Whether you're an eco-chic bride or you just love the idea of an enchanted garden, then this is the wedding theme for you! Beautiful and serene, this theme is really…
Written by Paula Jones Last updated: August 9, 2006
We met in a delicatessen in Arundel in West Sussex. I used to work there and after I’d left I still used to go in and see my old colleagues to catch up. Jonathan started working there and we started chatting a bit and I’d go in more and more often…! We became good friends and got together on Christmas Eve 2000. It was incredibly romantic. He was at my parent’s house and we were wrapping Christmas presents, there was a log fire lit and we were watching It’s A Wonderful Life and had our first kiss.
I grew up near the sea in Norfolk and have always loved beaches, and Jonathan and I have had some really happy memories at beaches. One Thursday morning in July 2003 Jonathan came round to my parent’s house at 7.30 to speak to my Dad…. I was a bit bleary-eyed so didn’t really think about it and just went to work. That evening Jonathan collected me from work, took me home and told me to dress up as he was taking me out. I still didn’t really have a clue as I thought if he was going to ask me he’d wait until the weekend. But he took me to a beach near my parent’s house and we walked and talked and we went up to some sand dunes and talked some more, and then he told me to stand up and close my eyes. When I opened them he was one one knee and asked me if I’d do him the enormous honour of being his wife. I just started laughing and crying and eventually said yes! The ring was one which I’d spotted in a shop window weeks before, an antique simple gold and platinum and diamond solitaire. It was a really perfect engagement.
Jonathan got whisked away by three of his friends for a camping weekend in Wales a few weeks before the wedding which he LOVED. Two weeks before the wedding he went out with more friends, his dad, my dad and his grandpa to a restaurant in Brighton and also to Brighton pier… He looked a bit sheepish the next morning when I went to see them all and I discovered they’d bought him a henna tattoo heart saying ‘Barry’ on his chest! Luckily it had faded by the honeymoon!
I went to a pottery painting cafe a week before the wedding with some friends and family [including my five year old cousin!] and then out for cocktails and a meal. It was a lovely day out and the girls produced some works of art which we use and enjoy now.
He was excellent. He really wanted to help out with lots of stuff and felt quite put out at times when people kept asking ME how the preparations were going – he didn’t like the fact that it was the bride’s day for a while but soon accepted that as preparations got busier! We planned the wedding for a year, from July 24 2003 to August 28 2004 during my final year of university and Jonathan’s third year of teacher training. So in-between my doing my dissertation I’d do a bit of wedding planning and then when we went to see each other every other weekend we’d do a bit then. He was involved in all the big decisions and I always took his ideas on board. We wanted it to be ‘our’ day not just mine!
I did – when we first got engaged I used the wedding section of the site a lot to find out about wedding etiquette and traditions. I also used the message boards to chat with other brides and get advice from newlyweds. I also used My Confetti to find out how many days there were until the wedding! I typed out all the guests and did the seating plan from there.
No – I never got round to it!
I bought loads of ribbon in the confetti sale which we used for our invitations and at the reception venue. I also got some little 3D shimmery stars which we used on the tables and some confetti books for bridesmaids, groom and best man. I bought online and also I went to London a couple of times to go to the confetti store, where I spent far too much time and money!
Because I was at university and three hours away from home I left dress shopping quite late and finally bought the dress about 6-8 weeks before the wedding. I was planning on buying from a high street store but couldn’t find anything I loved when I went shopping with my mum and sister. Mum and I went shopping one day not really in the mood for dress shopping and she made me try on every dress I quite liked and then she found one and said ‘Oh look that’s your dream dress’. I didn’t really like it but tried it on and then when I looked at myself in the mirror I had butterflies and realised that yes, it was The One!! It needed a few alterations but I was able to buy off the peg which was fantastic. It is a Maggie Sotero simple dress with beading and a diagonal hem at the waist and a really floaty skirt which was great for dancing.
My mother in law lent me her veil to which I added a few diamante iron-on studs for added sparkle and the veil was sewn on to a little tiara which matched the necklace my mum bought me. I wore the veil all day and all night and felt like a princess.
I had four bridesmaids – my older sister Anneka (who was my Chief Bridesmaid and helped me plan the wedding from New York), my sister in law Rosie, my oldest friend Helena and my god daughter Maisie who was a flower girl. The older bridesmaid wore baby pink 50’s-style dresses which we found in New Look! – they looked so gorgeous. Maisie wore a pink bridesmaid’s dress from Asda! They all looked great together and were such a support for me.
