I do love it when I get to feature a wedding with a dash of unique. Today’s wedding featured a steam train to transport guests and the newly-weds from ceremony to reception. It made for a truly memorable moment and some stunning portraits to boot.
WWW readers Matthew and Emma got hitched on 28th May 2016 at Swanage Town Hall followed by a relaxed reception at Harman’s Cross Village Hall in Dorset. I do love a village hall celebration, they always feel to homely and lovingly put together. Matthew and Emma are chefs and food was their top priority, they chose a scrumptious BBQ meal for their guests with Matt’s homemade shortbread and tiffin for dessert. Their loved ones were also gifted Matt’s BBQ Rub in sweet jars, a foodies delight. Just wait until you hear all about their honeymoon too.
The hall was decorated in sweet pastel lanterns, natural blooms and hessian table runners. It all looked so fresh and pretty. Emma wore a flowing gown with sweet beaded cape, while Matthew chose a navy suit and pink tie. Didn’t they look lovely?
THE PROPOSAL | February 2014 at Limewood Hotel, Hampshire – which is part of the hotel group that I (Emma) work for. We were celebrating 5 years together by staying at the 5* hotel for a discounted price (one of the perks) and had spent the day relaxing in the spa. Turns out Matt wasn’t very relaxed at all and nervously popped the question as we sat down for dinner! He had intended to wait until the end but decided to bite the bullet as the restaurant was almost empty at that time. We had talked about the future and getting married, but it still came as surprise, particularly when I learned that my parents and sister knew about it beforehand – Matt normally sucks at surprises!
THE VISION | As we both work as chefs, and have both worked in big hotels where they churn out mass-produced 3 course dinner weddings, we wanted to do something as far removed from that as possible. We just wanted a relaxed, chilled out wedding, but also wanted everyone to have a good time, and feel that they had been looked after. As food is such a big part of our lives we also wanted to feed everyone well!
THE PLANNING PROCESS | After setting the date we had over a year to plan, so we got things done as soon as we could, so that we weren’t doing everything last minute. We only looked at a couple of venues, and to be honest the cost was a big deciding factor. We just couldn’t stomach paying £3k plus just for the venue!
Once we had our date set at the venue, which fell perfectly on a bank holiday weekend we chose our caterer and booked the ceremony. We had heard good things about Julian at Country Foods Catering in Swanage, and we really liked the fact that he was a real chef, like us, not an events manager or coordinator who perhaps wouldn’t understand exactly what we were after. He was very open to suggestions, and would cook us whatever we wanted (within reason!) and did lots of extra bits and pieces on the day.
Everything else started to fall into place, our amazing photographer Charlotte Razzell who was recommended to us when our original photographer had to pull out. We are so happy with the photos and she was the perfect balance of friendly and professional. We got a lot of comments about how great she’d been.
I chose and ordered lanterns, started collecting jugs for flowers and thinking about other details. We got lighting and a fire pit from Camelot Marquees, and straw bales from Ben at the goat farm in Swanage. I always had the ‘big picture’ in my head, and would sometimes find it quite overwhelming. Matt would just ask for a list of jobs and take it off my hands.
We pretty much organised the whole day ourselves, however our families and friends very kindly helped before, during and after with the process of setting up, and then clearing up the next day. We really couldn’t have done it without them.
We thought about hiring a co-ordinator for the ‘day-of’ but I’m so glad we didn’t. There were a couple of times during the day I had to check a couple of things with Julian and I did forget the cheque for the band! However these only turned out to be small things, and really didn’t cause much stress. We had so many great people there who just helped to make things happen, so the day had a really nice flow, which was my main concern. We armed my brother-in-law with a megaphone and he helped to gather people for photos and call everyone in to sit for food, speeches, first dance etc.
BUDGET | Not including honeymoon, about £10,000.
THE VENUE | As I mentioned we weren’t keen on paying thousands just for the venue, so we chose Harman’s Cross Village Hall. As village halls go it is very nice – recently built and right next to the restored steam train station in the hills of Purbeck. It had great facilities, loads of outdoor space and a rental price of £995 for 48 hours – perfect! It was a blank canvas so we could really make it our own, and they were flexible with what we could or couldn’t do. There was loads of space outside so we had a outside bar, drinks and the BBQ was set up outside. They don’t have a marriage license so we decided to get married in Swanage Town Hall. I was fairly dubious as I didn’t like the idea of a ‘registry office’ but found the hall was actually quite lovely when we went to see it.
The location of the Town Hall in the centre of Swanage meant that we could take the steam train from Swanage to Harman’s Cross which was so nice! It was such an unique part of the day, and really worked well in terms of getting everyone from A to B. The photos we got at Harman’s Cross with Charlotte were so lovely as well.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | Dress from Berketex Bride in Sheffield. Shoes from Irregular Choice, Schuh. Earrings from Etsy. Capelet and Hair Clip from ASOS. Necklace was bought for me by Matt a few years ago. Bracelet was a 21st birthday present from my parents.
