Claire and Nathan chose to marry in June at Hilltop Country House, Cheshire. They wanted a laid back atmosphere at their wedding with traditional elements too.
With their love of the outdoors (be sure to read their cute proposal story) Claire and Nathan wanted to hold their ceremony outdoors. The rain didn’t put them off and i love the shots with their guests holding umbrellas.
There were beautiful flowers, pretty mismatched bridesmaid dresses and the most amazing dessert table. I have to just mention Claire’s gorgeous Jenny Packham dress too… WOW.
Thanks so much to the fantastic Babb Photo for sharing her images with us today.
The Proposal… Nathan and I had talked about getting married from pretty early on in our relationship. I say ‘Nathan and I,’ but it’d probably be fairer to say I had talked about it. And talked.. and talked. We’d looked at rings, and had one designed, so I knew a proposal was on the cards after the ring had been finished.
Just before the ring was finished we went on holiday to Crete. As Nathan is Australian and incredibly active, whereas I excel more at lying on beaches, we had a few lazy days, before embarking on an 18km hike down Samaria Gorge. I hadn’t planned on hiking on my lovely relaxing holiday, so I promptly bought some converse, and we set off.
About 5km in, I was almost certain that there was no skin left on my feet, but was determined not to whinge. After 10km, when my legs were about to start failing me, and I was convinced that a sunstroke induced collapse was imminent; Nathan suddenly fell over and started groaning in agony, whilst clutching his knee. We’d been warned that in the event of an emergency, the only way out was on the back of a donkey, so it was a bit confusing to turn around and see him suddenly smiling and on one knee. I didn’t catch on, until he pulled a 3-d cut out of the ring out of his pocket, and popped the question. I had thought it would have been impossible to surprise me, so I was really shocked, and very happy.. and dissolved into a smiley crying mess. The rest of the trek then zoomed by, and was much more enjoyable for me than it would have otherwise been!
The Vision for the Day… I didn’t have too much of an idea as to what I wanted at the beginning, except that we were both determined to have it outdoors, and for the atmosphere to be very laid back (Nathan’s one and only non-negotiable request was that he got to wear trainers of some description), whilst still having the traditional elements. Over time, each element we chose was chosen with the others in mind so that it wasn’t too mismatched, but it all seemed to evolve quite naturally.
The Planning Process… I really enjoyed the planning, although I definitely found some parts trickier than others, and less enjoyable; namely table plans!!
Budget… We never set an exact budget, as we had no idea about the costs involved in weddings, so I didn’t think it would be realistic. I had heard a lot about people hiking up prices as soon as the word wedding was mentioned, so we offered to pay for things up front, as that meant sometimes being given discounts. I didn’t want the stress of having to pay everything in one go 8 weeks before the big day, and it seemed to spread things out and let us trick ourselves that it wasn’t that painful!
The Venue… We were living in London at the time, so I had quite an intense weekend of searching. We also had a window of 3 weeks that we could get married in, as Nathan’s family were coming over from Australia for his sister’s blessing… so we struggled to find a Saturday available anywhere.
I came across Hilltop via a recommendation, and nipped there before jumping back on the train home. I was really blown away instantly. The house was stunning, the marquee and ‘boogie room’ were magical, and it took me about 5 minutes before I begged them for the date.
I can’t complement the Gardner family enough, they’re all an absolute delight to deal with, and I miss them now it’s all over! Clare runs the place so perfectly, and I literally can’t imagine how anyone could do a better job than her! Food, flowers, location- all as good as it gets!! It really took the stress away for us!!
The Dress + Accessories… Accessories were kept to a minimum, as I didn’t want to take away from the dress with any big statement pieces of jewellery. I did buy a jenny Packham Stellina II Crystal headpiece a week before the wedding that I had been deliberating over, as I didn’t want a veil to hide the back of the dress, but did want something that I wouldn’t get to wear everyday.
I struggled to find shoes. I knew I could only go up to 2 inches in height so that the dress fell perfectly, and that they wouldn’t really be seen. 10 days before, I was still looking, and a quick search on the computer in Selfridges revealed that the only pair I liked at the right height were a pair of Jimmy Choos, so… I bit the bullet and handed my credit card over. As it happens, I spent most of the day in some white Hunter wellies– bought 2 days before the day, once I’d accepted that rain was quite likely!
Finding the Dress… One of my bridesmaids best friends got married in a gorgeous Jenny Packham dress shortly before we got engaged, and so I had been nosying at the Jenny Packham collection for summer 2012 anyway. As soon as I saw the Aspen dress I was adamant that nothing else would do. I was really nervous about trying it on, as I’d already bought it in my head, and hadn’t really thought about it in terms of would it be flattering etc. Luckily- it was!
Groom’s Attire… Nathan has zero interest in clothes, and I’m not a men’s fashion guru, so after asking a lot of my male friends and his, and using one of his most fashion-friendly friends to practically force him into shops to try some on… he was really keen on one from The Kooples. We then decided we wanted him, his best man and two ushers in matching suits, and so to avoid buying four super-pricey suits, we started looking at rentals.
