A garden party wedding in Devon

31 Jan 2022

Chloe Brown and Harry Ross' wedding was the garden party they had hoped for with lawn games and outdoor celebrations in the autumn sunshine

How did you meet?

We were accidental housemates in our third year at university in Plymouth. I needed-last minute accommodation, so two old school friends invited me to live with them as they hadn’t arranged housing either, and were planning on living with a few of their friends from uni. One of those was Harry; we became housemates for the year and grew closer. After about seven months we finally admitted feelings for one another and now, here we are. 

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Tell us about the proposal.

Harry had planned a weekend break for us both as we had been very busy at work. He took me to Dawlish in Devon, which was a place I always passed on the train but had never visited. He planned afternoon tea, a picnic on the beach, a stroll along the seaside and was going to pop the question at sunset.

The best part of the day, ironically, was that things kept going wrong. It tipped down with rain so we ended up having a picnic in the car. Harry kept the ring in its box on him all day and even handed me his coat with it in at one point... I don’t know how I didn’t notice. We also missed sunset as we were on the wrong side of the hill. I wouldn’t change a thing as it made for one of the funniest, most memorable days.

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How was your wedding affected by Covid-19?

We originally booked our wedding day for May 23, 2021. We had both always wanted an outdoor spring wedding. We didn’t think our day was going to be affected initially, but when February 2021 came around and the announcement was made that weddings would be restricted until June at the earliest, we made the hard decision to postpone.

Only one date was left for the year, which was October 10th. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise but it was a very emotional decision to make. It felt like going back to the start all over again.

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

We wanted to keep aspects of our original colour scheme, which was sage green. We introduced autumnal colours like burnt orange and burgundy, but still kept lots of greenery. We accented with gold and white so the darker colours weren’t too much. We didn’t want to overdo this theme, however, as the venue was stunning enough. 

We did add two large trees though, as we fell in love with them. They were definitely a highlight and were a wow factor for our guests.

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

We chose Rockbeare Manor in Exeter. We didn’t view many venues, but as soon as we pulled up the driveway to Rockbeare we knew this was the place we had to get married. We wanted to have the ceremony and reception in the same place, with a great outdoor space for what was going to be our spring garden party.

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

I found it really difficult shopping for dresses as I liked too many styles. It was hard to compare some of the ‘top’ dresses I found as they were all so different. I ended up becoming dress blind and picking an all lace, A-line, strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline. I didn’t feel like it was the one, but I kept coming back to it so made the snap decision, knowing I could make some alterations.

A few months went by and after watching hours of Say Yes to the Dress I began to panic as I just didn’t ‘love’ what I had picked – especially since I had always said I didn’t want a sweetheart, strapless dress. It became clear, as I thought about the alterations, that I was practically changing the whole dress.

I went back for another appointment and they gave me an Allure Bridal dress to try on, which was new in. It had a full tulle skirt with appliqué, V-neckline and low back, and when I put it on I realised this was the dress that had been waiting for me. We then added Juliet sleeves to make the dress more autumnal.

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Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?

My maid of honour was my best friend, Abbey – we met at nursery when we were four and have been joined at the hip ever since. My second bridesmaid was my sister-in-law, Meg, who kept me sane throughout the process and made sure things ran smoothly on the day. They both wore full-length, burnt orange satin dresses from Chi Chi London, with black strappy shoes.

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What did the mother of the bride wear?

My mum wore a bespoke dress made by the seamstress who altered all our outfits – a forest green dress with angel sleeves. She looked beautiful.

What did you choose for the suits?

Harry and his party wore Limehaus suits in a mid-blue mottled style. Harry wore a burnt orange tweed tie and the groomsmen wore tweed brown ties, but all of them wore orange and green dried flower buttonholes.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

Harry's mum grew a lot of the flowers herself. She started growing them for the original date, but because we retained some of the colour scheme we were able to use them. We also ordered some DIY buckets from In Bloom Devon to add in some of the autumnal colours. The night before the wedding, myself and my nans made the centrepieces and the bridesmaids' bouquets. My bouquet was made by In Bloom; I wanted to make it but didn’t want to risk any last-minute disasters. 

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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

We rummaged through antique shops to buy unique brass vases for all the centrepieces. We made all our signage, designed the stationery and my parents made all the favours, which were hot chocolate jars.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I was so worried in the run up to the wedding that I would be overcome with nerves all morning up until the ceremony was over and that I wouldn’t enjoy it. However, I was the calmest out of everyone. My whole bridal team were so amazing at taking over on the day that I didn’t have to think about anything. I was told where to be at what time and the rest was done for me.

When it was time to walk down the aisle I was just so excited to see Harry that I didn’t get nervous at all. I felt a massive sense of relief and achievement that we finally had made it to that moment.

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you?

Harry read a poem that I had written. We had discussed having others do readings, but wanted to keep the ceremony between the two of us. It was the most daunting part for us, and we wanted to keep it as simple as possible so we could really take it all in without worrying too much. It flew by in the end.

