Hay bales in the sun – a rustic Cotswolds wedding

Sean and Rachel had a very personal Cotswolds wedding – a quiet registry office trip followed by the most gorgeous party and perfect ceremony at a private country manor house in the Cotswolds.

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The family vicar officiated in the afternoon; Rachel and Sean did their own readings and made speeches. They had a high tea for guests in the morning, and the afternoon reception carried on until the early hours!

I love this. The styling of the day is wonderfully relaxed, colourful and rustic. The way Sean and Rachel planned their day is inspiring. Their story of the wedding day explains it all – read, enjoy and get inspired by this wonderful Cotswolds wedding.

With thanks also to Ruth from Finesse Planning for telling me about the wedding, and to wedding photographer Dafydd Hughes for the beautiful photos.

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Rachel and Sean’s rustic Cotswolds wedding

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Who proposed, and how?

Sean proposed in the gardens just below the Piazza de Michelangelo in Florence, whilst on holiday. Down on one knee, sun setting. It was breath-taking and totally unexpected!
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How would you describe your wedding style?

Colourful and fun rustic charm – we wanted to create a really relaxed and fun rustic look and had some ideas of what we wanted to achieve, but with time slipping away, we were struggling to get anything sorted, let alone how it was going to look.

We decided to call in the expert and this came in the form of the amazing Ruth Hunter from Finesse Planning. Not only did she understand what we wanted to create but she designed and produced it so perfectly and much better than we would have been able to do with loads of individual ideas that made it fun, unique and totally represented the two of us, plus it was (mostly) stress free, which is exactly how we wanted everything to be!

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Wedding venue

We rented a private country manor house in the Cotswolds. It was not a registered wedding venue but it was a beautiful house, in stunning surroundings and slept 26 people which was just the size we were after. We hired it for 4 days, Friday – Monday, and had our close family and friends stay there with us. On the Saturday we had a wedding ceremony and reception with 120 guests which was held entirely outside in the grounds of the house.

Wedding photographer

Daffyd Hughes Photography
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Religious or civil wedding?

A bit of both! The venue we hired was not a registered wedding venue so we had a ‘legal’, civil ceremony in the nearby Witney Registry Offices. The Registry Office ceremony was very basic, just immediate family; no music or readings; we wore casual clothes and had none of the frills such as ‘you may now kiss the bride’.

The next day, when all our guests were present, we had an outside ceremony as part of the day’s proceedings led by our family Vicar. This ceremony was very similar to a church ceremony and had religious context to it. We used the traditional religious vows and had a couple of hymns within the service (led by the awesome Birmingham Community Gospel Choir). This ceremony, whilst not legally binding, was to us was the ‘real deal’… it was our declaration of love to each other in front of everyone we know and God.
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The ceremony was held outdoors with the seating constructed out of stunning bales of hay with lace covers with large personalised wooden crates overflowing with bright coloured flowers sat on hay bales at the front. The aisle was marked out with jars of vibrant flowers hung on shepherd’s hooks and a hessian runner on the floor. Guests arrived to music played by a friend on his violin and a few songs sung by the Birmingham Community Gospel Choir. The bridal entry was to Pachelbel’s canon. The service was led by a Pastor from the Bride’s family church.

Which readings did you choose?

Kahlil Gibran ‘On Marriage’ – Read by the Bride. ‘Love is the Greatest’ 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 – Read by the Groom.
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What did you wear?

Bride: Second hand Augusta Jones ‘Corsica’ Dress in Ivory (£400) from Shoes – Silver L.K. Bennett Paola Wedge Sandal. Antique Brooch Tiara by ‘Bespoke’ from Sarah Roberts.

Groom: Grey suits from Ted Baker. Brown shoes from Next.
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The wedding reception

We split our day into two parts as we wanted to have a later ceremony due to the registry office. We wanted to enjoy our friends’ company for longer than a few hours and held a High Tea in the morning for guests to come and say hi before heading back to get ready. Straight after the ceremony Prosecco was served and guests were offered canapés from the wood-fired BBQ catering firm. A few photos were taken and then the weather started to turn! We headed into the marquee for the rest of the canapés and drinks before dinner was served. After dinner there was live acoustic music from the duo Jubilee, fronted by Flynn from Duke (Xfactor), the cutting of the cheesecake; a whiskey table and a great knees up that went on into the early hours!

What were your wedding highlights?

Looking around to all our friends and family sat on bales of hay in the sun, with swallows darting around the sky around them, the smell of the BBQ wafting over awaiting our arrival and the gospel choir finishing off a song with us newlywed– couldn’t have been more perfect, completely overwhelming!

Wedding venue styling and details:

We knew that we had to have a marquee on the lawn and we thought we knew what we wanted. However, using Ruth not only for the design aspect but for the whole planning process meant that she was able to propose different ideas that not only worked with the theme but also meant we didn’t go over budget. We chose a Capri style marquee which allowed us to have clear views through the marquee and give it a real sense of being ‘open’ which is what we wanted.

We knew that we didn’t want the traditional looking wedding and wanted long tables to create a more relaxed feel. Ruth suggested using pine tables and wooden chairs which worked brilliantly. Ruth designed hessian canopies suspended from the poles in the roof space that had fairy lights shining through, then there were hessian wrapped test tubes that held single flower heads, hanging from the hessian with twine and then multicoloured floral bunting connecting the sides of the marquee and the hessian canopies. The tables were then laid with matching hessian runners and due to the food being served to the tables, it meant we were restricted on the table decorations and had a few jars of bright country flowers dotted along the runner with tea lights in between.

There were so many amazing elements that were created from a fantastic display on the front lawn that was used to direct guests to the different areas, using ladders, hay bales, chalk boards, lavender and vintage garden equipment, escort cards that were manilla paper flags stuck into a hay bale, a buffet sweet table using hessian sacks and my own cheese table that was used to display and serve the rounds of cheese we had used for our ‘wedding cheese cake’. Everything worked together and the whole feel and look of the wedding was better than we had ever imagined.

Wedding music and entertainment:

Ceremony: A friend playing his electric violin and Birmingham Community Gospel Choir. Reception – iPod play lists and live music from Flynn of Duke!
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Memorable wedding day moments:

Our friend Monique getting up and singing ‘Save Tonight’ by Eagle Eye Cherry with the musician. Cheese Mongering my own wedding cake, I work for a cheese company, so cheese is very important to me! We both thought the Gospel Choir were the icing on the cake – they added such atmosphere and as they sung O Happy Days all our hairs stood on end!

Wedding day advice:

Plan, plan and plan in advance, and if like us you’re not nailing the planning – get a wedding planner! Ruth at Finesse Planning was invaluable to us and ensured every eventuality was thought of. It meant we could do exactly what was needed on the day – to relax and enjoy it all!

Recommended wedding suppliers:

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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.



  • This is just gorgeous!! There are so many things I love about this wedding! I love the ‘Just married’ paper chains, the cheese tower, the hay bales… I could go on and on! Beautiful photos. 🙂 T x

  • Alan Law
    8 years ago

    Some lovely, natural and light photography here! I love the candid portrait of the bride putting on her earrings especially; simple and elegant. Fab stuff.

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