Morning gorgeous people! Hopefully you’re all feeling refreshed after the weekend. For us, another glorious Monday morning means another beautiful festival-inspired Real Wedding to share with all of you. This morning we’ve been ‘wowed’ by photographer Casey Avenue’s most recent artistic accomplishment, featuring a modern boho bride so super cool it hurts! Franki and Rob infused their Latin American influences and love of travel, food, wine, music and good times, to plan their vibrant festival wedding, aptly named ‘LoveSmash’ by the couple themselves. Showcasing some of the brightest and boldest décor to hit a blank canvas since 1976, these guys knew exactly what they wanted from their big day. Think glamping, fairy lights, fuschia meets nautical-blue, home-crafted dreamcatchers and a hippy mix of love, light and cool vibes, and you might just be on the right track! It’s so refreshing to see couples working their weddings against the grain and doing it all differently, and this colour-injected, collaborative showpiece by this smoothly eccentric couple is leading the way in true non-traditional wedding style…
Our vision was to have a big, colourful party with great food, music, and lots of booze! Since we were going non-traditional, we wanted to be able to completely do our own thing from start to finish, so naturally we landed on the DIY festival option. In fact we talked so much about not wanting it to be a ‘wedding-y’ kind of wedding that a friend joked we should give it a festival name… that’s how we came up with “LoveSmash”.
A celebration of love, partnership and a chance to throw a big party!
We were in Zanzibar, our final stop after travelling for several months in East Africa and staying in a hotel that had amazing deep stone baths that could fit two people. It was our last day so we’d been out in the afternoon and had massages and when we got back to the hotel we decided to have a bath before we went out for dinner. While I relaxed in the hot water Rob told me to close my eyes and hold out my hand. Hilariously his first words were “It’s totally OK if you say no, but…”
He knew I’d never really been interested in getting married but he explained that he didn’t see it as a “formalisation” or a way of making our relationship more legitimate but rather as a celebration of love and partnership and a chance to throw a big party in the name of something positive.
I may have had (and still do) a lot of problems with the “institution” of marriage, the historical connotations and the concept of a state-sanctioned relationship more generally but I couldn’t argue with wanting to bring people together and celebrate love! So I said yes.
He’d bought the Tanzanite ring there in Zanzibar, partly to be a souvenir of our travels (Tanzanite is found exclusively in Tanzania), partly because he wanted to get me something a bit unusual, and partly because he knew I’d love the colour. The ring itself was not really my style (the choice was limited on the island!) so we had the stone reset when we got back to London.
Glamping in a Cornish field for wedding festival of the year – LoveSmash!
Our ceremony and reception were held at Newdowns Farm, St Agnes, Cornwall. We found it by just googling “fields for hire Cornwall” then spent a weekend visiting them. We did the legal bit at our local register office in Camden, London back in April which meant we could have our own ceremony in the field on the day. Our vision was non-traditional; we wanted a big colourful festival-style wedding and came up with “LoveSmash”. It was one of those things that started as irony and ended up being taken entirely seriously by most of the guests, many of whom I think had no idea what they were turning up to and were secretly a bit relieved when it did turn out to be recognisable as a wedding after all.
We also knew that since we were asking people to travel all the way to Cornwall at some expense, we wanted to make it as easy and economical as possible for them once they got there. We liked idea of offering free camping as well as ready-furnished glamping tents on site that people could book. Native Outdoors supplied furnished bell tents (incl. “Bridal” tent) and guests also brought their own tents and campervans. (we hired in hot showers too so people would be able to get scrubbed up). Plus all the best weddings I’ve been to have been the ones where I was able to stagger from the party to my bed without having to negotiate taxis or public transport so we liked the idea of having on-site accommodation, for our guests as well as us.
Beyond that our priorities were simply: Food, booze, music. We love cooking and hosting at home so making sure everyone was well fed, their wine glasses were constantly topped up, and there was a good soundtrack throughout the day was really important.
