Ally & Jo…. Sopley Mill garden inspired wedding…

Ally & Jo had the most relaxed wedding at Sopley Mill a few weeks back… They went for this uber rustic, natural vibe, with textures, plants and a home grown flower feel… I chatted with Ally about her dress buying struggle, wedding planning, and their big day…

Tell me about your dress buying journey? – I always imagined my Mum would make my wedding dress, having made her own, plus several cousins and friends over the years. I imagined fabric shopping and designing my dress together. Unfortunately after loosing my mum three years ago, this couldn’t happen. So looking for the ‘perfect’ dress seemed like a daunting and impossible task. I didn’t know what what would suit me. I decided to go it alone, thinking if mum can’t do this with me then no one else will match up to the task. I started looking online for ideas, not sure what I’d end up with. After several Pinterest albums and a few designers I liked the look of, I looked for a stockist locally that had the designers I liked . I went with open eyes and tried some on. These dresses didn’t feel quite right. After a few dress shops and about 10 dresses, I decided to give it a rest for a while. I then came across Minster Brides and went to see them in November 2018. As soon as I started trying on the dresses in there, I just knew I’d find a dress that I’d love and that my Mum would have too. I narrowed it down to 2 dresses there, I loved them both. I admired the detail, felt the fabric and they both looked as close to perfect as I could imagine. I knew I couldn’t make the decision between them on my own. I wanted someone to share this moment with me after all. So I called upon my maid of honour, Naomi. We went back to Minster Brides two weeks later and I tried them both on for her. I knew it would be a special moment and it really was. As soon as she saw me in ‘The’ dress, she cried. We knew it would be that one! Everything about the dress was ‘Me’. The details, the fit, the design, the colour…EVERYTHING! I didn’t want to take it off. I felt the same on my wedding day.

How important were the flowers to you? – Flowers were always going to be important to us. Both sides of my family are keen gardeners and we all appreciate flowers and nature. Jo and I are from the countryside, surrounded by nature, natural and raw were how we wanted it. We didn’t want any colour as such,  just simple, raw and natural…nothing formal, we wanted texture combined with wild simplicity!

How did you choose your wedding flower theme and florist? – I searched for local florists and had several Pinterest ideas for flowers. I had come across Clair and when I saw her work, I knew straight away it was meant to be! When we spoke on the phone, Clair just got it and I had complete faith she would deliver exactly what we imagined. Freesias needed to play a part in our wedding flowers, these were my mums favourite flowers and are now mine. I grow them in my garden every year in her memory, the scent makes me think of her and how lucky I was to have a mother like her. We wanted them nestled amongst a variety of other flowers to create that raw, natural, country feel. We also then found out that Jo’s dads favourite flowers were freesias and roses… guess what… theses also featured in our flowers. Perfect!

Tell me about choosing your venue? – As we are both from the countryside, we knew we wanted a wedding that was at a venue with outdoor space and lots of open areas, with no other buildings around it. We didn’t have a particular place in mind, so being so lucky to live in Southbourne, so near to the new forest and so many other open spaces we started looking for ideas online. We started with a few places in the New Forest. We went to Sopley Mill, it was our first venue viewing. We both loved it. Everything about it and could imagine ourselves, family and friends there. We didn’t want to rule out anywhere else, so we visited three more venues. But Sopley Mill had already captured our hearts and we started planning the day in our heads. It was a joy, simple and easy and the beauty of it is that you can choose everything yourself so you are not tied to any particular supplier. It meant we could use all our own ideas and make it a wedding with lots of touches that were personal to us.

What was your favourite part of the day? – Too many favourite parts. Seeing my Dad and hearing him tell me how beautiful I looked when he first saw me in my dress and ready to marry Jo, the tears in his eyes as we looked at each other, the proudness I felt from him. The moment I saw Jo as I walked down the aisle, as he turned and we caught each others eye. The moment my dad gave me away, how my heart filled up as the two most important men in my life stood either side of me, safe in the knowledge that these two men love each other too, they are pals, friends, buddies and that in itself is enough for me to know that Jo is welcome in our family and that he loves my dad as I do. Seeing all the hard work over the past 12 months all come together, in perfect harmony. Each and every touch was perfect and the wedding had ‘Ally & Jo’ all over it. The freesias, the music, the honey, the seeds… the hidden touches, that were there for our missed loved ones.

