Lauren in Jessica Bennett Bespoke, for her Classy Black Tie Wedding Weekend at Deans Court, Dorset

Lauren and Bradley’s 18th June 2022 wedding took place over the course of a weekend, at Deans Court in Wimborne, Dorset.

The couple wanted a ‘modern classic’ wedding, and sought English summer garden appeal which this lovely Dorset wedding venue provided with perfection.

The bride wore a gorgeous off the shoulder gown by Jessica Bennett, a liverpool based wedding dress designer and her groom wore a tuxedo in keeping with their choice to go black tie.

We’re so grateful to Lauren for sharing such helpful insights and so much information for fellow readers. Enjoy!

Deans Court in Dorset

We chose Deans Court for its beautiful historic estate and ancient grounds and fell in love with it the first time we visited. We loved that it was so conveniently located in the centre of Wimborne and that it would be ours exclusively for the weekend with our closest family, Bridesmaids and Ushers staying in different cottages on the estate.

It was really accessible for all of our guests and walking distance to some lovely country pubs but still managed to feel like it was hidden away.
We had no connection to Dorset at all and had not actually visited as a couple before we went to view the venue but now it holds a very special place in our hearts. We love that you can rent the cottages on the estate so we can go back and visit in the future.

A Legal Wedding in Vegas

Our legal wedding took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getting married in Vegas was something I have always joked about and something that all of my friends said was so out of character for me. I am a perfectionist and only usually accept the best so to announce that we would get married in a decades old chapel on the strip was a surprise to most! Our wedding in Vegas was about taking back control of our wedding and celebrating our love and putting some fun back into the planning. Due to the pandemic we had to move our date, change suppliers a number of times including having to change venue twice.

We originally planned to get married in Vegas on our original wedding date in June 2021 but due to the continued threat around COVID-19, we had to reschedule Vegas several times, eventually getting married in March 2022.

The Vegas wedding was actually a secret and we only told our parents, my sisters and some of our bridesmaids and ushers. Bradley let all of our friends in on the secret during his speech on the day.

Bradley purchased his Tuxedo in Las Vegas from Hugo Boss the day of the wedding in typical Bradley fashion! It was then the same suit that he wore on our wedding day in Dorset. I wore a micro wedding dress from Amsale, purchased from their boutique in New York, featuring a bow so it had some similarities to my actual wedding dress. I also wore it the night before the wedding at the cocktail reception that we hosted for family and friends.

We got married in Las Vegas at The Little White Chapel (the same chapel as Bennifer, Britney Spears and Michael Jordan!)

His shirt was from Oliver Brown and shoes from Charles Tyrwhitt on London’s Jermyn Street. He also wore a velvet bow tie from Lanvin. This was a gift for Bradley that I purchased from Mr. Porter especially for the wedding. He also had Mother of Pearl button covers and sterling silver cufflinks with the date of our wedding engraved.

Hair & Makeup

Hair was styled by the incredible Gabrielle Thomson. My hair is my best feature so getting it right for our wedding day was so important to me. I love a bouncy blow dry but I struggled to get my regular hairdresser in Liverpool to travel so far and my London based hairdresser was already booked for another wedding which meant finding someone completely new. I came across Gabrielle’s work on Instagram and instantly knew she would be perfect. She was fantastic and a very calming force during the total chaos of the wedding morning. She created something so unique for everyone.

My make-up artist was the very talented Jessica Grant. Jessica is one of the top make-up artists in the North West of England and also just happens to be a close family friend. Every single person in the bridal party looked her best and it was lovely getting to include Jessica in the getting ready process. She was very calm and collected even though she needed to get 7 of us glammed and get ready herself as a wedding guest.

To get ready in the morning, I wore Ostrich feather trim PJs from Ukranian brand Sleeper. I absolutely love them and I even changed into them for an impromptu after-party at one of the cottages on the estate the night of the wedding.

A Jessica Bennett Wedding Dress

My dress was from Jessica Bennett Bespoke. in Liverpool. I had planned a weekend in Liverpool and a weekend in London to go dress shopping with my Mum and Maid of Honour. Jessica’s boutique was only our second appointment and I immediately fell in love the moment we stepped into the studio.

