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’!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?!
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!
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
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!