Our third wedding this year was one we were very excited about. It was the first time we would see Hidden Valley in all its splendour.
"Tom and I always knew we wanted a relaxed outdoor wedding, and loved the idea of having a tipi and camping. We didn't want to be tied to the restrictions of a venue. So when we found Fiesta Fields and St Nicholas Church in Peper Harow, and realised they were around the corner from where my mum lives, we knew we had found the perfect location for our wedding"
I arrived on the Thursday excited to see the three Giant Hats from Buffalo Tipis already standing proud, front sides lifted to take in the beautiful views. With 95 guests Tom and Carly had given the front two tipis to seating and the back tipi for the dance floor and DJ. This still left plenty of room for their Bedouin style chill out area, an open fire and bar.
Although we work closely with couples in the run up to their wedding - so we fully understand how the day should run - we aren’t involved in all the set up, (unless you want us to be). So I arrived on the Saturday morning - not a cloud in the sky - like a child in a toy shop as I took in all the finishing touches that had happened over the last 24 hours.
For this globetrotting couple I think there could only have been one theme that sprung to mind. Travel. They met in Vancouver 9 years ago and having visited around 23 countries together, this was not only a celebration of their marriage but of all the experiences they had shared so far and of those to come in the future.
There were so many personal touches, here are a few of my favourites; a large pallet sign welcoming guests to Tom and Carly’s next adventure; a table plan based on all the countries they have visited together, along with table names made from photos they had taken in each destination; bunting made from maps; coffee sacks from a car boot sale as hay bale covers; map decoupage T & C letters; the beautiful hand made gold sprayed stars on twigs dotted in clusters around the field; four awesome ‘globe’ helium balloons and an inviting walkway and doormat saying ‘hello you lovely lot’ and finally the guest book filled with inspiring travel quotes.
Everything looked beautiful and Carly’s Mum had done a fantastic job on the flowers. Table decorations were a rustic mix of potted herbs - mint, rosemary, sage and lemon balm in tins. Large watering cans were filled with oxeye daisies, grasses and white hydrangeas were dotted along the welcome matting.
Bride and bridesmaids carried bouquets of green and cream zinnias, peach roses, dahlias, white cosmos and scabious, ammi majus, jasmine foliage, mint, alchemical mollis, frosted explosion grass and myrtle, the herb of love.
A beautiful line of bell tents ran along one tree lined side of the field, leading to the bridal mini tipi on the end. Sorry T&C but I had a sneaky peak inside, wow! You lucky things, and good work to Lulu Bells for the whole set up which looked great.
The morning flew by as I had a few jobs to do (and lots of things to photograph!) and within a blink of an eye it was ‘showtime’. I went up to meet Tom and Carly’s guests to point them in the right direction of the church. T&C were keen for their guests to park near Hidden Valley and walk to the church and back, all the while probably wondering where they were off to next, which was exactly what Tom and Carly wanted them to wonder.
After the ceremony, there were three surprises in store for their guests. First, Tom picked Carly up in a CanAm and drove her cross country to Hidden Valley, definitely not your standard bridal transport; second just inside the field gate had now appeared a wheelbarrow of ice lollies that T&C had left for me to set up, a lovely, thoughtful and very welcome touch, considering it was now about 30 degrees; and third was of course the amazing wedding reception that awaited them, that only became visible and guests walked down the hill into the valley.
As Carly climbed out of the buggy I got my first glance of Carly’s beautiful dress. Very on trend with vintage style ivory lace and capped sleeves.
“When I found my dress (Kenneth Winston) I knew it was the one for me! I really wanted lace, and little capped sleeves (not strapless), and I also wanted a dress with some interesting pretty detail on the back, so this one was perfect. I only went to a few bridal shops (most lovely, and one absolutely awful which mum and I still laugh about!), and really enjoyed the experience, and all the tea and cake we devoured on our journey to the perfect dress”
Down in the valley, guests soaked in the setting, while enjoying canapés, a glass or two of bubbles and lots of iced water. Tom sent up his drone for a group shot to top all group shots and the final preparations were made in the tipis. Guests were invited in to sharing platters of cold meats, cheeses, breads, homemade hummus, artichokes, olives and sun dried tomatoes provided by aptly name caterers, Pan Global Catering.
