“The proposal was on a weekend away in Lanzarote, an island that means a lot to us as we have holidayed there numerous times since getting together, one of which we came back expecting our first daughter. I felt it only fitting another big change happened there.
It wasn’t as straight forward as it could have been though, first off our hotel had overbooked so we had to move to another hotel, by which point we weren’t in the best of moods and I thought, not tonight.
I slept holding onto my bag, paranoid someone was going to take the ring as there was no safe in the hotel we were moved to. Day two we were moved back into our original hotel and were able to relax. We went out for the important part that evening, watching West Ham. Once the hammers had won and we had plenty of drinks, it was time to walk her down to the ideal quiet spot on the beach that I had picked out. However she had other ideas and didn’t want to go on the beach at night, about ten minutes of relentless moaning later, I managed to drag her down there and pop the question, much to her surprise as I was convinced she knew, but she genuinely had no clue which was nice.
She said yes and two years later we were at Gosfield Hall saying ‘I Do’.”
Sarah and David’s planning started almost straight away from when the ring landed nicely on Sarah’s finger.
“First steps were sat on a wall looking out to sea in Lanzarote, post-proposal & a few champagnes later; we thought we had got it down within that evening, two years later it was completely different to that vision!
It started seriously again about six months before the big date, once we were serious about our dates and booking our venue. A little binder/planner was purchased and that was it, planning was in full swing.
Pinterest was a big part of the planning as it’s so visual, it was useful to see others ideas and how we could incorporate it into our vision, using easy search times when different ideas popped to mind. Various Wedding magazines, including Essex specific ones, were useful in venue exploration and inspiration for the suppliers and details.
We had no set ‘must haves’ in relation to venue etc as we were fairly open in our search criteria initially, however, a great photographer was a definite must-have. With a background in photography (groom), this was a crucial find that took a lengthy search; absolutely worth the searching.”
Sarah and David booked their wedding with 5 months to spare, so it was all hands on deck with their planning!
“We had a rough idea on our budget and what we actually wanted in terms of venue and quality, this is why we made the decision to make a ‘late booking’, as by being flexible in our dates and booking with only five months to go we were able to secure a dream venue within our budget. However, it was stressful trying to cram the planning and organizing into just five months.
We used a budget calculator on hitched.co.uk, which we found really useful as we were able to visually track what was being spent and what items got cut from the list to accommodate the budget.
We spent hours searching online for Essex based venues, as it was important for it to be accessible to the guests invited, but equally not too close to home to ensure it had that special edge to the day. We didn’t speak to family and friends too much about our searches as we didn’t want others experiences to influence our decisions, in addition to wanting to keep our search and planning personal to us.
Sarah found Gosfield Hall via a Google search and sent off for a brochure, when we received the brochure we thought, straight in the no pile as it was initially out of our budget; however, after checking on their Facebook page and seeing the last minute booking offers we thought let’s book a viewing.
We had two bookings that week and needless to say, we didn’t attend the second one; Gosfield Hall absolutely blew us away.
From the moment we drove up the driveway we knew this was where we wanted to get married, Emma showed us around and explained every room in the house to us during our wander. We were particularly blown away by the Ballroom and the Library, both rooms had an air of history about them.
We were then taken to the Bridal Suite, Roccoco Room which absolutely blew our minds. It was the biggest bedroom we had ever seen and just kept on going!
We had our two young daughters with us for the viewing as we wanted to include them as much as possible and the staff were so friendly towards them, didn’t seem fazed when they were running around and causing us to have heart palpitations every time they went near something that looked incredibly old and expensive. For a couple with two children ourselves and a large number of children who would be attending our big day, this was one of the key deciding factors in choosing our venue. (Emma didn’t know it but at that point she had us!)
Its also important to note that due to the location of the house within the grounds, there are no shared facilities, shared bar or general members of the public milling about during your big day. It was solely our own for the day, which gave us exactly what we wanted both in it being personal and safe for the children.”
So, with the venue booked, their vision in hand, suppliers booked, there wasn’t much left to worry about, other than waiting on the big day which was not far away at all!
Sarah and the girls, Victoria, Natasha, Kirsty, arrived the night before and stayed in our Lady’s Chambers cottage. They then awoke fresh and ready for the big day! Preparations started in the cottage, then moved up to the Bridal Suite to finish off getting ready.
Meanwhile, downstairs the house was being transformed into the day they had been imagining!
“Our inspiration came from a lot of Rustic barn style Weddings that we had seen in our search, we both really liked the idea of mixing the rustic details of that style with the grandeur of Gosfield Hall’s rooms.”
David and his Groomsmen, Andre and Gavin – best men, Ashley and Stephen – David’s Dad and Sarah’s Dad, Daniel, Daryl and Stephen – Ushers all arrived at the hall to get changed and ready for guests to start arriving.
