A non-traditional, sentimental, autumnal garden party became the brief for E&J’s civil partnership in October 2022. Their main aim was to have all their family and friends in one place and for the day to be as much about their guests as it was about them. The day was to be relaxed, informal and not at all fussy. They wouldn’t be concerned by different varieties of linen nor the types of chairs their guests would sit on, but a few personal and thoughtful touches were important to them. The ceremony would be celebrant-led. For J, a variety of craft beer was a priority. For E, she needed to know that all dietary requirements were well-catered for.
After exhausting all options in London and realising that nothing suited them as a couple, E&J decided that perhaps a marquee in the home of J’s parents in Surrey would be the perfect solution. Not only was this more personal to them, but it would be easier to organise… or so they thought. Because, as they would discover, there is a lot involved in a marquee wedding that you simply don’t think about. Where are the toilets going to go? How will the caterers access water? Who is going to switch the generator off at the end of the night? And so, in June 2022, E&J contacted me for a little guidance. They booked my Partial Planning service and from July, I joined the team to help organise their civil partnership celebration.
By the time I started working alongside them they had most of their big suppliers booked in: marquee, stretch tent, toilets, florist, photographer. However, they needed assistance with finding a caterer and ultimately bringing the whole day, as well as the lead up, together. It was also very important to them that J’s parents would be free to relax and enjoy the day, despite the event taking place in their home.
E&J booked their marquee through County Marquees and opted for a fully lined, Frame Marquee with a champagne carpet, 7 panoramic windows, festoon lighting, a bar, dance floor and banquet-style tables with wooden folding chairs. They also hired a Chinese hat entrance as well as a catering marquee. County Marquees also provided the generator and two heaters. The marquee would be erected on the tennis courts which gave a lovely flat surface and provided enough space for the caterers to be adjoining. Due to space and access, the generator had to be positioned at the top of the garden, above the marquee, with cables running down.
I always advise my couples to include a film covering over their marquee carpets which I then remove at the last minute, just before guests enter the marquee. It may seem like a minor detail, but the last thing you want is dirty footprints all over your cream carpet from any suppliers who were setting up inside.
The Stretch Tent
E’s vision had been for their ceremony to take place outside in the open air. However, given that their celebration was in October, she soon acknowledged that a cover of some kind was probably going to be necessary. Another marquee wasn’t going to provide the aesthetic nor atmosphere E was after and so they hired a stretch tent through Stretch & Tent. Although the weather turned out to be very much on their side, the canopy looked truly spectacular on the upper garden and really gave purpose to the area that was otherwise, essentially, just a lawn.
The brief for the flowers was to be foliage heavy which is usually a good way to keep costs down. Given that this was a civil partnership, E felt that a bouquet would be too bridal and so we focussed solely on dressing the marquee. Holly and the Dragonfly created 3 incredibly stunning ceiling installations full of richly-coloured, autumnal foliage. Embracing the time of year with our theme meant that Holly could bring in beautiful warm reds, yellows and oranges without actually using flowers. To soften the edges of the marquee, she also draped soft Italian ruscus in two separate areas and the banquet-style tables were scattered with mixed-foliage bud vases. At the last minute, J’s mum floated the idea of ceremony posts underneath the stretch tent and what a good thing that she did. Holly made two showstopper posts filled with a vibrant mix of both seasonal foliage and wild-style florals. She was also able to incorporate miscanthus grasses and deep red cotinus, freshly cut from J’s mum’s garden! They really were a focal point of the ceremony and we were able to transport these to the marquee afterwards so that they could be enjoyed further.
Reusing ceremony florals is a great way to save a bit of money. Providing the installations are easy to manoeuvre then I, as your wedding planner, am always happy to move your florals around. It feels like such a waste if you only use certain flowers for 30 minutes of your whole day.
As well as the florals bringing warm tones, E incorporated the colour scheme into her truly magnificent dress and burnt orange shoes. True to her form, she kept her hair and make-up as natural as possible. She was very determined not to look bridal and Flaming Bride hit the brief perfectly.
E&J were really keen on the idea of family-style sharing platters. Elizabeth Caton created a feast of slow-cooked lamb shoulder with Middle-Eastern spices, accompanied by Ottolenghi-style sides designed to suit gluten-free and vegan guests. Everything was brought to the table and guests were able to help themselves. This proved a really great way to get guests mingling and chatting, especially if they didn’t know each other. After the mains, Lizzie served white chocolate cheesecake as well as orange polenta cake for the gluten-free guests. I had the task of assembling and decorating a cheese tower which J’s mum sourced locally.
Wedding Breakfast Tip
If you’re kicking off your wedding breakfast with a speech or two, always ensure your guests aren’t hungry. Lizzie offered a delicious selection of canapes during the drinks’ reception and the main course was preceded by flatbread and dips which were ready on the table for guests to nibble as the first speeches took place.
The End Result
The rural setting of E&J’s celebration turned out to be just perfect for their informal, romantic celebration. The sun shone, guests were well-fed and watered and everyone enjoyed each other’s company. Despite the four-month lead time, we made it happen and everything went without a hitch.
Photography by the incredible team, Glenn and Lauren at Through the Woods We Ran.
“Lucy put in so much hard work, it really felt like she was always available, nothing was too much trouble and she’d thought of literally everything. This meant that the actual day ran so smoothly and was a really lovely day for us to enjoy. I’m not sure how it would have ended up if we’d never got in touch with Lucy! But definitely much more stressful and a lot less enjoyable, for us and our guests!” E&J.