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A humanist wedding at Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire

A humanist wedding at Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire

Written by Laura Atri

Nina and Jesse filled their wedding party with quirky details and endless blooms


Nina Dawson, 29, and Jesse Tawil, 33, both sales managers, held their humanist ceremony and reception at Aynhoe Park, Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Budget: £35,000-£45,000

Flower budget: £3,500

Photography: Melissa Beattie 

Jesse and I met through work; we both worked for the same company, but Jesse was in the US office and I was based in the UK. We got engaged on holiday in Budapest on New Year’s Day – I woke up to a super nervous Jesse and a ring in my face... 

Our theme was vintage travel. Jesse and I spend most of our time travelling with work, plus we’re both from different countries (I’m from the UK and Jesse is from America), and live in Hong Kong, so travelling is a big part of our lives.

We chose Aynhoe Park because it’s incredible and fun, and just all round spectacular.

We are collectors of weird and wonderful taxidermy and the eccentric style was so on point with who we are.

We were able to turn the wedding into a two-day affair, which was great as so many people were travelling for it. 

We gave a rough idea on what we were looking for and our florist, Florence, pulled together what she thought would work best.

My father created the structure of the Chuppah, something that was very important to Jesse, as he wanted to keep some aspect of Jewish traditions within the ceremony.

Florence then went wild with all sorts of berries, flowers and foliage to create the amazing structure we got married under.

We were lucky enough to have dahlias, straw flower and English roses which are our absolute favourites. For the aisle we used delphiniums, golden beech and anemones to make sure it had a soft, meadowy feel that was as natural in its shape as possible.

For our favours we went for local honey to give an English touch, chopsticks because we live in Hong Kong, bag tags to tie in with the travel theme and personalised espresso cups because that is the industry we work in and they were super cute. Each table represented a country we had visited together and I found some really cool vintage postcards online.

We also had a little logo made for the wedding, and my sister drew a giraffe hanging from balloons (one of the pieces hanging in the orangery at the venue). We used these on everything from the espresso cup favors, the invite, the itinerary, stickers and anything we could get our hands on!

I totally forgot to get a guest book – but thankfully my planner ran out and got us one! Other than that I can’t think of anything that went wrong – although I did fall down the aisle! (but this also lightened up the ceremony and stopped me from crying so I think it was a blessing in disguise).

A highlight of the day for me was when Jesse and I had a few minutes just us two so that we could absorb that we were actually married.

The evening party was a bit mental – I didn’t stop dancing all night. I think after all the months of planning and worrying it was such a release to just dance it all off.

Everyone was in such high spirits, relaxed and having an amazing time. We had a food truck outside serving incredible burgers and everyone was free to do their own thing and explore.

My tip for brides-to-be: Don’t worry about the little things or over think everything. All people want to do is be there for you and to have an amazing time. I think the vibe of the bride and groom rubs off on the whole day, so it’s important you stay relaxed. Just focus on what’s important to you.


FLORIST: Petalon Flowers VENUE: Aynhoe Park PLANNER/STYLIST: Vivid Minds DRESS: Jenny Packham BRIDESMAIDS’S DRESSES: Needle and Thread at ASOS GROOMSWEAR: Ascot Chang in Hong Kong CAKE: Compton and Kennedy EVENING FOOD TRUCK: Steak and Honour HUMANIST: Zena Birch BAND: The Stamford Stompers HAIR AND MAKE-UP: Laura Anne Make-up 

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