The Secret Garden near Ashford in Kent is where this pastel pink and gold wedding took place, and it is every bit as magical as it sounds.
Being blessed with good weather, Louise & Andy took full advanced of the sunshine by having a gorgeous ceremony outside. The wooden frame gazebo adorned with blooms made the perfect altar and focal point for the ceremony and all those adorable moments captured by White Stag Wedding Photography as the couple say I do.
Now on to Bride Louise who looks absolutely jaw dropping in her stunning Sottero & Midgley gown, fitting her in all the right places and looking every bit the hollywood starlet with her new bleach blond hair and red lipstick. It’s no wonder groom Andy looks totally smitten as she walks down the aisle.
Louise the Bride: I booked to visit two bridal shops in one day because my sister and mum live in Kent so I wanted to get it sorted while they were visiting me up North. The first shop was called Wedding Belles and Beaus in York. As this was the first (and hopefully last!) time I’ve shopped for a wedding dress, I wasn’t sure what would suit me and wanted to keep an open mind.
I am curvy and it quickly became apparent that a fit and flare dress would work best. My mum had looked on the shop’s website prior to the visit and one dress had caught her eye, so she emailed me some pictures to get my thoughts. Before opening the email I was nervous. What if my mum’s idea of the perfect dress is completely different to mine? What if we end up bickering before we’ve even set foot in a bridal shop? Gladly, this wasn’t the case and within seconds of seeing the images, I agreed with her. The dress was beautiful.
The assistant got this dress from the rail and when I tried it on, it was definitely a “say yes to the dress” moment! The dress was called Marigold and was by Sottero and Midgley. My eyes were welling up as I walked out to show my mum, sister and future mother-in-law. My mum’s eyes were watering too and I knew straight away that the dress was chosen. We decided to keep the afternoon appointment but my heart was already taken. I was surprised (and delighted) at how easy it had been to find the right dress!
The dress had vintage style beading from top to bottom and the shape of the beading emphasised my curves. The top half of the dress had a hidden corset and at the back was a zip hidden by button details. It had shoulder split straps on it which really finished it off but these were removable, allowing more movement for the first dance and reception.
Originally, I was going to have tousled hair and natural make-up but when showing a picture of the dress to a friend, she suggested I should go “full glam.” She advised that I needed to wear the dress rather than the dress wearing me, which was great advice. I started browsing Pinterest to look for vintage glamour make-up and was drawn to a red lipstick and platinum blond look. It was very Marilyn Monroe, and I thought this would be perfect.
Once I’d made this decision, I contacted my hairstylist, Miriam at No2 The Green in Horsforth, and told her my idea. I had been going to Miriam for my hair for a while and she is exceptionally talented, so I knew she would do a great job of turning my hair from its dyed dark brown to platinum blonde. I was at the hairdressers until nearly 9 pm on quite a few occasions but it was worth it. I was delighted with the end result, it was exactly what I’d hoped for.
My nan gave me the veil which she wore 60 years ago at her own wedding. This was a real honour and meant a lot to me. I was amazed at what good condition it was in when she showed me – it looked as if it had been bought a couple of weeks ago! For headband and jewellery, I wanted a bit of sparkle but I didn’t want to overdo it as the dress had already had enough detail in it.
Andy knew he wanted a light grey suit and, rather than his groomsmen wearing the same colour, we thought it would look good if they wore royal blue suits. I’d seen lots of pictures where the groomsmen were wearing grey and the groom was wearing blue but decided to go for the opposite, which worked out well and it was obvious who the groom was. If ever there is a day when you want to stand out, it is your wedding day. Besides, Andy loves a bit of attention!
We also wanted to buy the groom’s suit as Andy is 30 now, so it was about time he forked out and got a properly tailored suit! We are so glad we opted for the grey suit as it went perfectly with the venue and the soft lightening of the photographer’s pictures. We decided on brown brogue type shoes, as you can’t go wrong with brown brogues, and a tie and pocket square to finish the look. These accessories tied all the groomsmen, father of the bride & the groom together nicely.
