Planning a festival style wedding!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Serious summer-wedding-planning season is upon us, so I'm going to try and put all the things I wish I'd read when I was planning our wedding, in to one place!  I planned mine over about 9-10 months and it was like suddenly having a very important full time job in something I knew nothing about, it was mental.  This is coming from someone who just wanted a chilled wedding.  Hmmm, I wouldn't say bridezilla made an appearance but I did suddenly realise that even though I hadn't been dreaming about this day since I was a little girl, I still had very strong preferences about what I wanted and what I didn't...and I am somewhat of a perfectionist/control freak, especially when there's crafts involved!

This was the first thing we started thinking about (after bridesmaids and best men of course), we knew we wanted an outside, festival style wedding with very few formalities and lots of friends.  We found our amazing venue, a beautiful vintage marquee and garden in Somerset called Cowparsley Weddings via The Natural Wedding Company.  It didn't take long for us to realise this was our perfect venue and although it was our biggest expense, it was worth it.  If you don't want to break the bank, I would highly recommend looking in to village halls, I know a few people who have done this for around £250 for the whole venue hire and had absolutely beautiful weddings with the same relaxed feel, just remember to factor in cleaning up the next day, a small price to pay for an affordable wedding venue.

There are so many options when it comes to food, I had quite a specific idea of what I wanted on the day and we ended up spending nearly as much on the food as we did on the venue but in hindsight that wasn't necessary.  We had a relaxed sit down dinner with hot middle eastern food served in the middle of the table for people to help themselves and hopefully break the ice on tables where people didn't know everyone.  We had a cake table full of loads of amazing creations made by our friends and family, without a doubt the show stopper!  We also had a vintage ice cream bike in the garden, our excuse being that we had 30 young children attending!  If I could do it again, I'd go for a buffet style dinner with all the guests bringing a dish, it would probably be more delicious and fits in well with the relaxed festival vibe, plus it would be a lot cheaper!

The Dress 
How difficult could it be shopping for one dress eh!? Oh how naive I was... I thought I could wait until the spring clothes hit the shelves and just pop in to Anthropologie (check out their sister brand, BHLDN for amazing dresses), look on ASOS or just pick something up for cheap somewhere.  Oh no no no, I did not make it that easy for myself, nothing was quite right and suddenly it's 3 months until the wedding and I still have no dress.  After a quick panic and a search on google for dress makers in Bristol, I found the amazing Laura Davey, that girl's got skills and heaps of taste and knowledge, she was a life saver.  She dealt with my overly pedantic ways like a queen.  If you live in the Bristol area and want a dress made, I highly recommend her.  If you don't go down that route, do what my friend Leila did and find a beautiful dress in the ASOS sale and get it altered to fit you like a tailor made dress.

Bridesmaids Dresses 
I think I cared more about this part of the process than my own dress and found it so fun spending hours on Pinterest looking for inspiration.  Personally I'm not in to the classic style bridesmaid dresses so in the end I opted for mismatched gold sequin dresses.  They looked amazing, I was almost jealous and wanted to be part of the bridesmaid gang myself!  Having 9 bridesmaids meant I needed to be careful not to spend a fortune but luckily I found most of them on ebay or in the January sales!  

The Ceremony 
This was the part I was most nervous about, we liked the idea of our friends 'marrying' us so opted for a registry office ceremony a few days before the big day where we invited our family's and made a night of it at The Pig nr Bath (that place is amazing).  On the actual wedding day, two of our best friends lead a humanist ceremony for us and did such an amazing job, we kept it short and sweet with ring exchanging, vows and lighting a unity candle, bish bash bosh - married!

The Bar 
Having an outside venue meant that we needed to organise the bar.  Originally we decided to buy all the booze ourselves and have an honesty bar, making it cheap for our friends while hopefully making some of the money back that we spent.  Now we aren't the most organised of people and we realised the logistics of it are actually a lot more tricky than we first thought - what would we do about glasses?  How many would we need?  How many different types of drinks should we buy?  Did we need anyone to man it???  It all got a bit annoying so we hired mobile bar, Alter Ego and it was great, we didn't have to think about anything, we bought pre drinks and wine for the table through them and had a reasonably priced paid bar for the rest of the night.

The rest of the wedding is where we used as much of our friends and our own talents as possible!  Ben enjoys a bit of the disk jockeying in his spare time so he made us a playlist for the day and we got mates rates from a DJ friend in the evening.  We loved the idea of a live band but with that involving another £1000 of our budget we just couldn't afford it and actually, it wasn't necessary, for us anyway!  For walking down the isle, I chose a song from youtube and I think I just got someone to press play at the right time!  It was perfect but any song would have been at that particular moment as I was in a little bubble, grinning from ear to ear!  I was lucky enough to have singer/song writer extraordinaire Katey Brooks, one of my best friends and bridesmaids, to sing us Marion Black's 'Who Knows' at the end of the ceremony, it was bloody amazing and one of my favourite moments.

