WWW readers Helen and Sara tied the knot on 6th July 2019 at Mickleton Hills Farm in the Cotswolds and what a beautifully relaxed and rustic day they had! They set their priorities early on to help them plan and it sounds like a very efficient job of it they did too! For example, being able to provide a free bar was important to them, and an expensive cake was not. However, I’ve got to say, the Harry Potter themed cake and cupcakes that Sara’s siblings put together is nothing short of spectacular!
Their relaxed and rustic day is full of simple yet beautifully thought out details, the table plan being one of my particular favourites. It also sounds like a lot of fun was had by all, wait until you hear about their first dance auction!
Thank you so much to Jules Barron for sharing these wonderful images with us today. Helen and Sara loved having Jules as their photographer and the results really speak for themselves.
From Helen’s perspective…
From the outside, it probably looked like a textbook engagement. Beach, sunset, rum and a ring… In reality, most people know that Sara completely and utterly stole my thunder. We were on a trip to Cuba, Guatemala and Belize. I was in charge of Cuba and Sara planned Guatemala and Belize. Knowing that I was going to propose, I made the last night in Cuba pretty special and booked to stay on a remote island off the north coast of Cuba. We’d spent the day kayaking, walking along the beach, relaxing in the cabanas and swimming in crystal clear waters. The plan was to take in the sunset and ask her to marry me. Everything was going well, I’d hidden the ring in a sock in my rucksack and had removed it and popped it into my bag that I was taking out to dinner. We agreed to have a couple of drinks on the beach and found a nice quiet spot to watch the sunset. After my third (or maybe fourth) rum, I felt ready to ‘pop the question’ and as I turned to Sara to begin the start of my well-prepared speech, she interrupted with her own version. Stunned at the situation I half shouted/half screamed ‘NO’… (Not the expected response and in hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have gone with that had I had the moment again). I explained to Sara that I didn’t mean ‘no’ to her question but rather ‘no, because you’ve just stole my moment that I had spent hours engineering’… That said, she pulled out an engagement ring and through tears of laughter and joy, I let her continue and I accepted (of course). By this point, I was a tipsy, emotional mess so my proposal wasn’t probably as special or as eloquent as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, I then went ahead with my original plan and asked Sara to marry me. I suppose the good part about going second was that I was pretty sure she would say yes.
From Sara’s perspective…
In a nutshell, I stole Helen’s thunder… I didn’t know it before, but she had planned to propose on EXACTLY the same evening on our trip to Cuba and I pipped her to the post by about 2 minutes.
We were sat on a beautiful deserted beach with a bottle of rum and beautiful sunset, and I thought ‘well this seems like a nice moment, I’ll do it now’. What I hadn’t realised was that Helen had planned the entire day… from the trip to the deserted island that only 50 people were staying on, to the paddle boarding and snorkelling, and picturesque sunset… I had planned nothing but just swooped in and stole the moment. Oops!
She was so shocked that she said ‘NO!’ and then I panicked… Thankfully she didn’t mean ‘no’ to the getting married, she meant ‘no’ to me stealing her moment.
Anyway, after a few tears (hers!) I managed to ascertain that she did actually want to marry me and we celebrated in Cuban style by finishing the bottle of rum.
We were certain of a few things:
- We wanted all our family and friends there (including Sara’s massive family – 70+ people) which meant a big venue with a capacity of 150 people, somewhere in the UK that was easy for people to get to, and had lots of nearby accommodation.
- We wanted the day to be really personal and meaningful from the ceremony to the reception and even the entertainment
- We wanted a barn wedding with great outdoor space – rustic but not totally DIY.
- We wanted to put on a free bar and our own gin bar.
The Planning Process
Firstly, we both LOVE a plan and Sara especially loves a spreadsheet so we really enjoyed the whole process.
We researched heavily, from Pinterest to recommendations from friends. We took our time making decisions but not too much time that it became a long, drawn out process. We also didn’t try to do everything at once, we just took it one step at a time … With the exception of the seating plan which I loved doing over and over again. I used magictableplanner.com, it lets you upload your guest list and easily plot them using an online tool. It makes it super simple to update if you get over excited like me and do it 3 months before you should!
