A St Giles House Wedding in Dorset with Giant Disco Balls And Dresses by Sassi Holford & Shona Joy

Shona Joy slip wedding dress

This beautiful and elegant St Giles House wedding took place in April this year, when Lucy and Lewis tied the knot at this beautiful Dorset country house wedding venue, surrounded by family and all their favourite friends.

We’re so thrilled that Lucy discovered both her photographers, Taylor Hughes, and her dress designer, Sassi Holford through these pages.

St Giles House wedding

A St Giles House Wedding

We originally thought we’d get married in the South of France, but the pandemic made that a little risky.  Instead, we went in search of an English countryside venue that still had a European feel, but we also took advantage of now being in the UK and sought out somewhere that had a chic, more city-like aesthetic that felt very ‘us’ too.

We initially viewed three venues, none of which felt quite right, until we came across St Giles House in Dorset.

It also felt like somewhat of a hidden gem – it didn’t come up in my initial venue searches and it was only after we’d seen the other places (and seen many more online!) that I found it one evening whilst scrolling through a venue website.

It ticked every single box for us; it feels incredibly romantic and intimate, coupled with a sense of fun and modernity. It also has an amazing entrance; a very long driveway and expansive lawns which I could picture our guests taking in as they arrived for our big day. Plus, we loved that none of our guests had been there before, which allowed us to keep parts of the day a surprise.

The Earl of Shaftesbury, who owns the house, previously worked as a DJ in New York, so when he inherited the property, added a state-of-the-art nightclub in the basement. Many guests didn’t even know it was there until Lewis and I led them down after our first dance.

The house has been cleverly designed to allow the ceremony, reception and dinner to take place in different rooms, so we loved the way our wedding day could journey through the house, exploring each space it has to offer.

We had exclusive hire of the venue across three days, which meant we could bring the wedding party together the night before for a relaxed dinner after the ceremony rehearsal. This really allowed everyone to become relaxed in one another’s’ company, which created a lovely vibe of togetherness on the morning of the big day.

St Giles House also has a beautifully renovated set of barns opposite the main house, which sleeps 24 people. So, the morning after the wedding, we had 24 of our nearest and dearest gather together for brunch in the dining room, to reminisce about the events from the day before!

St Giles House also comes with an on-the-day coordinator which was a godsend; Lottie was so on top of everything which really allowed Lewis and I to relax and enjoy the day.

Bridal Beauty

Quelle Bester of A Bridal Edit was our hair and makeup artist. She’s incredibly talented, so professional and does that glowy bridal look so well. She also bought Hollie Danby to assist with hair and she was equally as wonderful.

There was such a relaxed, excited vibe in the bridal suite the morning of the wedding, and Quelle was a huge contributor to that.I chose to wear my hair down for the duration of the day.

This is almost always how I have my hair, so we opted for Hollywood waves which lasted right through from the ceremony until the end of the night. Definitely worth asking a bridesmaid to keep a hairbrush on hand if they have the handbag space though, it’s a long day and after the meal, mine looked much more refreshed once I’d quickly combed through it.

I wore Tom Ford’s Soleil Blanc Eau De Parfum on our wedding day. I’m a huge perfume fan and love the way a scent can transport you back to a time or memory, so took a lot of care choosing the perfect scent to mark the day. Lewis is the same, and he wore Acqua Di Parma Colonia Club, which I gave him last Christmas and he saved until the big day.

Veil, Shoes & Accessories

For me, it was always going to be a yes to a veil; it’s your only opportunity to wear one and I love the texture it adds. I chose an extra-long veil with a satin trim that beautifully framed the dress and travelled way past the train. It created a dramatic silhouette as I walked which felt so bridal. I wore the Athena veil from Couture Veil, which the Sassi Holford team made for me.

I’m a big fan of platform heels; and as soon as I saw the white platform version of the coveted Loeffler Randall pair, I knew they had to be a part of my wedding look.

Loeffler Randall wedding shoes & pearl beaded bridal handbag

They were so comfortable on the day, and I wear them all the time post-wedding too. In the evening, I changed into a pair of silver strappy heeled sandals, which were later swapped out for my adidas trainers, which made for the perfect dancing partner.

As my ‘something borrowed’, I wore a gold bangle my dad bought my mum about 30 years go. It’s such a special piece and I loved wearing it on the day. My parents also found a blue embroidered handkerchief in Portugal, which they gave me as my ‘something blue’.

The Sassi Holford team created pockets in my gown, and I carried the handkerchief around with me all day in case of any happy tears! On the morning of the wedding day, Lewis gave me a beautiful necklace from Mejuri, which I wore with my evening dress.

The Dress

My first dress was a bespoke gown by Sassi Holford. I visited a couple of London boutiques and went in with a very open mind. I tried on a variety of styles, and ultimately discovered I was looking for a more modern take on a classic, silk gown, but none had yet felt quite right.

