WWW readers Holly and Darren’s wedding was a colourful and individual affair with so many wonderful details that Holly created herself. The pair wed on 2nd September 2017 and followed their church ceremony with a reception at the completely unique Fawley Hill, surrounded by vintage signs, railway paraphernalia and of course a whole lot of love and laughter.
Doesn’t Holly look gorgeous in her Maggie Sottero gown? It was actually the first one she tried (though she did look elsewhere before going back to it!). Her talented bridesmaid customised the dress to give the illusion of sleeves and it works just perfectly. Dapper groom Darren wore a three piece suit from Gibson London and the beautiful bridesmaids wore wonderfully colourful bespoke 50s dresses.
The railway museum at their venue provided a brilliant backdrop for their eclectic décor, with nods to Darren’s South African heritage including plenty of wildlife. Speaking of animals, you simply must see the fantastic cake! Holly also has some sage advice for all of you out there planning your own weddings, do take note!
The fabulous images we have for you today come courtesy of the brilliant Joe Mallen Photography, hasn’t he captured the vibrancy of the day just perfectly?
THE PROPOSAL | Darren proposed to me on traditional bended knee in May 2016, in front of about 120 friends and family in the garden when we were hosting my festival themed 30th birthday party ‘Hollyfest’! I thought he had been acting strangely in the lead up to the party but I had no idea what he was planning, my parents knew and a couple of close friends, but not the when and how! Darren is not used to speaking in front of a lot of people and he said ‘his body took over’ when it came to the proposal. It was amazing that so many of our friends and family could witness such a special moment, rising cheers and tears certainly made it a very unforgettable occasion for both of us.
THE VISION | Colourful, summery, English country village, vintage wedding with elements of South Africa too. Bright colours were always going to feature as I love colour especially pink from my textile student days and Darren’s favourite is day glo green, which did not make an appearance in the end, sadly despite the intention of the groom for day glo green socks!
We were keen to tie our UK and South African heritage together and we did this through our choice of flowers, wedding stationary and reception décor.
We chose to have our ceremony in the local C of E church I was christened in. We know many people in the local community so the wedding was to be a real village affair.
We wanted a reception venue that was original and unique and early reception venue choices were discounted on size when the guest list grew, so we looked for somewhere no one had been to before, but local with an outdoors element that also had facilities to cope with inclement weather, and we wanted complete freedom to have our day how we wanted it, as we shied away from a ‘package’ wedding or hotel venue.
From the moment we were introduced to Lord and Lady McAlpine at Fawley Hill and they showed us around their amazing place it just felt right and we knew what we needed to plan for. My Dad then admitted to thinking of the venue right at the beginning but kept the idea to himself because he thought we would not like it….
THE PLANNING PROCESS | 18 months. Pinterest, Etsy, eBay, Charity shops and lots of family meetings with my parents, Darren and the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen.
We are very lucky to have a number of very creative and talented friends, parents and other family members who helped with the wedding, so we called on them to gift us with their talents! My Mum runs a creative embroidery business and my Dad is a letter carver in wood , two of the Bridesmaids and my Aunt are trained costume makers, a number of friends in our local theatre group, The Lane End Players helped with lighting , sewing, decorations, flowers and make up.
I had a very strong vision of what I wanted and Darren had certain ideas of his own. Whenever I got stuck, I would go to him with the issues and we would chat through the options until we reached a solution we both wanted. Nearer the time I often sat with my bridesmaids for hours talking over the tiniest of details of how the day would run (how is this person getting there, who will deliver that bag, is this song appropriate for the playlist etc), their ongoing support made the process very smooth and enjoyable and fun.
We also enlisted the help of my friend and wedding planner Amy Ward who provided us with valuable contributions for on the day wedding co-ordination and great planning tools for ‘wedmin’ (spreadsheets, planning sheets, running orders etc). Her wedding planning spreadsheet was my life for 18 months!
With a practical team behind to help, bringing their ideas to the table with creative and value for money solutions, certainly shaped the final outcome for the big day with a need to adapt because of some unexpected surprises that arose.
I enjoyed the planning process very much, especially collecting items for the wedding, but I have now realised how utterly consuming it was, now it is over!
BUDGET | Not ridiculous, but more than originally planned!
THE VENUE | Ceremony, Holy Trinity Church, Lane End, Bucks. A lovely traditional brick and flint church set on the common, complete with choir, bellringing and all the works. Despite being currently without a resident vicar, we sought out the Rev Peter Wainwright to officiate our wedding.
Reception, Fawley Hill, near Henley on Thames, Bucks. Fawley Hill is a very unique venue that has been described as being twinned with Narnia and Middle Earth! We chose to use the station for the reception and hold the wedding breakfast and evening party in the station museum, but there are options for a woodland wedding or festival wedding there also.
