Great Fosters Valentines Day Wedding

Great Fosters is a fantastic grand and opulent old mansion house near Egham in Berkshire, and makes for a stunning wedding venue all year round, so naturally I was thrilled when Ruby & Mike asked me to capture their wedding on Valentines Day this year. 

Mike and Ruby met two and a half years ago in a rather alternative way, they were both members of a car owner’s forum, from which somewhat unlikely surrounds, love blossomed! 

The initial stages their relationship incorporated attending a lot of car related events so it was very fitting that Mike proposed a year and half later during a European road trip with their friends Tom and Anna.  They covered a grand total of 7 countries in a mere 5 days. Mike, knowing Ruby had a love of mountain landscapes popped the question when they were driving through the winding roads of the Swiss Alp mountain passes.  When everyone jumped out to admire the views from Fluela pass, Ruby turned around and saw Mike on one knee with the most beautiful ring.  He had chosen a vintage inspired peach sapphire surrounded by diamonds set in rose gold. Celebrations ensued as they moved on to the next stage of the journey with a joyous drive up the well known Stelvio pass, which is a known for being the highest and most dramatic mountain pass in the European Alps.

That was August 2nd 2015.  The couple were to be married just 6 months later. A lengthy engagement wasn’t something that they wanted and they decided on getting married fairly locally at a small church in Dorney (St James The Less). Ruby's favourite film was Four Weddings and a Funeral and she really liked the idea of having a very traditional English wedding.  Ruby comes from an Indian background but as she had attended a Church of England school, Christianity had been very prominent in her life and she absolutely loves the beauty and serenity of old churches. 

With about 5 months to go they set about getting the arrangements for the Wedding day together. Thankfully Ruby works as a part-time GP and she was able to use my days off to intensively wedding plan.  They fell in love with a cosy 12th century medieval church that they discovered as they were hunting for reception venues.  It was steeped in history and had a dreamy ambience with its quaint pews and numerous candles – getting married by candlelight was something that really appealed to them and seemed very apt for a winter wedding on a potentially dark day.

They had to start the process of attending church services once monthly for 6 months in order to be considered part of the parish and have a qualifying connection to marry there.  Luckily for Mike and Ruby they just made it in time in order to be married on our chosen date of Valentines day. They had always preferred the idea of a Winter wedding as there seems to be something magical about the crispness of a chilly winters day.   

Ruby & Mike preferred the charm and ambience of older, historical buildings, and what better place to have our wedding reception that a 12th Century Royal Hunting Lodge – Great Fosters, with its beautiful warm, wooden Tithe Barn.

The next 4-5 months were a non stop frenzy of getting a theme, a colour scheme, outfits, flowers and all the necessary suppliers. Ruby spent all her spare time on wedding blogs and Pinterest and stalking all her friends wedding albums on Facebook to get ideas about how to design their perfect day.

Ruby admits to being a girly girl which is where her Valentines day inspired colour theme of Burgundy and Blush pink arose. This decision was made thankfully very early on and then outfits for the Bridesmaids and Flowergirls just fell into place. They were even able to hire suits for the male party comprising pink waistcoats and burgundy cravattes.  The Mother of the Bride outfit was an elegant pink trouser suit with a co-ordinating silk scarf. Ruby's mother looked beautiful and glamorous as she accompanied Ruby to the Church in the car. She wanted both her parents to have poignant roles and her father was going to be walking her down the aisle. 

The church was beautifully and delicately decorated with pretty gypsophilia pew ends and this flower was also carried by the bridesmaids in their bouquets. There was contrast and simplicity with the tiny, stark white, snowflake-like flowers against their burgundy dresses. Mothers of bride and groom wore coordinating gypsophilia corsages and the male buttonholes were burgundy roses. Ruby's bridal bouquet incorporated white, pink and burgundy roses with gypsophilia that tied everyone together.

The couples stationary was designed by one of their neighbours who has a graphic design business and they used the theme of combining Valentine hearts with our wedding colour scheme.

