Abby Maynard married Ben Williams at St Margaret’s Church, Hempnall, followed by a reception at Elms Barn in Toft Monks, Beccles
How did you meet?
We met at work in 2013. We were both newly qualified teachers, working at a secondary school in Brentwood, Essex. We lived in the same teacher housing and our subjects were in the same Humanities Faculty at the School. We just got on so well, starting out as friends and then our relationship developed soon after.
Tell us about the proposal.
It was our last day of work before the Easter break. Ben specifically asked if I was coming home straight after work. This seemed a strange thing to ask as it is not our norm and I started wondering during the day if this was the day that he would propose. Having been together since 2013 and buying our first house at the start of 2015, I was certainly starting to drop hints of marriage and hoping it would happen soon.
I got home from work on 29th March 2018 and Ben was already there. He tried to play it cool when I asked what we should do for dinner. I said we should get a takeaway and I remember him smiling and saying: "No, let’s go out". I was sure something was going to happen when I asked what he was going to wear. When he said a shirt (something he wouldn’t normally wear for a casual after-work meal) I thought this is it, he is going to propose.
In the taxi on our way into town, we were both so nervous that we didn’t speak a word to each other; we just held hands in complete silence. We arrived at an independent Italian restaurant in Chelmsford, Olio’s. On entering, a bottle of bubbly was waiting on the table. It was still quite early in the evening, so there was only one other table of diners in the restaurant (they were celebrating a 40th birthday). As soon as we sat down and drinks were poured, Ben took my hands and said a few words (of which I can’t remember now). He then stood up and got down on one knee in the restaurant. I can remember all the waiters standing at the back of the small restaurant and the other diners watching. When I said ‘yes’ everyone gave us a round of applause. It was the best moment. The waiters came up to our table one at a time to congratulate us. They even presented us with an additional sweet dessert, with ‘congratulations’ written in chocolate on the plate. Before that moment, I would have said that a public engagement was not for me, but this was just perfect.
I was so emotional from it all that I ended up not being able to actually eat the meal. The next day we travelled back to Suffolk and Norfolk to tell our family who were all delighted. It was the most special time, and by the end of the two-week holiday I had booked the venue, photographer and hair and make-up.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
The colour scheme was one of the first things we thought about. I absolutely love flowers and I have always liked blue hydrangeas. So, after a bit of research, we decided on a light blue, light peach and ivory colour scheme. I find this combination so pretty and just perfect for a summer wedding. In terms of aesthetic theme, our wedding day had a combination of traditional and rustic elements which reflects our choice of ceremony and reception venues.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
Ceremony: St Margaret’s Church is a significant place for Ben and I. There was no other place where we would want to marry.
Reception venue: Converted barns are just so beautiful. When I was 13-years-old, my brother got married in a converted barn and I always liked this type of wedding venue with all its rustic charm. Elms Barn was also perfectly located for us, just a 25-minute drive from the church. We had several people recommend it to us and as soon as we looked around, I could picture our wedding reception taking place there. It has some idyllic gardens which suited my flower interest.
Practicality wise, Elms Barn also provided many key wedding elements in their package which appealed to me and my style of wedding planning.The package included all the flower arrangements, including the bouquets and buttonholes. We didn’t need to research caterers because Elms Barn provided their own highly rated catering service. The vintage Bentley provided was a great addition and we had a lovely driver.
The on-site accommodation was also perfect for our family and close friends to stay. It was so lovely the morning after the wedding to go back to the barn and have a big group breakfast together. Altogether, the location, look and packages on offer at Elms Barn are what why we choose it and it didn’t disappoint.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
It was important to me to share the experience with just my mum. I was quite anxious about finding a dress so, for me, just going with my mum suited well and it turned out to be a very special day.
I was very lucky. I found my Ronald Joyce wedding dress in the first shop we visited at The Suffolk Bridal Company in Ipswich and it was the third dress I tried on. We had a lovely sales lady, Suzanne, who was very helpful and it was such a positive experience. I was a bit hesitant to say ‘yes’ to the dress straight away, as it was the first day and the first wedding shop. So we kept our other appointments that day. However, every dress I tried on didn’t feel right and I kept comparing them to the one I had liked from the first shop; needless to say, we went back and purchased my dream dress.
