I think it was the little birds on the table stationery which I fell in love with first. Then I saw how gorgeous Lizzy and Josh were, how beautifully they’d incorporated countryside touches and bright, colourful styling into their day – and I was smitten. This is a stunning wedding from beautiful Sussex venue Chafford Park, with our lovely friend and English Wedding Blog sponsor Penny Young behind the camera. Grab a cuppa, settle down somewhere cosy and enjoy!
Handmade was a big part of our day – the venue is in a beautiful setting, but is a blank canvass. We wanted it to very feel personal to us, and to enjoy a full year of preparations. We picked our own flowers at Blooming Green and arranged into mismatched jugs, just using tape to give structure instead of oasis. We also made our own buttonholes, boutonnieres, flower girl basket and bouquets.
I painted a bird for each table, which we then displayed on small wooden easels. The birds we picked all had some link to us – for example top table had a peacock, which was a reminder of India, where Josh proposed. The wedding was a perfect opportunity to use the Orangina bar board Lizzy bought at a market over ten years ago. Our place cards were probably the most ambitious make – Lizzy’s dad helped chop the wood with his band saw and then Lizzy learned how to do pyrography, just to make the wooden place cards. These also acted as favours, most people took them home.
We made our wedding rings during a fantastic, private workshop at the Quarter Workshop in Birmingham. It was a lovely day and it’s a really special thing to have done together. It was also extremely good value! Lizzy’s uncle does fused glass as a hobby, so he kindly volunteered to mass produce oversized tea-light holders in colours of our choice. Lizzy (with help from mum) sewed each Bridesmaid a kimono style dressing gown to wear on the morning of the wedding. Josh did a great job pulling together Go Pro footage from the day into a short highlights video.
Wedding photographer’s website:
We started our research by looking at photographers recommended by our venue, and the photos on Penny’s website felt very ‘us’. We then had a Skype conversation with Penny and her husband – we were immediately put at ease and thought that they would do a fantastic job. We were also excited by the option to have a second shooter on the day so that we could capture both of us getting ready, in addition to capturing more candid shots of guests.
We were absolutely delighted with Penny. Her photos are just sensational and capture all of our feelings about the day. So many of our guests have commented since not only on the quality of the photographs (the number Facebook profile pictures that have come from our wedding!), but the seamlessness in which Penny and Lisa blended into the event to get all of those candid shots.
We also got our photos so very quickly, which is just a great quality service.
We were on honeymoon in Tuscany and received an email from Penny about 3 days after the wedding. The email included a gallery of 20-30 highlights as a taster. We were filled with nervous excitement, and then blown away by what we saw. A few days later, Penny sent another email with a short video slideshow bringing the photos to life. It’s fair to say, we both got a little bit emotional, and watched it through about 20 times…before sending on to our families.
Contact & bookings: Penny Young Photography
We chose Chafford Park because it is in such a beautiful setting – with loads of space whilst feeling very private. You descend down a lane into the venue, losing yourself in your own little world for the day.
The two oak-clad barns were still under construction when we booked, and thankfully they were finished in time! It meant we could have the ceremony and reception in the same venue and create that personal, private feeling. Another bonus was that guests could camp, and there is a guest house where Lizzy and entourage could stay the night before, get ready and stay the night of the wedding.
Can you describe your wedding in fewer than 10 words?
Non-stop fun from start to finish. Best day ever.
Your wedding style or theme:
We avoided lots of matching decorations – all of the jugs for flowers were mismatched finds from French flea-markets, seasonal flowers, hay bales….it all helped create the informal, relaxed feeling we wanted.
Where did you find your suppliers? (Blogs, magazines, recommendations?)
We found the caterer, photographer and make-up artist through the venue. We’d seen (and danced all evening to) the band at another friend’s wedding, and wanted to book them from that moment on (Lizzy even sent them an initial enquiry the night we got engaged).
Otherwise, once we’d decided what we wanted, it was a case of good old Google.
What’s your top tip for saving money?
Budget! We spend a very long time very early planning out how much we could save, setting up regular savings accounts with decent interest rates, setting a 10% contingency, factoring honeymoon early, etc. Then we reviewed finances and saving regularly.
Where we saved the most money was buying our own alcohol – we are lucky enough to have both families regularly visiting France, where we were able to source very reasonably priced wine. We got white, sparkling and champagne direct from a vineyard and red from a standard French supermarket.
… and which elements of your wedding are you glad you spent more on?
The band. They were absolutely sensational, everybody commented on how much fun they had dancing – from University friends, 5 year-old nieces and slightly more mature relatives.
Where did you buy or source your wedding stationery – or was making it a labour of love?
We set up a wedding website one year before the wedding – this was a great way to keep guests informed and build up the anticipation. We uploaded a couple of ‘teaser trailers’ showing some of our wedding preparations (buying wine, painting etc) and then ordered some simple green invitations from Papier.
Wedding dress designer and bridal boutique:
Lizzy’s dress was from David’s Bridal’s own brand, bought on the first wedding dress shopping trip! The assistant helpfully suggested, since it was my first trip, that I try on a dress of each shape, to see what suited. She brought out ‘the dress’ right at the end of the fitting, and once I’d put it on, my mum, Josh’s mum and bridesmaids all gave me the seal of approval.
Tell us about your accessories: jewellery, shoes and anything else!
My mum helped me to make my simple veil. We bought 3 metres of light net, cut it out on my living room floor, gathered one end and sewed onto a simple comb. I didn’t want anything fussy as my dress was so simple, and by chance the net matched the tulle of my dress perfectly. Unfortunately the bugs at the venue took a liking to my veil and dress, so I gathered an assortment of little beasties through the day!
