WILD & OAK ON LOVE MY DRESS

If you're a fan of the beautiful wedding blog, Love My Dress, you might have seen some of my vows recently. A little while ago, Coco & Kat asked me to write some bespoke vows for a very special shoot they were organising at GreenAcres Woodland Weddings in Buckinghamshire and, of course, I was very happy to help...

So this shoot was pretty much the shoot of dreams. Not only was it organised by Emma of Coco Wedding Venues and award-winning wedding planner Katrina Otter, both of whom I know and love, it also took place at GreenAcres Chiltern.

I've been working with GreenAcres for well over a year now, writing their website and brochure for them, and it's true to say that I'm absolutely in love with their woodlands and the super passionate team that manage them. 

As if that wasn't enough, the rest of the shoot team was simply stellar - photographer Hannah Duffy, florist Verity & Thyme and more all came together to create something so so special, it was an honour to be part of it. Just take a look at the credits at the end of this feature and you'll see just what I mean!

It's time to stand beneath the trees and fall in love...

To see more from this shoot, just click here.

Credits:

Creative Direction & Styling - Emma Hla, Coco Wedding Venues

Shoot Management & Planning - Katrina Otter, Katrina Otter Weddings

Creative Consultancy - Coco & Kat

Venue - GreenAcres Woodland Weddings

Photography - Hannah Duffy Photography

Videography - Roost Film Co.

Florist - Verity & Thyme

Hair/MUA - Tori Harris

Bridal Dresses - Cherry Williams London

Jewellery - Zoe & Morgan

Headpieces - Perfect Day Bride 

Stationery & Signage - Merrie & Bright

Furniture Hire - Hire Love

Cake - JEMIMA

Velvet VOWS book - elmo PAPERSTORIES

Vows written by - Tamryn Lawrence at Wild & Oak

Silk Ribbons - Kate Cullen

Model Agency - Ellie & Mark at Blakes

CELEBRANTS ARE OFFICIALLY HOT

Oh yes indeed, apparently celebrants are officially hot! According to this rather fabulous feature on Country House Wedding Venues, personal ceremonies are becoming more and more popular. Now this is a trend to love!

So why are celebrant-led ceremonies the new wedding must-have? Well, I think it's quite simple really - individual ceremonies are the ultimate in wedding personalisation.

For so long, couples have made their wedding day their own with flowers and themes, details and DIY and oodles of other wedding accessories. It's seemed as if the only part of the day that had really stayed the same was the ceremony itself. The format and wording of wedding ceremonies hadn't changed for decades, even centuries, and every couple says the same thing, in the same way, regardless of their own circumstances or situation.

But now, with a wedding celebrant by your side, your ceremony can be the ultimate personal wedding day flourish. You can tell your own story, say the words that mean the most to you and include everyone and everything that you want. There are no rules and that alone makes these ceremonies all kinds of brilliant.

So, whilst I'm enjoying be officially hot and on-trend, I'm also right here if you want to talk about your wedding ceremony. Just get in touch and take the first step towards a truly individual wedding.

TOWN HALL HOTEL LONDON - PREFERRED PARTNER

Hello again and this is a very happy feature indeed. I'm absolutely thrilled to say that I'm now a Preferred Partner at the incredible Town Hall Hotel, London. After hearing such wonderful things about this wedding venue, it was fantastic to visit the team there and to hear all about their wedding offering. I'm already looking forward to my first Town Hall Hotel wedding.

So, if you've not yet discovered Town Hall Hotel for yourself, let me give you a quick introduction. The experience starts the moment you step inside and it's like traveling back in time or onto a film set. If you're a history buff, a lover of vintage or a fan of the golden age of glamour then you are in for a giant treat. The staircases, the paneling, the stained glass and the spot-on finishing touches. I swoon.

The amazing council chambers are a spectacular location for a wedding but there are so many rooms and spaces at Town Hall Hotel that are perfect for ceremonies that it might be hard to choose! I mean, I'm a history geek but I did fall for the cool, contemporary De Montfort Suite and I couldn't think of a better spot for an intimate wedding.