Her studio space is so modern, calm and inviting. Jessica is such a wonderful person and has a great team. I was very nervous at first as I am quite indecisive so it was overwhelming knowing I would be selecting my one and only wedding dress. When we arrived, we were immediately offered a glass of champagne and had a chat and it really put my nerves at ease. I ended up trying on nearly every dress in the shop and had such a fun afternoon. Buying my dress was one of my favourite experiences from the whole wedding.

Jessica and I spent hours together perfecting and adding and tweaking the dress over several months and had a really perfect end result. I knew that I wanted an evening dress as part of my look for the day but I also knew that I wanted to ultimately have one wedding dress and Jessica perfected this allowing me to have a really long train in the form of an overskirt for the day that I whipped off in the evening so I could dance freely but was still able to retain the main body of my dress.

My dress was really diverse in design when it came to the details and I had freedom on the day to change my look whenever I wanted including removing my silk sleeves after the ceremony and adding a beautiful folded bow in the evening (the bow was my favourite part of the dress!)

Veil, Shoes & Accessories

I always knew I wanted a veil and that I wanted it to be very simple. I read about Unveiled by Sophie in Vogue and arranged an appointment with her immediately. I went in with a very clear brief and it was probably the easiest decision I made throughout the planning process. It was hand embroidered with the phrase “It started with a Kiss” at the end of the veil a phrase chosen that sums up exactly how it all began.

As a wedding present, my sister took me to the Manolo Blahnik boutique in Chelsea to choose my wedding shoes. I already had a good idea of what shoes I wanted and chose Hangisi in Blue, they are available in different heights and although I am tall I decided to go for the tallest pair, I feel my most confident in high heels! I love how fun they are and how I can wear them for so many years to come, they were super comfortable and I can’t wait to buy more in different colours.

My perfume was Diptyque Eau Moheli. This perfume was a birthday gift from Bradley a few years ago after I smelt a sample in a magazine, it has since become a staple favourite scent of mine. It’s a really light, wonderful floral scent and now reminds me of our wedding morning and spritzing it during the final moments of getting ready.

My necklace and bracelet were from the Tiffany & Co 1837 collection with interlocking circles – a 30th birthday gift from my parents and a perfect symbol for love. I also wore a plain sterling silver thumb ring, a small invaluable piece of jewellery that I wear every day and have done since I met Bradley. Bradley has always worn a thumb ring and when we started dating, I used to take his and wear it, although it was far too big for me and always fell off. One of the first gifts and first piece of jewellery he bought me was a sterling silver thumb ring.

The Ceremony

My dad walked me down the aisle. Firstly, there was a procession of the bridesmaids to City Lights by Austin Farwell. I was accompanied down the aisle to the sound of Pachelbel Canon in D, a classic and also the song that Annie walks down the aisle to in Father of the Bride which is my all-time favourite movie and has been since I was a little girl. To walk down the aisle to this song with my Dad was such a magical moment.

Our officiant was a close family friend, Michael. Our vows were tailored to us and we worked closely with Michael to create something unique and special. It was important that we modernised our vows whilst also keeping traditional elements and it was particularly important to create equality in the language that was used. One of the examples of how we did this was by changing the traditional ‘You may now kiss the bride’, to ‘You may now kiss each other’.

We had two readings one was chosen by us and read by my godmother Debbie; an extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Berniéres.

The second reading, read and chosen by one of my best friends who is also called Lauren, it was an extract from Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman.

Our rings were from Hatton Garden from a jeweller that my family have used for years and the same place that Bradley purchased my engagement ring.

Readers, find more readings here.

Photography

Our photographer was Chris Parkinson from Beneath the Pines. The photographer was one of the first things we booked when we started planning our wedding. We had a really clear vision of what we wanted and Chris is a documentarian photographer so captures the moment and his style is very editorial and cinematic which we love. When we met during lockdown over Zoom he was so friendly and put us both at ease.

