I got married to my best friend in May. It was the happiest day, which followed a wonderful year of planning, celebrating, hen parties, cake tasting and disastrous make-up trials. It was love at first sight when we met in 2016, and we got engaged on our first anniversary, in the Pavilion Gardens, Brighton. We managed several hours of hysterical newly engaged glee before speculating about what our ideal wedding day would involve, and both immediately agreed that an informal, rural barn setting would be our dream. We had visions of somewhere on the South Downs in Sussex, with fairy lights, hay bales, cocktails and colour. Lots of colour. We both love Nepal and have been there, separately, many times between us, and have since been rather obsessed with Nepalese food in all its forms. So, we agreed that curry, colour – oh yes, and cake – lots of cake would feature on the day.
We spent a few weeks looking at barns; there are lots of beautiful venues in Sussex, but when we saw Pangdean Old Barn, it was love at first sight (again). It is a restored 18th Century barn on the South Downs Way, home to Nicky Currie and her family. Nicky and her team also cater events there, and we knew the food would be amazing. They had our preferred date available and it was booked for 12th May 2018.
Having booked the date, I immediately started looking for a dress, and having never been someone who has daydreamed for hours on end about being a bride, I didn’t know where to start, except that I really, really, love to dance, so I was pretty sure it needed to be knee length so I could twirl, unimpeded, for hours on end. I had a booking at Ozone on Church Street in Brighton and tried on all the mid length, netted, vintage style tea-dresses I could find and thought I had found ‘the one’ before lunch.
After a week’s cool down, I revisited, just wondering about the possibility, just the ‘tiniest’ possibility, that I had perhaps been a little hasty in not trying on anything other than what I had been looking for. So I gave the long dresses a try, even squeezing myself into a ‘mermaid’, a ‘trumpet’, and an enormous layered ballgown which was surprisingly weighty! And then I really found ‘the one’. Actually, it was two – made up of a full length gown, a reverse bolero – and I finished it off with a sparkly belt. It was lacy. It had a train. It was fitted. It was absolutely nothing like the dress I had in mind. I loved it!
After deciding on the dress, all of the other ideas fell into place. We wanted to do as much as possible ourselves, adding personal touches, making things by hand, and where that wasn’t possible, we wanted to source as much as possible from local businesses.
We got our wedding stationary from Ivy Ellen; the colour scheme set the tone for the decisions we were yet to make, and somehow seemed to pick out the colour of Pangdean Barn itself. We used the same design, later, for our table plan and as labels on wild flower seeds which would be our wedding favours.
Our next step was booking a local florist. I saw Lib Adams, aka Bettie Rose flowers, on Instagram, and loved her work. Lib immediately grasped our tentative ideas after one meeting, and after a second meeting over a coffee a few weeks before the wedding, the vision was in full bloom, so to speak. We wanted a rustic feel and spent months collecting milk bottles and juice bottles, decorating them with ribbons for the table and barn. We wanted a rustic, woodland feel, naming all our tables after birds and using old wood slices for the table centres. Lib created the most beautiful arrangements of sweet peas, peonies, moody blue roses, and delicate foliage that complemented the theme, colours and spring greens of the season.
We didn’t know what to do about cake; we just knew we like it a lot and nobody makes them better than Elina from Osetta, the cafe across the road from my shop on North Road. I love carrot, Pete loves a Victoria sponge, so we decided, why have one, when we could have several?! She baked eight cakes in the end, meaning we wouldn’t have to decide; and vegans, celiacs and those who love to pick n mix, would all be happy. Everyone commented on the cakes; they were beautiful, decorated by Lib, and utterly delicious.
We borrowed a few items from my own shop, Little Beach Boutique, such as the heart shaped LED lights, which we mounted on the hay stack with knitting needles at the back of the barn.
We added some personal touches of our own to add to the rustic theme; we used an old pallet for our table plan and we sanded and painted another pallet to make our order of service, with the names of the songs, readings and bridal party written on it in colourful inks. We used the ceramic heart bunting that we sell in the shop to decorate the pallet with “O’Fossey”, our married name, and draped some to say “welcome” at the entrance. We organised for colourful lanterns and extra fairy lights to be rigged up across the ceiling, added photo garlands, a dressing up box and photo booth – and had some delicious cocktails in kilner jars on offer for our guests.
All that was left to prepare was the hair and make-up! After a few disastrous (but very funny) make-up trials, I was delighted to find Natasha of Pretty Me Vintage, who understood the look I was going for. Nicky from Coco Belle Styling, spent the morning doing all our hair – I loved having it in rollers while I opened a bottle of fizz!
My mum was to be giving me away, my sister was my maid of honour and three of my best friends and their daughters were bridesmaids and flower girls. Seeing everybody together was incredible, unforgettable. We met the registrar in the living room at Pangdean before going in to the barn, taking a moment before going in. Nicky, the owner and also the caterer at Pangdean, was hands on from the moment we arrived, holding up the umbrella as we walked into the barn, before creating the most delicious wedding food I have ever had.
I was blown away by how beautiful the barn looked, and seeing my soon to be husband looking back at me from the end of the aisle took my breath away. When we got engaged, there had been musicians playing one of our favourite songs, purely by chance, in the Pavilion gardens. We went up to them, in our excitement, to tell them that Pete had just proposed and they asked if they could play at our wedding. Twelve months later, there they were, playing Into My Arms by Nick Cave as I walked up the aisle hand in hand with my mum.
It was the perfect day, completely unforgettable, and complete joy from start to end.
…and I managed to dance in my dress!
All the photos are by Ella Penn Photography