After the church ceremony, guests were invited to relax in the station courtyard and explore on the luxurious Great Eastern No. 1 carriage that had been drawn into the station for our event. Guests also got to ride on the colourful carousel, spot the various species of animal that live and roam at Fawley Hill as well as admire the wonderful collection of artefacts and retro advertising in every corner of the venue.
We had two days’ full access to the venue before the wedding which was much appreciated (and needed). They provided all our tables and chairs which was a plus, but everything else was hired in.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | My dress was ‘Poppy’ by Maggie Sottero which is an ivory and blush/shell pink full skirted dress with a lace bodice and sweetheart neckline. The dress was originally strapless but my talented cousin (and bridesmaid) Caroline made a sleeved lace illusion top with fabrics we sourced together on a trip to Shepherd’s Bush market and made adjustments to the fit that was required.
My Veil was a real bargain find in BHS (just before it closed for good). Somehow it got lost at the venue on the big day never to be seen again. I am still wondering where it could be now!
Shoes were Rachel Simpson ‘Hermione’. Very comfortable, but I still ended up barefoot by about 9pm! My sparkly wedding trainers my Mum bought for me to dance in, got mislaid somewhere on the way to the reception!
My jewellery was pearl and rose gold earrings and matching bracelet from Sophiabeau from Etsy.com
My garter was blue and ivory flowers with pearls from Etsy which I adapted to suit my style by using a second plain lace garter. My Dad put a silver sixpence in my shoe for luck and I carried my Grandma’s wedding ring as my something old. My good friend Pip (who also did mine and my Mum’s wedding make up) lent me her own wedding tiara as my ‘something borrowed’. Caroline also secretly stitched inside my wedding dress an embroidered Holly Blue butterfly made by Mum and as featured on all the wedding invitations.
FINDING THE DRESS | The dress was actually the first one I tried on (I did try others but went back to this one!). It was from The Bridal House in High Wycombe, Bucks.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Darren wore a three piece blue herringbone lightweight tweed suit from Gibson London. He sourced his wedding shirt from his favourite clothing company in South Africa, Holmes Brothers. His tie and pocket square were from Tierack, he wore rose gold cufflinks from ASOS and his shoes were from River Island. The groomsmen, my father and page boy Justin wore matching tweed waistcoats and trousers, white shirts and shot silk ties with pink and turquoise highlights.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | We chose the Song of Solomon 2.10-13; 8.6,7 for the religious reading read by our friend Kate and an extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin read by my cousin Sarah.
The Bridal party entered to The Bridal Chorus by Wagner (Here Comes the Bride) and the recessional was Glenn Miller ‘In the Mood’ to get everyone dancing down the aisle when we left the church!
We are also very lucky to have some great musical talent in the family my Uncle Martin did an acoustic guitar rendition with Cousin Caroline singing Adele’s ‘Feel my Love’ and The Beatles ‘Here Comes the Sun’ during the signing of the register. It was lovely.
Music also featured on the printed confetti cones, with the inside tinted pink with
‘I love a lassie’ and Grieg`s ‘Wedding Day in Troldhaugen’ on the outside, all tied with a ribbon and contained natural rose petals.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | Alison, Sophie, Lisa, Caroline, Sacha and Celeste had short 1950’s style, bespoke dresses designed and made by my mum, aunt and cousin, initially based on a vintage 1950’s Vogue pattern. I wanted 50s style polka dots so we chose to layer a cream lace polka dot fabric over a bright turquoise satin to give a more interesting effect with contrasting pink accents to neckbands and waist.
Each of the girls had their dress customised to their preference, some with sleeves some without, the dresses were finished with big colourful petticoats underneath and colour popping embroidery that was designed, originated and machine embroidered by my Mum and was based on the watercolour she had done of flowers for the wedding stationery.
I gifted each bridesmaid with rose gold and pearl earrings, a pearl bracelet which they received on the morning of the wedding. They all wore their own pearl necklaces and bright pink or turquoise shoes. The youngest bridesmaid Celeste wore a flower crown made of rosemary and snowberries.
I was so pleased with how they looked, so beautiful, colourful and joyful.
My Dad, not normally into writing poems , was inspired to write of the bridesmaids as ‘embroidered girls in lace and laughter’ .
THE FLOWERS | The bridal party’s flowers and church flowers included the Protea which is the national flower of South Africa as well as English Roses. The wedding invites and stationary also incorporated these in the design to reflect our backgrounds.
We sourced our flowers from a flower farm in Oxfordshire called Green and Gorgeous. It was perfect for us because they specialise in a DIY service as well as a doing the finer details for you where needed.
All the flowers were grown on the farm (apart from the Protea) and it was such fun selecting the blooms we liked, from the poly tunnels and fields on a baking hot day a few days before the wedding. Rachel from Green and Gorgeous arranged the bouquets and buttonholes which were delivered to us the morning of the wedding.
