DIY & Festival Weddings

You Can Go Your Own Way…. Go your own Way!

I want to talk about DIY weddings, Festival Style Weddings, Marquee in The Garden Weddings, Tipi in a field.

It’s a natural change. Up until around 2016 there might have been very few weddings that weren’t treading down the same aisle that has been walked before. [Before I continue, I want to say that there’s absolutely, categorically, nothing wrong with a wedding that is naturally formal. Perhaps it’s a church, back to a country house or barn, or a hotel, and a DJ into the night. That’s great – it’s always great. It works. It really does].

The best venues are the ones that stand back and let you choose your own suppliers, caterers, florist, planner – whomever you want to choose, frankly, and without imposing a ‘this is what most people go for’ kind of mentality. That can work up to a point, and as a photographer it has worked for me in the past when venues recommend me to their clients, but it has also worked against me when I’ve had to start towing the line when a venue gets a little too focussed on the numbers too. In the end, it’s nice to be both – I’m recommended by word of mouth by a handful of venues, but independent enough for my couples to know that I’m focussed on their wedding story, working for their personality, and not working for the venue. There is a difference).

Treat the space as a blank canvas. Don’t think of it as your wedding fitting the venue, think of it as ‘Is this venue good enough for Us?!’ Can your venue take your personalities, and run with that? Can you bring in your own caterer, photographer, DJ in to make it go the way you want it to?

Of course, finding the wedding venue of your dreams can be a real joy – and it can be awesome, and most of all convenient. Cissbury Barns – you should check them out – it’s just an awesome venue, but not just because of the buildings or the location. Northbrook Park is just stunning – what a night out! Farnham Castle is magnificent, and Millbridge Court, although I’ve hardly shot there has to be up there as the most on-trend wedding venue in Surrey. Part barn, part swanky bar, oozes quality and sophistication, and the bonus for me is that Millbridge is located on my doorstep, just 5 minutes down the road. Same with Ramster Hall, just around the corner and actually a place that I have a long history with.

So yes, all of the above offer a slightly different and sophisticated experience, and if you find a place that fits for you, that you think can work, then you should go for it.

What works for you?

Now, there’s always been a category of people who are outside of the mainstream to begin with. The Rock’N’Roll couple who are perhaps already living an alternative lifestyle, and they were never going to have the ‘run of the mill’ ‘cookie-cutter wedding’ (as they might refer to it). As trend-setter as these instagram worthy couples seem or are, I’m not really talking about them, either. It takes a lot to conform to that anyway.

You might or might not have a lot of tattoos. It doesn’t matter. You might want to wear a black dress to your wedding and your partner does or doesn’t have a steampunk handlebar moustache. None of that matters.

You might be none of the above, or you might be a comfortable  introvert. You might not be all that confident, or think of yourself as a creative person.

Again. Doesn’t matter.

I’ve seen all kinds of different people in all kinds of weddings. Some extravagant, some bombastic, and some low key, and cute, and equally valid.

You see, it’s the content and the context of a wedding that makes it. It’s the people that give it that context, and the style or taste that is relevant to the couple is what makes it make sense. If it’s You then it’s got to be about You. 

I don’t know; you might feel like you’re having  to compromise, on just one thing, and it can be very liberating to start thinking of something alternative.

Whatever you do, it’s likely going to be a bit of leg work to get it going. If there’s space, or if you can beg for or borrow a location where you might just be able to fit a marquee or a tipi, then the possibilities suddenly open up. From what I’ve seen, friends and family help out, contribute, and chip in with a bit of muscle power or decorating. you can dress the thing to look exactly how you want it to look. You can hire a band, get a mate to DJ, or both, or none. You can generally stay up past a curfew (people do), not worry about a bar, or hire in a gin bar, and get some kegs from the local brewery. Bunting? No? Festoon lights then… A bonfire/fire pit? Acoustic guitars around a fire-pit? I’ve seen a fun fair complete with a full size helter-skelter, and axe throwing.

How to do it

There aren’t any rules, when you throw away the rule book. But there are a few key elements that might help make things a little easier.

