A Local, Homemade Village Hall Wedding

A Local, Homemade Village Hall Wedding




If i am totally honest, Ross and Jemma had the kind of wedding i dream of. A homemade local village hall celebration, keeping to a budget of £6000 by crafting and asking loved ones to contribute.

Jemma looked super gorgeous in a 1950s inspired dress that she homemade with her mum!! While Ross opted for a made to measure suit in grey with tan shoes. Not forgetting their bridesmaid who wore a gorgeous 1950s vintage dress. Such a stylish wedding party.

I so love how they thought of every detail, from the scrumptious food, homemade wedding cake, fun drinks, the DIY DJing and pretty DIY flowers. A brilliant day.

Thanks so much to the fabulous Frances Sales for sharing her images with us today.


The Proposal… (Ross)  There wasn’t really a proper proposal!  I knew Jemma had particular taste in rings, and I’m pretty useless, so wanted her to help me choose the ring that she’d have to wear for the rest of her life.  So before I’d even started looking for one I asked her if she kinda…sorta…would like to think about maybe getting married.  Before I could do a “proper” proposal or ask her parents permission she’d already broadcast it to the world!

The Vision for the Day… As much local and home-made as possible. Partly to keep the costs down and partly because, as a freelancer myself, I think if you do have some money to spend it ought to go to talented people in your local area….plus I can be somewhat particular, and doing something myself is the best way to get it how I want it!

We also wanted to include our friends and family as much as possible, so that it felt like our wedding made by us! We are incredibly lucky to know lots of talented people and they all contributed a lot of their time and expertise. Our mums worked particularly hard, doing the cake, flowers and the dress! Big thank yous all round, but I hope it made the day more memorable and special for everyone involved.

The Planning Process… Hahahaha! Planning?! We didn’t have an awful lot of time, so we pretty much just made a list of things to do and projects to make and did them. Once we found the venue it was much more straight forward. Ross is amazing at filling in forms and getting stuff done on time and I’m good at creating the vision, so we make a good team.

Having said that, a do-it-yourself wedding does take a lot of effort, and we had to organise everything ourselves.  From obvious things like ordering the food and drink to small details like getting enough fairy lights and making sure we had enough tables of the same (or nearly the same) size & height.

Budget… Under 10,000, I think we managed about 6-7 in the end.

The Venue… I was ready to give up with finding a venue because everything seemed so expensive and didn’t really allow me to have enough people or make my own choices about the decorations, food or drink. I can’t remember how it happened, but I started looking at village halls, simply because that way you hire a space, nothing more and you can do pretty much what you want with it! Ross and I actually grew up really near each other around some really pretty villages in Kent, so I started with those and the one with the prettiest village hall was Wormshill. After that it all just fell into place.

Ross grew up in the village next door and spent after school and summer holidays playing at the village hall with the other local kids, and my brothers had been to cubs and scouts there too.  I loved all the connections to our childhood and when we went for a visit and saw the beautiful church next door it seemed like fate!

So many of the things I had been concerned about fell away once we saw the church and hall. There are less restrictions about numbers of guests in a church than at a registry office, so I was able to have everyone to the ceremony and reception. I had been wondering how to get our guests from the ceremony to the venue, but it’s about a hundred yards door to door so we could just stroll over: hooray! Once we made contact with the committee we found we could have guests camp on the field, use their chairs, tables, kitchen, cutlery – it was great! As much freedom as you would have with a reception at home (which was an option we discussed as well) and I love the fact that people could stay up an keep the party going a bit later…actually it was quite a lot later in the end, but we’ll gloss over that ;)

The Dress + Accessories… I made my dress with my mum.  We used a 1950s pattern (found on Etsy) that I changed a bit to suit my design. We had a trip up to London to get the fabric, which we eventually found at Broadwick Silks, who were brilliant and really helpful. Mum found a second hand petticoat from Oxfam Shirley, which we changed a bit and dyed (with coffee!) because it was very bright white. She also made me a silk petticoat with beautiful indian silk originally intended for my sister-in-law’s wedding dress and given to us by her mum.

