Gemma Williams Photography wedding photographer

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A Very English Affair.

It was Vix’s post the other day that inspired me to write this post.

She shared quite candidly her quandaries over her flowers and her wider wedding decor choices. Trust me, from looking at the plethora of images in her post she has nothing to worry about!

But there was one question in particular she asked that struck a chord with me – is ‘things I like’ even a theme?

You’ll have noticed if you read the comments that I responded with a resounding yes. But actually Vix’s dilemma is something I hear about (and relate to) often. Equally I’m asked fairly frequently by both friends and you gorgeous lot for help styling your big day.

How do I create a theme? How big should a styling budget typically be? How much ‘themed’ decor is too much? Do I even need a theme? Where do I start?

If I had all the time in the universe then I’d happily sit down and talk to each and every one of you but unfortunately I don’t have this luxury. In reality the answer to each one of these questions is subjective – it totally depends on you as a couple and what you feel is of the most importance.

Instead I thought I’d take you through my own process for creating a theme – in particular for my wedding last month.

Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that the use of the word ‘theme’ should be taken lightly. I am not suggesting that your wedding should resemble a Trekkie convention nor the set of the Tellytubbies although if this is your bag then by all means go for it. No by using the word theme, I mean a sense of atmosphere that you are trying to create on your big day.

The best place to start is with images – moodboards are your best friend. Whether they be torn out shreds of paper in a scrapbook, a secret board on Pinterest or pulled together on Photoshop, this is one way of helping you to establish your wedding look.

Laying out all of your favourite pictures side by side allows you to pick out the common threads, to prioritse what is really important to you, a way of separating the wheat from the chaff if you like and you’ll find that your theme will begin to emerge.

I actually took inspiration from my wedding venue when thinking about my theme – Iscoyd Park epitomised what I named ‘A Very English Affair’. A harking back to times past, of jolly hockey sticks, polo players, gentlemen’s clubs (in a good way!) elegance and sophistication. Girls in long silk dresses, champagne saucers in hand clutching the arms of their cigar smoking, tweed-wearing other halves.

Creating boards for each and every part of my wedding day helped me to define which parts of the decor were required at each stage and clarified my lines of thought. It also meant that I could communicate my vision clearly to my wedding suppliers – my cake designer, my florist and to my bridesmaids and the boy’s ushers too.

Shall we take a look…

A Grand Entrance

Those of you who are regular readers of my inspiration posts will already be aware that I’m a big fan of the ‘entrance’.

No… not the bride’s grand reveal as she swooshes towards her intended, although I am partial to this particular moment of the day. Incidentally, I’m guaranteed to shed my first tears upon seeing the bonny bride at the top of the aisle…do any of you suffer from this affliction or is it just me?

No, the ‘entrance’ we’re talking about here is your guests’ first impression of the day on the day itself…a taste of things to come if you will.

In most cases, the entrance is actually a physical entity i.e. the front door to the venue or the reception hall where they begin to gather before the ceremony begins and is a perfect opportunity for you to make a real style statement.

Plus you can have a bit of fun too…

When I ventured on my ‘English Affair’ journey, I was keen to integrate the front door of Iscoyd Park into the wider decor scheme – the steps leading up to the entrance made perfect shelves for theme-inspired paraphernalia and the door itself screamed out for a seasonal wreath complete with pheasant feathers.

Given that my wedding was only three days before Halloween, it seemed daft not to make the most of the gourds, swedes and pumpkins so readily available in the shops. Plus I loved the sort of Harvest Festival appeal that arrangements of these vegetables can make.

Lastly carefully displaying huge wooden boules, battered polo mallets and croquet sets along with old badminton and tennis rackets, a cartridge belt and a few crests are just some pieces that bring the rest of this set-up to life.

Here Come The Boys

Striped blazers, brogues and chinos form the skeleton of ‘A Very English Affair’ from a male sartorial perspective along with a blue through to brown colour spectrum. Bowties and herringbone shirts also have a huge role to play and beautiful pocket squares finish this look off nicely.

The key to a successful look is to ensure that the tailoring is spot on. The beauty of such a look is in the crispness and accuracy of the fit – if this is absent you’ll end up looking like an eccentric disheveled professor.

Not so hot on your wedding day.

Another tip to bear in mind is to not be too ‘matchy matchy’. Opting for different coloured chinos to a jacket looks particularly suave – equally having your wedding party in different jackets but with the same trousers retains individuality whilst being eye-catching too.

