Fiona and Christopher’s Magical Woodland Wedding Meets British Summer Garden Party by Simon Biffen 

Happy Monday to you and how was your weekend? I hope you managed to have some fun despite the restrictions we are current living under. Mine was lovely. Full of food, family and friends. Saturday we met another family of 3, making us a very legal 6 and went for cake and then a walk. Saturday evening Nik’s mum came over for an Indian takeaway, (Dexters first) and then Sunday we went for another walk and for lunch at one of our fave local restaurants. I now need a week of dieting to work of all the food! So times may be a bit rubbish at the moment, I think we are all feeling the effects of Covid, so I am determined to keep you smiling with another week of wonderful wedding content and real weddings, starting off with this wonderful woodland wedding. Fiona and Christopher love nature so wanted to incorporate this into their day by marrying in this gorgeous woodland venue. They chose a ‘British summer garden theme mixed with accents of yellow, which resulted in a truly stunning wedding day. Big thanks to Simon Biffen for the gorgeous photos.

It was magical! The venue, our suppliers and our guests and family never ceased to overwhelm us with how wonderfully they all treated us, and whenever we weren’t beaming ear to ear, we were crying from happiness. Even now we’re still saying we wish we could do it all over again.

Fiona and Christopher were married in August 2019 at The Dreys in Sittingbourne, Kent. ‘We knew very early on that we wanted to get married in the woods. We’re both very keen on nature and trees in particular, and we imagined ourselves having a ceremony surrounded by trees, and enjoying a bonfire with all our guests. It took us a lot of searching (in two countries!) to find somewhere that perfectly balanced nature with still being “dressed up” and festive. When we found the Dreys, it was love at first sight. Even while still in the parking lot Fiona said “I think this is it”, and we hadn’t even reached the secret pathway or the blessing area in the woods, or the signature Dreys trees yet! We had 99 guests, We got engaged in March 2018, looked for a venue over the summer, and then only really got properly going in January 2019. In hindsight, it would have been less stressful to start a tiny bit earlier.’

How they met 
We met as students during our bachelor studies, and became best friends very quickly. It’s not until after we graduated that we started dating though. We’d been together 7.5 years when we got married.

The proposal
As far as single moments go, it was definitely the happiest moment of my life. I had no idea it was coming! We had planned a weekend trip to Amsterdam for our 6 year anniversary, because that’s where we first kissed. Our flights got cancelled due to severe winter storms and we ended up on the train via Brussels instead, on Saturday instead of Friday. We only got there at 5 pm, and decided to go for a stroll in the Jordan area. All of a sudden, we coincidentally came past a cafe that was special to us on our first trip there, and I got very excited at the coincidence and exclaimed we should take a selfie. But Chris first had something important to say, I didn’t let myself believe what was happening until he literally got on one knee, but then the rush of emotions and pure happiness was just that much stronger. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like that ever again, and will treasure it forever. He claims I said yes almost before he even finished the question! A kind stranger managed to capture the proposal on his phone and sent us the pictures, and we had champagne in the cafe and completely forgot to have dinner. I couldn’t have imagined it any more romantic!

How did you allocate your budget? 
25% for the venue, 25% for food, 15% for drinks, and 15% on the photographer, celebrant, cellists, DJ, flowers and decorations combined.

Where did you splurge and where did you save?
We splurged on the venue and on our celebrant, and we can say with 100% confidence that it was completely worth it. Both are such a huge part of the wedding, it really just set the right tone for everything else. There are so many small details that need to be taken care of during the preparations and on the day, and the Dreys really went above and beyond to make sure nothing went forgotten. And Samantha was the key to making it a wedding, not just a party. We didn’t manage to save much, does skipping the cake count?  That said, we did a ton of research to find really high quality suppliers that were only slightly more expensive than average. Sarah, my Maid of Honour, supported us a lot with this and credit goes to her for finding Samantha (celebrant) and Pipa (Hair and Makeup).

How did you choose your photographer?
We wanted someone who would capture the essence of the day. We wanted the photos to show real emotions and be in the middle of the action, and for us to have photos of our guests and not just perfectly posed photos of ourselves. We found all that with Simon, scrolling through his portfolio we just loved how often he managed to catch laughter and funny moments. His photos turned out just the way we had hoped and we frequently go back to relive the day through his photos.

The dress 
The dress was Amelie by Alexandra Grecco, bought at Blackburn Bridal. The shoes were Nick of Time from Irregular Choice, and I really did get them in the nick of time! I had ordered and sent back 6 (or was it 8?) pairs of shoes starting months before the wedding, and just wasn’t feeling it with any of them. 2 weeks before the wedding I was out shopping for ties and socks for the groomsmen and wandered into the Irregular Choice shop in Carnaby on a whim. I tried these on, and after a lovely American tourist lady told me they looked great, I just went for it!

The suit and bridesmaids
The suit was made to measure from Scabal, and the shoes were from Crockett & Jones. The bridesmaids dresses were the Emmie dress from Jenny Yoo.

Theme or colour scheme
We let the nature of the woodland venue (pun intended, sorry!) set the tone – lots of tree, nature and flower touches. That said, yellow is Fiona’s favourite colour so that made some strong appearances. We also mixed and matched wedding traditions from all the countries we’re from, which resulted in a nice long afternoon mingle which we filled with lawn games, afternoon tea-themed canapes, scones, strawberries and pimms, so we ended up with a distinct British summer garden party vibe as well.

