A surprise 40th birthday wedding!

Where on earth do I start with this wedding? I love it. I love everything about it: the surprise, the style, the laid-back bride and groom and their family….
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (21)
…the delight – and shock! – on guests’ faces; the handmade and gorgeously swooshy wedding dress. Trudie says she was voted “the scruffiest girl in school” and wanted to carry on the tradition… but she, and her dress, look amazing.

I want this wedding to be mine!

For now I’ll leave you with one of my favourite ever wedding reports, which is by Jason and Trudie – and with images of a truly wonderful, unique and spectacular wedding day by wedding photographer Sam Clayton. (When I jumped at the chance to feature such a creative wedding Sam told me, “Trudie & Jason will be thrilled. They thought their wedding wouldn’t be of much interest!” To which, all I can respond is “Pah!”)

See what you think…

wedding photo by Sam Clayton (43)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (42)Planning a surprise wedding!

“Our wedding was on the 25th of June, the day following Trudie’s 40th birthday.

We bought our house 4 years ago knowing that one day we intended to hold our marriage party in the garden. The house, Bridge Cottage, is situated next to a river on the rise of a hump back bridge. It is very picturesque with a 900 year old church at the other side of the river, which is listed in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and was where we had our ceremony.

We always knew that we never wanted a ‘traditional’ wedding, we knew we wanted a relaxed wedding with a garden party, festival atmosphere, guests in their scruffs and no expectations.

We soon realised that the only feasible way to achieve this was to have a ‘surprise’ wedding. We chose Trudie’s 40th birthday the perfect excuse to get our friends and family together. We spoke to Nigel, the vicar at St Michael’s, the church next door, he was very excited about the prospect of a ‘surprise’ wedding and we were all set.

We sent out invites to the party, an old school photo of Trudie which we had doodled on, and asked our guests to return the reply, the same photo, with their own doodle – prizes to be awarded on the day for best doodle.

We hoped no-one would guess our little secret!

Meanwhile we cracked on working on our little plan.

We always knew that Sam Clayton would be our photographer, this was an easy choice. Sam has worked with us for our own Funky portrait company for some years and we believe her to be one of the best photographers in Lancashire. Her wedding photography is stunning and as we have a similar creative vision in images we knew we could rely on her to document our day beautifully. So with Sam on board (we had to tell her about the surprise obviously!) we moved onto the next part of the plan…
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (41)Music….music is an important aspect of our lives and was one of our real blasts on the day.

We loved every minute of our research, which began on New Years Day. We discovered Rae Morris playing in the Jazz Café in Stanley Park, Lancashire. When we met her she was still a student and unknown, 9 months later she would play Leeds Reading Festival (on the BBC introducing stage) We chatted with her and asked if she would consider a gig playing at our wedding, she was in.

A few days after meeting Rae we flew out to Fuertaventura with the kids. I kept them up late one evening to go to a bar which had advertised an acoustic guitar set fronted by a guy called Simon Korsak. We had a fantastic night and Woody (aged 5) has a magnetic pull to any guitar based music, he was in awe, we all were. On our return we got in touch with Simon via Facebook, thinking “what the heck, let’s just ask”. Simon flew over the day before the wedding and brought along a friend Molly along with her cello. He flew back the following day!

Last, but not least, a couple of weeks before the ‘do’ Rae asked if her friend could come along and do a set. Her name is Karima Francis; we had a look at her My Space page and spent the evening giggling in excitement. Another fabulous singer-songwriter recently signed to Vertigo Records. We loved her song ‘The Author’ and were thrilled when she said she would sing it for our first dance.

So all that was left to do was our garden!

Our decision to hold the wedding at our house is because we are fanatical about our garden. Surrounded by masses of blooms, particularly white cottage foxgloves that I had sewn from seed 18 months we would have a gorgeous floral display. The wedding gave us a deadline to get all the little jobs we needed to do in the garden finished, along with our goats, pigs and dogs we would have the perfect environment to entertain our guests.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (40)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (39)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (38)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (37)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (36)We knew we needed some kind of marquee, especially as we had to accommodate the singers and as we all know you can’t count on the British weather to be kind. Hiring a marquee or tepee, however much we would have loved it, was not a viable option on our budget, so I was over the moon when I found our fabulous multi-coloured blow-up marquee at a village fete. Finding out how reasonable it was to hire was a bonus! We filled it with straw bales and covered them with my collection of blankets. I also made some giant bunting to hang around the garden out off oddments of funky fabric I had stashed away.

