Enchanted Elegant Barn Wedding in Kent

Oh my goodness am I in love with the wedding. From the beautiful photography by Darina Stoda to the unique special and meaningful personal touches Carly and Jay incorporated through every aspect of their wedding day. It is gorgeous from start to finish and full of such special ideas to add subtle details both from the perspective of enhancing your guests experience (hello tambourines as name placements) but also your own. For example, Carly and Jay both created bespoke elements to their wedding outfits which held unique meaning to them – Carly had her Nan’s sapphire ring sewn into her dress as a button and Jay had his late Sister and Father’s initials sewn into his suit collar. So very special and something just for them.

And it is not just the private personal touches we love – Carly and Jay also have other brilliant ideas which encouraged their guests to make the most of being together such as a Table Master for each table (in charge of a list of instructions from Carly and Jay to make sure their table was having a good time (love this!)) a whiskey bar, sunglasses for everyone and so much more. They also offer such brilliant planning advice at the end with tips on how to get the most out of working with your wedding suppliers.

When asked about the inspiration behind their wedding, Carly and Jay said…

When we spoke about what we wanted the wedding to be we agreed a big thoughtful celebration. A celebration of us as a couple as well as an opportunity to celebrate the amazing friendships and family we feel really lucky to have in our lives.

Then thoughtful in terms of we really wanted our guests to have an amazing time so spent a lot of time thinking about what little touches we could do that they would appreciate but also contribute to the celebration including tambourines for name plates, heel stoppers to prevent sinking, flip flops, trunks filled with midnight snacks, blankets in case it was chilly, catering to all drink preferences and dietary requirements etc. Also, in terms of inspiration – Instagram was an invaluable source of creative inspiration also it really helped having visuals to show the vendors vs. just trying to explain it.

Carly and Jay

Love love LOVE! Pour yourself a cup/glass of something nice lovely people and delve in deep to this beautiful wedding. Oh and if you want to be reminded of why weddings are so bloody awesome – watch their wedding film below!!! EPIC!

Carly & Jay…

Champneys Spa, A Fred Sirieix Lookalike & One Knee…

Due to my freakish ability to pretty much guess any surprise/gift Jay organises, and having been together for quite some time, he knew that if he whisked me off somewhere straight away I would know what was to come.

Jay and I love a spa day, so he used the perfect cover of ‘works been manic, we’ve had a lot of family things happening we are well overdue a spa trip!’ So, we headed to Champneys for some much-needed R&R – little did I know that Jay had planned with the staff there to set up the perfect proposal spot on their beautiful lake specially opening the lakes mini pier. Only problem was the whole way there it was raining and I couldn’t work out why on earth Jay was so bothered!

Luckily just as we arrived and the spa manager “gave us our tour of the facilities” which lasted less than a minute before she said “it looks like it’s stopped raining if you fancy a stroll outside” – to which I said “no it’s ok” – Jay was obviously very keen to explore them so managed to convince me to join him.

Then convince me again to go down the pier – which definitely said do not enter – and I don’t break rules, so again poor Jay had to do some convincing!

Before I finally clicked on to what he was up to, and he got down on one knee – obviously I said yes ( after lots of “what” “OMG” “Are you joking” )

Then out from a bush pops a man (who looked just like Fred Sirieix – so much so I actually had to do a double take) with a bottle of champagne. It was perfect.

Where better to be than a spa – having a lovely couples massage and getting my nails done to show off my beautiful ring that Jay proudly designed himself.

The Most Perfect Dress…

Right from the start I knew I wanted something different and I just loved the idea of a two piece in that I thought it would be unique and really nicely compliment the venue. I wanted it to be fun but also elegant.

Two pieces are hard to come by but one of my bridesmaids had seen Story of My Dress and they just happened to be located 10 mins from my office. I never thought I would get a dress made from scratch – due to the unknown but as soon as I was in there, I knew I could trust them. I visited the traditional shops and had 100% decided a traditional dress wasn’t for me and visited some other stores that to be honest wasn’t a great experience –  one said I was allowed to try on just 4 dresses even though I had travelled for hours to get there.

But as soon as I walked into Story of My Dress it was different. They made me feel so welcome, really listened to what I wanted and helped me to design the most perfect dress. For the top I wanted it to have a twisted fabric feature on the front and Cara and Gill created me a bespoke pattern and spent hours making sure it was just right. For the back I wanted embroidered flowers that would look elegant but also match the venue.  Cara designed me a totally bespoke pattern with the perfect selection of flowers and incorporated lovely touches such as a C&J in a heart. Then to finish it off I had a sapphire ring that had belonged to my nan made into a button. This was my something old, blue and borrowed.

