A Winter Country Barn Wedding with Stag Motif: Richard Bate & Sophie Allen
15 Jun 2015
This Cambridgeshire winter wedding is full of inspiration that will make you yearn for an open fire, with its details ready to convert the most ardent of summer brides.
Photography by Lina and Tom
Richard and Sophie Bates were originally supposed to be married on 20th December 2014 but, in the summer of 2013 it hi them: “We realsied we could not wait so long to be married, so brought the day forward!” says Sophie. The couple chose February 22nd - as it was one of the last Saturdays to fall in a cold, crisp month of the winter – with the ceremony at St Swithuns Church, Great Chishill in Cambridgeshire, and a reception followed at Heydon Grange Golf and Country Club.
Sophie tells us about their big day.
What was your theme for the day?
We both wanted a barn as the reception venue and have a theme of 'understated elegance': not too flash or busy but instead simple, classic, delicate and beautiful. We had a budget to stick to and Richard was excellent at putting a spreadsheet together so that we kept to it and kept organised.
How did you choose your wedding venue?
It was also really important to us that our guests didn't have far to travel between the venue and reception. We lucked out with the village where I grew up (and wanted to get married in the church), as it is only a few miles from Heydon Grange Golf and Country Club; a gorgeous converted barn. The price for the venue was very reasonable and the food on the day was exceptional!
Tell us about the day you found your wedding dress.
Two of the most enjoyable aspects of the wedding planning for me were dress shopping and choosing the flowers. I went to two dress shops, and I had an idea that I wanted an hour glass shape with fishtail… but really enjoyed trying on all the styles to see what I looked like in different shapes. In the first shop I whittled the choice down to three favourites, all in my chosen style. In one I felt sweet, in one I felt grown up and in the other I felt sexy. I wasn't sure what feeling I wanted on the day, or what I wanted Richard to first see me in as I walked into the church. We weren't supposed to take photos in the first dress shop but one of my bridesmaids (who doesn't follow the rules so easily) took pictures of me on her iPad when the attendant wasn't watching. I'm so glad they did as, later, when I was out of the magic of the shop, I looked at the photos and no longer liked the dresses - they did nothing for me. The second dress shop I went to only with my mum. It was a really special and memorable occasion and I would recommend this shop to everyone: The Tailors Cat was brilliant! Again, I had my idea of what I wanted but tried on everything I liked, no matter the style. When I tried on my dress, it brought the tears and excitement from me and my mum that I had hoped for. There was another dress I liked a lot, so I took photos of me in them both. The one I got the emotional response from stood out – it was as lovely in the photos as it had looking in the mirror, and with that it had had the edge. To add to my delight, I felt sweet, grown up and sexy all at once – I couldn't wait for Rich to see me on the day. I put the deposit down immediately to secure the material. I don't wear jewellery and this dress was perfect, as it had little beads that caught the light all over it, but not obviously so. I also chose a traditional veil and that felt right for a church wedding and a classic feel.
So how about your other most enjoyable part, the choosing of the flowers?
The other really fun task was choosing the flowers. I spent hours on Pinterest looking at winter bouquets to get ideas and then shared them with Richard who helped whittle them down. I had seen an amazing bouquet by Mooi Flowers and invited Nicola, the designer, round to go through options with me. The consultation was so much fun. Richard got involved too and Nicola helped, asking lots of questions to help to pull out of us what we wanted and to be sure it would complement the style and feel of our day. Nicola was perfect: she was the right amount of excitable alongside a very professional approach that Richard and I had trust in. I love flowers and loved talking to Nicola with her book of what is available at different times of year.
Tell us about your wedding cake and stationery.
Richard and I had two friends that were very kind, giving their time to make something in preparation for the day. One of Richard’s friends, Natasha Taylor, made the wedding cake and my old school friend, Laura Smith, designed and made the invites. They were so professionally done and the time it took will always be thought of fondly and appreciated.
What’s the biggest thing you take from the day?
It's cliché to say, but is so true so I have to say it: getting married to Richard and the whole experience was the best day of my life. I can't put into words all of my thoughts and feelings to truly capture the day for others to understand. To help go some way to explain, whenever I think of our wedding day, it brings the warmest of feelings with an abundance of happiness and a great big smile!
