Welcome to Wedding Week! All this week I’m going to be sharing details from our winter wedding weekend which took place on the 21st and 22nd of November in Scotland. I’ll be showing you how we pulled our day together, relaying all the emotions from the occasion and hopefully providing you with some inspiration and tips.
First things first you might be wondering what all this ‘secret’ business is about. Surely a wedding is a wedding and invites are sent out months in advance and everyone knows everything about it?
Well not in our case. As I’ve mentioned we kept our invites fairly vague and they read a little something like this…
‘Join us for our wedding in the woods, 12pm, followed by a secret wedding party. Key entry required and transport provided.’
A little cryptic huh? We only gave people the postcode location for the woodland ceremony and kept all news of our barn party under wraps. The only people who knew where our party was to be held were us and those who helped us set up the day before. I have a feeling a few overly inquisitive folks probably just googled venues nearby but let’s just overlook that shall we?
The reason for this secrecy was that we really felt the experience of a wedding party would be made more fun with an element of mystery and surprise. We all go to so many weddings nowadays, and while they are all lovely and fun occasions, even those who have done one ourselves know that they can often become a bit same-y for guests and operate along a similar format. Which can, after ten in a row, become somewhat repetitive. Don’t get me wrong I’m not proclaiming that we did anything monumentally different with our own wedding. I’ve realised that as hard as you may try it is almost impossible to avoid that format – people arrive, watch a ceremony, want a drink, need to be fed and then are ready for a dance – it’s that way for a reason. But we just wanted to at least try to add a few surprises to the day that people might not be expecting.
Whenever we’d had any sort of fantastical chats about getting married before we were engaged this secret theme was always present. I can remember one conversation where GB suggested that if we got married we’d pick the most remote location we could find and then make the wedding a treasure hunt or orienteering challenge, where guests had to solve clues in order to get there. I had pointed out that this would probably mean we’d only have about 3 people at our wedding because no one would be able to solve the clues and find it, but GB had said this was the beauty of it – only the truly committed would be there!
Another time we’d talked about just organising a weekend away with friends and family, suggesting a get together with everyone where we’d camp in a field or stay in log cabins somewhere remote, and then over breakfast one morning we’d announce that we were getting married that day and they were all in the wedding! I can almost imagine the look of horror on our Mum’s faces haha!
Did you all watch the first episode of the new series of Girls this week? I laughed out loud so much at it – it made me realise a wedding is just another day, no matter how much you plan it can still rain and your make up artist could be like Bebe and make you all look horrific! That moment at the end when they all come bounding out the house in their yellow waterproofs and run down to the field just made me smile so much! That’s kind of what our scenario above would be like I guess but without the crock relationship of Marnie and Desi of course! Isn’t that show the best??
Anyway… Despite all of our jokes and silly ideas I guess the idea of a secret event was in there somewhere and we managed in the end to pull it out and include at least a part of it in our day.
Within the invites we sent little key tags to each guest. We made these using luggage tags by cutting them into the shape of leaves (something GB still hasn’t quite forgiven me for – over 100 luggage tags drawn onto using a template and then carefully cut out into the right shape!), and then attaching them onto wooden lazer cut keys (which we found on Etsy) using pink and orange ribbon (our wedding colours). We then stamped guests names on the front using ink and alphabet stamps and sent them along with the invite reminding everyone to bring it along on the day for entry!
We hired buses which arrived at our ceremony venue after the wedding, and transported everyone safely to the secret location.
GB and I weren’t actually at our venue when everyone arrived, something that was unavoidable as we had to get some photos done before the light disappeared, but something that always makes me a bit sad as we didn’t get to witness everyone’s reactions as they stepped off the bus and entered our secret wonderland. I hate to say it but as the bride and groom you don’t really get to enjoy your wedding in the same way your guests do. Of course you enjoy it, you love it, but your experience is different – you miss out on a lot of the moments and are too busy getting photos taken and talking to everyone to actually eat and drink and soak up the activities. We didn’t really think about the fact that our photographers would also be with us and therefore we wouldn’t have any photos of people arriving either but there you go, another one of those ‘in hindsight’ moments. I’ll try and relay it as best I can.
