Last June saw me travel north-eastwards from Loughborough into Lincolnshire for James & Joanne’s Toft Country House Hotel Wedding. A terrific day, perfect weather, emotive speeches, some great shape throwing on the dancefloor and some sporting connection with the groom.
It’s much easier to photograph a wedding when you share your favourite football team with the groom. James shares my passion for Arsenal Football Club. My dad lived half a mile from Highbury before being evacuated to Leicestershire in 1940. My grandfather (who was a plasterer) was responsible for plastering some of Highbury Stadium’s walls when it was constructed in 1913. A year later he went off to fight in France in world war one.
The day started off with prep at Joanne’s parents’ house. I had a great morning, and everyone instantly made me feel welcome. It was great to meet hairstylist Alison Jenner for the first time also. James & Jo have supplied me with a great write-up of the day, so no more words required from me other than enjoy!
“We got married in the church in the village where Jo grew up; it is a small place called Little Bytham in the Lincolnshire countryside. There was never any question about where the wedding ceremony would be as it has got much history for Jo.
We looked for reception venues local to the area, there were some beautiful places to choose from especially in and around the town of Stamford, but in the end, we decided on Toft Country House Hotel. Something about the small but quaint hotel and surrounding gardens appealed to us as we wanted our venue to feel relaxed and maximise the country surroundings. As we live and work in London, it was crucial for us to create an environment that was the total opposite of city life. We felt that nowhere is better than a beautiful village in an English countryside setting.
The owners at Toft, Robert and Isobel, have an excellent reputation in the area for catering and made us feel very at ease. We were able to have a marquee on the paddock, and this enabled us to have a personalised venue with a marquee, without the hassle of finding outside caterers and other facilities.
We wanted a relaxed, country, vintage wedding that avoided anything too formal or grand. Personally, for us it was about friends and family coming together to celebrate, and we didn’t want anything to take the focus away from that idea. That was always the way we wanted it, and we were very clear from the outset that everything should fit into that theme.
We knew what kind of style photographer we were looking for already from seeing other wedding photos. We didn’t want lots of formal, posed pictures but just natural, documentary style that captured the mood and essence of the day. We searched on the internet and also focussed on photographers local to the area. Ian was one option that we found, and we loved his work on his website. When we chatted we instantly got on well with him, and he seemed to understand what we wanted and what we did not want, it was all easy.
On the day we weren’t disappointed, Ian made everyone feel relaxed, he is so down to earth, and in no way interfered with the day but still managed to capture some stunning shots. The best photographers are those that you don’t notice, and we certainly felt that. We loved all of the images we got from the day yet we didn’t spend a large part of the reception away from our guests having to have formal photos taken.
The unique thing is each photo we look at brings back a memory of how we were feeling at that moment in the day; Ian did such an excellent job of capturing emotion and facial expressions! We considered it a huge compliment when a close family member (who wasn’t able to attend the wedding), looked through our album and commented that she felt like she had been there on the day. She remarked that all the photos told a story as the day progressed. We would recommend Ian for anyone looking for this style of wedding photography.
A big focus for us was having family and friends involved and contributing to the day as well as using local suppliers.
Our wedding car was a 1938 Austin 7 that is Jo’s dads and, in fact, the car that her parents had on their wedding day. It was so special to keep up the history and tradition. It’s worth thinking if you have family or friends who could lend you a car to have something different.
Our cake was by one of our close friends who did an excellent job given the incredibly broad brief we gave her initially. We had three separate cakes as we didn’t want a traditional style and also wanted different flavours. We had our cake as dessert which worked well as it meant it got eaten up, and people got to enjoy it before they were too full. We used wooden logs for our cake stands which were in keeping with our countryside theme and made a stunning centrepiece on the cake table.
Flowers were by a local florist, Julia’s Flowers, and again we gave her a full brief as neither of us knows much about flowers. We gave her our wedding invitations to guide the colour scheme and a few examples from magazines to give her an idea of the style we liked. Apart from that our only request was to include sweet peas as Jo loves them, and we used them for our table plan stand.
We collected jam jars of all different shapes and sizes, wrapped lace around them, filled them with sweet peas and attached our table plan labels to them. We used a wooden plant pot stand to hold them all, and it made a great feature. Putting together your table plan can save money but also it’s a fun and easy way to personalise your wedding. We also put jam jars on the tables and either filled them with tea lights or offcuts from the flowers which made for a cute but good value table decoration.
We hired some bunting for the marquee, and this made a real difference to the look and feel of the reception so we would recommend people to look into it. There are some beautiful colours and patterns available to fit any theme.
We found a great wedding band through Alive Network, which is an excellent website that allows you to search for groups by the type of music you are after. Having a live band and good music was paramount so it felt like a big party in the evening where everyone could relax and dance.
Our advice for others planning their weddings.
Keep focused on why the day is important and just enjoy the planning. It’s possible to have beautiful and personal touches on your wedding day whatever budget you are on, and remember your guests are here for you and not what you provide or how you decorate! We tried to focus our energy on the aspects of the day that were personally significant to us. With other elements, we either didn’t bother doing them (e.g., wedding favours for guests) or we trusted it to a friend or family member who we knew would do a great job for us!
- For ideas initially, we used Pinterest, blogs like Love My Dress, websites such as Etsy and Notonthehighstreet. We also shared wedding magazines with friends who were also getting married, so that we could get a feel for what we liked.
- There is so much choice for wedding suppliers it can be quite overwhelming so have an idea in your mind of what you like first then look for suppliers. Making decisions once you see something you like feels great rather than endlessly shopping around. Sometimes you don’t have the time to dedicate the same level of research and decision making to every aspect of the day (just focus on the important stuff!).
- Also whatever hasn’t been done by the day before just forget about it or ask someone else to help you. It’s so important for you just to enjoy every moment and appreciate it as it all goes so quickly.”
A list of other vendors used.
- Dress – Angelica Bridal
- Shoes and other Bridal Accessories – Bridal Rogue Gallery
- Flowers – Julia’s Flowers
- Hair – Alison Jenner
- Bride, Bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride Makeup – Hannah Kreeger
- Band – The Supertones found on Alive Network
- Groom and Ushers suits – Ted Baker at Moss Bros
- Bridesmaid dresses – Adrianna Papell
- Stationary – Beautiful Day on Notonthehighstreet
- Marquee – The Events and Tents Company
- Venue – Toft Country House Hotel and Golf Club
- Bunting – Big, beautiful bunting