I don’t like having my photograph taken and was concerned about how that would translate in professional photographs so we decided to go to the Lake District for an engagement shoot a few months before the wedding which was a really great opportunity to get to know Chris. As our train pulled into the station at Windermere it started pouring with rain and we had no umbrella! I had spent the entire morning having my hair and make-up done and to say I was stressed is an understatement.

We were completely drenched within about five minutes of shooting but I soon forgot about my frizzy hair and soaking wet feet due to Chris’s positive energy and can-do attitude. From then, I knew if Chris could make me feel calm and care free in that moment then the wedding day would be a breeze.

A Wedding Film

Mike Sreenan from Moon River was our Videographer. We were not immediately sure if we would have a videographer and after meeting Chris we asked him for some recommendations. He recommended Mike and as soon as we looked at his work, we knew instantly that we needed to hire him.

It was great for us knowing that both our photographer and videographer had worked together before and to see how they supported each other on the day was a dream and they worked together so seamlessly.

Bridesmaids

I purchased my bridesmaids their dresses from NABBD (Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress) in Wimbledon, London. It was really important to me that each of my friends could select a dress that they felt comfortable in and would wear again to a black-tie event in the future. We selected Amsale, a U.S. brand that had a huge selection of dresses and everyone loved them.

I really liked that each of them had a different dress that suited their personal style. We had lots of fun trying them on, plenty of Prosecco and celebrated with a big brunch afterwards!

I gifted each of my bridesmaids an Opalite crystal bracelet, each personalised with their names as a small thank you for all of their love and support at the beginning of my hen weekend in Marbella. Opalite is the crystal for love and positivity.

Which emanates joy and positive vibes and helps build and strength relationships. Everyone loved the bracelets and they wore these on the day of the wedding too!

I think Jewellery is so personal and so each bridesmaid was given freedom to select their favourite pieces for the day.

How They Met

We met in September 2009 so had been together for 10 years already when Bradley proposed. We had always wanted a brief engagement and to get married ASAP but due to the pandemic we were engaged for two and a half years, which felt really long to us!

We met at University in Liverpool. I am from Liverpool and Bradley is from nearby Manchester. We met within the first few months of my first year at university, officially we met on Facebook, before dating apps really existed and when everyone our age posted events as sort of a virtual invitation to a birthday party or drinks event. Bradley didn’t recognise my name from a list of mutual friends who had been invited to a party at my friends new house and boldly sent a private message to suggest we needed to get to know each other before the party!

We got on well and Facebook messages quickly evolved to exchanging phone numbers and it was a few weeks before we finally met in person at the Student Union after a boozy night out. We bumped into each other as we were leaving and I playfully stole a necklace that Bradley was wearing thinking it was some kind of cheap party gimmick.

It turns out it was sterling silver and he quickly chased after me. I demanded a kiss for its safe return and the rest as they say is history!

We were engaged in December, 2019 just a few days before Christmas in Eccleston Park in Liverpool where my family home is located and where I grew up as a child. We had just arrived home for Christmas the day before and one evening took a familiar stroll around the corner to a family friends’ house for dinner. They live on a beautiful tree lined street and all the houses were filled with warm, twinkly Christmas lights. Just as we started to approach their house, a few doors down, Bradley got down on one knee and popped the question. It was a total surprise and very spur of the moment.

It was a wonderful time and we celebrated with plenty of Champagne and a few days after Christmas had an impromptu engagement party with lots of our family and friends. I will always treasure the memory of being able to enjoy the first few days of our engagement at home with our nearest and dearest.

The Groom Took His Wife’s Surname

It has always been really important to us both that we share a family name and that our children have the same surname when we eventually settle down and have them. We had ideally wanted to double barrel but due to us both having long surnames (Bartels and McIntosh) we decided it would be a little too wordy a surname!

Instead, after a long discussion (over the course of about a year because neither of us wanted to give up our names!) Bradley decided to take my name, a new tradition for our family. It means a lot to me that Bradley was willing to break the norm and take his wife’s surname!

The Vibe

Immediately after becoming engaged, I spent hours conducting research on different wedding styles and trying to establish what wedding we would have. I always had a good idea of what I wanted but had never given any thought to specific suppliers or a particular theme. The two things we did know were that we wanted a wedding hosted over a weekend with multiple events and that our dress code would be Black Tie.

