By Louise Baltruschat Hollis
What better way to welcome the weekend (well it is Friday right?) that with a colourful wedding extravaganza? Think Mexican theme, cacti and lovely DIY touches throughout.
WWW readers Emma and Richard were hitched on the 10th September 2016 at Chaucer Barn in Norfolk. They infused Mexico into their day with Mexican street food, Papel Picado decorations and bang on trend cactus centrepieces. Succulents and cacti are a great option for wedding décor, because they last long after the wedding and so can double up as favours or gifts. Plus, let’s face it, they look totally cool too.
Their marquee looked so rad in multicoloured décor, with custom blanket table runners, rainbow candles and organza chair decorations. Emma and Richard looked really gorgeous too. Emma had her delicate gown custom made, while Richard rocked a blue Ted Baker suit. Other elements I am totally coveting are the fun florals, bride squad and quirky signage.
Thanks so much to Katherine Ashdown for sharing these brilliant photographs.
THE PROPOSAL | Rich took me to Berlin for a long weekend to visit the Christmas Markets. We’d been together 4 years, I love Germany and I LOVE Christmas so I had a bit of an inkling… however he still managed to surprise me. We’d arrived at the crack of dawn, so had gone back to the hotel for a pre-dinner nap. I’d just woken up, was in my thermals, woolly socks, hair in pigtails, and I’d taken my jewellery off… I asked Rich to pop the kettle on for me to wake me up before a shower and then said ‘do you know where my ring went?’ And he said ‘no, but would you like this one instead’? And that really made me laugh! It was perfect really; very relaxed and informal. Very us.
THE VISION | We’d never really talked about what ‘kind’ of wedding we wanted, but we did know that the only things that were really important to us were family, friends and food! We started off thinking we’d have a Sheffield countryside affair, with pie, chips and gravy for dinner (we met and were still living in Sheffield at the time). But we just didn’t find a venue that we loved, so we went back to the drawing board. We hadn’t originally considered getting married in Norfolk, where Rich is from, but I’m now so glad we couldn’t find anywhere in Sheffield. It just goes to show that sometimes, you don’t really know what you want until it’s staring you right in the face!
We didn’t do a lot for a while and felt like we didn’t really know what to tell people when they were asking all of those traditional wedding planning questions. I remember someone asking my what my ‘colour scheme’ was going to be. I had no idea what to say to this. Why did we need to just pick two colours? I think I started listing off ‘royal blue, fuchsia, yellow, emerald green, gold…’ and then I just suddenly had an image of the Mexican Papel Picado in my head. And that was that really, we went from there. Rich didn’t take too much persuading once we started talking about a Mexican menu…
THE PLANNING PROCESS | The ‘Planning Process’ was such a funny experience. Not so much for us as we feel like we just did it. No stress, no drama, it just happened. And we did it all together and loved it. But the funny thing was other people’s reactions to our lack of urgency… people almost stressed out on our behalves just because we weren’t stressed ourselves! Weddings don’t half do funny things to people.
BUDGET | We spent somewhere between £17 and £20k.
THE VENUE | Chaucer Barn in Norfolk.
We pretty much fell in love with Chaucer before we’d even arrived. It’s an 8 bedroom barn conversion that you get for the full weekend – and you can pretty much have your day your way. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and feel like we basically had a 4-day mini-break come house party, with some venue dressing, furniture rearranging and a wedding thrown in for good measure! The grounds are huge, whilst still feeling like somebody’s back garden, and they are impeccably kept. We had planned to get married outside, and this was one of, if not the only, thing that I had my heart set on. Or thought I had my heart set on. The forecast got worse and worse as the week progressed… and the weekend ended up like this… Friday 25 degrees, clear blue skies. Saturday 18 degrees, grey skies and rain all day. Sunday 26 degrees and clear blue skies.
But actually, we were all so glad it rained! And I would never have thought of this in advance of the day, but the rain meant that everybody stayed inside, rather than wandering off to explore the grounds. The Bridal Party managed to squeeze all of the chairs into the kitchen for the ceremony and we then moved together from living room to kitchen to marquee to dance floor. It was cosy and intimate and we got to see and speak to everyone. It was truly lovely.
I honestly cannot speak highly enough of the staff at Chaucer. Laura in particular is just a gem. She manages to be the most wonderful font of all knowledge, asking all the right questions and giving all the right pointers, whilst letting you feel like you have total control and privacy for your big day. She and her team were always on hand to help, but were so subtly working away in the background, they could very easily have gone unnoticed. They were honestly fantastic.
