A 1950’s Inspired Dress for an Afternoon Tea Inspired and Handmade Wedding


I’ve the loveliest little treat for you right now to pep you up if you’re currently experiencing any mid-week blues. Meet Bridget, a secondary school library manager and Russ, who is a company director for a design and landscaping company. They married at Romsey Town Hall in Hampshire on the 3rd of September 2016 and held their celebrations at the groom’s parent’s farm close by in Whiteparish.

Picture a marquee with afternoon tea, colourful handmade decorations, a barn dance to round off the celebrations and convenient tents for the guests to retire to. The fact that it rained did not dampen their spirits one bit, as you’ll see as you soak up the joyful vibe with these delightful images by Kate Nielen Photography (who stepped in at the last minute, what a star!). Let’s begin with Russ and Bridget’s love story – proof that love can happen at any time of your life.

Russ and I are both very laid back people. We didn’t have a huge budget and we wanted it to be a real friends and family affair. It had to be relaxed, a bit shabby and definitely outdoors (wellies were good!), with colour, vintage, afternoon tea and a barn dance. I love crafting and so I was extremely lucky to pull in a team of friends to spend the school summer holidays making pretty much everything for the big day. We just wanted everyone to have fun and have a happy day.”

Photography by Kate Nielen

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“Kate of Kate Nielen Photography was amazing! Our original photographer was unfortunately taken ill the day before the wedding, so Kate stepped in at 5pm the day before. Travelling from London the next day and working 14 hours before the drive home was beyond the call of duty. We had never met or really communicated, so to put us all at ease and take such beautiful photos is a true credit to Kate. It actually rained really really heavily for most of the day and you would never believe it looking at the pictures. She captured the essence of the day completely. Russ and I now spend hours looking at the photos and reliving all those special and fun moments.”

Bridget found her lovely LouLou gown, in silk organza with a luscious buttery silk satin and lace overlay, from Twirl Bridal in Petersfield, Hampshire. It’s so wonderful to hear the stories of brides who have such a positive experience when completing the often-arduous task of finding their dress.

“I had seen a LouLou dress on Pinterest and loved the classic look. Because I am older, I thought it would be hard to find a dress that I didn’t feel too self-conscious in. Most importantly, I wanted to be able to swish in the barn dance! I found Twirl Bridal whilst looking for LouLou stockists and could see they had a large collection. It is the most beautiful, relaxed, unpretentious little bridal boutique, full of stunning dresses and Tracey the owner is amazing. I had the whole shop to myself for 2 hours. Tracey patiently helped me in and out of 20 or more LouLou dresses until we got down to two. She was so helpful and knowledgeable and once I had chosen a dress, Tracey suggested I ordered it in a colour other than Ivory; a warm buttery gold, and that is what made the dress so stunning. That day that I chose my dress was the most enjoyable day in the build up to the wedding and I will never forget it!”

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Oh dear, I’m going to have to get married again and have the immensely talented Isabel from Issy Rose Flowers as the florist. Her designs are simply stunning and she did an absolutely brilliant job, don’t you agree?

“My florist was London-based freelance florist Isabel Crossman. I chose Isabel because I had seen her work before and loved her natural, free style. She specialises in English flowers and even used a few flowers from my own garden, which made it very personal. For a September wedding the flowers were stunning, as colour and choice can be more limited. Even the registrar made a point of saying they were the best wedding flowers they had seen. She created all the bouquets, headdresses, buttonholes, and formal arrangements for the ceremony, reception and tables. I think the flowers were one of the most striking features of the day.”

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Bridget’s shoes, complete with diamante detail, complemented her divine dress and were also from Twirl Bridal, as were her custom made earrings by Katie, the bridal boutique’s resident silversmith. The beautiful bride’s natural hair and make up was by one of her closest friends, Claire Holtom, she chose ‘Daisy Dream’ by Marc Jacobs as her light and flowery scent, and her necklace was her ‘something borrowed’.

“My necklace was borrowed from my best friend. It was her late mother Jill’s and it was so lovely to have the honour of wearing them on the day.”

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How utterly gorgeous are these dresses by Monsoon (see the Little Book for Brides listing here) for the two flower girls?

