A festival wedding with DIY details in Essex

01 Apr 2019

Chantelle and George Charles Dyson-Hughes spent two and a half years planning their wedding

Photo: Valo Studio

How did you meet?

George and I met at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2012. I was in my first year studying Theatre Sound and George was in his second year studying Production Management.

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Photo: Essex Photo Service UK

Tell us about the proposal.

On Christmas Day morning, George presented me with an envelope with a clue inside. This clue led to a location where I found a puzzle piece and another clue. Continuing on the treasure hunt, I had to run outside to the car in my dressing gown to retrieve another piece and a clue. At the end, all the pieces created a jigsaw that said ‘Chantelle, Will You Marry Me?’ and then George produced the ring. It was geeky, cute and totally George and I all over.

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Photos: Essex Photo Service UK

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

From the proposal we instantly knew the date of our wedding: 11th August 2018. This was the five-year anniversary of an arts and music festival George and I had put together for George’s final year project at university. The ideas for the wedding all stemmed from that – a festival with an open field with tipis, a band and bell tents. It was the perfect festival vibe.

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Photo: Essex Photo Service UK

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

Hedingham Castle was an easy choice for me – both my mum and I had worked there previously and it has the vibe of a church without the religious holding. The stone and wooden floors, the spiral staircase and the fact it’s a castle fit for a prince and princess combined made it the perfect choice.

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Photo: Valo Studio

Danbury Outdoors was also an easy fit – it was where the festival had originally taken place. The manager knew we would take care of the place and offered us everything we needed: a field, accommodation and a meaningful location.

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Photo: Valo Studio

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

I loved the very first dress I tried on but that didn’t stop me checking. I visited two other locations and at each I found a dress I loved. To this day, there’s still one I partly regret not wearing but it was full length and what with it being a bit rainy on the day, it was probably for the best. I went for a Candy Anthony 1950s gown in blush with a tulle skirt layer and a lace overlay, completed with a blush pink bow. Underneath sat a pink petticoat. This combination was almost the exact combination I tried on at the very beginning, although I went through some different colours, overlays and so on. 

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Photo: Essex Photo Service UK

I wore the most beautiful pair of Ted Baker heels, pale pink with a gorgeous gold stiletto heel and gold embellishment. I also wore a flower crown to pull the colour scheme together.

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Photo: Essex Photo Service UK

What did the bridesmaids wear? 

I had three bridemaids and a bridesman. The three bridesmaids sported tulle skirts in different pastel colours – mint green, baby blue and peach – paired with a cream silk top, gold heels and flower crowns. The bridesman sported lilac chinos, brown brogues and a lilac dickie bowtie.

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Photo: Valo Studio

They are four key people from different stages in my life. I know Anna, my chief bridesmaid from secondary school, Katie from my youth drama group, Tash from Barracudas where I have worked in recent summers and Jack is a random friend I met at house parties as a teenager. They’re each so very special to me.

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Photo: Essex Photo Service UK

What did the mother of the bride wear?

It took us some time but we found a gorgeous dress for my mum in Debenhams by Julien McDonald. It had a pink base colour with flower detailing and she paired it with heels, fascinator and jacket. It wasn’t your usual mother of the bride outfit but my mum felt comfortable and looked stunning.

Where did you find your suits?

Debenhams. We had some hiccups with the tailoring but we got a discount and were able to match up all seven people in the groom's party in the end.

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Photo: Valo Studio

Tell us about your floral arrangements.

This is the one part I’m not very good at. Upon getting engaged, I browsed several local florists and their arrangements. I stumbled across a photo I fell in love with and contacted Caroline from The Orchid Rooms for a meeting – we booked her at our first meeting. I don’t know what the flowers were but they were stunning, with pale and blush pinks mixed with some bright green and tied off with a silk pink ribbon.

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Photo: Essex Photo Service UK

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

The one comment we got more than any other was how much attention to detail there was for our wedding. With so much time to plan, we went the extra mile and it really paid off. The majority of items were handmade and DIY. 

  • We created a logo for our wedding which appeared on our invitations, menus, seating plan and even the paper our promises were written on. This later led to our biscuit favours being decorated in line with these which started to pull the theme together. Over the years, George developed a hobby of making candles and spent many an evening filling recyled pots with wax and scenting them. I finished these off with pink string and twine to pull our gold and pink colour scheme together. 

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Photo: Valo Studio

  • Brown paper and luggage tags featured on the individual menus and labels at the ceremony while the number of chalkboards I hand-wrote must have been more than 20: welcome signs, cocktail signs, flip flops, sunglasses, the photobooth, caricatures, bell tents – you name it, it probably had a chalkboard to go with it.
  • Everything was in the details. We had photos everywhere – and we must not forget our doughnut wall. It meant that everyone experienced something slightly different to the next, a bit like an art installation.

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Photo: Valo Studio

How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I couldn’t wait to get to the end of the aisle and be next to George. It had been a busy, long build-up and now we were moments from saying our ‘I dos’.

How did you make the ceremony personal to you?

We kept it very short – we don’t like too much faff but we both had one of our grandmothers sign the register as witnesses. Our songs for signing the register were Married Life from the film Up and A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman – we stuck to a Disney and musical theme, being a theatrical couple.

