For those of you in the midst of your wedding planning, I have some pretty...
Today I am taking you back to the summer and to quite possibly my favourite venue in the UK, Preston Court in Canterbury. Preston Court is a wonderful venue, it has a beautiful outdoor space for the perfect outdoor ceremony and then the most unique looking barn for your reception AND it has it’s own carousel! Eleanor and Joseph fell in love with Preston Court and knew straight way that they had to hold their wedding there. The barn was perfect for their DIY reception and they filled it with a mixture of pretty pastel decoration. To bring a fun element to their day and to get their guests involved they held a cake making competition with some delicious looking entries. With a multitude of DIY projects from the flower girls outfits to the signage, this day is not only super pretty but full of personality. Big thanks to Sasha Weddings for this first class day.
Eleanor and Joseph were married on 22nd June 2019 at St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury with the reception at Preston Court.‘We had always wanted a rustic barn wedding and Preston Court’s barn stood out straight away with its quirky fairground organs. The outside spaces were so beautiful too – with the added bonus of some sassy peacocks! We were also so excited by the idea of our guests being able to ride the carousel – which ended up being a real focal point of the afternoon and evening. We had 89 guests in the day and an extra 20 or so in the evening. We got engaged 2 years before the wedding and probably could have sorted things more quickly, but the venue had quite a waiting list and a limited late licenses (we wanted our guests to be able to party til midnight!) so we had a bit of a wait.’
How they met
We met on my (Ellie’s) 22nd birthday night out at a club called Mu Mu in our hometown of Maidstone. Through mutual friends, Joe already had his eye on me, and once he found out about my party, decided to come to the club to try his luck – and he succeeded!
It was on holiday in Bali, at the top of Mount Batur having hiked up there. Poor Joe had his heart set on the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise in a private spot – however, the clouds had other ideas and we were also surrounded by monkeys, drones and other tourists! In the split second when the clouds parted to reveal the sun, Joe got down on one knee. We had THE BEST holiday ever there and are returning to Ubud next year.
How did you allocate your budget?
Our main priorities were a beautiful setting, gorgeous food, a free bar and a great party (so having a really good DJ was really important to us). That’s where most of our budget went.
Where did you splurge and where did you save?
The venue was a real splurge, as was the DJ – and both of them were more than worth it. Our DJ ended up doubling up as a brilliant MC; he completely owned the role and took a weight off our minds, and also took the time to have a phone call with us beforehand to really understand our music taste and the sort of vibe we wanted for the party (heavy on the noughties pop rock!).
We were quite clever with other things. My sister Sophie had got married in a stunning second-hand dress and I always knew I wanted to do the same so that was the first place we saved loads of money. My sister Olivia is wonderful at hair and make-up so she did all of this for me (beautifully I might add) which was an incredible help. The venue also suggested a wedding bake-off instead of a dessert which the guests loved as it meant they had an enormous choice of things, and our two nephews had an absolute ball judging it! It looked very pretty, sat on beautiful vintage glass cake stands. I am also fairly crafty so, with my mum’s help, made nearly all of the signage; my mum has real skills on a sewing machine and made Bake Off bunting and the flower girls’ dresses and cardigans; and Joe’s mum made us all of the gorgeous pastel pom poms that we decorated the barn with.
How did you choose your photographer?
We had a clear vision for the photos to capture all of the joy and fun of the day, un-posed and natural. We scoured loads of photographer websites that didn’t feel right before we found Sasha’s, and we instantly fell in love with her relaxed, fun style.
It was a Madeline Gardner, bought second-hand from Brides Dress Revisited in Otford, which is a truly beautiful second-hand shop and the staff are so lovely. They close the shop for every appointment and give you the opportunity to try on as many dresses as you want. As soon as I put this one on, I fell in love with it, from the delicate beading on the bodice to the princess-like A-line silhouette. My shoes were the prettiest ivory ballet flats with an ankle-tie ribbon, which I actually copied from my best friend Alex, who got married 6 months before us. I kept accessories very simple, wearing my granny’s pearl earrings and a bracelet I bought from Accessorize.
The suit and bridesmaids
Joe and the groomsmen’s 3-piece Ted Baker suits were hired from Moss Bros – they had a charming peacock pattern lining which matched up very nicely with the venue. It was important to me to have the bridesmaids choose dresses they felt comfortable and pretty in rather than all having to wear identical ones, especially as my sister Louise was 6 months pregnant at the time! The only rule was to have a pastel colour – and we got them mostly from ASOS. My mum hand-sewed the flower girls’ lovely broderie anglaise dresses and knitted their pastel cardigans, and we were super happy with the page boys’ cute shorts and braces combo.
