The Engagement and Venue
Joe and Nicola met at university nine years ago and like a true fairy-tale romance, fell in love immediately. Following a whirlwind engagement after Joe proposed in January 2014, they finally tied the knot at Clandon Park on 30th August the same year. Their wedding was the most emotive I have had the privilege of attending.
Clandon Park is a magnificent Palladian mansion with impressive gardens and stunning stucco ceilings. It is the perfect setting for a grand wedding, though Joe and Nicola’s felt very intimate during the beautiful ceremony.
Nicola’s entrance was unconventional: when the ceremony chamber doors opened, she danced alone up the aisle towards her beloved husband-to-be, sashaying to Scouting for Girls’ ‘She’s So Lovely’.
And she really was: Nicola’s dress was a fitted, strapless fishtail design, a very unforgiving shape which, thanks to her hard work in the months before the big day, she pulled off with aplomb. She wore her hair in a sophisticated up-do with side-swept fringe, and kept her make-up natural; she was glowing with iridescence and delight. Nicola’s look put me in mind of Old Hollywood Glamour: she looked elegant and beautiful.
She also looked incredibly brave. For on the surface, this untraditional twist is entertaining; knowing the bride’s story makes it poignant and very moving.
Nicola very tragically lost her much-adored father on Christmas Eve 2012. It was some comfort to the congregation to know that he wished for nothing more than to see his lovely daughter become Joe’s wife. In every way that counts, however, she became an integral part of the Marsh family long before it was made official. I can say this without any hesitation because I am lucky enough to have gained a sister that day.
The groomsmen (fifteen including the groom, plus one page boy!) wore grey morning suits with silver cravats and waistcoats, differentiated from the groom who wore ivory to match his bride. Their buttonholes were classic cream and dusky pink amnesia roses to match Nicola’s bouquet, and this theme was continued through other areas of the wedding. The four bridesmaids wore long, pale pink dresses in the same hue, shot through with silver threads, their hair worn to the side in loose fishtail plaits. The flower girls were lovely in puffy, ivory dresses and flowers in their hair. The overall impression was understated class.
During the ceremony, Joe and Nicola’s six year old nephew gave a moving reading – one which none of the adults would have been able to deliver, given the circumstances: an excerpt for Winnie the Pooh. It was made all the more stirring by his young age and the fact that he was unaware of the effect his words were having on those around him. I followed this (though really, there was no following him) with a reading I had been asked to choose to be a surprise on the day. It is about the process of planning a wedding, and how really, it is in fact the process of planning a marriage. They are lovely words, and ‘Union’ by Robert Fulghum ends with such ardent pride of the declaration the bride and groom are about to make, that I barely managed to contain myself (or our daughter, who was born one week later). I hope my recital was not immortalised on film!
After the exchange of emotional vows, the ceremony ended with a beautiful performance from an old friend on guitar and Nicola’s niece singing. The personal moments during the ceremony made this wedding truly emotive.
Canapés and Wedding Breakfast
We adjourned to the grounds for the formal photos and refreshments. The canapés came out and I savoured, amongst other tasty morsels, my first ever devils on horseback (prunes wrapped in bacon), which were simple yet exquisite. (I was unfortunately unable to enjoy the champagne but it looked wonderful, perhaps particularly so because I could not partake!)
The wedding breakfast took place in an old cellar with walls of white-painted exposed brick, giving a cosy, regal feel to the space. The new Mr and Mrs Marsh were introduced to a standing ovation and we sat to enjoy the meal.
The layout was fairly traditional with a top table for the bride and groom, best men and mums. The new Mr and Mrs Marsh sat in the middle of the top table with a bricked up portico behind them. The cake stand was positioned here between two flower arrangements, and being the main feature of the room (aside, of course, from the happy couple), was lit up with candles. The cake itself was four tiers smothered in white chocolate and decorated with the beautiful dusky blooms echoed around the room.
Candle favours were reserved for the ladies (made by Nicola’s fair hands), and those who played a significant part in the day also had special chocolate bars awaiting them at their place settings: the packaging contained personalised messages. (I was lucky enough to be included and felt very honoured by the sentimental words.)
The food was lovely but one of the most special parts of the day was the speeches. When Joe delivered his moving tribute and spoke with tenderness about his new family, it had all of the guests choked up once again. It was a beautiful speech, striking the perfect chord of sentimental but humorous. I was a very proud sister.
Activities and Buffet
The wedding came at the end of a blisteringly hot summer, and the day was blustery but bright – perfect for the afternoon’s outside entertainment. When the wedding breakfast finished, there were games on the lawns which encouraged the adults to mix and kept the children occupied. Shortly thereafter, the evening guests began to arrive and the fragrance of the buffet drifted on the air: hog roast. I am not sure there is a more perfect way to begin an evening reception. The food, once again, was exceptional.
After an exhaustingly emotional afternoon, the evening was a welcome respite of dancing and laughter and what a wedding is really all about after all: the joyful harmony of two families coming together. At last!