I chose Sophia Webster bridal shoes. As soon as I saw the blue ‘Wifey for Lifey' sole, I knew I needed to wear them for the special day.
Does the dress match the one you originally thought you would choose?
I always knew I wanted sleeves and lace in quite a traditional and regal style, so I feel very lucky that I found a design that incorporated all these elements. I didn’t really research designers before looking for the dress, it was more about the style, but Ronald Joyce dresses are so beautiful with their intricate, detailed and classic designs. The only surprise I had was opting for the boat neck style. I never imagined wearing a strapless dress, but it was so comfortable and supportive to wear, I didn’t mind having my shoulders on show.
What did the bridesmaids wear?
Finding my maid of honour’s dress for my best friend Anna was so much fun. We spent the day in Chelmsford going to pre-booked bridal shop appointments. Having just one person to find a dress for was lovely, we found a dress that Anna really loved, and it was so personal. We selected a Venus bridesmaid dress in cornflower blue from Adore Bridal & Occasion in Chelmsford. We thought a plain and classic style would complement the detail of my dress nicely.
I was tempted to have more adult bridesmaids, but on reflection this was the best thing I could have done, and I wouldn’t have been able to choose between my other close friends. It made the whole experience so special with just Anna and my family by my side.
For my two flower girls, my four-year-old niece Poppy and Ben’s two-year-old niece Fleur, I knew I wanted a traditional flowergirl look. I had always hoped that my mum would make something for my wedding day, especially as she had made wedding and bridesmaids' dresses in the past. I found a few photos of dresses I liked and then it was a case of finding a similar dress pattern and selecting the fabric. I was so happy with how these dresses turned out, my mum did a fantastic job and the girls looked so sweet.
I also had two ring bearers as part of my bridal party, my nephews Jevon and Torin. We hired child’s versions of the groomsmen’s Ted Baker suits from Moss Bros.
What did the mother of the bride wear?
My mum chose for a latte and mink coloured jumpsuit with a matching jacket from Phase Eight.
Where did you find your suits?
Ben’s suit was a blue, tailor-made Ted Baker suit bought from Moss Bros. As a little extra, he chose to have our names sewn on the inside pocket of the jacket. For the groomsmen, we hired the Ted Baker suits in the same colour as Ben’s, again from Moss Bros.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
Our church floral arrangements were created by the St Margaret’s florist ladies, led by Ben’s grandmother Yvonne. Our main floral arrangements at Elms Barn and the bouquets and buttonholes were provided by the Elms Barn Florist team, led by Teena Freeland.
Having decided on the light blue, peach and ivory colour theme, we had a flower meeting with Teena who talked through possible table and bouquet designs. Having seen a lot of work by Teena, we knew we were in safe hands when it came to the flowers. We had my favourite blue hydrangeas featured, the centrepieces and bouquets were just stunning on the day and they were everything I could have hoped for.
Tell us about the details of the day.
Afternoon entertainment: The Rogue Shanty Buoys. We are so happy to have booked this unique singing group from Lowestoft. We first came across sea shanty music through my sister-in-law and her dad. They were amazing, singing a mixture of traditional and modern songs in a sea shanty style – it was a real talking point amongst our guests. It created the best atmosphere during the canapés and drinks. Along with lots of clapping and singing along, our little flowergirls stole the show with their dancing in front of the group.
Venue light decoration: We hired Sam Race Venue Decoration and we were so happy for the fairy lights in the barn, it looked beautiful. We also chose LOVE letters for the marquee which made a perfect photo opportunity spot.
Favours: Having many family and friends affected by cancer, Ben and I knew that we wanted to donate to a cancer charity for our wedding favours. We decided to donate to Macmillan Cancer Support and guests received a gold bee pin in recognition of this donation. Guests were also able to take home their personalised wooden name places.
Photobooth: We hired the selfie mirror provided by Reflection Photobooths – this was great fun and the interactive mirror was a nice tweak on the original photobooth set-up.