He chose one of his oldest friend Tom as his best man and he was a fantastic support to Jonathan during the wedding process: he was always so excited that we were getting married and when things got a bit stressful he’s send a text saying "YOU’RE GETTING……………. MARRIED!!!!" – it was really sweet. Ed was his chief usher and has known Jonathan for ages too and he was an excellent chief usher. We really wanted our wedding to be a union of not just us but of our families to so wanted to get everyone involved – Jonny’s two brothers and my older brother were also ushers. Together they were so good, it meant we didn’t have to worry about a thing on the day, they took care of it all from seating everyone at church to organising parking at the reception. They all wore the same suit, including both fathers too. This was tails with burgundy detailed waistcoat and cravat, and Jonny wore the same but had a gold waistcoat to stand out. They all looked very handsome!
We had a religious ceremony as this was important to both us and to our families.
We held it at our local church in West Sussex – St. Margaret’s in Angmering. The vicar and his wife were so supportive and the service was amazing as Mark [the vicar] had gotten to know us so well by then. Mark’s sermon was directed at us and was very personal and pitched just right.
The whole ceremony was so perfect as it was [obviously!!] the most important part of the whole day and we’d really put a lot of thought of it. My father, Jonathan’s father and my sister all did readings and our mums signed the register. We wanted it to be a really joyous occasion so we chose quite rousing hymns and our processional music was Toccata.
We held it in Jonathan’s parents garden near Arundel, West Sussex. They have a beautiful house on a hill overlooking Arundel Castle and Cathedral and the valley, so it was a perfect location. We hired a marquee and caterers did all the food, crockery and linen. The marquee held about 100 people and we had 80 so it was a nice size and looked beautiful.
My dad, my sister and I went to the church in a Jaguar which was lovely. My sister and I were waving at everyone and I felt really special. Jonny went to the church in his best man’s car. Jonny and I travelled from the church to the reception in the Jaguar and it was so wonderful those first few minutes of being husband and wife. We drank champagne and asked the driver to do a lap of the town before going to the reception. We went past my Grandparents house which was special and down the high street and everyone was waving at us and we felt so happy. We went passed the delicatessen where we first met which was a nice moment. Then when we got to the turning to go to the reception and there were about five cars full of wedding guests waiting to turn all waving at us – they were all there for OUR wedding – we felt really honoured!
We invited about 90 guests and about 83 guests came to the whole day. We were thinking about having evening guests but didn’t want the wedding breakfast to be rushed to accommodate evening guests so in the end we just invited everyone to the whole thing!
Our theme was English Country Garden / Pastels. We didn’t want the whole wedding to be dictated by one particular colour so by using pastel shades everything complimented everything else. Lavender was also a big theme and this was used in all the flowers including the buttonholes and corsages. We also put a few sprigs of lavender at each place setting tied with rafia.
We had lavender at each place setting and the flowers were all pastel shades – pinks, whites, lilacs etc.
We did – we bought some cardboard heart shaped boxes and sprayed these gold (we ran out of gold spray at one point and had a hectic afternoon going to every shop in the area hunting for more, bearing in mind this was the summer so couldn’t find it anywhere!). We bought some craft flowers and stuck them on the the boxes using glue dots. We lined the boxes with tissue paper and filled them with five sugar almonds (except for the children who had sweets instead). We then tied the boxes with rafia. They looked lovely at each place setting.
I did my own flowers. We wanted a very informal, relaxed and country-garden wedding so we decided to do our own flowers apart from the buttonholes and corsages. Mum and I went to a local wholesaler and it was so fantastic. The flowers cost just over £100 and this was for the church, bouquets and reception. At the church we had two huge vases filled with lilies at the alter and then on the windowsills we tied ribbon around jam jars and filled them with gerberas, lavender, roses, chyranthemums and eucalyptus sprigs. Then we draped ivy from Jonny’s parent’s garden on the sills and around the alter and pews.
My posy was white roses, Norfolk lavender and freesias. My older bridesmaids had lobelias with freesias and lavender and my flower girl had a simple posy of lavender and lobellias. I did all the bouquets on the morning of the wedding which I thought would be stressful but it was actually very relaxing and I was so proud of the finished flowers. They all smelt gorgeous.
At the reception we had similar flowers to those at the church; hyacinth-style vases with a few glass beads at the bottom then filled with lavender, freesias, gerberas and other pastel flowers. The whole effect was lovely. I did the flowers myself for the reception the day before the wedding – I was sitting in the marquee alone with the rain pouring down outside thinking ‘I’m getting married tomorrow’ – it was really nice having that time to myself and being a bit of a perfectionist I was more than happy to be left alone to get on with it! n
We had outside caterers to do our food and we chose a summer sit-down buffet. We had loads of salads and lovely coronation chicken and other meats and fish and a vegetarian tart. We chose puddings more carefully: we had profiteroles because they are classic and they always remind me of my Grandfather, we had banoffee pie as my sister in law would have killed us if we hadn’t had it! We also had summer pudding and pavlova – classic summer desserts. The whole meal was delicious and the catering staff were so fantastic, we didn’t have to think about a thing and everyone could enjoy the meal.