“The flower girls were my nieces and love dressing up as princesses. I had to make them fairies for the day and they looked adorable. Their floral crowns were made by my florist, Isabel Crossman from Issy Rose Flowers.”

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“I wanted something colourful and not too grown up for the bridesmaids. It was important that they felt comfortable and could dance too! I absolutely loved the colour mix of the dresses from Oasis and they steered me to my multi-colour flower theme. Their shoes were from John Lewis.”

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“The wedding car was my dad’s Morris Minor convertible. It was so lovely to have him drive me to the wedding and afterwards to the reception.”

“Unfortunately, on the way he realised he was nearly out of fuel and we had no money between us! Luckily Kate the photographer was following us, so we had to stop and borrow some cash from her to get us to the wedding – and dad was told off by mum!”

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Russ kept his attire a secret from his bride and, together with his two best men, put loads of thought into finding the right look. His jacket, waistcoat and trousers were from Next, the best men wore Debenhams and Next gear and the ties were from the Tie Store.

“Russ always looks gorgeous and at 6ft 6 finds it hard to find clothes to fit. He had no idea what I was wearing and he made sure I had no idea what he was wearing either. I was a bit nervous as he kept indicating he was going for a 70’s vibe! I am not sure how organised he was really; there were lots of last minute nipping out to meet his best men! He didn’t want it all to match and wanted the country feel plus he wanted it all to be worn again, not necessarily together, but so he could remember the day by the jacket or the waistcoat or the shoes. The plan was they all wore layers and as the day went on it became more relaxed as the layers came off and the look became less formal. I was surprised how much thought went into it. They all looked stunning for old boys!”

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“I love Muriel’s Wedding, so for me the aisle walk had to be ‘I do, I do , I do’ by Abba. I couldn’t stop smiling as dad accompanied me.”

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“Russ and I have known each other for many years as ‘playground parents’ when our boys were in the same year at school. We used to bump into each other occasionally in the supermarket and catch up on how our families were doing over the years (our boys are in their 20s now). We found ourselves single over time and one day bumped into each other in the wine aisle, chatted, exchanged emails and ended up on a date!

We haven’t been apart since and a year ago Russ popped the question. At the time my mum became poorly with cancer so we decided that it was important to celebrate our wedding as soon as we could and arranged the wedding in 9 months. It was a happy focus for us all and a way of getting us through difficult times during mum’s chemotherapy.”

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“We didn’t tailor our vows especially, apart from the exchange of the rings. We knew we would both be quite nervous and emotional on the day. We both wanted plain bevelled bands and chose them from a small independent jeweller where we had bought my antique engagement ring.”

“We chose a reading that was a book by Edward Monkton called ‘The Lovely Dinosaur’. I wanted a children’s book but this story has a poignant message and we loved its innocence. It was read by my best friend Julie, who tweaked it to make the characters exactly like Russ and I. It was very funny and touching.”

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“Outside we created a bell tent village from Bay Lily Bell Tents, for guests to stay overnight if they wished. They were so pretty and made the site look like a festival. We could have chosen specific colours but went for a mix. The most amazing tent was the Honeymoon Bell Tent, which was huge with a proper bed and was beautifully decorated by Emily the owner. She is amazingly cool and organised and nothing is too much trouble! All tents could be furnished and came with twinkly fairy lights.”

“I have to mention the most amazing toilets from Site Equip, in the style of a potting shed. The loos were proper luxury flushing toilets with hot water and come in a variety of novelty styles, such as a stable, shepherds hut or beach hut. They made something very boring and practical a really attractive feature and talking point!”

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“Given our landscaping background, we handmade seed packets for guests and made a donation to Macmillan, who were so fabulous to my mum.”

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Bridget, along with her two best friends, spent many an evening drinking wine and making all the invites, booklets, menus, and table plans – and her friends organised the most incredible wedding present for the bride and groom for the big day.

“They arranged for an amazing lady called Nicola Wray from Behind The Scenes Events to be our wedding fairy godmother for the day! Nicola set up the business after her own wedding when she realised that the trend for DIY outdoor weddings left many couples getting sucked into practicalities on the big day. So Nicola and her team do as little or as much as you want but basically run around all day making sure everything is set up, laid out, poured out, refilled and is the best investment a girl could make! It meant Russ and I could enjoy the whole day completely and everything was hitch free.”

