Tell us about the proposal – how and where did it happen?
After I finished university, we embarked on a six-month trip travelling around the world. Before we went, we decided to get engaged and look for a ring whilst travelling.
We chose my ring together in Singapore, however Matthew wanted to keep the ring and surprise me with a proper proposal. I did not know when, or in which country he would propose (we still had four countries ahead of us at that point).
Finally, while staying at an idyllic island resort in Fiji, he surprised me by organizing a private candlelit seafood meal right on the beach, with champagne, lobster and our own waiter. He got down on one knee and was really nervous even though he knew I would definitely say yes!
Tell us about your wedding venue
We have both lived 10-15 minutes away from Wasing Estate all our lives, but never really knew it was there so we were surprised when we found weddings at Wasing Park on the internet. We booked our wedding there a year after it had opened for weddings.
As soon as we looked at the website we knew that it was the perfect location to get married, and visiting Wasing Park confirmed this. We booked our wedding straight away on the first visit, twenty-two months in advance of our date.
We loved the fact that the church, Stables Lodge and evening venue were all located just meters away from each other. We also loved the miles of farmland surrounding the venue - which made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere - the atmosphere of the wedding venue, and the friendliness and accommodating nature of the staff.
Where did you find your wedding dress?
I knew that my dress was the perfect dress for me as soon as I tried it on. However, it was my first visit to a dress shop and I felt that I should visit a few more stores before rushing to buy it. I found that with every other dress I tried on afterwards, I compared it to that first dress, and that’s how I decided.
My dress was an ‘A’ line dress with ruching on the corset and a sweetheart neckline. The dress also had a pattern of diamantes and pearls round the neckline, and also on the back and train. It had a full skirt and long train and was made from white satin by Essence of Australia. When I put it on I felt that it flattered my figure perfectly.
What accessories did you wear on the day?
I wore a pearl and diamante tiara that matched the jewels on my dress’s neckline, with a mid-length veil. I wore no necklace as I felt it would be too much with the dress and tiara. I did wear earrings and a bracelet that also matched the jewels on my dress.
As a surprise, my bridesmaids had a white pair of panties embroidered on the back with my new name ‘Mrs O’Byrne’ which in turn was a surprise to my husband later on!
They also surprised me on my hen do with gifts of something new (a garter), something blue (a Swarovski blue crystal to tie on the garter) and something old and borrowed (an old sixpence that my bridesmaid was given on her wedding day to put into her shoe). They were very thoughtful bridesmaids.
Tell us about Matthew’s outfit?
He chose a dark grey suit with a cream waistcoat. The groom’s and ushers’ handkerchiefs and cravats were handmade by his mother with emerald green material which matched the bridesmaids’ dresses (also made by the groom’s mother). The suits were hired from Moss Bros.
Tell us about your bridesmaids
I had three adult bridesmaids and three flower girls. My maid of honour, Vikki, and I have been friends for 22 years (since we were three). My other bridesmaid, Katy and I have been friends since I was eight, and SJ is a friend from university. I have also been a bridesmaid at both Katy’s and SJ’s weddings.
As soon as we got engaged I knew straight away that I wanted these three to be my bridesmaids. It was an easy choice. My three flower girls were all cousins, and two of them made a special trip from USA to make the wedding.
The bridesmaids each had a handmade dress made by my mother-in-law. I always wanted dark green as the colour theme for my wedding and I had a particular green in mind that I knew I would never be able to find in the shops. So Jayne and I traipsed round London looking for the right material, and we eventually found the perfect colour that I had always imagined - dark emerald green.
Each of the girls had a different shaped neckline making the dresses even more unique with each one suiting their figures. Vikki’s was one-shouldered, Katy’s strapless and SJ’s had a V-shaped neckline.
The flower girl’s dresses were bought from BHS and were a bit of a gamble as two of the flower girls were not coming to England until a week before the wedding. The dresses were white and the groom’s mother made changes by exchanging the beige ribbon around the waist for the emerald green material that matched the bridesmaids’ dresses and groom’s cravats.
The green colour fitted in perfectly with our Italian theme, as green is the traditional colour for Italian weddings.
My bridesmaids did a lot to help me with the wedding; from coming dress shopping, giving advice and planning two hen nights for me. A day before the wedding they also surprised me with photo albums they had made of both my hen nights, with messages from the girls who had attended them.
Tell us about the best man and ushers
Matt had an easy choice in choosing a best man, as he and Jon have been friends since primary school. Matt, a few months before our wedding, was the best man at Jon’s wedding.
We had three ushers, Matt’s two brothers and my brother. My brother and one of Matt’s were also in the same year at school. The ushers helped in setting up the church and various other jobs that the toastmaster gave them to do. The ushers, best man and the two fathers all wore suits and cravats that matched the groom’s.
What was your wedding ceremony like?
We are both Christians so we had a church ceremony with readings and hymns that we specially selected as they had a lot of meaning to us. I wrote the prayers myself and had the prayers and readings written out in the order of service, so that guests who were not familiar with church could follow the service easily. I think they appreciated that.
We had a soloist to sing with the organ. My father walked me down the aisle and I think my favorite memory is of just as I started to walk down the aisle, still excited for the day ahead, and catching the first glimpse of Matt and all my friends and family surrounding us.
Wedding theme, favours and stationery
Matt is descended from an Italian family and has been to Italy every year since he was born, and I have been to Italy every year since we have been together, so we added an Italian flair to the theme of our wedding. We incorporated this Italian flair to our wedding reception and Matt is a media designer, so he designed our stationery.
Instead of table numbers, we named each table after a location in Italy that Matt and I find special and they were also local places where his family own property. Matt designed each place name so that they included facts about the location, had photos we had taken of each place and, on the back, had photos of us in each location.
