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Old-time lovers: festival-fabulous fun in the Surrey countryside

Creative couple Kumari and Matthew threw a vintage party in the Dorset countryside that was a little bit afternoon tea, a little bit festival

Kumari & Matthew: The Love Story

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Guardian Soulmates lived up to its promise for Kumari and Matthew, who fell for each other almost instantly after meeting on the site in 2008. “I was astounded by how similar we were, and I loved Matthew’s shimmering wit and intellect, creativeness and old-fashioned manners,” says Kumari. They took their commitment to the next level two years later, when Matthew dropped to one knee for a riverside proposal in Berkshire.

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Photography by Anushe Low, anushe.com

Kumari & Matthew: Off to the Country

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To celebrate their passion for music, books and ‘ramshackle, quirky’ style Kumari and Matthew planned a tea-party-meets-festival wedding at Symondsbury Manor (symondsbury.com) in Dorset, a charming Tudor house where Thomas Hardy once took tea. “Because you hire the whole house for the weekend, we and 23 of our closest family and friends stayed at the manor from Friday to Sunday, which was very convenient as we all ravelled down from London,” Kumari says. “It’s set in the tiny village of Symondsbury amidst rolling fields and thatched cottages. We held our blessing in the gardens.”

Kumari & Matthew: Aisle Style

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Flowers and tea lights filled jam jars, and sweet mini pinwheels lined the aisle as Kumari made her entrance on the arm of both her mum and dad.

Kumari & Matthew: The Look of Love

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Kumari had to compete for her dreamy lace dress at The Vintage Wedding Fair in Shepherd’s Bush (vintageweddingfair.co.uk) — “I saw somebody else trying it on and was devastated because it was so beautiful” — but won out in the end. “I’m quite small, 5’3″ and a size 8, so the length of the dress was perfect as it didn’t engulf me,” she says. “I wanted a short, lace, vintage dress and the one I found at the fair was actually the dress I had in my head — that never usually works out but this time it did!” She teamed the dress with a diamond necklace from her parents and a gorgeous, vintage-inspired floral headpiece by Karin Andreasson (karinandreassonjewellery.com). The birdcage veil was sourced at Lily Bella (lilybella.co.uk), and her bouquet of peonies, roses, lavender and rosemary was created by Denise at Visions Floral Design (visionsfloraldesign.co.uk). 

Kumari & Matthew: If the shoe fits …

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Red Kurt Geiger (kurtgeiger.com) heels embellished with pearl Accessorize (accessorize.com) brooches kept the bride’s gorgeous vintage look modern. 

Kumari & Matthew: pretty little maids

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Soft floral circlets were the perfect accessories for Kumari’s flowergirls, who wore dresses from Tulip & Nettle (tulipandnettle.com). 

Kumari & Matthew: Ceremony Magic

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“Matthew’s dad’s partner, Pat, is a vicar, so we asked her to do our blessing ceremony,” explains Kumari. “I walked down the aisle to a song called Sigh, written by Matthew and performed by his band Gilbert. The blessing was under a floral arch in the gardens of the manor. We created our own vows by amalgamating poetry and lines from a traditional Baha’i ceremony, and lit a Sri Lankan Buddhist lamp. Matthew’s friend Brian played an Irish folk song on his violin, our 8-year-old niece Maisie composed and read a poem, our 17-year-old niece Molly read a blessing from the Great Plains Indians, and our sister-in-law Jacqui read an extract from Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse.”

Kumari & Matthew: Reception Perfection

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After the ceremony, guests joined the couple for afternoon tea in a garden marquee, followed by an evening barbecue. “As we were staying in the house, we split the reception between the marquee, the grounds and the panelled ballroom of the manor,” says Kumari.

Kumari & Matthew: Just our style

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“We’re both a little bit into Victoriana and our home is full of vintage clutter, from teapots and old books to a taxidermied duck,” Kumari explains. A mash-up of antiques and florals made for gorgeous decorations, and even the duck made the trip from London and was given pride of place at the marquee entrance. A large tapestry marking the couple’s names and wedding date was created by friend Claire Tanner.

Kumari & Matthew: ducks in a row

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“When we first met, we spent hours on Regent’s Canal drinking tea from china cups and watching a little family of coots,” Kumari says. It was only fitting, then, that tables should be named after types of ducks, illustrated by pictures she found in a Ladybird book. “We placed the table plan in a gilded frame and placed it on an antique writing table next to the taxidermied duck.”

Kumari & Matthew: In Full Bloom

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Decor for the day included beautiful floral crockery, mismatched floral tablecloths and pretty bunting. 

Kumari & Matthew: Pretty in Pink (and blue and yellow!)

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“Linda from Vintage Dorset provided the afternoon tea as well as the vintage crockery, bunting and flowers for the tables,” Kumari says. “She really went beyond the call of duty and helped with some of the minutiae, such as organising bar staff and reminding me to get napkins!” (vintagedorset.co.uk

Kumari & Matthew: Let them eat cake!

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As part of the afternoon tea service, guests feasted on delectable cupcakes and slices of Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle and coffee cake, served on pastel cake stands.

Kumari & Matthew: Flower Power, part 1

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Teapots filled with country garden flowers served as table centres, while wildflower seed packets doubled up as favours and place names. 

Kumari & Matthew: Flower Power, part 2

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“We wanted the flowers to reflect the country fair, garden tea party mood of the day, so the arrangements were whimsical and informal in keeping with the entire vibe,” Kumari says.

Kumari & Matthew: Strawberry parfait

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No afternoon tea in the country would be complete without rustic-look jars of homemade strawberry jam!

Kumari & Matthew: Tiers of Joy

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Denise at Visions Floral Design also created the playful, pastel-hued cake topped with fresh peonies. “It was a fruitcake and entirely delicious as well as gorgeous,” remembers Kumari. “I’ve never seen such a beautiful cake!”

Kumari & Matthew: The Music Man

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Matthew’s band, Gilbert (myspace.com/gilbertlinley), took centre stage throughout the day. “They wore beautiful vintage costumes and had an array of instruments, from violins to melodicas, that were perfect for adding a touch of uber-cool vintage theatricality to our wedding,” Kumari says. Matthew chose a vintage Twenties military coat, which he found at Portobello Market.

Kumari & Matthew: This Magic Moment

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“I loved that our wedding showed who we are,” Kumari explains. “We had extracts from our favourite books; Matthew’s band; an afternoon tea — all with our friends and family pottering around the lawns of a magical manor in the fading sunlight one glorious June day.”

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Photography by Anushe Low, anushe.com