The wedding of Kate and Martyn is the epitome of eclectic mix, there are so many unique elements that I love – and somehow they all work together perfectly.
There are the most amazing bold stripe bridesmaids gowns, there is an egg and spoon race and Frank the “best boy” dog wearing sunglasses, there is dancing and laughter and beautiful florals and oh my goodness sequins…. A whole floor length spectacular gown covered in nothing but sequins.
All this pretty to look at folks and then there’s the accompanying write up, an honest, witty and heart-felt account that you should definitely make the time to read, especially if you are currently experiencing dress woes or the whole planning situation is all getting a bit much.
Beautiful And Bonkers
From the start we wanted our wedding to be an intimate, uber relaxed long weekend, somewhere quirky and open to us running wild (literally, as you will see in some of the photos!), and most importantly, to include our beloved pooch Frank. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this immediately ruled out a vast percentage of the standard wedding venues out there! It quickly became clear that the logical option was to hire our very own house, and after weeks and weeks of searching, the one that stood out as being the yin to our yang, was Cliff Barns. Set in 4 acres of Norfolk countryside, it is a gorgeous mix of bonkers and beautiful and, most importantly, the owners didn’t bat an eyelid when we mentioned games, races and bonfires! Bingo!
We hired the house and a marquee for 5 days over a fantastically sunny May Bank holiday weekend, which meant our families and close friends were able to make a mini holiday of it. They shared our preparations and celebrations first hand, which created a really lovely atmosphere. In fact, we became like a little commune, and everyone cried when they left on the Monday!
Keeping It Simple
I love all things hair and make up, and am a complete product whore. My husband definitely prefers me with minimal maquillage and beachy hair, so my normal ‘look’ is fairly natural. I knew Mart wouldn’t want me to walk down the aisle not looking like me, and I hate people faffing with me anyway, so I always planned on doing my own make-up and hair, with the emphasis on keeping it simple. My bridesmaids and I all got ready as if we were on a night out, listening to tunes and drinking vodka and orange – very nineties! (My tummy butterflies didn’t fancy bubbles, and we thought the orange would give us some much needed vitamins to face the day!)
As my dress was channelling old school Hollywood, I opted for bright red varnish on both fingers and toes, and waves in my hair to complement that vintage-y look. My make up was a more polished version of my everyday self, using MAC, Benefit and Stila products, along with Lancome Juicy Tubes gloss (I went for a slightly coloured gloss option rather than lipstick, for easy, mirror-less touch ups throughout the day) I had planned on vamping up slightly in the evening with some red lips – who doesn’t love a red lip?! (always MAC Ruby Woo) – but was having so much fun, I completely forgot!
Hooked On RMW<
Fairly early on in on the wedding process, I became pretty hooked on RMW and all its polka-dotted loveliness. It was here I saw Anna Clarke’s work, and was blown away by how she captured these beautifully thought out, yet completely natural images, in a way that made them look like those hazy summer afternoons from old family photos. I knew she would ‘get’ the photos we wanted, which was only cemented further when we spoke on the phone and subsequently met for our engagement shoot. We gossiped, drank beer and played pool, and it felt like being on an afternoon out with our mates, which helped us relax in what is essentially, quite a strange experience…..unless you are a model or incredibly vain!! The fact that Anna and Simon have given us so many beautiful, emotional, funny images that perfectly capture the whole rollercoaster of our day, is testament to what geniuses and ruddy lovely people they are.
THE Sequin Dress
I am a fashion junkie. I am literally obsessed by clothes. However, sadly, buying my dress was the most disappointing part of wedding planning. I have a substantial bottom and hips which my husband loves, and, despite mammoth fitness efforts, I have manly arms, which I hate. So princess and strapless were most definitely not on my wish list. Instead, I envisaged a fierce, form fitting dress, covered in beading or sequins (love me a bit of sparkle!), with some form of sleeve – something a bit old Hollywood movie siren, something akin to the amazeballs creations of THE sequin dress God that is Elie Saab. (sadly I could not justify the cost of an Elie!!).
