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Madeleine & George’s elegant winter wedding at St Audries Park, with Life in Focus Photography

I was so excited when I saw all the lovely images from Madeleine and George’s beautiful wedding – they married on the cusp of spring, and used wild cherry blossom as a key floral theme with darker reds and woodland shades to style their day. Their Vietnamese-English fusion wedding brings a lovely splash of colour with all the fabulous reds, and the portraits of the bride and groom are stunning, as is St Audries Park. You’ll love it!

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“We used pale pink cherry blossom, rich red vanda orchids for a slightly oriental feel and blousy peony like, pale pink ranunculus, along with blue green foliages such as eucalyptus, ice plant. I wanted the bouquet to be natural looking, seasonal and trailing. A hand tied bouquet of flowers with an undulating, flowing and natural outline.

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All the flowers in the bride and civil ceremony bridesmaid bouquets, buttonholes, corsages for the tea ceremony bridesmaids and the decorations for the shrine tables, ceremony tables and centrepieces for the wedding breakfast tables used cherry blossom twigs which helped to give a winter into spring feel and the buttonholes and corsages picked up the ruby red, dusky pink colours of the morning ceremony. 

Jane our florist was really great to work with: http://www.edenweddings.co.uk/

I wanted the colours to flow from the Tea Ceremony to the civil ceremony so I found a palette which combined a darker red, dusky pink, silvery blue, dark teal and forest green, which I felt could be used throughout the day and gave the look of the wedding a more vintage, winter/spring feel.”

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Images are by lovely Scott at Life In Focus Photography, who you’ll discover more from here:

http://www.lifeinfocusphotography.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/lifeinfocusphotos
https://twitter.com/scottinfocus

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Photographer Scott told me, “The day was particularly special to me as my partner is the bride’s sister, so it was a real honour to be asked to photograph their wedding. The Vietnamese Tea Ceremony was really touching as it symbolised a union of families, not just the bride and groom.

St Audries Park is a stunning, grand wedding venue which suited the international and London based guests perfectly; it can accommodate 100 or so guests, with the majority staying on site for two nights, making for quite the weekend for some! The beautiful interior spaces were especially welcome with this wedding as it was a winter wedding so we knew we would be inside for the day. Thanks also to my second shooter for the day: Heather Birnie Photography.”

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The English Wedding Blog interview: Madeleine and George

Wedding photographer’s website:

http://www.lifeinfocusphotography.co.uk

How did you choose your photographer?

He was my sister’s fiancé and I couldn’t imagine using anyone else. I had seen how beautiful his pictures were for his growing number of clients and how hard he worked for each assignment and in growing his business. It was a very easy choice to make.

Were you pleased with your wedding photographer? Do tell… we love a brilliant review!

Scott was amazing throughout the day. His reportage or documentary style of photography captured really natural and intimate moments without being obtrusive and we absolutely loved the pictures we got at the end. We were also very lucky in that he arranged a second shooter for us so we were able to get two different viewpoints of events happening at the same time e.g. when both bride and groom were getting ready in different places or when my brother gave the hand signal to the groom’s group in the orangery that they were ready for the procession and the groom’s sister-in-law giving the hand signal back or when I was making my way to the pre-ceremony registrar’s interview at the same time as the guests were gathering in the orangery. We felt that the pictures they captured were truly magical and we still find ourselves savouring them several months after the wedding and I’m sure for many years to come. We got so many compliments from our guests and we really realised the value of using a talented and professional photographer when comparing his photographs to the ones sent in from enthusiastic amateur friends.

Tell us about the moment you saw your wedding photos for the first time?

Scott released a few sneak preview pictures of some very stunning shots on his blog a couple of days after the wedding and shared these to Facebook. This really helped to build the excitement. Then a couple of weeks after he released the full album which we shared with friends. Finally we went to visit my sister and Scott and got presented a box with a few printed photos and a flash drive with our full album on – more than the set that had been produced for friends. Normally he would post these out but we wanted to go through them and re-live the memories together. It was really fun to see everything and savour all these little details that we didn’t see on the day.

Wedding venue:

Our wedding venue was St. Audries Park in Somerset.
http://www.countryhouseweddings.co.uk/somerset-st-audries-park/
Our Tea ceremony was held in the Great Hall and the civil ceremony was held in the Orangery.

Wedding month:

February

Can you describe your wedding in fewer than 10 words?

An elegant winter wedding blending English and Vietnamese traditions

Your wedding style or theme:

There were two parts to the wedding; the Vietnamese Tea Ceremony and the traditional civil ceremony. I wanted both ceremonies to be elegant and modern but warm and intimate. Traditionally the colours used in a Vietnamese wedding for the bride’s outfit and the bridesmaid’s outfits and the decorations (bright red, bright pink and gold) can be a bit loud or ostentatious. This is wonderful if you are having a wedding in summer or in somewhere like Vietnam, where you have a lot more sunshine and a lot more bright colours used everywhere in general. Our wedding was going to be on the cusp of winter turning to spring in England, with possible grey skies in a country house so I didn’t want the colours to clash with the season or the setting.

