Today we have a guest blog from one of our brides. Louisa & Thomas married at Spirit Lake earlier this year. Louisa enjoyed planning their wedding so much that she has spent the last couple of months working on other events with the Fiesta Fields team in preparation for her new career in weddings and events. Over to you Lou…
For years I had thought I had my wedding all planned out, all I needed was a groom! But once the question had finally been asked (and accepted!) I suddenly realised that planning a wedding would be a huge undertaking and I had no idea what I wanted! The thought of looking for suppliers and locations became very daunting but I was lucky that I had a starting point with the church (where I grew up) and a dream of an outdoor marquee reception. So one evening, I sat down with my laptop and gin and tonic and googled “land for hire, Surrey”. One of the top results was Fiesta Fields and from taking just 5 minutes on their website I was hooked! One of their venues (Spirit Lake) just looked idyllic and was a short drive from the church – perfection! My (now) husband and I met Kim a week later at the site and it was everything we had hoped for! Beautiful surroundings with lakes and woodland, and far enough from the main road there was no traffic noise. Before we even left the site we had made the decision…we had found our wedding reception venue! Fiesta Fields offered us the Essentials Package which included the land hire, use of a generator, posh toilets, onsite security as well as the full event day coordination.
I always envisioned a white marquee reception in a glorious outdoor setting, I had found the setting and now onto the marquee. The main reason I wanted a marquee was to have a blank canvas where I could get creative inside. I was able to organise every detail as I wanted!
One Six Events quoted me for a traditional vintage pole tent with full ivory linings. I loved it. One of my favourite part of the wedding planning process was sorting out the decorations for inside the marquee, but more on that later…
So with the venue and marquee booked I turned my attention to my dress. I had many ideas in my head of what I wanted to wear. My first thought was lace! I wanted all the lace! It looked so romantic and elegant in the pictures and an A-Line style was my vision. My first dress search experience was at WED2B in Camberley. This is an off-the-rack place where you don’t need an appointment. I went on my own to scope some styles out and I confirmed my belief that a sheath dress was not my style. It was on the 2nd visit with some bridesmaids where I found a full head-to-toe lace sheath dress that was stunning and didn’t make me look frumpy! I ended up buying this gorgeous Mediterranean looking dress and taking it home with me. A few weeks later I realised it wasn’t for me and it didn’t give me the full wow factor! I was able to return it and my dress search continued. After more dress shopping experiences, including a lovely experience at May and Grace Bridal in Haslemere, I realised my dream dress was just that…a dream! There wasn’t a dress that would live up to my expectations, so it was then I decided to get one made!
That was when I found Caroline Arthur. I went to visit her at her home studio in Surrey and together we put my dream dress onto paper. I wanted classic, elegant and sophisticated with a slight modern twist. Simple front with bateau neckline with a full lace deep back with underarm slits. 8 months later I was able to try her on for the first time and I can’t explain the feeling! Every bride will know when she sees herself in her wedding dress for the first time it is an incredible feeling. I was ecstatic!
I already had my wedding shoes; plain white satin kitten heels from Pink by Paradox London (via Debenhams) which I dyed navy blue to match the groom & ushers and added lace applique to match my dress. I then just needed my veil and headpiece. The veil was ordered via Lace & Favour and was a Joyce Jackson chapel length veil with lace appliques on the end. I ordered a hair comb with dried flowers from Sophie & Luna (found via Not On The High Street) and my look was complete!
Luckily for me, I had a family friend who has an aunt who is a florist (Farrington Florist). I’ve seen her work before at other weddings and events and I knew she had an incredible talent. I was very happy that I was able to just give her some colour ideas and a theme and she would do the rest. We met up at the church a few months before the wedding to run through what my ideal vision would be. She ran through the various flowers she had in mind (as well as a handy book to show me images) and gave me her input if I suggested something that might not have worked. We came up with a “whimsical” theme, and she suggested lots of greenery and baby’s breath to hang from chandeliers and bannisters. For the reception it was a lot of the same. Green and white with hints of pink throughout. The end result was better than I could have ever hoped for! You can certainly tell this woman has a gift as all the colours and textures and details all just blended perfectly together. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY
The search for a photographer and videographer for your wedding is quite a big task! You are searching for someone who will capture moments from your wedding which you will look back on for the rest of your life! I don’t envy the people who do this as a job, as that’s a lot of pressure to live up to! By the time I had started looking for photo/video I was already signed up with Fiesta Fields. They have a page on their website with suppliers who they have worked with before, so I had a look on there first. That is where I came across Abigail White Photography.
