I’m a bookworm, and proud! And I love a wedding with a venue full of books… if I could get married in the village library where I spent many happy hours as a little girl I think I would, you know?! So today, a treat: a beautiful English wedding from Somerford Hall with a wonderfully bookish theme and the loveliest couple ever: Becky & Gareth.
“Somerford Hall didn’t need a great deal of decoration as it’s so beautiful anyway. I asked for a few handmade and personal things in each room (there are so many rooms!), including vintage glass bowls filled with sweets, Jane Austen-themed bunting on the bar, and little wooden hearts on loops of ribbon. I made little framed paper crafted items, such as a list of all of our important dates, such as when we first met, and when we moved in together. My sister also updated some pretty horseshoes with ribbon and pages from old books – those horseshoes had been at my grandparents’ wedding!”
Images are by Esme Fletcher Photography (based in Leamington). Discover more from Esme here:
The English Wedding Blog Interview: Becky and Gareth
Wedding photographer’s website:
How did you choose your photographer?
Esme was actually the only photographer we met in person – we knew straight away she was the one for us! We bonded with Esme over our mutual love of cats, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Esme was friendly, enthusiastic and a bit quirky – we knew we’d feel comfortable with her being a part of our wedding day.
Were you pleased with your wedding photographer? Do tell… we love a brilliant review!
Esme arrived early to take photos of me getting ready, and took beautiful shots of my family and the bridesmaids amongst the flowers in my Dad’s garden. I was especially pleased that we included the family dog Lucy in the photos! It was lovely to have all the little details recorded – my sister helping me into my dress, my earrings and perfume.
At church, Esme and her assistant were a discreet presence, never intruding on the ceremony, but still capturing all the special moments. Everyone loves the photo of me peering around the door, excited to see all the guests. The wide shots that include the expanse of the beautiful wooden church roof are lovely, capturing the atmosphere perfectly.
We requested some posed shots in the churchyard, as this was where my parents got married; it was nice to recreate some of their photos in the same setting. Esme caught some lovely shots of us all laughing together – especially when it came to throwing the confetti!
Our reception venue was Somerford Hall, and we were blessed with the perfect sunny day for playing lawn games and sharing Pimm’s outside. Without us even noticing, Esme took documentary-style informal shots of all our friends and family. Every single guest was included in these, which was fantastic.
Esme noted all the little details of our literary-themed wedding breakfast, from the handmade centerpieces to the Harry Potter themed sweets! She managed to capture all the nerves and fun of the speeches – possibly my favourite moment of the day. Who knew that my very quiet husband could speak so well in front of a crowd!
Before the evening reception, Esme took us away for a short while for some special shots of just Gareth and I. These are some of my very favourite photographs. I especially love the romantic, artistic shots of us in the little gazebo at the bottom of the garden, and beside a beautiful tree that Esme found and excitedly described as ‘just like Rivendell’!
We were so pleased with Esme, that we’ve already recommended her for two friends’ weddings. It’ll be lovely to see her again when I’m a bridesmaid in July!
Tell us about the moment you saw your wedding photos for the first time?
We were so excited to see our photos! I loved seeing all my friends and family looking so happy and relaxed in such beautiful settings. I couldn’t believe how many photos there were, secretly recording all the special moments. It’s lovely to have them on a memory stick that we can plug into the television to show everyone – they look so good on a large screen!
St Giles Church, Haughton, and Somerford Hall.
Can you describe your wedding in fewer than 10 words?
Relaxed literary-themed wedding in the Staffordshire countryside
Your wedding style or theme:
Literary theme with purple and blue colour scheme
Where did you find your suppliers? (Blogs, magazines, recommendations?)
We tried to find local supplies as far as possible, finding them at wedding fairs and online.
What’s your top tip for saving money?
We were lucky to be offered so much help from friends and family. Glenice is a close family friend and kindly offered to arrange our flowers, which were such a special part of the scheme.
I always enquired about discounts. We were lucky to book Esme at a discounted rate when she was advertising special offers, around Christmas and January. I bought my wedding dress from Katherine Allen in Banbury, and they offer a ‘Love at First Sight’ discount – so I was brave and decisive and bought my dress on a first visit!
Probably the decision that saved us the most money was having our wedding on a Monday. It meant that we got a discount on the venue and the wedding cars.
… and which elements of your wedding are you glad you spent more on?
As with most weddings, the biggest expense was the venue, food and drink. We thought that Somerford Hall’s packages were fairly priced, and the food was lovely. We had a three course meal: mushroom and bacon salad to start, followed by roast beef, and then apple tart and ice-cream. We had fish and chips in the evening, and spent a little extra to offer our guests mojitos or coke in a vintage bottle with special straws!
Where did you buy or source your wedding stationery – or was making it a labour of love?
Gareth designed our wedding stationery – they were inspired by the iconic Penguin covers.
Did you fall in love with your wedding dress?
I was fairly open-minded about dress styles, trying on at least twelve in various designs. I chose my dress because I fell in love with the pretty lace and the sweep of the train. It was very comfortable – not heavy at all compared to bigger dresses with trains – and suited my pear-shaped figure.
Wedding dress designer and bridal boutique:
Maggie Sottero dress from Katherine Allen Bridal, Banbury.
