Sarah & James tied the knot with us on 23rd December 2019 which is a fantastic day to celebrate the love you have for each other and start your new lives together on Christmas Eve as husband and wife. Christmas comes early, it really is the most wonderful time of the year!
After getting engaged in New York at Christmas, a Christmas wedding it had to be for Sarah and James and here they tell us their story…
So tell us about the proposal, how and where did it happen?
“It all started after watching Home Alone 2 Christmas 2016 and deciding that we had to go to New York for Christmas 2017! The trip was everything that the film and countless others say New York would be like. Impressive, awe inspiring and magical, with a good dose of tasty American food to boot! We saw the sights, had a Christmas Eve boat cruise around the Hudson river, a walking tour of Manhattan and after visiting the Empire State Building on the evening of our three year anniversary of 23rd December and “disappointing” Sarah with no proposal, James popped the question on Christmas morning in our hotel room. Funny thing though, the ring size was far from ideal, but with all the excitement it wasn’t an issue! It was the most special holiday that we would have been fools not to make the occasion one to remember!”
…So, with the hard part over and the ring on your finger, what was your first step in to wedding planning?
“It was still Christmas Day in New York and the hunt for a venue began with champagne in hand at a rooftop bar overlooking Central Park! Sarah was always planning wedding ideas on Pinterest so there was already an abundance of thoughts. Because we got together at Christmas three years prior, and then we were engaged at Christmas, we knew that it had to be a Christmas wedding! James was familiar with the north Essex area and we wanted a gorgeous venue, we knew to look around there first. After Sarah searched for some venues, Gosfield Hall immediately came up as a serious contender and we had to take a look.”
What made you choose your wedding venue?
“When we arrived back in the UK we went to see Gosfield Hall within a week and we knew instantly it was where we had to get married. We could just picture the whole day with all of our family and friends… Sarah cried just imagining it all! We were so impressed with the venue and staff that we had no hesitation and signed on the dotted line on the same day.”
“We wanted somewhere where we could host our friends and family and have it as our own place instead of fitting in with others. It was a key factor that there was the room for our guests to stay over as we loved the idea of having everyone waking up together on Christmas Eve, having enjoyed the big day with us. As well as that, the attention to detail that Gosfield Hall provided for the Christmas decorations was magical. Because we loved the venue so much, we ended up being regulars at Gosfield Hall – we attended the majority of the open day events which was pivotal in planning the fine details of the wedding day. We even attended a couple of the Dinner Date nights so we could sample the amazing food and make sure that we really catered to our guests tastes as well as our own. This lead to us tweaking the Whisky Marmalade Pudding to give the extra kick we wanted for dessert!”
“Once we found the venue we started looking at the other items to think about. Sarah was bought a wedding planner by a friend which became her bible throughout the two years of planning. This included adding thoughts about James getting to Gosfield Hall as Sarah would be staying in the bridal cottage the night before. James had said that if he could arrive in a Delorean to look like the car from the film Back To The Future then he’d give Sarah free reign over all of the wedding planning. Before James knew it, we were both agreeing on the plan and he knew that he was going to be arriving in a car he had wanted to see all his life! “
Wedding budget: how did you organise your wedding budget?
“We started with looking at what we could afford to save each month. In all honesty though, we did overspend the budget by the time we got to the big day. Fortunately enough, we both knew it was something that we could cover in the long term so we decided to go all in for our dream day. Sarah made good use of the Gosfield Hall blog page to get inspiration and ideas on how best to apply the budget and it really settled some of the bigger elements of the day.”
Inspiration: Did you use blogs/social media/magazines for ideas?
“Sarah did buy the odd bridal magazine but, in all honesty, it was the personalised touches on Pinterest that really caught our eye. It wasn’t used for taking specific ideas, but it aided the idea of the classic white and gold Christmas that we were dreaming of. Sarah also became heavily addicted to the US version of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’, and had to be talked out of going back to New York just for the dress!”
What were your wedding “must have’s”?
“There was so much that we wanted to make sure that we got in for the big day. The main things we knew we needed were the venue to allow our key people to stay, the Back to the Future Delorean and the photographer to capture the day. The other key area was music as there’s always something playing in our house and we both love the extra feels it can bring, so a string quartet was essential for that extra magic touch. Fortunately we found Scintillo String Quartet and we couldn’t have asked for better.”
How did you choose your photographer?
“We had been to a wedding of one of our best friends a couple of years ago and they had Matt Wing as their photographer. When we saw those results we were stunned and knew he was the one. We really loved that his documentary style meant that the real moments were captured – they’re pictures that we’ll treasure forever. Whilst we were keen to embrace the informal style, we knew we needed the traditional wedding group shots, so what better way to do that at a place like Gosfield Hall than with a royal style photoshoot.”
How did you choose your wedding suppliers?
“This was a mixture of going to wedding fairs and online searching. Ultimately, the majority of our choices came down to recommendations from other friends who got married recently – this is how we found Matt Wing, Maria at Just Because Florist and Sam at Lemon Grove Lettering for our invitations.”
Describe your wedding attire
“James decided that when he was picking the suit, he wanted to wear a frock coat instead of a standard suit jacket. It wasn’t until he got to Coes in Maldon to see all of the options that the idea of wearing a top hat and a cane came to mind. Initially James wondered if it would have been too much, but over the course of a year or so during the planning he decided that he wanted to take the plunge and enjoy looking and feeling epic on the big day. He didn’t regret it for a second and the groomsmen looked pretty dapper too!