The Celebrant

I’ve worked with (and continue to work with) registrars and vicars through the last 20 years, and for the legal bit, they are essential, but the modern wedding isn’t always focussed on the legal bit in the same way that it might have been in the past, at least for some. Once you take the emphasis away from the necessary ‘solemn and binding’ character of the vows and the declarations that absolutely have to be registered then you can get focussed on a different, perhaps more vital kind of exchange.

This is where the celebrant comes in. Someone who sees you. Understands the value of your story, and gets to the real heart of how you got here and why you’re doing this. The best celebrants are always going to be the person that you connect with on a level that binds you, and yet sets you free.

And while we’re at it, the celebrant I connect with the most is Helen Noble. She has just taken her highly personalised approach to a whole other level, and it’s a joy to see. Seeing Helen work, and becoming friends with her has enabled me to understand that a celebrant is not only a fun and confidence boosting addition to a wedding day – they might just be the centre piece of the whole day – the part that everything else has to follow.

It might actually be the bit that means everything on the day – enough that a lot of people are now having a private ‘legal bit’ earlier in the week, and then having their meaningful and purposeful celebrant led ceremony with a view at the weekend. At least two of the featured wedding below are when the couples did exactly this.

Call Helen.

The Wedding Planner

The DIY Garden wedding is where the Wedding Planner really shines. Everything from the toilets, to the caterer, to the booze, the decoration, the styling. In fact anything you can think of and really, loads of stuff that you haven’t gets organised and brought to life by your wedding planner.

If it’s the right event and the situation calls for it a wedding planner will make things run like clockwork, and the big secret is that a good planner with a book of contacts in tow, will actually save you money.

They all seem to have an individual style or approach, but these are my favourites – they all do you, just slightly differently.

Blank Canvas Weddings, Love by Lucia, and Minty Moore all spring to mind, all for different reasons. You should check them out – there’s a great chance that they’ve either done it before or have the resources to get it done if they haven’t.

Your Photographer, to capture it all!

Ok, shameless plug, but actually it’s crucial that you pick the right photographer if you’re DIYing your wedding. I’m good at my job – hopefully, that’s a given by now, but dig in around this site and get in touch and communicate. This is thew whole deal. I’m going to be with you from perhaps your pre-wedding session but definitely all day on the day itself, and the kind of homespun weddings we’re talking about run to their own time! My Essentials Package caters for all sizes of weddings, but let’s just say that it’s not unheard of for the bride and groom to finally find their way to a dance floor at 10pm. I’ve been known to leave a wedding at midnight or later, if that’s what’s needed. The longest single day wedding turned out to be a 16 hour day! I don’t charge extra for staying late, and I don’t try and fit your whole day into a 6 or 8 hour session.

More than this though, it’s about my ‘why’. A wedding in your parents’ garden? With all of the intimacy and all of the crazy that comes with that? I’m in. I’m not going to speak about it too much here, but this idea – it’s my wedding. I mean literally; a marquee in my parents’ garden with all of my close family and friends dancing in to the night way past midnight. With a Maypole. Kind of. And a humanist monk who drove up to the midlands from London to do it all.

This was in 2005 – we might have got the styling a little wrong and I asked a friend to take the pictures, which is the ONE THING I tell people not to do, and it was quirky and a little naive but at the same time we wouldn’t change a quirky thing about it. It worked. Totally.

A friend said this to me about it: That it was the most highly emotionally charged wedding that he’d been to. It was a fair comment. There was no pretentious feeling about it. It was our thing. It was our people, and if we wanted to stand up on the tables and dance we did.

It’s the stuff of life. You should try it.

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This was in 2005 – we might have got the styling a little wrong and I asked a friend to take the pictures, which is the ONE THING I tell people not to do, and it was quirky and a little naive but at the same time we wouldn’t change a quirky thing about it. It worked. Totally.

A friend said this to me about it: That it was the most highly emotionally charged wedding that he’d been to. It was a fair comment. There was no pretentious feeling about it. It was our thing. It was our people, and if we wanted to stand up on the tables and dance we did.

It’s the stuff of life. You should try it.

 

 

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