Town Hall Hotel is also super flexible. They can help you if you'd like some assistance or give you freedom to create the day that you've been secretly planning for years. There's no 'standard' wedding at Town Hall Hotel and that definitely makes me smile.

Lastly - food. I have to mention the food. If you're a bit of a foodie or if you just like the thought of a wedding breakfast that's downright delicious and a million mouthfuls away from the dull and lukewarm then you're going to LOVE the menus at Town Hall Hotel. Just take a look at the sample menu and I bet your tummy will rumble.

I'm totally head over heels for Town Hall Hotel. It's the coolest venue in London's vibrant East End and I just know that your wedding there will be brilliant - their preferred partners are all clearly as excellent as the venue itself...

You'll find Town Hall Hotel in Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9NF. The wedding team can be contacted on weddings@townhallhotel.com and you can download the wedding brochure here.

5 FAB WEDDING READINGS - FROM CHILDREN'S BOOKS

It's funny by sometimes, the older we get, the more we remember our childhood. There's always a special place in our hearts for the stories we were told when we were young and for the books we read. You'll find so many fabulous passages tucked inside the pages of children's books and here are five that make wonderful wedding readings.

Left: Marta May on Plan Your Perfect Wedding | Right: Jenny Chang via Buzzfeed

Left: Marta May on Plan Your Perfect Wedding | Right: Jenny Chang via Buzzfeed

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight.

Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

I wanted you more
than you ever will know
so I sent love to follow
wherever you go.
It’s high as you wish it. It’s quick as an elf.
You’ll never outgrow it…it stretches itself!

So climb any mountain…
climb up to the sky!
My love will find you.
My love can fly!

Make a big splash! Go out on a limb!
My love will find you. My love can swim!

It never gets lost, never fades, never ends…
if you’re working…
or playing…
or sitting with friends.

You can dance ’til you’re dizzy…
paint ’til you’re blue…
There’s no place, not one,
that my love can’t find you.

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton

I like you a lot
You're funny and kind
So let me explain
What I have in mind.
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
I want to walk right by your side
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
I want to travel with you far and wide
Wherever you go, I'll go there too
Here and there and ev'rywhere
And always with you
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
From now on.
Now lots of other penguins seem to do fine
In a universe of nothing but ice
But if I could be yours and you could be mine
A cosy little world would be twice as nice
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
I want to talk with you night and day
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
I want to listen to whatever you say
Look at these wings, so perfect to hold you
I'd like to say again
What I have already told you
Let me be Your Personal Penguin
From now on.
Now lots of other penguins seem to do fine
In a universe of nothing but ice
But if I could be yours and you could be mine
A cosy little world would be twice as nice
I want to be (want to be) Your Personal Penguin
I want to walk right by your side
I want to be (want to be) Your Personal Penguin
I want to travel with you far and wide
Wherever you go, I'll go there too
Here and there and ev'rywhere
And always with you
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
Imagine me, Your Personal Penguin
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
From now on.

I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

I like you and I know why
I like you because you are a good person to like
I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it's special
And you remember it a long, long time
You say, Remember when you told me something special
And both of us remember
When I think something is important you think it's important too
We have good ideas
When I say something funny, you laugh
I think I'm funny and you think I'm funny too
Hah-hah!

I like you because you know where I'm ticklish
And you don't tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too
You know how to be silly - that's why I like you
If I am getting ready to pop a paper bag,
then you are getting ready to jump
HOORAY!

I like you because when I am feeling sad
You don't always cheer me up right away
Sometimes it is better to be sad
You can't stand the others being so googly and gaggly every single minute
You want to think about things
It takes time

I like you because if I am mad at you
Then you are mad at me too
It's awful when the other person isn't
They are so nice and oooh you could just about punch them on the nose

I can't remember when I didn't like you
It must have been lonesome then
Even if it was the 999th of July
Even if it was August
Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
I would go on choosing you
And you would go on choosing me
Over and over again
And that's how it would happen every time

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

The story of a leaf who isn't ready to let go from the tree.
And then, high up on an icy branch, a scarlet flash.
One more leaf holding tight.
"You're here?" called the Little Yellow Leaf.
"I am," said the Little Scarlet Leaf.
"Like me!" said the Little Yellow Leaf.
Neither spoke.
Finally… "Will you?" asked the Little Scarlett Leaf.
"I will!" said the Little Yellow Leaf.
And one, two, three, they let go and soared.

