A summer wedding at Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire

16 Mar 2020

Celebrating their shared love of animals, Sophie Jandu and Edward Martin's wedding featured an animal theme and included a safari

How did you meet?

We met at a Bonfire Night party in 2009 while studying at Queen Mary University of London. We were friends for half a year before we officially got together in June 2010. The story of us and how we met was incorporated into our wedding ceremony.

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Tell us about the proposal.

Ed and I have always loved animals. For me though, I have always had a particular love and passion for marine life and marine biology and Ed knew it was always a dream of mine to go snorkelling but I just hadn’t had the opportunity to go.

For the proposal, Ed booked a surprise luxury trip to Mauritius for the week. On the day of the proposal, he hired a private boat - nothing fancy just a little speed boat, to take us out to sea and go snorkelling with the Mauritian fish. As we prepared to go into the sea, I almost ruined Ed’s amazing plan by very clumsily dropping my goggles into the sea. Ed, in a panic, jumped into the sea and frantically tried to find my goggles, as the boat captain didn't have a spare pair. However, the goggles seemed to be sinking pretty quickly and Ed seemed to get further and further away from the boat.

It seemed like all hope was lost and I started to speak to the boat captain about how we might be able to share them, when suddenly the goggles appeared at the side of the boat and Ed was able to quickly dive down and get them. We then spent the next half an hour snorkelling with the amazing fish, when suddenly out of nowhere the most beautiful turtle appeared. Ed and I were able to swim so close to the turtle and it really was a once in a lifetime experience – magical!

As I got back onto the boat, I remember saying: “That was the best experience of my life” and then as I turned around, I saw Ed getting a small box out of the bag that we had brought on the boat with us. He tried to get down on one knee, but the boat was too unsteady so in the end we decided to sit down. He then proposed with his late Grandma’s ring (who had recently passed and who I was very close with and fond of). It was perfect. I said yes, of course. 

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

We had an underlying animal conservation and protection theme. The style was classic/vintage and we chose orange, coral, berry and claret colours for the colour scheme. Initially, I wanted to go for a pastel colour scheme but I got the best advice from a friend and that was to pick colours that complement you and the venue, and not just colours that you like.

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

We knew we wanted a classic style wedding in a beautiful location, but we also knew that we wanted to be able to incorporate animals into our wedding. This proved a very difficult combination. We started to look at lots of zoos (including Bristol and London) and to be honest, they had the animals, but the rest of the venue was seriously lacking in charm and character.

We also started to do our research regarding which UK zoos/animal parks were the most ethical and decided on Woburn Safari Park. After researching weddings at Woburn, we realised that on the same estate as the safari park there was also the The Woburn Sculpture Gallery and Abbey.

Surrounded by beautiful gardens and a deer park, Ed and I fell in love with the Abbey before we even entered the building. However, the inside was just as beautiful as the outside. It was perfect and we booked it the same day as our viewing.

We also knew that several of our animal loving guests would want to know the reason why we had chosen Woburn Safari too – so we included this important information on our invitations.

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

I always had an idea of the style of dress that I wanted – a vintage style and short, but I also wanted the classic look with long lace sleeves. I went to a couple of wedding fairs, looked online and in some shops and at one point I started to lose hope as there really weren’t many short dresses available.

I found my dress at The National Wedding Show at London's Excel. It was from Cutting Edge Brides, which specialises in short wedding dresses. The shop was not local to me or my family (my mum is from Devon, my sister lives in Manchester and I live in Reading), but still we all decided to make the trip down to Bexley to try the dresses on. I tried on six or seven dresses at the shop and the problem was that I liked all of them.

I was really torn between two in the end: one that my mum really liked and one that I liked. The latter of which also wasn’t traditional in colour (ivory gold). After trying them both on for the final time, I went with my gut and chose the dress that I liked. I have ginger hair and a fair complexion and the ivory gold dress really complemented my colouring.

I also had a veil that was the same length as my dress, made by Cutting Edge Brides. 

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Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?

I had a very big bridal party consisting of eight bridesmaids, two female ushers and one hostess. My sister, Hannah, was maid of honour. All of the bridesmaids wore an A-Line V-neck knee-length chiffon lace dress, similar in style to my dress. Seven of the bridesmaids wore the same claret colour dress and my sister wore the dress in a slightly lighter berry colour. The dresses were from website JJ's House. 

