Homemade Weddings: A Magical, Musical Marriage…

Hello Walls: Homemade Weddings, the Bride and Groom

Mr & Mrs Parkes-Nield on their wedding day.

Back in 2012, in the middle of the Far Out Stage at Greenman Festival, South Wales, Sophie and Chris were awaiting Adam Buxton’s arrival on stage when the interval music began to play. LCD Soundsytem’s ‘Someone Great’ travelled through the speakers…and Chris chose this moment to propose to Sophie. The photo is probably a bit of a giveaway but yes, she said yes.

They’re a musical couple – Sophie, a folk fanatic and violin player, and Chris, a singer-songwriter and accomplished guitarist. They met back in 2006 when Sophie answered Chis’ ad for a violinist to join the band, Air Cav*. So of course when it came to planning for the big day, music was naturally a key component.

I’ve known Sophie for a number of years now and was privileged enough to be invited along to the wedding (I may have also been responsible for designing the wedding invitations so that probably left her with no choice but to invite me – perk of the job, I say.)


Homemade weddings folky invite graphic design

Homemade weddings folky invite CD case

The musical thread was established as early as the invitation, in the guise of a CD, landed on the doorstep with lyrics from folk song ‘Searching for Dams’ on the front – “We join our hands in wedding bands and married we shall be.”

The wedding took place in June 2014 at Bo Peep Farm in Banbury, Oxfordshire (they skipped 2013 due to Sophie’s irrational aversion to odd numbers). A beautiful venue, the ceremony was held onsite in Dovecote Barn – an impressive 18th Century conversion, and then the revelry continued as we moved onto a neighbouring field – 15 acres of land to do with what they wished. A marquee was erected and straw bales were scattered and similar to Kath’s wedding at York Maze, guests could camp over, saving them the expense of a hotel – this time the bride and groom joined in the camping fun too, albeit in a slightly more comfortable ‘Emperor Bell Tent’. Being a thrifty Yorkshire lass I was more than happy to pitch up  – but boy I wish I hadn’t had those last few ciders…tent plus early morning sunshine is not great for hangovers.


Hello Walls: Homemade Weddings Honeymoon Tent

It was an absolute blast – they’re such a great couple and I feel honoured to be able to feature their day as part of our Homemade Weddings series, sharing with you some of the personal touches that made it such a genuine and complete day.


Hello Walls homemade weddings. Bunting and Guitar card case

Preparations began right away in advance as Sophie started to hand sew 150 metres of bunting, a mighty task for which friends and family members were roped in to help with. Floral fabrics in blues, pinks and purple hues, the decorations were bound for the edges of the marquee where the reception was held – a simple way of creating a celebratory and welcoming feel to the space.

Sophie recalls “I really did go bunting mad. Pinking shears and thread lived permanently at the foot of my sofa as I made reams of the stuff for almost two years straight. I was pretty pleased to finally finish.”

All the effort was worth it as it’s still in use today – a length of it now draped across the fencing of the front garden of their new house together. The rest is loaned out, upon request, for various occasions including a 1st Birthday party, mine and Sophie’s 30th birthday celebrations and, most recently, for the hen party of one of her bridesmaids. It also made its way to Wales, back to the Green Man Festival and decorated our communal gazebo.


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Homemade Weddings: Crafty Hanging Paper Fans

wedding venue interior with hanging pinwheels

Getting married in a barn meant that I had a lot of space to fill to try to make things look more wedding-y than sheep shearing-y.

The high ceiling and wooden beams were crying out for decoration of some sort, and I wanted something simple, impactful and (most importantly) cheap.

Having not yet discovered Pinterest, I went old school and created a folder on my computer to collate any useful inspiration. I called this folder ‘hanging things’ (in hindsight I realise this could have signified more sinister pass times…)   I then tracked down as many ideas as I could from wedding blogs – from bunting to lanterns, to origami birds

Using bribes of Haribo and cider, I lured my unsuspecting bridesmaids into testing out some of these ideas in a tipsy craft-y session.  Our first attempt was tissue paper pom-poms, which looked lovely but were rather labour- intensive.  I also realised that they would be difficult to transport.  They do look fab though – here’s how to make them.

For our next attempt we took inspiration from this wedding and tried our hand at circular fans or ‘pinwheels’ or ‘rosettes’.  We made them in different sizes and colours and strung them together vertically on fishing lines to help fill the space.   The experiment was a success, and over the next few weeks I set about producing them on (what felt like) an industrial scale.  After an incident where I superglued my fingers together, I roped in professional expertise in the form of bridesmaid Ruth (a primary school teacher), who came armed with metre rulers, craft supplies, bags of patience, and brought some order to the chaos.