What was your most memorable moment?

It’s really hard to pick just one, as even now we just keep remembering random moments from the day. The one memory I keep coming back to though is just after the ceremony, as welcome drinks began. Harry and I were stood on the lawn with our guests, the sun was beaming down, everyone was chatting and the venue looked beautiful as a backdrop. It’s the image I had pictured when planning the garden party wedding to begin with, so seeing it come to life despite everything was just so special.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Definitely the emotional aspect of planning through Covid. We had to cancel our engagement party, which should have taken place in spring 2020, not to mention postponing the wedding itself. We missed out on wedding fairs and events, food tasting evenings, in-person appointments; it definitely took away some of the special moments couples would have usually enjoyed. It didn’t help that the wedding didn’t feel ‘real’ for a long time either, as everything was virtual or just in planning.

What was the most important investment for you? 

The photographer and videographer for sure. It’s really true what they say, the day is over in a flash and you don’t get to see everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Being able to look back on the photos keeps the day alive for so much longer than just the wedding day itself. You’re able to see your guests enjoying themselves, see the décor in all its glory and get to see all the parts you missed. Our photographer, Sam Box, is so talented and made the day so much fun. We never dreaded having our pictures taken, and the results exceeded all our expectations.

We also booked our amazing videographer as I had seen it was the number one thing couples regretted not having. I’m so glad we made that choice.

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

We both dreaded the idea of a first dance, to the point where we didn’t want to do it. Our special song is Ed Sheeran's Perfect; it came out on the day we became ‘official’ and we have loved it ever since.

Knowing it’s a bit of a cliché song that couples choose, we didn’t want to stand awkwardly swaying to it for three minutes. Instead we agreed to do a surprise mash-up that our incredible DJs put together for us. It started with Perfect, then went into Time Warp, Steps' 5,6,7,8, Beyoncé's Single Ladies, Cha Cha Slide, and back to Perfect again. It was a massive pay off as no one knew, and the response was great. We had so much fun doing it.

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Did you have any evening entertainment?

We had carnival games during the day including a buzz wire and Stand the Bottle. The games were placed on the lawn for people to enjoy at their leisure as they drank and mingled. We had a DJ (Inspired Party) for the evening as we wanted a classic '80s and '90s theme. This went down very well with our guests. I felt like we hadn’t booked enough entertainment, but it’s easy to forget that people also just enjoy drinking and having a good chat.

Tell us about your wedding cake.

My mum made the cake. She’s incredible at realistic flowers and she and my dad spent hours wiring the floral centres, hand colouring the floral paste and coming up with arrangements. My nan made the fruit cake base too. They even made mine and Harry’s dog, Yoshi, out of fondant to add to the back of the cake.

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

I just wish we stressed a little less in the run up, although it was mostly me. It’s really easy to say, but there’s only so much you can do to control the day, and there’s a point where you need to let go and just look forward to the day. Other than that, we really wouldn’t change a thing.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

‘DIY’ does not always mean cheaper. When we started planning, we both wanted to do as much as we could ourselves to save money mainly, but also to add our own stamp to the day. We had all these big ideas (from Pinterest, of course), which seems super easy. Originally, we were going to hand-make our own centrepieces, name cards, flower arch, buttonholes, and even turn white candle holders gold.

As we started to do these things we soon learnt that the price was adding up, not to mention the time and effort going into it all. It became a chore rather than some fun activities we could do together.

In the end we decided to strip back how much DIY we included, and opted to hire or buy finished items to save any more pain. We still managed to put our own stamp on the day by designing the invites, arranging the flowers and a few other touches.

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Where did you go on honeymoon?

We didn’t think our honeymoon would go ahead due to travel restrictions. We had booked it for a few weeks after the wedding to give ourselves plenty of prep time should we be able to go. It was nice to have a couple of weeks between the wedding and honeymoon to decompress and reminisce. We booked a ten-night trip to the Maldives, staying in a beautiful water villa. We were so fortunate to be able to go as planned. 

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

Don’t feel the need to cave to traditions unless it’s what you want to include in your day. We spent hours debating over ‘what’s done’ and ‘what’s expected’ at weddings. We constantly felt that we had to include (and pay) for things purely for the reason that it's traditional to do so. The truth is that your guests aren’t going to miss favours, canapés, specially designed name cards or huge floral displays, they’re just there for you. There’s nothing wrong with having those things, but don’t feel pressured unless it’s what you want.

Plus, don’t feel you have to plan for every second of the day. Leave some breathing room for you and your guests.

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Steal their style:

Photography: Sam Box Photography 
Videography: Moments to Media 
Venue: Rockbeare Manor
Dress: Always and Forever Bridal
Hair & Make Up: Debbie Wright 
Bridal flowers: In Bloom Devon 
DJ: Inspired Party 
Venue décor Hire: Unique Designs by Tina
Game hire: The Proper Factory 

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