Starting the wedding planning process with what reflects you as a couple and the things that you love is just the best way. Which is just how WWW readers Mark and Sarah planned their day, held on the 18 October 2014 at Farnham Castle in Surrey.
I love the combination of classic styling and geeky touches. There were concrete and platinum rings and a nod to sci-fi in the fantastic terrariums and cake design. Pops of red in the decadent blooms and attire really set off the whole feel to the day.
Many thanks goes to Paul Joseph Photography for sharing these amazing images with us today.
THE PROPOSAL | On 16 July 2013 – we were on holiday in Wales. We had just been to a friend’s wedding in Cambridge (Dave and Jo). I happened to catch the bouquet, I think mostly because no-one else was able to catch. We walked up Cader Idris on an uncharacteristically glorious summers day in Wales. At the summit we sat down to a picnic lunch, and Mark chose that moment to reveal the engagement ring, which I think he had been hiding for months!
THE VISION | This is hard. Mark and I had been to a number of weddings both as a couple and as singles. It probably sounds really bad, but we started with things that had frustrated us about other weddings. Things like only being invited to the evening and feeling second tier, the expense of going to the wedding, not having enough appropriate food, or being socially left out. Having established the easy task of making this the best wedding ever (one assumes that everyone decides this), it was then more of an organic process that developed as we went through planning. We wanted a wedding that would reflect us, and the things we love. Overall, we envisioned a wedding that had classical elements, but designer embellishments (mark being an Architect) and surreptitious geeky references (me being a complete geek).
THE PLANNING PROCESS | We had an idea of what we wanted but not really a masterplan to begin with. There was a reasonable plan by the time the wedding got here. Although we had a rough idea of costs, we had no real concrete (excuse the pun) information on this. Because of this, and because we also made a conscious decision to not get stressed, we didn’t get fixated on any particular idea or plan.
BUDGET | I guess this is where most people get stressed, especially if they don’t have a plan to stick to!. We did originally give ourselves an overall budget of £10,000 for everything. However, we quickly came to the realisation that this wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t have our parents paying for the wedding, so all the costs had to be covered by ourselves, and we didn’t want to go into debt for it. We decided to forego an overall budget, and value each part of the wedding on its own merit.
THE VENUE | Farnham Castle, it was the last place we looked at. We were rather fussy. We wanted a place, which we could book for exclusive use for the whole venue (not jut part of the venue). We wanted a place with character, and somewhere where we could have the ceremony and reception in the same place. We also needed a place with accommodation for all the guests, with parking, and somewhere where the food was going to be awesome. All of this for a reasonable price.
Farnham Castle was a beautiful period castle with real character. The room for the ceremony was called the lantern hall, that we fell in love with straight away. The great hall, was great for a wedding breakfast, and there were extensive castle grounds outside. There were plenty of rooms for guests, and we were able to book it exclusively for the Saturday of the wedding to the post wedding breakfast on Sunday morning. The price for rooms was very reasonable. The location made it easy for people to travel to.
The food was an issue as well. Mark and I are big fans of really nice food, and we wanted that to come across in the wedding breakfast. Galloping gourmet, a catering company, own the castle, and would do the he menus, but we wanted to see what it tasted like. In fact, we thought the food was fine when we went to a tasting event, but it didn’t feel special enough. We asked for a separate meeting with the chef. Apparently, not that many actually do meet with the chef (three in their history), although a reasonable number ask about it. We were the only people that have asked for a bespoke menu. We were able to pick food that echoed what we ate when Mark and I first met. Simon the chef, was fantastic in helping us come up with a menu, and in executing the cooking. We also asked him to make Paella for some evening food.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | The dress was a bespoke design by Terry Fox, I met with Terry at least 12 times as we went through design and measurements. The one thing I can be absolutely certain on is that I wouldn’t have spent any less on the dress even if I have only got to wear it once. (Mark said he doesn’t want to know the price)
During this time, I worked on what accessories would be best. I went with some Christian Louboutin white shoes with red soles. I should have got some flat soled shoes as well for outside, but I was happy to just walk without shoes at times.
I had a tiara, hand made by someone near where I live. (Claudia)
I had matching jewellery commissioned from Canada (Konzuk) that made concrete earrings, a concrete and platinum necklace, and matching wedding rings made with concrete and platinum
The hair was done by usual hairdresser since I had tried some specialist ‘wedding hairdressers’ and frankly was very disappointed. Laurie was great, and put my hair up for the day, and stayed around to have my hair down after dinner.
FINDING THE DRESS | This was actually quite easy. I went to a few shops, but most dresses just weren’t the sort of thing that would suit me or my personality. Whilst simple dresses can look beautiful, I wanted a statement dress with a bit of edge. It also needed to suit my figure. I found several Terry Fox dress in a bridal shop in Richmond. None of them were quite right, so I contacted Terry, who invited me to her studio in Bury St Edmunds. We talked about my likes and dislikes, and started to design a dress for me. There were a number of false starts, as I initially worried about what others would like. But eventually, I was able to relax and trust in the process.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Mark wanted something different too. Rather than go with a standard suit or a morning suit, he went a specialist in tweed suits. Walker Slater made him a made to measure three-piece suit, with matching outfits (without the jacket) for the ushers.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | Mark and I don’t have a ‘song’, like everyone else seems to have. Maybe it’s because modern relationships don’t seem to hinge on hearing a piece of music any more? Our magical moment was from eating food (see food). So picking a first dance song was rather difficult. We are both a little left field in our music tastes, and didn’t want a tradition love song. There were two pieces of music that both of us liked. Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode, and There is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths. They are actually both quite poignant love songs, but not in an obvious way.
