Rustic Garden Beauty.

Right you lovely people, it’s the first wedding of 2012 and boy have I got a corker for you…

That crazily talented chap Mister Phill shot my favourite wedding of last year, so what better way to start this year than with another tremendous Mister Phill affair? This time he is shooting with Nichola Rogers, and we find ourselves in the beautiful countryside setting of Oxfordshire.

Our first newly weds of the new year are Hannah and Damian, I’m going to pass you over to Hannah right now.

A Rare Moment.

We got married at Friars Court, Clanfield in September 2011. We had seen a few wedding venues but wanted somewhere that reflected what we wanted from our day – a place that was personal, informal and intimate. We instantly fell in love with Friars Court, a beautiful 17th-century stone farmhouse with gorgeous, sprawling gardens surrounded by a moat in the Oxfordshire countryside. It wasn’t just its rustic beauty that attracted us, but the potential to make it unique and special to us.

With so many nooks and crannies, there were many options for how and where to get married, but I had always wanted to get married outside and the rose arbour provided the perfect setting. It also meant a very long walk, across two bridges in heels(!) but this gave me time to take everything in and appreciate the moment – it was pretty amazing seeing everyone’s reactions, including Damian’s smile when I came into view from across the moat!

We were aware that we would be spending a long time in one place, as we had both our ceremony and reception at Friars Court, so we made full use of the venue, emerging from the house to confetti and cheers, having games and drinks on the lawns, and using the marquee and cosy Garden Room as indoor areas in the evening. With so much scope for personalising and transforming we initially felt a little overwhelmed by the task of planning the day, but this helped us to focus on the aspects that were important to us – being creative, surprising our guests, and having a rare moment of being centre of attention as a couple – and doing it all together definitely made it even more meaningful and memorable!


I had lots of fun trying on many different dresses – from big meringues to slinky, sparkly gowns – dresses that I knew wouldn’t suit me and I never intended to wear! It was a lot harder to make a serious choice, especially for someone who is renowned for her inability to make decisions – but I did know I wanted to wear something that I’d feel comfortable in and that reflected my character. So, I looked for dresses that were understated, slightly different to the norm, and subtly elegant.

Friends and family recommended bridal shops and I browsed online, looking both in London and back where I grew up in Bucks. The experience of finding a dress was also important to me – I wanted to enjoy this once in a lifetime shopping trip with my mum and sister, so the decision I made was also influenced by where I looked. Mirror Mirror, with shops in Angel and Crouch End – provided really fantastic, personal service helping me to think about the style of my wedding from atmosphere to accessories. In the end (after trying on numerous lace dresses!), I went for a simple but beautifully-fitted chiffon dress, Abaco by Pronovias. I loved the elegant neckline and the natural feel to it, but it was my mum’s reaction that really let me know it was ‘the one’!

Something Borrowed.

As much as I didn’t have a clear idea of how I wanted to look, I strongly held on to what I knew I didn’t want – anything fussy, glitzy or bling! I had intended to just wear a few fresh flowers in my hair, but the dress needed a veil. I chose to wear the veil my mum wore at her wedding (cut and simplified to one long length at the base of my neck), and was very happy – both with the final look and the sentiment of wearing something given to you by someone you love. On that note… I also wore a pair of pearl earrings that my husband-to-be had given me for my birthday a few days before our wedding.

The Footwear Challenge.

Unfortunately, I’m not a shoe fan so finding wedding shoes that both looked good, felt good and allowed me to clamber over a bridge and down the grass aisle was quite a challenge! I went for classic Rainbow kitten heels in Ivory – and can now dye them green to match the grass stains I acquired! They didn’t last all night though, and I happily changed into a pair of cream flip-flops when all that mattered was being on the dancefloor with my friends.

Natural And Simple.

I was originally planning to do my own make-up, but was very happy to hand over to someone with far more expertise than me! Amanda Head is a professional stylist and make-up artist who has recently set-up independently, and offers excellent service and value for money.

She travelled to our hotel on the morning of the wedding to make everyone from my sister to my grandma looked beautiful, and was a very patient and reassuring presence – despite having glandular fever! I had a hair and make-up trial a few weeks before the wedding and Amanda listened to my request to stay natural and simple, whilst letting me know clearly what would work and what definitely wouldn’t! For my make-up she used light, rosy colours, that I wouldn’t have thought of trying, but that made me look fresh and radiant. My hair was pinned back in low, loose curls with a few cream roses at each side.

The Blooms.

