You guys, I couldn’t be anymore excited to be sharing today’s wedding with you! This is a super special one for me (hence why I’m writing it, and not our lovely Roxy!) as this wedding belongs to my dear cousin and her wonderful husband! I don’t believe it’s at all an overstatement to say that their day was EPIC. Lovers of the truly fine and fabulous things in life, their wedding was held at the gorgeous outdoor venue, Wasing Park, in full September sunshine. Becki looked utterly beautiful in Catherine Deane bridal separates, we enjoyed insanely good live music throughout the day, and (being self confessed foodies!) their delicious food and drinks were second to none! All while creating a naturally beautiful, full of fun and fuss-free wedding… Honestly, their day wanted for nothing!
With three show-stopping giant hat tipis from Stunning Tents, a romantic ceremony in Wasing’s gorgeous Secret Walled Garden, and all captured seemingly effortlessly and perfectly by Samie Lee Photography, you’re gonna wanna grab a coffee and hunker down to enjoy Becki + Nick’s day in all its glory…
A New York Proposal
We’d been together for 13 years (at the time of our engagement) so we always knew a wedding was on the cards at some point. On a weekend trip to New York in May 2016, Nick totally took me by surprise with an epic proposal at a very cool jazz bar in Harlem, assisted by the band who played one of our absolute favourites songs (Al Green – Let’s Stay Together), at which point Nick jumped up on stage, was handed the microphone, got down on one knee and pulled out an absolutely stunning ring! I don’t think I answered him for at least 30 seconds as I was in total shock but once I’d remembered where I was and said ‘yes’ the whole bar erupted in applause and whooping (this was New York after all!), and the waitress was ready and waiting with a bottle of champagne. I don’t think either of us have very clear memories of the rest of the night…
Relaxed Pretty Separates
I chose separates from Catherine Deane, who has a studio in Wapping, London, including a beautifully soft chiffon skirt, silk bodice and a delicate lace top, which tucked into the skirt. I loved that I could choose the pieces individually and create a look that was totally my own. The style was relaxed and informal – my basic requirements being no corset, being able to go to the loo by myself and most importantly, to throw shapes on the dance floor – mission accomplished! Also the collection is super affordable so I didn’t feel like I was blowing (my mum’s!) budget.
I knew I wanted a bit of sparkle somewhere on my outfit and also didn’t want to wear heels given the outdoor venue, so I picked some amazing gold sequinned pumps which I wore all day. And a bonus was that they were from River Island at less than £30!! I cannot wait to wear them out and about after having to keep them pristine in a box for the last year!
For my accessories, I chose a really simple gold vine leaf hairpiece bought online from Britten Weddings. My veil was from a bridal shop in Diss, Norfolk, near to where my parents live, and had simple lace detail along the bottom edge to match the lace on my top. Although having a long veil was not the most practical for walking over grass and gravel, if you’re going to have one I think you have to go all out!
I completely forgot about jewellery until the week before the wedding, but luckily, one of my bridesmaids came to the rescue and lent me her stunning flower pearl necklace, which matched the lace flowers on my top perfectly.
To reflect the theme of my top and skirt combo the bridesmaids all wore beautiful dusky blue maxi skirts from Needle and Thread. They then chose their own tops to match so that they all felt completely comfortable on the day. It was really important to me that the girls were relaxed in their outfits, particularly as we had a new mum and a mummy-to-be in the group. We also had two flower fairies who wore dresses from Monsoon and handmade flower crowns bought from Etsy.
Hair and make up were both done by the brilliant Catherine from A Finishing Touch (booked via NW Makeup). She completely understood the look I wanted and nailed it, both at the trial and on the day. She was super relaxed on the morning and made sure it was all timed to perfection so we had time to have some fizz and photos before getting ready.
A Navy Three Piece
Nick chose a navy blue suit from Reiss, which was tailored to fit, tie and pocket square, also from Reiss, and shoes from Churches finished off his look. We didn’t want the ushers to match too much so asked them all to wear navy suits they already had, but they decided between themselves to all wearing paisley ties, which looked great and wouldn’t have been something I would have chosen – thanks guys for being so stylish!
A Memorable Outdoor Venue
We knew we wanted an outdoor wedding and wanted to find a memorable setting to have our ceremony in. Given that the weather in the UK is not that predictable, I’d initially looked at a couple of glasshouse venues in and around London (Kew Gardens, Petersham Nurseries etc) but they all seemed quite restricted in terms of what you could do with the space, how far in advance you could have access before the wedding, and they also didn’t cater for the number of guests we wanted.
I’d seen the Secret Garden on the Festival Brides venue directory and it was always number one on our list as it pretty much ticked all of the boxes on paper. After researching about 20 more venues around the county, Wasing Park was the only one we ended up visiting and we booked it there and then! The Secret Garden is a magical place and has such a special feel to it from the moment you step inside its walls. The fact that you are able to have the ceremony outside, overlooking the fields absolutely sold it to us and we also liked that there is a cottage on site (The Bothy), which is where Nick and I stayed, so you can settle in for the weekend.
