An Artisan Wedding With Dried Flowers, Handcrafted Decor + a Charlotte Balbier Bride

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On a recent trip to Italy I was enthralled by the wildflowers that grew with such abundance in the countryside and today’s wedding brought that memory to mind.

This vibrant celebration of the countryside has colourful, rustic vibe centring around botanicals and seasonal, dried wildflowers. I think you’re going to fall in love. Please meet Adele and Alex who married on 29 September 2018 in the St Mary’s Church, Long Wittenham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire with an artisan reception afterwards at Earth Trust’s Fison Barn, Little Wittenham, South Oxfordshire. The day and its styling were inspired by textile designer Adele‘s interest in the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement; drawing elements from the local Oxfordshire area and marrying them with influences from their Manchester. The late summer season was also a huge influence, resulting in this delightful, bohemian, meadow-like vibe.

Photography Laura Martha Photography

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British design was super-important to Adele and played a key part in the search for her wedding gown. She came across her romantic, silk gown by British designer Charlotte Balbier at Wallingford’s Bridal Reloved.

“I wanted a dress from the north and tried on around fifty dresses in shops but none jumped out as being the one. In a desperate attempt to get this sorted my mother booked an appointment in Wallingford. The bridal shop was a pre-loved designer wedding dress shop and Lee, the owner, carefully sources samples and pre-loved wedding dresses. My mum and I turned up to the shop with a long list of things I wanted. Just as I was trying on a dress there was a postal delivery.”

“Lee opened the parcel, flashed a dress in front of me and we realised we might be in luck. As soon as I put it on it was like I had fallen in love. It was a beautiful, whimsical, silk, draped gown with stunning botanical embroidery embellishment on the bust. It needed a bit of work on the neckline to make it a little more comfortable but it was perfect and fitted with my boho, rustic, meadow theme like a dream.”

“It was very important to me to have a British designer-made dress. This was designed by Charlotte Balbier in Blackburn, close to where Alex is from.”

“The next thing to do was to tell my grandmother who was in a care home down the road. Sadly, she wasn’t very well and would never get to see me in my dress. My grandmother was a real ambassador for the arts and crafts and taught me how to sew. She was a real inspiration to me, not only creatively but with her strength and passion. She heard me from her bed but couldn’t speak and the next day she sadly passed away.”

“If it wasn’t for the dress I would have never seen her that day to say my goodbyes. So, my dress is more than just a dress on my wedding day; it’s a story and a big part of my wedding day that I will treasure forever.”

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From the very beginning, Adele took a hands on, artisan approach, designing the stationery herself and getting the suite printed at

“I’m particularly inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. It’s known for its stunning decorative and fine arts and stood for craftsmanship using simple forms. Everything from the flowers and food to music were selected to create a strong, unified look. It was rustic and bohemian yet planned to every last detail.”

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Her shoes were ‘Gabriella’ by Rachel Simpson Shoes, with a bag to match.

“My stunning shoes were bought online on eBay – a complete steal for £90. I loved them so much and bought the handbag to match.”

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Adele and Alex met through online dating and moved from London up to Manchester six months after getting together.

“We met on a sunny afternoon in June. We had matched up through a dating website so our first date was nerve-wracking but exciting. The attraction was immediate and it didn’t take long for sparks to fly.”

“Six months later we established ourselves in south Manchester. As the home of textiles and a hub for music and art, it was perfect for us. Fast forward eighteen months and it happened. We planned a night in to watch the Bonfire Night fireworks from our back garden. Alex, in a moment of pure romance and passion, decided to pop the question totally out of the blue! We were stood outside looking up to the sky watching the fireworks, with the rain pouring down on us yet again! It was an instant yes from me.” 

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The exquisite, muted gold headpiece was designed by the bride herself in a collaboration with millinery designers Ros and Mem at Rosie B Bridal.

“I wanted some drama like in a pre-Raphaelite painting so I started to research gorgeous, golden headpieces. I was inspired by jewellery artist Christopher Thompson Royds who creates exquisite pieces for Hermoine de Paula and the beautiful painting of ‘Signing the Register’ by Edmund Blair Leighton. Lee, the bridal shop owner, put me in touch with the amazing Rosie B team and we created a fabulous piece. It all originated from a huge, golden, floral brooch that I wanted to recycle. The end result was dazzling and really finished off the look.”

“I wore my mother-in-law’s diamond bracelet passed down as a wedding present and a vintage pink tourmaline ring. Alex surprised me on the wedding morning with an Alex Monroe gold bee pendant. I had pointed it out to him a few months before, said how beautiful it was. I wear it nearly every day and love how it gives me so many special memories of the day.”

“I picked Jo Malone‘s Orange Blossom scent because of its zingy freshness.”

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On the day, the girls were pampered by Emma Goodwin Hair & Makeup and her team.

“Emma is an old school friend who did our hair, make up and nails for the day. I couldn’t have been more impressed with their hard work to get the job done. We looked gorgeous!”

Bridal hair makeup

The displays of dried flowers were integral to the day’s look and Adele worked with Great British Florist to get them on point.

