E-J and Bens country-garden wedding was a riot of flowers and vintage prettiness
Chattering happily to Ben in a restaurant in 2002, Emily-Jane (E-J) was struck by how different this first date was. “We met when I was at university in Manchester,” E-J says. “Ben is older than me, and I remember thinking what a nice change it was to go out for a meal on a date, rather than to the half-price pint night at the union.” The couple clicked straight away, and five years later, they were celebrating their anniversary at a restaurant in Paris when Ben got down on one knee. “I was absolutely stunned,” E-J remembers. “In fact I was so surprised that I think my response was ‘are you joking?’ But of course he wasn’t and I said yes.” Photography by Lawson Photography (lawsonphotography.co.uk)
Six months on, driving up to grade-II listed barns The Ashes, Staffordshire Moorlands (theashes-venue.co.uk), E-J and Ben knew instantly that they had found the perfect wedding venue. “The two barns had been beautifully restored, and we were overwhelmed by how amazing they were,” says E-J. “We wanted a relaxed wedding – not too stuffy, but romantic and fun – and The Ashes really helped. Our vintage country-garden wedding theme all started with the venue.”
To thread the theme through the two barns – one for the ceremony and the other the reception – E-J and her mum arranged English country-garden flowers in teacups, teapots and jugs. E-J’s parents made jam and marmalade as favours, and tied each small glass jar with a stripy or flowered lid cut from Cath Kidston fabric. A pastel-coloured Laura Ashley wallpaper design, featuring flowers, birds and butterflies, was used for the invitations, table plan, place names and name cards.
E-J floated down the aisle in a romantic lace-draped, strapless Pronovias wedding dress (pronovias.com) with a pleated fishtail skirt, from Eternity Bridal Wear, Warrington (eternitybridalwear.co.uk). “The detail was beautiful and the style really suited my figure,” she says, “but the deciding factor was that my bridesmaid and mum burst into tears when they saw me in it!” She topped the dress with a cascading veil and pretty, simple tiara from Halo & Co. (haloandco.com) and treated herself to Jimmy Choo shoes (jimmychoo.com), which she picked up half-price in the Selfridges sale (selfridges.com). Her two bridesmaids – both friends from school – followed in identical sage-green dresses from Eternity Bride & Groom (eternitybridalwear.co.uk), each with a ruched bodice and lace panel. Their outfits were complemented by the soft hue of the groom’s grey Saville Row, Selfridges suit, which he teamed with a white shirt and tie from Thomas Pink (thomaspink.com).
Ben’s half-sister May was E-J’s flowergirl, in an ivory dress, also from Eternity Bride & Groom (eternitybridalwear.co.uk).
E-J and Ben discovered florists The Black Rose at the RHS Flower Show (theblackrose.co.uk) and florist Mark created the cutesy table centrepieces and E-J’s bouquet. She carried peonies, roses, sweet-peas and stocks into the ceremony barn, with her dad at her side. “I was so nervous, but as soon as I locked eyes with Ben I instantly felt better,” she says. “I wasn’t nervous anymore, just really happy.” Flowers were picked as the table names – in keeping with the garden theme – and each place setting was laid with an antique teacup filled with vintage sweets (for the boys) or flowers (for the girls).
An eclectic and elegant display of different shaped photo frames directed guests on where to sit and each table was named after country garden flowers – such as gladioli and delphinium – in keeping with the theme.
The classic sound of a string quartet drifted from the barn’s balcony during the ceremony, then wafted into the courtyard as guests drank bucks fizz before moving into the second barn for the reception. “We didn’t have the traditional top table,” says E-J. “Instead Ben and I sat with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and we asked my parents, Ben’s mum and stepdad and Ben’s dad and stepmum to host their own tables. It worked really well and I think all the parents enjoyed sitting with their friends and talking about the day.”
E-J’s mum created bunting out of bedding found at car boot sales, while E-J made the confetti cones, stationery, table decor...
...and embroidered ring pillow herself.
A stack of cupcakes by Katja’s Cupcakes (katjaskupcakes.co.uk) – iced with petals, leaves and more English country-flowers, all in pretty pastel colours – doubled as a snack and talking-point alternative to the traditional wedding cake. During the reception guests were served leek and potato soup, followed by a rustic hog roast, and dessert of chocolate torte or rhubarb crumble by Jenkinsons Caterers (jenkinsonscaterers.co.uk). “I love chocolate and Ben doesn’t,” explains E-J, “so we thought we’d have both!”
Once plates were cleaned and speeches toasted, swing band Benny Lee and the Whistle Stop Five (bennylee.co.uk) lent their lively jazz rhythms to the evening; including, for the first dance, their take on Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight. “They were great, they got everyone dancing. We didn’t want the music to stop,” says E-J. “The evening do finished at midnight, but we had such a great time, I wish it could have gone on all night.” Photography by Lawson Photography (lawsonphotography.co.uk)