At the last minute mum decided it was looking like it might be decidedly chilly, especially in the church, so she very quickly knocked me up a little silk bolero with the left over fabric using an amalgamation of her 1970′s shirt patterns and the collar shape of Ross’ Grandmother’s 1950′s tulle jacket which we’d borrowed.

My mum made me an awesome frilly blue garter, but I forgot to put it on in all the rush getting ready! My head dress was made by my friend Jenny from Dark Horse Ornament using leftover silk and tulle from the dress as well as some vintage silk and velvet leaves which she had in her stash. My earrings were my Grandma’s clip-ons. My necklace is from Schlomit Ofir and was the first present Ross bought me. My shoes are from Debenhams, I just wanted something with a slightly 60s shallow point, sort of winklepicker-ish and not too high – no slingbacks, no open toes! In the evening I wore my Grandma’s silly fake fur jacket which had been in my dressing-up box for ever, and I changed into my dancing shoes which were from French Sole and a treat to myself. I bought some beautiful handmade pants from Miss Crofton – they are a bit naughty ;)

Finding the Dress… I was pretty certain I wanted a vintage dress or at least a fifties/early sixties shape. I have a tendency to design what I want in my head before we even start looking, and I have such a definite idea that it can be really hard to find. I always knew we might come round to making it because of that but also because, compared to most brides, I barely had time to go through the conventional dress buying process. I must have had 2 or 3 shop assistants assume that when I said we were getting married in September I meant September 2013 – argh!

First I tried online vintage dresses then I visited the very lovely girls at Fur Coat No Knickers, who were ace, but just a bit too pricey for our budget and didn’t have quite what I had in my head. We also went up to Bristol to visit Francesca Charlton from vintagedress.co.uk who had beautiful dresses, and I would definitely recommend her. My bridesmaid Rachelle bought her awesome dress from her, and I was very jealous. Mum practically forced me into a few local wedding shops, but predictably I wasn’t really taken with the dresses so we ended up where I thought we might do: trawling London for fabric and online for patterns.

Groom’s Attire… I didn’t want Ross to have absolutely no say in what he wore, so I sort of gave him a few options and some quite specific ‘hints’ and he went for a mid-grey made-to-measure suit from Debenhams. We were really pleased with them: absolutely great service and loads of styles and patterns. To be honest we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford made-tomeasure, but that they had a half price deal on (plus we got another discount because the guy at Canterbury Debenhams is awesome), so in the end we had Ross and Stuart’s (his brother and best man) suits made to match. His shoes were chestnut brown Oxfords from Russell & Bromley, and Stuart had blue suede brogues from Grenson.

The Readings + Music… We really wanted to make our wedding as personal as possible and get everyone involved, so we decided to ask (well…they didn’t really have an option) my brothers and our friend Richard to play at the service. Richard played an acoustic version of Billy Idol’s White Wedding for Ross while he waited for me, and I chose The Maccabees’ Toothpaste Kisses for my walk up the aisle, which my brother Gareth played  on the ukelele and kazoo.

We chose When the Saints go Marching In as our hymn  because it’s the most fun hymn and I love the New Orleans Jazz band versions.  We hated the idea of having everyone mumble their way through a dull hymn, so this gave a chance for people to have a good sing-song! My other brother Ben transcribed and arranged it for himself on the sax, Richard on the guitar and Gareth on the uke. Richard played an acoustic medley of rock songs during the signing of the register, and then they all did Darwin Dees’ Radar Detector as we walked out.

Ross chose a beautiful reading from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet and Steve, Ross’ Dad read that for us. My friend Lucy read our bible passage: I knew she’d be good because she’s an actor.

