Weddings by the sea are my absolute favourite, so I’m in love with today’s gorgeous cliff top wedding from Dorset.
Heidi and Peter chose to hold their ceremony outdoors, a brave move with our temperamental weather…but it definitely paid off, as it meant that they could marry underneath an impressive green oak arch handcrafted by lovely Groom Peter, surrounded by pine trees and with a breath taking, uninterrupted view of the sea.
The whole wedding is full of natural and rustic details, from the seasonal handpicked blooms, to the cedar shingle bunting – unfussy, relaxed, but ever so pretty. Perfect for a venue which is surrounded by wonderful nature.
Heidi and Peter have written their wedding report together and it’s lovely to hear from a Groom who had so much input into the big day.
Heidi the Bride:I knew I wanted something relatively simple and vintage in style. The Charlie Brear dress I loved was the very first one that I tried on. I came across Hermione Harbutt’s shop in Bristol whilst accessory shopping with my sister. I loved her work and asked her to make my headpiece with a leaf pattern in pearl to tie in with the natural feel of our wedding.
Peter the Groom:I wanted to avoid the run of the mill wedding suit, that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable in. The tweed fitted in with the relaxed, personal, slightly vintage, vibe of the wedding (and is definitely something I will wear time and time again, as will my Groomsmen).
Studland was a favourite childhood haunt of Heidi’s, with her grandparents living a few miles along the coast in Swanage. We got engaged on Studland beach. Studland Bay House gave us the opportunity to have the ceremony, reception and accommodation for most of the wedding party, all on the same site. It gave the day an informal, house party feel. Perfect venue for nature lovers with a beautiful seascape vista and pine trees perfuming the air.
By using recycled/reused/homemade materials for details and decorations we were able to achieve a warm and natural feeling for our wedding. We both agreed on the look we were trying to achieve, which was basically to avoid the generic, old school white wedding, so that our guests would know they were at ‘Pete & Heidi’s’ wedding. We enjoyed putting a little thought and effort into the details to make the day personal and unique. We chose colours found in nature and the ocean, a mixture of blues, greens and earthy tones.
We were very lucky to have a lot of help from friends and family decorating the house and marquee. Heidi’s Mum spent days crocheting little woolen patterns, which we hung from the roof. Heidi’s Grandma made 120 hand sewn napkins from pretty fabrics, bought on Ebay. Each guest’s name was then ironed onto the corner of a napkin, so they acted as the place name and wedding favour in one.
Collected glass jars and bottles (including blues and greens to tie in with the theme) were filled with candles and florist, wholesale and garden picked flowers. Handmade and oak signs made the table names all sat on rustic hessian table runners.
We also made some cedar shingle bunting to hang around the marquee. The shingles were cut into different sizes and we stenciled images of special places and things (marine and nature related) onto them in four different colours of eco friendly paint (in hues of the ocean).
We wanted a natural, un-fussy feel to our wedding so we used seasonal flowers on the wilder side, mainly supplied by The Real Cut Flower Garden, but also raided from gardens across Dorset. We had the bouquets made up for us but left the table centres and other decorations in the capable hands of friends and family.
I originally wanted my Bridesmaids to wear non-matching dresses in pastel colours. But as my main wish was for them to wear something they liked and would wear again, I was happy for them to choose the matching navy blue dresses they all liked and thought would work better – and indeed they looked gorgeous on the day! The flowergirls (our god-daughters) wore simple floral dresses that had that ‘ethereal’ feel. The Groomsmen were quite a picture clad in the same tweed as the Groom.
As neither of us are particularly religious we didn’t want a church wedding but weren’t happy with the informality and restrictions imposed by a civil ceremony – the location being a key one. So we opted for a DIY, humanist style wedding ceremony so that we could include everything we wanted – outdoors with a fantastic back drop, favourite music, personal readings, our own vows, inclusion of as many people in the ceremony as possible. We asked a family friend (Mike Hill) to act as ‘vicar’, in whatever way he felt would work, which he did fantastically by achieving a perfect mix of tradition, informality and humour.
We had a great acoustic couple, who provided brilliant musical accompaniment in the form of three songs that they learnt specifically for us, one of which was a congregation sing-a-long to The Beatles, “With a little help from my friends” in place of the traditional part of the ceremony where the congregation is asked whether they will support the couple in their marriage. Heidi’s Grandad stole the show with a recital from memory of, “The Owl and The Pussycat”. We were also able to ask one of my cousins to lead a closing prayer for a moment’s pause for thought, something you are not allowed to do in a registry office. The ceremony was by far our favourite part of the day, which is perhaps not typical (though it arguably should be!)
We found the evening band and acoustic duo on the Warble Entertainment website. The evening band had been separately recommended as well and they did a great job keeping the dance floor packed. We were really lucky finding the Hornbeams as they turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to our ceremony and were more than willing to learn the songs we wanted as part of our ceremony.
Our menu choice was slightly limited by the hotel kitchen but it turned out to be a really good feed with a fitting seafood platter starter and local lamb shanks for main.
The brilliant Steph of Stephanie Swann Weddings was recommended to us by some good friends who had her photograph their wedding. We knew we wanted someone to capture the memories of our big day and Steph’s energy and enthusiasm was brilliant, she was there for the whole day, well over 12 hours, so was able to capture every moment.
We didn’t have the budget for a professional videographer but we asked a couple of friends and family members to record the ceremony and the speeches.
By far the biggest handmade detail was the green oak arch I made for us to get married under. It replicates the ‘cruck frame’ design of traditional timber framed buildings, complete with pegged joints. It provided a great focal point for our ceremony. The oak was sustainably sourced from the New Forest, its beautiful, local timber, complementing our natural wedding.
If you’re going to make a lot of the details/decorations yourselves, don’t underestimate how long it will take you. And try not to leave things to the last minute. Keep ticking things off the to do list to keep stress levels down.
We can’t recommend a DIY outdoor wedding ceremony highly enough, it gives you huge freedom to say, sing, read, vow and do whatever you feel is important to you as a couple, shared and witnessed by your friends and family, all out in the Great British open air.