karenwillisholmes

Unit 501 Flourmill Studios, 3 Gladstone Street 2042 Newtown NSW, australia
Phone: 61 2 9519 3901

Betsy + James' English Countryside Wedding

Posted on 31 May, 2017
Betsy + James' English Countryside Wedding

Background

How did you meet your partner? 
James and I met in 2007 at work in England but didn’t particularly notice each other. We both left the company; James moved to Sydney and I moved to Singapore. It was only eight years on when James moved from Sydney to Amsterdam and worked for the same company in different offices that we reconnected. So fast forward to 2015 and James and I met up whilst he was over in Singapore for the F1 and the whirlwind romance began. At the end of the first weekend James wanted to talk about how we could move things forward, the second weekend he came back to Singapore, cutting his holiday in Lombok short, and at the end of the second weekend he said “this is happening, I’m putting my foot down, unless you say otherwise?”. We spent a month face timing for hours at a time and then I went to Amsterdam and things blossomed. After a weekend getaway to Bruges and a few beers, we said: “if this is what we think it is, who's moving?”. We talked about when we would want children, when would we want to get married and worked backward on a loose plan – by the end of the year James had moved in!

How long have you been together? 20 months (just!)

Do you have a proposal story? 
James and I went to an Indonesian island just off Singapore called Bintan for a long weekend where we stayed in a stunning private villa overlooking the South China Sea. James had booked me in for a massage as I had had a full on couple of weeks at work but unbeknown to me he set about putting fairy lights and flowers around the villa and chilled a vintage bottle of champagne. When I walked back into the villa there was a trail of candles from the front door to the balcony where Ben Howards album was playing. I wasn’t sure what was happening and wondered if James was proving a point because I had mentioned I didn’t think he was very romantic but then he was down on one knee and there was an open jewellery box in his hand with a stunning ring. 

The Wedding

What was your wedding date? 30th March 2017

Ceremony & Reception

Location? Hedsor House, Taplow, England

What made you choose there? Despite living abroad, I had always wanted to marry in England. We wanted a location that wasn’t dependent on the English weather and being expats, despite both working in the creative industry, we wanted to minimise the amount of personal touches we would need to prepare and ship over from Singapore so we went for Hedsor because it was a stunning venue irrespective of whether you dress it up or not. The glass dome center hall used for the ceremony was also just so beautiful.

How did you find it? 
Honestly? For some reason, Hedsor didn’t come up in my various internet searches and nothing I had seen felt very ‘us’ until that point. I typed in my hometown into google maps and then switched the search word to 'wedding' and zoomed out – that’s when it came up. There was an open day a few days later so I asked my parents to go and facetime us to tour us around – so actually the first time we saw it was at 11 pm in bed in Singapore via face time. You could tell they loved it but didn’t want to influence us. A little while later I had the opportunity to travel back to England with work so I went to see it along with a couple of other options. It wasn’t ideal doing it without James but we didn’t want to wait long to marry and waiting until our next trip at Christmas reduced the chance we could marry in 2017.  James just said go for it so we booked it! Luckily when we went back at Christmas he loved it – phew!

What made you choose there? Aside from the above, completely coincidently it was also because my parents AND granddad used to go to Hedsor House when it was used as a training center at their previous companies – I didn’t know my granddad but everyone says what an amazing guy he was. So because the house had links to our family, it felt serendipitous to stumble across it again - my dad jokingly welcomed everyone to his stately home in his speech!



How was the weather on the day? Utterly stunning. Blue skies and unusually warm for the time of the year - it was actually the warmest day of the year and we were able to have reception drinks outside playing croquet (quintessentially English)! It rained on the day before and after so we were incredibly lucky!

Was there a reason you decided to get married on this date?  We were offered two dates in March, the 9th, and the 30th. We chose the 30th because it would have been 11months since we were engaged.

The Wedding Details

Theme and where did you draw your inspiration/ideas from? 
Acorns was a theme running throughout the day. My granddad said at my parent's wedding 'may these two little acorns grow into a great oak tree' (from the saying from great oaks little acorns grow) and it had become a symbol of family to my side of the family.  Even the house I grew up in was called little acorns! Hence loving the oak leaf detail in the 'Sophie' gown! The wedding stationary featured acorns, James had acorn cufflinks and my parents had even collected, baked and painted acorns in the previous autumn in preparation for table decorations. James’ family also collected damson berries to make his grandmother's damson gin recipe, which was individually bottled and given as wedding favours.  These favours doubled up as people’s name cards. We also had a basic colour palette of navy, soft greys, pinks and gold running throughout the day.

Were any aspects of your wedding D.I.Y? If so What?  James is a designer so did all of our wedding stationary himself. The gin bottles were hand filled, applied and tied with homemade damson gin. Then beyond my dress being DYG we also had a lot of bespoke pieces made including my stunning bridal sandals from The Tui Collection, Singapore, my headpiece with oak leaves by Luisa Vass and James's suit from Private Affairs Tailors, Singapore.

Bridal Party

Bridesmaids – who/relationship? 

Jade. Friend

Karen. Friend

Groomsmen – who/relationship? 

