Recently, Hampshire-based wedding photographer Jason Williams provided a guest blog post for us. His Top Five Wedding Venues in Hampshire. His curve ball suggestion was ‘your own back garden’. “Let’s be real” says Jason, “weddings cost an awful lot, so it’s a great way to save serious moolah”.
Jason is booked for three back garden weddings this year and these photos of Nicki and Joel’s back garden wedding last summer demonstrate what you cam acheive.
Over to bride, Nicki…
Q. What was the theme/style for your big day?
A. A ‘summer garden party’. After the ceremony, we held our reception at home in our lovely little back garden, keeping everything basic but as pretty as possible with white linen, candles, evening garden lights and bunting. We wanted people to feel relaxed so we had lots of bistro-style tables with no formal seating arrangement or sit-down dinner, so people could mingle easily to chat, eat and drink. We made the invite open for the whole day so people could attend all of it or just part if they wished, whatever was easiest for them. Our neighbours even popped in for some drinks as well which was absolutely great.
Q. What was most important to you when it came to tying the knot/celebrating your marriage?
A. Basically, we wanted something completely personal to us, something different that would be remembered for being not quite the norm, whilst being as relaxed but meaningful as possible… and without getting into debt! It was important for us to create an environment where there was little or no pressure on anything to be a certain way or for people to feel any stress. The idea of a grand ceremony or formal affair didn’t really fit with our personalities as we’re not ones for the spotlight. We wanted to re-create the feeling of those summer garden get-togethers with all your best ones, just eating, drinking and being merry through the day and into the evening.
Q. How did you choose your venue and suppliers?
A. Initially I did start to panic about a venue as I couldn’t find anything I could really envisage as being the ‘right place’. Joel then suggested having a small ceremony somewhere followed by a reception at home.. Our home is our sanctuary and with a little visual imagery from Joel, the seed was set in my mind and I just ran with it. We choose Westgate Hall in Southampton for our ceremony as it was a little different to the standard registry office with its gorgeous architecture and history. We only used a couple of local suppliers we found online and they were all amazing.
Q. Where did you get your ideas and inspiration?
A. Mainly the obvious Pinterest….isn’t that where all brides go these days? I used it to get some layout ideas for the garden, but mostly for things such as flowers, table arrangements etc. I actually made my own bouquet, the bridesmaids bouquets and the table flowers. It was a bit of an idea out of nowhere! I visited a gorgeous little shop called Oasis on the Isle of Wight and they had some lovely faux flowers which I just started playing around with in the shop, giving me the idea to make my own. It saved a pretty penny and we all got to keep our bouquets afterwards which was a lovely bonus. I also did my own hair and make up to keep things as simple as possible…
I wanted to look like me and not too over done or ‘made up’ for what was effectively a simple theme.
Q. Tell us about your dress
A. Ahh… my dress! I simply loved it. I can wear it everyday right?! It’s called Tilly by Savannah Miller and nothing else comes close to how much I love this dress… and my beautiful shoes from Rachel Simpson. I’d say the dress has an air of 20s style to it, loose with tiered sections all the way down. Initially I had planned on a two piece and had even chosen and ordered the top half. On the day I collected it with my Mum we happened to pop into Debenhams for her to look at outfits and they had a bridal clearance on. We just browsed and I came across ‘THE DRESS’. I kept picking it up and putting it back on the rail as you do, when Mum suggested I just try it on to get it out of my head… I have a habit of liking things on a hanger but not when on. Well, I tried it and I cried I loved it so much. Because I already had something, I told mum to put it back, but she only went and bought it for me like the angel she is! I look at it in my wardrobe often wondering when I can wear it again.
Q. What was on the menu?
A. Goodness… there was just nonstop food and drink all day! We kept it nice and easy and actually used Marks and Spencer ‘Food to Order’ service for the main bulk of buffet food throughout the day. We ordered online a couple of weeks beforehand and collected it the night before, storing in some large catering fridges we hired. It was topped up continuously throughout the day by two waitresses we hired and my very helpful bridesmaids and family. For the evening my amazing Mum made a huge batch of homemade Chilli (meat and vegan options) with all sorts of accompaniments such as cheese, salad, nachos, tacos etc which went down a storm, especially as the weather was cooling by that time. For our cake, we chose for my talented cousin to make over a hundred cupcakes in seven different flavours which were to die for! Unbeknown to us, my Mum had also arranged for my amazing Uncle to make us a wedding cake too which was simply beautiful. We had a completely free bar for everyone consisting of all sorts; wine, champagne, Prosecco, spirits, mixers, soft drinks, teas and coffees. This was collected over a period of months in the lead-up to the day, predominantly by my brilliantly-organised Dad.
