Forest wedding fans are in for a real treat today with Kristin and Khairil’s woodland wedding. This theatrical pair tied the knot on the 30th September 2017 at Weddings in the Woods, which is set in the stunning New Forest, in the company of their delighted loved ones.
There are plenty of brilliant homemade touches that Kristin and Khairil added to make their day reflect their personalities, take them all in WWWers!
Kristin didn’t want to spend loads of money on a dress she wouldn’t wear again, and plumped for a vintage lace number, which she had tailored. Khairil was after a casual look and I think his White Stuff combo looks great. The bridesmaids were given the brief of ‘woodland nymphs’ and I think they look fantastic in their different outfits.
Kristin has so much great advice for couples in the planning process, especially those who have decided to make their wedding a DIY affair, and those who might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole thing.
Elaine Williams has captured the woodland festivities just wonderfully, thank you so much for sharing!
THE PROPOSAL | I had just got back from a holiday, and we were busy planning our annual Halloween party (something we also always spend a lot of effort on). He suggested lunch at one of our favourite cafés in Richmond Park, which is incidentally where we had our first date. I had no suspicion, and as we sat down looking at the stunning view, he whipped out a self-made wooden box, with a heart carved into it. I knew what it was at once. I think I said “Yes!”, before he even had time to ask the question. The ring was a vintage piece he found in an antique market, an intricate art-deco piece from somewhere between the 1920s and the 1930s. It felt very unique and personal.
THE VISION | We wanted it to be homemade, simple, tons of fun, and with a touch of folk and fairy tales. Rustic and slightly theatrical, as we are both theatre lovers. We wanted the guest to feel like they were entering a magical adventure, but we also wanted it to feel down-to-earth, and not formal. Our main inspiration were all the immersive theatre events we’ve been to together over the years in London.
We put the description ‘Woodland Wedding Adventure’ in our wedding invitations, because we wanted our guests to be entertained, as well as gathering to celebrate our union. We had about 70 guests, tucked away in a beautiful setting in the New Forest. The idea was to create a fairy tale-like, folky feeling, so we decided to hire a storyteller/actor to perform the ceremony, rather than the usual registrar (we married beforehand at a registry office, with just a few of our friends and close family present). This way, we were absolutely free to make our main wedding event our own. Our wedding was about doing what we felt represented us, rather than being locked down by expectation and tradition. We also had no dress code, other than ‘casual smart with sensible shoes’, but we did encourage the guests to wear fancy dress in various woodland themes if they so wished, and some of them did so in very creative ways. One friend made some gorgeous antlers that she wore for the occasion, and another wore her floral yukata, brought all the way from Japan.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | Isn’t the Internet making everything so much easier these days? This is very much true for our wedding planning. If you want something, or wonder what other people have done, or simply have a sort of an idea of what you want, but not a fully formed one, google it! Chances are very big that someone else has done something similar before, and posted it online. We created an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for categories like: ‘food’, ‘seating chart’, ‘guest list and addresses’, ‘suppliers’, ‘budget’, etc., and then we shared this spreadsheet on Google Drive, so that we could both edit and update it. Both of us, I said? Yes. If anyone out there are still in the traditional mindset that one of you plans everything and the other one offers moral support, I urge you to reconsider! Your partner will give valuable input and ideas, because this day is just as much theirs as it is yours. Planning a wedding can be hard work (depending on how much you want to do), and two heads are worth ten times more! Even better, involve friends and family you trust, and delegate as many tasks as you can. That way, on your wedding day, you can admire and feel thankful for all the little pieces that your loved ones have contributed, and it makes the day even more special. Make a list of what makes you, you, as individuals, and as a couple. These are your cues for what you should use in your wedding.
We told ourselves that if anything didn’t go the way we had planned, the important thing was to just ignore it and have a good time. We would not obsess with silly little details. Of course, we did put a lot of effort into many details of our wedding, like table decoration and lighting, and obviously the ceremony, but early on, when I started researching into how to organise a wedding, other brides were discussing things like the colour of the table napkins matching the exact colour of the wedding bouquet, and other tiny details that to me sounded way too time consuming and irrelevant. None of the guest will ever care about things like that. So why should you? The important thing is good food, good friends, and lots of laughter. We had some incredibly dedicated bridesmaids and ushers on our side, and they let us give them specific tasks to take care of on the day, which enabled us as a couple to just relax and enjoy ourselves. It is your day, after all! I’ve heard other brides saying they can hardly remember their wedding day, because they were too busy running around making sure everything went as planned! In my opinion, that is just wrong prioritising.