A couple of months out we created a really detailed schedule for the day and although we didn’t quite stick to it, it really helped us uncover things we hadn’t thought about ahead of the day. It also helped us ‘delegate’ tasks to people (whether it was the venue or a bridesmaid) which meant that on the day, we didn’t have to worry about a thing.
We tried to spend the money where it really mattered and we agreed what these areas were up front. For us, it was the venue, the band and the free bar. We purposefully didn’t spend much on flowers or decorations (flowers were bought at a wholesaler and arranged by Sara’s mum and sister), the wedding cake (also made by family) and the catering, because when you’re on a budget, it’s important to know where you’re willing to splurge and where you’re willing to cut back.
We spent a couple of weekends looking for venues in or near the Cotswolds and eventually landed on Mickleton Hills Farm in Gloucestershire. Mickleton Hills is a beautiful old farm with two spacious barns and awesome outdoor space too. As soon as you turn off the small country lane, you’re met with a driveway lined with large oak trees and friendly sheep.
We were first taken with the original barn where we held our ceremony – bare red brick framed with wooden beams and stone floor. Stunning! The new second barn is fresh, light and perfect for the wedding breakfast. We especially loved the little courtyard that is big enough for garden games but isn’t too big that you lose the intimacy between your guests. The venue itself is owned and run by David and Sammy who were incredible from the moment we met them. They did a big renovation on the venue in 2018 and they have thought of every little detail to make the wedding run smoothly. You can tell they adore what they do and really care about making your day perfect.
We loved the venue for many reasons:
- Its ‘country’ and relaxed feel (especially the sheep and the cat!)
- The different spaces at the venue really fit with our plan for the day – a separate barn for the ceremony and wedding breakfast, and then back into the ‘party’ barn for later on. There are also many different courtyards which worked well for our drinks receptions, garden games and hog roast later on.
- There was some beautiful cottages on site which were perfect for our immediate family as a base for the wedding from Thursday to Sunday.
- We were able to get into the venue from the Thursday which meant a very relaxed ‘set-up’ and it ended up being some of our favourite moments of time spent with our families.
- We could bring our own bubbles and wine for the reception and dinner with no corkage charge and the bar prices were affordable.
- We could choose our own caterer and all other suppliers.
- The venue itself was so well designed that we knew we wouldn’t need to spend too much on decorations.
We would highly recommend David & Sammy!
Your Outfits & Accessories
My dress was by Ivory & Co. from BOA Boutique in Richmond. I loved the vibe of the shop and the choice! Katy, our assistant, listened to what I thought I wanted but also provided options I hadn’t thought of which resulted in my perfect dress. I loved that my dress changed from the daytime to night-time. I wore a bolero for the ceremony and reception and in the evening I whipped it off and popped on a sash that was party ready!
Earrings: Lace & Favour
Hair vine: Etsy (by BeautyWeddingDesign)
Shoes: John Lewis
After visiting a few dress shops, I realised I had fallen in love with Pronovias dresses. I found the one I liked the most and then ended up buying it second hand from a lovely lady on Still White who was selling it as she had just had her first child. It was the Pronovias Drenoa dress which I then had tailored to my size. I loved that I bought it second hand because I had always been a bit reluctant to spend so much on a dress for one day, and I fully intend to sell it on again as I like the idea of giving someone else the opportunity to get married in it also.
Shoes: No. 1 Jenny Packham from Debenhams
Jewellery: Mostly ‘borrowed and blue’ from my sister
Hair vine: Etsy
With two brides, three bridesmaids and two MOBs, we thought we might need a team of people to do our hair, make up and grooming so one of our first search results was MakeUp by Jodie. They are a team that put you in contact with makeup artists and hair stylists in your area. Laura and Leanne were friendly, professional and we both loved our hair and make-up on the day.
Hair: Laura Michelle Bridal
Makeup: Leanne O’Neill
My best man, Santi, visited Jack The Clipper, Bow Lane, London.
