Zara and Pete’s Real Wedding at Prestwold Hall | Dottie Photography

Zara And Pete’s Real Wedding At Prestwold Hall | Dottie Photography

A love of travel and vintage chic brought this real wedding to life

Prestwold Hall set the scene for the wedding of Zara and Pete, providing a stunning backdrop for the work of Dottie Photography. Bride Zara shared some words with Buckinghams to shed some light on her beautiful wedding day and the process leading up to the big event.

How did you meet – tell us a little about yourselves?

We met at university in 2005. Pete was in his second year studying Geography, and I (Zara) had just started my Biology degree. Since then we have done a lot of growing up and travelling until we eventually moved in together in 2009, renting a flat in Fulham. 

Tell us about the proposal – where, when, how?

It wasn’t until January 2014 that Pete finally proposed to me, nearly 9 years after we first met! He suggested we go for a walk in central London like we used to when we were at uni. We made our way towards a little spot on the river where we used to sit and chat and, once I’d finished the scotch egg I had insisted on buying just before we got there, Pete surprised me by dropping on to one knee. There was a beautiful vintage diamond ring staring back at me. I was shocked, but of course, I accepted straight away!

How did you find the wedding planning process?

The planning process was great fun if a little stressful at times! We had never appreciated how much time could be spent choosing a font or deciding a specific hue. I really enjoyed being creative and making our ideas come to life.

What was the inspiration for your theme/style?

We decided on a vintage travel theme. This was partly because we love travelling and Pete is a Geography geek, but also because it looks good and seemed to fit with the venue! We wanted lace, vintage books and a vintage bike as well as mini suitcases and luggage tags. It looked amazing!

How did you find your vendors?

We spent a huge amount of time on Google! But we also go to spend several enjoyable afternoons at wedding fairs, including at our gorgeous venue, Prestwold Hall.  We used wedding magazines and Pinterest to collect images of ideas that we liked and then searched further for the companies and individuals involved.  Vendors also gave us recommendations of other suppliers that they had worked with. The most important aspects for us were photography and the music and we are so glad we found our wonderful photographer Mandy and the band Champagne Skies.

What made you decide on your venue?

The church was the easy bit, it’s in the town where I grew up and I couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else. The reception venue was a bit trickier. My Dad spent a day driving us around to look at venues, it was quite a tour. I think we looked at 7 in one day! Prestwold Hall was the last one we visited and as soon as we walked in we just knew it was the right place. It was beautiful. It has an intimate feel about it, but grandeur at the same time. We also liked the fact that there was plenty of inside space for our guests if it was raining, and beautiful grounds if it was a nice day. Luckily, we had the latter!

How did you handle your guest list?

The guest list was easier than we expected. We each wrote a list, then compared and discussed. We actually settled on guests very quickly. The table plan was slightly more difficult, but we got a load of small sticky notes and kept moving them around on a mock table plan until it worked!

What food and drink did you choose?

Choosing the food was one of the best bits about the wedding planning. Prestwold Hall took the hassle out of it as they do all the catering for competitive rates. We went along to a group tasting session at the venue and got to try all the food they offer! We decided on lamb, rather than the usual chicken, and cod as a pescatarian option. It was delicious, though Pete and I didn’t get to eat much as we were so nervous about the speeches! We also chose some delicious red Italian Barbera, and white New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine and they couldn’t have been better.

Most memorable parts of the day?

The whole day was brilliant! It flew by so quickly but I feel like I can remember every tiny detail because I loved it all so much. My favourite part was probably saying the vows themselves, but the most memorable moment has to be the look on everyone’s face when Pete got up with the band to sing!

If anything, what would you do differently?

We wouldn’t do anything differently, it was simply the best day!

Where did you honeymoon?

A few days after the wedding we departed on our honeymoon. We started with a night in a spa hotel, Alexander House Hotel near Haywards Heath close to Gatwick. From there we flew out to the Maldives, transferring to our island on a sea plane, this was great fun! We spent 10 amazing nights there and then flew home via Dubai, spending 3 nights there too. It was a relief to relax together after the mad run-up to the wedding! Scuba diving with rays was a real highlight.

Funniest moment?

There was a bit of confusion as I was about to walk up the aisle. The vicar was getting impatient waiting for the organist to start playing the music. He finally caved and went up to him to tell him to start. What the vicar didn’t realise was that the music had already begun. I think Pete thought I’d changed my mind!

Did anything go wrong? Any surprises?

The day ran like clockwork. The biggest surprise for the guests had to be Pete getting up to sing ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ with the band at the start of the evening, just after the first dance.

What tips or advice do you have for couples planning their wedding?

