Woodland Wedding With Humanist Ceremony And Dog Ring Bearer Pin Image

Woodland Wedding With Humanist Ceremony And Dog Ring Bearer

When you love hiking and classic Ford cars, it makes total sense to incorporate aspects of both into your wedding day! So Leanne and Steve chose to get married in the woods, inspired by Trondheim in Norway where Leanne has previously hiked, and obviously, their wedding car was a classic Ford. They also included their dog in their woodland wedding, as the ring bearer!

As a photographer herself, Leanne knew that she wanted Dale Weeks to take the photos of her wedding from the very beginning and luckily, he was available on their wedding day. The images are just perfect, as always, Dale has captured everything beautifully, in his natural and unobtrusive style.

Our Story

Leanne & Steve: We met in 2007 when we were doing our A-Levels. We were really good friends for several years before we finally became a couple after university in 2013. Our families and friends had been rooting for us since the beginning! We got engaged in 2016 in Trondheim in Norway. I (Leanne) love hiking and had spent a month walking a long-distance pilgrim trail across Sweden and Norway with a friend. Steve flew out to Trondheim to meet me at the end of the trail and he proposed (after I’d had a shower) that evening.

Woodland Wedding

We originally had differing visions for our dream wedding. I always knew that I wanted to get married outdoors, ideally in a forest as I’m an outdoorsy person. Steve would have chosen a traditional church wedding. We found compromise by having a humanist ceremony in a forest and a religious blessing a week later in church. We did all the legal stuff at a registry office a few days before the woodland ceremony. In the early stages of planning, I dreamed of mossy Swedish forests and tree-covered Scottish mountains but luckily for us, we found out that the most stunning woodland venue had opened up its trees for business just a 15 minute drive from our home in Kent – much to the relief of all our family and friends! Longton Wood offered us almost complete flexibility and after we wandered through it’s towering pines for the first time, we knew it was the place for us.

The Bride

I tried on a few dresses in a couple of local bridal boutiques with my bridesmaids but I had quite a specific idea of what I was looking for in my head already. I’d spotted a dress on Etsy that I liked a few months before that fit what I had in mind almost perfectly. The dresses I tried on in the boutiques just didn’t feel right. It felt risky ordering a dress online from the US with less than 6 months to go but I just had to know what it looked like on me. It turned out to be the right decision, the Zoey Scoop-Back dress from Wear Your Love was exactly what I was looking for. Light, comfortable, high neckline, long sleeve, low back, lacey and floaty. When it arrived, I tried it on in-front of my mum and she said ‘yup it’s perfect’. In regards to everything else, well I hate shoe shopping and I don’t really wear jewellery, so I ended up wearing my favourite pair of Merrell hiking boots I’d received as a gift from Steve at Christmas under my dress and some rose gold teardrop diamante earrings from Accessorize that would match my wedding ring. We made our wedding rings ourselves at a workshop with Navette Jewellery which was really special and one of our happiest wedding preparation memories.

The Groom

Steve The Groom: I had a good idea of what I wanted to wear before I started to look properly having done a fair bit of research on Pinterest. I liked the idea of something not too traditional and thought about maybe wearing tweed as we’d be in the woods. I went to a couple of local tailors but some require you to order in the suit without having an opportunity to try it on first, I wasn’t happy with that as it felt like too big a risk. So I went to a tailor called Slaters who have a much larger selection of suits you can try on, with my Dad and Best Man. I went for a tweedy blue suit and my Dad and Best Man chose slightly different (less tweedy) blue suits. I was happy with the jacket and trousers but I didn’t like the accompanying waistcoat which was the same colour and material as the rest of the suit. I felt I needed a contrasting waistcoat instead and I wanted a bow tie which echoed the colours of the bridesmaids dresses. I found these together with some brown shoes on ASOS. I ordered quite a few variations from ASOS to get the right ones, again it was helpful to be able to try everything together and then select the one that brought it all together best.