I knew a silhouette on a dress like this needed to be perfectly tailored; there’s no embellishments or embroidery to hide any ill-fitting areas!

As soon as I visited Sassi Holford, I knew they were the one. I decided to opt for their bespoke option, and it was a dream designing my wedding gown with their team.

It was so interesting to go through the whole process, from the original concept drawings to stepping into the finished dress on the day.

Their attention to detail was next level and they noticed small details that I definitely wouldn’t have. They even asked whether the venue had wood or carpeted flooring, so they could hem the gown to perfectly skim the floor as I walked.

Bridesmaids Dress by The Own Studio

I had three bridesmaids, and their dresses were all by The Own Studio. Rosie and the rest of The Own Studio team are beyond lovely, and we had so much fun picking them out at their studio over a glass of champagne.

All my bridesmaids wore a silk, dark green gown, but chose two different designs between the three of them.

It was so important to me that each of them felt great in the dress they were wearing, and The Own Studio get it so right in terms of dresses that look and feel beautiful.

Each of my bridesmaids were keen for a block heel, so we opted for a satin ivory pair from ASOS, which we paired with a pearl beaded clutch bag that my mum found on Oliver Bonas.

Find beautiful Bridesmaids dresses here

The Inspiration

One of my favourite parts of the wedding planning process was scrolling through Love My Dress and reading all about past couples’ weddings. It provided such great inspiration, and it’s so fun to see how others created their perfect day. We also wouldn’t have found our amazing photographers without Love My Dress!

We took inspiration from so many places; my background is in print publishing, so naturally I went straight to magazines.

I also drew ideas from weddings I loved throughout history, spent hours scrolling through TikTok (bridal TikTok is a godsend) and of course had a mammoth Pinterest board too. We wanted the day to feel relaxed, but still elevated and glamorous, and we reminded ourselves of this at each stage of the planning process.

There are so many options available, that it’s easy to get carried away and go down a route that doesn’t feel very ‘you’.

We tied this aesthetic in through various ways; we went for black tie rather than morning suits and told our guests no need to wear a hat (unless they had a particularly great one!). The evening was styled more as a cocktail party than wedding reception, swapping the more traditional cake cutting for a cocktail hour after dinner, before the first dance.

The Ceremony

My wonderful dad walked me down the aisle. It was a moment I’d dreamt of for years, and we both felt so relaxed and happy throughout, smiling our way down the aisle which set the tone for a much more relaxed ceremony. We walked down the aisle to ‘Hold You Now’ by Vampire Weekend.

They were one of the first bands Lewis and I saw together, and we love their music, so when we heard the song for the first time, we saved it for our wedding ‘one day’. When our wedding finally came, it was the perfect accompaniment for that moment.

Lewis knows how much I love surprises, so knew I wouldn’t be fussed about having input in the design of my engagement ring. He designed it with Samara James, opting for a gold band and emerald cut diamond, surrounded by pavé diamonds in a halo and scattered down the shouldering too. He only had positive things to say about their team, so it was an easy decision going back to them for our wedding rings. Lewis went for a classic platinum band, and I chose a gold band with pavé diamonds to complement my engagement ring.

We always knew we wanted to write personal vows to one another and kept these a surprise until the day itself. My sister kindly read both sets of vows to ensure they were a similar length and vibe. To keep this an intimate experience, we chose to have a private ‘first look’ just the two of us outside first, where we read our vows to one another in the grounds of the house.

This was one of the best things we did – I suddenly felt very nervous before walking downstairs, but once I’d seen Lewis and he’d seen me, all the nerves washed away and I was instantly excited to get the ceremony started and see everyone. It also meant we’d had a chance to take one another in and get the excited chat out of the way before the ceremony, so we could really focus on each moment in front of our friends and family.

We had an extract from Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton. I think this appears in a lot of weddings and for good reason! It’s such a great extract and it really does apply to so much of our relationship. We have a lot of happy memories as a couple in the South of France, so my friend who kindly performed our ceremony reading swapped ‘flight to Dublin’ to ‘flight to Nice’ as a nod to that.

Find more wedding readings here

Taylor Hughes Photography

We found Taylor Hughes Photography on Love My Dress and after a scroll through their Instagram, completely fell in love with their editorial, style-focused work.

They kindly suggested we meet for a drink in London to get to know one another before our engagement shoot, which was perfect for us, as by the time the wedding day came around we already knew both Jack and Jade and felt so comfortable in their company.

They were so organised and focused throughout the day, ensuring they captured every shot we’d asked for, and within less than 24 hours, we had a ‘sneak peek’ arrive in our inbox, which was a complete dream! And, as they’re a photography duo, we had two photographers at our wedding and it meant they could capture a much fuller perspective of the day.