FINDING THE DRESS | I don’t class myself as much of a “girly girl” so I really didn’t enjoy the first day I went out dress shopping with my Mum and Sister. I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted and I felt quite uncomfortable being strapped into all these strange dresses. By the end of the day I was wearing a shorter dress that suited me, but somehow I just didn’t like it.
That evening I had a look online and decided that I wanted something long and fairly simple.
We went out again the next day and I tried on a few cheaper dresses round the £200-300 mark. Whilst I really liked a couple of them, I could really tell the difference between them and the more pricey dresses in terms of fabric and structure.
Our final stop was Berketex where I tried on a few more dresses. The last dress I tried on was a chiffon gown with a lace up back, and a not too puffy skirt. It had a lovely little beaded belt with it, and the rest of the gown was plain. The top was kind of rouched, Grecian style, and felt modern and feminine but not princessy. I felt like I was wearing the dress, rather than the other way round. It cost £700 plus £200 in alterations. My mum kindly paid for the dress; if she didn’t I would probably have gone for one of the cheaper options! I also saw some lovely dresses online but I was more than happy with the dress we I found with my Mum.
My only gripe was that the dress was strapless, and I would have preferred something a bit more covering. I found the beaded cape on ASOS, and when I tried it with the dress it gave the whole look a bit more of a vintage feel, rather than just looking like a ‘cover up’.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Me and Matt went shopping in Bournemouth and found his lovely 3 piece suit in House of Fraser. It was around £150 and fit him really nicely so we bought it several months before the wedding. We just asked the Dads and Matt’s best man to get their own suits! To give the blokes a bit of uniformity we bought ties from Racing Green at Debenhams and my Grandma made pocket squares for them all using a coordinating fabric from Liberty in London.
Matt got his brogues and belt from Next, and borrowed cufflinks from my dad. My Dad also sported his pocket watch which was given to him by my Mum’s father.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | Whilst everyone was waiting for my big entrance we had Seu Jorge’s ‘The Life Aquatic Sessions’ playing in the back ground, it’s one of my favourite films and we both are fans of David Bowie (but who isn’t?). I came in to ‘Sweet Thing’ by Van Morrison.
We wanted to have some form of reading but didn’t want anything too cheesy, so went for ‘The Art of Marriage’ by Wilfred Peterson. It’s about how you have to create a good marriage, and that it is about being a good partner, not just finding the perfect partner; Matt’s parents read it to us and it was rather poignant coming from them, a married couple of over 30 years!
Our exit music was ‘I was made for loving you’ by KISS and was Matt’s choice! But it was a bit of fun and put a big smile on our faces.
Our first dance was ‘Need your love so bad’ which our live act ‘Wild Nights Duo’ covered for us. It was an easy tempo to slow dance to (neither of us are great dancers!) and seemed rather fitting. The musicians were great, they did a mix of new and old songs so everyone had a dance. Two of my favourite memories were our best man accosting the microphone and singing ‘Matt and Emma!’ To the tune of The Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’ and us all stomping our feet along to Mumford and Sons! I had a such a great time dancing with all our friends.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I decided to have my sister as my one and only bridesmaid. She found a lovely navy blue dress on ASOS which had a similar style top to my dress. She is rather handy with a sewing machine and made herself a little jacket out of the same material from Liberty which we used for the boy’s pocket squares. We both did our own hair and make-up on the morning.
Kate was a massive help the day before when we were setting up the venue. She understood exactly the look I was going for and has a great eye for detail.
THE FLOWERS | Choosing a florist was easy as our landlord owns a flower shop located downstairs from our flat! Victoria at Bloom in Swanage uses seasonal blooms and wild flowers which she ties into lovely natural bouquets. She made mine and Kate’s bouquets and the buttonholes. She also made a cake topper and supplied me with a load of flowers for the jugs on the tables.
My incredibly talented friend and the head gardener from work, Jo Macina, also foraged loads of wild flowers and stems which she mixed with the flowers from Victoria. I was blown away when I saw all the amazing arrangements, they looked quite wild and natural, and every jug was different, but they all looked so beautiful. There were herbs and wild garlic flowers which was a lovely nod to our careers as chefs.
THE CAKE | My mum makes the best fruit cake and volunteered to make the cake. She also made my sisters’ a few year ago. We opted for a simple 3 tier round cake, all 3 layers were fruit cake and simply iced. When I collected the flower topper from Victoria I chose a sage green ribbon to match the arrangement, which set off the cake beautifully. Everyone said how lovely the cake looked; mum did an amazing job.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | We had already booked a photographer, however she had to pull out (with plenty of notice) as she was expecting. She sent us a list of recommendations for available photographers. After looking at everyone on the list Charlotte’s style was our favourite. Bright and natural, not posed or cheesy. She was an absolute pleasure to have there, and has given us some really beautiful memories from the day. She made us feel very comfortable and at ease, and loads of people asked about her and commented on how great she had been.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | The food was our primary concern to begin with. We couldn’t afford to put on a gourmet 5 course dinner, and didn’t want a mediocre hotel ‘wedding menu b’ type affair, so we just decided to choose food and drink that we both liked, and that we thought others would to. We chose our canapés and came up with our welcome drink, “Em-matt-inis”, followed by a barbecue serving smoked beef brisket, ribs, jerk chicken and locally caught mackerel. Everyone loved the barbecue and went back for seconds (because everyone loves a BBQ!)