My God! Finding proper sleeves on a wedding dress is impossible in my experience. Added to that my lack of love for all things lacy (I know…. a statement verging on the sacrilegious in Wedding World!), meant that there was literally nothing that I even wanted to try on. I was just completely underwhelmed by gazillions of strapless or lacy dresses, or dresses with token, strappy or wispy sleeves. I basically ended up feeling like a bit of a freak. So I gave up, went back to the proverbial drawing board, and started a vintage evening dress search, with a view to getting something altered to fit the image I had in my head.
I trawled ebay, Etsy and all manner of vintage sites for 6 months. In the end, when I found a fabulous second hand mermaid dress on Etsy, completely covered in tiny ivory sequins, kind of like a 1990’s Valentino or Versace number…my heart literally skipped a beat, and I bought it straight away, despite not being able to try it on, it being strapless and not cheap! I had it tailored to fit and, with the excess material, I had some exaggerated sleeves made, to cover my most hated body part – hooray! I love that my dress is completely unique, and was given a chance to shine again in a different light.
I love quirky fashion contrasts, and knew I wanted to add a rockier touch to my wedding dress, so searched high and low for a metal belt to rock it up a bit. I finally found a fab deco-style one from Sandro which turned out to be a perfect complement to my 1920’s engagement ring. I carried this deco vibe into my hair in the form of a chunky headpiece from Rainbow Club which I only found about 3 weeks before the wedding! My bridesmaid lent me a gorgeous crystal tennis bracelet, and I also wore a retro cuff bracelet bought for me by my mum.
I had always envisaged wearing the highest, bad-ass Louboutins or Choos for my wedding day, but alas! The fact my dress was old and I am quite tall anyway, meant it wasn’t long enough to take anything other than a kitten heel. I found some cute silver peep toes from ASOS instead – not quite what I imagined, and I still can’t believe I wore the lowest heels I have ever sported, on my biggest day! You can’t have it all…
I stumbled across my bridesmaids dresses completely by accident in Hobbs one day – (cue frantic phonecalls to my girls) and loved them so much that I bought myself one too! Because of the shape of the dress (very Vivienne westwood-esque) I knew it would be super flattering for everyone, plus it was grey and cream striped – what’s not to love?! My two nieces wore cute flapper style dresses from Next with lots of silver embellishment on. I left all the girls to pick their own shoes as quite frankly, people are weirdly particular about shoes, and I didn’t want them to perfectly match anyway. Mart also wanted his Best Man and groomsmen to be comfy and not too matched, so asked them to wear their favourite suit, and he chose a mustard yellow tweedy tie for them all (I have no idea why he chose yellow!!).
Mart had his 3 piece suit made to measure from Moss Bespoke, and had the lining and buttons made to match his shoes (who knew men were so particular about such stuff?!!). He also had our initials and wedding date stitched inside the lining – how cute?! He looked so handsome and very dapper, and was perfectly complimented by his ‘Best Boy’ Frank, who was sporting a handmade collar and bow tie in grey and white polka dot.
My favourite colour is grey, and I love love love hessian and brown paper….so that was the start of our ‘scheme’. We wanted our day to be relaxed, intimate and above all, fun. So a kind of old-school fete vibe started to evolve, to include garden games and races. Mart developed the idea of us being captains of our respective family and friend teams, so created ‘Team Rilo’ and ‘Team Spen’ – which are our surname nicknames. He designed and made team stickers and photo tags which we left on tables for guests to wear and use in the guessing games, which definitely added a friendly competitive edge to proceedings! These themes were reflected in our wedding website…..more of that later on!
We didn’t have a table plan, as we wanted people to move around and sit where they liked. Despite my last minute panic that it was a terrible idea, it actually worked out brilliantly, as people swapped seats and mingled, and we ended up sitting with lots of different people over the afternoon, rather than just being sat on the normal ‘top table’.
