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Christine and Joe’s intimate woodland wedding with vows beneath a beech tree

Charlie / 25 October 2012

Woodland wedding ceremony

I have such a lovely wedding to share with you today, which will be of extra interest to anyone considering a woodland or outdoor ceremony, because Christine and Joe had one of the most beautiful looking wedding ceremonies I’ve seen.

Their photographer, Emma Stoner, is one of the talented wedding photographers listed on The Natural Wedding Company directory, and I’m thrilled to be able to share this wedding with you.

West Lexham wedding venue Norfolk

On a sunny August day, Christine and Joe were married in the grounds at West Lexham in Norfolk in an intimate woodland ceremony beneath the boughs of a red beech tree.  “We wanted an intimate and joyous feel for our wedding, as if we were in the heart of our community and supported by them.  It was important to us that everyone had a good time – despite having to work for it by making contributions!”

Emma Stoner Photography

“We wanted to find somewhere that we could get married outdoors, near trees and water.  I guess you could say it was symbolic to us as I love water and Joe loves woodlands.  In personality, I think of Joe as the strong, grounded one, and me as the strong, flowing one!”

Emma Stoner Photography

“We chose West Lexham because it felt like the right place – we could get married under the boughs of a beautiful red beech tree by a little river.  Also, the site had camping in bell tents, a swimming pool, gardens, rowing on the river, as well as cottages and the manor house.”

Bell tents

Wedding map

“The morning of the wedding was relaxed even thought I was daunted with the importance of the day.  I got up at dawn because I couldn’t sleep, wrote Joe a note, and did my yoga and meditated. I had breakfast with my bridesmaids and their boyfriends in the cottage we were staying in onsite.”

West Lexham wedding venue

“The girls and the best men took care of everything else, and even took away my phone so I wouldn’t stress.  They had a 17 page document of all our plans to work from, and it was all hands on deck!”

Handmade wedding

Handmade wedding

Handmade wedding

“My fanciful ideas of going for a swim that morning in the river were thrown out as I had to iron my dress (!) and then get ready for our first look.  I got ready with my bridesmaids, they did my hair and I did my own makeup.”

Bridesmaids getting ready

Bridesmaids getting ready

Bridesmaids getting ready

“My wedding dress came from Fur Coat No Knickers.  Initially, I wanted to wear something long and lacy and a flower headdress, as this would have fitted the vibe of the wedding.  But I’m a 50s girl at heart who loves her red lipstick, and with an hourglass figure it was the right decision to stick to a style I loved and suited me.”

Fur Coat No Knickers wedding dress

Fur Coat No Knickers 1950s wedding dress

“I knew it was ‘the one’ when I saw Laura from FCNK’s jaw drop just a little when I put it on and I couldn’t stop grinning.  I felt like myself in the dress, and that was most important.  I barely noticed that I was wearing it!  Plus the dress was silk and vintage which gave it both the soft, flowing quality, and the ethical credentials I wanted.”

Fur Coat No Knickers 1950s wedding dress

Christine also wore a hairpiece from Fur Coat No Knickers.  Her bridesmaids, all friends from school and university, wore three different styles of silk dress from Coast.  “I wanted them to look like them, but still like bridesmaids, so they had matching gold shoes, posies, and similar hairstyles.  I think they looked amazing all in jewel colours but different styles.”

Jewel coloured bridesmaid dresses

“Joe loves to wear bold colours, his suit was silk and wool and was lovely and light and breathable and a good strong colour!  He had three best men, Jay his partying buddy and all-round partner in crime, Simon his brother, and Alex his best friend from his school days.”

Groom with feather buttonhole

Christine made the feather buttonholes worn by Joe and the best men.

Best men with feather buttonholes

Christine, along with her family and friends, did all the flowers for the wedding.  “The flowers had been grown for the occasion and we had to get some top-up flowers from a local florist due to the bad weather in August!  I did a lot of the flower arranging with the girls and some friends on the Friday and my mum put together loads of the ones for the tables.”

Homemade wedding bouquet

“My mother- and father-in-law and some other family members got up early on the wedding day to pick gorgeous flowers from their allotment and they transported them in jam jars and buckets! Altogether we made the posies for me and the bridesmaids, filled vases with loose arrangements, and made the ‘natural chandeliers’ to hang from the top of the tipi domes.”

