We’re here with Carl and Marc today to relive their wedding which took place on 9th March 2019 at Gaynes Park. This pair had such an organised approach to planning their day and I think you’re really going to get a lot out of their detailed account of the process. Read on for some fantastic advice!
I’m absolutely loving Carl and Marc’s quirky and eclectic decor, they really did make the festivities so personal which is amazing. They made lots of the bits themselves and it turned out ever so well.
Justin Bailey Photography has captured this decor in all its glory as well as the absolute joy of Carl and Marc and their guests. One of my faves is the confetti shot of the couple with faces completely full of confetti courtesy of WWW faves Shropshire Petals. Thank you so much for sharing these brilliant images with us Justin.
We unexpectedly had a double proposal! We had decided to spend Christmas 2017 away on holiday in Guernsey at a hotel Marc had taken Carl to for his birthday a few years earlier. The hotel had arranged a number of activities for their guests over the festive period and we were quite excited to be doing something different for Christmas.
We separately both came to the same decision that this would be the perfect opportunity for a proposal. We hadn’t spoken much about getting married in the past and were both fairly relaxed about it happening when the time was right. Well, unknown to each other, we had both decided now was the time!
Carl had an engagement ring made from our favourite jewellers in London (Joy Everley) where Carl had previously bought a few gifts for Marc with the theme of bees. The ring was two bees either side of a central diamond supported on a hexagon frame all on a rustic branch style band.
Marc had a bespoke framed proposal made which consisted of two separately framed personalised Lego characters, one of Carl with some of his common sayings which was wrapped for Carl to open Christmas morning and the other (kept hidden for the proposal) was of Marc holding a ring with the words “Carl, will you marry me” underneath.
One of the events the hotel had planned was a cliff top walk on Christmas morning. This would pass by our favourite secluded beach in Guernsey where on more than one occasion we’ve sat on a large rock by the sea, watching the sun set whilst enjoying a bottle of bubbles. We both had the same idea that this would be the perfect place and time to propose.
All went to plan and both Carl and Marc managed to sneak their ring and framed proposal (respectively) onto the morning walk without the other being any the wiser. Clearly we were both too busy thinking about what we were about to do to notice anything suspicious in the other’s behaviour!
We politely left the group when we reached the beach which is accessed via around 300 or so steps down the cliff face. We climbed up onto the rock supposedly to celebrate Christmas morning together.
Carl immediately got down on one knee, presented the ring and proposed to Marc. Marc was taken aback as he was just about to propose himself and once his shock had passed he presented his own gift-wrapped proposal. There was plenty of laughter and lots of tears (of happiness!) as we couldn’t believe we’d both come up with the same plan.
We knew we wanted something rustic with us living on the outskirts of Epping Forest. We love the woodland, the roaming deer and other wildlife. We also knew that we didn’t want anything flowery and decided that our day should be quite masculine and also largely avoid some of the common preconceptions regarding gay taste (i.e. didn’t want it to be a “gay themed” wedding) but rather something that reflected our very individual style and eclectic taste.
We therefore decided on foliage and succulents for the “flowers”, tweed for our suits and as we’re both creative we wanted to make/provide a lot of the décor ourselves to add a personal touch. Ultimately, we wanted our guests to feel that the wedding venue was an extension of our home.
We came up with the idea of using some of our favourite and most peculiar ornaments from home as our table centres, making each table very unique.
Lastly we made the decision to have an “adults only” wedding with the exception of Carl’s nephew and Marc’s twin nieces who would all have a part to play in our ceremony.
The Planning Process
The first key decision was when to get married as that would drive the timeline for everything else. We settled on March 2019 as a rough target and set to work venue hunting. This date would give us around 14 months to plan and prepare which felt like plenty of time. We partly chose March as this is six months from when we celebrate the beginning of our relationship and meant we’d be able to continue celebrating two separate important events in our lives together.
To formally start the planning process we put together a wedding planning spreadsheet (Carl loves a good spreadsheet) so we could start organising everything we needed to do/buy/book along with when we should get the task completed, how much it might cost and importantly when we’d need to pay for it! As we went along, we replaced all our estimated dates and costs with actual along with whether we’d actually paid for it and how much was left to pay.
We couldn’t really make any decisions until we’d chosen a venue though as we may have dedicated suppliers or venue restrictions to adhere to. We searched for venues online and once we’d narrowed our list down we started visiting our preferred short list in person. We visited Gaynes Park first (which is really local to us) and loved the venue so much we only visited one other before we quickly booked up!