Tell us about your accessories: jewellery, shoes and anything else!
My florist put flowers on pins for the hairdresser to arrange in my hair. I loved this natural, subtle look, and didn’t need to spend any money on expensive hair accessories. I chose not to have a veil, as I didn’t want to cover up the flowers and the back of my wedding dress. My drop earrings were the shape of lilies with a pearl inside, and I wore a pearl bracelet belonging to my mother-in-law. My vintage-style shoes were my something blue, from Rachel Simpson.
And what did the groom wear? Any recommendations for tailors?
Gareth went to Ted Baker in Covent Garden for his lovely vintage-style two-piece suit and tweed-style jacket in a pale powder blue. The staff were so helpful and made it feel really special.
Beautiful bridesmaids: what did your best girls wear?
I chose mismatching dresses as I wanted a less formal look; I was eager to prioritise each bridesmaid feeling comfortable in a dress that suited them, rather than having them all the same. My head bridesmaid, my sister Gail, wore a gorgeous halterneck dress from Dessy, in a lovely plum shade; as she’s tall, a full-length gown was perfect for her. Caroline wore a lilac full-length dress, and Sarah wore a plum A-line dress with bows on the shoulders – both from Debenhams. Jenny wore a lovely pale blue dress with a full skirt from Monsoon, and Sally’s dress was vintage-style lilac lace, bought from Nancy Mac.
Hair and make-up – did you DIY or hire a professional?
We hired Kate and Fran to do our hair, both stylists from Francesco in Stafford. My bridesmaids all had slightly different hair to suit their style, though all included plaits, and fresh flowers. My hair was curled up into a vintage-inspired chignon.
Describe your wedding flowers. Who arranged them for you? (florist details would be lovely please)
As our flowers were by a family friend, I was lucky enough to be a part of the process, choosing accessories at a floristry wholesalers and helping to prepare all the flowers at Glenice’s house. She is a retired florist so was very knowledgeable in suggesting types of flowers and how to make the centerpieces. Our flowers were a purple and blue scheme; my bouquet contained delicate mauve roses to contrast with my ivory dress, while the bridesmaids had white roses to contrast their dresses in various shades of purple and blue. I asked Glenice to create a soft, natural look, loosely arranging the flowers and incorporating some pearls from one of my grandmother’s broken necklaces. For the church, Glenice made some beautiful large arrangements with gladioli and hydrangeas; she then kindly transported them to Somerford Hall so that we got to see them all day!
Gareth and I made the stands for the table centrepieces by covering tall, thin glass vases in pages from old books, using a papier-mâché technique. Glenice then fixed a small oasis to the top for the flowers. We bought a bulk lot of old books from Ebay and Glenice made lots of bits and pieces with them, including a lovely arrangement for the mantelpiece at Somerford Hall.
Crafts and makes – tell us about any homemade elements of your wedding… did you enjoy them?
We’re both a bit arty and creative, so we made as much as we could ourselves. I made little framed paper crafted items, such as a list of all of our important dates, such as when we first met, and when we moved in together. My sister also updated some pretty horseshoes with ribbon and pages from old books – those horseshoes had been at my grandparents’ wedding! I also tied ribbon and a handwritten label to 70 classic books as favours… very time-consuming, but it was really fun choosing particular books for particular people. I know a lot of them have been read and enjoyed, too!
The wedding cake: what kind of cake did you choose and why?
We did spend a lot of money on our beautiful cake, but we felt it was worth it as I was able to design this myself, choosing a pile of our favourite books as the design, with our cat Ruby on top! The Cake Shop in Banbury made this for us, replicating the typeface of the books perfectly, in the shades and blue and purple I’d selected. It tied the literary theme together perfectly, and it was so tasty. Each layer was a different flavour – the chocolate and cherry was particularly delicious!
Entertainment: any musical recommendations, surprises or treats?
My cousin Steve is the professional wedding DJ for Strictly Weddings, and kindly did our fantastic disco free of charge, including hire of the ‘LOVE’ lettering which was the perfect backdrop for our first dance. My bridesmaids are my oldest friends from school, and we have a rather unique sense of humour – apparently flash-mobbing to ‘Jump On It’ in the style of Will Smith in the Fresh Prince was a good idea?! The photos are hilarious. It was so much fun – and a proper family event when your cousin is DJ!
On the day tips and advice:
It goes so quickly. Things that take months to plan go by in minutes – drink it all up, savour it, and enjoy it. I remember thinking ‘THIS IS YOUR ACTUAL WEDDING DAY! THE REAL THING!’ throughout the day, and not quite believing it. It all went very smoothly, but then I had written a fairly meticulous schedule for the day for all my close family and bridesmaids to consult! I’m a teacher, so I’m used to a timetable! It paid off, though. I’m probably one of the few brides who was actually ready really early, but this meant there was plenty of time for photographs! I was probably a bit too early to the church, if anything… a guest told me she had to run to make sure she was there before me!
What’s the best thing about being married?
We love being married. We’d been together for eight years before the big day, and to be honest, sharing a surname doesn’t change the day-to-day of being a couple. It’s nice to feel officially part of each other’s families, though – and I suppose it helps remind us we’re proper grown-ups! (Says the lady who had a Harry Potter Hen Do…)
Favourite supplier list for other brides and grooms: