As we reach the half way point of the week I am taking you off...
Wow it’s Wednesday already, I do love a 4 day week, the weekend is just around the corner and it hardly feels like we have started the week yet! Today we are going back to June when the sun shone and the weather was beautiful, with this lovely wedding courtesy of by Jennifer Jane Photography. Hannah and Oliver had 180 guests to their wedding, which meant they had to look at every area of the budget to make the whole day possible. The main thing they did was get everyone involved, making their wedding a massive group effort! With so many handmade and DIY elements, this wedding really does have an abundance of personality, and just goes to show that you can pull off a beautiful looking wedding for a lot of people but still on a modest budget.
Hannah and Oliver were married on the 24th June 2017 at Secret Valley, Cobbs Cross Farm, in Somerset. ‘We wanted somewhere that would give us the freedom to do what we wanted. Once we’d got a rough guest list together, we had over 180 people! With so many people coming, we had to think of ways to keep costs down and really think about what was important to us. We realised we wanted to make sure we had enough time to spend time with everybody, and the glamping set-up meant we could have many of the guests stay onsite with us and make more of a weekend of it. People started arriving from early afternoon on Friday – and the group effort began. Everyone chipped in and helped where they could – moving chairs and tables, arranging flowers, offering moral support. We had 60 people stay over on the Friday night and more there for dinner that evening. On the second day, 120 stayed and most were around for breakfast the following morning. We had 180 guests and the planning took about a year in total. We booked the venue in June 2016, but had had a couple of months of really thinking about what we wanted.’
How they met
We met at medical school, we were good friends for a number of years and then got together at the beginning of our third year. We were engaged 18 months later. We’ve been together for nearly three years now and live together and work in Cheltenham.
Ollie had organised a medical placement in India for 5 weeks. It just so happened I had a week off right at the end of that and Ollie surprised me by buying me a ticket to join him over there for that week. We spent a few days in Darjeeling. We woke up very early one day and went to a spot to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas. Unfortunately it was cloudy so we missed that view. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Darjeeling, looking at the markets etc. We then came back to our room and the hotel staff had lit a fire, we sat in front of the fire and Ollie got down on one knee and proposed with a Haribo ring!
How did you allocate your budget?
We knew that we would have to save everything we could during our first year as doctors. We were lucky that the venue gave us total flexibility. After settling on the venue, our priorities were having a great band, making sure everyone was well fed and having an open bar. We set our budget around these things. We had people staying for the whole weekend (Friday – Saturday) and had to provide meals outside of the ceremony itself. We rounded up guests’ glamping fee from (£26 to £30 pp/night) and used the surplus as a budget to cover our costs for providing food and drink to those staying for the weekend.
Where did you splurge and where did you save?
Hannah had come across a fantastic band at a friend’s wedding, so we booked them straight away. We didn’t set a budget for this, because it was really important we had a great band. At £1600 it wasn’t the cheapest around, but we are so glad we spent the extra money as they were fantastic.
Our main savings were on alcohol and food. Majestic have a great offer where if you pre-order £250 worth of wine they will pay for your ferry/train to Calais where the wine/prosecco is often half the price as the same brands in the UK. As the venue didn’t have a corkage charge this was where we really saved. Because people were staying for the weekend our families made a bunch of food to help feed them. Staff costs is another place to save – as we had street food we also opted for biodegradable palm leaf plates that could be put straight in the bin.
Why did you choose your photographer?
We debated whether or not to get a photographer for some time as this was an area we thought we could save money on. These days everyone can take good quality photos with their phones, and pictures can easily be shared online. We also have a couple of good friends who take great photos. However, we wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the day without being tasked with taking pictures. . Jen’s photos really stood out for us. They are natural and relaxed and and outdoorsy. We felt it suited the overall feel of our wedding perfectly.
I went to a few different bridal boutiques and tried on some really amazing dresses – but given this was a budget wedding I made the decision that I’d rather have all the people I wanted there than have a £1000-2000 dress. In the end I visited ‘Pritchard and Moore’ which is a charity bridal shop for Cancer Research – I found the dress that went perfectly with the informal feel of the wedding and it was £150. I hope to take it back to the same shop once I’ve dry cleaned it! My shoes were from Office and the accessories were found in my mum’s jewellery box!
The Suit and Bridesmaids
Ollie bought a new French Connection suit in Moss Bros when they had a 20% sale on a few weeks before the wedding. He bought the ties on Etsy, from a designer called Atadele, who is based in Poland and makes some wonderful linen ties.
The bridesmaids’ dresses were bought from ASOS during the Christmas sales – they were reduced from £60 to £18 so a total bargain.
