Christopher and Chad’s ‘Eclectic English Charm Meets Southern American’ Barn Wedding in Oxfordshire by MT Studios
Today I am taking you to Oxfordshire for the rather splendid wedding of Christopher and...
Today I have the gorgeous wedding of Chelsea and Jim to share with you. Chelsea and Jim took a risk on their venue as it was still being renovated when they went o visit it, and was only completed 2 months before their wedding. However, their risk paid off as the whole place looks stunning! They chose a navy and gold colour scheme to go with their glitz and glamour theme but kept the day bright and colourful with lots of brightly coloured flowers which look amazing against the barns backdrop. As the couple are big music fans, they had several nods toward music within their decoration and a huge array of food on offer to honour their love of the gastropub. Steve Fuller Photography was there to capture the day for them and what a fab job he did.
Jim and Chelsea were married on 23rd March 2019 at The Oak Barn, Benenden in Kent. ‘We actually changed venues halfway through the wedding planning process, as we weren’t confident the first location we’d chosen could deliver the day we wanted. The Oak Barn was still a building site when we first viewed it – it was only finished in January 2019 – but we fell in love with its potential. The owners, Tim & Deana, had an incredible vision for a rustic, boho wedding venue finished to a high standard, and that was exactly the vibe we were after. Plus, we knew we wanted a live band, and the fact it has two different barns meant that we could use both spaces flexibly to let the band soundcheck uninterrupted. We had 85 guests for the day, and just over 100 in total during the evening. It took just shy of two years to plan our big day, but we were slightly distracted by having a baby in the middle of it all! We got engaged and found out we were expecting our daughter in the space of four days – I don’t think we’ll ever experience a week that life changing again!’
How they met
We met online dating and got married exactly six years to the day of our first date. So, if either of us forgets our wedding anniversary we’ll be doubly in the dog house from now on!
It was in the Holiday Inn Express in Cheltenham with no ring! But actually, it was much more romantic than it sounds; Jim had been wanting to propose for ages but couldn’t find the right moment. We were checking into our hotel on the way to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and he couldn’t hold it in any longer, so popped the question!
How did you allocate your budget?
We were lucky enough to have generous help from both sets of parents, which was an absolute lifeline to us as Chelsea was on maternity leave for most of the planning process. Then if things came up that we needed to pay for, we discussed how much we were willing to spend on a case-by-case basis.
Where did you splurge and where did you save?
We knew we wanted a kick-arse band – Jim and I love live music; we even named our wedding tables after favourite gigs we’d been to – so that was top of our list. We’re also big foodies, but we didn’t want anything to fussy, so a good caterer was a high priority too.
We saved money by enlisting family and friends to lend their talents to our big day. Two of Jim’s cousins designed the wedding stationery and made the favour boxes; we asked friends that were musicians to play during the signing of the register; and Chelsea’s grandma made the wedding cake – all four tiers of it! We kept the bar bill down by doing a booze cruise to France for the wine, and we sourced all the table decorations from charity shops and eBay. Scavenger hunting things from different places helped to create the rustic, mismatched look we were after!
How did you choose your photographer?
Being one the last in our friendship group to get married, we’re lucky enough to have attended a lot of weddings, and we fell in love with photos from our friends Rosey & Rob’s big day in 2015. As soon as we got engaged we knew we wanted their photographer, Steve Fuller, to shoot our wedding. We were adamant we didn’t want to spend hours wandering around for posed shots, missing out on time with our friends and family. Steve’s natural, documentary style images were perfect for our wedding day vibe, and he somehow managed to tell the story and capture the emotion of the whole day in still images. Chelsea cried the first time she saw the pictures; they were so beautiful!
The dress was called Piper and it was by Essence of Australia. I chose it when I was 10 weeks pregnant, so by the time my actual dress arrived in the store I was FAR too big to try it on! I gave myself a good six months postpartum before my first fitting, and it was every inch as beautiful as I remembered. I knew I wanted to wear flat shoes on my wedding day, as comfort is important to me and I still needed to run around after our toddler. I bought a pair of Union Jack glitter ballet pumps from Butterfly Twist. A nod to my worship of Ginger Spice as a teenager!