The Readings & Music
I have loved Billy Joel since my dad introduced me to him when I was young. When I met Sara, I very quickly introduced her to Billy too. I’d always thought it was the perfect song for us and so thankfully Sara agreed that it could be our aisle song. The song was ‘She’s got a way’ and on the day it was performed by Frankie Davies (more about her later!)
Song: Keep me travelling along with you
This was a song that Sara and I loved from our school days. I even wrote a verse for our day to make it even more personal.
Reading: From this moment on – Shania Twain
Sara and I unashamedly love country music, so when we struggled to find a wedding reading we turned to music that we know and love. The lyrics are remarkably fitting for a wedding, and we had recently been to see Shania Twain in concert. It was both touching and a bit hilarious as it was being read by Sara’s 35-year old brother with a big beard.
Song: A million dreams from the Greatest Showman – performed by our brave friends
When the Greatest Showman was released in 2017, our music world changed forever. During our ceremony, a few brave souls agreed to sing “A Million Dreams” from the hit musical and it was one of our favourite moments of the entire day, especially as they had taken the time to learn a beautiful harmony to the song.
Song: I say a little prayer – Aretha Franklin
At the end of the ceremony, we were keen to bring back the “fun” element that we were determined to have throughout the day. In a Love Actually vs. My Best Friends Wedding vibe, we decided on “I say a little prayer”. In the final few verses Sara and I danced back down the aisle singing along, everyone then danced out after us.
Best Man – Being the sole man in the bridal party, we thought it was only right that Santi wore what he wanted and what he felt comfortable in. We had a lot of fun getting a personal shopper from Suit Supply. The assistant (Jon) made it feel like a truly personal experience – he asked to see the brides’ dresses, the bridesmaids dresses and the venue and then presented three options. The first one was the one that we went for. The suit picked up notes from the sage green bridesmaids dresses and he looked totally dapper!
His shoes were from ASOS
Our brothers and brothers-in-law were our ushers and wore their own navy suits with handmade button holes and matching ties and pocket squares from Hemmi Design on Etsy.
We had three bridesmaids who thankfully are all pretty relaxed and willing to go with the flow. We knew we wanted a sage green as part of the ‘country’ style of the wedding and also knew we’d prefer a floor length dress. With the help of handy Google searches, we landed on the Little Mistress dress (from ASOS) which really suited them all. They especially loved that the dress was stretchy (!) so no last minute stresses about fitting into the dress!
We were very lucky that Sara’s mum and sister are keen gardeners and kindly offered to arrange the flowers for the wedding. We kept it quite simple to gypsophila and eucalyptus with some beautiful white and peach roses.
We bought most of the flowers from an online wholesaler, and then some of the roses from a local florist in Chipping Campden. Our family did everything from the bouquets, the button holes, the ceremony flowers and the wedding arch – pretty impressive! We kept the centrepieces simple with a single white rose in old gin bottles, and a stem of eucalyptus.
What a legend.
We loved Jules’ photography from the moment we found her website. We loved the documentary style and the incredible effects she could create from different lighting and backdrops. After one call, we were sold. Jules feels like another friend attending your wedding – by the end of it, we genuinely felt like friends.
There were lots of things we loved about Jules, and here’s just a few:
- Her style is very natural, no awkward or cheesy posed photos
- She made us feel so special right from the moment we spoke to her on the phone, from sending little gifts in the post throughout the planning process, to her genuine excitement and happiness for us on the day
- She offered both photography & a highlights video
Jules Barron – see above
Sara had previously made the wedding cakes for her older brother and sisters’ weddings, and so it had become a bit of a sibling tradition for the cake to be homemade (and themed). The actual cake was a complete surprise on the day, and they completely nailed it. We had a suspicion that it might be related to Harry Potter, and we were not wrong… it was a beautiful Golden Snitch themed two-tier cake surrounded by cupcakes. Delicious and very appropriate given our joint love of Harry Potter, and the fact Sara’s family are often called the Weasleys.
