When I met Hannah and Oli before their wedding to go through their day, I kept thinking how amazing their wedding sounded. The day was planned to be very relaxed, with almost a garden party feel to it, and yet was located in the grounds of Lewes Castle. The ceremony occurred near the top of this 1000 year old castle, giving an incredible backdrop to them and provided stretching views across the Sussex countryside for their guests. I loved their choices of styling for the day, from Hannah’s dress and floral crown to how they decorated the castle grounds. It had a beautifully relaxed feel but also perfectly in keeping with the location.
After the ceremony, they enjoyed drinks and their wedding breakfast in the lower level of the castle grounds with a BBQ feast cooked up in front of everyone before being served. The atmosphere was exactly what they had planned for – a beautifully relaxed celebration with their closest friends and family. And then in the evening, what better way to properly celebrate the day, than to take everyone to a nearby pub for drinks and live music.
Here is a bit more about them and their day in their own words:
How did you meet, & how did you become engaged?
“We met at work in between college and going to university. We’d been together nearly 9 years & had discussed marriage and getting engaged, so it wasn’t a total surprise.
We planned an evening in London with a meal up The Shard. Oli proposed after the meal whilst we were walking down the riverbank of the Themes. It was a lovely warm June summers evening, so the setting was perfect.”
How long did you take to plan your wedding?
“There was almost exactly a year between us getting engaged and getting married. However the actual planning part probably took more like 9 months.”
What made you choose your wedding venues and how did you decorate them?
“There was never any doubt that we would get married at Lewes Castle. We’ve both grown up in Lewes and getting married in our hometown was important to us. We saw Lewes Castle as the perfect venue ; it overlooks the town and is absolutely beautiful. We were anxious about it being an outdoor venue, but thankfully the sun shone for us. For the evening part of our wedding we keen to keep to the relaxed atmosphere of the day so we chose The Pelham Arms, a pub just up the road from the castle, as the pub has a great friendly feel to it. We felt both venues were already well dressed so we didn’t go too overboard with decorating them. For the castle we borrowed bunting from a family member and made extra as we needed around 100metres in total to decorate the hand railings on the steps leading up to the top of the castle. My mother, her partner and I made the aisle runner by painting onto hessian fabric using the main colours of the wedding (mint/sage green, lavender, pale yellow and cornflower blue). We had buckets of lavender down the sides of the aisle and little bunches of dried lavender hanging on the seats. Oli’s mother made our table decorations using recycled blue ceramic yogurt pots (kindly donated by one of my bridesmaids, who had been collecting them from her Granny for months) which had flowers and foliage in. These looked great on the centre of the tables. A couple of my friends from my sewing class made me some bunting as a surprise wedding gift, so I used this to decorate inside our marquee.”
What inspired you to style your day the way you did? E.g. a particular era, muse, colour etc. or were you guided by religious or cultural values and preferences?
“We didn’t have a particular theme. We kept the colours similar throughout, but we weren’t strict with it. Thankfully Lewes Castle is such a beautiful setting that it didn’t require heavy decorating.”
How did you decide on your dress and accessories?
“I tried on a few dresses in a couple of shops but struggled to find ‘the one’. I go to a sewing group in Brighton, called Sew Retro, once a week and the lady, Sarah who runs it, suggested I made my dress. At first I thought that there would be no way that I could do this, but after more failed searches for the perfect dress I thought I would give it a try. I sketched out how I would like my dress to look and Sarah made the pattern for me. I made a mock dress at first in cheap fabric to see how the dress looked and fitted, then after sourcing my fabric I got to work on the real thing. I really enjoyed the experience of making my dress and was so pleased with the final result. It was great fun working on it one evening a week as it allowed me to set aside one evening a week to thinking about our wedding amongst my hectic work/uni schedule. I owe Sarah a lot for all the help and encouragement she gave me in getting the dress exactly how I wanted it. I decided for the day I’d like a dress with a low back and long sleeves, as both my mother and grandmother had long sleeved dresses on their wedding day, but the low back gave it a more modern look. I used a beautiful lace for this part of the dress. In the evening I thought it would be nice to have something more free to move in, so under the lace part of the dress I used a soft double crepe silk. The idea was that for the evening the top lace part of the dress came off, leaving me with the under silk dress for the evening for me to dance in. I loved having a two dresses for the different parts of the day. For my veil I wore the veil that both my grandmother and mother both got married in. As my dress was ivory in colour but the veil white I had to dye it to match my dress. This involved boiling up a big pan of tea bags and dipping it in until I had the right colour- this was the most nerve wracking part of the whole dress/veil making experience as I only had one chance to get this right. For my hair I had a real flower crown made from lavender and ivy made by a florist in Lewes. They made it exactly how I wanted and was so pleased with it on the day.
I also made the mad decision to make my bridesmaids dresses. I was set on a particular colour for the dresses, which was in between a sage and a mint green and took a long time to source the right fabric. The tricky part about making the dresses was one of my bridesmaids lives in Hong Kong and didn’t get to try her dress on until the afternoon before the wedding! Thankfully the dress only needed taking up slightly. I thought my bridesmaids looked stunning on the day!”
How did you decide on the outfits for the groom and groomsmen?
“Oli decided on a grey three-piece suit and found a lovely one from Ted Baker. I made him a tie in the same sage/mint green colour as the bridesmaids. Oli let his groomsmen choose what they wanted to wear. In the evening Oli changed to a different tie- when a friend of Oli’s got a job at Sky Sports Oli joked that if he could get Jim Whites ‘Transfer Deadline Day’ yellow tie he would wear it on our wedding day. His friend not only managed to get the tie, but Jim White also signed it for him! Oli is a massive football fan so getting to wear his tie was unreal.”