They have a signature style called ‘just gathered’ which meant the bouquets were unstructured and fluid, they also hand die silk with plants to make the ribbons to wrap the flowers. The scent of the roses was heavenly. I am really glad we chose them.
We opted for the Buckets and Bouquets service for DIY which saved us some money as we arranged our own flowers into over 30 vintage tins for the Museum venue.
Darren and I collected them early, the smell in the van was just gorgeous. Mum had collected some extra greenery from the garden. It took all day to arrange them for the tables and also floral letters H & D for the open end of the GEN 1 carriage which was going to be a good place for photographs.
We also brought with us about eight big garden planters of flowers from home to dot around the platform and museum, adding to some that were already there.
For the church flowers, we were gifted these by another talented Aunt who does her local church flowers. She sourced them from Norfolk and spent three days before the wedding decorating the church with flowers in bright hues. We had a gorgeous floral arch over the main doorway as well as large displays inside the church. They lasted about two weeks and were well admired by the villagers and visitors to the church.
THE CAKE | We opted for a three tier semi naked sponge cake with white chocolate drizzle drip decorated, pink and white meringues and bright flowers. We chose Ruth from The Makery Bakery in High Wycombe who was amazing and understood exactly what we wanted. We opted for lemon drizzle and vanilla/raspberry buttercream for the two flavours.
The cake topper consisted of two Springboks which are the national animal of South Africa and they tied in with our table plans/safari theme. There was some left over (thankfully as I didn’t get a slice on the wedding day), so we got to eat delicious cake after the wedding and to share it with friends and family like my 92 year old Granny who was unable to come, she was also skyped a short photo link via her carer and my cousin from outside the church.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Joe Mallen was our photographer. We discovered him on Facebook and instantly liked all his pictures. We could not be happier with the results of our photographs. They are artistic, colourful, magical, happy and natural.
From the moment he turned up at my parents’ house where we were getting ready, he got on with the job in hand, was unobtrusive, creative, very friendly and totally focussed.
Guests and friends who have seen the wedding pictures have said they are some of best they have ever seen. He captured the essence of the day perfectly.
We also opted to have an engagement shoot with him a few weeks before the wedding. The weather could not have been more different to our wedding day and we ended up with some wonderful dark and stormy photos that compared nicely with the bright colours of the wedding! It really helped having the engagement shoot as we got to know Joe and felt much more relaxed on the wedding day when it came to photos.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | I wanted the whole bridal party to get ready together at my parents’ house which is less than a mile from the church. However it is a small cottage with low ceilings and not really enough room for eight ladies to get ready!
My parents came up with the idea of putting a marquee in the garden as our beauty boudoir and it worked really well. We borrowed the marquee from a friend and then Mum, Dad and Darren carpeted it, put in partitions to make changing rooms, put up shelves and rails for the robes and dresses and all our things and then set up 3 hair and makeup stations.
Mum had made us all personalised robes to wear, the bridesmaids had floral pink ones and I had to my surprise, a robe made in the same style but of vintage silk fabric which came from upcycling my aunts bridesmaid dress from my Mum’s own wedding.
We even had a ‘chill out’ area! It was great and worked perfectly. There was a calm atmosphere, breakfast snacks were available and the champagne was flowing. In the middle of it all Tyler our Labrador dog managed to sprawl flat out, fast asleep.
We chose a 1960’s MK2 ‘Morse Jag’ in red to transport Dad and I to the church and then Darren and I to the reception. I was desperate to have a red car, so finding this one locally in Henley was a real plus!
My Dad made some great chalkboard effect signage for us with his letter carving skills which we had as welcome, directions and day plan signs, so guests knew what was what.
The front cover of the ‘Order of Service’ booklets and menus were linked in style to the wedding stationery. Darren and his Mum, now arrived from South Africa compiled and stapled the pages together. Just one of those many little things that needed doing as the big day approached.
It was a lovely sunny summery day, so guests were refreshed with my homemade elderflower and white peach bellini’s, Dutch beer from the Blue Beer Company and Pimms on the Waiting Room platform.
The fabulous caterers from Bon Viveur kept the guests fed on lots of canapes before being called by Tom our MC, to make way to the Railway Museum, the three big overhead doors were then rolled up to reveal where we would be sitting down for a BBQ feast of lamb, prawns and chicken followed by a white chocolate and strawberry mousse dessert. We served all the food ‘family style’ on each table so guests only had to queue for their meat as we did not want a buffet. We did away with a starter and bumped up the canapés which were super.
Tea and Coffee was served after in an assortment of lovely vintage china teacups in pink and gold tones from Time for Tea Vintage in Henley on Thames.
In the evening we had the locally renowned Stovells, park up their van, serving fish and chips for all the guests.