I'm not exaggerating when I say the decor took over my life!  I am crafting mad when I get in to the zone and my days were filled with dipping feathers in glitter, making dream catchers, gold leafing logs, collecting vintage vases, buying millions of Moroccan lanterns and candles, practising flower crowns, planning flower arrangements, growing lavender plants, dipping wooden sticks in gold paint, pain stakingly stamping peoples names on to things letter by letter, tying bits of lace to sticks, making bunting...the list is almost endless.  Every time I saw something else cool on Pinterest, I just had to make it!  If you don't want to spend a lot of dosh but you want to have loads of fun decorations, then your own fair hands are your best friends!  Crafty youtube tutorials were my actual life for a while.

The photographer was just another expense we couldn't quite shell out for and I'm lucky enough to have a brother in law (Ben - Bristol Art Collective) with the skills in the photography department.  Looking back, it would have been fun to get a photo booth, my friend Emily of Fishee Designs has amazing booths up for hire which would have been perfect, if only I knew her back then!

Hair and Makeup 
This is a pretty important part of the preparations for most women (and some men) everyone you know and love in one place, all there to look at you and take lots of photos means it's an important day to feel confident in your own skin.  I'm lucky that this is my profession and I could do my own hair and makeup (and my bridesmaids!), two of my bridesmaids are also hair and makeup artists so we were pretty much sorted in the beautifying department.  For a festival style touch, we covered ourselves in gold tattoos which was so fun and they look amazing.  If you don't have the budget to hire a makeup artist, check out my blog post on how to do your own wedding makeup for some helpful tips.

I am a massive flower fan and after failing to find a florist who was happy to supply me with buckets of different types of flowers on the day, I decided to go it alone!  A scary thought at first but it was a challenge I was looking forward to.  I needed to make my own bouquet, 9 bridesmaids bouquets, 10 flower crowns, 9 button holes, enough vases full to fill 12 tables and more to be dotted around, quite a big ask of someone who struggles to keep house plants alive BUT I do love flowers so inspiration wasn't a problem.  A million pins on Pinterest later, I finally decided to grow 12 of my own Lavender plants to have in terracotta pots on the tables, I was hoping they would have flowered in time but even though they didn't, they still looked pretty!  This was cheap and a lovely keepsake after the wedding as they are now planted in my garden.  I bought three massive bunches of gypsophila from the local flower lady the day before to make the flower crowns and bouquets, really affordable and easier than you'd think to make, luckily I had the help of one of my besties and bridesmaids!  It was lovely sitting on my lawn in the sun all afternoon playing with flowers, a good way to calm the nerves!  We went to my mums allotment the day before and picked all the wild flowers we could find, I think we had three big bucket in total and they were so beautiful, all different types and colours.  They made up a lot of my bouquet and a lot of the table flowers, it was a really enjoyable task and in total I spent less than £100, a fraction of what I had been quoted by florists.

If you are getting married soon, have an amazing day - enjoy the process and remember what ever happens you will be in a wonderful wedding bubble and have the best day!


  1. I LOVED reading this post! Waaah. So cool. Your maids looked incredible. I've just reached the decoration phase... So I'm currently looking at Pinterest 24/7 and things are starting to get hectic. There's so much to think about! I'm lucky I spotted my dream dress on Instagram, found it on BHLDN, ordered it into a bridal boutique here and BOOM. Sorted. Flowers do cost a fortune (you are so savvy) but thankfully my Pinterest skills won me mine.

    We have splurged on an expensive live band because we've always wanted one and I can't do without a bit of brass. I wanted a super chilled, cheap wedding but it's gunna be quite the opposite - but totally worth it, I hope! ;)

    Tara xx

    1. Thanks Tara! You are so lucky to have found your dress with BHLDN, I loved so many of them but didn't know it was possibly to order to boutique - damn haha! I bet it's beautiful! Live brass band sounds amazing, worth every penny I'm sure! We were the same but ended up nearly doubling our budget, whoops! I hope you have an amazing day!! xx

  2. It was Such an amazing day! One of the best I've ever been to!

  3. LOVE this. Right up my street... the bridesmaid dresses are divine! You are nuts for doing all the flowers yourself though! xx

    1. Yey, thanks! Yeh, it was a bit nuts but worth it, kind of! x

  4. This is brilliant! I'm currently in the very early stages of planning a festival in a field style wedding and your tips are awesome. We only got engaged last week but would like to get married this summer......that seemed like a good idea, already I'm feeling swamped but this has been lots of help. Did your friends have to do anything to be allowed to do the humanist part of your wedding?X

  5. Festival style wedding! Sounds fun and very interesting. Loved this entire wedding ceremony. I will tie the knot soon and would love to have such a unique ceremony. Planning to book beautiful wedding venues NYC for wedding soon.

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