Pinwheels in suitcase
 pinwheels in transit

Instructions on how to make them under the cut…

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Unique And Vintage Wedding Bands

Wedding bands don’t get the same kind of attention as their blingy cousins, engagement rings.

People (myself included) tend to treat them as just another item on the wedding ‘to do’ list, but I think they deserve a bit more attention than that. After all, it’s a pretty long term jewellery commitment – a few levels up from selecting which Topshop earrings to buy…

On first look, wedding rings seemed to fall into three categories; plain and classic (but a bit boring), expensive and diamond studded, or modern and brutalist / industrial.  I was after someing simple and elegant, but not too plain, and so I struggled to find something to fit the bill.  As a girl, I also had the added complication of requiring something that would go with my engagement ring, a vintage 1920’s number with a warm, mellow colour to the gold.

As with most things, my avid following of wedding blogs saved the day.  I stumbled across an incredible wedding on 100 Layer Cake –  the beautiful handcrafted marriage of Artemis and Nao on the Isle of Wight.

Floral engraved ring

Not only is it one of my all time favourite nuptials of all of the weddings I’ve seen in blog-land, but when I read the full article on their website I clocked their gorgeous engraved rings and I was sold.  I was even more flabberghasted when I worked out that the couple made the rings themselves.  Woah.

Artemis and Nao happen to be the incrediblely talented pair behind Rust Jewellery, where they hand-craft beautiful, delicate pieces out of their workshop in Hatton Garden in London (Artemis is also a talented sewer and photographer and blogs about her craft creations, vintage finds and family’s adventures over at her blog Junkaholique).

I was so bowled over by their rings, that I booked a trip down to London (kindly put up by my good friend Lucy) and paid a visit to their little bat cave of jewellery magic. Artemis was very patient as I tried on just about every type of ring they made (whilst also oggling their lovely necklaces).  I finally settled on the floral engraved 2mm ring in gold (the white gold version is shown above) which matches perfectly the colour of my engagement ring. Ste opted for a plain court ring in the same gold.

More favourites under the cut….

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Stylish Wedding Dresses Under £500

So it turns out that dresses are quite a big thing when it comes to weddings.  I had hoped that my general aversion to all things overtly girly might mean that I was immune to the lure of the gown.  That perhaps I could exhibit a certain hipster cool-ness about it all and get hitched in a suit, or maybe one of the perfectly nice dresses I already own.  It wan’t to be.  I am a girl after all, and dressing up in big frocks is all part of the fun of being a bride.

However I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to part with the equivalent of a mortgage deposit to get a stunning dress.  You can find some really beautiful dresses for under £500 that in no way compromise on style – these are the ones that have recently caught my eye (hop over to Pinterest for the full list)

Designer style:  If you want a designer frock on a budget you can find unusual, stylish gowns by looking at the normal dress sections on sites like Net-A-Porter and filtering by white / cream dresses (ssh! no-one will know they’re not supposed to be a wedding dress…). L to R: Malene Birger Columba wrap-effect stretch-silk maxi dress Net-a-Porter, £400, Jarlo Kelly Maxi Dress £85, Maje Fire macramé-trimmed linen maxi dress Net-a-Porter £230


Short Dresses:   I went for a 50’s style short dress, but there are a whole range of short bridal styles around – both vintage and modern.  From L to R: Vintage 50s Dress by swingkatsvintage on Etsy £169, Vivienne Westwood Pavillion cutout cotton dress £375,  Embroidered lace 70s wedding dress by Dear Golden vintage on Etsy £267


Non-wedding-y, wedding dresses:  Who says wedding dresses have to be plain white? These gorgeous frocks will make any bride stand out. From L to R:  Chiffon Wedding Dress by ArjanB on Etsy, £635 (sorry – this one is slightly above the £500 limit but was too lovely to miss out), 1950s Cotton Floral Dress With Studded Pockets,  £119, Two-piece White Green Floral A-line Dress by Chinese Hut on Etsy, £103.92


High Street Gems:  You can pick up some great bargins on the high street (especially at sale time), and they’re handy for trying on with no bridal boutique-style pressure from sales assistants.  L to R: ASOS Pretty Gothic Embellished Skater Dress £95, Monsoon Erynne Dress -Ivory, £499, BHS  Ella Bridal Dress £110

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Discovering Alternative Wedding Venues in Yorkshire

We’re full swing into wedding season at the moment. I have four this summer (two down, two to go at this point) and loving the fantastic wedding venues we’re getting the opportunity to visit.

