A colourful, countryside wedding

02 Nov 2021

Third time’s the charm for Sophie Baczynski and James Sweeting, who had to move the date of their rustic outdoor wedding three times  

Photography: Adept Imagery 

How did you meet?  

We both went to school together and we were in the same social circles from the age of 14. We didn’t really start to hang out properly until we were 17-18, and realised we had a lot of similar interests. 

We were close friends for a few years and started to realised we always wanted to be around each other because every experience was better when the other person was there. All of our friends and family could clearly see we liked each other more than just friends. So, I nervously told him one night how I felt and found out he felt the same way. Eight years later, we were married. 

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Tell us about the proposal 

James proposed on 4th August 2019 in Marrakech, Morocco. He proposed on our hotel balcony over a couple of beers while the sun was setting. We then had an amazing evening reflecting on everything we’ve experienced together. He told me he had been taking the ring to work in his backpack for six weeks as he didn’t want me to find it when I was packing for Morocco.  

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How was your wedding affected by Covid-19? 

Originally, we were meant to get married on our anniversary, which is 27th August, in 2020. We arranged everything, but then in June, we decided to move the wedding as we were limited to 30 guests due to Covid.  

We moved the wedding date twice, finally settling on 16th September 2021. Third time lucky, we were allowed to go ahead with 50 guests and the weather was absolutely stunning, as you can see from the photos. Looking back, I think that’s how it was meant to be because it rained sideways on our first two dates.  

We also got creative with our evening and made up a Covid-safe version of beer pong where everyone had to take a sip, down, delegate or shot their own drink. It worked out amazingly.  

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

We an outdoor ceremony under a custom-made wooden arch, with rainbow-coloured flowers. The colour theme for the wedding was always based off of the colours in my airbrush dyed dress. I wanted it to look like rainbow fire.  

The wedding overall was rustic and natural, but also really bright and colourful. James and I agreed this would be impactful because the rustic look of a barn and naturally dark interior would be brightened by the colour palette. 

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

We got married in Notley Tythe Barn in Long Crendon because we loved the rustic vibe, the exposed beams inside the barn, and thought the outdoor space was the perfect setting for an outdoor ceremony. We thought it would be a great space for our guests to mingle, so the party vibe would be easy to keep going. It is a long day after all.  

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How did you know you’d found ‘the’ dress?  

I went to three different bridal shops, and had no luck in the first two. My bridesmaids and mum were all keen to give me things to try on based on what they thought would look good on me, and to be honest, I found it slightly overwhelming. They were just trying to help but I felt a lot more comfortable when I had the space to go through the dresses myself and try on what I thought was the most me. I was looking for something a bit boho, and I knew the bottom needed to be tulle to hold the airbrush dye best. 

I actually saw my dress in the window of the third bridal shop, Once In A Lifetime in Stony Stratford, which unfortunately closed as a result of the pandemic. I immediately felt a twinge of excitement in my chest when I saw the dress, and could envision it with the dye. I was looking at all of the dresses like a blank canvas and thinking of how I could make them unique.  

The dress I chose was designed by Pronovias. When I tried it on, I looked in the mirror and cried; I immediately knew this was the dress I wanted.  

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Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?  

My older sister Lisa was my bridesmaid, and my maid of honour was my best friend, Mel. Both wore dresses from John Lewis. 

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What did the mother of the bride wear?  

The mother of the bride, Lavinia, wore a dress from Nigel Rayment Boutique.  

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Where did you find your suits?  

James’s suit was custom detailed from Moss Bros. The groomsmen wore suits from Next.  

Did you hire a wedding planner? How did they help?  

We did not hire a wedding planner, as I am an event manager and James is also very organised. We both wanted to be heavily involved and make every decision together, so the day felt like it was ours rather than mine or his. Some less organised family members laughed at us as we’d made Gantt charts and Google spreadsheets, planning everything from our expenses to crafting our signage and centrepieces within a month of getting engaged. We both absolutely loved the planning process, which is lucky as we had to do it three times.  

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

Our flowers were rustic and vibrant, with the main colours a bright yellow, red, and purple – with complementary tones of blue and orange – all to match the airbrush dye colour of my dress. 

I had custom Converse All Stars made which were completely covered in pearls, and had ‘bride’ on the back of one shoe, and the wedding date on the other.  

