ENCHANTED ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE WEDDING
Sami and Mike didn’t have one traditional theme per se, but instead knew a few things they wanted people to feel. Lean into the seasonality and natural setting of the farm, they chose an enchanted forest as their design directive for the reception, using big, sculptural tree branches throughout the space; dark, brooding colours for the flowers and candles, and twinkling lights and antique accents throughout.
“We like to say that was the trip we fell in love…with fancy wedding venues.” She laughed.
“It felt like what we Americans imagine British summer camp to be, but classy and for adults: individual cottages for each guest, Wellies waiting for you when you arrive, fresh bread and cheese on your doorstep in the mornings, hiking, swimming, horseback riding. It was perfect. The whole time we were there, we kept saying to each other, the only thing that could make this better would be if all our friends were here with us. On our final day we had the “aha!” moment – “what if we could have a wedding here?!”…”can you imagine, everyone staying together in one place, in bathrobes, around the firepit, riding bikes, lounging in the lakeside hot tub?”! There was only one problem – we weren’t engaged yet. We had talked about someday getting married, but it was only about 6 months into our relationship, so it felt like a faraway dream. But something about that place felt special. So, on our way out, we posed as a recently engaged couple and asked for an official venue tour. We felt like secret agents. And it was worth it – we got to see parts of the property we didn’t even know existed; to meet more of the staff, to start to visualize the event. It was everything we could’ve dreamed of for the most epic wedding we could imagine. Needless to say, all six hours of our flight home was taken up analysing the math to see if it was even possible logistically or financially. Then, once we were actually engaged, it wasn’t even a question. It was the only venue we ever looked at and we booked it without thinking twice.” Sami explained.
“The most important thing for us, was that we wanted our guests to come away from it all feeling like “magic is real,” which was the brief we gave ourselves for the overall experience. That informed choices like bringing in a tethered hot air balloon during cocktail hour, turning our cake-cutting ceremony on its head (invoking the Parable of the Spoons and handing out 3-foot-long cutlery so everyone had to feed cake to each other), wrapping special greenery around our single guests’ chairs so they’d know who else was on the prowl, and finally, having Sami surprise Mike at the end of the night with his favourite DJ, who she secretly flew in from LA just to play the after-party. Ultimately, the single biggest contributor to “vibe” was the venue itself – the rustic luxury of Soho Farmhouse created a fairy-tale atmosphere, reinforcing the magic of it all.”
“Since neither of us lives in the UK, we didn’t have any friends we could ask for recommendations and so we had to figure it all out from afar.” Sami told us.
“Mike is a maximiser, so he went deep down the Google rabbit hole to find the holy trinity (photographer, videographer, and band). He relied heavily on internet reviews to find options they felt were not just amazing, but unique, and who understood us/our vision…and who were also just good humans (this shouldn’t be underestimated!). When it came to capturing the wedding, we wanted a photojournalistic feel, more than a traditional professional wedding portrait “look.” We sifted through loads and loads of the cliché to find people with an eye for capturing moments, rather than just taking photos/video. We couldn’t have lucked out more. Dan Morris Photography is an absolute legend (we still talk to this day) who delivered iconic, editorial, magazine-worthy photos we hold near and dear. Wayne at Green Biscuit is a truly gifted visual storyteller/genius who basically delivered a beautiful, theatre-ready film (in our very biased opinions). Lastly, Sensation Band absolutely SMASHED it. We looked through YouTube videos of real weddings they had played, so we could get an accurate feel for what they’d be like (instead of those overly produced promo videos). That was super helpful, and they totally lived up to the hype. Outside of those three, it was a combination of online reviews and trusting our gut instinct. That said, a lot of the vendors came with the Farm – flowers, food, and beverage, etc. which was a strategic choice on our part. We knew that coordinating a destination wedding was going to be challenging and we figured that by working with Soho House (whose taste is already impeccable), we’d save ourselves a lot of hemming and hawing over vendor options.”
“Instead of a rehearsal dinner, we did a welcome dinner (since everyone was in from out of town), and we held it on a beautiful river barge that went up and down the Thames. A couple weeks before, Mike had this incredible idea to create an ice-breaker activity that would encourage our different groups of friends and relatives to mingle. So, we reached out to everyone ahead of time to get a “fun fact” about each of them, and spent a week creating 150 hand-written cards with the info. As guests boarded the boat, they were handed an envelope with one of these “clues” about someone else on board, and they had to figure out who it was. For example, you might open your envelope to the message: “Find Josh F and ask about his best prank ever.” It was a light-hearted, leisurely activity that paired well with cocktails and helped everyone settle in and get to know each other in unexpected ways. We also DIY’d our gift bags to save some money. Pinterest was our go-to for inspiration. We ordered linen toiletry bags on Amazon and filled them with miniature versions of things – tiny Altoids, tiny playing cards, a 2-pack of Advil, an itsy-bitsy champagned-shaped bottle of bubbles, some classic British chocolate candies. We found this weird little custom stamp shop in the East Village and made a “Magic is Real” rubber stamp that we used to decorate each bag. It was nice to send people home with something functional, even though it was pretty simple as gift bags go.”
“From the day we booked Soho Farmhouse to the ceremony was about 11 months. The event staff were incredible. They had a very laid-back style and to be honest, at first, we were a little concerned – isn’t this supposed to be stressful? But we trusted them implicitly. I mean, there’s just no way that Soho House is going to throw a tacky party! All in all, except for some emails back and forth, we only had maybe 4 or 5 formal planning calls. Since they handle so much in-house, it was seamless. Where we had to do the lion’s share of planning was in the days leading up to the wedding, the welcome dinner, the group transportation to and from the Farm, that sort of thing and we made sure to stay organized with Google Docs.” She added.
“We were a little worried about the weather! The English countryside in Autumn doesn’t have the best reputation; but that was out of our control. In the end, it drizzled a bit but on the plus side, afterward there was an out-of-this-world rainbow. It was totally worth it for the pictures! The only other scary thing hanging over our heads was our first dance. That really added some stress to the day… Our advice? Practice, practice, practice!”
“Speaking of advice, one of the best tips we got from friends was, “do it together.” That means literally stay physically together as much as possible during it all – the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, and especially the party. Typically, couples tend to split up to cover more ground, but if you’re with one another, you’ll share the same memories at the end of the day.”
“You should also definitely spring for a professional photographer and videographer, and make sure you click with them on a personal level – they’re going to be with you ALL DAY, so if you don’t like their energy, or don’t trust them to do a good job, it could really dampen the mood.”
“The less people have to do, the happier they are. Think about the UX – what is the “user experience” of your wedding going to feel like? What’s the best way for guests to know or pull up information at a moment’s notice? For example, we found a text service that we used to schedule texts to guests throughout the weekend, so they didn’t have to look anything up. Make guests feel like they’re in good hands.”
“Every wedding should tell a story about the couple. You should walk away from the wedding knowing more about the couple than you did before.”
Photographer: Dan Morris I Videographer: Wayne Connelly I Band: The Sensation Band I Discoball: That Event Company I Hot Air Balloon: Cotswold Balloon Safaris I Boat: Thames Luxury Charters I Coaches: Met Coaches I