Island romance at a Cambridgeshire garden wedding: Áine Mc Nabola and Craig DuBose

02 Mar 2016

A stunning palette of mint, gold, cream and blush fused perfectly with the natural river setting of Holt Island Nature Reserve in St Ives where couple Áine and Craig married. Light rain showers didn’t dampen the spirits of guests at this open air ceremony with exquisite handmade touches

Photography by Chris Page Photography

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What a wedding! Tell us a little about the run-up to the big day.
We decided that we wanted to get married in the town we met and in which we lived, instead of at my home in Sligo, in the west of Ireland. Knowing that people would have to fly from America, Central America, Europe and Ireland for our wedding, we wanted to make sure everyone had a great weekend as they were making such an effort to share in our wedding. So we had all the extended family and travelling guests around our house the night before the wedding for a meal. I cooked a huge porchetta roast and salads and served 27 people. We ate in the garden with tealight lanterns strung up in the trees. The day after the wedding we had a barbecue, with lots of picnic blankets and cushions scattered around the lawn for people to lie in the sun and recover.

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Where was the venue and how did you go about choosing it?
The best part of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, is the beautiful river setting. We knew that this would be something that our guests would love and would make their trip for the wedding more enjoyable. We looked for somewhere to have our ceremony outdoors in view of the river, and the committee at Holt Island Nature Reserve was really enthusiastic in letting us use their wonderful setting to host the first ever wedding on the island. We chose a spot under the graceful sweep of a willow tree in the central meadow and hired benches from a local farmer who hosts parties in his 15th-century barn.

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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.
The setting was so lovely in its own right, that all we needed was to add flowers around the ceremony site to make it look romantic. We wove hydrangeas, roses, larkspur and alchemilla flowers into a willow arch that sheltered a table, which I covered with vintage embroidered linen cloths and we laid out drinks and nibbles for the guests before the ceremony. I had made elderflower syrup to add to the champagne and lavender shortbread for nibbles, so it was a relaxed, garden party atmosphere. A few hand-painted signposts pointed guests to the right part of the island and that was everything we needed.

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When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I chose a 1950s-style dress because I love the vintage look, but also because I wanted to be able to dance the night away, and there is nothing like a petticoat for twirling in a ceilidh. I made my bridesmaids’ dresses which were peppermint prom dresses with a gold polka dot pattern clustered on the skirts. I also made all our accessories (feather fascinators for the bridesmaids and a short birdcage veil with beaded lace hair piece for me), but I bought my wedding dress.

It was designed by Ellis bridal and I got it second hand from a lovely girl on Preloved.com. I tried on a few long dresses, but as soon as I put on the short dresses I felt more like myself and I loved the Ellis dress as soon as I put it on. The sleeve and the back detail were elegant and it had the ’50s skirt that gave it a sense of fun as well.

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Tell us about the ceremony.
We were legally married in the register office the day before as outdoor weddings are not legally binding in the UK. We wrote the service ourselves, including extracts from literature and from Plato to suit my love of English and Craig’s more scientific side. My childhood friend’s husband performed our ceremony, so it was meaningful and personal.

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Were there any challenges on the day?
It had been beautiful weather all week leading up to the wedding, but the forecast had warned there might be showers that day. We had texted our 85 guests to warn them, but were hoping to avoid the rain. Right in the middle of the ceremony a huge black cloud blew in – the willow branches were swirling dramatically and then the heavens opened. My friend Paul Devins had gone out and bought lots of spare brollies that morning (what a gent) so everybody quickly put up their brollies and we carried on regardless. The shower was over in a few minutes, but one of my favourite memories of the day is the multicoloured canopy of brollies. Luckily, once the shower was done the sun came out in earnest so everyone dried out very quickly.

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It sounds like much of the atmosphere was created with carefully-crafted DIY decor. What kind of theme and details did the reception have?
The reception was only 100 metres up the road, so everyone walked over together while Chris took beautiful photos of us on the island and the river bridge. Photos were taken throughout the day, making a romantic photographic story of our day. I made 200ft of bunting out of card circles in our wedding colours of mint, gold, cream and blush and strung this from the ceiling. The tables were strewn with paper roses in the same card (I sourced both from a great Etsy seller called ChocolatesandLace). I collected varied vases and brass candlestick holders from charity shops to create a vintage look and got lots of crocheted doilies, which I dyed mint, pale pink and pastel yellow, and then sewed together in mixed colours to go under the vases of flowers as table centrepieces. I hand-painted the seating plan on black card, using pastel paint to give a chalk effect with a delicate floral style. I framed it in an old gilt portrait frame to complete the vintage style.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.
Slepe Hall was wonderful – the staff were so attentive and friendly, and accommodating. We were able to go in the day before to set up the decorations, and we actually did all the flower arranging there too. I ordered the flowers wholesale online, and with the help of three friends (Mary Cody, Neasa Mc Nabola and Megan Smart) and my mother-in-law, we did all the table arrangements, corsages for the ladies, buttonholes for the men and my bouquet, while having some pink champagne. Another friend, Amanda Crellin, made our wedding favours as a present. She made homemade vintage sweets in mint and gold paper bags – coconut ice and fudge, delicious!

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What type of entertainment did you choose?
We had a ceilidh band, which I wanted for a touch of Ireland, and it got everyone dancing together and really started off the evening party with a bang. Once the band were worn out, we had a DJ playing cheesy tunes and we danced the night away.

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What was your most memorable moment?
The one funny story/disastrous moment I can think of is when, while decorating the willow tree with the wedding flowers, my phone rang. It was Craig sounding very nervous because he had dropped a glass and it had smashed all over the wedding cake. Luckily, it was the small cake made for the number of gluten-intolerant guests, not the full sized cake which we were serving as dessert. My brother-in-law came to the rescue by popping into Tom’s Cakes and grabbing meringues to serve for the gluten-free guests, so it was only a minor panic.

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Steal their style:

Photography: Chris Page Photography, www.photoboothbox.co.uk, 07946 708 585
Ceremony venue: Holt Island Nature Reserve, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/leisure/parks-nature-reserves-and-green-spaces/holt-island-nature-reserve
Reception venue: Slepe Hall Hotel, www.slepehallhotel.co.uk
Dress: Ellis Bridal, 11317, bought on Preloved.com 
Accessories: Handmade by bride
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Handmade by bride
Groom’s outfit: Cadge’s Menswear, www.westbrookformalhire.com 
Flowers: Ordered wholesale from Triangle Nursery, www.trianglenursery.co.uk
Venue dresser: Bride, Mary Cody, Neasa McNabola, Megan Smart, Lorraine DuBose
Bench seating for wedding reception: Mark Schwier at Burleigh Hill Farm
Cake: Made by bride, decorated by Anita McGarry
Stationery: Invites designed and produced by Anita McGarry; seating plan painted by bride
Catering: Nibbles and drinks on island made by bride; wedding breakfast, Slepe Hall
Videography: Kojo Acquaah, Craig’s university friend from LA
Entertainment: Stomp Happy Tribe ceilidh band, www.stomphappy.org.uk; Slepe Hall DJ


To see more beautiful Cambridgeshire weddings order your copy of Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Bedfordshire Bride on Buyamag here.

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