In order for the wedding to be an event that was both fun and relaxing for our guests, as well as for us, we set a couple of ‘rules’ for ourselves.
One of them was that the guests should always have something to do, something to look at, something to enjoy themselves with, whether this was snacks, live entertainment, a fun gallery to browse, or games to get involved with. One of the worst things that we both think tend to happen in many weddings, is that after the ceremony, there is a lengthy amount of ‘dead time’ where the guests are simply left to themselves without anything to focus on, which is both boring and kind of awkward. This typically happens when the bride and groom are off to take their portraits, or when everyone waits for the main meal to be served, so we made sure there were plenty of snacks, a funny photo gallery of our weirdest life moments lining the walls, and outside activities like archery, axe-throwing and Giant Jenga. This was brilliant, because it entertained the guests, and it made everyone mingle very naturally, so by the time we announced dinner, people were already getting to know each other. We also had our storyteller James gather everyone around the firepit, where he told Irish folktales that mesmerised our guests, and were just perfect for the mysterious forest setting we were in.
One of the many clever ideas that Khairil had for our wedding, was to email the guests in advance, and ask them to send us three facts about themselves. These should be funny or interesting, and not give away easily who it described. He then mixed the facts up for each table, so that each person had a card in front of them, that would contain 3 facts about people they were sitting with, and then they could try and guess who it was. This was a way to have people talking together more easily, and it was such a success! Dinner was a lively and enjoyable event.
BUDGET | We don’t have the exact amount, but we aimed to do anything homemade that were within our capabilities. A wedding shouldn’t be about money. It should be about who is there celebrating with you. We cut the cost by skipping presents and asking people to bring food instead, if they wanted to. As it turned out, a lot of our guest wanted to contribute, and it was such a lovely addition to our wedding. We didn’t have waiters. We had a cold food buffet, help yourself-style. We did spend some extra money on hiring a refrigerator van to keep the food cold overnight, but it was nothing compared to what we would have spent on a professional wedding caterer. And people could have seconds. And thirds, if they felt like it.
Most people brought their own traditional cooking, so we had English ham, Vietnamese spring rolls, Swedish cinnamon buns and Italian pasta salad, among many other exciting dishes. We ate leftovers for weeks after! In Norway, where I am from, this type of cold buffet where the guests help themselves, is very common at weddings. People can eat to their hearts’ content, and they can have what they want, instead of having to choose from limited options. Also, you don’t need kitchen staff, as nothing needs to be kept warm. Instead, we hired a refrigerator van to keep everything fresh. Our wedding was a mix of Norwegian traditions, British traditions, and things that we put in for share fun.
We didn’t spend much on clothes either. Do you think you will ever wear your wedding dress again after that one day? No? Well, then why spend a fortune on something like that? There are tons of pretty, reasonable dresses out there. Second-hand is your friend.
THE VENUE | Weddings in the Wood, near Lyndhurst in New Forest. It was recommended to us by a friend, and when we went to see it, we knew instantly that this was the place. They are located in the middle of a secluded part of the forest, so all around the venue is surrounded by tall trees and little winding walking paths into the woods. There are so many cool and endless options for wedding venues these days, and we all have different tastes and needs, but one thing I didn’t want, was a place that was open to the public during our wedding. There’s been plenty of times where I’ve been to some National Trust building having a coffee, and then realising I can see straight in on a very private wedding ceremony being performed right next to the café. There is no danger of strangers looking in on you at Wedding in the Woods. Once you hire it, it’s yours for the day (and even the night and the next morning, if you go with their on-site accommodation option).
The venue consists of a converted barn, with an attached marquee to the side. The tent has heating, lighting and a bar area. We used the barn as a dancing and music venue in the evening, and the marque for food and drink. There is a big lawn area, and decking set with picnic tables. There is also an option for having food and drink outside on a sunny day, and there is a large firepit area, for clear evenings. They also have several shooting ranges, so you can hire activities like axe throwing, air rifles and archery for your guests.
There’s plenty of accommodation in Lyndhurst, but your guests can also choose to stay in one of the adorable shepherd’s huts on site, which consist of 4 bunkbeds and a little stove. The bridal hut has a double bed. We chose this option, and even had some of our guests pitching a tent on the lawn.
