A Story Book Themed Winter Wedding at Notley Abbey by Gemma and Joss

This wonderful winter wedding featured 9 bridesmaids, a classic story book theme, an indulgent chocolate cake and an unforgettable bouquet toss.  

Gemma and Joss celebrated a book themed winter wedding at Notley Abbey in December

About the Couple 

Gemma was photographing an event in Milton Keynes for Heart Radio and Joss happened to be a guest. Gemma took a photo of Joss, the couple started chatting and the rest, they say, is history. 5 years after making their relationship official, Joss designed an engagement ring in preparation to ask Gemma a very important question that would change both of their lives, forever. Joss started to plan the perfect proposal with the help of his brother and sister-in-law. One late afternoon, the couple were walking their dog and came across a candle-lit clearing in a special part of the woods, close to where Joss grew up. Joss proposed to Gemma as the sun was setting and as she said yes, their families appeared out of the surrounding woodland to congratulate the happy couple. It was a moment that the couple will never forget and a story that they’ll forever be able to share with friends and future family. The couple spent a year and 2 months planning their romantic winter wedding at Notley Abbey.

Designing a Dream Wedding Dress

Gemma always knew that she wanted to wear something classic with a lot of sparkles on her wedding day. But, after trying on a few different dresses in various shops, she opted to have her wedding dress made-to-measure. She chose a tight-fitting bodice with a sweetheart neckline and trumpet skirt designed with lace and tulle with a large train. To add extra sparkle, Gemma had a beautiful diamante belt sewn around the waist. The bride-to-be loved every element of designing her own wedding dress; from the initial sketch that she drew with her mother, to collecting her dream gown just before her wedding. It was all a very special experience.   

Gemma teamed her wedding dress up with a luxe pair of Jimmy Choo wedding shoes and when it came to her bridal hair, she asked for the help of close family friends Paolina Genova and Hollie Butler. The bride was experimenting with different hair styles, but opted for a classic up-do after her father told her that she looked like a princess during her trial. Make-up artist Polly Marchant was hired to do make-overs on the bride and her 9 bridesmaids. So much fun was had getting ready in the bridal suite at Notley Abbey on the chilly morning of Gemma and Joss’s wedding. 


A luxury wedding cake featuring a ruffled tier and a gold leaf tier
The bride tossed her bouquet out of a classic MINI at Notley Abbey

Choosing a Winter Wedding Venue 

Gemma and Joss fell in love with Notley Abbey when they were driving down the romantic, tree-lined approach to the venue. They’d previously seen two alternative wedding venues but upon walking through the grand entrance to Notley Abbey, the couple knew that it was the venue they’d been hoping for. The more they walked around the house and grounds the more they fell in love with the elegant and tasteful rooms; they also loved the staff and knew then and there that they wanted to start planning their dream day at Notley! 

Gemma and Joss found Bijou’s proprietary online wedding planner one of the best things about planning their wedding at Notley Abbey. They knew that by filling their online planner out completely, all of their wedding plans were communicated effectively to the Bijou team and no stone would be left unturned. “It certainly made the day run very smoothly” said Gemma. 

A Busy Bridal Party 

Gemma had 9 bridesmaids; her two sisters, Joss’s sisters, her three best friends, her niece and goddaughter. All of the girls wore different dress designs that they’d chosen themselves in a range of gold, nude and Champagne colours. The girls all looked beautiful on the big day and did a great job in helping the bride and groom where needed. 

The groom and his party chose to wear slightly different attire from Moss Bros. Joss wore a grey-checked, tailored tuxedo jacket with a black waistcoat and trousers and the grooms party looked super smart in classic black tuxedos with wing collars and bow ties. They all looked charming!

The Big Day: 22nd December, 2016 

Gemma and Joss tied the knot in the Abbot’s Hall at Notley Abbey. Gemma approached Joss on the arm of her father, Gary, to a cover version of ‘Use Somebody’ by Kings of Leon – Joss’s favourite band; hearing that tune made it an extra special moment for the couple. Three readings were shared by friends and family members and after their romantic vows and the exchange of rings, the couple signed the register and then exited the Abbot’s Hall as husband and wife to ‘You Are The Best Thing’ by Ray Lamontagne.

