I’d completely forgotten about Maid Marian and Her Merry Men until reading Penny’s wedding report, I loved that series. Perhaps a random beginning to a wedding story here on WWW, but vital all the same. For Penny saw a wedding on the show when she was a young girl and fell in love with the idea of a forest wedding. Fast forward a few years and Andrew and Penny decided to get married, on the 5th September 2015 to be precise. The dream of a woodland wedding prevailed and they planned their day at Cannock Chase Forest with the assistance of Woodland Weddings.
Their weekend of celebrations was a riot of fun and frolics, games and entertainment. It sounded and looked just amazing. A lot of love was poured into their day with a whole host of DIY touches and the tipis were magical. The highlights for me have to be the whimsical cake, tongue in cheek signage and the oodles of Gypsophila. Such a stylish and loved up pair.
Thanks so much to Lisa Howard Photography for sharing these brilliant images with us.
THE PROPOSAL | I wrote a children’s story about a Squirrel, an Owl and a Fox after a vivid dream one night. Andrew took the story, illustrated it and had it bound in secret. On my 30th birthday, we went for a stroll in the park and and stopped at a bench, carved from an old log that was shaped like a book. With squirrels running around, it was a very appropriate setting. Andrew gave me another birthday present (I had already opened my presents earlier that morning). Surprised to see my book had come to life, as I was sat there reading it, the ending was somewhat different. Andrew had added a few pages at the end of the story… “The story of Andrew and Penny is only just beginning, so let’s write our own happy ending….” and then the book told me to look up. Andrew had slipped from the bench and was on one knee with a beautiful 18 carat white gold ring with a band encrusted with diamonds and a circle of diamonds around a central emerald (my favourite gem stone) and he had pulled champagne and glasses from his bag as he asked me to marry him.
THE VISION | As a young girl, I always loved the Maid Marion TV show. There was a wedding scene in the forest and I remember falling in love with the idea then. Since that day I always wanted to get married in the forest myself.
When I met Andrew I admitted to him I had a Disney Princess diary from when I was a child, with all my wedding dreams in it and when we moved in together, I unearthed it and showed it to Andrew. He agreed that a forest wedding was an amazing idea and that’s where it all began to come to life. We loved the idea of a natural wedding, surrounded by loved ones, something quirky but beautiful and a forest wedding fits the bill perfectly.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | As much as the wedding idea was initially my own, Andrew was the man with the plan. He designed the save the dates, the invites and even created a wedding website to inform guests of the event, its itinerary, what to bring and even RSVP online. Andrew turned the vision to reality with the help of Woodland Weddings and their planning team, Bob and Lynzi. We decided one day wasn’t enough and opted for a weekend wedding so we could extend the time spent with loved ones who came from all over the world. We had guests from America, Canada, France, Australia and even Japan. The wedding planning had been going on long before the proposal but Andrew always says I’m a bit backwards.
BUDGET | We had a planned budget of £10,000, which went out of the window pretty quickly once we decided to have the reception in a tipi. With a bit of help from my parents we just had to knuckle down and cut down on our social commitments but we managed to have everything we wanted. I won’t reveal the final figure as it was pretty eye-watering but I don’t regret a penny as it was the most magical wedding ever.
THE VENUE | The venue was Cannock Chase Forest in Rugeley, Staffordshire. It was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1958 and is the smallest area of its kind in mainland Britain.
Despite being relatively small in area, Cannock Chase provides a remarkable range of landscape and wildlife, including a herd of around 800 fallow deer and a number of rare and endangered birds. We also officiated the marriage on the Friday morning with eleven of our closest loved ones in Cannock Chase Registry Office. I wore a chiffon gown that I had hand made and it was a lovely little ceremony. We exchanged jelly rings after the ceremony and headed off to the pub for a meal. We then headed to the forest to see the campsite and the venue for our main ceremony the next day. The campsite was amazing and when friends and family begun to arrive they were all wearing sports attire, as we had a sports day planned followed by singing around the campfire. I changed from my gown into a white polo top and tennis skirt. You could say I had 3 wedding dresses. After being on the winning team for tug of war, twice, we (Andrew and I) toasted marshmallows and potatoes around an open fire with our loved ones before retiring for the night.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | On the big day (Saturday) I wore a beautiful, ivory, organza gown with ruffled layers on the skirt and pleats on the bodice, with a small smattering of glistening beads and a long train. The shoes I wanted were out of our budget; a pair of ivory brogues with ribbon laces by Irregular Choice so I opted to make my own wedding shoes. I found a cheaper pair of cream lace Mary Janes with a little platform to make me look a little taller next to Andrew. The shoes took a while to customise. I carefully and painstakingly encrusted the heels with pearls and diamanté and actually dyed the shoes from cream to ivory. However on our wedding day, my mum surprised me with the Irregular Choice shoes and my sister, Pip, also produced a pair of custom made Converse that said Mrs Haining on them. So, I had a choice of footwear for the big day and managed to get to wear all three. The bouquet was simple Gypsophila, tied with ivory lace and with Gypsophila sprigs in my hair, a sixpence on my shoe and with bridal underwear by Ted Baker with Swarovski embellishments, my dress and accessories where complete.