I loved her approach and she just came across really friendly. She was local to us so we went over to her house one evening and she went through some of her previous work, and we just clicked! She was very relaxed and was more focused on getting natural pictures rather than the serious “posed” pictures that I’ve seen on other websites, which is what we wanted. A few hours later at home, we decided we didn’t want to meet with anyone else, and she was booked! We also signed up for an engagement shoot at the reception venue (suggested by her) so she could get to know us and the venue, as well as us getting used to being in front of a camera.
On the day itself, she was very calm and relaxed which made the rest of us feel calm and just flitted in and out of guests without interrupting them (which I and the guests were very grateful for). The end result speaks for itself! Perfect photography which captured the magic of the day.
For the videographer, I spent a lot of time looking at various people as I had a set idea in mind of the style I was after. I knew I wanted a highlights video which captured the main parts of the day. I didn’t want the church service filmed, as I wanted to keep that part private between us and the people we had invited. The rest was to show those who couldn’t be there a glimpse of the day, and to give those who were there something to look back on for years to come. Fleeting moments in time caught on film shows everyone smiling from ear to ear from the start all the way to the finish. In the end I chose Leslie Chouchard Videography. The videographer (Dan) was great and again worked around everyone and kept enough distance that guests were not disturbed, again we were all grateful. Both Thomas and I are extremely happy with both photography and videography, and so far I’ve had nothing but good feedback which is just what I wanted.
I was lucky that a co-worker had a friend who was in the cake business! Over the past few years I’ve even sampled her work with leftover cake brought in from birthdays. Rima Hassan (Yummy Bakes) is a lovely woman and she was able to help give me ideas on what I could have. I knew I wanted a naked cake to fit in the relaxed and rustic theme, and there was a cake she had done previously that looked perfect!
She sent me a list of flavour choices for both the sponge and fillings, and we selected 4 (1 flavour for each tier). A few months before the wedding she brought a whole lot of samples for us to taste, along with the tins to show us the size of each tier. After filling up on cake and toppings, we came up with red velvet, lemon drizzle, Oreo cookie and then a gluten and dairy free vanilla sponge with passion fruit curd for the top tier (so I could actually eat the cake on the day!). The end result was just perfect!
As we arrived to the reception venue I quickly checked in on the marquee and she was still there putting the final masterpiece together (with the help of the florist). I was so glad I got to see her again and say a massive thank you. The cake was delicious, and again I’ve had nothing but compliments. I took my tier home and froze it so I can keep eating it when I wish.
OUR WEDDNG DAY MORNING
To make the wedding perfect, I wanted to make sure the day got off to a good start. I had always fantasied getting ready in bespoke silk robes with my bridal party, so I got some robes from The Little Lovebird which had our names on the front and our roles on the back. I got mine in an ivory colour and the bridesmaids in an ice blue. The result was just as I had imagined. I had also got all my bridesmaids a little goody bag with some personalised hangers from The Laser Engraving Company along with some cosmetics from L’Occitane and some bespoke earrings designed and made by another family friend of mine called Harriet Broadfoot.
I got ready at a family friends house, about 20 minutes from the church. This family has been my second family all my life, so it was incredibly special to get ready there. Situated in the middle of a deer park, it also gave the photographer/videographer the perfect setting for detailed shots of natural woodland. Hair and makeup arrived bright and early. Luckily, I had a friend from school who is a professional hair and makeup artist (Olivia Fowler Make-Up) so it was lovely to have someone I knew getting us dolled up. It was a lovely and relaxed morning of pampering and champagne surrounded by my best girls and family.
Olivia had the help of Rose Redrup who luckily for me was a master in loose curls and plaits, and she gave me a lovely boho inspired hairstyle. I loved the final look, and along with a very natural makeup I just had to put my dress on! I followed the traditional Something Old (my mother’s sapphire earrings), New (dress), Borrowed (garter) and Blue (shoes) and with my dress on and veil in place, I was ready to go. My dad came in first, and Abigail got some lovely shots of his “first look”. It was a very moving moment as my mum died when I was young, so it was just us two, and Abigail captured the moment perfectly.
The boys were staying at the local pub just minutes from the church, so their morning was slightly more relaxed (they just had to get dressed before 2pm!). Both Abigail and Dan managed to get over to their location and got some shots of the boys getting ready, as well as some guests who had arrived early and getting in a quick pint before the proceedings.