We bought the cakes from Marks and Spencer – one sponge and two fruit cakes. The icing was ivory. A couple of days before the wedding my mother in law and my brother in law’s girlfriend cut out loads of little hearts in varying shades of pink and then my sister and I spent a fun morning decorating each cake with these little hearts. Our inspiration was a dotty cake which we had seen in a wedding magazine when we first got engaged combined with a mug we have from Whittards which is cream with hearts all over – very similar to the cake.
Our cake toppers were made by my little cousins Jack and Sophie who live in America and weren’t able to come to the wedding. They were made of fimo and were so sweet, it was so lovely to know they’d been so lovingly made! We have them in a box frame on our mantlepiece now.
We had an organist at the church and we had a friend of the best man do the disco in the evening. It was great fun, we had the most perfect first dance (Ella Fitzgerald ‘Our Love is Here to Stay’) – everyone thought we had had dance lessons but we both felt a bit awkward just holding each other and going round in circles so we just sang to each other and just twirled and just danced! We’d sent the DJ a list of songs to play so it was great hearing them all. We left the reception at about 10.30pm and people were dancing for hours after which we were so pleased to hear!
We did have a gift list as we didn’t live together before we got married so were very grateful to receive useful presents to start our life together with. We had our list with Debenhams. We both felt very awkward asking for expensive items so instead we asked for quite a few less expensive items hoping that if people wanted to spend more then they could buy two or three items. Instead people just complained that we were being too tight and should put really expensive things on it! We had a lot of fun going around Debenhams zapping things and imagining them in our new home. I remember checking the list a few weeks later after sending out the invitations and being amazed that people had bought things! – it was such an amazing feeling of support.
We spent our first night at Arundel House hotel in Arundel and it was so perfect. I didn’t change out of my wedding dress so when we arrived at the hotel the manager was there to greet us and then there were quite a few people in the restaurant. I don’t think they quite knew what we were doing there and then when we starting walking upstairs they all cheered and clapped! The manager bought us a bottle of champagne which we enjoyed and the next morning he bought us breakfast in bed – fruit and pastries, tea and champagne, it was perfect. I’m quite clumsy but managed to keep my wedding dress spotless all day, yet managed to spill tea and strawberry juice on the sheets at the hotel! We went to Naxos for our honeymoon, a little Greek island. Jonathan’s cousins went there for their honeymoon which we hadn’t realised when we booked it so for a wedding present to us they made us a ‘Honeymooners guide to Naxos’ with maps and guides and some euros to spend on a meal or something – it was so thoughtful. We travelled to Heathrow the day after we got married and stayed at a Heathrow hotel overnight and flew out on the Monday morning. We were in Naxos for just over two weeks and it was so wonderful, we had the most perfect honeymoon swimming, reading, sunbathing, snorkelling, drinking cocktails, it was the perfect start to our married life. n
There are so many, but one that stands out is from the reception. It was quite late and our best man Tom had done some fire breathing and Poi and another friend Tom had bought all the guys a cigar each so they were all having a chat and cigar. I was chatting to loads of people and then went inside to freshen up. I walked outside and no-one could see me and I just took it all in – the marquee which was glowing as we had tealight holders at each place setting and fairly lights all around. There were flares all round the garden and all the people that were there were there for us, they were our friends and our families and it was a really amazing few moments. I then walked down the stairs to the lower lawn where the guys were and Jonny saw me walking across the grass and just shouted ‘Laura!!’ – he gave me a massive hug and was so pleased to see me, it was such a lovely moment and one I shall never forget.
During the meal I felt a bit trapped being on the top table – I really wanted to chat to all the people there, some of whom I hadn’t seen for ages, and of course it was lovely sitting next to my husband and my dad but I did feel by the end of the meal that I was just itching to chat to people! The other regret is that the DJ didn’t start until 9.30 so we only had an hour of dancing before we went. This felt like a shame because we had planned the music so much and were only able to enjoy a few songs! The advice I would give to other brides would just be to enjoy the planning process – you will only ever do this one time in your life so enjoy it and make the most of it. I had so much fun being a bride to be. I would say that I would do it all again if I could but I wouldn’t change being married for anything in the world – our wedding day was the happiest day of our lives and absolutely the perfect start to our very happy married life.
Alison and Mark 03/09/2005 - Stanhill Court Hotel in Charlwood, Surrey How and when did you meet? We both...