Unique & Unbelievably Whimsical Woodland Wedding with Alpacas & Owls

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A truly whimsical woodland wedding celebration today with this stunning Longton Wood wedding held in Kent on the 14th September 2019. Yes it’s time to share WWW readers Lizzie and Seb’s super unique wedding, yay! They described their day as “unique, personal, totally over-the-top, family-orientated, unbelievable” and it really was all of that and yet so much more. Longton Wood was actually created for Lizzie’s sister’s wedding and she runs it still now, so there was no question of this being the spot where they would host their reception. They held their party in a striking clear marquee, decorated beautifully with personal touches and DIY decorations.

There was not one, but two flower arches, one in a hexagon shape was decked out with flowers including pampas grass, the second was an entrance arch adorned with blooms, wow! There were also super cute animals at their wedding, an owl display and alpacas also made an apparence, which by the sounds of it guests just loved. Also look out for stunning outfits, a balloon installation and a really special cake set up.

Alex Tenters Photography, thank you ever so much for sharing with us these utterly amazing images. Wow!

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The Proposal

We had just been away in Scotland for a family weekend away, Seb got a call to say the ring was ready to pick up whilst we were in the airport on the way there. My whole family knew Seb was going to propose and they kept dropping their guard and asking me things about wedding planning – I had absolutely no clue! We flew back home before the rest of my family due to work commitments and Seb asked my friends to take me on a night out, on a Monday, so he could sneak off and pick up the ring. The next morning he suggested that we take the dogs for a walk after work and have a picnic in one of the fields (we live on a farm) overlooking my favourite view. He bought the food and turned up with a heart-shaped hamper and a bottle of champagne that he had ‘found’ at my mum’s house. I just kept thinking how romantic and spontaneous it all was! We walked out to the field with the dogs and as we were setting up the food I turned away to sneak a chocolate out of the hamper, as I turned around, Seb was on one knee with the ring – I nearly choked to death before I could say yes!

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The Vision

We wanted to create a unique and personalised wedding with as much DIY as possible. My family and friends are all creative types and they all wanted to pitch in, it was so much fun! We focused our imaginative ideas on things that would be the most fun to do, such as the flowers and buttonholes. We’re also a little over-the-top as a family and our wedding was a great excuse to run wild with our ideas!

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The Planning Process

I am a very organised person and we decided that we would do as much in advance as possible. For instance, we decided to go with feather buttonholes as they can be made in advance and would be a lovely keepsake for everyone. Anything we could do in advance, we did! Luckily, we had our loft converted and my parents had a few spare rooms in their house so we had plenty of places to store everything! I would highly recommend getting as much sorted in advance as possible, it made the last few weeks much less stressful.

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The Readings & Music

We got married in church so we had to have at least one religious reading. Seb is not religious at all, he is an atheist, but Alan (the vicar) is a really lovely and understanding man. Seb and Alan talked for a long time about how the service would go and how to make it inclusive of everyone, as Seb’s family and our friends aren’t religious either. Alan suggested that we have The Song of Solomon as our religious reading as it is more like a poem than scripture. We just had one verse from it and it was perfect. Our other reading was a reading from Winnie the Pooh, every time we hear it, it makes us cry!

The music was traditional organ music and I wanted to have ‘Here Comes the Bride’ as it’s a classic! We then had 3 other hymns; One More Step (Seb and I love to travel), We Plough the Fields and Scatter (as my family are farmers) and Lord of All Hopefulness (as it’s my favourite). We selected hymns that everyone would know the tune to so everyone felt comfortable. We then had the traditional Wedding March for the way out.

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Budget

Seb and I saved £10,000, his parents contributed £5,000 and my parents paid for the rest.

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The Venue

The venue was created for my sister’s wedding in 2016 and she has been running it as a venue ever since. It was never a question that we wouldn’t get married there so I was able to observe a lot of other weddings before I got to plan my own! It is a blank canvas venue where couples can choose everything they want themselves, marquee, caterer, florist, decorations, bar and whatever else you can think of! It really allowed us to stamp our personality on the day and make it our own.

