A Timeless & Meaningful Wedding

summer wedding

You may remember Helen and James from their stunning engagement shoot i featured back in October, ekkk! Helen and James were married at Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire. They decided to have a relaxed attitude to wedding planning, with no theme or stress.

They kept things simple, choosing personal, meaningful elements to their wedding. Helen chose to have a bouquet made from brooches that belonged to her Nan and used antique books on the tables that once Helen’s Grandad’s. Which is such a lovely way to remember loved ones on your wedding day. I love the simple and pretty decor for the opulent setting, Helen’s stunning lace gown and that corkboard guest book. Beautiful.

Thanks so much to the brilliant Rhys Wheatley for sharing his photography with us today.


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Names….Helen and James

Wedding Date….25th August 2012

The Proposal….A magical Marrakech (almost) mile-high proposal. After 11 amazing years together James surprised me with a whispered proposal during a dawn hot air balloon ride in the Atlas mountains. Just perfect.   He seemed surprised that I hadn’t anticipated him asking but once we had passed the decade mark I had to stop expecting (but never hoping) for him to ask me to be his wife. When he did, I was speechless – except for one word, ‘absolutely’.

The Planning process….We were determined not to become ‘that’ couple who only seem able to talk about their Big Day – for us all the days after our wedding are just as important. Colour of napkins, tablecentres, matching shoes – those were the details that didn’t matter to us. Focusing on the big picture – people, place and making it personal – kept us sane and focused … and enabled us to have some fun! There really were no stressful moments during the planning process. I’m known as Miss (now Mrs) Organised Fun and my husband is a great designer so we decided to put our skills to good use to give the day a fabulous feel without breaking the budget.

The Venue…Despite being known for being incredibly indecisive, our venue, Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire, was the only place we visited. Neither of us wanted to have a tick-box, predictable wedding and had therefore dismissed anything vaguely stately home related. But Stoneleigh Abbey was just glorious. From the trees planted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert guarding the driveway, to the resident ghost and Jane Austin’s novel writing it had all the history and character we wanted without being suffocated by it. The room that we were married in, the Saloon, sealed the deal for us both. Intimate, inviting and gloriously Georgian it immediately felt like the place we would say our vows … and boy did we! With the world’s best wedding coordinator (Sharon Lawrence), the most informal formal space we could ever want and a big-ass barn for night time shenanigans I can’t imagine that anywhere could have been better for us.

Finding the dress….I was determined to hire, rather than buy, a dress but to no avail…. After a few eventful trips to visit hire shops (a particularly memorable occasion involved parking up at a slightly scary Stoke on Trent estate and being forced into Princess Di-esque and hand-made monstrosities in a box room in someone’s house!) I then trawled the internet for a special second-hand number. BUT … that was never to be as I fell in love with a lovely lace, Pronovias, number on a trip down to London. We, naively, planned a day trip to beautiful bridal shops ‘just to try on the dresses we could never afford’ and, of course, the rest is history (thanks to some help from some special family members). I never thought I would be the kind of girl to fall for a dress but, in truth, when I put it on it was the best I had ever felt …

Groom’s attire…The Groom was a vision in charcoal grey tails … dreamy!

The Readings + Music….The readings and music were such an important element for us. I walked down the aisle with my marvellous mum to an acoustic version of our favourite song, Sweet Disposition by the Temper Trap,  sung by a fabulous local artist, Calvin Santana Vaz. We signed our wedding contract to Higher Love (Vincent Mcmorrow) and left the ceremony to Time of Your Life by Green Day (and a couple of High Fives!) Our readings, delivered so beautifully by close friends, were one of the highlights of the day for me. Happiness in Marriage (a piece from 1928) and Union by Robert Fulgham were both really heartfelt and a little different but my favourite reading was Atlas by U A Fanthorpe. I edited the poem so that it was all personal to us, complete with references to well-worn dressing gowns, electric blankets and Fish and Chip Friday!

Beautiful bridesmaids…..Our bridesmaids looked absolutely beautiful. Both my sister and best friend from University rocked an amazing 50s style high necked dress in a cornflower blue satin – elegant and every inch the special ladies of the day.

