By Louise Baltruschat Hollis
Fun, relaxed and colourful. The sort of wedding we’d love to attend!
Siân and Matt
WWW readers Siân and Matt are joining us today with their joyful and relaxed multicolour wedding extravaganza held at Bonhams Barn in Hampshire on the 10th August 2019. They wanted to create a day which didn’t cost their guests too much and was the kind of day that they would enjoy attending, I really love this approach to wedding planning. It resulted in a really fun atmosphere with a lot of love poured into all aspects of their wedding celebrations.
They incorporated a loose literary theme into their decorations, with books used in the table plan, book mark favours and book pages on the cake creation. Talking of cakes Siân baked up an absolute storm baking three centrepiece cakes and a dessert table which looked sensational.
There is so much that I love about their day, from the DIY decorations to the home-grown flowers and all of the very stylish outfits (how gorgeous did Siân and Matt look?!). Not to mention the seriously beautiful images sent over to us by the brilliant Will Patrick, thanks so much for sharing them with us Will.
Matt had planned to propose over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in April 2018. Siân had planned to use the long weekend to complete DIY jobs around the home. The plan was to take Siân for a walk around Farnham Park, an area we have always enjoyed together. Easter Saturday was meant to be the proposal date as Matt had planned an evening meal at our favourite restaurant that night to celebrate. Siân, however, kept adding jobs to the list and refused to go for a walk so Matt gave up and had his own private celebration at the restaurant that evening, ordering champagne and steak. Easter Sunday arrived, which also coincided with April Fools Day. Matt FINALLY managed to drag Siân out for a walk (but only after she’d spent the morning making hot cross buns!) and at a quiet spot in the park, once we had shaken off a stray cyclist, Matt got down on one knee and asked Siân to marry him. Once Siân was content that it wasn’t just a cruel April Fool’s joke, she said yes!
The vision was to create a fun filled, relaxed day that wasn’t going to cost the earth for our closest family and friends to attend. We thought about what was most important to us, and that was to provide good food, good alcohol and great entertainment.
We chose to incorporate a literary theme, as this is a strong passion for both of us, as well as bringing lots of colour to the day. As Siân has always been very crafty (and Matt less so but willing to try), we wanted to be able to do as much as we could ourselves, while still enjoying the process and not putting us under too much pressure. We wanted the day to be filled with personal touches, lots of laughter and lots of colour!
We made sure to enjoy the planning process as much as possible. We gave ourselves 16 months to plan which meant that when some personal hurdles came along the way, it didn’t cause too much additional stress. We booked our venue, photographer and caterer in the first month or so, leaving more time to focus on the details. We also made sure to make the most of the experience including taking a weekend trip to France to buy the wine and attending a few local wedding fairs for inspiration (and a few freebies).
We began collecting wedding bits very early on and got our friends and family involved too. We knew we needed lots of wine corks for one of our craft projects, resulting in some of our family asking local restaurants to collect them! Everyone was so helpful in helping us to bring our crazy ideas together.
By planning our main priorities early on and making sure we used flexible suppliers for the key elements, we were able to take our time in deciding on the finer details, knowing the venue and caterers were happy and able to facilitate our developing ideas and plans. Black Canvas Weddings and Keeley’s Kitchen were perfect to allow us this freedom.
I found my Sassi Holford wedding dress in High Society bridal boutique in Cowbridge, South Wales. It was the sixth dress I tried on in the first boutique I visited. I knew I wanted an A line design to flatter my figure and this dress made me feel immediately comfortable. I fell in love with the simplistic design before even finding out that it was part of their sample sale! This ticked the final box and I bought the dress the same day. I was keen to add some straps, to make the dress a little more unique, and the wonderful team at Rhiannon J Ltd in Cardiff were able to bring my vision to life by adding delicate tulle straps to match the skirt. I teamed my dress with Rainbow Bridal shoes which were very comfortable on the day. I wore a freshwater pearl and crystal headband which was handmade by Jan Lewis in Bridgend, South Wales. My something borrowed was my sister-in-law’s Stephanie Allin veil which tied in well with the style of my dress. Having grown up in South Wales, I was keen to support local designers and businesses, and this also stretched to my wedding band which was handmade in Platinum by Dewi Griffiths Jewellers in Bridgend.