My lovely Godmother made me 130 metres of the most beautiful bunting, to decorate the courtyard and marquee – which gave a gorgeous bright tea-party feel. I collected lots of glass jars and decorated them with vintage style ribbon and twine to use as tealight holders –which we dotted everywhere, and which also perfectly complemented our little tins of flowers. I also bought loads of vanilla scented candles and votives from Ikea, which burned all day, as it was important to me that our party smelled homely! We had raffia hearts hanging in the windows, and solar lights hung in the trees for after dark. Martyn made little drinks tables from wood offcuts and retro floral wrapping paper, to dot around the garden, and we created a kids zone in the tepee – with drawing easels and games. We had hay bale sofas around the camp fire, and I bought lots of bright blankets to cosy it up. The whole décor was very home-spun and mis-matched – which hopefully added to the relaxed ambience of the day.
Over the course of planning our wedding, when I mentioned to people that I was doing my own flowers, they literally looked at me like I was seriously, properly mad. However, despite having no significant floral experience, it was, without doubt, my most favourite part of organising our day. The glorious hours I spent perusing Pintrest at rustic, country blooms were beaten only by having THE most memorably lovely afternoon, with my ladies, drinking shandies in the sun, gossiping and arranging all the flowers I had ordered from a local wholesaler.
(www.chadwicksflowers.co.uk – Helen was super helpful) Bliss. I wanted old school English country garden flowers, arranged in a very low key way. For 12 months, my nearest and dearest dutifully saved baked bean tins, questioning why on earth I would want to use them at my wedding. However, when all my little tins were shining, full of gorgeous blooms, lined up on the huge fireplaces and clustered around our Norfolk Lavender table centres, I think they realised I wasn’t a complete weirdo! I went for a combination of Hydrangea, Stocks, Ranunculus, Peonies, Hyacinth, Aster, Daisy, Roses, Craspedia, Crysanths and big clouds of Gyp – all arranged in weird and wonderful containers (tins, old enamel jugs, watering cans etc) Amongst all our gossiping and shandy drinking, we also managed to do my bouquet (Hydrangea), 5 bridesmaids bouquets (Gyp) and all the button holes with Daisy and Craspedia (a ‘Manly’ flower according to my husband!). I kept the colours of the flowers in our bouquets and within Cliff Barns fairly muted, but in the marquee we went bonkers with mismatched colours. I think we did good!. Also, a lot of guests took the tins of flowers and pots of lavender home, so the blooms live on in various gardens around the country!
You’ve Got The Love
I am incredibly close to both my parents, and was literally dreading the part where my Dad gives me away, in case we both crumbled! (I even shed a couple of tears in the Registrar’s office when we planned the ceremony, and she asked who was giving me away – what a loser!) My Dad and I laughed about it loads beforehand, but it was a super emotional moment I will remember forever, and which is etched on my Dad’s face in quite a few photos!.
We spent a lot of time thinking about our ceremony and wanted to give it a personal feel. So my niece did a reading that Mart and I created from combining portions of 2 of our favourite mushy song lyrics – Depeche Mode ‘Somebody’ and Lamb ‘Goreki’. We printed this out onto postcards in our order of service pack, so people could keep them…we now have one pinned on our noticeboard at home. It was lovely to include something so personal to us into our actual wedding ceremony. It must have worked too, because there were a lot of tears around the room – even from some of the boys – ha! We chose Underworld’s beautiful ‘Caliban’s Dream’, for our signing of the register, and to contrast with this, we had Florence and the Machine’s version of ‘You’ve Got the Love’ to walk out as a married couple…..trés Sex and the City!
All along we wanted to provide our guests with fun stuff to do throughout the day, as sometimes weddings can hit a bit of a lull either side of eating, and happy guests maketh a fun wedding! Martyn is a woodwork whizz, and spent many-a-weekend creating all manner of garden games out of wood, which would have made his Grandad proud! We had a putting game, a golf chipping game, Play Your Cards Right, and various guessing and throwing games, including a very respectable boules pitch. We also had a shot put competition running in the corner of the garden which was ridiculously popular.
