Sarah and Gareth had the most beautiful summer wedding.
They chose to hold their wedding day at Laughton Barns, East Sussex and wanted their 170 guests to be comfortable in once place all day. They thought of every little detail, from the delicious menu to the drink choices and sweet touches for the children.
Sarah looked so elegant in her Paloma Blanca dress that she found at Isabella Grace Bridal, which she wore with striking red peep toe heels. Gareth donned a dapper blue three piece suit with red tie which matched the best men.
Oh and there were balloons, and the most wonderful display of lanterns.
Thanks so much to the super lovely Sara Reeve for sharing her photographs with us today.
The Proposal… Gareth had arranged secretly to take me away for my birthday; he had even sorted the time off work with my boss without me knowing. He had booked to take me to Rome and was going to ask me there. About six weeks after booking everything, my boss called him to let him know that I had been asked to work in Cape Town for a month and that I needed to go while we were still due to be in Rome. Gareth then had to rearrange the trip cutting it short and had to tell me that he had planned to take me away for my birthday (in the end I flew back in from Rome on the Wednesday morning then had to fly out that night to Cape Town!). So I knew we were going to Rome for my birthday and had no idea of anything else. Gareth thought I might have been suspicious so the day before my birthday he took the day off work and decided he wanted to cook me dinner as we would be busy the next day (my actual birthday). He seemed slightly nervous when he picked me up from work but I didn’t think anything of it. He asked me just before we sat down to dinner at home in our conservatory on one knee. I was so shocked as I wasn’t expecting anything as it was a normal day home from work. After a couple of seconds of shock I said yes. We then went to Rome for a whirlwind couple of days and then I was away working in Cape Town for a month so didn’t see him for the first part of our engagement, it was a shame to miss the first month of excitement together – however that didn’t stop me planning from afar…
The Vision for the Day… We wanted a relaxed country rustic wedding close to my parents’ house in East Sussex. The main thing that we wanted was for it to be a chilled day that everyone could enjoy. We wanted everyone to be able to attend and enjoy the whole day – no separate evening guests! It was important that both the ceremony and the reception were in the same place as we’d been to weddings before where the drive between venues made the day slightly fragmented.
The Planning Process… The planning process came quite easily to me; we talked about what were the most important things to us to happen at the wedding and worked from there. Every time we weren’t sure of something we revisited the things that were important at the beginning and made sure our decision fitted with that. We both work in events so know the importance of being organised and ensuring that you book things in advance and delegate where possible (people want to be involved and to pull on your friends and families talents really helped with our big day). We identified that the venue was the place to start, then book the registrar, then find an amazing photographer to capture the day. Everything else will flow from there. And you can never have enough checklists!
The Venue… Our venue was Laughton Barns, which was very close to my parents’ house. We had known the Barns as a Country Fayre and Steam Show Ground and had no idea that it did weddings until we came to the process of finding a rustic venue close to home, big enough to accommodate our 170 guests. It was the only venue we looked at and we knew as soon as we saw it that it would work perfectly for us. We were also lucky that the weekend we arranged to see it, Gareth’s parents were visiting from Hull. We all went together with my parents to meet with Marc (Circa Events) so we were reassured that everyone loved it before we went ahead and booked it.
The Dress + Accessories… My Dress was Paloma Blanca and it was the most comfortable dress ever (I’m all about the comfort!): it was easy to wear and I felt wonderful in it. My accessories were a Paloma Blanca veil which matched the dress, diamante hair comb from Chez Bec for a little bit of sparkle once I took my veil off, drop earrings from Chez Bec, a back drop necklace from Debbie Graham Jewellery, my Nana Bow’s cocktail ring with a blue stone (my something blue) and a garter that Gareth’s’ mum Gaynor leant me for the day (my something borrowed). I also wore a Mikimoto pearl bracelet, which Gareth bought and left for me on the morning of our wedding as a wedding present.
Finding the Dress… I visited four bridal shops in total searching for THE dress and had a real mix of experiences – some good, some bad. The final shop I went to was Isabella Grace in Tunbridge Wells. Isabella Grace was the bridal experience every bride should have, the moment I walked in the shop I knew that I would find my dream dress here. The staff were so helpful and I bought my dress on my first visit with them. I can’t recommend Isabella Grace enough, they were really friendly and helpful during my follow-up fittings and offered handy, experienced advice when I was looking at accessories.