The best advice I can give is to have fun! Get stuck into the planning and you won’t feel rushed closer to the time, which means you’ll get to enjoy the build up more. Then on the day, make sure you spend time with all your friends and family and don’t forget about each other! This is probably going to be the only time in your life where you can get all your friends and family in the same place at the same time, so make the most of it. Pete and I made a promise that after 10 pm we would hit the dance floor together and not stop until the end.

Liz and Stu’s Doddington Hall Real Wedding | Chris Snowden Photography

Liz And Stu’s Doddington Hall Real Wedding | Chris Snowden Photography

A love of Lego and the most beautiful of flowers

Doddington Hall was the perfect backdrop to the wedding of Liz and Stu photographed by Chris Snowden Photography.

How did you meet – tell us a little about yourselves?

We knew each other through mutual friends for a few years before we started dating. Eventually, after some not-so-subtle matchmaking, we finally got together – and thanks to our friend for locking us out of the house and leaving us in the garden until we finally kissed!

How did Stu propose?

Stu surprised me for my birthday with a trip to London. I had no idea where we were going until we were in the car heading South. He’d booked a meal and tickets to see the Lion King. The next morning, during a romantic walk in Kensington Gardens, he got down on one knee and presented me with the most beautiful engagement ring. I’d said yes before he finished asking the question!

How did you find the wedding planning process?

I’ve been lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for four of my friends – who all ended up being my bridesmaids too! This had given me a good idea of what was involved in planning a wedding. As a groom, Stu was very involved as well and we made all the decisions together. Luckily we have similar tastes so we didn’t really disagree on anything – although he did have to stop me going over the top on numerous occasions! It’s very easy to get carried away. I’m a project manager so I had lots of spreadsheets and was quite organised. 

What was the inspiration for your style?

We chose an autumnal theme for our wedding as we both like the time of year and the colours. We started with a colour scheme of deep reds and oranges and we talked this through with our florist, the lovely Rachel from Catkin Flowers. She is based in the gardens at Doddington Hall (our wedding venue) and all the flowers she used were blooms that were growing in the garden at the time of year. We let her decide which flowers to use, so the bouquets were a complete surprise until the day before the wedding. They were more beautiful than we could have imagined and they really worked to tie everything together.

Aside from the flowers the venue itself didn’t need much decoration as it already looked beautiful and was perfect for a traditional country house/garden style wedding. We chose to add some extra touches to show our personalities a little bit. Stu is a big fan of Lego, so we made the place card holders out of Lego bricks, had Lego pieces as table confetti and a Lego themed wedding cake! We also had M&Ms made with a picture of us printed on them – a selfie that we took the night before our engagement.

What made you decide on your venue?

My dad is in a care home and we wanted to be somewhere near enough so that he could attend. It was also nice to go back to my home town for the wedding. We decided early on that we wanted a venue that did everything in one place to keep things simple, and we also needed somewhere that could cater for our 120 guests.

We started looking at hotels but struggled to find somewhere that could accommodate our numbers. In the end, we decided to take a look at Doddington Hall. When we met Justine (the wedding coordinator) she showed us around and we fell in love with the place. It was unique and a real bonus that we were able to have the ceremony in the hall itself, followed by the reception in the Coach House next door. Justine dealt with everything at the venue from the catering to the DJ and left us with nothing to worry about.

There were also cottages on-site so the wedding party and our families could stay for the whole weekend without having to worry about booking hotels.

We couldn’t be happier with the venue and the staff were fantastic the whole weekend. We had the advantage of being able to work with them to set the dining room up the day before the wedding, so I had the reassurance that it was exactly as we wanted it.

What food and drink did you choose?

We had a traditional three-course wedding breakfast and offered our guests a choice of two meals. The Beef was reared at Doddington Hall and most of the ingredients were locally sourced.

We offered prosecco as the welcome drink and provided bottles of wine on the tables to make sure everyone was suitably merry.

In the evening we served a selection of spiced meats.

Our wedding cake was made by a family friend. It consisted of layers of fruit cake, Madeira, Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle. She put dots on the icing and made flowers from icing to look like Lego flowers, all to tie in with the Lego bride and groom on the top of the cake. It was displayed on a keepsake log engraved with our names and the wedding date, provided by Take a Seat.

Most memorable part of the day?

The whole day was memorable to us. It went really quickly but we loved every minute of it. I’d been dreading the first dance as I really am two left feet, but when it came to it I loved it and didn’t want it to end. Looking into my new Husband’s eyes as he led me around the dancefloor was the best feeling.

If anything, what would you do differently?

