The day of Ben and Juliette’s outdoor wedding dawned gloriously hot last July at Phoenice Fields, set within the beautiful Surrey Hills. Ben and Juliette had fallen in love with this stunning area and venue sometime before as it was a space known to them through Ben’s work with the Surrey Wildlife Trust. When they became engaged in July 2015 they knew it would be the perfect spot for them to celebrate with their family and closest friends and so the date was set.
For our first wedding at Phoenice Fields of 2017, set up started on the Thursday morning before the wedding when Funky Monkey Tents arrived to build the most wonderful Yurt, The Grand Pavilion. The ornate wooden structure covered with pristine white canvas let the summer sun warm and light up the inside of the Yurt, whilst comfortably providing plenty of room for Ben and Juliette’s 120 day guests. Rustic tables and bench seating finished off the look, with a lovely round table set centre stage in the middle of the tent on a wooden base, which would later become the dance floor.
The day before the wedding saw all the months of hard work by this lovely couple come together as the bride and groom to be, along with an army of friends and family to help, arrived at the site to add those all important finishing touches and dressing items to make their wedding truly personal and unique. Fairy lights and handmade bunting were strung around the inside and hung from the wooden Yurt beams, while tables were laid with personalised favours – each guest received a tree sapling to take home and grow - gorgeous tree trunk table numbers and beautiful flower arrangements by the groom’s father and The Sussex Flower Farm.
The morning of the wedding dawned bright and sunny, and I was busy with final preparations; setting up the hay bales and flowers for the ceremony area and putting the finishing touches to the tables and the Yurt dressing.
Sausage and Pear were busy on site from early in the morning preparing canapes for the guests and a fantastic wedding feast of pie and mash, followed by apple pie and cheese cake. Mike and his team from The Ale Van were set up to serve a selection of fine ales and other drinks for guests to quench their thirst in the July heat; Juliette’s brother-in-law Charlie made a quick visit to the site before the ceremony to make the final checks to the epic sound system he had provided and installed; and Katie, a close friend of Juliette, arrived to set up the beautiful naked wedding cake she had made which she dressed with fruit and edible flowers for guests to enjoy.
Just after midday, Ben and Juliette legally became husband and wife in front of family and close friends at Leatherhead Registry Office, as their other day guests arrived at the field to take their seats and await the bridal party’s arrival. Some made a quick detour to their bell tents, provided by Funky Monkey Tents for their overnight stay, and then we were ready to begin.
The newlyweds made their way to Phoenice Fields to complete their union with an emotional and heartfelt humanist ceremony, overseen by celebrant Vivienne Donnithorne. Ben and his groomsmen arrived first, looking extremely smart in their navy suits from Vintage Suit Hire and took their places. Juliette arrived at 2.30pm looking stunning in her Sophia Tolli ‘Aricia in Blush’ dress from Brides Visited in Ashtead, accompanied by her six bridesmaids and her extremely proud Father. A quick chat with Vivienne inside the Yurt, and then the bride and her father and bridesmaids made their way across the field to the ceremony area under blue skies with wisps of fluffy clouds. Personalised vows were spoken which they had written themselves, under a beautiful wooden ceremony archway made by one of the couple’s friends, dressed with an abundance of stunning flowers, again by the groom’s father.
Kelly from Memory Cake Photography was on hand to capture the happy couple and their families during and after the ceremony and popped off for some couple shots with Ben and Juliette while guests were treated to canapes and fizz in the sunshine.
Mid-afternoon came around, and the guests were invited inside the Yurt by Mark, the Master of Ceremonies and close friend of the couple. All the hard work that had gone into dressing the tent and the tables was worth it as the guests gasped in delight at the lovely interior before them. Ben and Juliette made their entrance to deafening cheers and applause, and then it was time to take jackets off as the sun was making the inside of the Yurt rather toasty, and the wedding breakfast began.
With tummies full and wine in full flow, it was time for speeches. Cue lots of laughter and a few tears as the friends and family of Ben and Juliette celebrated and toasted this wonderful couple and their future life together.
Meanwhile, the evening entertainment had arrived and decided to set up outside and make the most of the glorious July evening. Once the speeches were over, evening guests started to arrive in time to see the cake be cut and then Juliette tossed her bouquet which was caught by bridesmaid Nicki Petitt.
Charlie had set up the music system and was ready for the first dance and the couple swayed to ‘Love’ by Lennon and Maisy in the middle of the stunning Yurt on the oak dancefloor. And then, it was time for the ceilidh to begin! Licence To Ceilidh were quick to get guests up and joining in and so followed a few hours of fantastically fun traditional ceilidh dancing. The couple were able to truly let their hair down, with Juliette tying her dress up so she could really join in with all the moves. A great photo opportunity!
After the ceilidh, the evening disco kicked in with a bespoke playlist made by the couple and evening food of hotdogs were served around 8pm. The firepits were lit, and as the sun set the guests settled into a blissful evening in a unique setting with friends and laughter to make some lasting memories. At 11pm, the amplified music switched to chill out tunes as the party started to wind down before guests who weren’t staying overnight made their way home, across the field to their waiting taxi’s.
Ben and Juliette’s wedding was a beautifully personal and magical day and a resounding success. It really set the tone for a beautiful wedding season at this special Surrey venue. We wish Ben and Juliette every happiness for a long future together – it was an absolute pleasure to work with you and be a part of your day.
We asked Ben and Juliette to share any advice for other couples planning an outdoor wedding and their highlights of their day.
“We went with the basic package and organised everything separately ourselves to save money but it really was an added stress in the week leading up to the wedding as inevitably things go wrong. If we were to do anything differently it would have been to hand over that responsibility to someone else, that or taken the whole week off work.
We were also very lucky that it was a sunny day but should have had more shelter in case it rained. Think we were trying to keep costs down but still very risky.
The highlight of the day was the ceremony. The sun shone and the skylarks were singing when we were reading our vows. It was such a perfect moment. Having the ceilidh outside was also amazing. Our day was all we hoped it would be and more.”
By Kim Thackery, Wedding and Event Coordinator with Fiesta Fields
Photography by Memory Cake
Yurts from Funky Monkey Tents
Caterer - Sausage and Pear
Bar - The Ale Van
Flowers by Sussex Flower Farm
Celebrant - Vivienne Dornithorne
Bride - Brides Visited
Suit hire - Vintage Suit HIre
Ceilidh - Licence to Ceilidh
Venue, posh toilets, generator, security and on the day coordination by Fiesta Fields