When it came to the marquee, we had so many options to choose from! My sister and I had seen a clear span marquee on Instagram but the company that had them was in Cheshire, a bit too far for them to come! I spoke to some other marquee companies and, even though they had clear span, they weren’t very enthusiastic or willing to listen to our plan. Then we came across the Party Doctors. From the first phone call to the weeks following our day, Raj and Dom have been amazing. They actually listened to what we wanted and made helpful suggestions to make the day run smoothly. They provided the most enormous marquee, flooring, carpet, catering tent, dancefloor, stage, lights and special effects (not just in the marquee but all round the venue), tables and chairs – they were fantastic!

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Your Outfits & Accessories

My dress was from Dressed to Wed in Chatham, it was where my sister found her wedding dress and Mary-Jane (the owner) is such a lovely lady. She picked out both my dress and my sister’s, she has such a great eye for what the bride wants and what she’ll look good in.

Seb decided that he was going to buy his suit, it makes sense as men can actually wear their suits again. We went to a few different shops in London but they were all way out of his price range (up to £1,000). We then visited Anthony’s Formalwear in Billericay after a recommendation and they were fantastic and so reasonably priced. Seb was able to choose every little detail down to the colour stitching on his buttons!

I took my mum to Le Chic Boutique in Bromley to find her outfit, it is by appointment only which we didn’t know at the time, but they let us in anyway – we were very grateful! My mum picked out an almond dress and jacket, she looked absolutely stunning! I took my mother-in-law to Bluewater and she choose a beautiful Phase 8 dress with matching jacket, she also looked stunning.

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Beauty

I have a friend who is a make-up artist and her sister is a hairdresser so I asked them if they would come, Karen Cox Make-Up and Samantha Jones Hair. As there were 8 of us getting our hair and make-up done (6 bridesmaids, bride and mother), Karen suggested that we should ask another make-up artist to come, especially as we were getting married at 12pm and that would have been a very early start! My friend from work told me about her sister who is about a year into providing wedding make-up – she was absolutely excellent, on time, very reasonably priced and the girls looked gorgeous – Emma Morphett Make-Up.

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Your Photographer

We already knew about our photographer, Alex Tenters, before we got engaged. He came to a wedding fair at Longton Wood a year previously and Seb and I were blown away by his amazing photos. I contacted him as soon as Seb proposed as I know how busy he is! Amazingly, he was available and he met us at the venue the next weekend. He was so enthusiastic with such incredible ideas that we booked him straight away, we didn’t need to see anyone else – Alex was ideal.

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Your Filmmaker

We had no idea about a filmmaker so we asked Alex Tenters for his recommendation. He introduced us to his friend Alex Brown by sharing a video to a wedding in France that he had filmed. Seb and I watched it in stunned silence and we were both in tears by the end – we cried at a wedding where we didn’t even know the bride and groom! We met at Longton Wood the next weekend and booked him straight away, both guys clearly worked well together and what they produced was amazing.

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The Cake

My friend had recently started up her own bakery and cake business called Beau Bakes so I asked her if she would do our wedding cake. As we had a lot of guests we had 5 cakes in 5 different flavours, I had tasted Ginny’s cakes before so I knew whatever she made would be delicious. She brought the cake to the venue and set it all up for us, took a picture and then stored it in the chiller trailer, our wedding co-ordinator was then able to put it out in the morning so it didn’t get damaged overnight. She did it all on her own as we were busy with other things – I couldn’t recommend her enough!

My cousin is a carpenter so I asked him if he would make my cake stand. I had seen an idea of having a stand with different platforms of different sizes, he took this idea and made it 100% better by making it look like a tree trunk with branches! It now sits in our kitchen and I decorate it according to the season.

