Notley Abbey is where my husband and I were married so it will therefore always have a special place in my heart. I may be biased but there are very few venues that compare (and I’ve seen a fair few in my time) in terms of creating the perfect elegant backdrop to a beautiful wedding.
Today’s romantic affair is no exception, Cleo looks absolutely breathtaking in her Suzanne Neville “Captivating” gown and groom Ryan is equally as well-dressed in a perfectly tailored Hugo Boss suit.
The flowers are dreamy, spring blooms are some of my favourites, especially sweetpeas – so feminine and delicate. And if there is an abundance of cherry blossom in your outside space then you should most definitely take every opportunity to have some portraits taken, this pair look like something out of a fairytale.
You can view Notley Abbey and other gorgeous venues on our hand picked supplier directory The Love Lust List.
An imposing Palladian mansion set in rolling Surrey parkland; Botleys Mansion can be exclusively yours for your wedding day. Its elegant reception rooms and stunning glass Atrium can host up to 300 guests and its Bijou pedigree guarantees the elegance and quality that allow you to enjoy your day, safe in the knowledge that you couldn’t be in better hands.
A romantic, Elizabethan Manor House with far-reaching views over the downs, Cain Manor’s barn-style music room with cathedral windows make it a unique combination of cosy and bright. It can be exclusively yours for your big day and is perfect for up to 123 guests. As you’d expect from a Bijou Venue, luxury and quality of service are assured.
A Medieval masterpiece and the former home of Sir Laurence Olivier, Notley Abbey is the embodiment of elegance and style. Its utterly magical grounds offer the perfect backdrop for your special day and the Monks refectory provides the ultimate party setting that can host up to 190 guests. Notley Abbey’s Bijou pedigree guarantees unparalleled quality and reliability of service.
A grand Victorian home set among landscaped gardens and manicured lawns, Silchester House and marquee can be exclusively yours for your special day. With multiple options for the location of your ceremony, it can host up to 190 guests. As one of the prestigious wedding venues owned by Bijou, it benefits from over a decade’s experience in delivering dream weddings.
A hidden gem nestling on the banks of the Thames, the Bijou Boathouse has niche appeal for celebrations. It has a selection of entertaining spaces with a capacity of up to 170 guests and provides a stunning backdrop for your big day. The newest addition to the Bijou Weddings portfolio, of course, enjoys the usual Bijou Weddings standards of excellence.
Chris and Ele instantly fell in love with Notley Abbey when they went to look around its wonderfully aged walls and were determined that this was the place for them. So much so that they didn’t view any other venues.
When you just know, you know, don’t you.
And I can totally see why they picked this beautiful venue. Exquisite gardens, sheep in the surrounding fields and a whole heap of history.
And that’s not all. Ele looks like a fairytale princess in her Lyn Ashworth gown and Chris looks as proud as punch to call Ele his wife. Their love for each other positively emanates from the photos below.
Just you wait and see.
Ele The Bride: I was torn between a Lyn Ashworth dress called ‘Scarlett’ and a Jenny Packham dress (which had always been my dream!) but after lots of deliberating I just knew Scarlett gave me loads of confidence and felt like something I could swoosh around in all day and feel comfortable in. Scarlett was a full organza skirt with bodice top and detailed straps, with a detailed belt.
I never thought I would wear a veil as every time I put one on I just felt like the corpse bride! In the end though when my dress arrived and the lovely ladies from Brides of Berkhamsted convinced me to try a full length simple veil it was like the icing on the cake. I kept my jewellery pretty simple as I didn’t want to overwhelm the detail on the dress and just opted for some drop earrings borrowed from my mum.
Shoes were also important to me. I knew I wanted something that I would get use out of again, so for me this ruled out white satin shoes (especially seeing as I knew I would be out on the grass during the day). In the end I found a perfect pair of sparkly Jimmy Choos which I felt were understated but special enough for the occasion. I also had a pair of corn flower and peach Vivienne Westwood jelly shoes (my sister, also maid of honour, had a pair to match!) which matched the bridesmaids dresses perfectly for the dancing in the evening. I also had a pair of peach Hunter wellies in case the rain came!
A Bevy Of Beauties
I really deliberated over my big day make-up. I got in touch with Nikki and she put me completely at ease and assured me that we could do a bridal look without being too bridal..if that makes sense. She was an absolute star on the day and even managed to help all of my eight lovely bridesmaids with their eyes which was great!
The team from Ciente in Berkhamsted did all of our hair, quite a feat with eight bridesmaids, and even managed to do my Dad’s! The girls had a selection of flowers for their hair if they wanted. It was important to me that everyone wore something that felt like them, so I didn’t ask for any particular hairstyles etc.
Beautiful English Country Flowers
One of the most important elements of the day for me was getting the flowers right. I researched hard for London florists prepared to come out to the country, but they all seemed beyond the budget
I stumbled across a website for Green and Gorgeous in Oxfordshire and fell in love straight away. Beautiful English country flowers, from a few miles up the road, that would be chosen the day before the wedding depending on what was looking best in the garden.
