Louise & Andrew’s River Cottage winter wedding was my first of this year. It was a very grey January day with very flat light so my editing style for this wedding is deliberately a little toastier than normal. Up until very shortly before the wedding Louise & Andrew had been living in Australia so up until that day we had been talking over Skype. Me wrapped up in woolies with the heating on and Louise & Andrew having late evening barbecues and Skyping me whilst perspiring gently. I suspect the cold was a bit of a shock for them!
I’ll let Louise & Andrew tell you the story of their wedding in the words they wrote for The Natural Wedding Company.
Scroll through the gallery to get to the story of their wedding day.
How You Met
Andrew and I have been friends since we were seventeen and it was only years later that we got together. We snuck around for a while and didn’t tell our friends we were in a relationship but they all knew something was going on. At this time, Andrew was living in London and I was in Bristol and we had to make do with only seeing each other at the weekends. So, when he was asked to move to Brisbane for work, we jumped at the chance of an Australian adventure. It was a big step to move across the world, having never lived together and not knowing anyone else in the city but we ended up staying for six and a half years, buying our first house together, getting a dog and having our daughter Ava while we were there.
Andrew proposed to me in Singapore Airport when we were on a trip back to the UK a few years ago. He chose to do it there, halfway between our two homes. On the flight from Singapore to Heathrow, I was too excited to sleep, whereas Andrew crashed out immediately. I remember sitting on the plane just staring at my diamond while he snored away next to me.
Dreaming Up Your Wedding
A beach wedding in Australia was the obvious choice when we started our planning. However, at this point, we were really starting to miss the English seasons and countryside so we settled on the total opposite, a cosy winter wedding back in the UK. We decided to keep things small, inviting just over fifty of our closest family and friends.
I fell down a bit of a wedding planning rabbit hole for a while. With amazing resources such as Pinterest and some great wedding blogs at my fingertips, I found myself wanting to cram everything I could into the day. I had to remind myself that we were getting married on a working farm in January and that much of what I was coveting, just wasn’t going to work. I focused on the idea a low key, seasonal wedding that would be warm and inviting for our guests and stopped looking at anything that didn’t fit in with this theme.
All of our wedding planning took place in Australia so we knew we would be taking a bit of a leap of faith with many aspects. We sent our mums to stay in a hotel that we were interested in as a possible venue but it was awful! Soon after that we discovered that River Cottage ran weddings and we got really excited. We love the TV program and good food was one of the most important elements for us. We also felt like the venue was somewhere we already knew and it fit perfectly with the local, seasonal values that we wanted to incorporate. We booked River Cottage without having a visit but luckily, we had a quick trip home the summer before the wedding and we were able to go down and meet with the event organiser and one of the chefs to discuss everything. As we were chatting, a huge spread of food appeared for us to sample and within a few mouthfuls, we knew we had chosen the right place.
Your Wedding Day
We hired the amazing Tone Dale House for the whole weekend of our wedding and this accommodated many of our friends and family members. We had an Italian dinner cooked by Andrew’s mum and brother on the Friday night and this was a great chance for people to catch up or get to know each other.
By the morning of our wedding day, I was feeling really relaxed and I had a lovely time getting ready with with my mum, Ava, my flower girl Millie and two close friends Gemma and Olivia. Ava did get a bit upset at one point so I sat with her on my lap as I had my makeup done. Amy, the makeup artist, did an amazing job of working around Ava as she fidgeted about and tried to grab at brushes.
What You Wore
I knew finding a dress for an English winter was going to be hard during the summer in Australia, so I decided to have something made. I used a great dressmaker recommended by a friend and opted for a scalloped silk top and lace skirt, similar to something I had seen online. When I tried them on in Brisbane it was a really hot sunny day and I just didn’t know if it was going to work. However, it was perfect on the day and I was so warm that I didn’t need a coat.
I kept my accessories simple with just a pair of pearl earrings that my mum had given to me. For the ceremony I wore heels but was much more comfortable in wellies for the rest of the day.