Who gave you away / walked you down the aisle? And did you walk down the aisle to a particular song?
“My father passed away in 2012, so this part of the wedding was really tough. I have three brothers and didn’t want to choose one, however they decided amongst themselves and came to the decision that my brother Edward would walk me down the aisle. I was really touched that he wanted to do this and it was great having him there before the wedding to calm my nerves.
The music we chose for the whole of our wedding service was all music from bands we have heard live. We’ve been to many gigs together so it was really fun chosing some of our favourite songs to have playing whilst people sat in their seats and waited for the service to start. The song I walked down the aisle to was ‘Lucky Bones’ by our favourite band The Courteeners, and we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife to a cover version of ‘Baby I’m Yours’ by another favourite band The Arctic Monkeys.”
Did you have any readings? If so, what were they and why did you choose them?
“We had ‘Us Two’ by AA Milne and ‘The Art of Marriage’ by Wilferd A Patterson. We let our two friends choose the readings.”
Please describe your wedding breakfast and the reasons behind it?
“As the food at The Pelham Arms is fantastic we decided to ask them to do the food for us at our wedding. We always knew from the start that we fancied a BBQ as our wedding breakfast. We wished to let our guests have a variety of food choices and didn’t like the idea of a stuffy three course meal where people felt they had to be glued to their seats. The food was fantastic and it kept with the relaxed informal vibe we hoped for. All the food was locally sourced, an element that was important to us as we tried to stick to local businesses wherever we could.”
Did you provide wedding favours? If so, please provide details or what and where you sourced them
“Oli made a burger relish as our wedding favours to go with the BBQ. He used mini kilner jars to put this in. Each jar also acted as the name place setting with our guests name on.”
Please describe your cake and why you chose it?
“Neither of us particularly like icing so we asked The Pelham Arms to make us a ‘naked’ sponge cake with fruit and flowers on it. A friend of mine made us an origami bride and groom, which sat on the top.”
What was your first dance track and what did it mean to you?
“We didn’t see ourselves as being the sort to have a slow song as our first dance, so we chose ‘Praise You’ by Fatboy Slim. When we first met one of the things we bonded over was speaking about our love of the dance from the music video to ‘Praise You’ and for that reason we knew it had to be our first dance song. Although we didn’t quite manage the same dance moves from the video, we had great fun dancing to it that night.”
What was your favourite part of the day and why?
“We both feel we couldn’t pin point a favourite part of the day. We had a fantastic time being with family and friends and seeing everyone have a great time.”
What led you to choose Parkershots as your photographer and please can you comment on their work?
“My brother Sam recommended Parkershots to us. We both loved the portraits he took of our niece and loved the work on his website. We’re both over the moon with the end results and many people have commented on how well the photos captured the day. We’re also really happy that we were able to have photos taken with my grandpa as he sadly passed away 3 weeks after our wedding, so having memories of him enjoying himself at our wedding was really special to us.”
On reflection, is there anything you would have done differently with foresight?
“I’m currently studying and work part-time – We got married exactly one week after my year 2 medical exams. This perhaps wasn’t the best planning, but in all honestly meant that I didn’t have time to turn into a total bridezilla or go over the top with planning loads of decorations and details that probably would have been unnecessary, so it turned into a good thing. We also bought our first house at the same time and only got the keys 3 days before our wedding. So although sitting exams, buying a house and planning a wedding at the same time was difficult, it meant we had the whole summer to enjoy married life in our new home.”
If you could impart any words of wisdom to a bride to be planning her marriage and wedding day, what would they be?
“Don’t get hung up on loads of minor details and going mad on pinterest ideas, as on the day you’ll soon realise that these can easily get overlooked by people- so focus on the most important details that bring out what your wedding means to you. Also don’t get too disheartened if small aspects don’t go to plan- only you will notice, everyone else will be having such a fantastic time so join them and don’t worry about it.”
– Bride’s gown (Designer and boutique) Made by bride with help from the fantastic Sarah Windsor at Sew Retro http://www.sewretro.co.uk
– Shoes- Harriet Wilde http://www.harrietwilde.com
– Veil / Headpiece- Veil- brides grandmothers, flower crown by Lewesiana
– Perfume- ‘Grapefruit’ and ‘Lime basel and mandarin’ Jo Malone http://www.jomalone.co.uk
– Hair Stylist- Langtons Lewes http://www.langtonslewes.com
– Make-up Artist- Langtons Lewes http://www.langtonslewes.com
– Florist- Lewesiana- http://www.lewesiana.co.uk
– Rings- Alexis Dove- http://www.alexisdove.com
– Venue- Lewes Castle and The Pelham Arms
– Décor / Styling- mostly handmade by friends, family and the bride
– Cake Maker- The Pelham Arms https://www.thepelhamarms.co.uk
– Caterer- The Pelham Arms https://www.thepelhamarms.co.uk
– Bridesmaids Dresses- Made by bride with help from the fantastic Sarah Windsor at Sew Retro http://www.sewretro.co.uk
– Groom suits- Ted Baker
– Stationery- made by bride
– Entertainment- band called The Bears http://www.thebears.uk.com
– Photographer – Parkershots
– Honeymoon- Rio de Janeiro- Brazil, Inca Trail Cuzco- Peru, Amazon rainforest- Peru