DIY sweet table: We had great fun is creating this, especially buying all of the sweets. Our guests absolutely loved this little addition to the wedding.
DIY lawn game: A family friend made our cornhole game which was very well received by the guests and lots of fun had by all alongside the croquet and giant jenga.
DIY card store: I have only seen one other wishing-well card holder at a wedding and it was something that we said we would put in our garden after the wedding as a memory of the day. We asked another talented family friend to make one for us and it looked so good.
DIY ring bearer cushions: My sister-in-law made our personalised ring cushions for the ceremony. I love the detail on these and the colours worked perfectly with our theme.
Table games: To help keep our guests entertained and aid conversations during the wedding breakfast, we included a card game on the tables.
Flip-flops: We provided guests with flip-flops in the evening which was warmly welcomed by all once the dancing began.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I felt a combination of nerves and happiness. I didn’t want to cry so I was trying to take deep breaths and smile. I just wanted to take in the whole moment as much as possible, I remember squeezing my mum’s hand tightly. When I reached Ben I felt so relieved and happy to be standing by his side.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
We had close family friends provide the music. Halfway through the service, our friend from Canada performed a classical version of Shania Twain’s From this Moment and she was accompanied on the organ by her husband who are both classically trained musicians.
Our readings felt very special. We had two readings; my friend Steph chose a poem and Ben’s mum Liz chose 1 Corinthians 13. These felt so special because they chose the readings themselves for Ben and I.
Our hymns were Jerusalem and One More Step Along The World I Go. Our entrance music was Pachelbel Canon in D and Widdor’s, Tocatta. These were all performed by the organist and violinist.
What was your most memorable moment?
Ben saying ‘I will’ too early during the ceremony. The whole church erupted in laughter and we had to start that bit again, everything seemed more relaxed after that moment.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
Sticking to a budget. We were conscious the whole time about our budget and there were some things we had to compromise on to be sensible.
What was the most important investment for you?
Food and good entertainment.
What song did you choose for your first dance?
Made for You by Alexander Cardinale. We really liked the style and lyrics of this song. I found it just for our wedding and it is not very well known, so it felt very special.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
We hired an amazing wedding DJ, Paul Allen Wedding Services. This was one of the best decisions we made. I had always dreamed, and hoped, for a fun wedding disco and this did not disappoint. Paul had so much charisma and his music mixing was spot on. We also loved the ‘Mr and Mrs’ game, where Ben and I sat in the middle of the dancefloor and were asked Mr and Mrs questions with our guests cheering when we matched. It was very interactive and provided many laughs, a real talking point of the evening. Due to the heavy rain, all of our guests stayed inside which meant a full dancefloor the whole night.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
We booked Pickacake Ltd. to create our wedding cake. We chose a simple, semi-naked, five tier, sponge cake. The top tier was gluten-free and vegan. It was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers to match our flower arrangements in the barn.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
The weather – although the rain held off until the wedding breakfast, a bit of sun would have been lovely.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
We went to Mauritius for a two-week, all inclusive stay. I didn’t want to go immediately after due to being away from home for the wedding and hating packing. We booked our honeymoon five days after the wedding which was perfect for us. It was a simply amazing honeymoon.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
As well as the wedding venue, book your photographers and videographers early. If you have chosen other suppliers, book those as early as possible too. We just felt it took a lot of the pressure off, so that by the later stages we could just enjoy focusing on the smaller wedding details.
Steal Their Style
Ceremony: St Margaret’s Church, Hempnall, Norfolk
Reception venue: Elms Barn
Photography: Gina Manning
Videograpy: Browns Films
Hair and make-up: Kelly Mullender
Wedding dress: Ronald Joyce, from The Suffolk Bridal Company, Ipswich
Cake: Pickacake Ltd.
Band: The Rogue Shanty Buoys
DJ: Paul Allen
Fairy lights and LOVE letters: Sam Race Venue Decoration
Photobooth: Reflection Photobooths
For more Norfolk wedding inspiration, browse the latest edition of Norfolk Bride magazine.