Real Weddings

A woodland hobbit wedding – Claire & Mike

When Claire, an Anatomical Pathology Technician and Mike, a Welder/Engineer got married they decided to include a bit of all the things they love in their woodland wedding. Labyrinth, The Hobbit and Jack Daniels featured prominently, and friends and family pitched in to make sure it was a day to remember. After Mike's awesome proposal their big day had a lot to live up to, and it delivered!

How did you guys meet?

Mike is my little brother’s best friend so we had ‘known’ each other for a long time before becoming a couple. The penny finally dropped much to our family and friends’ relief and we became a couple in August 2013.

Tell us about your proposal…

In October 2016 Mike won an all-expenses paid competition with Jack Daniels (our fave drink) to attend the 150th Anniversary celebrations in Lynchburg Tennessee. This blew our minds and we were so excited – the weekend included exclusive rooftop drinks, food and music in Broadway, Nashville and a VIP guided tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery followed by drinks and more food on the famous Jack Daniels BBQ Hill. It was there on BBQ hill watching the sun set over Lynchburg that Mike purposed to me. The place went wild and needless to say the rest of the evening was truly incredible. Jack Daniels arranged a bottle of bubbly for our room on our return from the night we got engaged, they also sent us a case of JD for our wedding day.

Where did you get married and why did you choose your venue?

Rookesbury Park in Wickham, Hampshire. We were first attracted to this venue because of the price, the location and that they only take one wedding at a time (I was not sharing my day with another bride haha). When we went to look around the venue we were warmly greeted by the events manager and told about the history of the venue, it is still privately owned and a lot of the profit from events held there goes back into keeping the property maintained and improved. We liked that our money was going to a good cause. We loved the feel of the venue and all members of staff were so friendly and literally could not do enough to make our day perfect, from preparation to completion.

Who was your photographer and how did you choose them?

Our photographer was Kloe May Photography – Kloe was absolutely outstanding, at our first meeting we made it clear that we did not want to spend a lot of time away from the wedding guests because we wanted to have the chance to chat and be part of the whole day. She was discreet and politely controlled people for group photos when needed. Kloe did a fantastic job and took some truly beautiful pictures during our day we truly could not have wished for a better photographer on the day and the pictures we received were amazing.

How did you choose your outfits?

My dress and veil were bought from The Bridal Dressing Rooms in Portsmouth. I made my tiara myself and brought my shoes second hand from a lady who wore them on her wedding day.

Mike chose the suits and colours and then I chose the bridesmaid’s dresses to tie in. I made my tiara myself by learning to wire weave. I always wanted to make my own jewellery so I thought there was no better time then for my own wedding! I broke down old costume jewellery to get the beads and the crystals are originally pendants. I slid them onto a wire headband and then wrapped silver wire around to keep them upright.

I brought my shoes second hand from a lady who wore them on her wedding day. Mike chose the suits and colours and then I chose the bridesmaid’s dresses to tie in.

How did you ‘keep it real’ – what did you do differently?

Most other weddings we have attended have been either conducted by a registry officer in a licensed premises or church weddings.  I always wanted to get married outside and luckily Rookesbury Park was more than happy for us to use the grounds as well as the buildings so our woodland wedding came true! We got legally married in a registry office in the morning with just our parents in attendance. In the afternoon we held a non-religious ceremony with a mix of traditional and hand fasting vows in the woodland clearing with all the people we love sat watching us on hay bales, it was magical. After the ceremony we headed up to the lawn where we had a local ukulele band playing live, we had reception drinks, nibbles and lawn games.

We decided to have the speeches before dinner because Mike and I had been to too many weddings where the groom and best man pushed food around the plate fearful of the speech that approached them. We cut the cake after dinner and it was added to our cake table with a selection of other cakes which became a buffet style pudding table so people could pick what they wanted. We also had a sweet cart that my Dad made out of pallets and he brought decorative jars in the local charity shops and Facebook market place leading up to the wedding.

We decorated the venue and the woodland clearing ourselves and this was all led by my bridesmaids Zene Bray who is a Floral Designer so all credit must go to her for design and organisation, the set-up gang were just the army ants carrying out the instructions.

Tell me about your cake…

Mike’s Mum Jennie made our wedding cake – it was four tiers of booze soaked fruit cake (it was super heavy). Jennie designed the cake around our love of the worm from the labyrinth (mentions above) and we could not have dreamt of a better cake. It looked and tasted amazing.

How did you pick your stunning flowers?

My friend Zene Bray is a talented Floral Designer and can work to any budget. Zene designed and supplied all our bouquets and table displays. She also designed and decorated the woodland clearing and Orangery.

Who did your hair and makeup…

Missy Hair and Make-up did mine and my bridesmaids’ hair and makeup. She did a good job, it lasted all day.

blue bridesmaid dress

Tell me about your catering. Was it done in-house or did you bring outside caterers in?-

Catering was done in house – we had canapés on the lawn with reception drinks and for our wedding breakfast we had BBQ food for dinner – meat, veggie option and a selection of salads. Evening Food was bacon baps and veggie sausages in rolls.

What song was playing as you walked down the aisle?

The theme from the village scene in ‘The Hobbit’ movie. We wanted this as it’s the first film we saw at the cinema together and I always loved that tune. Plus it seemed to match nicely with the woodland feel. Our ukulele band played ‘I wanna to be like you’ from jungle book as I crossed the green on the approach to the woodland clearing which is my fav cover song from them.