We trusted them completely, and were able to relax into the fun of the day knowing they’d grab us for photos when the time was right, or fix any out-of-place hair too! We couldn’t recommend them more.

Videography

On the lead up to the day, Claire of Everwood Films was on-hand to help with any and all questions – videography related and otherwise which I hugely appreciated. She captured our wedding day so perfectly, documenting the small intimate parts of the day as well as the big moments.

You spend almost your entire wedding day with your photographer and videographer, and between Claire and Jack and Jade of Taylor Hughes Photography, we genuinely felt like we had friends there with us. At one point the wind caught my veil and pulled it out, and Claire was right there to help slide it back in.

https://vimeo.com/738989835

How They Met

Lewis and I met through mutual friends at the beginning of university, and seven years later, he proposed over a bottle of champagne from the year we met in the countryside near to where I grew up. He wanted the place we got engaged to be somewhere we could always come back to.

My dad also proposed to my mum whilst on a picnic in Richmond Park, which Lewis knew, so his proposal was a lovely nod to that too.

Lewis asked me to be his wife in July and we got married the following April, so had nine months in total to plan the big day.

We weren’t keen on the idea of a long engagement, and fortunately every supplier we loved was available, so don’t feel we had to compromise on anything whilst planning in a shorter timeframe either.

Detail & Decor

We found that no one company offered every piece of décor we were after, so we hired from a number of different places for each element. When designing the décor for the day, I read a tip that said to look around the interior of your home and see what colour schemes you gravitate towards as a couple. We found this so helpful and given our

home has as neutral colour scheme with hints of greens throughout, this was the reassurance we needed to go ahead with this scheme in mind.

Sixfold Studio Wedding Stationery

A St Giles House Wedding Reception

St Giles House gives you the choice between three caterers, and after initial conversations with each, we opted for Bread & Flowers. Bea and Martin, who run the company, are experts at creating menus that aren’t too traditional, and cater to a multitude of dietary requirements with no fuss too.

We wanted every guest to enjoy a delicious meal, regardless of whether they were gluten free, vegan etc. We had 110 guests, which is a lot of people to feed.

So we opted to serve canapés and champagne throughout the drinks reception outside. Once everyone was seated, we did speeches first to avoid taking place during the somewhat lethargic, post-dinner wave, before diving straight into mains. We decided to offer a choice between cauliflower steak with thyme and truffle oil or roasted hake with beetroot, sesame and ginger, both of which went down a treat.

We were surprised at how many people were shocked there was no meat option, which is a good example of sticking to your guns and doing what works best for you and your fiancé. The last thing we wanted was hungry guests, so we had large sharing bowls of seasonal greens and crushed potatoes down the tables. The chocolate ice cream with olive oil and sea salt was a real crowd pleaser for dessert too. To keep the tempo high, our guests filed out to cocktail hour after dessert to the tune of Tequila by The Champs.

I love a warm, candle-lit space, so we placed pillar candles in cylinder vases throughout the whole venue and down the tables for our reception too.

We also hired five giant disco balls which we precariously balanced in the fireplace where we had the wedding reception. Fortunately, these didn’t roll out halfway through, and were so effective. They created a slightly more contemporary vibe to a part of the day that can sometimes feel a little stuffy or traditional. We received so many compliments on these!

Designing the tablescape was my favourite part of the planning process. I love hosting dinner parties in our London flat, so this essentially felt like a much larger-scale version of that. I found long cheesecloth-style table runners on Etsy, which we scrunched up and adorned with the candles.

We went with classic white chinaware through our caterers to keep costs down a little, and then hired beautiful line-etched glasses and charger plates to help personalise our settings.

We used India from Vervain Flowers, and she really went above and beyond. Before we’d even booked with India, she sent through a 12-page proposal with schemes for each part of the day. This attention to detail, in addition to her beautiful work we’d seen on Instagram, made booking Vervain a no-brainer.

The interior of St Giles House has been beautifully designed, maintaining a lot of the incredible history and character of the property, and so I knew I wanted a relatively neutral floral scheme to complement this.

However, I’m no floral expert, so I gathered examples and mood boards of the different floral schemes I liked for each part of the day, before passing all creative control over to India. She completely blew us away – the flowers, especially the urns of wild cherry blossoms in the ceremony entranceway and installation framing the top of the aisle, were some of the most complimented parts of the day.

Favourite Moments

I’d say our first look, as it was such a special and intimate moment between the two of us where we really stopped and realised ‘this is actually happening!’. I also loved cocktail hour – by this point, things were getting very lively in the best way, and it was so fun sipping cocktails with all our loved ones, reminiscing over the day so far and filled with anticipation of the night ahead of us.

We both also loved the confetti run, which was another very last-minute decision. Our venue understandably didn’t allow confetti inside, and we didn’t want to purchase confetti and pouches and find it rained all day and they went unused.