We sourced an old door which we nailed nails into and propped this up at the entrance of the venue so that when guests got off the bus they could hang their keys to the door and move on in. We also asked them to write a message on the back for us which would form our guestbook but this seemed to stump a lot of people (or they were just lazy!?) as we only got a few messages. I’ve also since had a lot of people tell me they didn’t hang their key because they thought it was too pretty and wanted to keep it for themselves which I guess is an excuse that at least makes me smile!
Once through the ‘door’ guests were treated to hot mulled cider, beer and soft drinks in the courtyard. We knew it would be a cold day so we wanted something that could warm everyone up after sitting outside for the ceremony. The barn also laid on veggie and meat cana-pies for everyone (their miniature pie version of a canapé) as well as salmon terriyaki skewers for the coeliac guests. Me and GB had none of these but I’ve heard they were very tasty!
For the drinks, we, along with our mums, had spent months collecting different types of glass tankards from charity shops and car boots (special shout out to the Marie Curie shop in Swindon where I must have bought up their entire collection of glasses with handles one afternoon!!), then stuck blackboard labels onto them, and laid them all out on a table along with chalk pens. As guests arrived for drinks they could pick one, personalise it for the day and then take it home with them (we maybe didn’t publicise the ‘take it home with you’ part enough as we were left with loads and had quite a good laugh looking through all the nicknames people had given themselves the day after!). As well as just being a fun idea it actually also helped everyone get to know each other better as no one had to worry about forgetting people’s names!
It was around this time when GB and I arrived after our photos and saw everyone interacting over their hot steamy ciders in the gallery space and courtyard.
Our main barn by this point was all set up for dinner and was looking lovely with all the fairy lights and candles glowing and flowers everywhere. The Barn at Dalduff really is a fantastic venue and we were so glad we’d chosen it. It has such a relaxed and laid back atmosphere and you have complete freedom to decorate how you want and create the day you want. We had so many compliments from guests on how fantastic James and his team were in the day and how friendly they made the celebrations. The only thing I would say to bear in mind is that when you do a DIY wedding such as this, the organisation and coordination on the day is mostly down to you, so make sure you have people in place to do that. We set up almost everything ourselves the day before, but obviously had to leave some things to the barn staff in the morning such as the table settings and all of the outdoor decorations. We did a run through and left them instructions and they did a good job but I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed when we got the photos back and I realised a lot of things either hadn’t been put out at all, had been put in the wrong place or simply weren’t as I wanted them to be. I genuinely didn’t notice on the day and there are lots of people who may think that means it doesn’t matter but I think any fellow creatives will agree that when you spend a long time making and creating things it’s a little disheartening. If you also do something similar and don’t have a florist or planner on the day, I really would recommend nominating one person you trust to visit the venue in the morning and oversee the final set up just to avoid these mistakes. Anyway one final huge apology to my Dad, who spent ages designing, printing and cutting out our menus only for them to be missed from the tables – sorry Dad, I’ll have a huge dinner party one day with the exact same food and we can use them then!
At around 4pm after the mulled cider had run dry, everyone moved into our main barn for dinner. We had always wanted an informal way of dining and didn’t want set tables, top tables and regimented seating so we opted to forgo a seating plan altogether and just let people sit where they liked (I can’t recommend this enough – one stress I simply didn’t have to deal with). Although guests were obviously too worried about being the ones who sat next to the bride and groom thinking they should leave those for family so we ended up sitting opposite the two guys from my brothers band who were playing later, who kept apologising profusely that they were the ones to end up next to us!!
We’d had the idea of two long trestle tables in our heads for a long time, liking the idea of a giant medieval winter feast where everyone just dug in and helped themselves. Looking back it probably was a bit of a squeeze fitting 100 chairs onto two tables, and I’m sure a few people had very little leg room and table legs in between them but no one complained (thankfully) and we just about made it work.
We’d heard such good things about the food and catering at our venue before booking them that there was no way we would have hired outside caterers, James and his team’s reputation really does proceed them. I can’t say I ate very much of our meal at all (bride and groom problems!) but what I did eat was very, very good and so many of our guests have mentioned to us how good the food was since. We tried to keep things as simple as possible and essentially let James (who owns and runs the barn venue, farm shop and catering business) and his team do what they do best – rustic and homecooked farm food.
We had a winter feast of spit roasted chicken and pork, roast and mashed potatoes and rustic winter veg, which was all served to the tables in large trays so people could dig in, help themselves and pass everything along. We also had a Mediterranean fish stew and roasted stuffed peppers for the vegetarians/ pescatarians. It was all hot, hearty winter food which I think went down really well on a cold November day and warmed everyone up ready for the party.
