The week before their wedding, Sarah and Alan travelled from Australia, where they live, to have the wedding of their dreams here at Gosfield Hall.
In the run-up to their wedding, there was a lot of Skype conversations and a lot of emails exchanged to get everything set in place. However, before all of that, it needed to start with a proposal.
“Fiji is our favourite holiday destination and living in Australia means the island is only a four hour flight away. In October 2016 we decided to have a little mini holiday before the busy season got into full swing.
We had just landed on Treasure Island and Alan kept suggesting we go out for a walk on the beach. Looking back, he seemed very intent on heading out to the beach, whilst I was far too excited about all the freebies I had snagged us in the hotel room! The nerves must have got the better of him as he dropped unexpectedly to one knee and asked me to marry him. I cried for 20 minutes straight so it was probably a good thing he didn’t ask me in public. After I had stopped crying we ran outside and announced our big news to everyone and anyone we could find. The hotel staff were so quick to congratulate us that they organised a swim for us on a private island. We spent the rest of the night enjoying a romantic sun set dinner on the beach. It was simply perfect.
Little did I know the proposal was nearly ruined by the airport security! As we were only away for a 6 nights we only took hand luggage with us. A random explosives screening at the airport meant Alan had to open his bag – with the ring box hidden inside – whilst a security guard shuffled through his belongings in front of me! That would have made for a much less romantic story.”
What a perfect location for such a happy moment! After it had sunk in, Sarah wasted no time in thinking about their special day.
“I started looking at wedding venues while we were still in Fiji! Alan and I worked in one of the busiest wedding venues in Australia and after lots of discussions we came to the decision that we needed to be married somewhere that was completely different to where we worked. We always knew that we would get married back in the UK and our search began for a quintessentially British venue. I didn’t start thinking about decor and styling until after we had picked the venue, as I wanted the styling to compliment the venue.”
Planning a wedding can be difficult at the best of time; where to hold it, what food do you have, what kind of flowers or flowers at all, what colour dresses shall the bridesmaids wear… The list goes on and on! Well, for Sarah and Alan, the planning processes was intensified!
“Everything had to be done online from overseas and I made a shortlist of venues to see on a trip out to the UK nearly 10 months after getting engaged! That much time browsing the internet can make you crazy.
Budgeting for a wedding in a different currency was very interesting too! Although we didn’t set a physical budget for our wedding, we just prioritised all of the options as we went. If it wasn’t going to make or break the day then we wouldn’t have it!
Accommodation on site was very important for us, as we don’t get to see our family and friends very often, we wanted to enjoy as much time with everyone as possible. We both wanted a wedding venue with history and character as this is something we both very much miss about England.
Alan and I both knew the second we pulled into the driveway at Gosfield Hall that this is where we were going to be married. The venue was so grand and so steeped in history that I could imagine every part of the day as we walked around. The Bridal suite completely blew us away, there is just nothing like it out there!”
Having waited nearly a year to come and view a venue, when they finally got here it was all worth the wait! Sarah and Alan booked their wedding almost a year to the date in advance… It was now all systems go to plan the day of their dreams.
When planning a wedding, all Bride’s and Groom’s use different forms of inspiration to tailor make their day to exactly how they’ve envisaged it. Whether that be social media, magazines, blogs, films etc… However, for Sarah, she had a very unique way to get that all important inspiration.
“I work as a wedding planner, so my inspiration came straight from real life weddings in Australia! I was able to see what worked and what didn’t, whilst picking the brains of some amazing colleagues and stylists! When we first saw Gosfield Hall, I couldn’t stop thinking how romantic the venue was. This is what gave me my inspiration to create a soft, romantic feel to our wedding day.
I knew our wedding day had to have the wow factor, but I really wanted to bring a touch of Australian styling to a traditional wedding venue. We wanted people to leave the wedding thinking ‘I have never seen anything like this!'”
So with the plans in place, all that was left to do was wait for their day to come around.
The night before the wedding, Sarah was in Essex and on her way to Gosfield Hall to settle herself and her Bridesmaids Emma, Hannah, Emma and Kari into the Lady’s Chambers. They had a night of chatting, laughing and enjoying the hot tub, before then heading to bed to get some well-needed rest before the big day!
The morning arrived and it was time to start getting ready!
Now at a point they were ready to move, the girls took themselves into the main house and up to the beautiful Rococco Suite to have finishing touches and put all the all-important dress.
“Everything was kept quite simple for the day. I had my diamond earrings which Alan had given to me a few years before and my nan had given me a diamond bracelet that my grandad had gifted to her. I tried a veil on when purchasing my dress and knew that it just wasn’t for me. I loved the idea of having flowers in my hair, but real flowers out of water in the summer was not going to work. Instead, I had a comb handmade to complement the tones of the flowers in my bouquet.”