An exhausting search followed, and just as we were about to rent something we didn’t like out of desperation, my dad suggested visiting a hire shop that a patient had recommended… and it was brilliant. Really modern three piece slim fit suits, and really helpful staff. We got the boys to email their measurements as one lives in Oz, and two in London, and ….. they all fit perfectly, which was lucky, as they only got to try them on the day before the wedding!
Shoes were pretty easy for the boys. Nathan wanted them all in converse, so we found a website that allowed you to design your own, in terms of colours and wording on the back, and I left him to it!
The Readings + Music… We trolled through a lot of readings, and found two that we thought suited us really well- Louis de Berniere’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, “and “Today is the beginning” by Patience Strong. We didn’t want anything too gushy, or anything too long… we know our friends, and knew they’d wanted to move on to the drinks reception quite quickly!
Nathan’s eldest sister came over from Australia and spoke beautifully, as did one of my best friend’s Kirsten.
We had a string quartet play beautifully throughout the ceremony and drinks reception, and a brilliant DJ, Sam Gardner, that Hilltop supplied for the evening. I walked down the aisle to Pachabel’s Canon in D, and we walked back down to The Beatles “All you need is Love.”
Beautiful Bridesmaids… I had my sister, my best friend from school, and my best friend from uni. They did a brilliant job with the hen do, and listening to my never ending questions about dresses, make up, hair etc!
I didn’t think it was realistic to put people with different body shapes in the same dress and expect it to suit them all, so I just made sure the colours were vaguely the same, and prayed it worked out! The dresses were all high street- French Connection, Coast and Warehouse, and they all looked incredible.
The Flowers… I’m quite clueless with flowers, and so gave a few colour preferences, and named a few flowers I liked, then left Charlotte at Hilltop to it. The whole thing was very hassle free, and I was really pleased with the result!
The Cake… I was quite shocked to see a number of cakes in magazines that were over a thousand pounds. I quickly decided that we were going to buy a very simple one, and whack some flowers on it. Luckily, my dad has quite a love for cake, and insisted that we had to have a huge one, and that he’d pay for it. Naturally.. I then started looking at entire desert tables, and came across the lovely lot at The Hazelnut Bakery. Hazel is incredibly talented, and was very easy to work with. I described what I wanted, and she brought it to life. It must have tasted as good as it looked, as we didn’t even manage to get a cupcake!!
Your Photographer… We were sure that we wanted natural photos, and not 400 posed shots, but that was about it
I searched the internet, but then remembered a good friend of a friend of mine had stunning pictures of her Italian wedding. She put me in touch with Laura Babb of Babb Photo, and the rest is history! She really put us at ease throughout the whole process, and crept around like a true ninja on the day itself! A fair few will be adorning our walls very soon.
The Details + Decor… We were very lucky that the venue itself was so beautiful, so we didn’t have to do much. I did have cream carpet fitted in the marquee, which may sound o.t.t, but it looked so much prettier!
We spent a huge amount of time making the favours for the ladies. I hunted down every possible vintage teacup in charity shops around the country, and Nathan then made scented candles in them. I thought they looked ace, and only a few people left theirs behind, so I’m hoping that was the general consensus!
I tried to get a bit crafty and decorated some jam jars for the top table flowers and candles, and when I failed, I reverted to buying some bits and bobs off etsy!
The Honeymoon… We went to Mauritius and stayed at the Four Seasons in an ocean bungalow. From the moment we walked in, everything was so luxurious, it was almost embarrassing. I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone. I’d like to live there!!
Memorable Moments… It’s really hard to pick, as the whole day was absolutely amazing for us! Nathan waving at me as I walked down the aisle, whilst everyone was looking at me will always stick in my mind. It put me instantly at ease, as I remembered it was only him I was marrying, and there was nothing to be nervous about!
Being quickly stashed in the side room with the girls, before walking down the aisle, whilst the rain came and went…and the chairs were moved indoors, then out for the second time was quite a tense yet funny moment!
Advice for Other Couples… The only thing I think I can say is what was repeated to me constantly, but is VERY true. It’s YOUR day… so don’t get too worked up trying to keep everyone happy!! Enjoy it, as it goes so quickly, and don’t feel bad asking people for advice… people like talking about their own weddings, and we got lots of tips that way!
Credit Where Credit is Due…
Flowers: Charlotte Gardner at Hilltop
Make up & Hair: Sarah Meredith
Cake: The Hazelnut Bakery
Musicians (ceremony): Leo’s string quartet
Brides dress: Jenny Packham
Veil/accessories: Jenny Packham
Brides shoes: Jimmy Choo
Grooms suit: Swarbricks hire
Grooms shoes: Customized converse
Bridesmaids dresses Coast/Warehouse/French Connection
I just love this pretty and romantic wedding. Thanks so much to Claire and Nathan for sharing their gorgeous day with us XOXO Lou