Alice and James had a back garden wedding that takes some beating. Look out for some seriously cool florals from Rebel Rebel, a stunning Jenny Packham dress and… Erm… A wall to die for. Seriously… I want a walled garden like this one please.
So much wedding pretty and so much inspiration for all of you planning a summer garden style affair.
Photography is by the uber talented Dasha Caffrey.
An Emotional Venue
Our wedding was at my aunt and uncle’s house just outside of Canterbury. They have a beautiful L shaped house which has been in my family for years and used to house stable blocks. We licensed the garden room under the clock tower for the wedding ceremony. My family use the bungalow onsite which was built for my grandparents in the 50s and which my dad and aunt grew up in. My granny remarried after my grandfather’s death on my fourth birthday and we have been staying there as a family at weekends and Easters and Christmases since I was tiny. Later, when my granny developed Alzheimer’s she moved into the end of my aunt and uncle’s house. She died two years ago so the venue had so many memories and emotions bound up in it and both James and I knew before we even got engaged that we would at least have our reception there.
Relaxed And Light
The dress was from Teokath in Canterbury and it was Summer 2012 Jenny Packham dress (Trellis). Teokath was the first bridal shop that I went into and I returned because they were the loveliest, especially Ellie who looked after me and expertly pinned dresses to me. Not only is the shop beautiful they have a lovely selection of Jenny Packham dresses. It was through a friend of a friend that I first heard of her bridal range and I was hooked as soon as I saw some of her designs. I knew I didn’t want a big puffy princess look. I wanted something relatively simple, with chiffon so that I felt relaxed and light on the day.
I didn’t want a big dress getting in the way of my dancing and I knew a big train could be disastrous if we had a wet day – I would be dragging half the soggy garden with me! I also didn’t want any corsetry as I wanted to feel comfortable and I knew I’d feel panicky and have an asthma attack and get a stomach ache within 2 minutes of wearing a corseted dress! What I didn’t know was that what I was really after was the fairy princess look! As soon as I put my dress on, with its flowing chiffon and sparkly bodice I felt like Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
My wedding jewellery was bought from Sweet Pea in Primrose Hill London. Mum and dad bought it for my birthday. I wanted something simple but romantic and modern, that would occasionally catch the light but wouldn’t distract from my dress. Although there was silver in the beading on the bodice, I am a gold girl when it comes to jewellery so the chain was made from really fine gold. The clear quartz pendent had a natural string of what looks like silver thread in it, which tied it in with the bodice. The earrings we bought were from one of my favourite jewellery designers, Alex Monroe. They were pearls set in gold petals and are meant to look like flower buds. On the day though I ended up borrowing my mum’s pale blue quartz drops from Sweet Pea as my something borrowed. On my right hand I wore a ring I inherited from my Granny Liz. It was my namesake, my Great Granny Alice’s replacement engagement ring and is a stunning large pale blue oval sapphire with a diamond either side.
On the day my sisters Poppy and Claudia (who were also two of my bridesmaids) gave me a beautiful thin chain white gold bracelet which was perfect as I didn’t have a bracelet. James also sent over a parcel with an amazing necklace from Alex Monroe on the morning of the wedding. It is a gold twig ring with birds, leaves and a flower with a tiny diamond in to represent our outdoor wedding day. It wasn’t right for my dress and he didn’t intend me to wear it on the day but I have been wearing it ever since (along with my Alex Monroe pearls) and it reminds me of our day every time I look at it.
I always knew I wanted real flowers from the garden in my hair, so no tiara and I had a beautiful veil from Teokath with a beaded layered trim. Unfortunately the beaded trim kept on getting stuck on the beads of my bodice, so I didn’t wear it for very long!!
Wedges All The Way
It was wedges all the way as we were walking down a grass aisle and I didn’t want to be sinking! Also, my experience of marquees is that they are always uneven underfoot and I wanted to dance the night away. I chose a pair of light pink patent wedges with a cork wedge from LK Bennet. They were perfect, I was dancing right until the end, took in a walk around the meadow and didn’t trip once! Plus they were a practical buy, I have been wearing them ever since!
Fish Tail Plaits
I was very lucky to have one of our friends Sarah, who is Head of Hair and Make Up at Sky, do my hair and make-up as a wedding present. Not only did she completely get the brief for relaxed, boho hair and make-up, she is a truly lovely person and a wonderful calming presence. I didn’t want anything too traditional or rigid for my hair, so she suggested fishtail plaits taking my hair into a half up with a bit of lift at the back and a 60’s centre parting with sweeping fringe. For the make up we concentrated on ethereal radiance, with Nars blusher in Orgasm, MAC lip conditioner in Fushia Fix, a sweep of burnished gold on the eyes, some flicked eyeliner and just a couple of individual false eye lashes on the outside corners of my eyes to keep it looking light and natural. She was also on hand to touch up my make-up through the day and night which was a god-send.