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Is your mouth watering at the sight of the couple’s truly scrumptious cake?

“The naked wedding cake was made by a friend, Doreen Longman. We wanted a cake that was going to be eaten and not left behind, so opted to cut the cake first and then have it served up as part of our afternoon tea. It was a huge success and meant everybody actually felt like eating it! Each layer was a different flavour, a Victoria sponge, a lemon drizzle and a coconut and lime.”

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The Real Raj entertained everyone with fabulous songs during the drinks reception and then in the evening local group The King John’s Band got all the guests involved with a barn dance. What fun!

“Barn dances are so sociable and we managed to dance with most of our guests as you have to keep changing partners. It was great for all ages too and there were no men sat on the sidelines or ladies dancing round hand bags. Russ wasn’t sure about a barn dance but now wants to have one every year, as it was such a success!”

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“Russ and I opted for an unlined marquee, partly to keep the cost down but also because we didn’t want the feeling of grandeur and opulence that a swag-lined marquee offers. It had to have a homemade country feel. We made tissue pompoms and wrapped gluey string around balloons to make the rustic style hanging balls. Mum made 75m of bunting and we purchased lots of ribbon to pretty up the wall behind the head table.”

“With fairy lights and light up signs made by my dad, it soon looked beautiful. Our best creation was the farm trailer that we converted into a giant ice bucket for all the beer and cider.”

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“We chose Olly from Fat Hog Catering as he offered amazing options for outdoor style weddings. Hog roasts, big pan paellas, curries or chillies or BBQ’s, as well as more traditional food if required. We opted for a sit down afternoon tea followed by hot roast meats in rolls for the evening. Olly and his team made it completely effortless and seamless given that they cooked and prepared everything in an outdoor kitchen in a tent … in the driving rain! We also supplied a sweet stall, Purbeck icecream tubs and a Costco cheese stack in the evening and all went down a treat.”

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“Being a childrens’ librarian, I had to feature books in some way, so we themed the tables with Alice in Wonderland for the afternoon tea. Book stacks, stopwatch biscuits and ‘Drink Me’ bottles were on every table. We grew wheatgrass in teacups, which stacked on the books and looked really quirky with the smaller flower vases.”

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“There were so many favourite parts of our wedding. I loved every minute even though the weather was atrocious. I loved the fact that we shared it with our most favourite people and it felt like such a happy day. The barn dance was such a crowd pleaser but most of all I loved Russ’ speech! It was very clever and funny, moving and touching. He finished it by presenting me with a sign from the supermarket aisle where we met and our romance started. I wished we had filmed the speeches.”

I also loved sleeping in the bridal bell tent that night and waking up in the morning surrounded by friends, having a morning bacon barbeque and mugs of tea.”

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Words of Wedded Wisdom

“Take deep breaths and relax if you can, smile always and stop and savour every little detail – and then repeat all through the day! Not everything will go right on the day, but you are the only one who will most likely notice, and don’t worry about the weather! Be prepared for extremes with sun cream, umbrellas, blankets, flip flops or wellies for the hot, wet or cold and play it to your advantage. I love the raindrop shots from our wedding. In a way, forcing everyone inside made it more intimate. It was the soggiest day of the summer, but for us the sunniest!

Regrets? Well, maybe not making it a whole weekend of celebrations instead of just one day!”

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I’m so chuffed to have been able to share Russ and Bridget’s most delightful day with you lovelies, and a very special mention to Kate for capturing their wedding so beautifully and at such short notice, that’s just amazing!

Take a look at these other beautiful DIY weddings from our archives for even more inspiration if you are keen to personalise your big day too.

Love Jo -xo-

Credits & Thanks

Jo Singletary

Jo Singletary View all Jo's articles

Jo hails from and lives in sunny Australia, is currently working towards her dream of being a career coach and a few of her favourite things are watching the sunrise over the ocean, morning walks on the beach, butterflies, and supporting the guide dogs charity.

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