I sewed a £20 Etsy jewelled patch onto a thick, ivory ribbon as a belt. I put this on for the evening do, once i’d put up my train, to make me ready for the ‘party’ bit.
Shoes were a bargain sale purchase from House of Fraser (Miss Kurt Geiger), 12 months before the wedding. I was blown away by the cost of both jewelled belts and veils, so I made my own – more on that later.
Josh surprised me on my 30th birthday (one month before the wedding) with beautiful, custom-made earrings and necklace from Ingle and Rhode, made to match my engagement ring. I wore my grandmother’s pearl earrings for the ceremony as my something borrowed (from my mum) and then switched into my new set for the rest of the day.
My school friends have a pact that we all wear blue knickers for our wedding, so that called for a special trip to M&S.
And what did the groom wear?
Josh splashed out on a bespoke suit from A Suit That Fits. It’s a blue-grey three piece with some rather suave lining, and he would probably sleep in it if it wouldn’t crease it too much.
Beautiful bridesmaids: what did your best girls wear?
Having struggled everywhere to find the ‘right’ shade of green, i stumbled across For Her and For Him, where you can find hundreds of dress styles in a myriad of colours, together with matching ties. One of my bridesmaids found she was expecting, so we ordered a maternity option for her and it was a perfect fit.
Hair and make-up – did you DIY or hire a professional?
My aunt is a professional hairdresser, so she did my hair and then Stephanie did a great job with the bridesmaids. I’m not confident doing my own makeup and wanted to be sure it would last all day, so I asked Harriet Rainbow to do mine. I can’t recommend her enough – she’s lovely and bubbly – plus she really listened to what I wanted. I was so happy with the end result, a more glamorous version of everyday me, that stayed perfect right to the end. As a bonus, at the practice, Josh got to spend a couple of hours playing with her adorable pet pug, Sid.
Describe your wedding flowers. Who arranged them for you? (florist details would be lovely please)
We wanted informal flowers to match the wedding venue, so I persuaded Josh that it would be fun, and cost effective, to pick and arrange our own. Two days before the wedding, the mums, Josh and I all went to Blooming Green and picked a car full of beautiful blooms and foliage. My mum and I had done a day’s wedding flower arranging course at Blooming Green earlier in the year, which was a lovely mother and daughter activity. It was then all hands on deck the day before, including Josh’s groomsmen, to arrange what felt like hundreds of jugs of flowers, which we then spread liberally around the venue. We were so happy with the end result and i’d recommend to anyone who is after a more informal and seasonal look.
General styling – did your venue need much decoration?
Chafford Park is a blank canvas in a beautiful setting. To get a personal feel, you have to put a lot of work in to bring your vision to life.
We took our caterers advice that less is more – so focused on plenty of fresh flowers, colourful table decorations and a focal archway for the ceremony. We thought lighting was really important in creating the right mood for dancing, so hiring uplighters in the main barn was a worthwhile investment alongside liberally spreading out very cheap fairly lights!
Otherwise, we let the Kent countryside speak for itself.
The wedding cake: what kind of cake did you choose and why?
I was set on making my own cake, but wanted a very simple look. I baked four tiers – two madeira, one chocolate and one lemon – plus one of my bridesmaids made a tasty gluten-free lemon cake. It all got eaten! Being sponge, i was worried about the cake drying out, so our caterer kindly offered to assemble the cake in the morning – i just handed over the cakes, fillings, doweling, metallic spray and flowers and it looked beautiful. We ordered a personalised cake topper from Not On The Highstreet, which is a lovely keepsake. Lizzy’s dad prepared two smooth discs of wood for the cakes to sit on.
Entertainment: any musical recommendations, surprises or treats?
We had two sets of live music. During the ceremony we had a string quartet – Astley Strings – including some of Lizzy’s music school friends. They brought a touch of relaxed class to make the afternoon special.
In the evening, we had The Fitzroy Six. They are – in their own words – energetic, funky and fun – and they most certainly deliver. They play soulful music from a range of eras, and did a special medley by request for our first dance (Stand by me by Ben E. King, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered, by Stevie Wonder). Check out their Youtube for a flavour of how brilliant these guys really are.
Words of wisdom: share your best piece of advice for other couples:
Plan, plan, plan…and then plan some more. Try to have fun throughout the preparation so that the wedding feels like more than one day, and then have fun on the day!
If you can, take a couple of days with your wedding party just before the day to do final touches and spend some quality time together. It really helps to get everybody excited, but also start to feel comfortable and relaxed for the day. You can also put them to work, which helps!
What’s the best thing about being married?
It’s hard to describe – but there is something really lovely about knowing that you’ve committed to being together for the rest of your lives.
Favourite supplier web links for other brides and grooms:
Quarter workshop http://thequarterworkshop.com
Amuse private catering http://www.amuseprivatecaterers.co.uk/
Blooming green http://www.bloominggreenflowers.co.uk/
Harriet Rainbow http://harriet-rainbow.co.uk/
Stephanique styling https://www.stephaniquestyling.co.uk/
Barber van www.barbers2u.com
Fitzroy six http://fitzroysix.com
Astley strings http://luciadavanzo.co.uk/astley-strings/
A suit that fits www.asuitthatfits.com
Snap shack UK http://www.snapshackuk.com/
A Suit That FitsAmuse Private CateringAstley StringsBarbers2uBlooming Green FlowersChafford ParkFitzroy SixHarriet RainbowIngle and RhodePenny Young PhotographySnap Shack UKStephanique StylingThe Quarter Workshop