I found a beautiful dress for my flower girl which really fit in with the laid back, vintage feel of the wedding. It was a beautiful dusty pink colour and went perfectly with her little posy of flowers.
We had told our guests that the dress code was country casual and Andrew was very keen to embrace this, wearing a blue wool suit and tweed waistcoat. I bought him a pair of Union Jack socks in honour of our being back home for our wedding day. Andrew’s best man and groomsmen wore their own suits but we bought them matching ties and they all looked great.
Our flowers were just incredible and, along with the amazing River Cottage Food, were my favourite element of the wedding. India at Vervain Flowers worked with me via email to ensure the bouquets and arrangements were exactly right. I was really keen to have seasonal British flowers but this wasn’t going to be easy in January so India developed a winter into spring theme which meant she could include my favourite spring time flowers yet still work with the wintry mood of the wedding. She used vintage vases for the table arrangements and filled them with tulips, narcissi, roses, grape hyacinths and beautiful twigs and foliage. My bouquet was amazing and I held on to it for most of the day.
I didn’t want to over decorate the venue as it was a beautiful space in its own right. I made some banners and we displayed photos of Andrew, Ava and I with our dog Wilma at the front of the barn. We laid out my Great Nanna’s table cloths and lit beautiful scented candles in vintage pastry tins. I cut meters of navy blue linen for the long trestle tables at the wedding breakfast and tied letter press name tags to seed-bombs for our guests’ favours.
We had a simple two tier cake decorated with lines of buttercream and flowers. One of my favourite parts of the wedding planning was visiting Claire in a beautiful Devon village and sitting down to a cup of tea and a whole spread of cakes to try. After lots of discussion, we settled on a delicious lemon sponge with lemon curd which was served as dessert with an apple, pear and thyme compote.
Our guests arrived with Andrew and took a tractor ride down the hill to River Cottage where they were greeted by glasses of warming apple cider brandy. Babies were fed while the older children ran around the gardens and explored the vegetable patch. I arrived by car with my dad and I was so excited to see everyone milling around in their wonderful winter outfits as we made our way down the hill. It was then that I think it really sunk in that I was about to get married.
It was really special to have so many little ones celebrating with us. We worked hard to make the wedding as easy as possible for them and were really lucky to find the Quantock Babysitting Agency who provided three amazing babysitters. Parents were able to relax and enjoy themselves and Andrew and I didn’t have to worry about Ava when there was so much else going on.
Our ceremony was held in the threshing barn which had beautiful flagstone floors and wooden beams strung with fairy lights. The only real disappointment of the day was that my oldest friend Olivia wasn’t able to bring our daughter Ava down the aisle as she got really upset just before the start. However, our flower girl Millie did an amazing job, walking across the courtyard and into the barn on her own and then giving Andrew a little wave as she came down the aisle, causing him to shed a tear.
I was a bit distracted by friends who I hadn’t seen for a long time as my dad and I walked into the barn. However, once I met Andrew and he held my hands, it became very much about the two of us. Our ceremony was short and sweet and our celebrant spoke some beautiful words. We shared our own vows and two close friends Gemma and Jon read the poem Leisure by William Henry Davies and The Dot and The Line by Norton Juster.
The Rest of the day
After the ceremony, we had a glass of champagne outside in the courtyard and Millie asked me if we could both spin round in our dresses so we spent a few minutes doing some twirls. We then went into the farmhouse to greet our guests and enjoyed delicious canapes of Chorizo scotch eggs and venison carpaccio. Formal photographs were taken in the gardens before we headed back to the barn which had been set up for the wedding breakfast.
The food at River Cottage was truly memorable and something we still talk about with our guests. We decided on informal sharing platters and when we sat down at the tables, they were laden with beautiful charcuterie, hummus and breads and pieces of deep fried camembert piled high. One of the chefs came out to explain the menu and the providence of the ingredients. Most of the vegetables were grown at River Cottage and its neighbouring farm and the cold meats came from one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s own pigs. For the main meal we had beef three ways, fillet, rolled brisket and a spicy merguez sausage, and this was served with potato dauphinoise and seasonal vegetables. I wasn’t really feeling hungry when we sat down to dinner but I made sure I had a taste of everything as the food was something we had been looking forward to for so long.