Despite it being a gamble in England, I desperately wanted an outdoor wedding as I can’t be happier than when the sun is shining and I am sat in the garden with friends or family, enjoying a glass of wine. It also gives you the option of outdoor games to keep everyone entertained, whatever their age. We looked at a few venues in Leeds, where we live, but couldn’t find anything that ticked all my boxes, so we headed down to Kent, my home turf! It is usually hotter down South than in Leeds, so we took this into account too. We looked at a couple of venues in one (very long!) day, driving all over Kent and The Secret Garden was the second venue we looked at. Seeing The Secret Garden reminded me of how I felt when I had the first viewing at our house. I knew straight away that it was the one! Even though we were seeing it in in December, when it was cold and sparse in terms of plants and greenery, I could see how amazing the potential was for a Spring/Summer day.
The manager was a bright, straight-talking lady so confidence was instilled in us instantly. The great thing was that they offered a ceremony in the beautiful gardens under a gazebo and with the amount of people we were having, there was a marquee option for the reception. In case of rain, there was a newly built chapel at the venue, which was also very nice. Not as nice as doing it outdoors, of course, but a good Plan B! The day before the wedding, as we added the finishing touches to the marquee, it was lashing it down, so it looked likely that we would have to use the chapel. However, on the day we got lucky; the sun shone all day and I got the outside wedding I had always wanted.
I struggled a lot with colour scheme and decor and kept going back and forth. At first, I wanted lavender as I thought it would be a perfect match for the garden theme but I also flirted with the idea of bursts of bright colours. Finally, I decided upon blush pink and gold as I thought this went with the glamour of my dress but was also classy and simplistic for the English feel of the venue.
For the tables, we were wary of having a lot of clutter and decided to keep it simple so that everything would speak for itself. Our tables were named after different countries Andy and I have been lucky enough to visit together and we bought some vintage style postcards for the table names; we managed to find all the postcards we wanted on Zazzle, which is a very helpful website. We also had gorgeous fresh flowers on each table in individual glass cut or pressed vases; these took a lot of time to collect and Andy will not miss having to traipse around charity shops every time we go out! There was also a lesson learnt in checking vase sizes on eBay as I ordered 8 glass cut vases but when they arrived were 8-10cm each!
For the table plan, my dad buys and restores clocks which means he goes to a lot of vintage markets. At one of these, he found a beautiful gold mirror. It was perfect for the scheme we were going for. Andy and I bought some lovely card and we asked a family friend to write all the names out using her beautiful calligraphy writing. The rest of the decor comprised of things that we had collected over the year or tables/boxes that the venue provided.
We did have a hairy moment the day before the wedding when we were putting up the fairly lights in the marquee. Andy, (who is 6’ 4’!) had to stand on the top of a ladder on his tiptoes while my sister held his feet, to try and tie the lights to the highest point of the marquee. At one point I thought he may be in a cast on our wedding day, but thankfully the several hundred attempts to hang up the lights paid off and they looked so pretty in the evening, it was definitely worth it. No injuries was a bonus!
Andy’s aunt, Melanie, who works at Flowers I do very kindly offered to do our wedding flowers for us and she did an amazing job. Mel did all the centre pieces, bouquets and button holes herself and we were so happy with them. They worked brilliantly with the venue and the scheme that I was going for. Anemone Blue who is The Secret Garden’s florist did our gazebo flowers, which then got transferred to the top table after the ceremony. Anemone Blue and Mel spoke beforehand so ordered the flowers together to reduce cost and ensure the colours matched throughout the flowers.
The Wedding Party Fashion
I wanted the bridesmaids to feel comfortable on the day and be happy with what they were wearing, so I wasn’t particularly bothered about them all matching, as long as they were in the same colour. I said I would like blush pink and sent a few dress ideas around which I liked. This was an area that I was quite lucky in as bridesmaids rarely wear their dresses again so I didn’t have a huge budget for this area. Lucy managed to find a dress in the ASOS sale which looked great and fit the colour scheme so that was very easy, Jo had been a bridesmaid at a wedding the year before and that colour scheme was also blush pink so she asked the bride of that wedding if they were happy for her to wear the dress again and they were which was great (thanks!). My sister decided on the dress she wanted and said she would buy it herself which I appreciated. The money I saved in that area meant I could buy nice necklaces for each bridesmaid and pay for their accommodation on the wedding night.