Under the guise of the ‘Birthday Party’ friends and family offered help with food, Jason’s brother was to be in charge of the BBQ (with our very own home-reared sausages) some friends baked some puddings and I made large quantities of all types of salads.

With the garden shed full of wine and beer we were all set.

So the day had arrived, by 3.00pm guests were arriving, dressed perfectly in their jeans and wellies.

As they drank, chatted and listened to Rae and Karima’s sets we mingled, dressed in our scruffs. We had hired a great face painter for the children; I really liked the idea of all the children in church with their faces painted!

We had to make our announcement by 4.30pm and be in church before 5.00pm for a legal wedding!

wedding photo by Sam Clayton (6)

The time had come… we gathered our friends and family to the marquee to announce the winners of the doodle competition. Then I asked Frieda and Woody our two children to join me as I had a surprise for them. It was at this point that I asked them what they thought if mummy and daddy were to get married today. After the initial shock they thought it would be great, phew! (Although I think Woody was in shock for most of the day!) Our guests looked a little stunned at first, before realisation set in, whoops and clapping swiftly ensued before they were hurriedly ushered over to the church.

I only had 15 minutes to get me, Frieda and Woody into their outfits! Fortunately Sam, our photographer got Woody dressed and Sam’s mum had come to help me get dressed! Frieda got herself dressed!

Our ceremony was perfect, all our friends and family smiling and happy, and all in their scruffs. Nigel, the vicar said it was his favourite wedding.

We returned to our garden a married couple and popped the carefully hidden champagne.

The day continued with a balloon artist creating fabulous hats, more music and lots of celebrating and ending with a great acoustic set from Simon which got everyone up and dancing.

It was our perfect day and the best day of our lives.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (7)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (8)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (35)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (34)I had basic dressmaking skills, a small budget and a piece of fabric -actually a linen bed cover I have always loved, and decided I would have a go at making my own dress.

Being fairly small, a bit of a tomboy and very short hair the ‘one’ dress was always going to be a problem, in fact it is the one thing that kept me from getting hitched to Jason earlier!

Having a secret wedding made it even better; it created little expectation of the dress.

As a teenager I would sew a lot, often knock something up for the local disco, and never hemmed or finished a single garment. This became a long standing joke between me and my mum. So it was great to carry on the tradition on the day. My mum commented on my unfinished hem, she thought it was great.

Voted the scruffiest girl in school, I was completely comfortable in my get up! Oh! Better mention high street store Zara for the crochet top I wore.

I loved my outfit – it was definitely me.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (33)I had bought my daughter Frieda a beautiful vintage style dress from Monsoon. I needed her to feel special and a part of what was to happen, I knew she would love the pretty dress and the little bouquet I had made. She found the hanging on her wardrobe door 10 minutes before the ceremony. This was definitely one of my favourite moments of the day, especially as we were walking to her room she asked if she would be wearing her leggings to the wedding.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (32)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (31)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (30)I decided on no jewellery. I had tried on a head band a few weeks before the wedding, a funky large bow type thing but opted for absolute simplicity. The wedding ‘rings’ were a trio of ‘junk’ we had picked up from a car boot sale the week before!

For a girl who lives in furry boots and trainers, comfort was paramount! I found a pair of floral patterned Hush Puppies that I knew I would wear again and do the job on the day.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (29)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (28)J and Woody, our little boy, wore outfits bought at Zara, t-shirt and linen shirt for J and t-shirt, shorts and flat cap for Woody. We initially tried the linen trouser look for J, but settled for his faithful ripped jeans, very Steptoe and importantly J felt quite at ease in his clothes.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (26)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (27)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (25)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (24)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (1)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (2)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (3)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (4)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (5)

wedding photo by Sam Clayton (9)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (10)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (11)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (12)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (13)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (14)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (15)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (16)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (17)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (18)
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (19)