While Sarah and Alan were getting ready, the house was being transformed with the flowers and decorations they had worked all year round to prepare!
“For my wedding flowers I knew I wanted something unstructured, wild and organic. I really wanted to steer away from the structured traditional florals and needed to find a florist who was able to achieve this look. We found Sapphire Bates from The Flower Arranger online and she was based just down the road in Chelmsford – amazing!”
With the girls nearly done, Alan and the boys had arrived and were downstairs checking into a room to start getting ready themselves!
“Alan wanted to continue with the vintage style and sought to create a mismatched look for him and his Groomsman. Something which would fit with the beautiful English country venue we were going to be married in, so the tweed/herringbone look was a must. Alan chose dark navy dress chinos and a textured jacket with an oak coloured tweed waistcoat and a burgundy tie and pocket square to match my hair piece. Alan’s suit was completed with a pocket watch which once belonged to my great-grandfather and a set of cufflinks to match his personality!”
Suited and booted, Alan made his way downstairs to start greeting their guests into their home for the day!
“The Groomsmen wore mismatched vintage waistcoats in colours of brown and navy.”
Unbeknown to Alan, Sarah was stepping into her wedding dress, with aid of mum!
“After we had booked the venue, we went straight out to find the perfect dress, as I only had 3 weeks in the UK to organise as much as I could before heading back to Australia. I thought, given the venue was so fairytale-like, that I would want a big dress to fit. But when I tried them on, everything was just so wrong. It was my mum who picked out what ended up being my wedding dress. A lacey fishtail with the most amazing train and illusion neckline. I loved the slightly antique look to the lace and I felt so elegant when I wore it. The dress was a Benjamin Robert and fit straight off the rack! The only alternations I required was to have the hem taken up a few inches. It was perfect!!
The big reveal was then made to the Bridesmaids!
“The Bridesmaids wore matching dresses in a mink/nude colour from Little Mistress”
With Sarah and her Bridesmaids ready, all that was left to do was make that all-important walk to the ceremony room.
“As I have mentioned, our ceremony was very different! My uncle walked me down the aisle, on behalf of my late grandad to Ed Sheeran’s How Would You Feel (our favourite artist)”
“As we didn’t actually have a legal ceremony, we were able to do something really different for our ceremony. We chose to go with a celebrant, as they are very popular in Australia and I had seen so many unique ceremonies, I knew ours had to be something different! I found Michelle Taylor online, and when it turned out she lived just 10 minutes away from my mum in Essex and had grown up in Birmingham (Alan’s hometown) it felt like fate!”
“We started with a family blessing and my Nan lit a candle in memory of my Grandad. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears!”
“Helen, our close family friend read an excerpt from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and Alan’s sister Becky read a poem which we had added a little bit of artistic licence to. The ceremony told the stories of our travels and throughout the room was filled with laughter and tears.”
“Our ceremony was the most important moment for us to show our personalities and give our family and friends a completely different experience. Michelle, our celebrant, was able to create us a ceremony which not only showed our love and lives but was also filled with fun, laughter, tears and a drinking competition! At the end of the ceremony, rather than sign the paperwork (which we would do back in Australia) we did a Polish ritual with a twist, which involved eating monster munch (my favourite crisps) and drinking gin (our favourite drink) – although only one of us got the gin, which meant that person got to wear the trousers for the rest of our married lives together. Unfortunately, Alan got the gin!”
And there you have it… introducing Mr & Mrs Dawes!
It was then off to their welcome drinks reception accompanied by gorgeous canapes.
Welsh Rarebit Bite (V)
Mini Scotch Eggs
Blue cheese crostini with honey roasted Figs
Smoked Duck Croquette
Free range bang bang Chicken
Mini Banoffee Pie
Primm’s and Lemonade
Gin and Fever Tree Tonic
Having had the obligatory group shot with their loved ones, it was off around the house and grounds to have some alone with, with the photographer, to capture some lovely moments together.
“Our wedding wasn’t going to be the most traditional affair, because that’s just not us! We wanted the day to just be about love and laughter and wanted this reflected in our photographs. An old school friend who had married a few years earlier had the most perfect, natural, candid style wedding photos and I quickly engaged Nick Ilott to be our photographer for the day. I didn’t look at any other photographers and I couldn’t be more happy with our photographs. Every picture is just full of fun and laughter and that is just what we wanted.”
After pictures were done, it was on to welcoming guests upstairs to the ballroom to sit down and enjoy their three-course wedding breakfast.
“As we didn’t have a guestbook, we opted for advice cards which I handmade and placed on the tables during the reception. The answers we received are far more memorable than the standard guestbook messages!”
