A rustic DIY wedding in Nottinghamshire
21 Oct 2019
Following a Christmas proposal, Sara Warrilow married Stefan Smith at St Mary and St Lawrence Church in Bolsover, followed by a reception with DIY details at Elmtree
How did you meet?
Stefan was just drinking in his local pub when half his family walked in. It was his cousin's engagement party and he had no idea. His cousin was engaged to my cousin. I drove from Birmingham to Bolsover to be at my cousin’s engagement party and that was where we met.
Tell us about the proposal.
Stefan bought the ring with his daughter, she was eight-years-old at the time and helped to choose it. He was going to propose on Christmas Day in front of all our family. But after a hectic couple of days, the day before Christmas Eve, we got home, put logs on the fire, lit candles and had the Christmas tree lights on. He got up and grabbed his shoes, came back in and put his shoes on. He got down on one knee to tie his shoe laces and I was asking him where on earth he was going, we had just got home. Then he pulled the ring out and I realised he was on one knee. He asked me to be his wife and when I said 'yes' he then pulled out a Christmas card that said 'Fiancé' on it.
On Christmas Eve I was phoning every jeweller in Birmingham to find someone to resize my ring so I could wear it on Christmas Day on the right finger, and I managed to get it done.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
The theme was a rustic country wedding so we chose a light sage/pastel green as a colour scheme. All flowers were white with green leaves. The bridesmaids' dresses were also light green.
What venue did you choose and why?
We chose the Elmtree Pub in Elmton because the chef that owns it is well known for catering. He also had a large area of land at the back of the pub which was surrounded by apple trees and fields – perfect for the tipi.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I went to one shop with my mum and tried on a dress. I hated it and walked straight back out. I went to the next shop with my mum and bridesmaids. I told them I wanted an A-line wedding dress with a low back - three dresses later we were done and I bought my dress.
Does the dress match the one you originally thought you would choose?
It was almost an exact match to one I looked at months before.
What did the bridesmaids wear?
I had two adult bridesmaids, one who I had known since childhood and the other who had become a great friend over the last five years. I then had two younger bridesmaids who were my boss’ daughters. The older bridesmaids' dresses were £23 end of line dresses by designer Arianna Papell. The younger bridesmaids' dresses were £25. As long as they match and have a bouquet then any dress can look like a bridesmaids' dress, so no need to spend over £150 per dress.
What did the mother of the bride wear?
My mum had a nightmare trying to find the right outfit. She had bought lots of dresses and tried loads on. Three days before the wedding she was still not sorted and then pulled something out of the closet that had been there for nine years. It was her own wedding dress and she had it altered to the knee.
As soon as I saw her in it I knew that was what she should wear. Some brides might be funny about anyone else wearing ivory but I thought there was something special about my mum being in her wedding dress alongside me in mine. No-one else knew that was her wedding dress.
Where did you find your suits?
Slaters in Birmingham
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
I made my own.
Tell us about the details of the day.
We made everything ourselves and saved more than £3,500.
The flower arch was thrown out in the street by a Thai restaurant that was closing down. We pulled the red flowers and rope off and replaced with white ones bought in bulk on eBay for less than £20. We then got some hessian, designed the Mr & Mrs Smith stencil by printing it off the computer, cutting it out and using white paint. We wrapped it around the bottom of the arch. This cost us less than £30 and was personal to us with the date and our name on. Other companies were charging £250 for just a flower arch.
The flower hoops were created using children’s hula hoops for £1. These were wrapped with white netting for £2 and then one vine of faux leaves which were bought online in a bulk of 10. We had a total of six flower hoops and then joined them together horizontally to make the centrepiece of the tipi. The project cost us £20 altogether. Companies wanted to charge us £350 for a similar centrepiece.
Instead of paying £200 for a huge disco ball, we used a bicycle wheel, some string and loads of cut-up CDs. We put a light fitting in the middle with a spinning light bulb. It cost £7 altogether.