Groom’s Attire… Gareth knew he wanted a suit made that he could wear again – he had worked with Dress to Kill before and was really impressed. He only visited them in the hunt for his suit and suits for his three best men. He wore a blue three piece suit and the best men wore the same but in a two piece. They each chose the details for their suits – lapel style, how many buttons, vents and the colour of the stitching on the cuffs and button holes. They then all agreed on a lighter blue lining with the wedding date stitched into it. All the wedding party (groom, three best men and both dads) wore red ties and we gave Thomas Pink Lions socks to our dads to wear which matched with Gareth’s Thomas Pink Lions socks. We also had cuff links engraved for Gareth and the three best men. My wedding present to Gareth was a watch which he wore on the day.
The Readings + Music… We asked Gareth’s mum to do the first reading ‘The Art of Marriage’ (Author Wilferd A. Peterson), we loved the words and knew Gaynor would do an amazing job of reading it which she did. The other reading was by my Auntie Mary – she had actually been responsible for introducing us eight years ago by arranging a blind date, so it was apt for her to be a big part of our ceremony. Mary read an excerpt from ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ by Louis de Bernieres about love being a temporary madness. It was my best friend’s favourite book- and she sadly passed away a few years ago so it was important for me to have this reading.
Beautiful Bridesmaids… I had three wonderful bridesmaids, my sister Jen, my best friend Chelley who I have known since I was two and my other best friend Clare, who I met at college. They were all such wonderful support through the whole process of planning a wedding. Jen was there anytime I asked, she helped in so many ways from the wording for order of service through to dress appointments. Chelley was an amazing calming influence. We are so similar that she knows how I need her to be in any situation and Clare is a crafting wizard and so enthusiastic. I really had a dream team of bridesmaids – they arranged the best hen do ever at Centre Parcs – it was all so perfect!
I found their dresses in Ted Baker. It was the perfect mint green and was easy to wear. I didn’t like the belt it came with so I found one in New Look for the bargain price of £5. It tied in with the diamante belt on my dress perfectly. They all chose their own shoes, make up style and hair style – I just wanted them to be comfortable on the day and they all looked ruddy gorgeous!
Hair and make up for the wedding was supplied by my lovely hairdresser Sarah Nash from The Chapel in Tunbridge Wells. I also found my makeup artist through them – Jodie as she looks after the make up for the Chapel. They did everyone’s hair and make-up exactly how they wanted it on the morning of the wedding and did a fab job of getting through everyone on time so we were ready to go!
The Flowers… Philippa Craddock did the flowers for the wedding, she is local to our venue and we went to her house where she has her studio to pick the arrangements. I knew I wanted Hydrangeas but wasn’t sure of anything else – Philippa took care of everything and it all came together beautifully. There were lots of hydrangeas, freesias, roses, dahlias, lisianthus. I had a bouquet, each bridesmaid carried white hydrangea posies, the wedding party had a button hole, both mums had a corsage, as did my nan. I had fresh flowers on my cake which looked amazing – but with such a hot day by the time we came to cut it they had wilted quite a bit – future brides bear this in mind!
The Food + Drink… The food was an important part of our day and luckily we had to book our venue through the caterers Circa, who cater exclusively for this venue. We knew of Circa from when they had run a restaurant in our local town Lewes, so knew their food was amazing! They also provided the wait and bar staff who were very helpful and proactive. Our guests loved the food and we have had so many nice comments on it all.
Canapes: Sussex Smoked Salmon Pancake with a Dill and Lemon Crème Fraiche, Goats cheese pizza, smoked chili Little Beef Burgers, Smokey Bacon, Mature Cheddar, Free Range Honey Sausages, German Mustard Dip, (V) Harvey’s Sussex Rarebit, Bookham Cheddar. Starter: Ham Hock Terrine, Sour Dough, Pickles. Veg starter: Veggie terrine. Main: Organic Chicken Breast, Mozzarella Belly, Pancetta Skin, Thyme Square Potatoes. Veg main: Same as above but replace chicken with a roasted butternut, aged feta and minted pea tartlet. Dessert: Eton Mess, Rippled Meringue, Summer Berries, Popping Dust. Children’s: Chicken Goujon and chips with beans (in a ramekin). Child dessert: Ice-cream sundae with chocolate brownie chunks. Evening food: Burger van.