It’s all about getting the right mix of smart to casual. At our wedding, one of our guests swopped his jacket in the evening to a brand spanking new cricket jumper for a different look.

It was epic.

One thing I learnt on my own planning journey is how much the ushers appreciated being included within the decision making process for their outfits. Having shown them a moodboard of their ‘look’ they were confident enough to offer up suggestions for the ushers’ ensemble. They not only looked amazing but they felt utterly comfortable too knowing that they’d chosen it for themselves.

One word of advice I will offer you is if you do choose to describe your dress code as ‘country club’ you run the risk of stressing out your guests as they make their sartorial decisions – in particular the girls. There is also a chance that some may misinterpret country club and just go for plain country.

Yes folks we’re talking gilets and wellingtons. You have been warned…

Aisle Style

Short of draping each chair with patriotic flags and placing a tennis racket and hunting horn on each seat, it was always going to be slightly trickier to convey the ‘English Affair’ theme within the ceremony.

Opting for a decadent urn filled with an organic clutch of foliage from the local hedgerows was a must, as was a runway of candles to light my way to my beau. Both of these elements were in keeping with the theme due in part to the sense of tradition that they evoked.

And then I took Vix’s approach… which is to pick and choose from the things you really like and integrate them into your day.

I don’t want to give too much away at this stage but I will say that there were specially selected antique bells (an Irish Tradition), the most wonderful order of service complete with Edwardian style silhouettes and copious amounts of confetti.

Dinner Is Served

A sumptuous dining experience like the evening soirees held at Downton Abbey is exactly what this theme is all about.

Using trophy cups for floral centrepieces rather than conventional vases as well as elaborate silverware, mercuried silver textures and cut glass are surefire ways to obtain such a look.

I’m a huge fan of decadent linen and this theme is really where tablecloths and napkins really come into their own. If you’re looking to create impact in your venue, then choosing striking linen as opposed to standard white cloths is cost-effective way of doing this and is bound to get your guests talking.

Dining by candlelight is integral to this set-up, since it takes the culinary experience to the next level. Try mixing different sets of silver candlesticks on each of your tables and use dinner candles in similiar hues to your linen. It’s worth mentioning here that it’s best to utilise a palette of no more than three colours to prevent unnecessary clashes.

Attention to detail is crucial to ‘A Very English Affair’; in fact it’s the subtle layering of different touches that will really ensure that you nail such a theme. For example hunting for period menu holders at car boots and on ebay will add an authenticity that perhaps more modern pieces lack. If it’s possible, try designing your table names and place names to reflect the theme too.

Whilst cigar favours for the boys and sugared almonds in antique champagne saucers for the girlies might seem a little outdated in theory, if enough care is taken and the right components are brought together then these treats can look irresistible.

Trust me folks.

A Floral Banquet

I’m not sure how many of you have seen the film Atonement – if you haven’t then hot foot it to your local DVD shop and rent it out sharpish.

There is a point to this…bear with me.

There’s so many elements that I love about this screenplay but it is the flowers that appear during the drama that stand out so strongly for me. There’s a heady, decadent, fecund aura that surrounds them, the last hurrah of summer if you will.

In fact it is the organic, unruly nosegays that the main protagonist in Atonement scoops from the garden that sum up ‘A Very English Affair’. Think soft English peaches and blousey pinks, teamed with rich plums and muted greens.

Old garden roses thick with aroma, berries and fruits scooped into urns and old kitchen jugs full of lush foliage are just some of the ways to describe this theme. You see this style shouldn’t be overly engineered nor too stylised. The success of this look depends also on the quantity of flowers that you use too – more is always more.

Lastly floral crowns and ample corsages for the bridesmaids finish this ‘theme’ off perfectly. Such arrangements pay homage to days of yore, of England’s golden era.

So what do you think folks?

Has this concoction of images helped you to pinpoint your own wedding theme or just muddied the water further?

Conversely, do ‘themed’ weddings make you want to run for the hills in horror?

And of those of you who have already married, how easy for you was it to select your wedding day decor? Were you working to a clear plan or was it something that you decided as you went along?

Lastly is it just me or does anyone else wish that the time-machine would actually be invented? Here’s hoping anyway…

All my love Lolly xxx

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A Raspberry Red And Apple Green Wedding.

Sonja and Shane married in September 2011 at Hellens Manor in Much Marcle, Herefordshire.