However, the day before we left for the wedding, the forecast was looking great so my mum kindly went out and purchased heaps of roses, which she made into confetti at home as a surprise for us.

After the ceremony, all the guests gathered outside, either side of the beautiful walkway leading out to the grounds, and were all passed a handful of confetti to throw. Our MC, my cousin, ‘announced’ us as husband and wife, and we walked out and down the pathway with our loved ones cheering either side of us.

A Dress Change for the Evening

My second dress was Shona Joy, which I found on Farfetch. This was a relatively last-minute decision. I’d fully intended to wear my Sassi Holford gown for the entire event, however, like most brides on their wedding day, I had big party plans for the evening and as April grew closer, I became a little worried about how much dancing could be done in a large gown.

I began searching for some inspiration, and the same day, Hailey Bieber wore that white silk Saint Laurent dress to the 2022 Grammy’s, and I was instantly sold. I went in search of a similar piece and found Shona Joy’s Bias Cowl Slip Dress on Farfetch. It came from Australia and only arrived a couple of weeks before the wedding, so not sure what my plan B would’ve been if it wasn’t right.

Fortunately, I slipped it on and burst into happy tears, it fit perfectly and turned out to be one of the best last-minute decisions I made. It was such a ‘me’ dress, it’s definitely something I’ll wear again, and it also made a nice transition point from the meal into cocktail hour too.

Evening & Dancing

We chose ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ by Frankie Valli. We’re by no means professional dancers, but somewhat prepared a dance for the first part of the song which was very special, before Lewis found his mum and I found my dad and we bought them onto the dance floor for a moment with each of them.

This was a great way of encouraging other guests to join too, which created such a fun atmosphere and fantastic photos. After the song ended, Lewis and I danced all the guests down to the nightclub where the DJ greeted us with the first song of the night.

We also had a ‘last dance’ which I’d really recommend! Almost every guest stayed until the end, so when the DJ announced this for us, everyone gathered round cheering as Lewis and I danced our final dance of the night together. This provided such a fun send-off and ended the night on a huge high.

Whilst in a usual setting you would do the rounds saying goodbye to everyone, on our wedding day the last thing we wanted to be doing was standing by the door as each guest filtered out the venue, waiting for taxis and gathering coats etc.

The last dance gave everyone a chance to wave us off, before the DJ played a couple more songs and the venue winded down for the night. Lewis and I were also very committed to chatting with every guest at least once throughout the day, so we didn’t feel at all guilty for not saying long goodbyes to everyone.

We hired a jazz trio called The Swing Rhythms for our drinks reception. Despite our wedding being in April, we were incredibly lucky to get bright blue skies, so after the ceremony we hosted our drinks reception out on the terrace overlooking St Giles’s beautiful sweeping grounds. The trio created the perfect ambiance and really set the tone for the rest of the day – they were 100% worth the investment.

Our DJ for the evening was LuvWed. Our venue recommended him, and he was brilliant. He had everyone dancing right from the start of the evening until the early hours, including our three 80+ year-old nannies!

Words of Wedded Wisdom

My number one piece of advice would be stick together. Whilst it might seem obvious, there’s so much going on throughout a wedding day that it’s easy to accidentally ‘divide and conquer’ and end up spending almost no time with your new husband or wife. Instead, after the ceremony Lewis and I made the conscious decision to stay with one another as much as possible.

This really allowed us to take in each moment of our day as a couple, and speak to our guests as new husband and wife which was so special too. Of course, there were moments where he chatted with his friends and me mine, but mainly we soaked in the whole day together, taking little moments here and there to stop and appreciate our surroundings.

Remember, your wedding is not a networking event, it’s a celebration of your love for one another, so no one will judge if you’re joint at the hip!

If you’re planning your wedding without the help of a planner, I’d recommend choosing your team very wisely. The vendors you select are the ones who help bring your wedding day to life, and they’re there throughout the entire process. We were very careful to choose to work with people we really clicked with, who came with experience and a level of professionalism, but were also super positive and relaxed too. I had such a power team behind me, and it made all the difference.

If you possibly can, I’d recommend doing a speech too. You’re never going to be met with a more positive or welcoming audience that you will on your wedding day, and it’s a lovely opportunity to speak to your nearest and dearest on such a special occasion. Lewis and I chose to do a speech together, whereby we said all our thank yous and told a few funny anecdotes from throughout our relationship. We kicked-off the speeches, and it was so fun to address the room as new husband-and-wife.

From a more practical point, definitely create a shared email address and spreadsheet. This means if one of you is tied up with a busy work week, your significant other can pick up any unanswered emails. It also means when the wedding is over, you don’t have tones of wedding related offers and newsletters pinging into your normal inbox. We also added an ’out of office’ into the inbox, to inform vendors and suppliers that Saturdays were our dedicated wedmin day.

Shona Joy wedding dress

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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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