I decided to purchase my wedding suit, rather than hire which gave me more choice and meant I could wear it again for future occasions. I hate shopping so this was the bit I dreaded. Siân was heavily involved in the selection which came from Marks and Spencer’s Saville Row collection. I caused quite a stir in the changing rooms when a lot of the other female customers decided to offer opinions on the suit they preferred. It became a real group effort. I decided to team the royal blue suit with a grey waistcoat, brown belt and brown shoes, also all from Marks and Spencer. The fact that our initials are M&S made the final suit choice even more suitable. My tie was purchased through Etsy from Frederick Thomas and judging by the number of compliments, I think it was the best decision of the outfit.
We are so lucky to have such talented friends. One of whom played guitar and sung during our wedding ceremony. Neil performed Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol as Siân walked down the aisle (a nod to Gavin & Stacey as Matt is English and Siân is Welsh). Neil then played two further songs during the ceremony, and again as we walked back down the aisle. He even continued playing during the drinks reception. Neil is a very talented performer and it added such a personal touch to our day. We feel very lucky to have him as a friend and for all the hard work he put in.
We both have a brother and wanted them to each speak during the ceremony. Matt’s brother read a poem called ‘Marriage’ (anonymous) and Siân’s brother made a short speech about us. They both spoke extremely well, and this made the ceremony even more personal with some funny memories shared.
We knew we wanted a live band for the evening’s dancing and so found The Premonitions through an online agency. We were instantly impressed by their live recorded promotional videos and felt their music taste suited us perfectly. We requested all the songs in advance from their repertoire which resulted in a constantly full dancefloor (which to us is the biggest compliment!). They created a brilliantly upbeat atmosphere and made the evening so much fun.
We always wanted our day to be filled with live music and no one disappointed.
We quickly realised the price of weddings and came up with what we felt was a realistic budget early on. And we are proud to say that we came in just under budget! Using our talented friends and family to the max meant we were able to have the personal day we wanted, while keeping everything sensible. Siân loves to be creative, so she didn’t need much encouragement to make almost everything herself. This brought hours of joy (plus a few stresses) but made our day so individual while still being cost effective. The majority of our budget was spent on the most important areas for us which were the venue, the food, the drink and the entertainment. We were then able to compromise on other areas that were less important to us.
We didn’t want our guests to have to worry about dipping into their wallets at our wedding, so we decided to have an open bar. We travelled to France to buy all the wine and Champagne, sourced beer from a local brewery and bought spirits and soft drinks from supermarkets as and when we found good offers. We still wanted our guests to have the opportunity to give a little back, so we included an honesty box on the bar and split the donations between two charities that mean a lot to us; Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice in South Wales and St Mungo’s. It felt very special to contribute a generous sum to charity after enjoying our special day.
The lovely Claire Hayes Make Up was responsible for the bridal party’s hair. Considering the gale force winds on our wedding day, she did a wonderful job. Our hair stayed in all day which was some miracle in all that wind! Extra hold hairspray was applied to the max!
A very special friend, Emma, who runs Emma At Home beauty salon in Haslemere, kindly agreed to do my make up on the big day. She was also responsible for many pre wedding beauty treatments including manicures and pedicures for the bridal party. It was wonderful to have a friend there on the morning of the wedding to join in with the giggles and celebrations. She did a fantastic job applying the Bobbi Brown make up I had bought beforehand. She even managed to keep me calm when we couldn’t find my new lipstick bought especially for the big day, resulting in a frantic search to no avail. Instead, we quickly found another lipstick that would do the job and the whole look came together. She made me feel like a million bucks and judging by Matt’s reaction, I think he liked it too.
We wanted a relaxed, private venue that could accommodate our guests comfortably in a natural environment. We eventually stumbled on a rustic barn in Hampshire through Blank Canvas Weddings, who expertly matched our requirements to the right venue for our needs. The Barn offered the privacy we wanted with beautiful fields surrounding it. The venue ticked all the boxes for our relaxed day.
The team at Blank Canvas were incredibly friendly, informative, and professional which went a long way to put our minds at ease over booking. Nothing was too much trouble and they gave us the freedom to explore our own ideas. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. They manage several venues around Surrey and Hampshire to suit all wedding styles and sizes.