They chose Hellens Manor for its countryside setting and gorgeous amenities – a medieval manor house with party barns in the beautiful countryside of Herefordshire. The venue allowed Sonja and Shane to decorate and do pretty much anything and everything they wanted, they even rigged up a whole new lantern based lighting system for the day (all conceived and created by Shane and his helpers).

Today then, we are off to the cider county, and to document this dreamy rustic day we have Gemma from Gemma Williams Photography, and may I say you are in for a visual treat that is good enough to eat.

Lovely Memories.

From the word go we knew we wanted to stay local to our Herefordshire home and keep it a very relaxed and country wedding, full of personal touches and fun. We wanted to make it not only an amazing day for us, but for all our guests to enjoy and leave with lovely memories.

Living in the heart of the Apple and Cider County we went for a country apple theme. From the invitations to the favours right up to the flower arrangements, apples galore!

We decorated the barn the day before with all sorts of things I found on ebay over the last year – lots of candles, lanterns, wicker hearts, metal buckets and paper lanterns for our ceiling lighting. I had my heart set on bunting in our colour scheme and my dad offered to help us. He spent weeks sewing our gorgeous bunting – 150m of it! This lovely splash of colour welcomed the guests to the barns and was a major part of our decoration.

The colour scheme was a gorgeous raspberry red and apple green. My bridesmaids Tina and Simone (my best friends from Germany) were wearing the Allure dress from Coast in sage green. For contrast and to carry through the colour scheme I asked my florist to make raspberry red bouquets for them – which looked absolutely stunning.

Shane and his best man had beige linen suits from Moss Bros. I loved the relaxed and ‘sunny’ look of these suits, very laid back. The ties (rented from Moss Bros) mirrored the sage green of the girls’ dresses.

Rose Detailing.

The dress, well, that was one of the first worries I had. I am not a very girlie girl and don’t really do dresses. So knowing what to go for was rather tricky. I’d decided to go to the National Wedding Show last March. I hate shopping at the best of times and it was all a bit over whelming for me. I tried the odd dress on, just to make an effort.

After 4 hours I still wasn’t any closer to finding my dress and saw myself leaving without one. About to go for a late lunch, a strapless ivory dress caught my eye. I tried it on and my friend who joined me for the day thought it was lovely. I still felt really awkward, not being used to wearing a massive dress. As I took the dress off and put it back on the hanger I could feel some tears coming up and felt rather emotional about the dress… it felt like I was putting MY dress back onto the hanger… that was the sign.

The dress was a gorgeous strapless design with rose detailing at the bust, layers in the skirt part and the best bit was – it held my tummy in nicely! It was from Grace Couture in Nottingham, from their Art Couture collection.

I had it altered a couple of times, the train shortened, the layers of netting taken up, all just to make me feel a bit more comfortable. The outcome was the most gorgeous dress I could have hoped for, it made me feel like a million dollars and I enjoyed wearing it every second of the day.

Elegant Simplicity.

I chose quite simple but elegant jewellery from Pia in Cheltenham. A lovely freshwater pearl necklace and bracelet.

For my hair I bought some little diamond and a small feathery, ivory fascinator from Hat Trick in Hereford.

Something Old, Something New…. Something Missing?

I have to admit, I was missing one of them. My shoes were my ‘something old’ (advantage being: nicely worn in and comfy!) Ivory closed toe sling backs, bought a few years ago at BHS. My ‘something blue’ was a pair of knickers Tina bought me, as a joke! She asked me to wear them (with a smile on her face), but after spending a small fortune on my bridal lingerie in Montpellier, Cheltenham, I decided not to wear them but to keep them in my little make up bag instead. My ‘something new’ was a surprise present from Shane…we agreed on not buying each other presents, but on the morning of the wedding our son Bayon walked in with a little bag labelled ‘Something new…I love you’. A gorgeous pair of diamond earrings (to go with my engagement ring) that nearly made me burst into tears! The one thing I was missing was the ‘something borrowed

…hmmm, I did borrow Simone’s hairspray, does that count?!

Me… Naturally.

My hair was done by my friend and professional hairdresser Debbie. With years of experience and running her own salon in Ledbury, I couldn’t have been more confident in letting Debs loose on my hair. We went for a relaxed hair up-do. By curling my hair and giving it more volume, Debs managed to get even my short hair up. It looked gorgeous – everybody commented on my hair and I loved it! Big thanks to Debs. xxx

I did my own make up, as I wanted to be me on the big day. My new Dior foundation and lipstick finished the natural look off nicely.