The same goes for our caterers El Kantina. We were desperate to have Mexican Street Food for the meal but really struggled to find anyone from Sheffield, The Midlands (where I’m from) or Norfolk. El Kantina are actually based in Wakefield so I almost couldn’t believe it when they said they’d travel. We drove to their house for our menu tasting and it was amazing. We only learnt after the day that El Kantina had had some last minute difficulty in getting enough staff to support them on the day. Instead of contacting us, they’d found the contact details for Laura from Chaucer Barn and she then roped in a couple of her casual staff to help instead. That, to us, was the epitome of customer service; so very considerate of them to not trouble us with it, we were so grateful when we heard!
THE ACCESSORIES | My shoes were from Asos. They were clumpy and cork-soled and I loved them! I took them with me to try at my dress trial. My Gran came with me, took one look at my shoes and just shook her head. “You can’t wear those Emma! Not on your wedding day!”
So I ordered another half a dozen pairs. All dainty and glitzy (and loads more expensive!). And I took them to my next trial and tried them all on. She sat quietly and at the end said “They aren’t very you Emma. I think I prefer the cork soled ones, you won’t even see them under your dress”. And that was that. They were super practical. Wedged to give me height (Rich is 6”6, I’m 5”7) without being too high, and sturdy enough to allow me to go out walking in the wet fields and clambering over logs in the shed.
I didn’t wear a veil because I’ve definitely got enough hair on my head already!
And my only piece of jewellery was a bracelet I borrowed from my sister. So I kept it pretty simple really.
FINDING THE DRESS | I did not enjoy dress shopping at all. This might be a controversial thing to say so I won’t say too much about it… But what I will say is that, in my day job, I manage a regeneration project in Coventry that houses 40+ independent, creative, mostly start-up businesses. So for me, when a friend told me about her neighbour who has her own business, hand-making wedding dresses from scratch, I was sold.
It was such a wonderful process. Sam, from The House of Webb, was a joy to ‘work with’. I say ‘work with’ because I feel like we did it together. I described my dress, she sketched it for me. She made a trial and we tweaked it. She hand-stitched on a belt on the Thursday morning before travelling down because we decided it needed just that little bit extra.
The dress was light and comfortable and fitted like a glove. It is a one-off. And I also know where it came from, who made it, and where my money has gone and that means a lot to me.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Rich wore a navy blue Ted Baker suit with a slight pink fleck and an amazing fuschia lining. He asked his Groomsmen to wear grey chinos and a white shirt, with a blue blazer if they wanted. Most of them had something suitable already and those who didn’t were able to chose something that they felt they might wear again.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | We had a Classical Spanish Guitarist, Finbarr Malafronte to play before and after the ceremony. Rich said one of his most memorable moments was listening to Finbarr; once all of the guests had been ushered in to take their seats for the ceremony, Rich and his Best Man had a minute to just stand and listen to him play Astorias before they walked in.
We had two readings during the ceremony; we each picked someone to read but then asked them if they’d like to pick their own readings and they were lovely. And we probably wouldn’t have picked either of them but they were just spot on and so reflective of them and of us.
One was an excerpt from a book called “The House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski and another was “On Your Wedding Day” by ‘Unknown’.
It was an incredibly emotional day anyway, and it doesn’t take much to make me cry, but the first thing to set me off was hearing the music start downstairs.
Two of my closest friends Megan and Emily, and Megan’s husband Sam, agreed to play and sing for us during the ceremony. They asked us SO many times what we’d like them to learn and we kept saying ‘anything’. And we genuinely meant it. We knew how talented they were so it didn’t really matter what they played as we knew it would be good. We were also conscious of not asking them to learn reams and reams of music especially for us. The only thing I said, and I only said it once as a throw away comment really, was that it would be lovely for them to play “The Girl” by City and Colour (our first dance was also to a City and Colour song called “As Much As I Ever Could”), but then followed it up with “but don’t feel obliged, it’s a lot to learn and there isn’t even a piano in it so I don’t know what you’d play”. They didn’t really acknowledge this and we never thought anything else about it, so when they started playing it, I just fell apart. It was truly beautiful.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I had three bridesmaids: my sister, my cousin and my best friend from University. I knew that I wanted them to wear cobalt blue and my sister very quickly found a beautiful wrap dress in Coast. Once I’d seen that, I remembered that Alice, my best friend, had worn something very similar for when she was a Bridesmaid for her Cousin. She sent some pictures and we decided it would work and she was happy to get a second wear out of it. My Cousin then got a last minute invite to a Black Tie dinner with work and found her dress in in a hurried shopping trip in Phase Eight.
I didn’t see Alice’s or my Cousin’s dresses in person until the day before the wedding; that was also the first time we’d seen all the dresses together! They were a perfect match. But even if they weren’t, would it really have mattered…?
THE FLOWERS | Rich’s Mum did all of the flowers with her friend who is a retired florist. She ordered everything they wanted from a local nursery, who were great as they let you order things by the stem so she only had what she needed. She really thoughtfully did loads of research into traditional Mexican flowers and managed to get some to incorporate into the bouquets and displays. All of the greenery was from her garden. The displays were amazing… so bold and vibrant; they did such a fantastic job.
