It’s been really hard to function since our wedding in July – without a wedding to plan, my evenings feel so free and I really don’t know what to do with myself! So, I tend to spend most of my time looking at wedding photos and thinking about what a great day it was. Slightly pathetic, but I can’t help myself! We had our English Country Garden wedding at Shiplake College on July 15, 2017. It rained in the morning (good luck, right?) but tapered off to be a beautiful afternoon and evening. It really was a perfect day!
I’m not one of those people who thinks your wedding day is meant to be the best day of your life (I’m a celebrator of everyday, remember?), but it definitely was an incredible day I know both Sean and I will remember forever. If you are planning a wedding of your own, or just enjoy reading about other weddings, here are all the details from our English Country Garden wedding:
An English Country Garden Wedding at Shiplake
Some quick background information about our wedding: we married on 23 August 2016 in a family only ceremony at the registry office. However, we wanted to have a big wedding to celebrate with the rest of our family and all of our friends, so we had a second wedding. Even though we were already married, we held a full wedding as if we weren’t (minus the signing of the register!). While it didn’t initially have a theme, as our plans formed, the wedding kind of morphed into an English Country Garden theme. There were lots of flowers, a few rustic accents, and a lovely garden party-esque drinks reception. Here are all the details, starting from the morning of (links to all suppliers are at the bottom):
Day of Preparations
Though we were already married, Sean and I chose to spend the night before the wedding apart from each other to build up the anticipation. I stayed in our bridal suite while he stayed with his brother at a nearby hotel. And we had totally different mornings the day of!
The boys met up at 12:00 to start their day of preparations. Sean ran some errands in the morning (mainly because he forgot his belt and shoes…), ate McDonalds for lunch, and met the boys back at the hotel to get dressed. They realized they were getting ready a bit too early for their 2:00 departure time and ended up watching Harry Potter for awhile before putting their suits on. Then, they got dressed and hopped in the vintage car we hired to get to the venue and start greeting guests (the car came back for us girls, don’t worry!).
Sean was able to do a few photos with his family before the ceremony, including one with (almost) his entire family on his dad’s side! Then, Sean took his place at the front of the Great Hall and waited for the ceremony to begin (apparently it felt like he was waiting for hours!).
While the boys started at 12, my bridesmaids met me at the bridal suite at 9:00 on Saturday morning for hair and makeup. Our hair and makeup artists arrived, along with our photographer and breakfast (thanks for the mimosas, mom!). We enjoyed our mimosas while we got ready in our matching pajamas, ordered a quick room service lunch before getting dressed, then put on our dresses at the last possible minute. I was much calmer than I imagined I would be on the morning of the wedding. Instead of panicking and feeling nervous, I was dancing to Despacito with my best friends – that’s how your wedding morning should be!
Once we were dressed, we did a few photos at the hotel before heading to the venue. We arrived early, so did a few more photos at the venue before heading in for the ceremony.
Our ceremony took place in the Great Hall at Shiplake College. Though it was not in a church, we did have a religious service; Sean’s old Revered from Shiplake delivered the service, making it even more special. We sang two hymns – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer. My brother read Blessing for a Marriage by James Dillet Freeman, and our friend Catherine read 1 Corinthians 13. We chose our readings and hymns based on the messages that we wanted to share at our wedding. I think readings are a really personal thing, but I really recommend the ones we had!
During the planning process, we decided to keep the ceremony decorations relatively simple. Our florist put together two beautiful pedestal flower arrangements and some small jar arrangements to line the aisle. I designed the Order of Service booklets on Canva and ordered them to be printed. And that’s about it!
In terms of music, we had a string quartet play the processional and recessional music, while an organist played the hymns. The bridal party walked down the aisle to Flower Duet, followed by me and my dad walking down to Canon in D. The entire ceremony honestly went by in what felt like a blink of an eye!
The Drinks Reception
Following our ceremony, there was a drinks reception on the terrace at Shiplake. We served prosecco and Pimms and canapés while the string quartet continued to play. I think we can claim sole responsibility for the uptick in Pimms imports to the US – all of our American guests were obsessed!
Dinner & Evening
We hosted dinner & dancing in a marquee on the Shiplake lawn. Again, we kept decorations relatively simple with rustic floral centrepieces and fairy lights above the dance floor. Sean and I purchased apple crates ahead of time and built the table plan, which was set at the entrance. Some of our friends then moved the flower jars from the Great Hall to the marque and dotted them about to add some more floral accents. We also hired a barrel bar for the evening portion, which added to the rustic/country garden look, especially when paired with the LOVE sign my friend and I made out of corks that Sean and I collected. Instead of a traditional guest book, we had a Guest Book Wall, strung across a portion of the marquee. There were note cards on every table, so people could write messages and pin them up on the wall.
Following the American style of weddings, Sean and I had our first dance before dinner, right after the bridal party was introduced. Then, we sat for dinner and the festivities began! All of the speeches were an absolute hit (Father of the Bride, Groom, Maid of Honor, and Best Man), drinks were really flowing, and the dance floor was packed from the moment it opened until the music stopped for the night. We spread the ceremonial stuff (parents dances, bouquet toss, etc.) throughout the night so nobody really got off the dance floor – except to get another drink!
- Bridal Party Entrance: You Make my Dreams by Hall & Oates
- First Dance: State Lines by The Shires
- Father/Daughter Dance: I Loved Her First by Heartland
- Mother/Son Dance: Stand by Me by Ben E King
- Bouquet Toss: It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls
- Garter Toss: Foxey Lady by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Cake Cutting: How Sweet it is by James Taylor
- Last Dance: I’ve Had the Time of my Life by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
I purchased both my wedding dress and veil at Emma Elizabeth Bridal in Twickenham. I loved the wedding dress shopping process, but I was so relieved when I finally found the one. That one ended up being Calenthe, by Watters. I paired the dress with my LK Bennett blush pumps, diamond drop earrings, and a crystal hairpiece. For makeup, I went with a relatively natural look and Laura Mercier Brown Sugar on my lips.
