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Real Wedding

Jennifer and James’ Wedding at Notley Abbey

Explore Notley Abbey

A quirky, lavender and Polaroid themed wedding at Notley Abbey

Jennifer and James met back in 2004 whist both working as ushers at the Windsor Theatre Royal.

Whilst watching pantomimes and eating ice cream the couple became great friends, which continued through their university years and the start of their working careers, until they decided to ‘give it a go’ in 2010. Since then, the couple have been two happy peas in a very happy pod.

James proposed in the couple’s front room on Christmas morning in the middle of eating a festive scrambled eggs on toast. Jennifer was taken completely by surprise and made James wait a whole week before she gave him an official ‘yes’. James chose an engagement ring all by himself and the couple started to plan their wedding for the following spring.

Booking the Venue

After a Christmas Day proposal, Jennifer and James decided that they didn’t want to wait too long before getting married, so they started looking at wedding venues straight away. The couple looked at 2 other venues before falling in love with Notley Abbey as soon as they started driving down the magnificent driveway. Everything about Notley Abbey fitted the vision of Jennifer and James’s dream wedding; from the barn-style features to the stately home feel and the option to have pie & mash for their meal! They also loved that they could hire the wedding venue on an exclusive hire basis for 24 hours and that they didn’t have to lift a finger when it came to the preparations for the day. The venue, it’s staff, the professionalism throughout and the online planner made booking their wedding with Bijou an all-round fantastic experience.

The Dress

Giving herself only 4 months to find a wedding dress, Jennifer knew that buying a gown from a traditional shop, where she may have to wait up to 6 months for the delivery, may not have been possible.

Therefore, the bride turned to eBay and ended up finding an un-altered and un-worn, Justin Alexander wedding dress that had been bought as a ‘spare’ dress by a bride who got married the previous August. Jennifer fell instantly in love with her beaded lace and tulle ball gown wedding dress and felt like a million dollars as soon as she put it on.

Jennifer teamed her wedding gown up with a pair of Kate Spade Keds that were covered in glitter and a bird cage veil on a jewelled headband that came from Lily Bella. The bride had been growing her hair out for 8 months, so was able to wear it in a braid to one side on her wedding day.

When it came to her bridal beauty, Jennifer felt uncomfortable at the thought of anyone applying lots of make up as it just didn’t feel natural – so over a few months the bride-to-be learned tricks of the trade and managed to do her own make up on the day of her wedding. She also had a bridal emergency kit full of provisions, just in case she needed anything in a hurry on the big day!

The Day

Jennifer and James chose to get married in the Abbot’s Hall at Notley Abbey; keeping everything relaxed and in one place made the whole day a lot less stressful! The bride walked down the aisle with her father to a song that she’d only chosen two days before the wedding – Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros. 100 guests witnessed their marriage and the couple wrote their own vows, keeping everything very personal and very sentimental.

After the exchange of rings and their first kiss, Jennifer and James were pronounced husband and wife. The wedding party celebrated with Pimm’s served off the Bijou Pimm’s trike on the lawn and grounds outside Notley Abbey before heading over into the Monks’ Refectory for, what their guests thought, was an unusual – but fantastic – choice of menu. Jennifer had always loved the idea of having pie & mash on her wedding day and the team of in-house chefs at Bijou made her dream come true. Everyone had butternut squash soup as a starter, followed by pie & mash for the main and a crumble for dessert.

The Details

The tables in the Monks’ Refectory were decorated with a rustic theme that featured square hessian table runners that had been cut and stitched by James and his mother. Each place setting featured a Polaroid image of each wedding guest when they were a child and the table names were places that had important meanings to the couple. A box of matches with ‘The Perfect Match’ were given out to guests as favours along with packets of seeds and the tables were florally decorated with rustic flowers in jam jars.

Jennifer and James chose to work with Sonning Flowers, Bijou’s recommended florist, when it came to decorating their day. Jennifer showed the team at Sonning Flowers her vision and some example images that she’d found on Pinterest and her ideas were re-created perfectly. Jennifer wanted a simple floral theme with a rustic twist with a colour scheme of purple tones. Lots of lovely lavender was used which not only looked lovely, but it smelled beautiful too. Instead of tossing her bridal bouquet at the end of the evening, Jennifer kept it to place on her mother’s grave the following day – a beautiful way to ensure that her mother was included in her wedding celebration.

Notley Abbey Wedding Breakfast setup rustic

When it came to their wedding cake, Jennifer and James opted for a three tier naked wedding cake decorated with fresh fruit. The cake was made to order by Bijou and the couple thoroughly enjoyed their cake tasting session at their Wedding Planning Wednesday. The top tier was lemon sponge with lemon butter cream; the middle tier was carrot sponge with vanilla butter cream and the bottom tier was vanilla sponge, vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam – delicious!

40 additional guests joined the newlywed couple for their evening reception. For their first dance, Jennifer and James danced to ‘Ho Hey’ by The Lumineers. They’d taken a few dance lessons ahead of their wedding, but half way through had forgotten most of the steps. Everyone danced the night away to a great choice of music selected by the in-house DJ provided by Bijou and to stay sweetened up, the couple had hired the chocolate fountain from Bijou; a great touch that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

For their wedding guest book, this quirky couple decided to have a Polaroid camera set up so that each guest had to pose for their own Polaroid photograph in order to create the ultimate wedding guest book!

The Bridal Party

When it came to choosing her bridesmaids, Jennifer’s natural choice was to pick her best friend. Having both lost their mother’s within a short space of time, the girls travelled around the world together and were each other’s agony aunts. They had been through thick and thin together and Gabi was the only woman that Jennifer wanted by her side.

James’s niece, Cerys, was wonderfully excited to play the role of flower girl and she upstaged everyone down the aisle as she carefully placed 6 petals on the white carpet ahead of the bride’s arrival.

James had always wanted to get married in a bow tie so it was a pre-requisite to have his wish granted. James and his best man, Alex, bought new suits from M&S and as a wedding gift, Jennifer had a beautiful pocket-watch engraved for her groom as a surprise.

The Honeymoon

Instead of a traditional gift list, Jennifer and James appreciated contributions to their honeymoon. They booked a wonderful trip to Cambodia and Bali and the whole trip was just magical.

Advice from the Bride and Groom

When asked if there was any advice that they would give to future Bijou couples, the newlywed couple said, “Do it your way! Don’t worry about conforming to tradition! We had a couple of nice touches that made it ‘ours’ and those are the bits that we’ll remember. Don’t sweat the small stuff and have faith that it will turn our beautifully! As long as you have a bride, a groom, a venue, some food and drink, and a registrar, you can make a lovely wedding. I heard the advice – don’t forget to enjoy your day, but that’s a given and came very naturally!”

Wedding Suppliers

The Wedding Venue: Notley Abbey
The Wedding Photographer: Matt Ethan
The Wedding Dress: Justin Alexander
The Wedding Flowers: Sonning Flowers

The Wedding Cake, Pimm’s Trike, Chocolate Fountain, Bijou DJ were all hired directly through Bijou Wedding Venues

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