Ashleigh Tuttle concludes her blog series with her wedding story, which - in the end - turned out to be the perfect day at Oxnead Hall, Norfolk
Wow. What an absolutely fantastic day we had. I’m writing this three weeks after our wedding day, as honestly I feel I’ve only just caught my breath. What a whirlwind the last two and a half years have been.
When we first got engaged, I could never have envisaged the obstacles we’d have to face. I mean, who could have predicted a global pandemic? The worst thing I initially thought I’d face is bad weather, let alone a year of agonising waiting and wondering ‘will it, won’t it?'.
Despite this though, we had the absolute perfect day. Restrictions were lifted a mere five days beforehand (cutting it nice and close), meaning we could have the day we had always dreamed of.
We had 122 day guests and a further 60 for the evening. Who could have imagined a few months ago that the dance floor would have been filled with all our friends and family having the time of their lives?
Of course, I would have preferred not to have had the doubt over the last year of what our day would look like, but actually, in some ways, COVID made it. It was the first time so many of our friends and family had gathered together, and were able to finally let their hair down in a way we have been so cruelly robbed of for so long.
And boy, did everyone let loose.
The night before our wedding most of my bridesmaids, my mum and dad and I stayed at the venue, with the groomsmen down the road at some nearby barns. We decided to join them for a couple of hours and played some epic beer pong, as well as giving the groomsmen their gifts (personalised hip flasks). I was able to film the moment, which was so lovely. Eventually, I had to drag my bridesmaids (and parents!) away from the beer pong table, as we needed to get some sleep... my bridesmaid Lucy would have stayed all night if I’d let her.
Once we got back to the venue, we had a glass of prosecco and reflected on all the planning, and looked to the day ahead. My mum called me upstairs and gave me a beautiful music box that played Slipping Through My Fingers from Mamma Mia!, which is our song. I promptly burst into tears, the first of many over the weekend. My parents and I shared a few tears and a cuddle before I finally got into bed. My poor bridesmaid Kayleigh was my bed buddy, and I apologise again for the amount of tossing and turning... and the 5am wake up call.
I woke up early and could hear the cows outside. I checked my phone and saw that my future husband John was also awake. I text him saying; 'We still on for today?’ and he LEFT ME ON 'READ'. Turns out one of the groomsmen (looking at you, Conor) had chucked the best man Matthew’s bag onto the roof (?!) and they were trying to get it down.
I eventually slipped into my parents’ room around 7am and they once again played the Mamma Mia! song (determined to draw some more tears, clearly), and we had a cuddle on the bed, the last one for me as a Tuttle.
Everything was manic from then on, with my bridesmaids Erin, Gemma and Carley arriving, and we were straight into hair and make-up. Having eight bridesmaids seemed such a good idea at the time until I realised how long it would take to get all of us photo-ready. Brooke (Boho Beauty Box) and Stephanie (Stephanie Alexandra MUA) got on it right away with their assistants, with my hair prep underway while I sipped on a WKD - I mean, I’m never going to change.
I gave the bridesmaids their gifts, which were bracelets with their initials, and a knot necklace; my dad an engraved glass, a personalised handkerchief and a key ring; my mum a pair of green earrings to match the bridesmaids’ dresses; and my aunty Delores a beautiful bunch of orchids. Cue more tears!
Everyone was running errands around me, making sure everything was perfect, but I wanted to help too so my maid of honour Rebekah and I took tissues down to the ceremony area, with our photographer (Tim Stephenson) and videographer (Mike Savory) catching me in all my roller’d glory.
Finally it was time to get into my dress, and all it took was a "Stephanie I need you" to my make-up artist, who flew up the stairs with me to help me get sorted. Note to all future brides, trust your suppliers and pick ones you love. I picked mine not only on their epic skills but on their amazing personalities. They all couldn’t do enough for me.
Once I was zipped up, Mike and Tim captured my bridesmaids', dad’s and page boy’s reaction as they saw me in my dress for the first time. My bridesmaid Katie has known me for over 15 years, and when we were younger I always said I would never get married, and you can see by the emotion on her face how happy she was that I was wrong. I would definitely recommend doing a 'first look' with your bridal party, as I am so glad that I will always have that memory captured on camera.
Our amazing planner Lucy was ferrying people exactly where they needed to be, and once the registrars arrived she summoned my witness (my cousin, Jamie) to the honeymoon suite, where we went through the legalities together. I also chose to have my mum as well as my dad on the marriage certificate, an addition I am so glad has now been added to the official process.
