This is perhaps a bold statement, however in almost ten years running WWW I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much thought and effort put into a wedding day by a couple and their loved ones. Jonny and Merry together with their nearest and dearest created a truly DIY wedding, with home grown flowers, home made décor, the food and cake was home made too and everyone really rallied round to create a very special celebration.
Jonny and Merry were married on the 20th July 2019 in a church ceremony followed by a marquee reception in the garden of Merry’s family home. Sunflowers and dinosaurs were the key themes to their day, with dinosaurs in the attire and décor and sunflowers all round. They even grew 15 varieties of sunflowers for their wedding and the resulting flower arrangements are just so beautiful. Yellow hues also flowed into the small details, such as the outfits and the stationery. It really brought a happy and colourful vibe to their garden wedding.
They go into incredible detail about how they pulled off their wedding, including many of their eco-friendly and sustainable choices, which really are brilliant. It’s well worth reading all about their wedding planning below.
Chris Bradshaw Photography, thank you ever so much for sharing with us these simply beautiful images of a really joy filled and meaningful celebration.
A very happy, colourful, garden wedding with no THUNDESTORMS!!!!
Jonny and Merry
After Jonny had done the rather old fashioned thing of asking Merry’s father for permission he set about planning. Then quickly realised he had no time for a plan as the subsequent weekends for the next few months were full. Instead of a grand gesture, he decided that during a walk on a quiet part of Felixstowe beach was the right time. Acting on the fly as he wasn’t confident on where to source the right engagement ring as he knew Merry preferred antique jewellery, Jonny instead opted to propose with a shell he had found on the beach. The actual engagement ring was purchased a week later (and picked out by a redeemed Jonny) from one of Merry’s friend’s family antique jewellery shop (“the antique jewellery company” on Maddox Street, London).
Wedding bands were designed and made by Amanda Mansell in Hatton Garden.
Our wedding was built around the idea that it was to celebrate getting married with all our friends and family and (maybe extended F&F…) in the garden of Merry’s family’s home. Merry was brought up in a farmhouse ’in the middle of nowhere’ from the age of 8 years old; with home grown fruit and vegetables, all sorts of animals and lots of creative ideals. With this upbringing the same ideology was brought into the wedding and therefore most of the ideas, food, decorations, stationery, floristry etc being made and grown by ourselves. We also wanted to incorporate a reasonable amount of sustainability into the wedding effort.
The Planning Process
The planning required military precision with folders of spreadsheets both digital for our generation and paper for the parents’ generation. The planning started from the moment we got engaged (May 6th 2018), perhaps before… All hands on deck!! Over the course of the 14 months running up to the wedding both families and friends played small and large roles in organising and contributing to vital components up to the main event.
Where to begin…
We quickly agreed that the marriage would take place at Old Newton Church (Merry’s family church, where she grew up singing in the choir), and the wedding reception would be held in the garden of Merry’s family home.
Next we needed to decide on a date. The main people to consider in this matter are the parents of the bride and groom, and the church. We were able to decide on the 20th of July pretty quickly, confirmed this date with the church and completed the necessary paperwork to proceed.
The guest list was a BIG decision that definitely causes stress in all weddings. This wedding was a big a party and everyone who was meant to be there turned up in glorious technicolour with big smiles on their faces on the the day!!
We sent out our save the date via email at the beginning of August 2018 and carefully instilled the SUNFLOWER (with a hint of dinosaur) theme into our guests lives.
In order to hold a wedding reception in a garden you have to be prepared for all types of weather as we do live in England!! So next mission was to book a marquee or even two. This mission was tasked to ‘Mother of the bride’, who with careful measurement of her garden and taking specific advice from her husband about wanting a separate marquee for the afternoon reception, but also evening conversation after the meal away from the music and dancing. We decided on two marquees connected by a walk way. In fact by the actual wedding day we had the main reception marquee (100’ by 40’), the afternoon reception marquee (40’ by 40’), a connecting catering tent, a connecting walk way and a further entrance walk way into the smaller marquee. These were all assembled and provided by ‘the great event company’ based in Suffolk. We used are own gazebo style tents as bars. We also hired a walk in fridge trailer and portable toilet trailer. The crockery, linen, cutlery and glassware were all hired. All the above were researched and booked the Summer/Autumn of 2018.