My Bridesmaids are really special to me and I wanted to treat them to the perfect Bridesmaid dresses, so I ordered their dresses from the Bridal shop.  They were made to order but it turned out to be more hassle than it was worth. When the dresses arrived they were all an unusual fit so they ended up needing lots of alterations.

The girls all looked stunning on the day but I realised that they would have been happy and looked great in whatever I gave them to wear and maybe if I could go back in time I would have taken them shopping for dresses on the High Street instead.

Where did you honeymoon?

About a year before we got engaged we’d decided to plan an adventure to somewhere we’d never been before. We chose Japan and had already started saving for the trip. On the day that Stu proposed one of the first decisions we made was to do the Japan trip as our honeymoon. It wasn’t the typical luxurious relaxing honeymoon but for us it was perfect. We arranged it through Trailfinders and they planned the whole thing. We took our backpacks and travelled on the bullet trains from Kyoto to Hiroshima and then Tokyo, with a few stop offs in between. We had an incredible time and didn’t want to come home.

Funniest moment?

The most surreal moment of the day was probably getting out of the car in the pouring rain when we arrived at the Hall for the ceremony. I was surrounded by people with umbrellas and I had to clamber out of my friend’s car holding my dress up around my waist. I remember finding it hilariously funny.

Did anything go wrong? Were there any surprises?

Everything had been running smoothly leading up to the wedding. I remember my seamstress telling me that all brides lose weight in the final few weeks due to stress. I laughed at her and was convinced that it wouldn’t be me.

Then it happened – the seamstress we were going to use to alter the bridesmaid dresses took ill and had to cancel. I took to the internet and found someone else who could see us at short notice. I thought she was my saviour and we entrusted her with the beautiful dresses.

When we went back to collect the dresses it was a disaster. She had ruined one by shortening the straps so short that the dress wouldn’t even go on and she had hemmed my maid of honour’s dress about 2 inches too short. She ended up having to buy flat shoes and the other bridesmaid’s mum had to fix her straps using the offcuts!

If that wasn’t enough my husband-to-be injured his knee while running in a bid to get in shape for the wedding. He ended up in A&E and on crutches just 10 days before the big day! We were fortunate that on the day itself he took some painkillers and was able to toss the crutches aside.

My Sister and Aunt were also both in hospital leading up to the wedding and one of our cats was ill at the vet. It indeed became a very stressful lead up to the wedding!

We are lucky to have some incredible friends who helped so much in the days running up to the wedding and on the day that mattered nothing was going to dampen our spirits – not even the rain. It was the perfect wedding day. 

What tips or advice for Brides to Be?

Decide early on who you are going to invite and stick to your guns. We were strict on not inviting anyone we hadn’t met. That meant that some people didn’t get plus ones and others did – we explained that to our friends and everyone understood. The venue had a maximum capacity and it would have been easy to get carried away.

Book your suppliers in early too. We were fortunate we had 18 months to plan our wedding so we were able to choose the suppliers we wanted. Our photographer (Chris Snowden) is already fully booked for 2017.

I would also recommend hiring a hair and makeup stylist who will come to you. The lady I used, Shell Edwards, was amazing – she did much more than hair and makeup, she kept us all calm and organised in the morning, helped everyone lace up their dresses and made sure we ate enough. She was a superstar.

Harping On…with Harpist Soraya Vermeulen

Harping On…with Harpist Soraya Vermeulen

Harpist Soraya Vermeulen’s recent real weddings

I had the pleasure of playing for two wonderful weddings this weekend!….. and you may also notice from my featured image that my new logo has arrived! Woohoo!!

Saturday saw the beautiful wedding of Kerri & Dan at The Walled Garden, Beeston. It was such a gorgeous setting, all pretty in pink, my wedding favourite! I even sat in the best spot; under the bandstand with hanging flowers all around me (made by Kerri herself!!) Kerri chose a lovely selection of music including, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri (for the bridal entrance), Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Kissing You by Des’ree, from Romeo and Juliet. Their guests were huge fans of the Beauty and The Beast music!

Then on Sunday it was over to one of my favourite venues, Prestwold Hall for the stunning wedding of Jen & James (decor courtesy of the lovely Elegance Chair Covers). Jen asked me to find a song that was particularly special to her mum for her bridal entrance, Por Una Cabeza, a Tango by Carlos Gardel. One of the lovely parts of my job is learning new music that means so much to a couple or their family. Another lovely part is managing to squeeze in a little catch up with supplier friends.. the amazing Paul Martyn took over from me for what I have no doubt was a great party!

It’s definitely time for a well earned glass of wine. Happy weddings everyone!!

Soraya x

Harpist Soraya Vermeulen