This looks like one hell of a stylish festival themed marquee wedding that I would have loved to have been at. A gorgeously rustic themed marquee reception at Stowford Manor Farm complete with roaming farm animals, gorgeous decor, and a field of bell tents close by so everybody can stay over and party hard. Plus how about those outfits. Bride Tess looks so stylish in her Charlie Brear Payton slip and lace Augustine over skirt, and I love each and every one of the bridesmaids powder blue dresses. The pictures captured by Eleanor Howarth Photography of the ladies walking through the farm before the ceremony are some of my absolute bridal party shots EVER!
VenueTess the Bride: I grew up in Bath and always knew that I wanted to get married in the area, so I starting searching online for potential venues as soon as Ben popped the question. We were looking for somewhere we could hire for the whole weekend that was both unique and relaxed. Before long, I came across Stowford Manor Farm. A place I knew well as I’d spent many a summer as a youngster swimming in the river located close by. We hadn’t realised they did weddings until the search, but straight away we knew it was the one! The visit a few weeks later confirmed this – we loved the beautifully rustic barn, the wild flower meadows, the river running close by and the fact that we could put our own stamp on the place. The camping facilities were an added bonus, and meant that our friends and family could stay with us for the weekend. We booked it straight away.
The DressI’d been eyeing up the Charlie Brear bridal collection for some time, having fallen in love with their contemporary, yet romantic dresses. I visited Perfect Day Bridal in Bradford on Avon to try on a few of the dresses, and although smitten with a few of them, I realised they were a little too expensive for my budget. A few weeks later I saw that they were holding a sample sell in their London flagship store, and visited after work with one of my bridesmaids. I tried on the plunging V back Payton slip dress and lace Augustine over skirt, and after some gentle persuasion, I purchased both pieces there and then. I’m glad I did, as they were an absolute dream to wear. I also loved that I could remove the skirt later in the evening - two dresses for the price of one! I kept my accessories super simple. One of my bridesmaids lent me her diamond earrings for the day, and I had some wax flowers and small roses weaved into my plaits. My shoes were from Dune, low nude sandals with a jazzy heel – I’ve worn them loads of times since. My hair was expertly done by my sister Mathilde, a fabulous hairdresser who works at North in Bath and my makeup by the lovely Ellie, who is based at The Manicure Suite.
The Wedding PartyAfter numerous unsuccessful visits to various high street stores hunting for the perfect suit, a friend suggested Walker and Slater. We’re glad he did as Ben found the perfect one straight away, a blue herringbone tweed three-piece suit which fitted him perfectly. The groomsmen wore their own blue suits and were gifted with a handmade ‘Queue for the Zoo’ Liberty Print bow tie. These were expertly made by Ben’s mum, Jan, and were a nod to my love of animals. I’ve never been a fan of ‘matchy-matchy’ so asked my bridesmaids to pick their own light blue dresses. I adored the mix of shades, lengths and style, and the blue worked perfectly with their beautiful bouquets and floral crowns. They looked absolutely gorgeous!
The CeremonyThe venue didn’t have a licence at the time of booking, so we actually got legally wed at Hackney Town Hall (near where we live) a couple of weeks before. It was just me, Ben, my oldest friend, Elly, and Ben’s oldest friend, Adam. It was a special and totally relaxed afternoon. Doing the legal bit beforehand meant we could have total control over our ceremony. We asked one of our best friends to be our celebrant and wrote the ceremony and vowels ourselves, following a humanist format. We had three readings, ‘For Now’ by Tracey Emin, and an extract from The Amber Spyglass, one of our favourite books. One of my bridesmaids, Kathryn, wrote her own reading for us called ‘10’. We had been together 10 years by the time we got married and it touched on 10 special points in our relationship. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and she got a raucous round of applause!
ThemeGreenery, with touches of blues and whites were a loose theme, with a hint of a ‘festival’ thrown in for good measure. The barn, where we held our ceremony and reception, was beautiful in it’s own right so we kept the décor very simple. For the marquee, we foraged ivy from the local woodland which we wrapped around the main posts – cheap and effective! Rustic wooden tables made up our long feasting benches, which were scattered with vintage bottles filled with sweet smelling flowers. We hired Bell tents for our guests to stay in, which were beautifully decorated and added to the festival feel. It was so wonderful to have everyone with us for the whole weekend rather than just a day. It also gave us the opportunity to catch up with everyone, as it’s true what they say… the wedding day really does fly by in a blur!
The FlowersI’m super lucky that I have a very talented close friend who is a florist. Florence owns Petalon – her arrangements are divine, so I knew I was in good hands. I gave her the brief of ‘green, white and a little bit wild’ and of course she delivered. She created beautiful bouquets, button holes, the bridesmaids flower crowns and dressed the feasting tables. Everything about the floral arrangements were perfect. If you need a florist for your wedding, Florence is your girl! I must also give a shout out to my aunty, Fran, who spent many months collecting and drying flowers for our stunning natural confetti. Thank you!
EntertainmentI walked down the aisle to ‘One Day Like This’ by Elbow - we wanted an uplifting song that wasn’t too cheesy. We walked back up the aisle to ‘Higher and Higher’ by Jackie Wilson – such a tune! Our first dance was ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie, which we thought was very apt and it got everyone dancing. We spent weeks pulling together a playlist of our favourite songs, which we played while people enjoyed their bubbles and during the wedding breakfast. A few of our friends are known for their dj’ing skills, so we asked them to take turns to DJ throughout the night. They were great and it turned into a proper good party. Our guest’s ears were still ringing the next morning… oops!
The FoodAfter receiving some eye-watering quotes from caterers, we decided to organise the food ourselves. Not for the faint hearted… but we did get the feast we had envisaged at half the price! We began with bread, crudité and various yummy dips to start. This was followed by a hog-roast for the main meal, supplemented with big bowls of salad for people to share. This was only possible with help from my mum, stepdad and sister - they run a café in Bath and were kind enough to make the dips and salads for our 110 guests. Absolute superstars! Pudding was a selection of cakes, made by the talented bakers of our family. In the evening, we had a ‘cheese cake’ from The Fine Cheese Company, accompanied with crackers and chutney. Yum!
The PhotographyEleanor was recommended to us by a friend. We checked out her website and loved her informal, fun and contemporary style of photography. She was an absolute trooper on the day and was pretty much there from the beginning to the very end. She captured the day so well and we will cherish the pictures forever.
Special MomentsAs most people camped, we laid on a BBQ breakfast the following morning. The weather was beautiful and a few people even had a dip in the river. Unbeknown to Ben and I, my Dad had asked his friend (a stunt plane pilot) to perform a 20-minute air show in the sky above the farm. He even created the shape of a heart in the sky! A totally magical moment that I still can’t quite believe happened. I also loved how so many of our friends and family were involved with the wedding beforehand and on the day – it was such a team effort and we couldn’t have done it without their support. From creating our wedding stationery, laying tables, writing name places, conditioning flowers, baking cakes, foraging ivy, leading the service…the list goes on. It added such a personal feel to the day and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Dress Designer: Charlie Brear - Payton Slip & Augustine | Bridal Shoes: Dune | Makeup: Eleanor Nancy Makeup | Hair: North Hairdressing | Suit: Walker and Slater | Venue: Stowford Manor Farm | Marquee: South West Marquees | Bell Tent: Tinkerbell Tent Hire | Furniture: Bath Vintage Hire | Florist: Petalon | Cheese Tower: The Fine Cheese Co.