The ceremony tent
We hired two marquees, as we didn’t dare risk having an outdoor ceremony, so we were able to have the ceremony in one and the reception/dinner/dancing in the other. We wanted the ceremony tent to have quite a romantic, dreamy look so I used more muted colours in there. I made paper garlands using cheap craft paper I bought off eBay and we hung them from the ceiling with fairy lights. I also made about 50 dreamcatchers using scrap fabric instead of feathers. We bought a cheap metal garden arch off the internet and spray-painted it white before draping it with Indian fabric bought on eBay and sticking giant white paper flowers (from Not ON The High Street) around the front. My dad, who deals in antiques and bric-a-brac, collected a load of vintage rugs and cushions which we used to cover the floor and scatter around the edges (we also put a load outside on the grass for people to sit on).
The Reception Tent….
In the dinner tent we went bright. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to make a giant white tent look vibrant and colourful but we did our best! We hung bright blue drapes from the ceiling and I made almost 80 metres of bunting using fabric I’d bought in Zambia and supplemented by fabrics I had at home (often used for other projects which meant we had a bit of our own home in our wedding decor) and others that I bought on eBay. We also hung a few cheap colourful paper decorations around the edges to fill in the “gaps”. For the tables (which were named after places in the world we’d visited and loved) I bought eight Mexican falsa blankets, cut them up and sewed them into table runners. For the tealights I spent about six months collecting jam jars (and having friends and family collect them) before painting them with glass paint and spray-painting stencils onto them. Flower vases were vintage jugs which I either found in charity shops, bought on eBay or my dad sourced for me and we added cheap Ikea pot plants for extra greenery. During that Ikea trip I also spotted the blue patterned paper napkins so I snapped those up. For the place settings we added a Penguin books postcard which we asked people to write messages on so they doubled up as our guest book and miniature plastic dinosaurs as ‘favours’. At the last minute my sister found the peacock cocktail sticks so we added those to the pot plants and also put jars of crayons on the tables for the kids.
Inspiration….Colourful, twinkly hippy town meets bright fuschia tropical paradise
We knew we wanted to try to incorporate our love of travel, food, wine, books, music, and good times in general. We’d spent the previous year travelling in Latin America and East Africa, among other places, so I wanted to bring that in via the textiles, and decor. Latin America – in particular Peru and Argentina – also inspired the menu which we developed with our caterers, with ceviche and other Peruvian dishes as canapes alongside Pisco sours cocktails and a Patagonia-inspired lamb parilla for dinner.
I was also thinking a lot about Trancoso in Brazil which is a gorgeous, tiny, colourful, twinkly hippie town we had stayed in. Essentially we were trying to create a tropical paradise on a Cornish cliff… no problem, right?
Over the course of the six months planning, it started to come together a bit more. I realised I was tending towards blue as a base colour and from there added in orange, purple and fuschia, with flashes of other colours, again inspired by the textiles and painted house exteriors of Central and South America. After that it was just a case of seeing what took our fancy as we went on. The peacock cocktail sticks (peacocktailsticks?) that we stuck in the pot plants were spotted by my sister about three days before. She texted me saying “I’ve just seen some amazing peacock decorations, I feel like I should buy them?” I replied, “Yes, do it!”
We wanted a very non-traditional wedding day. We didn’t want to arrive separately for example. The idea of turning up to an event that we’d planned together, after seven years in a relationship separately, just seemed bizarre to us as did spending the preceding night in different locations. There were no secrets, no ‘big reveal’ – Rob had seen my dress months before and I’d been with him to his suit fittings. I bought my dress in the Temperley January sale in 2016 for less than half price! It’s not ‘officially’ a wedding dress, it was just part of their normal range and it was available in black or white. I didn’t originally set out to wear white but I loved this dress and decided black wasn’t right for a summer wedding so I ended up in white after all!
My shoes were by Simona Barbieri from Yoox.com and I bought a blue scarf on eBay and sewed the flowers (also off eBay) on myself for the headpiece. All my rings were just the usual stuff that I wear and the earrings were from Sanktoleono Jewellery. I did my own hair and make-up. The Bridesmaid dresses were from Monsoon Kids range, her hair flower was from Etsy and her sandals were from Primark. Rob dressed in a bespoke suit from Henry Herbert .