One of my sisters’ oldest friends Gus Cavanagh, is a florist at Rebel Rebel flowers and did the flowers for my cousin’s Cornish wedding in 2008, which was the inspiration for our wedding. I left it pretty much all up to Gus as he is such a talent. I just briefed him that I wanted the flowers to feature a peonie or two and to feel wild. His translation of the brief was so so perfect, My bouquet featured: Wild Sweet Peas, Romantic Antique Rose, a Coral Charm Peony, Flowering Mint, Camomile, Nigella, Dill and Clari Sage. I wanted sweet peas from the garden in the bridesmaid’s flowers. Originally we were going to have just sweet peas from the garden and daisies from the meadow but the sweet peas growth was stunted by the bad weather so they each just had a few and Gus supplemented with Majolika Roses, Italian Carnations, Alchemilla Mollis Coral Charm Peonies. A Majolika Rose, Wax Flower, Lavendar and Rosemary featured in the groomsmen’s button holes.
The flowers in the table centre were placed in vintage teapots in an assortment of colours from The Crockery Cupboard a vintage crockery hire business run by my cousin and were amazingly all from the garden, with roses and wild flower meadows featuring highly. We also pressed a wild flower and placed in a frame for the table names as each table was named after a flower found in the meadow next to the marquee.
I had five adult bridesmaids and two child bridesmaids/flower girls, 2 my sisters, 2 James’ sisters, 2 old friends of mine and my cousin’s daughter Rita. I wanted the adults to all wear dresses that complemented their figures (not that that was hard as they all have fabulous figures) and their style so opted for mismatched dresses from the high street and a boutique in Brighton in blush pink. They all wore gold wedges from Next, a flower in their hair with a gold trim and a faux pearl necklace to tie them in. The flower girls wore dresses, sparkly jackets and gold sequin ballet pumps from Monsoon with flower crowns made from flowers from the garden by my mum.
The groomsmen all wore their own blue suits and wore pink and cream stripey square end ties from an online store to tie-in with james’ stripey square end Paul Smith tie. They fitted into the festival vibe and were easy to spot!
James wore a sapphire blue Paul Smith suit with a Paul Smith tie, and Paul Smith cream shirt with silver cufflinks that I had made for him by Hannah Louise Lamb, one featuring the Brighton and Hove coastline which is where we live and one featuring Brownsea Island off Dorset which is where he proposed. He had blue leather shoes and a light blue silk hankerchief in his pocket. Although I wasn’t originally sure that all of that blue would work together he looked absolutely gorgeous and one of my favourite photos from the wedding day is him standing on his own in the meadow because you can appreciate how fantastic he looked. Later on he changed into blue trainers bought especially and his straw hat with floral blue trim to aid in his dancing!
Magical And Candid
We chose Dasha Caffrey to be our photogrpaher. I did photography A Level and was incredibly picky, trawling through website after website until we found Dasha’s. Her quiet and unassuming personality means that she takes the most magical candid photos of guests, and actually of us! Apart from the posed photos I wasn’t aware that she was there for most of the day, evidenced by my huge grin and open mouth laughing which features prominently in the photos! I am really grateful to her for capturing the little details that had hours of planning in the making and which I was too much on a high to fully appreciate on the day. Also, and most importantly, the photos of our friends and family, all of those special moments that we wouldn’t have been able to take in on the day. The highlight being some incredibly moving photos of my Granny Sheila who is 92 (and my one remaining grandparent), dancing with my sister Claudia. She was a dancer in her youth and although she is quite bent now it was important to her that she dance on our wedding day, and she did so with her trademark grace. I missed this moment somehow on the day so it brought tears to my eyes seeing the photos.
Real Flowers On Top
My friend Saoirse who was also one of my bridesmaids makes cakes in her spare time for Hot Cakes London. We wanted something fun, inspired by nature and the festival theme and her sunflower (complete with Smartie’s ladybirds) butterflies and rose butter cream cupcakes made the perfect base for the cutting cake which was inspired by Konditor and Cook’s Curly Whirly cake. It was a three layer dark chocolate cake, which was layered with and smothered in my favourite cream cheese icing and sprinkled with tiny pink hearts. The topper of course had to be real flowers from the garden. As well as the wedding cake we asked guests who enjoyed baking to bring their speciality cake. We had a wonderful array of carrot cake, rock cakes, Victoria sponges, my mum’s famous ginger cake (made from my Granny Liz’s secret recipe), banoffee pie, chocolate loaf, macadamia brownies, my cream cheese brownies, and peanut biscuits with fortunes stuck in them. We also had a cheese cake made of tiers of brie, camembert and goats cheese. All of it went! I did also buy a tower of my favourite macaroons from Cocoa in Brighton but which was neglected to be put out. The clean up party enjoyed them the next day!
