We got engaged in January last year and neither of us wanted to wait over a year to get married, so picked 26th September as the latest Saturday that might offer up some late Summer weather – so nine months to plan the biggest event of our lives. It may sound a fair chunk of time, but anyone who has previous experience of drawing together the many strands of wedding planning – venues, food, drink, cake, seating, furniture, decorations, invitations, photos, clothing – including The Dress – will know that nine months can simply fly by.
Knowing that we wanted to be married at the church in the village where I grew up, we started looking at reception venues in the area. Not having found any great inspiration I hit upon the notion of hosting a party in tipis on my parents’ front lawn. I voiced it tentatively to them and, not hearing cries of dismay, quietly lodged it as a plan.
Having worked their minds around to the idea, my parents worked so hard for us to get it right. Mum spent months collecting china for afternoon tea. Dad dug up the front lawn to sink all the pipes deeper so that the tipi pegs wouldn’t puncture anything. He doesn’t do things by halves!
The husband and I spent a long weekend in Somerset a few months before the big day, our aim being to find caterers, taste cider and choose wedding cheese. We travelled across county lines to test out Pizza Dragon at the Devon County Show. The pizza was fantastic and they were booked for the evening without delay. They are based just a few miles from the house, and grow their own tomatoes and chillis for the pizzas.
We also chanced upon Exeter Brewery who ended up supplying us with two kegs of session beer – their excellent Lighterman and award-winning Avocet ales. Whilst the husband tried beers, I spotted The Thoroughly Wild Meat Co. who were there selling meat. After a chat with Andrew the butcher I had a really good feeling about them. His wife Lavinia did the catering side of things he told me. After a few emails with Lavinia it was all arranged. I could feel her passion and love of food via her writing and it didn’t even cross my mind that I hadn’t tried any of it!
They created us a truly delicious spread. An amazing array of BBQ meats and bowls of salads and pastas – I still sit and think about it and we say next time we have a party they are an absolute must! A fun memory from the day is the 3am raid (yes I was still up!) my husband and I did on the left over pastas. We each took a huge bowl and filled it up, and then sat in bed eating and talking about the day.
Along with my mother we went cheese-tasting on our visit and chose well! We opted for whole cheeses: a Manchego, a Somerset Cheddar, a pasteurised goat’s cheese and a Colston Basset stilton from Neal’s Yard Dairy. Cider came from Perry’s farm locally and we had enough Pimms and gin to be keeping us going a year later – and it is! Friends brought beautiful homemade cakes and we had so much food. A highlight was my Aunty’s glittering chocolate cake.
We all put a huge amount of work into it but were very lucky that lots of things came together on the day. The weather (forecast as dire a matter of days beforehand) was perfect and my father’s grim visions of guests caked in thick mud huddling miserably beneath any and all available shelter were not realised in the event.
The marriage itself took place in the village church and was led by my father-in-law – who actually married us – and the local vicar, who couldn’t have been more warmly welcoming. We wanted a simple and traditional church ceremony; we chose the hymns and readings together and invited some friends and family members to participate by reading and singing – including prayers by Ben’s uncle and a moving a cappella rendition of Anthony Hamilton’s Do You Feel Me? by a friend of ours as we signed the registers.
A short walk up through the village and Ben and I led our guests into the cottage where they were served chilled Prosecco on their way up to the tipis. I couldn’t recommend our tipi team from The Natural Tent Company highly enough… I’ve reviewed them on Riddle Magazine but they deserve another mention: so professional, hard working and cheerful. We were all very sorry to see the tipis go. A permanent set-up would be lovely!
I booked a vintage ice-cream van for the afternoon and in the evening a local ceilidh band got everyone on their feet. There was no seating plan but plenty of chairs and bales of hay to sit on, allowing everyone to mingle and chatter. I’d put up a tiny tipi for the kids and much fun they had in it!
Luther is now 8 months old and it is rather lovely to think that he was in my tummy sharing the day with us! Looking back at the photographs from the day there is a dream like quality in recalling it all. It was so special. I really would do it all again, but this time I’d eat more…
Photography by Christopher Ian Photography
Video courtesy of my Matron of Honour