The Alcohol & Drink
The alcohol was a very important factor for the ‘father of the bride’. We made an executive decision to steer clear of spirits and to stick to wine and beer. We organised a wine tasting afternoon at ‘Cambridge wine merchants’ hosted by a dear friend. This is always a fun tasting session, bringing up lots of different opinions!! The alcohol was sourced from Cambridge wine merchants and supermarkets over the course of the year, and stored in the garage under layers of bubble wrap and blankets. The mother of the bride also prepared 11L of homemade elderflower cordial.
The day was split into two parts afternoon tea reception and an evening sit down buffet. We planned and prepared all the food for the event, and did not use a catering company to make any of the food. One of the main ethos to try and source as much of the food to be as locally sourced as possibly. We hired a very capable team of local people to manage the catering and serve the food and drink.
All the cakes were made by Merry and the mother of the bride. The sandwiches, salmon, salads and sides were prepared by Merry, the mother of the bride and a fantastic team of very helpful volunteers that consisted of friends and family!!
The beef was particularly special as the cow had been born and reared on the neighbouring farm and was prepared by the family butcher (cannot get more local than that!!). The cheese was produced on a dairy farm 10 minutes up the road, and we just in time got rather fabulous strawberries from a local farmer for the Eton mess. The bread was all baked by a family run baker in Suffolk.
Both the cucumber sandwich and the salmon preparation methods had been obtained from chefs that had worked in Michelin starred restaurants, so we felt that these were up to scratch!! And they were definitely well reviewed on the day.
(To get the full appreciation of how we assembled our DIY wedding check out Merry’s instastory ‘wedding’ which details the whole weeks run up to and the day of the wedding, including making 5kg of brownies!!)
The Invitations & Website
Merry’s sister had received an invitation on behalf of a client in the form of a seed packet. This inspired our wedding invitations. Stationery can be very costly and when we explored printing seed packets this definitely wasn’t a cheap option!! Sticking with the same design we had used for the save the date, and to use a website to convey the majority of the wedding information to reduce paper, we printed the invitation as a sticker and stuck this to a seed envelope which we filled with sunflower seeds. Since the invitations were sent we have received numerous photos and reports of sunflowers that have been grown around England from these seeds. Merry’s sister designed the RSVP cards so that they could be re-used when sent back as the place cards on the tables. To encourage return of the RSVP we stamped and addressed them. Also a good bonding activating creating a conveyer belt to name, sign, assemble, stamp all the invitations!!
As the invitations required information support a website had to be created. The other requirement for the website was to support the slightly alternative gift list. To cater for all of this we enlisted the help of Merry’s very talented cousin who works in graphic design who built a custom made website. She managed the specifics of our tailor made gift list.
The Gift List
It was deemed a sensible idea to have a gift list as there was a wide variety of people invited to the wedding and it seemed that people like giving the married couple presents, and there is always mixed views on just giving money. Continuing with the ‘sustainability’ theme we wanted at least some of the presents to be second-hand and not just from a ‘John Lewis’ wedding list. The items were purchased over the course of the year from ebay, charity shops and high street stores then put on the website for guests to purchase at their will. We had a slight problem as to the fact we didn’t and still don’t have anywhere to put any new lovely gifts. Fortunately we also had a ‘Piggy bank scheme’, if guests preferred they could give money towards furnishing our future house with options of either the garden (gym), kitchen or bedroom.
Merry has always loved sunflowers, but also loves multi-colour and variety. In preparation for the wedding the following year her mother kindly agreed to experiment growing multiple varieties of sunflowers in one of her vegetable beds. These gave us a clear idea of colour, size, variety, flowering time and enabled us to collect seeds. All key points if you plan to grow your own flowers for your wedding. We also planted cornflowers and yellow carthamus in the autumn of 2018 to flower early in the summer of 2019. The cornflowers started flowering in April 2019 and kept flowering until August, so we dried most of the flowers and used them in the arrangements on the day. We sewed 15 varieties of sunflowers in March 2019 in pots. Half of which we planted out into the vegetable garden for cut flowers and the other half were potted in large display pots to be used in the church. We also seeded the same number again directly into the garden for cut flowers. Unfortunately we were about four weeks too early with the majority of the potted sunflowers. But that is the unpredictable nature of growing your own flowers!! If you can stagger when you sow the seeds this would account for climactic changes.