Theme or colour scheme
We certainly didn’t have a strict theme; our style is much more whimsical, natural, relaxed. We had a loose ‘mixed pastels’ colour scheme – which went across our stationery, the bridesmaids’ dresses and flower girls’ cardis, the pom poms, groomsmen’s ties, balloons and signs. We also both love cats so we had a bit of a cat motif running throughout, from the biscuits we decorated our cake with, to our table names, place names and stationery.
I am absolutely terrible at knowing the names of flowers and to my florist’s horror I couldn’t tell you much about what I had – but the overall vibe was summery wildflowers with foliage. I didn’t want anything to look too neat or formal. We decorated the bridge to the island with foliage and flowers too which we think looked a little bit magical.
The beauty of Preston Court is that you don’t need a huge amount of extra decoration – it’s already quite decorated, which was part of the appeal for us! We did add a few of our own touches though, mostly handmade, from the signs to the tissue pom poms and hand sewn bunting. Our order of the day sign we created using a wooden pallet snatched up from the side of the road! If you’re going for a handmade wedding, I think you become a bit like that, always on the lookout old scraps you can turn into something pretty!
We love food – so this was really important to us. The venue had few trusted suppliers to choose from, and as soon as we heard back from Katy at Minno kitchen, we knew she was the one for us. We loved her modern, colourful and playful style. We always knew we wanted sharing plates for the wedding breakfast and she put together the most fantastic spread based on our favourite flavours, including slow roast lamb shoulder in red wine, garlic and rosemary and baked salmon with prawns and chilli gremolata. I (Ellie) am also quite passionate about brilliant vegetarian food and she created the most gorgeous roast beetroot, pepper, pesto and feta strudels. We were extremely happy with everything and we think our guests were too.
The very extravagant option of Waitrose! We loved the naked cake style and when flicking through the Waitrose magazine spotted that they did naked cakes – and we were immediately sold. My wonderful sisters and mum decorated it the morning of the wedding with fresh berries and the cat biscuits I had baked – and we think it looked rather cute.
We debated over entertainment for a while – we were obviously always going to have the carousel but there are so many cool ideas for entertainment and weren’t sure if we’d need something else. Then our best friends got married 6 months before we did and didn’t have any entertainment – that was the moment we realised you really don’t need it because their wedding was utterly perfect.
Who supplied the stationery?
Joe has a very talented friend from university, Imogen, who is an illustrator and owns her own business, Every Goose. She creates the most beautiful cards and wedding stationery and we were very lucky to work with her to create our bespoke pastel-coloured save the dates (complete with cat motif), invitations and order of services. She also did very beautiful thankyou cards for us.
We had quite a few – the Jellie Bake Off bunting, flower girls’ dresses and cardigans made by my mum, all the signage made by myself (with my mum’s help!), the pastel pom poms made by Joe’s mum. The cat biscuits we adorned the cake with were baked by me (and I also baked about 6 million brownies for the bake off table out of last-minute panic that none of the guests would bring anything!). The place names with the cats in suits and dresses were also a bit of a weird quirky touch that Joe thought up and I then created with my best friends!
We both have a very special memory of coming onto the lawn after the ceremony, where our DJ had started playing – we remember so well the first song out there being Make it Better by Anderson Paak – and the sun was shining, everything and everyone looked absolutely beautiful, and just chatting and laughing with our guests. We also had the most fun for our first dance, which was 2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls, and we did a bit of a cheeky routine to it. I’m also terrible at keeping secrets, I get too excited to tell everyone everything – and it was just about the only thing I’d managed not to tell anyone beforehand!
Advice for other couples
There is a lot to organise and it’s easy to get daunted. Speak to friends and family who have got married, ask for their help and advice, find out what they wish they had done, and the things they wish they hadn’t bothered with or got so hung up about. If you want to save money, a second hand wedding dress is a wonderful place to start that I couldn’t recommend more – with the added bonus that you don’t feel so bad about dancing the night away in it (the dry cleaner told us it was the dirtiest dress she had seen in her 16 years in the business which I was quite proud of).
How late Joe’s 83-year old granny managed to stay on the dance floor – right until the very end. The legend ended the night swaying along to Champagne Supernova with our friends.
It’s liberating capturing real life. I am a full-time wedding photographer and this is what I do best. Wedding is a very special day and I know capturing weddings is a huge responsibility. I really enjoy being there to capture beautiful, fun, emotional moments of the day. You won’t find me running around telling people what to do, I observe and am there where emotion happens. I am an alternative and informal wedding photographer based in London and cover all of the UK and worldwide.
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