All of the bridesmaids also wore a bee necklace, which I had given to them as a gift the night before – a symbol to represent the endangered insect. 

The hostess (chief organiser on the day), Shalini, wore the same dress as my bridesmaids but she was also part of my 'something blue' and wore a blue version of the dress. Also, instead of a bouquet, she had a wrist corsage which matched the bridesmaids' bouquets. Shalini wore an elephant necklace that I had given to her as a gift the day before – a symbol to represent the vunerable animal. I bought the necklace from a shop called Ivory Ella, where every purchase contributes to organisations like Save the Elephants. 

The two female ushers, Rachel and Sophie, are both mine and Ed’s best friends. I lived with Sophie at university and Rachel lived with Ed. We were all friends at university even before me and Ed got together. Therefore we created the female usher role, which was half team bride and half team groom. They wore the same dresses as the bridesmaids but in the same dusty pink colour as the groomsmen’s ties. Instead of bouquets, they both had hair corsages in the same colour as the ushers' buttonholes. They both read during our ceremony, they were our witnesses and they also both gave a speech at the beginning of the breakfast. 

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What did the mother of the bride wear?

A Ted Baker floral dress and matching coat. Mum also had a dusty pink corsage and hair corsage.

Where did you find your suits?

Slater Menswear in Reading. We went for a brown suit with a slight maroon tinge. Ed wore an orange buttonhole and an ivory floral tie to stand out from his groomsmen. The flowers on the tie were the same colour as the bridal flowers.

The two best men wore similar floral ties to Ed but in claret instead of white. The rest of the groomsmen all wore dusty pink ties. All of the groomsmen also wore a dusty pink rose corsage.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

The flowers were in colours of orange, dark pink, hints of blush and green. Dahlia, sweet pea and gorgeous roses were complemented with trailing ivy, asparagus fern, thlaspi, and herbs. Stems were finished with ribbon to complement. We chose Miss Piggy, Lovelace, Vandela and Quicksand roses. 

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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.

Entertainment: We paid for all of our guests to go on a safari around Woburn Safari Park shortly after the ceremony. In the time between the ceremony and the safari, we only played animal-themed music. Some of the songs included: Bear Necessities, Crocodile Rock, Hey Hey We’re The Monkees and many more. Then, to announce the safari, we played The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

The majority of guests were split into two coaches, each with a safari tour guide. The coaches were decorated with animal balloons. We gave each guest a goody bag (containing an animal mask, reusable animal straw, safari map and information guide, as well as animal cookies). We also gave each guest a ice pop for the trip as it was so hot. 

We also hired private jeep tours for the wedding party (bridesmaids, groomsmen etc.). As part of our tour, we fed some giraffes and we also got very close to several of the animals. 

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Stationery: We had a graphic designer, Aimee Willow, hand-design and draw all of our stationery (save the dates, invitations, honeymoon cards, order/s of the day, reading cards, welcome sign, guest book). She created our wedding logo, which we used on all of our stationery and on the website. She also created a safari landscape for us, which we used throughout. 

Seating plan: Our seating plan was made out of an old Risk game board. This paid homage to mine and Ed's competitive nature, which all started with a game of Risk in university. We also decided to make a mini Risk game of our own, with each table having a set of mission cards featuring tasks to complete and share via a Whatsapp group. The winning table won 12 free drinks tokens. 

Table decorations: Each table was named after a continent and to signpost each table, we had a mini globe with a pin in the relevant continent and a label attached. As the theme was animal conservation and protection, we also picked six endangered animals from each continent and did a little fact sheet about each one (that the guests could take home) on the relevant table. Our graphic designer drew all of the animals. Ed and I wrote all of the fact cards. Also, individual guest names were carved out of wood – bought online from Etsy. 

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Favours: We also donated to The World Animal Protection on behalf of our guests. 

Food and drink: All of the food served during the wedding breakfast was vegetarian. We also provided shots for the first toast. 

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Old, new, borrowed, blue: My shoes were my 'something old' and I asked all of my bridesmaids to sign the bottom of my shoe in a blue marker. I borrowed my earrings from my nan, my veil was new and Ed’s mum bought me a sixpence to put in my shoe. 

Guestbook: In-keeping with our theme, our guest book was a little elephant which guests could sign. 