As we have already said the flowers were all home grown. We used the flowers in three key elements of the wedding; the table centrepieces, to decorate the church and the bouquets and buttonholes. The table centrepieces were essentially 16 vases of flowers that required at least one sunflower in each with additional cornflowers and carthamus and some greenery found in the garden. The initial plan was to use the potted sunflowers for the church but most of these had past their best so the Mother of the bride and her team of super helpful ‘book club’ volunteers took a large collection of cut sunflowers, potted sunflowers, bulrushes, wild oats, large vases, oasis, secateurs and multiple other utensils in their cars to the church 48 hours before the wedding for a lovely afternoon of SUNflower arranging. The church did look rather wonderful (especially the altar piece which was assembled in an umbrella stand!!) YouTube again had given us some tips on how to construct a buttonhole so we did practice these in advance and had pre-purchased floristry tape, wire and safety pins. We also bought some dark yellow and red dried flowers that we used in the buttonholes and to decorate the cake. In addition to these we used the dried cornflowers, bay leaves and rosemary from the garden. They held very well and would have smelt botanical!! Obviously the main pieces were the bouquets which had the ‘best of the best’ of the sunflower selection from the garden. They were surrounded by large castor oil leaves, bound by hessian ribbon and also incorporated other flowers and butterflies. It was a real pleasure to head out into the garden on the Friday morning, 24 hours before the wedding, and cut armfuls of sunflowers in the early morning sun.
The Details & Decor
How do you decorate two massive marquees?!! This is how ….
The Mother of the bride decided she would make bunting. Not any old bunting, up-cycled bunting and 600 feet of it. She went around charity shops looking for brightly coloured duvets and sheets that were patterned mainly blue, yellow, green, orange or red (no pink!!). Then enlisting a quilt making friend they cut well over 600 large bunting triangles, and then with the help of a sewing machine sewed specifically measured lengths (according to the marquees dimensions) of bunting. This was then all neatly folded and put in a box with instructions for Jonny to assemble in the marquee. Jonny’s sister leant us her hand-made bunting from her own wedding which we used in the entrance walk way. We also had lots of multi-coloured balloons.
Each table in the main marquee sat 10 people, rectangles, 4 down each side and 1 at each end. This wedding was rustic nothing fancy. We covered the tables with a white linen tablecloth, and then a multi-coloured striped runner from Waitrose down the centre. Each table had a vase of sunflowers, a place card and a pair of candlesticks. You already know about the flowers. The place cards were an ode to Jonny and his long love for dinosaurs, each of the 16 tables were named after a different dinosaur, and the pictures were taken from ‘Paleoart. Visions of the Prehistoric Past 1830-1980. Taschen’. The candlesticks were handmade from logs from trees that had been cut down from the garden, holes had been drilled by hand without electricity by Merry, Jonny, Father of the bride, Mother of the Bride and sister of the bride. The candles were adorned with multi-coloured candles. The place-name cards were re-cycled from the RSVP cards and each card was inscribed inside with a flower quote.
The Table Plan
A table plan can be very tricky when you have 160 guests coming to your wedding; family, extended family, family friends, school friends, work friends, sports teams etc… So initially pairing everyone in couples and pooling people in three groups family, family friends and friends we picked the tables out of a hat!! Judging by the noise when we entered the main marquee it seemed to work as a methodology.
We mentioned in the description of the wedding that there were no thunderstorms, this was key to the car used to transport the bride and father of the bride to the church and the happily married couple back to the reception. We are extremely fortunate to know a certain family friend who lives across the field who has a penchant for vintage cars and agreed to chauffeur us in his 1925 open top Bentley that basically looks like ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. Thankfully we had no rain as the cars exterior is made of leather!!
Ultimately weddings are expensive if you have guests!! You can control the budget by doing as much of the hard work yourself. Particularly if you can source your own food and alcohol, so something to consider when selecting a venue.