We named all our tables after African animals and collected wooden figurines of each animal on a trip to South Africa. Each animal appeared on a table along with mirrored centrepieces topped with 3 vintage tins that were filled with brightly coloured flowers arranged by the wedding party and family.
Every guest had an embroidered vintage napkin that we had been collecting from various charity shops and ebay. We also included ‘Advice to the Bride and Groom’ cards, activity packs for the children and selfie sticks for each table.
Place names for the tables were tied to the favours, which was handmade white chocolate and cranberry fudge made by me and Sophie, one of my bridesmaids.
The table plan lists were displayed in an opened up vintage suitcase filled with bright coloured flowering plants and covered in old fashioned airline travel labels to Africa, stacked on top of an old trunk and lovely antique luggage trolley. Alongside stood ‘Gus’ the museum’s very own huge full sized model Rhino with his majestic flower crown made by Sophie. Gus turned out to be a very welcome gatecrasher to the party, adding his charm and novelty to the theme of things.
There was lots of wildlife …..behaving as they do, be it wallabies or llamas in the field next to the car park, deer, meerkats, capybara’s or the many colourful peacocks that roamed the venue to name but a few.
The guest book was a picture of an elephant making a splash that guests had to thumbprint with blue ink and sign their name next to their print.
Our friend Lannie spent many hours painstakingly sewing, miles of bunting, which was used to decorate the station museum. She used bits of fabric that the my Mum had acquired over years of dressmaking and even included surplus pieces of fabric leftover from my mum making her own wedding dress in 1980!
When the night drew in, the full impact of our lighting came into effect. Our friend Stewart Mason runs a lighting business for events. He and his team worked tirelessly to make a spectacular display for us both inside and outside of the venue, uplighting trees with colour and lighting up the platforms and footbridge.
We hired a Ceilidh band ‘The Gypsy Rouges’ for our evening entertainment. I found them through Alive Network. They were absolutely brilliant and did a mix of traditional Irish with more modern twists as well as some formation dances. The vision I wanted was it to be like the movie Titanic where Jack takes Rose to a 3rd class party….The band definitely delivered on this!
THE HONEYMOON | We minimooned in the UK with two nights in a luxury treehouse in Dorset at Guy Mallinson’s Crafty Camping. The Treehouse has its own hot tub and sauna in the canopy, a wood fired pizza oven and outdoor forest shower as well as its own rope bridge entrance and slide (adults only!) We then spent two nights at Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall where we enjoyed a couples massage, blustery coastal walks and dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen.
We are planning a trip to Antigua for 2018.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | The speeches – there were so many little surprise elements to these that made them so memorable. My Dad wrote a poem about one of my childhood quirks, there was a model railway in action that was a locomotion of bridesmaids as a train travelling around the room. Darren encouraged all the guests make animal noises to match their table animal and I read out a surprise speech written by Darren’s original Best Man who couldn’t attend the wedding. My lovely Matron of Honour then took over that role with her best woman’s speech.
I cried throughout the speeches having held it together up until that point and Darren definitely shed a tear too! It made some funny photos.
We were wonderfully surprised when our venue ran the carousel for us in the evening (it is normally static unless arranged) and seeing the guests’ faces as it went round was a picture!
Then a steam engine was brought out of the engine shed to be warmed up in anticipation of an Open Day of the Museum and Railway the next day. The sight and smell of the smoky steam was very evocative.
Our first dance was very memorable too. We had our friend Rachel choreograph part of the dance for us (which we managed to remember!). It was a mash up of Rudimental’s Feel the Love that started with the Paloma Faith Live Lounge version of the song. When Rudimental dropped (a drum and base song), everyone joined in and danced around wildly!
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Consider hiring a wedding coordinator if your venue does not provide someone. I was determined to do everything myself, but soon realised that on the day I wanted to just be a bride and having Amy there meant this could happen.
Take some time together at the wedding reception to be away from everyone else. Darren and I did this and it was one of the most memorable moments of the day.
Book early to get the best prices! When you book, that is the price you pay, so even if the supplier puts their prices up, you get the price you booked.
Wear a new perfume/cologne on the wedding day as it will always take you back to your wedding day! We gifted each other a new scent on the morning of the wedding.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photography | Joe Mallen Photography
Venue | Fawley Hill
Dress | Maggie Sottero
Shoes | Rachel Simpson
Flowers | Green and Gorgeous Flowers
Cake | The Makery Bakery
Signage | Letter Carving by Paul Thomas
Embroidery | Embroidered Collection
Lighting | Stewart Mason
Wedding Co-ordinator | A Little Bit of Wedmin
Bridal Make Up | Make up by Pip Dadd
Bridal Party Hair | Enigma Mobile hairdressing
Such a wonderfully creative day you had Holly and Darren, thank you so much for sharing it all with us. Rachel x