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The Details & Décor

We didn’t want to have anything too uniform or matchy-matchy, it’s not really our style. I actually used the wedding as an excuse to buy things for our house! For instance, I really wanted a lovely old farmhouse dresser for our dining room so I bought one to upcycle and we had it as our chocolate station! My bridesmaids and friends were amazing with all the craft I wanted to do, we made paper flowers, signs, frames and edible favours! I have the flowers up around my house and I have used the frames for wedding pictures, every time I walk past I think of our amazing day.

Seb and I love to travel so we had pictures out on the tables and around the bar area of the many places we had been to. Also, Seb and I sadly have lost all of our grandparents and we wanted to have something out to remember them. I already had a picture from my grandparent’s wedding and Seb’s aunt very kindly sifted through her entire loft to come up with a picture from his grandparents. It was another very special moment for us as we knew we were getting married on the same day as my grandparents (they got married 14th September 1946), but when the picture of Seb’s grandparents was sent to us, we discovered that they married on 20th September 1947! Family is very important to us and we asked our siblings, cousins, aunties and uncles to send us a picture from their wedding day. We displayed them on a tree in the venue, literally a ‘family tree’ and it was great to see the different styles throughout the years.

Seb and I love to drink gin so our welcome drink was a gin bar! We repurposed some old storage palettes with optics so our guests could ‘pimp’ their own gin! We gathered together lots of different brands, mostly local, with different syrups, flavourings and fruit so everyone had their own unique drink.

As we needed some extra seating and décor to fill the marquee I asked Hire Love, who have been to Longton a few times, to help us style the venue. They have some incredible furniture and a great eye for style – everything looked so perfect, just like out of a magazine!

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Bridesmaids

I bought the bridesmaids dresses from Mix Bridal and asked a family friend to alter them for me. I wanted the girls to have cropped jackets in a tartan or check but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I bought long jackets and asked the same friend to crop them for me. She also made my jacket, I got the same material Seb’s waistcoat was made from so we matched.

Again, I wasn’t bothered about matching dresses or colours, I asked the girls to go on the website and pick 2 or 3 styles they liked in 2 or 3 different colours. I ordered all their choices and they picked their favourites from there. It actually worked out really well, they choose 3 styles in 2 colours and it looked great. I bought them little bags and they wore their own shoes. The reason for this was that I wanted them to feel and look amazing, plus I wanted them to want to wear the dress again, or it’s just a waste of money!

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Groomsmen

Seb and the groomsman got their suits from Anthony’s Formalwear in Billericay. We know a few people who had been there and recommended it. We went for a visit and the staff were excellent, very patient and professional and we would highly recommend them as well. There was no colour scheme or theme to follow, Seb let the guys choose whatever they liked and felt comfortable in as a group. They all looked amazing and we were very happy with what they chose.

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The Flowers

The flowers were one of my favourite things to do as everyone got involved! My sister is very talented (we learnt flower arranging from my granny) and my bridesmaids and family friends all helped – they looked so professional! We drove up to Covent Garden Flower Market a year before the wedding to see what was in season during that time. We spoke to the lovely gentlemen at Zest Flowers and they were able to advise us of prices and quantities. We then bought a selection of flowers to have a practice at home. My sister and I had a lovely afternoon arranging flowers and we calculated how much of each flower we would need to do 19 table arrangements. My idea was to have them all different styles and heights and my sister was able to transform my ideas into reality. A month before the wedding we ordered the flowers and they turned up at the venue the Thursday before. Everyone chipped in and helped get them arranged and on the tables on the Friday and I took 2 bridesmaids to my godmother’s house to arrange the bouquets. She has the most amazing garden and she didn’t mind us chopping her flowers down to tie bouquets! She showed me how to tie them myself so the girls picked their own flowers and I tied them, it was such a special moment.

I also wanted a flower arch on the entrance to the venue, the ceremony area (we used it for pictures) and the swing decorated so I asked a local florist to do those. Sue Davies has a shop in Sutton Valence and she has been a friend of my fathers for a long time, we have been to her shop to do workshops for years so I knew I was in safe hands! Sue was amazing, she even turned up with some extra vases and dried flowers to decorate the space!