As wedding favours we brought over local liqueurs from the mountain region, Piedmont in Italy, where Matt’s family own property and supplied each guest with wine glass-shaped shot glasses with personalised stickers, designed by Matt, incorporating our wedding date.
To explain the liqueurs to our guests, I also produced a card for each describing where it was from and Matt’s Italian roots. We also liked the idea of the liqueurs as a bit of an ice breaker for people who did not know each other on the tables.
We designed our own table plan, place cards, invitations, order of service etc. We also incorporated a green butterfly throughout most of our stationery to harmonize the theme.
We chose antique pink roses for our main flowers that we incorporated in the bridal bouquets, church flowers and table flowers. We also added various purple flowers to the arrangements as this colour went well with the green dresses and cravats. I had a posy, and my bridesmaids had smaller versions of my posy. The flower girls scattered pink rose petals while walking down the aisle.
Our table arrangements consisted of large martini glasses with the antique pink roses and purple flowers and trailing ivy, and fishbowls with the roses inside. The arrangements sat on mirrors with tea lights. On the tables we also had a mixture of green and clear Swarovski crystals scattered over the surface. The buttonholes were also the antique roses.
The cake was homemade by the groom’s mother with a friend who is a professional cake-icer. It was a three-tiered fruit cake and was decorated by our florist that morning with the same roses as our arrangements.
We also had a professional toastmaster who we thought was invaluable. On the day, he organised everything for us so we did not have to bother with a thing. We had met up with him before the wedding to go over the schedule and what we wanted him to do.
He mainly helped with organising the guests and telling everyone where they needed to go, he helped the photographers to organise people for the photos, organised two receiving lines (one for wedding breakfast and one for evening guests) and, when we went off with the photographers around the venue for our own photos, he came and found us when it was time for the wedding breakfast.
He also added quirky touches, like telling us a funny story of the history of cake cutting and making the throwing of the bouquet more difficult by spinning me around and making the girls move positions so I couldn’t throw to a particular friend.
Matt is also a website designer, so we also had a personalised website that he built as a safe way in which people could donate money for our honeymoon trip to Kenya. Guests could donate through PayPal, and he designed it so that guests could choose an icon of an African animal that was associated with a set amount of money. We added directions to the venue with a map and other information about the wedding.
We had 100 people attend the wedding breakfast. The wedding breakfast was held in the Castle Barn, and we had a round top table so that it was more social. We gave out presents privately to our parents and Best Man during the meal.
Prior to the wedding breakfast we served Pimm’s and canapés on the lawn. As a starter we had confit of pork and apple spring roll and for the main we had fillet of beef with green peppercorn sauce and thyme potato. For dessert guests enjoyed a triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. We received so many compliments on the food on the day and many since the wedding; some people even said it was the best food they have ever had at a wedding.
During the meal we had a saxophonist and a singer on the stage mainly playing jazz music. My father’s speech made me and many other guests tear up and cry, as even though it was a short speech it was very heartfelt. The Best Man’s speech had many people laughing out loud with the many childhood anecdotes, and especially the blown up picture of Matt when he was younger, on holiday with Jon, wearing a ridiculous bright pink life jacket looking very unhappy.
An additional 65 people attended the evening reception. To decorate the wedding venue in the evening we placed 60 tea lights in the alcoves of the walls of the barn and just outside the entrance we also had candelabras with flower arrangements and church candles. We served a hog roast as the evening food.
For evening entertainment we had our friends who are in two bands to play. One band, Dead Mask Club, played a mix of their own Arctic Monkeys’-style rock music, and various covers in a ‘rock’ theme. The other band, Sylvan Souls, played a great funk style of music.
For our first dance we chose a remix of ‘You Got the Love’ by Candi Staton. We chose this as the lyrics mean a lot to both of us and it was originally written as a Christian worship song.
One of the most memorable events of the evening was probably the impromptu receiving lines when the evening guests started to arrive as it meant that we did get to see most of them.
Based on your own experience, give us some top tips…
- Get your bridesmaids to prepare an ‘emergency’ bag to take to the reception (we put ours under a table) containing useful things that someone may possibly need during the day or anything that the Bride may need, e.g. scissors, safety pins, nail file, makeup, blister pads, plasters etc. It proved to be very useful on the day.
- Think about providing blank DVDs with your address attached to give out to guests so that they can put their photos of the day onto them and send them back to you. We placed ours on the reception tables and the present table.
- If you know what food you are having for the wedding breakfast when you send out your invitations, think about stating what the non-vegetarian and vegetarian meals are so that fussy guests who may not like steak can go for the veggie option! It saves any grumbling and wasted food on the day.
- If your budget can afford it, think about having a professional toastmaster as they really are invaluable.
- Try meeting up with the photographers prior to the day at your wedding venue for a walk round, and also provide them with a list of photos that you know you want. Also give this list to someone responsible. I looked at photos of other weddings at the venue and printed out the ones I liked so that the photographers could recreate them.
- Try looking for companies that provide two photographers on the day. We had two; one was with the groom getting ready in the morning and one with the bride, and they provided different angles and aspects to the same photo.
The day after the wedding we went on a mini-moon to Slovenia for a week. We chose Slovenia as it has a beautiful small capital city that was relaxing with easy sightseeing, and a picturesque alpine lake with its own castle and island church. At the lake we stayed in 4 star spa hotel, which was lovely to come back to after spending the day hiking around the lake.
We then had our proper honeymoon in Kenya. We enjoyed a one week safari and a week at a beach resort. Contributions to this were what we asked for as wedding presents from our guests.
Images courtesy of Purson Photography ©