Natural foliage chandelier

After getting the venue ready and themselves, Christine and Joe had a first look in the grounds of West Lexham.

“Joe and I had a ‘first look’ before the ceremony – I felt so relieved to see him!  The ‘first look’ was great, a chance to spend some time together before meeting all the people that came to be part of our day.”

Bride in 1950s wedding dress

First look

How sweet are these two…

First look

Emma Stoner Photography

And just enough time before their ceremony to show off their wedding outfit details, like Joe’s fun cufflinks…

Tattoo heart cufflinks

Emma Stoner Photography

I love that Christine and Joe decided to have some time before their ceremony to see each other, and then to meet and greet their guests as they arrived for the wedding.

Rather than arriving separately, Christine and Joe walked together to the ceremony spot beneath the beech tree: “As we were about to go through the guard of honour leading to the ceremony tree, I had a momentary panic attack!  I think I was just overwhelmed, but looking back I see that it’s okay to feel scared – for me the day was a roller-coaster of emotion and the pressure of thinking it will be the happiest day is not helpful!  I wouldn’t change how it all unfolded on the day.”

Wedding ceremony entrance

Wedding ceremony entrance

Christine and Joe decorated the red beech tree that they held their ceremony beneath with ribbons, disco love hearts and lanterns.  “I really wanted to honour the tree and dress it beautifully in a way that reflected the joy of the occasion.”  The also put down a rug and had hay bales for their guests to sit on.

Woodland wedding ceremony with hay bale seating

Emma Stoner Photography

Emma Stoner Photography

“Our ceremony started with a beautiful acapella version of India Arie’s ‘I am ready for love’, then my mum and Joe’s parents did a couple of readings: the Apache Blessing and ‘On Marriage’ by Gibran.”

Woodland wedding ceremony

Wedding ceremony beneath a tree

“Then some our family and friends came up and gave their offerings, each representing different things we wanted for our marriage, including ‘cherish’, ‘creativity’, ‘passion’ and ‘truth’.  It was the most fun and touching part of the ceremony apart from Joe’s vows to me.”  

Alternative wedding ceremony

Alternative wedding ceremony

“Joe’s vows were incredible.  He spoke from the heart and declared his feelings for me in front of everyone.  He was incredibly courageous and at times hilarious.”

Wedding vows

Wedding vows

“The ceremony was my favourite part of the day by far.  It was the moment we felt so supported by the love and good wishes of our community and the moment we became married, and it created this closer bond between us.”

Wedding vows

“We had done ‘the legal bit’ earlier in the week, so after our vows, we swapped rings and received a sacred blessing from Catherine, our celebrant.  Then we were married – yay!”  

Woodland wedding ceremony

Woodland wedding ceremony

This is one of my absolute favourite pictures – I love the emotion, the excitement and the utter happiness at knowing you are finally married…

Emma Stoner Photography

Woodland wedding

Christine and Joe were married by celebrant Catherine Maguire, who is best friends with Christine’s mum and someone they’ve known for years.  Catherine and her fiancé Vincent both counselled and supported them in the run up to their wedding.

A different kind of ceremony

Christine shared with me that it hadn’t been easy choosing to have a ‘different’ style of ceremony. “Many of our friends and family are Roman Catholic, and my dad was upset that we weren’t having the ceremony in a church for traditions sake.  So it was the thing I was most anxious about, as we were having a spiritual ceremony we basically concocted ourselves with the help of our celebrant Catherine Maguire.”  

“My advice to other couples is to only worry about what you want to bring into the ceremony, what you want to create in this union, and don’t worry what other people think about you.  People come around, even my dad appreciated the ceremony, saying ‘it could have been in any religion’.”

After the ceremony Christine and Joe sneaked off with photographer Emma Stoner to get some lovely pictures in the beautiful grounds of West Lexham.

Emma Stoner Photography

Emma Stoner Photography

Emma Stoner Photography

Emma Stoner Photography

Emma Stoner Photography

In the evening everyone relaxed on the lawn in front of the manor house and enjoyed a fish BBQ with a lovely spread of salads.

Giant tipi wedding

Relaxed wedding reception

Bride and groom on picnic blanket

Christine told me, “My second favourite memory (after the ceremony) was the speeches from the girls and the best men, we were all almost peeing our pants with laughter!”