Where did you find your suppliers? (Blogs, magazines, recommendations?)

We did most of our research on the internet using Google.

What’s your top tip for saving money?

I guess to discuss with your partner and agree what things are a priority for your wedding beforehand. Everyone is different and wants different things. We saved money by forgoing traditional paper invitations and used electronic ones instead because we didn’t think invitations would be kept. We set up a website for a minimal cost, which held all the information so we didn’t have to print these out or send the information as part of the invitation and where guests could RSVP. We mixed up the menu we served at the wedding breakfast, serving one course from the deluxe menu and the others from the standard because we really wanted that one dish but didn’t want to pay the full cost for the other deluxe dishes. Also it’s better to have a clear direction on what you want in terms of decoration. We wasted some money going down one route before changing our mind and having to invest in researching another direction. We also saved money on the table plans and used tags tied to a tree instead. We also put a tab behind the bar but saved money by limiting it to standard single spirits, wine and beer but it lasted all night and people who wanted to buy a bottle of wine or double spirits were happy to pay for these separately. We saved some money by using local hairdressers and make up artists rather than bringing them from London and I was also very tempted to go with the first dress I found that I loved which cost a bit more than I was comfortable with. I ended up sticking to my guns and keeping on looking and found a wonderful dress for a third of the price so my advice would be to have a budget in mind and stick to it for your dress. I also bought some wedding jewellery which was a bit more expensive than I would normally buy and now slightly regret it as I may never wear it again. However we organised our wedding in 4 months so we had a lot more pressure to make the right decisions quickly. If you can, take your time to think about these things beforehand!

… and which elements of your wedding are you glad you spent more on?

We are really glad we spent money on a great photographer. We also were very happy with our choice of venue. The setting and the staff that came with the place were second to none and everyone felt that it was such a beautiful and well run venue. The food was also outstanding and I was so happy we were able to spend extra money on having lobster as a starter as it was very tasty.
We were also very glad that we paid extra so that we had the venue from the Friday afternoon all the way through to the Sunday morning – it meant that the wedding felt like more of an event and gave people time to get to know each other and to enjoy and explore the venue. It also made the whole pace of the event feel more relaxed.
The flowers were also slightly more than anticipated but really pulled everything together and having my hair and make up done definitely helped to take the stress out of getting ready and along with my two dresses made me feel like a princess for the day!

Where did you buy or source your wedding stationery – or was making it a labour of love?

https://www.paperlesspost.com/ for the invitations
https://www.optimalprint.co.uk/ for the menus and two sets of order of the day leaflets. We went for something cost effective as we thought we’d be throwing it away afterwards.

Did you fall in love with your wedding dress?

My tea ceremony dress was custom made for me and I chose the fabrics, colours and shape. The dress became itself before my very eyes! It was a special process that I will probably never do again so yes I loved the dress that I got in the end.
The civil ceremony dress I wasn’t sure about at first as the lace pattern was so bold and I normally go for something a bit more understated and I had originally fallen in love with a dress that was almost 3 times more expensive but I ended up completely falling for it, especially after it was fitted to me.

Wedding dress designer and bridal boutique:

Tea ceremony dress designed by myself, made by Natalie Moran and Iwona Rutkowska
Civil ceremony dress was by Justin Alexander from Angelica Bridal in Islington

Tell us about your accessories: jewellery, shoes and anything else!

The earrings for my Tea ceremony dress were by Biba and a necklace by Monet, both from House of Fraser and I borrowed my headdress from my dad’s wife though the headdresses can be made in the USA or Vietnam.
For my civil ceremony dress I bought the Hayworth pearl bracelet and earrings from Stephanie Browne found on https://www.libertyinlove.co.uk/
My shoes were by Benjamin Adams from Debenhams.

And what did the groom wear?

The groomsmen and groom all wore morning suits from Moss Bros. They had gold cravats in the morning for the Tea Ceremony and dark teal cravats in the afternoon civil ceremony.

Beautiful bridesmaids: what did your best girls wear?

