I am in pure wedding heaven this morning. I may be a little bias BUT I love a woodland wedding. Connecting with nature, the song of the trees and the dappled light, ahhh.
WWW readers Phil and Fidelma tied the knot on the 27th June 2015 at the spectacular Wilderness Wood in East Sussex. They chose the venue as they love the outdoors and forest walks plus it was the perfect blank canvas on which they could unleash their creativity.
Much of the day was crafted by themselves, with all the stationery designed by themselves, hand painted signs and sweet confetti cones on all of the seats. There was meaningful live folk music and foraged cocktails too.
Fidelma chose to wear ‘Vienna’ by Yoana Baraschi and she looked amazing with her out-of-this-world beautiful peachy peony blooms and flower crown. Oh and those gold Swedish Hasbeens… hearts for eyes. The maids looked so pretty in their mismatched frocks while Phil wore a dapper blue suit from Moss Bros. Get your pinning fingers at the ready WWWers.
Ilaria Petrucci, thank you so much for sharing these utterly gorgeous images with us today.
THE PROPOSAL | Phil proposed to me while in Dunster, Somerset, on 6th June 2014. Dunster is a special place for us as it was the first place we ever went away to together as a couple, and we were there to celebrate two years of being together. On the first day of our trip we revisited a beautiful, long forest walk we had enjoyed two years previously, but we ended up getting quite lost and only just making it back to the village before dark, and just in time for last orders for dinner. Unbeknownst to me, Phil had planned a romantic picnic and proposal for the walk which had been completely scuppered by our getting lost. But the next day during a sunny stream side picnic in a secluded spot, Phil proposed, and I said yes!
THE VISION | We love the outdoors and especially forest walks, so we wanted to bring that into the day with lots of flowers, trees, and hand crafted elements. It was also really important to us that the day was relaxed and fun for our guests, and that it would be a celebration of family as much as of us, so being family friendly, and pretty low on fuss and formality was a must.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | It took us so long to finalise a venue that in the end we only had seven months to plan everything else – so that was a pretty full-on seven months! As I am from Ireland, and Phil’s family are in the West Country, we didn’t have family near to where we live in Brighton, so we knew from the beginning that we would have to be quite self-reliant in the planning process. In many ways that probably suited us, as together we had such a clear vision for what we wanted that we wanted to have a say in every aspect of the day and know where we were with every element at all times, so we knew whether we were on track or not. We also wanted, as much as possible, for there to be an element of surprise on the day for our guests, including for our closest family – so we kept everybody pretty much in the dark about our plans. I think it was only possible to do the planning all ourselves because Phil and I shared the same vision for the day, and the planning was very equally shared between us.
BUDGET | We were very lucky to have had help from both our parents and incredibly talented friends and family who were able to make, bake, sing and play beyond anything money would buy. We also tried not to spend money on things that we didn’t think were important (things like favours, traditional wedding cars, matching suits and dresses for groomsmen and bridesmaids). It still went over budget though!
THE VENUE | Beautiful Wilderness Wood in Hadlow Down, East Sussex, not far from where we live in Brighton and close to many of the woodland walks we’ve explored in East Sussex. We first happened upon Wilderness Wood on a camping trip organised by friends in August 2014, which was right around the time that we had started our search for a wedding venue. The camping trip coincided with Hurricane Bertha – to say it was a wash out is an understatement – but the beauty of Wilderness Wood and its potential as a wedding venue still shone through. We knew really early on that we wanted a blank canvas with an outdoor forest feel where we could indulge our creative sides by doing as much of the creating and making as possible. So very quickly we had our hearts set on it but, when we investigated further we discovered it was booked up for weddings in 2015. We spent the next 4 months trying to find replacement venue and were about to settle on what was a perfectly decent venue, but a far cry from what we had hoped for, when a slot unexpectedly came up at Wilderness Wood and we grabbed it!
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | I wore a Yoana Baraschi dress – the ‘Vienna’ dress – which was stocked by BHLDN. I adored wearing it on the day and it was very comfortable and light. The length and simplicity of the cut was just what I wanted – fuss free, informal and practical for an outdoor wedding, but the intricate lace and detailing felt really unique too.
I wore gold Swedish Hasbeens which I loved wearing and were really comfortable on. Again, I found these online second hand but never yet worn. When I first got them I thought they were too shiny, so Phil found a way to make them more matt gold and far less brash using a few layers of spray matt varnish, and then they were perfect!
