Bella & John, early August 2016. A garden wedding, held at the bride's Edwardian family home in leafy north Oxford.
We merged apricots, creamy whites and green elements for the bride, soft fruity pinks for the bridesmaids. We used garden roses, a lot of them, with gathered summer bounty from our cutting garden and masses of scented herbs.
Our set-up shots are always dominated by these ghastly looking Dutch buckets, but they are so indispensable. Would somebody invent a beautiful, stylish alternative? There must be a way.
A large garden arch was constructed for the ceremony which took place in the orchard at the bottom of the garden. We used foraged branches in all shades of green - some dark, some lime, some olive - with wild grasses, wild carrot, scabious and lysimachia from a local farm spun together to create an organic fringe to frame the vows and readings.
It was a beautiful day, clear, bright, glassy light that diffused through the branches of the apple trees in the garden and created pools of dancing shadows under the strung lights. We collaborated with Oxford based garden designer Robert Moy, who loaned us some beautiful Tuscan Impruneta olive jars and pots, cypresses, olive trees and palms that we styled to create boundaries and entrances to the marquee, the bar that had been set up in the glass conservatory, and the aisle that led down through the orchard.
As we set up the arch, early that still morning, a male soloist warmed up for the ceremony with the spine-tingling aria O bio bambino caro. Puccini, warm sunlight and branches scattered with olives, it was like being in Italy rather than England, small children and a lurcher playing between the pews, tablecloths being laid, glasses polished.
There is a particular atmosphere, setting up for a wedding, that I have come to love. Everyone is in a good mood, familial, collaborative, each getting on with their respective jobs to make everything beautiful as it can possibly be.
For the groom and ushers, a just-opened rose bud, rose-scented geranium leaves, lemon thyme from my garden and little sprigs of wax flower tied with a pale blue cotton ribbon.
Ten minutes before the ceremony, guests seated below, I went upstairs to give Bella her bouquet. Garden roses, cosmos, scabious, apple mint, geranium, nigella, lysimachia, larkspur, sweetpeas and jasmine. Two different widths and lengths of grosgrain ribbon in ballerina shades of nude and peach. As she came down the staircase, all dewy skin and wide smiles, an exquisite veil streamed behind her and in the kindling-hot afternoon air you could smell the heady perfume of the apple mint mingling with the roses.
The marquee decorations were inspired by the John Singer Sargent painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose with glowing paper lanterns strung from the awnings and tall spectral lilies behind in a deep arrangement of potted garden plants arranged by the family. I can only imagine how effective this must have been as that magical day turned to evening and then a starry midsummer's night, the warm glow of the lanterns suspended like moons in the dark, candlelight flickering below, the intoxicating scent of those lilies.
Bella's dress was a mist of silk chiffon and lace panels, pleated down through the skirt so that it swam about her ankles in a pale froth, like a Ginger Rogers gown, met by the long veil, little diamond drop earrings, a simple bracelet and that fluffy, ruffly bouquet of roses. She was a sight for sore eyes. Jess, always on hand with a camera in the right place at the right time, just captured the moment where Bella reached the aisle with her father and caught sight of her future husband waiting for her. Not a dry eye in the house. Congratulations, Bella and John. We wish you many, many happy moons together!