Lauren and Ray’s September wedding had a colourful carnival theme! “Our wedding was a rainbow carnival”, explained the bride. “We wanted to bring out the happy, colourful kid in everyone that was there. Ray also wanted a BIG party. Some of our most fun details were the stuffed animals that we bought to give away as prizes. There was also a fire-breather and an aerialist. Part of our ‘entertainment’ was both of us (and the wedding party!) getting dunked by friends and family in an actual dunk tank to raise money for the honeymoon!”
The ceremony was super emotional. “I cried the whole time!”, the bride laughed. “Somebody’s Getting Married from The Muppets Take Manhattan played while people took their seats and I walked down the aisle with my father to Sea of Love of Cat Power with full on waterworks. It was THE moment and it was hitting me all at once. Our officiant was a friend ours in the burlesque community. She typically hosts shows but this was her first wedding. She read her script from the inside of a copy of The Giving Tree (my favourite childhood book). We wrote our own vows too which were based on unconditional love, support, acceptance and striving to be the best versions of ourselves. We wanted the ceremony to be short and sweet and right afterwards the carnival games and entertainment began!”
This weekend was my sister’s hen do (bachelorette for my American readers!) We planned everything as a surprise for her, but were under strict instructions that there be nothing pink, fluffy or penis shaped!
After posting a few photos on social media, I’ve had lots of questions about where we were and what we did (apparently a lot of you also want a send off that doesn’t involve inflatable penises or matching tee-shirts!) so I thought I’d share what we got up to. I’ve also ended the post with a few bonus tips to make sure your own alternative hen do goes off without a hitch!
Renting a house though Airb&b
There were 11 of us, so we decided that hiring a big house that we could all stay in would be the most fun and economical option. Rachel (my sister) didn’t really want to go ‘out out’ so we didn’t need to be near a big town or city.
I trawled Airbnb for weeks to find somewhere big enough to sleep everyone, that didn’t cost a thousand pounds plus a night, and if there was a hot tub or a pool, even better! Eventually we found Lower Tadmarton House, near Banbury. It was wonderful! The house slept up to 16 (although we had to share double beds, which no-one seemed to mind) and we had the option of hiring in a hot tub at an additional cost. It was PERFECT.
If you are wanting to do the same my advice would be to start looking way earlier than you might think you need to (especially if you’re doing it over a popular weekend, like the May Bank Holiday). I booked this place in January but even then a lot of the places I considered were already booked. Plus, some people did reject our booking when they found out we were a hen do! Mean!
Crown and Glory’s Candy Shop and a henna artist
Amanda and Jake were married in January. “The theme of the wedding was simple and elegant”, explained the bride, “and our colours were purple and grey. The inspiration was based on the colours I love and just basically how I always pictured my dream wedding! I wanted it to be at night, to be romantic and for there to be lots of lights.”
The ceremony was held at a local church. “The ceremony was beautiful!” Amanda continued. “One of the best moments was when Jake said ‘I do’ because he not only said it to me but also to my two little girls. That was really significant. My favourite parts of the wedding was hearing his vows, listening to the speeches from the people we love, and dancing with my friends and family.”
American Courtney met her British groom met when she went to get tattooed by him! “I was following him on Instagram and I really loved his traditional work and, well, he was English (how dreamy)”, Courtney began. “But being in the US, I didn’t think I’d get an opportunity to ever get tattooed by him.”
“Then one day, he posted that he’d be coming to the Midwestern states and to email him if you were interested in getting tattooed. I jumped at the chance to get an appointment! When he replied the conversation was very natural and we began texting each other everyday for weeks. Long story short, Rich came over and we spent the whole time together. In that time we decided that in a month, I’d come to visit him in England.”
Sonia and Kevin wanted an intimate wedding so they decided on a ceremony in San Francisco City Hall followed by a lunch time reception. They were married on New Year’s Eve.
“We both really like the style of the late 50s/early 60s and my outfit was styled with that in mind”, said the bride. “We just wanted a small gathering of our nearest friends and family that was relaxed and not too formal. Simple elegance, if you will.”
“Our ceremony was held on the 2nd floor Mayor’s balcony of San Francisco City Hall, overlooking the rotunda and grand staircase. The space is beautiful on its own, and we didn’t need any additional decorations. Judge Breyer kept things short and sweet, which was perfect for us. We met with him a few weeks before the ceremony and rather than writing traditional vows, he requested that we each send him a paragraph about why we loved the other person. The rules were that we both had to submit something, and had to send it to him without telling the other what we’d written so that he could read them aloud for everyone to hear for the first time during our ceremony. Both paragraphs brought smiles, tears, and laughs from our guests.”
There’s nothing more spectacular than a wedding at a castle. If you’re the kind of bride who always wanted to do things on a grand scale (even if you’re more punk rock than princessy) then Country House Weddings is a great place for you to start your venue search.
The family run company own and operate four very different wedding venues. “We started creating weddings over 26 years ago when our first venue, Leez Priory in Essex, became the first ever venue in the UK to be licensed to hold a civil ceremony”, they told me. “Every year we now host 800-1000 weddings across our venues and each and every one of them is completely different.”