Only Time.

Lots of tea lights were lit along the barn walls for the ceremony, lanterns lined the aisle either side – Enya’s ‘Only Time’ was my entrance song. One of the most important decorative parts of the ceremony was our ceremony arch.

Thanks to my bridesmaid Simone and best man Justin, it all came together at the end and looked absolutely stunning on the day. To make it a personal ceremony we had a German and an English reading and some gorgeous music performed by Hannah and Rob (Hannah plays the sax, how cool is that?!) and to make it a little bit more special for the German guests, I said my ring vows in German.

A Country Cottage Feel…

I fell in love with Dawn Horsted Flowers, I loved her style of using country and cottagey flowers and herbs. Using just some hydrangeas, Dawn made simple and stunning bouquets for the bridesmaids. My posy had roses, herbs and hydrangeas in pink and greens. The centre pieces and two other arrangements were designed to go with our colour and wedding theme – raspberry red and apple green and of course apples were part of all of the flower arrangements – eye catching, different and earning plenty of praise from our guests.

Shane’s dad supplied a load of green/pinky hydrangea heads from his garden. We used them throughout the venue, we dotted little jam jars with ribbon around the barn and filled them with the hydrangeas. I tied a few of them into our ceremony arch and decorated our cheese cake with them too.


As well as having a selection of family wedding photos on our cake table, we arranged some photos of loved ones who sadly are no longer with us, next to the guest book. This was a lovely way of remembering our family members and friend who couldn’t share this special time with us.

Quirky And A Little Different.

Instead of favours and a traditional table plan, we brought in a miniature apple tree that we were given by friends for the birth of our son Bayon. I bought some chalkboard apple tags on ebay. These were used as name/escort cards, hung with jute twine off the branches. Guests had to find their apple (which they kept as a favour) and find their table. We let them chose their own seat at their table, which was a lot less hassle than trying to figure out, who should sit next to whom.

Best of Taste catering served fantastic canapés during our drinks reception. Our wedding breakfast was a three course meal including pork with cider sauce (to go with the theme). For the evening snack they served fish and chips in cones – a massive hit with all our guests!

Traditional Fun.

Being German meant my family and friends planned a few little traditional surprises for us. Wedding traditions are big in Germany. During our reception drinks and canapés my mum presented us with our ‘wedding candle’ and read out a beautiful poem for the candle ceremony. Very touching, very moving, many guests mentioned how lovely it was. Next we had to cut a big heart out of a sheet – with the worst possible nail scissors! My favourite of all and probably the most well known German wedding tradition is the ‘sawing of the log’. As a sign of ‘working together’ and ‘getting through difficult times’ we had to saw through a (thankfully rather skinny) log with a double handed saw. Great fun and the Brits could probably not believe what was happening! 🙂

Helium balloons with little address labels attached were released after dinner. We had two replies, one from a couple just 20miles down the road in Tewkesbury and the other one from a Belgian couple who found one of our balloons on a beach in France!

All Good Things Come In Threes…

Although we invested in a rather nice leather guestbook, we also wanted something a little different. We arranged some curly willow branches in a hurricane vase as a Wish Tree. Guests wrote wishes on to little cards and hung them from the branches. I also found this gorgeous idea of a guestbook thumbprint tree on the internet. Shane luckily is arty enough to draw a nice tree. We bought some ink pads from ebay for guests to ‘leaf’ their thumbprints and sign their name. This idea went down a storm and everybody commented on it. The finished art work is now on our wall for us to enjoy. 😉

The Cutting Of The Cheese…

We both aren’t the biggest fans of traditional wedding cakes especially the icing. Cup cakes and muffins, individual fruit tarts and a cake buffet had all been discussed in detail, but didn’t really tickle our fancy. We finally decided on a ‘cheese cake’, basically three tiers of whole cheese wheels. Mouse Trap in Hereford helped me chose the right cheeses – it had to stack nicely. In the end the three tiers were: Little Hereford (bottom), Vignotte (middle) and a Welsh goat cheese as top tier.

Having spent months looking for cake tops, a friend of mine recommended Sunfish Handmade Caketops up in Scotland. And what a find! Fantastic attention to detail, superb understanding of what we wanted and fast turnaround. Helen made ‘us’ and told ‘our little story’ on a cake. The cake top shows Shane and myself, our son Bayon is waving our country flags. As additional details we had a backpack made (we went travelling around the world for a year) with a little Swiss flag on it (Shane and I met in Switzerland). The stack of books represents our jobs: antiquarian book dealers and if you look closely enough, you can even read the title ‘Beau Rivage, Room 101’ – this is the hotel I used to work at in Geneva and Shane was one of our VIP guests in room 101!