I was blown away with the love Richard and I felt from our family and friends on our wedding day and our guests certainly helped make the day what it was. I cried a lot of tears of joy throughout the day: when I got a beautiful homemade book of letters from close family and friends, made by my bridesmaid Dot (who had flown from America with her family for the wedding - the amazing family who took me under their wing and made sure I was okay when I lived in America, away from my own family, for three years). I cried when my dad and I walked into the church (memorably, my dad said 'it's like walking into Anfield' - he's a staunch Liverpool FC fan), when I saw Rich for the first time, when Richard said his vows, during my dad’s speech... the list goes on! The make-up artist was incredible; as well as making me look like I could only imagine on my wedding day, it stayed put through all the tears!
Tell us about the entertainment.
Richard and I both love 90s hip hop and R’n’B. We had the best DJs going who incorporated our style of music whilst still adding those tunes enjoyed by different generations. We were able to give a list of 'please play' and 'please avoid' and we thoroughly enjoyed that when we turned to see the DJs at any point during the night - they were enjoying themselves as much as we were! Richard and I love to dance and once the music started, we rarely left the floor. It was the DJs’ idea to have us walk to the dance floor for our first dance from the top of the stairs with a spot light on us. I hate being in the limelight normally, but this was a very special way to walk to the floor and is a special memory.
Who was capturing the day?
We are currently enjoying the task of getting our wedding album organised and love the memories Lina and Tom were able to capture for us. Lina and Tom were perfect right from our first meeting: they have a relaxed but confident approach and are ridiculously talented. We cannot thank them enough for the quality of the service and photos they produced. Tom really is a stealth shooter: you don't see him but when you see the shots he gets, there is the evidence that he was there, working hard to capture the day’s special moments and memories. Lina is such a warm and lovely person, it was lovely to have her there as I got ready in the morning and she is small but has certainly got the big voice and gusto to get your guests in place to make your photos better than you could even imagine!
Do you have a favourite photo?
I love all of the photos from the day but one of my favourite’s is where Rich is turning me as we get to the dance floor. Our first dance was to Chantel Kreviazuk, 'feels like home'. It still can bring a good tear to my eye and it's exactly how Richard makes me feel: like I'm home.
Where did you honeymoon?
The night of the wedding and the one after we spent in a suite at The Varsity in Cambridge. I highly recommend it for pure indulgence. From there we drove to a private lodge with a hot tub in Wales (www.luxury-lodges-wales.com). I recommend this place too. It was very special to spend the week with just me and Rich, reminiscing on the day and getting enjoyment from calling each other husband and wife. I still get excited to say that I am Mrs Bate and that Rich is my husband. I couldn't be happier or more proud.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for those currently in the planning process?
1. Think about how the time of year will impact on the feel of your wedding. In summer, if it's a nice day, you may get more people going outside and sitting to chat rather than standing by or dancing on the dance floor huddled together inside.
2. I have been to a few weddings where the venue meant that the bar was up one end of the room and the dance floor was up the other. This has always, in my opinion, negatively impacted the dance floor being empty. Get both bits next to each other with nothing in between and you're more likely to get a busy feel to your dance floor.
3. It's going to be the best day of your life: no matter what the run up to the wedding is like or what happens on the day, you will fly through and enjoy it all. 'Don't tell the bride' TV programme is testament to that.
4. I would say insist on being able to take photos of yourself when choosing a dress (or sneak photos like I did) - after all, it's the photos you have for years to come and you've got to like the way you look in the dress in photos.
Steal their Style:
Photography: Lina and Tom, www.linaandtom.com
Venue: Heydon Grange Golf and Country Club, www.heydongrange.co.uk
Dress: Rose Couture from The Tailors Cat, www.cambridge-bridalwear.co.uk
Accessories: Head piece and veil from The Tailors Cat, Cambridge
Wedding rings: Didn't have any rings. Did hand binding instead, as I don't wear jewellery.
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Bridesmaids chose their own (one from Surrey, one from USA, flower girl's from Monsoon)
Hair: Styles by Hannah, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, 07956 230277
Groom’s outfit: Moss Bros
Flowers: Mooi Flowers, www.flowersbymooi.co.uk
Catering: Arranged by Heydon Grange Golf and Country Club
Entertainment: JN Sounds, www.jnsounds.com