We worked well as a team on all of the planning for the wedding but we chose to not involve anyone else in the process (even our parents!) as we wanted to make sure the day was completely personal to ourselves and also wanted everything to be a surprise for our guests.
Based on our estimates and our guest numbers, we came up with a realistic budget and gave ourselves some contingency for anything we’d forgotten or decided to add in later.
Along with the cost of the venue hire and on-site accommodation; our biggest expense was the catering. The venue had a dedicated catering supplier Galloping Gourmet who had a wonderful selection of menus to choose from. We wanted the food to be memorable and so made sure we allocated plenty of our budget towards this aspect. It was certainly worth it as we received so many wonderful comments about the food.
Our decision to source and make a lot of the décor ourselves led to some additional cost savings although this wasn’t the main objective; rather it was to add our personal touches to the day. Carl also made the cake himself which was an additional saving (especially if you ignore the cost of all the practice bakes!).
We also saved a fair amount by planning and booking all the aspects of our honeymoon ourselves rather than going through a travel agent.
We chose Gaynes Park as our venue. It was the first of only two venues we visited in person having done a fair amount of research online based on location, possible guest numbers, style and layout. Even though we visited on a cold February morning, the entire venue was beautifully presented and had everything we’d need all in one place.
There is an orangery and walled garden for the ceremony and reception drinks (although they have lots of other options for where the ceremony can be held) and a wonderfully light and airy barn for the wedding breakfast and evening entertainment which was the perfect size for the number of guests we were intending on having.
Both of us were excited and enthusiastic about the venue when we left. We visited one other venue for comparison and luckily neither of us had changed our mind about Gaynes Park!
We also attended a tasting event 5 months before our wedding where we were able to sample various canapés, cocktails, a sample wedding breakfast meal and of course the many choices of wine! The event was attended by more than 40 wedding couples and it was great to see how the venue would look when full of guests. The evening went really well and helped us make our final decisions on the food and drink.
We met with just two florists from the recommended suppliers list of Gaynes Park. We were impressed with both but felt an immediate affinity with Sam from Violets and Velvet. Her instinctive natural style of arrangements suited our vision perfectly and she really understood the look we were going for.
We gave Sam photos of all our centre piece ornaments and we discussed how we wanted every table to be different. We also had pictures we’d taken from instagram of designs and looks we liked.
We requested a garland for the orangery to go behind the ceremony table and a centrepiece for the ceremony table which incorporated a naturally shed deer horn (one of a pair we have at home). Sam had a treasure trove of votives, bowls etc. which could be used to decorate the tables and the orangery.
When we got the detailed proposals back from Sam along with a mood board of the foliage and succulents she would look to use, we were thrilled as everything was spot on.
On the day, Sam and her team really delivered and everything looked perfect. The morning after, we packed up the foliage, ferns and succulents and took them all home. We gave some to friends and family but kept most to decorate our living room with. The smell of eucalyptus for the following weeks was amazing. We’ve planted many of the succulents around the house and in the garden and they’re all thriving. It’s great to have permanent memories from our wedding day.
We left our decision about the cake until quite late. Marc is gluten free and wasn’t particularly worried about having a cake but it was definitely an important aspect of the day for Carl who is a keen baker. After some consideration, Carl was set the challenge of making the cake himself.
We settled on lemon Madeira with a subtly lemon flavoured buttercream and semi-naked icing. Although we’ve made lots of cakes for family birthdays and other events, this was going to be a whole new level and the first time Carl had made a Madeira cake, made a tiered cake and attempted semi-naked icing. He also learnt all about the wonders of the apricot glaze!
Carl is quite a perfectionist and so set to undertaking lots of practice bakes, adjusting techniques and using a few tricks until he got the rise he wanted. The cake ended up being a lot bigger than Marc had imagined but exactly the size Carl had hoped for.
Our florist provided wired succulents which Marc artistically decorated the cake with. We also bought a laser cut wooden cake-topper with a hexagon design to adorn the top of the cake.
For Marc and our gluten free guests Carl also made up a batch of lemon polenta mini-cakes which were presented alongside the cake portions after it had been cut.
We met with just two photographers from the recommended suppliers list of Gaynes Park. We were really impressed with Justin Bailey’s portfolio and liked his style and approach to photography. We could see he had a knack for getting people into the right positions for photos without making them look staged or uncomfortable.
Justin arranged a pre-shoot with us a few weeks before the wedding so we could get used to how he would direct us and the kinds of shots we would be taking. We did pick up a few points which helped make sure we were well prepared and got great photos on the day.
