I was sitting in my studio on Thursday afternoon, tapping away at my computer, humming along to some lovely tunes, and into my inbox popped a whole bunch of gorgeous photos from Christian Michael.
Claire and Matt’s wedding story just made me feel all warm and fluffy inside, and Pentillie Castle is one of my all time favourite venues, so this wedding most definitely gets added to list of ‘weddings I love’!
Matt is Australian, and we had taken a holiday to Australia to see his family in January 2011. We had only been together for 11 months at that point and it was the first time I had met his mum and sisters. I had been secretly hoping that he would propose but we were on our final day in Australia before flying to Hong Kong for my birthday and then heading back to the UK, so I was rapidly running out of hope that he might pop the question!
That day we had been to see his mum in Perth, and had been on the beach. We were driving to the airport and Matt said he wanted to stop off at King’s Park for one last panoramic view of the city before leaving Australia. We found a quiet spot on the grass overlooking the city as the sun was slowly setting. The next thing I knew, Matt was rummaging in his rucksack and suddenly dropped on one knee, holding an unmistakable blue Tiffany’s ring box. He made a lovely speech, most of which I unfortunately can’t remember as I was in such a state of shock, and then asked me to marry him! All I could say was ‘but I’m in my shorts and I’ve got sandy legs!’
It turns out he had been carrying the ring around in his rucksack for the whole three-week holiday, as he was so worried I would find it if he put it in the hotel safe!
Where it all happened
Matt and I had only been together for a few months when we watched ‘Country House Rescue’ on Channel 4, featuring Pentillie Castle in Cornwall. It looked like such a beautiful place, but after the programme finished I thought nothing more of it.
When Matt proposed, I just knew where I wanted to get married – Pentillie Castle. I’d never been there before and yet somehow I just knew. When we arrived in Hong Kong on the final leg of our holiday, I emailed the Pentillie team to ask for more details. A month later, we drove down to Pentillie from our home in Hampshire and spent the weekend there. I was so nervous that it would not be how I imagined it would be, but it was everything and more. We spent several more weekends there before we hired the castle for four days over the weekend of our wedding.
Hiring the castle for four days meant that we had exclusive use of the castle and grounds. With its ten guest rooms, the castle was able to house all of mine and Matt’s immediate families for the duration. This meant that our families – who had never met before – were able to spend some quality time together, and it felt like an event rather than just a single day. It also meant that we were all able to get ready in the castle, albeit in separate rooms from the night before, of course!
We had a small wedding party of around 45 people – just our closest friends and family. Neither of us wanted a big fuss, so the intimate venue of the Victorian Bathing Hut was the perfect choice for our civil ceremony.
What they wore
Like any newly-engaged woman, I spent a small fortune on wedding magazines to get an idea of the dress that I wanted to buy. I researched designers on the internet and cut out pictures whenever I found a dress or designer that I liked. The difficulty was finding local stockists, as I didn’t want to traipse up to London for fittings. In the end, I followed some very good advice and tried a number of styles – no matter whether you like a dress in a magazine or on a clothes rail, you simply need to try on a whole range of styles to find the one that will suit your shape and colouring.
I ended up going to a designer day at Bojangles in Romsey near my home, where Stephanie Allin was bringing a selection of gowns from her collection. Because I have an hourglass figure, her styles really suited me as she designs for ‘real’ women! I fell in love with her ‘Symphony’ dress, which had a plain boned ivory bodice, tied satin sash at the waist and full organza overlaid skirt with ivory satin trim. I had a lace jacket made to go over the top of it, which was tied at the back. It was a very flattering style, and because it was custom made, it fitted me like a glove. I felt gorgeous in it, and teamed it up with pearls to finish off my slightly 1950s classic look.
I bought my bridesmaids’ outfits in Monsoon – I wanted them to have dresses that they could wear afterwards.
Matt and his groomsmen hired their morning suits from a local independent stockist in Salisbury. Their waistcoats and cravats were in a mink colour to match the adult bridesmaids’ dresses.