For the skirt I wanted it to be comfortable but classic and they had the perfect one within their collection so we used that. Gill, the dress maker, made it fit perfectly- even letting me come back days before the wedding for a slight tweak.

Then the final piece was the veil. Cara designed this to match the embroidery on the back of my top and the length gave it the dramatic effect I was looking for.

I honestly couldn’t recommend them enough – I genuinely felt like they cared about making every detail perfect and they just made the entire experience a wonderful one.  

Customised Suit…

For Jay’s suit he went to Anthony’s formal wear in Billericay. He went for a custom design grey twead blazer, waistcoat and bow tie. He wanted it to be in keeping with the venue but still formal. He also added personalised embroidery including our names and wedding date (that had to be patched over) and his sister’s and grandad’s initials under the collar. He then had purple lining inside the jacket and at the back of the waistcoat as a nod to his other love…Burnley FC.

We both kept our outfits a secret so it was even more special seeing each other for the first time on the day.

The Accessories…

Jay had a watch I had brought him restrapped to match the shoes and belt. On the day he was gifted a special stone in memory of his sister by one of his ushers, his wife and our flower girl which he kept on him all day under the instruction he could give it a squeeze anytime he wanted to feel her presence.

Hannah from Eden B Studio created me a bespoke headband. I wanted a chunky statement piece but also wanted it to be feminine and soft. Hannah makes accessories using tiny clay flowers she makes individually by hand so I  knew that if I could get the right depth of band the flowers would be the perfect mix of chunky but still delicate whilst to matching my dress embroidery. Her service was amazing, she worked with me until it was perfect, and I absolutely loved wearing it on the day. Also, she made me some bespoke earrings to match – I mocked up what I was after on a dodgy Powerpoint and she some how created exactly what I wanted. Hannah had also got married at Elmley so again was super helpful for tips in planning.

Also on the day my parents gave me a beautiful tiffany bracelet that finished the look perfectly – and is now something I wear every day.

No Place Like Elmley…

Within 30 minutes of us being engaged my sister had already sent me the link to Elmley and we thought it was definitely one to check out. After researching what felt like every venue in the UK we kept going back to Elmley so booked a visit. We were keen to have a venue that we could have for a weekend not just for our immediate family but also our guests, we loved that they were family run and we loved that we would be able to go back and visit staying in the amazing huts they had there. I think we were convinced just by the driveway – a couple miles through a nature reserve full of bunnies, birds, cows even a peacock! Then there was the stunning window in the barn, Eleanor the wedding planner who was able to answer every single question I had – and even though the houses were mid renovation we just knew they would be incredible. Elmley was the only venue we looked at, we booked it the next day- for us there is no place like Elmley.

We had bell tents available for all of our guests then in addition to the houses had exclusive use of all the shepherds hut which our guests loved. They didn’t so much love being woken up by Vincent (the Elmley Roaster) at 4am though!

Enchanted Overgrown Elegance…

Our florist referred to the theme of our wedding as “enchanted overgrown elegance”.

Essentially, we wanted to build on the natural, wild beauty of the venue and ensure what we did complimented that, whilst creating a level of formality reflective of the occasion. We for example had wild flowers but kept them to a classic white and green colourway.

Written By Friends…

We really wanted to be able to have the official ceremony on the day which was another reason we picked Elmley and why we picked a civil ceremony. We wanted it to be reflective of what we wanted our marriage to be:

1) to always be kind, thoughtful and caring

2) to always have a sense of adventure

3) and to always have a jest for/ appreciation of life

So we picked the people from our wedding guests that we felt best reflected these values and asked them to prepare whatever they wanted. They all did an incredible job, each one personal and so thoughtful plus we loved that we heard it for the first time during the ceremony with the rest of our guests – we have all of their reading cards in our memory box.

Wild Flowers Bursting…

Décor wise we stuck to the “overgrown enchanted theme” with chairs that looked like they had been overgrown with wild flowers, and the archway where we got married was beautifully framed in the top and bottom corners and we had my late grandfather’s cabinet filled with photos of Jay and I again with wild flowers bursting out.

Music wise we had my amazingly talented friend Iona Thomas play the harp. As we came down the aisle she played Canon in D – this was perfect as meant that we weren’t trying to rush down the aisle trying to time it with parts of a song. She then played and sang as we signed the registry (we picked songs from her list that we knew our friends had had at their weddings) then she played us out to Here Comes The Sun.