We didn’t bother with starters or desserts – one because we didn’t want a formal three course dinner, and two because this was a simple way to keep our costs down (good tip if you’re planning a budget wedding, speak to your venue about a buffet or sharing feast style of eating as it’s much more cost effective). But because we both have a sweet tooth and do love our puddings, we instead decided to have a dessert table (which actually turned into three dessert tables) and asked our guests on the invite if they’d like to bake something to add to it. Honestly when we had this idea we were expecting the only takers to be our Mum’s and Aunties and thought between us all we’d maybe be able to scrape together a few different options for everyone, but as it turned out nearly all of our guests were happy to get involved and we had SO.MUCH.CAKE. Three tables, a few drawers and some wooden crates worth of cake to be exact. We had everything from cheesecakes and tiramisu’s, to profiteroles and truffles, to carrot cakes and hummingbird cakes, to cheese boards, chutneys and even scones with jam and clotted cream. Again I think I had one chocolate covered marshmallow and that was it, but luckily we had so much left over that we could dig into it again the next day when we invited everyone over for ‘games and grub’.
We also had a friend make berry gins for us, which we sat on the dessert table along with the cheeseboard and these went down very well!
I remember a friend coming up to me at one point during the madness that was dessert table time and said ‘Thank you for organising a wedding that has kept me so well fed!’ and that made me pretty happy.
All that and I haven’t even mentioned our two incredible wedding cakes yet! Wowza. A cake wasn’t really something GB and I had placed too much importance on, but GB’s Dad’s wife, who is a bit of an amateur cake maker and does sugarcraft as a hobby, had asked us nervously if she could do us the honour of making our wedding cake, and of course we nearly bit her hand off to say YES PLEASE! Nothing could have prepared us for the masterpiece she created though – I mean look at it! There was nothing whatsoever amateur about this cake – in fact so many people presumed that the flowers adorning it were real they couldn’t believe us when we told them they were made from icing. She really is a huge talent and it was such a lovely, lovely thing for her to do for us. I almost felt bad when we had to cut it as it was so beautiful!
We also then asked a friend (another keen baker who specialises in gluten free cakes) to create a smaller gluten free version for the coeliacs. Judging by the amount of cake we had in the end, no one, even the coeliacs went hungry but she did such a fab job on it. Again she tied in with our theme and adorned the whole thing with autumn leaves and it looked fantastic. Aren’t we lucky to have had two such gorgeous wedding cakes?
In between all of this we had our speeches which are always such a fun part of the wedding don’t you think? I feel as if it’s the point everyone truly relaxes and starts getting a bit roudy. My Dad was up first and did an excellent job of being both funny (even when he wasn’t meaning to be) and heartfelt, then GB and I were up (yes I did a speech – I’m a big fan of brides doing speeches and there were too many people I wanted to thank in my own words) and probably banged on for a little too long, before the four Best Men took to the stage and each said a few hilarious words about how they knew GB, retelling the funny stories they each had of him. There was even a pretty comedic dance thrown in at one point which is the photo you see above!
Suddenly, after feeling earlier like we had loads of time and the whole night ahead of us, it was evening and the party was beginning. From here everything moved in warp speed and my recollections are a little fuzzy. We both regret that we lost each other a little during all of this, only coming back together every so often for a dance or photo and each time saying ‘I haven’t seen you all night! Let’s go grab a minute’ before getting pulled into another conversation or another dance and never quite doing it. We didn’t have a first dance, instead dedicating this part of the evening to GB’s Nan and Grandad who were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on the same weekend. They’re keen dancers and love Strictly so we asked the band to play them a waltz and they took to the dancefloor like true pros, while the rest of us struggled to get the steps right.
We had a traditional Scottish ceilidh to start our party, and even though our ceilidh band were over two hours late and then caused quite a few problems on the night, it was a brilliant laugh. I always love a ceilidh at a wedding and genuinely think it gets everyone up, laughing, having fun and in the party spirit. With a mix of Scottish and English guests, our ceilidh was, it’s fair to say, an absolute riot and descended into chaos (the best type of chaos) very quickly. Suddenly people were making up their own steps and throwing themselves into the wrong groups and everyone was dancing with everyone. I was running around in a fit of hysterics, trying and failing to shout out the moves to those who clearly had no idea what they were doing. It was so. much. fun.
