Thanks to Covid, we spent 3 years waiting for our wedding. The original plan was 9th May 2020, with our ceremony in a village church in Kings Worthy and our reception in a country home near Andover. But 2020 had other ideas, and after 3 postponements we found ourselves at Farnham Castle – an actual castle! – in Surrey on 7th October 2021.
It’s important to preface this post by saying how lucky we are. Although this pandemic impacted a major event in our life, it was a moveable event, unlike for example those who gave birth to their first child and couldn’t be supported by their family, or those who have missed key milestones in their education. Not to mention that when our original venue went under, we miraculously got all of our deposits back. Yes, we are lucky, and so much more so now that we have actually managed to get married and even dance with our loved ones at our wedding.
Planning our wedding
We started planning our wedding months before we even got engaged, after my cousin Laura got married in 2017. Her beautiful wedding in Voewood, Norfolk, got us fantasising about what we would do for our big day. I suggested we name our tables after pubs and taverns from books and films, and Matt quickly got caught up in the idea. After he actually proposed in late 2018, we hit the ground running with colour schemes and venue viewings.
We were two months away from the original wedding date when things got postponed the first time, so pretty much everything was decided and booked. When our venue went under in December 2020, we had a fully formed wedding – with no where to host it. We couldn’t go to any more viewings because of the winter lockdown, so we went back to one we had liked in November 2018. Farnham Castle was full for every weekend of 2021, but unlike our other venue, it was open midweek. And so, we booked our wedding on a Thursday.
I never dared to dream we’d get married in a castle, especially one like this, with its warm brick exterior, wisteria-laced Tudor courtyard, and Great Hall complete with chandelier and grand fireplace. Our wedding plans slotted perfectly into the new backdrop. From our watercolour themed stationery designed by close friend Anna, to the confetti from my grandma’s garden, and the epic dance party DJ’d by groomsman Richard, every inch of this wedding felt like us.
Getting married at Farnham Castle
The size of the Norman Chapel at Farnham Castle meant we had a beautifully intimate ceremony, performed by the vicar from my childhood church. He’s become the Bishop of Basingstoke in the years since and treated our wedding guests to his full bishop’s robes, matched only by the impressive volume of his singing voice during our chosen hymns. Looking back, the ceremony was my favourite part of the day. I’ll always remember standing next to Matt at the altar, quietly linking fingers and sneaking sideways glances at each other.
Focusing on the details
We wanted to make sure our wedding was personal to us and our relationship. What does that mean? Nerdy stuff wherever we could sneak it in. I walked down the aisle to the Elder Scrolls’ Morrowind played on piano. Our confetti was thrown from cones made of pages from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. During our drinks reception, guests sipped peach sangria and prosecco to the sounds of Vitamin String Quartet covering Howl’s Moving Castle, The Fellowship of the Ring, and Game of Thrones. Our guests ate at tables with names like The Three Broomsticks, The Prancing Pony, and The Bannered Mare, and posed in the photo booth with lightsabers, Captain America’s shield and the Elder Wand.
Funnily enough these details are what we spent the most time on in planning, but when it came to the day itself I hardly noticed them at all. I couldn’t even register the music when I was walking down the aisle! Luckily, our guests noticed them for sure.
According to our guests
Of course the big day is about the two of you, but you also want your guests to have the best time. One of the unexpected highlights of our wedding (that designer Anna graciously agreed to add at the last minute) was a quiz questionnaire at each table setting. This gave them something to do while they chatted, and gave us an insight into their favourite part of the day so far. Matt and I just loved going through these afterwards. The most common themes were our vicar (his outfit, his singing voice, his sermon), the bridal entrance music (from the video-game-playing guests who recognised it), the peach sangria we served during our drinks reception, and the canapés (a delicious pork belly one in particular).
In the weeks since the big day we’ve heard even more about the food at Farnham Castle. My brother-in-law and famous foodie Luke claims it to be the best wedding meal he’s ever eaten. High praise indeed. The catering took the biggest slice of our budget, more even that the venue itself. This is why it’s important to figure out your priorities together. We knew food was up there for us, and that the meals at Farnham Castle would be excellent. They even catered to my obsession with gravy by giving each table extra jugs for the roast lamb main course.
Which leads us into my number one piece of advice for wedding planning – figure out your priorities together. That way, when it comes to budget decisions, you already know what you want to spend more on, and where you can compromise. We’re not that bothered about bands and prefer a good old fashioned disco. Matt also hates being filmed, so we decided not to hire a videographer. Saving on those two big ticket items meant we could focus on food and on flowers.
