Wedding of the Week: Oliver Seyfried and Rebecca Grainger

30 Jan 2017

A lavender and sage colour scheme perfectly complemented the rustic theme of this mostly-DIY wedding - which also saw the venue built from scratch

How did you meet?

We met in 2003 through friends. I was home for the Easter holidays and we went out for drinks as part of a group of mutual friends. Ollie likes to say we met in a bar. We technically did, but were introduced so he didn’t actually approach me and chat me up. I was at university an hour and a half away, so we spent alternate weekends between each other’s houses for the next year.

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Tell us about the proposal.

We were in France. We’d been on a week’s holiday with my family on the South Coast and the two of us were leisurely driving back in our campervan to the ferry. Ollie had planned that his proposal would be at the highest sand dune in Europe, Grande Dune du Pilat on the French West Coast. We found a campsite overlooking the dune and the sea and set off to watch the sun set from the top. I had absolutely no idea what he was planning and got a little grumpy part way up the near-vertical 100 metre climb, but he insisted we went right to the peak. As we watched the sun set from the top, he popped the question. I was so stunned, I forgot to say yes for a good five minutes.

Coincidentally it was my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary the same day. My dad was expecting the phone call as Ollie had asked for his permission a few days before when they’d popped out to buy baguettes together. My mum and Ollie’s parents were as surprised and nearly as happy as I was. Our friends were also delighted – we’d been together for more than 12 years and lived together for six, so they’d given up all hope of a wedding.

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

A rustic country theme, with a lavender and sage colour scheme.

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

I took my mum and future mother-in-law with me to find my dress. I tried on about 20 dresses in two different shops and narrowed it down to two, one in each shop. My chosen dress was a Stella York strapless a-line from Wedding Time in Dorchester. Although it was similar to the other, I chose it because it fitted me perfectly even without alterations and the shop’s owner was so helpful. I found handmade shoes online and my mum made my veil. She had to stain it with tea to match the scalloped lace edge to my ivory dress.

Both bridesmaids (sister, Tara, and friend, Mimi) had recently given birth when we ordered their satin, tulle and lace sage bridemaids’ dresses online. We were worried about how the made-to-measure dresses would fit in another six months. We went for an ivory waistband with lace-up backs to complement my dress and give them size flexibility.

The flower girls were our two nieces: Tia, who was one, and Darcie, three. They wore matching ivory dresses from Monsoon.

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Where did you find the suits?

Ollie’s three-piece suit was from a tailored range at Moss Bros in Exeter. He needed a new suit anyway so we bought it rather than hiring. The best man, ushers and fathers of the bride and groom wore their own suits with matching ties. This kept our costs down and was in-keeping with our not-too-formal theme.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

All flowers were grown by me, my mum and a local grower. In line with our rustic country theme, we had:

  • Informal posy-style bouquets featuring lavender, rosemary, scabious and astrantia
  • Mini bouquet-style buttonholes with a vendela rose, lavender, rosemary and gypsophila
  • Jam jar posies and dried lavender hung on pews in church
  • Jam jar vases and potted lavender on tables
  • Floral arrangements in galvanised watering cans and milk churns
  • Live potted plants inside and out, with coordinating flower beds.

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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 whole wedding was DIY. I’m a graphic designer so designed the invitations, order of service and a website for guests to get more information and to RSVP.

Ollie is a carpenter so not only renovated the barn, he hand-built the wooden tables and matching bar. The tables were beautiful so we chose not to cover them with cloths or place mats. Instead we opted for hessian table runners and place settings on the bare wood. The favours - small bags filled with dried lavender - doubled as place settings, with a brown printed label with each guests’ name. The seating plan was an original wooden sash window from our house, while the table numbers were on labels attached to pots of fresh lavender wrapped in hessian.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I expected to feel nervous with 120 guests looking at me, but I couldn’t stop smiling. I just felt very happy.

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What was your most memorable moment?

I can’t easily pick just one memorable moment as the whole day was magical. The speeches are usually the highlight for me at any wedding, so at my own wedding these were very special. My dad was so proud and warm; my new husband was happy and relaxed; and the best man was funny but also very kind.