Images by – White Chalet Studio

Georgina and Michael’s tea party wedding at Sopley Mill…

Dress buying story is a goodun actually! So I was showing Michael some fishtail/mermaid style wedding dresses on Pinterest and he said he didn’t really like them. So I asked him to show me a dress that he liked or what he could imagine me in… so he found a dress, Maggie Sottero named Deidre and I loved it. I did a bit of research and thought that being on Pinterest it’s probably American. Anyways it turned out to be in the bridal shop 10 min walk from our house in Hitchin!!! So I went and tried it on and instantly I knew it was the one. He never knew… however when I asked if he recognised it after the ceremony he didn’t have a clue hahaha. I mean it was 2 years before the wedding that he showed it to me so I let him off.

To be completely honest we were on a budget for flowers. At first we wanted to be able to grow our own wild flowers and use them for the wedding to save money, however the season wasn’t correct and we lived in a flat at this point with no garden! So we met with a different florist and I gave a brief about wanting wild flowers, boho theme etc.. but when they showed me the ideas it was all too pristine and perfect? I wanted more WILD. So then luckily I met you! Saw your amazing work on Instagram.
Clair you completely changed my perception of how important the flowers were. The ideas that you gave us, the colours, the flowers, the arrangements were all perfect. The flowers then became the main focus of the wedding …. I chose my bridesmaid dress colours to match the colours of the bouquet. The orange bow ties were to match the ranunculus. (Hence why they were so important to me! Haha)
We did still have some of our own picked flowers on the day.. the year before myself and the bridesmaids went lavender picking. I dried them out and put them in jars around the venue and used them in the chair sashes down the aisle.
I even went to a Jo Malone shop to get a personalised scent for the wedding day so that every time I smelt it, it would remind me of the wedding day. My scents were wild flowers too being ‘wild bluebell’ and ‘honeysuckle and davana’.
Even our cake had multicoloured edible petals on it…. So thanks to you Clair the wedding revolved around your beautiful flower design.

Our wedding was definitely a Pinterest wedding. We did all the decor ourselves, making little drink me bottle favours and eat me flags. (I have a slight obsession with Alice and wonderland). Made hangers for the bridesmaid dresses etc..

Sopley was the first venue we viewed, having travelled 2.5 hours for a day of wedding venue viewing. Michael wasn’t keen on it when I showed him online but as soon as we got in the car after the viewing he said “cancel the rest of the viewings”. We did end up visiting one more but our hearts were already set on Sopley.. how can you not fall in love with it. It also fitted in really nicely with the fact we wanted to do all of the decor and designing ourselves as were hiring the venue itself.

The weather could have been better… for some reason I attract storms. So when me and my maid of honour came to Dorset for my hair and make up trial last November. Storm Deirdre happened which was the exact same name as my dress!!! Creepy. Then during our engagement photo shoot we had a hail storm so it got cut short… then the same bloody thing happened during the group shot of our wedding didn’t it… HAIL AGAIN!!? there’s a pic of the bridesmaids holding something over me to keep me dry.. we had to all leg it in the mill which was a laugh.. then we managed to get the picture again later with every single guest in which is special.

Gosh the day just went so so quickly. Favourite part is a tricky one. I did like the afternoon tea a lot because I was sat in the corner of the room and looked at everyone feeling so appreciative that all these people had travelled to Dorset for us. We had family come from New Zealand and Greece! I felt so blessed. But probably our all time favourite bit was the evening as Michael had booked a band as a surprise! He sold a load of his DJ equipment to fund it which was ever so sweet of him. I’ve never seen him dance to much in the 11 years of us being together haha.

Images by – Margesson Photography

How to make the most out of your wedding flower budget…

How to make the most out of your wedding flower budget…This must be the one hundred thousand dollar questions on every couples mind…
I’ve had people in the past say, “but the flowers are just for one day”… well let me tell you something – everything is, the cake, the dress, the food… so go for it, flowers make a wedding, without them your photographs and venues just wouldn’t look the same! Here are my top tips how, if you’re on a budget!

Ceremonies… I just adore ceremonies and I love to dress them too. Understandably people feel it’s not worth spending lots of money on such a small part of the day, some ceremonies only last 20 minutes, so what’s the point?… Well I felt so nauseous before walking down the aisle, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else! but to my great surprise I loved every second, beaming from ear to ear saying hello to everyone as I walked past. It was awesome! And I love looking back at the images with all the flowers and people I love…
My advice is, no matter how great or small your budget, flower up your ceremony… Floral jars hung from chairs down the aisle is such a simple, but effective way to add a floral touch… floor standing lanterns and chunky candles with foliage wove in between is another perfect way to add extra decor to your aisle… All of which can be reused after the ceremony… Floral jars and foliage could be used to decorate the front of your top table with candlesticks and tea lights in between. Or you could dot them around the base of tall table centrepieces really finishing the look. Another area which always cries out for a floral touch is the bar and chill out areas for your evening reception… floral jars could be dotted here and there on tables, along with the floor standing lanterns.