Andy had 3 best men and 3 ushers so we hired suits from Moss Bros. They provided the same blush pink ties and pocket squares for each groomsman. We also asked they wore brown brogues. The father of bride and father of groom wore dark grey suits and also had the same ties and pocket squares as the groom and groomsmen.
The ceremony was held in the gardens under a gazebo with the guest’s seats around the four corners of the gazebo. I made confetti from drying mine and my mum’s previous summer’s flowers. We put these in confetti cones and tied them to chair for after the ceremony. I also had the idea of providing bonbons for the guests, as they are a traditional and pretty sweet, which went with our theme. I bought lots of these in pink and white and added them to the confetti cones. I thought this worked well but did write “eat me” on the bonbons and “throw me” on the confetti so we didn’t get any bonbons chucked at us. I didn’t want a black eye on my wedding day!
We asked our mums to do a reading during the ceremony. My mum read Union by Robert Fulghum and Andy’s mum read some words by Bob Marley. These were lovely and were really special to us. Although Andy denies it, I’m sure he shed a tear! My nan and our future sister-in-law were witnesses for the marriage and it was great to give them a special involvement in our big day.
I left Andy in charge of the music. He fancies himself as having a good taste (although this is debatable!) and it was one of the few tasks he seemed excited to take on. I was happy for him to pick the band but drew the line at his high school band reforming for the day! He used Alive Network, which is user-friendly and allows you to listen to samples from musicians and bands and found The Courts, a rock band who played a wide range of covers from the sixties, through to modern music. They were excellent. They had a great stage presence, played some great sing-along music and the dance floor was packed for the whole of their set. Andy also used Alive Network to find a harpist for the ceremony. This was an unnecessary indulgence and quite expensive but we thought, it’s out wedding day, why not go all out? She was a bit high-maintenance (she refused to play unless we provided an umbrella for her harp!) but a great musician and the wedding march was beautiful.
We wrote a multiple-choice quiz about mine and Andy’s relationship, which we put on the dinner tables. This got people chatting and acted as a good ice-breaker on tables where people didn’t know each other. The after-dinner speeches were all expertly delivered and well-received and the best men’s speeches managed to stay the right side of the line (just!) Instead of doing a speech, my dad surprised us with a song that he had written and recorded which was very thoughtful. He had a better voice than I expected!
For the wedding breakfast, we were given the choice of some seasonal local dishes and asked to select 3 different starters, mains and desserts. The Secret Garden also gave us the option of having walking starters, which are basically a bigger version of canapés. I thought this was a great idea as it meant people could enjoy the garden setting and mingle with the other guests before dinner.
The dishes we choose were;
Walking starters; smoked salmon, dill & lemon pate on bruschetta, local Kentish sausage meat and chorizo rolls and honey roasted fig British goats’ cheese.
Mains: Traditional Roast Beef served with Kent thyme roast potatoes and Jus (my favourite food), Herb crusted salmon fillet, samphire and pea fricassee, white wine veloute and herb potato cake and Butternut Squash & Kent Ashmore cheese pithivier, wilted spinach & mustard cream sauce.
Dessert: Eton mess, lemon posset and sticky toffee pudding.
The food was delicious on the day and I wouldn’t change any of our choices. As there was some food left over which wasn’t needed on the plates, the waitresses brought this out at the end and people could have a second serving if they wished. This was a nice touch which was appreciated by those with a bigger appetite!