I wanted our look to be very individual, and for every element of the day to have had our input, so much of it was home made. Our colours were mink and baby pink, and we opted for a country vintage theme, with a twist of 1950’s Hollywood glamour. We had butterflies as part of the countryside floral feel. I am a film graduate and my idol is Marilyn Monroe – each table was named after an old Hollywood star from the era. My chief bridesmaid Andy is a very talented artist, and she hand–drew each star’s portrait for the tables, and made our table plan, which looked like a strip of celluloid.
I made all of our save the date cards, invitations, orders of service and table menus. I should have taken out shares in Hobbycraft during that time, as I was in there most weekends buying bits of ribbon and card! I also became a fan of eBay, where I found loads of other decorative butterflies and card making accessories.
We bought some bunting and quirky signs to put around the castle. When we sent out our invitations, we included a white paper butterfly on which we asked our guests to write one piece of advice for us. On the day, we tied all these butterflies onto a line of ribbon in the Bathing Hut, and it became a real talking point when our guests realised why we’d made such an odd request!
My Dad is the proud owner of a 1930’s Morris Twelve called Matilda, and I knew that she would be perfect as my wedding car. Dad towed her all the way down to Cornwall on a trailer, and the kids decorated her with ribbon on the morning of the wedding. My brother drove Dad and myself from the castle down to the Bathing Hut on the bank of the River Tamar. I hadn’t realised how narrow the doors were on old cars though – particularly when you’re wearing a big skirt!!
As a gift for my parents, we bought them a double photo frame with a photo of them on their wedding day on one half, and a note saying ‘insert photo of us here on our wedding day’ on the other. We wanted to acknowledge the importance of the generations to us – and both my parents cried when they unwrapped it.
Tracey at Carol-Ann’s Flowers made our bouquets and button holes. I made all of the other floral arrangements – which was a miracle as I hadn’t a clue about flowers when I got engaged!!
I wanted to choose flowers that were in season and locally sourced as far as possible. I also wanted to go for a romantic, unstructured look that complemented our vintage garden theme. We therefore tasked my parents with collecting interesting shaped jam jars and scouring charity shops for china tea sets and jugs, which I then variously filled with arrangements of peonies, fragrant lilies, carnations, eucalyptus (a nod to Matt’s Australian roots!), cream hydrangea, pink and white gypsophila, snow berries and amnesia and avalanche roses.
We hired some artificial bay trees and accessorized them with artificial pink roses and ribbon, which we put either side of the Bathing Hut door as well as inside to create a focal point during the ceremony. We hired a local harpist to play throughout the day.
Neither of us like marzipan or fruit cake, so I was determined that we would have a cake that we could eat ourselves! Teresa and Sue from Cornish Cake Box made our main cake – which was a top cutting cake of carrot cake in ivory icing with a mink ribbon around it, plus individual lemon or carrot parcel cakes covered in ivory icing and tiny rosebuds. We wanted to get a ceramic cake topper that would last and remind us of our day; we found ‘Atop of the Tier’ online, where you can specify exactly what design you want. I supplied them with photos of us in our outfits – the finished product is the two of us stood in front of a signpost that says ‘Australia’ behind Matt’s head and ‘England behind mine, with a koala sitting on top of the signpost, and our cat Molly sitting at our feet. It is such a unique memento from our day and it takes pride of place on our mantelpiece.
For our evening reception, we asked Julie at Little Home Bakery to supply the cakes for us. She made us some delicious iced cupcakes and mini ice cream cornets, with strawberry jam sponge cake inside the cornet and vanilla icing to look like the ice cream – complete with a Flake on top! She is an incredibly talented lady!
What they ate and drank
Again, we wanted to use a local supplier and locally-sourced produce. We chose Anytime, Anywhere Caterers and they were absolutely brilliant. Our ceremony was at 1.30pm, so they catered for a light finger buffet lunch when the guests arrived. After the ceremony we had mini scones with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream, served with pink champagne. Our harpist played outside while our guests mingled and chatted on the castle’s terrace.
