Posts Tagged ‘DIY guest book’

A Perfect Venue for an Idyllic Weekend Wedding on a Budget

Gorgeous photos of the idyllic venue by our friend Natalie S.

When we started planning our wedding, we each made a list of what was most important to us.  One of the things that came to the top was it being somewhere our family and friends could spend a portion of time all together, making a sort of special world for a couple of days.  Some of our favourite weddings as guests included those where we had experienced this – at a coastal fort in Cornwall, in a row of village B&Bs in Wensleydale.   Of course, we recognised that as we were marrying slightly later down the road than other friends had, many of our guests would have commitments to families, jobs, etc., and not everyone would be able to (or want to) spend the weekend away, so it also needed to be somewhere within driving and public transport (ish) distance of our part of London.  We also knew if it was going to be low cost for us, it had to be low cost for our guests, as well – anything else just didn’t make sense.

We were free to decorate in our own style. Photo by Tracy Morter

We started out looking at Youth Hostels; I have a lifelong passion for the places.  We found YHAs with amazing potential for the kind of wedding we were planning: YHA Hartington Hall and YHA Ilam Hall in Derbyshire and YHA Wilderhope Manor in Shropshire have wedding packages.  Other YHAs, such as YHA Hawkshead in the Lake District, were very accommodating about figuring something out.  However, in the end, we felt they were all too far from our home for us to even make a viewing visit by public transport, which meant they definitely wouldn’t have been convenient for many of our guests.

Through a link a relative sent, we came across the amazing Kench Hill, in Kent.  Kench Hill is a charity that creates educational adventures in nature and wildlife for children and young people from Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham.  It’s an old, Georgian mansion on the outside, with 3* hostel accommodation of dormitories, single, double and family rooms inside.  Revenue raised from hosting weddings helps to support their brilliant work with children from East London.

Georgian Manion on the outside… Kench Hill. Photo by Natalie S.

I made an easy visit by train (from Charing Cross, but could have also gone from St. Pancras) and a pretty bus ride on a scorching hot day in late Spring. Kench Hill manager, Sandi, picked me up from the beautiful, old High Street in Tenterden – where I noticed the Town Hall, with its picturesque balcony, surrounded by flowers, as a ceremony venue. As we drove into Kench Hill, I knew: This must be the place. 

The front lawn was perfect for canapes and drinks and our handfasting.  The spacious, pretty gardens by the duck pond and lake, with a mix of wooden tables and round dining tables, made a beautiful, relaxed English garden party setting for the wedding breakfast.  The long kitchen gardens made a lovely, sunlit walk.  There were hens and ducks about. Children played happily between the Wendy House and small outdoor toys in the enclosed area by the meal, or on the swings by the front lawn, while older children played basketball and babyfoot.  The night before the wedding, we had a BBQ down by the thatched hut, which was all lit up with candles.  We dressed the Straw Hall with fairy lights and colourful pom poms, votives, bunting and paper flowers for the reception’s speeches and open mic.  We filled the alcove with photo bunting, to which guests added memories, poems, crafts and photos, as our guest book.  The bar was outdoors, under a wooden shelter, lit by a storm light.  There was even a little camping in the top meadow.

A relaxed, English wedding breakfast in the grounds of Kench Hill.

Photo by Tracy Morter

Ducks and wildflowers at Kench Hill on the wedding day. Photo by Natalie S. 

The Straw Hall, ready for music, poetry and speeches. Photo by Natalie S. 

Sandi and her team made everything incredibly easy, relaxed and personal.  Whenever I worried I was asking too many questions, or being demanding, Sandi and her colleagues’ responses came back light, flexible and positive.  We really felt that they wanted our wedding to be whatever we dreamed of it. Kench Hill promotes sustainability and a love of life, and the atmosphere is full of that hope and gentle joie de vivre.  We were able to provide our own drinks and partly self-cater.  The food Kench Hill catered was brilliant too – but that’s for another post.

To contact Kench Hill, see their website or facebook.   You can also see photos on their facebook of other weddings, each with a totally different look, which shows the flexibility of the venue for glorious, DIY, budget weddings.  We found our fab photographer Tracy Morter as she had shot a previous wedding at Tenterden Town Hall and Kench Hill – you can see photos of that gorgeous, and, again, totally different, wedding, here.


Wedding Table Decorations, Favours and Bring and Share Decorations for the (Un)Crafty Bride on a Budget

Months before my wedding, I was playing with my kids in a local woodland when my phone rang.  It was one of my best friends, and bridesmaid.  Noone ever uses phones any more, do they? And I knew she was in her family home country.  I picked up, concerned.  What happened next reminded me of the time my mum, then in the early days of cancer, rang me at work – Mum had an urgent question about a black catsuit (this black catsuit, to match her own…).  My lovely friend had found hundreds upon hundred of doilies, hand crocheted by her great grandmother, along with ribbons and collars of lacework.  

Sharing love-driven, crafted, storied objects was very much something my husband and I wanted to do as part of our wedding.  We marry into a family, into a community, into a history of human love.  My friend and I had a few thoughts about what to make her great grandmother’s doilies into.  One idea was bunting.  Another was to push the bulbs of fairy lights through their centres, so they looked like flowers.  In the end, we decided to dye them the colours of the rainbow, and use them to decorate the large, round tables and picnic tables that we were having our wedding breakfast on, in the gardens.  

We used Dylon polyester dye, seven huge buckets (which we each needed for our gardens afterwards), a bottle of rose and a Sunday afternoon, to make this glorious rainbow…

In the year and a bit between getting engaged and getting married, my family and several kind friends saved jars.  We stored ours in the garden, in crates, which meant that the weather did a lot of the work of removing labels for us.  These went onto tables, with candles, as well as reusable straws, pencils and colouring sheets for younger children, or wood and paper photo props for older children and teens.  The different shapes and qualities of glass caught the sunlight beautifully.  

We put the differently-coloured bouquets of fabric wedding flowers in glass jars when back from the ceremony (here’s how I made the fabric flowers) and made additional pom pom bouquets (here’s a super easy pom pom tutorial).

Favours also served as name cards.  Small children had envelopes with their names on, with stickers and card inside.  Older children and teens had second-hand card games, again in envelopes with their names on.  Friends whose beliefs reject gambling had delicious jam.  For everyone else, we chose Lottery Scratchcards, as they are potentially fun, recyclable and contribute to charity.  It would have been amazing if someone had won their train fare.  The only regret I have is that I bought some brown envelopes with gold, glittery insides, to signify pots of gold (at the end of a rainbow).  I overlooked that this would leave the envelopes unrecyclable.  Moreover, we have since learned about the damage that glitter does to the environment, and are moving away from using conventional glitter and are planning to make our own from salt or sugar (like this) or buy biodegradable for special projects, like this Etsy product I am planning on trying soon (Etsy biodegradable glitter). Any glitter we still have will be for keep-forever crafts, like Christmas ornaments.  We are also a lot more aware about creating the demand for plastic, and perhaps would rethink buying plastic reusable straws, and go for something like stainless steel ones. I would love to hear more ideas for sustainable / zero waste alternatives to what we did, in the comments.

Instead of a guest book, we asked guests to bring photos, pictures, poems, lyrics or anything that showed ‘family’ and ‘love’ to them, and add it to our bunting (twine, with little wooden pegs).  We also printed off photos of us with everyone at the wedding, and pegged this up to get the bunting started.  It was gorgeous, and deeply personal, as well as being a great conversation maker, and we will keep the beautiful things our loved ones shared on it, forever.