Recommended wedding suppliers

  • Zara (obviously provided most of the wedding attire!) a great shop for style which suited our personalities
  • Monsoon – for a beautiful dress for Freida
  • Bouquet, a local florist who I went to the day before the wedding and provided me with the perfect bouquet for Freida
  • Hush Puppies – for great shoes (I love having Hush Puppies on this list! – Claire)

Our wonderful singers:

Sam Clayton our brilliant photographer, we absolutely loved our photographs and couldn’t stop looking at them, Jason even invited the postman in to see them!
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (20)

wedding photo by Sam Clayton (22)Memorable moments…

The first dance was a really special moment, dancing to one of our favourite songs ‘The Author’ being sung live by Karima Francis in our back garden amongst our friends and family.

Wedding day advice

Definitely do the day your way, don’t feel pressured to conform to traditional ideas, protocol or current trends. Consider what is important to you, for us we wanted music to play a large part and we knew that we wanted great images to remember the day, therefore the majority of our small budget was spent achieving this and worth every penny! Allow your wedding to reflect your personalities and enjoy every minute.
wedding photo by Sam Clayton (23)

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Janet from @Beautilicious40
    8 years ago

    Wow .. I Love Love LOVE this. Such originality and its beautifully photographed. It brought a smile to a very dull Monday Morning. Thank you for sharing x

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Glad you enjoyed the blog post Janet. It’s one which will always stick in my mind. Beautifully creative, and yes, so original too! Claire xx

  • Such a unique style! I love it!

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Thank you Sara! It’s definitely a wedding to appeal to the creative among my readers, lovely to read your comment here 🙂

  • Laura {Babb Photo}
    8 years ago

    Oh I love this wedding. It couldn’t have been more brilliant if it tried and it’s such a wonderful lesson in taking what you do want, ditching what you don’t want and making your wedding about you.

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Thanks Laura! And what a way to do it, hey? Keeping the whole thing as a surprise but still having all your friends & family there… Jason and Trudie are absolute stars. I hope you’re reading the comments on here guys… you rock!!!

  • Hannah Webster
    8 years ago

    Oh my word. What a wonderful wedding. I adore the dresses and the laid back feel and that it was a surprise! Everyone looks so HAPPY and it just sums up why I love weddings that do away with traditions that don’t feel relevant to the couple. This is all about them. Their love, their life, their family. It’s fantastic. Bravo! And great pics, Sam. x

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Thanks Hannah – I knew you’d love this one too! xx

  • Julie Boyd
    8 years ago

    What a lovely wedding. The photographs are fantastic well done Sam Clayton Photography . Everyone looks so happy. What a lovely couple. Best wishes to you both.

  • Neda Lahrodi-Blake
    8 years ago

    Go Sam, what a wonderful and different wedding x

  • Rosie Barrett
    8 years ago

    Brilliant! I absolutely love it! x

    • Claire
      8 years ago

      Julie, Neda, Rosie – thanks for your comments. It’s one of those isn’t it: you get to feel a little bit of the delighted surprise the wedding guests must have felt on the day.
      And that pic of Trudie and Jason on the bridge has the most wonderful honesty and happiness in it – you can’t help but love it. Cheers for sharing the love for a fab wedding! xx

  • Jason Gilliat
    8 years ago

    Nice comments, thank you – we’re blushing! Wouldn’t have done anything different except we forgot to take Bruce (the dog) to the church in the excitement!

  • Dawn Potter
    8 years ago

    This is so beautiful. I love this wedding. Truly inspiring! and I love the photos by Sam Clayton. I would say my perfect wedding!

  • Pennie
    8 years ago

    WOW!!! This is truly an original – two people getting married in their space, in their time and in their way. I think next time I’m told “We want the day to be personal and reflect who we are” – I’ll show this. So NOT an English wedding!

  • Stacey
    8 years ago

    Utterly love this! Read this with a little tear in my eye!
    It really brings home the fact that your special day isn’t just about ‘The Wedding’, it’s the marriage, everything that’s meaningful to you and your life afterwards!
    Huge congrats to you both, you look so, so happy! 🙂

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