“I found a fantastic flower supplier called Great British Florist based in Hereford who did dried flowers which fitted in with the whole boho look beautifully. Me, my mum and bridesmaids booked a two-hour lesson and got the chance to make our own floral bouquets.”

“Dried flowers have such pretty autumnal colours and are almost like a harvest festival with lots of corn wheat and barley, grasses like bunny tails and broom bloom as well as lovely pink amaranthus, dried pepper berries and larkspur with a bit of gypsophila and mimosa.”

“We kept to the colour theme of oranges and pinks. Ribbons were introduced for texture and my bridesmaids’ prints were used in mine for a flash of pattern. We gathered as many dried flowers as possible to use as decorations in vases for the tables, in the church and for the buttonholes. The beauty was we could take our flowers away with us, store them and not have to worry about them being delivered on the day. It was also a lot cheaper; fresh flowers were going to cost double the price.”

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The bride and her father travelled to the church in a Morris Minor owned by The Laurels Guesthouse.

“My family has a strong connection with the motor industry so we picked a car that had been made in Oxford. She was a Morris Minor called Lydia and we loved having the top down, riding round through the countryside in her with the tin cans tied to the back.”

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Adele’s bridesmaids totally rocked the boho vibe; I’m head over heels for these dip-dyed two-pieces.

“We decided to create draped silk skirts and dip-dye them. My extremely talented dressmaker friend Amy McAvoy offered to help make the skirts and experimented with different dyes to perfect the look. Once the skirts were made they were dyed in natural ingredients such as avocado stones and rose tea to get the beautiful tones just right. The girls all looked so amazing and unique.”

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“I wanted to incorporate pattern into their skirts so designed a print using gorgeous corals, pinks, greens and oranges inspired by a visit to John Ruskin’s home and Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house in the Lake District. I also designed a garden print inspired by my grandmother and incorporated bees and butterflies which reminded me of her. They also wore deep plunge, lace insert, camisole ASOS tops hand-dyed with Yorkshire tea.”

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To complement her gown, Adele selected a delicate veil from Richard Designs and, later in the day, slipped on a feathered ivory shrug from No 1 Jenny Packham at Debenhams.

“We picked a botanical-style embroidery, scalloped-edged, chapel-length veil to reflect the beautiful embroidery on my gown.”

Wedding veil

“My father walked me down the aisle to ‘Kissing You’ by Des’ree sung by Oxford Gospel Choir. The entertainment and music were big parts of the day and we really wanted something that reflected us so we picked Oxford Gospel Choir to sing. They were absolutely incredible and created a wonderful atmosphere in the church. My old school friend now runs the choir so it was so special for her to come back and be such a wonderful part of the day.”

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Adele and Alex were married by Long Wittenham’s vicar, Reverend David Haylett.

“He was my school friend’s father so has known me since I was born. We knew right from the start that we wanted a traditional church wedding as we had both grown up attending a church of England.”

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“Right from the start Alex said he wanted to read out a poem from his favourite poet, Dr John Cooper Clarke, called ‘I Wanna Be Yours’. The words in the poem express so much emotion. I was so touched and honoured that he chose to do that.”  

“I commissioned a local Manchester jewellery designer to create a bespoke wedding ring to sit nicely with my engagement ring – a vintage 1920s, yellow gold, hand-cut diamond cluster ring from Didsbury Jewellers.”

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“I found a beautiful, carved leaf design in gold and took my ideas to Anne at RA Designer Jewellery to interpret the design. My husband had his made there too. To make it extra special we had our rings engraved with the words ‘Mo shíorghrá’ in Gaelic meaning ‘my eternal love’.”

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“When the vicar pronounced us husband and wife, my husband reached in and gave me a kiss I will always remember as being the most passionate, romantic kiss I’ve ever had. That was the moment I knew, wow, I have found someone who really loves me and I can’t believe I’m actually their wife.”

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Alex kept his wedding suit a surprise for Adele, choosing a bespoke taupe suit by Charles Campbell Bespoke. He added brown leather Chelsea boots from Jeffery West and a tie designed and made by Adele.

“We used the patchwork print from the invitations for the groomsmen’s ties. Alex’s mum lovingly made them all.”

The page-boys also wore handmade bow ties with their Monsoon suits.

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At Fison Barn, the glorious weather meant the speeches were done outside before the party moved into the barn for the wedding breakfast.

“The food was incredible. We picked the Lancashire versus Oxfordshire theme for the food and designed the meal with Fingers & Forks. During the wedding breakfast Alex’s parents started singing a Lancashire folk song about the parkin which amused us all. It was a lovely moment.”

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“We wanted somewhere close to the village church to celebrate and have our ceremony. However once we got there, we fell in love with what it was – a nineteenth century barn with original oak beams within the nature reserve. The beauty of it is the flexibility to do whatever you want.”

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“It was a dream come true to go in and transform it into a wedding venue. All the money that we paid would go back into the nature reserve to help fund its projects. It really made us feel we were giving something back to the land.”