The Decor

The great thing about getting married in a forest, is that everything is already beautiful and it doesn’t take much to bring it to life. We wanted to take inspiration from nature and my love of all things scandi but with a boho vibe. When we described what we had in mind to Hire Love (who we hired tables, seating and various props/decor from) they termed the look as ‘Modern Bohemian with a natural palette from the woods’ which was spot on. We wanted greens, browns and whites with lots of natural wood and plant textures. Keeping things simple, the focus was on creating atmosphere with light such as with the festoon lighting weaved through the trees already in situ at the venue, rope lights around some of the trees and hundreds of white candles in hurricane glasses and votives spread absolutely everywhere possible in order to enhance what was already there. Our bridesmaids collected brown bottles for us, which were finished with sprigs of fern that had been removed directly from the woodland to prepare the ceremony area on the day before. We also sourced reindeer skins for the fire pit, wooden crates, tree-slices and lots of foliage to finish everything off. One of our bridesmaids knitted some beautiful blankets for the fire-pit and another painted some gorgeous signage. We combined favours with place names and had a little gold wooden name made for each of our guests to take home afterwards. Our amazing wedding coordinator; Amanda, florist; Gwenda and stylists; Hire Love worked together to put all the finishing touches on the day.

The Flowers

We described the vibe we were going for with Gwenda from Bohotanical and she got it completely. I told her that I was hoping for lots of green foliage in my bouquet and listed some of my favourite trees and plants for her to draw inspiration from such as eucalyptus, succulents and native sea buckthorn, rowan and pine sprigs. I liked the idea of having a small injection of warm oranges, dusky reds or pinks – I would have loved rose-hips but as our wedding was in June they were out of season, but Gwenda sourced seasonal blooms that echoed all the things I liked and blew us away with her designs. She made a lovely foliage headband for my hair and selected flowers for the hairdresser to put in the bridesmaids hair. Our bridesmaids wore floral dresses so we went for mostly foliage bouquets for them and echoed these designs with flowers for the rest of the wedding party. Gwenda also did a stunning job of dressing our ceremony arch, tables, marquee poles and swing with her arrangements. She also made a garland for our dog and ring bearer to wear!

The Bridesmaids

From the outset I was really relaxed about what the bridesmaids were going to wear. I wanted them to be able to choose something they were comfortable in and we found lots of different dresses we all liked the look of for them to try. I didn’t mind if they didn’t match. Originally we were looking at some grey and pale taupe sequin dresses with plain skirts but then we came across some gorgeous blush dresses with floral embroidery on ASOS and all the girls loved them and wanted to try them. They all loved them so that ended up being a lot easier than we imagined! They all chose their own shoes and one of my bridesmaids who I walked across Sweden and Norway with chose to wear her hikers too!

The Humanist Ceremony

I lost my mum 2 months before our wedding day and I’d lost my Dad 9 years earlier, so we knew that the ceremony was going to be incredibly difficult and emotional for both us and all of our guests. The wedding had become a great source of stress and sadness for us and the planning and execution wasn’t easy amongst all of the worry and grief. But, we were lucky to have amazing support from our family and friends throughout and this together with and the help and patience of some incredible suppliers we managed to make it to our ceremony.

The ceremony was beyond our wildest dreams. We feel very fortunate to have found humanist celebrant Zena Birch to marry us. She is a celebrant like no other and we felt safe in her hands, especially after everything that had happened. Everything was quite last minute in the end but when she responded to a panicked email from me with ‘we’ve got this’ I felt instantly better. Her ceremony blew our family and friends away, it was so personal, deeply touching and heartwarmingly jubilant at the same time. She had everyone crying and laughing in equal measure with her brilliant comical timing and passionate delivery. She helped us create a ceremony that honoured our lost loved ones, told our stories and celebrated our love in a way that reached absolutely everyone in the woodland glade. I’ve lost count of how many of our guests came up to us afterwards and said ‘that was the best ceremony I’ve ever seen.’

My godfather walked me down the aisle to a piano rendition of ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen that was learned and recorded by Steve’s sisters partner, and my best friend and bridesmaid Beccy did a reading that Zena helped her write that cleverly mixed quotes from Brucey songs (we are both big fans) mixed with snippets from a letter that Albert Einstein wrote to his daughter titled the ‘Universal Force of Love’.