The Readings & Music
The ceremony took place at St. Mary’s Church, Old Newton. Music was an important part of the church service. The opening hymn, Jerusalem, a good old rugby anthem was extremely powerful, a good weight of singing behind it. There were 3 hymns in total; Jerusalem, Guide me oh thou great redeemer and Dear Lord and Father of mankind. Merry walked down the aisle to ‘Prelude from the Te Deum – Marc-Antoine Charpentier’. There were 3 readings; a poem read by Merry’s youngest sister (The sun and her flowers, Rupi Kaur), a duet poem by close friends (The Kings Breakfast, A.A. Milne), and a bible reading from Jonny’s sister (Song of Solomon 2.10-13; 8.6,7). In addition to the readings our friend and Merry’s middle sister sang a duet (Your Song, Elton John) that they had arranged and been practising on Sunday morning’s for months in our flat. The choir sang and the organist played (Cantate Dominum -Giuseppe Pitoni Organ music Pachelbel Canon in D) during the signing of the register. We walked back down the aisle to Mendlessohn Wedding March. You clearly do not need to fit quite this much into your service but everything meant something to us.
As you can tell music is very important so Merry decided a band was non-negotiable even though the Father of the bride had tried his hardest to push for a barn dance!! She researched potential bands online and asked for recommendations, but went through a website called ‘bands for hire’. This is really good website that outlines each band with demos of their music. We went for a band called ‘The Jets’. You deal with an agent from the website for the majority of the year and then the band contact you in the months closer to the wedding date itself. As it happens our wedding photographer (a guitarist and performer himself) had worked a wedding at which they had performed and was very complementary of them which was encouraging. We were very happy with them. They arrived exactly on time. Learnt a new song for us. Had excellent vocals (their cover of Just Dance by David Bowie was outstanding!) and musicality. There set list worked perfectly with our range of guests. We could not recommend them enough, we equally had so many compliments about them from our guests!!
Your Outfits & Accessories
The Wedding Dress
Within a week of getting engaged Merry received a phone call from her Mother to say that she had bought her a dress. This is not a conventional way for a ‘bride to be’ to purchase a wedding dress. Said dress was a 1980s meringue special, equipped with poufy sleeves, full train, humongous bow and meters of thick sparkly lace!! Redeeming qualities were that it had a lovely neckline, it was made of a really beautiful thick Thai silk and had only cost £42 on Ebay!! If we rewind and actually found out what Merry wanted from a wedding dress these were it must have pockets, that she needed to spin in the dress, that it was made of natural fabric such as silk or cotton and that she did not want a white dress. After seeing the potential in recreating the dress, Merry did go visit her cousins wedding dress shop with her Mother, friend and sisters to test out other styles. Reassured that the Ebay dress was the way forward they found an extremely competent seamstress in the village who executed the vision of the dress to perfection.
Anyone who knows Merry will know that she often sports a pair of TOMS. As the dress was ankle length and the reception in the garden we thought why make an exception to the rule. TOMS as a company have ‘one for one’ policy as part of their company which fit in well with our ethos. We accessorised cream embroidered TOMS with green glass beads and feathered butterflies at the heals. These received so many compliments, and also kept the Groom taller than the Bride!!
Jonny’s Suit & The Ushers
Jonny purchased his navy suit from M&S which was the same as his groomsmen. He did receive a lot of pressure to wear tails but he stuck to his guns and they all looked just right!! Jonny had debated hiring all 6 suits from Moss Bros, but his research lead him to M&S where buying suits was cheaper as there was a deal with one suit being free. So he bought all his Ushers their suits and asked them to wear their own white shirts. Merry had given Jonny a T-rex silk pocket square so his outfit was formed around this item, again maybe not the way to formulate an outfit but oh well. Again a set of cotton dinosaur print pocket squares were purchased for the Ushers. Apparently ties are rather difficult to pick when you have already bought suits and pocket squares but a decision was reached 2 weeks before the wedding!!
The wedding cake was very important to Merry, as she has spent most of her life baking cakes for varying occasions and for the joy of experimenting with flavours. This was definitely going to prove to be a big experiment and learning curve. Merry took on the challenge with her very dear friend from medical school, so as true scientists planned it out in an old lab book. The key for achieving the ultimate wedding cake was to make sure there was enough cake, that it was delicious cake, there was a flavour for everyone and there wasn’t too much icing. Fruit cake and fondant icing were quickly ruled out. And semi-naked cream cheese icing was voted in!! Through the power of YouTube we learnt how to ice, stack, dowel and scaffold. Perhaps making a 4 tier wedding cake 48 hours in the run up to your wedding day is not everyone’s cup of tea especially amidst the constructions of everything above, but we did it!! (Again check out Merry’s instastory ‘wedding’ for further action shots of cake construction.)
