When I started The Utter Blog I really didn’t know what it was going to lead to or indeed if anyone was going to read it! So when emails started trickling in from people who were, indeed, reading and enjoying, I was thrilled. What has surprised me the most over the last couple of years though, is the number of emails I’ve received from brides-to-be who have or are getting married at the wonderful Great Barn in Rolvenden, the place that holds the most fondest of memories for me as I, of course, was wed there
a lifetime a mere 14 months ago.
I feel an instant connection with everyone who chooses to get married there; it’s a special venue and a bit of a hidden gem, so when Frankie emailed me last year to say that a) she was getting married there too and eagerly following my blog, and b) could I tell her a bit more about the lighting I’d hired, I obliged of course. Imagine my absolute delight then, when, 6 months later she posted a sneak peek of her wedding on The Utter Blog’s Facebook page. I emailed her IMMEDIATELY (after several squeals of delight), and now I’m very excited to share her day and brilliantly written report with you lovely lot.
You’ll see I’m also sharing some images from the set-up day before. Selfishly because it brings back such amazing memories from my own set-up day, but also because it eases you in to Frankie’s lovely tale of how her and Rob met. Enjoy…
All photography by Jeremy Freedman
“Rob and I met at a work party (snore) complete with Cantonese buffet and late-night karaoke which, on paper, is a pretty classic way to meet your future spouse, except that Rob didn’t actually work at the same place as me so technically wasn’t supposed to be there! He’d done work experience with them in a totally different part of the country and had been given a special invitation to come along to the party in London as he’d done such a good job. He was a stowaway, essentially the only man in the room I didn’t know, and his smile knocked me out from across the room. Me being me, I tactically ‘ran into’ him and a colleague of mine at the bar who then introduced us.
We chatted for a little bit but didn’t really speak to each other much until we all got thrown out of the venue at the end of the night. We ended up walking to the night bus stop together with a friend of his who had had one too many shandies. It was a bit awkward saying goodbye, and then I just watched him get on the bus without even a phone number, email address, carrier pigeon instructions… nothing. I thought I’d never see him again.
Of course in the age of Facebook, nothing is ever over. A few days later he was tagged in a picture by said drunken friend, so I went out on a limb and messaged him. We then continued to message each other lots about loads of stuff including advice on where to live as it turned out he was moving to London! We then went on a proper ‘date’, he moved into a crazy house in Mile End with 10 housemates and two cats, and 5 years later we got engaged. What I didn’t know at the time was that he actually hadn’t been planning to move to London at that point at all. But he went out and got a job, found somewhere to live, and moved here on a total whim all because of a girl he hardly knew that he’d met at a work party. Nuts. Classic Rob.”
“We wanted our wedding day to be fun, informal, and personal to us. We had a small search area venue-wise as we needed to be as close as possible to Rob’s family home in Tenterden. After visiting a whole bunch of different types of venues offering varying levels of essentially ‘package’ weddings, we went for the Great Barn as it gave us loads of flexibility and the chance to create a day that was ours. There were no stipulations about suppliers, no corkage fees… we could do as we pleased pretty much which felt brilliant. It also meant we could have the ceremony and reception all in one place which kept things nice and simple. PLUS we’d also found The Utter Blog along the way and followed the planning of Sama’s own wedding which massively inspired us and gave us the confidence to go for it!”
“Our ceremony was short and sweet. I was utterly terrified of the whole ‘spectacle’, and writing our own vows just seemed to bring too much pressure with it, but we did add some personal touches. We asked my dad to sing for us. He’s a carpenter/builder by day and blues musician by night, so we picked a beautiful song by blues man Eric Bibb called ‘For You’. It was amazing- I cried. Our friends’ 6 month old baby, Alba, loves music and also decided to ‘sing’ along during his performance which was mega cute! Then Rob very bravely said that he’d like to do a reading as part of the ceremony, the content of which wasn’t revealed to me until the ceremony itself. He chose a traditional Native American poem — it was such a good choice and beautifully read. Again, I cried…”
“I’m a graphic designer — by default I like things to look nice, and so I had the most fun (and therefore stress) planning the overall look of the day. My style is a little bit eccentric, colourful and eclectic — I like to think of it as a sort of creative, organised chaos! I wanted to extend the feeling we have in our own home into the barn, to kind of welcome our guests into our new family home, offer them a seat at our new family table… that kind of thing.
As an extension of this idea I really wanted 100% wooden trestle tables but the shape of the space, and our budget, just wouldn’t allow for this so we opted for round tables with cloths. Pretty standard stuff, but SO efficient, affordable and actually more guest-friendly. In terms of seating, I opted for a mixture of mismatched dining chairs and lime-washed chiavari chairs, the combination of which looked SO brilliant. We also hired in a beautiful yellow chaise longue in mustard yellow from the lovely Jenny at Bellaboo and Beau for us to sit on during the ceremony (£50 well spent!), and I bought a 9m-long carpet runner so I could walk down the aisle bare foot. It was a bargain but utterly filthy when it arrived so we spent a weekend in the yard in Kent with a domestic carpet cleaner… the things I did for this wedding!