Our ceremony was held outside, in a forest clearing nearby, and Simon Bush, the man in charge of the venue, was absolutely excellent. He kept schedule, made sure guests knew where to go, and he and his staff did their utmost to make sure we had a great day. He has told me specifically that he is NOT a wedding planner, but even so, that man is incredibly organised. Your day will be in good hands with him.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | I chose to go with vintage lace. I wanted something that resembled 1920/1930s wedding dresses, but not pay a fortune for a designer piece. I wanted it to sit nicely on me without being too tight, or having any sort of irritating details that I had to go and mind all day. I wanted it to have an open back, because I think that looks lovely. I also wanted to have a flower wreath in my hair, but as I found out about the table flowers, it’s a lot of stress trying to keep them fresh, so I went with a really good-looking plastic option. I hired a bridal makeup professional to do my hair and makeup on the day, and it was great to spend time with my girls in the morning, sipping bubbly and getting ready together. It certainly calmed my nerves a little. I bought flat shoes and a matching purse with flower themes, to go with my flower wreath. Since the flower embellishments were so colourful, I chose a simple blue semi-precious stone necklace.
FINDING THE DRESS | Since I live in London, and I was looking for vintage, it made sense to browse a few vintage markets. A friend of mine and I went around Greenwich and then on to Brick Lane, and it was at The Vintage Market, a huge vintage clothing market in a basement in Brick Lane, that we found the dress. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the store, but if you go all the way in, you’ll find it tucked away in a corner, and they have a great selection of vintage wedding dresses. The dress was a size too big, but with keeping it at such a low cost (under £100), I figured I could spend more on a good tailor instead. My tailor, Lena Lutuk, was absolutely brilliant, and I cannot recommend her enough. She made it fit lovely in all the right places, and the dress was extremely comfortable to wear all day. Lace is not the easiest to alter, but it was in very good hands with her. The dress looked like it was made for me when she was finished. Amazing.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Khairil was the one who suggested we should have a smart-casual dress code, but since I was wearing a full-on wedding dress, I thought he should at least look a little dressed up. He wanted to wear jeans, so I just searched for casual weddings (Pinterest is amazing for all things wedding, btw), and found lots of cool images of grooms and groomsmen in jeans, mismatching shirts, tweed waistcoats and top hats, so this is what we went for. It looked extremely good! Instead of the buttonhole flower, we used a little woodland animal pin for each of the groomsmen. Again, no withering flowers to worry about. We bought Khairil’s tweed waistcoat and jacket from White Stuff, and all the top hats from eBay.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | The guest sat on haystacks in a forest opening during the ceremony, while the wonderful Irish actor James Riordan told the story of us, based on a script we had written. It was light-hearted with lots of humour, and James did an excellent job of portraying a Puck-like woodland character, moving around the guests in sprite-like joy, while telling our story leading up to the wedding. The guest thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We had also hired a string quartet, and when the bride entered the forest opening, and the quartet played a classical arrangement of Radiohead’s ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’, there was not a dry eye among the guests.
I think I need to mention our first dance. One thing that neither of us know how to do very well, is to dance! Since we were going down the theatrical route with our wedding, we thought we should do something for a first dance, but we wanted it to represent us. That’s why we decided that we would use our favourite song, even if it’s not exactly a typical song you would associate with weddings: ‘Breezeblocks’ by Alt-J. The theme of the song is very dark, it’s about a murder and obsessive love, but we are sort of known for our slightly morbid humour, so it suited us well. We were so lucky to find a dance instructor, Emma Brewer, who specialises in wedding first dance choreography, and she was completely on board with our non-traditional idea. We had a lot of fun training with her!
We started our dance with the intro of a very typical, slightly cheesy ballad by Bryan Adams (no offence to fans, we all have different tastes). We took each other’s hands and looked each other in the eyes while slowly swirling around. It was so incredibly not like us to do something like that, and it was probably the most boring thing people witnessed that day. Suddenly, the music stopped. People were perplexed. They thought something had gone wrong. And then ‘Breezeblocks’ starts, and we do our real routine, which I suppose was a sort of dance version of a ‘fight’ between two people, who constantly pulled away from each other, and then got back together in the middle. At some point, at our cue, several of our friends stepped onto the floor, and they mimed couples fighting and killing each other (I said it was unconventional). The whole thing ends with me being bitten on the neck by a monstrous groom (think ‘Thriller’), as he dips me. It was a lot of fun, and it worked, because as I said, we have never danced before, and we needed something that wasn’t stiff or pretentious, or too complicated to remember. Emma was such a great choice for an instructor. She can do more traditional dances, to any song you like, or you can ask her for something more looney and mad, like we did, and she will not disappoint!