I considered my shoes to be something old because I wore them to our first wedding, as well. For something new, I purchased a hairpiece from Claire Nicole (though most of my look was new!). The hairpiece was hidden under my veil during the ceremony, but it was so nice to have something in my hair still when I took my veil off before dinner! My earrings were my something borrowed – my bridesmaid Marisa brought them for me. I struggled to find something blue, so I ended up sewing the first ring Sean ever gave me (a gold ring with a sapphire stone from Ponte Vecchio in Florence) to my garter.
The Groom & Groomsmen
Sean and his groomsmen all wore the same suit, hired from Moss Bros. We decided to go with suit hire for the guys in order to ensure they all wore the same color, without forcing everyone to buy a new suit (most of them already have so many!). Moss Bros. also provided the shirts, and a tie and pocket square as part of the hire package. We ended up purchasing different ties and pocket squares from Swagger & Swoon, though, because Moss Bros. didn’t have the exact color we wanted. Sean purchased engraved whisky glasses for all of the groomsmen, which they tested out once they arrived at Shiplake with their nerve-calming pre-wedding drink.
My bridesmaids wore the Inesse dress from Jenny Yoo. They all brought their own nude shoes to go with the dress, but I purchased a necklace for each of them as part of their bridesmaid gift. The gift also included shortie pajamas from Plum Pretty Sugar to get ready in and flip flops for dancing later in the evening. I had so much fun picking out a few items for the bridesmaid gifts and packaging them all up together!
All of our flowers were done by Annette at White Gdn in Henley. She did the bouquets and buttonholes, as well as all the flower decorations at the wedding. I wanted a slight cascade in my bouquet and flowers to match the wedding colors – ivory, blush, and sage. They turned out to be the perfect blend of all the colors, and matched the rest of the wedding wonderfully.
Games & Entertainment
I don’t know why, but at some point during the planning process, the idea of garden games popped into my head and wouldn’t leave. We didn’t end up going as extreme as I wanted, but we did have two games available during the drinks reception and evening portion of the wedding. Sean had doubts from the beginning, convinced nobody would want to play games at the wedding. However, both cornhole and croquet were played throughout the majority of the night. People were loving it! It was also a great way to entertain everyone in between courses (we saw people sneaking out to play as soon as they finished their starters!).
Our DJ, from City Nights Disco, played background music from the beginning of dinner. Then, as soon as the last course finished, he ramped it up and everyone flowed onto the dance floor.
We are both convinced that our 115 wedding guests made our wedding what it was. About 40 people flew over from the US, tons of Sean’s friends from Shiplake came, and all of his family from the North East came down. Everyone was there to have a good time and that’s exactly what they did! Our friends from different parts of life mingled with each other; Americans played cornhole against the Brits; everyone screamed the lyrics to Mr. Brightside at the top of their lungs. By the end of the evening, I think everyone had 50 new Facebook friends and Instagram followers. If we could do it all over again, we probably would’ve scratched the entire wedding in lieu of a DJ and open bar for the full day (kidding – but am I?).
And, of course, Giorgio was in attendance, too! Having pets at your wedding is becoming more and more popular, and we couldn’t resist inviting our very own fur ball along. To make things easier on us (and everyone else involved), we brought Giorgio’s crate with us, too. He watched our ceremony and played with guests during the drinks reception, then retreated to his crate inside the building for some peace and quiet while the party continued.
After the Wedding
We hired coaches to transport our guests from the wedding back to the Novotel in Reading, where most guests were staying. The coaches ran throughout the night and Sean and I hopped on the last one to get back to the Malmaison, where we booked our bridal suite. In the morning, we met back up with our families for a quick brunch before heading off on our honeymoon.
The Malmaison totally spoiled us, from champagne and fresh fruit in the morning for me to a lovely message with chocolates waiting for us after the wedding. They went above and beyond to make sure the girls and I had everything we needed while we were getting ready. Like with many aspects of our wedding, I couldn’t imagine a better place for our bridal suite!
I think the most baffling thing about the whole wedding planning process is how quickly it’s over! After a year of what felt like nonstop planning, the day came and went before I had time to process what was happening. However, even though I wish it lasted longer, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better day. And, thankfully, we had an excellent photographer to capture all the moments, so we can let the day live on in our minds for a little bit longer 🙂
Here are some more of my favorite photos (click to enlarge and scroll!):
I’m planning a wedding planning series to share how I decided on some of the above items, as well as how my friend and I made most of the decorations. Please comment below if there is a specific wedding-related post you’d like to see! I can’t wait to share more wedding items!
Photographer: Mary Smith Photography // Dress Designer: Watters // Dress Boutique: Emma Elizabeth Bridal // Bridal Shoes: LK Bennett // Hair & Makeup: Claire Nicole // Bridesmaid Dresses: Jenny Yoo // Groom & Groomsmen Suits: Moss Bros. Hire // Ties & Pocket Squares: Swagger & Swoon // Flowers: White Gdn Henley // Cake: Cake! by Chloe // Venue: Shiplake College // Marquee: Joseph Benjamin Marquees // Barrel Bar: Teffont Wines // DJ: City Nights Disco // String Quartet: Giardino Strings // Transportation: Regency Carriages // Bridal Suite: Malmaison Reading // Guest Accommodation: Novotel Reading
Note: All photos in this post are by Mary Smith Photography.