Once the formalities were out of the way upstairs, I carefully navigated my way down to the rest of my bridal party, with my dad guiding me the whole way. As I walked in, they all clapped (and I, of course, cried again) and then I made eye contact with my brother and we hugged, and I sobbed. John’s groomsmen, Conor, Connor, Jack, Noel, Matthew and of course, Tom, could not have been more complimentary. Tom has been my best friend for years and I could see his eyes glistening, so that of course set me off again.
Each bridesmaid took a groomsmen’s arm (with the exception of my sisters, Gemma and Carley who walked together) and started to make their way down the aisle, with the page boys and my mum leading. Dad took my arm, and we quickly realised the enormity of my dress was going to be a bit of a problem when walking. Eventually we worked out that he could hold the front of my dress, and that would make walking a little easier (I still tripped though).
Once I saw John, and heard our singer Bill Downs beautifully playing I Will Be by Avril Lavigne, nothing else mattered. I began to just start pegging it down the aisle, which of course made me trip again but I didn’t care anymore. The best man, Matthew, told John I was coming, as John didn’t turn to see me until I got to the front. John turned to me and told me I looked beautiful as my sisters took my veil and lifted it over my head, which I thought was such a lovely touch.
My mum read The Life That I Have by Leo Marks, which was the poem read at my nan’s funeral so it’s very personal to me. John’s cousin, Helen, did a fantastic reading of Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, which has been a favourite quote of mine for a long time.
After the ceremony the party really started, with drinks and canapés being served and photographs taken. We used smoke bombs to create a wonderful video and photos, which I would also recommend. It was actually my favourite part of the day; all our bridal party was together and I just couldn’t stop laughing, I absolutely loved it.
Everyone eventually made their way into the Great Barn for our wedding breakfast, finding their seats by the incredible table plan created by Jess Pask. So many people remarked that they had never seen anything like it, with every person being drawn as a Disney character. It was one of many Disney touches throughout the day.
The speeches were fantastic: John did really well as he doesn’t usually like speaking in front of a large crowd, my dad’s was lovely and sentimental, and the best man’s was the perfect balance of funny and tender. He even said a couple of nice things about me.
We gave my parents, John’s parents, his nan and my grandad presents throughout the speeches, as they were such massive parts of our day and we couldn’t do it without them.
After the meal the dancing began, which I am so over the moon we were able to do. The dance floor was full the entire night, mostly due to our amazing DJ, Gary Sulter, who read our audience perfectly. My dad and I started it off with This Dance by Scott Thomas Laughridge, which I’d never heard before but was perfect. He then handed me over to John as we danced to our TWO first dance songs, Take On The World, which was pre-empted by the band You Me At Six who recorded us a personal message, and then John’s choice, Earth Angel from Back To The Future. But the biggest surprise was yet to come…
Above: Tim Stephenson Photography
Gary called my mum up who took the microphone. To be totally honest, I thought she was drunk! She started by saying how beautiful she thought I looked, and then how she was really happy today…
And suddenly all the bridal party (including my beautiful bridesmaid Emma and even her boyfriend Miles) ran onto the dance floor and started a choreographed dance to Happy by Pharrell Williams, which I could see was co-ordina
ted by my bridesmaid Erin. It was absolutely brilliant and as such a controlling bride, it was so fantastic to have a surprise that I had absolutely no idea about. John’s nan also tried to join in on the dance, but honestly I think her rendition of Summer Lovin’ later that night was better.
I also took part in the tradition of throwing a replica of my bouquet into the crowd, which was caught by bridesmaid Lucy’s boyfriend Kev (you better get proposing, Lucy…).
The night ended with the Baywatch theme, which was our university club’s theme. Everyone got into the spirit and waved their ties around their head, with Kev actually lifting John on to his shoulders and jumping around with him.
I tried my best to get around to everyone, but of course as many brides will tell you it’s almost impossible to do. I had the most fantastic time though, and I don’t honestly think it could have gone any better.
And the best thing? My initial worries of bad weather (especially with thunder and lightning predicted) were unfounded. It remained dry throughout the entire day.
Photography: Tim Stephenson Photography
Videography: Mike Savory
Venue: Oxnead Hall, Unique Norfolk Venues
Wedding dress: Mooshki Bridal, The Bottom Drawer Bridal
Veil: Tulle & Flo
Bridesmaids' dresses: Motee Maids,The Bottom Drawer Bridal
Make-up: Stephanie Alexandra MUA
Hair: Boho Beauty Box
Suits: Vintage Suit Hire
Flowers: Floral Sistas
Chairs and ribbons: LouBear Events
Stationery: Tops Designs
Table plan: Aster & Ren Designs
Favours: Say It With Sugar UK
Carriage hire: Cosy Tea Party
Cake: Little Millie’s
Brownies: Simply Cake Co
DJ: DJ Gary Sulter
Singer: Bill Downs
Lighting and photo booth: Epic Event Hire