I love ALL of these readings. Frankly, if I could find a line from Milly Molly Mandy or Tom Sawyer, I'd be there for that like a shot! Choosing readings from a book that you absolutely loved when you were younger or one that was read to you is so so meaningful. There are also LOADS of ways to incorporate your love of literature into your wedding day in both the design of the day (check the images that accompany this post) and in your ceremony and I'll be happy to help you do just that if you'd like. Get in touch and we can go from there.

NO LICENCE NO PROBLEM - 10 AMAZING WEDDING VENUES

If I had to choose just one of the many reasons why celebrant-led weddings are so fantastic, I'd definitely mention wedding venues. You see, with a celebrant-led ceremony, you can choose any venue you like. It doesn't need to be licensed for civil ceremonies, you don't have to worry about the availability of a registrar and, without these restrictions, the world is your wedding venue oyster. 

Coco Wedding Venues has to be your new best friend when you're searching for your venue. It's stylish, easy to use and I love the venue categories too. Coco also lists lots of venues that don't have licenses and are perfect for celebrant-led ceremonies. Here are ten of my favourite locations for weddings that prove that not having a wedding licence is absolutely not a problem...

1. STANSTEAD BURY

Oooh yes, Stanstead Bury in Hertfordshire is an absolute jewel. It's a gorgeous Grade II listed manor house that makes the most gorgeous backdrop for a marquee or tipi wedding. I love the fact that you can bring your pets and work with your choice of suppliers to make your day super personal.

2. HEATHFIELD HOUSE

Dorset's Heathfield House is pretty much the country house that you've always dreamed about. It's perfect for intimate weddings and you can hire the whole estate for a truly exclusive event. Enjoy your own 300 acres on the fringe of the New Forest that comes with a private chef, waiting staff and full housekeeping.

3. WILLINGTON LODGE

Willington Lodge | Images courtesy of Willington Lodge

Willington Lodge | Images courtesy of Willington Lodge

Heading a little further afield now, we whiz up to Shropshire and Willington Lodge. Surrounded by walled gardens, ponds, stables and picturesque fields, this luxurious bed & breakfast is perfect for a celebrant-led wedding. It's warm, friendly and the Morris family who own the Lodge are just the best hosts.

4. FERN & FIELD

If you've been dreaming about an outdoor ceremony then Fern & Field is likely to be just what you've imagined. Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the High Weald of Kent, Fern & Field host a limited number of weddings every year so that the working farm is protected but my goodness, those bluebells...

5. WISE WEDDING VENUE

You'll find Wise Wedding Venue tucked in 10 acres of established oak and silver birch trees (I swoon!). There are ceremony-perfect clearings tucked among the trees but it might just be the treehouse that steals your heart. Wise Wedding Venue is the most wonderful escape from the everyday.

6. AREA

Area | Images courtesy of jj Events

Area | Images courtesy of jj Events

If you're looking for a London vibe then Area might be just the spot for you. This blank canvas venue in the heart of creative Shoreditch has room for up to 150 guests and space for you to do just what you want. The huge windows overlook a private courtyard oasis and there's also a dedicated events team on hand to help you out.

7. GLYNDE PLACE

Glynde Place | Images courtesy of Glynde Place

Glynde Place | Images courtesy of Glynde Place

Just a stone's through from Brighton and Lewes, Glynde Place in Sussex sits at the foot of the beautiful South Downs. You've got space for up to 200 lucky guests and Glynde Place simply ooze old school elegance. The spaces indoors that could be available for your celebrant-led ceremony are just heaven.

8. BEAGLE

Oh how I love Beagle. This tip-top venue sits under three restored Victorian railway arches just next to Hoxton overground station. There are four indoor spaces for weddings and a great outdoor heated terrace that features a retractable roof! Beagle has scooped a host of awards since opening and it's easy to see why.