The venue was perfect for us as it was a complete blank canvas (as the name would suggest), allowing us the flexibility we wanted. We could pick everything from the caterer, furniture, decorations and to top it off there was no corkage fee! What more could we ask for? We had access to the venue from Thursday afternoon until Sunday, which gave us plenty of time to decorate the barn ourselves, along with friends and family. It was great bonding time for everyone too! We are still so grateful to all those who helped us with the set up.
Our vision was Summer meadow wildflowers packed with colour. We are very lucky as Siân’s mum is an extremely talented gardener, so we set her the challenge of growing all the wedding flowers to decorate the venue. She did an incredible job growing cosmos, dahlias, marigolds, daisies, sweet peas and hydrangeas. We added fresh herbs and foliage, like rosemary and lavender, for their wonderful scents. We picked some of the flowers to fill our table centrepieces while the rest stayed in big planters dotted around the barn. We also used hydrangea heads to line the aisle.
She also created the most beautiful driftwood arch with wildflowers growing up it. Siân’s family gathered driftwood from Welsh beaches which brought another piece of home to the day. We used this as a focal point for the wedding ceremony and we were so pleased with how it turned out. We are so grateful for all the hard work Siân’s mum put into growing the flowers. It added such a personal touch to the day and fitted with our vision perfectly. Not to mention she had to hire and drive a van to transport all the flowers from Bridgend to Farnham! Both our mums put a lot of work into styling the flowers on the day – they did such a great job!
Our bouquets and buttonholes were created by Classical Floral Designs in Farnham. We used seasonal flowers like dahlias, billy buttons, daisies and lavender to compliment the venue flowers and tie in with our wild meadow theme. We supplied long lengths of ribbon in different colours for the bridal bouquet and each individual bridesmaid’s colour. We loved how the bright colours made our outfits pop.
From the start of the planning process we decided the food was one of our key priorities. We were recommended Keeley’s Kitchen, who are based in Farnham, by Blank Canvas Weddings. As soon as we met Joe Keeley, we knew he was the man for the job. We were completely convinced after our personal tasting session where we finalised the menu choices. Absolutely nothing was too much trouble and he answered all our questions with detail and confidence. He was more than happy for us to supply what we wanted, but he was also there to step in when we needed extra help! We hired all the tables, chairs, the bar, the fridges (for the drinks and desserts), crockery and glassware through Keeley’s Kitchen which made life so much easier.
We wanted a relaxed, informal meal for our guests, so we decided on roast lamb (it had to be lamb with Siân being Welsh) with roasted new potatoes and a fresh pea and feta salad. The lamb was served to each table on wooden platters and we designated someone from each table to carve. We have some great memories of our guests in aprons and chef’s hats carving away!
Our evening food was macaroni and cheese! It tasted amazing and went down brilliantly with our guests. Just the right comfort food to give everyone an energy boost to keep on dancing.
Keeley’s Kitchen did a fantastic job; from following us with a platter of canapes, so we didn’t miss out during our couple photos, to securing the marquee when the gale force winds tried to blow it away. Joe provided us with so much guidance from his vast experience and he always responded to every request with a ‘can do’ attitude no matter how big or small it was. We would highly recommend Keeley’s Kitchen to anyone. We had so many compliments on the food from our guests – everything was such a hit!
Being an avid cake maker and having been involved in making so many incredible wedding cakes for brides and grooms over the years, one thing Siân was sure she wanted to do was make our wedding cake herself. Although I thought this was a crazy decision because I didn’t want her to stress, she was insistent – and I’m so pleased she was as she did a brilliant job.
Having made so many intricate wedding cakes in the past, I knew I wanted a simple design that I could make without too much stress and be able to style the day before the wedding. There was no way I was stacking my wedding cake the morning of the wedding!
We didn’t want to go for a traditional 3 or 4 tiered design, so instead opted for a 2 tier cake with 2 separate individual cakes that complimented the design. They were all different flavours and we served this as part of the dessert. I used wafer paper and stencils to create the look of pages from a book (in keeping with our literary theme) and used dried flowers to add colour and texture. I topped the cake with a personalised heart shaped topper that had the word ‘cariad’ etched in it (which means love in Welsh).
Instead of just stopping at the wedding cake, I then made the crazy decision to make the entire dessert table. We bought a small second-hand chest freezer (which lived in the bathroom of our apartment) and I baked during any spare time I had. I thought carefully about what desserts would freeze well and saved the fresh desserts, like the lemon posset, to make the day before the wedding.