The suit and bridesmaids
Jim is 6’6’’ tall so we knew from the outset that off the rack wouldn’t work. He decided early-on that he wanted a statement suit and shirt but no tie, so we consulted the services of a local bespoke tailor, Hardman & Hemming. They made him an incredible purple suit with musical note lining, to reflect Jim’s passion for playing the guitar. He then paired this with a sausage dog print shirt we found online!
Both of the groomsmen and our dads ended up getting bespoke suits made at the same tailor, each with their own quirky lining to celebrate their personalities.
Chelsea loves all things sparkly, so she knew straight away that she wanted sequin bridesmaid dresses. We found some gorgeous navy sequin dresses from Sorella Vita – the sister brand to Essence of Australia.
Theme or colour scheme
We definitely didn’t want anything too coordinated or ‘matchy matchy’, so the colour scheme evolved quite organically. We wanted sparkle without being too in your face, so went for navy and gold on our stationery and wedding party outfits. Then, to avoid things getting too formal or dark, we added loads of brightly coloured spring flowers. Although we didn’t have a set theme, the vibe for the day was definitely glitz and groove. We asked all our guests to wear whatever made them feel fabulous – whether that was a leather jacket or a fascinator!
A selection of brightly coloured spring flowers to add a pop of colour. Chelsea fell in love with a rustic rainbow inspired bouquet on Pinterest that our florist recreated to a tee, while each bridesmaid had a different coloured bouquet of tulips. Jim’s grandmother unfortunately wasn’t well enough to attend the wedding, so the men in the bridal party had daffodil buttonholes as a nod to her welsh heritage. We then asked our florist to bring some huge buckets of mixed stems to the venue and just fill up the mish mash of vases we’d collected with different arrangements. She brought some long blossom twigs and huge glass vases with her and used them to frame the edge of the aisle, which worked amazingly well.
We wanted an eclectic, cosy feel, so Chelsea spent months sourcing different blue and gold vases and tealight holders to scatter around the room during the ceremony, and down the tables at the wedding breakfast. We also asked our caterers to save all their fancy gin bottles in the build-up to our big day, which we filled with fairy lights.
As our tables were named after gigs we’d attended, the place names were vinyl record sleeves, and we attached name labels to the favour boxes Jim’s cousin Toni made for us.
A special shout-out should also go out to Chelsea’s dad for hand-making a wooden sign with the running order for our wedding. We split the festivities across The Oak Barn’s two different barns, so thanks to his crafting, people knew exactly where to go and when!
Burgers! Chelsea comes from a northern family, so making sure people are well fed is practically part of her culture. We wanted tasty, hearty crowd-pleasers – although we’re foodies, we’re more gastropub than fine dining.
It’s always difficult for guests to time their meals on the way to a wedding, so we put on tea and lemon drizzle cake before the ceremony, so nobody was hungry. Our canapes were lamb kofte, mini fish & chips, vegan steamed bao buns and goats cheese tart, all served in cinema usherette trays!
We skipped the starters for the wedding breakfast and went straight in with big sharing platters in the middle of the table. There was a choice of beef burgers, roast chicken and beetroot falafel burgers; a high percentage of Jim’s family are vegetarian, so it was important we had a banging veggie option! These were served with a selection of homemade condiments, bread, potato wedges, and a selection of salads.
Dessert was a trio of our favourite puddings – chocolate brownie, apple pie and sherry trifle – which were brought to the table in picnic hampers. Our guest absolutely loved this fun touch!
We kicked the evening off with a cocktail hour while the wedding breakfast was cleared away and the band were set up. Jim’s brother runs a bar in Sydney, so we asked him to recommend a signature cocktail to serve. We also put on a selection of Northumbrian cheese and biscuits as a nod to Chelsea’s northern heritage.
Finally, we served pizzas in the evening, which the amazing catering staff handed out around the room – including the dance floor! Guests could help themselves to cheese and wedding cake throughout the night, and we also had a ‘help yourself’ selection of our favourite chocolate bars. People were stuffing Dairy Milks and Smarties into their handbags at the end of the night!
