Abigail Bennett and Adam Tibbetts' wedding featured a vintage travel theme with each and every detail considered
How did you meet?
We met in a local bar. I was out with my sister and he was out with some friends. His friend began chatting to my sister and I had no-one else to talk to so we began chatting.
Tell us about the proposal.
It was very special. Adam told me a few weeks in advance that he had a surprise planned and that I should keep the day free. I had just finished a night shift that morning (I work for the West Midlands Ambulance Service) so I felt slightly groggy, but I had a sneaky feeling that he was going to propose. We had the girlfriend/boyfriend chat at a place called Kinver edge, a wooded grassland area maintained by The National Trust. I thought that we would have a picnic here and that he would propose. Instead he drove me to RAF Cosford and said that he was going to take me flying (he is an RAF pilot).
I was excited but slightly disappointed because I was convinced that he would propose at a picnic and so I thought that I should just enjoy the day and that he will propose another day. He flew me in a light aircraft and we flew over sentimental landmarks such as my childhood house, our house and other spots that mean a lot to us. The finale was flying over Kinver Edge where a banner saying 'Marry Me?' had been laid out by both of our families. As we flew over he asked me what the banner said and I burst out crying (it took a good 15 minutes for me to reply because I felt so overwhelmed). Our families were around the banner waving and it was incredible. We went for a family meal on the evening and the day was truly magical. The proposal ended up making the front page of the local newspaper.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
The theme of the day was vintage travel. We both have hectic work schedules (I work 12-hour shifts while Adam is away frequently with the RAF), so whenever we can we love to get away and travel. We are fortunate to have visited many places in our relationship, including a two-month back-packing trip across South America in 2013 that we planned in just three weeks. To complement the vintage travel theme, I chose a gold and cream colour theme.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
I have always wanted to get married at St Mary's Church, Kingswinford as I visited the church frequently when I was at primary school. Also, we knew that we wanted a travel-themed wedding and when we viewed Spring Grove House, West Midlands Safari Park we knew it was the one. The Georgian style building has a colonial style interior with some incredible African themed art. Every detail of the venue was a nod to exotic places and it suited our theme perfectly.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I visited the National Wedding Show at the NEC with my mom and sister and I wanted a relatively fitted cream lace dress. I ended up falling in love with the Paloma Blanca 4614 dress from Georgina Scott Bridal, a brilliant white very fitted satin dress (completely different to what I thought I wanted). A few months later, I visited the shop to try on the dress again with my mom and bridesmaids and we were all wowed by an Essense of Australia dress on a mannequin. It was a tulle wedding dress with diamante beading (style D2120), a relatively fitted cream lace dress. I tried on about five other wedding dresses but I knew that the Essense of Australia dress was the one.
What did the bridesmaids and other members of the bridal party wear?
I had quite a big bridal party. My sister was the maid of honour and my best friend was chief bridesmaid and they both wore a No.1 Jenny Packham pink Lily dress from Debenhams. My other best friend was my best man (I made up a role) and he wore blue a suit from Next. I had Adam's nieces as the three child bridesmaids who wore gold and cream dresses from Monsoon, Adam's nephew as the pageboy who wore a matching blue suit, and my little cousin who was the flower girl and wore a white John Rocha dress.
Where did you find your suits?
Adam was in the RAF (he has since retired) when we got married so he wore his No.1 uniform (service dress) for the ceremony and got changed into his No.5 uniform (mess dress) for the evening reception.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
I left my sister in charge of choosing the flowers and she excelled. I chose a local florist (Daisy Chain, Kingswinford) and they were incredibly helpful in choosing flowers that complemented the vintage travel theme. My bouquet consisted of gypsophila, chamelaucium, eucalyptus leaves, daisies, faith rose, quicksand rose, the delicously fragrant David Austin O'Hara rose and other foliage. I decided to only have bouquets, buttonholes and corsages as I did not want ant floral arrangements at the reception venue. Instead I had strings of imitation gypsophila on the wedding breakfast tables to complement the other decorations.
Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.
I wanted the tables at the wedding breakfast to represent countries that we have visited together. To achieve this, I wanted a statue centrepiece and favours that would represent that country:
- For India, we had an elephant centrepiece and the favours were incense.
- For Brazil, we had a bird-of-paradise statue and chocolate footballs.
- For USA, we had a Statue of Liberty centrepiece and mini doughnuts.
- For China, we had a terracotta soldier centrepiece and fortune cookies.
- For Rhodes, we had a Greek bust centrepiece and Ouzo.
- For the Galapagos, we had a bird statue centrepiece and a Galapagos Conservation Trust donation.
- For Spain, we had a bull centrepiece and fans.
- For France, we had an Eiffel Tower centrepiece and macaroons (in blue, white and red).
- Lastly, for Thailand, we had a buddha centrepiece and ping pong balls.
It was difficult trying to source all of the different centrepieces (many trips to Home Sense) and the favours but I feel that it was all worth it.
Also my sister got arty and painted 'Welcome to our Wedding' on an old mirror which I thought was a really sweet touch. We displayed it in the entrance to the reception venue and many people commented on how good it looked.
I had a talented graphic designer create all of our wedding stationery, from the invitations to menus to postcards asking for advice for the bride and groom for the guestbook. She created a spectacular order of service which contained a section detailing 'our love story'. It listed landmarks in our relationship such as our first date and our engagement, and also mentioned that Adam told me he pushed trolleys at Asda for a living when we first met. However, my favourite creation was the seating plan; we had an A2 sized map with postcards pinned to the countries that people would be sitting on.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I wanted to be traditional and I had a veil over my face. I felt very emotional walking down the aisle (on the brink of tears) and I am so pleased that I had the veil over my face because I feel that it almost acted as a barrier and I managed to make it to the end without turning into a complete mess.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
Before the ceremony Adam visited the pub opposite the church with his sword party and groomsmen. It's tradition before a parade or ceremony in the RAF to have a glass of port to calm the nerves.
Adam's nieces did the reading in the church which was incredibly sweet and brave of them. After the ceremony, as we were leaving the church, the sword party were outside the entrance and formed a saber arch. We began walking under the swords when the best man ordered for two final swords to block us and that we should kiss before we were able to pass.
What was your most memorable moment?
There are so many it's difficult to pick a single moment. However, Adam wrote me a letter to open on the morning of the wedding and it was unexpected. Seeing his hand-writing and reading aloud his words made me feel very emotional (as you can see on the wedding video).
My dad drove me in his sports (mid-life crisis) car to the church. He had been teasing me all morning by drinking what looked like whiskey to 'calm his nerves' as he put (fortunately it turned out to be cold tea so he was stone cold sober behind the wheel). My dad drove me to the house that I spent half of my childhood in before driving to the church. It was really sweet to have a few moments with my dad though before he walked me down the aisle.
Another memorable moment of the day was at the reception venue when we snuck off to the fairground and had an exclusive ride on the carousel. It was so much fun just being us two on the ride.
Adam says that his most memorable moment of the day was seeing me walk down the aisle and lifting the veil from my face to see how beautiful I looked.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
As I had quite a large bridal party I found it difficult to get outfits that fitted and suited everyone. Also, as I planned the wedding over a two-year period, you can forget how quickly children can grow.
What was the most important investment for you?
The honeymoon. We went on an epic African adventure after the wedding including going on safari in Kenya and having a hot air balloon ride at dawn across the Masai Mara, mountain trekking to see gorillas in Rwanda and scuba diving in Zanzibar.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
We had a Frank Sinatra tribute act and a five-piece swing band as part of the evening entertainment. We chose Frank Sinatra - Fly Me To The Moon because it's an upbeat song expressing love (and it felt quite fitting as Adam is a pilot).
Did you have any evening entertainment?
