Gemma and Matt’s english country wedding in the cotswolds was a triumph from start to finish. From Gemma’s jam jar dreams to the rustic floral heart bunting… And all set to a soundtrack to die for.
Today the rolling Cotswolds hills are alive to the sound of some very well chosen music.
Photography is by the exceptional Caroline Alexander.
A Text Every Day
I’m Gemma and my lovely new husband is Matt. We met in December 2006 at a Christmas party when we both worked at the same head office but had never met. Matt took my number as a ‘friend’ and then texted me every day. His persistence paid off when in January 2007 he asked me on a date and I said yes, which due to him hurting his foot playing football ended up being at his house drinking apple juice and watching celebrity big brother. It just felt effortless and within a year we were living together in London. In February 2010 on Valentine’s day Matt surprised me with a weekend away – in July! 5 months of waiting and a lot of questions from me and I am still amazed he managed to get me to the airport and through customs without me knowing where we were going. It turned out to be the most amazing weekend in Rome and I fell in love with the city even more when Matt proposed in a candle lit courtyard bar over cocktails. Fast forward 14 months to 2nd October 2011 and our wedding day was held at the beautiful Kingscote Barn, a converted barn near Tetbury in the Cotswolds.
Our day was themed on ‘all you need is love’ and was country chic in style, lots of bunting, jam jars of flowers and outdoor games. It was also one of the hottest days of the year despite being October and was the most magical day of my life.
The Fisrt One
Buying the dress was so much fun, if a little stressful too! My mum and sister patiently watched me try on what felt like hundreds of dresses but in the end I went back to the first dress I saw. It was called Peony and was by Ritva Westenius. When I first saw it, it was on a mannequin and I thought the skirt was made of feathers, as I got closer I saw it was silk petals that made the skirt seem “fluffy”. I think it should have been called Swan Lake as it has it has a real ballet feel to it. I thought it was beautiful but probably not what I would choose (in my head I had imagined something fitted with lace) but the girls encouraged me to try it on, and I loved it! As it was the first dress I tried I thought it was highly likely I just loved wedding dresses, so we embarked on the mission over many weekends to find The One. But every dress I tried I compared to it and nothing matched up.
I found a shop near my parents house that stocked Ritva Westenius dresses and went back to try it. As soon as I put it on again I knew this would be the dress I would always regret not having if I chose something else, and it was the only one that made my sister cry so I knew I had to have it!
I brought it from the Dressing Room in Derbyshire and the ladies in there were so lovely, they even sit you down and style your hair for you when you try the dresses on so you can see the complete bridal look. They were so patient with my many visits and helped me personalise it with a diamante and silk belt to add that bit of sparkle.
I chose a chapel length single layer silk veil also from the Dressing Room in Derbyshire, it had tiny Swarovski crystals and twinkled slightly as I moved. I didn’t want anything layered that would hide the back of the dress, and the veil was perfect for making me feel like a proper bride whilst not being too much. I also had a tiara that I bought before deciding on my dress and would wear it around the house when Matt was out just because I could!
Flats were the only option for my wedding day as Matt is only a couple of inches taller then me and I wanted to keep the height difference on the day. I had imagined finding some gorgeous ballet slippers but there is a serious lack of beautiful flat shoes on the market and everything I found that I loved had a heel! Eventually I found a pair of shoes in Moda in Pelle that were just what I wanted in style, but pink with purple ribbon – not the colours I wanted. So my ever creative mum set about finding some shoe dye in cream and we spent a Saturday painting and repainting the shoes until they were perfectly ivory.
The next task was to replace the ribbon up the ankle with the sheer ribbon that my sister had kept from her own wedding bouquet, and decorating the front with lace from my mums veil, and then the final touch of putting mine and matts initials and our wedding date in little crystals on the back. The overall effect was very vintage and totally unique, and the lace from mum’s veil acted as my something old as well.
Up Or Down
I really struggled with deciding whether to have my hair up or down on the day. I always wear my hair down and don’t generally like it up, but wanted to look a bit different on the day. In the end I solved it by looking at styles that were up but to the side so my hair was still visible from the front and I wanted something soft and feminine.
I chose Heidi Vince-Hughes to do my hair for me, and at my trial she got what I wanted straight away and as someone who struggles to do anything at all with my hair I was very impressed with her work! On the day she was lovely to have around and so relaxed. She also styled my bridesmaids and mums hair and it just felt like having another one of the girls around.