I also loved looking around during the meal and the evening and seeing all of our favourite people in one room. Some of them had never met each other before, but everyone was chatting, smiling and laughing like old friends.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

The venue. We couldn’t find our ideal venue so came up with the idea of renovating a dilapidated barn at Ollie’s family farm. We set the date of our wedding for July 2016, giving us 10 months to do the work and plan the wedding. In hindsight, the plan was really ambitious. Originally a chicken house, the barn was used for storing farm equipment for 30 years. In winter 2015 it had a leaky roof, an uneven concrete floor, drafty timber walls and rotten window frames. It was a complete, inhabitable mess.

With the help of our families and friends, we fixed the leaks, fitted windows and sky lights, insulated the entire building, laid a new floor, painted the vast walls and had the electrics and lights re-wired. 

We landscaped the outside area and planted the gardens and old vegetable patch with flowers. We installed glass tri-folding doors behind the original barn doors, hand-built massive wooden tables and a matching wooden bar area, fitted natural coir carpets and strung fairy lights around the old oak beams. The task was immense. The end result, in the nick of time, was stunning.

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What was the most important investment for you?

The venue. We wanted something that didn’t exist near us – an informal venue with outdoor space, camping and the chance to do things our way - so we built it ourselves. What we didn’t know at the time was this would also become our new business venture. The plan was originally for the barn to be Ollie’s new furniture workshop after the wedding, but in the final few weeks before a friend asked if they could hire the barn for their own wedding. It was then that we realised we had something quite special. And so The Barn at Cott Farm wedding venue was launched.

On the day, the food was probably the key thing for us: antipasti for starters on sharing platters, roast beef, followed by profiteroles and strawberries and cream, with a lamb and hog roast in the evening.

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What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?

Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. It’s one of both of our favourite songs, plus we didn’t want anything too fast or slow. We had a live band, The IOUs, who learnt the song for us and were amazing throughout.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

The main ‘cake’ for cutting was a tower of local cheeses. My mum and I also made naked cakes, with a stack of chocolate, victoria sandwich and lemon sponges for guests to help themselves to later in the evening.

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

I’d allocate somebody the responsibility of ensuring each element of the day happened. We completely forgot the confetti - flower petals I’d spent six months collecting and drying, I didn’t throw my bouquet and we very nearly forgot to cut the cake until our band reminded us. We did have a master of ceremonies, but didn’t tell him every detail of what we wanted to do and when.

I’d also allow more time to get ready. We’d allowed to lace up the back of my dress, but my bridemaids’ dresses also needed lacing and we didn’t allow enough time for three dresses. We were 20 minutes late to the church.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

A DIY wedding isn’t necessarily cheaper, especially if you’re self-employed and your time gets split between planning and working, and it’s certainly more stressful in the few weeks before…. But it does mean you get the perfect day for you.

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Where did you go on honeymoon?

We had a mini-moon in August, taking our campervan to Cornwall. We hope to go away for a beach-type honeymoon later in the year.

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

Be clear on what you want and don’t want for your wedding and make sure your venue and all suppliers will work around what you want, not what they want to provide.

Make a detailed checklist with a realistic budget and stick to it. Lots of people recommend this, but the key is being realistic at the start. I blew our entire unrealistic clothing budget on my dress. I also didn’t budget for VAT for any of our equipment suppliers.

Lastly, bear in mind you’ll need to make compromises with your families as the day is important for them too – for example, both sets of our parents wanted more formalities than we did, such as a traditional ‘line-up’. We settled on no line-up but a walk around during welcome drinks and the meal.

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Steal their style:

Venue: The Barn, Cott Farm, Somerset, cottfarmwedding.co.uk
Photography: Ed Gorochowski at Hedgehog Photographic, hedgehogphotographic.com
Flowers: Sue Pierson at Raindrop Flowers, raindropflowers.co.uk
Band: The IOUs, the-ious.co.uk
Caterering: Martin Hooper at The Royal Oak, royaloakhardington.co.uk
Catering equipment: Eclipse Catering, eclipse-hire.co.uk

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