There are so many options, from the flowers themselves, to the colours, arrangements and styles, it was hard to know where to begin. Luckily we had Cindy Warne, a local florist who also got married at Friars Court, to help us decide. She was able to let us know what worked well at the venue, whilst encouraging us to let her know what we wanted.

Sticking to the natural, rustic style of our wedding I asked her to mix cream roses with garden flowers and foliage, in warm yellows and oranges. Cindy created stunning, delicately hand-tied bridal and bridesmaid’s bouquets – I loved the sprinkling of daisies she added for a unique twist! She also arranged yellow and cream garden flowers in small, hanging jam-jars to line the aisle – subtle yet gorgeous touches. Cindy also provided us with simple, cream rose button-holes and wired rosebuds for my hair.

We didn’t want to spend a fortune on flowers and didn’t feel we needed to, given we got married in a garden, but we did want to use flowers as centerpieces on tables and bring the outdoors inside to decorate our marquee for the reception. Cindy was brilliant in providing us with cut flowers and foliage to arrange ourselves on the day (well, my very lovely friends and family arranged on the day!) Small posies of flowers in jam-jars were placed in birdcages, and a neighbour’s generous offering of ivy cut the day before to drape around the cages finished the look.

Traditional Tails.

Choosing the suits was probably one of the easiest and quickest decisions we made (such a contrast to choosing a wedding dress!) We both liked traditional tails in charcoal grey; Damian wore an ivory waistcoat and cravat and his best men wore grey waistcoats with green cravats, hiring everything from Moss Bros.

My lovely little sister was the only person I needed beside me as a bridesmaid, and this made choosing her dress a far easier task as we could focus on what she liked and suited her. Green was an obvious choice, in-keeping with the setting and feel of our garden wedding, and she looked stunning in strapless Grecian-style chiffon dress from Dessy. We used this green as a central colour to match to flowers, decorations and the men’s cravats.

Legendary Status.

Mister Phill is now a bit of a legend amongst our friends… he was Damian’s lecturer in cinematography at university, and is now a renowned photographer with a big business in ‘ex-students’ weddings that is rapidly expanding! It was lovely to already have a connection to someone who will share the most intimate moments of your day; however, Phill took the time to get to know us as a couple, meeting us for a pre-wedding photo ‘de-sensitisation’ shoot! Over breakfast, he asked us not just about our hopes for the wedding, but also about our interests, characters and lives together. This thoughtfulness and understanding translates through his photos, which provide not just beautiful images of the wedding, but document the story and process of the day – from solitary moments of morning nervousness, to the uninhibited joy on the dancefloor at the end of the night!

Phill was assisted by Nichola Rogers providing us with another perspective of the day and making choosing photos to print a very hard task! Having two photographers made it possible to record both Damian and I getting ready; Phill and Nicola synchronized their cameras so we could literally watch the day’s events unfold simultaneously – a really fascinating insight into that final morning!

Double Trouble.

The wedding cake was quite far down on our list of priorities, although we were looking forward to making decisions about the flavours!! We were very lucky as one of our best friends, Nyk Huxley, just so happens to be a patisserie-chef-in-training, and offered to make our cake as a wedding present! She did a fantastic job making us a beautiful, three-tiered, white-iced glory of a cake… comprising vanilla sponge, carrot and walnut cake, and a crowning tier of fruit cake – delicious! She also provided us with and constructed a phenomenal cheese tower, which was cut and eaten in the evening… who says you can’t have your (two) cakes and eat them?!

Strings Attached.

We looked into lots of different options for music and entertainment, and were overwhelmed by the number of choices! In the end we asked a string quartet from Oxford University to play during the wedding and drinks reception. They were absolutely wonderful, both in the lead-up to the wedding and on the day, arranging the songs we wanted during the ceremony and playing a mix of modern and classical music in the gardens. A beautiful accompaniment to the serenity of the day!

We wanted the evening entertainment to have a different feel, reflecting the atmosphere in the marquee as we focused on celebrating with friends and family. We had heard The Wedding Smashers DJ at a number of events before, and liked their energy and passion, as well as their old-school sounds! We gave them a playlist of music we enjoyed, but wanted them to do what they do best by judging the atmosphere and shaping the mood of the night – we were not disappointed! From dancing-with-dad cheesiness to a full-on mash-up, some of our greatest memories are dancing with our friends and family after the happiest day of our lives!

A Song that Defines You.

Damian and I have a few meaningful, yet highly embarrassing songs that punctuate our relationship over the last ten years – but none that we were willing to use for our first dance! It seemed like a big decision to make – a song that defines you as a couple – and we admittedly left it till the last minute to pick a song! However, we needn’t have worried…. the song that we did choose, ‘Tonight, Tonight’ by The Smashing Pumpkins, fitted the moment perfectly reminding us of growing up together, enjoying love and life, and not caring what anyone else thought!