I’m a massive Harry Potter fan and one of Thomas’ ushers thought it would be a lovely touch to wear socks of the houses and Thomas to wear the Hogwarts ones (which I was so touched by!!)
The car was supplied by a friend of a friend and was a beautiful burgundy Austin 18; which was to me the ideal wedding transport. I actually ended up getting to the church 20 minutes early!! We had to sit in the car a few minutes away from the church to avoid being seen by the arriving guests. I truly believe that that was the only moment of the whole day where I actually felt nervous. Sitting still was a killer! I suddenly thought I was too young to get married (I was 28). It gave me and my dad a nice chance to talk, but there wasn’t much to say. We’d said it all before, so it was nice just to sit and reflect.
We decided on a traditional church ceremony in a tiny little village in the middle of the Surrey hills. It wasn’t too focused on the religious aspects as neither of us are very religious and most of our guests weren’t either. We chose some fun hymns to sing as well as some modern readings. The service was quick and over in 45 minutes which I personally think was the perfect length for us. We decided on a 3pm service so the length between service and dinner wasn’t too long and also gave the guests time to have lunch at a decent time before hand.
The venue had this idyllic walled garden area which was perfect for a drinks reception and a place for all the guests to mingle and play some croquet whilst photographs were being taken. It was hidden away from the rest of the site so when the guests were called to dinner, they emerged through a gap in a hedge and were greeted by the lakes, marquee and tons of greenery! It was everything we had hoped for and more!
I had 5 bridesmaids with all different looks and styles, so I knew from the offset that I was going to have them in different style dresses. A friend of mine mentioned a bridal shop in Ashtead which supplied Dessy dresses which are made and shipped from America. They had 100’s of dresses in various colours, so I knew this was going to be the right place for me! I managed to get each of the girls to try on various styles and narrowed it down to two colours (blush & dusty rose) which blended in with the flowers and colour scheme I had in mind perfectly. Each girl picked a dress and colour and we were in business! The dresses took 10 weeks to be made and shipped, but we were all happy with the results (after a few alterations).
There’s only one place really for the boys to get their suits; Moss Bros. We always knew we were going to hire the suits as we wanted all the ushers to be in tails. We tried on black, grey and navy blue and decided the blue was the best colour to suit Thomas. Various waistcoats, ties and pocket squares were then tried to find the perfect match, and we ended up with navy blue suits, navy blue waistcoats for the ushers and an ivory waistcoat for Thomas along with baby pink tie and pocket square to match bridesmaids. Nice and simple! All the boys got measured in their local Moss Bros. store which were then sent to the Guildford branch for us to pick up a few days before the wedding.
STYLING OUR MARQUEE
I knew I wanted small centrepieces, and I came across a display in M&S where there was a gin bottle inside a big glass dome with flowers and micro lights inside. It was like a light-bulb moment for me. This was perfect! So, Thomas and I sat down and decided our table names would be our favourite Gin, Whisky & Rums. We then had to source the bottles and make sure they were empty (an added bonus was drinking lots of variations of gin and whisky throughout the process).
I purchased the glass domes and lights from Lights4Fun, so all that was left was the flowers. I searched high and low for mini orchids that would fit but couldn’t find any that were not synthetic, so in the end that’s what I went for. It was 3 days before the wedding that I went to the Royal Chelsea Flower Show with a friend and we came across a stand selling miniature orchids and it was like fate! I walked away with 16 orchids for the table and they were simply stunning as part of the table displays. My centrepieces were coming together, and when matched with a floral wreath supplied by the florist and some wooden discs to raise them off the table slightly the centrepieces were complete!
I gave myself a little more to do because planning a wedding almost completely myself wasn’t a big enough task, and so I made 200m of bunting as well to put around the walls of the marquee. I also decided to design and create individual menus for the guests. Working with a friend who designed the rest of the on-the-day stationery completed the set. A few days before the wedding I went into town and got a few more decoration ideas (signs, guestbook, advice cards etc) and I was done!
I knew I always wanted quite a traditional evening, so after the drinks reception we sat down for speeches and then a 3-course meal (catered by Moodies). Our menu consisted of;
Kilner Jars of Smoked Salmon served with a beetroot remoulade and sweet olive toasts
Roast confit of bacon served with vine tomatoes in a porcini mushroom dressing
Warm root vegetable and chilli tart tatin
Duo of honey-roast duck braised and slow cooked confit duck let served with a port glaze and sweet potato & thyme puree
Roasted fillet of salmon served with a rocket and basil grana padano pesto, lemon oil & crushed potatoes
Mediterranean risotto with chopped tomatoes and spinach with parmesan, basil & nutmeg
Bitter chocolate and orange tart served with candied kumquats and a pistachio wafer
Sticky toffee pudding served with hot caramel sauce and poached fruit
Lemon posset served with raspberries, dark chocolate curls and shortbread thins.