We actually found a band that played at a friend’s wedding. Cupids Wish clearly loved performing, rather than trying to make money, and they were very reasonably priced. We wanted live performance rather than a DJ, as we thought people would get more involved and interact. It also felt more personal. Georgia, who is lovely, even created a medley of the two songs we wanted played as the first dance, and she sang this with Matt (the keyboard player). They like to do a new acoustic cover for every wedding couple, and that way when they play it, they remember the wedding. Georgia does also work as a wedding planner.
The music for the ceremony had its own issues! My friend and colleague, Lucy offered to play with her string quartet. However, every piece of classical music that I tested with Mark, Mark said sounded depressing. So we organised a string quartet version of Rule the World, by Take That (from the movie Stardust). This was done jointly by my Violin teacher (Catherine Thomas) and also Lucy. This worked perfectly for the entrance music as it had a build up and crescendo as I came through the doors. On the way out, we had Ode to Joy (Beethoven) played, partly because it was a joyous piece of music, but actually because it is the music of Die Hard (one of our favourite movies).
We also had one other surprise thing. Only known to myself, I organised some singing waiters, who busied themselves during the wedding serving guests and flirting with the single ladies. During desserts, they then made themselves known singing a number of songs. This went down really well, especially since only I knew about it.
For the readings, we wanted things that were humorous rather than serious. We had two pieces that are often read at wedding – I like you by Sandol Stoddard and the “A lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton. However, I also wrote a piece myself , which was a bit geeky and had lots of references to films/books (I’ve attached it at the end).
Ode to the Kobeyashu Maru
(aka the no-win scenario)
There and back again
On the Northern Line
From Balham To Mordor
Never flinching in the journey
I love you
Boldly going somewhere new
Or perhaps where we’ve been before
You show me the beauty
In every place we see
Do architects dream
of concrete sheep?
Whether in a space
Where no one can get Ice Cream
You always have time
To make life sweet
You do or do not
There is no try
Even if I had a brain
The size of a planet
It would always be amazing
Being stuck here with you
And when faced with an obstacle
That seems impossible to beat
You change the rules
So that we both can win
You Love Me
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I had four bridesmaids, plus a younger bridesmaid/flowergirl. I’m not sure I really made the most of the bridesmaids, since I did almost all the organising myself. They did sort out the hen weekend, but they varied from being completely crazy (in a good way) to rather quiet, so I think it was a challenge. I had a ‘local’ bridesmaid (Pip) who lived close to me which was useful for sorting out quick things. I had two bridesmaids that I had known for a long time (Bernice and Steph), who were better able to provide advice regarding my wedding dress. My sister was the fourth bridesmaid, so that she could feel a bigger part of the wedding.
Choosing their dresses was relatively straightforward. I thought there was really only one option. I was paying for their dresses (from Phase Eight, at £160 each), so I thought I would have more say on colour and style. Nevertheless, I did want them to like the dresses. So we organised a trip to a shopping centre, and got them in one trip. The colours of the wedding were red and grey, and the time we were buying the dress, red was not really the on trend colour. However, I didn’t want to risk not being able to find anything. The shoes were a bit more tricky. They needed to be comfortable to wear, match the dress, and of course pretty to look at. We managed to find some a few weeks before the wedding from Clarks on sale (about £30 each).
I wanted to get a gift for the bridesmaids, which they weren’t expecting. I am not especially superstitious but I decided to get something that was a play on “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”. I got them a bracelet from Links of London, and charms. There was a blue acorn for the colour and symbolism. They had a new charm that was an animal that matched each of them, and there was also a locket. In the locket, I borrowed quotes from stories that would mean something to each of the bridesmaids. Finally, I sourced some vintage charms for them that again was relevant to them.
Getting a matching dress for the younger bridesmaid (Mark’s Niece, Sophie) was far more of an issue. I think I paid far more than I needed to, but having promised that I would get something for her to match, I had to get it made bespoke from a seamstress/designer in Norwich. It was about the same price as some wedding dresses! In retrospect, she would have been happy in a simpler shift dress. However, I think Sophie really liked it, and I just accepted the cost, and it also doubled as her gift for the wedding.
To complete their outfits, I organised hair brooches to match my tiara, and also matching cashmere pashminas.
THE FLOWERS | Neither Mark, or I were too fussed about flowers. We did have flowers from Castle Street Flowers in Farnham. However, we restricted this to bouquets for myself, and bridesmaids, buttonholes and petal confetti. I left the design decisions to the florist, who did a really good job. I just gave a brief of red, white and grey. The bouquets and buttonholes were then a mix of colours to contrast and complement the clothes. So that I had a red bouquet and the others were white. Mark had a red buttonhole.