On the day we were extremely happy with how Justin managed to blend into the background and capture shots without being intrusive. He also managed the crowd very well for the larger group shots including noting the little details such as asking people to remove sunglasses.
We were so excited to receive copies of our photos within a month of the wedding and are so happy with the results.
Your Outfits & Accessories
Since we were going for a rustic theme we decided to go for tweed suits. The fact that these would be nice and warm for our wedding in early March was of course a bonus. We looked at several suppliers of tweed suits and finally settled for a company called Jennis and Warmann.
They had some lovely tweed and a good choice of styles. We particularly liked the attention to detail with wooden buttons rather than plastic which made such a difference when fitting into the overall style of our wedding.
We didn’t want to have matching suits but rather wear something which complemented each other. Carl went for a blue herringbone and Marc chose a green windowpane design. We then settled on matching grey herringbone waistcoats although as a nice detail they customised each with different fabric on the back to go nicely with our suit fabric.
We wore matching brown brogues which went well with both of our suits.
We bought marigold yellow knitted ties, bow ties and pocket squares for a pop of colour. Marc wore his bow tie throughout the day and Carl changed from the tie into a bow tie for the evening.
Marc wore his bee cufflinks from Joy Everley which Carl had bought him as a gift a few years before along with his engagement ring (also with bees… we’re not sure where the fascination with bee jewellery came from!). Carl bought some rustic moss filled cufflinks in brass settings from etsy to fit in with the rustic theme.
Our florist produced complementary rustic button holes using thistle, craspedia, succulents and wild grasses. They suited our outfits perfectly!
We had our matching wedding rings custom made at Joy Everley of London. They are white gold rustic bands in the style of branches. We like the fact that as they age they will just look even more natural.
We didn’t have best men but Carl’s nephew Harrison (age 6.5 at the time) was page boy and ring bearer.
We bought him a light grey herringbone tweed suit with dark blue trousers from Roco Clothing and a yellow bow tie matching our own. Carl bought Harrison some personalised keepsake Page Boy cufflinks to wear on the day. The florist also made Harrison a smaller version of our button holes.
We bought a personalised wooden ring box from Etsy for Harrison to carry the rings in.
We didn’t have any bridesmaids but did have Marc’s twin nieces Hollie and Emilia (age 4.5 at the time) as flower girls. Hollie wore a pink floral dress with pink bolero cardigan and sparkly pink shoes. Emilia wore a pale blue dress with bee motif with a navy blue bolero cardigan and sparkly blue shoes. Their dresses and cardigans were from Monsoon.
Both had their hair braided by their mother (Marc’s sister) Emma with colour coordinated flower accessories.
Marc bought his nieces a necklace each to wear on the day. Hollie had a silver heart and letter H pendant and Emilia had a gold necklace with a bee.
The florist made a posy for each of the girls which fitted in with our foliage theme.
The Readings & Music
We had our ceremony in the orangery. We chose to have the ceremony laid out with us in the centre and guests facing inwards from both sides as we liked how this meant none of the guests would be that far away.
We walked the aisle with our nephew and nieces. Our entrance music was a cover of Taylor Swift’s Begin Again by The Piano Guys.
Carl first walked part way down the aisle with Harrison then directed Harrison to continue on his own while Carl walked to wait in a pavilion in the garden. Marc then led the girls to the same spot and once they were on their way he met Carl in the pavilion. We had a moment to ourselves there before we started our own walk together. We had rehearsed the timings the previous week during an open day at the venue and managed to enter the Orangery right on cue!
The emotions of entering the Orangery and seeing all our smiling friends and family (as we hadn’t mingled with the guests before the service started) were very overwhelming.
We jointly read a reading which was our own slightly abridged version of Rainbow Connections by Garfunkel and Oates which we particularly liked as the words were very poignant. We also wrote our own promises where Carl went down a traditional route and Marc’s was a little more alternative (explaining the compatibility of our mutual weirdness) which the guests really enjoyed.
Our signing of the register music was a cover of Sweet Disposition by Vitamin String Quartet followed by Home by The Piano Guys. We exited to a Titanium/Pavane mix by The Piano Guys.
We put together a selection of similar music to play before the ceremony and during the reception drinks and canapés.
The Details & Décor
We already had lots of quirky objects around our home which we planned to use for our décor but we still had to buy some additional objects and raw materials from which to make the rest of our decorations. Our purchases included some metal hoops (which Marc covered in moss), a bird cage, some bird decorations, a stack of vintage style suitcases, vintage books, tulle for making pom poms, Japanese origami paper for folding paper cranes, some Japanese postcards and paper fan. We also bought a few photo booth props to supplement those which would be provided by our photo booth company.