The bouquets were also DIY. You can buy the bouquet handles from places like Hobby Craft or online for about £4. Add whatever flowers you want. They just go straight into the foam. You can use a hot glue gun to secure them in. My bouquets cost £15 each and I had five. I was quoted £50 each from a florist, so I saved £175.
The table arrangements featured flowers which were £1 from Poundland. The fish bowls were £1 from Poundland as well. We bought a bag of gravel from Wickes for £4. The 10 table decorations cost us £24.
The cake table – We used our dinning room table and we covered it with ivory curtains from a charity shop. The pictures hanging up behind are pictures of us, printed at home and pegged on string with little pegs bought from Poundland. The basket was from home and we just made bunting that said 'Cards'.
The tree plants - One was from a skip from an office closing down, one was found at the local refuse centre and we cleaned it with fabric softener, the three others were bought from Ikea on special offer.
We used an online template for our wedding invitations and made them at home. They cost £40 for all the materials and we saved £200 by doing it ourselves.
My wedding shoes were wedged white lace trainers and cost £15 from Poland. I didn't see the point of wearing expensive high heel shoes when the dress covered my feet.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I walked alone and it was a little scary. I was looking at Stefan but he didn’t turn around until I was right at the end of the aisle.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
Our vicar made the ceremony personal by changing the lyrics in one of the hymns. We played 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered' while we signed the register and walked out of the church as husband and wife to Bon Jovi's You Belong To Me.
What was your most memorable moment?
Saying my vows and putting the rings on. I will never forget the look of love on Stefan’s face when he said his vows to me.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
Making the wedding cake. Everyone else thought I was mad for doing it a few days before the wedding so I had put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right.
What was the most important investment for you?
The tipi. It was the most expensive thing from the whole wedding but without it we wouldn’t have had the romantic mood, shelter or seating.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
Baywatch theme tune – I’m Always Here by Jimi Jamison.
The first film we watched together was the new Baywatch film. Stefan also has a pair of red shorts and in the summer he was running up the garden like Baywatch. The lyrics of the song also mean something to us; “Forever and always, I’m always here”. It was also a more upbeat first dance song and we didn’t want anything too soppy.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
We made our own playlist by playing it on a stereo we had already. It cost us nothing and we had no mumbling DJ or people requesting songs we hate.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
I made it. I was quoted £350 - £450 for a three-tier wedding cake. I watched Youtube tutorials and had a few practices, and made my own for less than £40. The rose flowers were surprisingly easy to make even though they look complicated. I practiced with Playdoh.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
It would be for Stefan to turn around and watch me walk down the aisle instead of turning only at the last minute. The reason he didn’t was because he knew it would make him crack up. The photographer caught his expression of breathing out like a pregnant woman in labour as I was walking down the aisle.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
When my bouquet arrived the stems were way too long and we had no scissors anywhere in the hotel to cut them. Seconds before I was due to leave I was using a pair of plyers to try and cut the stems down. It turned out to be more funny than a disaster. Stefan’s aunty had also borrowed an ivory bag for me to use which got left in the van at the back of the tipi, so I had to go with an old white one I had in my suitcase.
Was there anything you wish you’d known before?
How quick the day was going to fly by. I will treasure it for the rest of my life and relive it in my head.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
The day after the wedding was a Sunday, so we went back to the tipi and packed up our things then went back to Birmingham. On Monday we had to return the van and generator. Tuesday, we flew out to Greece. It was the first time we had been on holiday together and it was the best week of my life. I loved every minute and am currently making a scrap book to remember everything.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Enjoy it. We had a seven month build-up to our wedding. Every conversation was about wedding stuff and the dinning room was full of things for the wedding. Then the day comes and it’s over. The state of euphoria and adrenaline is unreal and then you get the wedding blues and sad to get back to normal life. So enjoy the planning and the build-up as it’s part of the whole experience. Try not to get stressed and turn into a bridezilla.
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