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Photos: Valo Studio

What was your most memorable moment?

My most memorable moment was driving in the car from the castle to the tipis. Not only did it mean that George and I got some much-needed time together during the day but the experience of driving around in a Beetle, with the top down and wind blowing as the sun was beating down, with both guests and random drivers beeping their horns as they passed by really was a magical and fun moment – and I just about managed to hold on to my veil. Other memorable moments include when I took some time out to change my outfit and I got some time with Kirsty, who did my hair, and my chief bridesmaid Anna, just to take some time away and relax. 

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Photo: Valo Studio

Another moment was when the music was off and there were people still in the bar area. I went and got my pyjamas on, snuggled onto the sofa and spent time with friends and family that were still there. 

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Photo: Valo Studio

The final moment for me was the handshake at the bottom of the aisle between my stepdad and dad. Both shared the role of father of the bride which was particularly important as my stepdad Rob has been just like a dad to me, so I wanted them to be able to share that. It worked perfectly.

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Photo: Valo Studio

What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Doing all of it ourselves. There was a lot of information to process about the details and logistics. The set-up felt humongous, not to mention the downpour of rain that ensued on the two days of set up. I was at the site until 10pm the night before the wedding so there really wasn’t much rest and relaxation right before.

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Photo: Valo Studio

What was the most important investment for you?

For George, it was the food. We knew we wanted an option menu for the main but we also wanted an evening reception that would be different to a buffet. It turned out we didn’t eat much food in the evening but the barbecue and pizza went down a treat. 

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Photos: Valo Studio

For me, it was the photography and videography, as I knew the memories we would have from the wedding were the most important thing. I thought I would struggle to get what I wanted for a reasonable price in terms of the style of photography until I stumbled across Valo Studio who were amazing. After reading many blogs and knowing they would do a fantastic job after having our engagement shoot with them, I convinced George we needed to add videography in. It was the best additional decision we made.

What song did you choose for your first dance?

Love is Easy by McFly. George has endured a fair few McFly concerts (I think he enjoyed them really). The song is easygoing and says everything about how we want love and life to be.

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Photo: Valo Studio

Did you have any evening entertainment?

As well as getting the caricaturist from Clacton Pier who had previously drawn a portrait for George and I at the seafront, we had a fantastic band called Gentlemen of the Road who played some awesome covers and got the guests on the dancefloor. After that, I did my own 20-minute DJ set which went down a storm.

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Photo: Valo Studio

Tell us about your wedding cake.

Originally, we were going to have a two-tier naked cake as we weren’t that fussed about it. But after I ordered a chocolate drippy cake for George’s birthday and we had attended a couple of family weddings, George had a change of heart. We went for a two-tier drippy cake in pink and yellow. One tier was a Victoria sponge and the second was chocolate orange. It was topped with Fondant Fancies, Jazzles and Party Rings and was accompanied by a wooden version of George, me and our fur babies, Mitzi the dog and George the rabbit.

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Photo: Valo Studio

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

I would invite some different people. We had been pretty good with our guest list but there are still some people I would love to add in and now I know who didn’t turn up without giving a reason, I know who I would have changed out.

Did anything go wrong on the day?

It did indeed - I nearly forgot my veil but that was avoided. I lost a bridesmaid a few weeks before due to scheduling issues (hence having a bridesman) but the biggest issue on the day was that my grandma fell ill and an ambulance had to be called. This led to a flurry of panic among some guests, with people wanting to keep me protected from the information but I’m very matter-of-fact and wanted to make sure she was okay more than anything.

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Photo: Valo Studio

Did you have a hashtag?

#dysonhughes2018

Is there anything you wish you had known before?

That some people would miss the first dance as they were setting up tents, that I wouldn’t eat much of the evening food and that I would want it to go on forever and never end.

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Photo: Valo Studio

Where did you go on honeymoon?

We left about a week before we went away to one of our usual holiday destinations, the Bitzaro Grande Hotel in Zante. We upgraded our room to a suite which was beautiful. Our official honeymoon will take place in August 2019 when we go to Budapest for the Sziget festival, then to Ibiza for some clubbing, then back to Liverpool to spend a weekend in a bell tent for Creamfields festival. Guests contributed towards this trip. 

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

It will all be absolutely perfect and always do it your way.

Watch their wedding video.

Steal their style:

Ceremony venue: Hedingham Castle
Reception venue: Magical Events Ltd at Essex Outdoors
Transport: V-Dub Rides
Flowers: The Orchid Room, Wedding & Event Floral Design
Morning photography: Essex Photo Service UK 
Photography and videography: Valo Studio
Catering: Valentine Cuisine
Band: Gentlemen of the Road Band
Caricaturist: Drop Dead Caricatures
Cake: The Shhh Baker
Biscuit favours: The Little Biscuit Factory
Dress: Candy Anthony
Bride and bridesmaid hair: Shine By Amelia Hair and Beauty
Bride's make-up: Beautiful-You, Professional Makeup Artist
Bride's nails: NailsatStudio4

Click here to read the latest edition of Essex Bride magazine.

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