So what else did we fill that big empty barn with? Myself, my bridesmaids, and Man of Honour made approximately 80m of bunting in my chosen colours of pink, blue and yellow with flashes of gold. We bought a bunch of cheap, papier-maché letters from eBay which we spray painted white and gilded gold leaf along the edges. These were used as table ‘numbers’, as a sign for the cake table and at the bar. We bought around 60 cheap, old books with nice coloured covers (again on eBay) to use as props on the tables and generally around the space. And my mum and my aunt hand-picked all the flowers two days before at Blooming Green in Kent, and arranged them all in jars for the tables and to hang on the back of the chairs.
Lighting-wise, we hired light-up letters from the fabulous Amanda at Doris Loves. Then all other lighting we got from the amazing IA Sound and Light. We had festoon lights hanging in the main space and out to the marquee at the back of the barn which were surprisingly easy to hang and we only had a couple of breakages! We also hired in a bunch of floor cans to use in the darker corners of the barn, plus a few for the stage area with coloured gels. We also got a cheese-tastic DJ lighting package which, when we were setting it up, I thought looked RIDICULOUS but actually, when the lights went down were amazing!
In terms of other little details, I made fun bow ties for all of the men in different shades of pink, blue and yellow, along with matching pocket squares. And we painted Rob’s old guitar white and asked guests to play it and write messages on it throughout the day. What with everything else going on though, it wasn’t very well signposted so wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped! I also made little monsters out of socks for the kids table which went down a treat.
I’m not a particularly ‘girly’ girl, so booking in to a more traditional bridal shop was never going to be for me. This, combined with the fact that my engagement ring and both of our wedding rings were all antique, meant I always knew I’d go down the vintage route.
I had been expecting to traipse across London, scouring through vintage rails for months on end, but when it came down to it all it took was one trip with my mamma to Annie’s Vintage, an amazing boutique in Angel. Annie only has one rail of wedding dresses in her magical shop but it’s FULL of gems, all selected by her, and my-oh-my does she have an eye for beautiful dresses. I probably tried on about 75% of them and in the end I bought two! Lucky I did because the very bottom of my first dress didn’t survive me running around in the grass all day, so I’m glad I had a backup to change into for the evening!
Rob wore a tweed suit from Walker Slater. He bought it somewhat spontaneously when we were away for a long weekend in Edinburgh. Like Annie’s, the Walker Slater shop was just an amazing experience to be in- we loved it! Plus, at the time, we thought we were snapping up a one-time-only Scottish number but it turns out they have a store in London too so we actually could have got the exact same suit there… but we like to tell ourselves that it wouldn’t have been the same. He wore it with a checked shirt, brown brogues, some cycling-related cufflinks (Rob’s massively into cycling) and a slightly silly yellow bow tie that I made.”
“Our most memorable moment was probably down to our friend, Sam, who bravely put himself forward to DJ in the evening and put together an awesome playlist full of songs we love, plus a few surprises. Not only did he basically choose our first dance song for us (a whole other story), he also put on a stonking last 10 minutes of the night. This included two ‘essential’ songs that we had asked for- Livin’ On a Prayer for the air-guitar players amongst us (and my mum who’s a massive Bon Jovi fan), and Man in the Mirror because we just love it (CHOOOOOOON). BUT the surprise moment was that he threw in Never Forget by Take That in between the two. After Bon Jovi, everyone was on a massive high and this resulted in a massive sing-a-long, lots of drunken arm waving, simultaneous gospel-style hand clapping, and me and Rob in the centre of a big circle of love high-fiving all our guests. It was drunken, it was awesome; we loved it.”
“My favourite part of the planning process was actually the two days we spent in the barn prior to the wedding setting everything up. Ironically, it was actually the least stressful part of the whole thing, as finally everything we’d been chatting about for months on end was happening. We couldn’t squabble about it or change our minds on things; we were just getting on with it and it was brilliant fun!
Both of our families were there — including some of my family from the states who had flown over for the wedding — and everyone mucked in to bring the space to life. After planning it for the best part of 18 months totally on our own it was really nerve-wracking waiting to see if the vision we had in our heads was actually going to turn out OK in reality. Of course when you’re setting everything up you don’t really have much of a chance to think about it, but when the last few flowers were being put in place and we did a final sweep of the floors and looked at what we’d achieved, it really was such a brilliant and emotional feeling and it was amazing to have shared it with our families and close friends.
For that very reason, if you can face it, I would 100% recommend a ‘DIY’ wedding. It’s stressful and infuriating at times, but SOOOOO satisfying to see it come together and see how every person in that room had contributed and made an impact on how the day will be.”
Ahhhh, it just brings everything back! I remember feeling that mixture of satisfaction, elation and anticipation when we did the final floor sweep having prepped the day before, the spontaneous drunken song that had our guests surrounding and serenading us at the end of the night, and, of course, that beautiful barn and setting which really does provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxed, fun, DIY wedding.
Thank you Frankie for getting in touch and allowing me to share your beautiful day on here. It really does feel right to do so, and I hope my readers have enjoyed your write-up as much as I have putting it together! And, of course, a huge thank you to Jeremy Freedman who took such lovely photos.
Happy Wondrous Wedding Wednesday everybody!