Sid. Bestman

Walberth. Bestman

Andrew. Usher and brides brother

Andy. Usher and groom's brother-in-law

David. Usher

Tristan. Usher

Wedding Gown (the most important part!)

Besty looked stunning in a Karen Willis Holmes DYG combination gown- The 'Sophie' bodice and the 'Nina' skirt

What made you decide to come into Karen Willis Holmes? Karen (bridesmaid) and I took a trip to Sydney in July to visit one of our friends who had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. We knew she wouldn’t be up to having us hanging around the whole time so Karen kindly booked some wedding dress appointments too and we were planning a really fun girly weekend. Tragically Sarah passed away one week before we got there. We were incredibly shell-shocked and numbed by the news as we hadn’t been expecting it at all but decided to go anyway, to spend some time with Dan, her husband and kept the wedding dress appointments. It was a pretty surreal weekend trying on dresses, crying and spending time with Dan. At times it didn’t feel appropriate that I was trying on wedding dresses whilst Sarah’s life had been so unfairly taken too soon, but I got it into my head that if I got a dress from Sydney I would have a little piece of Sarah with me on the day. I had tried on the 'Sophie' gown in David Jones but wasn’t sure about the skirt. I knew there was a DYG option so when I came back to Sydney a month later for Sarah’s memorial, I went to Alexandria. Hannah Kate was utterly divine with me – I think I cried about Sarah within the first 2 minutes of arriving.  Hannah offered me champagne (it was the FIRST time I had been offered champagne in my whole wedding dress experience, which was A LOT!) – when she gave me a small bottle to swig out of I knew KWH had just the right balance of classic with a twist, which is just my style. 

Where have you seen our gowns (if at all) before?  David Jones

How many gowns did you try? Being an expat finding THE dress was harder than normal. I didn’t find a dress in England when I was back and the sample sizes in Singapore were two dress sizes smaller than me, so it was pretty tricky. I think I had tried on the best part of 60-70 dresses by the time I found my dress.

Where did you purchase your gown from (which store or stockist)? From the flagship store in Alexandria, Sydney.

What did you especially like about your gown? The full skirt, the slimming waist, the unexpected neckline (I always go for strapless) the oak leaf embellishments in the bodice… the unexpected lack of lace or tulle. 

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Fashion

Who is your bridesmaid dress supplier? Sheike – they did a country wide search for me and sent them to Bondi junction – a friend bought them for me and another bought them over from Sydney – it definitely helps to have international friends!

Where did you get the groom and groomsmen’s suits?  James’ suit was from a local tailor in Singapore. We opted for black tie so all the groomsmen just wore their own suits.

What accessories did you choose to finish your gown and also for those in your bridal party?  A headpiece with matching smaller ones for the bridesmaids. Matching slave rings. Antique earrings borrowed from my mum. Fur shrugs in case it was cold which we used in the evening

Where did you get your shoes from? James is only a little taller than me so I wanted flats. I think living in a hot country and wearing sandals all the time meant I didn’t want just any pair of sparkly shoes. I spent HOURS searching and in the end asked Tui, a local shoe designer if she could make me a pair. I found some embellished beading which I thought matched the Sophie bodice and gave her a sample of the dress to match the leather and she made these stunning one of a kind shoes. I was given both an old and new sixth pence to put in my shoe for good luck so managed to stick these in under the arch of my foot too!

Did you wear a veil/headpiece? Where did you get this from? Yes, cathedral length from Britten

Other

What advice would you give brides organizing their wedding? When you have your makeup trial, meet your artist with your ‘normal’ look. I met Sarah without any makeup on and said I wanted to still look like me. But I typically wore a reasonable amount of makeup normally anyway so it wasn’t enough. Give her a point of reference! 
Unfortunately, you’re going to have drop outs, so hold off confirming your numbers and paying the final bill until the very last moment.
Organise everything down to a tee, but let it go on the day and just enjoy it. Have all the family shots you want, you’ll regret not having them.
Get a videographer – it’s amazing watching it back!

What advice would you give brides searching for their wedding gown? Just like with normal clothing brands, you need to find a brand that ‘fits’ you. Every designers cut of the same silhouette is different so you have to just keep trying until you find something that feels right. Be open to trying on different designs to the ones you thought you would like. I started off wanting a bum-hugging V-neck lace cascading into tulle dress and ended up with A-line satin and not a piece of lace in sight.

Anything extra that is special or you would like to share about your big day. There are not many occasions you have the opportunity to be surrounded by those you love and we felt so blessed to have so many people to be with us celebrating. Both near and far, but especially those who traveled from further afield.

Something Old? Sixth pence piece

Something New? James bought me a bracelet

Something Borrowed? My mum's earrings

Something Blue? Flowers in my bouquet

Suppliers 

Photographer - Barker Evans

Florist - Ruby and Grace.

Videographer - Will Warr

First Dance - Steve Winwood - Higher Love

Stationery - James Bebbington

Menu - Caper and Berry

Cake - Melissa Woodland Cakes

Garter - Caroline Cole, Bespoke

Hair & Make-up - Sarah Yeo

Wedding Bands - Grew & Co

Nightgown -  Safina Dreams