“The table numbers were actually frames from The Range (bargain!) and our ever so talented florist Sapphire Bates decorated these with fresh foliage and gold numbers.”
“Sapphire Bates from The Flower Arranger was just incredible when it came to the wedding flowers and was able to create something completely unique! Using some of my favourite flowers like king protea and mixing them with trailing amaranthus and anthurium. All day everyone was commenting on the flowers as they were so unusual!”
Mozzarella and Rocket Salad with Tomato and Chilli Salsa (V)
Toasted garlic bruschetta, topped with rocket salad and slices of creamy mozzarella, garnished with tomato, red onion and chilli salsa
Prawn and Crayfish Tian
Prawns and Crayfish bound in Marie Rose sauce served with sliced Avocado, dressed leaves and Lemon Dressing
Avocado and Humous Salad and Toasted Pitta Bread
Ripe avocado, blended with chickpea tahini and garlic, served with pine nut and rocket salad
Free Range Breast of Chicken
Stuffed with Chorizo served on Sweet Onion and Potato Lyonnaise with a Roasted Tomato and Smoked Paprika Sauce
Roasted Vegetable Wellington (V)
Seasonal vegetables, blended and encrusted in puff pastry, finished with red wine and cranberry reduction
Garlic and Saffron Stewed Courgette with Butter Bean and Mint
Lightly braised courgette with garlic and saffron tossed with butter bean and served with a mint salsa
Handmade crisp butter pastry with a rich lemon filling served with clotted cream, raspberries and caramelised lemon zest
Dark Chocolate Fondant
A dreamy chocolate dessert with cherries and mascarpone cream
Once everyone’s bellies were full, it was onto the speeches.
After speeches, it was off downstairs to cut the cake, that was graciously made by Alan’s mum.
“We tried to find an old wine barrel for the cake to sit on. However, the cake, which was made by Alan’s mum, ended up being far too big! So instead we opted for a large wooden reel which reminded us of the rustic farms we love so much.”
“Although having a band wasn’t important to us, making our first dance a special moment was! We chose to have Tom Ryder perform our first dance song out on the library terrace in the moments before the sun began to set. We chose Guy Sebastian Set In Stone for our first dance, being our favourite Australian artist, and the words reflect all of the time Alan and I had to spend away from each other during the start of our relationship.”
“We are known by family and friends for our epic travel videos and everyone’s favourite featured the song “Shut up and Dance” by walk the moon. As a surprise for our family, Tom kicked in with this song after the first verse and chorus of our chosen slow song, and we invited everyone to join us. This was one of the highlights of our day.”
After the first dance, it was then time to chill, chat and boogie on the dance floor!
And as soon as they knew it, the day was over and it was time for bed… But what a wonderful day they had!
We asked Sarah and Alan some questions regarding the build-up to the day;
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
“The most expensive part of the wedding was actually getting from Australia to the UK! We decided to splurge on business class flights, which was 100% the best decision we have ever made!”
What was your biggest wedding saving?
“I am a massive shopper and saved a lot of money on a variety of items for our wedding. The Bridesmaids dresses were purchased in the Black Friday Sale and were 70%!
I also made the table runners myself which was a huge saving. Quotes to hire silk runners was nearly £1000, however, I made them myself with material from Australia for a fraction of the cost.”
Based on your own experience, give us some top tips:
“From planning my own wedding and hundreds of others, the best tip I can give is that your wedding should reflect you as a couple. It is so easy to get caught up in the Pinterest posts and wedding magazines. Our most memorable moments of the day came from the ones which really reflected our personalities and came from our own mind, and not from a magazine.”
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
Although in our eyes our wedding day was perfect, we wish we had booked a videographer. The DIY videos we have are hilarious, but it would have been nice to have a professional video of our day. It’s only one day and it would have been worth the additional cost.
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
“Two days after the wedding we went to Bali for two weeks, where we stayed in a private villa on the beaches of Uluwatu for a bit of R&R! When we got back to Australia we decided to extend our honeymoon and go travelling for the next few years! We sold everything and finished renovating our vintage caravan and are currently doing a big lap with our two dogs. We also have trips to Thailand and Scandinavia booked for 2019 – the adventure continues!”
From all of us here, we wish Sarah and Alan a happy married life together and hope that we can welcome you back here very soon!
Groom: Peter Jackson (Australia) and various vintage pieces
The accessories: Family heirlooms; hairpiece by Etsy Serenity
Bridesmaid’s dresses: Little Mistress
Other outfits: Various vintage pieces for Groomsman
Wedding rings: Ernest Jones
Wedding cake: Made by Mandy, Mother of the Groom
Invitations: made by Bride
Photographer: Nick Ilott
Wooden place cards: Etsy
Florist and styling: Sapphire Bates, The Flower Arranger