DIY Outdoorsy Barn Wedding

outdoors dorset wedding

I love it when i read a wedding report and instantly connect to a couple. Sarah’s lovely report of her and Richard’s wedding is just so down to earth and full of great ideas and advice that i instantly loved these two.

Sarah and Richard were married at Kingston Country Courtyard, Dorset as they wanted their wedding to be as connected to the outdoors as they could. They wanted their wedding to be ‘country’ and ‘foresty’, which they personalised by getting their DIY on.

Sarah looks so beautiful in her floaty Monsoon dress and i love her headband, while Richard wanted to channel his inner Mumford and Sons, going for a floral shirt and waistcoat which looked brilliant. They made many of the pretty details to themselves, from the pom poms to the blackboard signs. I so love the natural looking blooms and the table full of cakes too.

Thanks so much to the amazing McKinley-Rodgers Photography for sharing their images with us today.

monsoon wedding dress

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Names…. Sarah & Richard

Wedding Date…. 4th August 2012

The Proposal…. Ever since we got together in July 2009, Richard has been known amongst my friends as being impossibly romantic (he devised a treasure hunt for our first date!) so everyone who knew how quickly we had fallen for each other was expecting a proposal every time there was a special occasion. To throw them (and me!) off the scent, Rich started saying he didn’t want to get married, and I got used to the idea that I’d never be Mrs Ford.

Fast forward to a windy, cold day in January 2011, and Rich thought it would be a good idea to drive to Dorset and walk along the cliffs at Purbeck. On the promise of a pint in front of a fireplace in the local pub after this walk, I agreed and we set off from our little cottage in the New Forest. At the edge of Old Harry Rocks, with a stunning view and the waves crashing below us, Rich got down on one knee and presented me with a beautiful ring that he had designed himself and commissioned a jeweller to make for me. It was such a surprise that I started sobbing (you know that really unattractive crying where your face screws up and you can’t breathe? Nice.) I calmed down, remembered to say yes and grinned like a lunatic – all the way to the aforementioned pub with fireplace, where we ordered champagne instead of ale :)

The Vision for the day…. We love living in the New Forest and wanted a day that was, in Richard’s words “a bit country…sort of foresty…with bunting!”. So I took those words and ran with it. The most important thing for the day was having a personal feel, we were only having 30 guests at the wedding, so wanted everything to reflect our personalities. This meant a whole heap of DIY projects!

The Planning process…. I got stuck in and made a scrapbook of all the ideas I had. I didn’t want to become Bridezilla and let the wedding take over our lives, so I decided to be uber organised and make a timetable for the months leading up to the wedding, giving us jobs to complete each week. I actually ended up feeling quite casual about everything…planning the wedding was really enjoyable!

Budget…. Our budget was £7,000, which included our mini-moon.

The Venue We’re outdoorsy sorts and were really upset when we found out that you can’t get married outdoors in England. So the challenge was on to the find the closest thing to outdoors that we could…and we struck gold when we found Kingston Country Courtyard ( They have a beautiful gazebo, covered in roses, that is licenced for weddings, a huge barn for the reception and a garden with stunning views of Corfe Castle and Old Harry Rocks, where we got engaged. Perfect! The staff at the courtyard were wonderful and we couldn’t have picked a better place to become husband and wife.

The Dress + Accessories….. I bought my dress from a local pre-loved store  ( and it was originally from Monsoon. My gold sandals were from Monsoon, with just enough heel to make me walk like a lady! My bracelet was platinum and diamond, a 21st birthday gift from my Mum and my headband of bronze leaves was made for me by Pomp and Plumage on Etsy (

Finding the dress…. I wasn’t that excited about shopping for a dress, I’ve never really been a ‘girly’ girl and am on the curvy side, so wasn’t looking forward to stuffing myself into satin monstrosities! So, nervous and on a strict budget (no designer gown for me!) I walked into Something Old, Something New in Fawley ( feeling very out of place.

The owners of the shop are Jan and Jacky, and quite frankly, they should have their own tv programme. They are a fantastic comedy duo and instantly made me feel at ease in their shop, which sells pre-loved gowns – perfect for this bride on a budget.

I tried on a lot of dresses, some big and poofy (surprisingly flattering), some slinky and lacy and one beautiful Grecian number that was originally from Monsoon. My Grecian dress was a complete bargain and made me feel beautiful.