I would describe our wedding style as ‘modern classic’ and if I had to describe the overall look, it would be an English summer garden. I was adamant I didn’t want a colour scheme and I was so glad that we didn’t as it allowed us to be really creative with our flower selection.

I am particularly detail oriented so I did extensive research on different suppliers, I wanted everything to be absolutely perfect and although our venue supplied things like cutlery, crockery and linen we decided to hire everything ourselves to really bring our vision to life. We had a large number of partners to help us achieve this and they provided us with great advice. Every single item used on the day was brought in specially to create our dream wedding day.

Flowers

Flowers were the most important part of the décor for me, I wanted our guests to feel like they were in our very own English Country Garden. The different shapes and scents of flowers and getting the mix right is so important, so we wanted a really experienced florist.

We had originally booked a florist for our 2021 date and then after we postponed she became pregnant and the baby was due right around our new wedding date which meant we had to find a new florist! We had spent hours working on the project together and countless meetings over Zoom and at the venue so we were very disappointed not to be able to work together but thrilled about the exciting news of a new baby! Due to how many other weddings had already been postponed at the time we really struggled to find someone whose style we loved and that was available!

When we began our search again for a new florist, we came across Mary Mary Floral Design and met Emily and Anna. Unbeknown to us at the time they were based in Liverpool and had connections to my dress designer, often creating her Christmas Wreath for her studio! Its times like these that you remember it’s such a small world we live in and it felt like fate, especially when Emily one of the florists pointed out in a discovery call that we had pinned some of their work to our Pinterest board!

Emily and Anna understood exactly what we wanted and brought our vision to life by spending countless hours discussing every tiny detail and so many species of flowers. We had flowers to canvas every part of the day including a flower meadow running down the aisle and later on we repurposed the meadow to wrap around the bar and we also had a deconstructed flower arch as a backdrop to our ceremony and photographs later on.

We also hung a gigantic flower cloud in the centre of the marquee above the top table which was also the centre of the dancefloor later in the evening. They even helped us to create a hanging hedge wall that we hung a custom neon sign with the words “you will forever be my always”.

Reception

The Marquee where we hosted our wedding breakfast and then dancing in the evening is a permanent fixture in the grounds of Deans Court and located at the end of the garden beside the pond. We removed one side of the marquee entirely to make a feature of all of the incredible and lush greenery and nature surrounding it, we really wanted to bring the outside in and tried to weave in nature into all elements of the day. One of my favourite décor features from the day were the disco balls that we hung in a tree that glistened in the moon light.

Something that was really important to us when selecting our wedding venue was flexibility to choose our own suppliers. Deans Court had several suggested caterers but also allowed freedom to bring in your own. Doggart and Squash are based in London and when we came across them immediately set-up a tasting even though it was during lockdown and we had to wait a few months before we could finally visit their kitchen. We could tell from their Instagram posts that the food was to a very high standard and after many meetings with their event coordinator Molly over Zoom, we knew they were perfect for us and very conveniently located close to where we live.

When we went for the tasting, everything was so delicious and we really struggled to select narrow down our choices to six canapés to serve at our drink’s reception. Bradley and I are both massive foodies and so getting the menu right was a top priority for us. As we had a spring wedding, we wanted a menu that was light but hearty and very tasty.

To start we decided on a family style sharing platter with an incredible nduja and burrata bruschetta, manchego, padron peppers and patas bravas. For main, we decided on lamb loin with a marjoram and parmesan crust with pomme anas, French beans and chimichurri and to finish, one of our favourite desserts – elderflower pavlova with seasonal berries.

The service on the day was impeccable. One of my pet hates at weddings is chasing down waiters for canapés or a top up of champagne, this wasn’t an issue for us, so much so that most of our guests were quite tipsy by the time we sat down for the wedding breakfast because everyone’s glass was topped up several times over and made for a very fun dinner!