Who walked you down the aisle?

My Dad (my hero).

How did you choose to decorate your venue?

We dressed the venue and woodland area ourselves and as you have probably gathered we did not stick to one theme because we love so many different things!

  • Tulle for chairs came from an amazon as a bulk buy and we trimmed it to length during set up.
  • Some of the artificial flower came from the pound shop and local flower nurseries.
  • Floristry supplies came from www.triangle.co.uk My advice is to hunt online and in store for things, that way you get the best price and you can make it your own.

What was your first dance song?

‘Something about you’ by Bad company. We chose this because Mike sent it to me when we started seeing each other more regularly and it kinda became our song.    

How did you get everyone up on the dancefloor?

DJ Hammy supplied our music for the evening – the dance floor was full all night long (in fact people didn’t wanna go home). He plays music people want and supplies request card during the evening which is always fun.

What was your budget and did you stick to it?

I wouldn’t say we had a tight budget but we both refused to spend out too much for one day. We aimed for no more than £10,000 and think we came in around £7,500.

Any tips for saving money?

If people offer to help or do something for you let them and buy them a gift to say thank you, that’s a huge money saver.

Artificial flowers are a great and save money. Also look at wedding websites and shows but never purchase, take the ideas and go see what you can find in the local shops or online and put your own individual tweak on things. Don’t be fooled to thinking you can only have one theme – we had nods of appreciation to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Labyrinth, Jack Daniels and Woodland Fairy Land.

Would you do anything differently?

The only thing I wish we had done was to ask one person to video our ceremony. I asked for no phones during the ceremony as I wanted people to be in the moment with us, but maybe I should have asked just one person to video. I got frustrated at the early stages worrying about what people would want or what they might think but I reminded myself that is was about Mike and I being happy.

REAL moments

  • Walking down the aisle with my Dad into the woodland clearing, with the sun shining, the Hobbit music playing and seeing Mike waiting for me at the end. Also having everyone we loved gathered for our wedding ceremony – absolutely magical moment.
  • The ceremony was perfect and more then we could have ever hoped for. The mixture of traditional non-religious vows with Ancient Britain traditions of sipping the cup, hand fasting and jumping the broom made it completely different from anything we, and many others had ever witnessed before. We laughed, I (Clare) cried a little, but most of all we could all feel the love in the atmosphere.
  • Both of us loved the introduction by our Toastmaster as Mr and Mrs Haycock as we entered the Orangery for our Wedding Breakfast. He was so funny and got the crowd cheering and whooping as he continued to introduce the rest of the top table.  So much laughter in the room at that point.
  • We had ‘It must be love’ by Madness played after our first dance and invited everyone to join the floor to get the party started. Again this was a great moment because everyone joined the dance floor and gave us hugs and kisses, the giggles and singing as a group will be forever a special moment for us as a couple .

What made your wedding extra special?

Zene (Floral Designer but more importantly my bridesmaid) – I have to thank her for the huge amount of work she did for our wedding especially as it was only three weeks after her own wedding. Zene was my go to; to talk about everything wedding and she never ever made me feel like I was a pain.

Mel – Mel designed and printed our rather elaborate ‘Hobbit’ themed wedding invitations. We would never have been able to have those invites on our budget without her help so we are truly thankful to Mel. 

Our family and friends especially Jennie, Rob, Tom, Dave, Zene, Mike, Stu and Richard helped us set up and take down. We would not have been ready without ya – Thanks for the graft and the giggles.

Jeannie (Mike’s mum) for making our amazingly alternative wedding cake in a Labyrinth theme. Mike and I always loved the bit in the film where the worm says ‘come inside and meet the Mrs’ so we put it on our wedding cake. Again we could never have afforded cake like that and it meant so much more that Mum made it for us.

Rob – (friend) for setting Go-pros and making us a time lapse video of the day. Wonderful wedding gift thank you Rob. Richard (Clare’s Dad) – Thank you for making our sweet cart, supplying the sweets and designing the light curtain to go behind the top table. 

Anything you’d like to add?

Our celebrant turned toastmaster Trevor English was absolutely fantastic! He wore his suit for the traditional part of the wedding ceremony they put on a cloak for the hand fasting. After the ceremony he changed in to his Toastmaster uniform and conducted the whole day wonderfully, meaning no-one had to worry about moving people or keeping check on the time.

Woodland wedding wizard celebrant

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Photographer: Kloe May Photography | Venue: Rookesbury Park | Boutique where dress & veil were bought: The Bridal Dressing Rooms | Shoes: Irregular Choice (pre-loved) Jewellery: Necklaces with sixpences from 1918 made by Bride’s father | Hair & Make up: Missy Hair & Makeup | Bridesmaids dresses: Victoria Lou Bridal Flower girls: Dresses from ebay | Groom’s suit: Cavani | Ushers: M&S | Florist:  Zene Bray (brides’ friend) | Cake: Groom’s mum | Catering: Venue | Entertainment: DJ Hammy | Transport: Hamilton Wedding Cars

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Gaia Hudson

Written by gaia_bkir

Founder of Brides Keeping it Real and mum of two little ones, Leon & Ada. Passionate about providing a supportive online community for brides and grooms who want an achievable, uncomplicated wedding planning experience.