I wore a necklace that had been my mum’s, and my grandmother’s before her, and earrings, which matched the necklaces I gave my lovely bridesmaids, made by a very talented person I found on Etsy. I had decided pretty early on that I wanted a floral crown and had searched in vain through Pinterest to try to find just the right colours, flowers, and size. But the incredible Barbara Mole from Miss Mole’s Flower Emporium turned up on the morning of the wedding with the most glorious crown – she’s a mind reader, I don’t know how she did it.
The cousin of my chief bridesmaid, Gillian Hooper, is a make-up artist based in London and did my make-up on the day. I had been planning to do it myself, as I don’t like a lot of make-up, but she kept everything very natural and light and I was delighted with how it turned out.
FINDING THE DRESS | I knew I didn’t want a traditional style of dress, but that it had to have lot of lace. I also knew that I didn’t want to spend any more money on my dress than Phil would on his suit, nor did I want to spend a lot of precious time going in and out of dress shops. So I began my hunt online while we were still trying to find a venue, and fell head over heels in love with a Yoana Baraschi dress, the ‘Vienna’ dress, from BHLDN. I was a bit anxious about ordering a dress from the US, which would come with huge shipping costs and tax, which I might not like on. So I scoured the internet and found the same dress second hand a size too big, but in perfect condition at a much lower price. It was the only dress I tried on, and it was exactly what I had imagined once taken in.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Surprisingly to us, it took Phil an awful lot longer to find the ‘right’ suit, but finally we found the perfect blue suit in Moss Bros. We were still searching for a blue textured shirt and tie very close to the wedding, but we got there in the end!
THE READINGS & MUSIC | The choice and style of music was extremely important to Phil and me – we knew we wanted a folk feel and songs that we knew and loved peppered through the ceremony and during the drinks reception. So we were very lucky to have extremely talented friends and family playing music. Phil and I picked songs that meant a lot to us including walking down the aisle to ‘Sea of Love’ by Cat Power, ‘The Book of Love’ by The Magnetic Fields, ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ (an Irish Traditional song) played by my sister on violin, ‘Fall Back’ by my bridesmaid and artist Catherine Ireton, and ‘I Wish That I Could See You Soon’ by Herman Dune. The music was one of the most incredible parts of the day and so many of our guests commented on how beautiful it was. Phil and I hadn’t heard our friends practice or play any of the songs together, so we were as blown away as our guests when we heard them on the day.
In the evening, we had friends of ours DJ-ing, playing a brilliant mix of 80s pop, funk, and soul. We all danced our socks off!
We chose readings that meant a lot to us including a really great poem ‘Vow’ by Roger McGough, who Phil had long been a fan of, and an Irish blessing read by my grandmother in Irish.
The ceremony itself was inspired by humanist weddings and written in the weeks before the wedding by Phil and me, together with our wonderful celebrant Chris McDermott.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | My sister, Phil’s sister and my two closest friends. They looked beautiful on the day and wore dresses they had chosen themselves in a colour spectrum I suggested.
THE FLOWERS | The bouquets, buttonholes, floral crown, cake flowers, and ceremony/reception flower arrangements were done by Barbara Mole and her staff from Miss Mole’s Flower Emporium in Brighton. We’d been popping into Miss Mole’s for many years to buy her gorgeous natural arrangements of flowers, and knew from the beginning that it had to be her or no one doing the flowers! The flowers were a really important part of our vision for the venue, as we knew that they would bring a fresh, summery feel to the woodland setting. Barbara made the whole process really straightforward and was super to work with, it helps that she is completely unflappable. I knew exactly what I wanted – lots of coral peonies, wild flowers, and for Barbara to work her magic. The result was a feast for eyes – I was blown away by how gorgeous they looked on the day.
THE CAKE | We absolutely adored our cake – made and decorated by Phil’s extraordinarily talented sister and my bridesmaid, Lisa, (who used to run her own cake business) – which was not only delicious but stunningly beautiful. Lisa has the patience of a saint and took in all our ideas to produce a wedding cake which exactly matched all of our hopes. The cake was made up of four tiers – Guinness and chocolate, courgette and apple, parsnip and maple syrup, and lemon drizzle. It was delicious!