I met with Jo and she was honestly so helpful and understood everything that I wanted to achieve with the flowers, including my request for a ridiculously oversized bouquet and a big hanging pom pom for the ceremony! I adore dahlias so knew these would need to be a big feature.
When it came to decorating the venue, Jo and her team were a delight to work with and turned up on the day with an enormous quantity of flowers which were arranged around each of the rooms in a massive assortment of loaned vases, jugs and bottles. Just gorgeous!
It was very exciting a few days before the wedding going round the garden and picking the biggest most amazing dahlias for the centrepieces, and it was extra special knowing it was all home grown from just down the road. We kept the table centres fairly simple and opted for a variety of smaller displays and tea light holders.
Twobirds Bridesmaids were a complete dream to work with. It was really important to me that the dresses for the girls not only matched their personalities (there were eight of them after all!) but were something that they would genuinely want to wear again and again.
Twobirds Bridesmaids fitted the bill perfectly as each of the girls could personalise the style of their dresses exactly how they wanted them. We opted for two colours to complement their different skintones and styles, and thankfully ended up with half in one colour and half in the other which meant it looked even on the day.
Chris wore a gorgeous Paul Smith suit in charcoal grey and Reiss shoes. He wanted something that he would feel comfortable in and could wear again so we opted for a three piece suit.
We really struggled to find a tie that made Chris stand out but wasn’t too ott. We both agreed that something floral but not overly girly was needed. As the day approached we visited a tailor in south London whose suits weren’t quite right for Chris and his broad shoulders, but did mention that they could create bespoke ties.
I knew then that this was the way forward and in the end bought three of Liberty’s classic design prints – one for Chris, my dad and Chris’ dad. Each of the ties were different but complementary; I also used the material for Chris’ tie as the backdrop to the seating plan.
The boys had suits from Reiss and ties to match the cornflower blue that half of the girls wore.
A Friend From The Beginning
Jodie was a pleasure to deal with right from the outset. We knew we would have to act quickly with a bank holiday wedding to get a great photographer and meeting in one of our favourite London spots and seeing her beautiful work put us at ease straight away.
We did an engagement shoot near home in Angel and just loved the way Jodie felt like a friend from the beginning and didn’t ask us to pose for pictures but just snapped away in the background. We now have the most precious photo albums, including images of all of our loved ones that we will cherish always.
The Icing On The Cake
We deliberated over the cake for quite a while; it was the one item Chris and I really couldn’t agree on as he was adamant the cake had to have icing to be a wedding cake! I was veering towards a tiered Victoria sponge design but we just couldn’t agree.
I spotted a cake on RMW from Katja’s Kupcakes that had an intricate soft iced design which was so unusual and so I happily agreed to having an iced cake! Everyone on the day commented how original the cake was.
We chose tiers of chocolate, beetroot and raspberry and lastly white chocolate; it tasted delicious!
We wanted something traditional but quirky at the same time. We really loved the tiered designs on the ‘chunky’ side. Katja did some initial illustrations which were exactly what we were looking for and even drove the cake down from Cheshire the morning of the wedding!
My mum has always made the yummiest chocolate mars bar crispy cakes (not good for the waistline!) so she was a complete superstar and made ridiculous quantities in the kitchen in the days running up to the wedding for our wedding favours. We bought some Chinese noodle boxes and made some stickers with ‘Mrs P’s chocolate treats’ on them for guests to take home. They were all so popular we never had a look in but I’m sure they tasted great!
We saw Andre at a family wedding and thought he was absolutely amazing. When it came to music for the ceremony we wanted something which would be memorable but in the right way! Andre invited us to see him perform with his band at an event in London and they were so incredible we decided they would be perfect for the ceremony itself. My Dad and I walked down the aisle to the Ellie Goulding version of ‘Your Song’ and had Train ‘Hey Soul Sister’ and Bruno Mars ‘Just the Way you are’ during the ceremony.
Annie, one of my beautiful bridesmaids read ‘A Lovely Love Story’ by Edward Monkton, absolutely amazingly in the ceremony. It was one of our favourite moments and she deserves a special mention as she so nervous when we were getting ready in the morning!
We had a Jazz band in the evening – The Jazz Cannons – who got everyone up and dancing all night before the DJ later on.
Chris had two best men, both old school friends. We knew Dickie (one of the best men) was due to go out on duty to Afghanistan for his first tour with the TA shortly after the wedding. What we weren’t expecting however was that the army would decide to bring this date forward to the week before the wedding! One of our friends works for the BBC as a sports presenter and together with one of the bridesmaids arranged for the filming of a mini speech for Dickie – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when his little face appeared on the wall, especially after Chris had got so emotional talking about him in his speech!!
As Chris and I have been together for quite a long time (coming up for ten years now) and the songs we used to love back in the day all seemed far too outdated for our first dance. We opted for a classic ‘My Girl’ as it made us both smile when we heard it and knew we could shuffle along to it and look like we vaguely knew what we were doing!
The Finishing Touches
Notley is so gorgeous we wanted to let it speak for itself and didn’t want to go OTT with the décor. We did however make sure there were lots of fresh flowers dotted around the place and candles in the evening. Jo our lovely florist also brought along some ribbons for the covered walkways too.