A Special Guest…

One of the most memorable parts of our ceremony was when we had a visit from the roaster Vincent. He came strutting right down the middle of the aisle like ‘what are you guys doing here in my kingdom’ – One of the ushers tried to gently encourage him away and a hilarious chase occurred – the perfect ice breaker.

Tambourines, Scattered Flowers & Second Hand Decor…

The key thing we wanted was banquet style seating. We loved the social, relaxed environment this creates. The barn itself is stunning with a huge window that overlooks the reserve and filled with string lights so we didn’t want to go crazy and overshadow these. We focused on the beams in terms of florals – again creating a wildly overgrown but elegant theme – as if the barn had been abandoned and these beautiful flowers had just grown from the ground and beams.

In terms of the table decorations we scattered wild flowers, kept the plates and napkins simple with touches of grey but our big pieces on the table was the name place tambourines. My friend Jing helped me to source these negotiating directly with suppliers in China then my sister handwrote every 126 names. Again we loved the look of these and we really wanted our entrance to be fun and they 100% made that so every single person was banging and shaking them as we came in- exactly how we wanted. People had them on the dancefloor, and we were sent loads of photos the next day of their children enjoying them.

In addition to this we had a The Warburtons massive canvas behind where we sat which made for one of my favourite photos from the day and this was matched with a Till Death Do Us Party sign behind the band.

I also managed to source a telephone chair from Facebook that matches the his and hers chairs perfectly for the signing of the guest book and then we used one of Elmley’s cabinets for the cake stand which the florist filled with wild flowers to continue the overgrown theme.

For the drinks reception I sourced a lot of things from Facebook and Bootsales. We had a bookcase for glasses of prosecco, a bureau with whiskey and cigars in memory of my grandad – (we had saved his Whiskey especially for the day), coat stands in case it was a hot day and the boys could remove their jackets, apple crates for waters and then tin baths and bins for the drinks- my mum didn’t quite get the vision and we dragged a battered tin bath across a bootsale at 8am on a Sunday. I actually really enjoyed searching for these pieces and found it cheaper than hiring them with delivery etc.

Stationery To Start The Party…

I was really lucky to have another friend from Uni who had her own stationery business Claire Kennedy of Papier and Plume.

She designed and supplied everything for us original invites, updated save the dates, new invites, table plan, posters, menus and special Table Master cards.

For the invites we wanted to incorporate the venue and the foliage feel. One of my good friends from work actually did a sketch of the venue for us that we included then Claire designed the rest. We wanted to make sure the guest had all the possible information and also as we were supplying a lot of the alcohol we asked people what they were likely to drink in the RSVPs so that we could make an educated guess at what to buy.

One of my favourite pieces of our stationary was the Table Master cards. We picked a person from each table whose job it was to make sure the table were making lots of noise for our entrance, that drinks were flowing, some potential speeches games or bets if they saw fit and as the food was all sharing making sure people were getting stuck in. At one point they all joined forces in an attempt to get the biggest game of drink when a certain word is said during the speeches going. Unfortunately for my aunts it was mainly my uncles who were playing.

White & Green Flowers…

The original florist was no longer available, so I went to trusty Instagram to find another. There I found Jo from Moody Blooms and we met in a Costa Coffee by my work the week before lockdown hit. I could just tell that Jo had such a passion for floristry but making sure what she delivered was perfect for us. I also found that she was super reasonable for the amount of flowers and just her talent. Jo also thought about how we can reuse and move the different arrangements so some were in three different locations throughout the day.

I am absolutely clueless at flowers so having visuals of styles of flowers I liked from Instagram was really helpful – poor Jo was met with a blank face a lot of the time when she would suggest names of flowers so pictures were our form of communication. I gave Jo a list of the things and photos of things I was thinking we could dress and she did the rest. For us white and greens would be timeless but the wild selection of flowers felt not only in keeping with the venue but also more modern. Jo just totally got what we wanted in terms wild/ overgrown but still beautiful and even visited the venue to do mock ups and make sure she would be able to create. When she arrived, I just couldn’t believe how many flowers she had they were never ending.

In terms of my bouquet I wanted to replicate what my Nan and Mum had had on their wedding days with a trail of foliage that creating more of a long hanging down shape. I also wanted it massive- but Jo reigned me in and made sure the size was perfect for my dimensions- another example of how she really goes beyond.