This little cake top means a lot to us – it is our story! It’s now standing on our mantelpiece.

Greatest Day.

Herefordshire’s top DJ Roddy Hankins did the evening entertainment for us. We briefed him on what style of music we liked, gave him our first and last dance and some of our favourites.

Neither of us likes to dance – well I do, but need a good drink before I get on the dance floor. Shane didn’t want to do a first dance at all, but best man Justin had us make a decision two days before the big day. I would have gone for ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ doing a barn dance style routine. It would have been hilarious and gone so well with our country theme. Shane wasn’t impressed in the slightest. In the end, we decided on Take That’s Greatest Day and no dance routine. We actually asked all our lovely village friends to not leave us on the dance floor for too long by ourselves. They were fab and followed suit, joining us after about 10 seconds into the song. Thanks girls!

After not wanting to have a first dance at all, we actually spent quite a lot of time on the dance floor together and I really enjoyed dancing with my hubby. Our last dance didn’t go to plan though, as we forgot to give Roddy the CD for it. In the end, knowing that I am a Take That/Robbie Williams fan, he played ‘Angels’ instead. Nobody minds a bit of Robbie, eh!

Untraditional Fun.

Well what can I say?! We nearly didn’t go for a photographer, just to keep our costs down… but I am so glad, we didn’t! Shane came across Gemma Williams Photography on the internet and we both fell in love with her style and attitude towards weddings straight away. We met up with her to discuss a few things and signed her up. A few weeks before the wedding we sat down for a final chat with Gemma and went through some details and ideas of what we were planning, hoping and looking for.

We believed Gemma would get us the images we wanted, the style and untraditional fun shots, which would document our special day beautifully. Due to the weather we only had a very short portrait session during the meal, when the sun came back out for a moment we went for it, Gemma ran from A to B and was so excited about finally doing all our fun and personal shots. We had a right laugh with the donkey, our wooden signs and of course our moustaches – we couldn’t stop laughing, we had such a ball.

Gemma was probably one of our best, if not the best, investments for our day… the images are exactly what we were looking for. Every single shot was cleverly taken. We love every single one of them… and I have to admit, I still look at them every single day – they just make me happy! Thank you Gemma for being such a fantastic and professional photographer and wonderful person!

Stick To What You Love.

Make it your day, make it personal. Don’t do what others tell you to do and don’t do things to make others happy. Stick to what you love, fancy and believe in. Don’t think about what others may say! Add personal and loving touches here and there, something different and something funny, to reflect the true you. Guests will highly appreciated your thoughtfulness, attention to detail and ideas – and they will love thinking back to the special day they were able to share with you.

The things that everybody commented on were our flowers, the ceremony, fish and chips, all our German traditions, our guestbook thumbprint tree and of course the moustache bar.

My favourite part was walking down the aisle and finally looking up at my hubby-to-be for the first time – gosh I was a nervous wreck – I’ve been waiting for this day for nearly 9 years! We both really enjoyed all the German games and had great fun cutting our cheese cake. I can’t really pick out, what I enjoyed most, every minute of it was special.

The year leading up to the wedding was very stressful indeed. Planning, organising and purchasing everything on my own (Shane was busy renovating the cottage, landscaping our garden and running our antiquarian book business all on his own!)… but would I do it all again! Oh Yes, I can’t wait for our first big anniversary party…

Without the help from families and friends, we couldn’t have pulled this off. Our biggest thanks to our friends and family who helped made this day happen and made it so special. xxx

Venue Hellens Manor

Dress Art Couture

Boutique Grace Couture

Shoes BHS

Jewellery Pia

Fascinator Hat Trick

Blooms Dawn Horsted Flowers

Catering Best of Taste

Cheese cake Mouse Trap

Cake Topper Sunfish Handmade Caketops

Photogrpaher Gemma Williams Photography

That cake topper really is something else, and what about those laneterns?

A great bit of rigging there by Shane and his crew.

We talk about colour pop a lot here at Rock My Wedding, and today you have an absolutely classic example of colour pop perfection. The Rasberry and Apple zing off each other and give the whole event a fresh fruity vibe.

Thanks to Sonja and Shane for sharing this one with us.