Hayley & Sam’s wedding was a summer scorcher at the beautiful Merriscourt barns in the Cotswolds. Sam had been an usher at a wedding I’d shot in 2016, and as expected, this wedding was A LOT of fun and great to see some familiar faces. I was in heaven, with wonderful views of the rolling countryside; we had some great options close by for a few shots of the two of them. They are such a lovely couple and a joy to work with. Hopefully more of their friends will be getting married soon!
“Not only were Oli’s photos really stunning – we love the way he captures the emotions and moments in a really modern, fresh way – but he was a pleasure to work with too. He was really helpful in the build up to the day, and on the day itself he had a ridiculous amount of energy and enthusiasm.” – Hayley & Sam
How it Began
We met at University, on a Tuesday to be precise, as freshers on the same course. We probably followed a very similar path to a lot of couples – walking to lectures together, discovering a shared love of chicken burgers, becoming mates, becoming a couple and only nine years later getting engaged!
Sam proposed on my 30th birthday after surprising me with a trip to Budapest. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we were at the top of Gellert Hill, which has beautiful views over the city. That was March 2016 and we got married 15 months later in June 2017.
We definitely wanted to get married near where one of us grew up, but for practical reasons we decided it was easier to do it near my family in the Cotswolds. We also knew we wanted to get married in a church, and were incredibly lucky to be able to do it in the historic Burford Church, which is in the town where I went to school.
In terms of the reception venue, our decision was made for us when we visited Merriscourt near Lyneham and saw their incredible views! Oh and their courtyard with the tree full of lights (see photos!) We viewed a few other well-known venues in the area but really nothing came close. As well as the stunning location, at Merriscourt you get the use of three barns, loads of outdoor space, and exclusive hire for the whole weekend, which really swung it for us. It was a gorgeous place to spend a few days with all our friends and family.
I got my dress made by Grace Lane London, who having been recommended to me by someone, turned out to be a friend of a friend who lived just down the road! Grace and I worked together to design every element of my dress from scratch, piecing together details and ideas from dresses I’d tried on in various bridal boutiques. Being short, fussy and not overly traditional, I loved the freedom of creating something that was just for me. I ended up with an Italian lace top half, with scalloped edges and elbow length sleeves, and a long, straight Italian silk skirt with a thigh-high split.
The dress was paired with Jimmy Choo shoes (a treat only made possible with some inheritance money from my Nan, though she would’ve been appalled had she been around to hear how much they were!), a borrowed hairpiece from my sister, and gorgeous bespoke necklace and earrings from my friend and jewellery designer, Leila Swift.
Sam was looking for something that was slightly different, smart but relaxed, and ideally comfortable. Not wanting to go for something from the usual high street chains, he found Jack Bunney’s in Barking, London, a family-run tailors and suit hire company. He found a three-piece suit that really fitted the style of our day and the venue, though we hadn’t counted on it being 30 degrees on the day… The real star of the show though was his blue suede shoes!
The Flowers & Décor
Honestly the venue was already so beautiful it was more about enhancing the natural elements of the barns and the rural setting. The main thing we did was to hang garlands of foliage against the stone and white washed walls, which really stood out and smelled amazing, and we put various candles, potted lavender and other small touches around the place. All of the stationery – the invites, table plan, table names etc. – we created ourselves, except for the welcome sign, which we ordered from a talented local calligrapher.
Our florist created the big set piece displays – including an incredible foliage circlet that was suspended from the ceiling in the barn where we ate and a glorious big pedestal of flowers in the barn where we had the disco. The bouquets were a mixture of blues, coral and white flowers, including my absolute favourite – peonies. We also hired a lighting specialist to drape a canopy of fairy lights above the dance floor, to add a touch of sparkle to the evening!
We had the usual Church of England ceremony and vows, though the vicar’s sermon was truly excellent. So good in fact that it turned out he’d stolen one of the best man’s jokes! My friend Caroline wrote and read some prayers for us, which was the point at which we both started crying. We had two other readings, some excellent hymns, and a beautiful string trio who played some of our favourite music for the signing of the register. It sounded particularly amazing in the acoustics of the huge old church. Neither of us felt particularly nervous, it was just a truly happy moment.
The First Dance
We wanted to do something a bit different but with a song that meant something to both of us. Adele – Hometown Glory, was a big tune from our uni days with lots of great memories, so we asked our DJ to begin with the original version and then mix in the High Contrast version, to really get the party started! It was brilliant seeing the surprise on everyone’s faces as they ran onto the dance floor to join us.
Funnily enough one of our favourite parts of the day was when we were alone with Oli! At sunset we wandered out into the corn fields with a glass of wine and took some photos as the light went down – utterly chilled after the mad part of the day was over, content in the knowledge that everyone was having a great time and happy to have a few minutes to escape.
For the planning: don’t sweat things too much too far out – it shouldn’t take over your every waking moment for your entire engagement. We tried to split the various tasks as much as possible, so had a running to do list which we’d consult once a week to share the burden as we got closer to the day.
On the day: everyone says it but make sure to proactively factor in time to go somewhere to chill out and reflect on your day together. And don’t worry about trying to be everywhere and with everyone – they’re all having a fabulous time.
For your marriage: don’t lose sight of what you’re doing this for. Your wedding is just a day; the marriage is the really exciting part.
Wedding dress: Grace Lane London
Accessories: Leila Swift Jewellery
Groom’s Suit: Jack Bunneys
Florist: Wild Lily Flowers