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I just wanted the bridesmaids to wear green dresses, so I let them use their own. “Think Forest Nymphs”, I told them, and let them be as creative as they wanted with it. Mismatching green colours look very nice together, so I was not particular about having the same shade or anything. I ordered the same type of wreath that I was wearing for all of them, but in a slightly different colour scheme. They looked incredibly lovely! And they were the best bunch of bridesmaids you could ever wish for. Remember to laugh lots with your bridesmaids/ushers, if you decide to have any. Starting the day off with them was such a blast. I have very fond memories from that morning.
THE CAKE | A wedding cake can be expensive. I can bake, I thought, so my initial idea was to bake three different types of cake, and then put them on a 3-tiered cake stand. I found a cool one on Amazon. But as it got nearer to the day, I realised that was very ambitious, as I had a million and one other things to organise. A few of my friends had already suggested to bring cheese platters. Then I saw this picture of a wedding “cheese cake”, that is, a multi-tiered cheese platter, decorated like a wedding cake. I was sold. So we used the cake stand, and put lots and lots of cheese in pretty patterns. As Khairil and I are both cat lovers, and I am not a big fan of spending lots on a cake topper that you’ll never use again, I got a funny ‘silhouette’ type, with a couple and their cat, instead, and we placed this on the top piece of cheese, so it resembled a wedding cake. My bridesmaids took care of the whole thing while I was busy with other things so that made it even more special. I didn’t really see it until it stood on the food table at the wedding, and it looked marvellous.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Elaine Williams. I cannot recommend her enough! We are over the moon with the result, she makes you a pretty photobook at the end of it, and it was just lovely to have her part of it all on the day, as she is so kind and gentle. She knows how to get a good mix of pictures of people and pictures of details, and she captured the atmosphere perfectly. She also listens to you when you explain what you like. Our wedding was perhaps not the most conventional one, so we were looking for someone with a sense of the quirky, yet romantic, and Elaine was the perfect fit. If you go visit her gallery, you can see her stunning work, and we really recommend that you do!
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | Since we were so far away from our home, we had to drive a lot of stuff to the venue, and we had to stay overnight in order to set everything up the day before. At first, I thought lots of colourful wildflowers in little bottles would look amazing on the tables, like I’ve seen a lot of people do in woodland-themed weddings, but seriously, the stress of getting these delivered and then worrying about keeping them fresh overnight, made me rethink the whole thing. I am already a huge plant fan, and I love gardening and growing stuff. I’d recently become obsessed with making these little mini-worlds with succulents and toy figures inside little glass bowls, so I thought, why not do that for the wedding? These are easy to transport and there is no worry about them withering. So I made one terrarium for each table with whimsical motives like dinosaurs, giraffes and fairies, and then I named each table things like ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Where the Wild Things Grow’ and ‘Fairyland’, so that the guests could quickly find their table. I added some more glass bowls with fairy lights and moss, and voila, an easy setup for romantic and personal table decoration.
We decided to make all our stationery ourselves, because again, hardly any guests care about this, and it just ends up getting thrown out after anyway, so why spend lots of money on it? Name cards were printed out silly-looking cats from the Internet Two of my bridesmaids are skilled with crafts, so I had one of them make these look stylish, while the other created pretty cardholders out of wire. Everything else we thought needed signing, like the table chart, or funny posters here and there, were printed out on brown craft paper in a fancy font and put in cheap plastic vintage frames. I looked great, and cost hardly anything.
As I mentioned, we had a photo wall, with photos from various stages of our lives, from childhood until recent years, and we just made each display out of two lengths of wood from a timber yard, hammered some nails into them, and hung fairy lights with tiny craft clips on, so that we could hang photographs onto the strings of light. It was cheap, easy, and made a great addition to our wedding story!
All our cutlery and plates were hired from Crocks, and the glasses were provided by Weddings in the Wood.