The evening reception was split into two parts. The first part consisted of a Frank Sinatra tribute act and accompanying five piece swing band, a photo booth, a hog roast and a casino (black jack and roulette) running simultaneously. The second half was in the Cellarz, a series of cool brick-vaulted cellars underneath Spring Grove House. Here, we had a DJ and danced until 1am.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
My friend made my wedding cake and she did exceptionally well. She created a glorious four tier gold and cream wedding cake with fillings consisting of lemon, Victoria sponge and fruit cake. I wanted the bottom tier to have gold icing and the top tier to have cream icing and to have transition colours in the middle tiers. One tier even had gold and cream marble effect icing. She also created 40 glitter gold rose cupcakes to complement the cake. I had several fresh roses and gypsophila placed on the cake and it really was the perfect wedding cake for us.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
We probably would have practised our first dance instead of swaying around and laughing.
Was there anything you wish you’d known before?
I did a lot of research and planning for the wedding and therefore nothing unexpected occurred on the day.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
The day after our wedding, we had a barbecue at our home for family, close friends and people who had travelled (we had relatives from Canada and Australia at our wedding). We then flew on our honeymoon three days after our wedding day. Our first stop was Kenya where we stayed at Sopa Lodge Naivasha, a series of stunning lodges set amongst the African wildlife (including hippos, giraffes, zebras) who walked around freely. From here, we did horse riding amongst zebras, bike riding through Hells Gate National Park (a park that The Lion King was modelled on) and a boat ride to get a closer encounter with the hippos.
Then we moved on to the Masai Mara and stayed at Ashnil Mara Camp. This high-end luxurious 'glamping' was out of this world, with attentive staff who placed us right by the river overlooking a family of hippos to have our meals. From here, we did game drives everyday and were fortunate enough to see a lioness hunt a wildebeest and a herd of wildebeest cross the Mara River.
Secretly my husband had also planned a surprise for me. I had noticed that he hadn't bought me a wedding present but I didn't want to mention it and cause a fuss. One day I was advised to wake up at 4am and get ready. My husband and I were collected by a Jeep which drove us out of the camp in darkness (which is pretty scary in the Masai Mara). We drove to a hot air balloon site and his wedding present was a hot air balloon ride at dawn followed by a cooked breakfast on the planes of the Masai Mara. It was absolutely incredible.
The next part of the honeymoon was a trip to Rwanda. We stayed at the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge had booked to do a mountain trek to see golden monkeys and another trek to see a family of wild gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park.
The final part of our honeymoon was to Zanzibar where we stayed at the divine Hideaway of Nungwi spa and resort. This part of the honeymoon was mainly designed to relax; however we did go scuba diving. I have never scuba dived before so it was initially quite a scary experience; however I soon became transfixed by the beauty of the underwater national park.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Try to maximise the day. I got up at 6am on my wedding day (the ceremony wasn't until 12 noon) and the wedding finished at 1am. I was exhausted at the end but I am so pleased that I made full use of the day because it's your wedding day and it will be over in the blink of an eye.
Steal their style:
Photography: Lunaria Photography, http://lunariaphotography.co.uk/, Shannah Lauren and Peter Dicken
Videography: Shannah Lauren, www.shannahlauren.co.uk
Church: St Mary's Kingswinford, www.stmaryskingswinford.org.uk
Reception venue: Spring Grove House, West Midlands Safari Park, https://safarivenues.co.uk/spring-grove-house/ and https://safarivenues.co.uk/cellarz/
Wedding dress: Georgina Scott Bridal, http://georginascottbridal.co.uk/
Floristry: Daisy Chain Kingswinford, www.daisychainkingswinford.co.uk
Hair and make-up: Anna Davies Hair and Makeup, www.facebook.com/annadavieshairandmakeup
Graphic designer: Tammie Clarke Designs, www.instagram.com/tammie_clarke_designs/
Transport: Manns Limousines, www.manns-limousines.co.uk
Entertainment: Solid Gold Entertainment, www.solidgoldentertainment.co.uk
Photo booth: Painters Portraits, www.paintersportraits.co.uk
Hog roast: Hog Roast Redditch, www.hogroastredditch.com