Sarah and James' wedding was one of those perfect winter weddings, that make me glad I so often work as the wedding photographer at Winters Barns; it was beautifully sunny at times, surprisingly warm for the time of the year, and in the evening a beautiful mist wrapped over the land. When I arrived to photograph the bridal preparation the girls were incredibly relaxed and listening to some excellent chill-out music. There was no rush, no stress, lots of smiles, and a few happy tears.
The majority of my communication leading up to the wedding, had been with James (the groom), and it was clear he had planned the day to the finest detail, so I expected him to be nervous or stressed but if he was, he hid it well. Their day flowed well, and didn't seem rushed or forced at any time. This was definitely helped by their choice of venue being Winters Barns, where they could both get ready before, have their ceremony, wedding breakfast and reception at the same place, but it was obviously part of their nature.
Here is a bit more about them and their wedding in the words of the groom:
How did you meet, & how did you become engaged?
"We met at a Ceroc (dance) class which her sister had brought her along to because of how sociable it was compared to other types of class - guess that turned out to be the case!
We became engaged when I told my dad that I was thinking about it and asked how I knew if I was ready - he said that if I was thinking about it that much then I was ready. He’s not normally impulsive so I think he just realised that I somehow had a shot with someone out of my league so I should take it.
I took her into London for a belated birthday meal to a restaurant we’d been to before. On the first train there I gave her a sonnet which I’d written about how she’d made me a better man as a birthday present. On the second train I gave her another about how she’d made me realise what love was as a congratulations on her recent exam. As we got off the train I started walking the wrong way but fortunately she has no sense of direction! We were walking along the river as the sun went down when I gave her a third sonnet about our relationship and how far it had come and the future I was looking forward to (it was at this point she apparently became suspicious as she’d only ever had one at a time before). As we rounded a corner we emerged into the plaza overlooking the Tower of London and she realised we’d just done the same walk we’d done on a date many years prior and that this was the place where I’d told her I loved her for the first time. I sat her down and gave her a fourth and final sonnet, this one about me, her and us together. At the bottom it said ‘Please Turn Over’ and as she did so I took this as my signal to get down on one knee as she read
“So it comes now to this, nowhere I’d rather be,
In traditional fashion I’ll get down on one knee,
To look up to that girl, that one woman, she,
Who I’d love to marry, if she’ll marry me”
And that was that! These hand-written sonnets formed part of our display at our wedding."
How long did you take to plan your wedding?
"We got engaged on the 12th of June 2014 and were married on the 12th of March 2016, but only really started looking at venues towards the end of September 2014, booking Winters Barns at the end of that November. So around 16 months - but we only started properly getting into it around a year before. This was when we started meeting vendors and things like that."
What made you choose your wedding venues and how did you decorate them?
"When we walked into Winters Barns, we knew straight away it was going to be our venue. We’d really wanted a barn type wedding - we love the look but also that it’s quite neutral (we have different cultural backgrounds) and manages to have a natural, rustic and traditional feel all at the same time. We also really wanted to have everything on one site from getting ready in the morning right through to staying the night and this was one of only a couple of venues which offered that. It also had different areas for our guests which were open all day - we wanted people to be able to enjoy the dance floor but also have the ability to escape somewhere nearby where it was a little more chilled out. We didn’t do a huge amount of decorating - Winters Barns is so nice all by itself. We just added a few bits and pieces, photos of us and things made by my parents from their local woods like a wish tree and a log slice cake stand. Some flourishes on the tables from our decorator was all the finishing touch we needed."
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 wanted quite a natural feel to our day - we both love the outdoors and taking long walks and things and with a barn venue it felt right to have a sort of wooden theme - especially as my parents were able to make a few things from the woods that I spent so much time in growing up."
How did you decide on the outfits for the groom and groomsmen?
"I’d been given (sorry, had ‘agreed to’) our colour scheme and visited a small independent suit shop from my hometown which I’d used before. My mum and sister came along for moral support and I found it quite tough choosing what to have - in the end we finally just found the right suit and when I put it on I knew it was the one."
Who gave you away / walked you down the aisle? And did you walk down the aisle to a particular song?