Aside from a luxurious gold, blush and Champagne colour scheme, this wonderful winter wedding for 100 guests took on another inspiring theme, based on Gemma and Joss’s love of books. Each reception table in The Monks’ Refectory was named and decorated after one of the couples favourite books, and centerpieces featured a stack of books featuring the same name, with flowers, quotes, decorations and tea lights to match the story. Familiar names such as Peter Rabbit, The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland and Hundred Acre Wood were all featured. The book wedding theme worked perfectly and the time and attention to detail to produce each one was very well received by each and every guest. They were also given a personalised book mark with a picture and a message as a wedding favour; something to take away as a meaningful memory of the day. 

As well as numerous canapés and small bites throughout the day, Gemma and Joss’s wedding banquet menu included:

Starter: Red onion tart, spinach & saffron shallot, Mascarpone, red currant & balsamic
Main Course: Slow braised sticky Hampshire beef with creamed parsnip mash and vegetables
Dessert: Treacle tart with marinello cherry, clotted cream and Anglaise custard

During their wedding planning, Gemma and Joss decided to forgo ordering a traditional fruit wedding cake and instead decided to indulge in their love for chocolate. Their luxurious three tier wedding cake, designed and baked by Jamie Bakes Cakes, featured delicious tiers of red velvet, chocolate fudge and mint choc chip. The cake had a ruffled lower tier with a gold leaf covered tier below a beautiful white tier, topped with a sparkly gold, personalised cake topper. 

Gemma tossed her bouquet out of the sunroof of her father’s classic white mini. This was an incredibly special moment that the wedding for the guests to witness and a very creative way to capture and incredible photograph. 

A further 50 guests were welcomed to Notley Abbey to celebrate and witness a fabulous firework display with the new Mr & Mrs. To keep guests further entertained, the couple had hired a photo booth and some over-sized floral letters spelling out J&G for guests to pose in front of. The couple also hired the Bijou DJ who kept the dance floor full for the entire night. The couple danced their first dance to ‘Stay With You’ by John Legend, and the evening was so good that the crowd were begging for more tunes to be played once it had all come to an end. 

The Honeymoon 

Instead of opting for a traditional wedding gift list the couple created a honeymoon gifts list with Buy Our Honeymoon, so that guests could contribute excursions, treats and activities to help Gemma and Joss plan and enjoy a perfect honeymoon to the Far East. They spent three weeks exploring Hong Kong, Vietnam and Cambodia staying in wonderful resorts along the way. 

Bride: Most Memorable Wedding Moment? 

“For me it was the moment that Joss and I stood in front of all of our friends, family and wedding guests and watched the firework display. It was really lovely to just take a moment for us two and reflect on how amazing the day had been so far. Even though there was 150 people standing behind us it felt like it was just us two and a display of epic fireworks.”

Groom: Most Memorable Wedding Moment? 

“It is hard to single out just one memorable moment from a day that was filled with them but there’s nothing that compares to the feeling of seeing your beautiful wife-to-be at the end of the aisle. All of the years of being together, months of planning and minutes of nervous excitement build up to an unforgettable and overwhelming moment that will never leave me.”

Gemma and Joss’s Wedding Suppliers 

Wedding Venue: Notley Abbey
Wedding Photography: Paul Mockford Wedding Photography
Wedding Make-up Artist: Polly Marchant
Wedding Hair: Paolina Genova and Hollie Butler
Groomwear: Moss Bros
Wedding Flowers: Greycourt Florist
Wedding Cake: Jamie Bakes Cakes
Wedding Gift List: Buy Our Honeymoon