For my make-up I really wanted to make sure I didn’t look too different to my usual self, just a better version! So instead of hiring a makeup artist I booked a Bridal make up lesson at the Bobbi Brown counter in John Lewis on Oxford Street and spent a fortune with them on loads of new make-up. My mum came along to and I would definitely recommend taking someone with you and practising soon after if you choose to do this because when I eventually got all the makeup out of the bag to have a trial I had to call my mum to help me remember what order to do it all in and what it was for! I chose soft pinks and golds for my makeup and it was actually really relaxing on the day to have something to focus on in doing my own makeup. My dad kept my lipstick in his pocket for me to do quick touch-ups throughout the day.
A Vision Of Jam Jars
I chose gerberas early on as a central flower theme for my wedding. We then used these in the table centres sticking out of vases filled with liquorice allsorts and in all of the buttonholes for the groomsmen and for the bridesmaid’s flowers. For my own bouquet I wanted to soften the gerberas with roses and they worked really well together. Sara at Aqua Florists was a star – she was so enthusiastic about my theme and knew the venue really well which helped in planning. She also created 2 large wicker hearts that hung at the front of the barn spotted with gerberas that looked fantastic, and instead of worrying about chair covers I got Sara to tie gerberas to the chairs on the edge of aisle, this looked really simple and effective without being to formal.
For the rest of barn I had a vision of jam jars and bottles filled with ‘just picked from the meadow’ flowers. We decided to do these ourselves and one of my favourite moments from the weekend was visiting the Bristol flower market at 6am the day before our wedding to choose which flowers to buy – me and my mum were like kids in a sweet shop picking the prettiest blooms. Then back at the cottages all the girls set about filling the jam jars and bottles and vases we had collected. The lawn was soon covered with over 50 vases of flowers and it looked amazing! On the day we dotted these throughout the barn, in windowsills, at the bar, any surface we could find really!
We hired the groomsmen’s suits from Young’s suit hire. The men all looked dapper in dark grey tails with a plain light grey waistcoat and deep pink cravats which picked up the colour of the flowers.
Matt wore the same Grey tails as his groomsmen. But to make his a little special he wore a deep pink rose buttonhole whilst the others wore pink gerberas.
When I first saw him waiting at the end of the aisle he looked so proud and just a little teary eyed (sorry Matt!). He looked gorgeous in his suit and as I got to the end of the aisle he kissed me to say hello and told me I looked beautiful. Apparently he had asked the registrar before the ceremony if he was allowed to kiss me before the ceremony!
I thought I would cry all the way down the aisle, as I always cry at weddings but actually I had a huge smile on my face the whole day like the Cheshire cat – I was just so happy!
Girl Crush Alert
The photos were one of the most important aspects of the day for both me and Matt, at the end of the day they are the best way to relive the memories and you only get once chance to get the best photos! As soon as I saw Caroline Alexander’s work I knew I wanted her to shoot my wedding. Infact she is so freaking talented I think I have myself a little bit of a girl crush. We knew we wanted most of the photos to be informal and that’s exactly what she did. It really helped to be able to see pictures she had taken at our venue before, and I fell in love with a certain tree that she used there (you’ll see the tree I mean in the photos!).
Cup Cake Crazy
Ever since my sisters baby shower 2 years ago me and my mum have been a bit obsessed with cupcakes. My mum is one of the best cake makers I have met and after I asked her to make my wedding cupcakes for me she spent months dedicated to testing different recipes and every time me and matt visited home she always had several new flavours for us to try. It’s a wonder I ever fitted into my wedding dress!
We chose to have 3 different flavours of cupcakes as they would make up part of the desert along with a sweet stall and an old fashioned ice cream cart. The flavours we went for were Mocha, Raspberry and white Chocolate and Lemon. We iced them the night before the wedding and had a slight disaster when the Raspberry icing wouldn’t set; luckily a night in the fridge did the trick so at 6am on the morning of my wedding we were icing the last batch of cakes.
The Sun Will Be Shining
We really loved the idea of having live music during our ceremony and Taylormade Duet were perfect for this. Carly and Matt are a newly married couple themselves and Carly had such a beautiful voice that was perfect for my chosen song to walk down the aisle to “Song Bird” by Eva Cassidy accompanied by Matt on the acoustic guitar. The line “for you the sun will be shining” seemed particularly fitting on the day of our wedding as it was 28 degrees and beautiful sunshine outside in October, it really did feel like the sun was shining just for us!
As we signed our register they sang Kiss Me by Sixpence none the richer and then All You Need Is Love by the Beatles and we walked back up the aisle to Greatest Day by Take That. The live music for the ceremony really was something that made the day special and unique and they then carried on playing whilst everyone had drinks outside.