We had rustic ivy on all the tables which were named after different hops used to brew beer as James brews beer with his brother as a hobby, and we both absolutely love craft beer. We had jars of hops on each table, and chalk signage.  

I spent hours painstakingly drawing out every blackboard sign with chalk pens to look like a mix between retro 90’s bubble writing, and pub style beer listings you see on chalk boards behind the bar. James and I spent about six months making our centrepieces, with a few very labour-intensive weekends.

Our wedding favours were cork coasters with the details of our wedding on them, and children were given activity books to keep them entertained. 

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?  

Unfortunately, my dad passed away a week before my fifteenth birthday so I was really concerned about crying on the day, as I knew a lot of your wedding day is supposed to be centred around the father of the bride. He’s meant to walk you down the aisle, give you away, make a speech and dance with you. It was actually one of the more challenging aspects of the final stages of the wedding planning process for me.

Family started to ask if they could memorialise my dad and my nan, who passed away between our first and second intended wedding dates, in ways which meant something to them. 

My sister bought me a small brooch with a picture of my dad in it, raising a pint, which was designed to wrap around the stalks of my bouquet. Our ceremony was outdoors and James’s uncle, Ian, drove my mum and I to the end of the aisle in his dad’s classic Jaguar.

I remember getting out and I was just focused on sharing the moment with my mum. I could feel the brooch of my dad brushing against the back of my fingers, and had a huge beaming smile on my face as I took my first steps towards the aisle, as I knew they were both with me. 

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you?  

We had a lot of music in our ceremony, as music is such a crucial part of our relationship. We even made our own Spotify playlist. 

What was your most memorable moment?  

For me, I loved the photo shoots, when we went off together and were alone. I just felt so happy and whole when I was focused on my husband. I was savouring the moment together. 

James says his favourite moment was walking into the wedding breakfast together as Mr and Mrs Sweeting, and everyone standing and cheering for us. 

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What was the most important investment for you?  

Time. Planning took up so much of our time, we spoke about the wedding every day for two years. Some days we adored it and researched things on the internet for hours. Other days, we were a bit tired of it all, mainly due to the rearranging. The days where we made decisions were usually these days though, which ended up being really useful.  

We spent the most money on our honeymoon, which we’ve also re-organised three times because of Covid. We’re looking forward to spending two weeks in Mauritius this December.  

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

Hysteria by Def Leppard, because we’ve had so many amazing memories together with Def Leppard playing in the background. We’ve also seen them live together a few times and love those memories. But ultimately, the lyrics made sense for the occasion and we felt enough people knew the song. The tempo was about right for it to feel like a happy first dance. Our guests wanted to join in after the first chorus. 

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Tell us about your wedding cake 

James’s mum made us three cakes. One was chocolate, one was gin lemon drizzle, and the other was kraken Jamaican ginger cake. All of them were absolutely delicious. With the appearance, we kept the cake rustic looking with the icing scraped off to expose the sponge underneath.  

The cake sat on top of a beer barrel which James and I bought from our local farm shop for £50, and he painstakingly spent evenings and weekends sanding, varnishing and restoring. We then covered the top of the barrel in moss for a rustic, outdoorsy vibe. 

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Did you have a custom hashtag for social media?  

#SweetWedding21 

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Where did you go on honeymoon?  

We went to Krakow for a weekend break the day after the wedding, in a way to celebrate my Polish heritage. I was losing my maiden name of Baczynski without ever actually having been to Poland, so it felt like a nice way to say goodbye to that part of myself while also having a great time drinking craft beers and exploring.  

We just wanted a couple of days to ourselves away from everything. We felt a real need to disconnect after all the buzz of planning, and the organising in the weeks leading up to the wedding. 

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

Plan well in advance, and spread it out into manageable chunks you can look forward to. Use the moments to bond, rather than bicker. Listen to each other. If one of you is overwhelmed, stop and pick the conversation up again tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to make decisions. It will all look perfect to your guests, who have no idea that you considered four other options. 

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Steal their style: 

Photographer: Adept Imagery
Bridal accommodation: Cutters Barn
Venue: Notley Tythe Barn 
Dress: Once In A Lifetime 
Dress customisation: Felicity Westmacott
Hair and makeup: Chloe Hiskett MUA
Flowers: Howe Farm Flowers

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