My husband and I were lucky enough to get married at Stratton Court Barn on 28th June 2021. The wedding planning process was genuinely wonderful, though slightly traumatic at times (thanks COVID-19!), and culminated in an unforgettable day that friends and family still talk about 2 years later…
The Venue Hunt
This was one of our favourite parts of the wedding planning process, because we really made an adventure out of it!
We knew right away that we wanted our wedding to feel relaxed and take place in an environment where all our guests would feel comfortable. A beautiful manor house where you’re too scared to break something was never going to be our vibe! Adam’s family are from London but mine are based in Manchester, so we roughly settled on Oxfordshire and The Cotswolds as being a nice middle ground.
From there, we compiled a list of barn style venues in the area and that’s where the fun began! We booked some time off work, hired a car and spent a few days touring the area, visiting a different venue each day. Lots of prosecco was consumed!!
After visiting Stratton Court Barn and spending time with the incredible Karin, we both just knew that this was the venue for us. We were planning a wedding of 80 guests (little did we know at the time that COVID would take the decision out of our hands!) and Stratton Court Barn was the perfect option. Small enough that the wedding would feel cosy and intimate, but with enough little areas to please everyone, from the crazy dancers to sit-and-chatters!
We were also totally smitten with Karin and her team, and boy were we right to be! I didn’t realise at the time how important having a venue with incredible staff would be, but we count our lucky stars that it was Karin we had by our side through the COVID nightmare.
After visiting SCB, the venue was an easy decision. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the dress!!
I had probably tried on close to 80 dresses before I booked an appointment at the Jenny Packham store in Mayfair, not really expecting to find the one. But when I tried on the Pippa dress, I knew I’d finally found a gown that felt like me, not like I was playing dress up!
I paired the dress with a floor-length veil, also from Jenny Packham, which I had hand embroidered by Julia Bethan of Ink + Thimble with our names in my handwriting, our wedding date and a rabbit and bear. I kept this as a surprise from my husband, so it was incredibly special to show him on the day and is now framed on our wall!
For the evening reception outdoors I wore a denim jacket! I absolutely love denim jackets, and really wanted the wedding to truly represent us, so it was the only choice really. I personalised it with iron-on patches spelling out my new married name. One of my favourite memories is putting it on in the bridal suite, then heading back out to cheers from our guests!
I loved this part of the wedding planning! We went for a summer floral theme, because I knew from the get-go that I wanted to go all-out on the flowers! After all, if you can’t do this for your wedding, then when can you?!
The flowers themselves were designed and created by Lizzy of The Flower Story and they genuinely took my breath away. I remember walking into the venue early in the morning to get ready, and there were buckets of the most incredible flowers there waiting to be arranged. I thought to myself, I wonder what they’re for, they can’t possibly be ours, they’re just so beautiful and there are so many of them. But they were! Lizzy was so accommodating throughout the whole wedding planning process as COVID changed our plans numerous times, from the number of guests to the table configuration to whether the event would be held inside or outside! I was thrilled we got to have our indoor ceremony with my much longed-for hanging floral installation.
The whole process of working with Lizzy and seeing the impact the flowers had on our day, my memories of the wedding and how beautiful our photographs look as a result even spurred me on to pursue a career change and I am now a budding wedding florist myself. So my wedding really changed my life in more ways than one!
The floral theme continued with real pressed flowers on our delicious cake from Terre et Lune Cake Design, patterned bridesmaids dresses and the wedding stationery which I hand-painted and then had printed via printed.com.
We also worked with a wedding stylist, the wonderful Gemma from The White Emporium. We hired lots of items from Gemma, including chiffon table runners, extra seating, a S’mores station by the firepit and much more. Gemma was on hand on the day to take all these pieces and turn them into wedding magic. When Adam and I walked into the barn after it had been turned over for the reception I couldn’t believe my eyes. It just looked so beautiful!
Words of Wisdom
Obviously we hit more than a few roadblocks along our wedding planning journey, all down to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I won’t go into those here, because hopefully it’s something no future bride or groom will ever have to contend with! Despite all this, I adored planning my wedding and wish I could do it over and over again.
Here are a few of the things I learned along the way:
Try not to obsess about your dress choice after you’ve ordered it
By all means take your time to choose one, because trying on wedding dresses is so fun! But once the decision has been made, step away from the photos. I found myself obsessively looking at pictures of not only myself in the dress but any other bride I could find on Instagram or Pinterest who was also wearing it. You chose your beautiful dress for a reason, because it made you feel fabulous!
Don’t panic about the weather
We got married in the height of summer and frankly, the weather wasn’t great. This was particularly stressful because COVID meant we needed to be outside if we wanted to be stood up and all sorts of other crazy things, but either way it really didn’t matter in the end. The weather is rarely as bad as those symbols on the BBC make it seem! Your guests can check the weather too, so if it looks cold, they’ll bring a layer and they genuinely won’t care. And neither will you, I promise!
The little touches make all the difference
We personalised our wedding in so many little ways. I walked up the aisle to Taylor Swift and we left to a song from Schitt’s Creek, one of our favourite TV shows. We had a reading from Winnie The Pooh, my favourite childhood book and even had a nod to our favourite musical, Hamilton, in our order of service. Many guests wouldn’t have even noticed some of these touches, but Adam and I did and that’s all that matters!
Don’t do things just because it’s ‘what you do at a wedding’!
I hear this piece of advice a lot, but it’s so true. This is YOUR day, so do things that will fill you with joy and forget the stuff that won’t. In hindsight, I probably regret having a first dance – it was so outside of our comfort zone and both of us felt super awkward the whole time!
Embrace the wedding planning process!
Say yes to the glass of prosecco, attend the wedding fair with your best friend, host a wine tasting night with your siblings, do some DIY with your dad. Whatever it is, embrace it and enjoy it. This is such a special time and you deserve to milk it!
Sarah & Adam’s suppliers:
Photographer: Story + Colour Photography
Florist: The Flower Story
Stylist: The White Emporium
Hair & Makeup: Lauren Wheeler
Videographer: Truly Madly Films
Entertainment: Johnny Ross Music
Tables: Oxford Event Hire