The boys were ready and awaiting Sarah’s imminent arrival!
“It was an easy choice to pick out my grooms party, eight including myself and I stole an idea I saw online around giving a ‘box’ with a personal touch to ask them if they wanted to be a part of our day, which consisted of a personal message asking them to be best man/groomsman, the actual invite itself and the all-important beer.”
With everything now in place, Sarah made her way to the ceremony where David was eagerly awaiting;
“My sister, niece and two sister-in-laws to be were my Bridesmaids. I made up little boxes with prosecco, chocolates and a note asking them to be my bridesmaids which they all loved. I had an idea of the type of dresses I wanted, long flowing gowns with some detail. Initially, we were looking at a dusty pink, but so many failed attempts with online purchases and the struggle to find pink in winter was driving us crazy.
The boys had purchased navy suits so we decided to change and go for Navy dresses with pink accessories to ensure it all matched up nicely, this was the best move as the girls were so much more comfortable in navy and we felt it all looked perfect together on the day.”
“The initial style I had in mind was what I actually found, which was a figure-hugging lace dress with a little bit of sparkle. With a few alterations around the length and opening up the back to look and feel how I wanted it to.
I went dress shopping with the mothers and sisters and knew it was the dress for me as soon as I put it on, it was so comfortable and had the detailing I wanted without it looking too much.”
“I had small pearl and crystal hairpins to complement my dress, bought online via Wish. I bought my shoes from Amazon as I couldn’t find any I liked in the shops, I wanted a pair that were wedged heel, as I prefer how comfortable wedges are. They were a white lace design, with a floral design that was in keeping with my dress.
The outfit was topped off with a pair of beautiful rose gold earrings which David bought for me as part of a wedding gift I opened that morning. In addition to the something old, borrowed, new and blue.”
“We got our suits from Burton’s, following a weekend of trawling through all of the shops in Lakeside and trying on a ton of different suits and styles. Tip – Go with just your best man in the first instance, not your whole entourage, as it gets chaotic when you’re walking around with no set idea on what you’re after with a large group.
We settled on a sleek blue skinny fit three-piece suit from Burtons which was the same across my whole groom’s party, only differing on the tie for myself to give it that small detail and standing out as the groom. We ordered online as they didn’t have all of the sizes we needed in-store and found a discount code online, which saved a fortune against the in-store price for eight suits.”
“We wanted to ensure that it had as few words as possible, as we’re both not big public speakers and didn’t know how the nerves were going to take us on the day. We’ve seen far too many you’ve been framed clips on people passing out to risk it.”
“Sarah’s Dad walked her down the aisle and gave her away. We had a few pieces of music whilst guests were seated, which in hindsight we probably stressed far too much about as nobody remembered what was actually playing at this point; but it was nice to know it was our choices.
Sarah walked down the aisle to a piano version of “Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, which was also the song used for our first dance. Sarah loves the song and I loved the symmetry of having the two versions of the same song during the key points of the day.”
And with that, they were Mr & Mrs!
From the ceremony, Sarah and David went into their drinks reception, got to catch up with their guests, then go off to have some pictures together.
Pimm’s & Lemonade
Tempura King Prawn
Basil crostini with Feta and Tomato Pearls (V)
Free range honey chilli Chicken skewers
Buckwheat Blinis with Smoked Salmon and Sour Cream
Rare Roast Beef served on Rye Bread with Horseradish cream mousse
Mini Chocolate Brownies
“We wanted a reportage style, with minimal ‘staged’ shots as we are both not comfortable in front of the camera and didn’t want to be pulled away from our guests for hours on end. We wanted someone who was able to capture the people on the day, in addition to the details, the venue and setting to ensure we didn’t forget a single bit of the day.
We found Ela’s website and immediately fell in love with her photographs, she had the exact style we were looking at and a few email exchanges later she met with us at Gosfield Hall to discuss our requirements and got to know the venue.”
After they had captured all their pictures, it was time to head to the Ballroom to have a look at their vision and to start the wedding breakfast.
“We had our Wedding Breakfast in the Ballroom, which was by far the standout room of the day. We were absolutely stunned by how well the staff at Gosfield Hall had put our vision into the room and made it even better with their own touches.”
“We focused a lot of energy into our details, from the favours and place names to the centrepieces and gifts. We wanted it all to be memorable not only to us but to all our family and friends also.
We mixed and matched our centrepieces, alternating between old wooden lanterns with flickering candles to rattan balls with string lights inside. Set up with wooden script place names and handmade table names. We chose to name our tables after the rooms of the house, to link in the two stark differences of our rustic details and the grand house… Plus table numbers are boring.”
