Bella and Richard Planned a Barn Celebration at Notley Abbey

Barrister Bella and financier Richard spent 11 months planning their rustic wedding at Notley Abbey

Choosing the Perfect Wedding Venue

We didn’t have a specific wedding venue in mind but wanted somewhere with character within the Oxfordshire area where we could have both the ceremony and reception under one roof. We started by searching for wedding venues in Oxfordshire online and decided upon a few to visit – one of which was Notley Abbey. We loved the venue as soon as we saw it in the flesh! 

Wedding Details

The planning process was more fun than stressful. We were lucky to have great support from family and friends, who helped with advice when sought. We also made an early list of the things that needed to be done and worked through it in a methodical way. Richard’s brother-in-law to be is a skilled DJ and keen on mixing music and helped us compile the music for the ceremony. We also had a family friend offer to make the bride’s tiara. 

The process really appealed to our creative and artistic side, and so we particularly enjoyed sourcing and liaising with providers of the flowers, lighting and cake, as well as engaging in a bit of DIY for the place cards, table numbers and seating plan. The wedding banquet menu was, for us, fairly easy to choose. We wanted a vegetarian/fish menu, and after an initial look at the helpful pictures and descriptions in the Bijou planner; we thoroughly enjoyed our tasting. 

The Big Day: 23rd March, 2014

With our theme, we went for a fairly natural, rustic theme with seasonal flowers which were not too structured, along with pretty lighting. 

It was really weird to think that eleven months of planning for this date in the future had finally arrived. The process of getting ready with all the people we loved the most around us was great fun, although it was strange being followed around by photographers all day (especially as neither of us like having our picture taken).

The entire day was so lovely that it is difficult to pick out just one part that we will remember forever. Every detail is etched into our minds, from the beautiful floral arch at the ceremony to the twinkling fairy light canopy in the barn. Of course, the ceremony was very special and solemn but it was truly wonderful to have all of our friends and family, some from as far afield as the U.S, Israel, France, Cayman and Dubai, at our sides.

The Wedding Reception and Banquet

The reception was everything we hoped for and more. For the initial reception we went for champagne and Pimms with a selection of Bijou’s delicious canapés. We also had a Klezmer band playing and they were incredible. After the drinks, everyone moved to The Monks' Refectory along a lantern lit walkway. We had a fairy light canopy in the barn which was beautiful and reflected beautifully in every glass panel. The table centres were stunning, and our dragonfly place settings perched on each wine glass turned the tables into little gardens. For the wedding breakfast we chose a menu of caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlet, followed by sea bass, topped off with a fabulous sticky lemon and almond cake. 

Our wedding cake – taking centre stage behind the top table, was incredible and modern. There were three tiers of coffee and walnut and madeira cake, all encased with solid panels of white chocolate, rippled with green, and edged with lime green chrysanthemums. The speeches were given by the bride’s father, Simon, Richard’s best man, Rob, Richard of course, and the groom’s cousin, John, on behalf of Richard’s elderly grandfather who sadly had to leave early through ill health. The speeches were interspersed between courses and were, we think, really entertaining and hugely emotional.

The Evening Entertainment

The entertainment was then provided by a band called The Vodka Martinis, who sang a mixture of current and past covers, jazz and Latin music. They were fantastic, highly professional and enjoyed by all. We booked them through Function Junction who were also terrific and a pleasure to work with. We gave them a brief of finding us someone who could play a range of styles including Latin music, and they came up with the perfect match. Our first dance was to 'Sway' – the Michael Buble version. We both enjoy Ceroc dancing so had devised a routine, which was great fun. 

Our Tips for Future Bijou Couples

Bijou were so helpful and professional, they were always on hand to answer any queries no matter how silly or small. The organisation of the day itself was faultless, so we would suggest that you try not to stress about the most special of days and trust the professionals.

Bella and Richard's Wedding Suppliers

Wedding Venue: Notley Abbey
Wedding Photographer: Barker Evans
Wedding Dress: Stephanie Allin
Wedding Flowers: Fabulous Flowers, Oxford
Wedding Cake: Cocomiloko
​Wedding Band: The Vodka Martinis