We were honoured that Chelsea’s grandma made our wedding cake from scratch, including all the incredible sugar craft flowers. It was probably the most traditional part of our wedding, but we gave it our own twist by having a giraffe bride and groom as our cake toppers.
We wanted the evening to have a real let-your-hair-down party feel, as we love gigs and festivals. This started with giving all our guests sparklers to light their way from the cocktail hour into the main barn for the evening festivities.
Understandably, a live band was a must-have for our big day, and we found an incredible six-piece group called Pandora’s Jukebox. They let us choose up to 15 songs to include in their set – that was a tense evening of negotiation! Our first dance was Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin, and they learned God Only Knows by the Beach Boys as our final song of the night. But probably the most memorable moment was their garage medley, which had us all dancing around like lunatics, reliving misspent teenage years in our wedding finery!
We hired a glitter face painter for the evening do and it was one of the best decisions we made. People were queuing from the moment she set up, and so many of our friends messaged us the next day to say they’d woken up with glitter all over their bedcovers! We also handed out glowstick wristbands and necklaces to add to the party vibe.
Who supplied the stationery?
Jim’s cousin Zoe is a graphic designer, so she designed all our invitations, orders of service and wedding breakfast menus. Our place names were gift tags attached to the favour boxes, which we stuffed with sweets and a scratch card, and our table plan was written on a framed blackboard.
We wanted the whole day to feel very personal to us, so we built in special moments throughout the day. For example, we wrote our own personal promises for the wedding ceremony – Jim promised to reach things from high shelves and to always put the bin out; Chelsea promised to wake Jim up when he forgets to set an alarm, and to never complain when he wants to watch Star Trek!
We spent a lot of time choosing the music for the day, curating playlists for all the different part of the celebrations. Chelsea walked down the aisle to Grow Old With Me by Tom Odell and we walked out to I Wanna Be Your Lover by Prince; a song that Jim put on a mix CD for Chelsea early in our relationship. Jim is a massive Prince fan (hence the purple suit!) so we walked into our wedding breakfast to his song, Let’s Go Crazy.
We also put a lot of care and attention into choosing the ceremony readings. Our friend Rosey read Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney, one of Chelsea’s favourite poets, and Jim’s cousin Alison read Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe & Wise!
We’re supporters of our local food bank and asked guests to bring donations as a wedding gift – we collected over 150 items thanks to their generosity.
We hired a vintage campervan to get us to the ceremony. It had pick & mix sweets in the back, so it was really fun bouncing down the country lanes to the venue, passing round mint imperials and flying saucers!
Our daughter, Matilda, was the absolute star of the show. Having started a family before getting married, we knew a formal wedding wouldn’t be practical or authentic to us. She stole the limelight in the ceremony, wandering up and down the aisle and shouting when the registrar asked if anybody had any objections!
The bridal party stayed on site the night of the wedding as The Oak Barn has holiday cottages, and then we met up with all our friends and family for breakfast at a local pub. We loved being able to talk about the day and hear everyone’s drunken stories – our wedding was classy in the daytime and carnage in the evening, which is exactly what we wanted!
Advice for other couples?
Give guests something to be excited about! We sent out a ‘what to expect on your wedding day’ letter three weeks beforehand, which got everyone in the mood for celebration and reminded them the key details for the day, such as directions for the venue. A lot of guests said it was helpful to know when they were going to be fed!
Get selfies with all your guests! We have some absolutely beautiful pictures of people at our wedding, but not enough informal photos of us hanging out with everyone in our finery. Sometimes people seem reluctant to approach the couple on their wedding day, so get stuck in and ask your guests to grab their phone for a snap.
The overwhelming feeling of love! We’ve never experienced a day with such a warm emotional atmosphere. We both did speeches, and it was amazing to look around us and see people laughing, smiling and shedding a happy tear. We felt so lucky and privileged to have such a wonderful wedding day and be surrounded by our brilliant friends and family.
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