Dress shopping was no easy feat, the only thing Ruby was certain of was that dress wise she wanted it big.  Ruby visited no less than 9 shops before she decided on the one – a beautiful white Ronald Joyce dress named Omette, it was indeed big, it was grand, it had a train and ticked all the boxes.  On the day she accessorized with a cathedral length veil (as well as a fingertip one for the evening reception – yes she had 2 veils!), her mothers diamond necklace and earrings, a vintage-inspired custom made Donna Crain hairband and a heavy musky fragrance and body oil chosen at a Jo Malone bridal consultation – Velvet Oud and Roses.

On our big day the couple opted for a short service with one reading and 2 hymns in the presence of an intimate congregation of family and close friends.  The service was beautiful, personal and moving.  Despite being a very chilly February day they had dry skies and the occasional hint of sunshine. This meant that they could have their perfect confetti moment as they emerged from the church as husband and wife. After saying our vows and our glorious confetti moment the couple retreated to savour their first few moments together as a married couple on the drive to their reception venue.

On arrival, the couple were greeted at the glorious Great Fosters by the banqueting manager with hot chocolates and then proceeded to spend some time with their guests during the welcome drinks and canapés. They had also booked a candy floss cart during this time for everyone to enjoy. Photos were taken with their families and then Mike and Ruby went out to have more shots out in the spectacular gardens at Great Fosters. 

The Tithe barn was decorated to perfection to match my visions, lots of beautiful high flower arrangements of roses and lilies on candelabras and an abundance of fairy lighting and candlelight. It was just so breathtaking. They had a string quartet playing throughout their reception and decided fairly last minute that they wanted to be introduced and walking in to the wedding breakfast to the Star Wars theme tune, played by the quartet as they are both fans. This really was a good decision and made the moment even more memorable. 

We had, early on decided that they would like a live band at our wedding and managed to find one via their contacts in the car world. They had gone to see them play live a few months ahead of the wedding and decided there and then they would be booking them. They really were a hit with the guests. What could be more appropriate than a song that took us back to their roots, how Ruby first met Mike, on that car meet driving behind him – Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.  

Tips from the bride

1.    A dress, if ordered from a bridal store generally needs a minimum of 6 months to be made to order from the designer. Allow enough time. Other options involve buying a dress off the peg, in a sample sale, second hand.

2.    Be very very happy with your hair and make up artist and ensure you are happy on the day before you leave to go to get married. Ensure there is enough time to make changes if you are not satisfied. Your face will be in all the photos and this is really where you want to have the best result you possibly can. Keep in mind that a heavy veil needs a hairstyle that will last. 

3.    If you want a church wedding outside of your parish make contact early as generally you will have to attend services for a few months beforehand unless you have a qualifying connection.

4.    Spreadsheets and lists are very helpful in planning.

5.    Use Pinterest to explore ideas.

6.    Make sure you book the florist early and are very happy with them.  Their products will be in the majority of your photos. Ensure you know what size your bouquets will be on the day as they will be in a majority of your photos. 

7.    Make sure you have a good idea of who you want included in group family shots, and discuss with your photographer the types of photos you want. 

8.    Think seriously about booking a videographer as the wedding day really goes so quick and this afterwards can remind you of what you may have forgot.  It will also show you a lot of what you missed when having formal photos taken or sorting out your hair and lippy. 

9.    If you are having to manage most of the organising alone think seriously about hiring a wedding planner to assist as it will likely make for a more positive experience and keep stress levels down. 

10.    A Toastmaster/ Master of Ceremonies is a good person to have around on the day and to liaise with beforehand to organise your day and guests. 

11.    Ensure someone close to you who will be with you on the morning of the wedding goes to your dress fitting with you. They will be need to be shown exactly how to do up your dress and where the waist is supposed to sit and how to bustle it up for the evening. This becomes more important the bigger and more elaborate your dress is.

12.    Think about how much alcohol you have on the wedding day as the likelihood it will go straight to your head and do you really want to look back on hazy memories. This is a very personal choice. 

13.    Try your best to have as much fun as possible during the process and get enough rest the week before the wedding day.