The Details & Décor
We intentionally chose as venue that was beautiful as it was so that we didn’t have to do much to it. We were keen to have the rustic barn shine in all its glory. This also helped us keep our costs down.
Stationery – designed by Sara and printed by printed.com
Flowers – wholesale and put together by family
Centrepieces – Bought from Amazon and spray painted
Table plan – Frame bought from Habitat and spray painted
Fancy dress – Amazon
Photobooth – provided by FunSnaps
Aprons – designed by Sara and printed online
Tables – Kit Bamford catering
Wheels – Handpainted by Sara’s Dad
Favours – From the RNLI
We decided that on the day we would like to raise some money for charity. We chose the RNLI due to Sara’s family love of the sea and Helen’s late father’s love of sailing. Our favours were pens, pencils, notepads and magnets from the RNLI. We also auctioned off our first dance! For £1 entry, guests could put in any song they wished and after dinner, the winner was pulled out of a hat and announced. We ended up dancing to David Guetta – Titanium and it was epic!
From a combination of the wedding favours and the first dance raffle, we ended up raising over £600 for the RLNI.
Dessert table… We’d always been keen on having doughnuts feature on our dessert table and it turned out amazingly well for a really good price! Here’s how…
Doughnuts: Ordered directly from Krispy Kreme
Doughnut holders: No kidding, these are kitchen roll holders and a mug tree from Wilkinsons!
Fruit tartlets & macarons: M&S
Cheese Wheels: Tesco
One of our first dates, and the first time Sara met Helen’s best friend, Lowri, was at a small London gig to see a country-folk band called Frankie Davies. We fell in love with her music immediately, and consequently saw her at other gigs in London, including one hilarious country music festival on a boat on the Thames.
Lowri used to work closely with Frankie Davies in the music industry, and so we thought it was worth asking if she would consider performing at our wedding. Whilst we always knew it was a long shot as she didn’t really ‘do’ weddings, we were over the moon when she said yes!
Frankie was definitely one of our personal highlights of the wedding – with the beautiful aisle song, the acoustic set in the courtyard during the drinks reception and two amazing high energy sets in the evening. She sang a perfect mix of her own songs (check her out on Spotify) and then some absolute wedding bangers including Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, The Killers and Proud Mary. We honestly didn’t stop dancing for the whole time and our legs were aching the next day. We are so grateful she came all the way from Jersey and are very confident she’s gained 150 new fans!
Frankie on Spotify here.
We had some close family that had travelled from Australia and Canada for the wedding so we decided to head to Lake District for a ‘familymoon’ week with them to make the most of seeing them. It was a lovely way to unwind together and regale the tales of the wedding, and we did get a chance for some alone time together and fine dining at the Holbeck Ghyll hotel.
Later in the year we’re going on a longer honeymoon to Sri Lanka, which gives us something else to plan towards and look forward to.
- Seeing each other for the first time. We had kept our dresses secret from each other and we both loved how they looked together.
- ‘A Million Dreams’ performed by our friends in our ceremony
- Being lifted up on shoulders to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a prayer”
- Frankie Davies performing ‘Proud Mary’ and the guest going nuts for it
- All the speeches – they all did an amazing job!
Advice For Other Couples
We had some great advice from other people and older siblings who had gotten married already:
- Agree between you which things you care most about (free bar), and which you care less about (expensive cake). This helps to prioritise time and manage the budget.
- We loved having other events around the wedding day with drinks on the Friday night and a hungover pub lunch on the Sunday. These extra events meant we had plenty of time to see all our friends and family in a very relaxed manner over the weekend, and Chipping Campden was a perfect venue for people to have a weekend getaway.
- Don’t worry about trying to find everybody to speak to on the wedding day – they’ll come to you.
- Make time for each other on the day and keep checking in – we loved the five minutes immediately after the ceremony and the time together having our wedding photos taken.
- Make sure you delegate any on-the-day jobs to bridesmaids and ushers so that you don’t have to think about anything.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Mickleton Hills Farm
What a beautiful day! Thank you so much Helen and Sara for spilling all the details on planning your big day. Rachel x