"I stood at the front with my best man and also my father for moral support (though really my dad seemed to think he was there to tease me right up to the final moments). Sarah was walked down the aisle by her father, preceded by her sisters as bridesmaids. She came down to John Legend’s ‘You and I’ which really felt right - soft and slow without being sad. If you listen to the lyrics it really works for us and the occasion. We’d had a mutual appreciation of some of his songs early on in our relationship, so it felt like things had come full circle as well."
Would you like to share anything about your vows? Did you tailor your own? Please feel free to include an extract. People love to be inspired by how other couples tailored their own vows.
"I’m afraid rather boringly we simply chose from the standard options. It was a non-religious ceremony (again - different backgrounds!) and we went fairly middle of the road - the choices which were nice and meaningful but not overly grand or, on the other hand, too perfunctory."
Did you have any readings? If so, what were they and why did you choose them?
"We had three readings from our sisters. I forced mine to read the final sonnet from the four proposal ones I had written. Sarah’s sisters chose their own readings - the younger sister chose a short extract from Robert Fulghum’s ‘True Love’ - something very light-hearted and a little quirky which we still laugh about to this day. The final sister chose Eileen Rafter’s ‘The Promise’ which was very touching and meaningful."
Please describe your wedding breakfast and the reasons behind it?
"We wanted as much help and guidance as possible for our wedding and found the package option offered by Winters Barns very appealing because of this (plus it also helped stretch our budget!) We ended up going with Scott Anderson as our caterers as their menu options appealed to us the most. We had a great tasting session with them which left us absolutely stuffed but very excited for the big day. We chose the following :
Canapes - Feta, olive & tomato garlic bread + Chicken satay with roasted peanut and sweet chilli dip + Mini asian spiced beef
Starter - Salmon herb roulade with a celeriac and horseradish remoulade, finished with a lemon caper dressing
Vegetarian starter - Carrot and coriander soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and creme fraiche
Mains - Roasted free range chicken breast with buttered savoy cabbage and a potato fondant finished with wild mushroom jus
Vegetarian main - Sweet potato gnocchi with a tomato and mascarpone sauce
Top table - Treacle cured beef fillet with daupinoise potatoes, curly kale and a parsnip puree, finished with a red win jus
Dessert - Dark chocolate truffle torte with salted caramel ice cream
Evening buffet - Fish & chips
As you can see we went for quite ‘safe’ choices because we wanted as many people as possible to be happy, but they were also delicious - for example we actually didn’t mean to try the roast chicken main at our tasting session as we thought it was too boring. On the day however they made it for us by mistake in addition to our other requests and it was the best we tasted (other than the beef fillet which we’d decided to treat ourselves, I mean the top table, to)."
Did you provide wedding favours? If so, please provide details or what and where you sourced them
"We had various little bits and pieces made by my family on the tables as well as a large spread of sweet treats for guests to nibble at and take home - but no favours as such."
Please describe your cake and why you chose it?
"Sarah’s father actually chose our cake - he is quite the foodie and a great cook as well. We knew we wanted a semi-naked style cake as it would fit with our barn venue and sort of natural rustic theme - plus we’re not fans of thick icing. Other than that it was mostly down to him with only a little input from us. He decided on The Little Cake Company as the owner, Greta, not only made delicious cakes but was very welcoming and ran a great tasting session. I met her on the day itself and she was lovely. We had a large victoria sponge layer and then a chocolate middle layer (again trying to please as many people as possible) and then finally a coconut and lime layer just to mix things up a bit! She decorated it with some flowers from our decorator, a dancing couple cake topper I found and perched it atop a log slice my dad had made from our local woods."
What was your first dance track and what did it mean to you?
"For this we went back to John Legend again which provided a nice tie-in to the ceremony earlier in the day. This time round we had ‘Save Room’ which if you listen to the lyrics is a little tongue-in-cheek commentary on Sarah’s busy doctor’s work schedule! It was also a song we enjoyed a lot early in our relationship - I used to play it at my dance classes quite a bit."
What was your favourite part of the day and why?
"That’s an extremely difficult question! The whole day flowed so smoothly that it feels like an overall experience rather than a collection of parts. Every time we think of one thing it leads us onto another and we end up down a trail of memories rather than individual highlights. In a strange way it was probably the end of the day - when I turned to Sarah and said that I just wanted to do it all again. It wasn’t the favourite part of the day because it was over - but because it was the moment when everything had culminated into this amazing experience. We said goodbye one by one to our guests and families and that really brought home how lucky we were to share the day not only with each other but with our nearest and dearest as well."
