A colourful Cotswolds wedding at The Barn at Upcote

31 May 2019

From the favours to the flowers, James McLaren and Gabriella Green’s wedding was a personal celebration

How did you meet?

We met socially through work friends. We hadn’t really come across each other at work before that point and got together at James’ birthday.

Tell us about the proposal.

I had hoped he would propose when we went to America but that came and went and he didn’t. For the real proposal we were visiting his family in Ledbury, Herefordshire and he took me for a walk and showed me all his old haunts. We walked through the grounds of the church and he stopped and turned to me, got down on one knee and proposed. I asked if this was for real – when he assured me it was I happily accepted and then the church bells rang. We were able to then go home and tell all of his family in person.

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What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?

We were really undecided on a theme. We wanted some Easter touches but we chose some very brightly coloured invitations so we went with flowers and outfits to complement these. The ushers had different coloured ties and we had selections of multi-coloured spring flowers as table decorations that were grown by James’ sister and mother.

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What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?

The Barn at Upcote was the first venue we looked at and although it was a rainy April evening we fell in love with the beauty of the area and the clean simplicity of the venue. The amount of space and versatility it provided seemed perfect for us as we could arrange all the different elements of the day ourselves and tailor it to exactly what we wanted.

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When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?

I left the dress quite late, although I had my eye on a Stella York dress for a while and found a stockist near me called Caroline Clark Bridal Boutique. That was my first port of call. I had a vague idea of what I was looking for, but tried on a real mixture of dresses, about eight in total. 

When I tried on ‘the’ dress I didn’t realise it was a Stella York but it had just the right amount of detail and it was a pale coffee colour overlaid by lace and the fact it wasn’t all white really stood out for me. It also fitted near enough perfectly, so I bought it there and then.

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My shoes were also really special. I found somewhere that did custom designed hand-painted shoes. I worked with a designer to design some shoes that matched the colourful theme and even included an Easter Bunny. They were a work of art and I loved wearing them.

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What did the bridesmaids wear? 

I originally wanted the bridesmaids to wear contrasting colours to match the ushers but in the end that proved difficult so we settled on two of the same dark pink. 

I had two bridesmaids, one I went to primary school with and another I had known for about 12 years, so old friends but covering quite different aspects of my life. 

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Where did you find your suits?

I knew I wanted blue suits but ideally with a subtle check pattern on them too so started looking out for something to hire for the everyone. I spotted some I really liked in the Moss Bros January sale that were a similar price as hiring some so I decided to buy them so the groomsmen had a suit to keep from the day.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

For the bouquets I really wasn’t sure what I wanted. I would have loved sunflowers but it wasn’t quite the right season. I then thought about tulips but it wasn’t the right season for those either. In the end we had a chat with the florist and she showed us lots of options, eventually settling on roses which were so simple and elegant that they really enabled the colours to stand out.

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I always wanted pink flowers – I love anything pink but I was concerned this would not go with my bridesmaids dresses. Our florist allayed my concerns and eventually we chose pink, yellow and orange flowers for the bridesmaids and plain bright pink for me, which I would never have put together but looked amazing.

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James’ sister and mum offered to grow flowers as the main decorations for the barn during the ceremony and wedding breakfast. We ended up with a lovely range of flowers the matched the colourful theme. We also decorated the venue with trailing ivy and our florist did a great job with colourful floral displays on the windows sills of the Barn.

Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.

We are both interested in wine, so the table names were named after grapes. Some were more obscure than others, and this kept our guests guessing as to what their table was named after – Touriga Nacionale anyone? 

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We were also incredibly lucky with the weather and had arranged some outdoor games, including a game we played in America called Cornhole which went down very well with the guests. We had chocolate bunnies as favours as a nod towards Easter and a photo booth in the evening.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I felt more overwhelmed than I expected to – not emotional as such but just the expectation and trying to appreciate the poignancy of the moment and take it all in.  

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you?

We had two readings – one was from a Scottish friend in her most Scottish accent as tribute to the Scottish side of the family. We also had a more light-hearted one by James’ sister which she amended slightly to really reflect us as a couple.

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What was your most memorable moment?

My most memorable moment was the last song of the night. I chose Oasis, Don’t Look Back in Anger as an anthemic close to the night and everyone formed a circle and sang their hearts out. It was a very special moment surrounded by so many friends.

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James’ favourite moment was after the ceremony when the pressure was off and he could catch up with all the guests who had come from far and wide for the celebration.

What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Having booked a venue that involved quite a bit of DIY planning, it was trying to keep track of everything that needed doing. All of our suppliers kept commenting on how organised we were but it didn’t always feel like that. But with the help of many lists and a few days of preparation just before the day, as well as a lot of help from family and friends, everything arrived in the right places at the right time.

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What was the most important investment for you?

While we didn’t spend a lot of money on the drink a lot of effort went into the wines which we went to France to pick up, and the reception drinks – we invented a cocktail using fruit gins made by James’ sister.

What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?

’74-’75 by The Connells. We found it very difficult to choose a song that was slow enough to dance to but that wasn’t a typical wedding song that you always hear. We both agreed on this one and the sentiment of the song isn’t about heartbreak or loss like so many other slow songs. We had intended to practice the first dance but it came to the night before the wedding and dancing around the kitchen was just too awkward so we didn’t really choreograph or even particularly practice. But it was fine on the day and at least one person said it looked like we had rehearsed – although several said it didn’t!

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Did you have evening entertainment?

Yes, firstly we had a ceilidh band, again as a tribute to the Scottish side of the family and because we knew it was a good way to get everyone involved. Then we had a DJ for later on in the evening. The ceilidh was a great success with some people taking part in every dance and others even asking for requests.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

A lady from James’ work is an expert cake baker and she had already made the cake for her sister’s wedding so we asked her if she would mind doing ours which she happily accepted. We wanted a different cake for each layer so we had Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle and chocolate layers as well as an additional gluten/dairy free lemon cake for those with allergies. We aren’t fans of icing so we had a buttercream coating and decorated it with an Easter bunny topper and some edible rose petals. We were really happy with the end result and it tasted amazing.

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If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

I would make sure I talked to more people. Between us we probably got around everyone but it is such a unique opportunity to have all of family and friends in one place so I wanted to make sure I spent time with everyone I don’t get to see often.

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Where did you go on honeymoon?

The day after the wedding we travelled down to Heathrow and then the following morning we set off for Croatia. We spent a week travelling around Croatia and Slovenia which was lovely. We have planned for a longer honeymoon in September too when we will be going to Japan.

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Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?

Write lots of lists, have a good idea of your budget and book things accordingly and try to plan things well in advance. This meant that the days before the wedding when others had told us they were running around finishing things off we could relax, catch up with friends who had made the trip for the big day and got to enjoy the lovely weather.

Steal their style:

Photographer: Chris Greenwood
Videographer: Scott Spencer-White
Venue: The Barn at Upcote
Caterer: McBaile
Evening food: Firebird Oven 
Ceilidh band:  Bees Knees
Entertainment: DJ Rossy
Florist: Donna Beaver at the Flower Studio
Dress: Caroline Clark Bridal Boutique
Rings: RJ Spicer
Shoes: Elizabeth Rose
Hanging lanterns: Every Event Hire
Photobooth: Two Bonnys
Hair and make-up: Juliet Draper

For more Cotswolds wedding inspiration, read the latest edition of Cotswold Bride Magazine.  

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