Abby & Ashley’s Wedding
With a cowboy boot wearing bride, live performances from the wedding party, and more bumble bees than we can count, Abby & Ashley’s big day might just be one of the coolest weddings to come across our desks this year. Leaving tradition behind, our Less Ordinary couple braved the spring rains to say their ‘I do’s’, and by the looks of things, put on one hell of a party.
Ashley and I got married at The House Meadow in Biddenden, Kent. Set within a working farm, there’s a wild flower meadow, a dramatic oak tree and a lake, with views of the romantic Kent countryside in every direction.
For as long as I can remember my mascot has been a bumble bee, so it made perfect sense to both Ashley and I to use this as the theme for our day. It dictated the venue, the colour scheme, the readings at the ceremony, the styling and pretty much every other part of the day. Our guests embraced it too! Lots of them wore yellow, and three babies turned up dressed as little bees! My dad even wore a bumble bee bow tie, we loved how much effort everyone went to.
As the bee is synonymous with the English Countryside we searched for a venue that would reflect this. The House Meadow was the first and only venue we saw. We both fell in love with it the moment we stepped out of the car. We hired a stretch tent with long trestle tables and a dance floor for the wedding breakfast and reception, and had straw bales for the ceremony.
It was important to me that I made as much as I could at home, so I began by designing all of our stationery and getting the invites out to our guests. I then spent every minute of my spare time sewing and sticking and making and crafting! I made yellow bunting to decorate the tent and surrounding fences, along with some personalised bunting for the bar. Each of the guests had an individual felt face as their place name, and I made the wedding party as rag dolls – they welcomed our guests into the tent. The table displays were simple, artificial grass table runners scattered with daisies. They looked great against the ivory table cloths.
The table plan was a labour of love for Ashley and I! We named each table after our bridesmaids and groomsmen, to celebrate how important they were to us as a couple. We arranged for our fantastic photographer, Jo, to do a photo shoot with them before the big day, and used those shots in our plan. It was so much fun and was a great way for everyone to meet Jo before the wedding. We then designed table name cards with random facts about that person. We kept it a secret from them so it was a lovely surprise on the day and our guests had a lot of fun getting to know their table namesake!
Food was really important to us. We wanted good quality, locally sourced food that our guests would remember for all the right reasons. We found the most incredible caterer who listened to what we wanted and then went above and beyond to create a relaxed – not to mention delicious – rustic BBQ with chocolate brownies and ice cream for dessert. Our guests couldn’t get enough!
Our ceremony was conducted by an independent celebrant called Katie, who was just amazing. She really took the time to get to know us in the run up to the wedding and delivered a really personal, touching and individual ceremony that had our guests in tears and laughter throughout. She made everyone feel so comfortable and even wore yellow and black to look like a bumble bee!
We chose readings about honey and bumble bees, and asked Ashley’s brother, sister and another of our bridesmaids to recite them. It was a really lovely moment of reflection for Ash and I, momentarily the attention was away from us and we could really take in the scene we’d been dreaming about for months.
As our ceremony was outside we were completely at the mercy of the British weather. After months of worrying – and dancing to ward off the rain – we ended up having to hold our hands up and accept defeat. It not only rained, but spectacularly thunder stormed periodically throughout our ceremony, which was both devastatingly upsetting and hilariously funny for us and our guests! We all cheered and laughed as the thunder clapped around us and our guests huddled together on their straw bales. Everyone was there to support us, so a little English storm wasn’t going to dampen their spirits! We carried on regardless and by late afternoon the clouds had cleared and we were all treated to an amazing sunset.
We hired an awesome acoustic singer, Adrian, to entertain the guests as they arrived and to also play my aisle song as my bridesmaids and I walked across the meadow. We had quite a walk from the edge of the lake, through the wild flowers to the tree where our ceremony was being held so I wanted to choose a song that had happy lyrics and was upbeat so that my bridesmaids could bop and sing along! I chose “Thinking of You” by Sister Sledge which was perfect. Adrian did a really funky version and it gave us a great entrance. He kept the crowd entertained from the moment he got there and was a brilliant way to get everyone chatting and laughing. He had a great sense of humour, even playing us out with Daniel Beddingfield’s “Gotta Get Thru This”, which was rather poignant after the biblical weather we’d all just survived!
For the evening, we’d asked each of our guests to choose two songs for our playlist, which Ash and I then spent hours arranging into a logical order. The playlist ran from 4pm until midnight when the party ended and was a really effective way to get a great mix of music. There really was something for everyone.