Wedding speeches

Emma Stoner Photography

Wedding speeches

Wedding speeches

Christine and Joe had the tipis laid out with tables and benches for their guests, and had decorated them with handmade tissue pom-poms and natural chandeliers.

Outdoor wedding feast

Wedding BBQ

Emma Stoner Photography

Tipi wedding

The wedding cake was made by Christine’s sister Magda: “My sister made a very special wedding cake – it was flourless, made with courgette, carrot and ground almonds, flavoured with lemon, and topped with buttercream and intricate handmade sugar flowers – it was stunning!”

Homemade wedding cake with sugar flowers

“It was so nice to cut the cake my sister had put so much thought and love into, and it tasted delicious.”

Cutting the cake

Christine and Joe’s guests also brought lots of homemade cakes and rounds of cheese for later – “I saw quite a few guests with a slice of every cake on their plate to sample!”  This is something I also enjoyed seeing at our wedding where we’d also invited people to bring homemade cakes.

Wedding cake dessert table

Emma Stoner Photography

In the evening, a number of their guests stayed in the bell tent village on site, and others had brought their own tents.  “The bell tents had memory foam mattresses and fairy lights, and I think it was fun for people to be onsite so they could swim in the pool.  I kept trying to call the wedding ‘Wedstival’ but it didn’t stick!”

First dance

Wedding party

Tipi wedding

Christine and Joe’s photographer was TNWC recommended supplier Emma Stoner.  Christine told me what it was like to have Emma capture their wedding: “Emma was fab!  Her remit was to capture the emotion of the day and she certainly did that.  We chose her because we saw her listed on The Natural Wedding Company and I liked the way she managed to capture people’s candid expressions.”

Emma Stoner Photography

“Emma Stoner was a joy to work with on the day, very cheerful and she put us all at ease.  I think this comes across in the pictures.  She was willing to go above and beyond to capture the pictures we wanted, for instance she stayed overnight with a view to taking pictures the next day if we were going to the beach – but in the end there was too much packing to do!”

Place card

A near disaster

Can you believe that this beautiful and relaxed looking wedding had a near disaster just two weeks before the wedding… “The wedding reception barn had a fire in it two weeks before our wedding – thank god we’d taken out wedding insurance with John Lewis, which covered us to bring in a tipi company and all the added stuff like a generator.  John Lewis were great and they paid up before the wedding so we could cover our newly-incurred costs to rearrange.”

The Stunning Tents Company, another of our TNWC recommended suppliers were the business who stepped in at the last minute to supply the giant tipis for Christine and Joe: “They were amazing, they stepped in at two weeks’ notice to supply us with a space for our reception.  They gave us outstanding customer service and really made sure we got what we wanted.”

I’ve never thought too much about wedding insurance, but having read Christine and Joe’s experience I now look at it in a completely different light.  It’s great to hear first hand from a couple whose wedding has quite literally been saved at the last minute because they’d taken out insurance.

Emma Stoner Photography

I want to extend a huge thank you to Christine and Joe for allowing us to share in their wedding day, and to their photographer Emma Stoner who first sent me the pictures.  I think there is so much inspiration and lots of lovely ideas to be found from Christine and Joe’s wedding day, plus lots of tips and advice based on their experience, which I’m sure will help some of you when it comes to planning your day.

{ Details }

Photography: Emma Stoner (recommended supplier of The Natural Wedding Company)
Venue: West Lexham
Celebrant: Catherine Maguire email: heartsong2012@gmail.com
Dress: Fur Coat No Knickers
Headpiece: Fur Coat No Knickers
Bridesmaids Dresses: Coast
Flowers: Mostly homegrown, extras from Swaffham Florist
Buttonholes: Handmade by the bride
Tipis: The Stunning Tents Company (recommended supplier of The Natural Wedding Company)
Catering: Julie Abbs Catering
Cake: Brides sister

Comments

jennie hill on 25. October, 2012

cool wedding! very natural x looks like FUN

Trisha on 27. October, 2012

Wow! well done for sticking with your feelings on what you wanted. It’s an inspiration to others, just having turned 25 years married recently I would love to do it all again like that, it was so beautiful.

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