Beautiful Bridesmaids… My Maid of Honour, Rachelle, looked amazing in her 50′s dress and hairband from Jenny at Dark Horse Ornament. I gave her one of my grandma’s chunky necklaces as well – it looked way better on her than it ever did on me so I said she could keep it :)

The Flowers… We didn’t have an awful lot to spend plus I really didn’t see anything I liked. I didn’t want anything too formal as it wouldn’t have suited us or the church – it’s more like a simple chapel really- and I wanted to keep it as seasonal as possible. So I asked my mother-in-law-to-be Marion if she could help us out, and she was amazing! We raided our houses for vases and Marion collected flowers from the countryside and her garden; Jenny gave me some beautiful chrysanthemums; mum had loads of fuchsias in her garden; and the ladies from Wormshill church raided their gardens for foliage. Then with a few sneaky additions from Tesco Marion made the most beautiful arrangements.

We thought it was a little ambitious for us to do the bouquets as well, so I asked Charlotte our local florist from Faversham to do posies for me and Rachelle, some pew ends (which we re-used for the table decorations), and the boys’ buttonholes. She was very patient with my indecision, but finally we arrived at blue hydrangeas, white roses, pink heather and rosemary.

Marion and I also collected petals from our gardens over the summer and dried them to make confetti. After a bit of thought and a few experiments I filled little twists of plain white paper with the confetti and put it in a picnic hamper in the church porch. I forgot to tell anyone about it and I was worried it would be overlooked, but we had it chucked in our faces when we left the church, so I guess that worked!

The Cake… My mum made the most beautiful cake – it was a no brainer as she makes great cakes. We had a fruit cake layer, one of chocolate (Ross’ choice) and one sponge so there was something to suit everyone. I had to make it difficult for her though: I had seen a picture of a wedding cake covered in little white icing flowers which was the only thing I’d seen that I thought was remotely cool and reminded me of my crazy old flowery bed linen. After a lot of experimenting & trial and error, mum landed on the perfect way to make the flowers, and she only had to make about 300 on the Wednesday before the wedding so that was ok…err

Your Photographer… We chose Frances Sales after a friend of ours recommended her. She does a lot of work photographing live music and a couple of our friends in bands said she was great – and she is! I didn’t like the idea of being bossed around by a grumpy bloke on my wedding day, so Frances’ candid approach was perfect. We felt so bad when we realised we hadn’t set a place for her at the table though!

The Details + Decor… I knew I was going to keep everything homemade and, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t manage half the cute little details I was going to do (mainly because I was busy making my dress) but we made a decent job of it I reckon. I didn’t want it to be too chintzy either – I have a fair stash of vintage stuff but most of it is from 50s – 70s so more graphic and illustrated prints than pretty Victorian flowers.

The ceiling height in the hall, while beautiful, made for an impersonal space so we lowered it by looping bunting low and suspending lampshades from the beams. I just bought 20 or so round paper lampshades in different sizes from Wilkinsons. Rachelle made all the bunting, all of it. It was amazing and she worked so hard! She took a whole week off before the wedding to come and help us, so while I was knee deep in silk and buttons and mum was trying to master making hundreds of icing sugar flowers, she cut and sewed metres and metres of bunting :D yay Rachelle!

We had a lot of people to seat in a limited space so we decided to have long tables rather than round, which also meant we didn’t have to faff about with centre pieces much. At first I really wanted to buy or hire nice chairs but it was very expensive and I couldn’t find ones I liked, so we just used the chairs from the hall, which are actually a bit of a design classic and orange so they matched the colourful scheme too! Rather than hiring tablecloths we bought long lengths of fabric – it ended up about the same price and you could sell it after, but I think we’ll keep it, because it’ll be great for curtain linings in our new home.

Obviously we didn’t have any waiting staff to serve a starter, so we figured the easiest (and tastiest) way was to have it all out on the tables when the guests come in. That way the food is the table decoration: tadah! My brothers organised some of our extremely wonderful friends to put oil & vinegar, bread, cheese and booze out on the tables just before the service.