For the wedding breakfast, we had a number of dietary requirements to meet; not least mine, being a lactose intolerant vegetarian! Our starter was a stack of chargrilled vegetables for the veggies and a tower of plum tomato, basil leaves and mozzarella for everyone else; sea bass for the meat eaters, and leek and herb risotto torte for the veggies, plus homemade lasagne for the kids. Dessert was a rich chocolate brownie and homemade vanilla ice cream.
We had Australian red and white wines, plus Prosecco for the toasts.
In the evening, we had mini Cornish pasties with a variety of fillings.
Photography & videography
Because we live in Hampshire, our research was all done online as we didn’t know anyone in Cornwall to give us a recommendation. From the moment we looked at his website, we both knew that we wanted Christian to capture our special day. We didn’t want formal photos – and we loved the way that Christian seemed to have such a special knack of capturing emotions and situations without the subjects realising. He certainly lived up to our very high expectations, and we have such wonderful photographic memories of our day – the series of three photos he took of me comforting my mum straight after the ceremony still bring tears to my eyes when I look at them now.
My chief bridesmaid’s Dad Graham very kindly offered to film our special day for us, and he also filmed the days leading up to it too, so we have the preparation captured as well.
Randomly, we also had a German TV film crew at the wedding! They were making a documentary about Pentillie and asked whether we minded them filming parts of our wedding day. We ended up being interviewed – and were recently dubbed in German and broadcast to a proportion of central Europe!!!
In the evening, we had asked Christian whether he minded taking some photo booth style pictures for us. We had bought a box of dressing up props, and had a real laugh messing around with them. We have two totally different sets of photos from our day – and they capture the mood perfectly!
We hired The Drat Pack, a Saltash-based band who specialise in swing and Rat Pack era music. They were brilliant, and the music was ideal as it didn’t alienate any age groups. It also fitted our vintage theme perfectly.
In between sets, we played iPod playlists that we’d created specially. Without their knowledge, we’d included two of my parents’ songs from their wedding.
Our first dance was to ‘Darling I Do’ from the film Shrek Forever After. We had been searching for something unique, and even though nobody had heard it before that day, everyone fell in love with it. The words are so simple and yet so beautiful – take a listen!
Two days after the wedding, we jetted off to Mauritius for a fortnight. We chose a resort that was quite small and intimate, as we wanted to chill out after the months of planning and preparation. Our wedding gift list was a selection of ‘experiences’ that our guests could buy us, such as a candlelit dinner, watersports or a walk on the beach at sunset. In reality everyone contributed to the overall cost of the honeymoon, but it was a really special way of making our friends and family feel involved.
What was your favourite part of the day?
In all honesty, I struggle to single out just one moment. Matt says his favourite moment was when he turned around and saw me for the first time as I walked into the Bathing Hut. I have to say, walking in was incredibly special – I was gripping Dad’s hand so tightly, and everyone’s faces were a blur – I was just focused on Matt’s back, waiting for him to turn round and look at me. The moment he did, he said I looked like an angel – and it was difficult not to burst into tears at that point!
What advice would you give to others planning their wedding?
It’s easy to say, but don’t get stressed, particularly over the small stuff. You can’t control the weather, so there’s absolutely no point getting yourself worked up about it – just have a plan B in case of rain or extreme sunshine!
It’s your day, so do exactly what you want. You’ll only do it once in your lifetime, so don’t compromise – invite who you want (not all the relatives you never see!) and do it your way.
Everyone says it, but it’s absolutely true – the day itself goes by in a flash. Every hour or so, take some time just to stop and look around you – notice what people are wearing, what they’re doing, how you’re feeling and so on. It’s amazing just how much you’ll forget afterwards, so it’s important to drink it all in as much as you can. Having someone to film everything is great too – particularly all the bits you won’t see when you’re getting ready or having your photos taken.
Most of all, enjoy it – yes it can be a bit stressful in the run-up and things won’t always go to plan, but it really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you’re promising to spend the rest of your life with the person you love the most in the whole entire world – and that is absolutely priceless.