THE CAKE | This was one of those things that Mark did not see the point of spending any money on at all, initially. However, once we saw it, he felt that it was entirely worth it. It wasn’t cheap (£985) but there is a lot of work involved. I wanted the wedding party to be included on the cake, and for it to be quirky and interesting, reflecting our personalities, and tasting good. I had already contacted Melanie, who invited me to a wedding fair to look properly, and have a taste. Each of the bridesmaids and ushers are included in the cake. There were elements of various sci-fi, fantasy books/films, as well as climbing (Mark’s main hobby). In fact, we liked the cake so much, we have asked Melanie to make our next birthday cakes.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Well, what can I say. They were amazing photographers and people. Initially Mark wasn’t sure that spending that much money on a photographer made any sense, but after chatting to a few, it became apparent that it was very important. We had a skype chat with Paul and Kelly, and got on with them straight away. We wanted some photographers that could do both photojournalistic approach and also some more creative photographs. That was actually really hard to find. We liked their style of photography, and their personality. In fact, we have remained friends.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | We did spend a long time on our table centrepieces. We made them ourselves, and stemmed from an idea I had about reflecting the things we love. We had 10 tables each with a unique centrepiece. They were terrariums that had little scenes with mini figures and miniature plants. This included sci-fi themes, our love of food, architecture, climbing and comedy. There was a mad panic about 1 week before the wedding when the terrariums we had made well in advance all got an infestation of fungus gnats (we think a bad batch of compost). We had to start completely from scratch, but we knew what we were doing, and they got done in plenty of time. The great thing about them was that they were all taken to a loving home after the end of the wedding by some of our friends, rather than just being discarded. Thankfully, all of them are also infestation free and being properly looked after.
We also had table plans made a little bit differently. Instead of a conventional design, we indicated where people were sitting on little cubes we made ourselves. They were of two materials – concrete and walnut. The boys were concrete, and the girls in walnut. We had their names, and table name on the cube. The table name would match the terrarium centrepieces so people had to work out where they were sitting.
We also had a quiz to be done during the wedding. This helped people to ‘notice’ all the details of the wedding, encouraged conversation and mingling between tables, as some questions were about the centrepieces and the cake. There was a prize for the best table (group paintballing – not revealed in advance).
All the stationery was made by myself using Adobe Illustrator on a Mac.
THE HONEYMOON | The day after the wedding, we flew to South America. We had booked 3 weeks, and planned to take in bits of Chile and Argentina. Even a relatively budget version was not cheap (about £8000) so we thought we might as well stay at nice places, which did push the price up (£15000), especially as we left the details of the itinerary to Trailfinders. We spent some time in the Atacama and in Patagonia (in Tierra eco-hotels), and then in Argentinian Patagonia, Iguazu falls and Buenos Aires.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | It was all quite memorable really. The night before the wedding, half the guests had already arrived so we were able to arrange an informal gathering in a pub next to the castle (Nelsons Arms).
Getting ready in the morning in the gorgeous castle gatehouse, and putting on the wedding dress for the first time.
Seeing Mark’s face as I came into the Lantern Hall, with the music playing.
People discovering the table plans, centrepieces and cake for the first time.
Seeing people get really stuck into the quiz.
The stunning quality of food.
Seeing people’s reaction to the singing waiters.
Hearing our first dance music.
Having breakfast the day after with most of the wedding guests.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Don’t plan too early or too late – you either get stressed or end up with changing things at extra cost.
Don’t make people feel like they are hanging around, but this doesn’t mean you need to keep them entertained every single moment.
Mix tables up to get people talking to each other – and after all this is a merging of two groups of family and friends. Give them an excuse to talk to each other.
Having an exclusive venue was great since it felt more special when it just your friends and family, and rooms on site meant people didn’t rush home.
Kids or no kids – make a decision early. People need to plan, and will understand. We thought kids made it better, but I guess some people think they can get in the way, or make too much noise.
Finally its your wedding (not his or hers, or anyone elses). So make sure that both of you like the bits. If you can’t agree on that, marriage might be a little tricky. Also, it doesn’t matter if your friends/family think you should spend more or less on anything, it’s not their wedding. Although, it does get tricky if someone else is funding it.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Wedding dress | Terry Fox Bridal
Wedding shoes | Christian Louboutin
Groom’s and ushers Outfit | Walker Slater
Bridesmaids outfits | Phase Eight
Bridesmaids Shoes | Clarks
Jack and Sophie’s outfits | Love Couture
Hair | Laurie at Guy Kremer
Tiara | Tiaras by Claudia
Wedding rings | Konzuk
Photography | Paul and Kelly at Paul Joseph Photography
Venue | Farnham Castle
Food | Simon Head Chef at Galloping Gourmet
Flowers | Castle Street Flowers
Cake | Melanie (The Cake Artist)
Music during ceremony | A string quartet comprised of my friends
Entertainment | Singing Waiters
Band | Cupids Wish
Honeymoon hotel | Tierra Hotels
Such a special and meaningful celebration.
Thanks so much to Mark and Sarah for sharing their wonderful story today xo Lou