Taylormade then became a 4 piece band for the evening followed by DJing for us and the dance floor was full all night.
During the day we were lucky to be able to make the most of the boiling hot weather and to use the games paddock. Bowles and bean bag toss proved the two most popular and kept guests entertained whilst we disappeared for photos.
We chose Michael Buble – Everything for our first dance. We both really liked the words of the song and wanted something we could do a ‘proper’ dance to. Our friend’s sister is a dance teacher and she choreographed a simple dance for us. We spent a day with her learning it and then promptly ignored it until the wedding day. We actually ended up practising in a bedroom just before dinner when we were meant to be having a 5 minute breather!
Matt was seriously regretting deciding to do it 10 minutes before it started, but actually it was great fun and I was so proud of Matt for doing it. I’ve also never heard cheers so loud as our friends and family when we danced, it was really a special moment of feeling all those people were there just for us!
Pin Badge Favours
Having had several friends and relatives touched by breast cancer it was an easy decision for us to have Breast Cancer Care pin badges as our favours. I tied each one up in a little bag to match our colour scheme and we slipped them in to the napkins wrapped with sweetie necklaces. We also wrote each persons name on a wooden heart and pegged it to their wine glass as their place name, but by the end of the night many people had accessorised themselves with the sweetie necklace, pin badge and name tag!
The venue is in the middle of rolling hills in the Cotswolds so we wanted to make sure it felt like a country wedding.
My mum made reams of white bunting with little floral hearts on each one that we hung from the fences around the barn and we bought lanterns to put onto each of the outside tables. Inside we hung white heart bunting from the balcony, filled all windowsills with flowers in jam jars and vases and dotted wooden signs around with words such as “All you need is love” and “happily ever after” on them.
Next to the bar I put up framed photos of both mine and Matts parents on their wedding day, and in the bar we hung rows of photos of family and friends. As people entered the reception room we also displayed a large frame filled with photos of me and Matt with a sign saying “Gemma and Matt in love since 2007’.
In the reception room where the cake and sweets would be displayed we hung some heart shaped bunting made by my mum that said “All you need is love” the theme of our day on a mixture of floral fabric. It made a really striking focal point as people came in and set the tone of the day. Later on the sweets display was set up underneath this with our cupcakes in the middle and my Nana made some “sweet love” bunting that hung across the sweetie table. It all tied in really well and it was lovely to have so many handmade items from my family.
As a last minute addition I bought 20 pairs of flipflops in various sizes and put them in a basket in the ladies toilets with a sign saying “dancing shoes”. They were an instant hit and in the evening there was barely a high heel in sight as the girls hit the dance floor in comfort and it was an extra something for the girls to take away at the end of the night.
A Year Of Fun
For me it’s all the little details in a wedding that make it special. I had so much fun spending a year planning our wedding day and being able to involve my mum so much too. I loved every minute from choosing my dress to ordering yet more items off ebay and ofcourse reading Rock my Wedding every day for inspiration.
It was amazing to make a long weekend of it for both families and the wedding party, we had a meal the night before cooked by a chef in the cottages we rented, and the duckpond provided a popular site on the Saturday for the guys practising their speeches! We were also lucky to have all of Matt’s family together as his sister lives in Washington DC and his brother in Malta so it was extra special to spend a weekend with everyone.
Sometimes though it’s the things you can’t plan that make the day unique. The amazing weather certainly couldn’t have been predicted when we booked an October wedding and yet the ice cream cart was perfect for it! One really special moment of the day was when a butterfly flew in to the room as the doors opened for the bridesmaids to enter. Afterwards everyone asked if it was planned but it was just one of those lovely coincidences.
My advice would be don’t get too hung up on sticking to one theme – pull inspiration from anything you see and like and adapt it to fit your wedding. Also don’t worry too much about what happens on the day. Something will undoubtedly be forgotten or will go wrong, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter and you will love your wedding for what it was, the day you got to marry the love of your life (and finally wear your wedding dress!)
Dress Ritva Westenius
Shoes Moda in Pelle
Hair Heidi Vince-Hughes
Photography Caroline Alexander
Florals Aqua Florists
Venue Kingscote Barn
Of course it is always wise to plan a contingency to account for the weather – particularly if you are planning a Wedding outside the tradiditonal summer months (although if you look outside today you’ll probabaly agree that planning for rain should be a consideration no matter when you tie the knot).
Then, if you do get the good fortune to enjoy the sunshine it feels like an added bonus!
Thanks to Gemma and Matt for sharing their sun drenched Indian Summer of a wedding with us today.