What led you to choose Parkershots as your photographer and please can you comment on their work? (If possible, I would like to use your answer here on the testimonial section of my website).
"As we’ve already mentioned we really wanted to surround ourselves with people who knew what they were doing and take their advice. We compared all of the websites and albums from the Winters Barns approved supplier list and it was clear to us that Nick Parker knew the venue inside out, knew how to make the most of it and had a talent for balancing professional style portraits and group pictures with all the more candid and less intrusive shots of the day. We arranged a meeting and Nick was immediately friendly, open and welcoming and seemed to really get that we didn’t necessarily have any fancy ideas or lots of requests and wanted someone to just take all that off of our shoulders. There was an important personality match as well and we knew we’d found someone who had talent, ideas and opinions but who cared about us and what we wanted as well - even if he had to draw it out of us because we were unsure ourselves. He didn’t disappoint in any of these regards and whilst we have some great portraits some of our favourite photos are the funny or heartwarming moments we shared with our guests where we didn’t even know Nick was there."
On reflection, is there anything you would have done differently with foresight?
"Worried less, trusted more and invited more people! It’s part of my TV producer job to keep an eye on everything and make sure it’s running smoothly and, very importantly, to time, and I had organised the wedding down to fine detail. In retrospect I could have probably just relaxed a little and let the Winters Barns team and our suppliers look after us rather than me watching the clock so often! Also we were worried about not having enough food to go around in the evening and really we could have invited a lot more people as there was plenty to go around, and I’m sure a lot of people ate before they came."
If you could impart any words of wisdom to a bride to be planning her marriage and wedding day, what would they be?
"Get a groom-to-be who will organise it all for you (though you still make all the important decisions), like Sarah did… Oh, is she meant to be filling this in?..."
Is there anything else you would like to add?
"People will probably tell you to make sure you take a few moments during the day to really look around, slow down for a second and take it all in. You will take this as good advice and then on the day completely forget all about it. It’s not about setting time aside to have a quiet moment together (though this helps) - but just try every so often to look up, look around, take it all in and realise how happy and lucky you are to be there, right then."
- Bride’s Gown : Gillian Million - Gillian, gillianmillion.com
- Jewellery : None worn, other than the rings!
- Shoes : Début
- Veil / Headpiece : Gillian Million - Gillian
- Perfume : Bride – Balenciaga, Groom - Yves Saint Laurent
- Hair Stylist : The bride did her own (not much you can do with short hair!) whilst the sister of the groom did the flower girl, bridesmaids and mother of the groom!
- Make-up Artist : All the girls did their own!
- Florist + Decor / Styling : Confetti Connections - Louise, confetticonnections.co.uk
- Rings (including engagement ring) : Rockman Contemporary Jewellery - Gary, rockmanjewellery.co.uk
- Venue : Winters Barns - Liz & Lizzie, winters-barns.co.uk
- Cake Maker : The Little Cake Box - Greta, littlecakebox.co.uk
- Caterer : (Food) Scott Anderson - Rebecca, andersoncaterers.co.uk; (Bar) TB Bars - Tim, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bridesmaids Dresses : In One Clothing - inoneclothing.com
- Groom / Groomsmen Suits : Lapel Mens Hire - wedding-suits.co.uk
- Wedding Planner : The groom!
- Stationery : Various! We got our invitations, save the date fridge magnets and table nameplates all from eBay! Other bits and pieces were made by the family. The nameplates were then handwritten by a good friend of mine with excellent calligraphy skills - my writing is terrible!
- Entertainment : (Live Music) Alex Hitchcock - Alex, alexhitchcock.co.uk; (DJ) Odyssey - Neil, www.odysseyweddingdisco.co.uk; (Photo Booth) Juiced Photo Booth - Rob, www.juicedphotobooth.co.uk
- Photographer : Parkershots - Nick, parkershots.com
- Honeymoon : (Agent) Carolyn Lodge Travel - Paul Lodge, carolynlodgetravel.co.uk; (Mini-moon) - Daisy Bank Cottage, New Forest - www.bedandbreakfast-newforest.co.uk; (Safari - South Africa) Nedile Lodge - www.nedile.co.za; (Hotel - Mauritius) Le Victoria Hotel - www.beachcomber-hotels.com/hotel/le-victoria
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