At about 5pm we started our races – Egg and Spoon, Sack and Three Legged – which were hilarious. People actually got changed to compete, and the noise we made from cheering must have given the local cows a bit of a shock!
We then had a break for our evening BBQ, before the dancing started. Our first dance was to Angry Anderson’s ‘Suddenly’ – the one that Scott and Charlene got married to in Neighbours – nicely cheesy! Then the mammoth ipod playlist that we had spent months creating kicked in – with a mixture of indie, northern soul, R+ B, 80’s rock etc. At this point, guests had located the fancy dress cloakroom at Cliff Barns, and the dance floor started to fill up with boys in dresses, girls in wigs and I even spotted some Lederhosen doing the rounds! Later in the evening we lit a bonfire and had a guitar led sing song around the fire. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Early on, we decided that we didn’t want a traditional sit down three course meal, as it wouldn’t really go with the laid back theme of our day. So we decided, with the help of the chef at Cliff Barns, to do a traditional afternoon tea just after our champagne reception. We served old style sandwiches, pies, salads and scones with jam and cream, after which we did all the speeches. We then had a ‘posh BBQ’ at sunset, with lots of local produce and a yummy selection of mini deserts.
I made a sweetie table for afternoon nibbles, with all our favourite childhood treats. I also bought lots of cheap, crazy sunglasses and left them in a basket near the bar for people to wear throughout the day – they proved pretty popular and made for some amusing pictures!
We didn’t have favours, instead we chose to have a free bar for the whole day – it was really nice to be able to put together a personal bar that incorporated all our favourite real ales, craft beers and other tipples, to share with our guests. We painted our beer menu onto an old crate, which we propped up at the bar, and which is now hung on the wall in our lounge as a lovely memento.
A Brilliant Bookmark
My super talented husband has his own design company, rainbowworks, specialising in web design, graphics and stationery. He designed and made all our paper goods – from the Save the Dates and Invitations, to the ‘Order of Service’ packs and Thankyou cards. He transported us back into old 1940’s photos, and used vintage textures, fonts and imagery to create a retro feel. Mart also created us a fab wedding website , based around our theme, which incorporated all our stationery, key information and lots more.
We made it a hub of relevant info, with venue links, directions, information on local accommodation and taxis. Guests were also able to RSVP via the site, and peek at tasters of our plans for the day.) Post wedding, guests could upload photos and look at our official photos from Anna along with other fun stuff from the day. I haven’t seen many people use wedding websites, but it proved to be an invaluable way to easily communicate with our guests, provide a bit of pre wedding excitement and retrospectively is a brilliant bookmark for our day. Definitely an option worth considering for brides-to-be!
Don’t doubt Your Vision
Please do not doubt your own vision and wants for your big day – it is your day and should be done your way!! We had loads of comments and opinions about things we chose to do or not to do – from choosing to have a small wedding, to including our dog in the whole weekend….Stick to your guns and do not worry what other people think!
Similarly, don’t be scared to go against tradition – you don’t have to incorporate all the expected elements of a wedding into your day for it to be amazing – just pick what works for you and the day you want.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – things can and will go wrong, but no one will notice or care. We lost our spacehoppers for one of our races and completely forgot to cut our cake, but we had such a fab time, we didn’t even realise until the next day!
Finally – allow yourself a couple of days chill out afterwards – you will be physically and emotionally exhausted! One of the many benefits of making our wedding into a long weekend, was the day after, where we had a lovely lazy day with our family and friends, chilling out in our PJ’s, having a left-over food picnic, and playing Rounders. It made our magical day feel that big longer!
Venue – Cliff Barns
Brides Gown – Vintage
Bridesmaid Dresses – Hobbs
Grooms Suit: Moss Bespoke
Bloom Wholesaler – Helen at Chadwick Flowers
Stationery – Rainbow works
Photography – Anna Clarke Photography
Just goes to show, you can really do anything (and everything!) and have the absolute best day of your entire lives.
I think every wedding should have a Frank.
Big Eclectic Love