White Lace And Blooms In An English Country Garden.
If there’s one thing I admire then it’s a determined bride and I think it’s safe to say that the lovely Jolene is determined alright. So enamoured was she with her exquisite Stephanie Allin dress that she spent hours on the phone trying to track down a sample frock so that she could stay within her wedding budget.
That’s dedication right there folks.
Ben and Jolene’s big day is beautiful. Honestly it’s like diving into a giant vat of candy-coloured ice-cream. From the white lace bunting lovingly crafted by Ben’s mum to the peachy pink bridesmaid dresses and handpicked aisle markers, it’s clear that everything was a labour of love for this sweet couple.
And the flowers? All of them were grown and arranged by Ben’s mum. What a superstar!
Jolene The Bride:Ben and I met on the first day of starting our graduate degrees at Oxford University. We struck up a conversation in the pub about traveling and our different cultures (I’m from Singapore, he’s from Leighton Buzzard). He made me laugh and there was an instant connection.
I am not embarrassed to say that I was reading Rock My Wedding religiously even before Ben proposed. So once we got engaged, I was thrilled to finally be able to legitimately use it as a resource and inspiration for wedding planning. I can honestly say that the majority of our suppliers were found on these pretty pages!
The first thing we decided was that we were going to have two weddings! Many of my relatives, were not able to come to the UK from Singapore because of the distance. We knew then that we had to have a church ceremony and a ten-course Chinese banquet in Singapore for my more traditional relatives.
Right off the bat, we knew we wanted to have a fun, relaxed and pretty English garden wedding. My closest friends and family would be flying in for our wedding from Singapore, Japan, Australia and the USA for the wedding, and many of them would be visiting the UK for the first time. We decided to have the wedding in England in July and the celebration in Singapore a month after that.
Lains Barn was the first venue we visited. The minute we saw it, we knew it was perfect. It was so lovely and cosy, and we loved that there was the option of having the ceremony outdoors. We knew we could really put our own stamp on it.
Finding the right photographer was probably the most important detail to me to get right. Right after we got engaged (literally), I trawled Rock My Wedding for photographers and looked at website after website. None of the photographers I’d met up with seemed quite right. This went on until fate conspired to link me up with the wonderful Hayley Savage.
I could not possibly recommend Hayley enough – her photographs are gorgeous, glowing, creative and full of emotion. She was a joy to have around and she made us feel so relaxed in front of the camera. Getting Hayley to photograph our wedding was definitely one of the best decisions we’d made.
My dress was the Hayworth from Stephanie Allin’s Jazz Age collection. I tried it on in London, not knowing it was waaay out of my budget, and fell head over heels in love with the drip sequins, glamorous fishtail shape, and soft romantic tulle. After I saw the price tag though, I knew I had to put it out of my mind. I then set about finding another dress over the next few months but I always knew, however, that none of the other dresses even slightly compared. Before I committed fully to buying another dress, I decided to have a last-ditch attempt at finding the Hayworth. I sat down one morning with a list of all the bridal stores all over the country that stocked Stephanie Allin dresses. I finally tracked down a store that was willing to sell me the sample at a discount. My persistence paid off and I had my dream dress!
To complete my outfit, I wore a Helen Martin veil and sparkly pale pink Dune heels. I thought the dress spoke for itself so I kept other accessories really simple with pearl and diamond earrings and a tennis bracelet borrowed from my mother. I also kept my hair and make-up really simple and natural on the day.
Keeping with the relaxed and pretty theme, I asked my six bridesmaids to wear mismatched dresses in shades of nude and pale pink. My bridesmaids were different shapes, sizes, and lived in three different countries. I thought it would be easier to go with mismatched dresses and I also wanted them to feel comfortable and beautiful in dresses they would actually wear again. On the day, I thought my bridesmaids looked so gorgeous.
The speeches were my favourite part of the day. My bridesmaids stepped in and gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech – it was so sweet and really moved me. Ben then proceeded to give a lovely speech that explained our table names (numbers that were important to us) and he had a number of the guests in tears.
The wedding was a real labour of love. Our family and friends were so wonderful and willing to help. In particular, we could not have done it without Ben’s mother. She made yards and yards of beautiful white lace bunting, which we used to decorate the barn. She also made giant paper poms in shades of white and pale pink for the barn.
Ben’s mother also made lots of coloured bunting which we hung outdoors. This made it feel like a summer fete. We trawled vintage shops for old books, tea crockery and fabric for the tables outdoors.
One thing we wanted to highlight was how grateful we were that people had traveled great distances to be at our wedding. We stenciled the different places from which people had traveled on planks of wood and Ben’s father helped us create a stand for the signpost.
For our flowers, Ben’s mother offered to provide them from her garden. I don’t know much about flowers but I asked for romantic blooms in pale colours for a relaxed, freshly-picked look. Ben’s mother planted lavender, roses, sweetpeas and other lovely flowers months in advance. We also spent months collecting jam jars for vases and decorated them with hessian and lace and ribbon. On the morning of the wedding, we had help from Ben’s family and friends to fill the jars with the lovely flowers from the garden. We also lined the pew ends with bunches of gypsophila and made the bridesmaids’ bouquets using gypsophila, hessian and lace ribbon.
Instead of a guestbook, we made up little madlib cards for our guests to fill in. We asked people to give us to advice for a happy marriage and got some hilarious responses – one guest suggested that Chanel earrings are the key to a happy marriage!
Food was really important to us as it is one of our shared passions! We served a two course sit down meal of seabass and confit duck. Keeping with the English garden party theme, instead of dessert, we hired an adorable ice-cream trike which served the most delicious Cornish ice cream. We also had a dessert table that was so beautifully decorated.
In the evening, Ben’s parents surprised us with our wedding cake, which was made of tiers of cheese. We both absolutely love cheese and this was such a hit with our guests. We also served mini fish and chips in cones in the evening.
A month before the wedding, I was on Rock My Wedding and came across a competition run by Matthew Oliver for free on-the-day wedding coordination services. I wrote him an email and we actually won! Matthew was lovely from the moment we met over drinks in a pub. He was so excited about our wedding and he totally understood what we were trying to achieve. On the morning of the wedding, he was up early helping to set up the barn and put together a fabulously stylish dessert table. I felt totally safe and carefree leaving the coordination of the wedding in his capable hands.
My practical advice would be that the day goes by in such a blur, so really take a moment with your new husband/wife to soak it all in. Also, make sure you get a photographer and videographer to capture all the moments you missed. Our photographer and videographer were the best investments we’d made!