It seems that there are more and more options open to brides these days, which is brilliant for couples who want to pick somewhere that suits the kind of wedding they want; whether it be small and intimate, artsy, beach-y, rustic, classic, prison-chic – whatever floats your boat.

The fun thing about exploring wedding venues in Yorkshire when we were planning our wedding was that it uncovered places on our doorstep that we didn’t even know existed.  York maze was one of them, and here are some other favourites in the region:

Tiled hall cafe

1. Leeds Art Gallery & Tiled Hall Cafe – this beautiful room is part of Leeds Art Gallery, and has a stuning mosaic tiled ceiling and tiled walls, with huge windows that look out over millenium square. It’s the perfect spot for a reception for those getting hitched at Leeds Civic Hall (like these guys – check out their reception photos) or any of the churches in the centre of the city.  You can book it in conjunction with the art gallery, so your guests can meander round and feel cultured.


Marquee in a field Porch of a wooden cabin

2. Bivouac, Masham, North Yorkshire  – I know it sounds like a futuristic corporation, but this is actually a rather awesome spot in the Yorkshire Dales that lets you hold weddings in it’s woodland glade area.  If you’re a secret hippy or festival goer it should be right up your street – there’s a community fire pit, cheap wooden cabin lodgings for guests, hot tub, and you can even hold get married in the (semi) outdoors.  It makes for some stunning wedding pics too.

Interior of barn set up for wedding

3. The Cheerful Chilli, Otley, West Yorkshire – calling all veggies!  The Cheerful Chilli is a local gem – it serves inspired veggie food (beloved even by carnivores) and delicious homemade cakes.  Luckily for brides/grooms to be, it recently got a wedding license and opened up the barn adjacent to the cafe for weddings – rejoice!   The barn has a lot of charm, and the cafe is set across from Otley Chevin so your guests will be able to have a meander round the forest and perhaps even spot a resident deer or two.  The star of the show will no doubt be the food though – have a look at their banquet menu to give you a flavour of what you can expect.

More under the cut…

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West Elm Wedding Registry

west elm wedding registry

I heard news last week that made me very envious of all bride-to-be’s out there: West Elm has opened a wedding registry!  Rejoice!

If you’ve not heard of them, West Elm are a US store that are a bit like spunkier younger brother of Habitat. They do a great range of textiles and furniture (we featured their DuPont sideboard in our sideboards round up), and have only recently dipped their toe into the UK market.  They have a flagship store in London and are starting to sell more and more of their products on their UK website.

I’d be very happy to kit my house out in their stuff, and it’s more inspirational style-wise than many traditional high street listings.

I’d be made up if someone got me this rug (the sofa might be asking a bit much)…

West Elm Torres kilim rug

..and I’m rather fond of these knives…

knives on chopping board

…and I wouldn’t say no to these mirrors either…

West Elm Monte Mirrors

You can find out more about the registry service here.

And if a traditional registry isn’t your thing, we’ll be featuring some alternative registry ideas in coming weeks.

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DIY Bride: Choosing A Wedding Venue

external shots of York maze

There’s perhaps no bigger decision when it comes to planning a wedding than choosing your venue (though choosing a dress / groom comes fairly close).

Venues can be great fun to nosey around, but it can be a bit overwhelming (and time consuming) if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

As with all things wedding realted, I’d recommend doing some research.  And before you even launch into Google (never mind zipping around the countryside looking at locations), it helps to think about what your priorities are, and also to make sure you and wife/husband to be are in vague agreement.

Here are 10 quick questions worth considering before you start scouting:

1. Do you want the wedding to be held in the UK or abroad? If it’s in the UK are you happy to go anywhere or do you want somewhere close to home / family?  If your thoughts are more far flung, do you have a specific country in mind?

2. Do you want to have a religious service or a civil service? An obvious one, but clearly dictates which kind of venues you’ll be looking at for the marriage bit of the day.

3. If you have a civil service do you want the service and reception to be in the same place, or are you happy to move people between the two?  The latter opens up more options for venues but means that you do need to take logistics into consideration.