The bridesmaids bouquets were designed to match mine then the buttonholes to compliment the groomsman’s suits with just some small foliage. We added little hints of purple to Jay and his Mum’s to honour his sister Jayne as that was her favourite colour.

The other great thing was that soo many of our guests stayed so we were able to send them home with huge arrangements, so it really felt like they were being fully appreciated.

A Natural Documentary…

We actually asked our photographer for videographer recommendations – and she sent us over a couple. We went with Andy Green of Harrera Images. We loved his natural documentary style. Andy was also a massive  help to us throughout our planning giving us lots of top tips and advice based on the 100s of weddings he had been to.

He created us an incredible trailer, longer film and also filmed all the speeches which is just so lovely to have. He literally couldn’t have captured the day anymore perfectly and we are literally obsessed with watching it.

Moments Captured…

Our photographer was Darina Stoda- she is incredible! As soon as we saw our friend’s engagement shoot photos we knew we had to have her! We met her in Norfolk for an engagement shoot which meant that on the day we had some idea of what to do vs. the exact same pose we do in every other photo. We just couldn’t be happier with the results- she captures moments so effortlessly and the editing is beautiful. She is also the loveliest person so perfect to have at your wedding.

A Full Dancefloor…

For the evening entertainment we went big with Salut Band and DJ. They were AMAZING!!! The dancefloor was full the entire evening and everyone just had the most amazing time. They performed a whole host of medleys, from Motown to Fresh Prince and are were right in with the audience creating an amazing atmosphere from girl vs. boys Justin Timberlake/ Ain’t no mountain high enough sing offs to conga lines. We did choose to also add the DJ as we knew that we wanted to keep the dancefloor full and thought a playlist would be flat in between the high tempo sets and it was definitely worth the extra budget – it also meant we didn’t have the worry of making sure the playlist was good/ going to work on the day.

Our wedding was one of the first post lockdown and so it was just even more special to see everyone dancing and literally having the best time. They were well worth the money.

Additional things that kept the dancefloor full was to pick evening food that people didn’t need to sit down for to eat – we had croque monsieur’s. We also sourced some flashing foam sticks from Amazon which were super cheap but a big hit along with a load of heart shaped sunglasses from Primark.  

Favourite Moment…

As our Mum’s were signing the registry we got to have a moment just us two and it was so lovely. We were so happy to see each other, so happy to finally be getting married and for a moment we totally forgot that anyone else was even there or that we were literally in the midst of our ceremony. We just had our own little chat. We had both incorporated personalised touches to our outfits – I had a C+J in a heart embrodied into mine and Jay had our names and date in his jacket as well as his sisters and grandads initials so was just really special to share those and realise we had both done the same.

Any Advice?

Right at the start agree on some principles of what you want it to be about. This way when things start getting crazy or costs are getting out of hand you can go back to these and remind yourself what’s most important to you both.

As absolutely bonkers as it makes us sound and actually feel – In addition to this we found that making a “brief” to send to vendors really helped us to articulate what we were after. We had a powerpoint that had every detail in it. For example, a section with photos of the venue and how we wanted things to be set up i.e. archway seating, these props in these locations with these types of flowers, then we had a section on the stationery and what information needed to be included, a section on food not just what we liked but what serving plates etc. we liked. This made working through requirements and quotes so much easier and they could also see the total vision of the day.

This also meant we had a document with how we had pictured everything being set up that our family and friends were able to check off the morning of the wedding, so we didn’t have to worry. On the day everything was perfect so although it made us look bonkers – it was totally worth it.   

Also don’t forget that vendors are human beings too. If you can’t afford them don’t just ghost them, be honest. We had this with one supplier and they actually sent us lots of other suppliers that would be more in our range that they had coached.

Also don’t underestimate the connections suppliers have if you are struggling for a vender ask one of your existing ones for a recommendation. They also have been to 100s of weddings and know what works and what doesn’t so ask them for advice.

The Line Up…

Photography: Darina Stoda; Venue: Elmley National Nature Reserve; Videographer: Harrera Images; Hair: Carly Williams; Makeup: Huda Make Up; Florist: Moody Blooms; Harpist: Iona Thomas; Caterer: Countrycity Catering; Band: Salut Band; Tipi Tent: Beau and Bell; Dress & Veil: Story of My Dress; Suits: Anthony Formal Wear; Head Piece and Earrings: Eden B Studio; Stationery: Papier and Plume; Bride’s Shoes: Topshop; Groom’s Shoes: Lanx; Canvas Signs: Lydia Packham Calligraphy

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