As we had dubbed the wedding ‘Wedfest’ we wanted music to feature highly so we had my talented cousins playing classical music while guests were waiting before the ceremony, my cousin Gregory on guitar and my friend Howard on trumpet for All You Need is Love which we all ‘sang’ (very badly!) during the ceremony, Greg and his steel band group playing steel drums during the reception. A Spanish group called Los Musicos, who play Gypsy Kings, Buena Vista Social Club type music kicked off the dancing and were a roaring success and the perfect way to ease guests on to the dance floor, followed by one of my sister’s oldest friends Noah, who plays in a group of DJs called the Wedding Smashers, and his friend Ed DJing until late. They were joined by an improv saxophonist at 10pm which was brilliant.
Originally we were talking about the Candi Staton version of You’ve Got the Love but as we were doing our first dance before the relaxed vibes of our Spanish band we decided to go for something slower. We saw Ellie Goulding perform Your Song at Lounge on the Farm festival the year before, a few weeks before James proposed and it was a special time for us so that’s what we went for. As we didn’t want the attention to be just on us we got our bridesmaids and ushers to join in half way through! It was so much fun when they all twirled on to the dance floor and we ended up with them in a ring around us.
We decided against favours. Our friend Katy Croxford made all of our brilliant wedding staionery and she designed some Wedfest tickets which we placed in teacups on the tables. The tickets were for a tombola which we ran after the main meal and which was led by James’ dad Jim. The top prize was a Kindle (I had one that hadn’t been used and which I didn’t want as I am a print book girl) and other prizes included marmalade made to my granny Sheila’s secret recipe, books (that I got through work), bottles of our wedding wine and English fizz, wild flower seeds, a ginger cake made by my mum to my granny Liz’s secret recipe and some heart shaped boxes of sweets.
A Famiily Affair
Because we were getting married at my aunt and uncle’s house everything had to be arranged by us and so there were many, many things that were special. In particular, all of the contributions from family and friends. My sister Claudia spent hours making 50 metres of beautiful bunting, incorporating fabric used to make my 3 year old self’s bridesmaid dress from my aunt’s wedding; my mother in law Debra spent the week before with me onsite painting the most gorgeous signs (which James had made), my sister Poppy who was amazing in the week before the wedding, found a gorgeous birdcage which we hung the table plan from and my bridesmaid Polly made the most beautiful name places, stamping individual letters on to paper bunting triangles; my aunts and my mum and Debra made stunning wild floral arches and table flower arrangements and James’ sister Jenny and my sisters was up into the early hours the night before the wedding making bright colourful signs and gift bags for the wishing tree (guests took a bag of sweets from the tree in exchange for writing a wish for our married life on to tags that they then tied back on to the tree).
My cousin’s helped out hugely too, making tissue paper pom poms which hung from the roof of the marquee, adding a splash of colour and the table name signs, which were flowers picked from the meadow, pressed onto coloured tissue paper and framed. The vintage crockery hired from The Crockery Cupboard was so beautiful we hardly needed anything else on the tables.
Location Location Location
Undoubtedly the location made the wedding hugely special. Walking down a grassy aisle, in a garden that I grew up playing in with friends seated on hay bales was both euphoric and hugely familiar and relaxed. I felt nervous before I walked through the gate but then I couldn’t stop grinning. It was just so perfect. All of the love and support and hard working contributions that we had from our friends and family was incredible and made the day even more special. That said, if I were to do it all again in the same way, I would without a shadow of a doubt hire a like-minded wedding planner.
Planning a wedding somewhere which isn’t a wedding venue is a huge amount of work and I think that if you find the right person they can earn back their fee in discounts, and certainly in terms of hours spent during trawling and trawling through websites that could have been spent with your fiancé. Ultimately though, it would have meant less work for all of my friends and family which I would have liked. Maybe us girls would have got to sip champagne with our feet up the night before the wedding, and there would have been someone to project manage on the day. So many things were forgotten because I was too sleep deprived to remember!
Dress – Jenny Packham
Shoes – LK Bennet
Flowers – Rebel Rebel
Cake – Hot Cakes London
Photography – Dasha Caffrey
Groom – Paul Smith
Boutique – Teokath in Canterbury
Band – Los Musicos
DJ – Wedding Smashers
I love the idea of using invites or perhaps namecards as tombola tickets… A great way to add entertainment and potentially save a bit of cash on favours – but still buy something pretty good for the lucky winners.
This truly is a stunning back garden wedding… One with fantastic fashion, flawless florals and amazing architecture all thrown in for good measure.