An Eclectic, DIY Wedding with Owl Ring Bearer & (Not So Great) British Bake Off!

With the surname of ‘Gather’, Luke and Louise couldn’t not be inspired by this for their September wedding, and so ‘The Gathering’ was born – a bringing together of all the people who mean the most to them. The venue was a no-brainer. Luke grew up around the corner from Elvaston Castle in Derby, and went for regular walks around the grounds. The couple live together nearby and walk their dogs there regularly, so it holds a special place for them.

The gothic hall of the castle inspired some autumnal and outdoorsy touches in their day; they had an owl ring bearer for their ceremony, and an hour of bird handling during drinks and canapés to keep everyone entertained. The wedding was also very DIY heavy – Louise hand-wrote calligraphy and goal-foiled every single save the date and invite, made all the flowers – bouquets, bridesmaid hoops, table centres, buttonholes and hanging flower chandeliers – from felt and crocheted mini versions of the two of them as a cake topper. Luke made lawn games, created hanging lyric signs on mirror to decorate their reception marquee and they made their own wedding rings together. “We absolutely loved being able to be creative and coming up with ideas for touches that truly reflected us as a couple,” said Louise.

They also had a ‘bake off’ competition which went down a storm; instead of having a dessert with the wedding breakfast, daytime guests were invited to bring along something they had baked. Over half of their guests participated, and Louise made judging cards where everyone placed three votes: ‘Best Tasting’, Best Looking’ and ‘At Least You Tried’. “We had a hamper of prizes to give out and an overall trophy,” said the bride. “Two aunties won the main prize, and both Dad’s won ‘you tried’! We were so grateful to everyone who contributed – even though we were both forced to try a little bit of every single one and spent the rest of the day absolutely stuffed.”

Their ceremony, held in the stunning gothic hall, included three readings in total: I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke; All I Know About Love by Neil Gaiman, and How Falling In Love Is Like Owning a Dog by Taylor Mali. “As an English teacher, it was important to me to have meaningful readings,” said Louise. “I think they’re a really lovely part of ceremonies and a great way to give significant people involvement in the day. We also exchanged some personalised vows after the ‘official words’ which was nice as we definitely didn’t want to just use the generic legal declarations.”

“The best part of the ceremony was the ring bearer. I am absolutely useless at keeping secrets, but I somehow managed to organise, book and pay for an owl ring bearer without telling anyone except the suppliers and the best man. At the point when the registrar asked who had the rings, the best man did the whole patting-down-the-pockets fake-out. I think people thought he was just trying to be funny. But then he pulled out a bird glove, which Luke thought was an oven glove! Maybe he thought I was trying to make some feminist anti-patriarchy statement?! Nobody had realised that the bird handler had sneaked into the back of the ceremony room and was standing ready to release Diamond the barn owl, who had our rings attached to her feet by a ribbon. The look on Luke’s face and our guests’ reactions made all the subterfuge worthwhile.”

When asked if they had any advice for future brides, Louise had a couple of pointers. “Give a speech! Or invite a bridesmaid / mum / auntie to do one. Don’t let the only people who stand up and speak be the men – you’re better than that. I did my own – lots of people said it was more savage than the Best Man’s and that I was like a modern-day Mrs Maisel. We also booked our honeymoon for a few months after the wedding, which I’d really recommend for giving yourself something else to look forward to during the post-wedding blues (which are very, very real by the way!)  I can’t imagine jetting off on honeymoon the day after (or, even worse, on the actual wedding night like people used to back in the day – how was that ever a thing?!) because it would have just been a logistical nightmare and I think we would have both been too knackered and overwhelmed to fully enjoy ourselves. Now we are recharged and raring to go!”

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