Home Made Favours.

Practically we didn’t want to spend lots of money on a token gift, and it felt more important to spend time and effort creating something that we enjoyed and that would make our guests smile. Simple… we love food! We made jars of caramelised red onion chutney, and apple and tarragon jelly, which fitted with the English country-garden feel of our wedding and made for a tasty reminder of the day!

Rustic Touches.

We decorated the venue ourselves, with the help of some very special friends, who helped us to add small, but personal touches to our wedding… home-made bunting, wicker hearts hanging from ribbon in the trees, a trellis of photos of our adventures together, and a ‘wish-tree’ on which to hang our wedding wishes! Jeffrey, from Friars Court, was also fantastic in helping us transform his venue into our own creation, whilst also providing endless reassurance and encouragement throughout the process.

Compromise And Sacrafice.

Organising a wedding was far more stressful than I anticipated, but this reflected how much it meant to us to have a day that everyone we cared about enjoyed and remembered us by. We quickly learnt that not everyone shares your ideas or expectations of the day, and whilst some compromise and sacrifice is inevitable (weddings are magical – your budget, for example, will disappear rapidly!), it is really important to hold on to what is important to you. For us, it was about the atmosphere and creativity of the day, rather than the quality or finish – although making things and seeing the effect when they all come together was really enjoyable!

As much as we were focused on everyone else having fun, we were also very aware that it was our day and we made sure we spent some moments together to take it all in, and excitedly say to each other ‘is this really happening?!’ We also prepared ourselves to be the centre of attention, which was quite a daunting task, but we enjoyed the day so much more for letting go of any last-minute worries or expectations. As a result we have really happy memories of our wedding, of the surprises and mishaps, as well as the bits that went to plan!

Of everything that we encountered, the most important part of the wedding for me was planning it with my husband – not only did I learn a few new things about him along the way (he is scarily skilled with a sewing machine!), but it reminded me of all the reasons we chose to get married!

Venue Friars Court, Clanfield

Boutique Mirror Mirror

Dress Abaco by Pronovias

Shoes Rainbow Club

Hair and Make-up Amanda Head

Flowers Cindy Warne

Photography Mister Phill and Nichola Rogers

DJ The Wedding Smashers

A good start to the year no?

There are lots of nice little home made pieces of inspiration here to help you lot kick start a super creative 2012. We have got a perfect outdoor venue which helps remind me that I love England as I sit here in the dark January drizzle and of course some of the most perfect photography in Weddingdom.

Hannah mentions at the end there that the most important thing for her was being able to plan every step of the way with Damian, who was involved from the start. I’d loved to have seen a little behind the scenes shot of our groom sat slaving over the old Singer… I guess sometimes Mister Phill doesn’t get every shot!


Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

27 thoughts on “Rustic Garden Beauty.

  1. Hi Hannah, your wedding looked lovely. I am getting married in May and have been looking for a tree for guests to hang messages on tags, just wondered where your tree was from? As it looks perfect! Sarah

  2. Beautiful wedding! Love all the little touches and looks like a lot of fun! Anyone else think the person leading the ceremony looks a bit like a cat though? Think its just glasses on the end of her nose making it look black 😛

  3. A lovely start to the New Year revisiting this one :~) @Claire: The groom, Damian, made all of the stationery (place names, invites, etc.) and all of the bunting too!

  4. Congratulations Hannah and Damian! I love the pew ends, and wanted to know if they are little jam jars (?) and what you tied them to the chairs with? Cheers Xx

  5. That last photo is swoon worthy.

    We’re having an outside ceremony and I’ve become obsessed with wet weather provisions. We have the option of putting up an extra marquee but it will cost an extra £1000 or so for a basic marquee (no carpet, cheap awful walls) and we really don’t want to spend that.

    Did you just hope for the best (and the weather looks fab), rely on umbrellas or have an indoor venue ready to go?

  6. I went to a friend’s wedding at Friar’s Court in August – it is SUCH a gorgeous venue!!

    I love the last photo, looks awesome!

  7. Hi,

    The wedding smashers sound great – I’ve heard lots of good things about them. Would love a bit more detail from the bride about them if possible, what kind of music did they play? Were they flexible on the night with changing things to suit the mood on the d-floor?