We used my crazy vintage china collection; some second hand water bottles from our homebrew shop in Faversham; and wooden cheeseboards made by my dad from the offcuts of my parent’s kitchen worktops with a selection of local cheeses on them (from the Goods Shed, Canterbury) labelled with stamped flags made by mum. We hired all the glassware for free from Sainsbury’s and chose the plainest white china from a local hire company. The knives and forks were in the hall already and even had the Council logo stamped on the ends just like school dinners! No one else notices things like that, they all think I’m silly, but it made me smile to remember that. Our friend Joel Ely (who is a painter really) made wonderful rosemary & garlic focaccia, and dark Russian bread which we put out in little baskets. I had planned to decorate the tables a bit more with rosemary, bay and apples from the garden – a bit like harvest festival (well is was September), but we didn’t get round to it in the end and anyway I don’t think it would have  fitted!

After the service Marion supervised another team of friends to bring most of the flowers from the church in to decorate the hall – one advantage to having your venues next door to each other and another reason why I didn’t want formal displays in the church is that the vases of flowers were easy to transport into the hall. I’d asked for the pew ends from the church to be dual purpose, I have no idea how Charlotte managed it, but the little posies fitted into the jam jars awaiting them on the tables – hooray!

We put aside a table for the wedding cake with a little label made from an old picture frame and blackboard paint. In the weeks leading up to the wedding if anyone asked me what they could do to help I’d said “bring pudding!” so there was room for our guests to put their yummy on treats too. I had another little space for prezzies and cards with an old suitcase to put everything in, we labelled that one ‘loot & booty’ teehee ;)

Ross was in charge of beer and food, because that’s what he enjoys most. He chose a selection of real ales from local breweries (Hopdaemon and The Old Dairy – both from our part of Kent) cider made right on our doorstep in Faversham (Kent Cider Company), and some friends brought along some homebrew creations to add to the mix!  We also had a boozecruise to France to stock up on wine, spirits and other bits and pieces. We wanted to provide all the drink rather than have a pay-bar as, well… that’s what you do when you throw a party, and it’s only polite to buy people a drink when they’ve travelled far, helped you organise the day, or given you presents!

All of us really enjoy BBQs, and Ross’ family lived in South Africa until he was 12, so we wanted to reflect that in the food.  We found a hog-roast company run by two South African guys (Nyama Hog Roast) who did an absolutely amazing spread of pig with all the trimmings and a selection of South African BBQ classics for starters / sides.  They were so good they’ve already been booked for a friend’s christening party.

The Honeymoon… We don’t enjoy early starts or uncomfortable flights, neither of us really enjoy lying on beaches, and an exotic honeymoon wouldn’t have fitted in with our budget (we asked for honeymoon donations instead of wedding presents), so we decided to have a holiday in the UK.  Both our families are originally from Scotland, neither of us had really explored up there, and I’d always wanted to visit Skara Brae, so we got the train up (with a picnic hamper of bubbly and nice nibbles) for two weeks of relaxing and sight-seeing. Ross’ uncle is one of the big-wigs of a hotel chain so he got us the family discount on an amazing hotel on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh; we stayed with his aunty in her beautiful apartment in Glasgow for a few days; and borrowed her car for an epic drive through the glens up to Orkney, where we rented a lovely cottage (Kingston Apartments). We basically ate and drank our way around Scotland, which is what makes us happy anyway so it was brilliant!  As people had given us money for our honeymoon we decided to document how we were spending it and blogged the trip on http://rossandjemma.tumblr.com/ for everyone to see.

Memorable moments… All of it, everything! But my favourites are little surprises that people did for us, when you’ve spent time planning something it’s touching when someone does something really thoughtful that you didn’t expect. I’m also really pleased that they felt it was the kind of wedding that they could contribute to, it was just the feeling I wanted it to have.