Sue Davies Flowers did our flowers, the theme was yellow / garden flowers / wildflowers. I don’t know the names of all the flowers but cosmos, white and yellow daisies, craspedia, gypsophila, waxflower and eucalyptus all featured. She did bouquets, a flower arch (with some hops for Christopher) for the ceremony, buttonholes, corsages and hair decorations all matching, and Jo from the Dreys made matching table centrepieces. We’re really happy with how the flowers turned out, in fact when I saw the flower arch I burst into tears!

We didn’t need to add much because the Dreys already comes really beautifully decorated, so besides flowers, we only added some tinkerbell lanterns, picnic baskets that held the ceremony sheets, sun cream and mini fans (and matched the garden party vibe), and a bubble machine.

For the afternoon mingle we had Afternoon tea in canape form, complete with scones and strawberries. For dinner we had a three course meal starting with a beetroot salad with quinoa and edible flowers, I really liked how nature even featured on our plates! For the main we had pepper crusted fillet of beef, crushed baby potatoes with mint, and veggies, and for dessert a lemon posset with popping candy and more edible flowers. We also had a midnight snack of mini burgers and mini cones of chips, and giant smores for roasting over the bonfire! What’s more, everything was 100% gluten-free, because Fiona has coeliac disease Our caterer Tayberry Foods really did a fantastic job. And the next morning, we had everyone back at the Dreys for a big full English breakfast, which was the best thing because we could more casually catch up with everyone we didn’t get a chance to talk with on the wedding day itself.

We had lawn games in the afternoon and we printed out fun facts we had collected from everyone’s RSVP so that during the mingle, people could grab a fun fact and try to find and take a picture with who it was from, which made for great ice breakers. In the evening, for dancing we had DJ David Cardoso and “Paul the sax man” that he works with. We kept the sax man a secret surprise, and he was a huge hit!

Who supplied the stationery?
The invites and table place settings were from WildwoodPaperStore on Etsy, the rest Fiona designed herself.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We went to the Seychelles. We flew off the day after the wedding, after brunch with all our guests, which was a fantastic decision – it made the wedding feel so much longer!

Personal touches
I designed a big portion of the stationary myself (the ceremony sheets, the little posters to label the tables, the dinner menu, and other printed decorations and signs).
I also designed the engraving we had on our ring boxes.
To hold the ceremony sheets we decorated a picnic basket with a Peter Pan quote and fairies and had some tinkerbell lanterns that we crafted from stickers bought on Etsy.
Chris had tree-inspired cufflinks and the groomsmen all had socks with flowers on them.
The music we chose for our ceremony was very personal, we each walked in to songs that were meaningful to us individually, and we sang songs during the ceremony that we loved during our relationship, and we walked out to “Send me on my way” by Rusted Root :D We picked The Cellists because Fiona was formerly a cellist herself, and they were able to rewrite all of our songs to be played on two cellos.
Fiona’s mum did a beautiful reading of a poem for the ceremony.
Daphne, the bridesmaid, created a smashing photo booth that saw a lot of action throughout the wedding, and other close friends had made a wishing well and birdcage for people to drop their cards in.
For our first dance, we mashed up “Something stupid” with “Gangnam style” and transitioned from traditional first dance to choreography, which was a great way to get the dancing started with a bang!

Special moments 
Too many to count honestly! Before it even started, Chris spotted two birds cuddled up to each other on a telephone wire, which just seemed like a magical good omen, especially because the same image featured in Fiona’s ring box design. The ceremony itself and the vows we made to each other might have been the best part of the wedding. Walking out of the woods and into the clearing, and seeing all the Dreys staff lined up with trays of Champagne glasses surrounded by all the gorgeous decorations was another highlight. Seeing our families so happy just made us glow, our parents were beaming and our siblings hardly left our side, it’s quite indescribable. People’s reactions to our ridiculous first dance, and then again when the sax man started playing over the music the DJ was playing is making us smile all over again.

Advice for other couples?
Start planning earlier than we did! Don’t leave the ceremony as an afterthought, here we’re really grateful to Samantha for making sure we thought of music and readings and what did we want the ceremony to be about! and it really made a difference. And be willing to compromise, we didn’t see eye to eye about everything, with each other or our families, and digging in our heels got us nothing but frustration until we worked something out that we were all happy with. This runs a bit counter to the saying “it’s your wedding, do what you want” but we realised that we wouldn’t be happy if our guests weren’t happy, so we planned for our family and guests as much as, if not more than, for ourselves, and we got it back in spades.

Biggest surprise
How quickly it went by! We were warned by our friends that the day would just fly by, and even though we realised it as it was happening, we couldn’t do anything to make it go slower.



Supplier Shout Outs


For more information on Simon Biffen Photography

www.simonbiffenphotography.co.uk / www.simonbiffenphotography.co.uk/blog / [email protected] / 07414977696 / FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM / PINTEREST / TWITTER

I am based in Somerset and travel the UK shooting weddings for couples who want the story of their day told naturally and creatively. I also use an unposed approach to the couple portraits which results in genuine, heartfelt moments of love and laughter which capture the essence of their relationship.


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