How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

A combination of excitement - particularly to see Ed, nerves and emotion. As my song started and my bridesmaids started to walk down the aisle, I looked at my best friend and my sister and we all started to tear up. But quickly the adrenaline kicked in and I was able to keep the tears in as I walked down the aisle with my dad. When I got to the end, I was shaking and Ed had to hold my hand to keep me calm and steady throughout the ceremony. 

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you?

Ed and I made our own wedding rings with Orla James and had the phrase 'Love will keep us together' engraved on the inside of both rings. 

We both wrote our own personalised vows. My vows comprised lyrics taken from several songs that were special to me and that represented our relationship, while Ed’s vows were a little more humorous. 

We chose all of our readings as they meant something to us. My mum also read a personal reading entitled 'Story of us' at the beginning of the ceremony.

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What was your most memorable moment?

Getting married. Also, the speeches were very special.

What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Budgeting – it can be really hard to compromise when it is your special day.

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

Love Will Keep Us Together – Captain and Tennille. This is one of our favourite songs, as we both first heard it on the teen movie Get Over It. Also, having been together for nine years prior to being married, we wanted to pick a song that reflects the truth about how difficult it can be to stay in a long-term committed relationship. We also had a choreographer who designed a simple dance routine for us.

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Did you have any evening entertainment?

A seven-piece band called All The Feels Collective. We also had a casino, photobooth and face paint. 

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

The wedding cake was made by my auntie, who is not a professional cake maker. Each tier was a different flavour including a salted caramel layer (Ed’s favourite), an alcoholic lemon drizzle layer (nut-free) and a fruit cake layer (for our parents). The front of the cake was decorated classically with ivory icing to match my dress, and flowers provided by the florist to match our colour scheme and the rest of the floral arrangements.

To fit with the theme, my auntie made an elephant bride and groom cake topper. Also, the back of the cake was designed to represent different ecosystems/habitats and the animals that inhabit them. Each layer represented a different habitat/continent: Antarctic, Australian Bush, EU Woodlands, Amazon Rainforest and the African Savanna.

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

I would have bought and worn the bra that I was planning to wear on the day to my first dress fitting. My wedding dress was backless and so a normal bra wasn’t an option for me. I left bra/tape shopping to the last minute and had already had my dress fitted and altered several times beforehand.

When I eventually went for my final dress fitting with the strapless bra and tape that I was planning to wear on the day, the whole shape and fit of the dress completely changed. There were subsequently lots of tears and panic and lots of last minute alterations, which were expensive. However, it was all resolved in the end and I felt amazing on the day. I could have done without the stress and the cost though.

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Did anything go wrong on the day?

A few things did go wrong, but nothing spoiled the day. The first thing was that I ended up being 30 minutes late to the ceremony. I decided to share a car with the bridesmaids, which was a big mistake as they made me really late. It was a very hot day and my make-up was melting, so my sister had to go out and buy a load of electric fans.

I also forgot to bring the mission cards for the Risk game with me in the morning, so one of my bridesmaids popped out to get them while our female ushers were giving their speeches.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

To think about the weather before you buy suits. We bought lovely, thick woollen brown suits for all of the groomsmen back in September... not really the best attire for a summer wedding – particularly when it was as hot as it was. 

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Where did you go on honeymoon?

We had a minimoon in Crete straight after the wedding for five days. We did our main honeymoon in South Africa for 2.5 weeks the following February. We always knew that we wanted to do an African safari for our honeymoon.

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

Make sure you plan the wedding that you want and not the wedding that others want or expect.

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Steal their style: 

Venue, VIP safari and tour guides: Woburn Safari
Photography: Lightdraw Photography
Videography: Harris Weddings
Wedding dress and veil: Cutting Edge Brides
Flowers: Wild Orchid Flower Design
Stationery: Aimee Willow Designs
Wedding rings: Orla James
Bridal party hair & make-up: My Make-up Artist
Bridal make-up: Niki Make-up
Car: Vintage Transport Ltd
Groomsmen transport: The Woburn Hotel
Safari coaches: Souls Coaches
Band: All The Feels Collective
Casino: David Andrews EntertainmentPrestige Fun Casino
Photobooth: HZ Entertainment
Sweet cart: LA Magie Events
Dance lessons: All Steps First Dance
Face Paint: The Glitter Box
Accommodation: Havisham House

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