The Flowers…Whilst I love flowers I couldn’t justify the cost – and decided instead to do things a little differently. My nan, who I love dearly, passed away a few years ago and so, to ensure that she was a part of our day, my bouquet was made entirely from her brooches (including one with a picture of my Nan and Grandad on their wedding day). To make it even more special the bouquet was hand-made my oldest  friend, artist Heather Gilberthorpe. A truly beautiful, lasting and personal momento from the day which received so many compliments and now graces our fireplace – making me smile every day.

The table-centres were false blue hydrangers, in piccalilli jars filled with cat litter (!) – which I’m told looked far more attractive than they sound! We placed them on antique books from my other Grandad who passed away a few years ago – so I felt as though my wonderful grandparents were with us on the day.

The Cake…We were pretty cake-ambivalent but opted for home-made cupcakes with rice paper toppers of our faces as youngsters. Cheap, cheerful and adding a little bit of comedy with our 1980s haircuts!

Your Photographer….Our photographer, Rhys Wheatley, was exceptionally good. As a photo-phobe I was really quite nervous about having my photo taken. The pre wedding shoot, larking around in a field full of sheep, really helped to calm my nerves and we realised that being relaxed and ourselves was the best (and only) option. Rhys was half magician half ninja, capturing fantastic images without staging shots or interfering with the flow of the day – and great value too – we would recommend him wholeheartedly. A huge thank you to Rhys who, despite my inability to look ‘whimsical’, took images that made me feel the most beautiful I have ever felt.

The Details + Decor….We didn’t want the day or the décor to feel overly ‘done’. Nor did we intend to have a theme for the wedding but somehow the iconic penguin book design filtered through our invitations, table plans and favours. We loved the vibrant colours, playful feel and nod to the past that this provided – a touch of the retro without it feeling as though the somewhat generic ‘vintage bomb’ had exploded at our venue! Some of our favourite elements were high on creativity and low on cost … we used library cards with a date stamp as table names, created a Morton and Marsh quiz to encourage friends and family to get to know each other better (and laugh at our expense) and sign-posted the venue with a personalised estate agents board, in keeping with the penguin theme. Personal touches; my grandfathers books, my Nan’s brooches and borrowing some wonderful items from generous friends helped to add a unique feel to the day.

The Honeymoon….The generosity of our family and friends truly shocked us. Their gifts have enabled us to book a trip of a lifetime to our favourite dive destination – the Maldives. We have plenty of thank you toasts to make so will be raising glasses and flippers throughout our honeymoon.

Memorable moments…Where to begin … realising that, for the first, and perhaps only, time in our lives that almost everyone we love was in one room (and later busting their moves together on the dancefloor), the drama of thunder and lightening making way for slithers of perfectly timed sunshine, gorgeous tear-jerking readings, taking over the dancefloor with an inpromptu Hen performance of ‘if you like it then you should have put a ring on it’, a surprise and super fireworks display (thanks mama-in-law), wonderful speeches from my sister and husband, casual cocktails at 2am in the morning, polaroid corner, so much love and laughter, but most memorable and most wonderful, walking down the aisle to see my marvellous man waiting for me.

Advice for other couples…Focus on the big picture. If the details matter to you both then let them matter but if they don’t, push back on expectations and create a day that reflects you and yours. Ultimately it’s a boy and a girl and a whole lot of love – nothing beats the feeling of saying your special vows to your special person so focus on that and you can’t go too far wrong.

Credit where credit is due…

Venue: Stoneleigh Abbey – www.stoneleighabbey.org

Catering and Coordinator: Amadeus – www.amadeusfood.co.uk

Photographer: Rhys Wheatley – www.rhysphotograph.me

Dress: Pronovias from Eternal Bride Warwick  – www.eternalbride.com

Brooch bouquet: Heather Gilberthorpe – www.folksy.com/shops/byunionstreet

Singer: Calvin Santana Vaz


Oh wow, thanks so much to Helen and James for sharing their gorgeous wedding with us today XOXO Lou

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