WWW readers Tom and Caroline live in the US but decided to marry in the UK as they wanted a classic and personal day. They had a 3 day celebration with their guests, with fun and games arranged either side of the wedding day itself. They held their ceremony at Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, before moving onto North Cadbury Court for their outdoor reception.
I so love the touching first look, Caroline’s statement necklace, the pretty gypsophila blooms and the delicious looking pies, all planned to perfection by Matthew Oliver.
The Proposal… Tom surprised me with a “day date” and brought us to downtown Detroit where we rented bikes and biked to Belle Isle. Belle Isle was where we had our first date at the Detroit Grand Prix in 2007. We are big fans of motorsports, so that race and location hold a special place in our hearts. It was a gorgeous summer morning while we rode our bikes on and off where the track had been laid out from the Grand Prix which had just taken place a couple weeks prior (which we also went to). Tom knew from previous conversations that I wasn’t a fan of large, statement proposals, so he asked if could stop off at a picnic table we sat at on our first date. It was quite and secluded, except for the security guards that I’m sure enjoyed the excitement later. He handed me a letter to read that was incredibly touching about our relationship and upcoming move to Florida. When I finished reading it, he got down on one knee letting me know that we make an amazing team together and asked me to marry him. The words, “Of course!” flew out of my mouth as he showed me the engagement ring and late told me that the diamond is from his grandmother’s engagement ring. The day we got engaged, ironically, was also exactly a year since my own grandmother’s passing, so the ring holds a very special place in my heart for a variety of reasons. It was a full circle moment of sorts and a beyond perfect surprising day.
The Vision for the Day… Tom and I had been to 26 weddings in the 6 years we’ve been together and while we have great memories of each one, we knew we wanted something outside the typical wedding box. We wanted a life changing experience not only for us, but also for our guests. It was of utmost importance for the day to be fun and personal. (Hence the decision to have a destination wedding, which is described below)
The Planning Process… My love for England started at a young age and I was lucky enough to have been there 3 times, including an extensive period in London for an internship. We knew we wanted a destination wedding all along. But getting married on an island in the Caribbean just begged for hurricane to hit, as the only time Tom had off with medical school was hurricane season. So we chose another country on an island – England! After searching online for a wedding planner in the areas we were exploring, I came across Matthew Oliver and we hit it off immediately. We were not going to see the wedding location until we arrived – so it was a giant leap of faith and we’re so glad we had Matthew! He scoped out North Cadbury Court for our accommodations and reception, and Old Wardour Castle for our ceremony, sending us videos and photos of both. It goes without saying, but Matthew was a key factor in organizing the wedding logistics. Plus, when planning a destination wedding, Google Street View is a glorious thing. Our main focus was on how guests felt and the memories shared, rather than prioritizing decorative, often short-lived trinkets. In reality, North Cadbury Court was an incredible backdrop that needed little decoration anyway. We chose fun over excessive flowers and centerpieces. Even though our flowers were gorgeous! To stay on budget and keep focus on the true meaning of our wedding, I designed all of the menus, itineraries, place cards, framed lyrics, and gift bags. Adam Sparkes, our photographer, is a close friend of ours, so instead of just one night of photos, he stayed for all 3 days and captured incredible moments during that time. One of the main reasons we decided on a smaller destination wedding was to ensure that most things were personal for guests.
The Venue… The reason we wanted a planner was because we didn’t have any time to go over to the UK before and having Matthew helped us as he knew what we envisioned. We gave him the brief and he dashed off and updated us on a daily basis of what he found with our requirements, once he found North Cadbury Court we were amazed and knew it was the perfect venue for us.
The Dress + Accessories… Dress: Allure Bridal, Exclusive Collection – RaShawn, Rose Bridal Necklace: BCBG, Earrings: Target, Fascinator: Etsy and broach from grandmother, Shoes – Irregular Choice, Hair – Hair by Devorah.
Finding the Dress… We had recently moved to Florida when I needed to start the search for a wedding dress. Not being familiar with the area and not having my girlfriends nearby, I quickly felt overwhelmed! My sister, thankfully, flew in helped calm my fears. I knew I wanted a dress with straps because I felt a lot of strapless dresses have started to look the same. Plus, I needed the support for my girls that really only a strapped fit can offer! The dress I chose was actually the first one I tried on! We went to another store after my mother-in-law joined us and tried on various styles and fits, but I kept thinking of the first dress. I felt comfortable and pretty, but more importantly I thought the look was timeless enough to not regret wearing in years to come while looking through pictures! The style and cut also reflected the setting in England, elegant and classic.
Groom’s Attire… Suit: Alfani – Macy’s.
The Readings + Music… Reading Lyrics Excerpts from: The One – Elton John, Roll With It – Steve Winwood, Wanna Be – Spice Girls. Poem: Love – Roy Croft.
Beautiful Bridesmaids… Why shied away from having a typical wedding party because we didn’t want loved ones to feel obligated to spend anything more in addition to travel expenses. We did recognize our siblings during a funny ritual at the welcome dinner, described below.
The Flowers… I really wanted gypsohilla used in the majority of the arrangements as on mass it works perfectly. I had a mix of flowers for my bouquet with light pastel flowers all different shapes and sizes, it worked perfectly with my dress and smelt gorgeous. For the tables as it was all outside I didn’t want flowers to take over, just enough to make it look classic, so I had jam jars with a mix of flowers and 3 massive gypsohilla arrangements going down our long table. Bloom, bloom went over and beyond and when I came back for the ceremony I even had petals and flowers in my room.