Detail & Decor

We had a neon sign designed and created for our wedding with the words ‘you will forever be my always’, we hung it over a hedge wall directly behind the top table at the wedding which was also directly behind the stage and it looked great. The sign is now hanging above our bed at home.

We worked closely with Ginny from Vine in the Wild for our wedding stationery. We wanted a collection of stationery that was really unique to us and that would guide our guests through the different stages of our day. As guests arrived, we had a welcome board on an easel that was decorated with flowers. Each guest was also handed an order of service guiding them through the ceremony.

The stationery for the wedding breakfast was also very much part of the décor and we had individual calligraphed place cards for each guest and every place setting included a menu personalised for both Veggie and Non-Veggies that featured beautiful illustrations and calligraphy of the Starter, Main and Dessert. Ginny even created personalised bar menus for us with an illustration of our signature cocktail which was a Gin and Pink Peppercorn Tonic garnished with Grapefruit and Basil.

Our wedding was scheduled for a hot summers day and so we arranged for fans to be handed out to each guest as they arrived. We could see them fluttering away during our ceremony and later on at the drink’s reception most of the ladies were still using them, so we think they were a very welcome addition! Our ushers also handed out heel protectors which were very well liked by those wearing high heels to stop them sinking on the lawn and something that they will be able to use again. Sustainability and being environmentally friendly is very important to us and we didn’t want to hand out wedding favours that would only be a one-use item.

Evening & Dancing

In the evening we served street food in the form of delicious burgers from Flaming Peaches, a local Dorset business recommended to us by our venue. After a few hours on the dance floor this was very well received by our guests with the option to finish off with some Parmesan fries.

Both Bradley and I are HUGE cake lovers but bizarrely had never wanted a traditional wedding cake. The only thing that mattered to us was that it tasted delicious. We wanted a really soft, spongy cake and so decided to go to our favourite bakery FlavourTown based in South London. They make the most delicious Red Velvet cake.

When we first moved to London in 2012, they didn’t own a bakery and operated from a pop-up market stall, every Sunday in Shoreditch. Bradley and I would make a bi-weekly trip to the market and sample everything on the menu! Since then, the word has got out and they now have a bakery in Fulham and Richmond. We decided on a simple but large two-tier red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and it was perfect!

Everyone who managed to get a slice said it was delicious. We had saved the top tier for us but ended up slicing it up at a post-wedding BBQ the next day and the whole thing was eaten by the end of the night aside from a few pieces that were thrown in a cake fight between me and my sisters at the end of the weekend!

Words of Wedded Wisdom

Hire a wedding planner! I am an incredibly organised individual so the thought of planning our wedding was not something I was ever concerned about and was excited to finally create the wedding of my dreams. However, I had never planned a wedding and the time I spent on research, finding suppliers and chasing quotes was huge and we probably spent more money in the end from not having any industry knowledge or connections.

We would also strongly recommend immediately taking a minimoon/honeymoon if you can. We went to Santorini the day after the wedding which was a really perfect opportunity to fully debrief and talk about the wedding and just enjoy each other’s company and most importantly to relax! We are planning a longer Honeymoon in Asia in November but taking a shorter trip immediately after the wedding and the opportunity to fully check out and relax really meant we could ride the high a little longer.

Early on in the planning stages, I set up a WhatsApp group chat for us both to share all of our inspiration and whenever we confirmed any hires items or a piece of décor we would send screenshots so we could easily access when referring to it later on in our planning, this was really helpful when discussing ideas with different suppliers to show them the colour or the linen we had picked or the glassware etc. It was also really useful in helping us to decide what we wanted and what was most important to us and we could easily compare different ideas all in one place.

Our original budget was £35k, this was exceeded dramatically. Probably due to the reality that the level of detail that was important to us cost considerably more and we continued to add décor and throughout all the cancellations of the pandemic.

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Credits & Thanks

Annabel

Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She has a passion for photography, walking, yoga, nature, and loves to support talented artists and creative businesses. In 2013, she became a published author. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters Eska and Leanora and menagerie of furry hounds. Annabel supports Philip in the running of the family flower farm at at Moonwind Flowers. She is also co-founder of What About Weddings.

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