Q. What was the quirkiest element of the day?
A. I think it has to be the cars… they were definitely not what you would call ‘traditional’ in the slightest. My dad is a Ford enthusiast and has a collection of RS models, one of which is a 1980 Mk2 Escort RS in yellow. He bought it many years ago pretty much as a shell but last year had the challenge of getting it completely refurbished to use as my wedding car. It came complete with harness seatbelts and roll cage! In addition, his friend very kindly gave up his day and drove my bridesmaids in his car, a white Sierra Sapphire Cosworth. The pair together were a hit with everyone and got a fair few stares when we were travelling to and from the ceremony venue. In addition, we had a caricaturist who was amazing. We didn’t tell anyone beforehand and he fitted in seamlessly, wandering around the garden and catching people in their most comfortable states.
The bespoke caricatures meant everyone got a lovely keepsake to go with their memories of the day.
Q. Tell us about your photographer – how you found them, how they fitted into the day and what you thought of your finished gallery.
A. Well…one word really. EPIC! I found Jason on Google after searching for ‘alternative’ photographers in Southampton. We made contact with him and a few others but there was something about him we were both drawn to. He seems to make you feel as though he ‘gets’ everything you’re saying, so you have complete trust in him. I’m no poser (unless its for a cheeky selfie of course) so neither of us wanted many of the traditional posed photos.
We wanted something edgy but natural to capture all the moments we didn’t get to see, or the ones we forgot about, and Jason managed that effortlessly. He just blended in and everyone was completely comfortable with him. Someone even said they had photographer envy and wished they’d had him for their wedding! I love seeing that in most of the photos people were laughing or smiling and just enjoying the day which makes me so happy. He also managed to make us look pretty cool… even after the wind had ruined my hair right from the start!
Q. What was your favourite memory from the day?
A. I simply cant pick just one. Sorry! I have so many favourites and I think the whole day blends into one big one. I loved my dad driving me to the ceremony just the two of us, the giggles when my ring wouldn’t fit on, my brother making an emotional speech even though we hadn’t planned to have any, our family and bridesmaids coming together to keep everything flowing throughout the day behind the scenes, dancing around our garden fire pit until the early hours with our amazing neighbours giving us all of their firewood when we ran out. Even the following morning when a crew of our friends and family rocked up without asking to help clear up… it was all simply the best and I miss it immensely!
Q. What was your first dance to/what did you walk down to the aisle to?
A. I walked down the aisle to an acoustic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ by Matt Anderson. One of my colleagues edited the music so we started walking during a particular moment approx halfway through. Our leaving music was ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness. Joel and his family are HUGE Chelsea fans so any other fans will know the meaning behind that choice. We didn’t actually have a first dance though. Part of the principle of our wedding was to keep formalities to a minimum as neither of us were comfortable with them so we just had a playlist going all day on some speakers in the garden. On our invites we asked our guests to put forward some song requests, so our playlist was made up of these and some of our favourites.
www.wessexcaterhire.co.uk/ for furniture, crockery, glassware etc.
www.activ8live.co.uk/ for waitresses.
www.jasonwilliamsphotography.com/ Our most perfect photographer!
www.vistaprint.co.uk/ for wedding stationary including save the dates, invites, polite notice cards for our neighbours and thank you cards. All designed by us.
www.marksandspencer.com/c/food-to-order for buffet food.
www.southampton.gov.uk/weddings-ceremonies-registrations/westgate-hall/ for the wedding ceremony.
www.savannahmiller.com/ (c/o Debenhams) for the wedding dress.
rachelsimpsonshoes.co.uk/ for the bridal shoes.
www.burton.co.uk/ for the groom, best man and father-of-the-bride suits.