Paula and Alan’s ‘Rain by Day and Party by Night’ South Downs Barn Wedding by Ben Grubb

Today I have the gorgeous wedding of Paula and Alan to share with you. This wedding is a great example of how ditching the formalities and traditions of a wedding and choosing what is important to you can really make the day super personal and mean so much more. This wedding also shows you that it doesn’t matter how much it rains on your wedding you and your guests will still have a good time, it might even make it better! Paula and Alan chose this super cute barn wedding and went to town making it fit their individual brief. They kept the day low key, chilled and relaxed, by making the wedding breakfast street food that the guests went up and served themselves and the wedding reception one big old party! Ben Grubb was there to capture the day for us.

Our day was exactly as we had wanted it to be; non-traditional, without formality, relaxed, true to us and our beliefs cutting out what was not important and appreciating the things that matter – it was fun – a celebration of our coming together, with the people most important in our lives.  The rain (there was a lot!!!) didn’t dampen our day, in fact it meant that we shut the doors to the barn, everyone was together, getting to know each other and it was more of a party atmosphere!

Paula and Alan were married on 22nd July 2023 at Arundel Town Hall and South Stoke Barn. ‘There is a family history of living in West Sussex.  Arundel and the surrounding area was a stunning backdrop for the wedding. The Town Hall building itself is beautiful. We knew we wanted a boho themed wedding and looked at a number of barns across Surrey and Sussex.  We chose South Stoke because of its unique layout (upstairs and downstairs), and unlike some of the other barns we looked at, we could create our own theme and use our preferred suppliers, giving us a blank canvass to create our vision. We had 130 guests. We wanted to do it our way, non-conventional, without the pressure of “this is what is expected”, so we planned everything ourselves. We researched and sourced our suppliers 18 months before the wedding, so we were fortunate to get our first choices.  Our choices were based on local and independent suppliers who were passionate about what they did, good value for money,  were socially conscious and who shared our vision.’

How they met
Three years ago we both swiped right. It was a match!  The rest is history!

The proposal
It was a joint proposal in Snowdonia that we had planned together in June 2021.  We returned to the most beautiful accommodation at the Firecat Country House B&B that we had visited early in our relationship.  The hosts Robin and Jane set up a table in their sitting room on the evening of our proposal, we had a huge open fire, candles everywhere,  views of the valley and river, it was a really special moment for both of us to take in what we were about to do.

How did you allocate your budget?
The two things most important were the venue and the food and that is what the majority of our budget went on.  By cutting out the non-essential formalities that often go with a wedding, we were able to spend money on the things that were important to us.

Where did you splurge and where did you save?
As above, the food and venue were our highest costs.  We saved on entertainment (we have DJ friends), used our own transport to and from the wedding and a professional photographer friend.  We didn’t have a formal wedding breakfast, it was street food and people helped themselves, adding to the relaxed atmosphere.  We used a free wedding site called WithJoy.com to plan the schedule for the day, put our guest lists together, design and email our own placeholders and e-invitation cards.

How did you choose your photographer?
Ben Grubb is a close friend of Alan and a fellow basketball player.  He is a professional film maker/photographer. His brief was to capture the essence of the wedding without formal poses, which he did wonderfully.

The dress
My dress was the first thing I bought. I knew I wanted to buy from a local and independent boutique.  White Leaf Bridal in Brighton was the first place I went to and I’m so pleased I found the perfect dress with Blanka’s assistance.  It was a very personal moment, just myself and Blanka, giving me time to reflect and take it all in.  Shoes were from David’s Bridal.

The suit and bridesmaids
Well, the suit was bought during our visit to my homeland in Ireland in August 2021! Cream/linen from Reiss. Just perfect so we bought it there and then!  And it meant so much more being from my homeland.   We had four bridesmaids – my two sisters and Alan’s daughter and her step-sister.  The brief for the dresses was to be comfortable and feel beautiful. They chose designs that worked for them and their body shapes/ages.

Theme or colour scheme
We went for pink tones in a variety of pastel colours.

The bouquets were botanical and informal in style, lots of foliage and large pink and cream roses with pampass grass.

We had the wonderful Jessica of Pitch up & Co decorate the barn.  The theme was Italian botanical/boho with lots of foliage, pots, herbs, lavender, natural flowers, churns, crates, candles and ceramics.  The barn was beautiful in itself so we didn’t want to overdo it with décor, instead bring out the natural beauty. It all worked perfectly with the long rustic tables.

The amazing Toby @ Garlic Wood Events produced the most wonderful banquet of jerk chicken, teriyaki salmon, porcetta, a choice of vegetarian/vegan meals and an array of colourful salads and rice dishes to accompany it.  We had choice of 3 mini desserts – salted caramel brownies, prosecco jelly and lemon cheesecake.  We didn’t have waiter service, so everyone was able to visit Toby and the team as many times as they wanted.  In the evening guests could choose between salt beef bagels or halloumi bagels.

Wedding cake
We had a four tier Victoria sponge smothered with fruit and decorated with flowers.

Alan is part of a DJ group called Soul Providers so what could be more perfect than having our friends Leon, Ray (and Alan!) take turns throughout the evening.  Jazz Funk, Soul & RnB to relive the 80’s and 90’s.
Another basketball friend of Alan, Rob, is a part-time entertainer, so we asked him to be the unofficial MC, just to get everyone’s attention when needed and direct them to the food and dancing. He did an amazing job and entertained our guests throughout the day and evening.

Who supplied the stationery? 
As mentioned above we used a wedding site called WithJoy.com to design our own e-placeholders and e-invitation cards.  In a boho/botanical style of course!

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We went to Bali and it was just amazing!  We wanted somewhere where we could chill, reflect on what had just happened, but also somewhere we could explore, rather than purely a beach resort.  Again we did things our own way and stayed away from “honeymoon resorts” – (not that there is anything wrong with that if that’s what you like), but we wanted it to be personal to us, and to immerse ourselves in the culture and traditions of Bali.  The villas we stayed in were owned by Balinese families and off the beaten tourist track – just perfect for us!

Personal touches
This is difficult to answer as the whole theme and tone was designed by us and personal to us.  We knew exactly what we wanted from our day and that was to keep it simple but stylish and something that represented who we are.

Special moments 
So many!  But the ceremony itself was special – the promises we made to each other were heartfelt, personal and really moving. Alan seeing me in my dress, walking up the aisle was a breathtaking and emotional experience. Me being escorted up the aisle by my two sons.  Seeing everyone from all aspects of our lives, mingling, laughing, enjoying each other’s company and celebrating together was exactly what we had hoped for.

Advice to other couples
Planning-wise, plan well ahead to get your first choice of suppliers.  Don’t compromise on what you want the tone and theme to be, it is very easy to be led down the traditional route – which is fine if that’s what you want – but stick to what makes you unique and reflects your personalities.  On the day, take some time out after the ceremony with just the two of you.  Don’t feel responsible for your guests having a good time – let the day flow naturally, it’s your day, take it all in and enjoy it.

Biggest surprise
There was nothing that took us by surprise as such.  Although given the rain, it was definitely more of a party feel with new friendships being made between our guests.   Had the sun been out our guests would have been more spread out over the grounds and less chance to mingle.



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