“Looking back we actually had a relatively small list of suppliers on the day, as Gosfield Hall managed so many aspects of the day in-house, which reduced the stress and organizing for us.”
“We had our sister in law put together all of the flower arrangements, as she had done for her own Wedding. This saved a small fortune and gave us much greater control of the end product. Using silk flowers so that they can be kept as a keepsake after the big day.”
On a bed of pickled red cabbage with a toasted sesame and honey dressing
Baked Camembert Tart
Poached William pear topped with rich and creamy Camembert encased with puff pastry
Traditional Roast Topside of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding
Served on a bed of horseradish mash and a rich red wine jus
Roasted Vegetable Wellington (V)
Roasted seasonal vegetables encrusted in puff pastry served with a cranberry reduction
A rich chocolate mousse set on a brandy soaked sponge, garnished with cream and even more chocolate!
Baked White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake
A butter biscuit base with rich cream cheese topping served with a raspberry coulis
“The most memorable moments were the feeling of being treated like royalty, the food and drink were amazing, the serving staff gliding in and out like a scene from the polar express and the moments where we were able to sit back and watch our guests having so much fun, this made the day for us.”
After speeches, it was time to head downstairs, greet arriving evening guests, then on to cutting the cake and the first dance!
“Our cake was a difficult one, as we wanted a grand, semi-naked cake that fit our theme without blowing our budget on something that generally gets forgotten about. We found a supplier via Facebook who were running a deal that we could not give up, we had not heard of them or seen any recommendations and took a huge gamble and it paid off, as we were stunned by how beautiful the cake was. We can’t tell you what it tasted like but can tell you the large number of children in attendance at our wedding enjoyed it!”
“The only change at the venue itself was purchasing the candle package, which made a huge difference and gave the building a warm and cosy ambience during a dark February evening.”
“Spending time on our details makes a huge difference and gave everybody a little bit of our own personalities throughout the day. We finished it off with a late booking of a few feature pieces such as the LOVE Sign and rustic postbox from Sweet Delights.”
“We had the same song that we had chosen for Sarah to walk down the aisle to, just a different version of it, it was nice to have that link to an earlier part of the day, both pre and post ‘I dos’. No routine, we’re both terrible dancers and had no chance at impressing anybody with any moves. We then transitioned it into a song that meant a lot to Sarah’s father for the bride & daughter dance.”
“We ideally wanted a band but opted for the Gosfield Hall DJ as our budget ran dry and the band wasn’t a necessity for us. We were able to communicate with him before the wedding and give an idea on our tastes and a rough playlist, he did not disappoint. Don’t be afraid to request songs that you like in addition to that which your guests may like, it was great to be able to party to a few of your favourite songs on the day.
We saw a great idea that may be good for future couples; unfortunately, we saw it too late. Stick a song request in with your RSVP, that way your playlist is filled with your guest’s choices. However, a classic wedding playlist on Spotify did the trick just fine.. plus a bit of Baby Shark for the kids.”
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
“Other than the actual Venue itself, this was the bulk of the budget. Our biggest splurge was on the attire, both bridal and grooms party. Opting for outright purchase rather than rental, that way everybody got something nice to take away with them.”
Based on your own experience, give us some top tips:
“Don’t be afraid to haggle on prices, you’ll be amazed at how flexible people are so you don’t have to compromise on quality. Enjoy your planning and take breaks, once the Wedding is over the lack of planning leaves a huge gap in your life for a while.
Don’t forget to get somebody to film your speeches; we were so engrossed in the day that we forgot to ask anybody to film them for us.
Have a planner if you can, it made the day stress free for both of us as we didn’t need to meet the suppliers or do any organizing on the day; Enjoy every second, it goes so fast!”
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
“This is something we spoke about a lot after the wedding, there wasn’t actually a single thing we would have changed. It was absolutely an amazing experience from the night before until the morning after.”
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
“We jetted off to Las Vegas and then onto Los Angeles, child-free and then on to Norfolk with the girls to ensure they were a part of it. However, it snowed in Vegas… should have gone to the Maldives!”
Wedding dress: Bridal 4 Less
Suits: Burtons & TM Lewin
Bridesmaid’s dresses: Little Mistress
Wedding rings: H Samuel
Wedding cake: Sugar Strandz Cakes & Events
Photographer: Ela Walenda Photography
Band/disco/DJ: Gosfield Hall DJ
Wedding favours: Handmade
Flowers: Sister in-law, Chrystal McDonagh
Place Names: Wooden Crafted Gifts
Photobooth: Fine City Photobooths
LOVE Sign & Postbox: Sweet Delights
Hair & Make Up: Hair & Makeup by Stephanie