicious evening buffet of salt and pepper chicken, salmon en croute and the most colourful Summer salads, our guests danced the evening away to the fantastic live music of our band which we had stumbled across online. Classic Kanish wore vintage style clothes while they sang up-beat folk versions of popular songs, old and new, from House to Hip-hop and beyond. A double bass, guitars and fiddles accompanied songs by the usual suspects like Mumford and Sons along with the more obscure – who knew Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl sounded so good sung along to a double base?
If my befuddled Prosecco brain serves me correctly, I’m pretty sure the evening ended after my bridesmaid forced the band to play the Conga and guests lined up and danced like wallies all through the garden. I’m not sure that moment will go onto our cool band’s wedding repertoire but it certainly created an amazing ending to a truly perfectly personal, romantic wedding day.
My tip to any brides looking to create a summer garden wedding is to relax and go with the flow. Too many plans can get complicated. A little of what you like and a lot of what you fancy was a perfect recipe for our day. I just wish we could throw a party like that every summer…. hmm, now there’s an idea!