We designed all our own stationery using an image of a succulent from a photograph Carl had taken at the Hampton Court Palace garden show a few years previously. We designed separate day and evening invites and had these printed by a professional printing firm. We even made our own matching envelope inserts and popped a little of our confetti in with each invite.
We managed to cut down on the content of the invites by using a wedding website on GettingMarried.co.uk and this also meant we could receive our RSVPs electronically rather than requiring guests to post them back to us. We launched the site just before sending out the invites and it included all the details about the day, fun and interesting information about us and the wedding party, travel and accommodation details etc.
We made our own escort cards (and matching place names for the tables). We didn’t have table names or numbers and we didn’t display a seating plan for our guests. We wanted it to be a little more mysterious so we simply had their name on one side of the card and an illustration of their allocated table centre object on the reverse. Guests wouldn’t know who they were sitting with in advance without comparing cards.
Marc sketched the illustrations which we scanned in for printing out the cards. We did give the venue a detailed guest list with table allocation so they could help anyone who didn’t figure out which table they were on or forgot to collect their escort card.
We made a few signs using the same design and incorporating some vintage style graphics which we framed and placed around the venue. One to discourage guests from posting on social media too soon, one to identify the gluten free cakes, one for a sweet bar and one for our photo booth.
Once we received our wedding photos and we had returned from our honeymoon, we created thank you cards using a couple of the photos and had these printed by the same printing firm.
We wanted the ceremony room to be elegant and understated without lots of fussy details. We hired a lovely white drape from the venue stylist to frame our entrance to the orangery and a couple of throne chairs at the ceremony table for signing the register (these would also be our seats at the top table).
Our florist placed some large ferns at the base of the drape, hung a lovely garland behind the ceremony table and decorated our deer horn with a smaller garland for the centre of the ceremony table. She also placed succulents, ferns and votives along the various shelves which ran the full length of the orangery.
Also in the Orangery, we put together a gift table display using a couple of vintage suitcases which we decorated in a Japanese theme (our Honeymoon destination). Above this we suspended some hoops from which we hung ribbons with escort cards attached with pegs for our guests. Some guests ingeniously pegged their cards to their clothing as name tags!
Also in the Orangery we had a hoop covered with printed selfie photos of our various trips together and from other special occasions since we’ve been together. Marc also made a moss covered depiction of Guernsey hung in a hoop with a flag positioned at our proposal spot. Finally there was a selfie hoop with our names and the wedding date attached for guests to take their photo through.
In the gardens we knew the flower beds and trees would be quite bare in March so although it all still looked lovely and well maintained we wanted to inject some colour. We bought rolls of tulle in various shades of green and Carl made a large collection of pom poms in various sizes. We grouped these and hung them from various branches in the garden.
We also had some more moss covered hoops in the garden. One had a silver candelabra hanging in it. Another had a rusted bird cage with colourful bird decorations attached and another had a swing with our Sock Monkey sitting on it. Carl bought Marc the “sew it yourself” sock monkey as one of his first gifts and he usually comes along on holiday with us. Carl made him a bow tie to match our outfits.
Outside the barn is an open-sided gather barn. We hired festoon lighting from the venue stylist to lighten this area up which is also where our evening food (a hog roast) would be served later.
Inside the main barn we hired a mixture of green and ivory paper lanterns to hang from the rafters and a fairy light, ribbon and wisteria back drop for behind the top table. We also had shabby-chic throne chairs for our seats at the top table.
Every table was unique with different objects from our home including a swan, a bust of a dog’s head and a dragon. We discussed ideas with our florist to come up with a unique design for each table with a mixture of foliage garlands, succulents or votives. The florist had some wonderful accessories to enhance the displays.
For our nephew and nieces we designed and printed out some activity books including colouring in, join the dots, word search and spot the difference puzzles.
The venue stylist also provided up-lighting in the main barn which was used in the evening and set to run through a cycle of custom colours we’d chosen.
In the evening we’d hired a Photobooth which was a vintage free standing camera style and had a selection of vintage themed props and accessories. We supplemented this with a few items of our own including a pair of flamingo ornaments. Everyone had lots of fun with the booth. We liked the open plan style as it meant everyone could see people enjoying getting their photos taken.
We hired a swing/jazz band/vocal trio called Syndicate Du Swing who performed two 45 minute sets. We really liked their style of singing and they did a mix of older songs and modern songs in a vintage style.
We also had a DJ to play the remainder of the evening and also played our first dance song. We had our DJ play 90s pop/dance classics with a few modern songs thrown in.
