Here’s Natalie & James’ Springtime Notley Abbey Wedding.
As the buds are starting to sprout on the trees and shrubs everywhere, I thought I’d share another beautiful spring wedding with you.
So, how did you meet? – tell us a little more about yourselves.
“We met during the summer in 2004 in between our first and second years at University. We were 19 years old and had summer jobs at a children’s theme park in Milton Keynes and somehow managed to find each other when wearing steel-toe capped shoes and red bow ties!
For the next three years, we went between Nottingham and Birmingham as we were at separate universities, and then between Birmingham and Bedford where I was doing my teacher training. In 2007, we were finally living in the same place and moved in together in 2008.
After that, we spent time travelling the world together including trips to America, China, Australia, Hong Kong and the Cook Islands.”
The proposal – who proposed, where, when & how?
“James proposed to me on 16th February 2014. We were on holiday to celebrate my birthday on Anna Maria Island in Florida, which is one of our favourite places to relax and spend time at the beach.
I had no idea he was going to propose although my parents and his family knew. We have always loved to watch the sunset on the beach together, however I wondered why he was in such a rush to get there on this particular day. I kept on saying that we could always go tomorrow but he was insistent we go that night… Now I know why!
As the sun was setting he said he had a present for me and asked me to close my eyes and put my hands out. When I opened my eyes, the ring box was in my hands and he had written in the sand ‘Will you marry me’?
Of course the answer was yes but I think I forgot to say it until about 5 minutes later! We then celebrated with champagne and dinner at The Sandbar, our favourite restaurant on the beach.”
How was the wedding planning process for you?
“To be honest, we found the whole process fairly easy and simple as we are both quite organised. We allowed ourselves plenty of time to gradually chip away at the preparation rather than leave things until the last minute.
The first step was to find a venue and then set the date. We knew we wanted a May wedding rather than a summer wedding, however we were restricted to certain dates due to me working in a school – we had to get married during the school holiday.
We looked at three venues in total and took my parents around our preferred choice to see what they thought. Luckily, they loved it to so the decision was made, we’re were going to have a Notley Abbey Wedding. Now that we had found the venue, we could book the registrar, send out save the date cards and, most importantly, book the honeymoon!
From the beginning, we knew what we wanted for most parts of the day. I only had one bridesmaid and gave her carte blanche over what dress and shoes she had. It was a bit tricky for her to show me the choices as she lives in Australia, however I trusted her judgement and knew that she would pick something beautiful.
James knew who his best man would be and there were no ushers. We also knew that we didn’t want evening guests- for us, if you’re important to come to our wedding, you are important enough to come for the whole day.
I had always wanted sunflowers and I knew I wanted a tea length dress. We also knew we wanted a band for the evening and very few formal photos during the day! We knew that, as long as we were organised, we would be fine and there wouldn’t be a manic rush in the last few weeks. My teacher organisation kicked in!”
Where did you get married and what was it about the venue(s) that appealed so much?
“We got married on 24th May 2015 at Notley Abbey, near Thame. Originally, I had my heart set on Dodford Manor in Northamptonshire, however after visiting neither of us were entirely convinced by it. They also had very limited availability for 2015 and 2016 which would have restricted our date choices hugely.
James found Notley Abbey after an online search and, as soon as we drove down the tree lined driveway, we knew we were going to see something special. I think we both said “this is more like it” as we drove down that driveway.
We absolutely fell in love with Notley Abbey at our first viewing. We loved the character and history of the venue – it was once owned by Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier and was the venue of many Hollywood parties. We also liked that there was the option to have the ceremony inside or outside and there were rooms for both us and guests to stay in.
We also really liked the online wedding planner that Notley Abbey provide, as it enabled us to make decisions and changes to our day at any time of the day. We could also get in touch with our wedding planner through the online messenger system and they would always get back to us within 24 hours. All in all, it was the perfect venue for us.”
How would you describe the style of your wedding and what made you decide to go down that route?
“The two words we wanted to use to describe our wedding were relaxed and happy. Simply put, we just wanted everyone to have a great time and for it to not be too formal. We wanted us and our guests to feel comfortable throughout the day.
There wasn’t really a theme to the day although it probably ended up being more relaxed & rustic without us realising it. We used a lot of natural colours and materials and we tried to limit the number of formalities during the day. That is one of the reasons we chose Ian to be our photographer.
We also wanted some originality to our table names so we chose significant numbers to our relationship (eg, number of days we have been together etc). We then put together a table quiz to see if guests could match the number to the event in our lives. It got people who didn’t know each other talking!”
Cuisine. What kind of food and drink was served and why?
“We just went with the foods that we love. We had a selection of canapés with champagne straight after the ceremony – both my parents and I insisted on having champage rather than Prosecco. This was a special day after all!
Our wedding planner made sure that James and I had a plate of canapés just for us which was a lovely touch.
For our wedding breakfast, we had smoked salmon and baby potato salad to start, pie and mash for our main course and then a chocolate fondant for our dessert. As we had no evening guests, and we didn’t eat the wedding breakfast until 4:30pm, we had a cheese and cracker selection and then a traditional wedding cake for guests to eat during the evening.”
What were the most memorable part(s) of the day and what was the funniest moment?
“Not to sound too cliché, but the whole day was memorable. We loved having all our friends and family together in one place for that one special day. We smiled and laughed all day and it truly was the best day ever.
Straight after the ceremony, while our guests were getting champagne, we took 10 minutes away from everyone. We walked through to the Monk’s Refectory and saw the room set up for the wedding breakfast. We looked at each other and knew that things had turned out exactly as we had hoped.”
Did anything go wrong on the day and were there any surprises?
“The only thing that went slightly off plan was that we had some rain during the drinks reception. It didn’t last long and then we were back outside for the rest of the day. Originally we wanted to have the ceremony outside, however, on the day, the decision was made to have it inside due to the risk of rain showers. I know James was disappointed by this, but it didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the day.”
Is there anything you would have done differently?
“No! We wouldn’t have changed a thing about the day! Everything went as planned from the moment we arrived to the moment we left on the following day. I remember the next morning, James said to me “That was better than I ever thought it would be”. And it most definitely was!”
Do you have any advice for other couples in the stages of planning their wedding?”
- “Be organised and don’t leave everything until the last minute.”
- “Listen to advice from others, however, make sure you make your own choices too.”
- “Take your time to make the right choices for both of you.”
“We were recommended Ian by a mutual friend. From the minute we saw his photos online, we knew that we wanted him to document our day.
Our first contact with Ian was via FaceTime where we discussed what we were looking for and if he could accommodate this. Luckily our requirements and Ian’s approach matched perfectly and we booked Ian just a few days later. A few months before the big day, we met Ian at a mutual venue to discuss final plans for the day and everything was under control.
On the day, Ian was wonderful! We saw him as one of our guest rather than as our photographer and we hardly noticed he was there. He just slotted into the day and it felt like he got to know both us and our guests. He took the formal portraits we asked for but they hardly took any time at all.
Once we got our photos back, we couldn’t have been more thrilled. They were exactly what we wanted and captured the happiness and smiles of the day. There were things that Ian captured that we didn’t even know happened on the day so it was such a surprise to see them all. Even now, I still look back at our photos and smile.
We couldn’t have asked for a better photographer to share our day with.”