I’ve loved dahlias since I was little. With the extra wiggle room, we splashed out on a statement flower installation above the fireplace, a stunning backdrop of dahlias, eucalyptus, roses and succulents for the top table. You can be smart here too though. Our ceremony flowers were displayed on two plinths that could later be moved either side of the top table. We also asked the castle staff to put vases of water on tables in the bar and entrance hall. This meant we could keep the bridesmaids’ bouquets hydrated and instantly decorate those spaces.
Finding your suppliers
My second piece of advice is to make sure the chemistry is right with your suppliers, especially the ones you will interact with on the day. Our photographer Harps was an old friend from work, so I already knew she was an awesome human. She included an engagement shoot as part of her photography package, so Matt could loosen up in front of the camera. That also gave us a good idea of what to expect on the day.
I found my stylist Yasemin on instagram, and booked her because I loved her relaxed, natural hair styles. We did a test before the day so I could figure out exactly what I wanted. It also meant I got to know her a bit. On the day itself, Yasemin was so chilled out and friendly, a lovely calm addition to the bridal party as we got ready. Our florist Jane was also an instagram find, who I then managed to meet in person at the Unwedding Show in London. I loved the wild, bright bouquets she created with big textured dahlias. And when Matt and I had our first phone call with her she was almost as excited about our wedding plans as we were. Don’t be embarrassed to look for a supplier who digs your ideas – they help make the planning process all part of the fun.
Choosing your tribe
After such a long period of planning, followed by a seemingly never-ending delay, this all important day finally arrived. When the initial hustle and bustle was over, I found myself quite overwhelmed with it all. My bridesmaids quietly whisked me back to the bridal suite while our guests tucked into their dinner. My freshly minted husband kept the party going without a hitch while we chilled upstairs. I changed into my sparkly trainers, we had a mini disco, and I was ready and rearing again.
So choose your wedding party carefully. Choose people you feel totally safe with, that you trust unconditionally, and that know the real you. Emma, Jess, Tikki, Kerry, and my sister Rosie were absolute rocks of reassurance and support throughout our wedding day. If I didn’t appreciate how lucky I am to have them before, I certainly do now. Matt’s best man Tim was a wizard, magicking up solutions before we even knew there was a problem. This was my main takeaway from our wedding day, aside from my new last name: we have some amazing people in our lives.
Planning for afterwards
And last but not least: think about what you will do with your wedding paraphernalia afterwards. The lovely glass terrariums we used for our centrepieces made really special gifts. We loved giving them to our parents and our wedding party the next day, as a small way of saying thank you for everything they’d done. The geometric gold candle holders on each table also made great souvenirs. We gave one to Matt’s sister Lara and niece Alice for reading Bible verses during our ceremony. We also gave some to my Uncle Ian for his excellent performance as our MC, and my Auntie Catherine and cousin Hannah for their beautiful prayers.
There’s another thing, of so many things, that I will always be especially grateful for. I was determined to have a next-day plan for our flowers, so they didn’t go to waste. I made sure my bridal bouquet was kept safe and sound so I could give it to my wonderful grandma. She loves flowers and she spent all that time saving rose petals from her garden so we could have personal confetti.
I also roped in my bridesmaid Kerry. She kindly packed her car full of dahlias the morning after the wedding, and drove from Farnham Castle to the care home where my grandad spent the last year of his life. They were able to accept them even in these Covid times, and all our flowers were arranged around the care home for the residents to enjoy. Now, not only will I always have the memories of the amazing flower installations from our day, I’ll also cherish the thank you email and the appreciation from the residents who still remember my grandad.
Top 5 pieces of advice for wedding planning:
Of course there’s more, but if I had to narrow it down to 5:
- Celebrate each other in the details
- Prioritise together early to make better decisions later
- Find suppliers you vibe with
- Choose your wedding party carefully
- Make a plan for afterwards
Looking back on our day, having sent the last thank you card, and changed my name on the last piece of paperwork, these are the major things I’m glad that we did. Of course number 0, before number 1, I’m just glad we got married at all.
Are you a newly wedded couple? Ask your married friends what their top advice would be. There will be common themes, but unique pearls of wisdom too!
Credits for our Farnham Castle wedding
Photography: Harps Joseph | Pianist: Charlotte Hobbs | Officiant: Rt. Revd. David Williams | Florist: Dove & Myrtle | Bride’s Dress: Stella York | Jewellery: Joanna Reed | Rings: Tom Foolery | Bridal Boutique: Anya’s Bridal Couture | Bridesmaids’ dresses: Maya Deluxe | Stylist: Yasemin Bilgic | Groom’s Suit: Moss Bros | Groom’s Shoes: Base London | Stationery: Anna Holden | DJ Equipment: Farnham Sound & Light | DJ: Richard Nias (DJ The Boy Who Lived) | Cake: Reilly Cakes
Infinite thanks to everyone who helped us with our unforgettable wedding day, especially our incredible parents.