If you have a larger budget and can stretch to large floral arrangements, go for large pedestal arrangements, floral arches and moongates… these would first be used to decorate the ceremony area, framing you as you say your vows, creating a wow factor statement all of you couples seek… again it’s all reusable after the ceremony relocating items to reception room entrances, or marquee entrances, behind the top table is always a great place to reuse items as they’ll feature in every image. My moongate has also been reused as a photobooth backdrop, which is really getting value for money!

Let’s talk about bridesmaids bouquets… Of course your best gals have to have some flowers, and you guys look awesome all huddled together, posing for the perfect shot. These bad boys are not cheap, and I strongly recommend you use them as extra decoration after your drinks reception… Best place is the top table… You’ve quite likely spent a lot already on your table centrepieces, so it’s nice to no you’ve got your top table covered and paid for already… Just add some finishing touches such as, table runners, ruched fabric or foliage, along with candlesticks, tea lights and flower heads, perfect, job done!

After bouquets and ceremony flowers, your biggest expense will be your table centrepieces, potentially eating up a third of your budget, especially if you have over a 100 guests! So if money is tight I always suggest going for a few show stopper tall floral arrangements, simplifying the rest being super budget friendly… For example… these wow factor arrangements on gold stands create such an impact, and you only need 3… the rest of the tables have simple styling using gold lanterns with florals dotted around the base on ruched fabric, along with groups of candlesticks and tea lights finishing the look, bringing a luxurious feel to everything.
Going back to your ceremony, these tall table centrepieces could also be used here first, framing the ceremony area and aisle, I’ve done this plenty of times, moving them over to your reception tables whilst you and guests sip champagne elsewhere.

Making the most of your money always feels good and I’m all for achieving people’s dreams by being clever with the flowers, but there’s one thing you have to do… be open and honest with your florist about your budget so we can advise you where best to spend your money. I want it to look just as good as you do, helping you make the most out of everything you pay for.

My Top Tips To Walking Down The Aisle…

So I can now class myself as a pro in this situation… I got married 3 years ago and the thought of walking down the aisle with all eyes on me was quite frankly terrifying. I know I’m not the only one that felt this way, and I’m sure everyone who reads this will be feeling the same way too… Fear not my men and women out there, its not as bad as you think, in fact it’s fantastic! Sit back… I’m going to tell you all about mine, and other peoples experiences…

The run up to the wedding, and on the morning of the wedding, all I wanted was the ceremony part to be over so I could relax and start to enjoy the day. I suppose it’s the same for anyone who’s doing a speech. I remember the hours ticking by on the run up to the ceremony with waves of butterflies exploding in my stomach. I think I made life difficult for the photographer as I kept pulling silly I’m scared faces when ever she tried to take a picture of me. The time finally came when everyone left me and it was just my brother and I waiting to go and see the registrar. I remember pacing the room hyperventilating! The walk  from the room where I was getting ready to the ceremony room, was, and still is a blur. I answered questions the registrars was asking me, and have no recollection of what she asked. I was ridiculously nervous!

I’m waiting and waiting, my brother in one arm, my bouquet in the other… I hear the music and I’m off like a sprinter at the start line, racing to get to the finish. Thankfully my Brother and I had had a dress rehearsal the evening before, it was quite a short aisle and I wanted everyone to hear the music we had chosen. I remember him tugging at my arm, holding me back. Then I looked up and saw everyone with heads turned looking our way. Instead of blushing and looking away, I started to smile and greet everyone as I was walking past, after all these are your closest friends and family, its so special to have all of the people you love in your life, all in one room together. I was happy beyond belief, all of a sudden I was feeling as light as air, almost wafting down the aisle. I don’t really remember looking at my husband to be until I got by his side, I was so engrossed in my guests, saying hello to everyone.

Now guys, I can’t stress this enough… Look at the one you’re marrying and not the one who’s marrying you. I’ve been to so many weddings where the couples are so nervous they forget to look at each other. These vows are important, they’re life binding, and do you know what, its over in a flash so pay attention. I was so scared I was going to mess up my lines and say it all back to front. Don’t sweat it, honestly. How many of us have been to a ceremony where someone has fluffed up their turn to speak, or just not spoken at all! See it as giving your guests a little light entertainment prior to the big I do. Yes people will giggle but that’s a good thing, it breaks the tension. I remember holding hands with my husband and we were both just smiling at each other. We didn’t fluff our lines, we were actually quite good. Then before I knew it I had a ring on my finger and I said it… I DO! We hugged and kissed and it was done.