Trebilcocks did the bridal flower bouquet and bridesmaid posy and four buttonholes for Rob, his best man, my dad, my stepdad and Rob’s dad. For the tables we just bought a load of cut flowers off them and my sister arranged them which saved a lot of money. I also bought a load of £1 pot plants from Ikea and we had those on the tables.
Partner-written vows and collaborated speeches made a perfectly balanced ceremony
We were adamant that the day should feel very informal, and crucially, very equal. We’d written our vows together and even collaborated on the speeches (we didn’t share the details of them obviously but we checked the general tone and content to make sure they complemented each other – it wouldn’t have worked if one of us had gone for full humour and the other was dead sincere, for example!) so the whole thing was a joint effort in every aspect and we wanted to carry that feeling throughout the day.
I also didn’t want to have to “make an entrance”. I’ve been to a few weddings where it felt like the bride was more of a showpiece than anything else and I wanted to feel very involved, very much the co-host rather than a spectacle.
We stayed nearby in a farmhouse with some of my family then on the morning of the wedding we showered and had breakfast at the house before driving ourselves to the field where we finished getting ready in our tent. At about 2:15 when our guests were starting to arrive and tuck into the prosecco we then just made our way across the field to join them. It was a really nice way to make an informal entrance and set the tone for the day.
Fruit crates, citronella torches and fabric garland created an outdoor festival atmosphere
Outside we hired a few garden benches and had picnic rugs and carpets on the grass for people to sit on. We also bought a few cheap fruit crates on Gumtree so people would have somewhere to put plates and glasses. We hit up Homebase for some citronella torches which also helped add to the festival atmosphere as the sun went down and we put paper bag lanterns around the perimeter of the field so that the outside would look as twinkly as the inside come the evening. I ended up with an extra few metres of bunting and made an easy scrap fabric garland which we hung between the marquees to try to inject a bit more colour outside as well.
Gazebo BBQ and exploding passionfruit chocolate tart made the perfect party feast!
Our caterers on the day were Fego Food. We had seabass, ox heart, mackeral and sweet potato canapés followed by a lamb main course (with delicious lentil, quinoa vegan/vegie options) served from the BBQ in the gazebo. Wine was Chilean Gerwürtzraminer and Spanish Grenache and we also had Pisco Sours cocktails served alongside prosecco and beer. For dessert we had a pudding buffet – Churros with chocolate sauce and/or dulce de leche, Exploding passionfruit chocolate tart, Lemon posset and shortbread biscuit.
Fego Food also camped overnight so that they could be there to do breakfast for our campers which was poached eggs, avocado, bacon etc., in sourdough buns with coffee and tea – classic hangover food but all really fresh and delicious. Hannah and Al from Fego were absolutely brilliant from start to finish, really enthusiastic and completely up for helping us create a Peruvian/South American fusion. I would love a big mention for them as the food was a hugely important part of our day and they completely nailed it with absolutely zero hassle for us.
First dance to my hero Patti Smith
Our first dance was to ‘Because The Night’ by Patti Smith, . I didn’t really want to do a first dance at all but Rob reckoned people wouldn’t start dancing otherwise. Then we had the trouble of finding a song – we love music and have loads of music taste in common but neither of us are very sentimental and a lot of our favourite songs are not very wedding-y. I suppose we could have just gone with a classic Stevie Wonder but we already had a lot of that on our playlist so in the end Rob suggested Patti even though she’s more my hero than his – I suspect to cajole me into actually doing it – and we picked ‘Because The Night’ because it’s her most famous song (which would hopefully mean people would know it and dance) and because it is at least about love. Soulidify played a set after dinner. We also had several playlists on our iPods which we had on throughout the day.
