A garden wedding can be hugely appealing if you are looking to plan something informal or if nostalgia means you can’t think of anywhere better to celebrate than your own/Parents/Aunt’s/Grandparents back garden.
If you are lucky enough to know someone who has a garden to host your wedding or celebration than the first hurdle is getting permission. There is a lot to consider and the garden owner might have lots of questions for you, which you may not have all the answers to or know where to look to get them. If you don’t know anyone with a fabulous back garden and still dream of a quintessentially English wedding then you can look to hire one. There are many great garden venues in the UK, you can see a few here on You & Me. The advantage of hiring somewhere is they’ll often know the ropes and be able to help and possibly manage a lot of the planning elements for you.
Almost 6 months ago, after planning this latest addition to You & Me, I met Wedding Planner Jenna Hewitt of Weddings by Jenna Hewitt. Jenna was just starting up her wedding planning business and we were discussing how I started You & Me and of course our own weddings. What a happy coincidence that Jenna had a garden wedding. So of course I immediately demanded she write a piece on planning a garden wedding for You & Me and here it is!
My Back Garden Wedding Reception by Jenna Hewitt
Before I begin I must confess that mine wasn’t a ‘true’ back garden wedding. In fact, to describe the grounds of Edmonsham House as a ‘back garden’ is at best very inaccurate and, at worst, pretty offensive. Our wedding did, however, contain many elements of a back garden wedding reception; most important to us were the complete autonomy over our day and that we could celebrate with our closest friends and family in a place near to my childhood home.
Edmonsham House was and (as far as I know) remains a scarcely known wedding venue in the middle of the Dorset Countryside. The house itself is a gorgeously imposing Tudor Manor set in 6 acres of lawns and gardens. It has remained home to the same family since the sixteenth century and the current lady of the Manor is Miss Julia Smith, a gentle person with no desire to turn this into a mass-market wedding venue. In her words, “I only like to do a couple of weddings a year to help with maintaining the gardens”. There is no marketing budget, no website, no social media (we paid our deposit in cash and received a hand written receipt). Whilst the house itself is licensed for weddings we opted only to use the grounds. For us this was a gem of a find. Only two miles down the country roads from my parents’ house, Edmondsham was as close to hosting a back garden wedding for 150 guests that we were likely to get and we snapped it up. I have my Grandad to thank for finding the venue and lots of other things on the day as it turned out – including writing a song for us and performing it as a surprise with his band.
Bernie Farrenden (Grandad) is a locally acclaimed jazz musician and as it happened had once performed at an Edmondsham house event. As I deliberated over venues he was often in the background causally throwing in ‘have you considered Edmondsham House?” But me being an excitable bride to be, who thought she knew better, ignored him until one day (probably when I had exhausted all other avenues) something prompted me to listen and follow him up.
One of the biggest boxes Edmonsham ticked was that it came with no set packages, no recommended (or prescribed) suppliers, no staff, no wine list, no pre determined decoration or styling. We had rented the gardens and the rest was up to us. I found my suppliers through a combination of Google searches, recommendations and gut feel and I have to say they were all fabulous. In fact we are friends still today. We found a fantastic caterer, supplied all our own beverages with no corkage attached, dressed an enormous marquee, shipped in our own bar and barman complete with a living room style lounge area and had badminton courts set up outside.
We had the most amazing day, only made better by the fact we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine.Jenna’s advice when planning a garden wedding:
The first is it is hard work! I loved it but then I have started a career as a wedding planner. If you don’t have the inclination, the time or the opportunity to delegate to someone else (such as a professional planner or an army of family and friends) this can be quite an undertaking and it is not all ‘fun’ stuff. The clear up the day after for example was quite a mission. As was folding 150 napkins around which we tied individual teal ribbons sealed with a button, topped off with a peacock feather insert. In fact quite a few of the ‘jobs’ became quite boring after a while.
The other thing you have to be very mindful of is selecting your suppliers carefully. You need to be able to trust them not only with delivering an excellent product but also with having the right level of experience, professionalism and insurance should things go off plan. I was also anal about ensuring my key suppliers (for me the marquee company and my caterer) could work together and that they were on the same page in terms of what was needed and when as well as who was responsible for what.
Although I pretty much designed and planned my own wedding from start to end (OK with quite a lot of help from family and friends) even I opted at the last minute to delegate to a professional on the day. Having worked for years in the catering/restaurant industry I know how important a really good maître de is in ensuring things run smoothly. I wanted a kind of maître de but of the whole wedding reception. I spoke to Matt our caterer and he came up with a solution. She was called Anna. Anna was at the time a planner about to hang up her clipboard for ventures new. Her and Matt were great friends and we met, loved her and she agreed to be an on the day planner for one last wedding. For me Anna was invaluable, allowing me (after a year of bloody hard work) to sit back, relax and enjoy our wedding for what it should be… one of the best days of our lives. Regardless of wedding size, having someone to alleviate the stress, orchestrate the event and manage relations (one such example in our case a disgruntled band following a stage invasion from my slightly inebriated bridesmaid desperate to share a song for the bride and groom) was worth its weight.
So there you have it, my account of our ‘sort of’ back garden wedding. If you want to create something personal, memorable and you have the appetite, organisation and energy to design your own day (or the budget to delegate it!) then I can highly recommend it!Thank you to Jenna for taking the time to share her wedding story with us. If you’d like to see how Jenna can help you with your wedding then you can find her here: http://www.jennahewitt.co.uk
If you know that garden wedding is for you then take a look at You & Me’s guide to Temporary Structures. This will answer a lot of questions you may have regarding marquees, tents and tipis including all the practicalities like toilets and crane’s.