Another part you all may be nervous about is the signing of the register. I was nervous about spelling my own name wrong! Don’t be, you’re guided step by step, its fool proof. looking up at a room full of people almost shoving each other out of the way to get a good picture is also not as embarrassing as you think. By that point you’ve done what you thought was the hard bit and you’re just sat, chilled, soaking up what’s just happened. So smile and beam away.

My second big tip… once you’re up and out of that chair, ready to walk back up the aisle again, hold that bouquet of yours down. I’ve tutored so many brides where the best place is to hold the flowers… holding it in both hands with your forearms resting on your hips is the most comfortable, and natural place. What did I do… I had it all up in my face, waving it around. Be cool with your flowers, you wear them and not the other way around. I remember my photographer miming to me to lower my bouquet, which I guiltily did in a flash!

My overall summery of my wedding ceremony was… it was the best part of the day, honestly it was. Since having done it myself I’ve spoken with so many other people who felt the same way prior, and came away with it being the best moment of their life… My last top tip is… trust me, you’re going to love it!

Phoebe & Stephen… New Forest Summer Wedding

Phoebe will always be one of those brides that’s sticks out in my mind for many years to come. Her style was just that little bit different, she had the cutest little dress, and her flower choices were vibrant with eclectic styling, everything verged on the vintage side of things…

When I asked her why this dress, I smiled when so told me she chose diamonds over her dress! no brainer if you ask me… “I didn’t like the thought of spending lots of money on a dress as I love jewellery and Stephen agreed to buy me some diamond earrings if my dress wasn’t too much. I knew that I wanted a luxurious fabric such as pure silk and something timeless, sweet and simple. I think that something big and puffy wouldn’t have matched the simple wedding! I was looking online on Christmas eve and ordered this one for £200 on a whim. When it arrived my mum and I knew it was right so I never needed to go into a dress shop, I may have missed out on that experience but I did have a lot of fun choosing my veil and getting that embroidered with our initials and wedding date”.

What was your theme?…”I chose this theme as I think that people look prettiest surrounded by warm colours – I wanted sunset type colours as I think they are really flattering, with a splash of blue from my favourite, delphinium! The flower headband was the answer to my hair and veil issues and really went with my dress. I loved how my sister looked with hers on too. All of the foliage in the flowers was amazing and I loved that it was fragrant too (although the rosemary in my floral crown did prompt my Granny to say I smelt like a roast lamb). It also tied in with getting married in such a foresty, green place. I have always loved blue and white china and loved the contrast of the jugs and the flowers. There wasn’t really a theme for our wedding – just relaxed and simple but getting the flowers right was a huge priority as I knew they would bring the whole thing together!”

What was the most important thing to you?…”Flowers and photography were my absolute priorities! I was able to budget for other aspects but flowers make the photos look incredible and the photos are what lasts forever! I knew I wanted special flowers with lots of texture and someone who  was able to create the style in my mind without any fuss. I met with a couple of florists and felt disheartened but as soon as I found your website I knew I had to book you! I am so happy I did and seeing the back of your van on the morning of the wedding, when I was feeling so nervous, was just wonderful as they were such perfect flowers and I knew it would all fall into place.”

What was your favourite part of the day?…”I loved our ceremony! walking into the church I felt so much love coming from everyone there. The roof of the lovely old church that we were meant to get married in collapsed a few weeks before the wedding and so the other church was much bigger than we had planned for, I was so worried about this and the last minute changed gave me a bit of a wobble. However Clair’s flowers bought it all together, standing at the alter between the amazing flowers I felt very cosy in the big open church. Apart from actually getting married, my favourite part of the day was going off for a while with Stephen and the photographer for some portraits but also to relax and enjoy what we had just done. I also loved the ceilidh dance and looking around the room and seeing our families mixing and school friends dancing with newer friends, it was surreal and wonderful. I’d do it all again tomorrow!”

Photographer… Martin Beddall

Exactly what every bride needs

Clair is knowledgeable & friendly which is exactly what every bride needs. Her work looks like it's out of an East London photoshoot with oodles of style... All of my bridesmaids want Clair to be there florist. She is exceptional!

An excellent creator of floral masterpieces

Clair instinctively knew what flowers to use based upon my brief... She is calm, relaxed, professional and discrete... An excellent creator of floral masterpieces which brought tears of joy to my eyes.

We met Clair and clicked immediately

We met Clair and just clicked immediately with her. She had prepared ideas based on our description of the wedding and she was one of the few suppliers we met who genuinely tailored her approach as soon as she got the brief.