When I sat down one of the girls had put the silly moustache sunglasses from the hen do on our plates – I still don’t know who it was! My brother Gareth brought a keg of his homebrew and my nephew had made a label for it – so cute. Our friend Richard (as if he hadn’t done enough already with the music) brought cocktails in Victorian poison containers. My sister-in-law and my brother Gareth made a fingerprint tree for all the guests to sign. It’s got pride of place in our new home. Our parents made a photo board full of all our embarrassing photos from when we were kids.

Instead of a band we bought decks and spent the summer collecting records in charity shops. Ross got pretty good at dj-ing, but it got taken over by a succession of our guests. Everyone had a lovely time going through the records and putting them on – it was the best disco!

The speeches: They were all great, if I’m honest I was a bit nervous about them! My dad’s was lovely and I managed to keep it together, Ross’ of course was my favourite, and he quoted some Thin Lizzy lyrics; typical! (We’re lucky he didn’t throw a few hair-metal high kicks into the bargain.) Stuart did an absolutely amazing best man speech that had everyone in stitches, and was kind enough to not embarrass Ross too much! Ross’ friend borrowing his mum’s brand new convertible Porsche to take the boys to the church, and them arriving with AC/DC playing full volume!

Advice for Other Couples… Don’t be fooled by so called ‘traditional’ weddings – speak to your parents and grandparents if you want to find out what weddings were like back in the day instead of going to a wedding fair. Having said that, if you like the idea of something, then do it – it’s your day.

What this really showed me is that there are no rules: we forgot or didn’t get round to loads of stuff and everybody still had a great time – we didn’t have favours, I didn’t throw the bouquet, no save the date cards, etc etc… Remember, it’s as stressful and as expensive as you want it to be.

Try not to fall into the trap of thinking that this wedding is the be-all-andend-all of your whole life, you will have loads of amazing memorable moments in the future so don’t let the wedding overshadow them. I’m not saying it’s not special; just don’t let it become a crazy behemoth. Things will go wrong that you have no control over, but if you keep perspective about what’s really important about the day then you’ll have a great time as well as everybody else.

Ross’ top tip is that if you get everyone fed and drunk, and play some good music, you’ll all have fun no matter what!

Credit Where Credit is Due…

Dress: Broadwick Silks, London http://www.broadwicksilks.com/

Bride’s petticoat: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/local-shops/oxfam-shop-southampton

Underwear: http://www.misscrofton.com/product/naughty-backless-knickers

Headdresses: Jenny Hattersly from Dark Horse Ornament http://darkhorseornament.co.uk/home.html

Necklace: Shlomit Ofir http://www.shlomitofir.com/index.aspx


Shoes: For the ceremony, Debenhams Debut. They don’t do the exact ones anymore, mine were seethrough, but these are very similar: http://www.debenhams.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/prod_10701_10001_050010841085_-1

For the evening, Fench Sole ballet flats, India Leopard print with red trim. http://www.frenchsole.com/products/view/PT112

Maid of honour dress: http://www.vintagedress.co.uk/index.html

Groom Shoes: http://www.russellandbromley.co.uk/fine-anddandy/richmond/invt/527141/

Best man shoes: http://www.grenson.co.uk/en_gb/shop/dylan-6744

Flowers: Lotty’s Flowers, Faversham http://www.lottysflowers.com/ https://www.facebook.com/Lottys.Flowers

Bread: Joel Ely…he doesn’t really do bread but you might want to link to his portraits, they are seriously good. http://www.joelely.com/

Hog roast: www.nyama-hogroast.co.uk

Beer:    www.hopdaemon.com/ , www.olddairybrewery.com/ , and www.kentcider.co.uk/

Plate hire: Janets China Hire http://www.janetschinahire.co.uk/

Tablecloths and Bunting fabric: Dunelm mill and Ikea

Village hall: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormshill http://opencharities.org/charities/302894


Oh my, it looked like the best day ever. Thanks so much to Ross and Jemma for sharing their beautiful wedding with us today XOXO Lou

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