The drinks were mostly provided by Circa but we choose all the wine and champagne. Gareth is a bit of a wine fanatic and he previously worked in the industry so it was important for him to choose these. He and my dad went to select it all and then Circa chilled and served it for us. We had a bit of a Loire Valley theme – Cremant de Loire for the reception outside and then with our dinner we had a Loire Valley Chardonnay for the white and a Loire Valley Gamay for the red. For the toasts, we had various champagnes on the tables.
The Cake… The cake came from Emma Drew at Cake Maison in Lewes – another local supplier. We met her at a local wedding fair and her cakes are amazing! Her cakes taste wonderful and look so pretty, the whole experience from booking the cake to the wedding was great. I went for the cake tasting with my mum and nan (my Nan’s favourite thing is cake!) and we agreed on three layers of cake (chocolate, Victoria sponge and lemon) and two dummy layers to give the cake height as the barn was large. The experience of choosing the cake with my nan will be something I will treasure forever.
Your Photographer… We booked Sara Reeve as soon as we had the venue and the date booked – this was one of the best decisions we made! I had conducted a lot of online research about the type of photos we wanted and as soon as I saw Sara’s work I knew I had to contact her. Gareth hates (this is an understatement, he absolutely loathes!) having his picture taken so it was difficult to even get him to look at Sara’s website to make sure he liked her photos! I booked to go and meet Sara at her house and dragged Gareth with me. As soon as we sat down at her kitchen table and had a chat I knew we had done the right thing booking Sara – Gareth chatted away and looked through all her albums and as soon as we got back into the car he said he was no longer nervous about the pictures and knew Sara would be perfect at capturing our day! We cannot recommend Sara enough – she was helpful at every step of the way providing ideas and reassurance. On the day itself it was like having an event planner on site as well as a photographer. She kept the day on track at the same time as taking the photos. I had shown Sara a picture created with sparklers and she got this to work for the wedding – one of my favourite memories of the day is standing in a dark field with Sara directing the very ‘merry’ best men who were running amuck with the sparklers!
The Details + Decor… Invites. We had bespoke invites and save the dates made – as this is everyone’s first introduction to the wedding we felt it was important to get this right. I pinned a lot of things I liked on Pinterest and then me and my mum sat for an afternoon jotting down our ideas before sending them to Greg, a friend of a friend who is a very talented graphic designer.
Guests arrival – there was an archway our guests walked through as they entered the field with our ceremony barn and reception barn. We decorated this with bunting made from hessian and red hearts – made by the grooms’ mum Gaynor – this was a last minute request from me to Gaynor and she came up with loads of bunting at very short notice! As you arrived at the other side of the arch we had a sign post with arrows pointing in various directions – Ceremony (towards the ceremony barn), Wine and Dine (towards the reception barn), Twickenham (as this is where Gareth and I have worked for a long time, plus both families are rugby mad), Hull (where the grooms’ family are from), and Happy Ever After. This sign was made by my dad and as well as looking amazing, each directional was geographically correct! Drinks were served to guests on arrival before they were asked to make their way to the ceremony barn. On the patio area by the main barn we had a sandwich board – one side had the rough timings of the day so guests knew what to expect and the other side had a warning for the parents (!) we had numerous parents leaving their children unattended by the sign in the hope of receiving a free kitten!
Transport – Gareth was in charge of transport and luckily he knows some very kind people who have some lovely cars that they were willing to drive us around in. Gareth arrived in an AC Cobra – this car looks fab and is incredibly noisy so everyone knew when he was arriving! The owner of the car also very bravely let Gareth drive it at the venue. Another lovely friend has a Bentley and did three trips to the Barn – one with the best men, one with the bridesmaids and mother of the bride and then finally with me and my dad – we took a more scenic route to enjoy the moment. This was a great moment with my dad but this is when the nerves really hit – our friend had put a bottle of champagne in the car but I couldn’t touch a drop!
Ceremony barn – we had two large flower arrangements by Philippa Craddock to flank either side of the barn. We lined the red carpet aisle with Sheppard’s crooks with jam jars filled with blue and white hydrangeas. We also provided everyone with a stripy bag of confetti to throw as we walked back up the aisle – we wanted this shot not to be staged and it worked perfectly as we were pelted with confetti as we walked back up the aisle towards the drinks reception at the other barn.