As the venue is exclusively yours from the Thurs – Mon you have plenty of time to set up the day before and can also deal with all of the supplier collections the day after (more on that below!). You have total free reign to decorate the garden how you want, although with such beautiful setting, it really doesn’t need much. The fact that you can have both the ceremony and reception in one location was also a major tick in the box for us, and we figured we just have to chance it with the weather (it turned out to be perfect on the day).
A Secret Garden Ceremony
Our ceremony was held outside on the lawn at the back of the garden, with our vows and the signing of the register taking place in the Folly, which is fully licensed (another bonus of the venue).
A harpist provided music to entertain the guests before and during the ceremony. One of our oldest friends gave a lovely reading based on a poem called the Art of Marriage, which we chose because it sums up our relationship perfectly.
The ceremony ended with a great surprise for our guests – we hired a barbershop quartet to gatecrash the ceremony and sing an acapella version of ‘Caravan of Love’, as that song brings back special memories for us. The guys pretended to be guests and were sitting amongst everyone so when the registrar announced us as husband and wife, they got up and started singing. I’ll never forget the look on my mum’s face as she tried to work out what was going on! It was such a funny moment for us and everyone really got into the spirit by singing and clapping along – it was a great way to move from the formal ceremony into the party mood.
A Classic Garden Party with Stunning Tipis
We had 3 incredible festival style giant hat tipis, plus a smaller bar tipi, from Stunning Tents, who are the recommended suppliers for the venue. They were so impressive and created the perfect space for our wedding breakfast and evening party. All of the guests commented on what a lovely relaxed atmosphere the tipis created, and they transitioned beautifully from day to night.
Because the garden is so beautiful, we wanted to keep the décor as simple as possible. Colour-wise we opted for green and white to keep a natural feel, and we mainly used rustic materials (hessian, jute, brown card and wood) to make the decorations. I also have a love of pineapples so there were a few dotted around here and there!
Pinterest gave us most of the inspiration for our ideas, although I did have to wean myself off it a few times over the course of planning because it’s very easy to get sucked in and you end up just adding more and more unnecessary things to the list.
Foliage Focused Blooms
I wanted to use lots of foliage and have a natural style for the flowers to decorate the Folly with, as well as inside the tipis. My mum and bridesmaids worked their socks off the day before putting together all of the jam jar posies, using flowers we’d bought wholesale from a local nursery, These were used to decorate the tables and they looked fabulous!
My mum-in-law created stunning arrangements, which were placed either side of the Folly during the ceremony and then moved to decorate the archway into the tipis later in the day. My dad built a wooden archway, which was decorated with white roses and foliage, and created a ‘doorway’ for us to walk through down the aisle as well as providing an entrance into the tipis.
For the floral and foliage arrangements over the Folly and all of the bouquets and buttonholes, we used Tracy from Blend and Bloom, who created beautiful natural arrangements to tie in with our theme. The bridesmaids held wreathes instead of bouquets and these were hung up in the tipi after the reception as additional décor.
Fizz on the Lawn
After the ceremony, we did a confetti run and then had time for canapés and fizz on the lawn, whilst the quartet provided the entertainment. We also set up lawn games and created a kids area, with a ball pond and mini tipi, because we had a lot of younger guests to entertain, although they loved running around and exploring the garden.
Pretty much all of the décor was handmade, mainly by me and my mum, such as the bunting and banners which were placed at the front of the garden to lead people through the rose walkway to the ceremony area. I taught myself calligraphy and hand drew all of the signs which we placed around the garden, as well as the welcome board and photo booth sign. My dad also made a great directional signpost that we placed in the centre of the garden. I hand wrote all of the place settings and table plan, and created party bags for the kids to keep them entertained through the speeches.
For favours, we had little vials of wildflower seeds (carrying on the garden theme) made by my mum and labelled to encourage everyone to ‘spread the love’.
A ‘River Cottage’ Menu
Our reception canapés and wedding breakfast was provided by Gideon Hitchen, who we came across at a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago. His style is simple ‘River Cottage’ inspired menus, with a modern approach. We are self-confessed foodies and so this was an important aspect of the day for us and we wanted to ensure that we were using seasonal produce.
We initially struggled to find a caterer who could provide the simple yet tasty food we enjoy, served as a sit down dinner rather than as a buffet or BBQ style. Gideon hit the mark, with a starter of crab tart, simple roasted chicken on the bone served with romesco sauce and a selection of sharing salads, finished off with seasonal baked stone fruits and an amaretto crème fraiche. Our canapés were tasty traditional choices such as homemade sausage rolls, pate on mini brioche, and smoked cod’s roe on toast. We also hired the Mother Shucker’s Oyster Bar to provide freshly shucked oysters to our guests on the lawn and these went down a treat!