THE HONEYMOON | At first, we thought we would go somewhere warm for two to three weeks. Christmas was coming up, and I’ve always wanted to experience this season in Australia, as they do a lot of the things Khairil and I are used to from our own family traditions, but with hot weather, beaches and BBQs. So we set our eyes on Australia, but since we both work for ourselves, and have no current commitment to stay at any permanent place, we decided to make it a longer trip instead. We booked a one-way ticket, and as I am writing this, we just had our Christmas celebration in Sydney, and we plan to go to New Zealand and Asia next, and then, who knows? We are taking it one month at a time, just enjoying travelling together as long as we feel like it. It’s a great start to a long and happy life together!
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | How can I choose? Every moment was so much fun and brimming with joy. Walking up the aisle to the special song I chose, seeing everyone, including the groom, touched to tears. Our storyteller, James Riordan, who did such an amazing job at the ceremony, and after. People are still talking about it. My parents, brother, and childhood friends being there, all the way from Norway. Seeing the smile on all our friends’ faces, sharing in our happiness. Laughing and laughing and laughing during the speeches, which were so funny and entertaining and warm. Playing Giant Jenga with my friends, with a beer in my hand, realising that life doesn’t get much better than this. Seeing all our closest relatives and friends running around making a massive effort for our special day – we have the most amazing people in our lives.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Don’t do everything yourself! One thing is to want to have a homemade wedding, and this is great, because you get to be a lot more creative about it, and you will save a lot of money. But you may have friends and family members who have skills and talents, and who would most likely love to be part of it! We accepted all the help we were offered, and we asked people for help all the time, and we wouldn’t have had half the things ready in time if we had decided to do it all ourselves. Also, I highly recommend having some reliable people as ushers/bridesmaids, like we did, and to delegate small tasks to them on the day. I didn’t have to think about the food at all, or table decoration, because my bridesmaids were there to take care of it for me. The ushers were invaluable during the ceremony and games. It’s very important not to give yourself any “tasks” on your wedding day, because you need to realise how much energy this day will take out of you, you may have nerves, and you may not be in your best organisational mind. I sure wasn’t! It was lovely just to go with the flow and not worry about anything.
Don’t worry! It may not all go as planned, in fact, it won’t. But why worry about it? Focus on having a great time with friends, family, and not least, your partner, and then everyone will enjoy themselves! We had pouring rain, so we had to cancel the bonfire, but no one cared. We just hung out inside the party tent instead. We had to adjust our wedding dance a little, because the layout was not entirely how we had pictured it. Didn’t matter, because everyone loved it. Dancing and music in the evening was delayed, because the speeches took longer, but it turned out the speeches were so much fun that people didn’t mind, and we also set up a photo corner in the barn, with a costume box, and the idea was to have people share lots of silly photos, but because our guests felt like sitting down at their table in the party tent, talking and sipping drinks after dinner, it didn’t really happen. All these things are really hard to predict, because at the end of the day, a party will always have a life of it own. The same goes for your wedding. Let people enjoy themselves, don’t be so strict with the programme, and just have fun no matter what!
Do you have a lot of guests and you want to make sure they all get an equal amount of attention? I found that it was impossible to keep track of who I had spoken to yet (we had over 70 guests), and who I had missed. It shouldn’t be a focus for the bride or groom to walk around having deep, private conversations with each and everyone. You will never be able to enjoy yourself that way! If people are reasonable, and they usually are, they know that your life has been extremely hectic up to this day, and that you are already very tired, and that you need some time to just enjoy the moment of one of the most important days of your life. I floated around a lot during the wedding, trying to take part in the activities, trying to be where there were crowds of people, but mostly I just let people come up to me, which people will, constantly. Don’t worry if you spent less time with some of your guests. You can take your time and thank them for coming later, when things are back to normal again.
Find your venue first. If you are at a loss with what to start with when organising your wedding, find the venue, and then you have a starting point for a theme, atmosphere and space. Everything else will come naturally after that. Do things that you love, that represent you, and not what people or traditions tell you to do!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Elaine Williams
Venue | Weddings in the Wood
Actor/storyteller | James Riordan
Ceremony music | Nadine Galea and her string quartet
Tailor | Lena Lutuk
Bridal make up and hair | Angele Hersant
Dance instructor | Emma Brewer
Wedding stationery (wedding invitations, table cards) | Jeanette Abrahamsen
Plates & cutlery | Crocks
Inspiration | Feel free to browse my wedding boards!
Groom Waistcoat and Jacket | White Stuff
Bridal shoes and bag | New Look
Flower Wreaths | Ever Fairy
What a spectacular day! Thank you so much Kristin and Khairil for sharing your magical woodland nuptials with us today. Rachel x