I was also very grateful that some of my amazing bridesmaids contributed Welsh cakes, bara brith (a welsh fruit and tea loaf), cheesecakes and cookies to join my brownies, macarons, fudge, shortbread and meringue nests. Not to mention the homemade caramel popcorn, marshmallows, honeycomb and salted caramel that also joined the table.
I styled the dessert table myself the day before. We wrote individual chalk boards, so people knew what everything was. We gathered wooden crates, cake stands and baskets to create different heights. After the main course, we cut the cake and then everyone came up to help themselves. Nothing gave us more pleasure than seeing our guests carrying overflowing plates of baked goods back to their tables. We had so many compliments. Our guests loved the variety and commented on how different it was. We left the dessert table accessible so everyone could enjoy sweet treats throughout the evening.
Just about every decoration was homemade. Starting with the invitations. Siân hand drew and painted the design for our invites. We took the design to a printing company who were then able to scan her artwork onto the invitations before printing in bulk. We were really pleased with the result as they felt so unique and personal.
We didn’t want our wedding to match perfectly, but rather have everything complement and add to the informal, colourful vibe we wanted to achieve.
It was important for us to try and be as sustainable as possible, so re-using and recycling materials was essential. We had our family and friends collect glass bottles, jam jars and wine corks to help bring our ideas to life. We used the wine corks to make large light up letters of our initials which decorated the dancefloor. The glass bottles were used as centrepieces on each table and were filled with homegrown flowers and foliage. We turned the jam jars into drinking glasses for the reception cocktails complete with paper straws and a customised Siân & Matt sticker. In the interest of nothing going to waste, we even turned our leftover wedding invitations into fans for people to use on the wedding day if it got too warm. They were popping up on the dancefloor and helped to keep me cool in my wedding dress.
We picked rustic wooden trestle tables to fit with the barn’s style. We didn’t want the formality of white table clothes, but still wanted to bring softness to the tables with colour and décor. We ended up hand tie-dying the cotton napkins in six different colours, as we didn’t just want plain white. They turned out great and we loved that every napkin was unique. Nestled inside the napkins were the handmade and hand painted favours which doubled as table name place cards. These were personalised books marks with each guest’s name on the front and a thank you message on the reverse.
As the wedding had a literary theme, we collected lots of old second-hand books by our favourite authors, mostly from Farnham Oxfam book shop, to use for the tables and table plan. Each table was named after a favourite book. We framed the front cover of each of these books so people could find their place. The table plan came about after finding two vintage wooden ladders in a grandparent’s house. We sanded them back, oiled them up and filled the steps with hardback books. Bookmarks with the name of each table and listing who was sitting there, poked out of the books.
I made loads of giant colourful paper flowers that filled the staircase, gallery and walls in the barn. I also made paper confetti from the paper scraps, so nothing went to waste. I even made a photobooth backdrop out of pom poms and colourful paper. These were great ways to brighten up the walls and continue the colourful mis-match look.
All the stationery for the day followed the same style. I love abstract art, so we went with a multi-coloured paint splatter design on white for our signage, the bookmarks, our vow cards and even on the handmade popcorn boxes we used during the drink reception. It was remarkable when we found the paint splatter tie on Etsy that Matt wore on the day! So many guests asked me if I’d made that too as it fitted the theme perfectly.
We wanted our Best Man, Dads and Ushers to wear something they would be comfortable in and we weren’t concerned with everyone matching. We therefore asked our wedding party to buy a suit in navy blue, but otherwise left the style and fabric choice up to them. We supplied Frederick Thomas linen ties in 5 different colours so that everyone coordinated without being matchy-matchy.
I had 5 bridesmaids that all live in different parts of the UK so getting everyone together for dress shopping was always going to be tricky. Unplanned, my mum and I were shopping in Marks and Spencer, the same week as finding my wedding dress, and we just happened to stumble on some beautiful summer dresses. We were in an outlet store and by some miracle they had all my bridesmaid’s sizes! I tried the dress on in the fitting rooms and sent them all a photo, they all loved the style, so I bought them there and then. I loved the mid length, detailed bodice and spaghetti straps and to top it off the dresses were incredible value for money! The dresses worked even more perfectly as two of my bridesmaids had new babies and another was pregnant, so the flattering design made them all feel comfortable. The soft, dove grey shade gave a lovely backdrop to our bright colour schemes.
