Offbeat partner: Abbi
Offbeat partner: Jess
Date and location of wedding: Sparkford Hall, Somerset, UK — June 30, 2018
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our theme was the fairly nebulous “rainbow woodland.” We were married under a big old oak tree on a Georgian estate in an hour-long pagan ceremony that involved invoking the four elements and culminated in a handfasting. Our colour scheme was rainbow because we quite simply couldn’t pick!
We both have such big families, with Jess's being transatlantic, that we decided we wanted to have a huge party, and booked our venue from Friday to Monday to give us a chance to really spend time with each other. We had guests from as far apart as Japan, California, and Germany. The bridal party and close family stayed in the house with us, and other friends camped on the grounds. We tried to invoke all the things we loved in our wedding day — geeky nods to Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Jonathan Coulton, and the Lord of the Rings; live folk music, as we met through our university's folk society; the Obergefell v Hodges ruling for Jess's career and theatrical touches for mine. We asked our guests to wear ‘whatever makes you feel pretty.' We then celebrated with ice cream, lawn games, and street food, and ended the evening with a ceilidh and session. Oh, and there was an owl, and llamas.
Tell us about the ceremony:
Unfortunately UK laws mean that you can’t legally get married outside — it has to be indoors, in a registered venue. So we decided to have our legal ceremony in the morning, and make it a pyjama party! #bridesquad slippers and themed dressing gowns for the bridal party helped make things very cute. It was so short that at one point we had to pause while the registrar who was filling out the certificate caught up with us.
In the afternoon, we had our ‘real wedding' under a huge old oak tree in the grounds, where a Priestess of Avalon from Glastonbury performed a handfasting, linking in the four elements with declarations of love, music, and readings. We entered from opposite sides of the circle to “Concerning Hobbits” from LOTR, and in our hour-long ceremony we had readings from His Dark Materials, Winnie the Pooh, e.e. cummings, and Benedick's monologue from Much Ado. Our rings were delivered by Molly the owl, although she didn't want to behave!
We wrote out in advance why we loved each other, how we meet, and a set of vows, and our priestess had helped us each make a handfasting hoop personalised with items that were special to us. Jess included a string of flowers which she's had since she was a child, and a poem which she had written for me. I included my mother’s wedding ring and fabric from our dresses. Then our Priestess tied the hoops (and our hands) together, and invited everyone present to tie a ribbon to the hoops together with a wish for our future.
Tell us about the reception:
We ended up getting married on one of the hottest days of the year, so our reception was mostly spent finding shade. We had made a help-yourself bar with themed cocktails (Team Abbi and Team Jess) and a pimp your lemonade stand. One of our friends recently opened a meadery business, and he made us a special oak-infused mead which we drank by the pint. Jess’s highlight was definitely the bottomless ice cream from an ice cream trike which we had instead of canapes — gin and tonic sorbet is a firm favourite! Abbi's highlight was swinging on a door in the ‘enchanted glade.' Our guests could also play lawn games, blow bubbles, write on squares of fabric for our guest book quilt, and meet Molly, although mostly we ate delicious street food and drank cider.
After the speeches, including an emotional speech from Jess’s brother and a ridiculous piece of interpretive dance from Abbi’s best men, we had a ceilidh in the barn. Our first dance was to “The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields, which then changed smoothly into “I’d Be Your Wife” by Mary Lambert so everyone could join us on the floor. The band, led by one of our bridesmaids, played all our favourite dances. Both our dads are musicians, and so they played us some songs during the interval, which was very moving. After the ceilidh, we put on our ‘Wedding BANGERZZZ' playlist in the house for people to dance and had a jam session around the campfire under the tree, with all our folkie friends singing our favourite tunes.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
One of our ushers gave us the advice, “the only thing that can go wrong is that you don’t get married, so as long as you end up married at the end then it will have been a success.” This really helped, because it helped us remember that the day was about us, rather than about what uncle number seven might think or disapprove of.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. The weeks before we were worrying about people dropping out and what our families would think, but on the day itself we just didn’t care. Don't surround yourself with anyone on the day who won't lift you up, and don't be afraid to ask friends to do things for you, whether it's ‘remind me to drink water' or ‘keep these two people separate.' Let one of those things be ‘please grab me some cheese before it all disappears,' because otherwise you won't manage to get any of the lovely food you bought!
Remember to spend time with each other on the day. We disappeared for half an hour between our legal ceremony and our ‘getting ready' time to have a bath together, and this grounded us and helped us deal with nerves, because we knew we were on the same page.
The only other thing we want to share is how grateful we are to our bridesmates, friends, and family, for making the day so perfect — from Flower Squad sorting out decor for a whole house to Jess's family arriving from the airport and dropping everything to hang bunting to Abbi's best friend putting together an ‘Oh Shit! Kit' including an emergency picture of her cat.
Photographer: Tasha Park Photography (with Olga as second photographer) • Brides’ Dresses, including corsets: Lisa Keating Bridal • Best Mens’ Suits: Next • Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Armor Sans Anguish • Venue: Sparkford Hall • Wedding planning: Jaana at Wonky Dog Productions • Food: South Street Kitchen • Cake: The BoHo Bakery • Ice cream: Toot Sweets • Cheese: The Bristol Cheesemonger • Ringbearer: Ring on a Wing • Cake Topper: My Custom Cake Topper • Band: Silver Street Ceilidh Band (with Hannah Norman as caller) • Flowers and greenery: Black Shed Flowers • Officiant: Sharlea Sparrow from Goddess Temple Weddings