9. KNEPP CASTLE ESTATE

Home to free-roaming animals and natural beauty, Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex is the thing that wild weddings dreams are made of. You can pitch up to 10 bell tents in the grounds too for your guests and who knows, you might have a few extra visitors in the form of deer or an Exmoor pony or two.

10. FIRLE PLACE

Firle Place | Image courtesy of Firle Place

Firle Place | Image courtesy of Firle Place

An absolutely gorgeous private estate, Firle Place in East Sussex is a truly memorable venue for your wedding. You've got oodles of options for your ceremony (and reception) so all you need to do is choose between the lawns, orchards, 18th Century herb garden and, of course, the historic house itself.

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WEDDING RITUALS EXPLAINED - RING WARMING

We're all used to there being interactive elements, such as hymn singing, in wedding ceremonies. In your celebrant-led ceremony, there are endless options available. So, if you'd like to get your guests involved, you absolutely can. Today, I'm looking at ring-warming and here's everything you need to know about this fabulous ceremony.

Ring-warming, quite simply, allows your guests to 'warm' your wedding rings with their love and good wishes before you wear them. The rings, usually placed in a box or pouch or tied with ribbon, are passed around during the early part of the ceremony or are placed by the entrance so that everyone has a chance to 'warm' them before they're needed.

If you'd like to include a ring-warming, it's a good idea to include a little explanation so guests understand the meaning behind the ritual. This is something that I would be able to write into your ceremony for you so don't worry if you can't find the words! We could mention why you've chosen to include this element in your celebration, what guests will need to do and what their participation will mean to you. Then, if you're passing the rings around, they're sent on their way and a groomsman or bridesmaid can bring them back to us at the appropriate moment.

Ring-warming might not be the best plan from a logistical perspective if you've got a particularly large guest list but it can still be included. Either the rings are available for 'warming' when guests arrive or, if you're keen to pass the rings around, you can simply ask your parents, bridesmaids, groomsmen, grandparents and brothers/sisters to take part.

I am a huge fan of this wedding ceremony ritual. It's an element that allows guests to get involved and everyone can add a little bit of themselves to your day without needing to speak out loud or stand up in front of the assembled crowd. Ring-warming is a very personal addition to your ceremony and it's easy to see why it's becoming very popular. If you'd like to find out more about including elements or rituals like this into your ceremony, do get in touch.

PETS & WEDDING CEREMONIES

I am most definitely an animal lover. In fact, my beloved black labrador is sitting under my desk as I'm typing thing. So, it should come as no surprise that I'm also a big fan of inviting your pet to be at your wedding.

Let's be honest, if you've got a pet of any shape or size, you love it. There's also the possibility that you might well love your pet more than some of your human relatives! Family relationships aside, if you share your life with an animal, the chance are you'd like it by your side when you wed. If you're nodding along right now, read on...

If you're pet is going to be on the guest list, you need to make sure that the venue you choose is pet friendly. Obviously, if you opt for a celebrant-led wedding ceremony, you can go for any location that you like. Fields, paddocks, woods and lakeside glades are all perfect for pets and for ceremonies.

Alternatively, there are still plenty of options if you'd prefer a barn, country estate or stately home. Wedding venue directories such as Coco Wedding Venues even allow you to search specifically for locations that welcome furry friends.

Then, work out how best to include your pet. Whilst we're all seen those super cute videos of dogs delivering rings on cue, be realistic about your pet's abilities. Most of us would be happy for them to simply be present throughout with barking at the wrong moment or eating their floral collar.

So, have a good thing about everything (or ask your celebrant for some advice!). You might like to walk in with your pet and then encourage/bribe it to sit with you or with someone it knows. Just remember, there's no right and wrong - every animal has its own personality so choose something that suits yours without expecting too much. A stressed pet is never a good thing.

As with all things wedding, have a contingency plan (and, maybe, someone standing by with poop bags!). Remember that being able to have you pet with you on your wedding day is a special and beautiful thing. Even if they do get the odd muddy paw mark on your outfit...