The Dog Ring Bearer

When it came to the rings, the best man acted out a shocked face as if he had forgotten the rings (which surprisingly fooled quite a few of our guests), walked back down the aisle before returning with our dog; Magnus, complete with rings attached to his collar. Usually he’s a dog that likes to announce himself and bark at everyone, but he was so sweet and quiet walking down the aisle to bring us our rings. It was a magical moment. It was really important to us to have Magnus with us at our wedding and we were thrilled that Longton Wood is dog friendly. We hired Ioana and Ben from ‘Tail Tales’ to look after Magnus throughout the day to make sure he didn’t get up to any mischief. He was off-lead at dinner time, wandering through all the tables saying hello to all his favourite guests (the ones that gave him chicken) and Ben and Ioana kept an eye on him throughout, then took him home for his dinner and a nap.

After the ceremony we ran back up the aisle through confetti to the sound of the Killers singing the Dire Straits classic ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

The Food

We wanted a sit down meal but nothing too formal. We found a really flexible caterer that offered a relaxed roast dinner where a nominated guest from each table carved the joints of meat themselves and all the side dishes were served in bowls to be passed around the tables. Veggie guests had their main served separately but they could join in with the side dishes. It meant everyone got served in ten minutes rather than the hour we knew it could take with a more formal service. We didn’t have starters but the caterer served some topped breads to guests as they milled around after the ceremony whilst we went off to have photos taken. For the desserts we thought a relaxed dessert buffet table would be a good option to save money and offer lots of choice. We ordered about 20 different desserts from COOK and bought some cheeses and crackers which our caterer put out on the tables for us and they were a hit.

The Cake

The cake was quite a last minute order and Ashleigh from Betty Bakes did a great job, We wanted a simple sponge cake with buttercream and jam and textured white icing all over – a crowd pleaser. We also wanted some vegan cupcakes for our dairy free guests, and Ashleigh made these as well. She worked with our florist to decorate the cake and we provided a Topper we bought on etsy which had our names.

The Transport

We are both classic Ford fans and Steve has two Ford Capri’s. We spent a lot of our friendship years driving around in his white capri listening to music and chatting, so it was important to us to have the car at our wedding. It required some last minute work to get it fit for an MOT (having been off the road for 4-5 years) and on the morning of the wedding it had to have some last minute repairs as a throttle cable gave up, but it made it there in the end. I have a Ford Cortina that needed far too much work to be my wedding car on the day but a friend from the Cortina Club let us hire his beautiful white cortina for the day. We also hired a VW Van as a surprise for the bridesmaids to travel in, it even had sweets inside!

The Entertainment

We had a DJ and Photobooth (Powersounds) to provide the entertainment for the evening and the DJ allowed a very drunk best man and a friend of Steve’s to sing karaoke which was hilarious and awful in equal measure. Our first dance was to ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ by Bruce Springsteen which was performed acoustically by my bridesmaid Sam and her boyfriend who regularly gig together in a band called More Than Echoes, making it extra special and personal.

The Photography

Lots of people ask me if it was difficult to find a photographer to photograph our wedding as I’m a photographer myself – but it was the easiest part! I knew before I was even engaged that if I ever got married one day, Dale Weeks was the man for the job. I’d known of Dale since his early photography days as I started out photographing weddings and we’d interacted on photography forums a little over the years. I’d always been really drawn to his aesthetic and when he was available I was over the moon. The photography was so important for me for obvious reasons, so Dale was the first supplier we booked and I think we would have probably jiggled our wedding day around a bit if necessary to have him as our photographer. Again, we feel so lucky as it turns out that as well as being incredibly talented, he is a lovely guy with the most calm and almost invisible shooting style I’ve witnessed. I’ve seen a lot of horribly brash photographers totally disrupting weddings with their domineering shooting styles and flashy unnecessary equipment and we definitely did not want someone like that. Dale was a dream!

Photography by Dale Weeks Photography
Author: Fern Godfrey
Fern spends most of her time dreaming about weddings and trying to convince her long-suffering boyfriend to propose. Lucky enough to live in sunny Cornwall, if you need her – you’ll find her at beach.

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