My 4 Vietnamese bridesmaids had their dusky pink dresses made in Vietnam, though I chose the fabric for the dress and trousers and the finishing touches of the pink beading were done by my dressmaker in London. My 4 civil ceremony bridesmaids had a dress from Coast. This choice was more due to trying to plan everything in 4 months over Christmas, when everyone was busy, and it would have been impossible trying to get together to choose a traditional bridesmaid dress let alone have time for the required fittings. The dress we chose was a dark teal, which could be worn different ways on top. The shoes were glittery silver, low heeled pointed courts by Vince Camuto and the bridesmaids accessorised with their own silver jewellery and slightly sparkly, silver pashmina scarves. The 4 flower girls wore a dusky pink lace dress from Monsoon with white shoes and a white faux fur wrap. We also had a mini Vietnamese bride and bridegroom for the tea ceremony (my baby niece and George’s nephew) dressed in traditional outfits and headdresses.

Hair and make-up – did you DIY or hire a professional?

I hired a make up artist, Lucy Davies, for my civil ceremony bridesmaids but my tea ceremony bridesmaids did the make up for themselves. Lucy is based in London but goes down to Taunton quite a lot as her family live there so was not as expensive as a purely London-based make-up artist.
I also hired Victoria Wyatt’s team to do all 8 bridesmaids’ hair (http://www.victoriahairandspa.co.uk/). My hair was done by my friend Loretta who cuts my hair normally and who is based in a salon in London (Fowler 35 in Covent Garden) but was also a guest at the wedding. She did it as a wedding gift for me.

General styling – did your venue need much decoration?

Our venue was so beautiful and grand it didn’t need much decoration. We fully utilised the tree decorations, hung with clear glass baubles and branches wrapped in fairy lights that came with the venue and even used one for a table plan. I felt our centrepieces really reflected the glass, the branches and fairy lights in these venue decorations. Apart from that the grand fireplace, the antique furniture and the grand room proportions did not need much more which was part of the reason we chose it as we didn’t think we’d have a lot of time within a 4 month window to come up with, research and buy all the bits for a specific decoration theme for the whole venue.
The one thing we did do was to change the lighting in the dining room. We felt that the light from the chandeliers was very bright so we did not use these and instead purchased 12 white paper floor standing column lanterns and placed them around the perimeter of the room, which we felt helped to make the dining space feel far more intimate and warm as the sun went down.

Crafts and makes – tell us about any homemade elements of your wedding… did you enjoy them?

We did not have many home made elements but we deliberately chose a venue and wedding style where we didn’t need to do so due to the short time line. We tried to do the table plan tags at home and they looked awful so we ended up taking them to a printers. The only bit that was home made was the covers for the offering trays which George’s mum made, cutting a table cloth into 4 and putting a seam on the cut edges. Of course the Vietnamese dresses were also handmade but by professionals and not by our own hand. If we had had more time I would have liked to have done more to make it a tiny bit more personal.

The wedding cake: what kind of cake did you choose and why?

Our Tea Ceremony was at 12pm followed by an informal Vietnamese lunch. We had brought enough mini sweet treats as part of the offerings to share around to the guests after the buffet lunch. Then as our civil ceremony finished at 3.30pm followed by the wedding breakfast at 5pm, by the time everyone ate dinner and pudding we were unsure whether they would eat cake at 8pm. So instead we bought a cake made of cheese rounds to serve with crackers, fruits and chutneys at 9pm.

Entertainment: any musical recommendations, surprises or treats?

We belong to an amateur choir, in fact that’s where my husband proposed to me: at the end of a lesson after the standard song around the piano we do at the end of practice. Some of the choir came down to sing a few songs in our civil ceremony whilst we were signing the register. We also decided to have everyone sing songs as part of the civil ceremony and had no readings as songs are more personal to us. For the disco, we set up a playlist on our website for people to request songs before the wedding. We also had a karaoke room which went down very well once everyone had had a few drinks.

Words of wisdom: share your best piece of advice for other couples:

Depending on what kind of wedding you want and how involved your partner wants to be, planning a wedding together is probably one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do before having children! We found some of our early planning sessions frustrating and ended up with some very tense discussions! You will very quickly find out how differently each person works in the way that they plan and organise something. If you can, try and discuss what each of your visions for your wedding day would be, rejoice where you want similar things, then prioritise the things that are most important to you and compromise on the things that aren’t – this includes compromising with your partner if they want the opposite of what you want or compromising on what can be bought for the budget you have. Also recognise each other’s strengths and differences in the way that you both work and see if you can use use your different styles to complement each other rather than clashing. We also did a lot of things in non traditional ways using new technology, e.g. online invitations, wedding websites, and Google spreadsheets shared online that we could edit at the same time to organise and plan everything.
Also keep in mind, your wedding day, even though important, is just the first day of your married lives. Set a budget, keep an eye on it and try to stay within your means as much as you can as the stress of a heavy financial burden stretching into the future is not a great start to your married lives together – I have seen brides taking out loans to have the day of their dreams only to have the marriage last less time than the term of the loan.

What’s the best thing about being married?

Feeling secure within our relationship, that we are a unit and we are planning our future together.

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 www.byMoonandTide.com. 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.

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