FINDING THE DRESS | I had always wanted a floaty empire line dress in keeping with the Maid Marion style and was actually going to make the dress myself for the forest ceremony. My sister was disappointed that we didn’t get to go dress shopping so decided to arrange a dress shopping day just for a bit of fun. On the day, My mum’s car broke down so my Dad had to take us. He ended up coming in with us. After trying one similar to the style I wanted to make, but with a lower waistline than I’d imagined, I was feeling a little underwhelmed with the look, maybe because it didn’t fit properly. I tried a lace number on at my Dad’s request. This then became a game of dress up, with my Mum, Dad and Sister selecting dresses for me to try. Some were lovely but not what I wanted, until just before we were about to leave, my sister spotted another room in the dress shop and nipped in for a nosey. She found a gorgeous organza dress that was nothing like I had ever seen before. She handed it to me but I was tired of trying on dresses now, so refused at first. However, with a little persuasion, I slipped into the dress without really looking at it. When I stepped in front of the mirror, I could not take my eyes off it. It looked magical. The look on my family’s faces said it all and after 45 minutes standing in the dress, not wanting to take it off, the shop owner tried to urge me out of it, in order to see to other clients. An expensive designer dress was not in our budget (as I was planning to make it), so as a lovely gesture, my Mum, Diane got out her purse and bought the dress without even showing me the price. The dress was against all of my rules. I didn’t want strapless as I have a fairly small bust and feared it would slide down. I didn’t want a long train as it would get muddy in the forest. I don’t like pleats, ruffles or bling but this dress had all three. I didn’t want a boned bodice in case it was uncomfortable. This dress had all of the aspects I didn’t want and yet I could not take my eyes off it, or my reflection in the mirror. They say the dress chooses you, this one definitely did.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Andrew always wanted to get married in something other than traditional wedding attire. He opted for a brown, dogs-tooth tweed, 3-piece suit. Andrew’s groomsmen and our fathers also wore the same, apart from the waistcoat, which was green to match the bridesmaids. He wore designer pale brown leather brogues, a floral tie, a gypsophila buttonhole and a gold pocket watch, a gift from ‘The Outlaw’, his new mother-in-law, engraved with the words “Welcome to the family”.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | Andrew’s best friend and one of his two best men, Zak, officiated the wedding. The whole ceremony was written by Andrew and Zak and bound in a book for Zak to read from. Zak used to be on stage, part of the reason we knew he would be perfect to perform the ceremony. He delivered a funny, beautiful and personal service. He read a poem entitled, “Falling in love is like owning a dog,” which was one of the highlights of the whole wedding.
We’d also opted to have a handfasting ceremony, performed by my best friend Hana, where our hands were bound together (where the term ‘tying the knot’ comes from).
We then exchanged rings with our own personal vows to one another. There wasn’t a dry eye in the forest, and it was all finished off with the most dramatic kiss, with Andrew tipping me backwards, like something out of a Hollywood movie, in an ode to our very first kiss all those years ago when he pulled the same move on the dance floor.
Andrew’s friend Sam, was our DJ, we also had an acoustic duo, Tricia and Ben perform for us.
I walked down the aisle to ‘Donna Lewis – I Love You, Always, Forever’ and we left together to ‘Natalie Cole – This Will Be’. Our first dance was ‘Sister Sledge – Thinking of You’.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I had nine beautiful bridesmaids, in Emerald green, floor length, chiffon dresses, with ruched empire line waists and a flowing cape hanging from one shoulder. They wore nude ballet flats with Gypsophila in their hair, matching pearl necklaces, earrings and bracelets and ivory shawls later on to keep the chill off. I’d managed to get all of the bridesmaids kitted out from independent wholesalers on eBay.
THE FLOWERS | My bouquet was Gypsophila (my Nan’s favourite flower) wrapped in ivory lace, my bridesmaids had smaller versions of the same simple, yet beautiful bouquet. The buttonholes were the same again but bound with a hessian string. The table flowers were a range of different white flowers, from white roses, to white Gerbera daisies and white chrysanthemums.