Meanwhile, Kevin of Global was busy cooking up the mains in two big pans - Chicken and Chorizo Paella and Chicken Provençal. Carly’s dad kicked off the speeches followed by Carly’s Mum, then guests were invited to collect their main. Next up it was Tom’s sweet and loving speech, Carly read an endearing and funny poem she had written, followed by Paul’s funny best man speech.
Dessert was a choice from a huge selection at the dessert table (which Tom and Carly had given over to friends and family – a great way to involve people, save a bit of money and offer a wide range of puds to please everyone). The wedding cake they cut later was based on the place where it all began.
Next up, the first dance, which was Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine. A nice quirky mix of happy dancing and a little moshing!
“Neither of us include dancing in our list of talents. So we wanted to make it fun and definitely not choreographed. We only chose our song three days before the wedding and opted for the Florence track because we’ve seen her at two festivals and just find it a really happy cheerful song”.
The guitarist Guy James then took over and played to guests outside, now enjoying the cooler evening temperatures. After Guy’s first set Carly and Tom went up the hill for some magic hour shots with their photographer Sarah Folega.
They also made full use of the WW2 bunker for family photos and the bouquet throw, which Carly did five times!
“I threw the bouquet five times for a few reasons, firstly the wrong person kept catching it! (one being my cousins son!), so I knew I needed to please a few of the other ladies, and secondly it was great fun chucking it and listening to a crowd of screaming friends below me! Plus, when else can you continuously throw a bouquet?!”
I love this photo of Carly with her bridesmaids on the bunker. Such an amazing splash of colour.
“I totally loved the bridesmaid dresses! The colour was so vibrant and really stood out in a very green field. I love the colour coral, so thought as it was a summer wedding it was the perfect choice and a bit different from the norm. I didn't want anything too fancy, and it was really important to me that it was a dress that could be worn again and not just on one day as a bridesmaid dress. It was lucky that they were knee length too considering how hot it turned out to be!”
The day had raced by and all too soon I was lighting the bamboo torches and paper lanterns to light the way up the hill. A quick hand to help Tom’s Mum set up the evening cheese table, open up Tom and Carly’s VW photo booth Vinnie for business and hand out sparklers to everyone for a great pic opportunity and I was on my way. Leaving the party in full swing, I headed up the hill thinking there was no better couple to give Hidden Valley it’s first wedding than the adventurous Tom and Carly and I couldn’t have been happier for them that their day had been perfection on every level. Congratulations to the two of you and I can’t wait to see where your next journey takes you.
I will leave you with a little summary of Tom and Carly’s highlights of their day…
“Obviously we loved the whole day and the ceremony was really special to us. We absolutely loved seeing guests faces when Tom turned up outside the church to pick me up in the surprise CanAm, and also watching people’s faces as they arrived into Hidden Valley for the first time, as they walked down to join us for some bubbles. I think for us it was being outside all day soaking up the beautiful views, sunshine and atmosphere. Everyone was laughing and smiling all day and seeing a day unfold so smoothly that we had planned for so long was epic. Guest watching and listening to the roar of laughter during the speeches was also lovely. Tom and I often talk about the music, so this was definitely a highlight for us – first of all dancing outside in a field to the brilliant Guy James, followed by my brother’s amazing DJ skills who kept the dance floor rocking all night! Then ending the night in our beautiful, cosy and romantic mini tipi….”
Tipis – Buffalo Tipis
Bell Tents – Lulu Bell Tents
Caterer – Global Catering
Photographer – Sarah Folega
Flowers – Bride’s Mum
Wedding dress - Wedding Frox in Cranleigh
Bridesmaid dresses - Hobbs
Groom’s suit - Ted Baker
Guitarist - Guy Valarino
DJ – Bride’s brother
CanAm Buggy - Winner Events