“Andrew and I met on a work lunch and instantly got on well as we both grew up in East Sussex and had a passion for food, I think he also noticed me as I was stealing all his chips!
We got engaged in Sri Lanka on Christmas Day. I could tell Andrew was really nervous but I thought it was because it hadn’t stop raining and was supposed to be bright sunshine, we had an unexpected monsoon in December. After we handed out all our presents he got down on one knee and took me by such surprise! Afterwards we drank lots of champagne (probably too much) and practised our first dance. It was a beautiful day, even with the downpour!
We had a relatively short engagement of nine months which I found more than enough time to plan the whole day. We booked the church quickly and then had to find a venue for a marquee. Luckily Andrew’s father knew the local cricket club who offered the grounds in Chiddingly – so we booked it! Originally I wanted a tepee or yurt but we came across the Arabian Tent company in Firle (who were super local to us) and knew we had found the one! The marquees had different linings, ours was a mixture of ‘Cornish Cream’ and ‘Bombay Boudoir’, which was very cool and all our guests commented on how unique it was. Katherine who owned the company was so accommodating and gave us great advice on where to put the dance floor, we knew the smokers would be quite key in creating a party atmosphere so we wanted them to be near the dance floor (without the obvious smell and fire hazard), we also felt the bar had to be very close so we designed the marquee in an L shape and everything felt cosy but most importantly it had a party atmosphere!
Having worked in events for years, I had an idea of how I wanted to style my own wedding. I then spent hours poring over Pinterest which is fantastic for unique ideas, you definitely don’t need a wedding planner with Pinterest these days! I had a ‘Midsummer night’s dream’ theme in mind which I created with lots of Ivy on each of the tables and various cut glass jars and vases. A friend’s mother went to several markets for me to buy lots of glass (literally for pennies) so we were able to create height with the various pieces. I also collected lots of green bottles which again we used on the tables with flowers inside. I did have a florist (Pat Flowers from Hailsham) who was amazing and very budget conscious but again I don’t think you necessarily need a florist these days as lots of things can be found in your garden! I knew we wanted to incorporate retro photos of our guests, so I used these as place names and spent a long time on Facebook and Instagram finding shots of everyone. A good friend of mine also created Gingerbread favours for each of my guests which was a lovely addition!
I went to a local flower market in Battersea a few days before the wedding to buy lots of succulents, corn and lavender to create different texture and volume on the tables. Another fantastic place for reasonable props was ‘The Range’ in Bristol and Eastbourne, we bought several hanging lanterns and tea holders here in a cut glass style. I also found a reasonably priced arch on Amazon which my florist decorated with the most beautiful flowers! EBay was another great source of props, I found lots of old decanters which we made a feature of on the grazing station, with Limoncello and Amaretto! I also borrowed some old crates from a friend and created a feature outside the tent with pails of flowers and candles. I ordered several large letters for an interactive guest book from ‘The Wooden Letters Company’, it really is amazing how creative you can get!
For our reception we had a selection of canapes, my favourite was the goats cheese truffle honey wrapped in Parma ham on crostini! The caterers were a fan of the slow food movement therefore everything was as locally sourced as it could be. For our mains we had a designate ‘carver’ on each of the tables who wore a chef’s hat and apron, this was a real feature of the meal and got everyone talking. The main was a rib of beef with salsa verde and new potatoes with a tomato salad. Then pudding was a carrot cake with mascarpone icing that came out with a sparkler fountain for a bit of fun! For the booze we did a run to France to collect all the wines and had friends bring back as much duty free Vodka and Rum as possible for the cocktails! I am obsessed with Elderflower so a Vodka Elderflower cocktail seemed fitting as did the Dark and Stormy with Rum!
We wanted our cake to be unique and had been to several other weddings and found that nobody ever really ate the wedding cake so we wanted a grazing station of things that people would demolish in the evening! I had heard of a trend from New York for ‘Pork Pie’ wedding cakes and so we ordered one from ‘The Ginger Pig’ butchers in Clapham, it was three flavours, traditional pork pie flavour and then the top was venison and other wild game the middle was pork, chicken, ham and tarragon. It was delicious and we noticed everyone had tucked into it past midnight! We also had a 5 tiered cheeseboard with various locally sourced cheese from a wonderful supplier ‘ Greys Cheese Direct’ in Berkshire and Andrews mum created the BEST onion chutney to go with it with figs and grapes. Some of my friends had also created a few small cakes and salted caramels which people ate in abundance at the end of the evening.
My dress was a bit of a process, I must have tried on about 25 and put deposits on two before I found ‘the one’. I went to Jenny Packham as a last resort and tried on so many but fell in love with the ‘Bardot’ from the Autumn Winter ’15 collection. It was perfect and I knew it would fit with my bohemian theme. My shoes were very simple from Dune and I had lots of Jenny Packham accessories which I bought in a sample sale near Bond Street. The bridesmaids dresses were easy, I bought a couple from Mango and another two from Asos which they wore with floral headdresses, the flower girls also looked adorable in their little white dresses which I bought online.
In the church a good friend of mine sang Opera ‘Ave Maria’ which was really emotional when we were signing the register. Then for our reception we decided on a steel pan band as I had spent lots of my childhood in Barbados, as everyone made their way from the church to the marquee they could hear the soft drums on the steel pan and it really felt like we were in the Caribbean, It was idyllic with the sun shining! Our first dance was Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ and we had a 10 piece funk/soul band combined with a DJ for the after party. It was great, everyone was on the dance floor busting shapes! I made sure we had a basket of flip flops near the dance floor for all the girls wearing heels so we could really dance the night away! We also arranged a photo taxi booth which arrived later in the evening for all our guests to have a silly photo to take away.
Copious amounts of alcohol always leads to crazy things happening, one of our guests got naked and streaked through the tent which was funny! Another guest got so excited during the speeches that they knocked down about 4 other guests including Andrews mum! Apart from that all the guests had a great time and we thoroughly enjoyed our midsummers night’s dream! The months of planning were so worth it, the pictures speak for themselves, our wedding photographers Ena and David captured all the magical moments!”
Text: Shanti Davies