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | The lovely and talented Ilaria Petrucci! Early on in the planning process we had decided against a professional photographer, thinking that photos from our friends and family would be enough. But as the wedding got closer we realised that we didn’t want to burden our guests with that responsibility and that we really wanted the day captured in full. We began hunting online for photographers just three weeks before the wedding, and just when we were giving up on finding anyone, we discovered Ilaria. We instantly loved Ilaria’s candid style and the natural colour tones in her images, and luckily for us Ilaria wanted to photograph our wedding! We met just a week before our wedding and knew instantly that we had made the right choice – it just felt like Ilaria got us and she was so interested and enthusiastic about photographing the day. On the day, Ilaria was amazing, going above and beyond to capture every detail of the day from beginning to end. She was also incredibly discreet – I honestly didn’t notice her taking candid photos, and yet when I look back at them I realise that she must have been there to take them! Suffice to say we are delighted that we did decide to hire a professional photographer, and we know we landed on our feet with Ilaria.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | The forest made for an already glorious backdrop with the trees in full summer foliage, so all we wanted to do was add a splash of fresh summer colours which we did with an abundance of flowers, bunting, and colourful hanging paper honeycomb balls. Our family, close friends, and everyone at Wilderness Wood were incredible and put in so much energy and commitment into decorating the venue to our very particular specifications the day before the wedding, including making some incredible non-alcoholic punch – we really couldn’t have done it without them. In particular, Luśka and her colleagues who put up the lighting, and Emily and Dan Morrish from Wilderness Wood did an incredible job of getting the site ready for our big day.
In the weeks leading up the wedding Phil and I made a lot of details and décor ourselves including hand painted signs, handwritten place names (which took hours!) on wild flower seeded paper, confetti cones which we hung from ceremony chairs, woodland creature masks for children to wear, and Phil made a table tennis table for our guests to enjoy! We also picked up a few outdoor games for the children (and some grown-ups!) to play in an adjoining paddock at the venue. As a graphic designer, Phil was also able to design the wedding invitations, ceremony booklets, table names, and an incredible table seating plan using some paintings of wild flowers and leaves that I had made – it was a team effort, and a lot of fun!
Andrew Coates at Wilderness Wood also made the beautiful wooden base for the wedding cake, and the wooden table name stands.
The spectacular catering was provided by Rachel Sander and her staff from the Wilderness Wood café. Rachel was really wonderful to work with and we were blown over by how beautiful looking as well as scrumptious the food was on the day.
Luśka Mengham set up and ran the pop-up Wild Bar for the day complete with delicious foraged cocktails, local ciders, ales and stouts.
THE HONEYMOON | We spent three gorgeous weeks in the hills of Umbria and Tuscany in Italy – eating, drinking, walking and generally enjoying ourselves!
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Walking up the aisle, seeing everyone smiling, and feeling so happy to see Phil grinning at me from the other end of it. Catherine singing ‘Fall Back’ during the ceremony – I couldn’t help the tears. Phil’s nephews looking so sweet bringing the rings up during the ceremony. Walking back down the aisle to Herman Dune with some improvised lyrics which mentioned our wedding! Our fathers’ wonderful speeches, only equalled by the Best Man’s and Chief Bridesmaid’s. Seeing our guests really enjoying the day.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Don’t be led by other people’s ideas and preferences – this is your day, do what you want to do! The easiest way to avoid hearing every else’s opinion on your plans is not to tell anyone what you’re planning. Also, it’s very true what people say – that the things that you’re worrying about getting finished at the last minute won’t matter, especially if you haven’t told everyone every little detail. Avoid staying at the venue until 11pm the night before doing final jobs – that was a bit stressful! Try to let go on the day, and just relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Ilaria Petrucci
Flowers | Miss Mole’s Flower Emporium
Celebrant | Chris McDermott
Venue | Wilderness Wood
Dress | ‘Vienna’ dress by Yoana Baraschi at BHLDN
Shoes | Swedish Hasbeens
Earrings and bridesmaids’ necklaces | Barbara Veiga, Etsy
Catering | Wilderness Cafe
Make up | Gillian Hooper
Hair | Claire Beever
Dress repairs | Alma’s Alterations
Oh me oh my. Quite possible my fave wedding of the year so far.
Thanks so very much to Phil and Fidelma for sharing their super beautiful story with us xo Lou