I have the most beautiful garden wedding reception to share with you today, held on the 18th July 2020 with 30 guests in attendance. COVID19 wasn’t going to stop Sophia and Toby’s nuptials and they forged forward with their special church ceremony and held a picnic party in the church gardens afterwards. It was delightful.
There was pure joy all round, complete with summery vibes, a yellow colour scheme and all the style. Sophia’s gown was made by her mum and it was a thing of beauty, Toby plumped for a navy suit and yellow tie, which matched the home-made bridesmaids dresses just so. The decorations were home-made too and even the food boxes were made by a family member. A true communal wedding, celebrating love in the most challenging of times. It really brings all the emotions to the surface.
Garden Wedding Reception
Toby proposed to me whilst we were on a family holiday in Italy.
He’s a Kiwi, so this holiday was the first time I’d met his parents, brother and sister in law. It was about a week into the holiday when we went swimming on a beach near Naples. Toby and I often free dive and snorkel on holidays, so we went out to some rocks together. Toby told me he’d found something and told me to dive. When I did he was underwater holding a ring. It was such a special moment! The spot was just around the corner from the beach, so we were alone. When we were ready, we swam back to his family waiting on the beach and broke the news!
My initial vision was for a big summery wedding. We are both quite outdoor people, and definitely summer people. We also both work in architecture, so are very interested in design. We agreed that we wanted to save and invest money into our future marriage, rather than spend a lot on the wedding day itself, so we were working to a budget. The plan was to have a traditional Christian wedding ceremony at a beautiful church in a national trust park, then to go to a village hall for the reception, which we’d decorate ourselves. I wanted warm colours, lots of flowers and a simple clean aesthetic.
The Planning Process
We booked the church and village hall, and sent out invitations in January. Then Covid hit, and we honestly didn’t know if we could get married at all. Weddings were stopped completely in March. It was really difficult to process everything, at first I felt upset to be losing the vision of this big wedding I had wanted. After that had sunk in, we talked a lot about what getting married really meant to us. We decided we did not want to postpone, as a lot of other couples did, because for us the wedding revolved around the vows and the commitment. We knew any kind of wedding would still have those elements. We decided that if weddings were allowed to go ahead, as long as the number limit was larger than 10, we would do it. We set this restriction because we wanted to have a photographer and videographer, and any less wouldn’t allow for them.
There were some things I’d been doing to prepare for the wedding. I wanted lots of flowers, but needed a way to reduce costs. So I collected flowers and dried them. I had friends and co-workers giving me their old bouquets, and I experimented a lot with different methods to preserve them. I made all the confetti, then preserved boxes of whole flowers.
In the end, Boris announced two and half weeks before the wedding that they could resume with up to 30 people. I knew that day Boris was due to make an announcement, so Toby and I watched live as he gave the news. It was a very emotional moment as we realised we could get married, and that it would happen on the day we originally planned.
We had to change plans quite a bit. We cancelled the booking on the village hall and instead had the wedding at the church, and planned a mini reception in the church garden. The church is in a national trust park, so the setting was beautiful.
St Michael and All Angels Church, Hughenden.
Your Outfits & Accessories
Toby wore a suit from House of Fraser. We got it tailored nearby.
My mum was making my wedding dress. She made her own dress when she got married. Having her make my dress was amazing. I really wanted something clean and simple, which brought drama through the form of the dress, rather than any ornamentation. We designed a neckline, which ran straight across the front, off the shoulder, then dipped low at the back. It was a challenge to create the line to look simple and effortless, as the shape required a lot of support beneath! Mum was just incredible and I am so in love with the dress she made.
I also wore Mum’s veil. It was really nice having a part of her wedding outfit with me on the day.
Beauty & Grooming
I did my own makeup. I tried a few tests, but I like a very natural look. Even the MUA’s who said they would do a natural look put far too much makeup on me. I find that the artists considered the makeup in terms of how it would look on camera, whereas I preferred to do my makeup to look good in person.
My hair was done by a family friend. She was just amazing, we had some issues with a hairdresser we previously booked, so it was all a bit last minute. She did some tests for me, to decide the style. The look I went for was something I hadn’t thought about at all, but as soon as she did it, I loved it!
Toby’s haircut was done by a local barber. Because hairdressers had only opened a couple weeks before the wedding, most hairdressers were booked up, so it was really a case of finding somewhere with a slot, rather than choosing a preferred stylist.