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The Honeymoon

Seb and I both have office jobs so our holidays are very limited. We decided to go on a mini-moon straight after the wedding and have our proper honeymoon in May 2020. We agreed that Seb would book the mini-moon as, even though he had a lot of input into decisions for the day, it was mostly my ideas that he chose from. He researched spa hotels in the Lake District as he thought that would be the most romantic. However, they were all quite expensive and he thought the drive up there from Kent would be quite exhausting. He then received an email from British Airways advertising their summer sale…! He ended up booking a week in an all-inclusive, 5*, adults only hotel in the Dominican Republic for less money than 3 nights in the Lake District! It was perfect, exactly what we needed after running around like headless chickens for months!

Our honeymoon (or Honeymoon B as we refer to it) will be Norway in May 2020. We are spending 2 weeks driving up the coast and then flying to Svalbard to join an expedition cruise into the Arctic Circle to (hopefully) spot polar bears!

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Memorable Moments

There are so many we don’t think we can list them all here!

My hen-dos were hilarious, I am so grateful to my girls for putting in so much effort and I know Seb feels the same about his stag.

The night before the day was excellent, fortunately my parents live in a big house so my bridal party along with our friends and family from ‘out of town’ were able to stay with us. We had a big dinner cooked on the Friday night and we just chatted all evening! Absolutely perfect!

My dad was so kind, he is known for saying something lovely to make us cry and he tried so hard to chat about innocuous things on the way to the church (so as not to ruin my make-up – his words!) and he so nearly made it! We pulled up at the church and the driver jumped out to open the door for me and my dad stopped him and said that it was his job to help his youngest daughter out – I just burst into tears!

Seb says seeing me for the first time was amazing, he said I was almost skipping down the aisle and dad was trying to hold me back! We kept whispering to each other during the hymns and everyone in the front row could hear us!

One of my favourite bits from the day was the owl display – it was supposed to be a surprise from my parents but my mum accidentally let it slip a few months before. I was so excited! The guys at Owl & Raptor Displays were so helpful and so interesting! We were able to have photos with all the owls, feed them and hear about their lives, the guests loved it!

My sister was able to deliver the best surprise of the day, she organised wedding alpacas! Seb and I had talked about it but decided that the owls would be enough but I told my sister in secret that I was a bit disappointed. Well we got a massive shock when we were taken off for more ‘photos’ and we came across 2 alpacas in the field! We gave them a stroke and had a little cuddle and then they went to greet the evening guests and bring them up the path to the venue. Everyone absolutely loved them!

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Advice For Other Couples

The build-up to the day is both very special but very stressful in equal measures. Couples have to support each other at this time, Seb was so kind to me even when I was throwing a tantrum. You just have to remember that it is only a short time and it is over quick as a flash! I know some brides expect this support from their bridesmaids/friends but, in my opinion, this is unrealistic. Your bridal party have their own lives and your wedding is not their top priority – it is obviously high on the list, but they have pressures in their own lives. Seb and I feel that the support should come from each other first and family/friends second. That way, you will avoid arguments with the most important people in your life.

We would also advise couples to not force their bridal party to wear a particular style or colour. We know everyone has their own ideas about colour schemes etc but we can tell you first hand, everyone is a lot happier when they feel good. Also, why would you want to buy a dress for someone that they hated? Or force them into a hairstyle or make-up that made them look bad? That is just a waste of money and money cannot be wasted on a wedding!

We would also highly recommend hiring a wedding co-ordinator if your venue doesn’t already have one. The Wedding Dolls were absolute lifesavers, Joanne and her team went above and beyond – no one at our wedding had any clue that there were any troubles or difficulties, no one had to run off and do something or find something, The Wedding Dolls took care of it all and they are totally worth the money.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

Oh so awesome.

Lizzie and Seb, thank you so very much for sharing your epic wedding with us, wishing you a fab honeymoon too, it sounds like the trip of a lifetime! xo Lou

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