The bridesmaids were Merry’s two sisters. From the very beginning they decided that they were going to make their dresses themselves. Merry had initially opted for emerald green silk and had actually purchased such material on her holiday to Vietnam, but this was not to be. After many, many months of debate on one windy Saturday morning in early June 2019 (6 weeks before the wedding) the sisters arrived at the childhood home with a plan to hand-dye three types of fabric with turmeric, after 7 hours of dying it looked like there were saffron robes hanging on the washing line. However, on the wedding day they were dressed in two very yellow dresses adorned with cable-tie halo head pieces. They were Merry’s sun maidens.
Make-up was done by Merry and her sisters. Hair was designed by Merry and assembled by Mother of the bride and her sisters, 10 minutes before departure.
Chris Bradshaw was recommended to us by Merry’s sister who had met his wife, Laura, through working on a shoot together. We contacted Chris in July 2018 and he came and met us at Merry’s family home in August to assess where the wedding reception would be. He was extremely friendly, knowledgeable and helpful from the very beginning. We had continued communication throughout the year to establish what we wanted on the day. Both Chris and Laura took photographs on the day. Chris arrived at the house at 1pm to capture some of the very speedy getting ready for Church and photographing the garden before the onslaught of guests!! Laura arrived at the church about 12:30pm to take pictures of the serenity of the church, Jonny and the guests arriving. From then they stayed with us to the bitter end which really was fantastic!!
From the professional perspective the photographs were fantastic capturing every moment and making sure that all photos we requested were taken, which wasn’t easy for a wedding of 180 people that don’t follow instruction! Not only that but Chris’ ability to capture people/cakes/venues and animals at their best moment was amazing!! Post wedding day the first sample of photos were with as within a few days, a slideshow within a couple of weeks and all photos quickly followed that.
From a personal perspective Chris and Laura were always friendly and polite, and it was nice to have photographers who seemed to really enjoy the wedding day process and all the funny nuances that go with it. A special note to Chris who provided a calm voice of support to a groom very nervous about his speech and for that we were very appreciative!
Overall there wasn’t anything we would change about the work Chris and Laura did on the day and have done since. We would highly recommend them to anyone!
Jonny’s oldest and best friend was his best man, with the ushers being made up of his brother and other very close friends. Their suits were described as above.
For our own reasons we stayed in England. The day after the wedding we helped tidy up, ate some left overs and drove back to our flat. The following day we drove the 6 hour journey all the way up to the Northumberland coast line. We spent about 10 days walking, exploring castles, eating fish, looking at puffins and just relaxing. We came back via Merry’s family home looked at the slideshow the photographer had sent us, picked some fresh vegetables and sunflowers and just enjoyed the sunshine.
- Completing the assembly of the wedding cake, quite an achievement and it did not fall over, in fact it really was quite straight!!
- Seeing the marquees completed with all their decoration and tables laid.
- The opening hymn, Jerusalem, the noise of all the guests made the wedding very real.
- GETTING MARRIED!!
- The duet being sung in church (Your song – Elton John), especially seeing the reaction of all the guests.
- The line out, at the beginning of the reception, being able to briefly say hello to all your guests is really quite special.
- The three well received speeches that were all very different and lovely/funny in their own way.
- Being able to take a brief break to have some photographs together outside of the garden, and then appreciate the noise and happiness of everyone when we re-entered the marquee.
- When the band played ‘Fire by kasabian’ (which they had learnt specifically).
- The end reflection when you know it all went according to plan!!
Advice For Other Couples
Our wedding was very personal to us and every detail had a lot of thought, time and energy put into it from us and our family and friends. Once you get to the day it goes quickly, even for a moment take time to appreciate it!!
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Chris Bradshaw Photography
St Mary’s church, Old Newton
The Great Event Company
Suffolk Cheese Company
Wow, how beautiful?! Didn’t Jonny and Merry both look so gorgeous and loved up too?
Jonny and Merry thank you both so very much for sharing with us your epic wedding xo Lou