Our first dance was to Doop (Dooper than Doop) by Doop. We were thinking of doing a mash-up routine to a few songs and had thought to put a Charleston track in there at which point we came across Doop and knew we had our song. We wanted something really fun and memorable.
Marc used to belong to a dance school and also taught dance in his youth. He put these skills to good use choreographing our routine. We started the routine off with canes. We put a few tricks into the routine including a leap frog and an “across the back” roll. Everyone was quite surprised.
We only had a few weeks to choreograph and rehearse before the wedding as we’d left it late to choose a song. It didn’t help that Carl was away with work for a week during that time and isn’t much of a dancer! Marc’s dance teacher was also there as a guest to see the first dance.
We went to Japan for just over two weeks. It is a destination that we’d both thought about going to and was the perfect choice for a really memorable honeymoon.
We booked the trip for four weeks after the wedding so that we could spend time reminiscing about the wedding and building the anticipation of going away on our honeymoon. We didn’t want it to all be over too quickly.
We created our own itinerary and booked all our own flights, accommodation and transport. We also pre-booked a lot of activities and experiences. We started in Tokyo and visited five other towns and cities including Hiroshima and Kyoto before returning to Tokyo for our return flight. We were hoping to get to see the cherry blossoms while we were there and weren’t disappointed.
For our gift list, we itemised all the aspects of our honeymoon and created personalised cash gift options on our Prezola list so guests could choose a particular aspect of our honeymoon to contribute towards rather than paying into a general cash fund. It made the gifts so much more meaningful and personal and we were able to thank specific people throughout the honeymoon.
We didn’t have a videographer but several friends and family members sent us recordings of our first dance which Carl edited together into the following YouTube video which you might enjoy watching here.
Marc couldn’t find his wallet on the morning of the wedding and so spent a frantic time searching the house and then retracing his steps from the day before. He found it laying in the undergrowth near to our home where he’d been collecting litter the previous day!
Carl managed to cut his finger on the cake box and spent most of the morning with a blue plaster from the venue kitchen on his finger! Luckily it wasn’t his ring finger.
We loved how well the kids did with walking up the aisle. They looked so adorable.
During the ceremony, Carl actually said “Yes” instead of “I do” when prompted as to whether he wanted to marry Marc! Carl also struggled to get Marc’s ring on which led to some laughter.
One of our favourite moments was as we exited the Orangery following the ceremony and were greeted by our events coordinator for the day holding a tray with a cocktail for each of us. We’d chosen to have a Dark and Stormy served to our guests during the reception but hadn’t expected to be served one ourselves quite so efficiently following the wedding. It was a lovely touch.
We grabbed our drinks and went out the back of the garden for a quiet moment together whilst we enjoyed the drinks and gave all our guests time to assemble for the confetti throwing.
One of our favourite photo moments was being surrounded by all our guests who threw handfuls of confetti over us. It went everywhere! The results of the photos were fantastic and really captured the moment.
In the evening our favourite moment was probably just as we finished our first dance. We were happy it all went to plan (even the trick moves) and we got lots of compliments afterwards.
After most of the guests had left, we were able to relax with the few guests who were staying in the on-site accommodation with us. Having a cup of tea and a chat was a great way to wind down from the excitement although we were both buzzing from the wedding for at least a week afterwards.
Advice For Other Couples
We would definitely recommend maintaining a spreadsheet. It helps so much to have everything in one place. We used Onedrive to store it in the cloud (along with all our other important documents and files) so that we could both access it from home or our mobiles if we needed anything.
Being able to tick things off from the spreadsheet really reassured us that we were in control both of our to-do list (which was quite extensive with all the home crafting we had to complete) and our budget (knowing how much we needed in the joint account each month).
We’d also recommend trying to inject some personal touches into the day. Our guests really noticed and appreciated the time and effort we’d put into planning it all.
It was also a good decision to take a few days off before the wedding and this meant we could prepare more easily for the big day.
Many of our friends and family gave us the same advice of taking time out for ourselves during the day so we can reflect on everything that had happened, catch our breath and actually get some quality time together. It can be so hectic trying to engage with all your guests that you can easily miss out on spending time together on your special day. We definitely took that advice on board.
Our only other advice is not to renovate your kitchen at the same time! Although the wedding preparations themselves weren’t stressful, having the upheaval of the kitchen being torn out and rebuilt would, in hindsight, have been better to postpone until after the wedding!
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Justin Bailey Photography
Violets and Velvet
Jennis & Warmann
Heart and Soul Wedding
Syndicate Du Swing
PicMe Photo Booths
Stationery Printing Invitations