For the rest of the evening, my Brother (who I mentioned also played the guitar for me coming down the aisle and is an amazing musician) along with two of his old school friends kindly came back together to be our wedding band for the evening. They did a typical acoustic style barn gig – playing everything from Oasis and Foo Fighters to Bob Dylan and James Bay (just for me) on just acoustic and electric guitars and a small hand drum. It was a little Mumford and Sons esque and they all swapped around from vocals to guitar to drum depending on what song it was. They did a fantastic job and we really couldn’t thank them enough. It was great having my Brother up there for our party and made everything much more personal, plus their style suited the venue and location perfectly and everyone had a great laugh.
We were considering setting up our own photo booth at the party, but GB being a camera man wanted to do something a little different and so we created our very own Slow-Motion video booth instead. I had very little involvement in the set up of this, knowing nothing about cameras, but I did have the rather ingenius (if I do say so myself) idea of adding confetti pops into the mix. We made our own tissue paper confetti in our wedding colours which we created in the shape of maple leaves and then stuffed it into plastic push pop containers (you can buy these on Ebay – they are normally used for cake pops but work very well for this too). The idea was that guests took a confetti pop and then jumped around mid pop, while the video caught the whole thing in slow motion. Seeing as our engagement video saw me throwing autumn leaves in the air in slow motion, this felt like a throw back to that and essentially let everyone recreate this on the wedding day. We’ve still to look back through all the footage and put together into a video but we’re hoping it’s going to be hilarious.
Around 10pm the band took a break and our evening food was served up. We decided not to do a wedding buffet and instead had the barn make us big trays of Mac and Cheese which we served in little pots. It’s my absolute favourite meal (even though I rarely eat it now because of a dairy intolerance) and as we call ourselves ‘jacpot’ (Jac & Stupot) we had the idea of calling it ‘Jacpot’s Macpot’ and made labels to go on the front of the tubs. This is one thing I did eat (finally had my appetite back by this time) and it was absolutely delicious! It was also around this time that we all headed out to the courtyard, where a fire pit had now been lit, for sparklers and giant marshmallows which was lots of fun. I think our ability to write things in the sky needs a little work but you get the idea.
The party continued in much the same fashion until around 11pm when the band finished and we played our own Spotify disco for the rest of the evening. Seeing as we didn’t have a first dance, we had decided instead to do a last dance at just after midnight. We preceded our last dance with the traditional Scottish song – ‘The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’ – which ended up seeing everyone hoist us up on their shoulders and throwing us around, before having ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac as our final song of the night (one of our favourites).
By the time the song had ended and half of our wedding party was on the dancefloor with us in a giant hug dance, our amazing day was at an end and it was time to say goodbye to all our guests. I realised I’d totally lost my voice by this point – too much talking, singing, laughing – and it also hit me how unbelievably knackered I was. The adrenaline really does keep you going!
To all future brides
Not everything goes to plan on your wedding day. I’ve never heard from a single bride, post wedding, for whom everything went without a hitch. Some things may matter to you more than others (the creative elements still plague me a little) but ultimately it won’t affect your enjoyment of the day (it might just annoy you further down the line). As I’ve said we forgot to put our menus out, the staff forgot to serve the bubbles we’d bought for the speeches so everyone was toasting empty handed, our ceilidh band were late throwing our timings off, we forgot the envelopes of cash we needed for suppliers on the night (some took this better than others – we ended up having to do a whip round to pay the ceilidh band because they kicked up such a fuss), we forgot to tell people about the slow-mo booth and as such I don’t think all our guests did it, and someone threw my ‘toast me’ sign in the fire (I didn’t mean literally!!!) but we still had a great time. I could have been the control freak bride running around making sure everything was perfect but I decided I didn’t want to be (and was way too blissful to even notice most of it at the time) and because of that I had a night that was full of fun and laughter. I can’t stress enough how important it is to let go and have some fun because it goes SO fast.
Tomorrow sees the final two posts of wedding week where I’ll round everything up! Tune in first thing (hopefully if I can get up early enough) to read all about our decor and styling, and then check back in the evening for a full list of every single supplier we used to create our day.
Key Players (full run down coming tomorrow)
Photography – Amy Shore Photography
Venue and catering – The Barn at Dalduff Farm