My wedding cake was another area that I changed my mind on several times. I was recommended to use Chelsea Buns, a local cake maker. Chelsea is a very talented and, after browsing her website, I was very excited about working with her. I sent over pictures of a naked cake and thought I was set on this. However, once I had finalised the colour scheme and how I wanted the décor of the wedding, I decided a naked wedding cake wouldn’t quite fit so returned to the old favourite, Pinterest, where I found THE cake! I sent Chelsea pictures and she seemed as excited as me and 100% agreed that it was a beautiful cake. A couple of months before the wedding, when I was visiting Kent, Chelsea came round to my mum’s for cake tasting so we could decide the cake flavours. This is one of the more fun aspects of wedding organising! We decided on lemon for the 12” layer, raspberry and white chocolate for the 9” layer and chocolate and caramel for the 6” layer. Chelsea said this would be enough for approximately 100 portions, which I was happy with, even though we had 150 guests. By the time the cake is cut, a lot of people are more interested in wine, so I knew this would be enough! There was plenty of cake left at the end of the evening which went down well at the brunch we held the next day at my mum’s. We received lots of compliments about the cake as it looked amazing. It was exactly what the picture looked like and the giant peony was just beautiful. I have frozen the flower so we have this as a souvenir!
I was overwhelmed to begin with as there is just so much choice! I needed to narrow the list down so, to start with, I googled photographers in Kent and browsed through several websites while working out what our budget was. Of course, you want the best you can for the price you can afford and this is one area I did not want to skimp on! After hours of research, I had a list of potential photographers, making sure there was a wide range of styles. I then googled The Secret Garden and looked at images, so I could see which styles I thought would best complement the venue. I whittled the list down to 5 photographers and got Andy involved as I didn’t think he would be interested in any of the research phase. He was too busy booking a harpist, he told me! Fortunately, Andy and I agreed our overwhelming favourite was White Stag Photography, so we got in touch to ask some questions. Andy and Catherine emailed us back straight away and asked to arrange a Skype call so we could go through any questions and ensure that we thought it was a good match. This call filled us with confidence that we were making the right choice; they are a lovely couple who had a wealth of experience and clearly know their stuff!
On the day Catherine and Andy were non-invasive and you barely knew they were there. They were so warm and friendly and always asked if we were happy to go and have some private photos. This also provided a couple of nice opportunities to spend some time together as a couple, away from the crowds and soaking it all in. Catherine and Andy were also very patient with guests, who needed rounding up several times! They also got some great shots of our guests with sparklers at the end of the wedding, which are some of my favourite pictures from the day.
We received the photos within 3 weeks of the wedding which was very speedy and we were absolutely delighted with them. The lighting and the way they captured the natural moments of the wedding meant it felt like we were experiencing the wedding again from lots of different aspects. One of the main reasons for choosing White Stag Photography was that they had a very natural style, rather than staged and scripted, which I loved. Another aspect we loved was having Andy with the boys getting ready and Catherine with me getting ready. This meant Andy and I got to see each other’s story from the wedding morning, which was lovely. Although I wasn’t impressed by how many beers Andy appeared to be drinking! We have had so many compliments on the pictures and have spent hours going through them. It is going to be hard to decide which ones to put in our wedding album!
Our budget didn’t quite stretch to a videographer as there were other things that I had down as higher priority. I still thought it would be nice to capture some moments as you can forget certain moments as a result of all the adrenaline and nerves. I was to a friend about this and she said she could borrow a video camera from her dad. Fortunately, her fiancé was a groomsman so we asked if he could capture the wedding ceremony and speeches. I am so glad we did this as watching this the other day was really enjoyable and it felt like we were reliving the day again!
Photography by White Stag Wedding Photography
- Dress Designer Sotterro & Midgley – Marigold
- Bridal Boutique Wedding Belles and Beaus
- Headpiece Arianna Tiaras
- Bridal Shoes Carvela at John Lewis
- Bridesmaid Dresses ASOS
- Grooms Suit Reiss
- Grooms Brogues Dune
- Groomsmen Moss Bros
- Venue The Secret Garden Kent
- Florists Flowers I Do
- Anemone Blue
- Entertainment The Courts
- Cake Chelsa Buns
- Invitations Papier
- Makeup Spotlight Makeup