The Cake… It may sound odd, but Tom and I aren’t huge fans of cake! Tom especially loves pies, so we decided to have an absolutely delicious assortment of pies.
Your Photographer… Adam Sparkes, our photographer, is a close friend of ours, so instead of just one night of photos, he stayed for all 3 days and captured incredible moments during that time. I used to work with Adam prior to him starting his own business, so it was great that we all felt so comfortable we each other. He may have even shared a few libations with us after the wedding started winding down late in the evening.
The Details + Decor… As we were in the UK we really wanted an English feel, but not too intrusive as the venue had everything from old paintings to classic 19th decoration, something classic and stylish. I couldn’t be happier at how it all ended up on the day; each section of the wedding had its own classic style and feel to it, with a little English and vintage mixed in also.
The Honeymoon… Tom and I will be heading to Thailand and Cambodia in December! Since we’ve been together for so long and also lived together for a majority of that time, the jig was up! We provided the typical wedding registry with the familiar plates and bowls (which we love!), but we also let guests know that we didn’t necessarily need anything. We expressed interest in an adventuresome honeymoon on our wedding website and we are really lucky that we’re able to make that happen. We’re hoping to do some volunteer work while there, but will surely be dipping our toes in the sandy beaches at some point on our adventures.
Memorable Moments… Our first look. The bagpiper leading everyone into the castle. Smiles, laughter and tears during our ceremony century furniture. We didn’t want too much fuss on the Handwritten vows. Holding hands walking into our reception. The gentle breeze during our laughter filled dinner outside. The History of Rap performed by my siblings. Dancing and singing at the top of our lungs into the night with our amazing band. Showing our caterer how to drink. Irish Car Bombs in the kitchen after the wedding.
Advice for Other Couples… Do your own thing, even if it seems different or outside the box. You may receive some pushback at any point during the process, but remember, following what you value most won’t steer you the wrong way. Don’t get caught up what “should” or “shouldn’t” be done, especially in regards to decorations. If you fill a place with love and laughter, it won’t matter what the centrepieces looked like. I promise.
Credit Where Credit is Due…
Wedding Planner – Matthew Oliver
Photographer – Adam Sparkes
Videographer – Spatz Film
Reception and Accommodation Venue – North Cadbury Court
Ceremony Venue – Old Wardour Castle
Florist – Bloom Bloom
Caterer – Chameleon Caterers
Entertainment – Head Over Heels Entertainment
Hair and Make-up – Sanctuary Hair and Beauty
Event Hire – Cornucopia Event Hire
Humanist Service Conductor – Ceremonies by Steve
Synopsis of the 3 day festivities: Arrival and Welcome Dinner Each room at North Cadbury Court had a specific name, so we gave our 41 guests a welcome bag with their room name on it and told them to explore the huge manor in search of their rooms. It was a fun, historic scavenger hunt of sorts. That afternoon, Tom and I were able to see where we were getting married, for the very first time. We explored Old Wardour Castle in awe and then headed back to North Cadbury Court for our welcome dinner to introduce all of our guests to each other. Why shied away from a typical wedding party because we didn’t want loved ones to feel obligated to spend anything more in addition to travel expenses. But we really wanted to recognize our siblings in a special way. So during the welcome dinner we had a dear friend dress up as a knight and lead a “Sibling Oath” in which our sisters and brothers vowed to stand by Tom and me even if we moved far away or gave our possible future children weird names. Dinner was traditional English faire – Fish & Chips with mushy peas & Jam Roly Poly as dessert.
Wedding Ceremony & Reception In the morning, the boys went clay shooting at a local farm, while the girls got glammed up at North Cadbury Court. After slipping into my Union Jack heels, Tom and I met for our first look outside overlooking the gorgeous rolling hills of the English countryside. Soon after, we joined everyone awaiting us to head to the magical Old Wardour Castle. We were greeted by a wonderful bagpiper who led me into the castle room where we exchanged our hand-written, personal vows, and had friends read special poems and lyrics that held significant meaning to us. (Including the Spice Girls! ) After the ceremony, guests were able to explore the castle and grounds before we headed back to North Cadbury for a night of celebrating. We set up traditional English lawn games and watched as guests found their seats with funny photographs of themselves as place cards. Included with the dinner menu was a personal thank you as well as a note about making a donation in honor of our wedding to the Human Rights Organization, something near and dear to my heart. We chose pies over cake and had 8 (EIGHT!) different pies ranging from traditional English custard, to all-American apple pie, of course. After dinner we all danced the night away with a fantastic London-based band, which included a special “History of Rap” performance by my siblings and me, as a surprise gift to Tom. It was quite memorable.
Day-trip to Bath, England Keeping in line with wanting our guests to have a great cultural experience, we organized a day-trip and headed to Bath the morning after our wedding. It may have been a rough morning for some of us, but exploring the Roman baths, historic churches and perhaps having a pint or two made up for that. We capped the day off by heading back to North Cadbury Court for our last night, enjoying our last dinner in the local town pub. It would be an understatement to say those 3 days were an unforgettable experience. Tom and I are two incredibly lucky people, surrounded by immeasurable love and friendship.
Amazing. Thanks so much to Tom and Caroline for sharing their gorgeous wedding with us today XOXO Lou