The First Dance
I really wasn’t big on the idea of having a first dance at all, but it was something Ash really wanted so I resigned myself to what I expected to be a really awkward moment of swaying to a clichéd 80’s power ballad, whilst our guests felt obliged to watch. I really wasn’t looking forward to it! But actually it turned out to be a really funny moment of our wedding – Ash chose “Walking on a Dream” by Empire of the Sun, which has lovely lyrics and a good beat so we could show off some of our proper moves! As soon as the beat kicked in we were joined by all our guests and we ended up having a hilarious dance off with everyone getting involved. It really got everyone in the mood for a boogie and the dance floor remained filled for the rest of the evening. I was so glad we did it!
I made quite a rash decision early on in our planning that we weren’t going to have a cake, but about a week before the wedding I began to regret my decision. I happened to mention this in passing to my maid of honour two days before the wedding, and as if by magic a beautiful two tiered bumble bee cake appeared on the big day! I later learned my maid of honour’s wonderful mother and sister had stayed up all night to make it for us which made it so much more special. It looked great and tasted better!
I chose to use artificial flowers for the button holes and bouquets. It meant I could prepare them before the big day and have the peace of mind that they were done and ready to go. I also made daisy balls to decorate the aisle and table runners. I used the left overs to decorate the ropes of the wooden swing hanging from the oak tree. My wonderful matron of honour sourced a selection of sunflowers, daisies, gypsophila, grasses and other yellow or white wild flowers that would match.
I found the whole process of finding a dress pretty straightforward. I knew that I wanted a knee length dress so that my cowboy boots could be seen, and I wanted it to have lace detailing. I wanted my look to be more garden party than full on bridal, so I didn’t actually visit any wedding dress shops at all. I gathered my ideas together on Pinterest and searched the internet until I found one that was affordable and fitted my criteria. I ended up finding a beautiful dress in Coast and as soon as I tried it on I knew it was perfect. It made me feel pretty and girly without being fussy or uncomfortable. It just fitted with the feel of the whole day, a long dress would have got pretty muddy in the meadow!
The bridesmaid dresses were a challenge but became a really iconic part of the day. Whilst searching for dresses online, I came across an amazing yellow fabric with little bumble bees all over it. I completely fell in love with it, and knew we had to have it! I found a great pattern for a 50’s style halter neck dress and got to work. Having never made a dress before, this was a steep learning curve. Fortunately I have a very talented mother and a patient bridesmaid, both of whom taught me how to read patterns and make alterations. In the end we had six perfect bumble bee bridesmaid dresses. It was a really proud moment for me to think I’d actually managed to do it!
There’s so many it’s too hard to choose! My maid of honour teamed up with Adrian, our singer, to perform a beautiful song for us and all our guests. As little girls, I had made her promise that she would sing at my wedding and she had secretly taken singing lessons to be able to fulfil that promise. She was incredible and blew everyone away, I was an emotional wreck by the end of it! Our five best men had also written a personalised rap to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby”, changing the chorus to ‘Ash, Ash, Abby’! It was epic! We couldn’t believe they’d all been so sneaky to make our day truly memorable. We were so humbled by it.
Pearls of Wisdom
Start early! I started making all my rag dolls and bunting before we’d even hired a caterer or a tent, much to the bemusement of our families, but I’m so glad I did. The last few weeks before the wedding are so consumed with other, bigger decisions, that little details like that have to take a back seat. It’s a lovely feeling to tick jobs off your list early on.
Also don’t obsess about the weather. It is the one thing you can’t plan and have no control over, so just let it be. If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, have a well thought through contingency plan for all eventualities, so everyone knows what to expect. That way, you can just relax and and the day will be incredible no matter what!
Shop Abby & Ashley’s Look
We’ve put together a few key products to help you recreate Abby & Ashley’s fun, country inspired wedding.
First off, the iconic grass table runner. Bringing the outdoors in, this table runner adds a playful touch to your decor. As Abby did, you can add your own flowers to give your tables a softer, more natural look.
Party poms are a great and inexpensive way to spruce up your decor. Available in a range of shades, the paper decorations fit in with any colour scheme and can be hung just about anywhere. Abby & Ashley hung theirs from the Oak Tree they were married under to give their ceremony a magical, woodland feel.
If like Abby & Ashley, and you have a clear theme, why not dress your littlest guests to fit the bill. Not only does this work wonders for your colour scheme, but it gives the kids a chance to have some fun too.
Every good English country wedding needs bunting. Dressing your venue and the surrounding area with bunting is a lovely way to create a fete-inspired feel to your big day.
To read about other notonthehighstreet.com weddings or for more styling inspiration, visit the wedding section of our blog.
If you’d like to see your less ordinary wedding up on our blog, please send a selection of pictures and a few lines about your big day to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographer: The wonderfully artistic Cove Photography, a sister duo who always seemed to be in exactly the right place at the right time! They really were awesome.
Venue: The House Meadow, managed by the wonderful Clare.
Singer: Adrian Benn
Caterer: Home Gurrown
Celebrant: Katie Keen
Tent: Stretch Tent