4. What is your budget? Yes, it’s the biggie – but it is best to have in mind before you start to look and get your heart set on somewhere that will make your bank manager cry…

5. How many guests are you having? You don’t need to do an exact count up, but it helps to have a rough idea at this stage. Smaller weddings can open up an interesting range of options like cosy little restaurants and pubs that wouldn’t normally categorise themselves as reception venues.

6. What look & feel are you after?  It can be useful to brainstorm adjectives for use in search engines to help dig up options that might not usually be top of the Google pile.   Do you want somewhere that’s historic/ rustic/ rural/ alternative/ informal/ vintage/ contemporary?  Remember to keep an open mind though – venues like village halls can be a great (and cheap) blank canvas on which you can put your own stamp of style / design.

bridegroom's friends enjoying the seesaw swings

 Remember to factor in big kids as well as little ones!

7. Are you inviting children? If there are likely to be a troupe of little ones it might be worth factoring into your decision – somewhere with some outdoor space and minimal opportunity for expensive breakages might be advised.

8. How much flexibility do you want to have with suppliers / décor? We had a very specific idea of what I wanted with regards to the decoration, music and catering, so it was important to find somewhere that would be accommodating and give us control over those aspects, and not specify particular suppliers or approach to the day.  Other people find that level of control / responsibility too much of a headache and prefer to have more support and organisation provided by the venue.

9. Will many of your guests need to stay overnight?  If so what accommodation needs will they have? One of the factors in choosing our venue was finding somewhere that wasn’t too expensive for those that were travelling to stay over, was close enough to home (of most friends / family) for people to drive who didn’t want to stay, and not too far from the venue to local accommodation (think of the taxi prices!)

10. What’s your ideal layout?  Some prefer the wedding party to be in one room in the evening so that guests don’t end up too flung about, whereas we were specifically looking for somewhere with more than one room for the evening as I know how averse to dancing and loud music many of my family are!   Don’t feel that you have to stick to preconceived ideas about the after wedding events either – we once went to a fantastic wedding where there was no sit down meal or traditional evening ‘do’; after the service we went to a country house for canapés and champagne, and then proceedings wound down in the early evening  to allow everyone to get their last trains home.

More tips under the cut…

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Wedding Blogs & Resources For DIY Brides


Tying lace around a bouquetAbove:  making my own bouquet – courtesy of blog instructions

It’s no secret that I’m a huge nerd when it comes to planning; I love a good spreadsheet (especially if it’s coded in complementary colours) and will happily spend ages researching holidays or household purchases.

When it came to planning our wedding I was initially a bit reticent – it seemed almost too big a project. Then I dipped my toe in the water with wedding magazines and started clipping bits and pieces out of them and getting a few ideas, but it was still a bit intimidating and I couldn’t always see myself in the picture-perfect weddings these publications tended to feature.

Wedding magazines are beautiful and aspirational, but it wasn’t until I discovered the world of wedding blogs that I finally got excited about planning.  I found weddings that were of a style that seemed realistic and more on my comfort zone, and (even better) they’re completely FREE, so you don’t have to blow your entire wedding budget on magazine subscriptions.

Not only that, but they’re organised and tagged (some even have databases), which deeply pleases my inner librarian.  So (for example) if you’re at the stage where you’re thinking about flowers, you can go and hunt out ideas for flower decorations and ‘how to make your own bouquet’ guides to your heart’s content.

Links to favourite blogs under the cut…

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Introducing Homemade Weddings


New york

Some 6 and a bit years ago my other half Ste decided to cut his losses / make an honest woman of me and proposed very early one snowy morning in New York.

Though I was thrilled about the engagement, I approached the planning side of things with great trepidation. I’d never even organised a birthday party before, so the thought of organising the biggest party of my life, with everyone I know and love invited, terrified me ever so slightly. So much so, it look me a good 18 months to start thinking about it and 3 ½ years to actually get it arranged (no fear of a shotgun wedding there).

My approach to tackling this fear of orchestrating large social gathering was a bit like my approach to essays at university: research it like crazy, and then collate all the best ideas from various sources, repackage it and present it as my own work (nb. not a recommended academic strategy but good for wedding planning).

wedding party bouncing on a jumping pillow

We had a brilliantly awesome wedding day on 25th June 2011 (and luckily a very talented photographer to capture it).

As well as being left with very happy memories, I was also left with a ton of research, wedding resources, and lots of great ideas that I didn’t use (it being a rather DIY affair).   Though it’s 2 and a half years hence, its still pretty relevant, so I thought I’d dig it out of my hard drive, dust it off and share it in a series of posts for anyone out there that might be thinking of tying the knot.

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