A bespoke wedding dress, endless florals and even a pair of Strictly Come Dancing stars set the scene for Lauren and Joseph's extravagant celebration
Lauren Staddon, 27, a digital marketing consultant, and Joseph Nahal-Macdonald, 30, a solicitor and Criminal Law lecturer, tied the knot at Botley's Mansion in Chertsey, Surrey.
Joseph proposed during a family holiday to Australia, when he announced we were going to have a bush BBQ under the stars. The location was incredibly romantic, and the proposal itself was very understated and personal.
We tried to encapsulate quite a few themes: timeless elegance, country glamour, fine art visuals, with a slightly 'undone' finish.
I did a lot of research before we chose our wedding venue. The size of the guest-list and the fact we wanted it to be in Surrey helped to narrow down the options - and I also wanted it to be somewhere that was light!
Botley's Mansions really offered everything we wanted – somewhere we could stay over afterwards, somewhere that didn’t enforce carriages at midnight – meaning we could party on until 2.30am, somewhere that allowed us to invite more evening guests too. Plus it was stunningly beautiful and made me cry when we drove down the driveway – which I always take to be a good sign.
The chandeliers and the huge windows were a huge selling point. I had been searching for Georgian venues, as I love high ceilings and clean, white interiors and really it had everything I was looking for in a venue. Plus I loved the exclusivity of it being quite remote from other buildings and hustle and bustle.
My wedding dress was by Mira Zwillinger, and was a bespoke collaboration between myself and the designer, Lihi. I loved everything about it! I tried on lots of dresses that were on the more fitted side and they just didn't feel comfortable.
When I tried on the 'Ira' dress, it made me cry. The dress itself had the illusion neckline and feature back that I had wanted, plus it had a more revealing neckline that I think still looked elegant and timeless, and had the fitted skirt that wanted too. So all in all was perfect for me!
The only thing I felt it was lacking was some drama. So Lihi and I decided that using a tulle/silk mix material an over-skirt would be added for the initial entrance to the ceremony, the ceremony itself and the photos. The skirt had lace taken from the dress so that it was in keeping with the overall look.
Flowers were hugely important to us - and without them, I don't think the day would have had the magical dream-like quality that it did! We had lots of David Austin roses and hydrangeas, purely because they're my favourite flowers and matched the country elegance feel of the day perfectly.
Our wedding cake was by Ann's Designer Cakes - many people commented on how much it looked like my wedding dress! It displayed our wedding monogram, which cropped up across many of the wedding finishing touches.
Our favours also featured the monogram: these were hand-tied by my Nonna (grandmother), her sisters and nieces! I had searched high and low to find shot glasses that could be etched with our crest and wedding date, and these were filled with sugared almonds and wrapped up in the style of traditional Bomboniere.
I spray-painted three cookie jars and put personalised stickers on them, asking our guests to put tips for our 1st, 10th and 25th wedding anniversaries. My wonderful bridesmaids hand-punched and added ribbon to every single bit of card that people wrote on!
We also had 'advice for the bride and groom' cards that were pinned on a white wooden vintage clothes horse.
My sister was my Maid of Honour and her speech turned into a flash mob! All the guests started standing on their seats to sing different parts of the song, which was written about Joe and I and sung to the tune of Happy by Pharrell Williams.
I wanted to show mine and Joe’s inspiration for a happy marriage – we are both very lucky in that our parents and grandparents are/were all happily married – so I had six frames with pictures taken from each of our parents and grandparents wedding days and in front their names, wedding date and the number of years/months they were/have been married.
Our first dance was rather special. My mum arranged an amazing surprise: for Giovanni Pernice and Joanna Clifton from Strictly Come Dancing to storm the dancefloor and start dancing with us!
My favourite moment? There were so many special moments throughout the day. One highlight was when we arrived at our venue in our open top car: everyone was cheering, we were up on our feet waving and the seven-piece brass band was playing I Love You, Baby. It was a real movie-moment!
Another moment that will stay with me was when I saw my Nonno (grandfather) at the entrance to the church. He had been ill in hospital for five weeks and we were warned by the hospital to expect him not to be there - then after loads of effort from my mum, he made it there! It was a real tearjerker for both Joe and I.
One slight hitch was when our wedding cars didn't arrive on time! They had our booking down for an hour later, so there was a lot of frantic energy just before the bridal party set off from Botley’s Mansion to go to the church. Not the kind of stress I was hoping for moments before getting married – but they came in the end and we just had to push back the start of the ceremony… All the guests said they hadn’t noticed and that it was customary for the bride to be late to her wedding!
My advice for brides-to-be: organisation is key! I would also say do your research - every single aspect of our wedding was researched really thoroughly. Delegate jobs to your bridal party, too; I wrote out schedules and tasks for all of our bridesmaids and groomsmen, and whilst they were all small jobs, it was really useful to have someone assigned to each job so I didn't have to worry on the day.
Also - only work with suppliers you feel you can trust. Every single person who helped us pull off the wedding was someone I had built a strong relationship with and whose work I was impressed and inspired by and who I felt I could trust implicitly to pull off the day I had envisioned. I think it is so important to have a good working relationship with the people who are helping create your special day, as they will then understand exactly where you are coming from.
Also, don't be afraid to negotiate - as soon as some suppliers hear the word “wedding” an extra couple of zeros get added to the cost, so always feel able to negotiate price, the worst that could happen is that they say no!
Steal their style!
Photographer: Harley Evans and Susie Barker from BarkerEvans Venue: Botley’s MansionFlorist: Amie Bone Flowers Dress: Bespoke design by Mira Zwillinger Bridesmaids: Salma dress by Ghost Groomswear: Morning Suits and Waistcoats from Hire5ive Cake: Ann's Designer Cakes Videographer: Andrew Collin Hairdressers: Rosie Vincent and crew from Michael Van Clarke Make-Up: Laura Dexter and crew from Laura Dexter Make up Artist