Gem & Phil’s Sparkles and Dinosaurs Wedding at The Walled Garden at CowdrayLauraEl
Stay with me on this one! For this is one fabulous wedding with a slight alternative spin…
As I already approach the anniversary of my own wedding, I’ve been reminiscing about the planning stages and I’ve gotta say that one of my biggest tips is…no matter how quirky, bring part of YOU…as an individual, to the party. By that, I mean a love (other than your beau-to-be!), a hobby, something that you’re known for or even unhealthily obsessed with! It could be your love of Lego, knitting, retro video games or even unicorns! Bring it subtle or whack in the faces of guests, but just BRING IT! It will delight, surprise, bring those you love into just a little part of your world by being personal to you and of course, be remembered. Do things your way!
Gem & Phil did exactly that at their wedding at The Walled Garden at Cowdray after they met some years ago at university on a geology trip to Tenby. It was dino-love-at-first-sight and what better to style their day by? Oh, other than a big smattering of glitter and sparkles too!
Gem & I strangely met through a Facebook group for brides whilst planning our big days. After seeing me at a wedding fair and a spot of dinner together that evening, she had asked me to be her wedding photographer. I was hugely flattered and so excited about her day because I knew all about her plans.
Unusually, I had a little helper with me that day…my husband, Chris who second shot for me which was nice, but odd having him as my second shooter! So, as I went to look after Gem and her family get ready, Chris went off to Cowdray House where Phil and his friends got spruced up, complete with dinosaur socks!
The couple chose to make a lot of the decor themselves with lots of attention to detail which really paid off – gold spray-painted dinosaurs roamed amongst florals and succulents on tables, pretty ribbon expertly adorned wooden rods and glitter was most definitely bountiful! In a nod to remain true to who they are, they chose to do away with wedding rings and Phil even took Gem’s surname.
Whilst it’s easy for me to write about the day and get all excited over the amazing-ness, Gem did this little wedding report which I think is really important to share in terms of how emotions are all a bit odd, squiffy and not quite how you would expect them to be on the day!
‘Friday 3rd October
I woke up with the worst headache and I felt really rough. I was still very calm about the wedding. For the 6 weeks running up to the day everyone had commented on how calm I was, especially for someone who gets anxious about everything. But I was calm, why not?
I went off to get my nails done whilst Phil and my dad started shipping everything off to the caterers. I got home with my headache nearly gone and feeling excited. After a spot of lunch, we sat around not really knowing what to do with ourselves. Not long after Phil announced he was going to make a move as we chose not to see each other the night before the big day. I was a bit sad that he wanted to go so early, but he dropped me off at my mum and dad’s and then he was gone.
I’m actually quite pleased he did…it was fab! Mum made me a snack and I sat with dad watching Ghosthunters International for most of the afternoon. My sisters arrived for dinner and dad cooked us all seafood pasta (asian style) and we cracked open the champagne. He then put loads of lanterns out in the garden and little fireblocks everywhere, so we all sat outside and drank more champers and had so much fun! I went to sleep about 11.30pm and slept right through…..
Saturday 4th October – Eeeek, it’s here!
I actually slept until 6.30am which is later than I normally get up so I did really well! The morning was going really quickly and we’d only just about finished breakfast when my hair and makeup lady turned up. Laura (our photographer) turned up about an hour later and got straight to work. Everyone was commenting on how calm I seemed and I really was!! No butterflies or anything!
I bought some gorgeous dressing gowns from SilkandMore for my mum, my bridesmaids and I, which gave us a great photo opportunity just before we got in our dresses! My dad had gone off to get the flowers while I was having my makeup done and then they were whisked away for photos, so I didn’t see them for awhile, but when I did I loved them! They were soooooo much better than I had imagined and very ‘me’!
We were all ready a bit earlier than expected. It was tipping it down, which I really I didn’t mind, but hoped that it would stop for the garden drinks reception. Candy the Camper van arrived to drive us all to the venue. It was lovely having that little bit of family time, but I get travel sick so very easily and had the windows open, so I was okay. Everyone was freezing, but better than the bride throwing up!
It was still raining when we arrived at The Walled Garden at Cowdray and umbrellas were definitely needed, but I was so excited I didn’t care. Phil & I had planned to do a ‘first look’ and really wanted to do this in the gardenss, but rain scuppered this, so we moved it inside. I wanted to look around at all the details that had been expertly styled by Distinctly Styled, but I was ushered through as I still had to see the registrars.
I was really glad we decided to do a ‘first look’. A teary Phil came in and immediately got quite choked and said, ‘You look amazing!’ and all I could say was, ‘Don’t cry!’ He had gone so red in the face and couldn’t speak! He actually doesn’t look too bad in the photos, but it was very sweet! I’m really glad we did it as it meant he wasn’t nervous when I walked down the aisle, we got to speak to each other and take it all in before having to see everyone else. We both dreaded being the centre of attention! My parents and sisters were all looking through the window as this happened and my sisters said my dad cried which then set them all off! My dad never cries, so when they told me this later I was so touched!
Phil then left and I had to do the registrar stuff. He walked my mum into the ceremony and made sure she knew where she was sitting, as my mum had been worrying about doing that for weeks! Everyone said it was really sweet that he did that.
It was then time my my aisle walk! By this time I still wasn’t nervous, but my sisters were terrified about falling especially my youngest sister who is disabled. The venue organiser was very helpful here in telling us all when to walk in, leaving gaps for our photographer to get shots, etc. I’m glad she did as I couldn’t hear the music!!!! I was so focused on getting married!
