An outdoor wedding among the stunning Essex countryside and rolling vines of West Street Vineyard was the perfect choice for Holly and Lee.
They wanted a laid-back, informal atmosphere, and chose a BBQ reception and first dance under the gazebo where they said 'I do'.
Holly and Lee worked at the same company but only met when a mutual colleague introduced them over after-work drinks. Holly almost didn't go but decided to squeeze in a quick drink before meeting other friends - a perfect twist of fate!
They were together for two years before Lee popped the question. It was Holly's birthday and Lee met her after lunch with a friend to return home and open some presents. "One of my gifts was my engagement ring! It was a lovely proposal, and I'm so pleased that he managed to surprise me with it and that it was at home, just the two of us."
Lee chose the ring himself and got it completely right: "It's a beautiful ring. White gold with a diamond and then small diamonds cascading down the sides."
If you're after inspiration for an outdoor wedding (a September outdoor wedding, no less!), Holly and Lee's colourful, relaxed day is a perfect one to turn to.
Photography by Gemma Giorgio Photography.
The Wedding Dress
"I didn't want to wear a big traditional wedding dress. So I thought! I was encouraged to go to a bridal shop and at least try some dresses on. What can I say?! I came out with the biggest ivory gown with a sweetheart neck and lace straps and bodice.
"I tried on six beforehand and there was one contender until this one. It was the first dress I wore that brought tears to my eyes and made me feel beautiful."
With such a perfect dress, Holly had no desire to change into a different outfit for the reception. " I wanted to wear my wedding dress for the whole day as I couldn't imagine another occasion where I could wear something so beautiful."
She accessorised with a long veil, Swarovski teardrop earrings and a matching necklace. "It was a set Lee had bought me a while back but I was always worried to wear it and was saving it for a special occasion." And a very special occasion she chose!
The Wedding Morning
Holly knew exactly who she wanted to help her get ready on the wedding morning. "I had my makeup done by Hayley Ford. Hayley had done my makeup two years earlier when I was bridesmaid for my sister's wedding, so I knew she was incredibly talented and that she'd do a lovely job."
Her sister repaid the favour by acting as bridesmaid for Holly, alongside three flower girls. She wore a bejewelled, soft grey dress from Fairytale Bride in Coggeshall, while two of the flower girls wore satin ivory dresses from John Lewis and the third was in a gown from Monsoon Baby.
Holly's hair was done by Bridal and Vintage Hair and she chose a very different look to her normal style. "I always wear my hair straight but for my wedding day I had it gathered up in a messy bun with flowers in it. My makeup was very subtle but I chose to wear a bold lipstick to match the theme of the wedding which was 'colourful'."
Lee wore a sharp blue suit for his big day that he chose with his parents. He finished the look with a blush pink tie and a bright sunflower buttonhole.
"I asked my best men to wear a suit that they already owned. We were not too worried about everything matching. We wanted the day to be as colourful and relaxed as possible."
The Wedding Ceremony
The ceremony took place at West Street Vineyard, under a gorgeous outdoor gazebo, surrounded by vines. They knew the venue was right as soon as they visited.
"We went to see a couple of places but nothing really felt right for us. We liked the idea of our wedding day being like a big family BBQ gathering. We loved it as soon we arrived because it was so green and lush, peaceful and relaxing. The owner, Jane, made us feel welcome and really listened to us."
Lee and Holly took their parents' cars to their ceremony, adding to the relaxed, informal vibe of their countryside wedding.
Holly walked the aisle with her dad to an instrumental version of Christina Perri's A Thousand Years. They chose a celebrant to perform the ceremony and guests sat under the warm September sun. Both Holly and Lee said their favourite part of the day was seeing each other for the first time at the altar.
Like every good wedding, it survived a near-disaster early on! "Our page boy (and nephew) accidentally dropped Holly's wedding ring. It was a millimetre away from falling between the wooden crack of the gazebo. That was rather funny and strangely helped us to relax."
The Wedding Reception
The couple continued their celebrations inside at the Vineyard's restaurant, which champions local, sustainable food and wines. They chose a relaxed BBQ for their wedding breakfast, with minute steaks, sausages, minted lamb burgers, halloumi and vegetable skewers, Thai noodle salad, potato salad and Moroccan couscous.
Guests sat at tables named after destinations they'd visited on holiday together, where each got a lovely personalised favour.
"We found a provider in Spain via Etsy who we ordered our favours from. We chose wine bottle stoppers which had a message printed on the top and which came in a folded triangle which doubles as a book mark."
The venue and tables were dotted with sweet bundles of fresh flowers in the same yellows and blues of the bouquet, and arranged by Jane, the vineyard owner.
"The Vineyard put the centrepieces together for us. They were made up of lots of different size bottles (gin bottles, wine bottles etc) filled with fresh flowers.
"Jane who owns the venue was excellent and very organised. We couldn't have done it without her."
The Wedding Cake
During the evening reception, Holly and Lee cut their "simple but elegant" cake. It was made by Bunty's Wedding Cakes in Chelmsford.
"The cake was beautiful. We had three tiers and each was a different flavour: dark chocolate, lemon and red velvet. We had one tier in silver leaf and used fresh flowers to decorate.
"It went very quickly indeed! The venue held back half of two tiers which we took home."
The Wedding Flowers
With such stunning scenery around them, the couple chose to lean into the vibrant blooms of the season.
"We chose to have no colour scheme. We wanted it to be as colourful as possible. The bouquets had lots of pops of bright colour.
"Flowers were placed in little buckets at the end of the rows of chairs, on the inside of the aisle. The bouquet was better than I could ever have imagined. It had sunflowers in it and lots of bright wild flowers."
The bouquets were created by Claire Newman of Inflorescence.
They chose a eucalyptus leaf theme for their invites. To go with their relaxed vibe, they sent electronic invites to their guests and chose a fun wedding website instead of paper invitations.
The Wedding Entertainment
"We had the wedding reception in the cellar of the Vineyard," said Holly. "We didn't want the music to be so loud that people could not speak to one another and felt that it would have been too loud if we had a band."
Instead they chose a DJ that the couple had heard playing at a previous wedding.
Their first dance was to Fields of Gold by Sting: "The first dance was a very special moment for us. It was under the gazebo outside as the sun was setting, in front of the vines."
As well as dancing to the DJ, guests loved using the photobooth. "The venue provided a homemade photobooth amongst the vines with a box nearby which contained all of the props. The handmade photo booth had fresh flowers wrapped around it. We ordered a variety of photobooth props online."
"We flew the day after our wedding to Sorrento for a week and then to Sardinia for the second week," said Holly. "We chose Sorrento together because it was one of our first holidays together and the most beautiful setting either of us had seen before. We hadn't been to Sardinia before.
"Sorrento was every bit as beautiful as we had remembered. We climbed Mount Vesuvius and visited Pompeii which we had not been able to do at our first visit.
"Sardinia is picturesque and beautiful. But we found the food they eat rather bizarre!"
Wedding Venue: West Street Vineyard
Photographer: Gemma Giorgio Photography
Makeup Artist: Hayley Ford
Hairstylist: Bridal and Vintage Hair
Cake: Bunty's Wedding Cakes
Rings: H Samuel
Thank you to Holly and Lee for sharing their wonderful wedding day with us!