Sarah found her dress at The Wedding Shop in Colchester, having initially gone there to try on something completely different. However, once the right dress was found that was it – the decision to be a princess for the day was made.”
What accessories did you wear on the day?
“Sarah bought James an amazing pocket watch and James bought Sarah a ‘Wife’ bracelet charm. The groomsmen wore stag printed socks with stag cufflinks for the suit, whilst the older bridesmaids had their initials on reindeer antler necklaces – it was all very coordinated. Well, except for the gold flashing LED trainers for the two youngest bridesmaids!”
What was your ceremony like?
“We wanted to keep the ceremony concise, but at the same time personal to us. After the entourage had piled down the aisle, we were able to include two readings which brought equal tears to the eyes along with the giggles. We knew at the time that we had really enjoyed this, but looking at the pictures since has reminded us of how special this moment was – it’s so nice to see the pure love from all around.”
Tell us about your Drinks Reception and Wedding Breakfast…
“In all honesty we didn’t see all that much of the drinks reception as this is when we were off round the grounds to capture some beautiful pictures. However, our guests have all told us how special it felt to come together in the exquisite library, with the string quartet playing some of our favourite hits in the background, setting the mood along with the glittering Christmas trees.”
“We felt that with the white and gold Christmas theme, that classic crooners would suit the sound of the wedding breakfast. We really embraced the Christmas theme here, whilst wanting to maintain the elegance that we were going for – not necessarily the word you would associate with gold glittery reindeer but it worked. These paired with the beautifully prepared wreathes around the gold candles just made it feel so warmingly festive. Oh, and of course the last minute addition of the gold cutlery.”
“As for the speeches, they were all fantastic! We had the Father of the Bride, Groom and Best man, but we wanted to break tradition and include the Chief Bridesmaid as well. Everyone bought their best material, didn’t make the awkward jokes and the guests had nothing but praise for all of the speech givers.”
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
“We didn’t go over the top on any one thing, but we did make sure that we had everything that we wanted – we probably should have said no to a couple of things. The biggest unexpected splurges was the band as we decided last minute to book them (which was totally worth it as everybody loved them, but it wasn’t factored in from the beginning) and paying JF Styling for the Queens Gallery to be decorated white for the ceremony. We initially wanted to get married in the Grand Salon as we loved the grand feel of it, but our guest numbers exceeded the room capacity so we needed to get married in the Queens Gallery. We couldn’t wait to get married in that space, but we were more excited when we visited Gosfield Hall on an open day and found that we could decorate the room with a white carpet, meaning we could keep the white and gold theme throughout the day. Again, this was worth every penny come the day!”
Did you have a band or DJ for your evening reception?
“We initially chose not to hire a band as we felt that the dancing space may have been a bit restrictive. But during the planning Sarah found a fantastic band that had the ability to be more mobile and be unique enough to warrant the extra cost. They were the The Iron Boot Scrapers and they were a big band quartet playing modern hits – and they completely won over all of our family and friends who were dancing from the minute they started to the moment they finished!”
Tell us about your first dance – what song did you chose and why?
“Although we have our favourite songs, there wasn’t a particular one that we felt we wanted to dance to. It wasn’t until we were listening to various songs that we settled on one – LOVE by Nat King Cole. It set the standard for the classy crooner feel that we wanted on the day. After our New York engagement, James had also bought us dance lessons and in time we learnt a fully choreographed routine. It took over 14 hours of practice but it was completely worth it as it bowled over the crowd and will leave a special memory for both of us.”
Based on your own experience, give us some top tips:
“Talk to family members and friends whose opinions you want to take on board. It may feel that you should be obliged to follow what you THINK close relatives want you to have, but we found it to be completely the opposite. Both of our families were always telling us that ‘it is your day, so you decide what you want’.”
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
“We’d honestly do it all again – ten times over. We loved every single moment of it! The one slight regret is that we didn’t have a videographer, nothing major but I would definitely recommend it to anyone else.”
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
“We had a fantastic two week honeymoon in Mexico staying in the Rivera Maya area. It was a fantastic experience and to just be us after all the build up and pressure of the wedding was exactly what we wanted. We did consider flying out over Christmas time but the prices were crazy expensive, so we opted for New Years Eve instead and got to our resort in time for the celebrations! It also meant that we were more able to afford the honeymoon of a lifetime that we both dreamt of!”
James and Sarah’s supplier guide:
Groom and Groomsmens suits: Coe’s Suit Hire Maldon
Brides’ Dress: The Wedding Shop, Colchester
Groomsmen’s Cufflinks: Debenhams
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Everypretty
Wedding Rings (Brides’ ring was personally designed): Ernest Jones
Wedding Cake: Martin Trevena
Wedding Car: Delorean Time Machine Hire UK
Invitations: Lemon Grove Lettering
Photographer: Matt Wing
Band: The Iron Boot Scrapers
DJ: Gosfield Hall’s In House DJ
First Dance Choreography: Elite Dance, Chelmsford
Caricaturist: M K Caricaturist
Ceremony styling and Gold Cutlery: JF Styling
Thank you for sharing your story with us Sarah and James, wishing you a lifetime of love, laughter and happiness!
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