During the meal, my dad, Andrew and his best man Alastair gave their speeches. These were my favourite part of the day as they were full of love and lots of laughter. Andrew has a reputation for wearing his heart on his sleeve and kept welling up at the wrong moment, while the best man created a Venn Diagram and made Andrew drink a bottle of WKD with him in tribute to our nights out together.
After the wedding breakfast, we went into a beautiful yurt with a raging wood fired stove for coffee and petit fours. We then headed back up the hill on the tractor trailer, singing songs to entertain the tired babies and drinking apple cider brandy and champagne cocktails mixed in plastic cups by our Australian friends.
On the Sunday after the wedding, we had lunch all together at Tone Dale House. This was followed by trivia quiz organised by my brother and then an amazing bandeoke band that had us singing and dancing late into the night.
Capturing The Day
Who was your photographer and what was it like working with them?
Our photographer Larissa was great to work with. She was so organised and when we were planning the wedding she really helped us to think through the logistics of the day. I love the wintery mood that she managed to capture in the photos, and the way she used the scenery and buildings at River Cottage for different photographs. It was quite an overcast day which actually looks beautiful in the photographs, but at one point the sun poked out from behind the clouds and Larissa dragged Andrew and I round to the side of the farmhouse to capture the beautiful light.
Do you have a favourite photo from the day?
One of my favourite images from the day is of the whole wedding party, taken from an upstairs window. Our wedding was all about spending time with our closest family and friends and we were really touched that people travelled from all over the word to be with us. I love that we have an image with everyone who was there that day, all the people that are special to us both.
Advice For Others
Are there any particular pieces of advice or anything that you learned from your wedding that you’d like to pass onto other couples or brides-to-be?
If couples are able to, I really recommend them arranging something on the evening before or the day after their wedding, especially if they have guests travelling a long way to be with them. A more informal gathering gives everyone the opportunity to relax and allows couples time with their guests that they might not have on the day itself. We had a whole weekend of celebrations and loved every minute of our time together with loved ones.
Photographer: LARISSA JOICE http://www.larissajoice.co.uk
Venue: RIVER COTTAGE https://www.rivercottage.net/bespoke-events/weddings
Brides Dress: Made in Australia by Jeanette McCullough
Brides Shoes: PHASE EIGHT and Wellies by HUNTER http://www.phase-eight.com http://www.hunterboots.com
Grooms Outfit: Suit by https://www.houseoffraser.co.uk
Grooms Accessories: Shoes and Tie by MARKS AND SPENCER, Socks by CHARLES TYRWHITT http://www.marksandspencer.com , http://www.ctshirts.com/uk/home
Bridesmaids (FLOWER GIRL) Dresses: PATACHOU https://patachou.com/uk/
Groomsmen Accessories: Ties by MARKS AND SPENCER http://www.marksandspencer.com
Flowers: VERVAIN FLOWERS http://www.vervainflowers.co.uk
Wedding Food: RIVER COTTAGE
Wedding Cake: CLAIRE MAKES CAKES http://www.clairemakescakes.co.uk
Entertainment (on Sunday): Afternoon Trivia by SON AND SON PRODUCTIONS and BANDEOKE by LIVE KARAOKE BAND http://www.sonandsonsproductions.com , https://livekaraokeband.co.uk
Decorations: Candles by THE BOTANICLA CANDLE CO https://www.thebotanicalcandleco.co.uk
Wedding Favours: Seed bombs by KABLOOM https://kabloom.co.uk
Weekend Accommodation and Sunday Party: TONE DALE HOUSE https://www.thebighouseco.com/our-big-houses/tone-dale-house/
Babysitters and Mobile Crèche: QUANTOCK BABYSITTING AGENCY http://www.quantockbabysitting.co.uk
Bridal Hair: LOUISE ALWAYS http://www.louisealway.com
Bridal Makeup: AMY-ELIZABETH http://www.amy-elizabeth.com