One of the suppliers I use at work kindly gifted us some New Forest strawberries which we served with Dorset clotted cream, and Matt’s homemade shortbread and tiffin which was a real winner – as I didn’t get a slice! The village hall setting and beautiful weather was just so perfect for the food we chose – looking back it was quite a big gamble!
We also put out a board of our favourite cheeses, with some homemade rhubarb chutney.
We got our wine from Majestic in Poole, who were very helpful and it was a tough job trying all those different wines! We settled on Romeo + Juliet Prosecco, Vina Eguia Rioja Reserva and Sauvion Chenin Blanc which went great with the BBQ.
As it was a village hall wedding in Spring it seemed appropriate to keep the décor quite rustic. I started looking for ideas of what we could do fairly cheaply and easily. The hall was a bit of a blank canvas, but was light and airy with big windows looking out to the surrounding fields. I’m not a huge fan of bunting, so opted for coloured paper lanterns on festoon lighting to hang from the ceiling. I chose sage green, lemon yellow and robin egg lanterns as they complemented the room.
I bought hessian runners off Amazon which I cut to size. I collected all the chipped water jugs from the hotel I work at, plus a couple of charity shop finds to use for flowers. Matt made jars of BBQ Rub for our favours and we decorated jam jars with string and cotton lace for candle holders. Things got even more crafty after a trip to Hobbycraft and I painted signs, the table plan and a giant scrabble set!
My Sister and Brother in Law set up a couple of games of Kubb (you throw bits of wood at other bits of wood!) as well as boules. The weather was perfectly sunny and it was so nice seeing people having fun – just what we wanted.
Included in the hire was use of the tables and chairs, and they provided table cloths. I decided to hire Chiavari Limewash Chairs, which really lightened the room as the Village Hall’s were a bit ‘officey’ and I’m not a big fan of chair covers. They were quite an expense but I was glad that we went for them.
We spent a few hours setting up the tables, laying out the chairs, hanging lanterns etc. It was quite a lot of work, but was worth it. All the different bits and pieces came together on the day and it looked just as I had pictured in my head.
THE HONEYMOON | We spent 11 nights in the Puglia region in Italy. We spent two nights in a little retreat in the countryside called ‘Masseria Cervarolo’, eating food using their home grown produce and drinking and lounging by the pool.
We spent 7 nights self catering. This might not be everyone’s idea of a typical honeymoon but it was lovely just going to the markets and buying great Italian produce and cooking together. We had fresh pasta and barbecued pork from the barbecue most nights and sat watching the sun go down, drinking wine and playing cards! In the day time we drove out to the surrounding towns and villages exploring the area.
The last 2 nights we spent in the 5* ‘La Sommita’ overlooking the city of Ostuni. This was where we really felt pampered; The restaurant had a Michelin star and there were incredible views from the little garden and terrace. There were so many great little boutique shops and cafes/bars. We probably ate our body weight in tomatoes, burrata and mozzerella!
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Emma: Seeing Matt all suited up, looking as nervous as I did! The train journey and how nice it turned out to be. Sitting with friends outside having a glass of wine and then later a dance!
Matt: Greeting people at the Town Hall and trying to stay cool! When I saw Emma walking down the aisle. Seeing friends and family enjoying themselves playing the lawn games.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | DIY can save money, but perhaps not as much as you think, it’s more about personalising things and you don’t necessarily need to make things to do that! Be honest with yourself: If you don’t work well under pressure, or don’t have the time/skills to do it then look for an alternative. Even though our families helped us for a few hours the day before, me and Matt were still running errands into the evening. It was quite stressful, but we both strive in those situations and work well as a team.
If you’re keeping to a budget like we were really think about what is important to you, and what will actually make a difference to the day – and I mean that in relation to DIY projects or extra details. If you are really worried about how your hair or make up will look then spend money on that – I wasn’t too fussed about that which is why we spent money on posh cheeses and good wine!
Don’t skimp on the photographer! We were tempted to in the very beginning and are now so glad we didn’t even though it was our biggest expenditure after catering!
Most importantly, enjoy the day! Don’t bog yourself down with details!! Try and get a few minutes just the two of you.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Florist | Victoria @ Bloom in Swanage 01929 526196
Music | Wild Nights Duo booked via Function Central
Catering | Julian Wood – Country Foods Catering
Lighting & Fire Pit | Camelot Marquees
Matthew and Emma, thank you both so much for sharing your super sweet nuptials with us xo Lou