THE CAKE | My Mum made our cakes. They were simple and delicious. We had one Coffee and Walnut Cake and one White Chocolate. To be honest we haven’t really got any pictures of them because by the time I’d smashed the piñata (!) and we’d done a few rounds of tequila, we’d forgotten all about them! They were delicious the next day though.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | We chose Katherine Ashdown for our photographer. She was the second thing we booked after the venue and came highly recommended by Chaucer Barn. We chose Katherine because of the sheer natural beauty of her images. And we weren’t disappointed!
The moments Katherine captured sum up the day better than we ever could in writing… Alice making tea, my Cousin serving canapés, the boys hanging the paper bunting, the groomsmen and their brollies, friends playing music that they learnt especially for the day, friends who picked their own ceremony readings just for us, my Gran telling Rich off for being late, the Best Man cringing for missing that Rich’s flies were undone through the ceremony, Dad and I sharing a hanky, Aunties dancing, Aunties crying, Uncles laughing… Uncles crying… There are some truly beautiful pictures; pictures that she’s taken while no-one was looking. Pictures that show all of the fun and laughter. Pictures that just show love.
It was a joy to have her with us and we have been bowled over by the beauty of the photos. The fact Katherine has managed to capture the emotions of our loved ones is just priceless. There are so many photos of our guests that are just absolutely full of love and emotion and that is such a talent.. shooting Rich and I in love is one thing but capturing the in-between moments showing the love between everyone is something else entirely.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | Chaucer Barn itself is full of wonderful pieces that have obviously been thoughtfully picked up from around the world over the years. The Barn really complemented our Mexican theme, and as it is so well done, we didn’t worry too much about filling the venue with decorations. We packed as much colour as we could into the marquee though. A friend sent us metres and metres of genuine Papel Picado from her travels in Mexico, my Mum grew and planted as many succulents as she could in a year and Rich’s Step-Mum made table runners for us from some Mexican blankets we found online. Everything was a team effort.
My hairdresser from Coventry travelled across to Norfolk for me and I’m so glad she did. Because she’s based where I work (in a super cute retro caravan that she and her Dad have converted themselves!), I could have as many trials as I wanted. And after 3 trials, we still didn’t really know what to do with my mane, so we just winged it on the day. I’m so grateful to her for being brave enough to tackle my hair, and for making the 6-hour round trip to do it!
THE HONEYMOON | We hadn’t planned a Honeymoon when we got married as we’d really like to go to Mexico in 2017. On the Tuesday after we got married, we booked flights to Italy, a hire car and one night in a hotel. We flew off the next day and then made the rest up as we went along! We drove down through Tuscany to Rome and then hopped over the Sicily.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | I feel like I’ve mentioned them all already!
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Ask your caterers to save you some canapés for after your photos! Amongst others, El Kantina did this amazing ‘canape’ which was a pulled pork waffle cone with a chorizo flake. I had asked the team to save us some for when we got back from our couple shots so after we were done, we sloped off to the catering tent and just stood in there for a few minutes stuffing our faces. It was bliss – don’t let anyone tell you you don’t get to try the food on your own wedding day!
Do whatever you want to do. If you want to ignore the traditions, ignore them.
Rich and I very nearly slept in separate rooms the night before the wedding, but right at the last minute we just realised how daft we thought that was… we don’t even sleep that well when we’re apart! We got some raised eyebrows at first but we woke up together on the morning of our wedding, Rich brought me tea in bed and then we spent the rest of the day doing things together.
Try not to be control freaks. Letting our friends make decisions on things like the readings and the music, letting the Bridal Party pick their own outfits, letting Rich’s Mum do the flowers, getting everyone who could help on Friday to set up the marquee meant that we had some wonderful surprises on the day. It was such a team effort and it just means the world to us that we can look back on the day and pick out the things that other people were kind enough to help us with or do for us. We truly feel very lucky.
Don’t stress about things. And don’t wait until after the day to realise you didn’t need to stress! Weddings are times to celebrate being in love. No matter what else happens, the most important thing is that you’re surrounded by people you know and love. So just enjoy it!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Katherine Ashdown
Venue | Chaucer Barn
Caterers | El Kantina
Stationery | Pingle Pie (Kim from Pingle Pie is one of the independent businesses where I work. She designed our wedding invitations from scratch and was an absolute joy to work with)
DJ | DiscoWed
Hair | Rock n Roller Parlour
Make Up | Kat Steele
Dress | The House of Webb
Guitarist | Finbarr Malafronte
What a wonderful wedding. I love that they had surprises on their day too, such a lovely idea.
Thanks so much to Emma and Richard for sharing their gorgeous celebrations here at WWW xo Lou
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