Bride’s arrival – the car drove across the field so we didn’t have to struggle our way across in heels – as we turned into the field I was very nervous and hadn’t fully appreciated what 170 guests would look like! At that moment my dad pointed across the field to my pony, Treacle. My dad had arranged for her to be there as a surprise. She now lives at a friend’s farm and they had dressed her up in the colours from the wedding. She was whinnying away at anyone who would listen to make sure we all knew she was there! This was one of the best moments of the day and my nerves disappeared. I got straight out of the car and went over to her to say hello as I hardly get to see her anymore.
Flower girls – I had three flower girls, our nieces Elodie, Romilly and Tamsyn. We wanted them to be comfortable so they each chose their own outfits and shoes and we gave them each a Sussex trug (a basket) full of petals to scatter. The petals were from my parents ‘garden, dried by my mum. I gave each flower girl a necklace with their initial engraved on it so they would have something to remember the day.
Ring bearer – our nephew Caelan was a super star and was our mini security guard. He wore a lovely suit and then had an ear piece and safe which contained our wedding bands! He looked ace!
Order of service – we attached these to fan sticks so that each person could keep cool at our outside ceremony. We gave each person an order of service – they also doubled up as a wasp swat, which was handy!
The reception barn – we had fairy lights wrapped around every pillar and uplighters against the back wall which were switched on for the dancing part of the evening to make the room look different – all provided by Reveries. Reveries also provided and rigged the lanterns all over the barn – they did a fantastic job and were very helpful coming up with ideas on what to do. They also provided the dance floor.
Hessian – we had more hessian in the barn – Gaynor had made hessian table runners for each table, plus more bunting for the barn door behind the top table, this looked great in the photos of the speeches.
Tables – our table theme was champagne and each table was named after a different one – then that champagne was on the table ready for the toasts – you had to find your champagne to find your table. We provided ice buckets as the centre pieces with two bottles of the relevant champagne in it (the top table was Taittinger ‘Comtes de Champagne’ which was the champagne Gareth and I drank the night we got engaged). Attached to each bucket was a posy of flowers by Philippa Craddock. The place settings were made by my mum from champagne wires. She crafted each one into a chair and then attached the person’s name to it. It took her months to make them all but the end result was spectacular and everyone loved them. Most of the guests have them displayed in their house somewhere now! We also had tea lights with floating candles and raffia wrapped round the top, stripy straws in blue and red, a flower on each ladies place setting (provided by our neighbours) and we also provided party bags for each kids place setting (these had colouring books, pencils, stickers and an ‘I spy’ list with a disposable camera in it). Our table plan was a map of the champagne region of France to tie in with the theme.
Photobooth – this provided hours of entertainment for everyone, especially those who didn’t want to dance. The photos from this are brilliant.
Sweetie table – I bought all the sweets and containers for this and I had a great time putting it all together! This was a big hit with the children (and the big kids!). Later in the evening we had a Krispy Kreme donut tower on request from the groom – this was also a huge hit!
Other details – we had flipflops by the dance floor, baskets in the toilets with essentials in (this was important as the venue was in the middle of a field so guests couldn’t pop out if they were missing anything) and taxi numbers on the bar so everyone could get home.
The Honeymoon… The honeymoon was at Palm Island in the Grenadines – it was an all-inclusive resort and we completely chilled out for 10 days. The highlight for us on this trip was seeing baby turtles hatch on the island and helping the hotel staff collect them up to release into the sea – truly a once in a life time experience!
Memorable Moments… The morning getting ready with my mum, sister and best friends. Arriving and seeing my pony. The speeches were great and emotional – I can’t wait to watch them back on the video when we get it. Standing in a field with Gareth and having the best men run around us with sparklers with Sara politely shouting at them!
Advice for Other Couples… Agree what bits of the wedding are important to you at the start and revert back when you don’t know what to do. Utilise the skills of those you know. Pick your battles – if there is something that is not that important to you and your partner/family have a strong opinion on – go with it. You’ll know what’s worth pushing for and what’s not! Find a good photographer!
Credit Where Credit is Due…
Venue and Catering | Circa Events
Dress | Isabella Grace
Photographer |Sara Reeve
Groom / Best Men Suits | Dress2Kill Bespoke
Flowers | Philippa Craddock
Cake | Cake Maison
Lighting / Dancefloor | Reveries
Honeymoon | Caribtours
Photobooth | Photo Booth Boutique
Videographer | Anya Krasnikova
DJ | Matt Maurice
Oh my oh my. Gorgeous.
Thanks so much to Sarah and Gareth for sharing their beautiful wedding with us today XOXO Lou