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The glorious, rustic wedding cake was from Tea Vintage and was decorated with fresh flowers and blackberries.

“I was really stuck on choosing a cake that looked amazing but wasn’t full of sugar. I thought of a lovely friend of my sister who runs a vintage tea company and knew she was our girl. We went with a rustic naked cake with berries and leaves. We were married on 29 September – Michaelmas Day – which can be celebrated with a big pie and blackberries.”

“We used blackberries as the jam as a little nod to the Michaelmas legend and had a lemon cake. We also had another tier of Victoria sponge and a vegan carrot and orange cake which was delicious. We were totally over the moon when we saw it.”

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A rustic, handmade vibe with colours of wildflowers inspired the entire wedding styling.

“The rustic building lent itself well to the boho vibe. We opted for long, banqueting-style tables and handmade all the table cloths from dust cloths dip-dyed in a vat of pink dye. We sourced vintage crockery from charity shops – each plate had a different print or pattern which made the tables look so incredible and beautiful. I had started to pick up on the corals as a key trend so used it to add some colour to the day. There wasn’t a lot that we bought textile-wise that hadn’t been touched or reinvented by us. I’m so proud of all the work we put into it.”

“My parent kindly offered to make the favours which were plum and golden damson jam. I have to add that my mum is in the WI but I think it was more my dad who did the jam.”

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“We had our family trees on display. We thought it would be a great conversation starter and a nice way to bring our ancestors to our day; they might be gone but never forgotten. Our wedding was a celebration of two families coming together so it was nice to have them there with us. “

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“The food and music were chosen to reflect Oxfordshire and Lancashire. I bought hay bales from the farm for seating and donated them to the donkey sanctuary afterwards. My sister painstakingly made all the beautiful wooden wedding signs and a lovely friend illustrated them. It was a true artisan wedding, like an old village celebration.”

“We wanted to link the north and the south and used Oxfordshire and Lancashire icons and food where we could. Alex came up with the brilliant idea of making a patchwork of us so we decided to marry elements as prints stitched together. By incorporating our local history into a print and using favourite products or places we felt as if we had really created a masterpiece together.”

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The day was captured for Adele and Alex by Laura Martha Photography whose relaxed and informal style is perfect for the day.

“Laura was absolutely brilliant and completely captured the essence of our day. I knew as soon as I saw her website that she would get all the little details that we so desperately wanted to be remembered. She was warm, friendly and approachable – all the things that I was looking for, as well as being an amazing moment-capturer. We wanted fun and flirty mixed with cool and sophisticated; she delivered it in bucket-loads.”

“I sent over my mood boards and we built a relationship over email so that when it came to the day she knew what I was looking for in my final wedding album. You’ve only got one chance to make it right so following your gut instinct is crucial.”

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The wedding guests used cameras from Shoot It Yourself to create the wedding film.

“We booked Shoot It Yourself – a do-it-yourself video camera hire company who give you the video equipment for you to use and then they create a masterpiece. It took a bit of work but we rounded up a few volunteers and gave them a list of key moments to capture. We chose the music to create a soundtrack and left them to it. It was very worthwhile investing in even though at the time it felt opulent. Looking back now, we’re so glad we did.”

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The day turned into evening with live music and, of course, the first dance.

“We kicked off the party with our first dance, a song by Badly Drawn Boy called ‘Once Around The Block’. It was the first song we loved as a coupleWe secretly went to dance lessons with Steppin Out. On the day, it didn’t all quite go to plan as it was much harder to dance in my wedding dress. We managed to sneak off for half an hour and practised in the middle of a country lane. It was lovely to have that time together away from all the wedding madness to take a moment to enjoy our special day.”

“For the evening we hired Swamp Cats, a band from London who were super-cool and sounded so good live. We found them on Alive Network and took a gamble on booking them without hearing them in person first. They were absolutely fantastic!

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Words of Wedded Wisdom

“The first thing to do is to work out what your style is. Who are you as a couple and what’s the most important thing you want people to remember on your day?”

“Don’t try to copy what other people have done on Pinterest. Come up with your own ideas and if you can’t do them, find someone who can.”

“Remember to think about lighting in your venue if you are doing it yourself – twinkly fairy lights are so atmospheric. We went to the local pub and asked them to save some green bottles for us, then ordered cork bottle lights which we placed around the edge of the barn.”

“Make sure you spend time thinking about what suits you as a couple. I’m a massive fan of dressing up wildly when I can so I created a dress-up box that came out for the evening party. It’s a long time to entertain your guests so you need to give them things to keep them busy with.”

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Just wow, Adele and Alex. What a simply beautiful day, and how inspiring to read about you used your creative expertise to realise our vision. Thank you so much, and Laura Martha Photography, thank you for your wonderful work.

Ele xx

Credits & Thanks

Eleanor Crossland

Eleanor Crossland View all Eleanor's articles

Ele lives in the Lincolnshire countryside, close to the beautiful coast. A qualified Pilates teacher, she loves fitness, yoga, Pilates and has a healthy addiction to baking, writing and travel.