Franki: ‘I really enjoyed the ceremony. My aunt officiated for us and my niece was my bridesmaid. We had Rob’s cousins play a classical string quartet at the start and some friends he used to play in a band with did an acoustic song halfway through. We’d spent a long time discussing what should be said, thinking about the readings (Margaret Atwood and Anais Nin) and we wrote our own vows so we knew it would be personal but we’d never actually bothered having a rehearsal. Seeing it all come together in that moment was amazing and felt incredibly special and just exactly what I’d been hoping for. I also really enjoyed giving my speech. I felt really present and it also gave me a chance to properly have a look at everybody – seeing all my friends and family sitting there was such an awesome feeling’.
Rob: ‘I also really loved the speeches. I loved giving mine and everyone else did a really good job too (we clearly picked our speech-givers well). They were genuinely funny and sincere and it created such a great atmosphere in the room. Also lots of people told me afterwards how much THEY enjoyed them so that was really nice. Speeches are something you tend not to have much control over and it’s only on the day you see how they turn out so it was cool that they all worked so well’.
We also both loved our bridal tent. We always planned to stay on site because we hated the idea of leaving the party before our guests and when we booked the glamping tents for our guests, Native Outdoors threw in the bridal tent for free. It was gorgeous and really comfortable plus waking up in the field the next day and looking out on the view was amazing (despite the usual camping phenomenon of going to bed freezing and waking up boiling hot as the sun heats the tent up!). Everyone popped over to have a look inside it during the day and it was also really handy to have a “room” to keep stuff in (spare shoes, make up, jumpers and jackets for the evening etc). We both almost felt that we wished we’d stayed on site the night before as well to make the most of it.
Yes….remember that nobody really cares!
OK, I know that sounds a bit weird but I think the realisation that nobody really cared was actually very freeing. It’s not to say that people weren’t happy to be there or that they didn’t care about us but when it comes down to it, for most people, it’s just another wedding. Food and booze are obviously important. Our feeling was, and is, that if people have made the effort to travel (and often spend quite a lot in the process) to be there to celebrate with you, the least you can do is put on a good spread! But beyond that, people really aren’t going to be too bothered. Nobody cares if you choose the white or the wooden chairs, nobody cares if your place cards are scrawled in marker pen on cardboard (which is lucky because that’s exactly what ours were!), nobody cares if you’ve spent hours curating a super edgy playlist, as most drunk people have terrible music taste anyway and just want to dance to Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling (though this should never be a reason to play it). So essentially you can let go of other people’s expectations right now and focus on planning a day that is true to you.
Also I think, when you get married in your 30s, by that point people have been to so many weddings that they all start to blend into one. The truth is, they won’t remember all the details so you should only spend time, money, and effort on the things that YOU want to remember. Our ceremony arch was by no means perfect. The spray-paint got really scratched in transit, the fabric I’d bought to drape over it was pretty but looked a bit slapdash and I had only been able to afford one set of paper flowers which meant it looked a bit sparse and really not the full effect I’d been imagining. But in the end I had to ask myself who really cared… and whether even I cared that much. The ceremony was going to last about 45 minutes out of a 10-hour day and I was going to be far more focussed on the readings and music and on our vows. So I let it go and in the end the slightly scruffy, not exactly picture-perfect effect seemed pretty apt for our relationship (and most people’s, to be honest!). On the other hand, I bought paper bag lanterns to line the edge of the field and I’m almost certain nobody really noticed them but the last thing I remember when we went to bed that night was looking out of our tent and seeing them all flickering away with the sound of the sea in the background so that for me was totally worth it.
Research your photographer – Casey Avenue (Hannah Walker) is a brilliant lady! She is super cool, her pics are gorgeous and I’m so so glad we booked her for LoveSmash – she really got our vibe and the photos are full of life and colour (much like our wedding).
The Line Up
Photography: Casey Avenue
Field hire: Newdowns Farm
Marquees: Absolute Canvas
Bride’s outfit: Temperley
Groom’s outfit: Henry Herbert
Bridesmaid dress: Monsoon Kids
Food: Fego Food
Glamping: Native Outdoors