Groom’s attire Richard was going for a ‘Mumford & Sons’ inspired look, so had a cream and brown flowery shirt with brown corduroy trousers from M&S, brown brogues that we eventually found in Brantano because Rich has MASSIVE feet (size 14!) and a waistcoat from eBay. His pocketwatch completed the look.

The Readings + Music…. We asked our Mums to do the readings during the ceremony, which were an excerpt from Captain Corellis Mandolin and Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare. I am a secret Shakespeare nut and have always envisioned having that sonnet read at my wedding since I was a little girl!

The music was something we talked about often when planning the wedding and had heated discussions long into the night – there are just so many songs that we love! Eventually we chose the following: I walked down the aisle to Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros. I had always wanted my Grandad to walk me down the aisle, but he passed away a few years ago, so I chose a song that reminded me of him. It felt like he was right there beside me :) We had an instrumental version of Strawberry Swing by Coldplay during the signing of the register and Rich chose You’re My Best Friend as we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife – we are massive Queen fans! Our first dance was to One Day Like This by Elbow.

Beautiful bridesmaids….. The bridesmaids were my 3 best friends and Rich’s cousins. The girls were fantastic and agreed to buy their own dresses, which we ended up getting in Warehouse. They looked stunning!!

The Flowers Our flowers were by Jo Hicks ( and looked amazing on the day. Jo and I got on brilliantly and she taught me how to arrange the flowers in jars and tea cups so that it would look perfect on the day. I am a bit rubbish and don’t actually know what flowers we used (apart from the roses!) but Jo managed to interpret what I wanted even with my poor knowledge!

The Cake Why have one cake when you can have loads?! Due to our differing tastes in cake (I hate fruit cake, Richard loves it etc) we decided to have a cake table and got the fabulous Rachael from Rosie Lea Tea House & Bakery in Brockenhurst ( to make a variety of cakes to serve to our guests. They were delicious and I’d highly recommend popping in there for cake if you are ever in this part of the world! The Pokemon cake was Daniels (Richards son) contribution, him and Rich baked it together the day before the wedding :)

Your Photographer…. I honestly don’t have words to express how fantastic Pen and Cam from McKinley-Rodgers Photography ( are. Imagine inviting some brilliant friends to your wedding and then realising they took the most beautiful photos in the whole world…that is what hiring Pen and Cam meant for us.

From meeting them at our engagement shoot to receiving the wedding photos in the cutest package I’ve ever seen, Pen and Cam were a delight to get to know and have given us photos that we will treasure until we are old and wrinkly. The first thing that guests said to us when we got back from our honeymoon was how much they liked Pen and Cam, and Daniel was so awestruck by their awesome superpowers that he now wants to be a wedding photographer.

The Details + Decor…. We made our own blackboards to use as signage around the venue, collected tea cups, created personal CD favours for the guests, chopped wood to hold the table names I made (these were named after local areas that meant a lot to us as a couple, with a story about us on each one), made tissue pom-poms for the garden, designed a fingerprint tree for the guests to leave a message on…the list goes on!

The best handmade item at the wedding was a Lego ring box that Rich’s 9 year old son Daniel had made us a few weeks before the wedding. He presented it to us one morning as a surprise, it was such a sweet and thoughtful thing to do, we both had a little cry!


The Honeymoon…. We were on a very tight budget, so had a mini-moon in a gorgeous little cottage in Devon straight after the wedding. I’d highly recommend it for a romantic getaway… It has a huge bath painted like a cow! :D

Memorable moments Practicing the waltz for our first dance in the garden as the sun went down, seeing my 9 year old stepson burst into tears of happiness during the wedding ceremony and watching the whole wedding party screaming “yooouuuurrr sex is oooon fire!!!” to Kings of Leon on the dancefloor :)

Advice for other couples Take time for yourselves during the day, eat the delicious food you’ve paid for and, if you’re like me and enjoying the planning, don’t be afraid to take control and do it yourself! My lovely friends and family all offered to lend a hand, but I was so excited by it all, I wanted to do it myself! Do it the way that makes you both happiest :)

Credit where credit is due…

Photography: McKinley-Rodgers Photography

Venue: Kingston Country Courtyard

Dress: Something Old, Something New

Headband: Pomp and Plumage

Flowers: Jo Hicks Flowers


Thanks so so much to Sarah and Richard for sharing their super lovely wedding with us today :-) so many smiles, ahhhhhh XOXO Lou

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