To finish the look, I asked my bridesmaids to each wear a different colour sandal which added to the informal mis-match theme of the day. I also handmade colourful paper flower hairpieces for each of them to wear.
My bridesmaids are all beautiful individuals so I had no doubt they would look stunning, but I was so pleased to see them all dressed and standing by my side on our big day.
The wonderful Will Patrick was our wedding photographer. We met Will back in May 2018 and instantly hit it off. On the day, Will worked tirelessly to capture all our special moments. His great sense of humour gelled with us and we had so many compliments from our guests about his professional yet fun approach. We aren’t the most comfortable in front of the camera, but Will helped put us at ease and the result was relaxed, natural photos. A lot of photographers leave after the first dance, but not Will. He stayed till the very end and as a result we have some brilliant photos from the dancefloor and he nailed our sparkler send off. We are so grateful for his hard work in capturing all our special memories from the day and all the great advice he offered beforehand. We quickly received a highlights reel and not long after the full set of photos on a USB and access through to an online gallery. Choosing which photos to print is proving the trickiest part. Will is worthy of our highest recommendation.
Simon Huntley created our wedding videos. Simon was a great person to have around us on the day. He was the perfect fly on the wall – capturing all our favourite people and special moments together. He was so inconspicuous that a lot of our guests didn’t even realise we had a videographer! We asked for a very natural film, without too much soppiness and that’s exactly what Simon created, providing us with several different length videos. He was even brave enough to fly his drone in the previously mentioned gale force winds in order to get amazing footage of the venue. We are so pleased with the finished films and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Simon to others.
We had a wonderful mini moon in Cornwall straight after the wedding. Siân left all the organising up to Matt which meant lots of lovely surprises along the way. The Great British weather wasn’t on our side, but it didn’t matter. One of the highlights for both of us was visiting Paul Ainsworth’s No. 6 restaurant in Padstow. So much incredible food! We plan to have a honeymoon abroad sometime soon once the world calms down a little. Our current dream destination is Sri Lanka!
There are so many to choose from but one of our most memorable moments was the ceremony. We decided early on that we wanted to make this as personal as possible. Our wedding venue isn’t licensed for civil ceremonies, so we had our legal registry office wedding a few days before the main event. Only our immediate family and bridal party were invited so it ended up being a very special and intimate day.
Getting the legal bit out of the way early meant we could ask one of our very good friends to ‘marry’ us on the day of our wedding. Our friend Ant did an incredible job. He was largely responsible for us meeting and getting together, so there was no one better suited for the role of celebrant. We wrote our own vows, picked personal songs, performed a traditional Celtic hand fasting ceremony and included lots of funny stories and memories along the way. It was perfect! So many of our guests said that it was so personal and how much they enjoyed it.
Think about what’s most important on your big day. Is it having loads of guests? Great food? Amazing flowers? The best cake? Decide on your key areas and prioritise your time and budget to these before moving down the list. That way, for example, you won’t run out of money before you try and book your favourite band because you overspent on the flowers.
Next, think about how you can include your family and friends in your big day. Play to their strengths. Ask a crafty friend to help make decorations or a keen musician to play something during your ceremony. Friends and family are usually really touched to be included and the result makes for such a personal day.
And finally, appreciate your suppliers and the work they do. Lots of people who are not used to buying elaborate cakes or hiring a professional photographer are often taken aback by the cost, but please recognise their time is valuable. If you receive a quote from a business that doesn’t fit your budget, always remember to be polite and respond. Small businesses appreciate every order or booking and put a lot of effort into quoting for couples, so kindness goes a long way.
Blank Canvas Weddings
Caterer & Table/Chair/Bar Hire
Wedding Cake, Dessert Table, Stationery & Wedding Signage
Made by Sian
Ceremony & Reception Music
Rhiannon J Ltd
Claire Hayes Make Up Artist
Make Up Artist
Emma at Home
Bridesmaid Dresses & Groom’s Suit
Marks and Spencer
Groom & Wedding Party Ties
Bouquets & Buttonholes
Classical Floral Designs (now closed)
Oh so stunning, what a beautiful summers day too.
Siân and Matt thank you so very much for sharing your really wonderful wedding story with us xo Lou
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