The idea behind the evening food and drinks was very much help-yourself, so we set up a gin and whiskey bar with all our favourite tipples as well as a pick and mix sweet station, with cheese, pate and charcuterie served as the evening food, all of which we sourced ourselves from a local farm shop the day before. We really wanted to provide espresso martinis but didn’t know how to go about this without having experienced bartenders on standby. After researching pour your own expresso martini bars (which seemed absurdly expensive!) we chanced upon bottles of pre-mixed espresso martinis by Tails (available on Amazon!) which you simply pour over ice – they absolutely did the job and meant there was no danger of slipping into a food coma after dinner.
Our stunning cake was designed and made by Natalie from Cuppies ‘n Cream, and it was delicious. We had layers of carrot cake, lemon drizzle and red velvet as neither of us are big fans of fruit cake, and the decoration tied into the theme perfectly. The personalised cake topper was bought from The Letter Loft through Etsy.
We used Samie of Samie Lee Photography and she was absolutely brilliant. She came recommended by Festival Brides and being based only 40 minutes away from Wasing Park, she was familiar with the venue and had a clear idea of what kind of shots she wanted to get with us on the day. We even invested in coloured smoke bombs to get some atmospheric shots as the sun was going down, which were really fun to do. We loved Samie’s documentary style of photography as we’re not the biggest fans of staged shots, and she definitely captured the relaxed and fun vibe of the day, although the handful of group shots we did with the amazing greenhouse backdrop in order to appease the parents turned out great too.
We’re also very lucky that we have an ace cousin and cousin-in-law with experience of wedding videography who kindly agreed to film important parts of the day for us.
An Amazing Motown Soul Band
Aside from the harpist and barbershop quarter, we also booked OJ’s Soul Band to provide the evening entertainment. As soon as we started talking about wedding plans, we knew we wanted a Motown band, as we both love that style of music and it really does get all generations up on the dance floor. We founds OJ’s just from online research and looking at plenty of reviews. We were so pleased with them as they really were amazing and the dance floor was packed for their whole set. The saxophonist even joined us on the dance floor for one of the songs. Once the band had finished, we put on a playlist Nick had crafted which lasted through to the end of the night. Halfway through the evening, we had a break for cheese, wedding cake and sparklers to give everyone a bit of a breather from the dance floor.
Our first dance was, of course, Al Green, Let’s Stay Together, sung beautifully by the band.
Becki: for me, it was saying our vows. This was probably the bit of the day I’d thought least about in the run up because as the vows, music and songs for the ceremony were finalised quite far in advance, it was something we ticked off the list pretty easily! I vividly remember the ceremony and standing next to Nick reciting our vows to each other and I’m really pleased that this is the part I remember the most because it’s what the day is truly all about.
Nick: for me it was the evening, once the band started and we had our first dance. This was the point we could finally relax knowing everything had gone to plan.
If you’re planning a DIY wedding don’t underestimate the amount of help you need from your friends and family with the planning, set up/take down, as this is not something the venue will get involved with at all. Just the sheer amount of stuff we needed to transport meant that in the weeks before I was dropping boxes of decorations and other wedding paraphernalia round to various guests because we couldn’t fit everything in our car! Similarly, all of that stuff needs to come back with you afterwards and we would not have managed without our amazing parents, ushers, bridesmaids and their other halves who were our unpaid heroes of the weekend and basically filled up their cars with random wedding items before heading home.
Also, typically the only part of the day that a DIY venue will get involved with is the ceremony (to make sure the legal bit is done correctly), everything else during the day has to be coordinated by you – again something we’d only really grasped in the final stages of wedding planning. In total, we were dealing with around 15 separate suppliers so that was a bit of a logistical nightmare and meant that we only both really started to relax on the day once the evening party kicked off and there was nothing more which had the potential to go wrong!
Again, our parents and wedding party were the stars of the show – they we all totally on top of the running order and it was all down to them that the day ran so smoothly and on time.
The Line Up
Tipis: Stunning Tents
Photographer: Samie Lee
Bridal Separates: Catherine Deane
Bridal Shoes: River Island
Bride’s Hairpiece: Britten Weddings
Groom’s Suit: Reiss
Groom’s Shoes: Churches
Bridesmaid Skirts: Needle & Thread
Flower Girl Dresses: Monsoon
Catering: Gideon Hitchen
Oyster Bar: Mother Shuckers
Cake: Cuppies ‘n Cream
Custom Cake Topper: The Letter Loft (via Etsy)
Band: OJ’s Soul Band
Harpist: Isabella Asbjornsen
Barbershop Quarter: The Testostatones
Flowers: Blend & Bloom
Smoke Bombs: Enolagaye
Crockery & Furniture Hire: Classic Crockery
Outdoor Lighting: Partylights