The Readings & Music
Because of Covid restrictions, we couldn’t sing in church. Toby was a choirboy and singing is very important to him. He carefully selected the hymns and we found recordings of them to play in the service.
Crown Him with Many Crowns
My two brothers gave a reading each.
My father gave the address. Initially we chose Toby’s uncle to give the address, but again due to Covid, he was unable to make it. Dad only had a couple weeks to prepare the talk, but it was very good.
The flowers were something I placed a lot of emphasis on. I wanted a lot of flowers. The colour, warmth and texture they provide does a lot to decorate a space. As I was going for a minimal look, I didn’t want to overpower the space with decorations.
A lady at the church offered to do some arrangements for us, so I bought supermarket flowers and delivered them to her and she made two really lovely arrangements to decorate the church.
I had been drying flowers all year. I made a frame out of timber batons, painted it white and used white tulle to cover it. I was very inspired by the work of Olga Prinku, who I had met at an exhibition earlier in the year. I then applied dried flowers to the tulle, to create a backdrop for the bench where Toby and I would sit.
I also filled vases and baskets with dried flowers, and arranged them around the garden.
My mother in law makes fantastic wedding cakes. She is very good at making totally lifelike sugarcraft flowers. Sadly she couldn’t come to the wedding, but she still wanted to be involved with the cake. My mum baked two tiers of a fruitcake, which she iced. Wendy, my mother in law, found a website online which made sugarcraft flowers, similar to hers, and together we chose a few. Wendy also sent me sugar powder colours. We had a video call where she taught me how to apply colour to the petals. I twisted the flowers together to make a wreath and laid it on the cake. Even though Wendy wasn’t there, it was really nice to do the cake with her.
Jade Touron. I met Jade through a friend years ago, and though we haven’t been friends directly, I’ve followed her photography through Instagram. I have always loved her style. She is very good at taking quite candid photos, and making the subject matter the focus of the image, not the craft of the photo (though of course there is a craft to doing that!). Toby and I wanted photos that would capture the emotion of the day, we weren’t interested in posed or ‘dramatic’ pictures, so Jade’s authentic style was perfect.
We were unable to have any groomsmen because of Covid. All Toby’s groomsmen were supposed to be coming from NZ, but sadly it wasn’t possible. Toby’s brother was supposed to be the best man, also couldn’t make it. His cousin, who lived in the UK, stepped in to take the role. We bought the same suit as Toby for the best man.
My mum also made the bridesmaids dresses. There were a lot of late nights in the days before the wedding. She even had to do a final fitting the day before, and was sewing whilst sitting in the pew for the wedding rehearsal.
I’ve always wanted yellow bridesmaids. The colour we chose is a warm, mustardy yellow, which I find it brings warmth.
The Details & Décor
I wanted quite a classic, simple aesthetic. I’m a believer that less really is more, so I focused on a few strategic items of décor, but generally let the natural beauty of the setting speak for itself.
I build the dried flower arch I mentioned previously as the centrepiece.
I also used resin to cast clear coasters, with dried pressed flowers inside as a favour. We sent some of these out to Toby’s family in NZ who couldn’t come, and included the rest in the lunch ‘baskets’ on the day.
The food was cooked by my younger brother Alex. Because of Covid we had to be very careful with how we served the food. He made picnic boxes with food individually portioned and wrapped up. The theme was ‘British Picnic’. He made delicious pies, pasties, tarts and so much more. My bridesmaid Olivia also helped with salads and canapes. The food was so delicious. As a wedding present, my brother made a recipe book for the wedding food.
Toby and I were very lucky to be able to go away on honeymoon. We had booked flights to Turkey long before Covid, and two weeks before we were due to leave, Turkey was added to the list of quarantine free countries, so we were able to keep our original plans. We spent time exploring caves in Cappadocia and free diving around Fethiye.
There were so many memorable moments. I think for me, after so long not knowing what was happening and having so many disappointments, I was surprised about how joyful the day was. No-one had seen each other for months, so the day felt like such a blessing. It was so special and intimate. We missed Toby’s parents a lot, but the day was just beautiful.
Advice For Other Couples
There are so many wedding things you ‘have’ to do, but you really don’t. When it comes down to it, the day is just one day. I would pick a few things you really care about, and focus your energy there. The build up to the wedding is so intense and emotional, it’s better to enjoy that time rather than trying to complete an impossible to-do list.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
So very special.
Sophia and Toby thank you so very much for sharing your darling garden wedding with us, it really looked incredible xo Lou