  8. What a lovely wedding to kick off 2012! Loving the fresh colour palette, the beautiful blooms, the pretty decoration and the bride’s dress-it’s gorgeous. Am always a teeny bit jealous when i see an outdoor wedding-would have loved to have tied the knot outdoors but it wasn’t possible at our venue.

    Especially loving that last shot-can’t stop looking at it  xx

  9. Hi, thanks for all of your lovely comments- it is so nice to be reminded of such a happy day- we had a lot of fun!

    Answers to your questions…

    Yep, Damian and I made our wedding invitations etc. using the same material and sewing machine we made the bunting with… it was actually very easy (with the help of a very devoted friend with quirky hand-writing!) I’ll pass your compliments on to my husband who I now joke is my ‘wife’ as he is better on the sewing machine than me!

    The pew-ends were jamjars and were hung off the end of the chairs with wire for stability, although I’m sure twine or ribbon would be fine.

    The ‘wish-tree’ was a very lucky find in my parents’ attic- I had looked around but couldn’t find anything in the shops that wasn’t ridiculously expensive. In the end I just sprayed decorative twirly twigs white and arranged them in an old vase with printed tags to tie on. You should be able to find similar twigs in most florists/ flower stalls.

    Getting married outside was really lovely and one reason we fell in love with Friars Court… but it did cause us a lot of stress in conjuring up contingency plans! Fortunately the venue had a licensed indoor room that we could have used if needed, although we would have had to hire an extra marquee to accommodate everyone. One thing we did find helpful was agreeing with our very lovely marquee man that we could hire the marquee last minute if needed, rather than fork out for it and not use it…. worth negotiating? If not, I’d say keep your fingers crossed, get a snazzy wedding umbrella and don’t let anything dampen your day- it will be fab!

    The Wedding Smashers… truly amazing! Although we did give them a playlist, I don’t think they really used it, which was actually what we wanted as it meant they judged the mood and who was on the dancefloor, accommodating everyone and making for a very eclectic night! So early on we had everything from 60’s rock’n’roll that got our parents and friends alike up and dancing, to cheesy 80’s classics as the alcohol flowed, working through old-school 90’s to current favourites. The night ended with everyone moshing to The Prodigy, followed by lots of drunken-hugging to Take That’s ‘Never Forget’… definitely an unforgettable evening! (Book them now.)

    Hope that helps and let me know if you want any other info. Happy wedding planning!

  10. What a beaut start to 2012! First time I’ve felt warm all day (Sooooooo cold!)

    Love, love, love the fact you had 2 cakes. because we are too 😉 One cheese, one caaaaaaaaaaaaake! And that stationery is immense!

    Gorgeous wedding – that last shot is a framer!!!


  11. Beautiful wedding! The black and white picture of Hannah walking down to the ceremony with her Dad is my favourite, so gorgeous!


  12. Hi Hannah

    Just wanted to say what a beautiful wedding and thanks for making a great start to RMW in 2012, I often have dress envy (pretty much on a daily basis!) but it’s rare I can actually imagine walking up the aisle in a different frock to the one I did – yours is divine though, a real stunner.

    Congratulations and lots of love and happiness!

    Charlotte xxx

  13. Hi all, so… I am one of the stationary makers and worked with Hannah and Damian to design and make their wedding cards etc. I loved doing it and have done wedding invites for a few friend’s now. If you are looking for personalised wedding stationary (that you have a say in creating), I would be more than happy to take on a new wedding project – for a very reasonable fee because I love doing it!
    you can email me at:

    Hannah (not the bride!)

  14. Beautiful pictures! I stumbled on this site by chance, looking for photos of the dress I am due to wear in June (Abaco too!). We are also having a garden wedding and even the theme/colours for the cake are the same!! Very funny to see! 🙂 We are just fine tuning some details on decorating the garden now.
    Anyway, wishing you both the very best on your continuing journey together!
    Caroline xx

  15. Thanks Caroline… and what great taste you have!! 😉

    We had a fantastic day- very relaxed, yet fun and intimate. Good luck with the rest of your preparations and enjoy every minute of your day. Would love to see some pics…!


  16. Love this wedding!

    We are recently engaged and going to see Friars Court this weekend as a potential wedding venue, however, I wondered if any one had other good recommendations of wedding venues in Oxfordshire? Ideally we are looking for somewhere with a site for a marquee with the contingency of some indoor rooms in case the weather is bad. We’d also love somewhere that we could choose our own suppliers and preferably bring our own alcohol! Not a long list of requirements at all!!

    Many thanks

  17. Love that fancy and elegant wedding dress! Amazing! The style, the vintage theme, the colors-very lovely looking. I really enjoyed the photos! Wish you all the best!

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