Mum and Dad organised a surprise fireworks display for later in the evening which was amazing
We also created a homemade photo booth with a Polaroid camera which everyone enjoyed using and we now have a great guest book to flick through.
We made our own stationery designs, and used a local printers to get them all printed professionally. I was particularly proud of the table plan which incorporated the Liberty fabric from Chris’ tie and a bargain ornate frame with printed cards.
My top tip as a fairly (ok very!) indecisive person, would be to not give yourself too much time to plan. I found after the first six months I spent far too much time procrastinating and just wanted the day to hurry up!
On the morning of the wedding itself, I felt remarkably calm and somehow managed to get a good nights sleep. So take it from me, just relax and enjoy the day as it goes so quickly. It’s not worth stressing about the tiny details on the day as it is too late by this point.
So there we have it.
Isn’t Ele’s bouquet simply gorgeous…and how about those eight beautiful bridesmaids. They are the most perfectly girly entourage you’ve ever seen.
And I well and truly take my hat off to any woman that picks not one, not two but three different sets of footwear for her big day. Ele you were well and truly prepared for whatever the weather.
In a way I was glad we had booked to see Notley Abbey on a miserable rainy day at the end of November,as if it looked as amazing as it did in the pictures in the dreary winter imagine what it would look like on a sunny day in August ( ever the optimist…)
Right from when we turned into the long tree lined drive I think I started holding my breath, even without a single leaf in sight I could just visualise how beautiful it would be come the spring and summer.
As we pulled up to the building I was wide eyed, overwhelmed and ended up having to put my hand over my mouth to muffle the squeaking delight, James laughed and just said “Well then, this was certainly worth the trip…”
From a girl who never really gave a second thought to her wedding day here was the fairytale right smack bang in front of her – with bells on.
Inside was just as glorious, we were met by Jo who turned out to be one of the owners ( they had been doing appoitments all day pretty much) and she took us on the guided tour.
I couldn’t fault a thing, the bedrooms were like something out of a movie with bathrooms that were contemporary and luxurious. The grounds ( although wet and muddy) were just perfect with gates taking you into hidden lawns – like something out of the secret garden.
There was a huge reception hall ( where guests gather before the ceremony) or have canapes if the weather is poor. A lounge area with huge leather sofa’s for resting those dancing feet…… a ceremony room that looked like a chapel… and then she took us to “The Monk’s Refrectory” where the wedding breakfast would take place….
Oh My Actual God.
It was simply breathtaking.
And it would be ours – all ours for a whole 24 hours.
If we won the lottery that is.
Jo explained the 30th August wasn’t available but Monday (bank holiday) the 31st was and it was more reasonable than a typical Saturday, still scarily expensive though.
Quite frankly I was willing to sell my left arm at this stage and certainly cut back on other areas if we needed to. The place was such perfection I couldn’t see how you would need much decoration, if anything too much adornment would have ruined the simplicity of it all.
We left with a breakdown of all the costs and an administrator would be contacting us with a very fancy pants spreadsheet which detailed all of the bits and pieces/deposit payments/time scales etc.
It was actually James who spoke first as we got in the car to return home.
James: ” Well, that was like nothing I’ve ever seen”
me: ” I know I know, I am IN LOVE with it, and it is so much money….. and now nothing else is going to compare…..I’m willing to wait until 2010 if we have too??”
James: ” Really? well let’s look at the numbers again over the weekend and if we can find the money some where else I think we should just go ahead and book it….”
me: ( beyond delighted) “Oh my goodness really?? I am so excited I might spontaniously combust!!! I love you, you are the most amazing boyfriend on the planet…..”
Firstly we had to look at what we had already booked and were 100% happy with ( as these costs were a given)
Jordan our photographer – A.Mazing. Had found him at the NEC wedding show in the March, a travel photographer by trade ( had won spiffy awards) and had quite recently taken up weddings professionally ( he had shot friends/families for some time) I liked him instantly and loved his portfolio – he totally captures the moment and there was so much joy and love in his work.
I had two bridesmaids with me at the show – Melissa ( the one I took to Quello) and my sister… also Melissa ( I know – confusing)
They both loved Jordan too and out of everyone we saw ( there were loads) his photo’s were ( in our opionion) the best.
So 100% happy with the photography.
My dress – yay!!!!!! …100% happy with that!
Our evening band – Felix Leiter, had seen them at a friend’s wedding and they rocked ( literally)… lead singer had a great voice and really got everyone on the dance floor.
Totally happy with them then.
And that was pretty much it, so we had the rest of the budget for flowers, grooms/best mans attire, stationary, string quartet, bridesmaids dresses, shoes…..jewellery ……registrar fees…..Notley Abbey…..?
The list seemed to be endless.
This was going to be tough.
And Jordan and Felix Leiter had to be bloomin’ free on the 31st.
Oh and there was no getting our deposit back from our previous disaster venue either. ￼
Lottery it is then.
No pictures can do Notley Abbey justice so if you are still looking for your dream location please please pay a visit……I promise you won’t be disappointed.