Notley Abbey is a luxurious, exclusive use wedding venue with history, located in Buckinghamshire
The wedding party arriving at Notley Abbey in a classic mini
A classic Mini parked outside Notley Abbey, a grand wedding venue in Buckinghamshire
A sign put up at Notley Abbey to create a fun atmosphere at the luxury wedding
The couple displayed classic story book quotes all around the luxury country house wedding venue
Order of Service books ready to be given to guests as they enter the beautiful wedding ceremony at Notley Abbey
The couple ordered a personalised wedding guest book in white and gold tones for guests to sign at Notley Abbey
The couple decorated Notley Abbey with personal touches throughout
The bride arriving at Notley Abbey in a luxurious stretched limousine
Gemma reading a letter written to her by Joss, just before their wedding ceremony at Notley Abbey
The groom getting ready with his party at Notley Abbey
The groom and his best men getting ready for the big wedding ceremony at Notley Abbey
Gemma chose to wear a wedding dress that she had made bespoke for the big day at Notley Abbey
The bride putting a tiara on one of her bridesmaids in the bridal suite at Notley Abbey
Bridesmaids looking out of the bedroom window to see who they can spot arriving at Notley Abbey
The bride having her hair sprayed so that it held in place throughout the day and night
The moment the bride is revealed to her bridesmaids at the large country house wedding venue in Buckinghamshire
A sign pointing guests in the direction of the wedding ceremony being held in The Abbot's Hall at Notley Abbey
The bride walking down the grand stair case at Notley Abbey ahead of her civil wedding ceremony
The bridal party just about to enter the grand and luxurious wedding ceremony at Notley Abbey
The bride walking down the aisle on the arm of her father at Notley Abbey
Wedding Vows in The Abbot's Hall, a grand ceremony room at Notley Abbey
The couple with their 100 wedding guests at Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire
Just married and walking back down the grand aisle in the Abbot's Hall at Notley Abbey
Gemma tossed her bridal bouquet out the sunroof of her fathers classic white Mini
The bride standing outside Notley Abbey with her bridesmaids wearing different shades of gold
The groom standing with his best man and ushers in the beautiful grounds of Notley Abbey
Guests walking in to the wedding banquet laid up in the historic Monks' Refectory at Notley Abbey
The bride and groom taking a moment alone to wander the beautiful gardens at Notley Abbey
Notley Abbey has beautiful open grounds to explore for during your wedding photography session
The bride and groom walking back in to Notley Abbey, a grand wedding venue in Buckinghamshire
A book themed wedding table plan for a classic book themed wedding at Notley Abbey
A luxury wedding cake featured at the book themed wedding of Gemma and Joss at Notley Abbey
A table themed after The Lord of the Rings and the wedding reception of Gemma and Joss at Notley Abbey
A reception table at Gemma and Joss's book themed wedding at Notley Abbey
A wedding centrepiece themed around classic books and stories
A wedding reception table with an Alice in Wonderland theme
A wedding reception table with a theme of The Secret Garden
A wedding reception table with a Peter Rabbit theme
A table with a Hundred Acre Wood theme featured at a book themed wedding at Notley Abbey
The top table in the grand and historic Monks' Refectory at Notley Abbey, a wedding venue in Buckinghamshire
The newlywed couple entering their grand wedding reception in The Monks' Refectory at Notley Abbey
The bride and groom bought huge floral initials to feature as a backdrop to their luxurious wedding reception at Notley Abbey
The groom making a speech in the luxurious barn at Notley Abbey
The bride making a wedding speech in the Monks' Refectory, a luxury barn reception space in Buckinghamshire
The newlywed couple posing for some photographs during the evening of their beautiful wedding
The bride and groom standing next to Christmas Trees outside their winter wedding venue, Notley Abbey
A hand-made sign pointing people in the direction of The Party at Notley Abbey
A basket of dancing shoes for guests to change in to before hitting the dance floor
The bride and groom cutting their wedding cake in the historic Monks' Refectory at Notley Abbey, a dream wedding venue in Buckinghamshire
A picture of the bride and groom cutting their cake, taken from above in The Monks' Refectory at Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire
The first dance in The Monks' Refectory at Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire
The couple had a firework display at Notley Abbey during the evening part of their wedding reception
The newlywed couple posing for a photograph on the romantic approach to Notley Abbey in Buckinghamshire
The bride and groom sharing a kiss outside their romantic wedding venue in Buckinghamshire, Notley Abbey