After the meal, Thomas and I snuck outside with Abigail for some alone time and couple shots and a few of me alone. We love these images so much.
For evening entertainment we had hired a photo booth (King of the Booth) which was set up in the marquee and was a great addition to the evening once the wine and beer had been flowing. We also had a live band (Good Company) who played for 2 hours. They were brilliant, and were found via Freak Music.
For our first dance we chose ‘You make it real’ by James Morrison. Thomas and I bonded over James’ music and this is such a beautiful song that has so much meaning for both of us.
As the light faded, we were treated to such a gorgeous sunset and Abigail got us back out for these romantic photos. The day had gone off without a hitch and we knew we had made wonderful memories that would last forever.
Working with Fiesta Fields to make our wedding day the best it could be was such a joy! As the day drew closer, multiple site visits and emails back and forth, and then a lunchtime meeting to run through the final timings of the day. I was working with Kim. She was incredibly knowledgeable about weddings and receptions and had some incredible guidance for both myself and Thomas.
We met at the site the day before once the marquee had gone up and went through the design elements and all the decorations we had provided. Me and a few friends put as much as we can up, but it was clear that a lot of the work was needed to be done on the Saturday morning. My dad ended up going to the site the next morning just to be an extra pair of hands. I was very comfortable leaving Kim to deal with things and she was constantly putting my mind at ease. The tables and decorations were perfect and just as I had requested. Kim was there from 9am to 9pm making sure everything ran smoothly. If there were any issues, I was not aware of them. She made sure we were running to time, and if I had any concerns or questions, she was there at my side to answer them.
My experience with Fiesta Fields was so great that I asked if I could work with them over the summer to get some work experience in the wedding event industry. They were happy to have me on board, and I’ve now worked on a few weddings and parties at a few of their locations and it has been amazing. I’ve loved the work, and they are such a lovely bunch of people I would recommend them to everyone if I could! They not only have some stunning locations throughout Surrey and Sussex, but they also have an abundance of knowledge about weddings and are willing to go above and beyond to make sure you have the best day possible.
MY ADVICE TO OTHER BRIDES TO BE
I think my main advice to all future brides is to just ignore what the current trends or colours are! At the end of the day, it’s your wedding so you can have whatever you want. You won’t have someone writing a review of the day saying “her theme choice was so last year” or “rose gold isn’t on trend anymore”. You know what you want so just roll with it!
If you have a long engagement (mine was 15 months) then give yourself more to do throughout the year with handmade items like bunting. It gave me time to just sit and work on something for my wedding which a) kept the excitement going and b) gave me something to focus on if things got a little hectic or stressful.
Another piece of advice is Pinterest and Instagram are your friends, but just bear in mind that a lot of the photos will have been taken from weddings with a major budget or even a styled photoshoot. If you see something you like the idea of, have a look online to see if there are cheaper alternatives or something similar that won’t break the bank.
Finally, just remember that on the big day to smile and enjoy yourself! Everyone there are there to share the joy in your happy occasion, but don’t let yourself get swamped by relatives or friends for too long. Take some time just the two of you (a good excuse is to ask the photographer for some couple shots) and remember that if you don’t get a chance to speak to every person there then its ok! Eat, drink lots of water and not too much alcohol (you don’t want to wake up the morning after with a severe hangover or black outs from the day before) and remember that you’ll be looking back on this day for the rest of your lives! Good luck to you all, and I’m sure you’ll have a truly magical day like I did.
All the images in this blog are supplied courtesy of Abigail White Photo + Film.
Venue and on the day coordination / Fiesta Fields
Marquee / One Six Events
Videographer / Leslie Chouchard
Catering / Moodies
Dress / Caroline Arthur
Bride’s shoes / Pink by Paradox London
Veil / Joyce Jackson from Lace & Favour
Hairpiece / Sophie and Luna
Flowers / Farrington Florist
Cake / Yummy Bakes
Silk Robes / The Little Lovebird
Hangers / The Laser Engraving Company
Hair and Make up / Olivia Fowler and Rose Redrup
Bridesmaid dresses / Dessy c/o Brides Visited and Pearls and Lace
Suits / Moss Bros
Photobooth / King of the Booth
Band / Good Company