Holding onto my dad, I found myself looking at the floor because I didn’t want to look directly at anyone. In the whole ceremony I didn’t much look anywhere apart from at the registrar and Phil. I gripped him tightly through the first half of the ceremony and we giggled a bit. Phil couldn’t say ‘solemnly’ right the first time which panicked him and then said ‘That’s still legal, right?!?’ which made everyone laugh and then made him calm down a bit. I however, did my posh phone voice…I just couldn’t help myself!!! It made me have slight cringe moment, but a few of my close friends said it made them laugh as it was typically me!
Our registrar pronounced my surname wrong which made Phil and I both pronounce it wrong because you’re just copying what they say! Soon enough, we had the giggles again!
My sister’s other half did a wonderful reading of ‘A Lovely Love Story’ and everyone thought it had been written for us! It was perfect with the shopping remarks, the ‘skipping mind’ and with the dinosaur theme as well. It made people laugh as well.
Quite unusually, we both chose not to have rings to exchange – it’s just not our ‘thing’. Our registrar didn’t want us to miss out on the words normally said at this point and created vows for us which we said in front of the pompom arch that I’d swooned over for so long. It was really sweet.
One of my favourite photos?….that award goes to my most excited sister as Phil and I shared out first married kiss!
I was just so happy and excited as we signed the register. Something caught my eye though…my colleague had started a Mexican wave…it was brilliant! At weddings, I always find that signing-the-register-silence a bit awkward, so having a Mexican wave with us two chatting seemed to make everyone feel relaxed and chatty so it was a nice, fun atmosphere, which is what I wanted. Our registrar managed to sneak in a dinosaur joke! She was very into the whole theme and got very excited when she remembered a joke she could tell! We laughed a lot that day.
After we walked out of the ceremony, we snuck into a room on our own for a drink while our photographers ushered everyone outside for the ribbon wand waving, our alternative to confetti! I had a bit of a moment as I realised people would be staring at us on the walk through, but we did it! Laura (our photographer) whisked us off for a walk through the garden and photos with hubby by Candy the Camper van from Deluxe Wedding Hire.
My main photographer, Laura, is also my friend and I have to say I would not have got through the day without her. She knows what I’m like and she really kept me focused. I think I had so much fun because I felt so comfortable with her. Plus she’s fab at taking pictures!!
We then had a few photos around the gardens and our group photos. I admit that I certainly did have some apprehensions about the day with one thing or another and I know this is perfectly normal, but on your wedding day, it can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. My dad was so good to me that day. He told me it doesn’t matter, it’s my day and was so good at just making me feel better. Even when I stood in silence with him, his presence felt reassuring and I felt so so close to my dad that day.
After our group photos we went inside to mingle with our guests who nibbled on canapés whilst being entertained by pianist, Simon Grand. Before long it was time to head to the Ruins at Cowdray which we booked to have some couple photos in. Our guide came complete with her pets dogs and they were soon coerced into coming with us – we are totally doggy people (Keep a look out for the reeaaaalllly cute puppy!)!!! This part of the day was my favourite. Messing around with hubby and being with two of our very good friends (the photographers), so we were out for longer than we were meant to and realised it was time for dinner!
My centre-of-attention jitters came out to play as we were announced into dinner. I was just completely phased by the whole situation. Nobody noticed apart from hubby and I couldn’t eat a thing. Everyone raved about the food though which was by the wonderful Buns2Banquets. My sister’s other half ate all of mine for seconds, so he was happy!!
For a bit of fun we decided to have a raffle…a dinosaur-inspired raffle! In hindsight, not the best thing to do considering my apprehensions and Phil’s dislike of public speaking! So I took one for the team and just did it. I gave a very little speech thanking everyone and then threw myself into the prize giving. People loved it!
After dinner, I did rounds of the tables and made sure I spoke to everyone I had missed during the drinks reception. Everyone said how lovely the atmosphere was. They said it felt laid back and intimate which is exactly what we wanted, so I was really pleased! I had bought Facematts and dinosaur tattoos for everyone which were a lot of fun! Even my boss and his wife got involved – you’re never quite sure how the boss will be! I didn’t think they would put them on, but they got really into the spirit of it all!
As the photobooth by Smiley Booth got ready for action, I decided to go dance to the tunes of DISCOFever. Hubby donned his fetching Primark hat which was part of the fancy dress box and we danced. Once the photobooth was open the queue for it was humungous and no-one was on the dancefloor apart from me. I was ready to dance the night away, but my dancing crew guests were sat, bellies full of yummy food. HELP! I really wanted people to dance, so my sister Jade and her friend disappeared to fetch people. What arrived…was a conga line! It was hilarious! I couldn’t stop laughing for ages and it meant the dancefloor was heaving! I was so happy!
I’m so glad at how it all looked on the day. My caterer was also amazing with all the setup and our cake by Petra’s Cakes was fabulous. I was so so pleased. To keep the energy up of the dancing troops, we arranged for a Hot Chocolate Station which included crumpets, toast and doughnuts – ultimate comfort food!
My photos are truly beautiful and I can’t get over how amazingly they capture the emotion and fun of it all. In the early stages of my planning, I’ll admit that I didn’t quite understand the importance of photos from a wedding. Meeting Laura and the passion for her work, helped me to realise that that one amazing day can never be repeated, that you miss so much of the goings on and to have that bought back to you after everything is packed up, is so very special. It was just the best day!’