THE CAKE | The cake was created by my old school friend and artist Jo Kelly. It was a layer of chocolate cake, made to look like a log, followed by more layers of sponge cake, covered in white icing and embellished with spiralling wildflowers, all created out of icing and completely edible. It was a masterpiece that we did not want to spoil by cutting into it.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Our photographer was Lisa Howard who we chose for her ability to capture candid, natural photographs and capture the atmosphere of the party and ambience of the forest. She did a beautiful job.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | The ceremony took place in a natural aisle through the trees, with guests seated on hay bales, a carved love arch between the trees above an altar covered in hessian and flowers.
There was a tipi set up for the party, filled with fresh flowers on the tables, next to candles, jars of sweets, scattered flowers and strings of pearls on top of wooden log slices. Wooden benches, hessian table runners and a fire pit amongst the tables, which were named after trees. The top table was adorned with handmade bunting that said Mrs & Mrs Haining. Fairy lights were entwined around the wooden poles of the tipi and a disco ball and lights finished it off.
The cards and gifts were put in an old suitcase, decorated with handmade bunting, strings of pearls and Gypsophila. The wedding favours were a hangover kit for each guest, containing Alka Seltzer, a bottle of water, mints, a wet wipe, a plaster and a pair of earplugs to drown out the party if anyone wanted an early night.
The seating plan was a large wooden pallet with the guest’s names and pictures of the happy couple arranged in shabby chic frames.
The guests camped out in a village that had been set up especially for the wedding, consisting of bell tents, with futon beds, rugs and bunting for a homely feel. The bell tent village was lovingly named “Bell End” by Andrew and was sign posted as a fun touch.
There was a campfire outside with hay bale seating, as well as marshmallows and sticks plus potatoes to cook on the fire provided for the guests.
There was a stall set up for people to make their own biodegradable confetti from natural things found around the forest and wire and ribbon for guests to make their own flower crowns.
There was even a dressing up chest outside the tent filled with fun wigs, hats and accessories.
We spent weeks making all the signage and décor for around the site and inside the tipi, but it was worth it as it all looked amazing and reflected the theme we’d carried throughout.
THE HONEYMOON | Our ‘mini-moon’ was a trip to Bestival on the Isle of Wight. A festival we’ve visited many times now. Our real honeymoon plans involve travelling around Central and South America before heading on up through the USA and on to Canada in 2016.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Andrew forgot to download the songs that I was I was meant to dance to with my Mum and Dad. He says my face was a picture, he managed to rescue it though and got the songs quickly, or so we thought. After dancing with my mum to “Mama’s Song by Carrie Underwood” I then came to dance with my dad and the wrong song started to play, to which I was furious and stopped dancing, immediately, until the correct song begun to play, there were a few giggles from the congregation.
Trying to cut the cake and not realising the top layer was polystyrene and just for show.
The “Popping” game. Where each table is given a bottle of fizz to toast with. They have to open it in the most entertaining was and can win another bottle. This involved a human pyramid, human 10-pin bowling, solo dances from Margaret, Julie and Uncle Dennis. There was a half-naked George brought into the tipi on a bench, carried above the heads of tablemates and much more joyous cork popping from other guests, as well as me getting on Andrew’s shoulders in my dress and being walked around like a really tall person.
“Top’s off,” (all the men removed their shirts and had a dance off).
My aunt and uncle arriving on Harley Davidson style mobility scooters.
My bridesmaids picking Andrew up for a photo and all ended up copping a feel of his his crotch.
I was the winner of the limbo on the dance floor, Andrew was the winner of the limbo outdoors. Limbo champions!!
George’s rendition of “Hero.”
Bacon and Soul’s performance (two of the groomsmen playing guitar and singing as is customary for them to do at parties).
The morning showers and people wandering across the camp naked as their towels and clothes had been stolen.
Faye falling flat on her back, twice.
My dad’s hilarious speech where he thanked everyone for coming from all over the world, including Hiroo from Japan. (He isn’t even from Japan…oops)
Whilst everyone was settling in the tipi and waiting for the food. ‘The Lighthouse Family – High’ came on. Everyone had an impromptu sing along, we even had people dancing on the tables at 3:30pm.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Remember to take time to stop and look around and take it all in as the day goes so fast. Also, don’t stress, just enjoy it and remember to check in with each other throughout the day as you spend so much time speaking to guests, it’s nice to catch a few moments together.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
The Event Team who set up the forest wedding and staffed the whole event | Woodland Weddings
Photographer | Lisa Howard Photography
The dress | Romancia Bridal
The flowers | Amore Flowers
The suits | ASOS
DJ | Musical Bossmen
The food | Hazelgrove Catering
Bell tents | Cariad Canvas
Andrew and Penny, thank you both so very much for sharing your wonderful story today xo Lou