Theme or Colour Scheme
We had a colour scheme loosely based on our invitations – lovely cornflower blue, magenta and lavender – these are the colours Hannah will often wear and it went well with the outdoorsy wedding we wanted. Neither of us likes anything too fussy – things didn’t need to be symmetrical or too matchy-matchy so a more rustic theme seemed like the way to go.
We wanted lots of wild flowers and greenery to go with the natural outdoors-y feel. One of our close family friends has a fantastic eye for flower arranging and kindly took on the mammoth task of doing the flowers for the whole wedding. The bride and bridesmaids posies were made of sweet peas and gypsophila. The table decorations were various fresh herbs, greenery, sweet peas and lavender. We got most of our flowers at the greengrocers in Larkhall (Bath) where Hannah’s parents live.
Rustic style wooden tables with table decorations put together from jars, cans and spice bottles collected by friends throughout the year. We put hessian around some, others were left bare. Bunting was made by another close family friend. For the ceremony by the lake, we had a very simple metal arch draped in some greenery. We also made use of bits and pieces donated by friends who’d recently got married themselves, like chalkboards and signs.
We are quite a foodie couple and the food was therefore very important to us. However, with 180 mouths to feed we had to think outside the box. Ollie’s parents run a café in North London and often cater for small parties. They happily provided canapés for people to help themselves to on the day, and food for the weekend. For the reception the last thing we wanted was a formal sit down meal and we liked the idea of doing a big pan dish that everyone could enjoy. We came across Big Pot Kitchen online and after seeing them at a food festival in the South West, got in touch. We settled on their delicious jambalaya. For veggies there was a veggie curry. We had a dessert table afterwards with brownies, scones and cheesecake for people to help themselves to. Everyone really enjoyed the food which was great.
Rather than go for the traditional tiered wedding cake, we opened it out to friends and family to bake their own cake to bring along. We laid them all out on a table for people. We had intended to have a bake-off style competition and pick a winner, but in the end the cakes were eaten before a winner could be chosen!
We wanted a fun first dance that we could really dance to, we decided on ‘Cheerleader’ by OMI. It’s certainly not your typical first dance song, but it never fails to put a smile on our face when it comes on! For the rest of the night we had a band headed up by Steven Reid Williams – a musician from the south west. He’d played at a wedding the year before ours and Hannah had raved about it. The band played a real mix of music that appealed to everyone and we got so many comments from people who loved the music. The dancefloor was full from the first dance to the band’s last song. A real success!
Our Save the Dates and invitations were sent out using Paperless Post – it was a way of saving money and had the added bonus of being better for the environment. We made a wedding website that had all the essential information so people could refer back to that when they needed to. Paperless Post also provided the design for the menus – we left it a bit late to get them sent over from the USA but they very kindly sent us the PDF so we could get them printed by a UK printing company.
One of Ollie’s ushers works as a graphic designer and he was great and designed our Order of Service for us – one of Hannah’s bridesmaids then got them printed at her family home.
The venue we chose meant that we had to do nearly everything ourselves, it was perfect as it gave us a blank slate to work from. The ceremony was very personal to us – we were already married, having done the official register stuff the week before in Islington. This meant we could create a ceremony that had everything we wanted in it. Our good friend from medical school officiated the ceremony and instead of the standard vows we made our own promises. It was a really relaxed ceremony and we were both so pleased with how everyone got so involved.
We were really lucky in that we had a ‘wedding committee’ who very enthusiastically took on a number of tasks in the year leading up to the wedding. They were so helpful and we definitely could not have done it without them – collectively they were the organisers of decorating the barn and the ceremony location, doing all the flowers, managing everyone in setting out the tables, writing the seating plan etc. We are extremely grateful to all the work everyone put into making it such a special day and we found that people really enjoyed chipping in and taking part.
Special moments or highlights
Our ceremony was definitely a highlight. The dancing was also great. The food. The drinks. Seeing other people have a great time – Hannah’s cousin spent the entire night with a bottle of prosecco in her hand and a glass in the other.
Advice for Other Couples
– At the start figure out exactly what your priorities are – ours was having everyone that we wanted there with us and for everyone to enjoy themselves. We were willing to compromise on things that might have been important to other people. There were also other bits that we knew were essential – it was necessary for us to hire a bar and bar staff so we didn’t have to think about that aspect of things.
– Be flexible! There are going to be things that don’t go as planned.
– Persevere with your vision of the day. Others will not be seeing the whole picture that you have in mind and may not understand certain things that you want. Have confidence in your decisions!
– Have a bit of money saved back – this means if you have any unexpected costs then you don’t have to panic and if it’s not used you can put it towards a little something extra – in our case we made a last minute decision to buy wedding favours – mini cactuses and succulents that went down a treat.
– A good wedding spreadsheet is very helpful, especially if you keep track of spending on there, and also noting down which gifts came from whom.
– Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family.
Hannah getting very emotional during her speech and not being able to say anything other than thank you.